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Dec 08, 2010

World Bank criticized for establishing carbon market fund

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 08, 2010 12:26 PM

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/)

 

Watch a video of FoEI Chair Nnimmo Bassey explaining why we want the World Bank to stay out of any climate agreement.

Dec 07, 2010

Photos from Cancun

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 07, 2010 05:28 PM

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, cancun

Preparing for the International Day of Climate Action on December 7, 2010.

March of the Campesinos, cancun

March of the Campesinos: Marching for the rights of the Indigenous Villagers.

 

Clima radio, cancun

Clima Radio: Broadcasting live directly from the peoples' alternative summit.

alternative people's summit cancun

Indigenous Bolivians attending the alternative peoples' summit.

 

See all the photos from the Cancun climate talks and the mobilisations for climate justice around the world.

 

Photo credits: Sheila Menon/Marco Cadena

Dec 03, 2010

The Mexican Presidency of the UN climate talks

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 03, 2010 12:00 AM
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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. 

 

Sostenibilidad

Sostenibidad 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

Calling for climate justice in Brussels, the Philippines and the U.S

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 02, 2010 12:45 PM
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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.

cancun in brussels - 3

cancun in brussels - 4

People take the streets in Brussels.

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice 2

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice 3

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice members launch their 12 days of action on the climate. Credit: LRC / Erwin B. Quinones

Cancun in US

Cancun in US 2

Friends of the Earth US demonstrate outside the White House.

Dec 01, 2010

Bringing Cancun to Brussels

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 01, 2010 02:55 PM
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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.

cancun in brussels - 4Over 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.

 

cancun in brussels - 1We 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.

cancun in brussels - 3But 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.

Nov 30, 2010

Cocooned in Cancun

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 30, 2010 12:02 PM

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, is observing the UN climate talks in Cancun. Here he sets out the current state of play in the talks and outlines what we can expect. The prognosis is not good, but, there will be plenty of mobilisations and civil society scrutiny to remind the delegates that only a fair and just agreement will do.

un climate talks cancun entranceIt took a whole two hours of crawling on an express-way jammed by cars, buses and trucks heading to the Cancunmesse, a centre where delegates are screened before being ferried another 20-30 minutes to the Moon Palace - the venue of the talks.

 

For those who have visited this city, the location of the venue is rather isolated from the main city and may well have been selected for this reason. The routes are lined with armed police, including some on vehicles mounted with machine guns. The picture one comes off with is that of security overkill.

 

While welcoming delegates to the conference of the parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), president Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa of Mexico stated that the world must embark on the pursuit of “green development” and “green economy” as the path to sustainable development.

 

The president also stated that some of the steps to be taken to attain this ideal include progress on the negotiations on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) as well as development of technologies to reduce fuel emissions. Another key point was that the financing of sustainable development should start with support for the poorest and the most vulnerable countries.

 

These were nice words. These were also very contentious ideas. There are several red flags and concerns about REDD by indigenous groups and forest dependent peoples as well as mass social movements across the world. The idea of canvassing the extension of financial assistance to the poorest and the most vulnerable countries is also seen by critics as a possible way dividing those same nations and making them pliable to suggestions and decisions that may actually be contrary to their best interests.

 

another copenhagen?

Even before the Cancun conference opened there were concerns that efforts may already be afoot to rig the outcome, as was the case in Copenhagen in 2009. One concern is about a text for negotiation that is emanating from the chair of one of the working groups through an un-transparent process. Another concern has arisen from a decision of the Mexican president to invite selected heads of states to the conference. The list is not openly available, but already it is becoming clear that some uninvited presidents intend to be in Cancun.

 

The Copenhagen conference began and ended under a cloud of doubts and perceived undemocratic actions. At that meeting many delegations from developing and vulnerable nations believed that drafts of what would be the final outcome document were being discussed and circulated within privileged circles away from the standard practice where such negotiations took place on the open conference floor. 

