MAC: Mines and Communities

COP21: Was it all mere hot air?

Published by MAC on 2015-12-18
Source: Statements, End Coal, Guardian, New York Times (2015-12-17)

COP21 is over - to huge rounds of applause and hearty embraces between people who otherwise wouldn't even pass the time of day.

So, what's actually been achieved? Apparently there's an agreement to limit global green house gas emissions to "below" 2% of pre-industrial levels.

Even were that sufficient (and many scientists maintain it's not - some questioning the validity of a 1.5% limit as well), when's the cut-off point for achievement - 2030, 2050, or even the end of the century? No agreement on that.

Meanwhile, should any state refuse to go with the flow, what are other nations to do about it? Send a taskforce to neutralise the offending coal mines? Drop a bomb on the renegade oil fields? (For which recent British government strikes against the so-called "so-called" Islamic State are a grim precedent)?.

Okay, "for the first time" we have the world's great and powerful singing from the same song sheet. "Climate Deniers" have been shown the door - let them never darken it again!

But the devil of this agreement is in the details - or rather the distinct lack of any detail or solid financial commitment to forging practical alternatives to carbon-sourced power generation.

In this respect, the vaunting of more technical fixes to sort out the appalling consequences of continuing to burn fossil fuels is not just utter folly. It's also a bid by some goverments and companies to grab a chunk of budgets which might otherwise be devoted to renewables.

Additional comment by our medical correspondent

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is predominantly contracted from excessive smoking, working in mines (especially coal) and ingestion of particulate matter, particularly in towns and cities.

Although surgery, various prophylactics and inhalers can offer sufferers some respite and a few years extension to an often painful life, ultimately the disease is fatal. Whatever resources have been devoted to curing COPD, they haven't succeeded. The only solution lies in its prevention. 

Isn't that the vital lesson that Paris COP has completely failed to learn?

Paris climate agreement spells big trouble for coal

by Bob Burton

End Coal

13 December 2015

The Paris climate agreement may not explicitly mention coal but it spells big trouble for the global coal industry.

The single most telling indicator of this was the deafening silence of the World Coal Association – the global coal industry’s peak lobby group – after the agreement was adopted. There was no media release from the WCA, nor even a Tweet.

In recent times no matter how dire the setback the default response of the coal industry has been to insist that it is in rude good health and the future is just as rosy as ever. No doubt they’ll dust themselves off and wheel out the same lines again.

Despite this, there are four reasons to believe that the Paris Agreement will have a profound impact on the coal industry.

Firstly, just as the coal industry had started to grudgingly concede the 2°C target was being taken seriously by governments, the Paris Agreement formally acknowledges the desirability of aiming for a maximum of 1.5°C of global warming.

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) most recent World Energy Outlook spelled out in its ‘450 Scenario’ that to reach the 2°C target the volume of coal burnt would have to shrink by about one-third by 2040 and the coal export trade halve over the same period. Even then the IEA relied on heroic assumptions about the widespread deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage at existing power stations.

The simple maths of the 2°C target means there is no space for new unabated coal power plants without massive retirements of existing plants. Taking the 1.5°C target seriously requires accelerating the shutdown of the existing fleet of power stations and absolutely no new coal. No ifs or buts.

Secondly, for financial institutions the risks of involvement in supporting new coal projects have just increased dramatically. The shift of the 1.5°C from the margins of the climate debate at Copenhagen in 2009 to being close to centre-stage in 2015 is symptomatic of how fast the political landscape is changing.

For banks, which want a high level of certainty over new coal plants being able to run profitably for 30 years, the agreement signals recognition by the world’s governments that a quick transition away from fossil fuels is required.  With the plans submitted by 189 countries falling well short of the emissions reductions needed to reach the 2°C target, the agreement requires a five-yearly “global stocktake” for countries to voluntarily ratchet up emissions cuts. This review process will only add to the pressure for the accelerated retirement of coal plants both old and new.

For financial institutions still contemplating funding fossil fuel projects, the prospect of reviews every five years is a huge red flag which warns of big risks ahead.

Thirdly, the Paris Agreement includes a specific provision which “invites the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.”

A spillover consequence of this is that the IEA will be under increasing pressure to also model how to achieve the 1.5 °C target in future editions of the annual World Energy Outlook. While the IEA are notoriously conservative, they are influential in policymaking circles. This means that the IEA will be forced to admit that no new unabated coal plants can be built if we are to remain below 1.5 degrees, sending a strong signal to government and investors around the world.

Finally, the Paris Agreement – despite all its flaws and omissions – will bolster the hopes of the ever-growing civil society movement that even cumbersome processes such as the international climate negotiations are capable of responding to sustained public pressure. Where the dismal outcome of the Copenhagen conference deflated the climate movement, the Paris Agreement will encourage it to keep building momentum. At the same time the morale of the coal lobby will be lower than ever.

The Paris Agreement is unlikely to silence the coal industry lobby groups for long, in much the same way the international convention on tobacco control didn’t see cigarette companies and their lobbyists give up and quietly fade away.

However, the major players in the power and coal industries are smart enough to recognise that the writing on the wall proclaiming the imminent demise of the coal industry just got a whole lot larger.


COP Out: The hollow promise of the Paris climate deal

Gaia Foundation

16 December 2016

Hal Rhoades discusses why, despite the hype, the climate agreement hatched by world governments in Paris won't save us from climate catastrophe. With analysis on key areas of the agreement text and discussion of the latest climate science, he argues that people's movements, not multilateral theatrics, represent our best hope for avoiding climate disaster.

If you've been following international media coverage of the climate change agreement recently signed into being by world governments in Paris, you could be forgiven for thinking the world has just taken a massive stride in the effort to tackle climate change and create a safer, more just world for all.

The Paris agreement is undoubtably an unprecedented political success. Nations used COP21 as a stage to play out arguably the biggest act of world diplomacy ever, winning huge political capital and public confidence in the process. But ultimately the deal they have struck is a hollow one in the only ways that really matter; namely the deal's ability to prevent catastrophic climate change and to do so justly.

According to leading climatologist Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, this deal is "weaker than Copenhagen," the disastrous agreement of 2009, and "not in line with the latest science".

"COP21 negotiators are looking at the Paris agreement with rose-stained glasses. The truth is that we have is a negotiated failure that has ignored sound science and justice," says Enteng Bautista of Kalikasan PNE, Philippines, pointing out that the agreement doesn't deliver socially either.

COP21 has been framed as a success, as we knew it would be. But, as with all agreements that are this 'high level', littered with technical jargon that renders them indecipherable to most people, the devil is in the detail...

No Respect for Earth's Limits

In the new deal, the world's governments have committed to peaking carbon emissions 'as soon as possible', and decarbonising our societies worldwide 'in the second half of this century'. But these same governments fail to call for binding climate action, give clear definitions of the action required and set all important deadlines for these efforts; deadlines that acknowledge Earth's limits, and that must be met if we wish to avoid enduring and inflicting untold suffering.

In order to avoid catastrophic warming of over 1.5 - 2°C above pre-industrial levels, we must drastically reduce emissions of carbon and other green house gases (GHGs) into our shared atmosphere. The latest climate science suggests that to achieve this goal global carbon emissions must peak by 2020, and be reduced to almost zero by 2050 to have even a 66% chance of avoiding warming above 2°C.

Much praise has been given to parties to the Paris agreement for acknowledging that global average temperature rises must remain "well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C." Big polluter nations had previously refused to acknowledge the 1.5°C goal called for by the world's most climate-vulnerable nations, but it is now the showpiece of their post-Paris PR- a signifier of willingness to tackle the 'climate issue' that is winning them serious political capital.

However, the odds that the Paris deal will keep average global warming below 1.5°C are slim to say the least. The details of the text reveal that up until 2020, when the Paris deal comes into force, countries are only required to reduce emissions according to voluntary pledges called Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDCs). Added together, the INDC commitments of all the world's governments involve emitting enough carbon to put us on course for a 2.7-3.7°C average global temperature rise by 2100.

Countries have agreed on a global 'stock take' process that will see them come back to the table to revise their INDCs and 'increase their ambition' every five years. However, by the time they are required to re-examine these targets in 2020 there is every chance we will have emitted enough carbon to lock ourselves into warming of 1.5°C-plus, and next to no chance global carbon emissions will have peaked as the latest science tells us they must.

The Paris agreement says governments should 'pursue policies' domestically to make sure their inadequate INDCs are met, but provides no means of enforcing them. This may be made an impossible task as the deal leaves the door open for free trade deals like TTIP and TPP to trump climate legislation, allowing corporations to sue governments that put in place progressive climate policies that infringe their current and future profits.

The best way to ensure we do not blaze past 1.°5C and risk a degree of warming that will see many small island nations and coastal areas inundated by the sea and massive impacts on ecosystems worldwide, is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This will involve treading on the fossil fuel industry's toes, to say the least, but instead the Paris agreement gives them a legal edge and a host of benefits-by-omission .

According to the latest science, as much as 80% of all known fossil fuel reserves must remain unexploited and unburned if we hope to avoid climate catastrophe. In practice this means 100% of tar sands, 82% of coal, 49% of gas and 33% of oil must be left in the ground.

And yet there is not a single mention of fossil fuels- oil, gas, coal or tar sands- in the Paris deal and many big polluting industries go entirely unmentioned and unscathed, including shipping and aviation.

Meanwhile, governments gave direct and indirect subsidies to the fossil fuel industries worth $5.3trillion in 2015 (that's $10 million every minute). This figure dwarfs the $10.2 billion promised by governments to the Green Climate Fund which was ostensibly set up to redistribute cash to combat climate change in some of the world's most vulnerable nations.

Without clear timelines for peak emissions and decarbonisation based on the latest science; without massive and immediate emissions reductions above and beyond current national pledges; and without any appetite to end fossil fuel extraction, the Paris agreement renders its own aims nigh-on unachievable and is out of touch with planetary reality.

No Justice for the most vulnerable

To make the massive transition from a world addicted to fossil fuels to one powered by renewables, the International Energy Agency estimates $1 trillion will be required every year by 2020, with $680 billion of this needing to go to countries in the Global South. These nations will also require $150 billion per year by 2020 and $300billion by 2050 to pay for adaptation according to the UN Environment Programme.

According to the principles of climate justice, reflected in the official COP talks through the concept of 'Common But Differentiated Responsibility', rich nations responsible for the majority of historic carbon emissions, and therefore the climate crisis, should stump up the majority of this money.

However, these same nations are promising just $100 billion per year by 2020, just an eighth of what is required. There is no concrete process for reviewing and increasing this figure written into the deal, only an aspiration to do so. Nor is there any certainty of what form this 'climate finance will take'- it could come as private finance with conditions on repayment, or be re-allocated from aid budgets.

These paltry pledges reflect rich countries' long-standing fight to avoid being saddled with major responsibility for redistributing wealth to help global south nations mitigate and adapt to climate change. Their success in this battle is also reflected by the fact that there is no wording in the deal that creates an obligation for rich nations to do their fair share to combat climate change according to their historic responsibilities.

In the section of the agreement that deals with loss and damages occurring as a result of climate change today and in the future, the deal provides "no basis for liability and compensation", meaning that rich states and their corporate entities cannot be sued for their role in causing climate change. This leaves those nations already suffering the impacts of climate change after just 1°C of warming disempowered, isolated and facing worse times ahead.

