As governments prepare to gather at the 63rd United Nations General Assembly here and discuss once again the future of the Kyoto Protocol, a new exhibit One Planet, One Chance, , continues to warn that the world should focus on the development impact of climate change that could bring unprecedented reversals in poverty reduction, nutrition, health and education.
Based on the Human Development Report 2007/2008, the exhibit will be inaugurated on 9 September 2008 at 6 p.m. His Excellency Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President Elect of the General Assembly, and Kemal Dervis, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will be speaking at the event.
One Planet, One Chance, installed at the United Nations General Assembly Visitors Lobby and open during all of September, reaches out to the Heads of State gathering in New York for the General Assembly proceedings. The exhibit provides a visual display of the shared but differentiated responsibility for the current levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. This point is creatively represented by a series of beanbags which represent the various CO2 emissions per capita of a range of countries.
It argues that all nations and all people share the same atmosphere and, like the 2007/2008 Report, it demonstrates that the world is drifting towards a “tipping point” that could lock the poorest countries and their poorest citizens in a downward spiral, leaving hundreds of millions facing malnutrition, water scarcity, ecological threats, and a loss of livelihoods.
“Ultimately, climate change is a threat to humanity as a whole. But it is the poor, a constituency with no responsibility for the ecological debt we are running up, who face the immediate and most severe human costs,” commented Mr. Dervis.
Released just prior to last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, the 2007/2008 Report came at a key moment in negotiations to forge a multilateral agreement for the period after 2012—the expiry date for the current commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. It calls for a “twin track” approach that combines stringent mitigation to limit 21st century warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F), with strengthened international cooperation on adaptation.
On mitigation, the authors call on developed countries to demonstrate leadership by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Visitors of the exhibit will have the opportunity to clearly understand this point through the various visual embodiments of CO2 data. The report advocates a mix of carbon taxation, more stringent cap-and-trade programmes, energy regulation, and international cooperation on financing for low-carbon technology transfer.
Turning to adaptation, the exhibit and the report warn that inequalities in ability to cope with climate change are emerging as an increasingly powerful driver of wider inequalities between and within countries. It calls on rich countries to put climate change adaptation at the centre of international partnerships on poverty reduction.
“We are issuing a call to action, not providing a counsel of despair,” commented the report’s lead author Kevin Watkins, adding, “Working together with resolve, we can win the battle against climate change. Allowing the window of opportunity to close would represent a moral and political failure without precedent in human history.” Upcoming debates concerning climate change offer unique opportunities to put the interests of the world’s poor at the heart of climate change negotiations.
Avoiding dangerous climate change
The authors of the Human Development Report call on governments to set a collective target for avoiding dangerous climate change. They advocate a threshold of 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels (the current level is 0.7°C, 1.3°F).
This exhibit demonstrates some of the critical issues facing negotiators of the Post-Kyoto Accord. While acknowledging the threat posed by rising emissions from major developing countries, the authors argue that northern governments have to initiate the deepest and earliest cuts. They point out that rich countries carry overwhelming historic responsibility for the problem, have far deeper carbon footprints, and have the financial and technological capabilities to act.
“If people in the developing world had generated per capita CO2 emissions at the same level as people in North America, we would need the atmosphere of nine planets to deal with the consequences,” commented Mr. Watkins.
Using an illustrative framework for an emissions pathway consistent with avoiding dangerous climate change, this exhibit and the Human Development Report suggests that:
Measured against this benchmark, the authors find that many of the targets set by developed country governments fall short of what is required. It notes also that most developed countries have failed to achieve even the modest reductions—averaging around 5% from 1990 levels—agreed under the Kyoto Protocol. Even where ambitious targets have been set, the report argues, few developed countries have aligned stated climate security goals with concrete energy policies.
ABOUT THIS EXHIBIT: The exhibit One Planet, One Chance was made possible with support of AIGA, Duggal, HP, Magnum Photos, and Zago. Concept and design by Zago with the Human Development Report team.
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