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Oct 26, 2011

Rio+20 or is it -20

by PhilLee — last modified Oct 26, 2011 03:05 PM
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My name is Lucia Ortiz. I've been working with Friends of the Earth Brazil for more than 10 years. In this period, I have joined Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) at UN climate conferences, Rio+10 (the United Nations conference on sustainable development) in Johannesburg and many civil society gatherings. In June 2012 it will be time for us to host friends again in Brazil for the Rio+20 conference.

Lucia Ortiz
Lucia Ortiz
The discussion about the outcomes and expectations for Rio+20 is starting in the federation, based on the views of member groups. As the national member in Brazil, we would like to share some of our thoughts in this space. We invite you all to have some fun and collective free thinking! 


How we see Rio+20 in Brazil

We've been a part of the Brazilian civil society facilitator committee for Rio+20 since November 2010, representing Rede Brasil on Financial Institutions along with twenty other national networks and social movements with diverse perspectives. In this process we have been developing our views from exchanges and collective thinking with our allies, while monitoring the Brazilian government's positions.

There is no real official process to cope with the three main and noble objectives of the conference: to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, to assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps (and why not their structural causes?) in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development since Rio92, and to address new and emerging challenges.

The Conference will also focus on two themes: the first, any guesses? Green economy! And the other one, Global Governance (or control?) of the environment. The most recent UN climate talks related to the issues of sustainable development, and the totally insufficient preparation process for Rio+20, can give us a clue on how controversy it can be.


Currently our main concerns do not lie in the outcomes or possible agreements at the conference itself, as a “zero draft” will be known only by January 2012.


As the official United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) “Road Map to Rio+20” clearly states, while some organisations, as well as corporations, keep busy with these official contributions, the ongoing process consists of "recommending domestic strategies (national policies) that developing countries (not industrialised countries) need to put in place to meet the challenges of transitioning to the green economy”.

The pressure to move to a "green" economy

The pressure to speed up these initiatives are already being felt by peoples in the South. 'Structural adjustment of environmental and land tenure policies', also known as land grabbing, is now taking place on a massive scale at an alarming pace. This is similar to the neoliberal adjustment of national policies in the 1990’s to liberalise public services, or to the rules imposed by TLCs/FTAs to open access to land and minerals by corporations. We are told we must now must adapt domestic laws to the new green capitalist phase which means to liberalise the environment for the markets.


So the transition to the green economy comes in a series of steps described very clearly by a community leader from Amazonia. The dismantling of forest laws, then the approval of so called climate change laws (that do not mention any decrease in fossil fuel consumption but centrally the creation of imaginary caps and carbon markets whose rights are assured by the state), then the new laws on REDD that allow certificates known as green titles to be traded in stock markets to offset pollution by industrialised countries (that do not need any transition to green economy), and finally the laws about Payment for Environmental Services (PES), or the domestic internalisation of The Economy of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).

Instruments of the green economy, REDD and PES, mean the concrete interpretation of the results of the UN climate summit in Cancun, 2010 (COP16) and of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Nagoya, 2010 (COP10). This threatens the sovereignty of communities over their territories.


By generating green papers out of common goods, such as carbon, water, biodiversity and even cultural values, they are aimed at saving a discredited financial system rather than the people or the planet.


The difference of the Rio+20 tentative global green deal and the neoliberal consensus of Washington is that the last came before the structural adjustments, while Rio+20 will come after and put a green UN label on the false consensus that is green capitalism.

As Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, once said: "If Rio92 was known as the Earth Summit, Rio+20 can be known as the summit of the commodification of nature."


The problem is it's already happening!


Further information

See video testimony about REDD and FAS in the Amazonas region, Brazil (in Portuguese)


Read more about structural adjustment policies



UNRISD Conference: bringing back the social dimension?

by PhilLee — last modified Oct 26, 2011 03:10 PM
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Friends of the Earth Brazil's Lucia Ortiz blogs on the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development conference that took place recently in Switzerland.

