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Statement on the UN Climate Conference in Warsaw by Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network


Tom Goldtooth, IEN

The United Nations climate meetings involve the big powers of the United States and other industrialized “developed” countries. Lurking in the background are the financial sectors and investors of capital often having meetings in 4-5 star hotels.

Everything I have seen from the industrialized countries (including G20 countries) is false solutions towards addressing climate change. They have been playing a game of chess with climate.

As articulated at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, the root cause of climate change is capitalism. IEN had a delegation in Cochabamba actively involved in the outcome documents. The problem is countries will continue to drill, dig, and burn up every drop of oil, gas, and coal; no matter how expensive it is, till it runs out globally.

After fossil fuel resources are depleted, the world will move into a global bio-energy and bio-economy (plants, energy crops, trees, algae, etc.). To do this, they need full access to land (and water), with no restrictions – worldwide. Everyone’s rights to land and water will be diminished.

The issues of access to and political power games over Energy and Water will be the battleground for our next generation. It will be over the Privatization of Nature – of Mother Earth. We will witness more deregulation of corporate activity, more privatization and commodification of the natural “commons”. They have given themselves rights to have Dominion over Nature.

What will it take to turn this around?

Many are grappling with this question. But, I believe a mass movement globally is needed to resist this insanity. But, it also involves a spiritual awakening. As I have said many times, the people of the world must re-evaluate what their relationship is to the sacredness of Mother Earth.

As Indigenous Peoples, those that follow our teachings, we know what our responsibilities are to the Natural Laws of Mother Earth. But the industrialized man, industrialized societies do not know this. IEN has spoken to this for over 22 years!

The modern world of capitalism and its world of corporate schizophrenia are already co-opting our Indigenous leadership with false solutions via benefit-sharing scenarios, or to be nice “Indians” and just share our traditional knowledge for adaptation to climate change; rather than our participation demanding real change and action.

Real binding commitments and real actions to reduce emissions at source must be the major path in these negotiations. But, this is not the agenda in Warsaw at this time. This is why the tar sands in Canada is ground zero in Turtle Island – North America to fighting for climate justice; for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and for a new colonial paradigm (not ours, but their system) that moves away from a Property Rights regime, towards a system that recognizes Earth Jurisprudence.

–Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network and member of the International Indigenous Peoples’ Forum on Climate Change, the Indigenous caucus within the UNFCCC

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ALBA Governments Join La Via Campesina to Denounce Elite Climate Talks; Cochabamba People’s Agreement is the peoples’ solution to the Climate Crisis

Source: La Via Campesina

(Cancún, 7 December 2010) La Via Campesina, the world’s largest movement of peasant and smallholder farmers, joined with Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Ricardo Navarro of Friends of the Earth International and a number of social movement representatives and government officials from the ALBA countries at COP 16 in Cancún today to condemn the false solutions and backroom deals being pushed in the negotiations, and 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.

The group held a press conference in the Moon Palace, the opulent resort where the tense and difficult climate convention have moved into the high level phase of negotiations this week. The press conference ended with Luis Henrique Moura of MST, the landless workers’ movement of Brazil, leading the group in the chant “Globalize the struggle, globalize hope!” The group then all walked out of the building with youth from the U.S.-based Grassroots Global Justice Alliance leading chants of “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 grassroots communities to take the lead in proposing solutions to the ecological crisis. “The first of these took place this morning inside the Moon Palace.”

Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project opened the event 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,” said Petermann.

“We see that the Mexican government is attempting to get an agreement out of Cancun, but with the spirit of Copenhagen, both in the process and in the content,” said Ricardo Navarro of Friends of the Earth International. “We are bearing witness to parallel meetings and secret negotiations.”

Mari Rose Taruc of the Asia Pacific Environmental Network spoke about the 1,000 Cancuns happening in the United States. “We have actions and events in over 30 states in the U.S. organized by people suffering impacts of pollution and climate change.”

Representatives of ALBA countries also expressed their solidarity with the people and condemned the moves of developed countries to avoid their historical responsibility and climate debt. “There is a lot of talk here in Cancun about money, about chainsaws and about plantations but there is little talk about forests or about the real work of the people who confront climate change everyday.” said Miguel Lovera, Chief Adviser of Paraguay. Paul Oquin, Head of the Nicaraguan delegation publicly expressed the support of Nicaragua and the ALBA countries to La Via Campesina and all the social movements in their struggle.