 

Many delegates in Cancun hope that the conference will take a transparent pathway. In Copenhagen there was a steady flow of leaked documents allegedly prepared by the president of the COP. Already in Cancun there are concerns over draft text prepared by the chair of the ad hoc working group on Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) without due mandate of the working group. The other major working group under the COP is the one that deals with the Kyoto Protocol and another text is being expected from the chair of that working group also possibly without a mandate from the working group.

 

asad rehman cancunthe copenhagen accord and the peoples agreement

The year between conferences is spent on technical negotiations and preparations during which delegations review texts prepared by chairpersons of the working groups on the basis of the submissions made by the delegations or members. 

 

The document produced by the chair of the LCA appears to be something quite at variance with what many delegates expected would be the outcome of the negotiations and work done since Copenhagen. The document that delegates are to debate is allegedly based on the "Copenhagen Accord" which some delegates insist was not an agreement at the end of COP15, but was merely taken note of by that conference. Questions are being asked why such a document would now be legitimised and made the foundation for serious negotiations expected to produce a fair and ambitious agreement at the end of the conference in Cancun?  

 

After the Copenhagen conference ended without an agreement, the government of Bolivia hosted a first ever World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba in April 2010. The outcome of that conference was the Peoples Agreement that the government of Bolivia then articulated into a formal submission to the UNFCCC as well as the Secretary General of the United Nations.

 

The essential fault line between those following the path crafted by the Copenhagen Accord and those who do not accept it as the way towards a fair agreement that recognises the principle of common and differentiated responsibilities are quite serious and the resolution has deep consequences for the future of our planet and the species that inhabit it, including humankind. 

 

weak targets and small change

The draft text circulated by the chair of the LCA puts forward the ambition that may lead to an aggregate global temperature increase of up to 2°C as opposed to proposals made by a number of delegations that the target should be between a 1° and 1.5° temperature rise above pre-industrial levels. A 2°C temperature increase would mean catastrophic alteration to some parts of the world, with Africa being particularly vulnerable.

 

The text in question has also disregarded the demand by vulnerable nations that to ensure urgent and robust technology transfer for the purpose of mitigation and adaptation such transfers should not be governed by subsisting intellectual property rights regimes.

 

Another sore point in the text is that the financial commitment proposed does not step up to the level of ambition needed to tackle the climate crisis and is even less serious than what was suggested by the so-called Copenhagen Accord.

 

A coalition of civil society groups complained about the text from the chair of the LCA and also raised concerns about “the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, where the Chair of that track intends to propose his own text that will postpone adoption of legally binding emission reductions targets by the developed countries in Cancun, risks the expansion of accounting loopholes and replaces a legally-binding system with a voluntary pledge-based approach reflected in the Copenhagen Accord.”

 

meena raman cancunholding on to hope

The immediate past chair of the COP in her final statement indicated that the conference must move in a way that would show that Cancun can deliver a good outcome for tackling climate change.

 

Papua New Guinea suggested in a first statement at this conference that where there is no consensus, decision should be made by voting. He referred to the rejection of the Copenhagen Accord at COP15 and subsequent signing on by 140 countries. The delegates take was that only a small minority of states were holding others hostage. Papua New Guinea pledged cooperation and reasonableness in the COP. The suggestion by Papua New Guinea was promptly opposed by Bolivia, India and Saudi Arabia among other states. They insisted that that consensus must be maintained as a way to reach decisions.

 

Besides the crawl to the COP and the fact that getting to the different venues for the side events as well as the mobilisation and civil society spaces could mean a full day travelling, one hopes that the debates will be robust. That is one of the three things that will make being cocooned in Cancun bearable. The other is the exciting camaraderie of being among great Friends of the Earth International folks. And thirdly the first day of a two-week conference is not the appropriate day to lose all hope.

 

Photos: The entrance to the Moon Palace where the talks will take place; Asad Rehman, climate campaigner at the FoEI delegation meeting; Meena Raman climate campaigner at the FoEI delegation meeting. Copyright: Friends of the Earth International/Sheila Menon

Nov 25, 2010

The problems of corporate lobbying in the EU and how you can help fix it - today!

