Outrage at CorporateHaven
by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
Emotions here at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen are beginning to run very high.
The leak to the press of a document prepared by the Danish government in collaboration with other rich countries raised a lot of ire among those countries and peoples who were excluded from this process, which apparently occurred behind some very closed and secret doors.
In response, the African delegation staged a spontaneous and angry protest in the halls of the Bella Center, chanting “two degrees is suicide!” in reference to a section of the leaked Danish that would allow for a two degree rise in global temperatures–which would lead to the deaths of millions of people in Africa due to expanding droughts and floods, as well as loss of crop productivity.
And this theme of expressing outrage over the impacts of climate change on indigenous and forest dependent communities and others was carried over with a series of events and protests today.
This morning, on Human Rights Day, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Indigenous Peoples Power Project held a “Procession, Prayer and Rally for Indigenous Rights” at the US Embassy in Copenhagen. On the day that Obama accepted his unfathomably ironic Nobel Peace Prize, this rally took place to raise awareness about the impacts of the US energy industry’s war on Indigenous lands in the US. Later in the day another Indigenous protest was held against the US when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar spoke at a press conference about the US commitment to renewable energy–on the very same day they announced that they were opening up the arctic to oil drilling. Hypocritical doesn’t even begin to describe this callous and calculated PR move.
The expansion of oil drilling in the Arctic is a slap in the face to the rest of the world that came to Copenhagen hoping for leadership from Obama, and instead got the same old US obstructionism that has contributed to the negative image of the US internationally.
The Change promised by the Obama Administration seemingly refers to Climate Change. It really has been a whole lot of hot air.
As I write this, the Indigenous Peoples Speak Out is taking place. Global Justice Ecology Project teamed up with the Indigenous Environmental Network with co-sponsorship by Global Forest Coalition to create a space for Indigenous Peoples to share their experiences, stories and songs. We felt this was a critically important event to highlight the voices of Peoples who are being shut out of the official climate negotiations, even though they are some of the peoples being most profoundly affected by the climate crisis.
The event started with a prayer by IEN Director Tom Goldtooth and songs by IEN youth and staff–Day Gots and Clayton Thomas-Mueller. Throughout the afternoon Indigenous Peoples shared their stories about the histories of their people, and the impacts of fossil fuels and climate change on their communities and lands. Powerful voices poignantly described the effects of the melting of the arctic on the islands off of Alaska, the devastating results of the rising sea levels on the islands of the South Pacific, the cancers and diseases being experienced by native peoples as a result of the energy industry. Participants came from North and South America, Africa and the South Pacific, yet the stories they shared all echoed one another.
The undercurrent was one of profound anger and sadness.
Down the hall, a Peoples Tribunal on Climate Debt is under way, with representatives of the developing world discussing the historical obligations of rich countries to repay the South for the resources stolen over the course of hundreds of years, and for the impacts today of climate change.
Yesterday, Global Justice Ecology Project organized a panel on the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation scheme. Presenters included Sandy Gauntlett, a Maori from Aoteroa (New Zealand) who expressed his seething ire over REDD because it was doing nothing to stop the sinking of the islands of his region. Camila Moreno was indignant over the implementation of REDD in Brazil, where some of the people most responsible for the rampant destruction of the Amazon stood to profit handsomely from this scheme. Marcial Arias, a Kuna from Panama passionately described the displacement of Indigenous Peoples in Panama for projects designed to offset carbon emissions in the North.
The outrage is growing. It has been simmering under the surface with year after year of inaction, and now the rapidly accelerating crisis of climate change has caused the pot to begin boiling over, and we will be seeing more and more outrage and anger over the coming days.
We will do our best to cover these protests and their messages and give you our reactions to them.