The Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society, meeting in Santiago, Chile, on 24 March 2008, with the participation of H.E. the President of the Republic of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, addressed an agenda with, at its centre, the shared goals and responsibilities of the international community in advancing a common sustainability in a global and interdependent world society.
As underlined by the financial crisis spreading instability across economies in the world today, common responses are fundamental in overcoming crises that touch upon every country, every society and all peoples. In this new global context, politics has new responsibilities as do citizens, communities, institutions and governments.
Global governance is no longer a concept but an urgent necessity. Politics needs to be global to guarantee peace and stability; to safeguard the environment; to generate development and social cohesion; to ensure robust economies that can withstand speculative pressures and create fairness and opportunities for all.
No other issue illustrates better the borderless and truly global nature of the challenges facing today's world and the need to put forward common answers than global warming and climate change.
In this sense, the Commission at its meeting in Santiago was encouraged by the urgency expressed by the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in December 2007 in Bali, and the participants' understanding that any delays in reducing global warming will increase the occurrence of severe climate impacts on the world’s already fragile ecological systems.
The Commission welcomed the agreements reached by the more than 180 nations represented there, including the Bali Roadmap and Bali Action Plan, getting underway a process of negotiations to achieve a new climate change regime to succeed the Kyoto Protocol within two years.
To this end, the Commission looked forward to the first session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) and the first part of the fifth session of the Ad hoc Working Group on further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) to advance these negotiations to be held from 31 March to 4 April in Bangkok.
Expressing concern that no firm or specific targets for reducing emissions were agreed at the December Conference, the Commission hoped that the flexibility and the spirit of cooperation exhibited by many nations in Bali would continue during the new negotiations for a comprehensive plan to address global warming.
It noted positively that agreement had been reached there for nations to take on binding commitments or actions to achieve deep cuts in global emissions in the next stages, and that industrialised nations agreed to measurable and verifiable mitigation actions as well as financing assistance to support efforts of developing countries toward sustainable economic development and emission reduction.
The Commission reiterated that short and long-term achievable, internationally binding goals to reduce emissions are now needed.
As difficult as the process leading to Bali was, the Commission believes that the next steps will be even more challenging, that the hardest work still lies ahead, and that much needs to be accomplished in a narrow two-year window of opportunity provided by the Bali Roadmap.
Securing a multilateral system able to respond to the climate change crisis and its effects globally requires leadership by both developed and developing countries, as well as unprecedented solidarity between them. The global implications of this crisis will generate a world with changing, urgent demands on nations’ natural supplies, with potential heightened flashpoints for conflict over energy resources and access, higher environmental migratory flows, extensive spreading of infectious diseases and increased pressures on vulnerable states and regions.
Reiterating its firm conviction that the international agenda for climate change has to be linked to eradicating poverty, the Commission underlined that any global economic reforms had to ensure that development was not only greener, but also more just and sustainable, and that national and international development policies must include climate concerns. Stepping up efforts with regard to canceling the debt of poorer countries is needed and providing these countries with unrestricted market access, so lessening inequality among nations.
A fundamental challenge is securing the financing and investment required to promote low carbon economic growth, particularly in developing nations, and to support efficient technological advances that address global warming as well as the transfer of needed technologies to the developing world, and a new international financial architecture is fundamental to this.
The Commission noted that carbon trading markets offer some advantages, but underlined that markets alone, as in the case of the global economy as a whole, are insufficient and will not provide the financial support and resources necessary for achieving the required combination of deep emission reduction, adaptation to already changing climate conditions, energy security and equitable and environmentally sound economic development.
Political determination and decisions based on solidarity should be at the heart of the decision-making process in dealing with climate change. Markets by themselves will not provide the answers, and therefore politics should give the necessary emphases and incentives to the market so that it works for the benefit of the environment.
A critical area for action to promote and achieve a more unified global response to climate change is public education. The Commission welcomed the increasing awareness among citizens in many parts of the world, but also emphasised the need for exchanges of best practices, more extensive public outreach programmes, including the political sphere as much as at the community level.
The vital role of the scientific community in monitoring the planet’s natural systems and informing global institutions, national governments and the public of the environmental effects of global warming, as well as giving future projections, must be supported. Greater investment is crucial in research and development, as are more far-reaching scientific studies.
The Commission also noted positively how attitudes in the private sector recently have been changing, if slowly, with regard to the effects of global warming. This has been true among some large corporations as well as smaller enterprises. In a longer perspective new technologies go hand in hand with economic growth and development, However, in the short term, public support is sometimes needed to make green investments profitable and ensuring more productive cooperation and genuine partnerships between the public and private sectors. Further progress also requires that governments provide a clearer sense of direction, including policies to set targets for private and state-owned enterprises, promote environmentally friendly behaviour and define concrete goals, encourage investments and research and ensure that environmentally harmful behaviour must bear its full cost.
Protecting the environment makes it necessary to change the way we produce energy, but also the way we consume energy across society. In this way, technologies and behaviour need to be stimulated to change attitudes, make efficiencies and conserve energy. A sector-by-sector approach in identifying areas with large emissions and adopting suitable policies is one way forward.
The Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society is aware that many of the necessary changes and new initiatives will be difficult to implement. But no other way forward is possible. The international institutions today and the whole multilateral system more than ever need to have the capacity to respond to the expectations and demands of our citizens for a sustainable, fairer and more humane society.
Having visited the Antarctic region where we observed the complex and drastic effects of climate change at firsthand, the Commission, deeply conscious of the responsibility shared by all today to future generations, is ever mindful of the dire environmental, economic and social consequences of not acting now.