MAC: Mines and Communities

Righting the wrongs of Copenhagen's "fraud"

Published by MAC on 2010-04-18
Source: IPS, AFP & others

Last December's Copenhagen "Accord" sets the tone for continued exploitation of the developing world under a new multilateral climate regime, claims South African analyst Michelle Pressend.

However, this week's "Peoples' Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth" in Bolivia, aims to "right the wrongs" and launch a global referendum on the issue.

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Righting the wrongs of the Copenhagen fraud: Bolivia charts a new climate course

Michelle Pressend

South African Civil Society Information Service

6 April 2010

Cape Town - "Climate change cannot be addressed by half measures," argues Pablo Solón Romero, Bolivia's Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), in a recent article published by the UK's Guardian Newspaper. The crucial point he tries to get across is, "we can't make compromises with nature." Romero made the statement in the run up to Bolivia's forthcoming ‘Peoples' Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth', scheduled to take place from 19-22 April 2010. Bolivia was one of many developing countries' dissatisfied with the Copenhagen Accord, the harmful political agreement that emerged from secretive negotiations at the UN's Climate Conference late last year in Denmark.

Bolivia's conference, to which all countries of the world have been invited, aims to address the failings of this problematic political agreement, which poses a threat to meaningful climate solutions because of its powerful backers. While the goal of the Copenhagen climate conference was to get all countries of the world, especially historically big polluters to reduce their carbon emissions, the Copenhagen Accord has achieved quite the opposite. The reduction of carbon emissions is treated more like a by-product in the accord. Far from prioritizing the reduction of emissions, the accord has become a tool to facilitate carbon markets where opportunities and outcomes are linked to economic, not ecological priorities.

It's a win-win situation for the developed world that polluted their way to the pinnacle of the world where they now have the money and the technology, but will suffer no consequences for the path they beat to the top. The Copenhagen Accord sets the tone for the continued exploitation of the developing world under a new multilateral climate regime. Overall, the effect of the accord has been to roll back important gains won under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its offshoot, the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding agreement for developed countries to set targets to reduce their green house gas (GHG) emissions to levels below those reached in 1990.

This has been a let down for Bolivia and a group of developing nations that have tried to strengthen the notion of common but differentiated responsibility, a key principle adopted by the UNFCCC in 1992. Common but differentiated responsibility means that all countries have the common goal to address environmental problems, but that those countries largely responsible for causing the problem (the industrialized nations) need to take greater responsibility. The Copenhagen Accord has rubbished this principle. It is an enormous set back for developing nations who under the new political agreement witness the burden of emissions reductions unfairly falling on their shoulders without the requisite financial support for their adaptation to clean technologies.

America is the only country in the world that refused outright to sign the Kyoto Protocol and has used its global influence to engineer a situation t hat completely undermines it. Together with Denmark, it has been at the forefront of designing, defending and promoting the new Copenhagen Accord, which also has the effect of converting the legal obligations for developed countries to reduce their carbon emissions under "Kyoto" to voluntary pledges with no binding commitment. Romeros provides a stunning analogy for the consequences of this approach. "This dangerous approach to climate negotiations is like building a dam where everyone contributes as many bricks as they want regardless of whether it stops the river."

In the meantime, the Copenhagen Accord has no legal status. But, the Danish Presidency, once again, not following UN protocols, circulated a "note verbale" to UN Missions in New York for countries to confirm their association with the accord. As a result, in addition to the majority of developed countries who've endorsed it, 29 developing countries that are not required to make emissions cuts, i ncluding those that are most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, pledged their voluntary commitments in time for an end of January deadline.

Thus, given its vigorous support by the world's richest nations and emerging economies, the Copenhagen Accord has surfaced as a parallel process in multilateral climate negotiations, causing a huge amount of confusion with respect to the official UN climate process; the latest round, which will take place in Bonn, Germany from 9-11 April 2010. The South African government that was one of 30 countries invited to the surreptitious Copenhagen consultation, has, disappointingly, strongly associated itself with the accord.

