Dec 09, 2011
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.
3,040 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
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 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
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."
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.
The 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 informationRead Friends of the Earth's report 'Reclaiming power'
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
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
A REDD protest in IndonesiaIsaac 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 readingRead 'Our climate is not for sale' to find out more about carbon markets
Dec 06, 2011
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.
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."
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
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.
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
Today we were calling on rich country negotiators, particularly the US, UK and Japan, to keep corporations out of the Green Climate Fund.
Patrick 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."
A 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
A new report launched today names and shames the banks that are financing the dirty energy investments that are heating up the globe.
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.
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."
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."
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.
Nov 29, 2011
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.
Lucia 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.
David 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
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.
A 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.
Lucia 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?
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 at the UN climate talks.
Director of Friends of the Earth South Africa, Bobby Peek, explains why many South African civil society organisations are calling these climate talks in Durban the “conference of the polluters”
The 'we have faith' rally took place in the Kings Stadium, Durban. The event was hosted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a number of South African faith leaders and musicians. FoEI Chair Nnimmo Bassey also addressed the crowd and warned them that Africa will be cooked if countries are allowed to pledge and do as they please in the negotiations.
Nov 24, 2011
Urgent action must be taken at the COP 17 talks in Durban. Find out what we're calling for.
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.
Nov 18, 2011
The world is on a precipice. Already the lives and livelihoods of millions of people are being devastated by the impact of increased extreme weather events like flooding, droughts and hurricanes. Climate change is directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people per year, most of whom are in poorer communities in the poorest countries of the world.
If urgent action is not taken, not only will climate change get worse but we could overreach dangerous tipping points into irreversible and catastrophic climate change.
Developed countries’ governments are neglecting their responsibility to prevent climate catastrophe. The positions of these governments at global climate talks are increasingly driven by the narrow economic and financial interests of wealthy elites and multinational corporations while the poorest communities suffer.
These interests, tied to the economic sectors responsible for pollution or profiting from false solutions to the climate crisis like carbon trading and fossil fuels, are the key forces behind global inaction.
Tackling climate change means changing the unjust and unsustainable economic system, especially our dependence on polluting fossil fuels and the over-use of the world’s resources. To do this we need to push governments to act in the interests of ordinary people, workers and communities and the poor and vulnerable.
Within the UN, rich developed countries must meet their historical responsibility by committing to urgent and deep emissions cuts through the Kyoto Protocol – the existing legally binding framework, without carbon trading, offsetting and other loopholes, They must also repay their climate debt to poorer countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America so that they too can tackle climate change. This will benefit people all around the world by ensuring a safe climate, more secure livelihoods, more green jobs, clean affordable energy and energy efficiency.
Questions and answers on the talks
WHAT IS HAPPENING AT THE UN CLIMATE TALKS?
What’s more, it looks like rich countries want to use the Durban climate talks to further diminish their responsibilities to tackle climate change and dismantle the whole framework for binding reductions of greenhouse gases, without which we have no chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. They are also pushing for the expansion of false solutions like carbon trading, a further escape hatch from emissions reductions which will make climate change worse and cause further harm to people around the world while bringing huge profits to polluters.
SHOULD THE WORLD ABANDON THE UN TALKS AND TRY AND TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE SOMEWHERE ELSE?
WHAT DO FoEI WANT TO SEE HAPPEN AT COP 17?
Do foei support the continuation of the kyoto protocol?
Rich countries, led by the US, Canada, Japan and Russia, are trying to tear up these international treaties and replace them with a high risk voluntary approach.
Rich countries must agree to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol with strong targets and no carbon trading, offsetting, or other loopholes if we are to have a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH CARBON MARKETS?
Carbon markets also have potential human rights and environmental impacts resulting from the land grabbing associated with many offsetting projects like REDD, plantations and agrofuels.
WHAT is REDD AND what are FORESTS CREDITS?
Now, in addition, there is a strong push from industrialised countries for REDD projects to be financed through the global carbon market, which will open up further loopholes in terms of global cuts in carbon emissions and also dramatically increase the chances of destructive impacts on communities and the environment in countries where REDD projects are based.
Including forests in carbon offsetting initiatives does not work: it diverts attention from real measures to reduce emissions and prevent deforestation, and threatens Indigenous Peoples and local communities who depend on them for survival.
WHAT IS CLIMATE FINANCE?
WHAT IS THE 'CORPORATE CAPTURE OF THE UN'?
what's wrong with biofuels?
Agrofuels benefit large agribusiness and energy companies and their expansion does not help to address climate change. Instead, promoting agrofuels reinforces the current unsustainable model of consumption and production which has fuelled climate change in the first place.
what is industrial AGRICULTURE's role in CLIMATE CHANGE?
Oct 26, 2011
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.
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!
Read the program and papers of the UNRISD Conference
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 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 informationSee video testimony about REDD and FAS in the Amazonas region, Brazil (in Portuguese)
Read more about structural adjustment policies
Oct 11, 2011
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.
Friends 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.
Aug 11, 2011
On the 66th Peace Memorial Day of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Junichi Mishiba, the Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Japan issued this statement.
