Dec 19, 2009
Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International sums up the last two weeks of climate talks in Copenhagen from the backroom deals to rise of the Climate Justice movement.
Early on in the second week of COP15, the cordoned path created for long lines of NGOs seeking entry into the Bella Centre was a crowded mass of people. The cold was setting in, but the people pressed in.
The story was different for the last two days of the COP. The path was desolate and taken over by a carpet of snow. Observers had been barred from entering the venue and the few with possibilities of entry had to contend with long waits as security officials thumbed through sheets with names of those cleared to enter.
Within the conference venue the most democratic space appears to be the entrance hall where the registration of delegates was carried out. The pull here is the large UNFCCC logo on the wall where virtually every delegate sought to be photographed as a memento to a conference of lost opportunities.
Inside the chambers, more went on behind closed doors than in plenary. The Danish president of the COP spent more time denouncing leaked or rumoured secret texts rather than spending precious time negotiating. Blocks and hurdles were erected in the path of negotiators to ensure that real progress was not made.
The UNFCCC erected banners inviting people to raise their voices for climate change. Out on the streets the Danish police fought to ensure that the voices of dissent were silenced.
Thousands demand Climate Justice
If any good news emerged from the climate conference, it must be that the climate justice movement is rising up. On December 12, 2009 over 100,000 citizens of the world braved the cold and marched more than six kilometres through the streets of Copenhagen to show their disgust with politicians and leaders who consistently refuse to act but keep talking about climate change.
Would emissions be cut? Would these be done at source or would it be through acts carried out elsewhere rather than at home? Who would pay for the mitigation measures needed to be effected in poor developing nations? The impacted nations have said that levels of funding needed to tackle these impacts have been put at about US$400 billion per year. With brave generosity, rich nations offer to place $30 billion for the period 2010 to 2020. And then ramped up to US$100 billion by 2020.
President Lula of Brazil, while speaking at the plenary on the closing date, wondered if the negotiators would have to wait for angels to put intelligence in their brains before they could come to a good deal. His statement suggested that there was a case of lack of intelligence. Was it really a lack of intelligence or an unwillingness to toe the paths of true ambition?
take it or leave it
When President Obama took the stage, he asserted that climate change poses an unacceptable risk to our planet. The world should act boldly in the face of the threat. He said he came to act and not to talk. So what was the act.
Obama stated that the USA would change the way they create and use energy as a necessary block in their national security. In addition they would work to ensure reduction of dependence on foreign oil. At the end of the day, all that President Obama said amounted to declaration of US interests that the world had to accept or leave. It brought nothing new to the table.
Even the funds promised for mitigation in poorer nations was made with a snigger that no one expecting aid should escape the demand for responsibility.
Talking about responsibility, who is responsible for the climate impacts in these poor countries? The pledge of President Lula to meet Brazilian challenges with own funds and the promise to assist poor countries in their efforts to take mitigation measures shone in the dark hallways of the Copenhagen talks.
With several versions of the Copenhagen Accord, coined perhaps from a phrase in President Obama’s speech, one leaves the conference wondering where all the hype about working for an ambitious deal went. If there was a deficit of anything at this conference it was that of ambition.
A disaster for the world's poor
I left the Bella Conference at 1:45 AM to meet the warm chants of climate justice activists protesting in the cold, beneath the Metro tracks, denouncing the lack of seriousness in the climate negotiations. The protesters could have been snugly asleep in their beds, but these were mostly young people whose future was being jeopardised for the political expediency of a few and for the comfort and profiteering of carbon speculators.
As we said in our final statement at the talks, the so-called accord was a disaster to poor nations. A two degrees Celsius temperature rise means sure disaster and death to millions in vulnerable countries.
As I crushed the snow beneath my feet, each step raised a question: for how long will leaders be disconnected from the voices of the people? But I took great comfort from the strength of Friends of the Earth International activists who demonstrated to the world that the time for the growth of the climate justice movement has indeed come.
Congratulations, friends. Have a great holiday season and an action-filled 2010.
Dec 16, 2009
Friends of the Earth today were refused entry to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen despite having the relevant accreditation.
