11
DEC
2011

Reporting from the UN’s COP 17 Climate Change Conference

This blog post was written by Andrea Solazzo, last year’s intern at the Loretto UN office. Andrea is now partnering with Rosa Lizarde and the Feminist Task Force of  the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. Andrea will be reporting on the UNFCC Climate Change Conference in Durban for the Loretto Community and its partners. 

  • “The UN is committed to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. This means equity. This means fairness for those who have contributed the least, yet are the most affected by our changing climate. This means climate justice for all.” – Time For Climate Justice

    Greetings from beautiful South Africa! I am here attending the COP 17 Conference as part of the Feminist Task Force delegation and as a  representative of the Loretto Community. While attending the conference I will be writing reports on emerging climate change policy, food sovereignty and the rights of small subsistence farmers.

    The UN COP 17, officially called the Conference of the Parties is an annual event that assesses progress on how the international community is dealing with climate change. It’s also a time for international social movements, farmers, indigenous groups and non-governmental organizations to mobilize and present their demands for climate justice to international delegations.

    One of the major themes this year is the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol (KP) was developed in 1997 and is a legally binding agreement under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% compared to the year 1990 (but note that, compared to the emissions levels that would be expected by 2010 without the Protocol, this target represents a 29% cut). Currently being discussed here at Durban is the Kyoto second commitment period, which is a time for governments to ratify their 5-year QEROs (quantified emission reduction obligations) and insure it is in alignment with the agreements made last year for the temperature to raise a high two-degrees celsius.

    As result of continued economic growth and consumption habits in the global north we are on track to exceed the two-degree celsius mark. To avoid large fines and international pressure countries such as the US and Canada are planning to exit the KP. They want to develop a new “pledge and review” system, where countries would make a pledge to the UN and only pollute an agreed amount. In reality, countries are going to continue their assault on mother earth and temperature will rise.  We can not trust that countries who are all ready ignoring international environmental laws will stop their projected economic growth.

    Only by developing a new economic system and different ways to measure growth will we be able to stop the destruction of our planet. CO2 emissions are the result of natural resources being extracted from mother earth, deforestation and corporate exploitation. There is a direct correlation between northern consumption habits and climate change. The demand for products is excruciating high and we are in no way living sustainably. Whether it be a driving to a grocery store a mile away or consuming meat, that led to a forest being cut down for cattle grazing. Every consumption choice we make leads to the exploitation of mother earth and our brothers and sisters in the global south.

     

  • Via Campesina

In Durban, I am surrounded by women singing in Zulu, wearing beautiful colored fabrics, large hair wraps and playing very loud leather drums. People are still widely debating the system that continuously steals natural resources from the soils of the earth and encourages corporate exploitation of impoverished communities. But, the energy is changing, people are very angry and they can not grow crops. In order to survive they are being forced to leave their communities and no resources are being made accessible for farmers to adapt to our changing climate.

At the march and in various meetings I sense a feeling of frustration. The talks are moving away from how to lower carbons emissions and to climate adaptation. We are being forced to adapt to the changing climate, as result of international governing bodies not enforcing laws and stopping the destruction. People are sadly accepting that countries will continue to focus on their GDP and not the protection of mother earth.

Ecological Climate-Resilient Agriculture 

Farmers, especially small-subsistence farmers, are being forced to adapt to the changing climate. Ecological climate-resilient agriculture is a term being brought into dialogues at the COP 17. Climate resilient agriculture is important to support and part of a feasible solution in addressing climate change adaptation. This term is based upon farmers’ knowledge and incorporating agriculture methods that create healthy soil that store water during drought conditions and diversifying crops to create resilience against unpredictable weather patterns.Climate resilient agriculture allows farmers to work with nature, not against and without genetically modified seeds and chemicals.

Women Farming, Zimbabwe Women’s News Network

This removes a dependency from international aid in several ways. First, of all it encourages seed saving and allows crops to naturally evolve to the changing climate. Thus, farmers do not have to purchase GMO seeds every year, often which eliminate offspring seeds. Secondly, it is preventative measure against climate change. Crops are becoming increasingly more vulnerable as result of drastic and unpredictable changes in weather patterns. This results in peoplehaving an increased risk of going hungry and not be able to fully participate in their communities. By incorporating climate resilient agriculture, farmers can prepare for a wide range of weather patterns and increase crop yields.According to the UNDP, women account for 80% of food production in many African countries.