On the steps of the Moon Palace, together with the social movement representatives, Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solon stated that what is most important is the struggle of the people and their demands for real solutions to climate change. “If the temperature increases to 4 degrees Celsius as we are seeing it now in the negotiations, we are going to see hundreds of thousands of people die. 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 press conference and action that followed was coordinated with a march of 5000 people in the streets outside led by La Via Campesina. Social movement and civil society representatives together with Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solon and Chief Paraguayan Adviser Miguel Lovera then went outside to join the small farmers, indigenous people, women, environmentally affected peoples, environmental organizations and other social movements and activists who marched for hours in the Mexican sun, culminating in a People’s Assembly in the street.

“Today, there were 1,000 Cancuns all over the world and with this we are sending the message to the governments inside the negotiations that the people have 1,000 solutions to the climate crisis that uphold the rights of the people and Mother Earth,” stated Carlos Marentes of La Via Campesina.


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REDD and Wood-based Bioenergy Threaten Planet’s Forests And People

Protest outside of a Norwegian government meeting to promote "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation" (REDD) in Oslo, Norway highlights the social and ecological costs of the REDD scheme and draws attention to a scandalous Norske Hydro project that threatens to destroy Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Photo Courtesy: Friends of the Earth Norway

Anne Petermann Reports from London
Highlights Include–
• Norwegian Government Scandal in the Amazon Rainforest

• Links Between Climate and Trade
• Pacific Islander Denounces False Solutions to Climate Change

• Genetically Engineered Trees

London, England–In today’s blog post I am going to relate some of the presentations of my colleagues on the GE Trees and Bioenergy Tour which they today here in London.

The first presentation was by Almuth Ernsting of BiofuelWatch, a UK-based organization with an office in the U.S.  BiofuelWatch is very focused on trying to stop the UK from the massive increase it has planned in wood-fired electricity plants.

Some of the main points of Almuth’s presentation:

The amount of electricity the UK generates using wood is projected to increase 3.5 times by 2020.

The vast majority of this wood will be imported.

Industry likes to promote the idea that they will be using wood residues (sawdust, etc), but the reality is, demand will be met by whole tree removal logging—logging that involves the entire tree from leaves to roots, which severely compacts and depletes the soil.

Much of the wood imported by the UK is currently coming from North America.  Future imports are also planned from South America and the Baltic states.

Almuth concluded by showing a graphic from Science magazine which forecasts that the massive global increase in demand for wood-based energy will require so much land that it will lead to a total loss of natural forests and grasslands by 2050.

The next presentation by Simone Lovera, the Executive Director of Global Forest Coalition, who showed the powerpoint presentation created by Camila Moreno, who was still in Oslo fighting the good fight against REDD at a meeting on the subject convened by the Norwegian government.

Simone emphasized that the industry PR claiming that bioenergy crops will be grown on marginalized land is a myth.  She pointed out that this marginal land is never in the UK, it is always in Africa and South America—places where people are trying to reclaim their lands before they are classified as degraded land and given away for bioenergy plantations.  Water is also a crucial issue.  Eucalyptus and other monocultures for bioenergy are very water intensive.

Another project she highlighted as absolutely a scandal.  The Norwegians took over a 91% share in the largest aluminum smelter in the world as well as one of the largest bauxite mines—both in the Brazilian Amazon—and plan to power them with wood-based electricity and a new hydro-electric dam—the notorious and highly-controversial Belo Monte dam (See Video). Aluminum smelters use enormous amounts of electricity and require huge quantities of water.  So while the Norwegian government is promoting “reducing emissions from deforestation,” a Norwegian company (48% state owned) Norske Hydro is simultaneously planning a huge project that will both drown vast areas of Amazon forest and burn mountains of trees.

Meanwhile, the timber industry is being rewarded for their extremely poor land stewardship (consisting primarily of expanding monoculture tree plantations and destroying native forests), with subsidies from governments both for the pulp itself (as so-called “renewable” energy) as well as from the REDD scheme.

She pointed out that in this alarming trend, communities, local cultures, and biodiversity are being lost.  But the good news, she said, is that people are retaliating and taking over their lands again.  Tupinikim and Guarani as well as the MST and the Women of La Via Campesina have taken direct action against eucalyptus plantations in Brazil.

