Dec 10, 2010
Nnimmo Bassey writes in the UK Guardian on how a scramble for individual leaders to speak for the whole of Africa undermines the common voice
Dec 08, 2010
On Monday December 6, Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, was one of four people to be presented with a Right Livelihood Award in the Swedish parliament.
News reports indicate World Bank President Robert Zoellick is coming to Cancun tomorrow to announce the establishment of a multi-million dollar fund to promote the creation of carbon markets in developing countries.
Friends of the Earth U.S. Climate Campaigner Karen Orenstein had the following response:
"Carbon markets are an irreparably flawed means of addressing climate change. They are unreliable and subject to fraud, and they open the door to offset loopholes that undermine environmental integrity. They expand Wall Street influence, and they further entrench the economic arrangements that facilitate the North’s over-consumption and are causing the climate crisis in the first place.
"The World Bank’s decision to establish this fund is yet another blemish on its already-soiled social and environmental record. World Bank coal funding hit a record high of $4.4 billion in 2010, and the Bank has a long history of making decisions that have had tremendously harmful impacts on poor countries.”
The World Bank carbon market fund will be discussed at the Friends of the Earth International press conference in the Moon Palace tomorrow afternoon. (It will also be available online here: http://webcast.cc2010.mx/)
Dec 07, 2010
Members of the Friends of the Earth International delegation in Cancun have been documenting the mobilisations and interviewing our spokespeople so we can keep you informed on all the twists and turns of the talks.
Here Nnimmo explains why initiatives such as carbon offsetting should really be called 'do nothing solutions'.
Watch all of our videos here
A selection of photos from Cancun; from preparing for the International Day of Climate Action to the Alternative Peoples' Summit.
Preparing for the International Day of Climate Action on December 7, 2010.
March of the Campesinos: Marching for the rights of the Indigenous Villagers.
Clima Radio: Broadcasting live directly from the peoples' alternative summit.
Indigenous Bolivians attending the alternative peoples' summit.
Dec 06, 2010
On Saturday December 4, thousands of people took to the streets of London to call for a zero carbon Britain. Several well known environmental campaigners addressed the crowds including Friends of the Earth's Andy Atkins.
Dec 05, 2010
Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, is observing the UN climate talks in Cancun. Here he assesses the first week of negotiations; from the nations clambering to reject the Kyoto Protocol to the Mexican hosts cooking up secret texts.
"With the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, emitting greenhouse gas (CHG) emissions over a set limit entails a potential cost. Conversely, emitters able to stay below their limits hold something of potential value. Thus, a new commodity has been created – emission reductions. Because carbon dioxide (CO2) is the principal greenhouse gas, people speak of trading in carbon. Carbon is now tracked and traded like any other commodity."
The above quote is taken from a publication of the UNFCCC on the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms. The publication focuses on international emissions trading, the clean development mechanism and joint implementation – all market based mechanisms set up to ostensibly help the private sector and developing countries to contribute to emissions reduction efforts.
Reflecting on the framing of the protocol one could easily reach the conclusion that there is no point seeking its continuation or validation for another commitment period. It does however appear that the world is in a tight corner right now with the crop of policy makers intent on inventing new ways of carrying on with business as usual and doing nothing concrete to fight climate change. Because the Kyoto Protocol is the only existing climate treaty that has legally binding targets inscribed by parties, many see it as better than nothing.
Could this be a case of half a loaf is better than none? Or is it the case of drowning persons hanging onto straw? You must find your answer!
The first week of the climate conference in Cancun drew to a close with no cheery news and lots to worry about. The first shocker came when Japan declared that they would not inscribe any targets in a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Let me quickly add here that the term inscribe may sound like chiselling a rock, and casting commitments in concrete, but in reality the inscriptions in the first commitment period have been promises made only to be broken. Nothing inscribed in stone or concrete.
So why are people worried? One reason could be that Japan is wishing up to what the USA knew long ago. Let us take a trip to Kyoto in 1997.
It is reported that when the protocol was being negotiated, the USA, led by Al Gore, made the inconvenient demand that carbon emissions reductions must be tackled under a framework of carbon markets. This led, rather conveniently, to the formulation of what some termed innovative ways of emissions reduction through the commodification of carbon or emissions. Did the USA sign the protocol after they got what they wanted? No. They conveniently walked away. Now we are in the inconvenient corner, pressed on every side and perching precariously on the brink of catastrophic climate change. The USA just walked away from Kyoto once they got the world on the roller coaster of carbon markets. Japan can equally walk away. So can Canada. And Australia.
The European Union says they are willing to consider either option. Wise guys. The fence could be a great place to sit, especially when the only smoke of battle is raised not by canons but by carbon trade.
