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Climate Change & Environment

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Three Voices on Climate Justice
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For the solution to the climate crisis to be effective, it must address questions of justice and equity at a systemic level. In recognising this, three prominent voices call for an agreement based on sharing economic power and the repayment of climate debt.

Better To Have No Deal at Copenhagen than One That Spells Catastrophe - Naomi Klein

Global Economic Apartheid Is Obstacle to Fair Climate Deal - Kumi Naidoo

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Climate Debt and Capitalism - Amy Goodman interview

18th December 2009

Better To Have No Deal at Copenhagen than One That Spells Catastrophe

17th December 2009 - Naomi Klein, The Guardian, UK

On the ninth day of the Copenhagen climate summit, Africa was sacrificed. The position of the G77 negotiating bloc, including African states, had been clear: a 2C increase in average global temperatures translates into a 3–3.5C increase in Africa. That means, according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, "an additional 55 million people could be at risk from hunger", and "water stress could affect between 350 and 600 million more people".

Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it like this: "We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale … A global goal of about 2C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development."

And yet that is precisely what Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, proposed to do when he stopped off in Paris on his way to Copenhagen: standing with President Nicolas Sarkozy, and claiming to speak on behalf of all of Africa (he is the head of the African climate-negotiating group), he unveiled a plan that includes the dreaded 2C increase and offers developing countries just $10bn a year to help pay for everything climate related, from sea walls to malaria treatment to fighting deforestation.

It's hard to believe this is the same man who only three months ago was saying this: "We will use our numbers to delegitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position … If need be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent … What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above the minimum avoidable level."And this: "We will participate in the upcoming negotiations not as supplicants pleading for our case but as negotiators defending our views and interests."

We don't yet know what Zenawi got in exchange for so radically changing his tune or how, exactly, you go from a position calling for $400bn a year in financing (the Africa group's position) to a mere $10bn. Similarly, we do not know what happened when secretary of state Hillary Clinton met Philippine president Gloria Arroyo just weeks before the summit and all of a sudden the toughest Filipino negotiators were kicked off their delegation and the country, which had been demanding deep cuts from the rich world, suddenly fell in line.

We do know, from witnessing a series of these jarring about-faces, that the G8 powers are willing to do just about anything to get a deal in Copenhagen. The urgency does not flow from a burning desire to avert cataclysmic climate change, since the negotiators know full well that the paltry emissions cuts they are proposing are a guarantee that temperatures will rise a "Dantesque" 3.9C, as Bill McKibben puts it.

Matthew Stilwell of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development – one of the most influential advisers in these talks – says the negotiations are not really about averting climate change but are a pitched battle over a profoundly valuable resource: the right to the sky. There is a limited amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere. If the rich countries fail to radically cut their emissions, then they are actively gobbling up the already insufficient share available to the south. What is at stake, Stilwell argues, is nothing less than "the importance of sharing the sky".

Europe, he says, fully understands how much money will be made from carbon trading, since it has been using the mechanism for years. Developing countries, on the other hand, have never dealt with carbon restrictions, so many governments don't really grasp what they are losing. Contrasting the value of the carbon market – $1.2 trillion a year, according to leading British economist Nicholas Stern – with the paltry $10bn on the table for developing countries for the next three years, Stilwell says that rich countries are trying to exchange "beads and blankets for Manhattan". He adds: "This is a colonial moment. That's why no stone has been left unturned in getting heads of state here to sign off on this kind of deal … Then there's no going back. You've carved up the last remaining unowned resource and allocated it to the wealthy."

For months now NGOs have got behind a message that the goal of Copenhagen is to "seal the deal". Everywhere we look in the Bella Centre, clocks are ticking. But any old deal isn't good enough, especially because the only deal on offer won't solve the climate crisis and might make things much worse, taking current inequalities between north and south and locking them in indefinitely.

Augustine Njamnshi of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance puts the 2C proposal in harsh terms: "You cannot say you are proposing a 'solution' to climate change if your solution will see millions of Africans die and if the poor not the polluters keep paying for climate change."

Stilwell says that the wrong kind of deal would "lock in the wrong approach all the way to 2020" – well past the deadline for peak emissions. But he insists that it's not too late to avert this worst-case scenario. "I'd rather wait six months or a year and get it right because the science is growing, the political will is growing, the understanding of civil society and affected communities is growing, and they'll be ready to hold their leaders to account to the right kind of a deal."