For many of our impoverished sisters farming in rural areas life can be a constant struggle for survival. Inadequate support to deal with climate change severely effects the livelihood of women and eliminates any chance of gender equality. As widely discussed with my colleagues at the Feminist Task Force, there can be no poverty eradication without gender equality.Inevitably weather patterns will continue to worsen and current farming practices will become increasingly insufficient. Steps need to be taken in order to build self-reliance and increase food sovereignty. These are five essential steps that are crucial to move towards climate resiliency, as outlined by the Third World Network:

  1. Increasing investment in ecological agriculture: Governments must reorient agriculture policies and funding to climate-resilient agriculture. Projects such as communal water catchments systems, agricultural biodiversity and agroforestry must be provided support
  2. Managing climate risks and reducing vulnerability: Agriculture vulnerability can only be reduced by governments building adaptive capacity and resilience. Social safety nets must be put in place to deal with climate disasters or else the continuous cycle of poverty will worsen.
  3. Stopping climate-destructive agriculture by dismantling perverse incentives and subsidies that promote unsuitable and high-emissions agriculture.
  4. Implementing a research and knowledge-sharing agenda towards ecological agriculture and climate resilience.
  5. Building supportive international policy frameworks.

 

  • Rights of Mother Earth

    “Under capitalism, Mother Earth is converted into a source of raw materials, and human beings into consumers and a means of production, into people that are seen as valuable only for what they own, and not for what they are”.

    – Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth

    The Rights of Mother Earth is a law and movement stating that nature must have basic rights, similar to the concept of human rights. This law is based upon the idea that humans and nature are interdependent. Nature is not only for our consumption, but has its own rights to life.  The statement was written in Bolivia at the World Conference for Climate Change and Mother Earth in April 2010.  I strongly encourage you to check out the Rights of Mother Earth
    I was able to attend a meeting on the Rights of Mother Earth at Peoples’ Space located in KwaZulu – Natal University.At the meeting there was a panel discussion that included author, activist and environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan and Tom Goldtooth, Director of the Indigenous Environmental Action Network. The panelists discussed their challenges, successes and ideas in the implementation of the Rights of Mother Earth into government constitutions and our global consciousness. As of now, Bolivia and Ecuador have incorporated the Rights of Mother Earth into their constitution and the city of Pittsburgh passed an ordinance recognizing the “rights of nature”.  The ordinance in Pittsburgh elevates the rights of people, the community, and nature over corporate “rights” and challenges the authority of the state to pre-empt community decision-making.

    Coal: Mountain Top Removal West Virginia, whyflies.com

    The main objective of the meeting was a call for a paradigm shift in how we understand and use nature. We can no longer think of nature as a commodity, owned by a property owner who decides thefate of the land. You cannot believe that nature is a commodity and at the same time believe in the rights of nature. By thinking nature is a commodity you are separating yourself from the natural system and not being part of a Mother Earth. As Cormac Cullinan explained, “you cannot simultaneously believe the sun moves around the earth and earth moves around the sun”.
    A paradigm shift will be a difficult feat for a world whose economy is based upon exploitation of resources from nature. In the past there have been shifts in consciousness and the way we view the economic system.  For years the US economy was based upon the struggle, abuse and enslavement of millions of Africans, stolen from their communities and sold in marketplaces. At that time many western leaders couldn’t imagine an economy without the free-labor of African slaves. Obviously, the rights of mother earth and emancipation of slaves in the US are two very different struggles. But our current economic system is based in the ideology of stealing “resources” (coal, oil, gold, forests for carbon trading) from impoverished countries and then taking those resources and selling them at an elevated rate in the global marketplace.
    We must recognize our interconnectedness with Mother Earth and stop the commodification nature. Only when this shift of consciousness take place, will we be able stop the destruction of our planet.

    Oil: Tar Sands Canada, Futurismnow.com

    Outlined below is the law that enumerates seven specific rights to which Mother Earth and her constituent life systems, including human communities, are entitled to:
    • To life: It is the right to the maintenance of the integrity of life systems and natural processes which sustain them, as well as the capacities and conditions for their renewal
    • To the Diversity of Life: It is the right to the preservation of the differentiation and variety of the beings that comprise Mother Earth, without being genetically altered, nor artificially modified in their structure, in such a manner that threatens their existence, functioning and future potential
    • To water: It is the right of the preservation of the quality and composition of water to sustain life systems and their protection with regards to contamination, for renewal of the life of Mother Earth and all its components
    • To clean air: It is the right of the preservation of the quality and composition of air to sustain life systems and their protection with regards to contamination, for renewal of the life of Mother Earth and all its components
    • To equilibrium: It is the right to maintenance or restoration of the inter-relation, interdependence, ability to complement and functionality of the components of Mother Earth, in a balanced manner for the continuation of its cycles and the renewal of its vital processes
    • To Restoration: It is the right to the effective and opportune restoration of life systems affected by direct or indirect human activities
    • To live free of contamination: It is the right for preservation of Mother Earth and any of its components with regards to toxic and radioactive waste generated by human activities

    Indigenous Peoples at COP 17

    “Our people’s lives are on the line. Some countries claim they do not want to commit to emissions reductions because it is not fair. Who are they to talk to about fairness, when our people have not been responsible for this climate change yet wind up suffering the most”. – Tribal Leader from the Peruvian Amazon

    Since my arrival in Durban I have been attending the Indigenous People Caucasus on Climate Change (IPCCC). At these daily meetings various organizations, countries and tribes address indigenous concerns and negotiations happening at the COP 17. The main issues are the commodification of nature and effects of climate change.

