Monday, 23 March 2009

Uchita Presents at the Scientific Climate Congress in Copenhagen

Abstract for the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change
"Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions", Copenhagen on 10-12 March 2009 Session 58 “National and Regional Development of mitigation policies”

Integrating Sustainable Consumption and Production in Asian Climate Change Policies
By Uchita de Zoysa, Executive Director, Centre for Environment & Development, Sri Lanka

Summary & Objectives
As climate change is being promoted as the greatest challenge faced by future human societies on earth, more than half of humanity is under poverty. In reality the world is still divided in its path to save the world. The Group of 77 developing countries (G77) lobby within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is struggling hard to ensure that the traditional power politics of the Northern hemisphere does not undermine the development aspirations of the Southern country people. Dr. Tariq Banuri says; “There is a broad consensus, articulated explicitly in all global conventions and agreements (including in particular, the UNFCCC, Agenda 21, JPOI, and the Millennium Declaration) that developing countries have a right to sustainable development, that all other actions should be framed such as not to undermine or affect this right adversely in any way, and that developed countries have an obligation to provide financial assistance and access to technology to developing countries in order to assist the latter in realizing this right".
While the debate on 'the right to development in a climate change agenda' increases, lifestyles in developing countries too are increasingly becoming non environmental friendly as it used to be and more people are joining the ranks of the ‘consumer classes’. Asia with a clear majority of the consumers on earth, housing seventy percent of the global poor, holding the ownership to a large percentage of the world’s natural resources does pose a serious challenge towards achieving sustainability not only in Asia but also on the entire planet.
The Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption (ARSC) conducted by this author in 2005 concluded that the ultimate goal of sustainable consumption is creating better quality of life for all to enable wellbeing and happiness. It also suggested that efficiency per say will not bring bout the desired radical changes to the current unsustainable consumption patterns that contributes also to climate change. Therefore sufficiency (a growing concept that includes self-reliance, adequacy and contentment) should be seriously promoted as an alternative.
National and regional policy makers are now paying greater interest in climate change issues. Even small countries like Sri Lanka with weak bargaining power in the international climate negotiations are keen to framework their climate change policies. In this process their alliances are with sub-regional, regional and developing country groupings such as G77 to drive the best bargain for their nations. The National Advisory Committee on Climate Change in Sri Lanka has agreed to formulate a National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) in 2009. The broad framework of the policy has been agreed upon to be ensuring sustainable development aspirations of the nation.
The objective of this paper is to promote Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) as a strategic tool that can help promote sustainability based national and regional polices on climate change. The paper also intends to promote sufficiency based sustainable lifestyles to enable wellbeing and happiness as a key pathway towards climate change mitigation and adaptation in Asia.
Findings & Results
The ‘UN 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production' is the official response to the statement by Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) that one of the main challenges on earth is regulating unsustainable consumption and production patterns on earth. The Asian Review on Sustainable Consumption (ARSC) that was conducted as an Asian response argued that sustainable consumption needs to be discussed in the interest of half of the world’s population that are in poverty, while addressing the over consumption issues of the developed countries. It emphasized that equity in consumption is a major challenge of the international community that seeks to regulate unsustainable consumption patterns. ARSC challenges the current international approach on sustainable consumption (SC) and rejects the notion that eco-innovation or greening the consumer should be the main focus of SC in Asia. It essentially proposes that the primary goal of SC should be to assure quality of life for all. It suggests that SC planning should be targeted to enable wellbeing and ensure happiness of all people.
The ARSC process included dialogues with over a hundred organizations from government, universities, NGOs and industry sectors in twelve Asian countries (China to India, Malaysia to Sri Lanka, Indonesia to Bangladesh, Cambodia to Nepal, Thailand to Pakistan and Vietnam to Laos). It was backed up with a survey and also site visits to formulate fifty related case studies. The findings were presented to an Asia-Europe cross regional convention and since have been presented at policy, research, business and civil society forums across the world. The review was used as the foundation document to formulate the UNEP Asian Guidelines on Sustainable consumption, which also influenced the UNEP National Guidelines on Sustainable Consumption that followed. The ARSC was presented to several scientific, policy and stakeholder meetings at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali (COP13) and since then has continued to make its influences in the climate change science and policy arena as well. Most recent interventions include the presentation and successful inclusions into the UNEP Asia-Pacific Forum statement to the environmental ministers meeting in Kenya this year, and the Planet2050 scientific workshop and publication.
Conclusions & Way Forward
National and regional climate change polices will continue to head towards driving a larger share of benefits from the international climate change agenda. While demanding greater mitigation commitment from the developed nations, they will also continue to demand higher stakes to commit towards adaptation. While international negotiations are battled based on global political and trade power, the climate keeps on deteriorating, poverty continues to affect humanity, and the overall target of sustainability gets lost in the debate.
This paper from an Asian perspective argues that national and regional polices (including climate change policies) needs to be based on a set of common criteria that adopts sustainable lifestyles (consumption and production) which includes;
1. Equitable consumption opportunities that enables wellbeing & happiness of all
2. Sustainable lifestyles that promotes healthy and peaceful environmental conditions
3. Sufficiency based development paradigms to replace growth based GDP and GNP