Tag Archives: cancun

Mexico can’t see the wood for the trees

Note: This article arose out of the heated debates on REDD (the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation scheme) at the UN Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico in 2010.  GJEP actively campaigned against REDD there and supported the important work of our Indigenous allies who were there to oppose REDD.  As a result, GJEP is quoted opposing REDD in the article below.

Another outcome of our work against REDD in Cancun is a new video documenting opposition to REDD by Indigenous peoples, forest dependent communities and Northern communities all of whom are negatively impacted by REDD.  This video, “A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert and the Future of Forests,” which we co-produced with Global Forest Coalition, will be officially released on the 16th of January.”

–The GJEP Team

Cross-Posted from Le Monde Diplomatique (English Edition)

January 2012 Edition

An indigenous community in Mexico wants to drop protected conservation status for its area because it feels it has lost real control of its land and way of life. Concern about carbon emissions is blinding policy makers to the failures of some of their conservation policies

by Anne Vigna
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“That’s the one,” said Arcenio Osorio, pointing at the huge mountain that towers over the village of Santiago Lachiguiri, in Oaxaca state, part of southwestern Mexico’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec. “It provides water to all the towns in the area, and to us, the Zapotec people, it’s sacred. That’s the mountain we wanted official protection for.” Osorio is secretary of the community assembly, a traditional elected body that represents the people of the village. The 8,000 inhabitants of the county have always been involved in the conservation of their mountain, the Cerro de las Flores (“Mountain of the Flowers”). An official from the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas (Conanp) told me it is classed as an area of “exceptionally high biodiversity” due to the “excellent state of preservation of its ecosystem”.

In the valleys at the foot of the mountain, they grow organic coffee. The slopes are covered with little woods and patches of maize, but after several hours of walking and clambering you come to forests of pine trees, under which grow hundreds of species of wild flowers. Because of its altitude (2,200 metres) and the rock it is made of, the mountain acts as a kind of sponge, which stores the greater part of the area’s water supply.

Cerro de las Flores is a textbook case of conservation policy. In August 2003 it became Mexico’s first “voluntary community preserved area”. My source said Conanp defines this as an area protected by a “conservation mechanism put in place at the request of the local community, that protects the area’s natural riches and offers sustainable economic alternatives to its inhabitants”. According to Conanp, 207,887 hectares of land are managed in this way in Mexico. But at the meeting of the community assembly in January 2011, the people of Santiago Lachiguiri voted to drop the area’s “preserved area” status. “The government deceived us,” explained Osorio. “We are still the legitimate owners of the land, but we have lost control of it.”

Osorio was clearly irritated, and with some justification. The village’s land commissioner, Enan Eduardo, explained his choice of words: “We discovered that the certification of the 1,400 hectares of Cerro de las Flores entailed a conservation period of 30 years, rather than the five years we had agreed on when we voted.” Did that imply deception, and loss of control? “The conservation policy means we also have to change our production methods, even if it makes no sense in ecological terms.”

Certifying land involves the establishment of a development plan, preceded by a diagnostic survey; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government institutions (Mexico’s ecology ministry and Conanp) handle both tasks. The process is supposed to begin with “participatory workshops”, to inform the local inhabitants and allow them to make their opinions heard and take part in decision-making. But in Santiago Lachiguiri this procedure, seen as essential for the success of any conservation initiative, wasn’t followed correctly. Conanp insists the local inhabitants participated and were properly informed. Osorio said: “We went everywhere with them, and answered all their questions. But we had no idea what they were planning.”

Slash and burn

As a result, the conservation area ended up including the flanks of the mountain, where 140 smallholders had been growing maize. A further 517 hectares were included in the “payment for environmental services” programme, under which agricultural activities are forbidden, but the community receives an annual payment of 400 pesos (US$30) per hectare, that is $15,510 a year. It’s not much — and less than they were making from farming the land. The conservation plan also described a range of activities that would supposedly enhance the area’s resources without damaging the environment. The two flagship projects were an ecotourism initiative and a water-bottling plant. Both were abandoned after four years. Two cabins intended to accommodate tourists were never used — this remote area attracts few visitors — and the cost of transporting the bottled water proved prohibitive.

But it was farming that stirred up the most trouble. The local community practised slash-and-burn cultivation (land is cleared, burned and then planted every seven years). The ash serves as a natural fertiliser and the wood is used as cooking fuel. Typical crops are maize, beans, tomatoes and peppers.

Anthropologist Eckart Boege says that, when properly managed, according to strict rules, itinerant cultivation is the best way of farming without destroying the environment; the Mayas were masters of this technique, in both production and reforestation. But Mexican and international institutions have identified this farming method as the latest big threat and they all want a ban on burning, since carbon capture has become the central element of conservation policies. Slash-and-burn has in fact caused environmental damage in Mexico, leading to deforestation, soil impoverishment, water shortages and reduced biodiversity.

But this is not the case with land occupied by indigenous peoples such as the inhabitants of Santiago Lachiguiri, who have established strict community rules (1). “If it’s properly used, the technique can actually increase the biological diversity and mass of the forest. We release CO2 by burning, but we capture more during the regeneration phase,” explained Alvaro Salgado, agronomist and author of a study on slash-and-burn. These facts have been recognised in scientific publications but are denied by Conanp, which is busy imposing another project on the village — agro-forestry, a system that integrates trees into a system of permanent cultivation, in this case apricot trees and maize. The results have failed to convince the locals. In three years, the soil has become impoverished and the trees are scrawny. “Since the maize yields were poor, Conanp advised us very early on to use chemicals to enrich the soil,” said Eduardo. Another result was that most of the 140 smallholders who had lost their land left the village. Some emigrated to the US, some moved to the city, some went to work on a motorway construction site, and the youngest joined the army after a recruitment campaign.