The carbon market paradigm spun the so-called clean development mechanism (CDM), among others. At the Bali conference another item found its way on to the platter – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). This quickly brought up proposals for REDD plus, REDD pluss pluss… and who knows what else is waiting in the wings. The entire idea is to find ways by which carbon can be quantified and valued wherever it can be found. So far carbon stocks in trees are valued under REDD.
Progress or regress is being made about carbon stocks in the soil, so that those who do not have forests, but presumably have lands can key in and make some bucks from the carbon beneath their feet. For those who have neither forests nor land, there is hope that they can find some carbon in the water on which they float. And if they have no forest, no land and no water they will probably have some air over their heads. The bigger the atmospheric space over your head, the bigger your chance of making a kill in the carbon equation. Probably.
There's no doubt that there may be some folks who in the future may have none of these natural assets: no forest, no water, no land, no air. This will happen when every natural thing would have been privatised. Believe me. In that case, all any one would need to tap into the carbon market will be to prove that their bodies embody some amount of carbon.
As the first week drew to a close, the rumour mill was abuzz with stories of a text being prepared by the Mexican chair of the COP to force a path for the outcome of the conference. This was the method of COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. If the text is not a phantom, it will materialise over the weekend in time for ministers who will be arriving then to have something to chew on.
In a statement pre-empting this move, civil society advocates, including Friends of the Earth International and the Third World Network demanded, “that delegates reject any attempts to introduce such a text into the conference.”
They said so because the text would seek to replace “the aggregate global emission targets that are supposed to be negotiated under the Kyoto Protocol with the non-binding pledges of the Accord could, according to a UN analysis released November 23, [and] set the planet on a course for devastating changes by the end of the century - as much as 5°C (9°F) of warming.”
It appears that policy makers are not living on planet earth. With a temperature increase of this magnitude, no amount of mitigation or adaptation would preserve most lives, as we know it.
The week was not all talk. Action time came on Friday when groups led by Jubilee South took to the streets of Cancun, marching from the municipal office to a Wal-Mart Supermarket and demanding that the World Bank must not be allowed to become the climate bank. Why? For one, the bank is notorious for funding fossil fuel related projects and is thus one agency that is deeply implicated in the climate chaos.
Will the last week of the COP bring any hope? We will have to see.
Dec 03, 2010
Marco Cadena from Friends of the Earth Hungary writes from Cancun about the hosts of the talks and Mexico's self-styled green president.
Felipe Calderon began his presidency in 2006 with the promise that he will become the 'greenest Mexican president'. Calderon has had the opportunity to see his promise into fruition by hosting COP16. He has said that the conference will be managed under the ethos of 'sostenibilidad' (sustainability).
However, the conference begins in the air conditioned Moon Palace hotel with distinguished delegates sipping their Nescafe with a smile whilst queuing for incredibly low quality ham sandwiches that cost 10 US dollars. This comes across as a slap in the face as the year 2010 sees plenty of European companies importing organic and fair trade coffee from Southern Mexico.
To add further insult to injury these sandwiches are eaten in light of a growing agenda pushing for sustainable small-scale agriculture with particular attention given to the meat and dairy industries.
SostenibilidadSostenibidad is the Spanish word for sustainability. A beautiful (and fashionable) sounding word, however its meaning is a far cry from what you will experience in the Moon Palace. Of course no one is expecting a luxury hotel to be the champion of sustainability - even if they had more than a year and plenty of resources to organise everything. However, with more attention to details, like the appropriate food and drink, the organisers would have spread their messages and marketed their dedication to sustainability a little better.
It is perceived the same way in the international media: The Guardian newspaper criticises the Mexican president's 'greenness' with ironic humour, outlining both the positive and negative achievements.
One positive however, is for example, that Felipe Calderon's forest protection program saw that 70% of Mexico's forests are owned by local communities. However the quality of the delivery and implementation of this scheme received severe criticism by social and environmental organisations both on a national and international level including Friends of the Earth.
With regard to the president, on a less positive note, his reforestation scheme, between 2007 and 2009, saw only 10% of the 500 million trees planted remain alive. This is a massive black spot on the president's green suit, however he received praise and prizes for his scheme from the UN (when the trees were still alive). But what is even sadder, says The Guardian, is that the money for this unsuccessful project was taken from small-scale community forest management projects.