At the start of these negotiations the mere notion of delay was environmental heresy. But now many are seeing the value of slowing down and getting it right. Most significant, after describing what 2C would mean for Africa, Archbishop Tutu pronounced that it is "better to have no deal than to have a bad deal". That may well be the best we can hope for in Copenhagen. It would be a political disaster for some heads of state – but it could be one last chance to avert the real disaster for everyone else.

Link to original source

Global Economic Apartheid Is Obstacle to Fair Climate Deal

17th December 2009 - Claudia Ciobanu interviews Kumi Naidoo, Inter Press Service

"Climate change is an opportunity to deal with all the issues of equity and justice that we have been struggling for all along," said Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International in an interview with IPS in Copenhagen.

"And perhaps this is why there is such resistance from rich countries: they know that if they do the right thing in Copenhagen, they have to begin to share economic power and to have a more equitable trading system because all of those things have to follow, otherwise you cannot deal with climate change."

Q: With less than two days before the end of negotiations in Copenhagen, world leaders seem reluctant to commit to a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal. Why?

A: I think that developed countries are still in denial about their responsibility, even if they formally acknowledge it. The bottom line is we have global economic apartheid and essentially what we are seeing here is a sort of climate apartheid.

I want to stress that it is the developed countries’ governments that do not care. The publics in the developed countries see the injustice of it and I think that not only do rich country governments betray the people of poor countries but they are also betraying the citizens of their own countries and they are betraying democracy.

Q: They are also using their publics as an excuse not to act?

A: Absolutely. And that was indicated on Saturday, 12 December, with all the mobilizations around the world.

The level of mobilization on Saturday shows there is momentum building up now and what was most important for me is that it was not only the usual suspects (Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF and other environmental organizations), but also churches, trade unions, and development organizations that traditionally did not focus on the environment.

Q: So the environment works as a catalyst for a global movement?

A: Yes. Because people can see the interconnections. How can we have human rights if the planet is uninhabitable, how do we make progress with development if people end up in a situation where every progress they make gets lost. Look at Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world - it had huge innovations on the part of the NGO community, many of those progresses have been reversed already by the effects of rising sea levels that are contaminating the water supply and creating water scarcity.

Take gender equality for example. If we look at Africa, where climate change is already having a devastating impact on agriculture, and then we ask who are the most vulnerable, it is small farmers and many of them are women.

One of the things that rich countries don’t pay attention to is that climate change has already lead to conflicts, and it will continue to increase conflicts because, sadly, the new wars won’t be about oil but about water.

If you take the genocide in Darfur, people always see it as an ethnic conflict, but they forget that Lake Chad which neighbours Darfur was one of the largest inland seas in the world and now it is virtually dry. Water scarcity, along with land scarcity, is one of the biggest drivers of the tragic conflict in Darfur.

The US is spending 30 billion dollars annually now just on the war in Afghanistan. If they are worried about the kinds of money we are asking for, then what is the point of spending money on war, military conflict and conflict resolution when in fact they could actually create real life opportunities for people who have been desperately poor and socially excluded. If we address that, it is a way to prevent conflict and war.

Q: Climate change is a major security issue…

A: It is a fundamental security issue and, even if everyone knows it, the summit has sadly not given enough attention to that.

At the end of the day it is a matter of political will. If months ago they could mobilize trillions of euros to bail out the banks, why can’t they mobilize in the same way to save lives and turn this crisis into an opportunity.

Because there is a real opportunity here. In Africa, we have not even begun to scratch the surface with solar energy. If we make serious investments in solar, it is very likely that within the next 20 years Africa, particularly North Africa, could be net exporters of energy into Europe.

And I think all developed countries here, particularly the EU as a collective and within it Germany, and mainly the US have behaved pathetically, especially when we put it in a framework of justice. Developing countries have been least responsible for the situation we find ourselves in and they are the ones who are paying the first and the most brutal price.

They were told that they needed to put targets on the table and they have done so in the run up to Copenhagen. India and China for example passed or are in the process of passing domestic legislation, and they are moving in the right direction, but the rich countries have not reciprocated.

If you want to put it bluntly, if we don’t deliver a fair, ambitious and binding treaty here, we are issuing a death warrant for small island states and the least developed countries.

