Bangkok Blues or a Tale of Two Futures?

Bangkok Blues or a Tale of Two Futures?

While the vast majority don’t subscribe to a totally negative view of the future, say the Bangkok Post editorial, there doesn’t seem to be much genuine optimism either, and this has as much, if not more, to do with man-made troubles as natural ones. So the delegates to the climate conference in Bangkok had their work cut out for them. How did they do? Not so well, according to this report on the Voice of America: They agreed on an agenda after days of bickering.  The disagreement highlighted deep divisions between developing and rich countries on how to cut global carbon emissions.

Bangkok Post editorial (3 Aril 2011):

A tale of two futures

Looking at the headlines these days, it is sometimes hard to avoid the feeling that we must be living in the worst of times. The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan following hard on the heels of numerous other disasters around the world, another war in the Middle East, and worries about climate change that seem to be justified by abnormal weather patterns from Europe to Australia to Southeast Asia to the Americas _ all this seems to give a little credibility to theories of impending doom, like the one based on interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar which says the world will end on Dec 21 next year.

While the vast majority don’t subscribe to such a totally negative view of the future, there doesn’t seem to be much genuine optimism either, and this has as much, if not more, to do with man-made troubles as natural ones.

We also tend to take for granted the technological advancements of recent history that have added so much to the quality of most people’s lives. An example is the relatively simple and routine procedure to remove cataracts from the eyes. In former times, this common condition amounted to a sentence for the ageing of steadily blurring vision and often blindness. Of course, that wasn’t as much of a problem then because the average lifespan was much less than it is today.

It is worthwhile to remember that a big part of the reason we are hearing so much bad news is that the world is so much more ”connected” these days, and that bad news is somehow very interesting. One hundred years ago most Thais might never have heard anything about a devastating earthquake in Japan, and certainly not one in Haiti.

Even 10 years ago, our news would not have been nearly so saturated with the details of these tragic events.

That’s not to say all the coverage is necessarily bad. It helps to generate offers of assistance for those who’ve been affected by disaster or war. It also helps to generate compassion, which science now confirms is a very healthy emotion. Recent studies using magnetic resonance imaging on the brains of Buddhist monks doing compassion meditation showed a dramatic increase in the high-frequency brain activity that is thought to indicate integration of the brain’s circuitry.

So it would seem that by caring about and trying to do something for the great many people around the world who are living with disaster, war or poverty and are unable to enjoy all of the advantages of modern life, we can help ourselves.

That’s something that wasn’t known 10 years ago, at least not scientifically. To borrow from Charles Dickens, these are both the best of times and the worst of times, and it’s up to us to steer the future toward one or the other extreme.


Starting today, Bangkok will host a six-day conference on climate change, formally known as the 16th session of the ad hoc working group for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol and the 14th session of the ad hoc working group on long-term cooperative action. The main topic of the conference, which is expected to be attended by representatives from 192 nations, is the Green Climate Fund.

The establishment of the fund was approved at the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, one of the few positive measures to come out of that meeting. The goal of the fund is to generate US$100 billion (3.02 trillion baht) every year from 2020 onward to help poorer nations mitigate the effects of climate change, which many experts agree is already manifesting itself in extreme weather patterns and higher temperatures.

At the climate summit last December in Cancun, Mexico the assembly granted the UN climate secretariat powers to appoint a new committee made up of representatives from developed and developing nations and administered by the UN. However, no fund-raising proposals were agreed upon at Cancun.

Therefore, the delegates to the climate conference in Bangkok have their work cut out for them in the coming week, and it is to be hoped that the meeting will be marked by a spirit of cooperation and productivity.


Daniel Schearf  on Voice of America (8 April 2011):

Climate change negotiators from 173 countries have agreed on an agenda after days of bickering over the scope of talks left little time for substantive discussions. The disagreement highlighted deep divisions between developing and rich countries on how to cut global carbon emissions.

The United Nations climate change talks in Bangkok produced an agenda late Friday for negotiations this year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

After a week of sometimes frustrating discussions of little substance, the U.N. issued a short statement saying delegates agreed to work toward a comprehensive and balanced outcome at the climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, at the end of the year.

They also agreed to address the implementation of agreements made last year at talks in Cancun, Mexico, and on issues that were not resolved at Cancun such as the possibility of a legally binding agreement.

Christiana Figueres, the U.N. climate change chief, told journalists at the Bangkok talks a division emerged between developing countries wanting comprehensive negotiations and industrialized nations focused on fulfilling agreements made in Cancun.

“That they need to find a way that they can both focus on the very specific items that come out of Cancun as well as at the same time keep all of the other issues that were not resolved or agreed or no decision was made in Cancun, keep those on the table,” she said.

In Cancun, countries agreed they should prevent the average global temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius by 2020 and to a $100 billion fund to help poor nations adapt to climate change.

They also agreed to a process of countries pledging emission cuts and climate change mitigation efforts and then being subject to international review.

But they did not decide on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding international agreement on reducing emissions, which is set to expire at the end of 2012.

The lead negotiator for the United States, John Pershing, says some nations at the Bangkok talks wanted to revisit decisions reached in Cancun.

“There are also a number of people in these negotiations who don’t believe that the tasks in this agenda are sufficient. They’d like us to do other things. They’d like the next step. Our sense has been that if we can implement what we agreed in Cancun it will open the door to the next step,” he said.

Developing countries, which are not bound by the Kyoto Protocol, want it to be extended and expanded to include the U.S., the only wealthy nation that did not sign on.

Developing countries and activists say since industrialized nations were historically responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions they should be legally obligated to cut their own and help poor countries cut theirs by providing funding and technology.

The U.S. says it will not join any legally binding treaty on climate change unless all major economies are legally bound, including China, which overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Figures says once the review process comes into effect countries will better understand whether the bottom up approach is enough or if a top down treaty is needed to compliment it.


Leave a Reply