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Cold Summits…

       Warm Planet...

By: Andrés Jiménez Monge

Biologist and project director

of NaturaCultura Foundation

Since the early 80´s, we have been aware that the planet was warming up and that the cause was the emissions of certain gasses that were increasing dramatically the greenhouse effect on our planet.


In 1992, as a planetary response and following several meetings of smaller scale, the first Earth Summit was organized. The Rio de Janeiro Summit set the bases to attack the problem and an action plan was drawn to correct it. The first misstep for a global action came a little later: The country that produced the most contamination in the planet at that time, refused to sign it.


5 years later, there was the Kyoto Summit and the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement within the framework of the United Nations about the climatic changes. This did not go into effect until 2005 and through the last decade, the majority of the countries signed and ratified this treaty and its legal obligations, even though the United States, again, decided not to ratify it. The treaty expected the governments to reduce at least a 5% on average the contaminating emissions between 2008 and 2012. 


Two years away from the dateline established in Kyoto, many intellectuals, scientists, leaders and environmentalists had high hopes that the meeting of Copenhagen could produce a document that would provide continuity to the Kyoto Protocol and should define stronger actions that would lead us to reduce the emission of gasses, particularly in the industrialized countries.

World's countries position about Kyoto Protocol

Signed and ratified / Signed but refused ratification. / No position taken.


The beginning of this summit in Denmark was marked by a series of particularly hopeful factors. The most encouraging sign was the global consciousness. If we compare the impact that the previous meeting in Kyoto had with the impact of this one in Copenhagen, among the public opinion and the leaders in attendance, one can clearly see how global warming has taken day by day a major priority within the global agenda.


However, just days prior to its beginning the Summit suffered a setback because of a publication that strived to create confusion on the origin of the problem.


What was the role of this summit?

The Copenhagen Summit not only should give continuity to the Kyoto Protocol, but also promised to resolve a series of voids left by the Asiatic agreement.  Among the most important was the increase of actions to reduce the warming by 2°C, an accepted parameter for the viability of the planet.  There was also supposed to be a clarification of the economic contribution from the developed countries to the poorer ones, which are the ones that have suffered the major effects of this planetary illness. Contributions that were calculated to reach up to $20 billion. Together with these economic contributions another subject to be discussed was the migration of patented technologies that would help those countries to be able to reduce the environmental impact.


What happened (or didn’t happen) in Copenhagen?

Unfortunately, once more the challenges presented were larger than the virtues of the politicians in charge. This time, the United States decided to get involved, did not pursue getting closer to the European Union, finally pacting only with China and India. Africa distanced itself from the process, several other countries chose to remain silent and non-participatory while Chavez and his boys took advantage of the summit to campaign, showcasing their total environmental ignorance and disregard.

Demonstrators trying to remind the negotiators a very simple point.

Finally, the United Nations limited itself to accepting an agreement of good will, which was in no way binding. 


Once more this puts in evidence the reality that to reach consensus among 190 nations on a subject that touches the blood and soul of industrialization, that is, the use of fossil fuel and the non-stopping economic growth, is a really difficult chore since no one wants to make sacrifices. Again, the big economic interest prevailed and very little was done in favor of the health of the planet.


The implications for Costa Rica are many. At some point in time this type of treaty was seen as an opportunistic way to obtain some options for economic development by taking advantage of the exchange of emissions, or the contamination permits that would have to be paid by the developed countries to mitigate their effect.


However, the implications of not taking concrete and actions that are much more ecologically ambitious will truly be very serious for a tropical country that depends on its agricultural and tourist sectors. If we continue on the path we are on now, the impact of global warming at the level of draughts and floods could affect Costa Rica in a drastic way.


Copenhagen has been declared by many a new disappointment and by others a new vision of hope with the sights set on the Mexico 2010 meeting.

Nevertheless, on the critical point at which the world convalesces, a good will agreement such as this can be declared a total failure and a confirmation that individual actions and not that of governments will punctuate the possibility of our survival.


At this summit, the work done was not towards reducing emissions. What we saw, was how the basis were being set to make of carbon a new global business.


In December of 2009, a few made the decision that the planet and its citizens, will have to wait....




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