The villagers demanded the removal of the mountain’s protected area status and an end to the payments for environmental services. They also sent two representatives to the Alternative Global Forum that was held at Cancún in December 2010 in parallel with the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16). Their aim was to denounce the conservation policies that were being imposed. Their testimony was of the highest importance: it was COP 16 that approved the agreement on forest conservation proposed at COP 13, in Bali in 2007 — the REDD (Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Degradation) programme.

Unable to agree on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the signatories hoped that REDD would kill two birds with one stone, cutting emissions by 15% while preventing deforestation. Diego Rodriguez from the World Bank had no doubts REDD would enable the world to prepare for climate change.

’We want to be able to say no’

Yet REDD shows little concern for the 300 million people across the world who depend on forests for their living. The programme is based on “compensation”: any business enterprise or country that pollutes can compensate for its greenhouse gas emissions (quantified in terms of tons of carbon) by “protecting” a forest. Advocates of REDD claim this approach is scientific but it does not appear to have convinced everyone. Research by Stanford University in California shows that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change overestimated the amount of carbon stocked in a forest in Peru by one-third (2).

Anne Petermann of the NGO Global Justice Ecology Project says the idea that carbon can be stocked implies a ban on the felling of trees. Indigenous groups are opposed to REDD, she says, because they believe it will inevitably displace communities or have a serious impact on their way of life, without doing anything to reduce pollution or climate change. Representatives of indigenous peoples, who came to Cancún in large numbers, hoped to impose a requirement that free, prior and informed consent be obtained before the implementation of any REDD project. “We want to be able to say no if a company wants to use our territory to compensate for carbon emissions,” said Onel Masardule, representative of the Kuna people of Panama.

But REDD’s final text merely refers to “social and environmental safeguards”, which have yet to be defined. It mentions the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (which says that “indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources”), but the declaration isn’t binding. Two recent reports (3) on respect for indigenous peoples in REDD programmes indicate that the land rights of local inhabitants and principles of consultation and information have been systematically flouted.

Over the past six years, a range of projects have been financed by enterprises (Shell and Gazprom in Indonesia, BP in Bolivia, and Rio Tinto in Australia), by countries (Norway in Brazil and Indonesia, France in Mexico) and special funds belonging to international institutions such as the World Bank and UN agencies. The Cancún Agreements did not decide how the REDD programme was to be financed but the idea, still championed by the World Bank, of offering REDD carbon credits on the global emissions market already seems less viable.

It is now accepted that the markets have done nothing to help reduce carbon emissions or to promote the financing of a less polluting economy. Kate Dooley, an expert on forests at the NGO Fern, says carbon trading does not encourage people to use less carbon but gives the illusion that it’s possible to compensate for pollution. She fears that if REDD were to become part of the carbon trading market, there could be a wave of land speculation based on assigning a “carbon value” to forests. But the so-called developed nations, which are historically responsible for climate change, have refused to finance REDD alone. A decision on the issue has therefore been put off until COP 17, to be held in Durban, South Africa, 28 November—9 December 2011.

All the World Bank reports stress that public money will not be enough to finance the establishment of REDD; private funding is also needed — estimates range from $15bn to $50bn per year, but the funds currently available amount to only $2bn. And a question remains: what is to be done about the smallholders who want to continue growing maize while conserving some of their land? At COP 16, Mexico’s president Felipe Calderón declared: “We will pay the smallholders to plant trees instead of maize on the mountain, and live on payments they will receive for environmental services.”

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, REDD, UNFCCC

LA’s KPFK Tower Fixed–Coverage resumes from Durban through this week

Note:  Last week Pacifica’s KPFK radio station’s tower was damaged by a wind storm in Los Angeles and was off the airwaves for a bit.  For the last three years now we have been doing live reports from the UN climate conventions (Copenhagen, Cancun & now Durban) for The Sojourner Truth Show with Margaret Prescod.  After missing a couple of reports from the conference here in Durban, we’re ready to resume.  The next segment will be with Teresa Anderson of Gaia Foundation.   She is their International Advocacy Officer and works on issues in Africa.  She will adsress the attempt here in Durban to expand REDD (the forest carbon offset scheme) to include soils and agriculture and what that means for rural peasants and indigenous peoples in terms of displacement from their communities and lands–a major issue here at COP 17.  STAY TUNED-WE WILL POST AS SOON AS WE CAN.  Breaking news–phone lines to Durban jammed at the moment.  Will re-schedule tomorrow.

-The GJEP Team

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Filed under Climate Change, Media, REDD, UNFCCC

World Bank Forest Carbon Schemes Charged with Displacing Communities in the Global South, Furthering Pollution in the Global North

For Immediate Release                                  21 September 2011

 (Español debajo)

 Washington, DC – As the World Bank, the largest source of multilateral financing for forestry projects, [1] prepares for its fall meetings here, Global Justice Ecology Project charges that the Bank’s promotion of the controversial forest-carbon scheme called REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) harms both forests and forest dependent communities in developing countries, while encouraging continued pollution in vulnerable communities in developed countries like the U.S.

Following the announcement of a new sub-national REDD agreement between the states of California, USA, Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil during the UN Climate Conference in Cancun last December, Global Justice Ecology Project launched an investigation into the potential on-the-ground impacts of REDD. In March and April of 2011, GJEP traveled to Chiapas to investigate social and ecological impacts of the REDD project there, which is being designed to create carbon offset credits by quantifying the carbon stored by trees in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in the Lacandon Jungle.

