Acting now on Climate Change, to acheive a sustainable world society
XXIII Congress of the Socialist International, Athens, 30 June-2 July 2008
The XXIII Congress of the Socialist International, following on the continuing work of the SI Commission for a Sustainable World Society, reaffirms the commitment of our movement to advancing a common sustainability in a global and ever more interdependent world. Paramount in our effort is working to find common, effective and timely responses to the fundamental challenge of global warming and climate change.
The Socialist International views the financial, food and fuel crises that have spread so quickly from continent to continent as just the latest evidence that common responses are crucial in addressing challenges that in today’s world increasingly are borderless in nature.
At the same time, the International underlines its belief that there is no global task more urgent than adequately responding to climate change, that we have only 10-15 years to reverse growing carbon emissions in order to avoid the most severe consequences of global warming, including a substantial rise in sea levels, the extinction of many of the world’s animal and plant species and increasingly extreme weather events.
The challenge ahead of us is to meet the interlinked demands of combating climate change, ensuring the security of energy supply and addressing the enormous increase in prices for energy that harm our economies and especially those who cannot afford the higher prices. Immediate steps to increase our energy efficiency and our share of renewable energies are the right way forward to combat climate change and to tackle the energy crisis, both in support of sustainable development.
The Socialist International was encouraged by the urgency expressed by the more than 180 nations represented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Bali in December 2007 and the general understanding that any delays in reducing global warming will increase the rate of adverse climate impact on the world’s already fragile ecological systems. To this end, the SI considers that we cannot afford to let global mean temperature to exceed 2 degrees Celsius and declares its adoption of this 2 degrees Celsius target as the cornerstone for an all encompassing agreement to be reached hopefully in Copenhagen in 2009. Within the next 10 to 15 years, global GHG emissions need to be shifted to a pathway consistent with the 2 degrees Celsius target.
The International further welcomed the agreements reached at the December Conference, including the Bali Roadmap and Bali Action Plan, which initiated a process of negotiations designed to achieve by the end of 2009 a new climate change regime to succeed the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.
Although the International was concerned that no firm or specific targets for reducing emissions were agreed in Bali, it remained hopeful that the flexibility and the spirit of cooperation exhibited by many nations at the Conference would continue as the negotiating process moves forward and that the targets and actions agreed upon in a post-2012 climate agreement will provide adequate responses to the challenges highlighted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In this respect, we recognise that the most ambitious IPCC scenario and its corresponding damage limitations would require that global emissions of greenhouse gases need to peak in the next 10–15 years and be reduced to very low levels, well below half of levels in 2000 by the middle of the twenty-first century. Different instruments for reduction of emissions have to be flexible and choose different measures and instruments depending on the particular conditions of each country.
The International notes as positive the agreement, reached at the subsequent UN Climate Change meeting in Bangkok in April, to adopt a negotiating timetable that will culminate in an agreement at the conference scheduled for December 2009 in Copenhagen. However, the difficulties encountered during the gathering in Bangkok, and during the latest follow-up meeting held in Bonn in June, underscore the critical importance and urgency of enhancing a sense of common need and shared purpose to ensure better cooperation among nations.
The International was encouraged that in Bonn the process moved to specific negotiations on the concrete issues that must be addressed as part of the anticipated accord in Copenhagen, and that participants agreed to scale up practical technology transfer efforts, particularly for Africa, small island nations and the least developed countries, and to streamline access to funding for adaptation to climate change.
However, the Socialist International believes that the most difficult work lies ahead, particularly with regard to reaching agreement on short and long-term, ambitious and internationally binding goals to reduce emissions, and that accomplishing this task will require an unprecedented level of collaborative effort among the world’s nations.
As the process moves forward to the next meeting scheduled for August in Accra, and to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled for Poznan, Poland, in December of this year, the International notes that there is less than a year and a half left to reach a comprehensive agreement by the end of 2009, and that nations must remain determined and focused on the key issues that have to be addressed as part of any such accord.
Climate change is already creating a world with evolving and ever more urgent demands on nations’ resources, with potential flashpoints for conflict over access to energy as well as natural resources, and mounting tensions linked to higher environmental migratory flows, the proliferation of infectious diseases and other health problems, and the increasing pressures overall on the poorer, more vulnerable countries and regions.
