Sunday, 5 December 2010

Climate change: The power of a label

Tuvalu delegation meeting after AOSIS

Cancun, Mexico - It’s the ‘label’ that is throwing a spanner in one of the works at the UN climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico. When it comes to climate change talks, the Pacific islands come under the label – “Small Island Developing States” (SIDS). It is a recognised grouping at the UN climate change conference alike the Least Developed Countries (LDC’s) and countries in Africa prone to certain climate change impacts. These are the recognised terms under the Bali Action Plan formed at the 13th Conference of the Parties in Bali. That meeting unanimously agreed to give priority to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, but to give special attention to the LDC’s and SIDS.

During the first week of the two-week climate change negotiations in Cancun, the discussions are also revolving around the introduction of new name groupings which are giving way to “unnecessary complications” in an already complicated and intense process.

“Some countries feel that unless their region or their particular concern - the impact that they are most concerned about is mentioned explicitly, then they feel that they are being excluded,” said Espen Ronneberg the Climate Change Adviser for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

“Even though we are quite strong on the position that all developing countries that are vulnerable to climate change shall be assisted. The Bali Action Plan and the language is very clear on this.”

The consistent push for new ‘labels’ is a common link throughout many different threads of negotiations now underway in Cancun.

At the Bali Conference of the Parties in 2007, there was an amendment to the text of countries that qualify to be recognised as a grouping to include the countries in Africa that are particularly to climate extremes. However this amendment was supported by science and deemed justifiable during those negotiations.

With other groups forcing their own ‘labels’ upon the text, it gives way to new concerns and arguments.

“I don’t think it will be feasible to have an agreement with a long list and the alternative is a limited text that has been proposed which only refers to countries that are vulnerable to climate change without any sorts of conditions or particular parts being highlighted,” explained Ronneberg.

“This will probably mean that we get pushed aside as unless there is a particular attention being given to small islands, we never seem to get much from the financing process.”

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