“During our investigation, we went to the community of Amador Hernandez, deep in the jungle,” stated Orin Langelle, from Global Justice Ecology Project.  “The villagers reported to us that the Mexican government was withholding medical services as a means to pressure them to leave.  If they refused, they feared the Mexican military would force them to leave, as has happened to other Indigenous communities in the Lacandon jungle.” [2]

Environmental justice groups also warn that REDD agreement will have detrimental impacts on people in California. “The carbon offsets from this REDD agreement are going to allow people in places like Richmond and Wilmington, California to continue to be polluted and sickened by polluting industries like the Chevron and Tesoro oil refineries,” said Joaquín Quetzal Sánchez, Oakland, California-based Strategist for CrossRoots: Building a Sustainable Movement.

“This REDD agreement will harm communities on all sides of the border.  The only ones that win are the polluters,” Sanchez said. [3]

In October, GJEP will travel to Acre, Brazil to meet with groups concerned about the REDD project there, and to document the actual and potential impacts of the project. GJEP plans to bring representatives from Chiapas to this meeting to further opportunities for cross-border strategizing regarding the California-Chiapas-Acre REDD deal.

The effort to “protect forests” by removing the people that depend on them contradicts recent studies that demonstrate forests are best protected when the communities depending on them have legal title.  In a six-year study, CIFOR (the Center for International Forestry Research) found that, “Tropical forests designated as strictly protected areas have annual deforestation rates much higher than those managed by local communities”. [4]

The World Bank has been involved in the global forest/climate program known as REDD through its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility[5], announced by World Bank President Robet Zoellick, during the 2007 UN Climate Conference in Bali, Indonesia. The announcement met with strong popular protest, and the World Bank continues to draw sharp criticism for its role in promoting schemes that displace forest dependent communities and promote large-scale industrial tree plantations that could potentially include socially and ecologically dangerous genetically engineered trees. [6] [7]

Today is the International Day of Action Against Monoculture Tree Plantations.  Last year GJEP released this video highlighting their concerns about tree plantations and genetically engineered trees.

Contacts:

Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project; North American Focal Point, Global Forest Coalition +1.802.578.0477 (on site in Washington, DC)

Jeff Conant, Communications Director, Global Justice Ecology Project, +1.575.770.2829

Joaquin Sanchez, CrossRoots, +1 917.575.3154

###

Notes to Editors

[1] World Bank Forests and Forestry Issue Brief: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:20103458~menuPK:34480~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html

[2] “Turning the Lacandon Jungle Over to the Carbon Market,” Z Magazine, July 2011: http://www.zcommunications.org/turning-the-lacandon-jungle-over-to-the-carbon-market-by-jeff-conant

[3] The California Report: AB32 and Environmentalists: http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201103220850/a

[4] 2011 Center for International Forestry Resarch (CIFOR) report: Community managed forests and forest protected areas: An assessment of their conservation effectiveness across the tropics

[5] The World Bank maintains three roles in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.  It is one of the main international climate initiatives set up to fund developing country REDD schemes.

[6] http://noredd.makenoise.org/

[7] http://nogetrees.org/

 

Para publicación inmediata

21 septiembre, 2011

Esquemas de carbono forestal del Banco Mundial acusados de adelantar la contaminación en el Norte Global, desplazando a las comunidades en el Sur Global

Washington, DC - Mientras el Banco Mundial, que es la mayor fuente de financiamiento multilateral para proyectos forestales, [1] se prepara para tener sus reuniones de otoño, el Proyecto por la Justicia Ecológica Global (Global Justice Ecology Project) acusa que la promocion por esta institución de la controversial plan conocido como REDD (Reducción de Emisiones por Deforestación y Degradación) esta perjudicando tanto a los bosques y las comunidades dependientes de los bosques en los países en desarrollo, y fomentando al mismo tiempo la contaminación continua en las comunidades más vulnerables en los países desarrollados como los EE.UU.

Tras el anuncio de un nuevo acuerdo sub-nacional de REDD entre los estados de California, EEUU, Chiapas, México y Acre, Brasil, durante la Conferencia Climática de la ONU en Cancún en diciembre pasado, el Proyecto por la Justicia Ecológica Global (GJEP) inició una investigación sobre los impactos potenciales y actuales de REDD. En marzo y abril del 2011, GJEP viajó a Chiapas para investigar los impactos sociales y ecológicos del proyecto REDD, que está siendo diseñado para crear créditos de compensación de carbono mediante la cuantificación del carbono almacenado por los árboles en la Reserva de la Biosfera Montes Azules en la Selva Lacandona.

“Durante nuestra investigación fuimos a la comunidad de Amador Hernández, en la selva profunda”, dijo Orin Langelle, del Proyecto por la Justicia Ecológica Global. “Los aldeanos nos informaron de que el gobierno mexicano está utilizando la retención de servicios médicos como un medio para presionarlos para que abandonen sus tierras. Tienen miedo de que al negarse abandonar sus tierras los militares mexicanos les obliguen a salir por la fuerza, como ha sucedido con otras comunidades indígenas en la selva Lacandona. “[2]

Grupos de justicia ambiental también advierten que el acuerdo REDD tendrá un impacto negativo en la población de California. “La compensación de carbono a partir de este acuerdo REDD va a seguir permitiendo la contaminación de comunidades como Richmond y Wilmington, California, causadas por refinerías de petróleo como Chevron y Tesoro”, dijo Joaquín Quetzal Sánchez, estratega basado en Oakland, California y parte del grupo CrossRoots: Construyendo un Movimiento Sostenible.

