Dec 07, 2011

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 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?

Nov 29, 2011

UN climate talks 2011: REDD in the real world

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 29, 2011 03:45 PM

On day two of the climate talks Friends of the Earth International held a workshop at C17, the civil society space in Durban, on how a carbon trading scheme is ruining the lives of indigenous communities wherever it is implemented.

REDD workshop durban 1Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth Brazil, explains how REDD came about. 

Lucia Ortiz from Friends of the Earth Brazil opened the workshop and explained what REDD is.


REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. It is a carbon trading scheme that came out the of UN climate negotiations. It is a way of enabling big carbon emitters - mainly in the global north - to continue to pollute whilst paying other countries to keep their forests - which store up to 20% of the world's carbon - in the ground.

Read our report for more information

The floor was then open to other people to present their experiences of REDD in their respective countries.


The view from Uganda

First to present was David Kureeba from Friends of the Earth Uganda (NAPE).


Since 2007 the World Bank and other institutions have been offering Uganda money for REDD projects. Many projects have failed to materialise but now things are happening on the ground and forest dwelling communities are being seriously affected.

The government is kicking out communities from the forests and giving away their land to private investors to be turned into plantations for growing agrofules, palm oil and other monocultures.

The communities that manage to remain on their land, after it's been sold beneath them, find that their rights have been eroded. Women can no longer collect wood for making fires because the wood belongs to the new 'owner' who has paid for all trees to remain in order to claim carbon credits.


When the land is bought for cultivating agrofuels the chemicals that are used seep into the rivers and kill the fish that communities live off.

Recently the government tried to give away a protected forest to a foreign buyer in order for them to grow sugarcane. Under the rules of REDD this would be perfectly legitimate. But chopping down a forest in order to create a monoculture plantation is in no way a solution to climate change.

REDD workshop durban 2David Kureeba, Friends of the Earth Uganda, explains how REDD is forcing communities off their land. 
NAPE are still challenging this decision in the courts.

David concluded his presentation by listing some of the lesson he's learned in his experiences with REDD:

"Governments are taking advantage of REDD. The government harasses anyone who resists a REDD project. There is a lack of knowledge by communities on REDD.




"Finally, REDD money is not reaching communities. It is taken by the top brass" he concluded.

It was a damming indictment of REDD.

REDD tries to get a foothold in Mozambique

Nilza Matavel from Friends of the Earth Mozambique (JA!) talked about the consultation, or lack of it, that is taking place in Mozambique at the moment as it gears up to start its REDD projects.

A Brazilian organisation that specialises in REDD recently held a series of workshops in Mozambique and civil society groups were invited. However, what was presented at the workshops was an extremely positive view of how the scheme would work. The hosts failed to present the negative aspects of REDD, which by far outweigh any positives.

JA! was the only group in the room raising objections to the presentations because they were the only ones with all the facts to hand. As a result, the minutes to that meeting were never circulated and in the following workshop no references were made to JA!'s objections. Nilza and her colleagues eventually walked out of the process.

"This is how things currently work in Mozambique" Nilza told us. "The proponents of the project will no doubt get the green light to go ahead after having 'consulted' with civil society"

a loss of sovereignty

The situation is the same in Latin America where numerous REDD projects are up and running.


Ivonne Yanez from OilWatch Ecuador gave her perspective on Ecuador's 'Social Forests' programme.

"When the government gives subsidy to indigenous people for payment of environmental services, which means looking after the forest, it also means the indigenous people give the right for anyone, including gas and oil companies to access their lands. The people don't realise this is what they're signing up to."

Finally Lucia talked about the situation in Brazil where the commodification of the earth is reaching new levels.


Due to pressure from corporations the Brazilian government is dismantling its internationally respected forest protection laws and literally outsourcing nature. Trees, rives and the air above are being turned in to credits to be traded on Wall Street.

Lucia echoed the common thread in all these REDD projects:

"The one who buys the credit has unrestricted access to the land. Communities are losing the sovereignty of their land which will mean an end to traditional practices"

Find out more about REDD

Nov 28, 2011

UN climate talks 2011: will they listen?

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 28, 2011 07:40 PM

The climate talks have begun but the negotiators seem to be sticking to last year's script. An impromptu assembly outside could teach them a thing or two.

Conference of the People General Assembly Durban 2A group of people discus what climate justice means to them at the Conference of People General Assembly.  As delegates streamed into Durban's International Conference centre for day one of the UN climate talks, another assembly was getting underway on a small patch of grass over the road.