Nnimmo Bassey the Friends of the Earth International Chair said:
"Our organizations represent millions of people around the world and provide a critical voice promoting climate justice inside the UN. On the inside and the outside, all the rules have gone out the window - organizations such as Friends of the Earth that support peaceful action are being barred while developing countries concerns are being trampled in the plenary."
This is a shocking turn in events and we are working on our response now to the UNFCCC.
We will keep you updated.
To learn more about today's dramatic events inside and outside of the conference centre please visit the Friends of the Earth US blog.
Dec 14, 2009
Hundreds of activists in Copenhagen took to the streets on Tuesday for the 'food system change, not climate change' march. The aim was to highlight the fact that large scale industrial agriculture aggravates climate change rather than solving the climate problem.
Dec 13, 2009
Yesterday more than five thousand people from all over the world took to the cold streets of Copenhagen to demand climate justice and an end to offsetting emissions.
The flood began outside the Klimaforum - the civil society event on climate change - with speeches from Nnimmo Bassey, the Friends of the Earth International Chair, Henry Saragih, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina and Amparo Miciano, from the World March for Women.
Nnimmo rallied the crowd with a stirring call to action. He demanded climate justice and called for end to false climate change solutions such as offsetting.
"To those who want to pollute at home and plant a tree in Africa, we say no," he shouted.
Around 5000 people, dressed in blue ponchos and carrying 'demand climate justice' flags, came to the march from every corner of Europe and beyond.
Reinford Mwangonde from Friends of the Earth Malawi said why it was so important for him to be there:
"In Malawi we now have flooding, desperate droughts and very short rains. This doesn't give farmers enough time to grow anything. Animals are also suffering because there is not enough green land. It's a daily struggle for Malawian farmers."
"Africa is at the front line of climate change and that is why I am in Copenhagen, to demand climate justice now!" he concluded.
After the speeches came the arrival of the carbon traders; sinister men and women in suits shouting:
"Come offset your carbon emissions. We're selling dirty air and buying clean air"
As the carbon traders left the stage they were pursued by the crowd, who 'flooded' the streets, chanting "No offsetting. Climate justice now!"
The Flood also carried messages from directly affected by climate change who couldn't make it to Copenhagen. These messages formed part of the 'climate capsule' that is currently on display in the Klimaforum.
The Flood ended in front of the Danish Parliament with the creation of a massive human banner reading 'Offsetting is a false solution'.
The crowd then joined an estimated 100,000 demonstrators to march to the conference centre, where the official climate talks are taking place, with their messages of climate justice now!
It was a truly inspiring day where our demands were heard loud and clearly. Only next week will we know whether world leaders have listened.
Dec 11, 2009
Amid the chaos of the conference centre a press conference was held by Kim Nguyen who had cycled from Australia all the way to the climate conference collecting messages for delegates on the way.
Kim's journey began in East Timor where the people he met people had first hand experience of the devastating effects of climate change.
"For three years the seasonal rains never came and then one year they came all at once and were deluged. The few crops they have were destroyed" he said.
He met people in the Gobi desert who told him that every year the desert expands and more and more lakes and rivers dry up.
It was in the same desert that he saw a working example of renewable energy at a local level.
"All the tents they lived in had solar panels on the top."
Throughout his travels he collected messages for the world leaders at the climate summit in video, photo, illustrations and letters.
Dec 09, 2009
This morning Friends of the Earth International in partnership with the Stockholm Environment Institute held a press conference in the Bella Center to launch the 40% study which shows that 40% emissions cuts in Europe are achievable.
The study prepared by Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in partnership with Friends of the Earth Europe proves for the first time the feasibility and affordability of achieving at least 40% emissions cuts in Europe by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, without offsetting.
Dr Charlie Heaps from the SEI set out the methodology used in the report and his graph clearly showed that the current targets being proposed by Europe "leave little room for non-Annex 1 countries to develop."
Sonja Meister from Friends of the Earth Europe set out the case for why Europe really has to push for 40% and laid out some of the benefits too:
"The EU should recognise the benefits of making such cuts. Investment in renewables and energy efficiency would create seven jobs per every one in fossil fuels. There are also many health benefits."
