A Tale of Two Degrees, 22 COPs and Many RINGOs

Or, How Non-state Actors Can Help Accelerate
the Pace of the UN Climate Change Process

By Anukriti Hittle
Visiting Scholar, East-West Center, Honolulu
Instructor, Washington University in St Louis

Rising Above National Interest
Most of the time, nations act in their own self-interest. And much of the time, they cooperate only when they are forced to—such as when facing imminent collective danger (nuclear threat, small pox, dictatorships). But in the face of a slow-boil threat like climate change, they seem to drag their national government-level feet. In such cases, pressure from non-state actors may be the key to achieving collective action.

How can non-state actors complement national actors to ratchet up ambition and speed up action in the area of climate change implementation? By using the well-tried resolutions process of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and applying it to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organizations, or RINGOs, or could maximize collective action at the COP (Conference of the Parties) summits where both government representatives and observer organizations gather every year to address climate change issues. Continue reading

EWC Alumna Publishes Book on Hong Kong Return Migration

nan sussman return migration and identityNan Sussman (CLI 77) recently published: Return Migration and Identity: A Global Phenomenon, A Hong Kong Case published by Hong Kong University Press (2010).  The book examines cultural identity shifts and population flows during a critical juncture in Hong Kong history between the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 and the early years of Hong Kong’s new status as a special administrative region after 1997. Nearly a million residents migrated to North America, Europe and Australia in the 1990s.

The author captures in dozens of interviews the anxieties, anticipations, hardships and flexible world perspectives of migrants and their families as well as friends and co-workers.

Continue reading

Book Launch of East-West Center Researchers is a Success

Dr. Chia Siow Yue of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, and Dr. Michael G. Plummer (RSI 88, 89; IEP 95; VPRE 96; Wash 07; USAPC 08) of the East-West Center conducted the first comprehensive study of the potential of the ASEAN Economic Community along with a group of researchers from the region. The study was undertaken at the request of the ASEAN Secretariat and prepared through the ASEAN-US Technical Assistance and Training Facility, a joint program of the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Department of State.

At the ASEAN-US Leaders Meeting, Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, presented a copy of "Realizing the ASEAN Economic Community" to President Barack Obama.

Continue reading

Tales of old Thailand and Japan

AyutthayaIt’s the stuff of high adventure: Warrior kings, mysterious ships from far-off Japan, thriving trade across oceans and generations.

All part of the real-life tale of Thailand’s King Naresuan, who sat on the Thai throne more than 400 years ago when adventurous Japanese traders and samurai first settled in Thailand. And, you can read all about it in English thanks to Kennon “Ken” Breazeale, a projects coordinator at the Center. Here’s the story: Continue reading

Burma and the world in the post-cyclone era

By Justin Liang

On May 2nd, Cyclone Nargis exacted a tragic toll upon Burma, spawning a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Coming amid a controversial referendum vote on a new constitution drafted by the ruling junta, the havoc wrought by the storm—and the regime’s uninspired response to international assistance—has raised numerous questions about the challenges and opportunities of engagement with the isolationist regime.

I recently had the opportunity to ask some of these questions to Ambassador Priscilla Clapp, who served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy clappin Burma from 1999-2002 and recently retired after a 30-year career with the U.S. government. Ambassador Clapp has written extensively on Burma and will be speaking at an upcoming program at the East-West Center in Washington (see details of that program, as well as on another Burma program in Honolulu May 21, below).

Clapp spoke candidly about diplomacy with the ruling junta, prospects for humanitarian assistance, and the road ahead in Burma. Continue reading

Time just right for new U.S. Asia Pacific Council meet

Opening panelTake economic tremors in the United States that quite possibly could spread to Asia, add a billion Chinese who are feeling a little disrespected by the rest of the world, stir in a new conservative prime minister in South Korea and a Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister of Australia and what do you get?

Just about the perfect time, in the thinking of Center President Charles Morrison, for the latest gathering of the U.S. Asia Pacific Council of the East West Center. Continue reading

Per capita carbon emissions — or, Wait, you mean I’m a ‘bad guy’?

by Linda Kay Quintana

Linda Kay Quintana is the senior editor in the Publications Office at EWC.

Reusable Bag Man

At a recent Research Program brown bag talk here at the Center, I was reminded that despite some ecologically minded choices, I’m no environmental super hero.

