News from climate-justice-now.org
By Environment Editor
March 14 (Sydney Morning Herald) — GREENHOUSE gases have risen to their highest level since modern humans evolved, and Australian temperatures are now about a degree warmer than they were a century ago, a major review by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology has found.
The national climate report, to be released today, said Australia’s current climate “cannot be explained by natural variability alone” and that emissions resulting from human activity were playing an increasingly direct role in shaping temperatures.
Australian researchers were able to identify the “fingerprint” of the carbon dioxide particles in the atmosphere, by testing the isotopes in CO2 particles, and confirm that the increase came from fossil fuels burnt in power stations and cars.
“We saw a dip in carbon dioxide emissions during the global financial crisis, but that period is now over,” said the chief executive of the CSIRO, Megan Clark. “Levels are now rising steadily again, in line with the trend.”
The carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached 390 parts per million in 2011, the highest level in 800,000 years.
The average day and night-time temperatures in Australia are now about a degree higher than they were a century ago, the State of the Climate 2012 report said.
“Multiple lines of evidence show that global warming continues and that human activities are mainly responsible,” it said.
The report gathered observations from thousands of experiments, mapping increases in air and water temperature and plotting rising sea levels.
Data gathered from gauges around the coast showed sea levels continuing to rise off Sydney and much of the NSW coast at a rate of about 5 millimetres per year, while some areas of the tropics, including Darwin, are seeing rises of up to 1 centimetre per year. Most of the rise is attributed to thermal expansion, or warmer water temperatures meaning that H20 molecules take up more space.
“The observed global-average mean sea-level rise since 1990 is near the high end of projections from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report,” the researchers found.
On average, global sea levels are about 21 centimetres higher today than they were in 1880, when reliable records began to be kept. The report also noted increases in heavy rainfall events across most of eastern Australia, but also more bushfires. The trend for Sydney is towards more monsoonal rains.
“The Mediterranean weather we have become used to seems to be fading,” Dr Clark said.
A CSIRO atmospheric scientist, Paul Fraser, said the world was now on track to pass the 400 parts per million level for CO2 emissions in under five years.
Researchers at an air monitoring station at Cape Grim in Tasmania have been testing the composition of carbon dioxide molecules. The measurements include a form of “carbon dating”, where the amount of carbon-14 particles indicate the age of a particle.
“The only process you can come up with that fits the profile of the CO2 we measure is the combustion of fossil fuels,” Dr Fraser said.
Observations at Cape Grim have been tracking the changing composition of the air for decades. Since 2000, fossil fuel emissions in CO2 samples have been increasing by about 3 per cent a year, but a decline of about 1.2 per cent a year took place as energy demand slackened during the financial crisis.
Growth in human-induced CO2 emissions has now rebounded back to about 5.9 per cent a year, the report said.
Greenhouse gases are now at 390 parts per million in the atmosphere – the highest level since modern humans evolved.
Australia’s rising temperatures “cannot be explained by natural variability alone”.
Average day and night temperatures are now, on average, 1 degree warmer than a century ago.
By Mark Drajem
March 9 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama is close to issuing the first U.S. greenhouse-gas limits, rules that may preclude the construction of new coal-fired power plants.
Analysts and lawmakers are bracing for rules from the Environmental Protection Agency that would set the emission limits for power plants at the level of a natural-gas plant, which is about half that of a coal-fueled facility. Any new coal plants would need expensive carbon-capture equipment.
A “hard-core stance on new plants is expected,” Christine Tezak, senior policy analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. in McLean, Virginia, said in an interview. “It would make it extra difficult for new coal.”
The proposed nationwide standards would be the first issued by the EPA for carbon-dioxide from power plants, the largest source of those emissions in the U.S. Environmental groups such as the National Wildlife Federation are pressing the Obama administration to issue tight standards in order to head off an increase in global warming that they warn could be catastrophic.
The White House must decide if it will side with its environmental allies on the EPA proposal, or bow to election-year pressure from companies that say the measure would outlaw new coal plants, raising electricity prices. The decision has taken on real and symbolic importance for both sides after Congress failed to pass climate legislation.
“It creates a direction, saying that the best bet is to create a plant that has the least amount of carbon pollution,” Joe Mendelson, director of policy at the National Wildlife Federation’s climate and energy program, said in an interview. “A mild standard for any new plants just would not cut it.”
While the initial impact would be minimal, as utilities are closing coal plants because natural gas prices at ten-year lows, adopting the EPA proposal would add to industry and Republican complaints in coal-dependent states such as Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania, where voter loyalty has swung between parties in recent elections.
The EPA’s greenhouse-gas plan “could send thousands of U.S. jobs overseas and raise electricity rates on families and seniors at a time when the nation can least afford it,” Kentucky Republican Ed Whitfield and 220 other lawmakers wrote in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget on Feb. 23.
They said EPA intended to impose a standard that would force new coal plants to have carbon capture, and asked the White House to scrap the rule. By law, the OMB reviews regulations to make sure their benefits are worth the cost.
Obama dismissed in September an EPA proposal to tighten ozone rules after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups warned of political fallout from a regulation they said would shut down factories nationwide. Last month, the administration delayed safety standards requiring rearview cameras in cars and light trucks, saying it needed to further study the issue.
Betsaida Alcantara, an EPA spokeswoman, didn’t return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment. The EPA is past a court deadline for issuing the proposal, which would then be open for comment and finalized late this year.
Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club met with White House officials in recent weeks. The environmentalists argue that decade-low natural gas prices make the EPA proposal both affordable and achievable.
“With gas prices where they are, nobody is building new coal plants,” John Thompson, director of the coal transition project at the Clean Air Task Force in Carbondale, Illinois, said in an interview. “The cost of this rule right now will be zero.”
The Clean Air Task Force, founded in 1996, is a foundation-funded non-profit that aims to cut pollutants from coal-fired power plants.
Shutting Coal Plants
The EPA issued two sets of rules last year designed to force coal plants to clean up other pollutants or shut down.
GenOn Energy Inc. and FirstEnergy Corp. announced this year that they will shutter coal-fired plants because they can’t afford to upgrade to meet EPA rules. GenOn, the third-largest U.S. independent power producer by market value, said Feb. 29 that it will shut about 13 percent of its generating capacity by May 2015, with all but one of the eight sites slated close a coal plant.
The average U.S. coal plant emits 2,249 pounds of carbon dioxide for each megawatt hour of power produced, compared to 1,135 pounds for a natural gas plant, according to the EPA.Newer combined-cycle natural gas plants, in which the heat exhaust of a first gas-fueled turbine drives a second generator, are more efficient.
Thompson and other environmental advocates have visited the White House to make the case that new coal plants could also be built if the facilities capture the carbon dioxide emitted and stash it underground. Southern Co. and representatives of other utilities presented officials with materials saying the technology is not ready for sale on a commercial level.
That process “is not considered commercially available technology yet,” Stephanie Kirijan, a spokeswoman for Southern, said in an e-mail. Southern owns three of the ten largest carbon-dioxide emitting power plants in the country. It’s building a carbon-capture coal plant in Mississippi.
Carbon-dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution have led to a warming of the earth’s temperature over the past 50 years, threatening to cause extreme weather, drought and coastal flooding, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
Because of falling natural gas prices, the share of coal in electricity generation fell to 42 percent in 2011, compared with 45 percent in 2010 and 50 percent in 2005, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency in Washington.
The administration proposal has risks for utilities, as natural gas prices may spike in the future.
“Power companies are very wary about assuming that natural gas prices will remain this low, and certainly want to retain the option of building coal,” Jeff Holmstead, a lawyer at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in Washington with energy industry clients, said in an interview.
On 20-22 June 2012, governments from around the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to commemorate 20 years of the “Earth Summit”, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) that first established a global agenda for “sustainable development”. During the 1992 summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the Convention to Combat Desertification, were all adopted. The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was also established to ensure effective follow-up of the UNCED “Earth Summit.”
Twenty years later, governments should have reconvened to review their commitments and progress, but in reality the issue to debate will be the “green economy” led development, propagating the same capitalist model that caused climate chaos and other deep social and environmental crises.
La Vía Campesina will mobilize for this historical moment, representing the voice of the millions of peasants and indigenous globally who are defending the well-being of all by implementing food sovereignty and the protection of natural resources.20 Years later: a planet in crisis
20 years after the Earth Summit, life has become more difficult for the majority of the planet’s inhabitants. The number of hungry people has increased to almost one billion, which means that one out of six human beings is going hungry, women and small farmers being the most affected. Meanwhile, the environment is depleting fast, biodiversity is being destroyed, water resources are getting scarce and contaminated and the climate is in crisis. This is jeopardizing our very future on Earth while poverty and inequalities are increasing.
The idea of “Sustainable Development” put forward in 1992, which merged “development” and “environment” concerns, did not solve the problem because it did not stop the capitalist system in its race towards profit at the expense of all human and natural resources:
- The food system is increasingly in the grips of large corporations seeking profit, not aimed at feeding the people.
- The Convention on Biodiversiy has created benefit sharing mechanisms but at the end of the day, they legitimize the capitalization of genetic resources by the private sector.
- The UN Convention on Climate Change, instead of forcing countries and corporations to reduce pollution, invented a new profitable and speculative commodity with the carbon trading mechanisms, allowing the polluter to continue polluting and profit from it.
The framework of “sustainable development” continues to see peasant agriculture as backwards and responsible for the deterioration of natural resources and the environment. The same paradigm of development is perpetuated, which is nothing less than the development of capitalism by means of a “green industrialization.”The “Green Economy” – Final Enclosure?
Today the “greening of the economy” pushed forward in the run-up to Rio+20 is based on the same logic and mechanisms that are destroying the planet and keeping people hungry. For instance, it seeks to incorporate aspects of the failed “green revolution” in a broader manner in order to ensure the needs of the industrial sectors of production, such as promoting the uniformity of seeds, patented seeds by corporation, genetically modified seeds, etc.
The capitalist economy, based on the over-exploitation of natural resources and human beings, will never become “green.” It is based on limitless growth in a planet that has reached its limits and on the commoditization of the remaining natural resources that have until now remained un-priced or in control of the public sector.
In this period of financial crisis, global capitalism seeks new forms of accumulation. It is during these periods of crisis in which capitalism can most accumulate. Today, it is the territories and the commons which are the main target of capital. As such, the green economy is nothing more than a green mask for capitalism. It is also a new mechanism to appropriate our forests, rivers, land… of our territories!
Since last year’s preparatory meetings towards Rio+20, agriculture has been cited as one of the causes of climate change. Yet no distinction is made in the official negotiations between industrial and peasant agriculture, and no explicit difference between their effects on poverty, climate and other social issues we face.
The “green economy” is marketed as a way to implement sustainable development for those countries which continue to experience high and disproportionate levels of poverty, hunger and misery. In reality, what is proposed is another phase of what we identify as “green structural adjustment programs” which seek to align and re-order the national markets and regulations to submit to the fast incoming “green capitalism”.
Investment capital now seeks new markets through the “green economy”; securing the natural resources of the world as primary inputs and commodities for industrial production, as carbon sinks or even for speculation. This is being demonstrated by increasing land grabs globally, for crop production for both export and agrofuels. New proposals such as “climate smart” agriculture, which calls for the “sustainable intensification” of agriculture, also embody the goal of corporations and agri-business to over exploit the earth while labeling it “green”, and making peasants dependent on high-cost seeds and inputs. New generations of polluting permits are issued for the industrial sector, especially those found in developed countries, such as what is expected from programs such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD++) and other environmental services schemes.
The green economy seeks to ensure that the ecological and biological systems of our planet remain at the service of capitalism, by the intense use of various forms of biotechnologies, synthetic technologies and geo-engineering. GMO’s and biotechnology are key parts of the industrial agriculture promoted within the framework of “green economy”.
The promotion of the green economy includes calls for the full implementation of the WTO Doha Round, the elimination of all trade barriers to incoming “green solutions,” the financing and support of financial institutions such as the World Bank and projects such as US-AID programs, and the continued legitimization of the international institutions that serve to perpetuate and promote global capitalism.Why peasant farmers mobilize
Small-scale farmers, family farmers, landless people, indigenous people, migrants – women and men – are now determined to mobilize to oppose any commodification of life and to propose another way to organize our relationship with nature on earth based on agrarian reform, food sovereignty and peasant based agroecology.
We reject the “Green Economy” as it is pushed now in the Rio+20 process. It is a new mask to hide an ever-present, growing greed of corporations and food imperialism in the world.
- We oppose carbon trading and all market solutions to the environmental crisis including the proposed liberalization of environmental services under the WTO.
- We reject REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) which allows rich countries to avoid cutting their carbon emissions by financing often damaging projects in developing countries.
- We expose and reject the corporate capture of the rio+20 process and all multilateral processes within the United Nations.
- We oppose land grabs, water grabs, seeds grabs, forest grabs – all resources’ grabs!
- We defend the natural resources in our countries as a matter of national and popular sovereignty, to face the offensive and private appropriation of capital;
- We demand public policies from governments for the protection of the interests of the majority of the population, especially the poorest, and landless workers;
- We demand a complete ban on geoengineering projects and experiments; under the guise of ‘green’ or ‘clean’ technology to the benefit of agribusiness. This includes new technologies being proposed for adaptation and mitigation to climate change under the banners of “geo-engineering” and “climate smart agriculture”, including false solutions like transgenic plants supposed to adapt to climate change, and “biochar” purported to replenish the soil with carbon.
- We resolve to protect our native seeds and our right to exchange seeds.
- We demand genuine agrarian reform that distributes and redistributes the land – the main factor in production – especially taking into account women and youth. Land must be a means of production to secure the livelihood of the people and must not be a commodity subject to speculation on international markets. We reject “market assisted land reform”, which is another word for land privatization.
- We struggle for small scale sustainable food production for community and local consumption as opposed to agribusiness, monoculture plantations for export.
- We continue to organize and practice agroecology based production, ensuring food sovereignty for all and implementing collective management of our resources
We call for a major world mobilization to be held between 18-26 June in Rio de Janeiro, with a permanent camp, for the Peoples Summit, to counter the summit of governments and capital.
We will be in Rio at the People’s Summit where anti-capitalist struggles of the world will meet and together we will propose real solutions. The People’s Permanent Assembly, between the 18 and 22, will present the daily struggles against the promoters of capitalism y the attacks against our lands. Today, Rio de Janeiro is one of the cities which receive the most contributions from global capital and will host the Soccer World Cup and Olympics. We will unite our symbolic struggles from the urban to the landless movements and fishers.
We also declare the week of June 5th, as a major world week in defense of the environment and against transnational corporations and invite everyone across the world to mobilize:
- Defend sustainable peasant agriculture
- Occupy land for the production of agroecological and non-market dominated food
- Reclaim and exchange native seeds
- Protest against Exchange and Marketing Board offices and call for an end to speculative markets on commodities and land
- Hold local assemblies of People Affected by Capitalism
- Dream of a different world and create it!!
The future that we want is based on Agrarian Reform, Peasant’s based sustainable agriculture and Food Sovereignty!
GLOBALIZE THE STRUGGLE!!
Published in SUNS #7313 dated 21 February 2012
Geneva, 20 Feb (Meena Raman) – The second meeting of the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) met in Bonn, Germany from 16-18 February and concluded with agreement on a two-year work plan for 2012 to 2013, the nomination of a six-man evaluation panel for selecting the host of the Climate Technology Centre (CTC) and elaboration of the modalities on linkages with other relevant institutional arrangements under and outside the Convention.
In the elaboration of the work plan, one issue that was controversial among TEC members from developed and developing countries was the issue of addressing intellectual property rights (IPRs) in relation to technology development and transfer.
While the TEC member from Sudan, Mr. Nagmeldin Elhassan, said that the TEC needed to address the IPR issue as to whether it was a barrier to technology transfer in developing countries, the developed country members especially from the United States, Mr. Rick Duke, and Mr. Kunihiko Shimada of Japan, were reluctant to have the matter discussed by the TEC, with Japan insisting that the proper forum was the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
After much wrangling over the matter, TEC members agreed that one of the short-term activities in 2012 would be the holding of a thematic dialogue on “enabling environments and barriers to technology development and transfer” through the engagement with stakeholders.
The controversy over the IPR issue arose following a presentation by Professor Carlos Correa of the South Centre at the TEC meeting on the first day (15 February) at a panel discussion with representatives from some stakeholders.
Correa, in his presentation, raised a number of policy issues that are relevant for the transfer and development of technology in the interests of developing countries on which the TEC should work and produce recommendations.
Among them included the regulation of markets for technology, namely through competition policies that, inter alia, deal with refusals by companies to transfer technology and address restrictive practices; measures relating to IP protection, such as facilitating searches for patented technologies and supporting efforts to improve the quality of patents (mainly in respect of inventive step and sufficiency of disclosure in patent applications); adoption of technical standards in a way that ensures the participation of developing countries’ firms and avoids the use of patents (which are eventually incorporated into such standards) as a means to restrict competition; initiatives based on open innovation schemes to promote the development of technologies as a public good (as in the case of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research [CGIAR] model); and effective implementation of Article 66.2 of the TRIPS Agreement (Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of the World Trade Organisation that deals with the transfer of environmentally sound technologies [ESTs] to Least Developed Countries) with regard to ESTs and establishment of patent pools to facilitate access to technologies on pre-determined conditions.
He also said that “transfer of technology” should not be interpreted as the sale of equipment; the transfer of know-how and know-why are essential for developing countries.
Apart from the South Centre, the TEC also heard presentations on the first day from other stakeholders including the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the World Resources Institute, the Latin American Energy Organisation (OLADE) and representatives from the business community. It also heard statements from observers including the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and Third World Network (TWN).
The TWN representative asked the TEC members to also address the issue of technology assessment, as the issue of the appropriateness of particular technologies to developing countries was an important one and was a gap that had not been addressed.
Some members of the TEC agreed that the technology assessment issue needed to be addressed and this was reflected in the work plan under the medium term activities in 2013 and beyond, through the preparation of inventories of relevant technology briefs, reports and technical papers to provide possible guidance on technologies based on technology assessments.
The TEC meeting was chaired by its Chair, Mr. Gabriel Blanco of Argentina and Mr. Antonio Pfluger of Germany, who is its Vice-chair. The TEC held its first meeting last year in September.
At the 16th COP (Conference of Parties) in Cancun in 2010, Parties agreed to establish the TEC comprised of 20 expert members (with 9 members from Annex 1 countries and 11 members from non-Annex 1 countries). The Cancun decision tasked the TEC to implement the framework for meaningful and effective actions to enhance the implementation of technology transfer in developing countries.
EVALUATION PANEL TO SELECT HOST OF THE CTC
The Durban COP in December last year decided that the selection process for the host of the CTC shall be launched and requested the secretariat to convene an evaluation panel, consisting of three members from Parties included in Annex I (developed countries) and three from non-Annex I Parties (developing countries) to the Convention as nominated by the TEC from within its membership.
The Chair of the TEC on the very first day of the Bonn meeting proposed that the Annex 1 Parties hold informal consultations to nominate three members from among them and that the same be done by members of non-Annex 1 countries.
