Spain is a beautiful country and I am sure that many former residents- including myself - would have never left it had it not been for the impact the financial downturn is having on the country’s economy. Being so horribly ravaged by the crisis - the country’s unemployment rate is over 20 per cent, by far the highest in Europe - does not allow Spain to ignore the obligations it is bound by on the basis of the Kyoto protocol. Far from using its worrying situation as an excuse, the country will have to pay 638 million euros in order to fulfill its commitments in terms of limiting the increase of CO2 emissions for the years 2008 - 2012. This is, again, a European record high, as it will be the highest sum paid by a EU country in compliance with the protocol. Does this really mean Spain will massively invest in environmental projects making its industry and society greener? Not really. According to a report released last week by the European Commission, Spain will have to reduce its CO2 emissions increase to 15 percent compared to the 1990 levels, but, the report say, the actual increase at the end of the 4-year term will be no less than 35 percent.
The Economist: Violently hit by the economic crisis, Spain will have to pay more than any other EU country for not complying with the Kyoto protocol requirements.
Spain though, as other non-compliant countries, will be able to make up for its missed target by investing in development projects in poor countries. By doing so, it will “buy” the right to a higher level of CO2 emissions.
Is this just an expensive way for countries to escape their duties in the global fight against climate change? It may sound like it. On the other hand, the link between climate change and issues affecting the developing world is a crucial one. The world’s action against global warming would not make any sense if we failed to consider the gap between industrialized and developing countries, where the great majority of people inhabiting this planet happen to live.
This time last year, when the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen was around the corner and global warming was extensively addressed - as a topic - by media, politicians and organizations of different kinds, the European Commission
a huge part of its annual development and cooperation summit to this issue. In Sweden, where the European Development Days
held last year, I spoke
Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International
, among the most prominent organizations fighting poverty and hunger in the developing world. I was in Stockholm as a reporter covering development but not exactly an expert in climate change and asked Hobbs how the two issues could be tackled together by governments and NGOs. Hobbs said that in many cases development issues are aggravated by global warming, or even triggered by it. If we think of hunger in countries where a bad harvest would result in starvation for thousands of children, it is easy to understand how changes in climate can ultimately lead to famine. "There is plenty of evidence which is suggesting that crops are being drastically reduced," said Hobbs. "A lot more people are going to be thrown into poverty." Hobbs had just got back from a work trip to India, where Oxfam was holding a number of climate change talks. "People's crops (there) are halving because summer is two months longer," he told me. "The rain is all coming at once - they don't know when to plant. There are dramatic changes to farming and agriculture. Clearly, this is going to have a huge impact on hunger."
Tehran Times: Crops in drought-hit India, where longer summers are damaging agriculture.
But hunger is not the only development field where the impact of climate change is highly feared. Malaria is, along with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, among the main diseases fought by organizations within the UN Millennium Campaign
. Several studies and reports have shown how global warming will increase the tranmission of malaria in several affected area. Also, as Hobbs put it, "people are just getting sick because of the cold weather in some places and wetter weather in other places." If we look at the Millennium Development Goals
, climate change is only mentioned within one of the targets addressed by goal number 7, or "ensure environmental sustainability
." Does this really reflect the extent to which global warming is preventing and will prevent development in the near future?
World Press: A child dies from malaria. Climate change may increase the incidence of this disease.
Looking at things from an opposite perspective, we may also ask ourselves if climate change can really be tackled directly by governments and civil society in countries whose populations live in poverty and lack access to basic services. Can the amount of CO2 emissions even be considered as an issue in countries where a rapid industrial growth is still seen as the only way out of poverty? Can people in these countries even think of how to limit their impact on the environment when they are busy figuring out how to feed their children on a daily basis?
Back to my conversation with Hobbs now, although Oxfam was and is engaged in a number of climate change programmes, its director said that ahead of the Copenhagen summit - when governments and international institutions such as the EU were increasing their green investments - he was concerned that this may lead to reduced finance for development projects. "What we are concerned about is that in coming up with a finance package on climate, the money is going to be taken away from development aid, when in fact we need both," he said. Of all the statements I have heard about the need to fight climate change and of all the fears expressed by activists, politicians, fellow journalists and people in different positions and with different agendas, this is certainly a concern I share.