Alan Tonkin

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Climate Change & Values
How Different Countries See the Issue

by Alan Tonkin


alan tonkinIt is perhaps appropriate at this time with the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Conference to consider the current debate around climate change from a totally different perspective.

Allowing for the divergence of opinion between climate change supporters and detractors there is enough evidence to show that the world is currently going through a warming phase.

Developed countries within the European Union have been most vocal in pushing for measures to contain global warming while the United States in acknowledging the need for remedial measures has been more cautious in how this could be achieved.

How Different Countries with Differing Values View Climate Change

The global community are increasingly seeing global warming as a key issue but the way to manage this shows a split between the approach of the developed 1st World countries in the EU, Japan and US and the developing countries with heavy emissions such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

There is still much debate in the developed world on how much mitigation is required and at what pace. There will no doubt be differences in both views and approach between countries in the European Union, particularly the more established members such as France, Germany and the UK compared to other more recent entrants.

On the other hand the developing nations and particularly the BRIC grouping plus South Africa (the largest polluter in Africa) and Indonesia see the need for growth and stability over climate targets at this stage of their development.

There is little doubt of the claim by the developing nations that until recently the bulk of the worlds pollution was caused by the developed economies and they should be mainly responsible for the bulk of the funding for the required measures in order to reduce the rate of global warming. In addition, new more environmentally friendly approaches should be made available to developing nations on a preferential basis.

However, particularly since the global recession, countries around the world are finding that the required levels of funding in order to mitigate global warming and climate change are becoming increasingly hard to find. How do countries bridge this gap, both in terms of their own electorate with four or five year electoral cycles, as well as being part of an increasingly interlinked “Global Village?”

It is possible that this will become a serious impediment to resolving the issue in the short term as the developed and developing nations have very different values and perspectives on this issue. In addition, a whole environmental industry of NGO’s have grown around climate change with inbuilt vested interests to protect and enhance their own particular positions.

Values as a Driver of Climate Change
In terms of the above how does one bridge the gulf between the developed and still developing nations as well as how should this be funded? These are the key questions that need to be answered if there is to be an effective global response to this key issue.

1st World Developed Industrialised Countries
The developed industrialised countries include the US, Japan and the major players in the EU such as France, Germany, the UK and Italy. These countries all share similar core values ranging from Blue Order, extending through Orange Enterprise to Green Environmental issues. These countries also produce the major part of the global economy and GDP.

These are the countries whose populations are generally pushing the global environmental agenda while at the same time having been most responsible for the existing levels of pollution. However, in terms of values these countries only represent at most 20% of the world’s total population.

2nd World Developing Countries

The major developing countries are those that belong to the G20 Grouping and include Brazil, Russia, India and China. In addition South Africa and Indonesia are also part of this newly constituted grouping. Core values in this group range from Tribal Purple through Red Power, Blue Order and moving into Orange Enterprise.

China, India and Russia have major pollution concerns and problems but their major push is to create jobs for their own populations. Leaders in these countries realise that economic growth is the key to political stability and environmental issues are therefore, not top of their list of urgent priorities. In terms of global population they represent around 55% of the total and are also capturing a larger share of global GDP.

3rd World Underdeveloped Countries
The majority of the countries in this category are poor and create relatively small amounts of serious pollution leading to increased global warming. However, in most cases these are the countries that are going to most feel the effects of global warming through rising sea levels, severe droughts or other weather events.

Governance in these countries is normally based on strong leadership by a major political party or alternatively by an elite group with strong connections to major powerful hereditary ruling families or tribes. Elections may be held in these countries but the majority of the electorate are often poorly educated and open to often hollow promises by the political elite. These countries will in all probability be unable to fulfil any major part in combating global warming. Some 20% of the world is represented by these countries though their economic clout is still small.

4th World Failed States
Many these countries do not have adequate governance systems or the required financial resources and in many cases are failed states ruled by dictators or tribal leaders. These are not democracies at all in the real sense of the term with examples including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Zimbabwe. These countries represent some 5% of total global population and are the poorest in the world.

Note: Estimates on values profiles above are taken from GVN WorldSCAN.
In looking at the very divergent worldviews linked to values as indicated in the graphic below, it will be necessary to bring forward an integrated perspective of our global future that all countries can buy in to and accept the concept. At the same time it is becoming clear that the developed “rich” nations will need to pay their way both in terms of funding as well as new “clean” technologies.

modified scan

The modified graphic (above) from the World Competitiveness Report illustrates the movement of values over two centuries in a number of countries. Values are evolutionary and appropriate systems need to be in place for movement to be possible. In terms of climate change and global warming mitigation it is clear that a fair and acceptable way will need to be found if a way forward is to agreed.

Costs of mitigation need to be shared in an equitable way depending on the particular stage of development of each country.

Possible Costs and How to Possibly Mitigate Global Warming

Lord Stern former World Bank economist and author of the 2006 Stern Report on the Cost of Global Warming has recently revised his estimate of the cost to between 2 to 5 percent of global GDP.

Based on the above Lord Stern believes an global fund of approximately US $ 50 billion per annum needs to be established to cover current costs of mitigation. This fund could possibly be required to escalate to as much as $ 200 billion per year by the 2020’s. The concern here is that this could be unaffordable in both the medium and longer term for the majority of countries, even the developed ones.

It is worth noting that the Copenhagen Climate Conference is expected to host not only world leaders but also some 15 000 to 17 000 other attendees. Is this new “industry” a particularly sustainable way to manage climate change?

In addition, Dr James Hansen the Director of the NASA Institute for Space Studies and an acknowledged pioneer of global warming told the Times of London that the “cap and trade” approach favoured by the developed countries would not work. He proposes a “carbon tax” which would be more effective and would work on a fairer basis across all countries, whatever their level of development.

