#OccupyCOP17, Durban climate talks: African and Indigenous voices for real climate justice, not false solutions

About 50 protesters held a pre-COP17 action on November 25, chanting "Phansi [down with] CDMs, phansi!" In the background is the World Cup white elephant, the Moses Mabhida Stadium, a few kilometres north of the extremely well-guarded International Convention Centre.

[For more on the COP17 Durban climate talks, click HERE.]

#OccupyCop17: Climate justice general assembly

Below is the call for a general assembly from www.occupycop17.org.

November 24, 2011 -- Governments of the world are, for the 17th time, assembling to discuss how we react on an international scale to a changing climate. During these last 16 years a sane response to an unsustainable global culture has not been found.

Inside their assembly and inside their declarations the needs of the 99% are not being heard. Private corporations are occupying our seats in the UN climate talks and governments corrupted by corporate influence are claiming to represent our needs.They are abusing and pillaging the consensus process, once put in place to ensure even the smallest and most vulnerable had a say.

We, as a planet, have been shown we can no longer rely on the same structures that have allowed for famines, floods, hurricanes and massacres to escalate relentlessly. There is a historic responsibility, and a global necessity for action.

Here in Durban, where Nelson Mandela cast his first vote and Gandhi held his first public meeting, we’re putting out an invitation to anyone who wishes to have their voice heard: to join a dialogue of how we must react to ensure the present culture of 1% of the worlds population does no injustice to the future of the 99%.

On Monday, November 28 at 11am, as representative from 192 nation-states begin their talks, we will also meet.

This a humble invitation for all to come and engage in an open and peaceful general assembly around the theme of climate justice.

In the spirit of general assemblies from around the world we will talk, we will listen, we will learn and we will respect each other through our process.

This is what democracy looks like.

It is time our voices were heard.

It’s time to #OccupyCop17

General assembly

11am Monday, November 28

Speakers' Corner

Walnut Rd/Bram Fischer Rd

Durban, South Africa

Civil society to unite against climate change

November 22, 2011 -- The Civil Society Committee for COP17 (C17) is calling on the global community to unite against climate change by participating in this year’s Global Day of Climate Action (GDA).

The GDA is a traditional and important event during the United Nations climate change negotiations and takes place at the Conference of the Parties (COP) each year. The primary action – a mass march of international and national community, labour, women, youth, academic, religious and environmental organisations and activists – demonstrates civil society’s common determination to tackle climate change.

This year’s peaceful protest, which will take place on December 3, halfway through the two-week Durban conference (COP17), provides an opportunity for participants to demonstrate their concern for the global climate crisis and call on world leaders to find a just solution to climate change.

The march will demonstrate that addressing climate change is as urgent for the people of Africa as for those of the North. Behind a common lead banner, it will combine the diversity of formations and opinions within civil society to call for decision-makers to be accountable for the decisions they make on behalf of those they represent.

Participants will gather at Curries Fountain, a site of anti-apartheid struggle significance, for a 9 am rally. Beginning at 10 am, the march will be joined en route by the faith communities group, a special needs group and youth. Participants will proceed to the International Convention Centre (ICC) to hand over a memorandum to world leaders.

The march will conclude with a separately organised, free concert on the beach at 3 pm.

For more information on the GDA go to http://www.c17.org.za/global-day-of-action.
To download a draft program for the GDA go to http://www.c17.org.za/global-day-of-action/programme-of-events.

The Civil Society Committee for COP17 (C17) includes representatives of various organisations including social movements, labour, environmental justice organisations, international environmental NGOs and faith-based organisations. It is a facilitatory body established to coordinate the participation of international and national movements and organisations of civil society in the common process but will not seek to represent them or to enter into negotiations with, or lobbying of, governments on their behalf.

Rather, the C17 seeks to create opportunities for civil society engagement in the 2011 climate change negotiations during 2011, civil society engagement with the South African government around climate change negotiations and positions, a platform for the expression of diversity in civil society and environmental movement building in South Africa and the region.

