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Dec 09, 2011

Civil society takes action in Durban for a fair agreement

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 09, 2011 07:23 PM

This afternoon hundreds of climate justice activists staged a protest at the UN climate talks in support of a strong and fair agreement to protect Africa and the world.

COP17 protest 

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FoEI's Chair Nnimmo Bassey said:

“The people have spoken loud and clear: we need climate justice now and this means urgent action.  Yet the politicians inside the talks are once again failing to deliver. If urgent, ambitious action is not taken the lives of millions will be in peril.”


“Developed countries are responsible for this crisis. They must now stop trying to protect their polluters. They must commit to the ambitious emissions reductions the science and justice tell us we need to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

UN climate talks 2011: Durban

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 09, 2011 08:25 PM
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As world leaders met in Durban, South Africa to discuss efforts to tackle global warming, Friends of the Earth International were there calling on the rich developed countries, which have historically emitted the most greenhouse gases, to agree to urgent and dramatic cuts in their emissions.

Day of Action durban 2Members of the FoEI delegation carry a 'no carbon trading' banner on the streets of Durban during the Global Day of Action.  We're calling on developed countries to tackle climate change by urgently making real changes at home.

Carbon offsetting – when developed countries buy carbon credits from developing countries to avoid cutting emissions themselves – has no part to play in a just international agreement to fight climate change.

We believe in climate justice which means emission cuts in developed countries, and money for developing countries to grow cleanly and adapt to the effects of climate change – but it also means a change in our consumption patterns.

coverage of the talks and further reading

Press releases


Take action


FoEI Chair Nnimmo Bassey blogs for the New Internationalist


Updates from Durban: inside and outside the talks




Young Friends of the Earth








Civil society events in Durban

3,000 people demand EU leadership at climate talks

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 09, 2011 04:52 PM

Yesterday Friends of the Earth International handed the head of the EU delegation in Durban a list of over 3000 people who have written in to demand strong EU leadership at the UN climate talks.

eu petition hand in3,040 people sent a letter via our on-line action, calling on Mr. Tomasz Chruszczow and the EU to take a strong position on the following topics:

  • Unconditionally support a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally-binding climate agreement.
  • Agree to a legally-binding reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 40 per cent domestically by 2020.
  • Close current loopholes, like carbon trading, which allow the EU to keep polluting.


As the Durban negotiations are nearing a close, the EU must show the world that it is serious about tackling climate change and sign a strong and fair agreement.

Dec 07, 2011

Reclaiming power: energy models that serve people and the planet

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 07, 2011 12:10 PM
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Today at the C17 space Friends of the Earth hosted the energy sessions. A range of speakers presented the current energy system's failings and discussed what the alternatives could look like, and what dangers lie ahead.

reclaiming power publicationThe afternoon began with Nnimmo Bassey, chairman of Friends of the Earth International, leading a discussion of how our fossil-fuel based system fails people and the planet.

Fossil fuels destroy local environments and communities, drive dangerous climate change and fail to provide sufficient energy to 40 per cent of the world's population.


There are solutions though. In the session 'An energy sector we want to see', Pascoe Sabido from Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland looked at small scale renewable energy, often managed by communities, as a way of reclaiming power.

Pascoe talked about the need for a global feed in tariff (GFIT) that would provide upfront financing from public sources for universal access to renewable electric power and non-electric energy services such as solar water heaters and biogas. The collection and dispersal of funds would take into account the climate debt owed by the north to the south and by the rich to the poor.

The sources of funding for such a mechanism could include the diversion of fossil fuel subsidies, diverting military spending, imposing a levy on aviation and maritime fuels or imposing a financial transaction tax on speculative international money flows.

On the cost of renewables Pascoe believes that economies of scale would also play a part in driving down prices.

"As more people around the world invest in solar and other renewables the price would come down for everyone, in both the north and the south.


"Once the cost of renewables fall below the cost of fossil fuels, they will be the default energy choice" he said.

Friends of the Earth believes that such a radical transformation of the energy system will be handing back power to the people. Not just in the literal sense but it will also mean a shift in power relationships.