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 25, 2010 01:41 PM

Time is running out to vote in the Worst EU lobbying award. Sam Fleet from Friends of the Earth Europe explains why we need your help.

Two major issues marked 2009 and 2010: the financial crisis and the climate crisis. On both fronts corporate lobbying directed to EU decision-makers – in the European Parliament and Commission, but also in national Member States – has been as intense as it was successful. 

 

 

The failure of the Copenhagen talks on the one hand, and the lack of strong reforms on the financial markets on the other hand, have demonstrated the strength and the powerful strategies of business when it comes to for-profit lobbying at the expense of more climate- and consumer-friendly regulation. Already, millions of people worldwide are suffering from the consequences. Big business has been profiting at the expense of both people and planet.

 

That is why this year’s Worst EU Lobbying Awards has a twofold focus: climate and finance. The awards aim to expose and counter the dirty lobbying tactics related to climate change policies and financial regulation in order to make the big business lobby less credible among EU decision-making circles, and to tackle the problem of privileged access to EU decision-makers that these underhand tactics have granted big business.  

 

However, you can help fix the lobbying mess in the EU! By voting for the worst lobbyists, and sending a message to the European Commissioner in charge of transparency, you are strengthening our campaign for transparent lobbying and the end of privileged access. Not only are you taking part in a massive "name and shame" exercise of the nominees shortlisted this year, but you are also signalling EU decision-makers that they need to take responsibility for the privileged access they allow big business for. Therefore your support is essential! We need your voice to put this message in the priority in-tray of the European Commission.

 

Time is running out! Voting closes on 26 November! Vote and make a difference!

 

Find out more about the nominees and cast your vote!

Jul 20, 2010

GMO-Free Europe Conference 2010

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 20, 2010 02:13 PM

Come and take part in the 6th European Conference of GMO-Free Regions, Brussels and Ghent, September 16-18, 2010. Co-organised by Friends of the Earth Europe.

GMO-Free Europe Conference 20102010 will be a decisive year for the future of GMOs in Europe. New approvals for the cultivation of GMOs and new legislative proposals by the European Commission are pending. With his approval of the first GMO for cultivation since 1998  the new Commissioner in charge sent out a clear message about his intentions.GMO-Free Europe 2010 will send back an equally clear message and prepare for further action.

 

The GMO-Free movement has continuously expanded, increased and diversified all across Europe and well beyond. On September 16 at our session in the European Parliament we will present our demands to the public and to institutions in Brussels. For two days we will then retreat to Ghent for exchanging experience, information, ideas and strategies, for discussing the challenges ahead and for preparing joint activities.

 

We invite representatives from formal and informal GMO-free regions, GMO-free initiatives and activists on related issues from all over Europe. Breeders and seed exchangers, farmers, bee-keepers, gmo-free traders, processors and retailers as well as consumers, critical scientists and environmental activists are welcome. 

 

  • An organizing committee has started to work and is open for your suggestions.

  • If you want to organise workshops, present ideas, share experiences please do contact us now.

  • If you can help with organisation (e.g. translation, web maintenance, outreach) please let us know.

  • The budget for the conference is not yet secured: We are urgently looking for co-sponsors and funders. We therefore cannot make any commitments to fund travel expenses at this moment - but will try our best

  • Participants fees will be 80 € for institutions and organisations and 50 € for small NGOs.

 

Get ready - Get going - lets do it again!
Find out more

Jul 07, 2010

Climategate review clears scientists

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 07, 2010 05:17 PM
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Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland react to the news that the scientists accused of dishonesty over climate data have been cleared.

Commenting on today's report by Sir Muir Russell on the leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, Friends of the Earth's

Executive Director Andy Atkins said:

 

"By confirming the integrity of the climate scientists this report shows we cannot afford to ignore expert warnings on the risks of climate change.

 

"The vast majority of climate scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening - if nine out of 10 pilots said that they thought that a plane was likely to crash no-one would be foolish enough to fly in it.

