THE CONTINUED logjam following the week-long negotiations in Bangkok earlier this month of the UN Climate Change Convention has not come as a surprise to many, as the great divide between the developed and developing countries persists in stalling any sensible and acceptable replacement of the much-maligned first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires towards the end this year.
While the UN claims that substantial progress was made during talks in the Thai capital, environmentalists warn that even glaciers are moving at a faster pace than governments on climate change. A Greenpeace spokesperson described the talks as small steps for governments, but major steps backward for humanity.
Ominously, the climate change talks were held in Bangkok, a city that last year was devastated by massive flooding, around the time when several extreme weather events were unfolding around the globe. These included typhoons in Korea, storms and flooding in the Philippines, hurricanes in parts of the US, and a searing drought, the worst in more than half a century, which has ravaged the Midwest. Even more worrying are reports from the Arctic region, where ice coverage has shrunk by more than half since 2004. Scientists and experts monitoring the Arctic system note that the region will be seasonally ice-free within the next decade or two. Models of the international panel on Climate Change had predicted this would happen only between 2050 and 2100.
But government representatives continue to engage in acrimonious discussions in capitals across the world, unable to reach any definite conclusion. The Kyoto Protocol had made it legally binding for the developed world (excluding the US, which had not signed the deal) to cut emissions by specified rates, with the overall average rate being five per cent of the 1990 levels by 2012.
Sadly, except for Europe, most of the other wealthy nations have dumped the Kyoto Protocol and joined a working group on long-term action that was set up in Bali in 2007. But the action plan that was hammered out in Indonesia is also facing the fate of the Kyoto Protocol. The wrangling between the developed and developing countries is expected to continue even in Doha, where the UN climate change conference is scheduled to be held in just about two months.