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Archive for October, 2010

more info at Hands Off Mother Earth homesite, a project of the ETC Group

NAGOYA, Japan – In a landmark consensus decision, the 193-member UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will close its tenth biennial meeting with a de facto moratorium on geoengineering projects and experiments. “Any private or public experimentation or adventurism intended to manipulate the planetary thermostat will be in violation of this carefully crafted UN consensus,” stated Silvia Ribeiro, Latin American Director of ETC Group.

The agreement, reached during the ministerial portion of the two-week meeting which included 110 environment ministers, asks governments to ensure that no geoengineering activities take place until risks to the environment and biodiversity and associated social, cultural and economic impacts have been appropriately considered. The CBD secretariat was also instructed to report back on various geoengineering proposals and potential intergovernmental regulatory measures. Read the rest of this entry »

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Nagoya, COP10, 28 Oct 2010, supported by:
Oct 28 – The ABS negotiations were always prided as an open, inclusive and
transparent process. But things have taken a dramatic turn.
In the last 24 hours we suddenly find ourselves in a WTO-like atmosphere of
“green rooms” where small groups behind closed doors decide on a deal.

They then call in those regarded as “uncompromising” and “inflexible”, to
persuade, isolate and if necessary coerce them into consensus.
Transparent ABS negotiations have now stopped. We understand that four
ministerial level “facilitators” from Brazil, the EU, Namibia and Norway have
been invited by the COP 10 President to get a deal struck. The Like-Minded
Asia Pacific is noticeably absent. We wonder why? In any event, this process
is totally unacceptable.

Negotiators who have worked for years are baffled and confused (except for a
very very few who are now part of the deal striking). Little groups are called
into a small room with the Co-Chairs of the Informal Consultative Group – as
one delegate said it was like a misbehaving student being hauled up to be
reprimanded by the school principal.

The first proposed text dated 28 October 2.15 pm has emerged. It reduces the
scope of the protocol by a significant narrowing of the definition related to
“utilization of genetic resources”.  It also excludes “commodities in trade”
without any exception – the last official version included such commodities
when they are used as a genetic resource for further research and
development. With these loopholes, at least 90% of known biopiracy cases
would now be exempted from the protocol.

Watch out – the highly contentious issue of pathogens has yet to come out in
a “facilitated text”. Any bets on what scope will be left?
By Wednesday it was clear to everyone that a comprehensive and meaningful
protocol would not be possible as long as developed countries insist on
narrowing the scope, and rejecting an effective compliance system with
checkpoints that can prevent biopiracy. Worse, they consistently continue to
demand more access rights while benefits remain “as appropriate” and “where

But now this unacceptable process is unfolding and makes a mockery of the
past 5 years of work and the CBD’s third objective. 

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Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Organised by Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific and Hosted by Sahabat Alam Malaysia – Friends of the Earth Malaysia

October 14 – 17, 2010

Penang, Malaysia


More than 100 representatives of environmental NGOs and local communities meeting in Penang, Malaysia  denounced the role of governments and corporations in biodiversity loss, deforestation and the failure of governments to meet the targets set to halt biodiversity loss under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). These representatives called for an immediate halt to the destructive projects being promoted by governments and corporations that enter communities under the guise of development but instead bring environmental destruction and serious human rights violations.

“Despite being the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity no meaningful progress has been made at the international level to ensure a halt or even a slow-down to biodiversity loss and environmental degradation,” said Isaac Rojas, international forests and biodiversity coordinator for Friends of the Earth International (FOEI), speaking at the Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific conference on Forest, Biodiversity, Community Rights and Indigenous Peoples.


The testimonies of community representatives during the sessions in Malaysia repeatedly highlighted the violations of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities that have involved corporations and governments that have taken possession of land in order to facilitate logging operations, monoculture plantations, mining and dam projects

Community representatives from Africa, Asia, and Latin America cited numerous examples of rights violations and unethical practices affecting them, ranging from:

  • seizure of community land and denial of land rights
  • denial of right to self-determination,
  • criminalization of affected people who assert their rights,
  • violence against indigenous peoples, including sexual assaults at gunpoint,
  • intimidation and harassment, including death threats,
  • false promises made by corporations and governments in order to pressure communities to give up their land and rights from pledges on education, healthcare, access to water and job opportunities

Multinational corporations based in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific were all cited as playing a role in cases where the rights of indigenous women and men and local communities were violated.

Winfred Nyirahabinneza of Uganda spoke about the adverse effects of an oil palm plantation coming to her community:

“In the Kalangala district in Buggla island, in Uganda. The oil palm cultivation involves 10,000 hectares of natural forests and grasslands that have been traditionally used by communities. The project is undertaken by the Government of Uganda, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Malaysian investors. This project has led to the taking over of community lands, the loss of communal resources like medicinal herbs, water, firewood, cultural sites and undermined food security.”

