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Convention on Climate Change
We cannot continue to put our faith in bodies such as the UN to solve this problem for us
T he focus of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2006, held in Nairobi, Kenya was the CDM—the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. The CDM is designed to enable rich countries to avoid their own emissions reductions by funding so-called “clean development,” or emissions reductions, in poor countries.
African lobby groups, headed by Climate Africa, condemned the inaction of industrialized countries stating, “We are concerned that the developed countries are not keen to take drastic action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.... Instead they are singly and collectively increasing their greenhouse gas emissions.”
During a side event on avoiding deforestation hosted by the European Union, ministers and UN representatives spoke at length about the importance of ending logging in native forests as a means to limiting the impacts of global warming. The solution, they concluded, was to create a huge fund to give developing countries incentives to protect their forests, which would be facilitated by assigning standing forests a dollar value for their so-called “ecosystem services.”
While the information presented on the importance of standing forests for the climate and biodiversity was extensive, the lack of information on the forces driving deforestation was glaring. The presenters ignored the financial pressures forcing countries to log their forests, leaving the impression that poor countries cut their trees because they have nothing better to do.
There was no mention of structural adjustment conditions imposed by the World Bank and IMF that force poor countries to sell off their natural resources at rock-bottom prices to repay development loans. There was likewise nothing said about the continually escalating demand for wood products from Northern countries, much of which winds up in landfills as disposable packaging, junk mail, or advertising.
This side event was emblematic of the overall UNFCCC, which emphasized problem-solving through capitalism—namely the creation of funds, and the development of market mechanisms like carbon trading that promise billions in profits while doing nothing to truly address the problem of global warming. The concepts of consumption reduction and lifestyle change were altogether lacking, except when raised by NGOs or Southern countries. Grace Akumu of Climate Africa likened the North-centric emphasis of the talks to the widely protested negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO), “Just like the WTO, rich countries are skewing negotiations in their favor.”
I n addition to emphasizing the role of the market in climate strategies, corporate capitalists are seizing on the growing concern about climate change to sell previously controversial projects as “solutions” to global warming. In this way, huge monoculture tree plantations, large-scale production of biofuels, genetically engineered trees and crops, massive hydroelectric projects, and nuclear power can be sold to a Northern audience as a means to maintain a grossly over-consumptive lifestyle while supposedly making a positive contribution to the fight against global warming.
The unfortunate truth about these projects, however, is that they do little to mitigate climate change while causing tremendous environmental and social impacts. This fact led the Global Forest Coalition to organize a weekend workshop called Life as Commerce: Indigenous Peoples Seminar on Carbon Trading, held in Namanga, Kenya on the Tanzanian border during the weekend lull of UNFCCC. The seminar included indigenous representatives from around the world. Some participants gave presentations on the impacts their communities have experienced due to carbon trading schemes in an effort to alert other indigenous representatives about the hidden dangers of carbon offset proposals, many of which are geared toward the lands of indigenous peoples.
Following the seminar, a collection of environmental groups held a press conference in Nairobi to condemn the promotion of such false solutions to global warming. World Rainforest Movement, Global Justice Ecology Project, Gaia Foundation, STOP Genetically Engineered Trees Campaign, Global Forest Coalition, and Large Scale Biofuels Action Network came together to demand real action against climate change and an end to measures that merely relocate the costs of the unsustainable consumption patterns of the North onto poor Southern countries where indigenous communities pay a particularly high price. “Soya plantations in Latin America and palm oil plantations in Indonesia, being developed for biofuels, are driving deforestation and pushing hundreds of thousands of farmers and indigenous peoples off of their lands. Once again the developing countries of the South are being asked to pay the price for the unsustainable lifestyle of the North,” stated Miguel Lovera of Global Forest Coalition.
Ana Filippini, from the World Rainforest Movement, insisted that by their very nature, the temporary carbon storage of monoculture tree plantations cannot be looked at as a permanent solution. They do, however, cause tremendous impacts, including exhaustion of soils and ground water and displacement of indigenous and rural communities who must be evicted from the land to protect the carbon storage of the trees. “The UNFCCC needs to move away from these complicated and fraudulent carbon trading schemes. It should begin to address seriously the issues of how to phase out fossil fuels and how to stop deforestation,” she stated.
Genetically engineered trees and crops promoted as a source for biofuels or a component of carbon sink plantations were also opposed. Arguments against genetically engineered plants and trees are many, and include contamination of native forests and conventional agricultural crops with potentially destructive engineered traits. GE trees have the potential to devastate forest ecosystems by contaminating native trees with pollen or seeds engineered to kill insects, resist toxic herbicides, or grow faster. “The escape of pollen or seeds from GE trees into native forests would cause severe and totally unpredictable ecological impacts that could impact the ability of forests to store carbon, worsening global warming. They must be banned,” insisted Orin Langelle of the STOP GE Trees Campaign.
Regarding the biofuel issue, Dr. Andrew Boswell of the UK-based Large Scale Biofuels Action Network, pointed out that even if biofuels are produced only with conventional non-genetically engineered components, if produced on a large-scale, they will still not be a helpful alternative to fossil fuels. In 2005 competition for grain led to a 60 percent increase in grain prices, favoring the use of grain for biofuels and escalating the numbers of people who cannot access enough food. “The amount of grain needed to produce enough biofuel to fill a single SUV tank could feed a person for a year,” he stated.
The growing demand for biofuels is also driving the logging and burning of native forests in places like Indonesia where land is being cleared to make room for plantations of oil-rich palm trees. In addition to displacing communities and driving species to extinction, this deforestation is accelerating climate change. “Fires in Indonesian forests in 1995 released more carbon emissions than the entire European Union that year. Large-scale production of biofuels is clearly not a strategy that is going to benefit the fight against global warming,” stated Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation.
But perhaps the most contentious climate change abatement strategy is carbon trading. Modeled after the pollution-trading allowed by the U.S. Clean Air Act and championed by Al Gore during his vice presidency, carbon trading enables corporations and governments to avoid reducing greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing carbon credits. These carbon credits can come either from carbon offsetting projects like tree plantations, which are established under the guise of “development” in poor countries, or from countries like Russia that have an excess of carbon credits. Because the carbon emission allowances are based on 1990 emission levels, countries like Russia—which saw many of its industries shut down after 1990—have an abundance of excess carbon emission credits, which they can sell off to the highest bidder. The theory is that the limited supply of carbon credits being traded will kick in the laws of supply and demand and the market will take over and solve the problem. (For an excellent critique, read Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatisation and Power , by Larry Lohmann of The Corner House.)
Ignoring for a moment the insufficient emission reduction targets of the Kyoto Protocol—which call only for reductions of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels when climate scientists agree that immediate reductions of at least 60 percent are needed to avoid climate catastrophe; and ignoring the numerous and substantial carbon reduction verification problems with this market-based strategy—there is the inescapable dilemma that the United States, which is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases (with 6 percent of the world’s populace producing 25 percent of the global emissions) will not endorse any global warming strategy.
We cannot continue to put our faith in bodies such as the UN to solve this problem for us. Just as people around the world have risen up against the WTO, massive protests must be organized against leaders that refuse to take real, meaningful action to stave off climate catastrophe. Otherwise we face a very uncertain future.
Anne Petermann is co-director of the U.S.-based Global Justice Ecology Project, which is a founding member of the Durban Group for Climate Justice.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.