The 'Conference of People General Assembly', also known as Occupy COP17, got together to start a conversation of their own on climate change.

Addressing the assembly was Pablo Solon, Bolivia's former chief climate change negotiator, who gave his view of the official talks and stressed the importance of people's gatherings like this one.


"The issues being negotiated are the future of human life…The Cancun agreement will cook the world. Temperatures will increase by four degrees and in Africa they will increase by eight degrees"

"Negotiators will not change if there is no social pressure. The future of the world begins here."


With those words in mind, the assembly split into small groups to talk. Their first task: to discuss the meaning of climate justice. 


the state of the talks

Inside the conference centre, at Friends of the Earth International's first press conference, our chair Nnimmo Bassey echoed the views of Solon and quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu whom he spoke with at a rally the day before:

"Those who think they would survive when climate change gets to the tipping point and becomes uncontrollable are fools."

He stressed the fact that Africa is suffering the most - alongside small island states - from the impacts of climate change:

"We are not speaking of what will happen in 5 years or ten years we are talking about what is going on right now.. We are speaking about droughts, we are talking about climate environmental refugees already in the continent. We are talking about floods, we are talking about crop failures, desertification, mudslides" he said.


Nnimmo also reminded the audience that Africa is, by no means, the only continent suffering the consequences of extreme weather though. In the past year alone countries in Asia and Latin America have suffered from terrible flooding.

FoEI press conferenceLucia Ortiz, Bobby Peek, Nnimmo Bassey and Meena Raman speak at FoEI's first press conference of the climate talks. . Meena Raman from FoE Malaysia talked about the state of the talks and the entrenched positions of many developed countries.

"Rather than strengthen the emissions targets and cut out the loopholes to galvanise real action on climate emissions, the US, Japan, Canada and others are pushing to scrap the agreed, legally-binding framework to cut emissions and replace it with a voluntary ‘pledge and review' approach. This approach would put the world squarely on track to catastrophic global warming" she said.

Finally Lucia Ortiz from Friends of the Earth Brazil talked about the conflict and insecurities communities are facing in her country as flawed schemes to offset carbon emissions, such as REDD are persued.

In closing, Bobby Peek from FoE South Africa confirmed his belief that conference delegates are already feeling the pressure from the civil society voices on the outside demanding climate justice.


The question is: will they listen?

Nov 24, 2011

Our demands in Durban

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 24, 2011 06:35 PM
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Urgent action must be taken at the COP 17 talks in Durban. Find out what we're calling for.

offsetting magic trick
Members of Friends of the Earth International show COP 15 delegates that carbon offsetting is the greatest con trick in history. Copenhagen, 2009.
We are reaching a historic culmination of events in the fight for radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and systemic change in the unjust and unsustainable economic system which underlies the climate crisis. 


Corporate and financial elites and multinational corporations are intensifying their efforts to serve and protect their interests through false solutions like carbon markets.


This injustice is being met with resistance by movements, organisations and activists that are calling for the transformation of societies to take back our futures.


Friends of the Earth International demand that governments at COP 17:

  • Accept strong, legally-binding emission reductions for developed countries based on science, equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
  • Commit to adequate and appropriate public finance for developing countries mitigation and adaptation.
  • Reject all forms of carbon trading and offsetting.
  • Embark on just transitions towards genuinely sustainable economies domestically through the reduction of commodity flows and consumption, investment in public infrastructure, appropriate renewable energy, green jobs, small-scale sustainable agriculture and community-led biodiversity and forest conservation.
  • Respect and enforce the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. 
  • Reject any role for industrial monoculture tree plantations, agrofuels and GMOs and other false solutions such as nuclear energy and carbón capture and storage (CCS).
  • Respect the Convention of Biological Diversity moratorium against geo-engineering.

What can you do?

Your contribution counts. You can join the movement for climate justice. You can pressure your government to take a stronger stance in the international negotiations and help ensure a safer climate and protect the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people and communities around the world.


The movement for climate justice is growing and becoming stronger, as we are seeing in Durban with organisations and social movements mobilising for climate justice and planning to continue to struggle against false solutions like carbon trading.


Real solutions to climate change are available, for instance reducing consumption, improving energy efficiency, choosing sustainable locally-produced food, and switching to clean, green power. We, take action together to build a new society and transform the current unjust and unsustainable economic system. This is the only chance we have of being heard and stopping the further decline of the world’s climate and the possibility of catastrophic climate change.


Take action online now!