 

"Reducing our growing dependency on fossil fuels by investing in green power and slashing energy waste will also boost the economy by strengthening our energy security and create new jobs and business opportunities.

 

"It's time to see through the dangerous smokescreen of climate scepticism and get on with the urgent task of building a clean, safe and low-carbon future."

Jun 25, 2010

Conference on Forest and Biodiversity, Community Rights and Indigenous Peoples

by PhilLee — last modified Jun 25, 2010 12:24 PM

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific (FoE APAC) is pleased to host the Conference on Forest and Biodiversity, Community Rights and Indigenous Peoples with the theme "Ecological Equity: Sharing the Stories, Reclaiming our Rights", which will take place at the Jerejak Rainforest Resort, Penang, Malaysia, in October 14-17, 2010.

sarawak barricades-1The conference aims to provide a space for indigenous communities from all over the world to share stories about their struggle for ecological equity. While learning from them, the conference will give us the opportunity to share ideas with the communities in order to advance their cause on their rights to forests and biodiversity.

 

FoE APAC along with FoE Malaysia, in consultation with the FoEI Forests and Biodiversity program are finalising speakers now from indigenous communities in the region.

 

If you want to express your interest in the conference you can do so by emailing Shujata Shalini shujata26@hotmail.com.

Jun 03, 2010

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific Solidarity Statement on the Gaza Flotilla

by PhilLee — last modified Jun 03, 2010 10:13 AM
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Justice for the Free Gaza flotilla victims and the Gaza people - end Israeli aggression now!

The women, children and men of Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific are outraged by the Israeli attack on the Free Gaza flotilla and the continued injustice towards the Gaza people. Israeli elite navy corps stormed the ships filled with civilians, killing 19 according to reports and injuring dozens. The attack done on international waters was an act of piracy. This marks the latest attack in an escalation of violence and repression against people standing up against Israeli crimes. Israel has decided to silence, by death or imprisonment, all those ready to speak out.

 

The Israeli attack was well prepared and according to Israeli news the political establishment had calculated that media backlash was less important than keeping the people in Gaza cut off from the world and humanitarian aid.

 

Not content with massacres against the Palestinian population, international solidarity is in Israel’s crosshairs now. People telling the true story, people defying the dictates of Israeli racist and colonial laws have become a threat to Israeli apartheid. Ironically, this brutal attack highlights the strength people can have when they are determined to resist power and injustice.

 

The suffering of the people in Gaza must end now! It is time to end Israeli apartheid, colonialism and aggression!

 

Hundreds of activists around Asia Pacific and the world protested the raid and the blockade - joining demonstrations around the world. Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific calls on all activists around the world to join in solidarity and hold protests and vigils in memory of the people killed on board the ships.

 

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific urges international solidarity groups to work with even more determination to build a strong and effective movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions until Israel respects human rights and international law, and until justice prevails in Palestine.

 

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific, calls on the United Nations, the European Commission and the United States of America to:

 

  • Suspend trade agreements with Israel
  • Condemn this violation of international law
  • Provide humanitarian assistance to participants in the flotilla and act to lift the blockade of Gaza
  • Call for the urgent establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry into the attack

 

The victims on board the Free Gaza flotilla may not be brought back, but with our concerted actions, we can make a difference and claim justice for the victims and stand with our sisters and brothers in Gaza.

 

further information

Listen to testimonies from some of the people who were part of the flotilla on Real World Radio

Apr 24, 2010

World Peoples Climate Change Summit Ends

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 24, 2010 01:05 PM
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A team of Friends of the Earth climate justice campaigners are in Cochabamba, Bolivia attending an historic people's summit on climate change. Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International is also there and wrote this blog post.

FoEI team in bolivia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




The last day of the World Peoples Climate Change Conference was remarkable in many ways. The day opened with a dialogue session between governments and peoples. This session clearly showed a convergence between the thinking of governments and peoples with regard to the structural causes of climate change and the ways to tackle it.