“Este acuerdo de REDD dañará las comunidades en ambos lados de la frontera. Los únicos que ganan son los que contaminan”, dijo Sánchez [3]

En octubre, GJEP viajará a Acre, Brasil, para reunirse con los grupos interesados ​​en el proyecto REDD en ese lugar y para documentar los impactos reales y potenciales del proyecto. GJEP planea traer a representantes de Chiapas a este encuentro para crear nuevas oportunidades y establecer estrategias transfronterizas en relación con el acuerdo sobre REDD en California-Chiapas-Acre.
La idea de “proteger los bosques” mediante la expulsión de las comunidades que dependen de ellos contradice estudios recientes que demuestran que los bosques están mejor protegidos cuando aquellas comunidades que dependen de ellos tienen títulos de propiedad. En un estudio de seis años, el CIFOR (Centro para la Investigación Forestal Internacional) encontró que, “Los bosques tropicales designados como áreas de protección tienen las tasas anuales de deforestación mucho más altas que aquellas administradas por las comunidades locales” [4]

El Banco Mundial ha estado involucrado en el programa global forestal/climático conocido como REDD a través de su “Forest Carbon Partnership Facility” [5], anunciado por el presidente del Banco Mundial Robet Zoellick, durante la Conferencia Climática de la ONU en 2007 en Bali, Indonesia. El anuncio fue recibido con fuertes protestas populares, el Banco Mundial continúa atrayendo duras críticas por su papel en la promoción de esquemas que desplazan a las comunidades dependientes de los bosques y al mismo tiempo promover grandes plantaciones industriales de árboles que podrían afectar socialmente y ecológicamente por este tipo de árboles genéticamente modificados. [6] [7]

Hoy es el Día Internacional de Acción Contra los “Monocultivos” de Árboles. GJEP publicó el año pasado este video destacando su preocupación por las plantaciones de árboles y árboles de ingeniería genética.

Contactos:

Anne Petermann, Directora Ejecutiva, Proyecto por la Justicia Ecológica Global; North American Focal Point, Global Forest Coalition +1.802.578.0477 (localizada en Washington, DC)

Jeff Conant, Director de Comunicación, Proyecto por la Justicia Ecológica Global, +1.575.770.2829

Joaquín Sanchez, CrossRoots, +1.917.575.3154

###

Notas:

[1] World Bank Forests and Forestry Issue Brief: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:20103458~menuPK:34480~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html

[2] “Turning the Lacandon Jungle Over to the Carbon Market,” Z Magazine, July 2011: http://www.zcommunications.org/turning-the-lacandon-jungle-over-to-the-carbon-market-by-jeff-conant

[3] The California Report: AB32 and Environmentalists: http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201103220850/a

[4] 2011 Center for International Forestry Resarch (CIFOR) report: Community managed forests and forest protected areas: An assessment of their conservation effectiveness across the tropics

[5] The World Bank maintains three roles in the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.  It is one of the main international climate initiatives set up to fund developing country REDD schemes.

[6] http://noredd.makenoise.org/

[7] http://nogetrees.org/

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Filed under Biodiversity, Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Climate Justice, GE Trees, Indigenous Peoples, REDD

Lunacy at the Moon Palace: Aka: The Cancun Mess(e)

By Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project Executive Director

Mexican RoboCop Poses for Photos in Cancun. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Global Justice Ecology Project Co-Director/strategist Orin Langelle (on assignment for Z Magazine) and I arrived in Cancun for the UN Climate Conference the day after U.S. Thanksgiving to a hotel infested with Mexican federales.  “You’ve GOT to be kidding me,” was our immediate reaction.  We dodged their chaotically parked armored vehicles and jeeps to enter the hotel, where we found hoardes of uniformed officers armed with automatic weapons everywhere we went. The breakfast room, the poolside, the beach, the bar.  Walking out of our room (which was surrounded on both sides federales) I literally bumped into one.

Most of them were mere youths who, judging by the way they carelessly swung their weapons around, had not had sufficient gun safety courses…  Orin nearly collided with the barrel of one at breakfast one morning—its owner had it lying casually across his lap as he ate as though the deadly weapon was a sleeping cat.  When we were walking around that first day, we happened upon the bizarre scene above.  A photo shoot of fully armed robocops posing in front of a giant fake Christmas tree.

Absurd?  Yes.  But not nearly as absurd as the events that unfolded at the Moon Palace—home to the UN Climate Conference (COP16)—over the next two weeks.

Once upon a time at these climate talks, organizations and Indigenous peoples’ groups roamed freely.  They could wander around at will—even into the plenary, where the high level ministers were negotiating the fate of the planet.  No more.  The open range is now fenced off.  What precipitated such a radical change?  The overreaction of those in power to that strange and wondrous thing known as protest.

Reclaim Power March in Copenhagen. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

The UN Climate Secretariat and their security enforcers view protest as a bull views a red cape.  They go blind with rage, lashing out at whomever is in their line of sight.  When hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Indigenous peoples and Party delegates marched out of the UN Climate Conference at the Bella Center in Copenhagen in December 2009, the Secretariat responded by stripping every participant of their right to participate in the talks.  But before the protest even started, entire delegations of Friends of the Earth and other groups that had committed the sin of unpermitted symbolic protest earlier in the conference were barred outright from entering the Bella Center.

Since then, the UN Climate Secretariat has been scheming and conniving how to control these rogue factions and cut off any protest before it can begin.  At the interim UN climate meeting in Bonn that I attended last May, they had a special meeting to discuss “observer” participation in the climate COPs.  As a spectacular indication of the absurdity to come, when Friends of the Earth prepared an intervention (a short statement) for this meeting to emphasize the importance of observer participation to the UN Climate Conferences, they were prohibited from reading it…

So in Cancun, the UN Climate Secretariat contrived an elaborate set of demobilization tactics to curtail any potentially unruliness.  In addition to the highly visible force of federales, they devised a complex obstacle course for conference participants.

Anyone not rich enough to stay on the luxurious, exclusive grounds of the Moon Palace resort and (highly toxic) golf course—in other words, developing country parties, most NGOs, Indigenous Peoples and social movements—was treated to a daily bus ride from their hotel to the Cancun Messe (no, seriously, that’s what they called it) that lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how badly the federales had bottlenecked the highway. Once in the Messe, we had to go through a security check point and a metal detector, pass through a building and emerge from the other side to wait for a second bus (bus #9) to take us on another 20-25 minute ride to the Moon Palace.  Then in the evening, the process was reversed.

