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A silver lining in the Copenhagen failure? - Daily News Egypt

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A silver lining in the Copenhagen failure?

CAIRO: For many, reading another article about the United Nation’s climate summit in Copenhagen is like hearing about a dozen new H1N1 cases or stumbling upon a talk show hashing over the Egyptian-Algerian football mania; both yield a “please, not again reaction. For a couple of dozen environmental enthusiasts, however, an evening at Salon (Nahdet) …

CAIRO: For many, reading another article about the United Nation’s climate summit in Copenhagen is like hearing about a dozen new H1N1 cases or stumbling upon a talk show hashing over the Egyptian-Algerian football mania; both yield a “please, not again reaction.

For a couple of dozen environmental enthusiasts, however, an evening at Salon (Nahdet) El Mahrousa’s series of green talks was a lot more informative than a newspaper article; it was first-hand insight into the politics, the walkouts, the shaky outcomes and aftermath of the Copenhagen summit, presented by Egyptian environmentalist and COP15 attendee Lama El-Hatow.

Last month, before leaving to Copenhagen, El-Hatow told Daily News Egypt that “whether we will come up with a sufficient treaty remains ambiguous.

A month later, suspicion by the expert on farming, composting, carbon and water footprint services, and member of IndyAct, an advocacy NGO based in Beirut that calls for Arab governments to incorporate climate targets into their policies, was laid to rest.

“It’s a complete failure . The accord is only a set of guidelines. It is a green-washed PR stunt drafted by five heads of state [including President Barack Obama and the heads of the BASIC countries: Brazil, South Africa, India and China], along with EU, El-Hatow said.

While the summit did not yield neither what scientists expected nor what optimistic environmentalists hoped for, a global gathering of 110 world leaders with one pressing issue at hand; the unprecedented media coverage and civil society’s collective stance were something the world had not witnessed before.

Several factors contributed to the failure of COP15.

Politics and drama

The first blow up took place at the start of the summit when secretariats pushed aside issues of water, CCS (carbon capture and storage) and agriculture, leaving only three items on the discussion table: mitigation, adaptation and financing.

“These were the biggest issues on the table while other vital issues were neglected, explained El-Hatow.

Mitigation is the process through which countries work on reducing green house gas emissions, the sole reason for the climate change problem. Assuming the effects of green house gas emissions trapped in our atmosphere, adaptation focuses on methods of dealing with the problem, like building barriers for rising sea levels and building homes for those threatened by displacement. Financing, naturally, is the process through which such methods will be funded.

From then on, a series of dramatic events marred the negotiating tables.

Before the start of the summit, the Danish government drafted a declaration titled the “Danish Text, presumably orchestrated by the US, the UK along with Denmark. The draft agreement, which was only going to be presented to a select few, favored the developing nations over poorer, less polluting countries.

According to an article published in the Guardian on Dec. 8, 2009, “The agreement is a departure from the Kyoto protocol’s principle that rich nations, which have emitted the bulk of the CO2, should take on firm and binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, while poorer nations were not compelled to act.

As a result, angry G77 representatives stormed out in the middle of negotiations, suspending talks for hours. Simultaneously, activists took to the streets in protest, bringing chaos from the Bella center to the streets of the Danish capital.

The credibility of the talks were further shaken when tension struck between the Danish Climate Minister Connie and Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, leaving the latter, with little knowledge about the global environmental situation, heading the talks.

“It was like kindergarten all over again, said El-Hatow. All this drama “was created for diversion . There was no consensus. The only reason it [the Copenhagen accord] was adopted is because there weren’t any alternatives.

With a tit-for-tat attitude dominating the summit, two weeks of negotiations fell short of accomplishing the main goal: coming up with a fair deal that is legally binding.

The way forward

So was there anything positive that came out of COP15? Yes, according to El-Hatow.

“There was success with respect to pressure applied by NGOs and the civil community and awareness in the global community of the massive failure of the accord, said El-Hatow.

“Our expectations as the international community have elevated, she added, laying grounds to next year’s climate summit in Brazil.

In Egypt, at this point in time, a lot can be done in the fight against climate change.

“We need to capitalize on certain infrastructure like the smart grid, said El-Hatow.

Adopting a mitigation approach, Egypt should reduce its use of chemical fertilizers through adopting sustainable organic farming. While this had proven more costly, El-Hatow argues that if the government is to lift subsidies on fertilizers, it will act as an incentive for farmers to go green.

She also pointed out to a global debate pushing for the incorporation of agriculture into the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a direction she believes will encourage Egyptian farmers to use compost instead of relying on crop-rotation, which occurs when soil, previously fed with fertilizers, productivity of a certain crop decreases, forcing the farmer to grow something different.

And on conserving water, she explained that compost traps 40 percent more water in the soil than does a soil fed with fertilizers.

From an economic perspective, El-Hatow said that employment opportunities will soar if the private sector switched to a green economy. According to El-Hatow, predictions have placed the unemployment level in the Arab world at 51 million by 2020.

Egypt Climate Facts:

. Egypt s green house gas emissions amount to 0.6 percent of the global emissions, with world number 1 polluter China amounting to 19.1 percent, followed by the US at 18.4 percent.

. Egypt contributes to 31 percent of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere among North Africa, 13 percent of the entire continent.

. Through individual behavioral changes, such as carpooling and conserving water at home, we can reduce the CO2 in our atmosphere by four gega tons a year, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm.

. It is cheaper for farmers to grow organically in the sandy soils of Sinai than it is to use fertilizers.

. Last year the Egyptian government pledged that by 2020, 20 percent of the country s electricity supply will come from renewable resources.

Topics: Aboul Fotouh

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