Environmental issues: the Eagle flies high. Or doesn’t it?

“Climate change is here to stay. All we can do is work and try to adapt to it and limit its negative effects. This can only be done together, developed and developing countries as one. That means building a global partnership to help developing countries by means of transferring financial, scientific and technological resources from developed countries to those still trailing behind. First thing to do, is moving toward a low-carbon society”.

These few lines could well summarize conclusions of the L’Aquila G8 Summit on environment and energy. As a matter of fact, the discussion and its final declaration were enlarged to, and signed by the leaders of the most important of the developing countries’ group: Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Mexico and South Africa joined the traditional G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK and USA) plus the European Union in endorsing this important declaration on the way to Copenhagen.

What does all this mean, and how good a baseline is it as a preliminary agreement working for the coming global climate change meeting in Denmark? in other words, did the Eagle (Aquila is the Italian word for eagle) fly high enough to envision a new world?

“The call for a global partnership to take on the climate change challenge is a due thing. The changes in global climate cannot be taken on and solved by individual countries, no matter how rich and strong they are. A broader solidarity between richer and poorer countries is strongly needed”, says Franco Cavalleri, environmental researcher and Director at CSST – Developmental Studies, an EU-based socio-environmental issues research center.

“Climate change is an environmental issue, but its consequences are primarily social: it’s the capacity to adapt to these changes, and turn them positive for us, what makes the difference. More developed countries are better set and fit to introduce in their own national systems the changes needed to cope with the new climate conditions. And exploit them for good. Transfering the necessary financial, technological and scientific resources from those-who-have to those-who-have-not can but multiply any positive outcome.”

In the developing countries group is included China, which is by now the world’s largest polluter. Its percapita GDP might still be much lower than the developed countries’ average, but large social gaps in wealth distribution and the sheer number of total population (Chinese are one sixth of the world’s total population) make China the one country with the greatest financial resources. As shown by the virus-like expansion of Chinese economical – and political, consequentely – influence in Asia, Africa and South America.

“China should be included within the developed countries group. Indeed, this has been underway for quite a few years now. First came China’s admission – or perhaps we should better call it a drafting – into the WTO. A move necessary to have Beijing accept and implement the nternational set of trading rules. Then, involvement in the enlarged G8 meetings. Next move will be move this country from a developing status to a developed one”.

It will not be easy to convince the Chinese government accept the upgrade in status. It would deprive them of one of their major tools on the international stage.

“For years Beijing has claimed they are not tied to the Kyoto protocols because of China being a developing country. They have been ignoring all international agreements and standards in terms of environmental sustainability and protection. Last year’s Olympics have clearly shown the world they are a major economical power. It’s time for them to accept the responsibilities of such a position.  Copenhagen will show if the Chinese political establishment is mature enough. Needless say, a refusal would deeply undermine their international authority. It might even trigger anti-China moves.”

Transfer of resources, be them financial or technological, to the poorer countries. Isn’t it a deja-vù?

“Sure is: the transfer of resources from the North to the South of the world is a theme dating back to the 1960’s or thereabout. Words are the same, ideas, concepts and – most important – implementations are far different. Many developing countries are now hosting important activities, in the industrial, service or financial fields. Brazil, India, Korea, Indonesia, South Africa are local giants, economically speaking. Slightly behind them we find Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey. Even Iran, should Teheran quit with their one-against-the whole-world politics. All countries which could well claim to be local centers for the implementation of environmentally and socially sustainable policies. An open political debate with them is necessary to activate a fair and effective transfer of resources – technological, scientific and financial”.

So far, we have drawn a picture of political and social changes. What can you tell us about technological changes? Namely, shifting to a low-carbon economics, as explicitly evoked by the L’Aquila declaration.

“Once the global political balance of powers have been shaped accordingly with the new needs, we can think of building a new economy, a low-carbon one”.

“We do have the technologies to exploit more sustainable sources of energy and production systems. Businesses all over the world have already made more than one step forward: further developments need be endorsed by the international political community. Just as indicated by Connie Herdegaard, Danish Minister for Climate and Environment and host of the next Copenhagen meeting: it is the politicians’  responsibility to draw the lines; businesses then have to implement the technologies needed to fulfill the requirements and the agreements”.

As a whole, what judgement can be granted the L’Aquila declaration?

“It opens the way to a a good agreement in Copenhaghen. The major points are drawn. Now they must be translated into political agreements and later into economical behaviors. The starting point, though, is good enough”.



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