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Parliamentarians call for global action on Tibet climate change crisis

December 14, 2009

Parliamentarians call for global action on Tibet climate change crisis

 

Press release, International Parliamentary Network on Tibet, December 14,
2009

 

Thirty-five Parliamentarians from 16 different countries have written to the
head of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen urging negotiators to
take into account the global implications of climate change in Tibet.

 

Tibet, the world's largest and highest plateau, is the 'world's third pole'
because it contains the biggest ice fields outside of the Arctic and
Antarctic. The Tibetan plateau is warming twice as fast as the rest of the
world and the impact of the now melting glaciers will be catastrophic. No
other area in the world is a water repository of such size, serving as a
lifeline for much of a continent and for millions of people downstream.

 

The Parliamentarians note in their letter that according to scientists, the
Chinese government's land-use policies of fast-track urbanization,
infrastructure construction and resource exploitation are contributing to
the acceleration of global warming and environmental destruction in Tibet.
Chinese government policies that settle and displace nomads from the
grasslands run counter to the latest scientific research that livestock
mobility is critical to the health of the grasslands and that grazing can
mitigate the negative warming effects on the rangelands. This means that
Tibetans are being deprived of the stewardship of their land at a time of
environmental crisis.

 

Matteo Mecacci, President, Tibet Intergroup of the Italian Parliament, said
today: ""The issue of the environmental degradation of the Tibetan plateau
and the impact of climate change there should be addressed specifically by
the Copenhagen summit. The policies of China toward Tibet are undermining
not only the livelihood of Tibetan nomads and stakeholders, but also the
preservation of natural resources that matter not only for Tibetans, but for
hundreds of million of people in Asia and beyond. Therefore, we urge the
negotiators in Copenhagen to address the issue of climate change in Tibet."

OPEN LETTER
 
to the
 
U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen
 
on
 
Tibet Role in Climate Change Solutions
 
 
 
 
Dear Conference participants:
 
We write to urge that the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen give
serious attention to the 'Third Pole', as Tibet is known for being the
largest repository of glacially stored water outside of the Arctic and
Antarctic.  We believe that multinational policies to mitigate the causes of
and adapt to the effects of climate change must consider the challenges of
climate change in Tibet, and include the direct participation of Tibetan
stakeholders, particularly nomads. This is now a global issue and of huge
importance.
 
On November 18-19, parliamentarians from 30 countries met in Rome for the
5th World Parliamentary Convention on Tibet.   Climate change was a major
topic of the discussion.  As a result, the Convention adopted a Declaration
[1] that made the following findings:
 
"Environmental degradation on the Tibetan plateau, the so-called Third Pole,
as a result of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, the
mismanagement of natural resources by Chinese governmental and commercial
interests, and the settlement of Tibetan nomads into fixed communities,
which separates them from their traditional livelihood and stewardship of
Tibetan grasslands; and
 
Chinese policies to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change on
the Tibetan plateau affect billions of people in Asia, and that the
involvement and experience of Tibetans is integral to the successful
implementation of climate change policies."
 
Further, in the Declaration parliamentarians called on:
 
"Governments to explore multinational mechanisms to work collaboratively on
the challenges of climate change in Tibet, including with the direct
participation of Tibetan stakeholders.  To this end, participants of this
convention will draft and publish an open letter expressing the key
importance of Tibet as the Third Pole prior to the U.N. Climate Change
Conference in Copenhagen."
 
According to Chinese meteorologists, temperatures on the Tibetan plateau are
rising twice as fast as the rest of the earth, and Tibet is an increasingly
important barometer of global climate change..  Glaciers are melting,
exposing dark rock and soil, and increasing the absorption of solar
radiation.   Due to resultant variations in the monsoon cycle, many areas on
the Tibetan plateau are drying out and desertifying.
 
According to scientists, the Chinese government's land-use policies are
contributing to the acceleration of global warming and environmental
destruction, including degradation of the grasslands, on the fragile
high-altitude plateau. These land-use policies include the construction of
infrastructure, an emphasis on urbanization despite a predominantly rural
population, and the settlement of nomads, which is threatening one of the
last examples of sustainable pastoralism on earth. Tibetans are being
deprived of the stewardship of their land at a time of environmental crisis.
 
Because Tibet is the source of several of the world's largest rivers and
plays a prominent role in the Asian monsoon system, the consequences will
affect the lives of millions of people downstream as well as those on the
high plateau. In the long term, the disappearance of glaciers will create
severe water shortages.  Millions of people in Asia have a stake in the fate
of Tibet's glaciers and grasslands.
 