In addition to coordinating the GDA, C17 is also hosting an alternative civil society space from November 28 to December 9, 2011, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College Campus. Public events will consider issues of climate change, social justice, water, renewable energy and food sovereignty, among others. Entrance is free.

For more information, or to receive communiqués on civil society activities at COP17, go to www.c17.org.za, and follow us on Facebook (C17 South Africa) and Twitter (@C17SA).

C17 Global Day of Action enquiries:

Desmond D’Sa

GDA subcommittee convenor

031 461 1991

083 982 6939


Via Campesina at COP17 in Durban: Industrial agriculture heats up the planet; farmers are cooling it down!

Maputo, Mozambique, November 21, 2011 -- Via Campesina -- The international peasant's movement La Via Campesina will be at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17), the UN summit on climate change, that will take place in Durban, South Africa, from November 28 to the December 9, 2011. More than 200 peasants, women and men, from Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean will represent millions of small-scale producers from around the world, practicing agroecology to cool down the Earth.

In Durban, members of La Via Campesina will denounce the industrial agriculture model as one of the main drivers of climate change. We will also expose agribusiness' aggressive land grabbing tactics globally, causing mass displacement of people for monoculture production.

Peasants globally oppose false solutions to climate change, such as monoculture plantations, REDD mechanisms, soil carbon markets, and the so called “climate smart agriculture”, which instead of solving the climate crisis, are heating up the planet.

In Durban, La Via Campesina will participate on the global day of action on December 3, to demand social and climate justice. On December 5, all African peasants movements will celebrate the Agroecology and Food Sovereignty Day to Cool Down the Earth, a symbolic manifestation to demand respect for the cause of peasants globally.

Developed nations must pay for pollution: COSATU

November 19, 2011 -- South African Press Association -- Developed nations have to pay for damage to the environment as part of a just transition to low carbon economies, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said today.

“While we accept that developing countries, including South Africa, have to play their part in reducing emissions, developed countries must carry a larger part of the burden”, spokesperson Patrick Craven said.

He said “just transition” meant changes that did not disadvantage the working class worldwide and developing countries, and where the industrialised countries paid for the damage their development had done to the Earth’s atmosphere.

Developed countries, who had less than 20% of the world’s population and had emitted almost three quarters of all historic greenhouse gas emissions, must pay for their climate debt. Craven said one of the constraints on South Africa and other developing countries was a deficit of technology and skills to both reduce emissions and to adapt to a new climate change reality.

“We must make sure that technology and skills transfers are effected without being fettered by the obligation to pay for intellectual property rights”, he said. “A just transition addresses both the unemployment crisis and the ecological crisis. The evidence suggests that the transition to a low-carbon economy will potentially create more jobs than it will lose.

The union federation said that it recognised that the fundamental cause of the climate crisis was the “expansionist logic of the capitalist system”, which created massive waste. It would therefore reject any form of capital accumulation “even if those forms of capitalist accumulation are green”, said Craven.

[To read COSATU's climate change policy framework, click here.]

SAMWU strategy for COP17 and dealing with climate change

November 25, 2011 -- The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) will participate fully in the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17). SAMWU has already adopted a strategy towards the COP17 conference. Our strategy towards thisc onference will be based on the 15 principles adopted by the COSATU central executive committee.

The principles adopted by COSATU and SAMWU:

1. Capitalist accumulation has been the underlying cause of excessive greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore global warming and climate change.

2. A new low carbon development path is needed which addresses the need for decent jobs and the elimination of unemployment.

3. Food insecurity must be urgently addressed.

4. All South Africans have the right to clean, safe and affordable energy.

5. All South Africans have the right to clean water.

6. We need a massive ramping up of public transport in South Africa.

7. The impacts of climate change on health must be understood and dealt with in the context of the demand for universal access to health.

8. A just transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient economy is required.

9. We need a carbon budget for South Africa.

10. African solidarity is imperative.

11. An ambitious legally binding international agreement designed to limit temperature increases to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius is essential as an outcome of the UNFCCC process.

12. We reject market mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions.

13. Developed countries must pay for their climate debt and the Green Climate Fund must be accountable. 

14. We need  investment in technology, and technology transfers to developing countries must not be fettered by intellectual property rights.