    GEAR "Neoliberalism must prevail or all of humanity will be threatened"

    REDD and other carbon trading schemes are making nature an economic commodity. Putting price tags on trees, kelp beds or the air is not an ideology in alignment with the indigenous understanding of our environment. Currently, REDD plans allow for forests all over the world and in the Amazonian Basin to be purchased for carbon offsets. Many of the Amazonian forests are sacred indigenous territories, with some of territories being occupied by autonomous tribes (tribes that voluntarily decide to be in isolation).
    In simple terms REDD is a way for developed countries and large corporations to continue polluting. This is done by purchasing forests and other carbon neutralizing environments to “offset pollution”.  REDD does not call for corporations to stop polluting, but allows them to pollute even more by buying sacred lands and forests that have been conserved by communities for thousands of years. “Corporate cowboys” is a term being used in defining corporations that are organizing one of the biggest land grabs in human history.
    In simple terms REDD is a way for developed countries and large corporations to continue polluting. This is done by purchasing forests and other carbon neutralizing environments to “offset pollution”.  REDD does not call for corporations to stop polluting, but allows them to pollute even more by buying sacred lands and forests that have been conserved by communities for thousands of years. “Corporate cowboys” is a term being used in defining corporations that are organizing one of the biggest land grabs in human history.
    The Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) hosted a press conference today condemning the Green Economy as a failed and unjust economic model.  There also was a comic mockery by activists from Vermont who are part of the Global Economic Accountability Research (GEAR). It was a satire on how the United States lacks any respect for the environment, is only focused on corporate gain and has no commitment to dialogue during the negotiations process.
    At the press conference Ricardo Navarro, from Friends of the Earth – El Salvador, stated: “This is a serious threat to the existence of humanity. By the end of the century there will be a five degree- celsius increase in temperature. Meaning that over half the world’s population will be on the edge of survival. To bring the world to this state is criminal. Politicians do not represent us. We must take to the streets and fight. This is a moral collapse of the government”.
    The voices of our brothers and sisters from the global south and indigenous communities are being heard loud and clear at the COP 17. But it seems as if none of the developed countries are listening.

    • “The UN is committed to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. This means equity. This means fairness for those who have contributed the least, yet are the most affected by our changing climate. This means climate justice for all.” – Time For Climate Justice

      Greetings from beautiful South Africa! I am here attending the COP 17 Conference as part of the Feminist Task Force delegation and as a  representative of the Loretto Community. While attending the conference I will be writing reports on emerging climate change policy, food sovereignty and the rights of small subsistence farmers.

      The UN COP 17, officially called the Conference of the Parties is an annual event that assesses progress on how the international community is dealing with climate change. It’s also a time for international social movements, farmers, indigenous groups and non-governmental organizations to mobilize and present their demands for climate justice to international delegations.

      One of the major themes this year is the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol (KP) was developed in 1997 and is a legally binding agreement under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% compared to the year 1990 (but note that, compared to the emissions levels that would be expected by 2010 without the Protocol, this target represents a 29% cut). Currently being discussed here at Durban is the Kyoto second commitment period, which is a time for governments to ratify their 5-year QEROs (quantified emission reduction obligations) and insure it is in alignment with the agreements made last year for the temperature to raise a high two-degrees celsius.

      As result of continued economic growth and consumption habits in the global north we are on track to exceed the two-degree celsius mark. To avoid large fines and international pressure countries such as the US and Canada are planning to exit the KP. They want to develop a new “pledge and review” system, where countries would make a pledge to the UN and only pollute an agreed amount. In reality, countries are going to continue their assault on mother earth and temperature will rise.  We can not trust that countries who are all ready ignoring international environmental laws will stop their projected economic growth.

      Only by developing a new economic system and different ways to measure growth will we be able to stop the destruction of our planet. CO2 emissions are the result of natural resources being extracted from mother earth, deforestation and corporate exploitation. There is a direct correlation between northern consumption habits and climate change. The demand for products is excruciating high and we are in no way living sustainably. Whether it be a driving to a grocery store a mile away or consuming meat, that led to a forest being cut down for cattle grazing. Every consumption choice we make leads to the exploitation of mother earth and our brothers and sisters in the global south.