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Small farmers, Indigenous peoples condemn Doha climate talks: 'Governments produce blank pages for planet’s future'

Trade unionists joined a march in Doha for action on climate change to demand improved human rights for migrant workers. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images.

Statement by the international peasant movement La Via Campesina,

December 7, 2012 – As the climate negotiations come to a close, the industrialised countries insist on inaction for the next decade, finding even more ways to escape their historical responsibility, create more carbon markets including one on agriculture and to keep business as usual of burning the planet.

While governments continue to prioritise the interests of industry and agribusiness, peasant farmers continue producing to feed the world’s people and the planet.

The high-level segment of the 18th Conference of Parties (COP18) and 8th Meeting of Parties (CMP 8) of the United Nations Framework on Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began on December 5 with ministers arriving in the petro-state of Doha, Qatar. But the almost two-weeks-long negotiations have produced absolutely nothing.

Developed countries are so entrenched in their positions and goals for inaction that when the chair of the negotiations presented the new text under the Long Term Cooperative Action track, the text literally contained blank pages in areas where the chair claimed divergences existed; these included adaptation, technology development, finance, capacity building and economic and social consequences of response measures – all issues of great concern to developing countries.

On the crucial issue of emissions reductions, commitments proposed by industrialised countries undercut the already low figures proposed in 2009 in Copenhagen.

A United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) study calculated that global warming would still go up to 5 degrees centigrade using the numbers calculated in Copenhagen, far surpassing the 2 degree centigrade threshold that scientists said should be mitigated to avoid climate chaos. Regardless, the numbers in Doha have dropped even lower.

The European Union pledge, for example, of emissions reduction of 20 per cent until 2020 will in reality be only 12 per cent because it claims to have already accomplished the 8 per cent during the first Kyoto Protocol period. Then for the remaining 12 per cent Europe will not even make real reductions, as it will use market mechanisms.

On agriculture, at the COP17 in Durban, it was agreed to move forward on the issue of agriculture, possibly developing a work program on it. Agriculture as whole, until the Durban talks, has been outside the UNFCCC negotiations, and more importantly, outside the reach of carbon markets. But in Durban and in Qatar, developed countries as well as big farmer organisations and agri-business claiming to be representing small farmers from all over the world, have been pushing very hard to advance the entry of agriculture in the negotiations.

Agriculture, if developed into a work program in the UNFCCC negotiations, will head towards the development of a climate-smart agriculture system or what they call “sustainable intensification” or increasing yield per unit of land. This will open the door for carbon markets in agriculture, will allow for carbon accounting to determine agricultural policy, will open the door to the further propagation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and other technological fixes such as synthetic biology, and will favor agribusiness over small farmers and peasants.

The developed countries have also turned the issue of finance into a mockery. They promised a measly US$100 billion by 2020. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ 2009 UN World Economic and Social Survey estimated that $500-600 billion is what is needed every year by developing countries to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

The US government alone spent $661 billion on military expenditures in 2009. The $100 billion offer is already an insult, but to add to that developed countries have proposed that the World Bank be the interim trustee, that funds can come from a variety of sources and that funds can come in the form of loans.

In terms of transfer of technology, again, a commitment that developed countries need to fulfill following the principle of historical responsibility, there is nothing. The issue of intellectual property rights has not been addressed and therefore the developing countries will need to pay in order to access the technologies that should be their right to access.

In 2007, when the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report, its findings already underlined the urgency of the situation. Today, we are in a situation far worse than they had predicted. Last September, Arctic sea ice melted to the lowest level since scientists began to keep records in 1979. Scientists even stated that if this rate continues, we will no longer have sea ice by the end of this decade.

We are already feeling the impacts of climate change; the past few months we have witnessed record-breaking extremities of weather – drought, typhoons, floods and extreme temperatures. These extremities of weather change have also wreaked havoc on crops, farmlands, livelihoods and homes.