 

In attendance were Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The Vice President of Cuba, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador and a representative of the United Nations were also in attendance. There were official delegations from 47 countries including those from Paraguay, Panama, Mexico, Georgia, Uruguay, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Brazil, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Spain, Sweden, India, Mali, Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, Qatar and South Korea.

The closing session was held at the Cochabamba stadium and the atmosphere was one of a fiesta with reports of the outcome of the working groups and fiery speeches from Presidents Morales and Chavez.

Addressing the Dialogue session, Morales stated that Copenhagen was a failure for those who were not interested in tackling climate change but a success for those fighting to save Mother Earth. He thanked governments present, social movements and international organisations. He then called for “conclusions that would ensure that governments have responsibilities to our peoples.” He also called for the setting up of structures and processes for the defence of Mother Earth at national, regional and global levels. He urged that debates should be transparent and have future generations in mind.

Promoting hayaya

cochabamba-br07.jpgAccording to the Bolivian Minister for Foreign Affairs the conference was called for the promotion of life or hayaya as they say in Bolivia.

The Minister gave an overview of the workings of the 17 thematic groups during the conference stressing that they started online debates two and a half months before the conference with inputs from scholars, indigenous peoples, civil society groups and social movements. He said that the Bolivian government had actually expected 10,000 to 15,000 participants, but that at the end of the day over 35,000 people from 142 countries participated. Of this number 9,250 were from countries other than Bolivia.

Speaking about aspects of the work he mentioned the need for a climate tribunal where individuals and countries would be held to account for climate crimes. On climate debt, he urged that there was a need to settle it, although, he said, even if countries achieve 100% reduction in carbon emissions today, "we would not recover up to 10% of what has been lost already."

The people have spoken

cochabamba-br10.jpgFour delegates presented preliminary reports from the working groups. Among key resolutions was that the Accord of Cochabamba should be promoted and within this should be a clear recognition of climate debt to be paid without intervention of international financial institutions such as the World Bank. It also called for the promotion of a new development model away from the destructive tendencies of unbridled capitalist modes.

There was a total rejection of market mechanisms in tackling climate change, including REDD and a total rejection of the Copenhagen Accord and its voluntary emissions rejection suggestions and attempt to expand the carbon market. There was also a call for transfer of technology and adequate finance.

The people also resolved that the definition of forests in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should be reviewed to exclude monoculture plantations. A clear call was also made to leave fossil fuels such as crude oil in the soil and extractions in forests.

Modern biotechnology in agriculture was also denounced with one delegate saying, "Mother Earth is a living being and must not be used as a slave."

The working groups did not always have easy debates, but unlike the UN climate processes they managed to reach conclusions in record time.

The world must not be held to ransom

cochabamba-br08.jpgResponses from governments came from Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela. The United Nations representative also responded.

The Cuban vice-president conveyed greetings from the president of his country as well as from Fidel Castro. He regretted the inability of governments to frontally tackle climate change, the most urgent threat confronting humanity today. He added that the essence of capitalism was recently revealed when $12 trillion was mobilised to rescue banks and reward financial speculators rather than investing in the urgent need of saving lives and the planet. He regretted that 1 billion of the population of the rich world waste 50% of the world’s energy while 2 billion people do not have access to electricity.

He then called on peoples of the world to ensure that a few rich countries do not hold everyone to ransom over the climate change negotiations.

Keeping our dignity

cochabamba-br02.jpgTo Ecuador, climate change ceased being a purely environmental issue years ago. It has become an issue for geo-politics in the world. The foreign minister recognised the role of civil society in finding real solutions as vital. “There can be no serious tackling of climate change without civil society groups involvements,” he said.

Speaking about the arm-twisting strategy of the USA to get governments to agree to the Copenhagen Accord, the foreign minister revealed that the USA withdrew $2.5 million of environmental aid they had pledged to extend to Ecuador because the country refused to endorse the accord. 

 

In response to this the Ecuadorean minister said, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but also in dignity. We cannot allow blackmail to affect our dignity.” As a dignified country, Ecuador has offered to give the USA $2.5 million if they sign the Kyoto Protocol.  He called on other countries to add to this offer to urge the USA to sign the protocol.

