31 December 2007

Message for World Peace

"I believe that to meet the challenge of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for his or her own self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all mankind. Universal responsi­bility is the real key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace, the equitable use of natural resources, and through concern for future generations, the proper care of the environment."

An excerpt from HH the Dalai Lama's speech "The Global Community".

The Global Community, HH the Dalai Lama
World Peace, HH the Dalai Lama
The Website of the Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

28 December 2007

Climate change, a slow-motion catastrophe

The Real News network interview with the Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki, co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

The David Suzuki Foundation works "to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us."

It focuses on four program areas:
  • sustainability
  • oceans and sustainable fishing
  • climate change and clean energy
  • nature challenge
"The Foundation uses science and education to promote solutions that conserve nature and help achieve sustainability within a generation."

Interview with Dr. David Suzuki, The Real News
David Suzuki Foundation

26 December 2007

Zapatistas in code-red alert

From the 13th to the 17th of December, took place the 1st International Colloquium In Memorian Andrés Aubry in Chiapas, Mexico, co-organised by the independent magazine Contrahistorias, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and the Universidad de la Tierra.

The theme of the Colloquium was "Planet Earth: Antisystemic movements" and it gathered many intelectuals in an exchange of ideas of resistance.

Amongst many other contributions, on the 16th, the Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos (El Sup) held a speech intitled: "Feeling Red: The Calendar and the Geography of War"...

On this speech he drew attention to the fact that once again, their communites are being the target of aggression. He said: "The signs of war on the horizon are clear. War, like fear, also has a smell. And now we are starting to breathe its fetid odor in our lands."

Already Ernesto Ledesma Arronte and his colleagues at the CAPISE (Center of Political Analysis and Social and Economic Investigations) had alerted to an increased pressure against the autonomous zapatista people by several federal institutions, including agrarian and public security institutions, but also by the federal mexican army and paramilitary groups.

On all 56 permanent military bases run by the Mexican state on indigenous land in Chiapas, there has been an increase in activity, with an escalation on weapons and troops.

Also, there has been a recent increase on the hostilities from paramilitarised groups against families that support the zapatista movement, including shots fired into the air, brutal beatings, and threats of death, rape and dismemberment...

Arronche himself has been a victim of intimidation, with his house being broken into last February, as reported by Amnesty International.

They state: "Local human rights organizations believe that the break-in may be part of a pattern of threats, intimidation and harassment of activists who are involved in a nationwide peaceful civilian political campaign, La Otra Campaña (The Other Campaign)."

This campaign by the EZLN, on which Arronche also took part, concided with the presidential election campaign and seeked to mobilise leftwing grassroots organizations and raise social and political issues (ignored by the major candidates), including indigenous rights.

According to El Sup, for months the Zapatistas have been resisting violence and trying to expose these provocations. But by choosing to hold The Other Campaign instead of lining up behind the leftist candidate in the elections, the movement made powerful enemies. He says: "We understand that our positions are not being welcomed with the same openness and tolerance as before". And now their calls for help are being met with a deafening silence.

Both Naomi Klein and John Berger, present at the Colloquium have been active in appealing for the support of the civil society to the Zapatista movement.

John Berger, during the presentation of his new book (Con la esperanza entre los dientes), has said: "The Zapatista project is in real danger, and if it does disapear, it will have consequences felt all over the world".

Enlace Zapatista, EZLN
Primer Coloquio Internacional In Memorian Andrés Aubry
Sentir el rojo: El calendario y la geografia de la guerra, SCI Marcos
Centro de Analisis Politico e Investigaciones Sociales (CAPISE)
Mexico: Fear for safety, Amnesty International
Zapatista Code Red, Naomi Klein
A la movilización en defensa del zapatismo, De t@d@s para t@d@s

25 December 2007

Bali wrap-up

And here is the closing press briefing...

So was it all a success?