In a letter to the UNFCCC Secretariat, the Department for Environmental Affairs indicated that they see the accord as a political declaration that would provide "valuable direction and impetus to further negotiations under the Convention." The department also stressed its support for the US$10bn offered to implement climate change actions. An amount that many other countries feel is an absolute pittance. South Africa also committed to taking "nationally appropriate mitigation" for 34% reduction away from a "business as usual emissions growth trajectory by 2020" provided the technology, finance and capacity is forthcoming. In a second letter to the UNFCCC, dated 4 February 2010, South Africa further stressed its association with the accord.

But South Africa finds itself in an unconvincing position with respect to its energy efficiency commitments given the saga surrounding the Medupi coal-fired power station and more broadly in relation to a virtually non-existent renewable energy programme. Perhaps it was Medupi that was on the minds of President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Environmental Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, when they allowed South Africa to become co-conspirators in the dismantling of the Kyoto Protocol. One recalls Sonjica's fork tongued comments after the event; where she noted her concerns about the Copenhagen Accord, but still went on to assert South Africa's unwavering support for it.

Medupi will push our carbon emissions to stratospheric levels in addition to sucking our valuable water resources dry. International research reveals that a typical 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant draws about 2.2 billion gallons of water each year. To add some perspective, that's enough water to support a city of approximately 250,000 people. At a capacity of 4,800 megawatts, Medupi will need almost 10 times as much. In contrast and in a search for genuine solutions to global warming, Bolivia is at the forefront of leading the challenge against the Copenhagen Accord. In the run up to last December's event, Bolivia called for a 49% reduction in carbon emissions from the developed world by 2017- a demand based on scientific research.

And while America and its group of crony supporte rs may have ignored Bolivia's demands at the UN's climate conference late last year, the Latin American country has since been vindicated by a post-Copenhagen report emanating from a surprising source, the European Commission. According to Romeros, "In a report called International Climate Policy Post-Copenhagen, the (European Commission) confirmed that the pledges by developed countries are equal to between 13.2% and 17.8% in emissions reductions by 2020 - far below the required 40%-plus reductions needed to keep global temperature rise to less than 2°C."

Bolivia will use its forthcoming international climate conference to highlight the unfairness of the current situation and to address a number of critical issues that affect countries from the South. These include, but are not limited to, climate migration, food security, the Kyoto Protocol, technology transfer, climate debt and the establishment of an international climate justice tribunal. For it s part, South Africa continues to proceed in the most dubious of terms. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are simply not priority areas for our government even if the necessary finance and technology were to be made available. If anything, South Africa is currently at the opposite end of the extreme, pressing ahead with dirty energy and generating an international outcry in the process.

*Michelle Pressend coordinates the Trade Strategy Group (TSG) at the Economic
Justice Network and Global Network Africa at the Labour Research Services in Cape Town. She is also an independent socio-political analyst.

CLIMATE CHANGE: From Copenhagen to Cochabamba

By Franz Chávez, IPS

30 March 2010

LA PAZ  - A different way of fighting global warming will be tried out in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba when government representatives and thousands of activists gather for the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.

The social organisations sponsoring the Apr. 19-22 conference have announced an alternative platform to the efforts of the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-15), which ended in failure in icy Copenhagen in December 2009.

The defence of Mother Earth, championed by Bolivian President Evo Morales, has the support of more than 240 grassroots and indigenous movements, non-governmental organisations, activists and intellectuals who are calling for a charter of rights for the planet.

The main aims of the conference are to organise a world people's referendum on global warming, draw up an action plan to create an international climate justice tribunal, and agree new commitments to be negotiated within United Nations scenarios.

The agenda priorities are: climate debt, climate change migrants and refugees, greenhouse gas emission cuts, adaptation, technology transfer, financing, forests and climate change, shared visions and indigenous peoples.