Q: The way things look today, global leaders are just about to sign such a death warrant this week.

A: We should remember that two years ago in Bali, at a similar time in the conference, people were even more pessimistic. It was on the last day that the moral pressure coming from the intervention of Papua New Guinea forced the US to compromise in the early hours of the morning.

In some cultures they say 'it ain’t over until the fat lady sings' and so I say 'it ain’t over until the thin man from Washington DC sings.' So let’s see when he (US President Barack Obama) comes.

Q: What do you think of the exclusion of NGOs from the negotiation center in the last three days of the conference?

A: I think the actions against the NGOs represent a betrayal of democracy, a betrayal of the informal compact that civil society has with the United Nations. It is desperately unjust and cruel, especially for small NGOs.

For them - who have spent this year saving money and preparing to come here - to be so brutally, unceremoniously and without any sense of dignity tossed out is a really big betrayal. When you look at some of the smallest grassroots groups present here, people who actually have the most authentic voices, being treated as they have been is very painful.

It’s been very painful for me to be here inside and I have actually thought about walking out myself. But if you are going to get any movement in the negotiations we have to use any limited capacity we have (Naidoo, who explains that he comes from a background of small NGOs, has moist eyes as he speaks about this topic).

We cannot blame the exclusion of NGOs on the Danish government. We are here in a UN space and the UN should know very well that this conference would not take place without the activities of civil society over decades, the heads of states would not be here if it wasn’t for us putting pressure on them in virtually every country around the world over the last year to come here because this issue is too important to be left to junior delegates.

Also, the legitimacy of any outcome here is undermined if it’s being done behind close doors, behind people and civil society.

The UN needs to realize that even if by some last minute trick a fair, ambitious and binding treaty is agreed on - and we can live without the legal exact wording right now, we need a clear set of ambitious targets, with the right kind of money, with the right kind of specific actions agreed and drafting the deal language in the next couple of months - the real work starts the day after to actually implement the deal.

And who is going to hold governments accountable and complement government capacity if not the NGOs?

Even if CoP15 will be a failure, what I would say to all NGOs, community groups, social movements, big NGOs, trade unions and everyone who came here is that they must take heart. It is not their failing. It is a failing of political leadership and what we have done has created a global momentum. We need to consolidate that, unite more, work more aggressively and continue the struggle.

Link to original source

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Climate Debt, Capitalism, and Why He Wants a Tribunal for Climate Justice

17th December 2009 - Amy Goodman interviews President Evo Morales, Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: This is Climate Countdown. It’s Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from inside the Bella Center.

It’s just one day before the COP15 UN climate summit comes to a close. The summit has been described as the biggest gathering on climate change in history. And now, ten days after it started, are the talks on the brink of collapse?

The dispute between rich and poor countries, between the Global North and Global South, on key issues, including greenhouse gas emissions and climate debt, remain unresolved. World leaders from more than 110 countries have begun arriving at the summit and are delivering their addresses to the main plenary as we speak. As for civil society, the only thing worse than the endless lines of thousands of people trying to get into the Bella Center are no lines, because civil society has largely been locked out.

Well, just before we went to air today, I interviewed Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president. He was re-elected in a landslide victory earlier this month.

On Wednesday, Evo Morales called on world leaders to hold temperature increases over the next century to just one degree Celsius, the most ambitious proposal so far by any head of state. Morales also called on the United States and other wealthy nations to pay an ecological debt to Bolivia and other developing nations.

AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, welcome to Democracy Now!

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Thank you very much for the invitation.

AMY GOODMAN: You spoke yesterday here at the Bella Center and said we cannot end global warming without ending capitalism. What did you mean?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity. Capitalism—and I’m speaking about irrational development—policies of unlimited industrialization are what destroys the environment. And that irrational industrialization is capitalism. So as long as we don’t review or revise those policies, it’s impossible to attend to humanity and life.

AMY GOODMAN: How would you do that? How would you end capitalism?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] It’s changing economic policies, ending luxury, consumerism. It’s ending the struggle to—or this searching for living better. Living better is to exploit human beings. It’s plundering natural resources. It’s egoism and individualism. Therefore, in those promises of capitalism, there is no solidarity or complementarity. There’s no reciprocity. So that’s why we’re trying to think about other ways of living lives and living well, not living better. Not living better. Living better is always at someone else’s expense. Living better is at the expense of destroying the environment.

AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, what are you calling here—for here at the UN climate summit?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Defense of the rights of Mother Earth. The earth is our life. Nature is our home, our house. Happily, the United Nations have declared a Mother Earth Day. If the mother is recognized as Mother Earth, it’s something that can’t be sold, it’s something that can’t be—it can’t be violated, something sacred. This is nature. This is planet earth. And that’s why I’ve come here, to defend the rights of Mother Earth, to defend the rights to life, to defend humanity and saving Mother Earth.

AMY GOODMAN: What does climate debt mean, President Morales?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] After the destruction of Mother Earth, it’s important to recognize the rights of Mother Earth. And the best way to recognize this is by paying a climate debt. Second, it’s important to recognize the damages that have been done and attend to the people who have been affected by climate change, people who will lose their island homes, for example, people who will remain without water.

AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, said today, “We can’t look back; we have to look forward.”

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Looking forward means that we have to review everything that capitalism has done. These are things that cannot just be solved with money. We have to resolve problems of life and humanity. And that’s the problem that planet earth faces today. And this means ending capitalism.

AMY GOODMAN: The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, also said today that $100 billion would be promised if a deal were arrived at, not just by the United States, per year, but in a public-private partnership with a number of countries around the world, but only if a deal is arrived at. She would not say what the US would contribute to this. What do you say about the US spending on the issue of global warming versus—well, you talked yesterday about war.

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] The best thing would be that all war spending be directed towards climate change, instead of spending it on troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan or the military bases in Latin America. This money would be better directed to attending to the damages that were created by the United States. And, of course, this isn’t just $100 billion; this is probably trillions and trillions of dollars. How are we going to spend money to kill and not save lives? We have to spend money to save lives, not to kill. These are our differences with capitalism.

AMY GOODMAN: You called the war in Afghanistan terrorist. Are you saying President Obama is a terrorist?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] People who send their troops to kill outside their country, that’s terror. There’s not only civil—terrorists dressed as civilians; they can also be dressed in military uniforms. Worse still if they’re financed with the money from the peoples, from taxes. Of course, every country has the right to defend itself, just as every country can defend itself. But invading another country with uniformed people, that’s state terrorism.

Moreover, to establish military bases in Latin America with the objective of political control, and where their military base is an empire, that’s not respect for democracy. There is no peace, social peace. There is no development for those countries nor integration in those regions. This is what we’ve lived in South America and Latin America.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your message to President Obama at these climate talks?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] After listening to his speech at the heads of state Summit of the Americas, we were very hopeful that he would be an ally in addressing poverty. Now I’m not so hopeful. Rather, we’re disappointed. If something has changed in the United States, it’s the color of the president.

So I’ve been called upon, through administrative resolutions, to close unions, or to eliminate unions, when I’m doing exactly the opposite. [translator: “I apologize.”] In the report that was done regarding access to trade preferences under the ATPDEA program, it was charged that the Bolivian government has been involved in suppressing unions, when, in fact, quite the contrary, the government’s been very active in providing infrastructure and support to unions through improving the centers where unions meet, etc.

Even President Bush did not make any observations about the new clauses in the constitution of Bolivia, whereas under the new administration there have been observations and comments made about the new constitution that’s been drafted, in particular in relation to the management of the gas and oil sectors. This is a clear involvement in Bolivian internal affairs by the Obama administration. At the end of the day, it seems that they’re asking us to change the constitution. This is something that not even Bush did. If we just look at this, this makes Obama seem—look worse than Bush. And the documents are there.

AMY GOODMAN: I know you have to leave. My last question is: you’ve called for a climate tribunal; what do you mean?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Those who do damage to planet earth and those who do damage need to be judged. Those who do not fulfill the terms of the Kyoto Protocol should also be judged. And for those ends, we have to organize a tribunal for climate justice in the United Nations.

AMY GOODMAN: And one degree Celsius?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] That’s our proposal.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it could be achieved?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Yes. Yes, otherwise it would be a lack of commitment to humanity.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think there will be a deal that comes out of Copenhagen?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] I doubt it. We’re developing other proposals for my intervention.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it’s catastrophic that there’s no deal?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] No, it’s a waste of time. And if the leaders of countries cannot arrive in an agreement, why don’t the peoples then decide together?

AMY GOODMAN: We will leave it there. I thank you very much, President Morales.

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