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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 13:09 GMT
Climate treaty 'robs the poor'
Child AP
Poor countries have urgent problems to worry about right now
By environment correspondent Alex Kirby

A UK climatologist has launched a scathing attack on the developed world's "self-serving ideology" in tackling climate change.

The scientist, Dr Mick Kelly, accuses the rich of patronising the poor, and seeking to save the climate on their terms alone. He says they should be concerned with justice, not the free market.

And he believes they ignore urgent problems today because they are obsessed with a "comparatively nebulous" future threat.

Dr Kelly, of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, edits its bulletin, Tiempo.

Ideology

With the climate conference in The Hague, Netherlands, starting on 13 November, he is fiercely critical of the assumptions of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement on tackling climate change.

Kelly AP
Dr Mick Kelly
Dr Kelly challenges the view that the developing countries are particularly vulnerable to global warming, which he says "carries with it a considerable amount of ideological baggage".

He argues that future climate instability will hardly worsen the plight of many countries that are already highly vulnerable.

And some of them have in any case "developed a considerable capacity to cope and adapt".

Dr Kelly says it is arguable that the industrialised nations are at greater risk from climate change.

He says the persistent belief in southern vulnerability to global warming

  • conforms with the widespread view of the South as victim;
  • reinforces Northerners' guilt over centuries of exploitation and neo-colonialism;
  • provides "a stick - the threat of impacts - and a carrot - the offer of assistance - that Northern negotiators can use to draw the South into accepting emissions reduction controls. In brief, it suits the Northern agenda."
The effect of this, Dr Kelly argues, is to divert attention and resources away from present hazards "towards the ill-defined and speculative threat of future impacts".

Bandwagon

And helping the poor to cope with existing weather and climate is the way to involve them in confronting global warming.

He compares efforts to tackle famine in Africa with the time, money and science "committed to the comparatively nebulous threat of the greenhouse future".

Floods AP
Countries at risk have learned to adapt
And he says career opportunities in the field of applied climatology and seasonal forecasting compare poorly with "those available when hitching a ride on the global warming bandwagon".

Dr Kelly is also critical of one of the main negotiating areas at The Hague, the so-called flexibility mechanisms.

These are ways by which developed countries can achieve some of their greenhouse gas reduction targets by investing in other countries instead of at home.

Dr Kelly describes acceptance of the flexibility mechanisms as "an article of faith, faith in the free market and the process of globalisation".

Equity

They involve a transfer of investment, income and technology to the South - "a bribe, payment to ensure that the North can continue polluting the atmosphere".

And he foresees a future where carbon is an internationally-traded commodity, and the trade in it an instrument of foreign policy.

To parallel Opec, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Dr Kelly calls for the creation of Ocpec, the Organisation of Carbon Permit Exporting Countries.

"Why", he asks, "should the nations of the world not decide to combat the threat of global warming on the basis of an explicit ideological commitment to equity between peoples, rather than a selective, oft-blind acceptance of free market principles?"

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See also:

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