Discussions on the nominations were held among TEC members in the evening of 16 February, which continued on the final day of the meeting and was closed to observers. It is learnt that the meeting succeeded in convening a six-man panel who are tasked to conduct an assessment of the proposals received for hosting the CTC, with a shortlist ranking up to five proponents, for the consideration by the Parties at the meeting of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) which will be held in May this year.
In the discussion over the two-year work plan for the TEC, while some members of the TEC especially from the US and Japan wanted the TEC to mainly focus on stock-taking and information gathering related to technology development and transfer in the first year of its work (while waiting for the CTC and Network to be operationalized next year), other members from developing and developed countries stressed the need for the TEC to show that it is “looking forward”, and “not appear passive” or “start from zero”.
Apart from the controversy of the IPR issue, other areas that saw some tussle among TEC members were over how to deal with technology roadmaps; the preparation and topics for the technical papers; and on recommending guidance on policies and programme priorities related to technology development and transfer.
The TEC finally agreed on a two-year rolling work plan which includes the following:
1. Mandated activities from Durban which were the nomination of TEC members for an evaluation panel to select the host of the CTC (as concluded above); elaborate modalities on linkages with other relevant institutional arrangements (see details below); and elaborate procedures for preparing a joint annual report of the TEC and the CTC.
2. Short-term activities in 2012 which consists of the preparation of an inventory of relevant work of the institutions that are active in the area of technology collaboration with a view to seeking collaboration with them; review of technology needs from various sources; engage stakeholders through thematic dialogues in order to seek cooperation with other relevant technology initiatives, stakeholders and organisations; preparing an inventory of existing technology roadmaps; initiate preparation of technical paper(s); development of an information platform within the Technology Clearinghouse (TT: Clear) for the TEC.
3. Medium term activities (2013 and beyond) consisting of the preparation of inventories of relevant technology briefs, reports and technical papers; review of roadmaps, taking into account the inventory of existing technology roadmaps; engage stakeholders through thematic dialogues on different topics; organise a stakeholder thematic dialogue on research, development and diffusion; produce technical paper(s) on topics agreed by the TEC and recommend guidance as appropriate, on policies and programme priorities related to technology development and transfer.
MODALITIES FOR LINKAGES WITH INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS UNDER THE CONVENTION
On the modalities for linkages with the institutional arrangements under the Convention, the TEC agreed that for performing its functions through close interactions with relevant thematic bodies established under the Convention, including but not limited to the advisory body of the CTC and Network, the Adaptation Committee, the board of the Green Climate Fund, the Registry, the LDC Expert Group, the Consultative Group of Experts on national communications from Parties in non-Annex 1, the Standing Committee (on finance) and the Adaptation Fund Board, the modalities may include the following:
- Cross participation in the meetings of the relevant bodies including workshops and events organized by such bodies, or jointly organized, on issues of common interest;
- Inviting inputs to support the implementation of particular activities as specified in the work plan of TEC;
- Knowledge and information sharing.
MODALITIES FOR LINKAGES WITH OTHER RELEVANT INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS OUTSIDE THE CONVENTION
For performing its functions through linkages with institutional arrangements outside the Convention including, inter alia, public institutions, the business community, academia, international organisations, NGOs, networks and partnerships, the TEC agreed that the modalities include the following:
- Offering participation in the TEC meetings as observers or expert advisors;
- Technical task forces, stakeholder forums and/or consultative groups;
- Bilateral cooperative arrangements;
- Web-based communication channel including through the technology transfer clearinghouse (TT: Clear); and
Participation of the Chair, Vice-Chair and/or any member designated by the TEC in external meetings and reporting back on those meetings.
The members also agreed that the next meeting of the TEC will be held sometime in May, back-to-back with the meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies, with another meeting to be held in September this year.
Published in SUNS #7313 dated 21 February 2012
Geneva, 20 Feb (Martin Khor) – A trade war is looming over the European Union’s move to impose charges on airlines on the basis of the greenhouse gases they emit during the planes’ entire flights into and out of European airports.
Many countries whose airlines are affected, including China, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Brazil and the United States, consider this to be unfair or illegal or both.
Since their protests have not yielded results, officials of 26 countries are meeting in Moscow early this week to discuss retaliatory action against the EU.
The EU’s move, which took effect on 1 January, and the tit-for-tat actions by the offended countries, is the first full-blown international battle over whether countries can or should take unilateral trade measures on the ground of addressing climate change.
Developing countries in particular have been concerned over increasing signs that the developed countries are preparing to take protectionist measures to tax or block the entry of their goods and services on the ground that greenhouse gases above an acceptable level are emitted in producing the goods or undertaking the service.
Besides the airlines case, several other measures are being planned by the EU or by the United States that will affect the cost of developing countries’ exports.
In fact, trade measures linked to climate change may become the main new sources of protectionism.
The EU’s aviation emissions tax is thus an important test case, and this could explain the furious and coordinated response by the developing countries, which form the majority of the protesting 26 nations meeting in Moscow this week.
The countries are particularly angry that the EU is imposing a charge or tax on emissions from the entire flight of an airline, and not just on the portion of the flights that are in European airspace.
The EU action takes effect by including the aviation sector (and airlines of all countries) in the European Emissions Trading Scheme.
Beyond a certain level of free allowances, the airlines have to buy emission permits depending on the quantity emitted during the flights. As the free allowances are reduced in future years, the cost to be paid will also jump, thus increasingly raising the price of passenger tickets and the cost of transporting goods, and affecting the profitability or viability of the airlines.
The China Air Transport Association has estimated that Chinese airlines would have to pay 800 million yuan for 2012, the first year of the EU scheme, and that the cost will treble by 2020.
The total cost to all airlines in 2012 is estimated at 505 million euros, at the carbon price of 5.84 euro per tonne last week, according to Reuter Thomsom Carbon Point.
Last September, when the carbon price was 12 euro per tonne, Carbon Point had estimated the cost to be 1.1 billion euro in 2012, rising to 10.4 billion euro in 2020.
While this may generate a lot of resources for Europe, airlines in developing countries will in turn have to pay a lot.
There are many reasons why the concerns of the affected countries are justified, as shown by Indian trade law expert Ms. R.V. Anuradha, in her paper on Unilateral Measures and Climate Change.
Since each country has sovereignty over the airspace above its territory (reaffirmed by the Chicago Convention), the EU tax based on flight portions that are not on European airspace infringes the principle of sovereignty.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s Kyoto Protocol states that Annex I Parties (developed countries) shall pursue actions on emissions arising from aviation through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, only Annex I countries are mandated to have legally binding targets for greenhouse gases emissions cuts. This UNFCCC principle is violated by the EU requirement affecting airlines from both developed and developing countries.
ICAO members have been discussing but have yet to reach agreement on actions to curb aviation emissions. Last October, 25 countries issued a paper in ICAO protesting against the EU measure.
While the United States has challenged the EU action in a European court, China has ordered its airlines not to comply with the EU scheme unless the government gives them permission to do. In addition, retaliation measures such as imposing levies on European airlines and reviewing the access and landing rights agreements with European countries are being considered by the 26 countries.
What happens in this aviation case is significant because there are many other unilateral measures linked to climate change being lined up by developed countries.
These include the EU plan to impose charges on emissions from maritime bunker fuel, a US Congress bill that requires charges on energy-intensive imports from developing countries that do not have similar levels of emissions controls as the US, and several schemes involving labels and standards linked to emissions.
If these unilateral measures are implemented, then developing countries will really feel they are being victimised for a problem – climate change — that historically has been largely caused by the developed countries.
Moreover, this will lead to a growing crisis of both the climate change regime and the multilateral trade regime.
Bonn, 15 February, 2012 (Meena Raman)- BASIC Ministers, in a joint-statement issued at the conclusion of their 10th Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change from February 13-14, 2012 in New Delhi, emphasized that the agreement on the Durban Platform was part of a carefully balanced package of ‘mutual reassurances’ between the parties.
They reaffirmed that the process launched at Durban (under the Durban Platform) is not to renegotiate or rewrite the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and that this process and its outcome shall be under the Convention and in full accordance with all its principles and provisions, in particular the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.
The Ministers also recognized that the Durban Platform offers a clear opportunity for an equitable, inclusive, effective and strengthened climate change regime.
(The main outcome of the Durban climate change conference in December last year was the launching of a new round of negotiations known as the Durban Platform aimed at a new regime [whether a protocol or other legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force] under the UNFCC and involving all countries.)
The countries in BASIC are Brazil, South Africa, India and China.
In the joint-statement, the Ministers welcomed the fact that a compromise was reached at the last minute at Durban to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention.
They also noted that the scope of work of Durban Platform has to be defined in advance of the conclusion of the work of the other two Ad-hoc Working Groups (referring to the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action and the Ad-hoc Working Group under the Kyoto Protocol).
Representing the BASIC countries at the meeting were Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan, Indian Minister of Environment & Forests, Mr. Xie Zhenhua, Vice Chairman, National Development and Reform Commission of China, Mr. Francisco Gaetani, Brazil’s Deputy Minister of Environment, Mr. Alfred James Wills, Chief Climate Change Negotiator of South Africa and Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko as representative of the President of the 17th Conference of Parties (South Africa).
According to the joint-statement, in line with the ‘BASIC-Plus’ approach, Qatar (as incoming President of COP-18), Swaziland (as Chair of Africa Group of negotiators and as a member of LDCs) and Singapore (as member of Alliance of Small Island States) were invited and participated in the meeting as observers. Algeria (as Chair of G-77 & China) was also invited.
The BASIC Ministers also recognized that the Durban conference represented a significant step forward and helped operationalize several of the Cancun decisions such as Green Climate Fund (GCF), Adaptation Committee, Technology Executive Committee and the Climate Technology Centre and Networks (CTCN), the Standing Committee on Finance and the arrangements for transparency.
The Ministers also welcomed in particular, the agreement on the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and stressed that the presentation by May 2012 by Annex-I parties of information on their economy wide quantified emission reduction objectives (QELROs) with a view to adopting an amendment to Annex-B of Kyoto Protocol is an important and necessary first step for the success of the process agreed to at Durban.
They reiterated that the flexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol would be available to only those Annex-I parties that have established quantified emissions reduction commitments in the 2nd commitment period. Ministers also emphasized that the non-KP Annex-I parties too must undertake comparable commitments under internationally agreed rules of accounting, measurement, reporting, verification and compliance.
The Ministers regretted the announcement by Canada, within a few days after the conclusion of the Durban Conference, withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol.
They observed that the Kyoto Protocol is not only a cornerstone of the international climate regime but a legally binding agreement under the UNFCCC and that any attempts by developed countries to casually set aside their existing legal commitments while calling for a new legally binding agreement seriously questions their credibility and sincerity in responding to the climate crisis.
The Ministers also stressed that unresolved issues such as equity, trade and technology-related intellectual property rights etc. must not fall-off the table and remain part of the negotiations.
They noted that developing countries are fully committed to playing their part in the global fight against climate change and have presented actions which express significant ambition to reduce emissions.
The Ministers stressed that developed countries must rise up to their historical responsibilities and take the lead in the fight against climate change by undertaking robust and ambitious mitigation commitments consistent with science and in accordance with the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities under the Convention.
They stressed that equity is a cornerstone of the international efforts at combating climate change and welcomed the decision at Durban to organize a workshop on ‘Equitable Access to Sustainable Development’. They stressed that equity must remain an essential element of the work moving forward in the UNFCCC process.
The Ministers reiterated the importance of the Review of the implementation of the Convention, in accordance with its principles and provisions. They stressed that the clear mandate provided by the Cancun decision in this regard must be respected.
They also reaffirmed the important role of the findings of the fifth Assessment Report (AR-5) of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in informing the process of implementation of the various decisions of COP-17.
The Ministers welcomed the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund and called for its early capitalization. They urged the developed countries to honour their commitments to provide US$ 30 billion as fast start funding and US$ 100 billion per year by 2020. They also stressed the urgency of securing long-term finance for developing countries including for implementation of Adaptation Framework, national adaptation planning and REDD plus (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries etc).
The Ministers welcomed the setting up of a platform for discussions of long-term finance under the UNFCCC.
The Ministers also noted with deep concern and reiterated their firm opposition to the inclusion of international aviation in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) which violates international law including the principles and provisions of UNFCCC and runs counter to multilateralism.
They noted that the unilateral action by EU in the name of climate change was taken despite strong international opposition and would seriously jeopardize the international efforts to combat climate change.
The Ministers recognized the threat of similar unilateral measures being considered by developed countries in the name of climate change in the area of international shipping and expressed their concern.
The Ministers pledged to continue and deepen their cooperation and coordination in the discussions leading up to COP-18 at Doha. In view of the on-going negotiations for the Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development, Ministers agreed that the BASIC countries should enhance their discussions on Rio+20 issues as well.
They also emphasized that BASIC countries as part of G-77 & China are extremely vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change and therefore share the deep concern of SIDS, LDCs and Africa. The Ministers reaffirmed the need to maintain and strengthen the unity of G-77 & China as the unified voice of developing countries in the climate change negotiations.
They welcomed the offer by South Africa to host the 11th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on climate change in the second quarter of 2012.
By Alexander Jung
Emissions trading, the European Union hoped, would limit the release of harmful greenhouse gases. But it isn’t working. The price for emissions certificates has plunged, a development that is actually making coal more attractive than renewable energy.
In the perfect world of economic liberals, every commodity has its price. Limited supply makes goods more expensive and vice versa. That’s how markets work — at least in theory.
In practice, things often look different, and this is especially true when it comes to emissions trading, a business subject to a very different mechanism: laws dictated by the European Union.
Economists have generally praised the trading scheme as a nearly ideal instrument for reducing harmful carbon dioxide emissions. In this system, businesses purchase pollution permits, with prices determined according to supply and demand, in an efficient and self-regulating process. Companies that invest in environmentally friendly technology need to buy fewer certificates, or may even have some left over to sell.
But for the last half year, prices for CO2 certificates have dropped almost continuously, decreasing by about half, to around €8 ($10.60) per metric ton. Not even the closure of eight German nuclear power plants in 2011, and the resulting increase in demand for coal power, has done much to lastingly reverse the trend.
Michael Kröhnert, an emissions trader in Berlin, refers to the plunging prices as a slaughter. And he fully expects it to continue. “The spiral is spinning downward,” he says.
‘The System Isn’t Working’
Analysts at Swiss bank UBS even go so far as to warn that this creeping decline could escalate into a true crash. “The trading system isn’t working,” is their scathing conclusion. The emissions trading system, once so highly acclaimed, seems to be producing nothing more than hot air.
The EU is alarmed. The European Parliament’s Industry Committee plans to vote later this month on whether Brussels should reduce the number of carbon certificates it provides. A vote in favor would see the EU auctioning off 1.4 billion fewer credits than planned during the next trading period from 2013 to 2020. The cut of roughly 8 percent, it is hoped, will push prices back up.
Yet this type of market intervention reveals the system’s central design flaw: Politicians determine the total amount of CO2 that industry in the EU may emit, a limit that applies years into the future, without any way to know how the economy — and thus the demand for trading certificates — will develop during that period.
Five years ago, when Europe was experiencing an economic boom, Brussels was generous in providing businesses with free certificates for the trading period from 2008 to 2012; companies were forced to buy only a small portion of their emissions credits. But soon afterwards, many businesses were forced to scale down production as the financial crisis, and then the debt crisis, took hold in Europe. Germany consumed less energy — 4.8 percent less in 2011 — and industry as a whole required a lower number of certificates than expected.
Steel company Salzgitter AG, for example, ended up with a surplus of around 7.5 million certificates between 2008 and 2010, according to a study by British environmental organization Sandbag, while ThyssenKrupp’s surplus amounted to about 6 million. Far from being an additional cost factor, say critics, emissions trading has become a source of income for such companies.
Losing Purpose and Incentive
Companies can sell their certificates, or they can stockpile them to be used during the next trading period. The fatal flaw is that this glut of certificates not only depresses prices, it also reduces the incentive to invest in modern energy technology.
With the certificates so cheap, generating power from environmentally harmful fuels becomes even more of a good deal than usual — which explains why brown coal consumption increased by nearly 4 percent in 2011, bucking the general trend.
Even more paradoxical, CO2 prices are so low partly because of the billions Germany spends on renewable energy. This decreases the demand, and with it the price, for emissions certificates. That in turn allows coal, a notorious danger to the climate, to be more competitive. In other words, emissions trading isn’t stopping climate change, but actually speeding it up.
It’s also putting Germany’s finance minister in a tight spot. Wolfgang Schäuble of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) planned to use revenue from the sale of certificates to establish, by 2015, a fund that would finance projects in thermal insulation and other areas. Schäuble’s team assumed a price of €17 per certificate when making their calculations. But with certificates now being traded at €10 below that price, the project could come up short by billions of euros.
Bit by bit, the business of emissions certificates is losing its purpose and incentive. In hindsight, it’s clear that introducing a CO2 tax — another alternative discussed initially — would have been more feasible and more effective. Another option would have been to establish limits and then tighten them every year. A battle raging between the EU and the rest of the world over the decision to require airlines flying to or from Europe to purchase carbon certificates is not exactly generating extra support for emissions trading. For the EU, at this point, it’s become purely a matter of saving its prestigious project.
Shortly before Christmas last year, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee voted to reduce by 1.4 billion the number of certificates sold. If the Industry Committee, the European Parliament as a whole and the Council of the European Union now follow that recommendation, it will serve as a clear signal that something many people have feared for years has come to pass: From now on, Brussels plans to play the role of a central bank, issuing and collecting emissions certificates as it pleases. Should it do so, the EU would run the risk of its timing being perpetually out of step. And the market forces that were originally meant to establish appropriate prices would be on the outside looking in.
Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein
by Katherine Austin-Evelyn
In early December 2011, Durban, South Africa hosted the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17), otherwise known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference was well attended by formal delegates negotiating the future of global climate change policies and programmes, something which was highly publicised. Less publicised in the mainstream media was the attendance and demonstrations of a large contingent of civil society groups and concerned citizens from all over the globe. The officially organised ‘Global Day of Action’ saw thousands of civil society organisations represented. In addition, there were informal demonstrations, which focused on a range of climate change issues, from the autonomy of small-scale farmers to the inequity of emissions between the global north and south.