The Moon Palace itself was split into three sections—the Maya building, which housed the plenary session and the actual negotiations, the Azteca Building, where those not permitted into the negotiations (that is, most of the NGOs, IPOs and all of the media) were allowed to use computers and watch the proceedings on a big screen.

The media were given their very own building—the Nizuk building, which was yet another 10 minute ride from Maya and Azteca.  As you might imagine, it was virtually empty, as most of the media based themselves out of the Azteca to be closer to the action.

I had the pleasure of being a guest on Democracy Now! on the morning of December 9th, which meant finding my way to Nizuk, where the show was filmed live daily at 7am.  I left my hotel at 5:15am to catch a 400 peso cab to the Cancun Messe (no cabs allowed to go to the Moon Palace), then catch a bus to Nizuk.  I got there with 20 minutes to spare.

Democracy Now! and the other live broadcasts (their neighbor was Associated Press and around the corner was Al Jazeera) were filmed outside on the balcony.  While Amy Goodman interviewed me, her hair whipped in the gusty breeze.  A loud generator hummed nearby.  I wondered what they would do if they got a big rainstorm. (By the way, if you’d like to watch that interview, which was all about REDD [the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation scheme], click here)

But all of this nonsense was a mere inkling of what was to come.  One of the first real tests of the Secretariat’s demobilization strategy came on Tuesday December 7th, when Global Justice Ecology Project hosted a press conference that turned into a spontaneous march.  Our press conference was scheduled on the day that La Via Campesina (LVC) had called for the “1,000 Cancuns” global actions on climate, one of which was to be a mass march in Cancun itself.  The press conference morphed into another “1,000 Cancuns” protest inside the very walls of the Moon Palace.

GJEP had made the decision to turn the press conference over to LVC, the Indigenous Environmental Network and youth so they could explain the “1,000 Cancuns” actions in the context of the silencing of voices occurring in the Moon Palace. UN Delegates from Paraguay and Nicaragua also participated to express their solidarity with the day of action.  I moderated the press conference and introduced it by invoking the name of Lee Kung Hae, the South Korean farmer and La Via Campesina member who had martyred himself by plunging a knife into his heart atop the barricades in Cancun at Kilometer Zero during the protests against the World Trade Organization in 2003.  At that time, it was the global justice movement.  Now it is the climate justice movement.  But really it is the same—the people rising up against the neoliberal oligarchy: i.e. the elite corporados bent on ruling the world and running it into the ground.

Mass action against the WTO in Cancun in 2003. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Back in 2003, Robert Zoellick was the U.S. Trade Representative who tried to force bad trade policies down the throats of so-called “developing countries” during the meetings of the World Trade Organization.  Today he is the President of the World Bank, and is trying to force bad climate policies down the throats of the developing world under the umbrella of the UNFCCC, aka the World Carbon Trade Organization.

Writing this blog post from San Cristobal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas brings to mind one of the most hopeful attacks on this neoliberal paradigm—the uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) on January 1, 1994—the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect.  The Zapatistas took up arms against NAFTA saying it would be a “death sentence” to the Indigenous peoples of Mexico.  Indeed, in order to be accepted into NAFTA, Mexico had to re-write Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution.  Article 27 was implemented to protect Mexican communal lands and came out of the Mexican Revolution led by Emiliano Zapata in the early 1900s.  But communal lands and free trade do not mix.  Edward Krobaker, Vice President of International Paper, re-wrote Article 27 to make it favorable to the timber barons.  Then it was NAFTA, today it is REDD—but the point is the same—it’s all about who controls the land.  The Zapatista struggle was and is for autonomy, which has been an objective of Indigenous communities for centuries.

But I digress.  Back to the press conference.  Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s charismatic Ambassador to the UN was supposed to be one of the speakers at the press conference but got tied up and could not get there.  Activists from Youth 4 Climate Justice requested to speak after yet again being denied an official permit to protest, and later turned the press conference into a spontaneous march. If they would not be given permission to protest then they would do so without.  Democracy is a messy thing.

Tom Goldtooth of IEN Speaks to the Media. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

The youth delegates marched out the press conference room chanting “No REDD, no REDD!”  The rest of us joined them but stopped on the front steps of the building when Pablo Solon suddenly joined the group. In the midst of a media feeding frenzy, he proclaimed Bolivia’s solidarity with the LVC march happening in the streets. Behind him people held banners from the press conference.  Following Solon’s speech, Tom Goldtooth, the high-profile Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, and one of the most vocal Indigenous opponents to the highly controversial REDD scheme, spoke passionately to the crowd.  When he was done, the youth delegates resumed their chanting and marched toward the Maya building where the negotiations were occurring.

Then UN security moved in.  They had to contain this anarchic outbreak before it spread through the halls and infected the delegates. The three youths, deemed to be the leaders of the unrest, had their badges confiscated and were loaded onto a security bus to be removed from the premises.  Other observers, not understanding the nature of this bus (it looking like all of the other buses), got on believing it would take them back to the Messe where they could then take yet another bus to join the LVC march.  This included three people accredited to participate by Global Justice Ecology Project.  They were removed from the UN grounds and dropped off.

The UN also stripped Tom Goldtooth of his accreditation badge for the terrible crime of giving a powerful interview to a hungry media.  Another of our delegates was de-badged for filming and live-streaming video of the spontaneous protest onto the web.  Another lost his badge merely for getting on the wrong bus.  Others for the outrageous act of holding up banners.

We did not learn that Tom and others had been banned from the conference until the next morning, when they attempted to enter and the security screen beeped and flashed red.  Alarmed and outraged, representatives from Friends of the Earth International, the Institute for Policy Studies, and I took the bus over to the Moon Palace to meet with NGO liaisons Warren and Magoumi.