It did indeed launch a two-year negotiation process (the "Bali roadmap") culminating in the 2009 UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, where an agreement on CO2 and other greenhouse gas reductions should be met, to take effect in 2012 (post-Kyoto).

It tackled issues relating to emission reductions, forests (and deforestation), adaptation (to climate change impacts) and technological transfer.

In the first days of the conference it saw Australia joining in to the Kyoto protocol, this way isolating the US as the only country within the Annex II of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
not to have ratified the treaty. According to this Convention, the Annex II refers to countries that have restrictions on their emissions and "have to provide financial resources to the developing countries".

The negotiations, however, were not easy, as briefly described...

Earlier in the talks, for example, delegations from the US and Japan, supported by Canada, rejected strong proposals on financing technological transfer.

Throughout the conference many discussions were undertaken in order to produce a draft paper that would consolidate the desired agreement on how to take a long-term climate change regime forward.

During the last day, before an agreement had been reached, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in an attempt to urge the countries to be flexible and to accept the latest draft of the "roadmap" said he was "
disappointed at the level of progress", being imediately greeted with a standing ovation.

After this moment, Nation after Nation expressed their willingness to be flexible and accept the document. Up until it came the turn of the US, which stated they were "not prepared to accept this formulation", followed by a stunned silence and then a crescendo of boos and hisses.

Nevertheless, Nations continued to accept the draft, until it came the turn of Kevin Conrad, the representative from Papua New Guinea who said what no-one else dared saying: "There is an old saying if you are not going to lead you should get out of the way and so I say to the United States: ‘We ask for your leadership but if you are not going to lead, leave it to us. Get out of the way.’"

After which
Paula Dobriansky, chief US negotiator eventually declared they would "go forward and join the consensus", this way reaching a deal.

So it seems that in the end all was great! Or was it?

A quick tour through the web pages of some influential environment NGOs revealed that the "roadmap" clearly has some serious limitations.

According to Greenpeace, the low tactics used by the US (and supported by Japan, Canada, Australia and others) have "watered down" the consensus.

One of their main criticisms were about the fact that "the strong science that should be driving the process was relegated to a footnote".

Also, they claim that, relating with the reduction of emissions from deforestation, the document has
"a loophole that may allow some industrialised countries to swap binding targets for voluntary goals", which unquestionably raises some concerns.

Friends of the Earth revealed some limitations on the Adaptation Fund, aimed at assisting countries, that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, in meeting the costs of adaptation.

"A work plan to negotiate complex issues on the potential scheme to reduce deforestation in developing countries, with references that could include plantations which would water down the scheme."

"An obligation for verifiable reporting on developing country actions without resolute commitments to finance technology and capacity building to assist them to do so."

Also, and some days after the conference was over, the WWF has issued a press release saying the Bali commitments were already forgotten. According to them, the EU environment ministers have decided (at the EU Environment Council in Brussels) not yet to include the emissions from the aviation sector in the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Delia Villagrasa, Senior Advisor at WWF European Policy Office said: "Europe took a strong stance at the Bali climate talks, but seems to have taken a backward step with this lenient approach towards the aviation sector."

"Whilst all industrial sectors included in the ETS are required to do their share to put the EU on track to meet its Kyoto emissions reduction target, the ceiling on carbon emissions from airlines proposed by the Council today is almost 90 per cent above 1990 levels."

So where is the political will Ivo de Boer asked for at the beginning of the conference? Were the commintments really already forgotten? Or are the business-as-usual lobbies fighting back?...

Even though an important step forward has been made, it seems obvious there is still much to do to tackle the urgent issue of climate change and its impacts, with a sense of global justice...

UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, UNFCCC
Bali reports, UN Gateway on Climate Change
Tears, jeers and a last minute U-turn, Greenpeace
Kyoto afloat despite attempted sabotage, Friends of the Earth
Bali commitments already forgotten by EU Ministers, WWF

10 December 2007

Re-viewing the expectations for the Bali Climate Change Conference

Just a few days before the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali ends, it is worth having another look at the expectations expressed by Ivo de Boer (the Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Change Secretariat) before it all started...