The landslide victory of Evo Morales in the Bolivian elections, the official negotiations of the COP 15 to the UN Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen and the role of social movements here, were some of the issues mentioned by Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon, in an exclusive interview with Real World Radio.
Dec 08, 2009
The ice is melting - literally. Sam Fleet began day one of the COP in the Bella Center where the official negotiations are taking place.
The day began at 06:30; a rushed breakfast followed by a crowded metro. We arrived at the Bella center to find Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) had installed a melting ice sculpture of the Mermaid statue, calling for climate justice at the entrance.
The atmosphere inside the centre was intense, and one of excitement. It was a huge transformation from the empty atrium I had seen the night before, into something akin to a train station at rush hour. It was entirely possible to spend the day exhausting yourself running around like a headless chicken, rushing from one spot to the next, without achieving anything.
The communications and media teamed discussed their strategy, although judging from the huge number of journalists and camera crews marching around the centre, it seemed there would be no difficulty getting coverage; we just had to provide the spokespeople – something FoEI has no shortage of, representing 77 countries.
I left after lunch in order to head to the Klimaforum – the global civil society counterpart of the official UN conference in the Bella Centre – where the second half of the FoEI communications team were based.
After a brief unintended detour through the centre of Copenhagen, past the Hopenhagen concert arena – a huge corporate sponsored initiative – I arrived at the Klimaform just in time to help out and take pictures at the FoEI opening press conference, with our chair, Nnimmo Bassey.
Nnimmo was then rushed in front of Associated Press, and German, Danish and Swedish TV channels, before taking the stage at the opening event for the Klimaforum. I passed through, en-route to a coordination meeting to watch the Danish Chime Transform - Lisbeth Diers playing on instruments sculpted out of ice. An enchanting performance, compounded by the fact, that near the end of the show, whether by design, or accident, the instruments began to shatter in the musician’s hands – melting under the hot stage lights.
A simple message: climate change waits for no-one. Act Now!
Call the on the Danish government - the hosts of the summit - to broker a just and transparent climate agreement.
Desperate to get any kind of deal, the Danish Prime Minister has been leading meetings with rich country negotiators to agree the wording of agreements before proposals are even on the table.
We need to make it clear to the Danish government that this isn't acceptable. And as the hosts of the talks, their responsibility is to ensure a fair and transparent process , not to broker a deal at any cost to the millions of people in developing countries who will suffer most.
Email the President of the Conference of Parties now.
This action is hosted by Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland.
Dec 07, 2009
On Sunday 7 December the Friends of the Earth International delegation to the climate negotiations met in person for the first time these two weeks to discuss our strategies and get to know each other.
Attended by campaigners, communicators, coordinators and Young Friends of the Earth Europe it was great to finally have everyone in the same place and put faces to names - over the last year we've had numerous phone conferences and exchanged hundreds of emails.
The day began with an introduction from Nnimmo Bassey the Chair of Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) giving one of his motivational speeches that never fails to inspire whilst at the same time putting a smile on every face.
Then it was the turn of some of FoEI's wisest climate minds to give their take on the critical negotiations ahead.
Meena Raman from Friends of the Earth Malaysia talked about the sky grab
that is taking place by developed countries and the Bolivia delegation's recent assertion that there is "little atmospheric space left for developing countries".
We heard about the European Union's position and the various negotiating groups that have formed around the world - the G77, Africa, ALBA, the Umbrella group and AOSIS to name a few.
We also heard about the tactics that some countries are using to divide unified groups by offering bi-lateral deals rather than dealing with a block as a whole.
One of these strong blocks is Africa who, last month in Barcelona, refused to continue formal discussions about offsetting and insisted that the talks focus on real carbon-reduction targets for rich countries.
Finally Kate Horner from Friends of the Earth United States assessed the US position. Asked whether the arrival of President Obama to the talks was a positive step, she expressed concern that in an effort to stay on the right side of the charismatic President some countries may make concessions that would not be in the interests of the kind of agreement developing countries need.
It was a lot to take on board but the overall message was simple, a just agreement will be difficult to secure but is not impossible.
young friends of the earth just keep on going
During lunch, Young Friends of the Earth Europe (YFoEE), never ones to put their feet up, carried out a teaser action in street calling on people to join the Flood for Climate Justice on Saturday 12 December.
