by Tom Duncan
Alliance Of Small Island States (AOSIS), led by Tuvalu, has brought forward an all or nothing, high stakes bid for a new agreement in Copenhagen, that asks big developing country polluters such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, to have binding legal targets. In response, China, India and Saudi Arabia stated that they thought this was a plot to kill the Kyoto Protocol, to distract from the matter at hand. The substantial and tragic matter that Tuvalu brought to attention by it’s strong intervention in the Copenhagen merry go round-cum chessboard – is that island states will disappear if countries like China and India do not agree to new and binding targets, in much the way Annex 1 Countries did, under the Kyoto Protocol. Phase II of the Kyoto Protocol, the ‘new deal’, that must be ‘sealed’, is being used as a weapon by developing countries that are large emitters, to point the finger at rich nations tht have not honoured the Kyoto commitment, and say, ‘You havn’t even achieved your Kyoto commitments, yet here you are wanting us to sign up to new targets’. Its like asking someone to clean up their room, when your own room is very messy. Its something people usually learn at a very young age – personal responsibility, in the context of familial responsibility.
So when did the western civilisation supposedly lose it’s way and started breaking promises? Well, to be honest, from the beginning of western civilisation, we have been taking for granted that we are somehow special, and therefore absolved of responsibility. With freedom comes responsibilty – we are very concerned with our rights, but not our responsibilities. This lack of trust at Copenhagen, is a symptom of a long term pattern, of broken promises and avoided responsibilities. It is understandable that countries such as China and India would like to point the finger. But, this finger pointing threatens the very lives and livelihoods of islanders, globally. The wounds of the past are rearing up their ugly heads, and preventing constructive dialogue, and negotiation. This headached from the past, that has resulted from the consistent breaking of promises, let downs, and inability of the west to be honest, means that countries like Tuvalu, Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands, and many many more, will disappear, if China and India do not sign of to Kyoto Phase II, with legally binding targets.
How does this rest in the minds and heart’s of those whose comfortable existence in the western economies, deprives the right of others, to even exist? It is quite apparent that most in the west have no idea of their past wrongs, and current consequences. In much the same way, in Australia for example, many of the privilege whites had no idea the effect their way of living, and political system, was affecting Indigenous Australians. Those who did not know, also felt the idea of apologising to the forgotten Australians was wrong, because they personally had not harmed an indigenous Australian directly. What we need to get across is that our existence, in our society, political system, economy, our way of life, denies the very existence of others.
The history of the mis-trust is something that will take a long time to heal, but it needs to start with the western countries taking responsibilities for past failures, and apologising for the broken promises. What is also needed, is the countries who feel a victim of the broken promises, to respond in a compassionate way, so as so as to avoid being the bringers of death to the people of island states, and their environment.
When we don’t deal with the past, it comes back to haunt us. Will Tuvalu, Kiribati and other island states, come back to haunt us after Copenhagen? Certainly the flood of environmental refugees will be something that comes to Australia.
An ethical and compassionate response, is to create a new class of refugee status that is eligible to migrate to Australia, that being, ‘Environmental Refugee’. But surely we can act as a global community to prevent the tragedy of ‘Environmental Refugees’?