Durban talks: Rich polluters impose 'new regime of climate apartheid'; Pablo Solon: 'Kyoto Protocol now a zombie'

Protesters block the halls at the Durban International Conference Centre, December 9, 2011. Photo from Earth Negotiations Bulletin.)

Antidote is Cochabamba Peoples’ Agreement

By Climate Justice Now!, Durban

December 11, 2011 –- 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 Solón, 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 “road map” offered up by the EU, 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 in 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 organisation 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 privatisation 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 US.

“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 and 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 honour 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”, declared Ivonne Yanez, Acción Ecologica, Ecuador.

Kyoto Protocol now a zombie

Pablo Solon interviewed on Real News Network, December 12, 2011.

By Pablo Solon
December 9, 2011 -- A few moments ago we found out the decisions that they have been cooking behind the scenes. In Durban they won't approve a second period of commitments of the Kyoto Protocol. This will happen at the end of next year: at COP18.

In Durban, they will only take note of the draft amendments and the “intention” of rich countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol will lose its heart. The promises of reductions by rich countries will be incredibly low until 2020 and will lead to a temperature increase of more than 4 degrees C. The Kyoto Protocol will turn into a zombie without a global figure for reduction of emissions by industrialised countries, and will carry on walking until 2020 just so that carbon markets don’t disappear.

In 2020 “a new legal framework appliable to all” will enter into effect. “To all”, means diluting the difference between developed and developing countries, between countries responsible for climate change and those who are victims.

The US managed to eliminate any mention of a “binding” agreement. That means the “new legal framework” will be an empty gesture without any effect. The European Union is permitting the Kyoto Protocol to be converted to a zombie. This will become known as the lost decade of the fight against climate change. Genocide and ecocide will reach proportions that we have not yet seen. The great escape by the rich has turned into the great swindle.

[Pablo Solon is an international analyst and social activist. He was chief negotiator for climate change and United Nations ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (2009-June 2011).]

FoEI: 'Ordinary people have once again been let down by our governments'

December 12, 2011 -- Commenting on the UN climate talks which ended today in Durban, South Africa, Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Climate Justice Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International said: “Ordinary people have once again been let down by our governments. Led by the US, developed nations have reneged on their promises, weakened the rules on climate action and strengthened those that allow their corporations to profit from the climate crisis.

The Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding framework for emissions reductions, remains in name only, and the ambition for those emissions cuts remains terrifyingly low.  The Green Climate Fund has no money and the plans to expand destructive carbon trading move ahead.  Meanwhile, millions across the developing world already face devastating climate impacts, and the world catapults headlong towards climate catastrophe.

It is clear in whose interests this deal has been advanced, and it isn’t the 99% of people around the world.  The noise of corporate polluters has drowned out the voices of ordinary people in the ears of our leaders.


Durban Agreement Puts World on Track for 3Degrees Warming

12 December 2011

Durban Agreement Puts World on Track for 3 Degrees Warming

Contrary to the spin coming out of Durban that a great breakthrough has been made, the failure to agree to legally binding action between 2012 and 2020 puts the world on track for an emissions pathway that will take global warming to 3 degrees of global warming. The leaders who negotiated it now carry an unbearable responsibility, Australian Greens Deputy Leader Christine Milne said.

"There has been a political agreement to agree in 2015 to take action after
2020. The legal nature and the rules of that post 2020 action remains undecided," Senator Milne said in Sydney today after returning from Durban.

"Celebrating a decision to leave a gaping gap in legally binding emissions reduction between the end of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012 and a possible new agreement taking effect after 2020 is political spin veiling climate failure.

"There is such a thing as being too late. Unlike trade talks, climate talks have a physical imperative that will not wait. Durban needed decision, not delay. Meanwhile the rules for the first Kyoto Commitment period have been significantly watered down and will roll on under a second voluntary commitment period which will end on a date yet to be decided.

"Australia must bear responsibility for pushing loopholes in the Kyoto Protocol rules that undermine the integrity of the accounting system and allow it to reach its targets without additional effort.

"Australia must now lift its own target to 25% reduction by 2020 to take this windfall gain into account and because action now will be far cheaper than the scrambling that will take place in a decade. The conditions that Australia set to go to a higher target have been met according to the Minister's claims about the agreement in Durban.

"As to the Green Climate Fund, the framework has been established but there is no money. It is an empty shell and Australia opposed the imposition of a global bunker fuels tax on shipping that would have fed a stream of finance into the fund.

"What hope does a decision to make a decision to act later give to many of our Pacific neighbours already suffering with states of emergency declared in three of them already? Not only do they have to try to adapt, they now have no money coming from a global fund to help them.

"2010 to 2020 is the critical decade for action on global warming according to scientists the world over. If emissions do not peak and begin to come down in this decade then we have no hope of constraining global warming to less than 2 degrees.

"Even the International Energy Agency has said that if we continue on a business as usual pathway by 2017 we will have built so much fossil fuel infrastructure that we will have used up the entire 2 degree carbon budget to 2035,making it essential that any infrastructure built after that is zero carbon. Who will foot the bill for such expensive dislocation?

"This Durban decision is not only a climate death knell but also an economic dead weight as it will massively increase the price of taking action in the post 2020 world," Senator Milne said.


reading the line " Decisions resulting from the UN COP17 climate summit in Durban constitute a crime against humanity, " I was instantly brought back to now, in Australia.

About 15 years ago John Howard and the liberal party came to power. The vast majority of the party and definitely the leader and all major ministers denied climate change existed. Denied the science of global warming - something that was know for at least 20 years in the popular media before they came to power. This was mainly a ploy to enable big business, their major sponsor to continue polluting and not put back into fixing the problem.

During this absolute critical time for the planet (the threshold of no return on temp rises) any attempt to discuss climate change, or heaven forbid a carbon tax was actively dismissed and ridiculed. Even now with a new party in charge, the liberal party tries to stop any legislation that will assist pollution reduction. All along this has been australia's version of crimes against humanity. The only problem is that half the people voted liberal, so even those who understand what the inaction has done to condemn us and the human race, could not agree with this judgement on this very dumb party.

Australia in many parts is also a very hot continent. We have much to lose, but still politics blocks any real action and too little too late is being offered. If a class action could be taken against Governments who have condemned us and many other species to extinction, might real action be more forthcoming now?

Lets try it?