An International News Magazine for MUNers

The Oxford Protocol: New Institutions, no Solutions

Let us not beat around the bush: Climate change is the issue of the 21st century. The OxIMUN COP Resolution (The Oxford Protocol) says it all: the earth’s climate is in need of protection. Greenhouse gasses endanger ecosystems and humankind alike, serious action is needed to turn the tide. The Kulmun Newswire takes the magnifying glass to the Oximun COP Resolution within the prospect of the real UN Climate Change Conference, to be held in Doha, Qatar, from November 26 till December 7, 2012.

Since its creation in 1994, the Conference of the Parties (COP) annualy assesses how the world is dealing with the issue of climate change. Through successive gatherings it has created a set of rules for practical and effective implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Neo-Colonial Shadow of Ecopolitics

The Oximun COP worked hard to reach a Resolution. Strangely though, the paper does not address what its title would suggest.“Resolution 1/CP.18 on CO2 Emission Accountability Measures” mostly ignores accountability, the few instances where it is actually mentioned all address developing nations.

Take for example the indicators for accountability that the COP proposed: forest degradation, land use, forest management, biodiversity. These criteria can only be applied to countries in the global south, which still have a significant carbon sink capacity. It is almost cynical that those who are the biggest victim of climate change are the ones being scrutinized the most. Article 22 encourages developed countries to create alternative measures to offset CO2 emissions, yet the proposal is vague and no standard to judge effectiveness by is imposed.

The Oximun COP resolution shows the reluctance of western nations to be assessed by an international benchmark and its avid persuasion that technological innovation will always bring an alternative that can sustain current standards of living. Like developed nations, developing countries do not want to sacrifice their market gains for external costs. Committing the global south to the cause of environmentally sustainable business and policy will take more than neo-colonial judgement, transfer of techniques, equipment and buying allegiance.

Proposals to share agricultural technology to support sustainable farming in the South are another example of the western bias that characterizes the Oxford Protocol. Sustainable agriculture in the global south is essentially small scale – How then can western high-tech farming technology and equipment possibly make agriculture in developing countries more sustainable? The catastrophic results of various World Bank experiments have answered this question before: It can’t.

Institution Frenzy

The Oxford Protocol proposes the creation of a couple of new bodies. A simple question springs to mind: Why? The proposed Scientific Union of Climate Change and Environmental Specialists (SUCCES), to be created within the IPCC framework, strongly resembles the COP’s already existing subsidiary bodies: the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).

Many of the initiatives and institutions that the Oximun COP launched already exist within the competences of other UN bodies, programmes and institutions. The new World Climate Education Program would eclipse many of UNEP’s competences, common programmes on dealing with floods, cyclones or other natural disasters are already being pooled under the UNEP disaster and conflict branch and an international Masters and PhD program is already being taught at the United Nations Universities around the world.

“It is Better to be Roughly Right than Precisely Wrong”: Change in the Long Run

What the Oximun COP Resolution should have addressed were concrete economic mechanisms to give incentive to firms and investors in high-income countries and fast-growing markets. In short, a system that could be inspired by the European Union’s environmental policy. However, simply giving incentivize firms to plant trees will not suffice to achieve sustainability in the long run.

Despite its shortcomings the Oximun COP’s Oxford Protocol has its general merits: it recognizes the role the international community should play, stresses the importance of CO2 emission reduction and emphasizes the acuteness of the matter.

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Johan Roggeman

Johan is a Belgian student with roots in Asia and Africa. While studying law at the KULeuven he spends his time on things most people would consider useless, like repairing old bikes, developing 35mm film and being a journalist for the KULMUN Newswire. He considers his engagement in the Newswire as a way to cope with the formalism of law school, to educate himself and all those willing to read an article once in a while. Before he started law in Leuven, Johan studied Political Science in Ghent and Brussels. His academic interests lie in conflict studies, development, diplomacy and international trade. He loves a good scotch or a strong coffee, preferably preceded by a good risotto or pasta dish. When life in Belgium gets a bit too dull, he travels as far and as light as possible. His next destination will be Iceland.