The deal also fails to detail how those workers dependent on polluting industries for their living will be supported and retrained in decent, climate-friendly work as part of a Just Transition towards a zero-carbon economy. This is a crucial part of the climate justice puzzle, key to weakening the grip of the fossil fuel industry at the level of the household as well as the policy and financial level.

At every turn, those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and climate action stand to be most negatively affected by the terms of the Paris agreement. And it doesn't stop here...

False solutions: A whole flock of wolves

Around the planet Indigenous Peoples, local communities and the groups supporting them are taking action to combat climate change in ways that are socially just and ecologically sane.

It is no coincidence that the territories of Indigenous Peoples are home to 80% of the world's remaining biodiversity, including the forests that draw down vast quantities of carbon. Nor that small scale and peasant farmers around the world can feed themselves, their families and 70% of the world's population from just 25% of the world's farmland, largely without the use of fossil fuels and whilst sequestering carbon in healthy, life giving soils.

These peoples' long and intimate relationship of care with their land enables them to live in a mutually enhancing way with the planet and care for the climate. As such, recognising the indigenous and human rights of these peoples and their central role in combatting climate change is a crucial part of climate justice.

Yet it is precisely these peoples who are stripped of their rights and see their Earth-centred practices ignored by the Paris agreement. Mentions of human rights and Indigenous rights have been removed from the final deal. Previous drafts had included wording that would mean all solutions to climate change would have to be implemented with respect for these rights.

Instead of acknowledging the people as part of the solution, as outlined in Oil Watch's Annex 0 proposal, the world's governments have chosen to open the door to false solutions with a track record of failure and contributing to the violation of people's rights and nature's rights.

Language around renewable technologies in the agreement is vague, which could prove crucial. With this deal, governments had a key opportunity to define the character of the 'renewable revolution', which undoubtably needs to happen fast, and ensure these technologies avoid reproducing the injustices of our current energy system.

First and foremost, we need renewable technologies that are designed and produced for a post-extractive world, emphasising longevity, durability and recyclability to ensure we do not have to mine in perpetuity to build these technologies, destroying even more ecosystems and violating the rights of communities in the process.

As far as possible, renewable technologies must also be decentralised and democratically owned by communities around the globe, rather than part of privatised mega projects. This will help us to avoid the kind of energy monopolies that see millions, even in wealthy nations like the UK, go without sufficient energy because they cannot afford it, whilst others consume more than their fair share. As has been mentioned, those nations with the least capacity to make the transition to 100% renewables need to be supported to do so by economically wealthy nations.

None of these caveats and nuances are contained in the Paris agreement, leaving governments free to dictate the nature of the renewable technologies they will encourage. This is bad news as governments worldwide have a track record of supporting destructive mega projects, such as hydro dams, that displace peoples and disrupt ecosystems, the healthy functioning of which is key for climate resilience. Control over these projects and their profits is frequently held by private companies and corporations.

The Paris deal also gives an overt endorsement to carbon markets, referred to in the deal as 'internationally transferred mitigation outcomes'. Through these markets, corporations and others can buy the right to continue polluting, supposedly offsetting their impacts by buying and protecting forests and other 'carbon sinks' elsewhere in the world.

Market schemes such as REDD+ and so-called Climate Smart Agriculture have been broadly criticised by Indigenous and peasant groups, as well as NGOs, for financialising nature and facilitating 'green' land grabs that violate the indigenous and human rights of those living the solutions to climate change. These financial fixes have been proven incapable of addressing climate change. They ignore the fact that the financialisation of nature aids and abets its destruction by reducing complex ecosystems and their homeostatic functions to units of capital to be bought and sold.

Indeed, solving the climate crisis is a secondary aim for the corporate entities pushing these market-based schemes. Profit is paramount, but climate change lends a useful framing for pushing GMOs and soil carbon credits in place of food sovereignty and privatising forests and 'marginal land' instead of recognising and supporting indigenous ownership and management.

Language in the deal around ambitions to decarbonise the global economy between 2050-2100 is rendered in terms of achieving climate 'balance', defined as equilibrium between emissions and carbon sinks. This indicates that governments are not intending to stop burning fossil fuels, and that, as well as incentivising carbon markets and green land grabs, they intend to turn to unproven technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Bio-Energy with CCS (BECCS) as solutions to the climate crisis.

Cripplingly expensive and unproven at any kind of scale, CCS and BECCS are touted as a silver bullet solutions to the climate crisis by the fossil fuel industry. The promise of these technologies is that we will be able to keep burning fossil fuels, but capture the carbon created and store it deep in the earth. Their mere existence is used as an excuse to keep the fossil fuel economy chugging on. Critics say the likelihood of CCS, and variations of it, being able to play any meaningful part in keeping us below 1.5-2C are nil. Even energy bosses, who are desperate for this technology to come good, admit it won't be viable before 2030 (if at all). But as the Paris agreement demonstrates, CCS technologies could play a key part in encouraging a false confidence (or, more cynically, a sly corporate diversion) in climate technofixes that sees us soar past these limits.

Climate change is a 'super wicked problem', solving it requires us to look to its roots- the philosophical and economic commodification of nature- and employ constellational thinking to bring about true systems change. But the Paris deal has fallen into the trap of capitalist solutionism. Denying the complexities of the interconnected crises we face, it places faith in those who have done the most to create the problem and who are lining up for a feeding frenzy of disaster capitalism that has many names: REDD+, Climate Smart Agriculture, GMOs, BECCS, CCS, Mega Hydro...

A Climate Call to Action

So, what do we do when our leaders have failed us, yet call their failure "our best chance of tackling climate change", in the words of President Obama?

The answer lies outside the stuffy negotiation chambers of the official COP21 space, littered with plastic animals and the sterile stalls of solutionists, with the people's movements that have brought us this far.

Make no mistake, politicians would not have met in Paris and thrashed out even this hollow deal were it not for the mounting awareness and pro-activeness of ordinary people worldwide. And now that our governments seem to have reached the limit of what they consider politically possible, it is up to us to impress upon them that this is not socially, ecologically or climactically acceptable.

We need everyone to understand that we have not been saved by the Paris deal. That is the first task we face- to cut through the media sensationalism and confront the reality, no matter how desperate we are for a success.

We must look to strengthen our movements to keep fossil fuels in the ground. From the snake-way of the Keystone XL pipeline in North America, to the lignite fields of Germany, to the lush highlands of the Philippines, communities and people's movements everywhere are succeeding in doing this. But we need to win more often. We must find new ways to stand alongside frontline communities and defend Earth's defenders so they can continue to live the solutions and to share them with the world. This is the big challenge for networks and movements like Yes to Life, No to Mining, and we must rise to it.

We know that when there is the popular will, the grit, the determination, our nations can be encouraged do what is right. As Enteng Bautista reminds us, "Costa Rica has legislated a moratorium on fossil fuel exploration and mineral extraction. The island nation of Kiribati has proposed a global moratorium on coal. The Ogoni people of Nigeria have successfully kept oil companies out of their lands for years."

The Paris deal places responsibility for climate action in the hands of individual states. So, in our home countries, especially those of us living in the Global North, we must escalate pressure on our governments to do their fair share to tackle climate change. A battle on many fronts, we need to look to initiatives like Canada's Leap Manifesto for inspiration. We need policy for rapid national decarbonisation, to cut subsidies to big polluters and the fossil fuel industry, reign in corporations registered at home who are destroying and polluting abroad, scale up climate finance for more vulnerable nations with no strings attached, push for a Just Transition at home and call for diplomatic relations that encourage other nations to do the same. We must coordinate these national efforts internationally.

At the deepest level of all, it is imperative that we pioneer new ways to put Earth back at the centre of our collective thinking. Unless we act from a deep understanding that the health and the future of humanity are deeply interwoven with that of our living planet, our solutions will continue to be co-opted into business-as-usual. Knowledge of our dependence on Mother Earth must be our anchor in the times ahead.

Perhaps because it provided this anchor, for me, the most powerful event in the civil society spaces outside COP21was the International Rights of Nature Tribunal. The Tribunal advances a new legal paradigm that draws on Indigenous knowledge and governance systems, recognising nature's inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. It represents one critical way to revive the planetary realism we need so desperately right now and is a model that should be taken and replicated elsewhere, and soon.

There is no one solution to climate crisis, no silver bullet. Nor can any one person, or government, or group of governments articulate an entire alternative system to our current one that is at war with people and planet. Rather, the systems change we want and so desperately need will emerge from the actions of our societies', bravest, most vibrant, resilient and determined groups, who are driven by a moral imperative that transcends current norms and augurs a better future. Ever was it thus.

The path ahead won't be easy and there are no guarantees we'll be successful as the climate clock ticks. But we know the alternative- inaction and catastrophic climate change- is unconscionable.

Our hope must be manifested in struggle.


Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments

Until governments undertake to keep fossil fuels in the ground, they will continue to undermine agreement they have just made

George Monbiot

The Guardian

12 December 2015

By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.

Inside the narrow frame within which the talks have taken place, the draft agreement at the UN climate talks in Paris is a great success. The relief and self-congratulation with which the final text was greeted, acknowledges the failure at Copenhagen six years ago, where the negotiations ran wildly over time before collapsing. The Paris agreement is still awaiting formal adoption, but its aspirational limit of 1.5C of global warming, after the rejection of this demand for so many years, can be seen within this frame as a resounding victory. In this respect and others, the final text is stronger than most people anticipated.

Outside the frame it looks like something else. I doubt any of the negotiators believe that there will be no more than 1.5C of global warming as a result of these talks. As the preamble to the agreement acknowledges, even 2C, in view of the weak promises governments brought to Paris, is wildly ambitious. Though negotiated by some nations in good faith, the real outcomes are likely to commit us to levels of climate breakdown that will be dangerous to all and lethal to some. Our governments talk of not burdening future generations with debt. But they have just agreed to burden our successors with a far more dangerous legacy: the carbon dioxide produced by the continued burning of fossil fuels, and the long-running impacts this will exert on the global climate.

With 2C of warming, large parts of the world’s surface will become less habitable. The people of these regions are likely to face wilder extremes: worse droughts in some places, worse floods in others, greater storms and, potentially, grave impacts on food supply. Islands and coastal districts in many parts of the world are in danger of disappearing beneath the waves.

A combination of acidifying seas, coral death and Arctic melting means that entire marine food chains could collapse. On land, rainforests may retreat, rivers fail and deserts spread. Mass extinction is likely to be the hallmark of our era. This is what success, as defined by the cheering delegates, will look like.

And failure, even on their terms? Well that is plausible too. While earlier drafts specified dates and percentages, the final text aims only to “reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible”. Which could mean anything and nothing.

In fairness, the failure does not belong to the Paris talks, but to the whole process. A maximum of 1.5C, now an aspirational and unlikely target, was eminently achievable when the first UN climate change conference took place in Berlin in 1995. Two decades of procrastination, caused by lobbying – overt, covert and often downright sinister – by the fossil fuel lobby, coupled with the reluctance of governments to explain to their electorates that short-term thinking has long-term costs, ensure that the window of opportunity is now three-quarters shut. The talks in Paris are the best there have ever been. And that is a terrible indictment.

Progressive as the outcome is by comparison to all that has gone before, it leaves us with an almost comically lopsided agreement. While negotiations on almost all other global hazards seek to address both ends of the problem, the UN climate process has focused entirely on the consumption of fossil fuels, while ignoring their production.

