Durban conference a climate disaster; Cochabamba agreement the antidote

Issue 
March for climate justice, December 2, Durban. Photo from OccupyCOP17.org.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17) was held in Durban from November 28 to December 11. The statement below was published on December 11 in response to the conference's outcomes by Climate Justice Now!, a network of organisations and movements from across the globe committed to the fight for social, ecological and gender justice. Below that, is the statement by Friends of the Earth International in response to the Durban conference.

Read more on the Durban climate talks at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

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Decisions resulting from the UN COP17 climate summit in Durban constitute a crime against humanity, according to Climate Justice Now! a broad coalition of social movements and civil society. Here in South Africa, where the world was inspired by the liberation struggle of the country’s black majority, the richest nations have cynically created a new regime of climate apartheid.

“Delaying real action until 2020 is a crime of global proportions,” said Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International.

“An increase in global temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, Small Island States, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apartheid, whereby the richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”

According to Pablo Solon, former lead negotiator for the Plurinational State of Bolivia: “It is false to say that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has been adopted in Durban. The actual decision has merely been postponed to the next COP, with no commitments for emission reductions from rich countries. This means that the Kyoto Protocol will be on life support until it is replaced by a new agreement that will be even weaker.”

The world’s polluters have blocked real action and have once again chosen to bail out investors and banks by expanding the now-crashing carbon markets -- which like all financial market activities these days, appear to mainly enrich a select few.

“What some see as inaction is in fact a demonstration of the palpable failure of our current economic system to address economic, social or environmental crises,” said Janet Redman, of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.

“Banks that caused the financial crisis are now making bonanza profits speculating on our planet’s future. The financial sector, driven into a corner, is seeking a way out by developing ever newer commodities to prop up a failing system.”

Despite talk of a “roadmap” offered up by the European Union, the failure in Durban shows that this is a cul-de-sac, a road to nowhere.

Spokespeople for Climate Justice Now! call on the world community to remember that a real climate program, based on planetary needs identified by scientists as well as by a mandate of popular movements, emerged at the World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth held in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2010.

The Cochabamba People’s Agreement, brought before the UN but erased from the negotiating text, offers a just and effective way forward that is desperately needed.





ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND

On technology

“The technology discussions have been hijacked by industrialised countries speaking on behalf of their transnational corporations,” said Silvia Ribeiro from the international organization ETC Group.

Critique of monopoly patents on technologies, and the environmental, social and cultural evaluation of technologies have been taken out of the Durban outcome.

Without addressing these fundamental concerns, the new technology mechanism will merely be a global marketing arm to increase the profit of transnational corporations by selling dangerous technologies to countries of the South, such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology or geoengineering technologies.

On agriculture

“The only way forward for agriculture is to support agro-ecological solutions, and to keep agriculture out of the carbon market,” said Alberto Gomez, North American Coordinator for La Via Campesina, the world’s largest movement of peasant farmers.

“Corporate Agribusiness, through its social, economic, and cultural model of production, is one of the principal causes of climate change and increased hunger. We therefore reject Free Trade Agreements, Association Agreements, and all forms of the application of Intellectual Property Rights to life, current technological packages (agrochemicals, genetic modification) and those that offer false solutions (biofuels, nanotechnology, and climate smart agriculture) that only exacerbate the current crisis.”

On REDD + and forest carbon projects

“REDD+ threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples and forest-dependent communities. Mounting evidence shows that Indigenous Peoples are being subjected to violations of their rights as a result of the implementation of REDD+-type programs and policies,” declared The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life.

Their statement, released during the first week of COP17, declares that “REDD+ and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) promote the privatization and commodification of forests, trees and air through carbon markets and offsets from forests, soils, agriculture and could even include the oceans. We denounce carbon markets as a hypocrisy that will not stop global warming.”

On the World Bank and the Global Climate Fund

“The World Bank is a villain of the failed neoliberal economy,” says Teresa Almaguer of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance in the U.S.
“We need a climate fund managed by participatory governance, not by an anti-democratic institution that is responsible for much of the climate disruption and poverty in the world.”

“The Green Climate Fund has been turned into the Greedy Corporate Fund,” said Lidy Nacpil, of Jubilee South. “The fund has been hijacked by the rich countries, on their terms, and set up to provide more profits to the private sector”

On the Green Economy

“We need a climate fund that provides finance for peoples of developing countries that is fully independent from undemocratic institutions like the World Bank. The Bank has a long track record of financing projects that exacerbate climate disruption and poverty” said Lidy Nacpil, of Jubilee South.

