Climate talks: 'Social movements must unite to cool the planet' -- 'Disastrous' Durban failure condemned

"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.

Indigenous peoples condemn climate talks fiasco and demand moratorium on REDD+

By the Global Justice Ecology Project

December 13, 2011 – Global Justice Ecology Project -- Indigenous leaders returning from Durban, South Africa, condemn the fiasco of the United Nations climate change talks and demand a moratorium on a forest carbon offset scheme called REDD+, which they say threatens the future of humanity and Indigenous peoples’ very survival. During the UN climate negotiations, a Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD+ and for Life was formed to bring attention to the lack of full recognition of Indigenous peoples' rights being problematic in the texts of the UN climate negotiations.

“It was very disappointing that our efforts to strengthen the vague Indigenous rights REDD safeguards from the Cancun Agreements evaporated as the Durban UN negotiations went on. It is clear that the focus was not on strong, binding commitments on Indigenous rights and safeguards, nor limiting emissions, but on creating a framework for financing and carbon markets, which they did. Now Indigenous peoples’ forests may really be up for grabs”, says Alberto Saldamando, legal counsel participating in the Indigenous Environmental Network delegation.

Berenice Sanchez of the Mesoamerica Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network says, “Instead of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% like we need, the UN is promoting false solutions to climate change like carbon trading and offsets, through the Clean Development Mechanism and the proposed REDD+ which provide polluters with permits to pollute. The UN climate negotiation is not about saving the climate, it is about privatisation of forests, agriculture and the air.”

Tom Goldtooth, director of Indigenous Environmental Network based in Minnesota, USA does not mince words. “By refusing to take immediate binding action to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions, industrialised countries like the United States and Canada are essentially incinerating Africa and drowning the small island states of the Pacific. The sea ice of the Inupiat, Yupik and Inuit of the Arctic is melting right before their eyes, creating a forced choice to adapt or perish. This constitutes climate racism, ecocide and genocide of an unprecedented scale.”

Of particular concern for Indigenous peoples is a forest offset scheme known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Hyped as a way of saving the climate and paying communities to take care of forests as sponges for the global North's pollution, REDD+ is rife with fundamental flaws that make it little more than a green mask for more pollution and the expansion of monoculture tree plantations. The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD+ and for Life, formed at the Durban UN climate negotiations, call for an immediate moratorium on REDD+-type projects because they fear that REDD+ could result in “the biggest land grab of all time”, thus threatening the very survival of Indigenous peoples and local communities.

“At Durban, CDM and REDD carbon and emission offset regimes were prioritised, not emission reductions. All I saw was the UN, World Bank, industrialised countries and private investors marketing solutions to market pollution. This is unacceptable. The solutions for climate change must not be placed in the hands of financiers and corporate polluters. I fear that local communities could increasingly become the victims of carbon cowboys, without adequate and binding mechanisms to ensure that the rights of Indigenous peoples and local forested and agricultural communities are respected”, Goldtooth added.

“We call for an immediate moratorium on REDD+-type policies and projects because REDD is a monster that is already violating our rights and destroying our forests”, Monica González of the Kukapa People and head of Indigenous Issues of the Mexican human rights organisation Comision Ciudadana de Derechos Humanos del Noreste.

The president of the Ogiek Council of Elders of the Mau Forest of Kenya, Joseph K. Towett, said, “We support the moratorium because anything that hurts our cousins, hurts us all.”

“We will not allow our sacred Amazon rainforest to be turned into a carbon dump. REDD is a hypocrisy that does not stop global warming,” said Marlon Santi, leader of the Kichwa community of Sarayaku, Ecuador and long time participant of UN and climate change meetings.

[NO REDD Resources]

Farmers condemn the Durban Platform: Sustainable peasant agriculture is the genuine solution to climate change

Jakarta, December 16, 2011 -- La Via Campesina, the global movement of peasants, small-scale and agricultural family farmers, denounces the attempts of the largest carbon emitters to further escape their historic responsibility to make real emission cuts and push for more false and market based solutions to the climate crisis. This Durban Platform, the latest climate deal struck at the UNFCCC 17th Conference of Parties in Durban, allows the polluters to get away with even more polluting while securing their market mechanisms.

The UNFCCC has hailed the Durban Platform as a breakthrough and a way forward in the fight against climate change. But what is there to hail as closer inspection shows that there are no commitments for real emission cuts from the developed countries. Others have said this was a success as it saved the Kyoto Protocol but in fact, the only thing that was saved are the market mechanisms of the Protocol. The second commitment period was not agreed and in fact postponed to next year but all the while, secured that market mechanisms would continue to be operational. The Green Climate Fund, which will be controlled by the World Bank if ever funded by industrialised countries (clearly unconcerned about their historical debt with the global South), is likely to be a source of financing false solutions in the most impacted countries.