In Paris the delegates have solemnly agreed to cut demand, but at home they seek to maximise supply. The UK government has even imposed a legal obligation upon itself, under the Infrastructure Act 2015, to “maximise economic recovery” of the UK’s oil and gas. Extracting fossil fuels is a hard fact. But the Paris agreement is full of soft facts: promises that can slip or unravel. Until governments undertake to keep fossil fuels in the ground, they will continue to undermine the agreement they have just made.

With Barack Obama in the White House and a dirigiste government overseeing the negotiations in Paris, this is as good as it is ever likely to get. No likely successor to the US president will show the same commitment. In countries like the UK, grand promises abroad are undermined by squalid retrenchments at home. Whatever happens now, we will not be viewed kindly by succeeding generations.

So yes, let the delegates congratulate themselves on a better agreement than might have been expected. And let them temper it with an apology to all those it will betray.


At COP21, the world agreed to increase emissions

by Jonathan Neale

Global Climate Jobs - http://climateandcapitalism.com/2015/12/13/cop21-world-agrees-to-increase-emissions/

13 December 2015

Some countries will reduce emissions a little, but other countries will increase them a lot. You would never know this from UN and media reports.

The circus is over. The suits are leaving Paris. There have been millions of words written about the text. But one fact stands out. All the governments of the world have agreed to increase global greenhouse gas emissions every year between now and 2030. [1]

Why? Because all the countries have agreed to accept the promises of all the other countries. Among the top 20 countries for emissions, here are the countries that have promised to increase their emissions a lot by 2030: China, India, Russia, Korea, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, Thailand, Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam.

And here are the countries in the top 20 that have promised to cut their emissions by about 1% a year between now and 2030: USA, European Union, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Australia, and Argentina.

The countries that won’t cut will increase a lot will increase a lot. The countries that will cut will not cut by much. You would never know this from the way the agreement has been reported by the UN or the media.

They phrase everything as a promise to cut emissions. But they phrase these promises in ways that lie. So some countries, like Korea and Mexico, promise to cut emissions compared to Business as Usual (BAU). Business as Usual means the current UN estimate of how much emissions will increase if nothing is done. So a promise to cut only compared to Business as Usual is a promise to increase emissions.

Other countries, like India and China, promise to cut emissions in terms of carbon intensity. Carbon intensity is the amount of carbon in fossil fuels that is needed to produce the same amount of work. Carbon intensity has been going down in the United States for a hundred years. It is going down all over the world. This is because we learn to use coal, oil and gas more efficiently, just like we learn to use everything else in industry more productively. So a promise to cut carbon intensity is a promise to increase emissions.

Or they play tricks with time. Russia promises to cut emissions by 25% by 2030, compared with emissions in 1990. But the Russian economy collapsed after 1990, so the emissions were much higher in 1990 than they are even now. A promise to cut emissions compared to 1990 by 25% is a promise to increase emissions by 30% compared to this year. [2]

Then there are the rich countries which promise to cut emissions by a lot. But they always choose a comparison date to make them look good.

The US, for instance, promises to cut emissions in 2030 by 26% compared to 2005. But US emissions in 2014 were already 9% lower than in 2005. So really they are only promising to cut emissions by 15% in the next fifteen years.

The European Union promises to cut emissions by 40% compared to 1990. But EU emissions are already 20% less than they were in 1990. So this is a promise to cut emissions by 20% in the next 15 years.

So some countries will increase emissions a lot and some countries will cut them a little.

The regions of the world that will increase emissions already make two thirds of global emissions. The regions that will cut emissions a little make one third of global emissions. [3]

You do the math. They are lying. Emissions will rise every year. The leaders of the world have betrayed humanity. All we have on our side is seven billion people. Now we go home and mobilize.

Footnotes

[1] http://www.c2es.org/indc-comparison

[2] http://climateactiontracker.org/countries/russianfederation.html

[3] http://cait.wri.org/historical


We Need System Change!

By John Scales Avery

Countercurrents.org

14 December 2015

WE NEED SYSTEM CHANGE, NOT CLIMATE CHANGE! Civil society, excluded from the COP21 conference by the French government, carried banners with this slogan on the streets of Paris. They did so in defiance of tear-gas-using black-clad police. System change has been the motto for climate marches throughout the world. Our entire system is leading us towards disaster, and this includes both economic and governmental establishments. To save human civilization, the biosphere and the future, the people of the world must take matters into their own hands and change the system.

Our present situation is this: The future looks extremely dark because of human folly, especially the long-term future. The greatest threats are catastrophic climate change and thermonuclear war, but a large-scale global famine also has to be considered. All these threats are linked.

Inaction is not an option. We have to act with courage and dedication, even if the odds are against success, because the stakes are so high. The mass media could mobilize us to action, but they have failed in their duty. Our educational system could also wake us up and make us act, but it too has failed us. The battle to save the earth from human greed and folly has to be fought through non-violent action on the streets and in the alternative media.

We need a new economic system, a new society, a new social contract, a new way of life. Here are the great tasks that history has given to our generation: We must achieve a steady-state economic system. We must restore democracy. We must decrease economic inequality. We must break the power of corporate greed. We must leave fossil fuels in the ground. We must stabilize and ultimately reduce the global population. We must eliminate the institution of war. And finally, we must develop a more mature ethical system to match our new technology.

What are the links between the problems facing us? There is a link between climate change and war. We need to leave fossil fuels in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. But nevertheless, the stuggle for the world's last remaining oil and gas resources motivated the invasion of Iraq, and it now motivates the war in Syria. Both of these brutal wars have caused an almost indescribable amount of suffering.

ISIS runs on oil, and the unconditional support of Saudi Arabia by the West is due to greed for oil. Furthermore, military establishments are among the largest users of oil, and the largest greenhouse gas emmitters. Finally, the nearly 2 trillion dollors that the world now spends on armaments and war could be used instead to speed the urgently needed transition to 100% renewable energy, and to help less-developed countries to fave the consequences of climate change.

There are reasons for hope. Both solar energy and wind energy are growing at a phrnomenal rate, and the transition to 100% renewable energy could be achieved within a very few decades if this growth is maintained. But a level playing field is needed. At present fossil fuel corporations receive half a trillion dollars each year in subsidies. Nuclear power generation is also highly subsidized (and also closely linked to the danger of nuclear war). If these subsidies were abolished, or better yet, used to encourage renewable energy development, the renewables could win simply by being cheaper.

We can also take inspiration from Pope Francis, whose humanitarian vision links the various problems facing us. Pope Francis also shows us what we can do to save the future, and to give both economics and government a social and ecological conscience.

None of us asked to be born in a time of crisis, but history has given great tasks to our generation. We must rise to meet the crisis. We must not fail in our duty to save the gifts of life and civilization that past generations have bequeathed to us.We must not fail in our duty future generations.

John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D. there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. Fellowships, memberships in societies: Since 1990 he has been the Contact Person in Denmark for Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, this group received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. He was the Member of the Danish Peace Commission of 1998. Technical Advisor, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe (1988- 1997). Chairman of the Danish Peace Academy, April 2004.  He can be reached at avery.john.s[at]gmail.com


Paris deal: Epic fail on a planetary scale

Danny Chivers and Jess Worth

New Internationalist

12 December 2015

The Paris Agreement is being hailed as a great success. But will it deliver climate justice? Danny Chivers and Jess Worth put it to the test.

Today, after two weeks of tortuous negotiations – well, 21 years, really – governments announced the Paris Agreement. This brand new climate deal will kick in in 2020. But is it really as ‘ambitious’ as the French government is claiming?

Before the talks began, social movements, environmental groups, and trade unions around the world came together and agreed on a set of criteria that the Paris deal would need to meet in order to be effective and fair. This ‘People’s Test’ is based on climate science and the needs of communities affected by climate change and other injustices across the globe.

To meet the People’s Test, the Paris deal would need to do the following four things:

1. Catalyze immediate, urgent and drastic emission reductions;
2. Provide adequate support for transformation;
3. Deliver justice for impacted people;
4. Focus on genuine, effective action rather than false solutions;

Does the deal pass the test? The 15,000 people who took to the Paris streets today to condemn the agreement clearly didn’t think so. Here’s New Internationalist’s (NI) assessment.

Test 1. Catalyze immediate, urgent and drastic emission reductions: ‘In line with what science and equity require, deliver urgent short-term actions, building towards a long-term goal that is agreed in Paris, that shift us away from dirty energy, marking the beginning of the end of fossil fuels globally, and that keep the global temperature goal in reach.’

NI assessment: Fail.

The Paris Agreement aims to keep the global average temperature rise to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.’ But the emission cuts contained in the agreement are based on voluntary pledges called ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs) that governments drew up individually before the talks, based on what they were prepared to deliver, not what science or equity demanded. These cuts have now become an official part of the deal, but go nowhere near far enough to achieve a 1.5°, or even a 2° goal, and the agreement does not require these targets to be re-examined until 2020.

In the words of Asad Rehman from the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, ‘This agreement is a great escape for the big polluters, and a poisoned chalice for the poor. We’ve got some warm words about temperature levels, but no concrete action. Rich countries aren’t pledging to do any more about their inadequate emissions reduction targets which are going to lead us to 3.7° warming of the planet. None of the developed countries are doing their fair share to reduce their emissions and move away from dirty energy.’

This agreement is a great escape for the big polluters, and a poisoned chalice for the poor

According to Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, ‘The Copenhagen text included aviation and shipping emissions, that together are as large as the emissions of Britain and Germany combined, but they are not mentioned in the Paris text.’ Overall, he says, the agreement ‘is weaker than Copenhagen’ and ‘not consistent with the latest science’.

The Paris deal requires no emissions reductions from countries before 2020. Steffen Kallbekken, Director of the Centre for International Climate and Energy Policy, explains that ‘by the time the pledges come into force in 2020, we will probably have used the entire carbon budget consistent with 1.5°C warming. If we stick with the INDCs we will have warming between 2.7°C and 3.7°C.’

In order to have a decent chance of reaching that 1.5° target, we need to keep at least 80 percent of known fossil fuels in the ground, and urgently halt the exploration and extraction of new sources. We need to stop deforestation and reduce other greenhouse gases such as methane, by tackling major drivers such as the growth of animal agriculture. But the Paris agreement contains no mention of the words ‘fossil fuel’ – no coal, no oil, no gas - and not a whisper about the livestock, palm oil and other industries driving deforestation either.

‘Our survival is non-negotiable. But after all the hype about high ambition and the 1.5°C aspirational limit for global warming, the final version of the climate agreement is sentencing us to even more deaths and destruction’ said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD).

Test 2. Provide adequate support for transformation: ‘Ensure that the resources needed, such as public finance and technology transfer, are provided to support the transformation, especially in vulnerable and poor countries.’

NI assessment: Fail.

According to the International Energy Agency, the transformation to a fossil-free world will require $1,000 billion per year by 2020. Around two-thirds of this – so $670 billion - will need to be spent in developing nations, hence the need for a significant transfer of finance from North to South. This is only fair, because industrialized nations have grown so wealthy by burning fossil fuels for the last 200 years; countries containing just 10 percent of the world’s population are responsible for around 60 percent of the greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere.