Already, there is a growing relation between climate change and the staggering increases in food prices and the growing food crisis. Climate change is also forcibly displacing millions from their homes. In 2010 alone, it was estimated that more than 30 million people were forcibly displaced by environmental and weather-related disasters across Asia. This week alone, as climate negotiations move backward, more than 300 people died in one of the strongest typhoons to hit the Philippines.

La Via Campesina, the international peasants' movement, representing more than 200 million small farmers around the world, denounces the utilisation of the climate negotiations to legitimise the continuation of business as usual at the expense of humanity and the planet.

The inaction in the climate negotiations is a reflection of the corporate capture of governments by big business who want to continue exploiting nature to gain as much profit as possible. While governments play silly games – debating blank pages and creating loopholes to escape responsibility – peasants and small farmers, who are among the most affected by the climate crisis, are the ones implementing real solutions on the ground to adapt to climate conditions and realise food sovereignty. Studies have shown that small farmers still produce the majority of the world’s food. We are not only feeding the people but also adapting to new climate conditions using agroecology and peasant seed varieties.

La Via Campesina rejects false capitalist solutions of the green economy that will only worsen the climate and food crises. Peasants are helping to save humanity through agroecological farming – combating hunger and cooling the planet.

Statement on Doha outcomes Indigenous Environmental Network

By Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network

December 7, 2012 -- Hurricane Sandy; Typhoon Bopha; the continued melting of the ice in the Arctic directly impacting the livelihood of its Arctic Indigenous peoples; drought conditions throughout the world. Mother Earth is speaking. Nature is speaking, but the governmental parties here at COP 18 are not listening.

Indigenous peoples here in Doha are speaking for the rights of Mother Earth and the collective rights of indigenous peoples who continue to be vulnerable to the accelerating downward spiral of climate change. The indigenous voice has remained firm calling upon the governmental parties to reach agreement on commitments for a stringent global emission reduction regime that would stabilise greenhouse-gas emissions beyond 2013. A weak agreement here in Doha is a death warrant for Indigenous peoples throughout the world.

A Doha deal demands the need to ratify a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol with at least 40-50% domestic cuts by 2020 below 1990 levels. This is needed now, not later. Indigenous peoples and countries like the small island states do not have time to wait for the long process it would take for a new internationally binding agreement to be developed.

The Indigenous Environmental Network is based in the United States. We demand President Barrack Obama take moral responsibility to take leadership at the next inter-sessional UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Germany in June 2013 and at the COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland, for a climate agreement that doesn’t condemn millions of people to death, starvation, and forced migration.

Our organisation remains vigilant in its climate justice agenda seeking systems change not climate change. The continued UNFCCC attempts trying to establish assurances of a uncertain carbon market trading system is a false solution. The REDD+ implementation plans of the UNFCCC is a fundamentally flawed symptom of a deeper problem, not a step forward. It is a distraction that Mother Earth does not have time for. We should build on the many existing examples of successful forest conservation and restoration rather than investing billions of dollars in an untested, uncertain and questionable REDD+ scheme that is likely to undermine the environmental and social goals of the climate regime rather than support them.

We only have one Mother Earth – let’s do what we can to stop global warming and halt this climate crisis.

December 7, 2012 -- Democracy Now! speaks with two representatives of civil society who have attended the UN climate talks for the past decade. "We strongly believe that we need a high level of ambition, we need urgent action, and we need action based on equitable sharing of the atmospheric space", says Sunita Narain, Indian environmentalist and director general of the Centre for Science and Environment. "So we said to the Indian government, we expect the Indian government to be hard on what the world needs and to walk out now, because I think the time for talking is gone. We need hard action." We are also joined by Tom Goldtooth, a member of the Indigenous Caucus and executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. "There’s no guarantee we’re going to have a strong Doha deal coming out of here", Goldtooth says. "So we’re committing as Native indigenous peoples from the United States to go back and have highest-level government-to-government meetings with Obama and his administration to hold him accountable to some commitments he made on climate."

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