Certification, she insisted, is not an option.  Millions of hectares of monoculture tree plantations will always be destructive.  You cannot certify overconsumption.

In conclusion, she asked the question, which future do you prefer?  The future of monocultures or the future of diversity?

Mary Lou Malik, the Trade Campaigner for Focus on the Global South presented on the link between trade and climate change.

She began with the premise that corporate globalization is pushing the ecological impacts of the planet, and that 1/3 of trade is for non-essential goods or goods that don’t need to be imported in the first place.

The global economy, she pointed out, is causing poor countries to focus on cash crops for export that cannot be eaten, so that when trade crashes due to an economic downturn, their income dries up and people starve.  Demand for biomass from Southern will exacerbate this problem by turning more agricultural land into tree plantations.

WTO connection to the climate:

Those that are driving the false solutions are the same as the ones driving the free trade system.

How free trade prevents action on climate change:

1      The attempt by countries to create “green” standards and prohibit the import of non-energy efficient products is being rejected by the big countries in the WTO who threaten to cut off the market access of those smaller countries .

2      Through the liberalization of “Environmental goods and services”—that is supposed to allow clean technologies to flow from the North into the South.   However, most of the products that are included under this are actually fossil fuel-based, dirty or controversial (false solution) technologies.  Northern governments are already required under Kyoto to transfer clean technologies.  But putting it under trade means that recipient countries are required to give something up in return (the essence of trade).

3      TRIPS—Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights: Relevant again to climate because the newest clean technologies are all patented, ergo exorbitantly expensive and inaccessible to poor countries.

4      Trade Rules trump all other rules because they are legal and binding, whereas the UN climate agreements are non-binding.  Therefore trade rules always come out on top.  UNFCCC Article 3 states clearly that measures taken to address climate change should not constitute disguised barriers to trade.  Trade comes first. Period.

5      Pushes “solutions” to be market-based.

What we need to do:

• Change Trade not the Climate

• Get rid of market-based and other false solutions

• Refocus trade to promote transfer of clean technologies, etc.

The final presentation of the day was by Fiu Mataese Elisara, who explained the impacts of climate change and false solutions from the perspective of the peoples of the Pacific.  I will try to keep this report as much in his own powerful words as possible.

The countries of the Pacific occupy 1/3 of the surface of the globe. Ninety-five percent of the people in the Pacific are Indigenous.  We are not responsible for the crisis, yet for us it is a matter of life and death.  For this reason, when you talk about geoengineering, REDD, bioenergy and other false solutions, we are very worried, because they will not solve the problems.  We have to keep the temperature rise well below 2 degrees.  Yet the new Copenhagen Accord is predicted to lead to 4 degrees rise in temperature.

We need reductions of 80-90% of emissions by 2050 to save our islands.

Bioenergy and REDD (paying people who want to cut their forests) will make the problem worse, not better.  The conservation of native forests is done by Indigenous Peoples.  But under REDD, you have to be a deforester first before you can benefit.  So the peoples who have conserved forests are left out.  There are no guarantees that after the countries have been paid they won’t deforest a few years later anyway.   Then there’s also the problem of forest definitions.  We get crucified by forest definitions.  When the UN allows plantations and Genetically Engineered trees to be called forests, it’s a major problem.

There is also the problem of sustainable development in the South, which is focused exclusively on economics—not on social or environmental values.  Plantations funded under the CDM [through the Kyoto Protocol—ed.] are killing people whose forests are being taken away.  These negotiations are violating our rights and that climate money is literally killing our people.  The extremes in weather are also killing our people—the increase in number and severity of cyclones, for example.

Bioenergy is going to be more destructive than fossil fuels.  Land grabbing is becoming a major problem in the Pacific as well.  Eighty percent of our lands are Indigenous lands, and the opening of these lands to investors is going to devastate our people.

This is a collective issue.  It’s good we are aligning but we have a big challenge ahead of us so let’s figure out how we can work together to address this problem—to confront the World Bank and the other forces causing this problem.

We have to go out to the communities and tell them the other side of the story, so they know what is possible, and not just what the government or companies tell them.  And when we tell them, they get angry.  The students get angry and then they get involved.

This is how it can change.

Anne Petermann is the Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and is reporting everyday from the GE Trees and Bioenergy Tour in Europe.  Anne also is the Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign.  Stay turned to Climate Connections for her posts.

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