Developing countries playing new role in Copenhagen | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 16.12.2009
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Developing countries playing new role in Copenhagen

At most international summits, it's usually the rich industrialized countries who grab the attention. But now, at the Copenhagen summit, developing countries have been raising their voices, and they're getting louder.

A protester in a tank filling with water holds a a sign that says Act Now

Delegates from developing nations have clear demands for post-Copenhagen action

The tiny Pacific Island nation Tuvalu set the tone during the first week of climate talks in Copenhagen when it demanded strong action to curb global warming. It had suggested amending the UN climate treaty to require the world's nations to keep the rise in global temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Earlier this week, climate talks were postponed after China, India and other emerging nations walked out of key negotiations. African nations in particular pointed the finger at industrialized nations - wanting them to take responsibility for making emissions reductions the first item on the agenda as world leaders began more intense talks.

Island nations, developing countries, emerging markets, which are in the G77, as well as the group of Least Developed Countries - the poorest countries in the world - are showing a new kind of confidence at the climate summit in Copenhagen.

The one country, one vote principle give a large groups of nations more democratic bargaining power when it sticks together, and for many developing countries, the climate negotiations also concern their survival. It's not just about voluntary donations by the richest nations, but about binding financial commitments.

Getting it done

G-77 logo

The G-77+China has becomea powerful voting bloc

The trend of developing countries exhibiting their gusto has been emerging during climate negotiations at conferences over the past two years, according to Tilman Santarius, of the German Heinrich Boell Foundation, an environment and human rights-oriented think tank.

"It's a big change compared to the past; it's become a lot more constructive, too," Santarius said. "In the past, they usually only blocked things, but now, here in Copenhagen, they are really interested in getting a sensible treaty agreed."

For the developing countries, a sensible deal means a binding one. Pablo Solon, the Bolivian ambassador at the United Nations in New York, said a declaration similar to the UN Declaration of Human Rights must be drawn up.

"We are working toward having some kind of declaration because we think that little by little we must begin to change our relationship to nature in this new century," Solon said. "The main way to do that is to recognize that not only we humans have rights, but also that our Mother Earth, our nature has rights, rights that we must respect."

Altered thinking

Bolivia is one of the countries that expect a shift in global thinking to come out of the conference in Copenhagen - numbers and figures about reductions of CO2 emissions and financial commitments are not enough. Climate change is not a technical problem that can be solved with numbers, but a structural problem, Solon said.

A clear-cut region of forest in Madagascar

Conference delegates need to consider the needs of the environment, Solon said

"In order to solve these problems, we have to have a new, legal, international framework - legislation - that takes into account not only the right of humans, but also of nature, because that way, everything will be more balanced," Solon said.

That's the attitude many of the developing countries and emerging markets have as they participate in climate talks in Copenhagen - they're well aware that without them, climate change cannot be kept in check.

Jan Kowalzik, of the German branch of aid organization Oxfam, said that for the industrialized countries, it's in their own best interests to make binding commitments.

"It's not a question of development aid, but one of globally sharing the burden," he said. "China has shown that if they are offered technological help, they are prepared to do what is necessary."

However, he also noted that "China does not agree that its development and battle against poverty should be slowed down simply because the industrialized countries have destroyed the climate."

Binding commitments - that is what the G77 and China, the small island nations and the poorest countries are expecting from the summit in Copenhagen. After all, they are ones now paying the price for climate change, and they who will likely suffer the most in the future.

Author: Helle Jeppesen (als)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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