Responding later to this call, President Chavez said that rather than giving money to the USA such funds should be channeled towards getting people to attend the climate talks coming up in Cancun, Mexico.

The minister urged nations to include the rights of Mother Earth in their constitutions, noting that the Ecuadorian provision allows communities to press for rights on behalf of nature, since nature on its own cannot make such demands at a court of law.

He ended the response from Ecuador by revealing that their proposal to leave the oil in the soil of the Yasuni Park means not extracting over 4000 metric tonnes of crude oil and a loss of $7 billion. He said his country is ready to bear 50% of that loss and that they expect other countries and organisations to share the burden of the other 50%. He urged other nations to adopt this important initiative as a real solution to climate change.

Learning to listen

The key message from the United Nations was that they have learned the vital need of listening to people from the conference in Cochabamba. They came here to listen especially to the voices that are never heard in official circles. "We have learned here to be more open to listen and have better communication with people from all sectors around the world."

They were also happy that the conclusions "fit" the UNFCCC.

We will go to Cancun

cochabamba-br03.jpgIn his response, President Chavez thanked President Morales for hosting the conference and added that the Cochabamba conference was a continuation of the battle of Copenhagen. He recalled how both of them were almost denied space to make contributions at the Copenhagen conference and how they persisted and with the support of the Cuban vice president got some space to intervene. The Cochabamba conference was a success and also marked a rise of the moral authority of Bolivia in the climate change struggle, according to him.

He declared that no one would stop him from attending COP16 at Cancun and urged the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) states to mobilise resources to assist as many as should attend the conference in Cancun to do so. He also called for massive dissemination of the outcomes of Cochabamba as a tool for popular education, strategizing and mobilisation for the fight against climate change. 

He wondered why human beings considered themselves to be of a higher order than other species whereas we do not see ants or animals declaring war on each other while nations keep destroying each other through wars.

He recalled a saying that the earth is our aircraft, we don’t have another one and yet we are destroying it. For some countries to maintain their current consumption levels we will need five earths, he warned. He also brought to mind an article that Albert Einstein wrote that the future of mankind could only be secured through socialism.

President Chavez thereafter spent time setting out strong arguments for the construction of socialism in countries of the world, each taking cognizance of their specific contexts.

He explained that his commitment to fight for real solutions to climate change: "we are not in a permanent state of rebellion, we are just concerned about the future of the earth."

He concluded by saying that the so-called Copenhagen accord to which 120 countries have been coerced to adopt is of no higher standing than the outcomes of the Cochabamba conference. He urged that if the United Nations allows the voice of The Empire to prevail, then peoples have to take steps to ensure that their voices are heard

Taking up that line, President Morales urged that if governments do not listen to the voice of the people social movements should once more take the lead in bringing about popular revolutions to safe the earth: build alliances and structures across the continents and erect a new paradigm of relations and production that will safe Mother Earth.

He told the gathering that the outcomes of the conference will be handed over to the Secretary General of the United Nations as major document for future climate talks. 

Leaving Cochabamba

cochabamba-br11.jpgThis was my first time in Bolivia. A day spent in La Paz saw me panting for breath on account of the elevation of the city above see level. Adjusting to the environment was easy due to the warmth of my hosts and many cups of coca tea.

People were friendly in Cochabamba and the FoEI squad were fantastic. With scant Spanish it was the lot of Cristina Fernandez, a volunteer, to ensure I got to my many destinations on schedule and also to communicate with so many folks that needed to be communicated with. It was a fulfilling time in need.

Looking forward to flying out of La Paz, I recalled the beautiful peaks of the Andes and look forward to flying over Lake Titicaca rated as the highest navigable lake in the world – wishing I could scoop a handful of its water as I fly over it!

To the grassroots we must take the outcomes of Cochabamba, and then to Cancun.