While civil society had a place at COP17, there was also friction, conflict and tension between authorities and protesters. This reinforced the gap between delegates and civil society organisations. This CAI brief explores the role of the African civil society in the conference.Background: The African Group at COP17
Africa as a region is the most affected by climate change, yet it is also the least responsible given the impact that major industrialised and developed countries have had on global emissions levels and therefore, the environment. The African Group, a coalition of 54 African countries, acted as a single voice for the continent during the COP17 proceedings. They concentrated on two key areas during the conference. The first priority area was a push for an extension of the Kyoto Protocol (even though the group is not a signatory), with a specific focus on BRIC countries’ culpability in climate change. The second was to encourage nations to follow through with the 2010 commitment made in Cancun for a Green Climate Fund, to help offset costs that developing nations would incur for financing climate change initiatives.(2)
There was a general feeling in Durban, similar to other COP conferences, that developing nations, including many of the African nations involved, had little clout in negotiations. This frustration can be illustrated by a comment from the President of Ethiopia, a spokesperson for the African Group, in the final hours of the conference: “I will even go further and say that the priority that we have is only one: to keep one billion Africans safe as regards the adverse effects of a climate change phenomenon to which they did not contribute.”(3) This provides an important backdrop to the ways in which African civil society felt neglected, unrepresented or unheard during the conference and also frames the main issues that African non-governmental organisations (NGOs) strived to highlight.Challenges for the continent
The African continent is vulnerable to floods, droughts and other extreme weather conditions, especially because its people rely heavily on precipitation and other natural cycles, as evidenced by the devastating Somalian drought this year. In addition to this vulnerability, most of the continent lacks the technological ability and industrial capacity to cope with these unruly weather patterns. Therefore, although the biggest challenges for Africa are to fight climate change and global warming, a related challenge is to capacity building in many of the poor countries where these problems will become more severe over time. Some point out that the current systems and methods of production need to transform from privileging the comfort of a few elite above the needs of the vast majority.(4) According to many African civil society groups, governments must take decisive action to keep temperatures at safe levels as dictated by the scientific community; to provide resource support for sustainable developments of all countries; and to ensure effective compliance with commitments.(5)Civil society responses – ‘Climate Justice Now!’ and ‘Occupy COP17’
Just as formal delegates from Africa experienced frustration, so too did the civil society groups from all over the continent who travelled to Durban to be heard and seen during the negotiations. These movements, NGOs and organisations convened both at a ‘speakers’ corner’, a small patch of land opposite the ICC, as well as at other locations outside of the ICC area, such as Howard College at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Rehana Dada, a representative of the South African Civil Society Committee for COP17, explains that the primary demand coming from civil society is the removal of restrictions from access to proceedings and negotiations and ‘petty’ limitations on protest space.(6)
A multitude of organisations represented civil society space during the conference. Two civil society movements of note are Climate Justice Now! and Occupy COP17. The former is “a network of organisations and movements from across the globe committed to the fight for social, ecological and gender justice.”(7) Their aims are based on taking action by applying pressure on those who have historically caused the lion’s share of environmental degradation: developed industrialised countries.(8) Similarly, Occupy COP17, a movement of NGOs, concerned citizens and students focussed on emulating the global ‘occupy’ trend aimed to put pressure on delegates to make meaningful change by ‘occupying’ space both outside and inside the ICC. Their formal ‘headquarters’ were located at the ‘speakers corner’ opposite the ICC, but participants were actively moving from one protest space to another all over the city.Global Day of Action
On 3 December 2011, a ‘Global Day of Action’ was held. Reports estimate that anywhere between 7,000-10,0000 people attended a half-day march from central Durban to the ICC to raise awareness of pressing global climate change issues. The march drew from an international and national group of activists from community, labour, women, youth, academic, religious and environmental organisations. While these global days of action against climate change (and at times, against ‘COP’ itself) are traditional during the conference, it was the first time that activists from sub-Saharan Africa had the opportunity to demonstrate their importance in addressing climate change in southern Africa. Notable African activist groups in the march included ‘The Caravan of Hope’ convened by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), which began in Burundi and gained publicity as it travelled to Durban. The march also included participants from the ‘climate train’, which made its way across South Africa in the days running up to COP17 raising awareness of climate justice issues. These African groups marched alongside international climate organisations such as Greenpeace and ‘350’ to demand action from governments around the world. The march culminated in the handing over of memoranda of understanding to the UNFCCC COP17 President and the UNFCCC Executive Secretary.(9)‘One Million Climate Jobs’ – A South African movement
South Africa, the host country of COP17, demonstrated its strong traditions of trade unions fighting for social issues through its main civil society movement, ‘One Million Climate Jobs’, at the conference. The movement aimed to highlight the intersections between climate ‘justice’ with other pressing social issues in the country. Their primary focus was the need to address the overwhelming unemployment rate through jobs that support the environment, while simultaneously underpinning issues of extreme poverty, hunger, crime, substance abuse and domestic violence. By addressing these issues, the group says that in turn the health and education systems will be impacted and those who are vulnerable, such as women and children, will see results.(10) The organisation presents five steps to securing ‘one million climate jobs’. These are to: 1) produce electricity from wind and solar power; 2) invest in social infrastructure such as public transport, housing and publicly available waterworks; 3) utilise agro-ecology which is labour intensive, low in carbon emissions and respectful of traditional African practices by protecting biodiversity; 4) protect South Africa’s natural resources from outside influence and corruption to meet the basic needs of all people; and 5) provide basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation to redress the legacies of apartheid and build on the resilience of South Africans to withstand the effects of climate change.(11)Conflict and controversy
COP17 was not without conflict and controversy, especially from a civil society perspective. Notably, there were alarming interventions by state-sponsored participants in the civil society proceedings. Citizens and climate action groups heavily documented these incidents. During the demonstration on the Global Day of Action, a group of approximately 300 protesters, dressed in green official COP17 volunteer uniforms (allegedly sponsored by the South African ANC government) tore up placards and allegedly physically threatened and attacked activists participating in the march. Shockingly, despite a large police presence there was a dearth of action taken by officials at the march. The disruption did not end there. Volunteers dressed in the same official COP17 tracksuits later tore up placards and physically confronted civil society members attending a seminar for civil society groups at Durban City Hall.(12)Concluding remarks
At COP17 civil society faced an uphill battle for representation in a UN environment of official accreditation and strict security guidelines. The small space provided by the City of Durban, as well as the relatively remote location of Howard College signifies the separation between ‘official’ delegates and those working on the frontlines of climate change and environmental issues. It was promising to see a strong South African civil society representation that was uniquely tailored to South Africa’s needs through the One Million Climate Jobs campaign. While there was some undemocratic behaviour, for the most part civil society groups peacefully protested and demonstrated their dedication and commitment to climate change issues. As Patrick Bond of the Centre for Civil Society at the University of Kwazulu-Natal pointed out about the conference, “because the structure is so much more global and adverse, we have to do a lot more locally and nationally to change that.” With South Africa’s history of social justice movements and the global consensus about climate change, it is possible that the fights against climate change are only beginning.
(1) Contact Katherine Austin-Evelyn through Consultancy Africa Intelligence’s Rights in Focus Unit ( email@example.com).
(2) Joselow, G., ‘African Group narrows climate focus in Durban’, Voice of America News, 8 December 2011, http://www.voanews.com.
(4) Hormeku, T., ‘Durban must deliver equity’, Pambazuka News 555: Durban climate change conference: Africa demands equity and justice’, 2 December, 2011, http://www.pambazuka.org.
(6) Kachingwe, N., ‘African civil society engagement with COP 17: One step closer to an African climate change and development agenda’, Heinrich Boell Foundation, 11 November 2011, http://www.boell.org.za.
(7) Climate Justice Now website, http://www.climate-justice-now.org.
(9) Civil Society Committee for COP17 Website. http://www.c17.org.za.
(10) One Million Climate Jobs Now! Website, http://www.climate-change-jobs.org.
(12) Loewe, M., ‘COP17 volunteers beat Zuma protestors in rowdy face off’, RDNA, 8 December 2011, http://reportingdna.org.
This year’s UN Climate Conference of the Parties (COP-17) in Durban, South Africa, nicknamed “The Durban Disaster,” took the dismal track record of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to new lows. At one point, it appeared that the talks might actually collapse, but a small cabal of 20-30 countries held exclusive closed-door talks over the final days to create the Durban Platform, which carbon analyst Matteo Mazzoni described as “an agreement between parties to arrange another agreement.”
The details of the platform will not be completed until 2015 and will not be implemented until 2020, leading many to charge that the 2010s will be the lost decade in the fight to stop climate catastrophe. Pablo Solón, the former Ambassador to the UN for the Plurinational state of Bolivia, summed up the negotiations this way: “The Climate Change Conference ended two days later than expected, adopting a set of decisions that were known only a few hours before their adoption. Some decisions were not even complete at the moment of their consideration. Paragraphs were missing and some delegations didn’t even have copies of these drafts. The package of decisions was released by the South African presidency with the ultimatum, ‘Take it or leave it’.”
Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, similarly condemned the outcomes: “An increase in global temperatures of four 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 percent of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%percent.”
Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the North America-based Indigenous Environmental Network, went even further, calling the outcome, “climate racism, ecocide, and genocide of an unprecedented scale.”
The UN, on the other hand, trumpeted the success of the conference at “saving tomorrow, today.” One of the great achievements touted by Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, was the renewed commitment to the Kyoto Protocol (KP): “…countries, citizens, and businesses who have been behind the rising global wave of climate action can now push ahead confidently, knowing that Durban has lit up a broader highway to a low-emission, climate resilient future.”
Nature magazine took direct aim at this assertion: “It takes a certain kind of optimism—or an outbreak of collective Stockholm syndrome—to see the Durban outcome as a significant breakthrough on global warming…. Outside Europe…there will be no obligation for any nation to reduce soaring greenhouse-gas emissions much before the end of the decade. [Durban] is an unqualified disaster. It is clear that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change, now inhabit parallel worlds.”
The Third World Network concluded that the Durban Platform “provides for the ‘great escape’ from the Kyoto Protocol.” In fact, less than 24 hours after the Durban negotiations ended, Canada became the first country to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. “Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past,” stated Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister. Even while Canada was a signatory to the KP, its climate emissions skyrocketed due to the tar sands giga-project in Alberta.
While “legally binding,” the Kyoto Protocol’s goal of decreasing global climate emissions 5.2 percent below 1990 levels was unscientific and totally insufficient to mitigate climate change. But even these modest goals have gone unmet. Since it went into force in 2005 (eight years after it was ratified), global emissions have steadily increased. But the extension of the Kyoto Protocol for one more year kept alive the carbon markets, which had been on the brink of collapse due to the financial crisis and an oversupply of carbon credits.
On December 12, the Financial Times quoted Abyd Karmali, global head of carbon markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, that extending the dysfunctional Kyoto Protocol was a “Viagra shot for the flailing carbon markets.” Two days later, when the EU carbon market dropped to a record low, Reuters quoted one carbon trader stating, “It’s clear that Durban didn’t help and Canada’s announcement of its Kyoto Protocol withdrawal tells you what little countries think about international agreements.” This sentiment was echoed by the Philippines-based Peoples Movement on Climate Change: “Kyoto is essentially a corpse surviving on life support. With Japan, Russia and Canada joining the US [in rejecting] the Kyoto Protocol, its second round will cover just…15% of global emissions.”
Another significant roadblock to just and effective climate action is the Durban Platform’s text on trade. It ignores the historical responsibility of free market capitalism in causing the climate crisis by requiring climate-related decisions to be compliant with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The text is unequivocal: “the WTO is the competent body for multilateral trade rule-making and Parties which are members of the WTO have the responsibility to respect their WTO obligations when they adopt measures to address climate change…. Measures taken to combat climate change, including unilateral ones, should not constitute a…disguised restriction on international trade.”
As with the WTO, the UNFCCC has focused on the free market as a panacea. Their prioritization of voluntary market-based solutions has earned the UNFCCC nicknames like “the WTO of the Sky” and the “World Carbon Trade Organization.” Janet Redman of the Institute for Policy Studies explained the UNFCCC fixation on market-based solutions at a Climate Justice Now! press conference: “Banks that caused the financial crisis are now making bonanza profits speculating on the 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.”
The focus on market-based climate strategies has led to growing outrage and civil society action against the climate COPs. As a result, the UNFCCC is moving their next round of talks from South Korea, where they were originally planned, to Qatar.
The Greatest Land Grab of All Time
A new scheme developed by the World Bank called “Climate Smart Agriculture” is designed to introduce soils and agriculture into the carbon market as part of the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) package. Rachel Smolker of BiofuelWatch explains the concept: “Climate smart agriculture will put a dollar value on the carbon in dirt so it can be sold on the market, and polluters can buy dirt offsets that will allow them to continue to pollute. Climate smart agriculture is a resource grab of monumental proportions. For those who can afford it—the financiers, fund managers, speculators and banks— markets in dirt will be a field day…. And if the trade in all that dirt is used as an excuse for ongoing pollution, we shall all soon be toast.”
In a press release, La Via Campesina, the largest global peasant farmer’s movement, denounced this as a scheme by the agro-industrial complex to tap into climate-mitigation profits and stated that: “Peasant agriculture is the way to feed people with healthy food and at the same time to guarantee a balance in the ecosystem and on the farm. The logic of carbon markets and trading should not be allowed to enter into agriculture.”
REDD has been hotly contested since it was first introduced into the climate mitigation package at the 2007 climate talks. Every year since, REDD has been pushed by those who wish to use the world’s forests as carbon offsets and protested by Indigenous Peoples and forest dependent communities that face potential forced relocation if their forest homelands are “protected,” under the REDD scheme.
Those that stand to benefit argue that REDD just needs a few safeguards to make it work, but others like the Indigenous Environmental Network insist that REDD must be rejected. Berenice Sanchez of the MesoAmerican Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network explains, “the supposed safeguards are voluntary, weak, and hidden. REDD-type projects are already violating Indigenous Peoples’ rights throughout the world.” In Durban, the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Against REDD and for Life issued a press release on December 6 calling for an immediate moratorium on REDD, stating, “REDD threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples and forest dependent communities and could result in the biggest land grab of all time.”
The alliance further warned that if expanded, “REDD [would] 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. This could commodify almost the entire surface of Mother Earth.”
But REDD is not a threat only to communities in Southern countries where REDD projects are planned. Because REDD allows industries to purchase carbon offsets, it enables them to continue polluting communities in Northern industrialized countries. For this reason, communities impacted by REDD in both the North and South have joined forces to oppose REDD.
Kandi Mossett, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, explained how REDD impacts her community, “I grew up on a reservation [in the U.S.]. We are watching our people die. Heart attacks, cancers, asthma. Everybody is being affected by the dirty industries on the reservation—industries allowed to continue polluting because of REDD. I can’t tell you what it’s like to keep going to funerals when the coffins are getting smaller and smaller.”
Global Forest Coalition hosted a seminar in Durban on forest conservation and REDD, which released a statement highlighting the findings of recent studies that forest restoration and protection hinges on “recognition of Indigenous territorial rights, autonomy, traditional knowledge and governance systems; land reform, food sovereignty and sustainable alternative livelihood options.”
The People Speak Out
Social movements and peoples’ organizations planned a series of parallel events and protests during the two weeks of the UN climate COP. Occupy COP 17 held daily general assemblies across the street from the Climate Convention. At its opening Assembly on November 28, Occupy COP 17 released a statement: “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 to ensure the present culture of 1 percent of the world’s population does no injustice to the future of the 99 percent.”
On Sunday, December 4, tens of thousands took to the streets. Labor marched side by side with farmers; banners addressed issues from waste incineration to Indigenous Peoples’ rights. The march stopped at the climate convention center where it was addressed by a series of speakers. Virginia Setshedi, a water privatization activist from Soweto, hosted the event and initiated impassioned calls of “Amandla” to which the crowd responded “Ngawethu” (power to the people).
The second week of the negotiations saw increased levels of protest and heightened reactions by UN Security. On Monday, December 5, UN Security tried to obstruct a permitted protest by the Global Alliance of Wastepickers. Security told them they could not display their signs and banners because they had not been pre-approved. The wastepickers held their protest anyway, dumping bags of garbage, then sorting it for recycling to demonstrate how wastepickers around the world eke out a living by salvaging recyclables from the trash to keep them out of landfills or incinerators. The wastepickers were part of a delegation organized by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.
On Wednesday, December 7, the first day of the high level negotiations, six members of the Canadian Youth Delegation were “debadged” and ejected for doing an action inside the plenary against Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent. According to the Globe and Mail, “As [Kent] was speaking, six Canadian activists stood up and turned their backs on him in silent protest. They wore T-shirts saying: ‘Turn your back on Canada’ and ‘People before polluters’.” They received a round of applause.
In a statement about their protest, the Canadian youth said, “The actions of this government put the future of our country and our generation in danger. We won’t take that sitting down. As long as Canada is promoting industry over human rights, we will never see the climate agreement the world needs. It’s time to leave Canada behind.”
But it was not only UN security that conspired to suppress protest. On December 9—on what was supposed to be the final day of the negotiations—a contingent of young activists organized by Greenpeace and 350.org held a rally in the foyer of the plenary where negotiations were taking place. The Occupy-inspired rally of several hundred activists lasted for hours. After two hours or so, Will Bates from 350.org explained to the group that he and others had arranged with UN security for the protest to be allowed to leave the building and continue just outside where people could carry on as long as they wished. There was vocal opposition to this suggestion. People could feel the power of being in that hallway and were unhappy with the idea of leaving. But the mostly male leadership refused to cede control. “If you choose to stay,” Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace, warned, “you will lose your access badge and your ability to come back into this climate COP and any future climate COPs.” The question was posed about how many people planned to stay and dozens of hands shot up. The leadership then warned that anyone who refused to leave would be debadged, handed over to South African police, and charged with trespass.
In response a young South African man stood up and spoke out. “I am South African. This is my country. If you want to arrest anyone for trespass, you will start with me.” He then led the group in singing Shosholoza, a traditional South African folk song sung by migrant workers in the South African mines. The hallway resounded with the workers’ anthem.
When the occupation still refused to budge, Naidoo, who seemed determined to control the message of the protest, said, “Okay. I have spoken with security and this what we are going to do. We will remove our badge [he demonstrated this with a grand sweeping gesture] and hand it over to security as we walk out of the building. No one will be able to accuse us of trying to disrupt the negotiations.”
In response, Anne Petermann, co-author of this article said, “I have been attending these COPs since 2004. They are controlled by the 1 percent. I say, occupy the COP.” At that point, Petermann sat down on the floor and was joined by a dozen other people—mostly youth, including Keith Brunner and Lindsey Gillies, two members of the youth delegation and accredited by the Global Justice Ecology Project.
A young woman named Karuna Rana from the small island of Mauritius off the southeast coast of Africa also sat down, saying, “I am the only young person here from Mauritius. These climate COPs have been going for seventeen years. And what have they accomplished? Nothing. My island is literally drowning and so I am sitting down to take action—for my people and for my island. Something must be done.”
At that point, Naidoo told the occupiers, “When security taps you on the shoulder, you have to leave. We are going to be peaceful, we don’t want any confrontation.” He then led a group of protesters down the hall, handing his badge to UN security. Those who remained sitting on the floor were then taken by security, one by one, down the hallway and out of the building. Brunner and Petermann linked arms until security forcibly removed all of the media that remained. A group of reporters, including Amy Goodman and the crew of Democracy Now!, were pushed up the adjacent staircase against their will, out of view of the protest.
“They’re all yours,” said the UN security officers who then left. The South African police then loaded the activists into a police van and dropped them off at the “Speakers’ Corner” across the street, site of the Occupy COP 17 general assemblies.