Most disturbing of all from Durban is the opening of the doors for agriculture to be included in the carbon markets. Agriculture, which has since recently, not been included in the negotiations, will now be discussed in subsequent negotiations and the writing on the wall tells us that these would be the initial steps for agriculture to be included in carbon markets. The proliferation of side events on "climate smart agriculture" promoted by the agro-industry showed the high agribusiness interest to tap this new bonanza. La Via Campesina strongly denounces this move and reiterates its call to keep agriculture out of carbon markets as agriculture should not be treated as a mere carbon sink and that carbon accounting should not determine agricultural policy.

Peasant-based agro-ecological agriculture, that La Via Campesina continues to promote and practice through its members in several countries around the world, is the best way to cool down the planet. La Via Campesina promotes peasant agriculture as the way to feed people with healthy food and at the same time to guarantee a balance in the ecosystem and the farms. The logic of carbon markets and trading run counter to the system of agroecology and should not be allowed to enter into agriculture.

We are now at the worst moment for agriculture, small farmers and for nature. The impacts of climate change are steadily worsening, leading to harvest failures, destruction of habitats and homes, hunger and famine and loss of lives. The future of humanity and the planet is in critical danger and if these false solutions push through, it will be a catastrophe for nature, future generations and the whole planet.

Now, more than ever, it is even more urgent for the demands and proposals from the Cochabamba people’s agreement to be pushed forward.

Friends of the Earth International: Disastrous 'Durban Platform' accelerates onset of climate catastrophe

By Friends of the Earth International

December 13, 2011 – 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.

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”, he continued.

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, New Zealand, 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 10 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 principal 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.

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” she continued.

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.

GGJ: Durban delay is a clear call to action! Social movements must unite to cool the planet 

December 13 -- We, the people of the Grassroots Global Justice Delegation to COP17, as members of climate-impacted communities in the United States, condemn the Durban delay as a disaster for all people and the planet.

We bear witness to the fact that what happened in Durban is nothing more than a criminal delay in the action that must happen to save millions of lives.  The only thing “historic” about the Durban package is the historic devastation that it will bring to Africa and small island nations.

The Indigenous Environmental Network is calling this “climate racism, ecocide and genocide of an unprecedented scale.” Friends of the Earth is saying “the disastrous Durban outcome is attributable to a combined effort by the governments of rich industrialized countries.” Climate Justice Now! is calling the result of COP17 “climate apartheid”.

We add our voices to this choir of impacted communities to condemn the US government as the primary perpetrator of this crime. The US has been systematically sabotaging the UN climate negotiations since its refusal to sign on to Kyoto in 1997. Instead of offering bold leadership to reduce emissions and pay for the U.S.’ climate debt, Jonathan Pershing, Todd Sterns and the rest of the US delegation did nothing more than blame China, India and Brazil for blocking progress on a legally binding deal.

The US State Department wasted our taxpayer dollars in Durban. They showed that they care more about dirty money from the oil and coal lobby than about poor, indigenous and people of colour communities in the US and around the world. Every US resident should be outraged. We will not rest in our struggles to hold our government accountable.

“The US is still the world’s biggest polluter”, says Francisca Porchas of the Labor Community Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles. “Regardless of the 2020 timeline set by the disastrous Durban delay, the U.S. government must take immediate action to reduce its carbon emissions to 50% of current levels by 2017, as outlined in the Cochabamba Accord. It can do this by listening to us and the rest of its people: stop dirty and destructive projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, and put federal money directly into community efforts for mass transit, local agriculture, and truly clean and renewable energy.”

While we condemn the official negotiations as an anti-democratic failure and a terrible waste of resources, we draw hope from the power of mass organising.  This is the force of change that brought 10,000 people into the street on December 3rd for the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice. It is the force that united Grassroots Global Justice and La Via Campesina North America to coordinate 20 actions across the US and to gather more than 7,000 signatures to Reject, not Reroute the Keystone XL Pipeline.

It is also the force that brought about the most inspiring changes between November 28 and December 9.  While negotiators debated over the miserable Durban text that will fail the test of survival, members of social movements made significant advances toward climate justice:

We are bringing home inspiring lessons from this work in order to strengthen our own. Unlike the COP process, which is now entering its 18th year, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance has just begun organising for worldwide systems change. 

We pledge to continue our cross-sector organising in the US, we pledge to deepen our connections with international social movements including the Indigenous Environmental Network, La Via Campesina, the World March of Women, Friends of the Earth, and Climate Justice Now, and we pledge to create and advance the grassroots solutions necessary to not only cool the planet and protect Mother Earth, but also to transform our economic and political systems towards justice, sustainability and true democracy -- all rooted in the communities who care for our soil, our forests, our water and our wellbeing.