Tibet is central to a global climate change solution, and the Tibetan people
must play a critical role in the implementation of solutions.  In addition
to providing river water and monsoon rains to much of Asia, Tibet's
grasslands, if properly repaired, can serve as a carbon sink.  Therefore, we
urge negotiators at the conference to consider initiatives and policies that
take into account the following:
 
1.      Independent, international scientific assessments of the changes in
the Tibetan plateau's ecosystems, water resources and land use policies.
The participation of scientists and relevant stakeholders from Tibet and
from those nations that depend on Tibet's water is necessary for rigorous
examination, analysis and interpretation of conditions on the plateau.  This
will facilitate an equitable and durable approach to adapting to and
mitigating the affects of climate change in the region, including
science-based ecosystem restoration and management of the plateau's
grasslands and forests.
 
2.      Integrated participation of Tibetans, especially Tibetan nomads, in
the decision-making and management of the plateau's natural resources.
Tibet's nomads have been stewards of its rangelands for thousands of years.
Their experience is essential not only for understanding changes in the
ecosystem, but for addressing the threat of degradation of the grasslands.
Unfortunately, government policies are ignoring this essential human
resource and settling and displacing nomads from the grasslands in a
misguided attempt to reduce desertification.  This goes against the latest
scientific research that states that livestock mobility is critical to the
health of the grasslands and that grazing can mitigate the negative warming
effects on the rangelands. There is increasing consensus among Chinese,
Tibetan and Western scholars that the traditional ecosystem knowledge of
nomadic pastoralists is an essential component of any solution.
 
3.      Encourage trans-boundary collaborative decision-making and
governance of the Tibetan plateau's water resources, including all regional
and local stakeholders. Such multi-national cooperation will enhance the
effectiveness of mitigation policies and promote equitable adaptation
strategies that can reduce the risk of conflict over competition for water
resources.  
 
Just as China is essential to successful implementation of global climate
change solutions, Tibet is indispensable to China's ability to implement
them successfully.  We urge negotiators to ensure that strategies to address
climate change include stakeholders in Tibet, particularly nomads.  This
inclusion is essential to understanding, mitigating and adapting to changes
in the Tibetan plateau's water, forest, and grassland resources and
ecosystems, critical to millions of people downstream and for the stability
and security of Asia.
 
 
On behalf of the International Parliamentary Network on Tibet:
Matteo Mecacci, MP, President of the Parliamentary Intergroup on Tibet ,
Italy
Consiglio Di Nino, Co-Chairman, Parliamentary Friends of Tibet, Canadian
Senate
Birgitta Jonsdottir, MP, President, The Parliamentary Intergroup on Tibet,
Iceland
Peter Slipper, MP, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, Australian House
of Representatives
Sanjoy Takem, MP, President, Parliamentary Intergroup on Tibet, India
 
Thomas Mann, MEP, President, Tibet Intergroup, EP
 
Penpa Tsering, MP, Chairman, Tibetan Parliament in-exile, India
 
Dolma Gyari, MP, Vice-Chairman, Tibetan Parliament in-exile, India
Lionnel Luca, MP, President, Study Group on Tibet, French National Assembly
Patrick Bloche, MP Vice-President, Study Group on Tibet, French National
Assembly
Dominique Tian, MP, Vice-President, Study Group on Tibet, French National
Assembly
Mark Durkan, MP, UK
Norman Baker, MP, UK
Kent Olsson, MP, Chairman, The Swedish Parliamentary Group on Tibet
Xavier BAESELEN, MP, Belgium
 
Dalia Kuodyt?, MP, Chairman, the Lithuanian Parliamentary Group on Tibet
Daniel Spagnou, MP, French National Assembly
Harry Cohen, MP, UK
Tim Loughton, MP, Shadow Minister for Children, UK
Lord David Steel, MP, UK
Isabelle Durant, MEP, Vice-President, EP
Sukhdev Sharma, The European Economic and Social Committee
Heidi Hautala, MEP, Vice- Chairman, Sub-Committee on Human Rights, EP
Eva Lichtenberger, MEP
Raul Romeva, MEP
 
Georges DALLEMAGNE, MP, Belgium
 
Mariko Peters, MP, The Netherlands
 
Villy Sovndal, MP, Denmark
 
Nathalie Griesbeck, MEP
 
Aleksei Lotman, MP, Chairman,The Estonian Parliamentary Group on Tibet
 
Beata Bublewicz, MP, Chairwoman, The Polish Parliamentary Group for Tibet
 
Jolanta Szczypinska, MP, Poland
 
Mike Pringle, MSP, Chairman,The Scottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on
Tibet

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