15. The South African government’s position in the UNFCCC processes must properly represent the interests of the people.

Apart from the above, SAMWU also agreed to engage with its membership countrywide and the community, to bring about greater understanding of the climate change challenges we currently face. Together with this we committed ourselves to working with civil society organisations and NGOs that have specialised knowledge on the climate change issue, to develop our understanding on climate change challenges and develop their understanding of the problems facing workers.

SAMWU in its national executive committee meeting held this month also decided to throw its weight behind the important Climate Change Jobs Campaign, to promote job creation in dealing with climate change challenges.

We commit ourselves to create the pressure needed on our political and economic systems, to reduce climate threats and move towards a sustainable society.

Tahir Sema.
South African Municipal Workers' Union of COSATU
National media and publicity officer
Office: 011-331 0333.

Fax:     0866186479.
Cell:     0829403403.

Also visit SAMWU’s website at www.samwu.org.za and Twitter @Tahirsema

Declaration by members of the Indigenous People's Biocultural Climate Change Assessment (IPPCCA)

Durban, South Africa, November 26

The participants of the workshop on REDD and Biocultural Protocols organised by the Indigenous Peoples Biocultural Climate Change Assessment (IPCCA), from Ecuador, Panama, India, Nicaragua, Peru and Samoa met on November 24 and 25, 2011 in Durban, South Africa, to share emergent findings and analyse how REDD is affecting our territories in order to respond through our assessments. We discussed strategies for addressing climate justice.

We, the Indigenous peoples denounce the serious situation we are facing; the harmonious relationship between humans and Mother Earth has been broken. The life of people and Pachamama has become a business. Life, for Indigenous peoples, is sacred, and we therefore consider REDD+ and the carbon market a hypocrisy which will not impact global warming.  For us, everything is life, and life cannot be negotiated or sold on a stock market, this is a huge risk and will not resolve the environmental crisis.

Through our discussions and dialogue we identified the following inherent risks and negative impacts of REDD+, which we alert the world to:

1. REDD+ is a neoliberal, market-driven approach that leads to the commodification of life and undermines holistic community values and governance. It is a neoliberal approach driven by economic processes such as trade liberalisation and privatisation and by actors like the World Bank whom have been responsible for the destruction of forests and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples all over the world. The concept of “green economy” is a vehicle for promoting trends of commodification of nature. It is a vehicle to impose neoliberal environmental strategies on developing countries, which undermines traditional communal land tenure systems. Indigenous peoples have well-performing and self-sufficient economies, but these economies are ignored. Indigenous peoples have used their wisdom for thousands of years to manage forests in a way that cannot be quantified and is priceless. Meanwhile, Northern countries and their economic policies have destroyed the climate and planet and, therefore, have a significant ecological debt to pay.

2. REDD+ policies and projects are directly targeting Indigenous peoples and their territories, as this is where the remaining forests are found. Corporations, conservation organisations and powerful state agencies will capture the benefits by grabbing forest land and reaching unfair and manipulated agreements with forest-dwelling Indigenous peoples. REDD+ is triggering conflicts, corruption, evictions and other human rights violations. Calculating how much carbon is stored in forests (monitoring, reporting and verification) is a very complicated and expensive process, and Indigenous knowledge is being ignored within it. As a result, the overwhelming majority of REDD+ funding will end up in the hands of consultants, NGOs and carbon brokers like the World Bank.

3. Indigenous peoples and local communities use their own governance systems, which include laws, rules, institutions and practices, to manage their forests and territories, many of which are implicit and part of oral or otherwise unwritten traditions. REDD+ policies and projects are undermining and violating Indigenous governance systems. Through developing REDD+ readiness programs national governments are creating new institutions, which will further concentrate control over forests into the hands of state institutions, and violate the rights and autonomy of Indigenous peoples. These new institutions, however, fail to address the drivers of forest loss.

4. REDD+ locks up forests, blocking access and customary use of Indigenous peoples and local communities to their forests. This impacts negatively on traditional forest-related knowledge, food sovereignty and food security, and traditional health-care systems, which are lost as communities are manipulated or forced to sell their rights to access and use of their forests.