Last week I carried out the task I was assigned by FoEI and participated in the UNRISD (UN Research Institute for Social Development) Conference called “Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Bringing Back the Social Dimension”. I was very curious to know where it was (the social in green economy) to start with… 


At the conference I had the chance to put forward FoEI's views on the green economy and to exchange and learn from very committed social researchers, sometimes burdened by the green agendas of donors and agencies, but with a clear call for independent research on real social change in these times of colourful changes.


Scientists are engaged in the challenge to break down the wall of the false dichotomy between social and ecological dimensions in modern science, that have split unnaturally peoples from nature in our industrial society. I have many stories and insights from the conference to share, but the statement I liked the most was a reference to my speech made during the presentation by a UNEP representative.

The representative said: "No comparison can be made with structural adjustments of the '90’s, as a green economy is not about an adjustment of macro economy as it was then, it is only an ‘adjustment of the structure’ (read: of the policies in developing countries)”.


Ah…do you feel any better? I don’t! So the economic system is fine, what needs to adapt to the new capitalist phase are governments, policies, peoples and the environment!


Further information

Read the program and papers of the UNRISD Conference

Oct 11, 2011

Civil society calls on the Malaysian Government to halt nuclear development plan

by PhilLee — last modified Oct 11, 2011 12:58 PM

Civil society organisations from Japan, South Korea, Australia and Malaysia said they are convinced beyond doubt that nuclear power has no place in Malaysian’s quest to chart a sustainable energy future.

Japan blog-water-demo-1Friends of the Earth Australia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and a number of other civil society organisations are urging the government of Malaysia to increase its support for sustainable energy instead of spending taxpayers’ money on nuclear technology which has proven time and again to be economically, environmentally and socially harmful.


The calls come out of a two day public forum which provided an insight into the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy to achieve a healthy energy mix for Malaysia. The forum heard first-hand the suffering endured by the people of Fukushima from the tsunami which triggered a nuclear crisis as a result of the meltdown of three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.


Eri Watanabe, the Nuclear and energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Japan said:


“The accident in Fukushima reminded us that once a severe accident happens, the environmental and social impacts are irreversible


"So far, the Japanese government cannot sufficiently protect their people from radiation. However, the government still continues its policy to promote exports of nuclear power technology. This is morally wrong because its own people are still suffering so much from the accident.


"I strongly recommend that the Malaysian government and people rethink the introduction of nuclear energy for your prosperity and for the next generation.


Seiichi Nakate, a Representative of the Fukushima Network for Protecting Children from Radiation said:


“I would not want the Malaysian people to experience the tragedy that people in Fukushima are now facing. I came here only because I wanted to tell you this. In Fukushima, more than 100,000 families have been separated because of the nuclear accident. And even now, one million people still live in contaminated areas with deep sufferings and anxiety.


"Human beings must abandon nuclear power plants. We must not allow a single nuclear power plant to be built any more.”


Kim Hye Jeong, Executive Coordinator of Friends of the Earth Korea said:


“Korea’s nuclear technologies are questionable as shown by its track record of 646 minor and major accidents in a period of 32 years since the installation of its first nuclear power plant in 1978.


“We are appalled that the APR1400 nuclear reactor that has yet to be commercially tested in South Korea might just be the type of reactor that the Malaysian government is considering buying from us.


"We condemn the South Korean Government’s plan to export such sub‐standard technology to a developing country like Malaysia under the pretext of international technical cooperation,” she added.


Dr Jim Green, National nuclear campaigner at Friends of the Earth Australia said:


“Australian uranium was used in the Fukushima reactors that were destroyed in March. We Australians do not want to be responsible for similar disasters in Malaysia.”


He also added that, over a 50 year lifespan, a single nuclear reactor is responsible for 1,500 tonnes of high level nuclear waste and a staggering 35 million tonnes of low level radioactive tailings waste. The Malaysian government should not bequeath this toxic legacy to future generations.


After the forum, several Malaysian civil society groups who were present pledged to work together in a concerted campaign against the proposed nuclear power plants.