The encounter was immensely frustrating.  We staunchly defended Tom Goldtooth and his right to speak publicly to the media.  We also defended the right of our delegate to film the protest.  I also spoke up in defense of the three de-badged youth leaders, explaining that this was their first Climate Conference and they should have been given a warning (as was the norm in Copenhagen) that if they continued the protest, they would lose their accreditation.  In one ear and out the other…  Magoumi responded that the youth’s delegation leader should have informed them of the rules, and besides, she pointed out, if someone was committed murder, would they get a warning that if they did it again they would get arrested? (Really… that was her response!)  Our retort that chanting and marching could hardly be equated with murder was waved off by Magoumi as though we were a swarm of gnats.

In the end, Tom got his badge back after pressure was put on the UNFCCC by country delegations.  But he lost one whole day of access to the talks.  Several of the other delegates never got their badges back.  Security had deemed them “part of the protest,” and there was no opportunity for appeal.

For GJEP, the repressive actions of the Climate COP had to be answered with action.  We were prepared to put our organizational accreditation on the line.  Someone had to stand up for the right of people to participate in decisions regarding their future.

Occupation of the Moon Palace. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Six of our delegation (including our Board member Hiroshi) were joined by four more youth delegates plus representatives from Focus on the Global South and BiofuelWatch to occupy the lobby of the Maya building.  We locked arms in a line, blocking access to the negotiating rooms.  All but three of us wore gags that read “UNFCCC”.  Those of us without gags shouted slogans such as, “The UN is silencing Indigenous Peoples!” and “The UN is silencing the voices of youth!”—in both English and Spanish.

Warren and Magoumi were on the scene in a flash and I heard them directly behind me trying to get me to turn my attention to them.  Magoumi was tapping my shoulder while robotically saying over and over, “Anna…Anna…Anna…Anna…is this you ignoring me Anna?  Anna…Anna…” (not sure why she insisted on pronouncing the silent “e” in my name.)  When I continued yelling slogans, she changed tactics and walked directly in front of me.  “Anna, come on, let’s take this outside.  We have a place where you can do this all day long if you want to.  Anna…Anna…Anna…”  I have to admit to being slightly rattled by having to do my shouting directly over Magoumi’s head, but fortunately, she is quite short.

GJEP Board Member Hiroshi Kanno is Manhandled by UN Security During GJEP's Occupation of the Moon Palace. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

The scene had become another feast for the media, but after about 10 minutes, I could sense them tiring of the same old shots, so it was time to move.  As soon as we made a motion toward the door (arms still locked), security was on us in a flash and used pain compliance tactics on the two people who bookended our interlocked line—including our 73 year old Board member Hiroshi.  Surprise surprise, once we got outside we were not escorted to their designated “protest pit” where permitted protests were allowed to occur, as Magoumi had promised, but rather forced onto a waiting bus and hustled off the premises.  Jazzed with adrenaline, we all felt pretty damned good about what we had just done and the coverage we got—even when the UN security guard on the bus pointed out that if we had done that protest in Germany we would have been arrested.  “You’re lucky this is Mexico,” he sneered.  Indeed I have been threatened with arrest by German police for holding up paper signs protesting genetically engineered trees outside of a UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Bonn.  German police have even less sense of humor than UN security.  None-the-less, those of us on the bus felt elated for taking action—for standing up for the voices of the voiceless.

You can view Orin’s photo essay from the Moon Palace Occupation by clicking here

Democracy Now! covered the silencing of voices at the Climate Conference in a feature that included our action and a youth action that followed later in the day.  During the latter, the media nearly rioted when a Reuters photographer was grabbed and beaten by UN security on one of the buses.  DN! ran the feature on Monday, December 13th following the end of the talks.  You can watch that coverage here

I have not yet heard from Magoumi or Warren if Global Justice Ecology Project has lost its accreditation to participate in future UN Climate COPs.  Or if any of us will be allowed to enter its premises in the future.  But those conferences are such energy-sucking, mind-numbing, frustrating clusterf#*ks that if we are not allowed back in, I can’t say I will have any regrets.

Next year’s climate COP will take place in Durban, South Africa, where the UN will face off with the social movements who, against all odds, brought down Apartheid.

Now THAT will be something…

African Country Delegates Protest Unjust Climate Policies in Copenhagen in December 2009. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Signing off from San Cristobal de las Casas, near Zapatista rebel held territory in Chiapas, Mexico.

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RELEASE: Cancun–Activists Occupy Lobby during Climate Talks

Global Justice Ecology Project Press Release     10 December 2010
(GJEP statement follows Release)

Photos: http://climatevoices.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/photo-essay-moon-palace-occupation-for-climate-justice/

Outrage at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Moon Palace Occupation Demands Climate Justice
UNFCCC Now the World Carbon Trading Organization

Cancun, Mexico–At 1:15 PM on the last day of the UN climate talks, a dozen participants staged an un-permitted action at the Moon Palace where the climate negotiations were taking place, to protest the silencing of civil society voices by the UNFCCC. Their mouths gagged with “UNFCCC,” they locked arms in front of the escalators leading to the closed chambers where high-level climate negotiations were taking place.

The group stood their ground amid an onrush of security, as Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project, Deepak Rugani of Biofuelwatch and Global Forest Coalition, and Rebecca Leonard of Focus on the Global South shouted, “The UN is silencing dissent!” and other slogans referring to the shut down of people’s voices at the climate talks.

“We took this action because the voices of indigenous peoples, of women, of small island countries, of the global south, must be heard!” they demanded.