The idea that there is a per capita measurement for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is a stark reminder that every person’s actions count.

I confess that I think of myself as relatively virtuous, when it comes to my “ecological footprint.” I don’t drive a car to work (although sometimes I ride the moped), I eat very little meat (at least if I am cooking it), my home doesn’t have air conditioning (lucky we have lovely breezes), I recycle (when it is convenient), I use cloth shopping bags (when I remember them), etc. But when I filled out the “carbon calculator” on the An Inconvenient Truth site, I was secretly disappointed that I still landed in the ‘Average’ range, compared to other Americans. And compared to the rest of the world, I’m definitely in the ‘bad guys’ range.

At a recent Research Program brown bag talk at the Center, “Global Climate Change: The Growing Role of the Asia-Pacific Region,” the speaker, Toufiq Siddiqi, Adjunct Senior Fellow in the research program, brought up per capita carbon dioxide emissions.

Per Capita emissions of carbon dioxide

For many, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 report has resolved the question of whether global warming is occurring and that much of this warming is caused by humans – what they call “anthropogenic warming.” Humans have been putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere faster than the ocean and the forests can absorb them. And it isn’t news that Americans have been contributing more than their share.

When you compare the total carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, China is right behind the United States. If, however, you look at per capita emissions of carbon, the U.S. has 6.0 tonnes (metric tons) of carbon per capita versus 1.3 per capita in China (2006 numbers).

What kind of deprivation would Americans have to endure to significantly reduce their carbon emissions? Relatively little, it would seem. As you can see in the figure, countries with a reasonably comparable standard of living to the U.S. — like Germany or the UK — have a per capita carbon emission of 3.0 and 2.8 tonnes, respectively.

Americans can reach similar levels by making changes using existing technology: better insulation in homes, living in smaller (but not tiny) homes, driving more fuel-efficient cars, using energy-efficient lights and appliances, etc. These are all things that can be done without a dramatic change in lifestyle. And slightly larger changes can have even stronger effects: rather than commuting in that efficient car, walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation to work instead; rather than run that efficient clothes drier — and you are lucky enough to have the space — laundry can be hung to dry.

And you may have already noticed the pattern. Just like the choice to drive a more fuel-efficient car that has lured away would-be SUV owners in the past few months, many choices to “green up” your life are also money savers: like something as small as choosing to buy food from the bulk bins to avoid excess packaging, or as large as opting for video conferencing rather than driving or flying to meet someone.

Siddiq argues that while all of these changes will have an impact, the goal of reducing the country’s emissions from fossil fuel combustion to 1 tonne carbon per capita will require the further development and widespread adoption of new technology (such as fuel cells, wind power, solar power and possibly a new generation of safer and less costly nuclear power plants).

And this kind of reduction isn’t likely to happen until 2050, even if policies are put into place immediately. Siddiqi stresses the need for action by the high carbon emitters: “The main objective should be on starting action now, and refining targets later, rather than finding reasons for delay.”

This would also provide the motivation to the larger developing countries like China and India to initiate a slowing in the rate of growth of their own emissions of greenhouse gases, with a view to capping them when their per capita emissions become comparable to those of the United States and other industrialized countries.

What are you doing?



Tropical politics and chilly Norway: A new collaboration

By Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka
tarasagoWhat in the world was this Solomon island village boy doing half a world away, in a tidy Norwegian city just south of the Arctic Circle?

Besides the obvious (shivering) and the unthinkable to many (eating whale meat, which tastes like beef) I was part of a team from the East-West Center and the University of Hawai‘i who were hashing out the details of a significant island-based research proposal with colleagues from the University of Bergen. Continue reading

Silicon Valley off to Asia?

The Presidential candidates have been out there this week debating mightily about the U.S. economy, trade and jobs.

While a lot of the talk has been about manufacturing jobs and rebuilding America’s infrastructure, there is also discussion of the gradual export of “knowledge” or innovation work overseas.

Dieter Ernst, a senior fellow in Economics Study at the Center, has been thinking and publishing on the issue of “innovation offshoring” for some time. For a look at his recent opinion piece on the topic as well as his proposals to deal with the “brain drain,” go HERE.

Are the candidates listening? Should they be talking more about this important topic?