"Energy companies would be the consumers, buying surplus energy from the people. This transformative effect could also change communities, promoting true democracy and self organisation" Pascoe concluded.


Further information

Read Friends of the Earth's report 'Reclaiming power'


Profiting from pollution: an introduction to carbon trading

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 07, 2011 06:00 AM

Today at the C17 civil society space a panel of speakers talked about the various carbon trading initiatives to have emerged from the Kyoto Protocol and the impacts they are having in the real world.

First to speak was Oscar Reyes, from Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland on the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).


The CDM came out of the Kyoto Protocol. In short, it allows polluting companies in the north to buy credits from polluting companies in the south so they can continue business as usual.


Oscar pointed out the main flaw of the scheme:


"What many people fail to see is that offsets are not reductions. They're moved emissions. They're about storytelling. You predict how much you could have emitted and then promise to emit a little less.


"Once you've done that it's just a case of convincing the UN accreditation panel of your story. If they buy it, you get the credits."


The CDM and Waste

Wastepickers alliance
The Wastepickers Alliance at the UN climate talks.

Simon Mbata from the South African Wastepickers Association spoke about the impacts of the CDM on the livelihoods of wastepickers. He explained how CDM funds are being paid to companies to build waste incinerators and to harness methane from landfill sites. As a result wastepickers are often forcibly excluded from waste sites.


He agrees that it's better to put the methane from landfill sites to good use rather than releasing it into the air, but:


"It is even better not to emit methane in the first place. Almost all waste can be treated so it doesn't make it to the landfill. That's why wastepickers need to be part of the process and integrated into the whole waste management system." he said.


easy money for polluters

Tristen Taylor, from Earthlife South Africa, talked about how large energy companies are making money out of carbon offsetting.


He introduced us to the South African energy company Sasol, the world’s leader in coal-to-liquid (CTL) technology - the most carbon-intensive way of making petrol and diesel. Sasol’s Secunda plant produces more carbon dioxide emissions than any other single source in the world.


Sasol is involved in carbon trading through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). It has one CDM approved project for destruction of nitrous oxide, a lucrative and easy option which yielded 260,000 Certified Emission Reductions which the company then went on to sell.


By the time Sasol were ready to submit another project for CDM funds , South African civil society groups were one step ahead of them and reported inaccuracies in the company's application. As a result the application was blocked because meaning that the accreditation board believed the project would have happened anyway without carbon credits.


More information on Sasol and South Africa’s climate policy can be found in our new report


 The impact of REDD

redd protest indonesia
A REDD protest in Indonesia
Isaac Rojas, Friends of the Earth International's Forest and Biodiversity coordinator, introduced FoEI's latest report that looks at the impacts of the UN's 'Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries' programme - commonly known as REDD.


'In the REDD' looks at the impact of a REDD pilot project run by Australia in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.


Isaac first noted that the project does not formally guarantee the rights of indigenous people. This is actually in contravention of  one of the UN's own declarations on Indigenous rights.


There has been no respect for traditional rights in the way this project and others - in Ecuador, Congo and Mozambique - are carried out.


Isaac explained the effects of this in practice:


"In indigenous cultures, when someone plants a tree in your forest it means they are claiming ownership. This is therefore creating tension and confusion among local groups. When they are no longer able to access parts of the forest to harvest they think their forest has been taken away from them."


Isaac also pointed out that, in all the REDD projects he's aware of, there is a complete lack of information in the public domain about what is happening.


"People have no idea that their forests are being turned into a global commodity" he said.


Read our report 'In the REDD'


Climate smart agriculture?

It's not only forests that have been commodified, Teresa Anderson from the Gaia foundation talked about how the World Bank is promoting so-called “Climate Smart Agriculture” and carbon offsets as the future of African agriculture and climate solutions.


She believes the figures being banded though are wild estimations.


“Measuring carbon captured in soils presents major problems. It is simply not possible to measure every square metre of land to assess the carbon stored. Variations in soil type and practice means large uncertainties regarding amounts of sequestered carbon from plot to plot.”


What is clear though is the money involved in the project. Teresa talked about the figures involved in a pilot project in Kenya:


"Consultants are making over a million dollars in the course of the pilot, whereas farmers are receiving just a few dollars each."