Nicola Bullard of Focus on the Global South, who was standing by, said, “What we see here is a group of people representing voices silenced by the U.N. process. In the past few weeks we’ve seen the exclusion of countries of the global south, and their proposals ignored. We’ve seen activists and representatives from civil society excluded from the meetings and actually expelled from the UN Climate conference. This action was taken to show the delegates here that we think this process is unjust, that there are voices that must be heard, and that there are perspectives and ideas and demands that must be included in the debates being held in this building. These decisions are far too important to be left to politicians and big business. We need to open up this up to include the voices of the people and the voices of the South.”

Participants in the action were finally forced out of the building by security, but refused to unlock their arms despite security manhandling.  They were expelled from the UN Conference, their accreditation badges taken away, and put on a bus that took them to the Villa Climatica, miles away from the Moon Palace.

Contact: Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project +52.998.167.8131 (Cancun mobile)
or +1.802.578.0477 (U.S. mobile)

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Global Justice Ecology Project Statement:
The Silencing of Dissent within the UNFCCC

Global Justice Ecology Project took action today to protest the silencing of dissent within the UN Climate negotiations. Anyone whose interests do not reflect those of the global elite is being marginalized, ignored and shut out of the talks.

At the UN Climate Talks in Copenhagen last year, dissent was criminalized and activists charged with terrorism for organizing the “Reclaim Power” protest. Here we are seeing a continuation of this trend with a zero-tolerance policy for dissenting voices.

Global Justice Ecology Project also undertook this action in memory of Lee Kyung Hae, the South Korean Farmer and La Via Campesina member who martyred himself at the in protest against the WTO here seven years ago. In 2003 the fight was against the repressive trade policies of the WTO. Today the struggle is against the repressive position of the UNFCCC, which has become the World Carbon Trade Organization, and is forcing developing countries to accept policies that go against the interests of their citizens and the majority of the world’s inhabitants.

REDD – the scheme of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation that is being pushed through here, despite widespread concern about the human rights and ecological catastrophe it may bring, is a prime example of the kind of market-driven, top down policies of the UNFCCC that will allow business as usual to continue beyond all natural limits. These unjust policies will severely impact forest-dependent and indigenous peoples, campesinos, and marginalized peoples across the world.

From before the opening of the UN climate talks in Cancun on 29 November 2, through to the final moments, the atmosphere at here has been one of marked by exclusion, marginalization, and silencing of voices.

When the UNFCCC’s negotiating text was released on 24 November, all language from the Cochabamba People’s Agreement – a document developed by 35,000 people- had been removed. In its place, was a warmed version of the unjust Copenhagen Accord.

Arriving in Cancun, UN climate conference participants found an armed citadel, a civil society space set literally miles away from the negotiations, inflated prices and hours of travel daily. For NGOs and civil society groups, as well as for the smaller and less economically empowered delegations from the less developed countries, such obstacles are crippling.

Activists and representatives from civil society have been systematically excluded from the meetings and even expelled from the UNFCCC itself. When voices have been raised in Cancun, badges have been stripped. Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network lost one precious day of negotiations due to the suspension of his badge for simply speaking in public. Youth delegates were barred for spontaneously taking action against a permitting process for protests made unwieldy and inaccessible.  NGO delegates were banned from the Moon Palace simply for filming these protests.
The exclusion and silencing of civil society voices here  in Cancun mirrors the larger exclusion and silencing here of the majority of people – indigenous peoples, women, youth, small farmers, developing countries– whose position does not reflect that of the global elite.

This is why, in solidarity with our allies from oppressed communities in the North and the South, we took action to demand justice in the climate negotiations.
www.globaljusticeecology.org
www.wordpress.climatevoices.com

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Photo Essay: Moon Palace Occupation

Global Justice Ecology Project staged an occupation of the Moon Palace today in protest of the unjust UN climate negotiations going on there.  We protested the UN’s crushing of dissent and the marginalization of the voices of women, Indigenous Peoples, developing countries, small island nations, small farmers and environmental groups inside its fenced off grounds.  A GJEP statement about the protest will follow.

All photos by Orin Langelle/ Global Justice Ecology Project-Global Forest Coalition

The day began with Diana Pei Wu, a member of the GJEP delegation, being ejected from the climate negotiations for filming a youth protest earlier in the week. Democracy Now! filmed the incident.

At the occupation, GJEP Executive Director denounces the exclusion of indigenous peoples’ voices at the UN Climate talks

GJEP Board member Hiroshi Kanno is manhandled by security during the occupation as part of the effort to make the protesters move

Youth  took part in the occupation to protest the exclusion of youth voices in decisions about their future

Protesters held strong in the face of UN security intimidation

Deepak Rughani, of BiofuelWatch speaks out against false solutions to climate change

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In Cancun, protest breaks out against REDD

Cross-posted from The Hindu

Meena Menon

Members of La Via Campesina and other groups condemn market-based solutions

Two protesters from environmental groups hold up a banner against the REDD plus proposal, outside the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, on Tuesday.

CANCUN: Hector Rodriguez, who runs an alternative radio station in Cancun called Reptil, decided on a novel way to protest the commercialisation of forestry.

As hundreds of people marched to the venue of the United Nations Climate Change Conference on Tuesday, Mr. Rodriguez walked up to the posse of Mexican policemen with riot shields and launched into an impassioned plea to help Mother Earth.

“Help, help me,” he pleaded to the policemen, who quickly moved back, unsure of how to react. Hector’s clothes literally made a statement. The white cloth that barely covered him screamed: ‘No to REDD’ and ‘No to capitalism of forests.’ The protest, organised by La Via Campesina and other groups with an estimated 3,000-5,000 people, was against market-based solutions to climate change and opposed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) plus, a proposal that seeks to help people manage forests and sequester carbon, among other things.

The heavily guarded road leading to the venue, Moon Palace, was barricaded. A helicopter circled over the march. However, small groups protested along the road. Posters reading ‘The Earth is not for sale,’ ‘life or death,’ and ‘No to REDD,’ reflected some of the themes of the protest. ‘Let’s change the system, not the climate,’ said the others.