However, the Paris Agreement only commits to ‘mobilizing’ $100 billion per year by 2020, to cover not just emission cuts but also adaptation (see 3, below). This is far short of the support required, and there is no firm commitment to increase this figure, merely an aspiration to review it by 2025. Meanwhile, the definition of ‘mobilize’ is purposefully broad, to include loans, private finance, grants with strings attached, and the reallocation of aid budgets. There has even been talk of calling the money sent home by migrants working in richer countries a form of climate finance, and counting it towards the total ‘mobilized’ by those rich countries.

This is inadequate and mean, especially given that governments spend an estimated $5,300 billion per year on direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuels. Janet Redman, Director of the Climate Program at the Institute for Policy Studies, puts the finance required in perspective: ‘We spend $2,000 billion a year on our military and mobilized $14,000 billion to bail out banks. Wealthy nations have to shift money from banks and tanks to clean energy and climate resilience.’

Test 3. Deliver justice for impacted people: ‘Enhance the support for adaptation in a new climate regime, ensure that there will be a separate mechanism to provide reparations for any loss and damage that goes beyond our ability to adapt, and make a firm commitment to secure workers’ livelihoods and jobs through a Just Transition.’

NI assessment: Fail.

According to the UN Environment Programme, on top of the $670 billion needed for emissions cuts per year by 2020, vulnerable countries will also need around $150 billion per year for adaptation measures to protect them from the worst impacts of climate change. That’s more than $800 billion per year in total – so the $100 billion ‘finance floor’ represents less than 15 percent of what is actually needed.

Developed countries have done the most to cause the problem, and therefore have the responsibility to solve it, but this crucial principle (known as ‘Common but differentiated responsibility’) has been watered down in the Paris text at the behest of the US and other industrialized nations. Rather than a clear statement that richer countries should provide finance to poorer nations for adaptation, the Paris deal just says that developed countries should ‘take the lead’ on providing finance, as part of a ‘shared effort’ by all parties.

While the US and some NGOs have been quick to blame developing countries for not pulling their weight in the agreement, the ‘Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs’ report, from climate justice organizations, social movements, faith groups, trade unions, environmental and development organizations, shows that the opposite is true. Many developing countries are pledging to do more than their ‘fair share’ to cut emissions while rich countries are dragging their feet.

The US and its allies do not want to pay for loss and damages which countries like mine are already experiencing

Furthermore, as climate change is already happening, many countries are already being hit by devastating floods, storms and droughts. These will continue – and worsen – for many years, even if the world succeeds in keeping temperature rises below 1.5 degrees. They deserve compensation and financial support to deal with the loss and damage caused by rich countries’ pollution. But the Paris Agreement denies them this by introducing a clause that says the deal provides ‘no basis for any liability or compensation’. Many climate-vulnerable nations fought hard for the right to compensation, but were bullied, bribed and browbreaten by the US and EU into accepting this clause.

As Asad Rehman puts it, ‘the EU, the US, and the umbrella group of rich countries have imposed a clause which absolves them of the legal, moral and political responsibility for the carbon pollution that they’ve created and that has devastated the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.’

Magline Peter, an Indian fisherfolk leader whose flight to Paris was delayed because of the floods in Chennai, also denounces this clause. ‘The US and its allies do not want to pay for loss and damages which countries like mine are already experiencing, whether through rising sea levels or freak floods, like the latest in Chennai. It’s absurd to see these developed countries continue to blame India for blocking a fair and just climate agreement.’

The concept of a just transition – that governments should provide training and financial support to ensure that workers in the fossil fuel industry can find alternative employment in the shift to a zero-carbon world – is mentioned in the preamble but not in the core, agreed text of the Paris deal. And the requirement that human rights should be taken into account has been stripped from the text.

This means that the rights of Indigenous peoples has also been removed from the binding part of the text. As Dallas Goldtooth, of Indigenous Environmental Network, explains: ‘It’s hard to take as an Indigenous person that our ability to decide and self-determine our futures, where we get our food from, where we get our water from is not legally recognised by the nations of this world. It’s destructive, it’s hurtful, and it shows that this agreement is a failure.’

Test 4. Focus on transformational action: ‘Ensure that renewable and efficient solutions are emphasized rather than false solutions that fail to produce the results and protection we need, such as carbon markets in land and soil, dangerous geoengineering interventions, and more.’

NI assessment: Fail.

The agreement talks vaguely about ‘technologies’ and ‘actions’ without defining what these are, leaving the door open to all kinds of false solutions. Renewable energy is mentioned just once, in relation to Africa. The deal aims to ‘achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century’. This could mean anytime between 2050 and 2100, when a 1.5 degree target would require a definitive end to fossil fuel use by 2050; and the purposefully slippery language allows for the possibility of continued fossil-fuel burning ‘offset’ by ‘removals’ via dubious carbon capture, geoengineering or forestry schemes.

The door is left open for carbon trading mechanisms – which have so far been wildly ineffective at cutting emissions – with ‘internationally transferred mitigation outcomes’ recognised in the text as a legitimate solution. Meanwhile, there is no mention of effective and fair solutions such as respecting the land rights of forest peoples, promoting clean democratic energy or ensuring food sovereignty for communities and small farmers, all of which would keep carbon safely locked up underground and in trees and soils. Regulations to rein in destructive industries, halt deforestation and keep fossil fuels in the ground are not even hinted at. Worse, there is no language in the deal to give it precedence over imminent trade agreements such as Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trans-Pacific Partnership, which are threatening to give corporations the power to overturn environmental regulations that affect their profits.

The Paris agreement is a farce. Any discussion of carbon markets and carbon trading is a false solution

In the words of Dallas Goldtooth, ‘The Paris agreement is a farce. Any discussion of carbon markets and carbon trading is a false solution. The truest solution, which is backed up by science, is that we have to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We must see a moratorium on fossil fuel development, and we must see a just transition for all those communities that are dependent on fossil fuel economies. Whether we’re from the global north or the global south, we need help and support to create a future that has renewable energy for 100 percent of people on this planet.’

NI Final score: 0/4.

Scored in this way, the Paris Agreement is a disaster for the world’s most vulnerable people. The headline target of 1.5 degrees and eventual decarbonization look good on paper but there’s no sign that governments are willing to make them a reality yet. Paris could mark the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel industry, but much more needs to change before that becomes a reality.

So what next?

None of this comes as a surprise to climate justice campaigners. As Asad Rehman puts it: ‘When we came into these Paris talks we had very low expectations. These expectations have been exceeded in how low they are. It’s what happens on Monday that’s the most important thing. Do we return to our capitals, do we build a movement, do we make sure our countries are doing their fair share? Do we stop the dirty energy industry, do we invest in new climate jobs, do we invest in community-owned decentralized energy? And most importantly, do we stand in solidarity with the millions of people across the world who are struggling for climate justice?’

Dallas Goldtooth agrees:

‘The decision-makers of the world can’t make the changes that we want. It’s on us as people to make that change. And we’re already seeing the power of the people. Look at North America – the Keystone XL pipeline was taken down because of people organizing. It wasn’t the governments who made that choice, it was the ranchers and farmers, the Indigenous peoples on the frontline in the heartland of America that made that choice, and the politicians adjusted accordingly.’

People shouldn’t be surprised that the deal is bad, Goldtooth says. ‘Industry has heavily influenced these negotiations. We have nation states who are dependent on a fossil fuel economy influencing these negotiations. Grassroots people who are advocating for the alternatives are not allowed in those negotiations. So we shouldn’t be surprised. Instead we are using this moment to reinvigorate our base, to continue forward demanding climate justice, and to show the world, show the countries, show the corporations what people can do when we unite for climate justice.’


Indigenous rights taking back seat to trade investment at COP21

Brandi Morin

APTN National News

9 December 2015

Indigenous delegates at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) conference are left waiting outside negotiating rooms in Paris to learn the fate of their rights currently on the cutting board.

Those rights related to climate change are in the hands of delegates and trade experts whose main interests lie in economic initiatives expected to be birthed following the signing of an international treaty to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.

Negotiations are heading into the final stages at COP21 with the aim of creating a Paris Agreement to replace the failed Kyoto Accord.

The agreement, expected to be completed by Friday, will come into force in 2020. World leaders continue to work out details of the deal that focuses on curbing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while keepingglobal warming below an increase of 2 degrees Celsius.

On Monday, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples warned that the outcome of the debates at the COP21 and including reference to Indigenous rights will determine whether the world succeeds inslowing the earths heating.

“Should human rights for Indigenous Peoples be struck from the final agreement, negotiators will have destroyed any pretense of their intention to mitigate climate change,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz in a statement.

“Failure to protect Indigenous Peoples rights in a final agreement will fuel destruction of the forests and other ecosystems managedsince time immemorial by Indigenous Peoples.”

The dispute arose last Friday following the first week of negotiations when the text at issue was removed from the draft document of the proposed worldwide legally binding treaty on climate change.

Although there is mention of adapting Indigenous knowledge in the preamble of the text, concerns are centered on references in Article 2.2 of the main document that included the rights of Indigenous Peoples. The section, which is the legally binding aspect, was bracketed and placed on the chopping block.

Jurisdictions opposing the inclusion of the text are the European Union, Denmark, Norway and the United States, said Alberto Saldamando, legal counsel for the Indigenous Environmental Network who is in Paris lobbying states to reinsert the mention of Indigenous rights in the agreement.

He said he’s puzzled as to the exact reasoning behind the resistance because countries like Denmark and Norway have historically given support to Indigenous causes.

“Even Denmark, Norway and all these countries that used to be our friends- they’re stone cold against the mention of Indigenous rights and language. I can’t figure out why…it doesn’t make sense,” said Saldamando.

He believes it might be connected to the fact that many countries sent delegates who are experts in trade negotiations and not wellinformed on matters related to human rights.

Human rights and gender equality listed in the same section of the agreement have also been removed.

“They (delegates) don’t understand (human rights) because they understand trade language. I do believe that a lot of these guys do not know what they’re doing- it’s shocking really,” he said.

With big money to be made in investments to green energy initiatives, COP21 has been steered by the influence of wealthy nations, the corporate sector and other interest groups.

According to Saldamando, they lack an understanding of the correlation between Indigenous rights and the commodification of the earth.

“It’s colonization all over again, it’s a taking. That’s what we’re afraid of,” said Saldamando.

Mitigation methods agreed upon at COP21 have the potential to violate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP.)

Initiatives such as carbon trading involving Indigenous lands pose threats by leaving vulnerable Indigenous groups to corporate interests and development without free, prior and informed consent.

“Those countries are over there talking about reducing green house gases, but we’ve already been violated by activities that cause climate change,” said International Indian Treaty Council Executive Director, Andrea Carmen.

“Now as the states plan to put programs in for litigation, for adaptation solutions- we have some of the last pristine forest, water and biodiversity in the world and we see our resources as kind of being on the table again and up for grabs in the solution stage,” said Carmen.

“It’s kind of ironic for Indigenous Peoples whose treaties are being violated, along with land rights, health and subsistence by these energy developments and projects- then they’re (states) over there talking about reducing, mitigating and adapting without our rights secured- we’ll be on the menu again.”

Saldamando referenced Indigenous Peoples living in countries such as Brazil who don’t technically own title to lands who are losing control over their forest homelands. Industries investing in carbon credits in efforts to reduce emissions via way of buying carbon stored in trees places Indigenous livelihoods at stake, he said.