The contentious negotiations went on until Sunday morning when the Durban Platform was officially adopted over the protests of many Southern countries. For many climate justice activists, this was the last nail in the coffin of the UNFCCC, which had made it abundantly clear that profit trumps survival. The action had been an empowering and inspiring contrast to the lifeless convention center where the most powerful countries of the world played deadly games with the future.
What Comes Next?
The UNFCCC was a product of the first Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This coming June, a new global Earth Summit is planned. This “UN Conference on Sustainable Development,” also to be held in Rio, is being called “Rio+20.” The official agenda is the transition to a global “green economy” and reform of the institutions charged with sustainable development. According to Jim Thomas of the ETC Group, “Far from cooking up a plan to save the Earth, the summit could instead be a deal to surrender the living world to a small cabal of bankers and engineers. Tensions are already rising between northern countries and southern countries [and] suspicion is running high that the ‘green economy’ is more likely to deliver a greenwash economy or the same old, same old ‘greed’ economy.”
The focus on the creation of a new “green economy” is effectively diverting attention from the real root causes of the ecological and social crises we are facing today. It is a rehash of the old argument that capitalism can be reformed and made responsible. But the proponents of the “green economy” take this position to an even greater extreme by claiming that the “services” provided by nature (clean air, pure water, etc) should be given an economic value. This would allow them to be bought, traded, or offset in order to “raise funds for conservation.”
As Thomas points out, however, “Indigenous Peoples and social justice movements who have fought against land displacement brought about by REDD+ are particularly alarmed that the same commodification approach is now being proposed to extend to soils, oceans, and more.”
The expansion of the free market into every corner of the natural world is receiving significant pushback. Organizations from around the world are mobilizing for Rio—some to try to influence the talks from the inside, but even more are focusing on a parallel Peoples’ Summit for Social and Environmental Justice Against the Commodification of Life and Nature in Defense of the Commons. This parallel summit is to be held simultaneously to and in the same city as Río+20. It is calling for the mobilization and coordination of struggles across the planet toward the development of a Permanent People’s Assembly.
According to organizers, this Assembly will “give voice to the women and men, young and old, who are resisting daily the advance of a development model that is by definition unsustainable: a model whose predatory inhumanity is trying to subject every aspect of life to the dictates of the market, always putting the profits of a few ahead of everyone’s buen vivir or well-being, while simultaneously trying to hide behind a green-washed face.”
Regarding how to address climate change effectively, Shannon Biggs of Global Exchange argues for a people’s approach that addresses the big picture: “As long as it was accepted that climate change is the problem, it made a lot of sense to turn to international institutions like the UN as the driver for change. In this sense, the utter failure of Durban can be quite freeing—if we choose it—because it means we can actually address root causes of climate change—our cultural and legal traditions of dominating the Earth for profit.”
“I am feeling very optimistic,” said Wahu Kaara, coordinator of the Kenya Debt Relief Network. “We are the people that sustain life. COP 17 has seen the death of the corporate climate conspiracy. Now we need to begin writing a new history and constructing a new world that values life and that stops the sale of life for profit. They have drawn the line. We can’t continue this way. We have to begin to walk in the direction of life—and the death of the corporate climate conspiracy is the first step in that walk.”
Anne Petermann is the executive director of Global Justice Ecology Project and the North American Focal Point for Global Forest Coalition. Orin Langelle is the co-director/strategist for the Global Justice Ecology Project and a photojournalist. Photo 1 & 2: Protests at UN Climate Conference; photo by Lagelle/GJEP. Photo 3: Christina Figueres, exec secretary of UNFCCC speaks to crowd at the Day of Action; photo by Langelle/GJEP. Photo 4: Anne Petermann and Keith Brunner just before being removed from the Climate Conference; photo by Langelle/GJEP. Photo 5: Security officer tries to stop photo taking; photo by Jeff Conant/GJEP-GFC. Photo 5: Tom Goldtooth from Indigenous Environmental Network; photo by Langelle/GJEP.
Pablo Solon, speaking on “Rights of Nature and Climate Politics” at a Harold Wolpe Lecture at the UKZN Centre for Civil Society in conjunction with COP17 on Friday December 2 in Durban South Africa opened with “at the heart of our new society is Mother Earth.”
To an audience of approximately 200 participants, the former Bolivian Ambassador to the UN advocated that it is time to change how we relate with nature and restore harmony with nature. We must respect the integrity of our ecosystems. Capitalism is based on a relationship with humans that is similar to our relationship with nature. Over time we humans have expanded rights of humans from landed men to blacks, minorities, women, children, etc.
The UN says don’t speak about rights because it creates conflict between nature and corporations and those who control economics of the world. It is not only anthropocentric it is “capitalpocentric”. The first dimension of this thinking is that most legal systems preserve private property of the wealthy – corporations and wealthy capitalists who protect private property of 1% of the world.
The second dimension is the concerns of the ecosystems. We need to change how we relate with nature. We treat nature as a slave and do whatever we want with nature. When we ask ‘What does the river think about this project?’, it changes how we relate to nature.”
With respect environmental impact, Solon noted that last year the UN declared the human right to water. That took 60 years to achieve because it will affect what Bechtel and others can charge for drinking water. The next step is the recognition that the river water itself has rights. Water ecosystems have vital cycles we need to respect. We must change the way we think the way we relate to nature. Snow has memory. If you want to know what was happening 500 years ago look to the glaciers.
He went on to add, “We all have indigenous roots. Indigenous peoples respect nature. They ask for permission and forgiveness. We must reclaim and remember what we have lost.”
At COP we are talking about green economy. Environmental services presents a new model , a new consensus on making profit with environmental services. Unfortunately, the basis of this new model is the market. Some say let’s have green economy. The challenge we have is we need to come out of Durban with a clear call that we promote a new economy based on the recognition that Nature has Rights and oppose this market based green economy. Rights of Nature does not solve all problems but Rights of Nature says that a new world is possible.
We must fight the appetite against nature. It is an appetite against science and spirituality. The appetite against children and old people…the last years are very lonely. We must change the system and provide an alternative of new society.
Durban results will be worst than Copenhagen by 4 times. The impact on Africa will be the worst. Nature is suffering ecocide.
The current relation with nature is through the market. You have to buy it. The problem with green economy is that they are saying capitalism has failed because we have not put a price on nature. The logic is that you do not take care of what does not have a price.
We must change the paradigm of how we relate with Mother Earth. It is not a problem of compensation it is of restoration. That is true.
The green economy will include insurance so that if your environmental property is damaged you will be compensated. We need a citizens tribunal for the environment. We have to mobilize.
The planet can exist without humans but we are part of the system. Regarding temperature, scientists are saying that this has not happened in the last 800,000 years. We must preserve the biodiversity of the planet.
Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth is not written for humans … It is written for all life including the mountains, glaciers, everything. Why is it human rights have to be protected and the laws of nature can be ignored? When we speak about rights of Mother Earth we are also talking about human rights. There must be balance. We need a social movement that has a clear vision of both human rights and rights of nature.
The worst thing that could come out of Durban is an agreement with such weak numbers. We need to come out of Durban with a clear proposal of a new alternative. And we must develop more actions. Look at the Occupy Wall Street proposal. Oct 15 Occupy Wall Street made an appeal and so many people responded. It is very significant. When we are fighting for employment we must also fight for Mother Earth.
We will save the markets, not the climate. That is how we can summarize the outcome of the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) which took place in Durban, South Africa between 28 November and 10 December 2011. There is a striking contrast between the rapid response by governments and international institutions at the onset of the economic and financial crisis of 2007-08 in bailing out private banks with public money and the complete immobility they demonstrate in response to climate change. Yet this should not surprise us, because in both cases it is the markets and their accomplices in government who come out as winners.
There were two central themes at the Durban summit; first, the future of the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012 and the ability to put in place mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and, secondly, the launch of the Green Climate Fund approved at the previous summit in Cancun (Mexico) with the theoretical aim of supporting the poorest countries to face the consequences of climate change through projects of mitigation and adaptation.
After Durban, we can say that a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol remains empty of content. They postponed any real action until 2020 and ruled out any binding regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was the representatives of the most polluting countries, headed by the United States, who argued for an agreement based on voluntary reductions and opposed any binding mechanism. The Kyoto Protocol was already inadequate, and its strict application would lead to a small slowdown of global warming. But now we are on a path that can only make the situation much worse.
With regard to the Green Climate Fund, as a first step, rich countries pledged to contribute up to $30 billion in 2012 and 100 billion per year until 2020. In the first place these amounts are insufficient. Further, no source of public funds has been identified. Therefore, the doors are wide open to private investment run by the World Bank. As has already been noted by social movements, this is a strategy to “transform the Green Climate Fund into a greedy employers’ fund”. Once again they are making profits from the climate crisis and environmental pollution (investment banks have already developed a range of financial instruments to intervene in what is called the carbon market, emissions, etc.)
Another example of the commodification of the atmosphere was the endorsement by the United Nations of capture and storage of CO2 as a mechanism for so-called clean development, whereas this procedure is not intended to reduce emissions and will help to seriously deepen the environmental crisis, especially in developing countries that are candidates to become cemeteries of CO2 in the future.
The results of the Summit therefore cause an increase in green capitalism. South African activist and intellectual Patrick Bond denounced it like this: “The trend towards commodification of nature has become the dominant philosophical point of view in environmental governance.” In Durban, we repeated the scenario of the previous summits, such as Cancun in 2010 and Copenhagen in 2009, where the interests of large transnational corporations, international financial institutions and the elites of the financial world, both North and South, are given priority over the collective needs of the people and the future of the planet.
In Durban, not only our future was at stake, but also our present. The effects of the ravages of climate change are already being felt; including the release of millions of tons of methane in the Arctic, a gas 20 times more potent than CO2 in terms of atmospheric warming. Then there are the melting glaciers and ice caps which is resulting in a rise in sea level. These effects are already increasing the scale of forced migration. In 1995 there were approximately 25 million climate migrants; that number has doubled now, with 50 million. In 2050, this number could be between 200 million and 1 billion people displaced.
All indicators show that we are moving towards an uncontrolled global warming of more than 2°, which could rise to about 4° at the end of the century. Scientists believe this will most likely trigger unmanageable consequences such as a very significant increase of sea level. We cannot wait until 2020 to start taking action.
But with the lack of political will to tackle climate change, resistance does not, however, dry up. In a movement parallel to Occupy Wall Street and the wave of indignados which has reverberated round Europe and the world, many activists and social movements met in a daily forum a few meters from the official conference centre with their initiative called “Occupy COP17.” Participants ranged from farmers struggling for their rights to representatives of small island states like Seychelles, Grenada and the Republic of Nauru (Oceania, Micronesia) who are threatened by an imminent rise in sea level, to activists against debt who are demanding the repayment of ecological debt from the north to the south.
The movement for Climate Justice shows the need to focus our lives and the planet against the commodification of nature and the commons. Capitalism and its elites are unable to provide a comprehensive response to the socio-climate crisis which has led us to a productivist and predatory system. If we are not to exacerbate the climate crisis with all its consequences we must fundamentally change this system. The well-known environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey said very clearly: “The summit amplified climate apartheid, where the 1% richest in the world decided it was acceptable to sacrifice the remaining 99%.”
By DONALD A. BROWN
I. Introduction: What Is Missing In Reporting About The Durban Outcome?
It has now been two weeks since negotiations at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) were completed in the early morning of Sunday, December 11, 2011 in Durban, South Africa. We will claim that there is something missing from the reporting of what happened in Durban that is crucial if one aspires to think critically about the Durban outcomes. That is, reporting on Durban has for the most part missed the biggest story, namely that most nations continue to act as if they have no obligations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to their fair share of safe global emission, that the positions they have been taking on most major climate issues fail any reasonable minimum ethical test, that an acknowledgement that nations not only have interests but duties and responsibilities continues to be the key missing element in the negotiations, and that some nations in particular have lamentably not only failed to lead on climate change but are continuing to take positions that not only fail to satisfy their immediate international duties to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions but also encourage irresponsible behavior of other nations.
Among these nations are the United States, Canada, Russia, and Japan and several developing countries. As we shall see, these countries, among others, have continued to negotiate as if: (a) they only need to commit to reduce their greenhouse gas emission if other nations commit to do so, in other words that their national interests limit their international obligations, (b) any emissions reductions commitments can be determined and calculated without regard to what is each nation’s fair share of safe global emissions, (c) large emitting nations have no duty to compensate people or nations that are vulnerable to climate change for climate change damages or reasonable adaptation responses, and (d) they often justify their own failure to actually reduce emissions to their fair share of safe global emissions on the inability to of the international community to reach an adequate solution under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We are not saying that these countries were exclusively the blame for disappointing Durban outcomes, there is plenty of blame to go around. Yet, some countries have distinguished themselves by their positions that are obviously based upon national economic interest rather than a fulfillment of global responsibilities.
Although the leadership in the United States and other nations that are failing to make commitments congruent with their ethical obligations will no doubt claim that their position in the international climate negotiations is limited by what is politically feasible in their countries, the world needs national leaders who are prepared to urge their nations to make commitments congruent with their ethical obligations, not on national self-interest alone. (For an example of national leadership that fulfilled this requirement, see, Brown, 2009)
As has been the case for recent COPs, commentators about achievements at COP-17 are split on whether these negotiations accomplished some important positive steps toward an eventual meaningful global solution to climate change or whether Durban must be understood as another tragic international failure to come up with an adequate solution to the immense threat of human-induced warming. (For a good articulation of these two views, see: Light, 2011, and Hertsgaard, 2011)
As we shall see this difference of opinion about how to characterize Durban outcomes is ultimately a disagreement about whether each COP outcome should be judged on the basis of what is politically feasible at that moment in history in which the COP takes place or whether what is politically feasible at any moment in history should itself be critically reflected on. If one judges Durban outcomes on the basis of what was deemed politically feasible coming into Durban, one can reasonably draw positive conclusions about Durban outcomes. But if one reviews Durban outcomes from the standpoint of what nations should agree to in light of their ethical and moral responsibilities, Durban is another tragic missed opportunity.
ClimateEthics has frequently explained that the key missing element in international climate negotiations as well as in the development of domestic climate change policies for most nations has been acknowledgement that nations not only have economic interests that can be affected by climate change policies but also have duties, responsibilities, and obligations to protect people around the world and the natural resources on which life depends. (See for example, Brown, 2010a) This is so because climate change must be understood as a civilization challenging ethical and moral problem and the failure to acknowledge and act on this has been responsible for an inadequate global response to climate change’s immense threat during the twenty years of international negotiations that have sought to reach agreement on a global solution. That is the major problem with international climate negotiations is that most nations are approaching the negotiations has if their economic interests trump their global responsibilities.
If climate change is an ethical problem, then practical consequences for national positions on climate change follow. (See, Brown, 2011 for a discussion of specific practical consequences that follow from recognition that climate change is an ethical problem) These consequences include that nations should commit to do what their ethical responsibilities, obligations, and duties requires of them without regard to whether all other nations are agreeing to do so.
This post examines concretely what happened in the recently concluded Durban climate change negotiations with the goal of explicating why the lack of acceptance of duties and responsibilities, that is lack of acceptance that climate change is an ethical problem, continues to be the major barrier to achieving an adequate global approach to reduce the threat of climate change. Unless, the international community can convince or cajole nations to make commitments consistent with their ethical obligations, then international climate negotiations are likely to continue to be plagued by the failure to tackle the most difficult climate change issues.
Without doubt, the Durban COP made some progress on a few potentially significant issues, yet it is also undeniable that there is a huge gap between what nations have agreed to do in Durban and what science is saying is necessary to prevent dangerous anthropocentric interference with the climate system. As we shall see, once again, in Durban resolution of the most important climate issues were deferred to future negotiations.
On a positive note, the major accomplishments of the Durban COP were agreements to:
1. Negotiate an agreement by no later than 2015 that would apply for the first time all parties under the UNFCCC, that is both developed and developing countries, on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, transparency of action, and capacity building, and that such agreement will come into effect and be implemented by 2020. (UNFCCC, 2011a) 2. Initiate a new Green Climate Fund as the financial mechanism under the UNFCCC in regard to mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.(UNFCCC, 2011b) Several European countries in Durban pledged more than $50 billion in seed money to establish this fund, an amount that is expected to rise to $100 billion per year by 2020.
Durban also produced several other agreements that could eventually be helpful in implementing a comprehensive international solution to climate change on technology transfer, reference standards to be used in the program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+), sources of funding for REDD+, an extension of the Kyoto Protocol for a second commitment period, and procedures on national climate adaptation planning. (For copies of these decisions, see UNFCCC, 2011c)
Despite these accomplishments, strong criticism of the Durban outcome is warranted because the agreement to cooperate on a new binding legal instrument is only an agreement to negotiate an agreement about which almost nothing has been settled and that will not likely become effective until 2020.
Because there is a growing scientific consensus that the world is running out of time to prevent an additional 2 degree C warming, let alone 1.5 degree C or lower warming limits that may be necessary to prevent rapid, non-linear warming, the Durban outcome may be seen as another tragic lost opportunity to put the world on a path that avoids dangerous climate change.
Given that the voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reductions agreed to at COP-16 in Cancun are expected to allow an additional 3.5 degree C warming and that significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions are necessary before 2020 to have any reasonable chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees C, the Durban deal can be seen as almost insuring dangerous warming unless nations agree to make further emissions reductions before 2020, the effective date of the new Durban deal. (For a discussion of the gap between voluntary emissions commitments, and emissions reductions needed to achieve a warming limit of 2 degrees C, see, Holme, et al, 2011)
Although the Durban deal included agreement to create a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, since Canada, Japan, and Russia joined the United States in announcing their unwillingness to accept new emissions reduction targets under an extended Kyoto framework, the Durban extension of Kyoto is not likely to produce significant reductions in the threat of climate change. It is notable, however, that some nations agreed to commit to a second commitment target under Kyoto despite the fact that most of the larger polluters refused to do so, thus recognizing that some nations seem to acknowledge that they must act on the basis of obligation to the planet and not only on the basis of self-interest alone.
Although Durban finalized many of the administrative details of a new mechanism to administer funds for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, the Green Climate Fund, adequate, predictable, and additional financing at agreed upon levels has not yet materialized in UNFCCC climate negotiations.
III-An Ethical Analysis of Durban
To evaluate what happened in Durban it is necessary to have some understanding of prior negotiations leading up to Durban and in particular the UNFCCC COPs at Bali, Poznan, Copenhagen, and Cancun. This history is necessary to have some concrete understanding of the negotiating positions and their context that nations took coming into Durban and how this history reveals that most nations have been guided primarily by economic self-interest, not international responsibility.
Looking at the most recent COP before Durban, the 2010 Cancun COPs goals were modest in light of the failure of COP-15 in Copenhagen the year before to achieve an expected global solution to climate change. Copenhagen was expected to produce a global solution to climate change pursuant to a two-year negotiating process and agenda that was agreed to in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2007.