Social movements and civil society representatives, together with Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solon and Chief Paraguayan Adviser Miguel Lovera, joined the small farmers, indigenous people, women, environmental groups and other activists who marched for hours in the blazing sun. The march ended in a meeting of sorts. The Mexican authorities had lined up large numbers of federal policemen along the way to Moon Palace.

Meanwhile, at a press conference at Moon Palace, La Via Campesina, Mr. Solon, Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Ricardo Navarro of Friends of the Earth International and others condemned the “false solutions and backroom deals” in the negotiations currently under way. They called for worldwide actions for climate solutions based on traditional indigenous knowledge, community-based practices and human rights.

The press conference ended with Luis Henrique Moura of MST, the landless workers’ movement of Brazil, leading the group in the chant: ‘Globalise the struggle, globalise hope!’ The group staged a small protest there, shouting ‘No REDD, no REDD.’

“We have called for 1,000 Cancuns around the world today,” said Josie Riffaud of La Via Campesina, referring to the need for grass-roots communities to take the lead in proposing solutions to the ecological crisis. “The first of these took place this [Tuesday] morning inside the Moon Palace.” A small tableau was created at Cancun Messe, also a conference venue, highlighting the consequences of not addressing climate change.

Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project referred to Lee Kyung Hae, the South Korean farmer and La Via Campesina member, who took his life during protests against the World Trade Organisation here in 2003, wearing a sign saying ‘The WTO Kills Farmers.’ “Then we were fighting against the World Trade Organisation,” she said. “Today, we have to fight the World Carbon Trade Organisation.”

Representatives of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America which comprises nations of South America and the Caribbean (ALBA) countries also expressed their solidarity with the people.

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Protests Inside and Outside COP-16 Climate Summit Expose the Corrupt COP Process and Uphold the Cochabamba People’s as the Path towards Real Solutions

Indigenous Environmental Network and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance march with thousands in Cancun to Demand Respect for Indigenous Rights and a Rejection of REDD

Cross-posted from Indigenous Environmental Network

Cancún, Q. Roo, Mexico, December 7, 2010 – As thousands of people marched today on the COP-16 climate summit to condemn the false solutions and backroom deals being pushed in the negotiations, solidarity actions unfolded in over 100 cities around the world. The march was organized by La Via Campesina, the world’s largest federation of peasant and smallholder farmers, and was the anchor action of the 1000 Cancúns Global Day of Action for Climate Justice.

The diverse array of social movement organizations, representing Indigenous peoples, small farmers, youth, communities impacted by the climate change to call for mobilizations and actions worldwide for climate solutions based in traditional Indigenous knowledge, community-based practices, human rights and the rights of nature.

Simultaneously, the press conference hosted by Global Justice Ecology Project and organized by La Via Campesina, Indigenous Environmental Network and Friends of the Earth International turned into a spontaneous action as speakers expressed anger over the direction of the climate talks in Cancún. Following the press conference, activists from Youth 4 Climate Justice and Grassroots Global Justice led the protest out of the climate talks.

Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project opened the press conference by evoking the name of Lee Kyung Hae, the South Korean farmer and La Via Campesina member who took his life during mobilizations against the World Trade Organization here in 2003 wearing a sign saying “The WTO Kills Farmers.” “Then we were fighting against the World Trade Organization,” Petermann said. “Today we have to fight the World Carbon Trade Organization.”

Tom Goldtooth, the Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network explained why so many people around the world were taking action. “It is clear that the false solutions offered at this COP-16 and previous COPs are being used to create markets and generate capital without regard to the fundamental concern for reducing emissions. The Cochabamba People’s Agreement remains a statement of the people of the world and against the commercialization of our climate, our air, our forests, our water and our very existence as humanity but it has been unilaterally deleted in the current negotiating text. As indigenous peoples, social movements and affected peoples we reject the carbon market mechanisms of REDD.”

Mari Rose Taruc of the Asia Pacific Environmental Network and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance described the situation facing her community of Richmond, California which lives in the shadow of a massive Chevron refinery. “Our communities are already dying from pollution. Unfortunately the UN process is focused on market based mechanisms that will allow companies like Chevron to buy offsets instead of reducing emissions at their source, creating more toxic hot spots in low income communities of color.”

Representatives of ALBA countries, Miguel Lovera, Chief Adviser of Paraguay and Paul Oquin of Nicaragua also expressed their solidarity with the people and condemned the moves of developed countries to avoid their historical responsibility and climate debt.

“We are here as young people from impacted communities to make sure that our voices are heard and respected,” said Kari Fulton, founding member of Youth 4 Climate Justice. Fulton continued, “Whether you live in the forest, whether you live in the hood, you will be impacted by false solutions. And REDD, REDD+, REDD++, is a false solution that will create a market in forests at the expense of human rights and the environment. We are here to say we want you to protect the Rights of Mother Earth and the voices of the people.”

Following the press conference, activists from Youth for Climate Justice and the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance led a protest out of the press conference and onto the front stairs, where Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solon spoke to the crowd and the gathered media.

Solon stated, “What is most important is the struggle of the people and their demands for real solutions to climate change… Every year, 300,000 people die because of natural disasters caused by climate change. This will grow to millions if we do not have, here, a real agreement, instead of a Cancun-hagen”.

The youth activists went on to loudly denounce the inaccessibility and unjust nature of the talks and express outrage over having been repeatedly denied permission to hold a youth delegation protest on the UN grounds. As the youth marched away, they were accosted by UN security, stripped of their badges, put onto buses and evicted from the climate conference.

Tom Goldtooth, Pablo Solon and other delegates were later able to make their way to join the thousands-strong People’s Assembly for Environmental and Climate Justice, held in the street less than two miles from the official climate conference.

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