In the afternoon we divided into smaller groups: communications,
actions and lobbying, and we discussed how we could best perform the tasks we had been assigned, which for me is communicating to You.
Just after 5pm we were done, a little tired, but raring to go for two weeks of long days and late nights certain in the knowledge that only a just agreement in Copenhagen will do.
Take action with Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland by calling on the UK climate secretary to sign up to the right agreement in Copenhagen.
Call on him to sign up to:
- Emissions cuts of at least 40% by 2020 on 1990 levels for all developed countries.
- A new financial mechanism to support developing countries in tackling climate change.
- Offsetting to be scrapped - including the the use of carbon trading in tackling deforestation. Offsetting is unjust and fundamentally flawed.
Take action now!
Dec 06, 2009
Sam Fleet from Friends of the Earth Europe reports on an entertaining journey to the Danish capital all powered by renewable energy, champagne and jazz.
At 08:00 on Friday morning my colleague and I found ourselves in the waiting room for the Climate Express from Brussels to Copenhagen. We were to be ‘eco-passengers’ on the Train to Copenhagen, and would travel direct, powered from renewable sources, with a plethora of events to entertain us en-route, before arriving in Copenhagen 14 hours later.
After dodging the camera crews, we settled into our seats, and prepared flyers and posters for the Friends of the Earth International ‘Flood for Climate Justice’ to spread around the train. I joined the champagne breakfast, accompanied by jazz, in the dimly lit dining car, as the train sped past the still, grey, sleepy Belgian countryside. During the day, a range of talks and presentations across two carriages would cover a range of topics, from climate science to urban transportation, and would continue right up until arrival in Copenhagen at 23:00.
The Climate Express was not as fast as the name implied: train-spotters in Aachen took the opportunity to film the unique Climate Express as it stopped to give way to numerous freight trains.
I photographed Tom Picken, the international climate campaigner from Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland, as he handed over our 40% study, showing that 40% emission cuts are possible in Europe, to the CEO of Eurostar, Richard Brown.
what are we doing in Copenhagen?
The majority of MEPs disembarked in Köln to return to Brussels, and were replaced by more passengers for the stretch to Copenhagen. The media moved from the front of the train to the rear to get a different perspective and the FoEE representatives found themselves in front of an Italian camera crew. The question being asked from the crew was simply, “What will you be doing in Copenhagen?”
Tom provided a sane and sober response – urgent and deep emission cuts for developed countries, without offsetting; money for developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change; forests out of carbon markets; public money to fight climate change through the UNFCCC, not the World Bank.
When they unexpectedly turned the camera on me, they received a mumbled, embarrassed and red-faced “demand climate justice”, which will no doubt be edited out. A good reason for all those in the FoEI delegation to familiarize themselves with the official FoEI messages and keep their cool in front of the cameras!
The Climate Express took on a very relaxed atmosphere towards the end of the journey, with the media circus calming down, and those remaining on the train until Copenhagen taking what would probably be the last chance for an evening nap. The same Italian TV crew from earlier debated whether the organic tagliatelle to be served for dinner would have been cooked since Köln, and therefore be well past its best – which was thankfully not the case.
My second embarrassing media interview commenced immediately after stepping out of the train into the Copenhagen drizzle, when a Japanese camera crew filmed me holding the ‘seal the deal’ bag that we had all been given on boarding. I tried to convince them that climate justice was more important than just any old deal, but it was lost on them.
For the rest of the COP I will try and stay behind the camera. Blogging is more my thing.
If you want to read our Copenhagen demands you can do so here.
Nov 09, 2009
Young Friends of the Earth Europe assesses the performance of leaders at the Barcelona climate talks in the form of a school report and highlights which countries need to pull their socks up.
Nov 03, 2009
African negotiators at the UN climate talks in Barcelona have refused to continue formal discussions about all other issues and are insisting instead that the talks focus on real carbon-reduction targets for rich countries.
Today in solidarity with Africa Friends of the Earth International held an action in support of African delegates’ insistence that developed countries commit to new, strong binding targets. Delegates and observers were invited to join a human shield against the killing of Kyoto targets and instead urged to promote at least 40% emission reductions with no offsets by 2020.