At the COP-13 negotiations in Bali, Indonesia in 2007, parties to the UNFCCC agreed to replace the Kyoto Protocol with an agreement that would create a new emissions reduction commitment period under the UNFCCC and would include binding emissions reductions for developed countries and new programs on adaptation for developing countries, deforestation, finance, technology transfer, and capacity building. This agreement was referred to as the Bali Roadmap, which also called for articulating a “shared vision for long-term cooperative action,” including a long-term global goal for emission reductions.
The original UNFCCC climate treaty had neither a quantified temperature limitation goal nor a ghg concentration atmospheric stabilization goal. In the Bali Roadmap the international community agreed to negotiate such a goal.
The Bali decision also recognized that developing countries could make contributions to solving the climate change through the development of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), meaning climate change strategies for developing countries. The NAMAs, however, would not constitute binding emissions reduction requirements for developing countries in contrast to the binding obligations of developed countries in the Kyoto Protocol that would be further developed and extended in Copenhagen.
Over the next few COPs, progress was made from the standpoint of the United States and several other developed countries, most notably when US President Obama in 2009 personally negotiated the Copenhagen Accords which were somewhat strengthened by the agreement reached in Cancun a year later in December of 2010. In Copenhagen, President Obama was successful most notably in getting all nations to identify voluntary emissions reductions commitments and getting key developing nations to agree to procedures to that would allow the international community to better verify these commitments. Yet, the US negotiated in Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban as if it need not commit to reduce its emissions until other nations made commitments.
The United States approached negotiations in Durban as if the United States need not make binding emissions reductions commitments unless it could secure commitments to reduce GHG emissions from high-emitting countries including China and India that had no binding commitments under the Kyoto deal. For this reason, the US pushed for agreement to negotiate a new international agreement that would include all nations, a goal that was achieved in Durban.
In Copenhagen US President Obama led negotiations that appeared to be motivated, at least in large part, by what was politically feasible in the United States. In Copenhagen, Obama was clearly interested in getting China, India, Brazil,and South Africa to make commitments on climate change because the failure to get commitments from major developing countries would guarantee that no climate deal would get ratified by Congress. Most observers would agree that there was little chance of getting US congressional support for an international deal on climate change unless China and India and other high-emitting nations agreed to commitments. For this reason, Obama was focused on getting some developing nations to agree to voluntary emissions reductions, an outcome that he succeeded in accomplishing in Copenhagen. Yet, as we have explained in ClimateEthics before, no nation may deny its duty to reduce its emissions to its fair share of safe global emissions on the basis that others who are contributing to the harm have failed to cease harmful behavior. (Brown, 2009) This is so because no nation or person has a right to continue destructive behavior on the basis that others who are contributing to the harm have not ceased their destructive behavior.
And so what has been politically feasible on climate change in the United States is inconsistent with what ethics and justice would require of the United States. If this is the case, strong criticism of the United States is warranted as long as the US leadership is not advocating among its own people to support positions that ethics and justice would require of it.
The United States and several other countries have been acting in the last four COPs as if they need not commit to impose costs on themselves to reduce the threat of climate change as long as others refuse to commit because other nations who do not impose emissions constraints on themselves would benefit economically by being able to produce goods at lower costs than those who increase energy costs through adoption of climate policies. In other words, the United States has been consistently negotiating as if its economic interests trump its ethical obligations to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to the US fair share of safe global emissions.
As ClimateEthics has frequently explained, as a matter of justice no nation, including the United States, can refuse to reduce its emissions to its fair share of safe global emissions levels on the basis that others won’t act. Yet this is consistently what the United States and a few other nations have done. Making matters worse, the negotiations leading up to Durban beginning at the Poznan COP in 2008 have been plagued by the United States insistence that it would not agree to be bound to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement that the United States alone among the nations of the world refused to ratify largely because it did not contain emissions reductions commitments for developing nations. This US position ultimately made the negotiations much more complicated than they needed to be by insisting that negotiations continue under two tracks, one for the Kyoto parties and one that would ignore the Kyoto agreement and its architecture. In taking this position, the United States was communicating to the world it need not commit to emissions reductions until others so committed. And so one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases has consistently refused to reduce its emissions to its fair share of safe global emissions on the basis of national economic interest.
The United States and several other nations including Canada, Japan, and Russia have now refused to make a commitment in a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol on the basis that they need not commit to reduce greenhouse gas emission until other nations make equivalent commitments. Although the US has agreed to make voluntary reductions under the Cancun agreements, this was committed to on the basis that developing nations made voluntary commitments under Cancun also. (Brown, 2010a) Also, as we shall see, these voluntary commitments are inadequate to prevent dangerous climate change.
In examining previous COPs, ClimateEthics has proposed ethical criteria that any proposed post-Kyoto regime must meet at a minimum. (Brown, 2010 b) That is any post-Kyoto regime must:
• Require sufficient greenhouse emissions reductions to assure that the international community is on a greenhouse gas emissions reduction pathway that will prevent dangerous climate change harm. This is sometimes referred to as the environmental sufficiency criteria.
• Begin to base differences among national allocations on the basis of equity and justice. This is sometimes referred to as the equity criteria.
• Assure that those responsible for climate change provide adequate, predictable adaptation funding to enable developing countries and in particular the most vulnerable developing countries to do what is necessary to avoid climate change damages in cases where it is possible to take action and to prevent damages, or be compensated for climate change damages in cases where it is impossible to take protective action. We refer to this as the just adaptation criteria.
Although these three criteria, that is environmental sufficiency, equity, and just adaptation constitute the minimum ethical considerations that any climate regime must satisfy, they don’t capture all ethical questions raised by any proposed climate change regime. There are numerous other ethical questions raised by any proposed climate change regimes that go beyond these minimum requirements including issues of fair process, gender issues in policy formation, obligations of sub-national governments, organizations, businesses, and individuals for climate change, human rights issues relating to climate change and many more. This post, however, now looks at Durban in light of the three minimum criteria.
A. Environmental Sufficiency
Durban not only failed to produce an agreement that assures that the international community is on a greenhouse gas emissions reduction pathway that will prevent dangerous climate change harm, it deferred serious implementation of any new commitments in emissions reductions until 2020. Although Durban accomplished the laudable goal of getting all nations to negotiate an agreement with legal force, it did almost nothing to put the world on an emissions reduction pathway that had hope of preventing dangerous climate change. Although the Cancun COP the year before Durban did produce voluntary commitments from the most important developed and developing nations, these commitments leave at the very minimum a 5Gt gap between emissions levels that will be achieved if there is full compliance with the voluntary emissions reductions and what is necessary to prevent 2°C rise, a warming amount that most scientists believe could cause very dangerous climate change, and an amount that has been adopted as the ultimate goal of the UNFCCC. (See for a fuller discussion of this Brown, 2010) There is no reason to believe that future negotiations that were agreed to in Durban will overcome the unwillingness of nations to commit to emissions reductions that are necessary to prevent dangerous climate change. In Durban, the hard issues have simply been deferred to the future.
B. Equity Criteria
The second minimum ethical criteria that all post-Kyoto proposals must meet is the requirement that national emissions reduction proposals must be consistent with what “equity” and “justice” demands of nations. That is, equity requires that each nation reduce its emissions to its fair share of safe global emissions. And so, each nation’s emissions reduction levels should be based upon what distributive and retributive justice demands, not on national self-interest. Although there are different theories of distributive justice that lead to different national allocations, many justifications for national ghg emissions allocations voluntarily agreed to under Cancun fail to satisfy any ethical scrutiny. In other words, it is not necessary to know what perfect justice requires to conclude that some voluntary proposals for national ghg allocations under Cancun are unjust and Durban did nothing to change this. These issues have been deferred to future negotiations under Durban.
C. Just Adaptation Criteria
The third minimum ethical criteria for judging any second commitment period under the UNFCCC is that it must provide adequate funding to support adaptation programs in developing countries given that some developing countries have done nothing to cause climate change and must take steps to avoid harsh impacts The Durban agreement did manage to create an Green Climate Fund that will be the financial mechanism to manage adaptation funding and also made some progress on a few other adaptation issues. Yet Durban failed to identify dedicated sources of funding to implement an adaptation agenda that is based upon “mandatory” contributions to “new”, “predictable,” and “additional” sources of funding. Therefore Durban failed to satisfy the ethical criteria for adequate funding for adaptation.
To adjudicate the disagreement about whether Durban was a disaster or a meaningful step forward, one must look at Durban’s resolution of the major issues needed to get the world on a reasonably hopeful path that would avoid dangerous climate change, whether nations are agreeing to commit to their fair share of safe global emissions, and whether mechanisms for needed adaptation are in place. Under these criteria, Durban was a huge failure.
It is true, that given what was deemed to be politically possible going into Durban, Durban achieved some important progress. Yet identifying this progress, without recognition of the magnitude and seriousness of the overall failures obscures the message that most needs to communicated to citizens, namely that most nations are failing to live up to their global obligations and this puts tens if not hundreds of millions of people and the resources on which life depends at great risk.
To rectify the failure of nations to take their ethical obligations seriously, strategies need to be developed that turn up the volume on the ethical obligations of nations on climate change. At the top of the list, is a strategy that would require nations to make their positions on major ethical issues entailed by climate change explicit so that they can be reflected on by citizens around the world. ClimateEthics will make more detailed recommendations on how to implement this strategy in an upcoming post.
There is a need to make national positions on climate change’s major ethical issues explicit because nations are frequently taking positions on climate change that are obviously deeply ethically flawed, but citizens around the world or the press have no way of commenting on these positions without speculating on the justification for the national position. Requiring nations to expressly identify their positions on such issues as what is their fair share of safe global emissions would allow critical reflection on what each nation’s position is on a safe global atmospheric concentration stabilization level, given that atmospheric target what that nation believes is an acceptable global emissions reduction pathway to achieve the atmospheric target, what is that nation’s position on its equitable share of future global emissions that will achieve the needed emissions reductions pathway, as well as their ethical justification for all of these issues.
Although nations are likely to continue to resist committing to emissions reductions consistent with what ethics would require of them, making national positions on these issues explicit would create an opportunity to exert global pressure on the most irresponsible nations.
Brown, Donald, 2011, Ten Practical Policy Consequences of Acknowledging That Climate Change Is An Ethical Problem, ClimateEthics.org. http://rockblogs.psu.edu/climate/2011/08/ten-practical-policy-consequences-of-acknowledging-that-climate-change-is-an-ethical-problem.html
Brown, Donald, 2010, An Ethical Analysis of the Cancun Climate Negotiations Outcome, ClimateEthics.org, http://rockblogs.psu.edu/climate/2010/12/an-ethical-analysis-of-the-cancun-climate-negotiations-outcome.html
Brown, Donald, 2010b, A Comprehensive Ethical Analysis of the Copenhagen Accord. ClimateEthics.org, http://rockblogs.psu.edu/climate/2010/01/a-comprehensive-ethical-analysis-of-the-copenhagen-accord.html
Brown, Donald, 2009, The Strong Scottish Moral Leadership On Climate Change Compared To The Absence Of Any Acknowledged Ethical Duty In The US Debate ClimateEthics.org, http://rockblogs.psu.edu/climate/2009/08/the-strong-scottish-moral-leadership-on-climate-change-compared-to-the-absence-of-any-acknowledged-ethical-duty-in-the-us-debate.html
Hertzgaard, Mark, 2011, Durban, Where the Climate Deniers-in-Chief Ran the Show, The Nation, http://www.thenation.com/article/165155/durban-where-climate-deniers-chief-ran-show/
Holme, N, et al, 2011, Negotiations Heading toward a High, High Cost Pathway, 1.50C, http://climateactiontracker.org/assets/CAT_Durban_update_2011_2.pdf
Light, Andrew, 2011, Why Durban Matters, Center For American Progress, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/12/why_durban_matters.html
UNFCCC, 2011a, Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on t he Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, Draft decision-/CP.17, http://unfccc.int/files/meetings/durban_nov_2011/decisions/application/pdf/cop17_durbanplatform.pdf
UNFCCC, 2011b, Green Climate Fund-Report of the Transitional Committee, Draft decision-CP.17, http://unfccc.int/files/meetings/durban_nov_2011/decisions/application/pdf/cop17_gcf.pdf
UNFCCC, 2011c, Durban decisions are available at http://unfccc.int/2860.php/
Beijing, 22 Dec (Chee Yoke Ling) – The recently concluded Durban climate conference adopted two decisions on policy approaches and positive incentives that reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD-plus).
The first was on “guidance on systems for providing information on how safeguards are addressed and respected and modalities relating to forest reference emission levels and forest reference levels as referred to in decision 1/CP.16, appendix I”. This was the result of the work of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) following from decision 1/CP.16 that was adopted in the 2010 Cancun conference.
The second was contained in the COP decision on the Outcome of the AWGLCA under Part II on “Enhanced action on mitigation”.
“Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and approaches to stimulate action” was first introduced into the agenda of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC in 2005. There was increased interest in this as an area for mitigation actions when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change alerted the world in 2007 to the huge emissions from deforestation.
After two years of negotiations, the COP adopted a decision on “Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action” in 2007 in Bali, Indonesia. In 2008, a work programme was initiated on methodological issues related to a range of policy approaches and positive incentives that reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries. In 2008 and 2009, this topic was expanded to include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD-plus) and included in the negotiations of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC (AWGLCA) mandated to work on the Bali Action Plan (adopted under a separate COP decision in 2007.)
Ever since forests and their link to emissions/mitigation actions entered the climate negotiations and pilot projects were implemented in some developing countries, there has been controversy and debate. There are concerns that this could open up another channel for “commodification” of forests and further violate the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities over those forests. There are also others who see merit in addressing the forest-climate linkages, and that this must be done with environmental integrity and implementation of safeguards that guarantees the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.
While debate took place outside the negotiation process, there were also divisions and debate inside. Bolivia stood out as a country with the most reservations about commodification of forests. A group of developing and developed countries, with active advocacy from the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, worked to ensure that there are safeguards integrated in any REDD-plus decision. All agree that there must be environmental integrity in implementing any action.
In Cancun in 2010 decision 1/CP.16 on REDD-plus was adopted that sets out the principles and provisions for actions. The decision affirms that adequate and predictable support should be given to developing countries so that all Parties can “collectively aim to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss, in accordance with national circumstances”. Paragraph 70 “Encourages developing country Parties to contribute to mitigation actions in the forest sector by undertaking the following activities, as deemed appropriate by each Party and in accordance with their respective capabilities and national circumstances: (a) Reducing emissions from deforestation; (b) Reducing emissions from forest degradation; (c) Conservation of forest carbon stocks; (d) Sustainable management of forests; (e) Enhancement of forest carbon stocks”.
Appendix 1 para. 2 contains the list of agreed safeguards when the above activities are undertaken:
(a) That actions complement or are consistent with the objectives of national forest programmes and relevant international conventions and agreements;
(b) Transparent and effective national forest governance structures, taking into account national legislation and sovereignty;
(c) Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and members of local communities, by taking into account relevant international obligations, national circumstances and laws, and noting that the United Nations General Assembly has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
(d) The full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular indigenous peoples and local communities, in the actions referred to in paragraphs 70 and 72 of this decision;
(e) That actions are consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, ensuring that the actions referred to in paragraph 70 of this decision are not used for the conversion of natural forests, but are instead used to incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and to enhance other social and environmental benefits;*
(f) Actions to address the risks of reversals;
(g) Actions to reduce displacement of emissions.
(*Taking into account the need for sustainable livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities and their interdependence on forests in most countries, reflected in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the International Mother Earth Day.)
The decision adopted as part of the AWGLCA Outcome in Durban was negotiated up till the morning of 10 December, the extended day of the conference. In the run-up to Durban the key points debated were: (1) diversity of sources for REDD-plus finance, (2) the definition and scope of results based activities and actions, and (3) the linkage with the Green Climate Fund.
In the October 2011 session of the AWGLCA in Panama, the last before the Durban conference, Parties agreed that there should be a diversity of sources of funding for REDD-plus activities, including public and private finance, with most developing countries stressing public sector funding to be the major source of funding and the private sector funding being complementary. Several developed countries such as Japan saw the private sector and the market as the main source of funding for the full implementation of REDD-plus activities.
It was agreed in Durban that, “results-based finance provided to developing country Parties that is new, additional and predictable may come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources” (para. 65).
In para. 66 the COP “Considers that, in the light of the experience gained from current and future demonstration activities, appropriate market-based approaches could be developed by the Conference of the Parties to support results-based actions by developing country Parties … ensuring that environmental integrity is preserved”, and the guidance and safeguards in the Cancun decision “are fully respected and should be consistent with relevant provisions of relevant COP decisions.
The decision also “Notes that non-market based approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for the integral and sustainable management of forests as a non-market alternative that supports and strengthens governance, the application of safeguards as referred to in (the Cancun decision) and the multiple functions of forests, could be developed”.
There is no reference to the Green Climate Fund and the decision only “encourages the operating entities of the financial mechanism of the Convention to provide results-based finance for the actions concerned (the Global Environment Facility is the current operating entity).
The decision does not have the specific phrase “indigenous peoples”. However there are clear references to the paragraphs on safeguards contained in Appendix 1 of the Cancun Agreements that concern indigenous peoples, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In a statement issued on 15 December in Durban, the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change called on state-parties for human rights to be central in any agreement on climate change and that the REDD-plus safeguards must be implemented to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are recognized, protected and fulfilled in REDD Plus activities.
The recognition of rights, including rights to land, territories and resources, and Free, Prior Informed Consent is crucial for indigenous peoples as this will rectify violation of their rights in the implementation of climate change solutions, it said.
The AWGLCA and the SBSTA of the UNFCCC will continue to work on the details of the decisions from Cancun and Durban. Parties and accredited observers can submit to the UNFCCC Secretariat, by 5 March 2012, their views on modalities and procedures for financing results-based actions and considering activities related to the Cancun decision 1/CP.16, paragraphs 68–70 and 72. The secretariat is to prepare a technical paper based on these submissions and these will be inputs to a workshop to be held in 2012.
Manila, 20 Dec (Elpidio V. Peria  ) – The technology transfer discussions in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa under the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) may have been the least reported of all the topics and may not have gotten the attention of international media and activists. However, government negotiators slogged through the entire two-week duration of the Conference of the Parties (COP), to come up with a clear decision on the various pending issues about technology development and transfer, all aimed at making the Technology Mechanism fully operational in 2012.The Technology Mechanism is the institutional entity created by last year’s climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, meant to address the lack of compliance by developed country Parties of their obligations to undertake technology development and transfer of environmentally-sound technologies under the Convention. This was the result of years of persistent demands with various proposals by developing countries to implement a crucial part of the Convention.
It is composed of two entities, a policy-making body called the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Center and Network (CTC&N). The CTC&N currently exists only on paper until it is hosted by another pre-existing organization, will get to implement actual transfer of technologies and perform its functions as mandated by the Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC.
Paragraph 128 of Decision 1/CP16 from Cancun mandated that the COP in Durban, South Africa resolve the following: (a) the relationship between the TEC and the CTC&N and their reporting lines; (b) the governance structure and terms of reference for the CTC&N and how the CTC will relate to the Network, drawing upon the results of a workshop authorized by the Cancun decision; (c) the procedure for calls for proposals and the criteria to be used to evaluate and select the host of the CTC&N; (d) the potential links between the Technology Mechanism and the financial mechanism of the Convention; and (e) consideration of additional functions for the TEC and CTC&N.