5. The drivers of forest loss and forest land grabbing will not be addressed by REDD+. Governments that are elaborating REDD+ policies are also promoting economic sectors such as cattle ranching, bio-energy, mining, oil exploration and agro-industrial monocultures that, ironically, are the main drivers of forest loss. In countries like Ecuador, governments are promoting massive oil exploration schemes in forest-protected areas.

6. The focus on carbon in REDD+ policies promotes the establishment of monoculture tree plantations, including genetically modified trees, and ignores the social and cultural values of forests. Institutions like the Forest Stewardship Council legitimise this trend by certifying plantation establishment as "sustainable forest management". Corporations take over lands that, within shifting cultivation systems, are fallow, and destroy them through tree plantation establishment. In a country like India, REDD+ is becoming a tree plantation expansion program that triggers land grabbing on a massive scale, undermining the Forest Rights Act.

7. National biodiversity and carbon-offset schemes, especially in large countries like India and Brazil are a vehicle for implementing REDD+. Large polluting corporations, such as mining and dam companies, are allowed to compensate the environmental damage they cause by planting trees. Indigenous peoples and local communities suffer twofold; they suffer from the environmental damage caused by their pollution, as well as from the negative impacts of projects that compensate them. Furthermore, conservation organisations profit from such compensation projects, and will thus be tempted to turn a blind eye on the negative impacts of such industries.

8. Due to problems with reference levels, leakage, permanence, monitoring, reporting and verification, problems which policy makers are not inclined and unable to solve, REDD+ is undermining the climate regime. REDD+ violates the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. It creates major inequities and grants the right to pollute to developed countries and their industries. Climate change is today one of the biggest threats to the lives and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples, and for that reason, false solutions such as REDD+ form a direct threat to the survival of Indigenous peoples.

REDD+ threatens the survival of Indigenous peoples. We emphasise that the inherent risks and negative impacts cannot be addressed through safeguards or other remedial measures. We insist that all actors involved in REDD+ fully respect the rights of Indigenous peoples, in particular, the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). We caution, however, that adherence to the principle of FPIC is not a means to solve these negative impacts and this principle should not be used to justify REDD+. The right of self-determination of Indigenous peoples should not be used to justify the destruction of our territories. Indigenous peoples should not commit themselves to a process that does not respect them.

We denounce the hypocrisy of REDD+ and the many false financial promises that have been made. REDD+ is a market-based approach through which outside actors try to commodify what is sacred to Indigenous peoples: the heritage of our ancestors and the guarantee of life for future generations, not just Indigenous peoples, but for all of humanity. Many Indigenous peoples and communities are not aware of the threats and impacts of REDD+, which is a political trap, and will lead to enhancing climate change. We call upon these communities to maintain their integrity in this respect.

We call upon all people committed to climate justice to support life, and we implore the global community to take responsibility for reducing emission of greenhouse gases at the source and to reject REDD+ as a false solution that breeds a new form of climate racism.

Gloria Ishigua, president, Ashiñwaka – Association of  Sápara Women, Ecuador

Marlon Santi, Sarayaku Runa, Ecuador

Jesus Smith, president, Fundacion para la Promocion del Conocimiento Indigena, Panama

Kaylena Bray, Seneca Interational, USA

Jose Proaño, Land is Life, Ecuador

Alejandro Argumedo, coordinator, Indigenous Peoples’ Biocultural Climate Change Assessment initiative, Asociacion ANDES, Peru

Kunjam Pandu Dora, Adivasi Aikya Vedika, India

Nadempalli Madhusudhan, Anthra - Yakshi, India

Jadder Mendoza, Universidad de las Regiones Autonomas de la Costa Caribe de Nicaragua, Nicaragua

Fiu Mataese Elisara, O’le Siosiomaga Society Inc., S’amoa

Climate Change and global warming are perpetrated by the capitalists to oppress the poor to make profit

By Reverend Mavuso of the Rural Network (South Africa)

November 25, 2011 -- We are told that our world is at risk from global warming caused by the pollution of the capitalists over many years. These same capitalists have become rich by making the rest of us poor. We were forced off our land, forced to work in their mines, factories and homes and now we are told that there are no more jobs for us. We are left to rot. For us the world has been in crisis for a very long time.

