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Rule or exception: Double standards and fighting global warming

‘Dirty secrets’
I hope that I have already indicated clearly Norway’s double standards in its climate change and global warming actions. More generally, its Santa Claus image has taken a serious beating in the approach to the just concluded Copenhagen Summit. In his Guardian Weekly column last September, Mark Curtis bemoaned the fact that in spite of Norway’s benign image abroad it had “become the home of four dirty little secrets.” One of these is of course the environmental sleight-of-hand I have been dealing with in these columns in previous weeks.
The other three are of the same ilk, betraying a not so well concealed addiction to hypocritical actions. First, he pointed out that Norway’s huge oil income pension fund generated from its fossil fuel exports, invests in 7500 corporations in 46 countries around the world. Although the country goes to great lengths to portray itself as a model ethical investor, when examined in detail the corporations the fund invests in constitute “a dirty list” of some of the world’s most disreputable corporations. The list includes numerous companies in oil, mining and agribusiness that are consistently criticized by NGOs for their abuses of human rights as well as the rape and destruction of the environment.
Second, Norway prides itself as an extremely generous aid donor. It is indeed the world’s third largest aid donor when measured as a percentage of GDP. While all this is good, Curtis points out that when oil prices rose in mid-2008 and government revenues grew by 17 times, despite pleas by Norwegian NGOs, its official overseas assistance to poor countries did not follow suit as the poor countries Norway expresses so much concern about, were being devastated by the high oil prices.
Third, Curtis pointed out that it is not widely known that Norway is one of the world’s largest arms exporters. Norway’s arms exports have tripled since the turn of the century and now amount to over a half-a-billion United States Dollars. Many wars in poor countries around the world are being fought with Norwegian armaments.

The Copenhagen Summit
On the eve of the Copenhagen Summit, Norway announced that it would cut its emissions by 40 per cent based on 1990 levels if the Copenhagen conference turned out to be successful. If it was not successful then it would still cut these emissions by 30 per cent. For several reasons, widely discussed in the media before, the Copenhagen Summit seemed doomed for disappointment from the start. There could be no replacement treaty for the Kyoto Protocol without the highest level binding and verifiable political commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by US President Barack Obama. However, as matters still stand the US Congress is nowhere near a firm decision-point on this issue. Bitter political divisions between Democrats and Republicans in the US make it impossible for the President to give binding commitments to the international community, which is a necessary condition for a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Indeed the political divisions in the US are so intense that many Republicans are still denying that man-made global warming is taking place. This controversy has been fuelled by the infamous e-mail scandals emanating from the University of East Anglia.

The basic cleavage and stumbling block among countries worldwide, which hampers a new treaty stems from the fact that human engendered emissions of greenhouse gases which are damaging the world’s atmosphere constitute both a stock and flow. The stock is the past accumulations of greenhouse gases worldwide that still remain in the atmosphere. And, the flow represents the current net annual rate of increase in greenhouse gases worldwide. The current net rate without the stock does not appear to constitute a global doomsday scenario. With the stock already in existence added it certainly does. Because of this reality poor countries demand that the historic polluters give the greatest binding commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as their responsibilities for the present global threat are the greatest. As readers know the United States is by far the world’s worst historic polluter.

On the other hand, the historic polluters argue that major current polluters should share a substantial share of the burden to cutback on greenhouse gas emissions. The largest current polluter is China, with the United States not far behind.
The recent Copenhagen Summit and its accord frame the context in which the recent agreement between the Government of Guyana and the Government of the Kingdom of Norway should be evaluated. At the summit my greatest fears have been realised. Poor countries continue to be exploited because of 1) their poverty, and following on this, their desperate need for foreign sources of funding 2) their naïvety, ignorance and continued trust in rich countries’ promises, which as I have repeatedly shown in recent columns cannot be relied upon, and 3) the current global economic and financial crisis, which has removed climate change and global warming from the premier position on the agenda of global problems requiring globally coordinated solutions.