The technology negotiation group of the AWG-LCA in Durban did not come up with a clear articulation of the relationship between the TEC and the CTC&N.
The governance structure agreed upon for the CTC&N is an advisory body, the details of which are to be decided in the next meeting of Subsidiary Body on Implementation, one of two permanent bodies of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol.
The selection process for the call for proposals for hosting the CTC&N is that the TEC will nominate from within itself the six-person panel who will do the initial technical evaluation of the proposals and ranking of the bidders who want to be the host. The shortlist ranking of the bids will be submitted to the Subsidiary Body on Implementation who in turn will agree on a ranked list of up to three proponents based on the outcome of the assessment conducted by the evaluation panel and to recommend the host of the CTC&N for approval by the COP at its 18th session in Doha, Qatar in 2012.
The Durban meeting sketched out the link between the Technology Mechanism and the financial mechanism, though not to the satisfaction of the developing countries negotiating under the umbrellas of the Group of 77 and China and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
The consideration of additional functions of the TEC and the CTC&N approved during the informal session of the technology group that came out in CRP.39, was not reflected in the final outcome document produced by the Chair of the AWGLCA, , especially on the giving of advice and support, including capacity-building on the conduct of technology assessments of new and emerging technologies by the CTC&N and the request to the TEC to consider issues related to intellectual property rights related to the development and transfer of technologies
The final outcome document of the AWGLCA was prepared by the Chair of the Working Group and transmitted for the approval of the COP under his our authority, following various objections raised by Parties as to its lack of balance in several areas. The final outcome document was approved as part of the Durban package.
The consideration of issues relating to intellectual property rights as part of a new set of functions for the TEC were also not in the final text presented for adoption by the Conference of Parties but is contained in a separate document for further work next year.
Governance Structure of the CTC&N
The decision on having an advisory body that will sit atop the governance structure for the CTC&N is a half-won battle from whichever perspective one takes.
For the two weeks of the negotiations, the US, supported by Canada, Japan, Norway and Australia, and sometimes, the EU, insisted that this body be constituted by the host organization itself.
The Philippines repeatedly hammered on, during several “informal informal” sessions, the serious legal issues arising from this set-up, from several levels:
(i) From the UN side, how can a UN body be governed by an entity which is from outside the UNFCCC itself? This does not appear possible under existing UN rules, especially when the lines of accountability and fiduciary duties are melded in the host organization, who are supposed to be providing hosting services to the CTC&N;
(ii) How can it be that the governance structure of a UN body, in this case, the CTC&N, be outsourced to an outside entity and the terms of the governance reduced to the terms and conditions of a hosting agreement? Hosting agreements usually detail the specifics of the services to be provided by the host organization, but governance, as a function, is not a service that can just be given out to those who may aspire to abide by it. At best, the Cancun mandate should have been worded as governance “arrangement” and not governance “structure” to suit this kind of proposed set-up;
(iii) If a host organization agrees to take on the tasks of being the host of the CTC&N and agrees to constitute such a board, it will change the character as well as the primary and secondary purpose for the establishment of the host organization, which pre-existed before the hosting assignment or task is taken on.;If the host organization agrees to such change, then such change would have to come at a certain price or consideration which the UNFCCC may not be able to provide;
(iv) Assuming the host organization constitutes such a board, the constituted board will just then be a mere creation or appendage of the host organization, putting more doubt into the independence and integrity of such a constituted organization, which is the CTC&N of the UNFCCC It will be difficult then for the UNFCCC to exact accountability from this organization as it will have to pass through the pre-existing board of the host organization which constituted the board of the CTC&N.
There were no significant and substantive explanations or responses to these questions save for the US saying that the technology group or the Parties for that matter, should not be hung up on governance issues and that this can be dealt with in the hosting agreement. Norway said that it is just the question of the name of the entity which should not be a board, while Japan said that it is a matter of clarifying the reporting lines from the host organization which has constituted the board and to the COP, to which it is accountable.
Since these serious legal issues needed a proper response, the compromise was that there is already this advisory body, which from a G77 and China’s point of view is already a half-won battle, as at least it has spelled out there will be a distinct entity that should be governing the CTC&N, and this is not the same as the host itself.
However, the fight is not yet over until the next SBI meeting, since it has not yet been clearly spelled out how the advisory body links to both the TEC, the CTC&N and the host organization.
It could still be argued by those who want to wrest control of the CTC&N away from the COP that the host organization can do a better job of exacting accountability for the operations of the CTC&N.
Eventually, for practical purposes, it may be useful for the AWGLCA next year to separate the advisory body from that of the host organization in order that the lines of accountability and fiduciary duty are clarified, and they are separate from the host organization.
Composition of the Advisory Body of the Climate Technology Center
The composition of this advisory body is expected to be another potential flashpoint in the subsequent stages of the negotiations.
In fact, during the last negotiating session of the technology group in Durban, prior to forwarding the informal group’s text to the AWG-LCA Chair, the group’s facilitator Jukka Uosukainnen (Finland) walked out of the discussions when the G77&China, (in retaliation for the US proposal of eight government representatives that will sit in the then called CTC Board), suggested 22 such representatives comprising 4 representatives each from the five UN regional groups and 1 each from the small-island developing states (SIDS) and the LDCs.
The facilitator came back later when the negotiating groups were about to compromise on a US offer of 19 representatives. In making this proposal, the US reversed from its earlier position that this body should just be small and efficient. According to some observers, the idea here was to set up the advisory body as a competitor to the Technology Executive Committee, (which is another twenty-person entity).
All through the negotiating sessions, the US supported by Australia, Canada, Japan and sometimes the EU, consistently questioned the competence of the TEC on dealing with issues related to technology development and transfer, arguing that the TEC was not created for the purpose of implementing technology development and transfer projects.
The G77&China, on the other hand, argued that the TEC is well positioned to be such a body that will exercise oversight and provide guidance to the CTC&N It will already save the COP time since the lengthy process of selection of its members was already over and done with.
Selection Process of the Climate Technology Center
At least, after several contentious exchanges in the course of the duration of the COP, the Parties agreed on a two-step process for selection viz. the technical evaluation phase and then the selection phase.
The G77 and China wanted originally a process similar to the conduct of a double-blind study on the initial technical evaluation of proposals composed of four experts who will evaluate the proposals independently without meeting each other, but this was opposed by the US and the EU arguing that this is not actually scientific even if it may appear to be that and it is difficult to check how these independent experts understood and applied the criteria. After several sessions, Parties have come around to tasking the TEC to do the selection of these experts, even designating its own members to do this evaluation.
The next stage of the process, the selection phase, is what became contentious but the group settled on the SBI to make the selection. It was not clear what will happen if the SBI could not come to a compromise on this item. Thus the technology group asked the SBI to agree on the recommendation to the COP on who will eventually be the host of the CTC&N, as can be found in para. 138(a) of the LCA outcome document, which reads:
“138. Requests the Subsidiary Body for Implementation:
a) To agree on, at its thirty-sixth session, a ranked list of up to three proponents based on the outcome of the assessment conducted by the evaluation panel referred to in paragraph 132 (d)(i) above.”
Relationship of the TEC and the CTC&N
While this has not been explicitly spelled out, how this will eventually unfold is seen by how the two entities comprising the Technology Mechanism – the TEC and the CTC&N – will render its report to the COP.
The G77 and China wanted the Climate Technology Center to report to the TEC, but the EU, as well as the US, insisted that the CTC should also be able to report directly as both of them are accountable to the COP.
In one negotiating session, the US even said it did not want TEC to have any role at all in the governance or management of the CTC&N.
The Potential Links between the Technology Mechanism and the Financial Mechanism
Financing is another key issue that was hard-fought, but references to the Green Climate Fund and the Standing Committee was deleted during one informal group meeting on 8 December, and the Parties came around to the compromise wording that does not really amount to much though it appears to broaden the sources of funding of the CTC&N .
Uganda was the last country to insist on the relationship between the Technology Mechanism and the Standing Committee, which was then in para. 11alt, but even that was deleted, given that there was already a late-night compromise wording on how funding for the operations of the CTC&N are to be provided.
Without clear sources of specific amounts of core budget and short and long-term funding, there is a possibility that the CTC&N will be hampered in its early stages of operations.
Consideration of Additional Functions for the TEC and the CTC&N
The Philippines fought to have the giving of advise and support as well as capacity-building for the conduct of technology assessments of new and emerging technologies as part of the regular functions of the CTC&N, supported by Bolivia which had numerous repeating texts on this item, including IPRs during the Panama inter-sessional period.
Haiti and Iceland, which were supposed to be fighting for gender considerations, which could have been made part of the technology assessments, did not anymore speak crunch time perhaps they were not as convinced that the technology assessments would include gender considerations, though they earlier suggested that gender considerations be made a regular basis of the work of the CTC&N.
While the Philippine proposal on the consideration of an additional function for CTC&N on the giving of support and advice and capacity-building on technology assessments for new and emerging technologies and the Bolivian suggestion on the request to TEC to consider intellectual property rights issues related to development and transfer of technologies came out in document CRP.39 on 9 December as prepared by the AWGLCA Chair under his own authority, they are nowhere to be found in the final LCA outcome document. Whether this can be considered again by the AWGLCA when it resumes its further work on this issue is an open question which is up to the country proponents to raise so this can be resolved by the AWGLCA Chair at that next session.
Looking Forward to the next SBI meeting
The advisory body will continue to be contentious, but hopefully, Parties should have a clearer notion of the relationship between the advisory body and the host organization and the legal limitations of fusing the lines of accountability between the host organization that they will agree to make the advisory body an intermediate body between the COP and the host organization. There is no other way around this since the COP, which convenes only once a year, will have to designate an entity, not the host organization itself, which will deal on a regular basis with the host organization. This is how accountability is ensured, it cannot be left to the host organization, which constitutes such board, to determine these things.
The financial aspects of the operations of the CTC&N are another topic for discussion. Things will get clearer when the bidders will make their own proposals on how these activities that will also be participated in by the Network members.
The final question relates to whether the earlier proposals for considering additional functions to the TEC and the CTC&N can be revived in the next session of the AWG-LCA. It remains an open question that can be tested during the next inter-sessional period.
According to one developing country negotiator, to answer the question of who won and who lost, the Durban duel between developed and developing countries on the matter of technology transfer resulted in the following:
- The G77 and China originally wanted the TEC to be the entity that will exercise oversight and provide guidance to the CTC&N. At the start of the negotiations in Durban, they modified their stance to a kind of a board, which is an intermediate body between the COP, the TEC and the CTC&N, leaving some items for the TEC, such as the giving of strategic guidance on some key issues like prioritization and selection of network members, among others. The advisory body created by the Durban COP appears to be something similar, in a general sense to what the G77 and China wanted, though the role of the TEC over this advisory body is not clearly spelled out as the TEC will remain exercising its own mandate on its own concerns, not that of the CTC&N.
- The US, supported by Canada, Australia, Japan, and to a certain extent, the EU, wanted the TEC out of the way in the running of the affairs of the CTC&N. It was agreed that how this relationship will evolve or how they will relate to each other, to “promote coherence and synergy” as called for by paragraph 127 of Decision 1/.CP16 of Cancun COP. It is a matter of time and the test of such relationship in how the two will agree on the modalities of their reporting to the COP.
- The selection process for the host organization is a partial achievement for the G77 and China, as the TEC got to play a role in doing the technical evaluation of the bids for hosting of the CTC&N though the US prevailed in having the Subsidiary Body on Implementation do a ranking of the list of who may be recommended as the host of the CTC&N.
The final form shape and functions of the Technology Mechanism will continue to be fought out in 2012.+
 Member, Philippine Delegation to UNFCCC COP 17, in Durban, South Africa from 27 November to 10 December, 2011. The views presented here are his own and do not represent the views of the Philippine Delegation.
 The LCA outcome document on the chapter on technology development and transfer, has the following paragraphs on the financing of the activities of the CTC&N:
139. Decides that the costs associated with the Climate Technology Center and the mobilization of the services of the Network should be funded from various sources,including the financial mechanism of the Convention, bilateral, multilateral and private sector channels, philanthropic sources as well as financial and in-kind contributions from the host organization and participants in the Network;
140. Requests the Global Environment Facility to support the operationalization and activities of the Climate Technology Centre and Network without prejudging any selection of the host;
141. Invites Parties in a position to do so to support the Climate Technology Centre and Network through the provision of financial and other resources.
IBON assessment of the Durban climate change summit
The next ten years could decide whether the world’s fight against climate change is lost or won. The Durban Package – the set of decisions agreed to in the summit – amounts to more heavy lifting for the South, less obligations for the North, and little help for the poor. Worse still, it means that the present decade will be a decade of zero progress in curbing global emissions, and one where equity as the basis of the global climate effort will have been abandoned.
Escape hatch: the Kyoto’s second commitment period. Durban agreed that the Kyoto Protocol – the only treaty regulating the industrialized world’s emissions – will get a second commitment period beginning 2013 through to 2017 or 2020. Annex I countries are expected to convert their emissions pledges into binding targets for adoption in CMP-8 in Qatar. Kyoto avoided death in Durban. But devoid of any integrity and substance, Kyoto is essentially a corpse surviving on life support.
With Japan, Russia, and Canada joining the US out of KP, Kyoto’s second round will cover just a little over one-third of total Annex I emissions and 15% of global emissions. Australia and New Zealand may also pull out. That would leave Kyoto’s second round entirely to Europe.
The second round of emissions cuts will not be derived from a collective aggregate target, much less one that is based on science. It comes down to what the second round’s remaining participants would unilaterally pledge next year.
With no time to put up the needed Kyoto amendments for a lengthy ratification process to give full legal mandate to a commencement of the second round in 2013, the new round will likely be allowed to muddle through – possibly under a creative cover such as a provisional implementation period – to put on the appearance of a seamless transition.
Emissions trading and offsetting (Joint Implementation and Clean Development Mechanism) will continue in the second round; rules for carbon capture and storage as CDM projects have been approved, after being granted eligibility in Cancun; and surplus allowances and land-use accounting loopholes have not been closed.
In exchange for agreeing to keep a mangled Kyoto Protocol alive, the EU secured agreement from developing countries to start a new negotiation process leading to a new legal regime by decade’s end. The understanding is that the regime resulting from these talks will succeed Kyoto – which means that Kyoto’s second round is likely going to be its last. In short, the North have arranged for themselves an escape hatch to a Kyoto-less world via a second commitment period.
A death notice to equity: the Durban Platform. The new round of negotiations will be done in the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which will begin work in 2012, and conclude with an outcome for adoption in 2015 and entry into force in 2020. The outcome will take the form of “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force,” and will be “applicable to all Parties” of the UNFCCC. The Durban text indicates that the new round will pick up work from the Bali round on areas of interest to developing countries, such as adaptation, finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building. But its main content is work on a new global mitigation regime. The Durban Platform means less equity for developing countries and more delay in curbing global emissions.
The Durban Platform decision nicely sets up the negotiations to an outcome the North favors: a single global treaty in which all countries take on more or less the same mitigation commitments irrespective of level of development. First, it ends the two-track Bali Roadmap process that would have led to a two-tiered system where the difference between developed and developing country mitigation actions was kept. Second, the text makes no reference to the principles of equity, historical responsibility, or common but differentiated responsibility. The final arrangement could be one in which poorer countries elevate their obligations at par with rich countries in a strong rules-based regime, or where rich countries dial back theirs in loose and domestically-driven do-nothing regime. In any case, Durban could mark the point where equity, fairness, and the notion of Northern responsibility and leadership as guiding ideas of the international climate effort all received their death notice.
The Durban Platform decision recognizes that existing pledges fall short of the necessary cuts to limit global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C, and will initiate work to raise ambition to close this gap. But the ambition-raising treaty will only kick in from 2020, a concession to big developing countries for agreeing to the Durban Platform. Until then, all the world will have by way of mitigation actions are the actions countries pledged in 2010. Analyses of these pledges conclude that they put the planet on course to temperature increases of as much as 4-5°C. This decade is crucial in terms of peaking global emissions and transitioning to renewable energy systems. Scientists agree that global emissions must peak no later than 2015 and decline rapidly thereafter. Fossil-based infrastructure and technology built over this decade will last decades more into the future, locking us deeper into fossil-dependency. Losing this decade may well cost the world its fight against climate change.
Empty shells: GCF and finance. Durban has launched the Green Climate Fund (GCF) with the approval of its governing instrument. Remaining disputes have been settled on the balance in favor of developing countries: the GCF will have legal personality and will have an interim secretariat within the UNFCCC secretariat. Direct private sector access to the Fund has been retained, possibly opening the door for subsidizing large multinationals at the expense of the poor, but a “no-objection procedure” will be devised to give national authorities at least some say on private sector funding and ensure policy alignment. Yet the GCF is still largely an empty shell, as is the North’s promise to provide scaled up finance. The GCF will rely on voluntary instead of mandatory contributions. Furthermore, there is still no progress in making the North’s pledge of mobilizing $100 billion binding; in charting a path to ramp up climate finance towards the 2020 goal; and in identifying and operationalizing public sources of finance.
A foot in the door for soil carbon markets. Durban saw the first time agriculture was included in an LCA outcome – but not for the better. There had been loud voices for “climate smart agriculture” from the World Bank and agribusiness in the sidelines of Durban. Transitioning to sustainable agriculture is important in mitigating emissions, adapting to climate impacts, and ensuring future food security. But the push to include agriculture in the agenda is based on the interest to groom the sector for soil carbon offsetting, and promote corporate industrial agriculture especially in Africa.
By Patrick Bond
Looking back now that the dust has settled, South Africa’s COP17 presidency appears disastrous. This was confirmed not only by Durban’s delayed, diplomatically-decrepit denouement, but by plummeting carbon markets in the days immediately following the conference’s ignoble end last Sunday.
Of course it is tempting to ignore the stench of failure and declare Durban “an outstanding success,” as did South African environment minister Edna Molewa. “We have significantly strengthened the international adaptation agenda,” she explained about the near-empty Green Climate Fund. “The design of the fund includes innovative mechanisms for bringing private sector and market mechanisms into play to increase the potential flow of funding into climate change responses.”
Because the $100 billion promised by Hillary Clinton in Copenhagen two years ago is apparently fictional (aside from minor commitments by South Korea, Germany and Denmark), Molewa’s two crucial albeit unintended words are ‘play’ and ‘potential.’ In our new book, Durban’s Climate Gamble: Trading Carbon, Betting the Earth, critical researchers show why emissions markets are as comatose as the Kyoto Protocol. Only a casino drunkard would put money – much less the planet – on the odds of a death-bed resurrection.