We cannot be expected to pay the price for global warming. Many of us don’t even have electricity in our homes. The price for fixing global warming must be paid by those that have become rich while disrespecting and damaging this world that God created for all of us.

As the Rural Network we are very concerned that game farming and the tourism industry are being presented to the world as "eco-tourism" when international guests are being encouraged to come to South Africa. In fact we are being evicted for "eco-tourism". This exercise is used to rob people of their land and to evict poor people and replace them with animals. Empty promises of new job opportunities are made to the poor. But these job opportunities are for domestic workers and security guards. The bed & breakfasts belong to the rich and the poor do not benefit out of it beyond some few people getting badly paid jobs as domestic workers or securities.

This whole business of eco-tourism is just a new stage in the long war against us. Now we find that when people want to harvest the blessings of God’s world there is a huge cry of poaching. People need their land back. Any environmentalism that doesn’t start and end with people will just become another excuse for the rich to oppress us.

If there are extreme temperatures or floods the landless and homeless will suffer the most. Industry must be heavily taxed for its pollution – past and present. That money must go towards creating ways of working and creating energy that will not damage the Earth. But it must also go towards making sure that everyone has a decent house or enough land.

Farmers are producing food for export which is a threat to food sovereignty. When their product is not good enough for the export market they throw it away where it could not be reached or consumed by the poor. Milk, sugar and bread are so expensive in such a way that they are not affordable to the poor. It is as if they are imported but in fact they are locally produced.

The planting of sugarcane is a practice of monoculture. The commercial farmers are not crop rotating and so they deplete and destroy our soil. The burning of sugarcane is also causing global warming and is polluting the environment. Sugarcane and timber plantations consume a lot of water and cause drought. Ploughing with tractors also emits carbon so the government must give us nguni cattle so that we can use them for farming. These cattle must not to be taken by government officials for their own private herds as it is happening with the KZN government.

Land reform must not be about creating black farmers who can farm like the big commercial white farmers. Land reform must be about creating a livelihood for people that have been dispossessed and have no work. It must be about local production for local needs. It must be about food sovereignty.

Transport must be safe, viable and reliable. The [mini-bus] taxis are said to be public transport but they are privately owned. The government must negotiate with the taxis owners so that we can do what they call clubbing. That means sharing the transport to reduce the amount of cars in the roads. Public transport must be cheap and safe and run for the people and not for profit. The politicians must stop using big cars and the must reduce their fleets of cars and stop travelling in big convoys with blue lights. They threaten our safety and they pollute the environment through emissions of carbon. When travelling short distance they must use bicycles together with their VIP protection.

Climate change and global warming must not be used as a mechanism to deny the poor to access basic services and enjoyment of basic human rights. Food production should be aimed for local feeding not for export. Natural resources must not be privatised and sold, because they are a gift from God. Water must be channelled to all people, especially the poor. The Umngeni River has never dried up. There are the Uthukela, Umhlathuze and Jozini dams but the poor have no water. So this notion of saving water must not be misused as a way of denying the poor access to water.

Industries must rest at night to allow the Earth to use its natural cooling system. The government must make sure that one day is the resting day where all industries are forced to rest. God made the night on purpose for all human kind to rest. There must be a way of controlling these industries. They should only work to meet the needs of the people -- not to produce for 24 hours just to make some few people rich.

Climate change must not be used to deny us access to jobs. [South Africa's president] Jacob Zuma promised half a million jobs but every day there is less and less work. We should change the work week to three days so that everyone can get work and there can be more time for families, learning and community work.

Renewable energy must not be a way of denying the poor access to electricity. Whenever [South Africa's state electricity utility] Eskom is in trouble they blame the poor for self-organised electricity connections and the police are sent out to shoot us and disconnect us. We all have a right to electricity. It is not the poor that are using too much.