It leaves open opportunities for corporate interest in and access to traditional territory, loss of food security and ceremonial and spiritual practices.

“Essentially the investor has an ownership interest in those trees. That means the community can’t log or cut down trees for housing, can’t clear a field to grow crops. And it really doesn’t protect the forest from development- as long as there’s a net increase in carbon sequestration they can mine and do whatever they want. Those are violations of UNDRIP done withoutfree, prior and informed consent,” said Saldamando.

Having returned from Paris as part of the Global Indigenous Caucus, Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit in British Columbia said the Paris agreement needs to go beyond talks of trade, and alleviating climate change.

“They also need to include how to deal with the impacts on vulnerable people,” said John.

“Such as the Inuit in the far north or First Nations who are impacted by the mountain pine beetle in British Columbia; or First Nations in BC who are impacted by warming waters in the Fraser river where 19 degrees becomes lethal to salmon in the summer time. These are the issues that we are dealing with – the first and the lasting impacts are on Indigenous Peoples,” he said.

However, John remains optimistic because of the help of countries like Canada advocating on the behalf of Indigenous Peoples rights in Paris. A stark shift in the political landscape in comparison to past adversarial relationships between First Nations and the Canadian government.

Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna is part of a 14 member facilitating panel from around the world directing negotiations.

“Canada’s position remains that we strongly advocate for the inclusion in the Paris Agreement of language that reflects the importance of respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples,” according to a statement from McKenna’s office.

Other countries going to bat for the inclusion of human and Indigenous rights language include the Philippines, Mexico, the IndependentAlliance of Latin America and the Caribbean.

With final negotiations underway and the world readying to sign the Paris Agreement Friday, Tauli-Corpuz appealed for opposing countries tofollow suit in supporting Indigenous and human rights.

“We call on the US, the UK and Norway, all of which have extended their hand to indigenous peoples in the past, to stand up for human rights and principles of democracy and inclusion,” she said.

“The social conflict that will erupt in the forests, should our peoples have no rights to defend themselves, will exact tremendous economicharm, as our forests are our homes, our lives, our culture, and the heart of our spirituality. We will not go quietly, and neither should you.”


COP21: Still a long road ahead in helping to save the world from climate change say Indigenous activists

by Brandi Morin

APTN National New

15 December 2015

Some Indigenous groups are skeptical that mere signatures on the COP21 climate change document will actually save the planet from global warming.

On the weekend, the United Nations gathering saw countries come together to commit to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and agree to take action on other measures to decrease the threat of climate change.

Indigenous activist Clayton Thomas-Muller just returned to Winnipeg, MB from attending the meetings.

Indigenous delegates from around the world attended the event as observers and were kept outside of closed door sessions that included Indigenous rights being placed on the cutting board.

Even though they didn’t have a seat at the table, Thomas-Muller said Indigenous Peoples still showed up to make sure their voices were heard and considered.

Thomas-Muller believes there was an underlying agenda led by corporations and financial institutions hungry to get ahead of and get a stake in the green economic boom that is expected to drive out the fossil fuel era. And with the commodification of nature comes a never ending cycle of harm to Mother Earth, he said.

“Indigenous Peoples refer to it as the “greedy economy” (instead of the green economy) because markets have hit the ecological ceiling,” he said. “The ones responsible for climate change in the first place-the big oil corporations, coal companies etc… and developed countries like Canada and the U.S. actually get to have a financial mechanism to buy their way out of compliance (to the treaty)- and even expand fossil fuel regimes like the tar sands.”

In the end Indigenous rights were included in the pre-amble (the non-legally binding aspect of the treaty), as well as mention of Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge in the main text.

According to Thomas-Muller, mitigation options of the Paris agreement leave room for the fossil fuel industry and high polluting countries to continue their GHG emitting activities by investing in “false” solutions like carbon offsetting.

All while leaving pristine Indigenous lands and ecosystems up for the taking, which to Thomas-Muller, is colonialization all over again.

“For us, these corporations represent a neocolonial force that is just redoing the same old story- business as usual as far as colonization,”he said.

“Except instead of Jesuit priests in black robes we have carbon offset brokers and corporate CEO’s in black suits coming into our communities promising a quick fix solution to the socio economic woes that we face through participating in these false solutions and participating in the drivers of climate change in the resource gain.”

As far as Canada is concerned, with recent championing of implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Trudeau government boasting about commitments to climate action at COP21, has yet to prove whether it’s serious about these sentiments.

And activists like Thomas-Muller will continue work at home on the ground in Canada to hold governments to account.

“Trudeau made a lot of grandiose gestures that appeared to lay a great framework. But the Trudeau government still continues to support the expansion of Alberta tar sands, the expansion of fracking across the country, while threatening local municipalities water sources from coast to coast to coast – they continue to support controversial tar sands infrastructure that promises to hardwire our economy into dirty energy for the next century during the era of the climate-crisis so they have to stop expansion,” he said.

Now back at home from Paris in Treaty 6, near the epi-center of Alberta tar sands operations, Crystal Lameman from Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) said she is happy with the COP21 outcome.

“The Paris Accord is a treaty, it’s the first time since the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples defined the minimum standard, so further to that a treaty is a treaty and whether it’s legally binding text or not, we need to remember that the pre-amble is the framing of the operative and the framing of the operative that is left for interpretation; it’s common knowledge that when people cite the UN declaration they almost always go to the preamble- so this is a win.”

BLCN has been in litigation with industry and governments for years in attempts to halt further development on their traditional territory. Although there is talk regarding the imminent death of the fossil fuel industry, Lameman thinks there’s still a long road ahead in the fight to keep the oil in the ground.

“No, it’s (fossil fuel industry) not over,” she said.

“Those that are jumping for joy need to remember some of the very bold statements that Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Notley both gave when Obama rejected Keystone XL- they voiced their disappointments. Notely furthered that statement and said that she would get the oil to tide water. This is an economy that this province and this country relies on and the oil and gas economy is not going anywhere,” said Lameman.

Lameman does believe that the governments are focused on transitioning to renewable energy resources, but it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.

But as of late, she’s been impressed with the government’s efforts to build a new relationship with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. And even though there is still a lot of work ahead, she’s optimistic the tides will turn for the better.

“We always have to be willing to move forward,” said Lameman. “We always have to be willing to better the situation of our people. And if we begin to shut the doors (to working with governments) then we’re accepting defeat. I feel like I have a renewed hope in these governments. These governments taking a stand for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and actually putting their words to action gives optimism, but at the same time we don’t stop, we push harder.”

When it comes to addressing climate change Thomas-Muller said Indigenous Peoples hold a lot of the solutions and are willing to help if world leaders take this knowledge seriously.

“I think that when the governments of the world begin to listen to the voices of indigenous peoples and recognize and respect their sovereignty and right to self-determination and can hear us-those solutions will be shared across the world and we will see ecosystems be renewed and will see life come back in all of these places,” he said.


What Worries the World's Most Famous Climate Scientist?
 
by Andrew Nikiforuk, originally published by The Tyee  

10 December 2015

James Hansen is fretting about the Paris climate talks, and for good reason.

You might recall that Hansen was the NASA scientist that boldly warned the United States Congress about the perils of rising global temperatures as early as 1988.

And you might remember that officials with the U.S. administration of George W. Bush instructed the world's most famous climate change scientist not to talk about how fossil fuel burning could have a dangerous effect on climate in 2004.

But Hansen kept on talking about melting ice, rising seas, flooded coastal cities and super storms. And now he's worried that Paris will be another bureaucratic gabfest that avoids the true remedy: rapid fossil fuel emissions reductions driven by a carbon levy.

By rapid, Hansen doesn't think the world's industrial economies have time to be self-satisfied about stabilizing carbon dioxide emissions around 450 parts per million or even the alarming present amount of 400 ppm. No, to restore the Earth's energy balance, now unsettled by centuries of greenhouse gas emissions, the world needs to aim for 350 ppm and possibly lower.

Everyone agrees that business as usual will take the world to 600 ppm by 2050, along with a rise of temperature by four degrees.

That grim future will give the world drowned coastal cities, parched crops, millions of refugees and failing ecosystems. Nobody really knows what would remain of civilization, as we know it.

Hansen worries politicians still don't get the urgency. He also worries that U.S. President Barack Obama and others will sell our children and theirs "down the river" in Paris with more promises and no action.

He worries, too, that Big Green, a plethora of well-funded non-government organizations, have got their priorities all wrong. They mostly think the world can copy Germany's renewable revolution and be blissful ever after.

In a recent and worrisome communiqué posted on his website, Hansen details his concerns by highlighting a few facts about climate change that the mainstream media often ignore.

Cumulative damage

Climate change is not about today's carbon headlines, but about cumulative pollution that dates back to the industrial revolution, steam engines and the feverish mining and burning of coal, Hansen writes.

Although China can claim to be the world's top carbon maker today (the U.S. is a close second and India a rising third), that's not really the point.

The problem started nearly 400 years ago and much of that carbon has now been absorbed by the ocean and biosphere and has destabilized the world's energy balance. The damage has been done.

When looked at from a cumulative perspective, the U.S. accounts for one-quarter of man-made climate change and China but 10 per cent. Germany, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom have each played much bigger roles in destabilizing the climate than India, too.

On a per capita basis, the story gets worse. The coal-fired British Empire and the oil-burning American Empire hold the most responsibility for bringing anarchy to the globe's climate. That's a sobering fact worth thinking about.

In fact, Hansen writes, the U.K., U.S., and Germany "have per capita responsibilities exceeding the responsibilities of China and India by almost a factor of 10."

As Hansen notes, "the West burned most of the world's allowable carbon budget."

That means that the global commons must leave most of the remaining fossil fuels, including Canada's bitumen and British Columbia's shale gas in the ground, "or our children and future generations are screwed."

Stupid approaches

But most politicians including President Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aren't really pushing the world in that policy direction.

Instead, they somehow think that voluntary negotiated reductions combined with stupid ideas such as cap and trade and carbon capture and storage will deliver a solution.

Caps on emissions won't work, argues Hansen, because you'll never get 195 nations to agree on a formula that is fair or at a rate that would prevent dangerous climate destabilization.

The approach has repeatedly failed. After 20 years of pleasant and often Orwellian rhetoric about cap and trade, emissions have soared.

In the last 14 years, 21 of the globe's most energy intensive nations increased their carbon emissions by 50 per cent, Hansen shows. Only economic stagnation helped a few nations such as the U.K. and Italy reduce their emissions by nearly 25 per cent.

The history of carbon capture and storage -- the absurd practice of burying carbon underground so you can behave the same way on top of it -- remains a chronicle of endless technical difficulties and obscene costs. Yet folks in Paris are touting the ridiculed technology as a solution.

Invented by the energy industry to create the myth of "clean coal," carbon capture and storage remains a boondoggle.

Even the Financial Times has noted that "Few technologies have had so much money thrown at them for so many years by so many governments and companies, with such feeble results."

The best solution

What worries Hansen even more is that neither the United Nations nor political leaders want to talk about the best solution: a progressive levy on carbon collected from energy companies at domestic mines and port of entry.

Once collected, the carbon levy would then be returned to all residents in equal per capita amounts to invest in reducing their energy intensity and carbon footprint.

People who use less energy would actually receive more in their monthly dividend than they pay in increased prices. The carbon fee would start small and rise each year, and thereby stimulate systematic energy and economic change.