Further reading

Bolivian President, Evo Morales, invited Friends of the Earth to join him to brief the UN on the latest in international climate talks. Find out more

Apr 21, 2010

Capitalism is root cause of climate change – President Evo Morales

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 21, 2010 11:10 PM
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A team of Friends of the Earth climate justice campaigners are in Cochabamba, Bolivia attending an historic people's summit on climate change. Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International is also there and wrote this blog post.

cochabamba-2President Evo Morales of Bolivia did not mince words yesterday when he diagnosed the root cause of climate change as being capitalism and all that it entails. The President was speaking at the formal opening of the first-ever World Peoples Climate Change Summit (CMPCC).

The Tiquipaya stadium, venue of the event, was filled to capacity with about 10,000 people from the nations and continents of the world. Many more milled around the streets outside the stadium while thousands more queued in the town square waiting for accreditation to participate in the conference.

 

Present on the platform with the President was the Vice President of Burundi, country ambassadors and representatives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat. Seventeen thousand participants were expected at this conference but by the end of the second day up to 30,000 had registered.

Victory in Copenhagen

The opening ceremony was colourful in the literal sense with multicoloured flags waving, music by musicians from various countries and rituals carried out by leaders of indigenous peoples of the Americas. There was also poetry (written and read by this writer. See end of this report).

To President Morales, the Copenhagen climate conference was not a failure but a victory. According to him, it was a failure of governments but a victory for the peoples of the world.

"We are here today because the governments of the world could not reach an agreement in Copenhagen on cutting emissions and acting on climate change,” he said. 

 

"If they had reached a just agreement, this gathering would not have been necessary."
 
According to Morales, capitalism and its pursuit of profits and limitless extraction of resources in a finite world is hastening the disappearance of species, the rise of hunger, melting of glaciers and small island nations may disappear. He added that in the last 100 years, developed countries with 20% of the world’s population have generated over 76% of carbon emissions responsible for climate change. 

"Capitalism merchandises everything. It seeks continual expansion. The system needs to be changed. We have to choose between change or death,"

President Morales warned, adding, "Capitalism is the number one enemy of mankind.”

 

He saw a sustainable future as being possible only through actions of solidarity and complementarities as well as equity and the respect of human rights, right to water and biodiversity – the Rights of Mother Earth – a new system of rights that abolishes all forms of colonialism.

The President condemned the erosion of sustainable and traditional ways of life, indigenous knowledge and wisdom. He also condemned the introduction of genetically engineered crops as well as heavy dependence on chemicals in agriculture.
 

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth

cochabamba-1The president said that the climate conference was called so that governments and peoples can sit together and fashion out ways to save the earth from climate change resulting from current destructive modes of production and consumption. To him, it is vital for governments to respect the views of social movements and peoples of the world. He called for the decolonisation of the atmosphere and a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth. Such a charter will secure for the people of the world a right to freedom from fear of pollution as well as from fear of contamination of the food chain through genetic engineering.

President Morales called for the building of intercontinental movements, strengthening of international organisations and organisations of indigenous peoples and workers.  He reminded the gathering that in recent times nature has been sending strong signals to the world through tsunamis, floods and earthquakes. In addition to these signals, climate change portends more dangers. Urgent action is needed.

In conclusion, the president called on the peoples of the world to act together to save Mother Earth from capitalism: “There are two options before us all, two ways that we must choose from: death to capitalism or death to Mother Earth.”

Mother Earth or Barbarism

Speaking later in the day on a panel that examined the structural causes of climate change, Alvaro Garcia Linera, the Vice President of Bolivia, further explained the concept of Mother Earth. We note here that President Morales attended this session held at the Coliseo of the Univalle and sat among the participants. (That in itself constitutes a message to leaders who need to know that they need to listen and hear what the people are saying.)

"The concept of Mother Earth is not just a slogan. It means a new way of producing, a new way of relationship with nature and with one another,” he said. “This relationship is one of equality and not domination, a relationship of dialogue, of giving and receiving. It is not merely a philosophy or folklore. It is a new ethics, a new way of developing technologies and modes of production."

