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Copenhagen: the need to act now on climate change

December 18, 2009

by Abjol Miah, Respect’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bethnal Green and Bow

The walkout by poorer countries at the Copenhagen climate change talks on Monday drew much needed political and media attention to those already facing the brunt of global warming.

The security of future generations rests on an effective and ambitious international deal being reached as soon as possible. The facts as they stand are alarming. Unless the countries most responsible for producing pollutants such as carbon dioxide agree strict targets for lowering emissions we put into the atmosphere, average global temperatures might rise six degrees by the end of the century. This would further warm the oceans and ice caps, leading to islands and low-lying areas becoming permanently flooded. Millions of people are already affected – if nothing is done soon hundreds of millions will be displaced and their lives placed in danger.

I have recently returned from a trip to Bangladesh. Like many residents of Tower Hamlets, my family come from a northern region of that country, Sylhet. It is also one of the nations most jeopardised by rising sea-levels. Its densely populated delta plains would be no match for unchecked global warming, and Banglesdeshi politicians have warned that twenty million Bengalis could become climate refugees within the next forty years. This and similar examples across the world would certainly lead to greater instability and demand for resources and aid – even war.

I don’t say all this to scaremonger but to set the background to this week’s summit. Instead of acknowledging their central role in creating the problem, many Western countries have tried to pass the buck. This is all the more objectionable when we consider that the average person from the Indian subcontinent has a ‘carbon footprint’ one fifteenth the size of that of a US citizen.

So what should we in Britain be doing?  Firstly we must use all of our influence to push for a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement in Copenhagen. We must shoulder our share of the funding to poorer countries to help them reduce their carbon emissions and adapt to the inevitable changes. Measures such as the Tobin Tax, proposed at Copenhagen by Ethiopia, would go some way towards this. But also we need committed political leadership to change our own economy away from its over-reliance on the finance sector and towards a new, high-tech and low carbon economy. We need a radical programme of investment in green technologies and infrastructure. This would generate hundreds of thousands of highly skilled sustainable jobs and help us climb our way out of recession.

All too often, rhetoric has not been matched with action by this government but progress from a very low base is now underway. The spectacle over the past couple of weeks of Tory back benchers and grandees rushing to deny the reality of climate change is astounding and repulsive to anyone who has seen the impact already in Bangladesh and elsewhere. For all David Cameron’s green spin, he has not spoken out against those in his party who would leave the poorest in the world stranded.

It is not too late to avoid the calamitous effects that climate change might bring. But that requires decisive, bold leadership by our government and other western countries in order to grasp the progressive solutions that the science demands.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2009 6:06 pm

    I agree, good post, although I do think it’s important for us not to put too much of our faith in the government.

    It seems to me that without a real movement even a strong progressive government would have an uphill struggle and this is not a strong progressive government.

    It’s not the governments of the world we need to look to to avert climate chaos but the peoples of the world. In this sense Copenhagen can only end in disappointment because it’s the world leaders that are the problem.

  2. Payam permalink
    December 19, 2009 3:50 am

    I agree with your post: well written.

    Of course we need a movement, but Copenhagen has shown that the decisions are still made by the big guns and the UK is a relatively small player: even if there were a big movement here backing change.

    Copenhagen = an opportunity squandered. I had, naievely, held out a little glimmer of hope that it might be less unsuccessful than it has been. The result is nothing short of catastrophe. The death warrant has been signed and we’re now on death row.

    I can only hope there are still routes for appeal, even if the hope becomes ever vaguer.

  3. December 19, 2009 8:44 pm

    It is a proven fact that the temperatures around the world have not been rising and scientist are saying the global warming scare is a fraud. In fact there are lawsuits in place to sue these fraudsters because of thier lies. Anyone in the know can easily tell that Obamma and company are using “GLOBAL WARMING” to usher in “THE NEW WORLD ORDER” the same fear tactics used to take on Iraq. If the elete succeed on this one, freedom of the common man will be history. Please I ask you, WAKE UP!

  4. Janet permalink
    December 21, 2009 6:21 pm

    ‘me’: you are very mistaken concerning the science on global warming. A massive consensus in the world’s scientific community are agreed on human agency’s role in climate change. As for the bizarre claim that Obama is manipulating the climate change agenda for his own purposes, you need only look at the results of Copenhagen to see that it is the global South that led on the issue.

    Jim Jay: we must not let our government or any other off the hook on their duty to avert climate change. The solutions required are exactly as Abjol Miah outlines – strong collective action and investment in green technology. This can only be acheived on the scale needed by nation-states. Individuals and communities can help but alone will not put a dent in reversing rising world temperatures.

  5. December 26, 2009 4:35 pm

    Dear Janet,I know your advice means well and your all for green. I am all for cleaning up our planet, but only through education. The thought of a new world order tax can only line the pockets of the elete. To help you awaken, go to u-tube, John Coleman and over 30,000 scientist sue Al Gore. John Colman created the weather channel.
    As for Obama and company, more and more people are waking up to the fact that CO2’s are not the reason for the urgency, follow the money and you will discover what is really going on. Check out Ron Paul, he opposed the wars that the elete are getting rich on. If Obama was sincere about global warming, he would be halting the wars not inceasing them. Think about it.

  6. Janet permalink
    December 29, 2009 4:29 pm

    ‘me’, you are very confused. The whole problem coming out of Copenhagen is that Obama is NOT sincere about the need to challenge climnate change, as it is widely accepted in the developing world that the US and other rich states scuppered the chances for a meaningful deal that would have committed the Western economies to proper carbon reductions.

  7. December 30, 2009 3:20 am

    Janet, having a different opinion doesn’t mean i’m confused. If you believe that taking money from the common man is going to solve the temperature changes then what about the thousands of years before man roamed this planet.I hope you do more research.

  8. Katie permalink
    December 30, 2009 1:36 pm

    me wrote that taking money from the ‘common man’ is not going to solve the temperature changes. Ignoring the fact that ‘women’ are more than 50% of the world’s population, I encourage you to read the article again above which I think is very good. Abjol Miah is saying that we can see the effects of climate change NOW. It’s not just scientists saying this. He is also saying that it is the richest in the world who should pay for cleaning up the planet. This is a view shared with the majority of countries represented at Copenhagen.

  9. December 31, 2009 3:52 am

    Katie,I couldn’t agree with you more if it were to happen and stay that way but just like any new tax introduced, it opens the door to over taxing. Katie, common man should have read “all people”, sorry I was not slighting women in fact I strongly believe that if women get more involved in this problem it will get handelled in a more expediant manner. As for taxing the rich? The rich are not the elete, the “elete” will line thier pockets with the rich and the poor. I guess my problem is that I know there is enough money wasted on wars and deception, I believe that the same group(elete) that are making hoards of money fueling the fires of war on both sides will also do the same with global taxation through global warming. “Janet” its just my opinion.

  10. December 31, 2009 3:57 am

    handelled,error…should be handled.

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