"The required rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and phase-in of alternatives requires that businesses and consumers be confident that the fee will continue to rise," says Hansen in a related paper.

The fee, a form of honest energy pricing, also removes the economic inertia for change. As long as fossil fuels remain cheap and as long as prices don't reflect their ecologic, health and water costs to society, societies will burn them.

Hansen points to U.S. economic studies that suggest a carbon levy and dividend would decrease carbon emissions by 30 per cent in 10 years and more than 50 per cent in 20 years, while increasing gross national product. They would also create more than three million new jobs.

A carbon fee of $125 per tonne would collect $600 billion and yield a dividend worth about $6,000 per family (with two children) in the U.S. alone.

China and India would find such a system more palatable than voluntary caps because climate change threatens them with massive upheaval, reckons Hansen.

Several hundred million people live within a 25-metre elevation of sea level in China, and both countries stand to suffer grievously from intensification of droughts, floods and storms that will accompany continued global warming.

Hansen doesn't regard a carbon levy and dividend as a panacea. The globe will have to address its old cheap energy addictions to speed, quantity and mobility too. We might also have to abandon the myth of "clean energy," because every form of energy comes with an ecological price tag and a moral quandary.

Germany not the way

But nobody in Paris is really championing a carbon fee and dividend. Instead, the carbon-centric crowd continues to celebrate voluntary caps while Big Green points to Germany as the path forward.

For the record, Germany closed nuclear power plants, subsidized renewables and lowered emissions, which in turn led to high electricity prices. A cap and trade scheme played a role, too. At the same time, German industry exported the production of many consumer products to other countries that burn fossil fuels with abandon.

The end result, says Hansen, is that "global emissions decline little, if at all."

As a consequence, Germany remains an experiment that presents a question: "Can a wealthy nation with exceptional engineering ability and a public willing to subsidize renewable energies rapidly phase out carbon emissions?"

And so Hansen worries.

"The valid scientific message is that emissions must be reduced as rapidly as practical. And in turn, that implies the price of fossil fuels must be made honest by adding a rising carbon fee."


 

Climate Change and Coal Mining in India

New York Times

8 December 2015

Within hours of his arrival in Jharia, a remote corner of India’s Jharkhand State, Souvid Datta’s eyes teared up and his lungs burned. Swirling clouds of coal dust and toxic fumes from dozens of fires ablaze in open seams made him dizzy. Jharia is in the main coal belt in the region that supplies the highest-quality coal fueling India’s rapid economic expansion.

Mr. Datta had gone there with the journalist Melanie Cura Daball in advance of the current climate talks in Paris to photograph the effects of coal production on the people and countryside.

The increasing dependence on coal for energy in India and other developing nations is at the heart of the continuing talks among the international community. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has said that climate change was not the fault of developing nations, but a result of “the prosperity and progress of an industrial age powered by fossil fuel.” While the United States and Europe, he said, had already reaped the rewards from that era’s industrial expansion, developing nations were now being asked to curtail their own attempts to boost their prosperity.

Mr. Datta found that despite severe health issues related to coal mining and the fires that spew toxic clouds laden with sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and mercury, there were few economic alternatives for those who relied on the mines to survive — either through mining or scavenging for coal.

“A lot of people within the area suffer from skin diseases, coal miner’s black lung and other respiratory problems,” Mr. Datta, 24, said. “These people can’t escape the fumes or the coal dust because they have no other options but to live in this area and work in the coal industry.”

The Jharia mines were nationalized in 1973 and are now mostly operated by a state-run coal company. Today, the mining is done by the open-pit or strip-mining methods, which are more profitable but are highly destructive to trees, plants and topsoil.

The fires have been burning mainly underground for a century, but are now more exposed because of increased open-pit excavation, Mr. Datta said. And little has been done about the fires as they come even closer to residential areas, he added.

The government has built housing in an isolated area a few miles from the mines, but fewer than 4,000 families have moved in. Also, because there are no jobs nearby, many people, including young children, walk back to Jharia before dawn to scavenge coal before the mines open for the day. As families are forcibly removed from Jharia, the areas where they used to live are opened up for mining.

Mr. Datta’s interest in environmental issues dates to his childhood, when a friend died from respiratory illness and lung cancer. Two years ago, Mr. Datta went to China and pursued several stories about the effects of pollution, but he found it difficult to work in a country where he didn’t speak the language and needed a fixer. He returned to India, where he was born, to tackle the same issues in a land he better understood.

“I realized there were so many environmental problems here: air pollution, water pollution, chemical factories and tanneries,” Mr. Datta said. “Whether in China or India it boils down to the exploitation of people, and that is the issue that gets me.”


Carbon capture analyst: 'Coal should stay in the ground'

University of Michigan release

2 December 2015

ANN ARBOR—Serious flaws have been found in a decade's worth of studies about the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize the climate.

The findings, from the University of Michigan, are released as world leaders at COP21 attempt to negotiate the globe's first internationally binding climate agreement.

The U-M researchers have found that most economic analysis of carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology for coal-fired power plants severely underestimates the technique's costs and overestimates its energy efficiency. CCS involves sucking carbon out of coal-fired power plants' flue gases, compressing it and then injecting it deep underground.

The new analysis puts the cost of reducing carbon emissions with CCS-equipped coal plants higher than any previous study—and most importantly, higher than wind and comparable to solar power. It's the first study to confront the so-called "energy loop" inherent in the CCS process.

Beyond a one-time "energy penalty" these plants pay because they have to burn more coal to power devices that capture carbon, the researchers say the disadvantage compounds until fuel costs leap to four times today's accepted estimates.

"The conclusion is that renewables will be a cheaper alternative to reducing carbon emissions from coal, at least in the United States and likely globally," said Steve Skerlos, U-M professor of mechanical engineering, and civil and environmental engineering.

"To us, this means policymakers need to stop wasting time hoping for technological silver bullets to sustain the status quo in the electric sector and quickly accelerate the transition from coal to renewables, or possibly, natural gas power plants with CCS."

Coal-fired power plants produce nearly a third of the world's electricity. Today, they also emit more than half of the world's energy-sector carbon dioxide—the primary driver of climate change. Scientists recommend reducing CO2 emissions dramatically to keep the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over its pre-Industrial average.

CCS has seemed like a viable way to do that. Coal is a relatively cheap fuel and the infrastructure to use it already exists—both in the U.S. and in growing economies like China and India. While CCS is still in the research phase, and not commercially used today, it figures prominently into maps of tomorrow's cleaner energy landscape.

"Every major technological, economic and policy study published in the last decade on how to meet the internationally determined target of 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2050 has relied on the large-scale deployment of carbon capture and sequestration (storage)," Skerlos said.

Reports from 2005 and 2012 by the International Panel on Climate Change suggests that CCS could enable between 10 percent and 55 percent of the nation's total carbon reduction by 2100, for example. And just this year, an international study published in PNAS projects that nearly 85 percent of emission reductions by 2050 could come from coal CCS.

These reports and many more like it don't capture the full picture. The current, flawed projections peg the fuel costs of a CCS-equipped coal plant at $29 million per year more than a conventional plant. The new U-M research calculates the additional fuel cost at closer to $126 million, said Sarang Supekar, a postdoctoral researcher in mechanical engineering and first author of the new study.

"Current energy policy studies are based on cost estimates that greatly underestimate the full energy penalty and costs of CCS for coal-fired power plants," Supekar said. "Therefore, they overpredict the role of CCS going forward."

Why the discrepancy? Turns out the studies that recommend CCS be a key piece of the world's future energy portfolio rely on numbers from a 1991 pilot study that doesn't completely account for what Supekar calls feedback effects.

"To capture the CO2, you need to generate more energy," Supekar said. "To get this energy, you burn more coal, which creates more CO2 that needs to be captured. So there's this loop that's happening that needs to be accounted for."

The important number, Supekar said, is a plant's overall "thermal efficiency." That's the total amount of heat from coal burning that is converted to useful electricity.

The '91 study, by a researcher at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, evaluated the engineering and economic feasibility of using CCS to reduce carbon emissions. It concluded that the process was expensive. It also made clear that implementing CCS would require a choice between accepting lower useful power output and, as Skerlos says "confronting the energy loop"—burning more fuel to keep the power output stable.

The early study opted for lower power output. But later studies that cite it didn't interpret that drop appropriately, nor did they mention the energy loop.

To get a sense of the impact of this omission, a new coal plant's typical thermal efficiency is about 38 percent. Current literature—which largely ignores the energy loop—estimates CCS would decrease thermal efficiency to 26 percent. But the U-M researchers say it's more like 16 percent. This efficiency reduction is the cause of the cost increase.

As more CCS test projects have come online, the community has noticed higher-than-expected energy penalties, Supekar said. His study is the first to quantify what those plants are experiencing. Quantifying it is an important step toward figuring out if the technique makes sense from both economic and environmental perspectives. The researchers say it doesn't.

"The one-line conclusion is that coal should stay in the ground," Supekar said. "It's not efficient to take it out, burn it and put it back. Renewables, and possibly natural gas power plants with CCS technology, will be much cheaper and more efficient."

A paper on the findings, titled "Reassessing the Efficiency Penalty from Carbon Capture in Coal-Fired Power Plants" is published in Environmental Science and Technology. The work is funded by the National Science Foundation.

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More information: Study


COP21: EU cuts in coal use too slow to meet climate targets

by Zachary Davies Boren

Greenpeace Energy Desk

5 December 2015

Europe must cut coal power carbon emissions three times faster than they currently plan to in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, according to new research.

The report, written by analysts at Sandbag and CAN Europe, arrives as world leaders are meeting in Paris to hash out a global agreement on climate change.

It represents the first time the amount of carbon produced by Europe’s 280 coal-fired power stations has been calculated — it was 762 million tonnes in 2014.

Coal accounts for nearly a fifth (18%) of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, second only to the continent’s road transport sector (21%).

Late last month the UK announced its intention to close every coal plant by 2025, though there are terms and conditions — it’s the first G20 economy to take such a step.

Just before that Austria revealed planned coal plant closures means the country will be coal free around the same time.

There have also been recent murmurings in the Netherlands and Germany about putting forth a coal phaseout timeline.

Coal goes first

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global carbon emissions from coal must be cut in half by 2030 if the world is going to avoid crossing the dreaded 2C warming threshold.

By 2040, the global coal phaseout should be about 85% completed — coal carbon emissions must be reduced by 6% every year for the next 27.

This is far faster than the 1% annual emissions reduction for other sectors because the IEA says swapping coal for clean energies like wind and solar is the cheapest and easiest way to cut global carbon emissions.

Lead on climate

Europe should be at the forefront of the global coal phaseout since it electricity demand is falling and strong renewables targets are already in place, the report says.

For some countries, getting off coal may not even be all that difficult.

There are only two coal power stations operating in Portugal, and they produce 16% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The two coal power plants in Slovenia produce 25% of national greenhouse gas emissions.

Ireland’s one coal power plant – Moneypoint – contributed 6% of its greenhouse gas emissions.

On the flipside there are five countries in which multiple coal power stations are behind more than a quarter of the total greenhouse gas emissions — 44% in Bulgaria, 34% in Greece, 33% in Czech Republic, 33% in Poland, and 28% in Germany.

Old coal

Part of why so few coal plants produce such a large amount of carbon dioxide emissions is because Europe’s fleet is mostly old, inefficient and uneconomic.