Recalling a statement by Rosa Luxemburg, "socialism or barbarism," Vice President Linera said that today we could say "Mother Earth or barbarism."

Affirming that capitalism was the root cause of climate change and many of the ills of the world today, Linera said that the system permits oil companies and the military complex to commit genocide, destroy the environment and reap ever-rising profits at the expense of the blood of the people.

"Nothing will change as long as capitalism reigns," he warned. “It is a system that destroys society and nature through the destruction of knowledge and positive productive forces. It is a system without conscience."

Vice President Linera called for the rebuilding of our collective environmental and social consciousness. He also called for the building of an organic relationship with nature where human beings understand that nature has rights and human beings have obligations towards nature.

In an oblique reference to carbon offsets and REDD projects, Linera warned, "We are not forest rangers for those causing pollutions and climate change. This system of indulgences cannot be accepted. It is a system of colonialism. It is not a solution."

Keep the Oil in the Soil

cochabamba-3Speaking also on the structural causes of climate change, Maria Espinosa, a minister from Ecuador, said that climate change must not be used as a smokescreen to obscure other problems confronting the world today, including the lingering impacts of the structural adjustment programmes foisted on developing nations by the World Bank and the IMF in the 1980s. 

Espinosa informed participants that owing to Ecuador’s refusal to associate with the Copenhagen Accord drawn up by a few countries during COP15, the United States of America government has refused Ecuador an environmental aid of $2.5 million. In response, Ecuador has offered to pay the USA $2.5 million if they sign the Kyoto Protocol.

She also spoke on the Ecuadorian initiative to disallow the exploitation of crude oil in the Yasuni Park, a biodiversity hotspot and home to indigenous peoples. This move will keep 400 million metric tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere thus offering a real solution to climate change.

Earlier this writer, while speaking on the same panel, had said that the real solution to climate change is the cutting of emissions at source and that rather than waste resources on untested technologies such as those of carbon capture and storage and geo-engineering, the world should quickly move away from the fossil fuels driven civilization.  This call is captured in the well-known slogan: leave the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole and the tar sands in the land.

We also stated that the equation of energy security to national security has led some nations into military adventures which apart from being destructive in themselves consume huge fossil fuels and compound the problems of climate change. We also rejected the neoliberal systems that permit the World Bank to parade itself as a climate bank while funding dirty energy projects such as the Eskom coal plant in South Africa and a number of other fossil fuels projects elsewhere.  We called for the overturning of corporate power and halting its erosion of peoples’ sovereignty.

Transformation solutions offered included:

  • Reclaiming peoples control over their resources
  • Building progressive people-oriented governments and power structures and shifting away from capitalist modes of relations
  • Direct action to stem climate crimes at source
  • Legislation – such as the Rights of Mother Earth
  • Litigation and other actions that connect civil society actions in the North and the South. Example the prosecution of Shell in the Netherlands over pollution in Nigeria.
  • Leave fossil fuels in the soil
  • Reject the Copenhagen Accord


The working groups continued their work throughout yesterday and many other panels with enthusiastic participation.

 

I will not dance to your beat

(a poem by Nnimmo Bassey)

                                                     
I will not dance to your beat
If you call plantations forests
I will not sing with you
If you privatise my water
I will confront you with my fists
If climate change means death to me but business to you
I will expose your evil greed
If you don’t leave crude oil in the soil
Coal in the hole and tar sands in the land
I will confront and denounce you
If you insist on carbon offsetting and other do-nothing false solutions
I will make you see red
If you keep talking of REDD and push forest communities away from their land
I will drag you to the Climate Tribunal 
If you pile up ecological debt
& refuse to pay your climate debt
I will make you drink your own medicine 
If you endorse genetically modified crops
And throw dust into the skies to mask the sun
I will not dance to your beat
Unless we walk the sustainable path
And accept real solutions & respect Mother Earth
Unless you do
I will not &
We will not dance to your beat

Cochabamba, Tiquipaya, Bolivia
20 April 2010

 

Read at the opening ceremony of the World Peoples Climate Conference Summit.

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