Bolivia’s former UN ambassador Pablo Solon scolded the hosts for turning Kyoto into a “Zombie, a soulless undead.” The 1997 treaty’s soul was a commitment that emissions cuts would be binding, but several of the richest polluting countries – the US, Canada, Japan, Russia, Australia and New Zealand – won’t sign on the second commitment period. To sabotage Kyoto, Washington continues its voluntary ‘pledge and review’ policy pantomime. Kyoto’s original brain contained a species survival mechanism: a pledge to keep the earth’s temperature at a livable level. Now, the Durban Platform contains “less than half of the necessary cuts to keep the temperature increase below 2°C,” says Solon.
As the soul-deprived, brain-dead, heartless climate-policy Zombie stumbled off the Durban Platform last week in the direction of Qatar for the COP18 next year, it immediately tripped on the crumpled carbon markets. The emissions trade is failing not only in Europe but also in our own Durban backyard. An Africa Report investigation unveiled South Africa’s highest-profile pilot Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project as a scam.
At Bisasar Road landfill in the Clare Estate neighbourhood, the R100+ million methane-to-electricity CDM project was despised because it kept the continent’s largest official dump open far beyond the point it should have been closed. Instead of being burned and flared on-site, methane gas from Bisasar’s rotting rubbish should have been piped out for industrial use, far away from residential areas, according to the late community activist Sajida Khan. Before dying of cancer caused by the dump in 2007, she tirelessly campaigned to close Bisasar dump and thus end one of Africa’s most notorious cases of environmental racism.
Khan failed, because in 2001 the World Bank promised funding for methane extraction that would keep the dump operational. The crucial factor, according to Durban officials, is that “Landfill gas offers a viable renewable energy source only when linked to carbon finance or CDM.”
Based on the assumption that without outside funds, the project could not be justified, in 2006 the United Nations listed Bisasar Road as an active supplier of CDM credits through at least 2014. It turns out this was a fib. On an official tour of Bisasar on November 30, journalists from Africa Report and San Francisco-based Pacifica News interviewed Durban Solid Waste manager John Parkin, who admitted, “We started the project prior to the CDM. We were already down the road. It just made it come faster because the funding was there.”
Why is this scandalous? Africa Report interprets: “It is questionable as to whether the project should have been approved as a CDM initiative at all, as approval requires the existence of ‘additionality’. According to the UN, ‘Additionality is the cornerstone of any credible CDM project, basically answering the question whether a project is additional, or would it proceed anyway, without the CDM.’ That is, without qualification as an additionality, the CDM shouldn’t be approved.”
Parkin confirmed to the journalists, “We already started the project and we were going ahead no matter what. So whether CDM became a reality or not, the project was going to go ahead.”
Such a whimsical approach to climate finance is why hopes by Molewa and Manuel for filling the Green Climate Fund with carbon trade revenues will be dashed. CDM trading volumes are down 80 percent from their 2007 peak, and the European Union’s carbon futures market – once above €35/tonne – hovered between €11-14/tonne through 2010-11 but crashed to €4.4/tonne on December 13.
Remarked Susanna Twidale of the Point Carbon news service, “While a lot of the focus of the last fortnight of UN meetings was on supply of carbon credits, not one country deepened its carbon target, leaving international carbon offset prices languishing at near record lows.” Reuters news service confirmed, “Carbon markets are still on life support”, quoting a leading trader: “A sick market needs a cure and instead of deciding which cure to use, the doctors keep using pain relief to gain more time to make the final prognosis.”
Back in Durban, 20,000 carbon credits are being issued from the Bisasar Road CDM each month. According to Parkin, “We don’t have a partner to buy them at the moment. But we’ll probably get €8 to €9 if we’re lucky.” Durban is unlucky to have Parkin gambling with city finances, the air in Clare Estate, and the planet’s health.
What the late Vaclav Havel said once about Soviet-era politics – “a monstrous, ramshackle, stinking machine” whose worst legacy was a “spoiled moral environment” – applies equally to Bisasar Road, to the UN’s Conference of Polluters and to those who departed Durban without hanging their heads in shame. All they have to show for their work, during this planetary emergency, is creation of a dangerous Zombie.
In this milieu, Parkin was brutally frank, at least: “As the City, if we can make some money out of it, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be done and the whole moral issue is separate from the project. The project is successful. The moral issue, I have no influence on that – as a technocrat, I do my job.”
Bond edited Durban’s Climate Gamble (UNISA Press), authored Politics of Climate Justice (UKZN Press), and directs the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban. This appeared first at http://triplecrisis.com/durbans-climate-zombie-tripped-by-dying-carbon-markets/ and in Durban’s Mercury newspaper
Nele Marien (*)
The official package deal of Durban consisted of 4 main documents, apart of several other decisions, most of them less critical, that have been adopted:
- A decision on the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol
- The LCA outcome: the partial implementation of the Bali Action Plan and the Cancun Agreements
- A Durban Platform for Enhanced Action: the decision to work towards a new “agreed outcome with legal force, applicable to all”
- The green climate fund
The package was officially sold to the world as an exit, but having a closer look, it’s asy to see it doesn’t do what it is suposed to do, and it does what it shouldn’t do.
Rather then having a look decision by decision, let’s have an overall look on what the “package”implies:Postponing the urgent
Climate scientists are advising us insistently: the world just has a few years to start acting on climate change, if not we may enter in an irreversible spiral of climate disaster. So the most urgent issue is to start acting NOW on real mitigation.
Unfortunately, the Durban package doesn’t attend this at all. During the whole Durban negotiation, there hasn’t even been a real discussion on the issue.
Mid term reduction targets
The reduction pledges by developed countries that are on the table, are still the same, totally insufficient, 13-17% reduction rates (from 1990 levels) since Copenhagen. Increasing the ambition is again postponed indefinitely. Inscribing those pledges in a legally binding Kyoto Protocol doesn’t change anything to the fact that those pledges will cook the world.
But, the Durban package - despite announcing the contrary – didn’t even adopt the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. It just ‘took note” of the “proposed amendments” to do so. The actual decision is postponed until next year. (More extensive analysis on this
second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol: a victory or
a deception?" href="http://www.nelemarien.info/kp_victory_or_deception/" target="_blank">here)
Even developing countries pledged to do more than developed, but lack the financial and technological means to go beyond what they promised already.
Long term reduction goal
The other issue that is postponed since Copenhagen, and once again forwarded to discussions for next year, is the global goal. That is to say, how much should the world reduce its emissions by 2050? This longer term targets are essential if we want to stabilize the climate. Planning for it now is indispensable. But the numbers aren’t even being discussed.
Of course, it is a very difficult discussion. Several important aspects determine it:
- The carbon budget: a scientific concept that calculates how many emissions the world can afford to do, without surpassing dangerous limits. Unfortunately, most countries don’t see even the relevance of the concept.
- How this budget, and thus the atmospheric space, is going to be divided, essentially between developed and developing countries, but also within those groups of countries
- In order to decide how to share the burden, a set of criteria for the division of responsibilities has to be decided upon. Some key criteria should be: equity, population, historical emissions. But, developed countries don’t even want to talk about such criteria.
So, without criteria for division of the burden, nobody actually wants to talk on the mitigation necessity. But, we can’t negotiate the carbon budget with Mother Earth: if we trespass it, she will act on us!
Again, the world is left waiting for the real answers, while the questions at stake become more urgent year after year.Throwing away the valuable
Two basic principles, most valuable, embedded in the climate change convention, have always led the work up till know: the Science Principle, and the Equity Principle, which is known in negotiators jargon as “Common But Differentiated Responsabilities”. Both are being thrown away.
Of course, nobody says the science principle will be disregarded. Indeed, there are several references to science and to the work of the IPCC, in the different texts. But was is the use of stating “keeping in mind science, I will do just the opposite science is requiering”? And that’s exactly what this decisions are doing. There no link between the mitigation targets and the scientific requirements. But worse, we are now openly accepting that during the whole decade, this link won’t be made. It is the reign of the “voluntary pledges”, at least up till 2020.
Also equity is totally being undermined. An agreement to start negotiating an “agreed outcome with legal force” (probably a new Protocol), is forced upon developing countries, with the clear addition that it will be “applicable to all”. This contrasts strongly with all the previous decisions about climate change, which were always placed in the context of the ‘Common But Differentiated Responsabilities’. The agreement to negotiate a new legal outcome not only omits all references to it, it has been consciously taken out. Someone tweeted from the final plenary that the principle US negotiator reportedly said: “if equity is in, then the US is out”. It seems the US’ wishes are being considered as the future of the new climate regime.
In the new climate regime, it seems the same legal commitment is being demanded from those who emit least as from those who emit most.Boosting the bad
Up till the moment, existing carbon markets have proven to be the worse idea for environment and equity. Just some elements out of long list fairly long list of why carbon markets don’t work: the essentially trespass emission rights from poorer countries (with low emissions per capita and needs to grow in order to lift population out of poverty) to richer countries (with high per capita emissions and desires of not diminishing their unsustainable lifestyle). By doing so, the originally projected emission growth in developing countries is locked in: or the emissions will take place in the developing country, or through offsets, in the developed.
Worse is that there are so many problems with baselines, with projects that count for offsets but are not additional, with other environmental or human rights impacts, that carbon markets are regarded the biggest non-solution for the climate, and a collective lie to the public which is being told that in this way something is done.
But, the bad plans always seem to have priority, and the carbon markets are high on the agenda of most governments. Before the conference, one could hear a lot more worry from the governments and corporations side on “positive signals for the carbon markets”, than on “improving the level of ambition.” One of the main reasons the Kyoto Protocol hasn’t been killed completely, is precisely that this was necessary for the stability of carbon markets, especially the European system.
So, despite the abundant critiques on existing carbon markets, they have been strengthened a lot through the Durban decisions. There has been a strong impulse for them in four areas:
- 1) In the “proposed amendment” on the KP, carbon markets are opened up for all parties, even for those that will not be a member of the second commitment period. Furthermore, the door is opened for “any new kind of market mechanism to be established under the convention” to be valid under the Kyoto scheme.
- 2) A separate discussion was made to include Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the Clean Development Mechanisms. This technique provides the illusion that we can keep emitting, as the gases will be stored later on, while in fact their storage is at high danger to escape again to the atmosphere at some point of time. At the same time, the market units based on CCS will give more emission rights to those buying the offsets.
- 3) In the text on LCA, markets are now definitely approved as an answer to deforestation and degradation of forests. (art 66). This is problematic in several ways:
- * Only those who were used to deforest before, will now be compensated for not doing so!
- * As previous deforestation emissions are the baseline for offsetting units, which are essentially the transfer of emission rights, the previous emission rates will be just transferred to those buying the offsets.
- * The finance will only arrive after the results are proven, so, after several years! In the mean time, there are no funds to implement the policies that will lead to the reduced deforestation. As carbon market prices are very volatile, and with a severe tendency to crash, the final payment is not even secure.
- 4) There is a specific chapter (1bv) that now “defines a new market-based mechanism”, and establishes a work program to further implement them. This is a ball, that once it starts rolling, is very difficult to stop. The direction is a proliferation of all kinds of new market mechanisms.
(*) Nele Marien is environmental politics analyst. She was negotiator for the Bolivian Climate Change team from 2009 till November 2011
Original text: http://www.nelemarien.info/durban_not_success/
However, South Africa was not alone in its vision for African Agriculture. On the same panel, Zuma and Joemat-Pettersen were joined by Kofi Annan, Meles Zenawi, Mary Robinson and Andrew Steer of the World Bank- all calling for Climate Smart Agriculture, and all clamouring for the UN to agree a work programme on Agriculture to make this happen.
So what is this Climate Smart Agriculture? According to the World Bank and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it is a system of agriculture that can give developing country farmers a “triple win”. They point out that the right kinds of “sustainable agriculture” can do 3 key things: help farmers increase yields, help them adapt to climate change, and help to mitigate climate change by either reducing emissions or sequestering carbon. It is a view that many of us have held for some time. The African Biodiversity Network, for example, has long called for more support for agroecological practices that offer a holistic solution to climate change, biodiversity and farmers’ needs in a changing climate.
Climate Smart Agriculture advocates point to a World Bank pilot project in Western Kenya, where 60,000 small-scale farmers are reducing fertiliser and pesticide use, and building up their soils with compost, manures and crop residues.
So why then if Climate Smart Agriculture is so great, were farmer and civil society groups, who are in favour of agroecological practices, so wary of the push for an Agriculture deal that would supposedly enshrine it in a UN climate agreement? Why did over 100 African and international civil society groups send a letter to African ministers asking them to reject the Climate Smart vision?
The many faces of Climate Smart Agriculture
Well, as the high-level launch so clearly revealed, what Climate Smart Agriculture actually means and to whom is not so easy to pin down. It seems that Climate Smart Agriculture means many things, to many people.
Simon Mwamba of the East African Small Scale Farmers’ Federation (ESSAFF) explains: “Climate Smart Agriculture is being presented as sustainable agriculture – but the term is so broad that we fear it is a front for promoting industrial, ‘green revolution’ agriculture too, which traps farmers into cycles of debt and poverty.”
On one hand the head of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has talked powerfully of the resilience to droughts and floods conferred on soils by building up organic matter, the potential of carbon in soils to address climate change, and the need for Climate Smart Agriculture. On the other hand, those representing an altogether different, more industrial model of agriculture are also lining up to claim Climate Smart Agriculture as their own. Kofi Annan, chairman of the Bill Gates-funded Alliance for a New Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) clearly sees no contradiction between his call for a “uniquely African green revolution”, (promoting fertilisers, pesticides and hybrid seeds) and more “sustainable agriculture” under Climate Smart Agriculture. According to him, the Climate Smart vision also includes “Africa exporting food to the rest of the world, and thus contributing to global food security,” – a worrying plan when there cannot be a more urgent task than ensuring Africa’s food production goes towards feeding its own people first.
Others lining up under the so-called “sustainable agriculture” and “Climate Smart” banner were YARA (the world’s largest fertiliser company, based in Norway) and FANRPAN (the food and agriculture policy research network that promotes the agribusiness agriculture vision). One of the arguments heard a number of times, was that a rising global population will necessitate higher food productivity. The suggestion was clearly that industrial agriculture (or “sustainable intensification” as they call it), will be part of that picture. Where once “sustainable agriculture” meant something specific to the environmental movement, the term has been co-opted to now mean the exact opposite. The Climate Smart crowd can clearly see the benefits of using similar vague language.
The many faces of Climate Smart Agriculture show that its advocates understand that to get civil society on board, they need the eco-friendly image of the Kenya pilot project. But this is being used as an agro-ecological poster boy to usher in more intensive and industrial models of agriculture that are in complete opposition to the agro-ecological model that many of us would rather support.
Carbon finance for African farmers?
But there is another key aspect to Climate Smart Agriculture that is even more worrying, and that is the question of how this vision is to be financed. While much of the rhetoric focuses on the need to help farmers adapt to climate change, it is the mitigation benefits of agriculture that has some mouths watering. Climate Smart Agriculture thus comes in a package with carbon offsets, enabling the carbon credits generated by farmers’ carbon sequestering activities, to be sold to consumers in rich countries who believe that they have now “offset” their polluting activities.
Proposals to expand carbon markets to include agriculture come amid much enticing talk of leveraging finance for African agriculture. But many groups are concerned that these promises will come to nothing – and will threaten farmers’ livelihoods.
Observers note concerns about putting African farmers under the control of fickle carbon markets. “There is no money for agriculture in Africa from carbon offsets. The financial structure of Climate Smart Agriculture is built on evaporating carbon markets. Carbon markets are in collapse, and projects will have unreliable and inadequate finance.” Points out Steve Suppan of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).
Because it takes several years of project implementation before any carbon credits can be sold, carbon offset projects also face the major challenge of finding investors to pre-finance their efforts, so that they can set up and run for years without earning income. The responsibility for pre-financing these projects has so far fallen to governments, with the result that this has become a major diversion of the same public funds that are so urgently needed to address climate change. With carbon prices plummeting, and projected to hit €3 a ton, the meager profits generated by selling carbon credits can never hope to recoup the public finance investment, let alone leverage real funds. All that happens is that taxpayers find themselves propping up failing carbon markets, for the benefit of carbon commodity speculators.
African negotiators at the Durban negotiations have also expressed their doubts about carbon offset promises. Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, head of the African group, says that carbon markets will not work for Africa because the majority of African farmers farm on fewer than two hectares of land, “which is not enough to sequester an amount of carbon that would be meaningful to sell. We’re very suspicious that offset schemes will lead to a perversion of African agriculture, with farmers farming what is incentivized, and giving up traditional crops.”
Mpanu-Mpanu is not wrong about the poor returns for farmers from carbon offsetting. The much-vaunted World Bank pilot project in Kenya will only generate between $5 and $1 per year per farmer. Yes, you read that right: $1 per year per farmer. The Kenyan farmers, however, are unaware of this, having been promised an unspecified sum after 3 or more years. All they know is that their financial reward will depend on their reported performance.
Carbon land grabs and GM crops
ABN’s Anne Maina outlines an additional concern for African farmers from the drive for soil carbon markets. “Soil carbon markets could open the door to offsets for GM crops and large-scale biochar land grabs, which would be a disaster for Africa. Africa is already suffering from a land grab epidemic – the race to control soils for carbon trading could only make this worse.”
It is worth noting that Monsanto already argue that their Roundup Ready GM crops should be eligible for carbon offsets. They claim that the application of their glyphosate herbicide (sold as “Roundup”) on their herbicide-tolerant GM crops, reduces tillage for weeding, and therefore reduces loss of carbon emissions from the soil.
Advocates of “biochar” also claim that by burning biomass into charcoal dust and burying this in soil, carbon can be sequestered and climate change reversed. The science on these claims is highly doubtful, and not been proven to work beyond 3 years. However, farmers’ more immediate worries come from biochar advocates’ claims that 500 million to one billion hectares of land in Africa should be put over to biomass plantations to produce biochar. Such a plan, if it ever goes ahead, would dwarf even the current African land grab for biofuels and food exports.
Furthermore, there are serious challenges to be overcome in measuring soil carbon sequestration. The amount of carbon sequestered can be highly variable according to soil type. And there is the ever-present risk that sequestration can be easily “reversed” through ploughing, addition of fertilisers, or other changes in land management.
In spite of this, GM and biochar proponents are keenly watching UNFCCC discussions to see whether the negotiations will provide a carbon offsetting opportunity to subsidise their spread.
Africa the Problem?
The Climate Smart rhetoric can nonetheless sound enticing. As Sri Mulyani Indrawati, managing director of the World Bank Group said at the same high-level launch event, “Agriculture needs to move from being part of the problem, to part of the solution.” She is right about that – but it is disingenuous to imply that it is African farmers who are the cause of the problem. Instead, it is the industrialised food system in the North that is responsible for agriculture’s runaway emissions. This discourse about agriculture as the solution, and the aim to expand carbon markets onto African soil is thus about shifting the blame and responsibility for addressing climate change from rich countries onto African farmers, even though they are not the ones who have caused it.
As paralysis gripped the Durban climate negotiations, the one thing most people could agree on was that whatever the outcome, the level of ambition is still far below what is needed to address climate change.
