Justice from Crisis: Paisley Meeting Calls for Climate Change


October 23, 2009

by Lindsay Brown

Green-minded charities and politicians across the country are revving for December’s Klimaforum ’09, the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

It was also the topic that Douglas Alexander, MP and Secretary of State for International Development, emphatically addressed in today’s Justice from Crisis meeting in Paisley, organised by Oxfam Scotland and SCIAF, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund.


Ice melting in Paradise Bay, Antarctica/Photo by Lindsay Brown
Ice melting in Paradise Bay, Antarctica/Photo by Lindsay Brown

“Carbons emissions is a global crisis,“ he said, “and Britain is the only country that put a number on the table months ahead of Copenhagen.”

Alexander will attend the summit meeting with Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling. A key point they want to hammer into the deal at Copenhagen is carbon emissions reduction, actually setting goals for beyond 2050.

“Can we convince any countries that we’ve been close with to have any number at all?” Alexander said while describing Britain’s summit goals in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “If you take a country like the US, we’ve just lost 10 years with an administration that didn’t even accept the concept of the carbon emissions crisis.”

 Today he displayed optimism about the upcoming role of the United States.  “I struggle to see how we will not reach an agreement with the democrats being the majority in Congress.”

Copenhagen officials will discuss the creation of a successor climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol which was enacted on 16 February 2005 by 184 parties of the UN Climate Convention, but not the US.

Also on the platform at today’s meeting were Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland, Malcolm Fleming, the SNP candidate for Glasgow South MP, and Stephen Boyd, the Assistant Secretary at the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

Robertson’s experiences through Oxfam reinforce the platform’s message that climate control is crucial. “Oxfam works with populations dealing with severe droughts and flooding.  If we [the UK] stick to our 2050 goals, we will have lifted millions of people out of debt, most of them women,” she said.

Discussion after the Justice from Crisis meeting in Paisley/Photo by Lindsay Brown
Discussion after the Justice from Crisis meeting in Paisley/Photo by Lindsay Brown

Britain’s G20 goals for 2050 include an 80% emissions reduction target, a figure agreed upon by the other G8 industrialized nations in this past July’s Copenhagen environmental summit.

Robertson discussed the need for global accountability on climate control and the dichotomy between wealthy nations and poorer ones. “On the rich countries of the North rests the responsibility. The devastating effects rest on the poorer countries of the South.”

Robertson mentioned concern about the role played by the range of countries that lie in between.

“We’re not seeing developing countries working toward carbon reduction because they simply don’t have the resources.”

India and China are among these developing and threshold nations, known as the “Group of 77.”

Alexander said, “The US set in India’s psyche ‘it’s okay to wait, a better deal is down the road,’ but it’s not.”

Stephen Boyd of STUC talked about how joblessness affects the climate crisis.

“Climate change is a sign of the biggest market failure. We talk about creating green jobs, we’ve got to talk about creating all jobs.”

Alexander commented on this dilemma. “Forty-one thousand jobs were lost in Scotland in the past year. Politicians need to ask themselves, ‘How do I deliver gross domestic product growth for my local population and do it at a low price?’ The challenge is in balancing economic crises with climate ones.”

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