Kamese Geoffrey of NAPE/ Friends of the Earth Uganda warned:
"Rich countries are attempting to dodge their legal and moral responsibilities to reduce emissions. Developing countries and communities have historically had practically no fault in the creation of climate change, yet they will be the first to face the devastating impacts of climate change."
Millions of people are already being affected by climate change impacts such as floods and droughts.
Line Kirk of Young Friends of the Earth said:
"The world needs those responsible for climate change legally bound to act. Rich industrialised (Annex I) countries are proposing the replacement of a legally binding instrument with a voluntary pledge system, which will almost certainly spell disaster for the planet and all people. We demand our future is secured through strong new targets for rich countries - without offsetting - under the Kyoto Protocol."
Young Friends of the Earth Europe are also in Barcelona. Read their blog here
Oct 09, 2009
Today is the last day of the Bangkok climate talks. However, in two weeks of negotiations there has been very little discussion on some of the key political issues that are necessary to ensure that we have a just climate change agreement in Copenhagen. Steph Long, one of FoEI's Climate Coordinators, explains.
It's been a fairly acrimonious two weeks with possibly the highest level of mistrust and tension between negotiating parties in recent years.
In the past two weeks there has been a notable display of innovation: though not at all of the kind of innovation we need, such as declarations to keep the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole and the tar sands in the land - but innovative redefinition of what it means to be historically responsible for climate change.
In attempts to get the US into the climate agreement, developed countries are proposing to junk the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (the only international legally binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) and arguing that this is the only way to get an effective action on climate change.
After South Africa proposed a means to limit the amount of offsetting that developed countries could use in meeting emissions reduction targets, the New Zealand government was quoted as saying "but if we put limits on offsetting, we would have to move our target to zero".
developed vs developing
A member of the Australian government delegation proposed that we "smooth over" the distinction between developed and developing countries.
After fielding critical questions about the USA government's refusal to enter into an agreement with stringent international compliance; one of their lead negotiators responded with "China has not agreed to any international compliance in last 20 years." [there is the minor level of compliance required in TRIPS and trade agreements for one....]
Developing countries have offered sharp retorts to developed country proposals which also deserve recognition:
In response to developed countries proposals to expand offset markets, the
government of Venezuela on behalf of several Latin American countries
responded "It is simply unfair, unreasonable and unhelpful to hide the conflicting economic interests of developed countries behind efforts to reenact olden days 'land- grabs' by modern days 'sky-grabs'."
In response to developed countries refusal to accept proposals that will required them to finance the mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer needs of developing countries, through new democratic financial institutions rather than the World Bank; the government of Philippines on behalf of the G77+China offered developing countries "Capacity building on how to fulfil Convention obligations."
So, one of the inspiration outcomes of the Bangkok climate talks is the force with which developing countries are refusing to accept the backtracking of developed countries to meet their legal and historical obligations.
Next stop Barcelona. Find out more.
Jun 30, 2009
Write to your nearest Honduran embassy and demand that the Honduran Armed Forces immediately re-instate the ousted President Zelaya and re-establish respect for all elected authorities.
Here is some text you can use or sample for your email or letter.
Subject: Reinstate President Manuel Zelaya.
To: The Embassy of Honduras in xxx
I am writing to express my deep concern about the current situation in the republic of Honduras and my unreserved condemnation of the illegal detention and expulsion of the constitutional President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya.
I join with the international community in demanding that the Honduran Armed Forces immediately re-instate Mr Zelaya and re-establish respect for all elected authorities. We condemn any persecution or repression of activists in grassroots movements and organizations by the sectors promoting the coup.
We insist that the Honduran Army respect the physical integrity of all Honduran social movements, organizations, the demonstrators who are defending the institutional order and we will be watchful for human rights abuses.
Since this illegal action this week, the news of Mr Zelaya’s removal and details of the subsequent military actions have spread throughout the international community.
We want the Honduran Army to know that we are fully aware of the current stage of repression and have photographic evidence of what is happening in the streets of Honduras. The removal of President Zelaya was an illegal action and we are watching closely to ensure that social peace is restored in Honduras. We demand that the democratic process, and the will of the Honduras people, be respected.
