The Heat Is Online

Argentine President Blasts North for Double Standards

Argentine President Heats Up North-South Debate

Interpress Service News Agency
, Dec. 15, 2004

Argentine President Néstor Kirchner accused the countries of the industrialised North of double standards, noting that they relentlessly pursue repayment from their financial debtors, yet do everything possible to delay or completely avoid meeting their environmental debt to the developing world.

Kirchner made his comments Wednesday at the opening of the high-level segment of the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-10).

The conference, currently underway in Buenos Aires, will wrap up on Friday after 12 days of discussion and debate among more than 6,000 participants from 180 countries, including representatives of governments, multilateral agencies and civil society organisations.

Addressing the environment ministers and heads of delegations gathered for the high-level segment, Kirchner noted that if a map of the world showing the areas of greatest poverty and financial indebtedness were superimposed over another showing the highest concentration of biodiversity, "the overlap between the two would be obvious."

The same would be true, he continued, if a map of the world's largest financial creditors were placed over a map of the countries that "contribute more than any others to the environmental degradation that leads to climate change."

"We should not accept the double standards implied by demanding that the developing countries strictly comply with the financial obligations stemming from foreign debt, while at the same time, the world's most evolved and powerful societies elude their basic commitment to the preservation of life," Kirchner stated.

During the opening, Klaus Toepfer, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), read a message to the participants from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

"As climate impacts become unavoidable," the message said, "the development agenda will have to evolve to include measures to help societies adapt."

Annan urged the participants to "look ahead, beyond the Protocol, which takes us only to the year 2012," and to promote the use of low-carbon energy sources, low-greenhouse-gas technologies and renewable energy sources.

He also called for closer partnerships with the finance and investment community, "since its decisions, in particular on the energy systems that drive development, can make a major contribution to achieving our objectives."

For her part, Joke Waller Hunter, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, celebrated the progress made in the mitigation of factors leading to global warming, but added that "it is also imperative that societies prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change."

In Kirchner's view, climate change is a global problem caused primarily by the societies with the greatest economic power, which frequently show callous disregard in undertaking processes "whose effects will be suffered by other peoples and other generations."

He noted, as well, that global warming will exacerbate the already intolerable conditions of poverty and hunger throughout the world, and warned that the brunt of the cost will fall on the most vulnerable countries, which are precisely the ones that have done the least to provoke this disaster.

"We cannot allow entire societies to be doomed to disappear simply because in some other part of the world, the necessary efforts are not being made to keep this from happening," said Kirchner.

It is time to move beyond rhetoric and to seek actual solutions to climate change, he said. The "anguished" demands of the developing nations can no longer be allowed to fall on deaf ears.

This is a task that must fall primarily to the countries that have the most resources, in terms of capital and technology, and are "not subjected to the burden of external debt, nor obliged to comply with the demands of societies that owe them enormous compensation," as is the case with the developing nations.

"These financial creditors, who are relentless in demanding compliance from their debtors, refuse to take responsibility for the environmental debt they owe to the less developed countries," Kirchner stated.

Until now, he charged, the developed countries of the North have avoided meeting up to their commitments, and failed in making the promised contributions to dealing with the problem of climate change.

"The citizens of these societies can consume until they have had their fill, provoking greater emissions of greenhouse gases, while the citizens of our countries struggle to survive, mired in hunger and extreme poverty," he said.

The ministers will continue to meet through Thursday. There will be four panels of six ministers each that will address subjects like adaptation, litigation, technology transfer, and an overview of the progress made since the climate change convention was adopted 10 years ago.