Call on the President to ditch his flawed proposal
And then we have the rumours about the Mexican President's plans to make decisions with limited numbers of Heads of State here in Cancun. This would completely undermine the ethics of the UN Negotiating Processes, which are based on transparency, inclusiveness and democracy. Please take action and tell the Mexican President that Cancun should respect the general ethics of the UN Negotiation Processes:
However the sun is shining which gives us hope. The indigenous caravans from Southern Mexico are arriving in Cancun for Friends of the Earth events held tomorrow. They are coming to voice their concerns with the decision-makers here at COP16. We will probably see more sun in the coming days, as we are planning to cover the Dialogo Climatico and Via Campesina forums taking interviews and plenty of photos.
Dec 02, 2010
Around the world, as part of 1000 Cancuns, people are taking to the streets to call on world leaders to sign up to a just climate agreement. Here are a selection of photos from Brussels and the Philippines.
People take the streets in Brussels.
Philippine Movement for Climate Justice members launch their 12 days of action on the climate. Credit: LRC / Erwin B. Quinones
Friends of the Earth US demonstrate outside the White House.
Dec 01, 2010
This year’s UN climate talks might be happening on the other side of the globe, but that doesn’t mean they are passing people by in Europe. Francesca Gater from Friends of the Earth Europe blogs about the events she's been attending closer to home.
Over the weekend Friends of the Earth was part of several events which brought Cancun to Brussels and recaptured the spirit of the movement for climate justice we felt so much part of in Copenhagen. For those of us not travelling to Mexico it was a chance to come together with activists and allies from across Europe and show solidarity with our colleagues fighting for a just outcome in Cancun.
The weekend began on Friday when Brussels’ regular critical mass took on an international dimension. More than 120 cyclists, including a mounted samba band, toured the part of town where the European Institutions are. “System change not climate change” was their message to European negotiators heading to COP16.
The European Assembly for Climate Justice on Saturday brought together activists from Europe, and beyond, to discuss, debate, learn, share, plan...and enjoy amazing locally-grown food. More than 150 of us debated pertinent questions like, ‘Is there such a thing as green Capitalism?’, ‘How can we challenge the current unbalanced food and agriculture system?’, ‘What are the social and environmental costs of expanding carbon markets?’ and ‘How can we change our patterns of production and consumption to ensure everyone has access to basic human needs?’. Exploring these challenging issues with people from around Europe was fascinating.
We were privileged to be joined by some exceptionally inspirational international speakers. Evguenia Tchirikova from Russia told the assembly about the the battle to defend the Khimki forest on the edge of Moscow, in which she is a leading figure. Russian authorities are trying to chop down the forest to make way for a motorway and shops. The protests have been violently suppressed. Her story brought home the local and global dimensions of environmental struggles. The Khimki forest is one forest but is emblematic of the thousands of forests, lakes and other natural resources in Russia and around the world and those who are trying to profit from their destruction.
Qalandar Bux Memon from Pakistan shared his experiences of this year’s devastating floods which left one fifth of the country under water and 10 million people without homes. Unprecedented rainfall was the biggest factor, but this was exacerbated by the climate effect on melting glaciers, and deforestation and mangrove destruction. We heard how ecological disasters affect the poorest hardest. “Climate change is not tomorrow’s problem, we are already experiencing the catastrophe,” Qalander told us – a very powerful message from someone who has witnessed first-hand the impacts of a changing climate.
Singing for the climate
After an intense and motivating day, a trip to the Brussels Christmas market for a relaxing drink was a mistake. All the outdoor heaters and disposable cups were only a reminder of the scale of the challenge, and made me feel very powerless.
But that changed the next day with the climate march organised by the Belgian Climate Coalition. Evguenia , Qualander and myself joined around 4000 other people to walk through the streets of Brussels and assemble at a mass rally to ‘Sing for the Climate’. We definitely couldn’t compete with The Beatles but our rendition of their classic ‘Hey Jude’ had the right sentiment. The song’s lyrics had been rewritten specially with lines like, “Our earth, is not for sale, So we’ll take actions, to save the climate”. Belgium holds the current rotating Presidency of the European Union and is therefore representing Europe in Cancun, and the song called on its negotiators to work for climate justice at the talks.
It was not the spectacle of the ‘The Flood for Climate Justice’ Friends of the Earth organised last year, but it was nonetheless empowering to recapture some of the energy we had experienced in Copenhagen and to again feel part of a growing international movement. And the message hasn’t changed – negotiators at the climate talks must deliver climate justice, nothing else will do.
It feels like a lot has happened to bring Cancun to Brussels already, and that was all before the negotiations had even started! Now we have two more whole weeks of activities to look forward to. The European Youth Climate Justice Convergence organised by Young Friends of the Earth Europe is just beginning. It will see a daily programme of workshops, debates, skillshares, actions and film screenings in parallel to the negotiations which will show we don’t need to be in Mexico to follow the talks, learn, and take action to demand climate justice.