She concluded by voicing her concerns for what will happen if agriculture is including in carbon markets:


“An agreement on Agriculture at COP17 will lead to land grabs and deliver African farmers into the hands of fickle carbon markets.”


the wrong question

The two hour session finished with panelists looking for a way forward and something positive for people to take with them.


The panel stressed the view that carbon offsetting in all forms is a false solution to climate change - it is simply a way for traders to find new ways to make money.


Oscar Reyes, from Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland made the following observation:


"If trading and making money out of carbon is the answer then we must be asking the wrong question. The question should be: How can we have low impact lifestyles, breakdown the current energy systems and create more renewable energy?"


Further reading

Read 'Our climate is not for sale' to find out more about carbon markets


The youth take a stand

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 07, 2011 04:45 PM
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Today civil society observers held two symbolic actions during the talks, one was a show of solidarity and the other, a show of disgust.

Members of the Canadian Youth Delegation
Members of the Canadian Youth Delegation turn their backs on Canada. Credit: CYD DJC
At around midday, members of the Canadian Youth Delegation took a stand against their Environment Minister, Peter Kent, for his shameless drive to promote tar sands oil throughout the talks - one of the world's dirtiest and most destructive fuels.

As the Minister was about to deliver his opening address to delegates in the talks, six Canadian Youth stood up and turned away from the Minister revealing the message “Turn your back on Canada” prominently displayed on their t-shirts.

Shortly afterwards the individuals involved were ejected from the talks.

In a statement issued after their eviction the Canadian Youth gave their justification:

“Our so-called Environment Minister entered these talks by going on record that he would be defending the tar sands. I have yet to hear him say that he’s here to defend my future” said James Hunt.

Canada has been severely criticised for their continued push to get countries to buy tar sands oil from them. Meanwhile it deliberately downplays the climate impact of tar sands and continues to cast doubt on independent scientific studies.

stand strong for africa

An impromptu action calls for people to 'stand strong for Africa' at the UN climate talks in Durban.
Later, in the dining area, youth from various civil society delegations took part in an impromptu action in support of Africa. Several people sang a popular South African folk song substituting one of the lines with the words "stand strong for Africa."


The purpose of the action was to urge African negotiators to stand strong and not give in to the demands of the developed countries to kill the Kyoto protocol.

Two African members of FoEIs delegation later added to the calls of solidarity and critised the developed countries and corporate lobbyists:

“Many civil society groups are calling Durban a conference of polluters. We cannot let the polluters win and lock in a decade of inaction on the climate crisis. Africa must stand strong on behalf of the people of Africa and the people of the world,” said Bobby Peek of Friends of the Earth South Africa.


Nnimmo Bassey, of Friends of the Earth Nigeria and the Friends of the Earth International Chair, added that: 


“Rich countries must hear loud and clear that Africa won’t pay for their crisis. Developed countries are trying to kill the Kyoto Protocol. They want to turn back the clock to 1997 and shift responsibility for the climate crisis they created onto the developing countries already bearing the brunt of climate change."

Further reading

Press release: Durban inaction a recipe for climate catastrophe

Dec 06, 2011

Fighting climate change on the frontline

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 06, 2011 08:57 AM

As environment ministers and heads of state arrive for the second week of the climate talks, hundreds of people affected by climate change were occupying whatever space they could to remind the people inside that the decisions being taken affect them directly.

La Via Campesina March Durban
Members of La Via Campesina on the streets of Durban.
The day started with a march through central Durban with our allies from the international peasant movement La Via Campesina.


Two hundred peasant farmers took to the streets to denounce the model of industrial agriculture as one of the main drivers of climate change and to expose the aggressive land grabbing tactics of agribusiness globally.


Speaking on the march Martin Drago, FoEI's food sovereignty coordinator, talked about the importance of sustainable agriculture:

“The climate and food crisis can be addressed through food sovereignty, basically promoting sustainable peasant agriculture and small-scale food production.”

the invisible entrepreneurs

Inside the walls of the International Conference Centre, the Global Alliance of Wastepickers carried out an action of sorting rubbish to demonstrate the importance of their work in tackling the climate crisis.