By the end of this year, 66% of Europe’s coal power stations will have been running for 30 years or more.

These old coal power plants are labelled ‘sub-critical’, meaning they emit around 30% more carbon than new power plants when producing the same amount of electricity. They also break-down more often.

It’s not just carbon emissions, it’s also toxic air pollution. In 2013, coal power stations released 52% of all sulphur dioxide (SO2) from Europe’s industry, 40% of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 37% of dust particulates (PM), and 43% of all reported mercury emissions

That said, all of these emissions are steadily falling. CO2 has fallen from 934mt in 2005 to 762 last year, which means an annual reduction of 2.3% over the last 9 years.

So it is happening. Just apparently not fast enough.


The World Demands Better

by Joseph Purugganan

Focus on the Global South

12 December 2015

PARIS-- The Paris Climate deal is out and as expected it is being hailed by proponents as a huge success. On the other hand, around 10,000 people joined the red line action at Arc de Triomphe and later at the Eiffel Tower protesting against corporate capture of the climate talks and the failure of governments to deliver a deal that addresses the root causes of climate change. The #D12 protests, the first demonstrations in Paris since the November 13 attacks also sent a strong message to governments that the people are ready to act to push for real solutions to climate change; and for systems change.

We expect the battle of competing narratives to continue in the coming days. Was Paris a success or a failure? Was the deal forged a good or a bad deal for people and planet? Should Paris be a starting point or a turning point?

Amid the celebratory mood, its important to take stock of what the red lines were:

Emissions reduction

We knew coming into COP21 that the aspect of emissions reduction was off the table in Paris. Instead what will be included are the pledges contained in countries Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). We knew even before the talks began, based on reviews from the UNFCCC, UNEP and the Civil Society Review that the pledges are inadequate to meet the target of limiting global emission levels to 42 billion tonnes in 2030, and will result in temperature rise of just under 3 degrees Celsius (breaching the 2 degree limit set by science) if the plans are fully implemented.

The coup de grace in Paris was the formation of the High Ambitions Group- a grouping of developed countries led by the United States and the European Union, and developing countries like the Marshall Islands, and the Philippines, pushing for "legally binding, ambitious and fair deal that would set out long-term targets reflecting current scientific knowledge about climate change." The group became the main platform (you can say the US effectively hid its agenda behind this group) for piercing through the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. CBDR became subordinated to the idea that 'all parties must share' in the load regardless of its historical emissions.

While the 1.5 degree limit had been the demand by developing countries and even NGOs, the push for ambition had two effects: it diverted attention away from the issue of differentiation (common but differentiated responsibility or CBDR) which is an important justice indicator; and second it gave the US in particular the platform to challenge the position of big emerging economies like India, who argued that it needed the space to push for its own development objectives (see India's position in Paris here: http://time.com/4138055/india-paris-talks-climate-change/)

As Focus Executive Director Shalmali Guttal pointed out: "Of course we want progress, of course we support the goal of 1.5 degrees, but we cannot fall into this trap. The so called high ambition proposed by the US-EU is ambition for corporations, not for addressing the root causes of the climate crisis. Many of us from the South are working with grassroots movements and communities to challenge extractive, destructive development and over consumption of the rich in our own societies."

The Delhi-based policy research group Center for Science and Environment (CSE) did a fact check of the US plan. CSE concludes: Our report finds that their plan is nothing more than business as usual. Worse, all possible gains of increased efficiency in vehicles or energy use in buildings will be negated because of increased and growing consumption. This needs to be discussed because their lack of ambition means appropriation of the limited carbon budget.

In the end, what was adopted was a compromised text on long term goal to limit global temperature rise "to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels" and an aspirational line " to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels."

Finance

There remains a reference to US$100 billion per year as floor of commitments with a promise to scale up after periodic reviews. The language remains weak and limited to commitment to "mobilize and facilitating the mobilization" of climate finance. There was a slight improvement in the final text when it comes to the issue of differentiation as the phrase 'shared effort' was replaced with a more general 'global effort' and the onus of providing climate finance is more clearly placed on developed countries.

Judged against the previous text, the final agreement on the surface shows an improvement. But what exactly do we need under climate finance? A news report from the New Internationalist cited figures from International Energy Agency, on the required amount of $1,000 billion per year by 2020 to move towards the transformation to a fossil-free world. "Around two-thirds of this – so $670 billion - will need to be spent in developing nations, hence the need for a significant transfer of finance from North to South," The report adds "this (commitment on climate finance) is inadequate and mean, especially given that governments spend an estimated $5,300 billion per year on direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuels."

Loss and Damage

Loss and Damage mechanism is part of the deal as a separate section (and not subsumed under Adaptation as proposed by developing countries). The problematic phrase "and in a manner that does not involve or provide a basis for liability or compensation nor prejudice existing rights under international law" was removed in the final text. It remains unclear however how the mechanism will work to compensate for losses and damages already felt by developing countries.

False Solutions

The deal also created a new mechanism contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development (the dual purpose of the old Clean Development Mechanism). The new mechanism will constitute "cooperative approaches that involve the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes towards nationally determined contributions." This mechanism, much like CDM will provide the space carbon offsets which have been criticized as incentives for polluters and corporations (see Focus report Costly Dirty Money-Making Scheme)

As the Climate Space pointed out: The Paris Outcome promotes techno-fix solutions like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), bioenergy with CCS, and geo-engineering. These are phantom technologies that won't work, but will give their proponents an excuse to keep profiting from fossil fuels.

Climate Politics

The Paris outcome represents the culmination of a process that started in Copenhagen to change the course of the climate negotiations moving farther and farther away from the core principle of common but differentiated responsibility enshrined in the convention. While there remains references to common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances throughout the text, the principle which was central to the climate justice debate seemed to have lost its significance in the wake of the voluntary, bottom up regime of INDCs.

Another very clever move (which proponents see as innovation) is the idea of a global stock take-- simply put a review process that is supposed to scale up the level of ambition to allow for a narrowing down of the emissions gap. Paris therefore is widely seen as a starting point or a foundation for more climate action in the future.

Resistance and Real Solutions

The climate justice movements have been re-energised by the events in Paris and have vowed to support the continuing struggles of grassroots and frontline communities and intensify actions to push for real solutions. The convergence of two big movements- on trade and climate, has also been strengthened here in Paris anchored primarily on challenging the notion that trade policies trump climate and making the links between struggles against new generation FTAs like TPP and TTIP and the corporate driven paradigm that exacerbate the climate crisis.

Joseph Purugganan
Coordinator
Focus on the Global South


Climate activists declare COP21 ‘dead on arrival’, calls for escalated global actions to confront climate polluters

Kalikasan PNE press release

13 December 2015

Hundreds of ‘climate bikers and walkers’ came out in solidarity with the global movement for climate justice this early Sunday morning, as the United Nations 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) climate negotiations winds down with a new climate agreement that many advocates anticipated to be watered down and insufficient.

“The COP21 climate agreement is dead on arrival, as the top polluter countries have brazenly imposed their will on the 190 members of the conference. Negotiators have failed to come up with a long-delayed climate protocol that imposes obligated, quantified, and ambitious emissions cuts on industrialized countries and their corporations,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).

The Paris agreement made no mention at all of imposing mandatory emission cuts on polluter countries and their highly pollutive industries on fossil fuel and mineral extraction, power generation, transportation, and agri-industrial plantations.

“The intensely debated differences between the 1.5°C and 2°C warming scenarios are worthless if the biggest contributors, the multinational fossil fuel corporations and the global military industrial complex, aren’t identified as culprits and taken head on,” said Dulce.

The group said the final agreement said little or none at all about major issues critical for climate-vulnerable nations such as the Philippines, including agriculture, loss and damages, and human rights. The agreement reaffirmed the target $100-billion green climate fund for the adaptation of vulnerable countries, but is a far cry from the over $1 trillion estimated costs needed by the said countries.

“The global climate crisis is being reduced to a simplistic debate on fossil fuels when the extreme climate impacts that frontline communities are facing are already happening, worsening, and remaining unaddressed. In the process, negotiators have agreed to mere crumbs for climate financing. The entire COP21 has also avoided even mentioning the systemic attacks of ‘CO2lonialism’ and imperialist globalization to the people and planet. The premise of not addressing the roots of the crisis makes any outcome in COP21 into shallow, cosmetic solutions,” lamented Dulce.

Kalikasan PNE criticized the Philippines’ country negotiators for submitting to the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) mechanism, which rendered all commitments to emissions cuts, climate financing, technology transfer, and policy reforms completely voluntary.

“Submitting to the INDCs, while being hailed for being appealing to both developed and underdeveloped countries due to its flexibility, actually undermined all chances of having obligatory commitments for emissions cuts and other climate solutions from the biggest polluter countries,” explained Dulce.

The climate activists called on nations and people’s movements around the world for escalated actions to oppose fossil fuel, extractive, and other development aggression projects across the world, saying “the future of our climate is in peril if we allow polluter countries and companies to run the world on its business-as-usual pathway.”

“People around the world are engaging in bigger, bolder actions to directly stop pollutive and destructive policies and projects. We challenge the Filipino people to scale up the opposition to coal power plants, big mines, and plantations, and these issues should figure in the upcoming national elections through a people’s climate platform. Beyond COP21 and the elections, we should assert the people’s control and governance in the various frontline communities through resolute, militant struggle,” ended Dulce.#

Reference: Leon Dulce – 0917 562 6824

Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100

 


 

U.S. coal industry on board 'slow-motion train wreck'— report

Cecilia Jamasmie

Mining.com

9 December 2015

McKinsey and Co. warns the U.S. coal industry is not just facing overcapacity, but also crippling liabilities that will outlive mine closures.

It's been a dreadful year for the coal industry, particularly in the U.S., where nose-diving prices and tougher proposed regulation have pushed a number of producers to seek bankruptcy protection.

To avoid an even darker 2016, McKinsey and Company suggests the U.S. coal industry should get “smaller” and “healthier.”

The reason for this, as simply put by the analysts in a report published last month, is that while the US has plenty of coal, the world just “doesn’t need it”:

"By 2020, the convergence of low- cost shale-gas supply, environmental regulation, and waning international demand is likely to push demand for US coal to at least 20% below what US mines currently produce—which is already almost 20% below 2008 levels."

If this week’s climate-change summit in Paris succeeds in establishing firm goals for cutting emissions, coal’s future will be even darker. Years of pressure from climate activists are bearing fruit already, as a growing number of banks —including Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo this week— are now pledging to cut financing to the industry.

That’s a problem it could sink the coal industry, as the sector is also facing crippling charges that will outlive mine closures, according to McKinsey and Co.’s report.

The analysts say that even if miners cut capacity to balance supply and demand in 2020, they still will be unable to service most of its approximately $70 billion of remaining debt and liabilities it has incurred over the years.

Just as an example, Alpha Natural Resources left behind more than $670 million in self-bond liabilities when it filed for bankruptcy in August, and officials have not determined how best to protect taxpayers from that hit.

A government’s program to subsidy coal mines clean-up, known as self-bonding, allows some of the country's largest coal companies to forego insurance on a share of future mine clean-up costs. However, authorities are now concerned the program could leave taxpayers with about $3.6 billion in self-bond liabilities, a U.S. Interior Department official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Closing mines does require large sums of money and could impair the ability of the companies to pay interest and return funds to bondholders. The result, says McKinsey and Co., is that the U.S. is now home to a collection of “zombie mines” that cannot turn a profit, but are too costly to close.

