Global Trends by Martin Khor
Monday 17 August 2009
Homage paid to a Malaysian giant at the climate talks
Chow Kok Kee’s
sudden passing is a blow to the climate change community. He was an
outstanding chairman, he mobilized parties on the
The United Nations Climate Change Convention last week paid homage to a Malaysian public official who has played a major role in building the Convention and raising public awareness of the global actions needed to tackle the world’s biggest environmental and survival threat.
Around a thousand
people in the conference hall at the start of the
Chow was the Director General of the Malaysian Meteorological Department for many years until 2005. He led the Malaysian delegation in the Convention, and was by all accounts a formidable negotiator and a most knowledgeable scientist.
He served as Chair of the UNFCCC’s scientific and technological subsidiary body, and became Chair of the Expert Group on Technology Transfer in 2007. This led to his being popularly called Chairman Chow in the climate circles.
His demise was announced
by the Malaysian delegation, which described him as a leader, teacher,
mentor and friend, as well as an indefatigable delegate who had contributed
Many moving speeches paying tribute to Chow’s many contributions to the Convention were made by high officials, including the Chairman of the Group of 77 and China, Ambassador Ibrahim of Sudan and the group’s coordinator Bernaditas Muller of the Philippines, the Chair of the Bali Action Plan climate talks, Michael Zammit, and the executive secretary of the Convention secretariat, Yvo de Boer.
Tributes were also
paid by the
“His sudden passing is a blow to the climate change community,” said Yvo de Boer. “He was an outstanding Chairman, he mobilized parties on the Kyoto Protocol, and was architect of the technology framework. He will miss him as a delegate and a friend.”
Many delegates from
Only a few weeks
ago, Chow had been a key resource person at workshops for negotiators
My own interest and knowledge in the climate negotiations was also significantly developed by Chow, who was extremely generous with his time in passing on his knowledge and insights.
I remember three years ago how he explained to me the central elements in the Climate Convention which made it “friendly” to the developing countries, particularly its Article 4.7, that the extent to which developing countries take actions depends on the extent to which developed countries meet their commitments to provide finance and transfer technology to the developing countries.
This article, which was in recognition of the responsibility of developed countries since they caused most of the emissions in the atmosphere, was the heart of the Convention for Chow, who had become one of the world’s top experts on and architects of the UNFCCC. A fact that all Malaysians can be proud of.
The climate talks
last week yielded little new results, because most of the time was spent
on understanding and tidying the 200-page draft text from which a much
shorter version will have to be drafted for the big
One new issue that erupted last week was trade protectionism in the name of climate change. Many developing countries voiced strong concerns about recent measures in developed countries that impose charges or taxes on imported goods coming from developing countries on the ground that these countries are not taking sufficient climate action.
This concern has been sparked by a domestic climate bill (known as the Waxman-Markey bill) that was recently passed by the US House of Representatives, which contains such a trade protectionist mechanism.
The developing countries view this as an attempt by the rich countries to escape from their obligations to assist developing countries, and instead impose penalties on them.
In a statement,
the G77 and
measures would violate the principles and provisions of the Convention,
also circulated a document showing by how much each developed country
has so far publicly stated it was prepared to cut its emissions. Its
estimate is that excluding the
This range is far below the demand by many groups of developing countries that the developed countries cut their emissions by at least 40 to 49 per cent by 2020 (compared to 1990).
It is also below the 25-40% range mentioned by the inter-governmental panel on climate change (IPCC) and the 30% that the European Union said it would do if other developed countries would do the same.
With the trade protection measures coming up, the low emission reduction targets set by developed countries, and still nothing in sight on their transfer of finance and technology, the situation does not look bright at all.