“The fund is being hijacked by the rich countries, setting up the World Bank as interim trustee and providing direct access to money meant for developing countries to the private sector. It should be called the Greedy Corporate Fund!”

Climate policy is making a radical shift towards the so-called “green economy”, dangerously reducing ethical commitments and historical responsibility to an economic calculation on cost-effectiveness, trade and investment opportunities.

Mitigation and adaption should not be treated as a business nor have its financing conditioned by private sector and profit-oriented logic. Life is not for sale.

On climate debt

“Industrialised northern countries are morally and legally obligated to repay their climate debt,” said Janet Redman, Co-director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies.

“Developed countries grew rich at the expense of the planet and the future all people by exploiting cheap coal and oil. They must pay for the resulting loss and damages, dramatically reduce emissions now, and financially support developing countries to shift to clean energy pathways.”

Developed countries, in assuming their historical responsibility, must honor their climate debt in all its dimensions as the basis for a just, effective, and scientific solution. The focus must not be only on financial compensation, but also on restorative justice, understood as the restitution of integrity to our Mother Earth and all its beings.

We call on developed countries to commit themselves to action. Only this could perhaps rebuild the trust that has been broken and enable the process to move forward.

On real solutions

“The only real solution to climate change is to leave the oil in the soil, coal in the hole and tar sands in the land.” Ivonne Yanez, Accion Ecologica, Ecuador.

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Disastrous Durban deal will accellerate climate catastrophe

Friends of the Earth International, December 14

The UN climate talks in Durban were a failure and take the world a significant step back by further undermining an already flawed, inadequate multilateral system that is supposed to address the climate crisis, according to Friends of the Earth International.

Developed countries engaged in a smoke and mirrors trick of delivering rhetoric but no action, failed to commit to urgently needed deep emissions cuts, and even backtracked on past commitments to address the climate crisis, said Friends of the Earth International.

The outcome of the Durban talks, heralded by some as a step forward, in fact amounts to:

* No progress on fair and binding action on reducing emissions
* No progress on urgently needed climate finance
* Increased likelihood of further expansion of false solutions like carbon trading
* The further locking in of economies based on polluting fossil fuels
* The further unravelling of the legally-binding international framework to deliver climate action on the basis of science and equity.

While there was resistance from developing countries to the destructive proposals on the table in Durban, the final Durban outcome amounts to:

1. A new “Durban Platform” which will delay climate action for a decade.

Instead of implementing the existing, ambitious and equitable negotiating roadmap that was agreed in Bali four years ago, a new process to launch negotiations for a new treaty was agreed in Durban.

The “Durban Platform” will delay much needed climate action for a decade.

2. A substantial weakening of the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol is the only existing international framework for legally-binding emissions reductions by rich industrialised countries. These countries are responsible for three quarters of the emissions in the atmosphere despite only hosting 15% of the world’s population.

The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has still not been formally agreed and would only cover the European Union and a handful of other developed countries.

3. Drastically insufficient targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Taken alongside the expansive loopholes agreed to in Durban that serve to help countries avoid emissions cuts, these paltry pledges actually mean a likely net increase in emissions between now and 2020.

4. A shift of the burden for climate action to developing countries, which have done the least to cause global warming, have the least resources to combat it, and face the additional burden of having to address pressing poverty alleviation and development needs.

5. Absolutely no progress on urgently-needed, new and additional public finance for developing country climate action and adaptation measures to protect vulnerable communities from climate impacts.

The Green Climate Fund was approved but with no means by which to fill the coffers and a provision agreed to that could allow multinational corporations and private financial actors to directly access the fund.

6. The increased likelihood of new opportunities for carbon trading, a destructive false solution to the climate crisis which locks in climate inaction, drives land grabbing and displacement of communities, and could contribute to another global financial collapse.



“Developed countries, led by the United States, accelerated the demolition of the world’s international framework for fair and urgent climate action. And developing countries have been bullied and forced into accepting an agreement that could be a suicide pill for the world,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International.

