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Governments Have Failed to Respond Adequately to Climate Change at The U.N. Conference: Activists

While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start

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U.N. Climate Conference
In this Dec. 11, 2018 photo a participant in U.N. climate conference walks by a photo of a satellite in Katowice, Poland. VOA

At the UN Climate Change Conference, which concluded in the presence of delegates from nearly 200 countries, green activists on Sunday said governments have failed to adequately respond to the catastrophic impact of climate change that was highlighted in a recent IPCC report.

Late Saturday night, the UN climate negotiations, known as COP24, drew to a close, with parties adopting a set of guidelines for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The climate change conference has failed to deliver a clear commitment to strengthen all countries’ climate pledges by 2020.

At the same time, a relatively effective though incomplete rule book for how to implement the Paris Agreement was finalised.

“It is a weak rule book that we have for implementation of the Paris Agreement. This rule book is completely insufficient to drive ambitious climate action,” New Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said.

United Nations, Global warming, climate change
Participants take part in plenary session during COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. VOA

CSE has been tracking the negotiations at the 24th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) here.

The COP24 conference also failed to increase the ambition of countries to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases as per the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5 degrees Celsius, CSE’s Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan told IANS.

Limited progress was also made with regard to how financial support for poorer countries coping with devastating climate change impact will be provided and accounted for, says another climate negotiator.

The EU has made welcome efforts by building alliances with other countries and finding common ground on sticking points.

With several other members of the High Ambition Coalition, the EU has set a good example by committing to increase its 2030 climate target by 2020, in light of the warnings of the IPCC calling for “rapid and far-reaching” action to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

United Nations, Global warming, climate change
COP24 President Michal Kurtyka speaks during the opening of the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland. VOA

However, NGOs and civil rights bodies say the COP24 has failed to convince all other governments to make the same commitment.

Germany doubled its support for the Green Climate Fund to support developing countries, but other European countries still have to do the same.

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe Director Wendel Trio told IANS: “The weak outcome of this COP runs contrary to stark warnings of the IPCC report and growing demand for action from citizens. Governments have again delayed adequate action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.”

“The EU needs to push ahead and lead by example, by providing more support to poor countries and increasing its climate change pledge before the UN Secretary General Summit in September 2019. It must be a significant increase, even beyond the 55 per cent reduction some member states and the European Parliament are calling for.”

United Nations, Global warming, climate change
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses during the opening of COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

Jennifer Tollmann, climate diplomacy researcher, E3G said: “In the end the EU did finally step up as a bridge-builder. But we now need to see whether they can ace the real test.”

Andrew Wu, research analyst at World Resources Institute, said: “We cannot overlook land use, a sector which accounts for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. There is now a common framework, supported by COP, to help countries measure land use emissions. All countries must adopt this and incorporate natural climate solutions in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.”

Also Read: As Climate Talks Come to a Halt, Africa Suffers From Global Warming

Commenting on the decision, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, Gebru Jember Endalew, said: “While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start implementing the agreement.” (IANS)

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1,700 Child Soldiers Reunite With Their Parents In Myanmar

In September 2018, the Myanmar government released 75 children and young people who were recruited and used by the military in the only discharge to take place last year.

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Myanmar
Colonel Tun Tun Win of Myanmar's Ministry of Defense speaks at a workshop on the creation of a complaint mechanism to report instances of forced labor, in Naypyidaw, Jan. 17, 2019. (RFA)

More than 1,700 child soldiers in Myanmar have been reunited with their parents, and about 800 military officers and other army personnel who recruited and used them have been punished, a defense ministry official said Thursday during a workshop in Naypyidaw to discuss the creation of a complaint mechanism to report instances of forced labor.

Colonel Tun Tun Win of the Ministry of Defense said that the army has taken action against the use of child soldiers in Myanmar based on regulations of the International Labour Organization (ILO), a United Nations agency that sets global labor standards and promotes social protection for workers.

“In response to the ILO’s regulations, the Tatmadaw [Myanmar military] has taken action from 2007 to 2018 against a total of 379 military personnel, including 64 officers and 315 other ranks in accordance with military discipline,” he said.

Soldiers
Child Soldiers, Representational Iamge

At the same time, the U.N. Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR), co-chaired by June Kunugi, UNICEF’s representative to Myanmar, and Knut Ostby, the U.N.’s highest representative and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, to report on grave violations committed against children during times of armed conflict, has taken action against 448 military personnel, including 96 officers and 352 other ranks, he said.

The punishments included sending military personnel to both civilian and army jails as well as demotions, Tun Tun Win said.

Besides sending nearly 1,730 child soldiers home, the army is addressing the issue in a transparent manner, he said.

Saw Tin Win, a lawmaker who is a member of the Farmers and Workers Affairs Committee in Myanmar’s lower house of parliament, said his committee receives about 40 complaints about the military’s use of child soldiers every month, though only two or three have been returned.

un human rights council
U.N.’s highest representative and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar

“Some underage children were allowed to resign from the service, while other cases remain under investigation,” he said. “And some children were not allowed to resign during their recruitment period.”He also said that the committee had gathered evidence of underage children being used as child soldiers and then sent complaint letters to the defense ministry.

Thein Swe, Myanmar’s minister for labor, immigration, and population said that the Myanmar military is cooperating with both the CTFMR and the ILO on the child soldier issue.

“It also has taken action if complaints were submitted under the Supplementary Understanding agreement,” he said.

The February 2007 agreement between the Myanmar government and the ILO provides for a complaint mechanism under which individuals can submit cases of forced labor under the ILO Convention 29 concerning forced labor, and including underage recruitment, to the ILO liaison officer in Yangon.

“For instance, if the Tatmadaw cooperated on the issue of child soldier recruitment, then it took action against those who recruit underage children and notified us once the issue had been resolved,” Thein Swe said.

He also said that the ministry would address the issue of forced labor by ethnic armed groups in Myanmar, but did not elaborate.

Widespread use of child soldiers

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Besides sending nearly 1,730 child soldiers home, the army is addressing the issue in a transparent manner, he said.

The use of child soldiers in Myanmar has been widespread since the country’s independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1948. For decades, the national military has engaged in hostilities with several ethnic armies fighting for varying degrees of autonomy in their states.

Some of the ethnic armies that are fighting against Myanmar forces, and some of the forces allied with them, also have recruited and used child soldiers, though the numbers have been much lower than those recruited and used by the Myanmar military.

In 2007, Myanmar and the U.N. began negotiations on ending the use child soldiers that culminated in a joint action plan in June 2012 to stop the recruitment and use of children by the armed forces.

Three years later, Myanmar signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC), also known as the international child soldier treaty, but has yet to ratify it to make it fully binding.

Also Read: Reuters Journalists’ Appeal Gets Rejected by Myanmar Court

In 2017, the country signed the Paris Principles and Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces and groups and to reintegrate those who have been associated with armed forces into civilian life.

In September 2018, the Myanmar government released 75 children and young people who were recruited and used by the military in the only discharge to take place last year.

(Reported by Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA’s Myanmar Service.)