I’m a true believer in saving the planet, active since the first Earth Day nearly 40 years ago, and participating in a beach clean up on September 19 as part of Clean Up the World Day. But overall, I’m absolutely sick about how little has been achieved in all these decades. The surge of attention to climate change is the best hope in my lifetime for meaningful progress to save the planet. But the UN and its green group allies will fail to seize this opportunity unless they dramatically change their approach, and do it fast.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called a summit of world leaders for September 22 to energize stalled negotiations for a new global climate change treaty to be signed in Copenhagen in December. But the UN’s new treaty incorporates and deepens the flaws of its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto placed restrictions on just 40 industrialized countries while letting the rest of world, including number one greenhouse gas emitter China, continue to spew at will. Those flaws led the US to shun Kyoto, leaving more than 70 percent global emission beyond the scope of Kyoto. Predictably, Kyoto has failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
For Kyoto’s successor, the stakes are even higher. Developing countries represent half of current emissions and up to three-fourths of projected emissions growth in the next decade, the crucial time to prevent a more than two degrees Celsius that scientists say would radically alter life as we know it. After Kyoto’s failure, you’d expect to lean on developing countries for cuts and reach out to the US, recognizing its potential to provide missing leadership and technological innovation. Instead, the UN embraced nearly 1,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), most of which demonize the US and champion “climate justice,” the right of developing countries to destroy as much of the environment as industrialized countries did. So Kyoto’s developing country exemption remains, along with a new demand that the US and its industrialized allies pay an estimated US$140 billion a year to developing countries; the UN and NGOs stand ready to serve as siphons – I mean vehicles – for that funding.
Little wonder industrialized nations haven’t warmed to the talks, even though the Obama administration wants to address climate change constructively. The UN and its NGO allies are letting their politics get in the way of finding solutions. For both, failure on this issue would extend a decades-long legacy of futility. Given their record of failure, most green groups should disband if they truly want to help Mother Earth.
Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.