Wastepickers are workers in the informal economy who recover recyclable materials from waste. They are invisible entrepreneurs on the frontlines of the fight against climate change yet their abilities to recycle are being undermined by the so called 'solutions' that emanate form the climate talks.


Speaking in a press conference, Suman More from Pune, India, talked about her work as a wastepicker: 


"We sort waste into thirty categories. We compost what we can and sell it to farmers and the society where it was produced. By doing this we ensure that less methane is released in landfill sites."


She emphasised the difference between her work and the new players on the scene in India:


"We recycle waste, waste management companies burn this precious waste" she said.


The wastepickers action in the grounds of the conference centre where the climate talks are taking place.
The wastepickers find it ironic that the Clean Development Mechanism gives carbon credits to companies that operate incinerators and landfills, and that the Green Climate Fund could reward the private sector with contracts to do the work they do for free.

Suman stressed that, she and fellow members of the alliance, are part of the solution and want access to the Green Climate Fund:

"Wastepickers want to be integrated into municipal systems. We want to be allowed to go door to door to collect waste for composting."

strong targets

Later in the day the Rural Women's Assembly - that unites women's farming and agricultural movements from around the world - held a rally at Speakers Corner calling for strong Kyoto Protocol targets in the climate talks.

The women delivered their 'no new mandate' message to Seyne Nafo, a Malian spokesman for the African negotiators.

Today alone three alliances have shown that their ways of life are a solution to the climate crisis. It's only by listening to people who are living and working sustainably can we expect to avert catastrophic climate change. So far the negotiators are only showing token signs of doing that.

Dec 03, 2011

10,000 people demand climate justice in Durban

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 03, 2011 05:30 PM

Friends of the Earth International joined a crowd of 10,000 people on the streets of Durban to call on climate negotiators to listen to the voice of the people.

Day of Action durban
Friends of the Earth South Africa / Groundwork present their demands on the Global Day of Action

People from all over South Africa, Africa and the world took part in the Global Day of Action today to call on climate negotiators to listen to the voice of the people.
Religious groups, union members, women's groups, environmental organisations and sole activists came out to demonstrate civil society's common determination to address climate change.


We, Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), also took to the streets alongside our South African colleagues, Groundwork/Friends of the Earth South Africa, the South African Waste pickers Alliance and our allies La Via Campesina.


The marchers chanted a range of demands including, climate justice for all, keep the coal in the hole, no to dirty energy, people's power not corporate power and no to incineration.
The demonstrators call though, which came out loud and clear, was a call for the climate negotiators to start listening to the thousands of people in the streets and the millions of people in the world asking for action on climate change.


The march stopped in front of the International Convention Centre in order to deliver a message to the South African President of the talks, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, and the UN Climate Change Secretary Christiana Figueres.


Firstly civil society leaders, including FoEI's Nnimmo Bassey and Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, spoke to the crowd:


"Brothers and sisters here in the beautiful land of South Africa…It's good to be here to speak about justice, to speak about something that demands systemic change - climate change" said Tom Goldtooth. 


"I'm here to speak out for the rights of indigenous people.. the people who are the most vulnerable...We are here to fight for the rights of mother earth, the rights of nature" he concluded.


On receiving the messages urging world leaders and negotiators to listen, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Christiana Figueres addressed the crowd.


Maite Nkoana-Mashabane promised to do the right thing for Africa, whilst Christiana Figueres relayed the story of a group of school children she recently met who shared the same concerns as civil society.


The children chanted something that she has now adopted as her mantra:


"I have adopted the mantra to take to the private sector, to civil society, to each one of us" she said. 


"The mantra is this, 'Do more, do more and when you've done everything you can do, do more'"


She then urged the crowd to join in.


The question is, who will she 'do more' for: the people or the polluters?

Dec 02, 2011

Keep corporations out of the Green Climate Fund

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 02, 2011 09:00 AM

Today we were calling on rich country negotiators, particularly the US, UK and Japan, to keep corporations out of the Green Climate Fund.

World Bank out of Green Climate Fund 2Patrick Bond, Centre for Civil Society, speaks in front of the giant octopus at the climate finance rally.