On 6 and 9 August we will commemorate the 66th Peace Memorial Day of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We express heartfelt condolences for the victims who died in radiation, heat ray, and hellish flames 66 years ago, and those who died of radiation exposure afterwards. We also express our sincere solidarity with the people who are still suffering and fighting radiation-caused illnesses.
This year, however, we have to give our serious thoughts to the grave situation the people in Fukushima are exposed at the risk of radiation poisoning due to the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
Radioactive materials still continue polluting our ocean, atmosphere, and ground, driving the people who lived in the surrounding area of the nuclear plant away far from their home towns. A lot of people who live in the polluted area in Fukushima and neighbouring area are exposed to high radiation dosages every day without sufficient measures taken for their protection.
We the Japanese people have promoted nuclear power generation and the nuclear fuel cycle use as "peaceful" use knowing risks posed by radiation. Even though it was clear to many of us that nuclear power generation was expensive, had high risk and had potentially enormous negative environmental impacts, huge funds have been invested in the repeated propaganda re-assuming "Nuclear power is safe and clean." They weren't telling the truth.
Many troubles, accidents, and the plant-workers’ health issues surfaced one after another, were deliberately understated and the policy to promote nuclear power continued.
However, this accident in Fukushima has revealed that nuclear power has gone totally out of our control. It was the government and the industry that craved for nuclear power and we citizens allowed that policy. We owe the future generation the grave responsibility.
We make our resolution on this Peace Memorial Day in 2011, to stand up and face the grave threats of nuclear power and radiation as a country that has experienced devastating radiation exposures and the worst nuclear plant accident in the world’s history.
We again appeal to our government that the suffering of Fukushima is not in any way underestimated, and that all the available measures are taken to protect people and the environment. We work for a drastic reform of social structure and the way we use energy.
Moreover, we share the reality we’ve learned with international community and work to prevent proliferation of the utilization of nuclear energy. We citizens must change the policy NOW and the whole society. Our childrens' future depends upon our choice today.
Let us our voices heard and make our own future by ourselves.
Please consider donating to Friends of the Earth Japan's anti nuclear campaign.
Jun 09, 2011
The United Nations climate negotiations resumed in Bonn, Germany, on 6 June 2011. This session follows the slow progress made at earlier talks in Bangkok in April, and are essential for building momentum toward the Durban climate conference in November.
The Bangkok talks were focused on setting the agenda for the negotiations for the rest of the year and were setback by divisions between countries over the scope of international climate talks. In Bangkok some rich developed countries insisted on limiting the negotiations to implementing the narrow range of issues agreed at Cancun; in contrast most countries supported continuing under an agreed workplan from 2007 (the Bali Action Plan).
The Bonn talks are to be based on the broad agenda advocated by most countries in Bangkok, but the clash in the 'paradigm' for the negotiations will underline further disagreements in Bonn.
These fault-lines include:
- Setting binding emissions reduction targets through the Kyoto Protocol
- Insufficient emissions reduction targets currently on the table
- The Green Climate Fund
1. Setting new binding emission reduction targets in 2011?
The Kyoto Protocol represents the current model of international climate law – it requires developed countries to set binding emission reduction targets and to meet them over a 5 year period. The first five-year period ends in 2012 and time is running out to agree on targets for the next ‘commitment period’ (2013-2017/2020) in accordance with the mandated negotiations, which have been running since 2005.
Developing countries, particularly the Africa Group, have made clear that a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol is essential, as it provides a paradigm of legally binding emission reduction targets. Some developed countries, including Russia and Japan, have indicated they will walk away from their international legal obligations to agree commitments for the period after 2012. The United States is similarly opposed to binding emissions reduction targets. Instead of negotiating science-based targets reflecting their fair share of the global effort, they are now proposing a “pledge-based” system in which each country does whatever it determines domestically.
Bonn represents a pivotal moment for the future of the Kyoto Protocol. The Bonn climate talks need to pave the way for agreement in Durban on the next phase of legally binding emission reduction targets. Durban is the last chance to agree, as the first phase of commitments ends in 2012. If there is no agreement in Durban, the world may be faced with climate anarchy, without an international regime in place.
2. Will those new pledges be enough?
The latest science shows that negotiators at Bonn will be out of touch with what the latest science clearly requires if the world is to avert dangerous climate change. The current pledges risk warming of 2.5 to 5 degrees according to the United Nations Environment Programme. The problems with developed countries’ proposed targets are manifold: they are too low to meet what the science requires but they are also accompanied by ‘creative accounting’ proposals which result in emissions reductions only on paper. Furthermore the extensive use of offsets will see rich countries shift the burden for reducing emissions to developing countries – while doing almost nothing at home.
Analysis revealed in Bangkok showed that when emission reductions were converted into gross amounts – rather than percentages – it was clear that developing countries’ pledges for emission reductions were even higher than those from developed countries (3.6 Gigatonnes to occur in developing countries with only 1.9 Gigatonnes to occur in developed countries). Together, these pledges fell well short of the 14+ Gigatonnes the UN says is necessary to be on path to remain below 2 or 1.5 degrees C.