But the cynical use of this argument – from the same players who consistently undermine any action – to then call for African farmers to shoulder the burden of solving climate change is frankly despicable. Thus this rhetoric about African farmers is not about climate change, it’s about expanding carbon markets to keep them afloat. Prof Doreen Stabinsky of IATP explains: “The Bank’s agenda is clearly an agenda of a carbon broker and trader – who makes his money on volume, not quality. More carbon for markets – including soil carbon – very simply means more money for the Bank and carbon project developers. This is about neither poverty alleviation, nor development.”
“This is a diversion, and a betrayal of the real need to reduce emissions.” Adds Helena Paul of EcoNexus. “It will only worsen climate change and food insecurity.”
Todd Stern’s passion for Agroforestry
As negotiations got underway at Durban, the loudest voices calling for an Agriculture work programme under mitigation were the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Even the big guns, such as chief US negotiator Todd Stern joined the call. When an African negotiator asked why they felt so passionately about this issue, the rich countries replied in unison that they felt it was important to enable African subsistence farmers to adapt to the challenges. They wanted to see more research in, among other things, crop rotation and agroforestry.
Really? This was a surprising new and caring side to the US. Who knew about Todd Stern’s passion for Agroforestry? (And this, the man who in the last frenzied minutes of negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol apparently said “If equity’s in, we’re out,” in response to India’s futile pleas to shoulder a lesser burden than the US.) I like to picture Todd among his fruit trees, humming peacefully as if all were right with the world.
Or, if one were more cynically minded, it might make more sense that the US push for an Agriculture work programme was about furthering US interests. Such as the expansion of carbon markets onto African soils, and the shifting of responsibility for climate change from rich countries onto the poor.
Choreographed Consensus for Climate Smart Carbon Credits?
As negotiations at Durban progressed, the World Bank expressed confidence that they would get their Work Programme on Agriculture under the negotiations about climate change Mitigation. Their certainty seemed well-placed. After all, they had laid the groundwork before coming to Durban, by paying for a ministerial conference on Climate Smart Agriculture for African agriculture ministers in South Africa in September. They had held a Global Science conference on Climate Smart Agriculture in Wageningen, the Netherlands in October. At each, they claimed, statements calling for Climate Smart Agriculture had been produced and endorsed.
A Work Programme on Agriculture, to be set up under the Mitigation discussions, would essentially create an ongoing and open door for soil carbon offsets and Climate Smart Agriculture to be copy and pasted into the climate negotiations and any future agreement.
But a closer look reveals African caution about the Climate Smart rhetoric. Of 54 African countries, only 9 agriculture ministers have actually signed the Climate Smart statement.
Behind the scenes, in the last hours of the Durban climate negotiations, some countries were refusing to go along with proposals for an Agriculture Work Programme. One African negotiator, preferring to remain anonymous, pointed out that dealing with agriculture as a mitigation issue rather than adaptation “would lead to developing nations forcing carbon markets on Africa, thereby avoiding putting money up for adaptation.”
In the end, against all expectations, Africa’s caution prevailed against the World Banks’ choreography. Instead of agreeing to an ongoing Work Programme, a compromise text was reached, requesting the UNFCCC’s scientific body to consider issues related to agriculture at their next session. What this means is that the door for Climate Smart carbon offsets is no longer propped wide open, and there is a chance to close that door in the coming year.
The promise that carbon offsets will bring finance for African agriculture is highly doubtful. The claim that Climate Smart agriculture will meet farmers’ needs is extremely dubious. But the pressure on African farmers to solve the climate problems they did not create, is simply outrageous.
In Durban, the World Bank’s wish was not granted on African soil. It is now down to African farmers, and African civil society to stop African soil itself from being turned over to the carbon traders.
By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
Dedicated to Judi Bari, Emma Goldman, my mother and all of the other strong women who inspire me
An action loses all of its teeth when it is orchestrated with the approval of the authorities. It becomes strictly theater for the benefit of the media. With no intent or ability to truly challenge power.
I hate actions like that.
And so it happened that I wound up getting ejected from one such action after challenging its top-down, male domination. I helped stage an unsanctioned ‘sit-in’ at the action with a dozen or so others who were tired of being told what to do by the authoritarian male leadership of the “big green’ action organizers–Greenpeace and 350.org.
I had no intention of being arrested that day. I came to the action at the UN Climate Convention center in Durban, South Africa on a whim, hearing about it from one of GJEP’s youth delegates who sent a text saying to show up outside of the Sweet Thorne room at 2:45.
So GJEP co-Director Orin Langelle and I went there together, cameras at the ready.
We arrived to a room filled with cameras. Still cameras, television cameras, flip cameras–whatever was planned had been well publicized. That was my first clue as to the action’s true nature. Real direct actions designed to break the rules and challenge power are generally not broadly announced. It’s hard to pull off a surprise action with dozens of reporters and photographers milling around.
After ten or so minutes, a powerful young voice yelled “mic check!” and the action began. A young man from 350.org was giving a call and response “mic check” message and initiating chants like “we stand with Africa,” “We want a real deal,” and “Listen to the people, not the polluters.” Many of the youth participants wore “I [heart] KP” t-shirts–following the messaging strategy of the ‘big greens,’ who were bound and determined to salvage something of the Kyoto Protocol global warming agreement, regardless of whether or not it would help stop climate catastrophe.
The messaging and choreography of the action were tightly controlled for the first hour or so by the male leadership. The growing mass of youth activists and media moved slowly down the cramped corridor toward the main plenary room and straight into a phalanx of UN security who stood as a human blockade, hands tightly gripped into the belts of the officers on either side. I found myself wedged between the group and the guards.
Pink badges (parties) and orange badges (media) were allowed through the barricade, but yellow badges (NGOs) were strictly forbidden–unless one happened to be one of the ‘big green’ male leadership. They miraculously found themselves at various times on either side of the barricade. The Greenpeace banners, I might add, were also displayed on the non-blockaded side of security, providing a perfect visual image for the media: Greenpeace banners in front of the UN Security, who were in front of the mass of youth. This was another indication that the “action” was not what it appeared to be. No, the rising up of impassioned youth taking over the hallway of the climate convention to demand just and effective action on climate change was just a carefully calculated ‘big green’ photo op.
There was wild applause when Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace (at that moment on the protester side of the security barricade) introduced the Party delegate from The Maldives–one of the small island nations threatened with drowning under rising sea levels. He addressed the crowd with an impassioned plea for help. Later, the official delegate from Egypt was introduced and, with a great big grin, gave his own mic check about the power youth in his country had had in making great change. He was clearly thrilled to be there in that throbbing mass of youthful exuberance.
But as with many actions that bring together such a diversity of people (youth being a very politically broad constituency), at a certain point the action diverged from the script. The tightly controlled messaging of the pre-arranged mic checks, began to metamorphose as youth began to embody the spirit of the occupy movement, from which the “mic check” had been borrowed. New people began calling mic check and giving their own messages. Unsanctioned messages such as “World Bank out of climate finance,” “no REDD,” “no carbon markets” and “occupy the COP” began to emerge as repeated themes. At first, the action’s youth leaders tried to counter-mic check and smother these unauthorized messages, but eventually they were overwhelmed.
After a few hours of this, with no sign of the energy waning, the “big green” male leadership huddled with security to figure out what to do with this anarchistic mass. Kumi, or it might have been Will Bates from 350.org, explained to the group that they had talked it over with UN security and arranged for the group to be allowed to leave the building and continue the protest just outside, where people could yell and protest as long as they wished.
This is a typical de-escalation tactic. A group is led out of the space where it is effectively disrupting business as usual to a space where it can easily be ignored in exchange for not being arrested. In my experience, this is a disempowering scenario where energy rapidly fizzles, and people leave feeling deflated.
I feared that this group of youth, many of whom were taking action for the first or second time in their lives, and on an issue that was literally about taking back control over their very future, would leave feeling disempowered. I could feel the frustration deep in my belly. We need to be building a powerful movement for climate justice, not using young people as pawns in some twisted messaging game.
There was clear dissention within the protest. People could feel the power of being in that hallway and were uneasy with the option of leaving. Finally I offered my own ‘mic check.’ “While we are inside,” I explained, “the delegates can hear us. If we go outside, we will lose our voice.”
But the ‘big green’ patriarchy refused to cede control of the action to the youth. They ratcheted up the pressure. ”If you choose to stay,” Kumi warned, “you will lose your access badge and your ability to come back into this climate COP and any future climate COPs.” Knowing this to be patently untrue, I cut him off. “That’s not true! I was de-badged last year and here I am today!” This took Kumi completely by surprise–that someone was challenging his authority (he was clearly not used to that)–and he mumbled in reply, “well, that’s what I was told by security.”
Will Bates, who was on the “safe” side of the security line, explained that UN security was giving the group “a few minutes to think about what you want to do.” While the group pondered, Will reminded the group that anyone who refused to leave would lose their badge and their access to the COP. “That’s not letting us make up our minds!” yelled a young woman.
I felt compelled to give the group some support. I mic checked again, “there is nothing to fear/ about losing your badge,” I explained, adding, “Being debadged/ is a badge of honor.”
After the question was posed about how many people planned to stay, and dozens of hands shot up, the pressure was laid on thicker. This time the ‘big green’ patriarchy warned that if we refused to leave, not only would we be debadged, UN security would escort us off the premises and we would be handed over to South African police and charged with trespass.
At that a young South African man stood up and defiantly raised his voice. “I am South African. This is my country. If you want to arrest anyone for trespass, you will start with me!” he said gesturing at his chest. Then he said, “I want to sing Shosholoza!”
Shosholoza is a traditional South African Folk song that was sung in a call and response style by migrant workers that worked in the South African mines.
The group joined the young South African man in singing Shosholoza and soon the entire hallway was resounding with the powerful South African workers’ anthem.
Once consensus was clearly established to do an occupation and anyone that did not want to lose his or her badge had left, Kumi piped up again. “Okay. I have spoken with security and this what we are going to do. Then he magically walked through UN security blockade. “We will remove our badge (he demonstrated this with a grand sweeping gesture pulling the badge and lanyard over his head) and hand it over to security as we walk out of the building. We do not want any confrontation.”
That really made me mad. The top down, male-dominated nature of the action and the coercion being employed to force the youth activists to blindly obey UN security was too much. I’d been pushed around by too many authoritarian males in my life to let this one slide, so I mic checked again. “We just decided/ that we want to stay/ to make our voices heard/ and now we are being told/ how to leave!” “I will not hand my badge to security. I am going to sit right here and security can take it.”
And I sat down cross-legged on the floor, cursing my luck for choosing to wear a skirt that day. Gradually, about a dozen other people–mostly youth–sat down with me, including Keith and Lindsey–two of our Global Justice Ecology Project youth contingent.
But still the male leadership wouldn’t let it go. I’ve never seen activists so eager to do security’s work for them. “Okay,” Kumi said, “but when security taps you on the shoulder, you have to get up and leave with them. We are going to be peaceful, we don’t want any confrontation.” Sorry, but in my experience, civil disobedience and non-compliance are peaceful acts. And I find it impossible to imagine that meaningful change will be achieved without confrontation.
At some point from the floor, I decided I should explain to the crowd who I was. I mic checked. “I come from the United States/ which has historically been/ one of the greatest obstacles/ to addressing climate change. I am sitting down/ in the great tradition/ of civil disobedience/ that gave women the right to vote/ won civil rights/ and helped stop the Vietnam War.”
About that time, a young woman named Karuna Rana, from the small island of Mauritius, off the southeast coast of Africa, sat down in front of me and spoke up. “I am the only young person here from Mauritius. These climate COPs have been going for seventeen years! And what have they accomplished? Nothing! My island is literally drowning and so I am sitting down to take action–for my people and for my island. Something must be done.” Her voice, from such a small person, was powerful indeed. An hour or two later, while standing in the chilly rain at the Speakers’ Corner across the street after we’d been ejected from the COP, she told me that it was my action that had inspired her to sit down. “You inspired me by standing up to the people that wanted us to leave.” I told her that her bravery had similarly inspired me.
Kumi led a group of protesters down the hall, handing his badge to UN security. Those of us who remained sitting on the floor were next approached by security. One by one, people were tapped on the shoulder and stood up to walk out and be debadged. Keith, who was sitting next to me said, “Are you going to walk out?” “No.”
Security tapped us and said, “C’mon, you have to leave.” “No.” Keith and I linked arms.
Then the security forcibly removed all of the media that remained. I watched Orin, who was taking photos of the event, as well as Amy Goodman and the crew of Democracy Now! be forced up the stairs and out of view. As they were removed, Amy yelled, “What’s your name?!” “Anne Petermann. I am the Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project.”
I was familiar with the unpleasant behavior of UN security from previous experiences, and so I was somewhat unnerved when security removed the media. Earlier in the week a UN security officer had shoved Orin’s big Nikon into his face when he was photographing the officer ejecting one of the speakers from our GJEP press conference who was dressed as a clown. Silly wigs are grounds for arrest at the UN.
One of the reasons that media have become targets of police and military violence all over the world is because they document the behavior of the authorities, and sometimes, depending on their intentions, the authorities don’t want their behavior documented. Not knowing what UN security had in store for us, I decided I should let the remaining people in the hall–who could no longer see Keith and I since we were sitting and completely surrounded by security–know what was happening. I explained at the top of my voice that that the media had been forced to leave, and encouraged anyone with a camera to come and take photos. The photos on this blog post by Ben Powless of Indigenous Environmental Network are some of the only ones I know of that document our arrests.
They took Keith first, hauling him away with officers grabbing him by his legs and under his arms and rushing him into the plenary hall–which, we found out, had been earlier emptied of all of the UN delegates so the racket outside would not disturb them. I was then loaded into a wheelchair by two female security guards. A male guard grabbed my badge and roughly yanked it, tearing it free from the lanyard, “I’ll take that,” he sneered. I was then unceremoniously wheeled through the empty plenary, past the security fence and into the blocked off street, where I was handed over to South African police.
“They’re all yours,” said the UN security who then left. The South African police discussed what to do with us. “What did they do?” asked one. “They sat down.” “Sat down?” “Yes, sat down. They are environmentalists or something.” “Let’s just take them out of here.” So I was loaded into the police van, where Keith sat waiting, and we were driven around the corner, past the conference center and to the “Speakers’ Corner” across the street, where the outside “Occupy COP 17” activists had been having daily general assemblies during the two weeks of the climate conference. “Hey, that’s cool,” said Keith. “We got a free ride to the Speakers’ Corner.”
I was told later that Kumi was the first arrested and had been led out of the building in plastic handcuffs, offering a beautiful Greenpeace photo op for the media. I rolled my eyes. “You’ve GOT to be kidding me. They used HANDcuffs??? Gimme a break.” More theater. Greenpeace is nothing if not good at working the media with theatrical drama such as pre-orchestrated arrests. Kumi may not have wanted to lose his badge, but he made the most of it. At the Speakers’ Corner following our arrests, the media flocked to him while I stood on the sidelines. The articles about the protest in many of the papers the next day featured Kumi speaking at the protest, Greenpeace banners prominent. The fact that it was a COP 17 occupation that he had repeatedly attempted to squelch somehow did not make it into the news.
I lost a lot of respect for Greenpeace that day.
But many of the youth also saw how it went down. I was thanked by several participants in the protest for standing up to the ‘big green’ male leadership and defending the right to occupy the space. I, myself was deeply grateful for the opportunity to do something that felt actually meaningful in that lifeless convention center where the most powerful countries of the world played deadly games with the future.
By Pablo Solon
(December 14, 2011) The Climate Change Conference ended two days later than expected, adopting a set of decisions that were known only a few hours before their adoption. Some decisions were even not complete at the moment of their consideration. Paragraphs were missing and some delegations didn’t even have copies of these drafts. The package of decisions was released by the South African presidency with the ultimatum of “Take it or leave it”. Only the European Union was allowed to make last minute amendments at the plenary.
Several delegations made harsh criticisms to the documents and expressed their opposition to sections of them. However, no delegation explicitly objected the subsequent adoption of these decisions. At the end, the whole package was adopted by consensus without the objection of any delegation. The core elements of the Durban Package can be summarized as follows:
1) A Zombie called Kyoto Protocol
- A soulless undead: The promises of reducing greenhouse gas emission for the second period of commitments of the Kyoto Protocol represent less than half of what is necessary to keep the temperature increase below 2°C.
- This Zombie (second period of the Kyoto Protocol) will only finally go into effect next year (COP 18).
- It is not known if the second period of the Kyoto Protocol will cover 5 or 8 years.
- United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Australia and New Zealand will be out of this second period of the Kyoto Protocol.
- This will be known as the lost decade in the fight against climate change.
2) New regime of “Laisser Faire, Laisser Faisser”
- In 2020 a new legal instrument will come into effect that will replace the Kyoto Protocol and will seriously impact the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- The core elements of this new legal instrument can be already seen due to the results of the negotiations: a) voluntary promises rather than binding commitments to reduce emissions, b) more flexibilities (carbon markets) for developed countries to meet their emission reduction promises, and c) an even weaker compliance mechanism than the Kyoto Protocol.
- The new legal instrument will cover all the States, effectively removing the difference between developing and developed countries. The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” already established in the Climate Change Convention will disappear.
- The result will be the deepening of the “Laisser Faire, laisser passer” regime inaugurated in Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban which will lead to an increase in temperature of more than 4°C.
3) A Green Fund with no funds
- The Green Fund now has an institutional structure in which the World Bank is a key player.
- The 100 billion is only a promise and will NOT be provided for by the developed countries.
- The money will come from the carbon markets (which are collapsing), from private investments, from credits (to be paid) and from the developing countries themselves.
4) A lifesaver for the Carbon Markets
- The existing carbon markets will live regardless of the fate of the Kyoto Protocol.
- Also, new carbon market mechanisms will be created to meet the emissions reduction pledges of this decade.
- It is a desperate attempt to avoid the loss of the carbon markets, which are collapsing due to the fall of the carbon credits, from 30 Euros per ton to 3 Euros per ton of CO2.
- Developed countries will reduce less than what they promise because they will buy Emission Reduction Certificates from developing countries.
5) REDD: a perverse incentive to deforest in this decade
- If you don’t cut down trees you won’t be able to issue certificates of reduction of deforestation when the REDD (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) mechanism comes into operation.
- CONSEQUENCES: deforest now if you want to be ready for REDD.
- The safeguards for indigenous peoples will be flexible and discretionary for each country.
- The offer of funding for forests is postponed until the next decade due to the fact that demand for Carbon Credits will not increase until then because of the low emission reduction promises.
In the actions and events of the social movements in Durban, two battle cries emerged: “Amandla” and “Jallalla”. The first one is a Xhosa and Zulu word from South Africa which means “power”. The second word is an expression in aymara which means “for life”. “ĄAmandlaĄ °Jallalla!” means “ĄPower for life!”
This is the “power for life” that we must build, that transcends borders, from our communities, neighborhoods, workplaces and place of study in order to stop this ongoing genocide and ecocide.
(*) Pablo Solón, international analyst and social activist. United Nations Ambassador and Chief Climate Change Negotiator from the Plurinational State of Bolivia.