COP17 ... will be a meeting of perpetrators of global warming. They are not serious about climate change mitigation and adaptation. They only care about profit making. They will converge in Durban with airplanes, buses and cars which are going to pollute even more our environment.

They will not be meeting in a democratic city. As the repression of Abahlali baseMjondolo [shackdwellers' movement] has shown to the world this is a city where there is no freedom for the poor. This is a city where if you are a poor person and you want to be part of discussions about your future you will be met with violence from the party and the police. Here the poor are not allowed to represent themselves. They must be represented by civil society organisations.

It has been said that God made this world as a common treasury for all. That is how we need to treat this world – as a common treasury for all – not as something to be bought and sold and exploited by the rich.



By Sipho Hlongwane, Daily Maverick, 28 November 2011

COP17 starts on 28 November. Cosatu has had words about the entire process. It basically has no faith in it because the big boys and gals aren’t coming to the table. But also, Cosatu claims it is a talk shop for heads of government, with civil society getting little chance to contribute to the proceedings.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find anybody that has faith that the COP17 (the full name is The 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  - you’ll excuse us for sticking to COP17) negotiations will yield meaningful results. By meaningful, we mean all the biggest polluters in the world agree to cut carbon emissions, and agree offenders should be punished. The parties managed to pass a lukewarm accord on the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen 2009, but when they met in Cancun last year, they mostly agreed to only pass a binding resolution in Durban this year.

One of the stronger, even if local, voices of objection is that of Cosatu.

After the meeting of the Cosatu central executive committee meeting on 24 November, the secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi called COP17 a “damage-control exercise with low ambition, but a certain level of efficiency, focused on the very technical aspects of the negotiation and with little space to advance political aspects such as emission reductions, source of funding or even ‘Just Transition’ dimensions”.

What Cosatu wants of COP17 is a legally binding agreement for emission reductions that places the onus almost squarely at the feet of developed countries, a resolution to protect workers as economies change and become greener (the so-called “just transition”), low-carbon economies, the removal of the World Bank from the process of climate finance, the protection of biodiversity and, of course, the inclusion of trade unions in the negotiations at COP17.

While Cosatu can bet its every red T-shirt it won’t be allowed in as an equal negotiator as sovereign nation states, it will also not likely see a massive ground-shaking agreement. The main reason why Copenhagen stalled was because vital countries such as China and the US wouldn’t commit to a massive binding agreement. In Cancun, the focus was on smaller, piece-meal and very specific agreements, and it seems likely the trend will continue in Durban.

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said there was no indication the major players had undergone a fundamental change of attitude, and so a major deal was unlikely.

He said the trade union federation cared about issues of the environment and climate change because these are human issues. “It is ultimately about workers’ lives, not workers’ rights,” he said. “The environment is people, and it is very much a ‘people’ issue. Workers live much closer to the polluting factories than others do, for example. We’ve been complaining about the pollution in Vanderbijlpark for years now.”

Craven said if COP17 should fail to reach a big agreement, it wouldn’t be the fault of the incoming COP17 president and South Africa’s international relations and cooperation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabana, but that of major powers refusing to budge.

Dirco spokesman Clayson Monyela said labour would be represented at COP17.

According to the BBC’s environment correspondent Richard Black, one of the biggest debates at COP17 (and certainly the most exciting) is going to be on the issue of funding for developing nations so they will be able to meet their climate-change goals as agreed at Copenhagen.

Black says developed nations will say they are largely on track in their obligations to meet the $30 billion commitment to developing countries. However, the recipients will likely be irked by the channelling of money through the World Bank and other international institutions. It means everything takes longer, and well, the World Bank gets to have a say.

“There's also the fact much of the money - more than half, in the case of the EU - is being given in the form of loans, subsidies and equities, rather than as straight financial contributions, as you might have inferred from the language in use at Copenhagen,” Black writes.

Then there’s the biggest problem of all. At Copenhagen, $30 billion was promised from 2010 till 2012. Richer countries have promised it will have given $100 billion a year by 2020. Even if they manage to give away $10 billion every year for the next nine years, where’s the rest suddenly going to come from?