“On the eve of the climate talks, hundreds of families in Durban lost their homes and some even their lives in devastating flooding. From the Horn of Africa to Thailand to Venezuela to the small island state of Tuvalu, hundreds of millions of people are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis they did not create. The lack of progress in Durban means that we are even closer to a future catastrophic 4 to 6 degrees Celsius of warming, which would condemn most of Africa and the small island states to climate catastrophe and devastate the lives and livelihoods of many millions more around the world.”

Who is to blame?

The disastrous Durban outcome is attributable to a combined effort by the governments of rich industrialised countries, most notably the US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Russia and the European Union.

The United States is most to blame, as it has been the most powerful driver in the dismantling of the legally-binding framework for developed country emissions reductions.

It refused to take on emissions reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, and has attempted to replace this system with a weaker, ineffective system of voluntary pledges.

Canada, Japan, Russia, Australia and New Zealand have pursued a similar agenda of trying to escape their legal and moral obligation to act first and fastest to cut their emissions.

Canada, Japan and Russia have refused outright to emissions cuts under the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period, and Australia and New Zealand have made their commitments conditional, leaving the European Union and a handful of other developed countries covered by the agreement in Durban.

The European Union, heralded as a climate leader and the saviour of the Durban talks, had an agenda filled with false promises. The EU was a key architect of the new “Durban Platform” that will delay action for ten years, lock in low ambition and deliver a weaker, less effective system than the Kyoto Protocol.

The EU’s strategy in Durban was to split the group of developing countries and force emerging economies like India and China, with hundreds of millions of people still below the poverty line, to take on unfair responsibilities for tackling the climate crisis.

The EU also blocked progress in closing dangerous loopholes in existing emissions targets, and was the principle driver of the push to expand destructive carbon trading.

The huge influence of corporate polluters and other corporate and financial vested interests over the positions of governments is the underlying reason why Durban’s outcome was so disastrous.

The pressure and influence of these interest groups undermines the ability of ordinary citizens and civil society to hold our governments to account for their action on climate and their positions in the international climate negotiations.

“Developed country governments have connived to weaken the rules that require their countries to act on climate whilst strengthening the rules that allow their corporations to profit from the crisis” said Bobby Peek of groundWork / Friends of the Earth South Africa.

“After bailing out the banks, rich countries at the climate talks refused to commit a single new dollar for climate finance for developing countries. They insisted on allowing multinational corporations and global financial elites to directly access the Green Climate Fund, and pushed through the opening up of further possibilities for speculation via the dangerous carbon market bubble.

It is clear in whose interests this deal has been advanced, and it isn’t the 99% of people around the world,” he continued.

Destructive proposals

Many developing country negotiators expressed growing concerns as the talks progressed.

The Africa Group (comprising the 54 countries in Africa), India, Venezuela, Bolivia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Nicaragua and a number of small island states all pushed back against the destructive proposals being advanced.

But developing countries were coerced into having to accept a “take it or leave it” package to save the Kyoto Protocol and the Green Climate Fund and failed to stand strong and united against the disastrous final outcome of the talks.

One of the most vocal critics, India, caved at the last minute to demands by the US and other developed countries that provisions to safeguard an equitable approach to tackling the climate crisis be excluded from the Durban agreement.

“Ordinary people have once again been let down by governments. Behind the failure in Durban lies the huge influence of corporate polluters and the disproportionate power of the rich developed world. The noise of the vested interests has drowned out the voices of ordinary people in the ears of our leaders“, said Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Climate Justice Coordinator at Friends of the Earth International.

“It is clear that right now our governments cannot do the job we need them to do. But outside the negotiating halls, in our universities, our workplaces, and on the streets, vibrant movements are coming together to build a fair and better world. It is in this growing movement -- of workers, women, farmers, students, Indigenous Peoples, and others affected by this greedy economic system -- where we can find hope of solutions to the climate crisis.”

Where now for climate justice?

Friends of the Earth International believes that we need to radically transform our global economy to create a more just and sustainable world. We need dramatic cuts in emissions on the basis of science and equity and a transformation in our economies to make this a reality.

Developed countries also have a moral and legal obligation to honour their climate debt and provide adequate public finance to developing countries to develop sustainably and protect the vulnerable from climate impacts.

A strong and fair UN agreement on climate is essential, and to get it we will work with others to strengthen the movement for justice in all countries and hold our governments to account to ensure that politics works for people and the planet, not for profit.

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