By Kingsley Alu
Against the backdrop of last year’s Conference of the Parties (COP 15) held in Copenhagen, Denmark to tackle issues of climate change, Kingsley Alu warns that this year’s COP 16 meeting due for Cancun, Mexico may not be any different.
Following a five – day climate negotiations in Bonn last week, social movements, environment experts and concerned agencies from around the world are getting ready for the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will take place in Cancun, Mexico from 29 November to 10 December, 2010.
The last COP 15 in Copenhagen last December demonstrated governments’ incapacity to tackle the root causes of the current climate chaos. At the very last moment, the US undemocratically pushed through the so called “Copenhagen Accord”, in an attempt to move the debate out of the UN and the Kyoto promises and to favour even more voluntarily free market solutions.
It does appear that every step forward has been replied with a ‘two-steps backward’ intervention by countries that hold the key to global action on climate.From all indications, Copenhagen’s indistinct outcomes are set to be repeated all over again. The meeting in Bonn was met with a profound display of disinterest.
There is no doubt that climate negotiations have turned into a huge market place. Developed countries, historically responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions have been inventing all possible diversionary themes to avoid reducing their own emissions. For example, the “Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM) under the Kyoto protocol allows countries to continue polluting and consuming as usual, while paying low prices supposedly so that developing countries reduce their emissions.
Many governments of developing countries, attracted by the potential profits, are betting on these false solutions and refusing to implement measures that effectively confront climate change, such as supporting sustainable peasant agriculture, orienting production towards internal markets, establishing effective energy saving policies for industry, etc.
It is about time the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) embark on resolute policies to contribute to solve the climate chaos. Countries need to take strong and binding commitments to radically cut gas emissions and radically change their mode of production and consumption.
The fact that climate change also is worsening the migration crisis is no longer an understatement. The droughts, the terrible floods caused by severe storms, water contamination, soil erosion and degradation, as well as other destructive impacts of the neoliberal environmental disaster are bringing about the displacement of thousands of people, mainly women and ruined farmers, from their rural communities and forcing them towards the cities and the North in a desperate search for the means of survival for them and their families.
It is estimated that 50 million people have been forced to migrate due to the effects of climate change. These “climate displaced persons” have come to swell the ranks of the more than 300 million people, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), that today represent the worse crisis of migration that humanity has faced.
But solutions do exist. There is urgent need for the UNFCCC to reject all false solutions being cooked up for the moment ahead of the conference date . Among them:
Geo-engineering: Large-scale proposals to deliberately alter the climate, such as biochar; genetically modified plants to supposedly increase reflectivity and resistance to drought, heat and salt; the fertilization of the ocean or the massive creation of clouds, only create new unmanageable problems, they are not solutions. Geo-engineering is only one example of how transnational companies are willing to play with the future of the planet and humanity in order to create new sources of profit.
Carbon trading schemes and Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM): Carbon trading has proven extremely lucrative in terms of generating investor dividends, but has completely failed in reducing greenhouse gas. In the new invented “carbon market” the price of carbon keeps dropping to rock bottom, which encourages further pollution. All carbon emissions should be reduced from the source, rather than allowing payment for the right to pollute.
Land and forest rights: The REDD + initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) should be rejected. Protecting forests and reforesting degraded forests is an obligation of all governments that should be implemented without limiting the autonomy, the rights or the control of indigenous and peasant peoples over the land and their territories, and without serving as an excuse so that other countries and corporations continue contaminating and planting tree monocultures. Territorial and cultural rights of indigenous and peasant peoples should be explicitly recognized in any climate accord.
The participation of the World Bank in the management of funds and policies related to climate change must be rejected.
Scientific research shows that peasant and indigenous peoples could reduce current global emissions to 75per cent by increasing biodiversity, recuperating soil organic matter, replacing industrial meat production with small-scale diversified food production, expanding local markets, halting deforestation and practicing integrated forest management.
Experts have contended that peasant agriculture not only contribute positively to the carbon balance of the planet, it also gives employment to over 3.2 billion people, women and men around the world, and it remains the best way to combat hunger, malnutrition and the current food crisis.
The right to land and the reclaiming for territories, food sovereignty, access to water as a common good and a human right, the right to use, conserve and exchange seeds, the de-concentration and promotion of local markets, are the indispensable conditions so that peasant and indigenous peoples can continue feeding the world and cooling the planet.
Because of the collapse of the financial speculative markets, investors are now looking for new ways to make large, quick profits. Some investors are engaging in massive, world-wide land-grabbing, the purchasing of agricultural lands in developing countries. This drives up the price of the land, pushing peasants off their farms, and putting developing countries in the position of having to put easy capital over their long-term agricultural interests. Additionally, control over biomass production such as agro-fuels increases the pressure on land.
It is the poor who are already bearing the brunt of this crisis; Rural families must absorb laid-off workers, employees are seeing their wages cut, citizens will pay higher taxes, children will be taken out of school to work, and millions will simply lose their jobs and sources of income. Meanwhile the banking system is rescued by governments who spent billions in bailing them out.
At the moment, governments are only concerned with stopping the slide, propping up the banks, and increasing GDP and global growth, while ignoring the pressing environmental concerns of a limited resource base and the climate change crisis.
The stimulus packages currently adopted by various countries and institutions to increase consumption are mainly a response to abusive corporate lobbies such as the car industry. By making only some minor changes, like producing higher mileage vehicles, these packages take minor and insufficient steps toward addressing the environmental challenges. The G20 stated that in total 500b dollars would be spent in order to “save and create millions of jobs that otherwise would have been destroyed” . The G20 states that it wants to “accelerate the transition to a green economy” but no concrete measures are mentioned.
Governments worldwide are encouraging the same system that has led to climate change, pollution, and global environmental degradation. Instead of leaving the initiative to the G20, the UN should use the opportunity of the coming conference to re-orient the global economy away from the current endless and wasteful consumption.
The G20 in London agreed to give the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 500 billion dollars in extra funds for loans to countries that face difficulties because of the crisis. This renewed focus on the IMF as “lender of last resort” removes economic control from the individual countries and places it in the hands of IMF economists who are proponents of strict neo liberal reforms. The IMF states that fiscal stimulus is needed; however, in some program countries, the IMF is still pushing the old policy stipulations: reduce public spending, cut salaries in the public sector and eliminate subsidies . We have already seen how these policies affected developing countries in the 1980s and 1990s: growth at the expense of the rural poor.
Those who are part of the crisis, such as the G8, the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and their collaborators in governments , should not be expected to resolve it. The UN should play a central role and facilitate an in-depth analysis of this crisis, including the participation of key actors in civil society. Solving this crisis must take place in democratic and representative forum, where participants from all nations can participate and without rich countries throwing dollar figures at poor countries in the hope that they could wake up the ghost of Copenhagen.