In addition, the emissions reduction targets proposed by developed countries are ridden with loopholes. The rules currently being considered do not take into account emissions from shipping and aviation, overestimate emissions reductions by forests and land use in developed countries and allow the carry-over of unused pollution permits and offset credits . This means that the total emission of developed countries could actually increase even if their ‘official’ targets say they are making reductions.
The debate over these rules, how they shift the burden of reducing emissions to developing countries and whether they are in line with the science will be of central importance in Bonn – particularly as the agenda sets particular time for addressing this issue.
3. Creating a ‘Green Climate Fund’
In Cancun one of the few areas of agreement was the establishment of a ‘Green Climate Fund’ (GCF) to oversee the collection and disbursement of ‘climate finance.’ Currently the details of the GCF are being negotiated by a ‘Transitional Committee’ (TC) which has already met in Mexico in April and again in Bonn from May 30.
Flashpoint issues in the negotiations of the GCF have already included the role of the World Bank as its trustee, given concerns regarding its potential conflicts of interest due to its role in financing fossil-fuel based projects, and its practice of mixing roles as a banker, financial advisor and project implementer (known as the “Arthur Anderson syndrome” following the financial crisis). This conflict may be compounded by proposals relating to secondments and staffing of the new fund, which draw heavily on the World Bank as a source.
Similarly, many observers are concerned that the process of the GCF is off-track. It is currently heavily focused on technicalities and structure – without having agreed to what the priorities of the fund should be or the actual scale of public funding. In Cancun, countries agreed to a “goal” to “mobilize” $100 billion by 2020 from “a wide variety of sources”. However, developed countries are yet to commit to any specific level of public funding.
A further critical question here is what a “balanced” allocation of finance between adaptation and mitigation really means. It is to be expected at Bonn that developing countries, who are the most vulnerable to climate impacts, will push the GCF to identify the needs and priorities of recipients before designing structures to best meet those needs.
Finally there is concern that the GCF is too focused on ‘private finance’ options (through loan guarantees, publicly-provided insurance, or other risk sharing instruments) and thus risks putting too much power into the hands of profit-driven interests. Market failures and distortions by private interests are a significant structural cause of the climate crisis and many countries fear a continued focus on the ‘private market’ could have the effect of financing projects that are ineffective at confronting climate change but are very effective at transferring public monies into private coffers. These countries and observers will be pushing for the GCF to be primarily funded through public sources (including innovative mechanisms such as Special Drawing Rights and the ‘Robin Hood Tax’).
May 27, 2011
Friends of the Earth Chile (FoE Chile) are campaigning against a hydroelectric project which threatens delicate ecosystems and endangered species.
The objective of the HydroAysén project is the construction and operation of five hydroelectric power plants; two of them on the Baker river and three of them on the Pascua river. FoE Chile believe that the recent approval of the project is the result of a series of irregularities and negligence during the environmental impact study.
"The process was inadequate from the beginning" Says Bernardo Zentilli, President of FoE Chile. "It is outrageous that the dams were submitted to an environmental study without the inclusion of the necessary overhead lines for energy transmission."
"Besides this, 10,000 citizens' objections were arbitrarily excluded from the participatory process provided by law, thanks to the early closing of the process due to pressure from the Minister of the Interior" concludes Bernardo.
The group are taking part in demonstrations against the project that have been attended by tens of thousands of people. They are calling on people outside the country to register their disapproval of the project at Chilean embassies.
According to FoE Chile, the environmental approval for the project was given without the company's response to the many observations made by the body in charge of the evaluation. Observations such as illegal flooding in the San Rafael Lagoon national park; or the dams capacity to support the simultaneous emptying of the glacier lakes that feed the rivers were ignored.
The flooding of the land endangers the Huemul, also know as the South Andean deer, an endangered species and a national symbol, of which only 2,500 remain.
Prior to the project's approval, the authorities had mocked the independence that the Commission for Environmental Impact Study should have to make a decision based on technical information. They even publicly expressed their agreement with carrying out the HydroAysén project, regardless of whether it complied with the environmental legislation in force.
The Minister of Environment has underestimated HydroAysén's environmental impact saying that it would 'barely' flood 0.05% of the Aysén Region. While President Piñera claims "we are condemning the country to a blackout if projects like this one are not built."
Nothing is being said about the 24,000 additional hectares that will be impacted by the 2,200 km of overhead power lines associated with the project.
As it was pointed out to the Minister of Environment, "Today it is not possible to make a difference between the government's discourse and the discourse of the company behind the project."
An unsustainable development
Given the greenhouse gas emissions produced during the construction of the dams and the deforestation incurred to make way for the overhead lines, HydroAysén cannot be considered a clean energy project. This, in addition to the fragmentation of water and land habitats, the irregularities in the approval of the project and the exclusion of citizens from the project, makes HydroAysén's the opposite of 'sustainable development'.
FoE Chile are urging the authorities to stop legitimising this project and instead promote the massive incorporation of renewable energies to the Chilean energy matrix, which have the potential of generating more electricity than HydroAysén.
Patagonia is a beautiful place with potential for social, cultural and tourist development unique in the planet. It hosts a large part of Chile's water reserves and should not be destroyed for the benefit of private interests.