Hansen also believes that new technologies are required including the introduction of new generation nuclear power stations to replace fossil fuel. In his view fossil fuel needs to be replaced unless efficient ways of “carbon capture” are implemented.

In looking at public reaction to global warming and climate change there are clear signs that “values” influence the importance or otherwise of the topic. In order to illustrate this the following applies:

Developing 2nd World and underdeveloped 3rd and 4th World countries generally have pressing core issues which are more critical than taking a “long view” of the world. In addition, the Survival Beige, Tribal Purple and Power Red values are not particularly concerned in the short term about the view that climate change is affecting their countries. It is only when the crisis arrives through severe weather conditions or famine that there are calls for aid from the developed nations.

In another recent development Bangladesh’s Finance Minister has now called for the developed countries to be prepared to receive “climate refugees” from countries such as his own. He believes that up to 20 million people from his country could be displaced by 2050. He called on the UN to give “climate refugees” the same protection as those fleeing political persecution. However, it is anticipated that calls such as this are going to be rejected by the developed world as movements of this size would be unmanageable.

The current Chairman of the IPCC said the Bangladeshi migration concerns should be taken seriously. However, the head of the UN Refugee Agency cautioned against a possible reworking the 1951 convention on refugees as this could result in a backlash from developed nations. The point was made that the current state of the debate in the rich countries could result in a tightening of the existing regulations.

The developed 1st World countries often have a better understanding of long term effects which are linked to the combination of Blue Order, Orange Enterprise and Green Environmental values. The concern shown depends to a large extent on the percentage of the population exhibiting the different levels of value or a combination of all three. This is consistent with their current stage of development and worldviews developed over many centuries.

The whole question of international aid (both food and other aid) is a particularly vexed question. Underdeveloped countries and their ruling elites come to rely on global aid as a way of resolving inbuilt deficiencies in governance and management of national resources. This is now also playing out in the climate debate.

Aid if offered by the developed world should be closely tied to monitoring of the results of this assistance, as it is far too easy for countries in this category to develop a system of ongoing dependence. This over time has resulted in countries being almost totally dependent on outside aid. In order for the world to move forward in a positive way it is necessary to provide targets linked to “core values” which all countries are able to support. This is a difficult if not impossible task at this stage.

All of the above points stress the totally intertwined relationship that exists between all of the countries represented. What is therefore required is a way of moving the process forward while at the same time gaining the required global attention and compliance by the use of the appropriate values sets.

Some Broad Conclusions

The issue of climate change and its successful mitigation is possibly one of the most difficult that has faced the world in recent history. This is exacerbated by the globalisation of the world economy as well as its successful survival as an integrated system. What is required is for world leaders to attempt to agree on measures to mitigate the effects of global warming while at the same time considering their own particular needs from an economic and socio-political national perspective.

Latest reports indicate that the developed 1st World nations including the US and UK have prepared a “draft” which provides for developed countries to be treated more favourably than developing 2nd and 3rd World countries. Whether this is a negotiating tactic or something more will emerge as the leaders arrive. It evidently includes:

• Force developing countries to agree to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement;
• Divide poor countries further by creating a new category of developing countries called “the most vulnerable”;
• Weaken the UN’s role in handling climate finance;
• Not allow poor countries to emit more than 1.44 tonnes of carbon per person by 2050, while allowing rich countries to emit 2.67 tonnes.

Whether the current values mix of global leaders will be able to achieve the required results, including the equitable allocation of costs, particularly under the present global recession, may hinder the long term future of our existing global system. In addition, will the values differences prove “a bridge too far” in this case resulting in either a further delay or alternatively a total breakdown of the talks?

Can grand political visions and words be translated into actual fully achievable results on the ground or will political grandstanding again win the day? This will depend on whether the various values sets can be accommodated in a meaningful way. We await the final conference results with great interest.

In the words of Howard Bloom in his recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, this debate is between the expanders and those who wish to reduce the standard of living of all. Is this fair to the billions in the developing nations who have expectations of a better life for all as seen on television, as well as those in the developed world who are sceptical of the claims of a coming environmental disaster.

In the final analysis do the rich developed nations of the North really owe the less developed nations of the South a favourable climate deal? At the same time does the developing world deserve support when so many countries still support illegitimate political elites and wide levels of corruption?

Equally, because this is a global issue it requires an integral solution so all can benefit. However, the real question from a values perspective is whether the human race is ready to make this momentous leap of faith on climate change?

Final Results of the Conference

The final results of the Copenhagen Climate Conference 2009 are likely to disappoint all those who saw this as an event to agree a global climate compact. However, this is a “process” not a one-off event, and the accord between the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa, backed by the EU, appears to be the best and only possible way forward at this stage.

It was always highly unlikely that 193 countries with very different needs and stages of development would agree to a binding agreement at this stage. The deal which is a political agreement but is not legally binding limits the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Centigrade by 2050 with the amount of the global fund being targeted at US $10 billion per year by 2013 and US $100 billion by 2020.

A further conference is to be held during 2010 in order to try to deliver a more binding agreement. However, what really needs to be asked is whether the current global system of governance is capable of handling the very different values mixes shown by the various nations and clearly exhibited at Copenhagen?

What is really needed is a totally new governance system which provides for appropriate accountability from both the developed and developing nations in terms not only of climate change but also other issues of major global importance. At this stage the human race has certainly not reached the level of development required for effective global governance – the journey continues.

About the Author

Alan Tonkin
Chairman: GVN Consulting Group
St Francis Bay. Eastern Cape. South Africa.
11 May, 2009

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