"We, as activists from different social movements, define the present time by the arrogance of the United States, European Union and transnational corporations, which was expressed at Copenhagen where a very few countries attempted to impose an outcome - that was not agreed at COP 15 - to do nothing to stop rising global temperatures and climate damage," said the event announcement by leading social organisations.

These organisations include the Hemispheric Social Alliance (ASC-HSA), Friends of the Earth Latin America, the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA-CSA), the World March of Women, Campaign and Via Campesina.

Morales will formally open the conference on Apr. 20.

The organisations identify a "crisis of civilisation" that they attribute to capitalism and the "logic of exploitation, racism and patriarchy," which they see in "increased military presence and military bases in various parts of the world, and 'humanitarian' invasions and occupations" which are actually war, they say.

War, the occupation of markets and territories, and militarisation to control energy resources, water and biodiversity, are pointed out as capitalism's methods for solving its own crisis. The World People's Conference on Climate Change will advocate the right to "live well," as opposed to the economic principle of uninterrupted growth.

In contrast to Copenhagen, where industrialised countries sought a formula for greenhouse gas emissions reductions that would not imply binding commitments, at Cochabamba it will be the popular sectors that take the lead. "For a long time, the voices of indigenous peoples and social organisations have not been heard. Their movement has been growing underground, in rural areas and the outlying suburbs of cities," environmentalist Carmen Capriles, of the Bolivian chapter of Campaign, told IPS.

Their knowledge, as farmers or livestock raisers, means they can promptly identify the climate phenomena that their way of life and economic wellbeing depend on, she said.

Campaign is named for the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists regard as the "maximum safe limit" for the concentration of this gas, without triggering climate catastrophe.

The conference is distinguished by being "for and with indigenous peoples, unlike any other world conference held to date," Bolivian economist and environment expert Stanislaw Czaplicki told IPS. Czaplicki was at Copenhagen as a civil society representative, and coordinated networks of young Latin American environmental activists.

"Indigenous peoples and social organisations have already formed a worldwide movement in defence of the planet, and civil society has a major role in the development of public policies," he said. However, "women and young people are under-represented," he added.

In Capriles' view, new movements capable of generating alternative proposals are needed, and she called for political will on the part of developed countries to make structural changes in their economies.

Czaplicki said there are political movements in Europe that are against models of development that harm the environment, but they do not express anti-capitalist thinking, and neither do they distance themselves from the international financial institutions.

These movements arise in countries that achieved development by environmentally harmful means, not in countries that can still choose their model of economic growth, he said.

In the case of Bolivia, policies opposed to capitalism and polluting industrialisation have not yet changed the model of extracting commodities like minerals and gas, Czaplicki said. As a result, 300,000 hectares are deforested every year, he said.

Theory and practice must come together, he said.

Bolivia summit to seek global climate change referendum

Agence France-Presse (AFP)

16 March 2010

LA PAZ - An alternative "people's conference" on climate change in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba in April will seek to advance an international global warming referendum, organizers said.

"The only thing that can save mankind from a (climate) tragedy is the exercise of global democracy," said Bolivia's United Nations Ambassador Pablo Solon, a key organizer of the summit.

A priority of the meeting would be discussing the possibility of a global referendum "with the goal of reaching two billion people," he told reporters

Thousands of people, mostly members of social movements and indigenous groups, are expected to attend the People's World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights from April 20-22.

Organizers say it is intended to "give a voice to the people" on climate change after the perceived failure of the United Nations-sponsored Copenhagen summit on the same issue.

Solon said he expected participants from 94 countries and representatives from 70 governments to attend, without giving further details.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who in January issued an open invitation to the conference to governments, scientists and social movements, has said a number of South American presidents would also attend.

But the outlines of the conference remain vague, and it is shaping up so far like something between an environmental forum and a political rally.