Securing an international system able to respond to the challenge requires leadership and mutual respect between developing and developed nations, which will require a much greater degree of solidarity than has been displayed thus far. In this regard, an essential aspect of realising a more fair and effective form of global governance is reform of the United Nations, which means that UN member states must redouble efforts to revitalise and reshape this indispensable institution based on democratic interaction between nations and stronger, more coordinated, multilateral responses to the challenges the world faces today.
The International believes that the global agenda for responding to climate change must be linked to greater efforts to reduce poverty; must include stepped up efforts to cancel the debt of poorer countries and to reduce trade barriers to provide developing countries with better market access; and must ensure that economic development is not only greener but also more just and sustainable, and that climate concerns are an important and integral part of national and international development policies.
A critical task is to secure the financing and investment necessary – through the creation of a new international financial framework – to promote low carbon and sustainable 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. In addition, a substantially greater percentage of fuel taxes in the countries where they are and will be applied, as well as other investments and subsidies, should be channelled into alternative, clean power generation and energy conservation programmes.
The Socialist International believes that there is a great potential in the effective use of appropriate market mechanisms, such as carbon trading. Nevertheless, we are aware of the fact that climate change is the greatest and widest-ranging market failure the world has ever seen and that market solutions alone are insufficient and will not provide the financial support and resources necessary to achieve the required combination of deep emission reduction, adaptation to already changing climate conditions, energy security and equitable and environmentally sound economic development.
The International further underlines that political determination and negotiations based on solidarity and a belief in a common future should be at the heart of the decision-making process when dealing with climate change. Because markets alone cannot provide solutions, political engagement is necessary to provide incentives and to guide the market so that it works to the benefit of the environment and in support of greener and more equitable economic growth.
Active solidarity between the developed and developing world must include technical and economic support to those countries with less capability to reduce gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Commitments by individual nations should be based on past, present and future level of emissions and the country’s economic capacity to reduce them, under the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. The wealthiest nations with the greatest volume of emissions should reduce their emissions first and the most.
A particularly critical area for action to promote and achieve a more unified global response to climate change is public awareness, beginning with education. The International welcomes the increasing awareness among citizens in many parts of the world, but believes that there must be greater efforts to enlighten, particularly among youth, with particular emphasis on exchanges for best practices and more extensive public outreach programmes, both in the political sphere and at the community level.
There must also be full support for the vital role of the scientific community in monitoring the planet’s natural systems and in keeping global institutions, national governments and the general public informed about the effects of global warming, as well in providing detailed and solid recommendations and projections about future trends. Greater investment in research and development is crucial to ensuring that the world can rely on the best science and benefit from the most far reaching and in-depth studies.
The International also notes positively how attitudes in the private sector recently have been evolving, if slowly, with regard to global warming. This has been true among some large corporations as well as smaller enterprises. We consider climate protection not as a threat to our economies but as a great business opportunity. From a longer term perspective, and in many cases already today, new technologies go hand in hand with economic growth and development. In the shorter term, public support is sometimes needed to make green investments profitable and to ensure more productive cooperation and genuine partnership between the public and private sectors.
Hence, the SI encourages the transformation of the economies to low carbon economies by promoting technologies that already exist or are being developed, by rewarding innovation and change, by providing the right mix of policies, measures and incentives.
Further progress also requires that governments provide a clearer sense of direction, including policies that set ambitious, but achievable, targets and define concrete goals for both private and state-owned enterprises, promote environmentally friendly business practices, encourage investment and research and ensure that environmentally harmful behaviour is held fully accountable in terms of penalties and restitution.
The Socialist International further believes that to protect the environment it is necessary to change the way energy is produced and the way energy is consumed across every level of society. In this regard, there must be changes in attitude, behaviour and applications of technology in order to create greater efficiencies in energy use and conservation. One important way forward to implement economy-wide targets is a sector-by-sector approach in identifying areas with large emissions and adopting suitable policies to reduce them.
The International understands that many of the necessary policies and new initiatives will not be easy to implement. But there is no other possible way to proceed as any delay in our actions will compromise our ability to effectively respond to climate change. Global institutions, as part of the whole multilateral system, more than ever must be given the capacity, flexibility and authority to meet the mounting expectations and demands of our citizens for a better world. Today, deeply aware of our shared responsibility to future generations, and ever mindful of the dire consequences of not acting now, the Socialist International reaffirms its unwavering commitment to working for a sustainable, fairer and more human society.