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UN Climate Agreement in Durban called a Victory for Polluters, Financial Sector
The below was written by an about my friend Judy Lumb. She was a representative at Durban and asked me to give it wide circulation.
Judy Lumb of Belize, and Moses Musonga of Kenya, both Quakers, represented QEW at the 2011 UN climate summit (17th Conference of the Parties or COP-17) in Durban, South Africa, last December. Judy had to leave before the final session, but on her blog she posted her assessment of the direction she felt the negotiations were headingtoward weak language that would postpone meaningful international cooperation in reducing global carbon emissions and mitigating the worst effects of the climate changes to come.
By agreeing to further delays, the conference delegates may have condemned the planet to a 4-degree C rise in average global temperaturea terrifying prospect in light of the climate disruptions that are occurring after less than a 1-degree C rise.
The weak language of the final accord reflected great reluctance by the U.S. and some other developed countries to commit to renewal of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, preferring to delay that decision until the next climate summit. The U.S. has never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and Canada withdrew from it right after COP-17 ended..
Watering-down of of key wording in the final agreement also resulted in deletion of a two-track system whereby developed countries would have the primary responsibility for climate change mitigation because of their historical contribution to current greenhouse gas emissions, while developing countries who have not been responsible for the problem would have a different set of responsibilities.
Judy included a link to a press release from a coalition called Climate Justice Now! , which condemned decisions resulting from the UN COP-17 summit as “a crime against humanity” because of developed nations’ failure to take responsibility for the great suffering that unmitigated climate change is causing.
Climate Justice Now! said the antidote to the current stalemate is the People’s Agreement from an alternative climate conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2010, which, in contrast to the manifestly unfair UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, addressed the interests of developing countries and acknowledged that real solutions to climate change can be found only in the context of the inherent rights of Mother Earth.
According to Pablo Solón, former lead climate negotiator for Bolivia, “The world’s polluters have blocked real action and have once again chosen to bail out investors and banks by expanding the now-crashing carbon marketswhich like all financial market activities these days, appear to mainly enrich a select few.”
Janet Redman of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies said, “What some see as inaction is in fact a demonstration of the palpable failure of our current economic system to address economic, social or environmental crises. Banks that caused the financial crisis are now making bonanza profits speculating on our planet’s future. The financial sector, driven into a corner, is seeking a way out by developing ever newer commodities to prop up a failing system.”
COP-17 President Nkoana Mashabane of South Africa made a strong argument to approve the Durban package of decisions, Judy reported. “She said that we have worked long and hard and shouldn’t let that work go to waste. The world is watching. Let’s not disappoint them. …But there was not agreement on the proposed decisions.
These excerpts from the statement by Switzerland summarize the general feeling. ‘Switzerland came to Durban to fulfill Bali Action Plan set out at COP-13 and to operationalize the decisions made in Cancun last year. … But this text is weak, thin, insufficient. …The shared vision is blind. … However, Switzerland will accept it because it is absolutely necessary. It would be terrible to lose these tiny steps. With regret, we accept.’”
In her blog, Judy observed,
To three countries, Canada, Japan, and Russia, the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol seemed pointless without the major polluters involved, the U.S. and the emerging economies of China and India. The withdrawal of those three countries leaves only 16 percent of global emissions covered by the second commitment period. But still the financing of adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change is connected to the Kyoto Protocol, so developing countries did not want to see it die.
There were many issues in regard to balance brought up by the developing countries because the developed countries and their corporations seemed to have too much control of the process. …The more serious insidious issue is the extent to which market mechanisms crept into all of the proposed solutions. For example, if agriculture is a part of the carbon market as a mean s of offsetting carbon emissions, then agricultural policy will be determined to suit the financial community, “the 1%,” not to feed people, “the 99%.”
The press releases coming out of the U.N. are heralding a great achievement, but it seems to me a minor one which merely keeps the process alive, which doesn’t really justify the tremendous effort that is put into it. But then, I guess it is major when one considers the alternative of no process at all.