It is expected to tackle many of the themes Morales raised at the Copenhagen summit last year, including creating a "climate court of justice" and the need to "change the system of capitalist consumerism" -- proposals that could be included in the suggested global vote.

Solon said the summit's conclusions would be delivered to the next UN-sponsored meeting on climate change, currently scheduled for December in Mexico.

Bolivia creates a new opportunity for climate talks that failed at Copenhagen

Bolivia will host an international meeting on climate change next month because it is not prepared to 'betray its people'.

Pablo Solón Romero, Guardian

19 March 2010

In the aftermath of the Copenhagen climate conference, those who defended the widely condemned outcome tended to talk about it as a "step in the right direction". This was always a tendentious argument, given that tackling climate change can not be addressed by half measures. We can't make compromises with nature.

Bolivia, however, believed that Copenhagen marked a backwards step, undoing the work built on since the climate talks in Kyoto. That is why, against strong pressure from industrialised countries, we and other developing nations refused to sign the Copenhagen accord and why we are hosting an international meeting on climate change next month. In the words of the Tuvalu negotiator, we were not prepared to "betray our people for 30 pieces of silver".

Our position was strongly criticised by several industrialised countries, who did their brazen best to blame the victims of climate change for their own unwillingness to act. However, recent communications by the European Commission have confirmed why we were right to oppose the Copenhagen accord.

In a report called International climate policy post-Copenhagen (pdf), the commission confirmed that the pledges by developed countries are equal to between 13.2% and 17.8% in emissions reductions by 2020 - far below the required 40%-plus reductions needed to keep global temperature rise to less than 2C degrees.

The situation is even worse once you take into account what are called "banking of surplus emission budgets" and "accounting rules for land use, land use change and forestry". The Copenhagen accord would actually allow for an increase in developed country emissions of 2.6% above 1990 levels. This is hardly a forward step.

This is not just about gravely inadequate commitments, it is also about process. Whereas before, under the Kyoto protocol, developed countries were legally bound to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a certain percentage, now countries can submit whatever targets they want without a binding commitment.

This dangerous approach to climate negotiations is like building a dam where everyone contributes as many bricks as they want regardless of whether it stops the river.

The Copenhagen accord opens the dam and condemns millions. Various estimates suggest that the commitments made under the accord would lead to increases of between three to four degrees celsius - a level that many scientists consider disastrous for human life and our ecosystems.

For Bolivia, the disastrous outcome of Copenhagen was further proof that climate change is not the central issue in negotiations. For rich countries, the key issues in negotiations were finance, carbon markets, competitiveness of countries and corporations, business opportunities along with discussions about the political makeup of the US Senate. There was surprisingly little focus on effective solutions for reducing carbon emissions.

President Evo Morales of Bolivia observed that the best way to put climate change solutions at the heart of the talks was to involve the people. In contrast to much of the official talks, the hundreds of civil society organisations, communities, scientists and faith leaders present in Copenhagen clearly prioritised the search for effective, just solutions to climate change against narrow economic interests.

To advance an agenda based on effective just solutions, Bolivia is therefore hosting a Peoples' Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth on 19-22 April, and inviting everyone to participate. Unlike Copenhagen, there will be no secret discussions behind closed doors. Moreover the debate and proposals will be led by communities on the frontlines of climate change and by organisations and individuals dedicated to tackling the climate crisis. All 192 governments in the UN have also been invited to attend and encouraged to listen to the voices of civil society and together develop common proposals.

We hope that this unique format will help shift power back to the people, which is where it needs to be on this critical issue for all humanity. We don't expect agreement on everything, but at least we can start to discuss openly and sincerely in a way that didn't happen in Copenhagen.

* Pablo Solón is Ambassador to the UN for the Plurinational State of Bolivia. He is a sociologist and economist, was active in Bolivia's social movements before entering government, and is an expert on issues of trade, integration, natural resources and water.

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