United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, UN

03 December 2007

UNDP dedicates its annual report to climate change

On the 27th of November, the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) has launched the 2007/2008 Human Development Report, under the title "Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world", thus highlighting the importance of the issue for human development.

The report starts with a quote from Martin Luther King referring to the urgency of the problem, in a somewhat pessimistic manner:

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. We are faced now with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late…We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: Too late.

It first addresses the challenges of climate change, in terms of human development. On this section, it refers back to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), thus recognising the "unequivocal" evidences of climate change. In this context, it identifies five "specific risk-multipliers for human development reversals":
  • Reduced agricultural production and food security
  • Heightened water insecurity
  • Rising seas and increased exposure to coastal flooding and extreme weather events
  • The collapse of ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Increased human health risks
It criticises Business-as-usual which describes as "pathways to an unsustainable climate future", highlighting the inequalities in carbon footprinting.

"They mirror the relationship between economic growth, industrial development and access to modern energy services. That relationship draws attention to an important human development concern. Climate change and the curtailment of excessive fossil fuel use may be the greatest challenge of the 21st Century, but an equally urgent and more immediate challenge is the expanded provision of affordable energy services to the world’s poor."

The report urges to action based on social justice and ecological interdependence, but also on economic grounds:

"Article Three of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes that “everyone has a right to life, liberty and personal security.” Inaction in the face of the threat posed by climate change would represent a very immediate violation of that universal right. (...) The ethical foundation of any society has to be measured partly on the basis of how it treats its most vulnerable members."

On economic grounds, it refers to the Stern Review on The Economics of Climate Change commissioned by the United Kingdom Government, which strongly concluded that prevention is better, and cheaper, than inaction, suggesting urgent, immediate, and rapid reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.

It also raises the ethical issue of cross-generational equity in terms of sustainability:

"Denying the case for action today on the grounds that future generations with a lower weight should be expected to shoulder a greater burden of mitigation costs is not an ethically defensible proposition—and it is inconsistent with the moral responsibilities that come with membership of a human community linked across generations."

One other critical ethical issue covered by the UNDP in this report refers to the inequalities in climate change impacts:

"While climate disasters are affecting more and more people across the world, the overwhelming majority lives in developing countries. (...) The processes by which (climatic) risk is converted into vulnerability (measure of capacity to manage risk) in any country are shaped by the underlying state of human development, including the inequalities in income, opportunity and political power that marginalize the poor. Developing countries and their poorest citizens are most vulnerable to climate change."

The report then draws strategies for mitigations, such as setting targets (post-Kyoto), carbon-pricing, together with governmental regulations and international cooperation.

At the national level, the nature of the risks associated varies across regions and countries, as well as their capacity to adapt to climate change, therefore concluding that some countries - and some people - are far better equipped than others to respond.

"Adaptation in the developed world has taken many forms. The ‘floating home’ owners (...) provide a household-level illustration of behavioural shift . In other cases, business is being forced to adapt. Many developed countries have conducted detailed studies on climate change impacts. Several are moving towards the implementation of adaptation strategies."

However, in the poorest countries, adaptation is largely a matter of self-help. "Millions of people with barely enough resources to feed, clothe and shelter their families are being forced to direct money and labour to adaptation."

"Human development itself is the most secure foundation for adaptation to climate change. Policies that promote equitable growth and the diversification of livelihoods, expand opportunities in health and education, provide social insurance for vulnerable populations, improve disaster management and support post-emergency recovery all enhance the resilience of poor people facing climate risks."

Finally, and urging for international cooperation the report states:

"With their historic responsibility for the energy emissions that are driving climate change and their far deeper current carbon footprints, rich countries have a moral obligation to support adaptation in developing countries. They also have the financial resources to act on that obligation."

Human Development Report 2007/2008, UNDP
Human Development Report Office, UNDP
Assessment Reports, IPCC
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN
Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change, HM Treasury