Munificence
Writing on ‘Norway and our forests,’ the first paragraph of the November 16, 2009 editorial of Stabroek News exuded: “It must have gladdened the hearts of all Guyanese here and in the diaspora about the news of the munificent Norwegian decision to support this country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) to the tune of US$250 million over a five year period.” The editorial went on to state glowingly: “Norway continues to live up to its reputation [sic] in the company of its Scandinavian neighbours as exemplars in development aid and in this instance combating climate change.”

This SN-styled Norwegian financial generosity conveys two sets of promised payments to Guyana in exchange for carbon credits. One is a commitment to contribute US$30 million to support the Guyana REDD + Investment Fund in 2010. Second, conditional on 1) expected performances being achieved and 2) other elements of a “partnership” between the Government of Guyana and the Government of the Kingdom of Norway falling in place, Norway would provide support for the years up to 2015. This could add up to as much as US$250 million.
There are several preliminary points to observe at this stage. First, it is very clear that conditionalities are attached to these payments, as would be expected. Second, these payments are to be back-loaded, in the sense that later annual payments are expected to be larger than up-front payments beginning in 2010. Third, there is an area of unclarity in the arrangements, particularly as to whether the total of US$250 million is up to the end, the anniversary date of the MOU, or the beginning of 2015. And also, as to whether the figure of US$250 million includes next year’s payment. I make this observation because summaries of the MOU on Norwegian government websites avoid clear specification of these details.
Next week I shall continue the evaluation of the MOU from this point, where the overall level of financing is assessed.

 

LCDS

The political economy of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS)

Last week I concluded my rather extended discussion on the current global economic crisis and the lessons to be learnt from this. I trust readers would not infer from this that I believe the global crisis is over and we can safely return to business as usual. Far from it, while this is an appropriate point to introduce other topics to the discussion, I promise I will return to the global crisis if there are significant untoward developments in the coming weeks as we close out 2009 and enter into the New Year, 2010.

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Norway’s deception: Partnership or capture of Guyana’s rainforest

In this column last week I started what I hope will be a fairly full assessment of the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS). At the time of writing this column I have not been able to access the revised version of the Draft LCDS, which the government had promised to place in the National Assembly before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Copenhagen Summit), which starts tomorrow. As I await the revised version of the LCDS, I shall confine my assessment to those topics which should not be significantly affected by likely revisions.

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Norway And Guyana’s rainforest: Why beggars do not choose

For this week’s column, let me begin by re-emphasizing a couple of observations I have made about global inter-governmental negotiations thus far, as I continue to evaluate the low-carbon development strategy and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), between the Government of Guyana and the Government of the Kingdom of Norway, as well as its related Joint Concept Note between the two parties to the agreement.
Diplomatic principle.

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Norway and Guyana’s rainforest: Santa Claus or Old Higue

I hope that by now readers would have realised that Norway can in no way be looked upon as Guyana’s Santa Claus. I have also tried so far in recent columns to make it categorically clear that my principal intention is not simply to bash Norway as a historic polluter of the earth’s atmosphere. My main purpose in presenting Norway’s horrendous environmental profile is to assert the obligation this places on Guyanese to ensure our pristine forests are developed in an integrated, transparent, accountable and sustainable framework for the benefit of all Guyana. In particular to ensure that our national patrimony does not end up being mortgaged to the promotion of Norway’s studied and calculated efforts to deceive the world into believing that it cares more than any other nation about saving Planet Earth. As the saying goes “beware when Old Higue around looking for life blood.”

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Rule or exception: Double standards and fighting global warming

‘Dirty secrets’
I hope that I have already indicated clearly Norway’s double standards in its climate change and global warming actions. More generally, its Santa Claus image has taken a serious beating in the approach to the just concluded Copenhagen Summit. In his Guardian Weekly column last September, Mark Curtis bemoaned the fact that in spite of Norway’s benign image abroad it had “become the home of four dirty little secrets.” One of these is of course the environmental sleight-of-hand I have been dealing with in these columns in previous weeks.

Read more ...