The day started with the issuing of a letter exposing an attempt led by the US, the UK and Japan to turn the Green Climate Fund into a “Greedy Corporate Fund”. The letter was signed by 163 civil society organisations from 39 countries and included Friends of the Earth International.



The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was created to support people in developing countries – people who are the most affected by the climate crisis but are the least responsible for it.

But developed countries are trying to allow multinational corporations and financiers to directly access GCF financing.

Karen Orenstein from Friends of the Earth US gave her take on the situation:

"Led by the US and the UK on behalf of Wall Street and The City, this attempt to hijack developing countries’ funding is outrageous. Communities need this money to address climate change and to finance their own development – without repeating the same mistakes that the rich countries have made."



World Bank out of Green Climate Fund 3A demonstrator likens the plans for the Green Climate Fund as an attempt to turn it into a 'Greedy Corporate Fund'.

In the afternoon the protest was a more vocal affair as people descended on Speakers Corner, with the help of a giant octopus symbolising the fact that Wall Street, the World Bank and multinational corporations have their tentacles all over climate finance. 


Several speakers addressed the crowd to talk about the dirty energy being produced in their country's and the need for urgent investment in renewable energy.

In Kosovo, Indonesia, India, Nigeria, South Africa and Brazil the story was the same - the World Bank continues to fund dirty energy.

From the Bank's relationship with South Africa - it's latest US$ 3.75 billion loan is helping to build one of the world’s largest coal plants - to its forays in Kosovo - where it is urging the government to invest in coal despite studies highlighting the fact that Kosovo could meet all its energy needs with renewable energy - the World Bank can't get enough of coal.

Lisa, a midwife from the US, summed up the feelings of many people in the crowd as she pointed to the conference centre:

"They are the 1% creating debt and poverty…I am a midwife and I don't feel safe bringing children into the world whilst the World Bank is in charge" she said.

Dec 01, 2011

Google Earth Tour Reveals How a Global Dam Boom Could Worsen the Climate Crisis

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 01, 2011 07:00 AM
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International Rivers and Friends of the Earth International have teamed up to create a state-of-the-art Google Earth 3-D tour and video narrated by FoEI Chair Nnimmo Bassey.

The production was launched on the first day of the COP 17 climate meeting in Durban. The video and tour allow viewers to explore why dams are not the right answer to climate change, by learning about topics such as reservoir emissions, dam safety, and adaptation while visiting real case studies in Africa, the Himalayas and the Amazon.

Find out more about the project and take action

Exposing climate killers

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 01, 2011 11:29 AM

A new report launched today names and shames the banks that are financing the dirty energy investments that are heating up the globe.

Bankrolling climate change

Today in Durban, social and environmental justice organisations, including Friends of the Earth South Africa, launched 'Bankrolling climate change', a new report that names and shames the banks that are financing the dirty energy investments that are heating up the globe.


The report contains new research on the portfolios of 93 of the world’s leading banks and their lending for the coal industry, the prime source of global CO2 emissions.

Read the report here


We all know that climate change is happening. But do we know who is financing the dirty energy investments that are heating up the globe? Until now, there has been little investigation of the banks’ role and responsibility for global warming.


While most large commercial banks provide figures on their annual investments into renewable energy, they neither track nor publish their annual investments into fossil fuel projects. Many banks have made far-reaching statements on the climate, but are they putting their money where their mouth is?


Speaking at the event, Bobby Peek from Friends of the Earth South Africa explained the purpose of the report:


“Our study names and shames the banks that are destabilising our climate system. Plans for new coal fired power plants and coal mines are meeting with fierce resistance all over the world and we are going to begin turning that heat on the banks."


Coal in the hole painting During the event the report authors disclosed the top twenty “climate killers” in the banking world - the banks who are financing the most polluting projects. Number one on the list is JPMorgan Chase who like to declare in their advertising that they're “helping the world transition to a low-carbon economy.”

outside the talks

Later in the day, outside the big polluters were again under fire at Speakers Corner.


There Friends of the Earth International, OilWatch, the Indigenous Environmental Network and others called on governments around the world to "Keep the oil in soil, the coal in the hole and tar sands in the land."