In solidarity with the Honduran people,
Your Name Here
Jun 29, 2009
Friends of the Earth International condemns the illegal expulsion of the Honduran President and expresses its solidarity with Friends of the Earth Honduras and all the forces struggling for democracy in the country.
Friends of the Earth International is deeply worried about the current situation in the republic of Honduras and expresses its unreserved condemnation for the illegal detention and expulsion of the constitutional president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya by the armed forces.
Friends of the Earth International demands the restoration of the Honduran president and the unconditional respect for democracy.
Friends of the Earth International expresses its solidarity with Friends of the Earth Honduras / Movimiento Madre Tierra and all the forces struggling for democracy in Honduras.
The entire international community must demand the return of the democratically elected president.
Friends of the Earth International invites citizens worldwide to protest and send letters to the embassies of Honduras worldwide, demanding the restoration of the elected Honduran president and the unconditional respect for democracy. The will of the Honduran people must be respected at all times.
- Watch an interview with Dr Juan Almendares, Director of Friends of the Earth Honduras.
- Read the statement from Friends of the Earth Latin America and Caribbean
- Read the statement from Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific
Please write to your nearest Honduran embassy and demand the restoration of the elected President and the unconditional respect for democracy.
Jun 15, 2009
Friends of the Earth Japan have dubbed their Prime Minister 'Friend of the Fossils' for his woefully low targets for cuts in carbon emissions.
At the Bonn climate talks Japan announced their incredibly low target of a 15% reduction in carbon emission from 2005 levels, equivalent to 8% reductions from 1990 levels.
Reacting to the targets, Yvo de Boer - Executive Secretary of the climate talks - comment that "for the first time in two and a half years in this job I just don't know what to say."
Left: Prime Minister Taro Aso stands aside models of large carbon emitters such as air travel and heavy industry.
Below: Shirobe the polar bear lets the Prime Minister know, in no uncertain terms, he's not a happy bear.
Feb 09, 2009
Friends of the Earth International is excited to announce our fourth annual photo competition.
This year's photo competition will gather photos from around the world on the theme of “Biodiversity Lost, Biodiversity Preserved”. The best shots will be featured in a series of materials we will launch in conjunction with the 2010 UN International Year of Biodiversity, including a calendar and an international photo exhibition.
Jan 16, 2009
A poem by Juan Almendares chairperson of Friends of the Earth Honduras.
To the poet of the olives
Mahmoud Darwish (1942 -2008)
and for the children of Palestine.
Killing or war!
said the wise owl,
while waking up from its millenary dreams.
Killing!! Said the hawk,
while showing its sinister claws ...
Killing is the slogan!
Cried the Coryphaeus of death.
While the owl,
settled on my eyes,
I could not open
my tightly closed eyelids
due to the gruesome scene
of the Palestine massacre.
Who can sleep
and keep silence,
if this unpunished killing
hurts the heart
In the labyrinth of infamy,
missiles and bombs
killing the children,
torture the life of dreams
and strangle the heart of the mothers
Such land in Gaza
my throat is tightened,
I shouted and shouted with solidarity courage:
Where is the humanity of the
the olive trees and the winds of the desert have died!
I heard the voice of the poet of the olives:
The "Birds are dying in Galilee"
And the joy is "withered in the borders."
I am skin and heart of all colors.
My soul embraces the planet
with the song of the lark
and the subtle flight of the hummingbird.
I love humanity,
Africa, Asia, Australia, Latin America,
Without the Nazi genocide against Jews and Gypsies,
without martyrdom in Palestine.
I love freedom:
freedom of the olives,
freedom without walls
freedom of the water.
Freedom of the stories
in "a thousand and one nights."
I Dream of the poet of the olive trees:
with no occupied territories,
without financial crisis and hunger
due to the business of weapons, or
due to gold and emeralds.
My dreams want to shake
the conscience of the people
and overcome with love and rebellion
the hunter of the planet.
I dream of the freedom of Palestine, and
Honduras, my occupied homeland.
A free Homeland!
Homeland for all mankind!