Click here for a copy of the report that includes further analysis and an action plan for coal miners in the U.S.


Philippines takes up complaint of human rights violations by oil firms

By Laurie Goering

Reuters

4 December 2015

PARIS - Responding to a complaint filed by typhoon victims, a Philippines human rights commission agreed Friday to look into whether large international fossil fuel companies are violating the human rights of its citizens by driving climate change.

Holding oil, gas and coal companies responsible for deaths and financial losses in the Philippines "will be an uphill climb," admitted Roberto Cadiz, a member of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines.

But he said he felt duty bound to take on the case, both because losses from extreme weather are mounting so rapidly and because other efforts to curb climate-changing emissions are "moving very slowly, if at all", providing the impetus to explore other avenues.

Cadiz said the commission would launch an inquiry in the first quarter of 2016.

Activists called the complaint one of a first wave of legal challenges seeking redress for human right violations from climate change. It joins a string of recent legal filings, in countries from Germany to Pakistan to the Netherlands, seeking to force faster action to address climate change and its impacts, or claiming damages from energy companies.

"These cases are coming. There are many in the pipeline," said Alyssa Johl, a senior attorney at the Washington-based Center for International Environmental Law.

Legal experts at U.N. negotiations in Paris, which aim to seal a new global deal next week to curb climate change and deal with its impacts, compared the fledgling legal push to seek damages from oil, gas and coal companies to early efforts to take on tobacco companies over health damage caused by smoking.

Winning compensation could take decades, or ultimately fail, they admitted. But simply filing suits can put pressure on fossil fuel companies and potentially drive away investors, they said.

"Companies fear nothing more than a lawsuit. The best way to get their attention is to say we have a legal basis for a claim and we're going to bring a lawsuit," said Gregory Regaignon, a lawyer and research director of the U.K.-based Business and Human Rights Resource Center, which looks at the human rights implications of company action.

The aim is to "reach companies where their assets are," he said. "That's what they care about most, and how we're going to reach remedies."

"DIFFICULT - BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE"

The Philippines complaint, brought with the support of organizations including Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Amnesty International and the Union of Concerned Scientists, asks the country's human rights commission to look at the responsibility of 50 big investor-owned fossil fuel companies in causing climate-change related human rights violations.

The companies, including giants Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhilips, have contributed a large share of the carbon dioxide and methane emissions now driving climate change, according to a 2014 study commissioned by the Climate Justice Programme and Greenpeace International.

"It is only fair and just that the companies that have extracted and profited the most from fossil fuels account for the resulting harm and take measures to prevent more harm, to protect the rights of people in the context of climate change," said Zelda Soriano, an attorney with Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

"Yes, it's going to be a difficult investigation, a very complicated investigation…. But the petitioners believe it is not impossible," she said.

The storm-vulnerable Philippines is widely ranked as one of the countries most severely impacted by extreme weather driven by climate change. Typhoon Haiyan, in 2013, killed more than 6,000 people and caused an estimated $13 billion in damage.

Veronica "Derek" Cabe, one of the petitioners in the human rights commission complaint, said she spent Typhoon Ketsana in 2009 huddling in wet clothes with her 2-year-old niece and other family members in her home's attic for 12 hours as floods surged through Manila.

"We saw floating people, floating animals, floating coffins. We could not do anything, we could not help them. It was like watching a horror movie and the cruel part is we could not turn it off," she said.

As such storms become more frequent, "should we just accept this as a matter of our fate?" the 42-year-old community organizer asked. "I believe something is wrong… that we cannot live like this forever, that there should be accountability."

Creating a case to bring fossil fuel companies to task for human rights violations clearly will be an immense challenge for the Philippines commission – what Soriano described as "a small human rights agency in a developing country."

But Kumi Naidoo, the executive director of Greenpeace International, said his organization had been approached by foundations and trusts that may be able to provide financial and capacity support for the effort.

Anna Abad, a climate justice campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, called the Philippines complaint a first step toward justice for those hit by climate-linked disasters in the country.

"For the longest time since they started their business, these carbon polluters have been invincible. Nobody has challenged their social license and their role in climate change," she said.

"This is one step in a whole legal strategy of making sure those complicit in climate change are held accountable."

(Reporting by Laurie Goering; editing by Ros Russell:; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's rights, trafficking and corruption. Visit www.trust.org/climate)


Why the Philippines could set a climate liability precedent

Zelda dT Soriano, Greenpeace Philippines

http://business-humanrights.org/en/why-the-philippines-could-set-a-climate-liability-precedent

9 December 2015

The Philippines has suffered greatly from the adverse effects of climate change despite its limited contributions to it. It could soon establish liability for major climate change contributors.

Part of Climate Dialogues blog series

There is an air of anticipation around Greenpeace Southeast Asia this month as we prepare to file a petition to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines to investigate the responsibility of Chevron, Shell and other big oil, coal and gas producers for the human rights impacts resulting from their contributions to climate change. The petition could be precedent-setting in the climate liability movement.

According to Carbon Majors data [1], there are only 90 companies and entities whose actions have made a measurable, demonstrable and cumulative contribution to climate change. Yet, none of them are being held accountable for the catastrophic human impacts of this contribution. The upcoming petition has the potential to change that.

The Philippines is already a nation severely affected by natural disasters. In fact, according to the World Bank, the international disaster database, shows that between 2000 to 2008, weather-related disasters accounted for 98% of all people affected and 78% of all people who died due to disasters in the Philippines [2]. Last year, based on government reports collected by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an estimated three million people were displaced by natural hazard-related disasters in the country during 2014 [3]. Unaccounted here is the grief and agony of losing loved ones, of losing a limb or one’s mind, not to mention hard-earned property during disasters. Science is telling us that it will likely only get worse with the impacts of climate change. And these harms resulting from the impacts of climate change have human rights implications.

“There exists broad agreement that climate change generally negatively affects the realization of human rights,” according to the 2009 Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of the UN. It also “stresses the importance of accountability mechanisms in the implementation of measures and policies in the area of climate change and requires access to administrative and judicial remedies in cases of human rights violations.”

Corporations have a responsibility to respect human rights which arises from a “global standard of expected conduct applicable to all businesses in all situations” according to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

With respect to the manner in which companies should respect these rights, Foundational Principle 13 of the Guiding Principles provides that business enterprises are required to:

(a) Avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur; [and]

(b) Seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.

States on the other hand have obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, both within their territories and extraterritorially, based on international law. Specifically, states have extraterritorial obligations (ETOs) to respect, protect and fulfil human rights abroad. The Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights provide guidance and legal grounds for the effective implementation of ETOs. With respect to the regulation of corporations, international human rights treaty bodies monitoring implementation of treaties on civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, the rights of the child, and on racial discrimination have all confirmed that States must take necessary measures to prevent their corporations from interfering with the enjoyment of human rights both within their territory and in other countries.

The powerful targets and cause of action in the climate change and human rights petition is reminiscent of Filipinos’ struggle for human rights and democracy three decades ago. Former opposition leader, Ninoy Aquino’s words against the dictatorship of the past are relevant to our struggle against the big corporate carbon polluters: “…as long as man refuses to be defeated, he is never defeated.”

The Philippines has a unique opportunity to take its human rights legacy one step further and set a precedent by holding polluters accountable for climate impacts. In order to make this a reality, the petition needs the indomitable spirit of Filipino human rights defenders of the people-power days. It needs petitioners and supporters who will not be intimidated by the big, powerful corporate carbon polluters and who will not accept the injustice in the context of climate change.

Zelda dT Soriano is legal and political advisor of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

References:

[1] http://www.climateaccountability.org/pdf/Media%20Outline%20Feb15.pdf

[2] http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2010/04/15198885/strategic-approach-climate-change-philippines

[3] http://www.internal-displacement.org/south-and-south-east-asia/philippines/2015/philippines-long-term-recovery-challenges-remain-in-the-wake-of-massive-displacement


Removing Rights for Indigenous Peoples places Forests, Climate Plan at Risk

Statement from Paris, COP21. Paris

By Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

7 December 2015

The outcome of a fierce debate in play during negotiations in Paris today will determine whether the world succeeds in slowing the climate change that places all humanity at risk.

I appreciate the inclusion of Preambular Paragraph 10 which emphasizes “… the importance of promoting, protecting and respecting all human rights, the right to development, the right to health, and the rights of indigenous peoples…when taking action to address climate change” of Annex 1 of the Draft Paris Agreement.

I also note the reference to human rights in Article 2.2. in the same document. This says that the "Agreement shall be implemented on the basis of equity and science, and in accordance with the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities… and on the basis of respect for human rights…”. However, I regret that the earlier text which says “including rights of indigenous peoples…” was removed .

I strongly believe that having a reference to indigenous peoples’ rights in this section is very important because it lays down the basic principles which should guide the achievement of the purposes of the Agreement. It is very unfortunate that countries known for promoting human rights and advancing democratic ideals globally—are reportedly leading a block of nations that would remove from the negotiating text language that commits countries to respect human rights, including those of indigenous peoples in the implementation of plans for addressing climate change. I appeal to these countries to heed the cry of indigenous peoples and other civil society organizations to return the references to Indigenous peoples rights.

I also note that Article 4, paragraph 5 refers to indigenous peoples’ knowledge in adaptation. and there is a reference to human rights, although this is in brackets. The Draft COP Decision, Article 30 in the section “Decisions to Give Effect to the Agreement” states that the CMA shall consider development of principles and guidelines which ” (b) Respect customary and sustainable land-use systems and the security of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ land tenure.” Article 39 under the same section says the "Agreement should (c) Involve and facilitate the participation of relevant stakeholders, in particular women[, local communities] and indigenous peoples, in planning, decision-making and monitoring and evaluation…”

I am strongly appealing to the State Parties to unbracket the references mentioned above and put back the phrase “rights of indigenous peoples” in Article 2.2.

Failure to protect indigenous peoples’ rights in a final agreement will fuel destruction of the forests and other ecosystems managed since time immemorial by indigenous peoples. This will weaken the contributions of indigenous peoples to the solutions to climate change. A new study released this week at the COP21 by a collaboration of indigenous peoples’ groups from Africa, Latin America and Asia, and the Woods Hole Research Center reports that forests on indigenous territories store at least 20 percent of the carbon in tropical forests worldwide. The authors acknowledge that this estimate is conservative. Other studies over the last year have shown that indigenous peoples outperform every other owner, public or private entities on forest conservation.

Should human rights for indigenous peoples be struck from the final agreement, negotiators will have destroyed any pretense of their intention to mitigate climate change. If our rights are violated, we will be unable to protect the forests. This is the direct link between human rights and climate change.

I thank the Philippines, Mexico, the AILAC countries, such as Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, Guatemala and other Pacific countries like Tonga and Vanuatu and other countries within the Climate Vulnerable Forum which are the ones championing the human rights language against some of the world’s most powerful countries. We call on the US, the UK and Norway, all of which have extended their hand to indigenous peoples in the past, to stand up for human rights and principles of democracy and inclusion.

The social conflict that will erupt in the forests, should our peoples have no rights to defend themselves, will exact tremendous economic harm, as our forests are our homes, our lives, our culture, and the heart of our spirituality. We will not go quietly, and neither should you.

 

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