Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Climate Change and Development Panel

Greetings from the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University in Canberra. For a free panel on "Crises in human development: Climate Change: What does Copenhagen mean for the world’s poor?" The event did not start well, with a representative of ActionAid making an attack on western neo-liberalism. I didn't think would help with climate change or development.

Guest panellists:

  • Dr Lorraine Elliott, Senior Fellow in International Relations, The Australian National University: Dr Elliott asked what forum should be used for climate change negotiation. She said the G20 was not suitable as it is not a formal legal international forum, concentrates on financial issues. The UN FCCC process is flawed but is deliberative and inclusive, or superior.
  • Annemarie Watt, Negotiator, Department of Climate Change: Ms. Watt suggested we need to fundamentally change the way we are looking at the problem and come up with new solutions. She pointed out how complex and demanding the negotiation process is, with multiple streams and limited skilled negotiators. She noed that a the Copenhagen meeting the cohesiveness of the developing nations block broke down. She has an extensive background in environmental issues in government, but curiously I could find no mention of her on the Climate Change Department web site.
  • Mr Phan Van Ngoc, Country Director ActionAid Vietnam: Mr. Van Ngoc argues that the Copenhagen agreement was for and by the rich. This may be true, but is not a useful observation. Obviously rich and powerful nations will act in their own interests. The question is how the interests of others can also be promoted. A more useful observation was that most of the negotiations were closed and by a small group of countries. His view, which I share, is that the negotiations had no useful outcome and were a waste of resources and effort. He pointed out the effect climate change will have on Vietnam and that the country has strategies to address this. This was useful for pointed out that this is not just an abstract political problem and that nations are taking action.
At question time I proposed that ANU help the Australian Government provide an online forum to assist future climate change negotiations. The panel pointed out that some developing nations had only limited Internet access and that face to face meetings were needed, particularly where high level political leaders are involved. But there seemed to be some support for the idea. Ms. Watt pointed out that Department for Climate Change makes extensive use of video conference, but are concerned by the limitations of the technology particularly for large groups and with technical glitches.

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