“The community was told that they would get money, that they would get rich,” noted Nyirahabinneza, but six years after the project was started local people have experienced few benefits.


Existing international processes established by various intergovernmental structures to address global biodiversity loss and environmental degradation have proven to be solutions that are meaningless for communities. Many of these international “solutions” have in fact ironically served to further harm the rights of communities, compound biodiversity loss and increase forest destruction and  economic gaps between the North and the South and within the South itself, instead of protecting community rights and livelihoods and the world’s natural resources. Many of these processes protect the interests of large economies while at the same time burdening smaller economies in the South. In the end, the harm done will trickle down to the most marginalised communities, many of whom are indigenous. Further, such international processes also tend to legitimise existing national and international political and economic frameworks that sanction and promote violations of community rights and the unsustainable exploitation of the world’s natural resources.

“I am here to convey the struggles of indigenous peoples in Sarawak who have been demanding that their customary rights are respected and that the government recognises our close connection to forests and biodiversity,” said Jok Jau Evong of Sarawak at the Friends of the Earth gathering. “Our forests and our rights are being constantly violated in favour of timber companies, plantations, and dam projects. So we are rapidly losing our forests and biodiversity resources as well as land, livelihoods, food, medicines, cultural sites and heritage.”

Nations and corporations must learn from communities instead of the other way around.

“We demand to be consulted by those big companies that would like to undertake projects on our territories be they mining or building a dam across rivers in order to draw water from them,” said Alfonso Morales, a Mayan from Guatemala. “Our response must be sought first before anything starts at all. When communities decide against a project, we will also raise our voices to the government and the United Nations. This is the way we shall exercise our collective rights.”

A major way forward is for all governments to respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ (UNDRIP) and give meaningful effect to the concept of free and prior informed consent. We demand all the governments to implement these declaration and respect self determination.


In relation to the 10th Conference of Party (COP 10) meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to be held in Nagoya, we would like to raise concerns on how components of the CBD may create severe impacts on community rights such as those on innovative financial mechanisms. One case in point is the Green development mechanism (GDM), that was modelled after the clean development mechanism (CDM) developed within the climate change negotiations.

The CDM itself was created under the Kyoto Protocol at the insistence of developed countries, especially the United States, which had since then refused to ratify the Protocol. This mechanism was simply a process to help industrialised countries to not undertake emission reductions of greenhouse gases in their countries but to get developing countries to do so as an offset mechanism, thus not leading to real emission cuts.  Equally important, some CDM projects had also been documented to have undermined the livelihoods of local communities and indigenous peoples.


The Green Development Mechanism is on the agenda for discussion at the CBD COP 10 and is being proposed mainly by developed countries as a way to help secure private finance for biodiversity protection.

The exact nature, structure and mechanism have not been decided, but the direction is towards a market-based mechanism that would trade in biodiversity credits and provide payments for environmental services as a way of offsetting biodiversity and ecosystem loss.

Discussions for a market-based GDM include bringing together parts of various other schemes and ideas including the biodiversity offsetting, CDM and REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).

It is expected that initially a GDM in this model would be a voluntary scheme, as an addition to other funding sources, but this is expected to go in the same direction as CDM. A market-based GDM that creates tradable biodiversity credits based on biodiversity offsetting would do nothing to address the root problems of the global market, unsustainable trade in natural resources and over consumption. In fact it is a mere distraction from tackling the real problems confronting us now.


We cannot and should not rely on market mechanisms to do the job that governments should be doing. The experience of offsetting and trading of carbon demonstrates that this is not an effective way to provide biodiversity protection

Rather than promoting such false solutions, governments and the CBD should instead focus on the real causes of biodiversity loss that include unsustainable production systems and consumption patterns. This model prioritises the rights of corporations and elites both in the North and in the South instead of poor communities and indigenous peoples.

The COP 10 will be a chance for the CBD to make strong and clear decisions. We hope this will be the case.


FoEI believes in promoting ecological solutions that are able to adequately protect the rights and interests of local communities, especially those that are drawn from their own knowledge traditions in natural resource management. We categorically reject the commodification of nature and the privatisation of biodiversity resources in the name of biodiversity protection for these will have grave consequences for communities. True, meaningful and effective biodiversity protection can only be achieved through public financing.

Nnimmo Bassey, chairman of Friends of the Earth International, spoke out against governments that hand over land to profit-seeking corporations instead of ensuring respect for environmental and human rights.

“When policymakers look at the forest they don’t see the people they see only trees, and when they see trees they don’t see biodiversity they see carbon. They see dollars; they see euros,” said Bassey. “Without the recognition of rights, justice cannot be accomplished.”

Because traditional knowledge of local communities is key for the protection of our natural resources, environmental conservation efforts must therefore be undertaken in respectful and equal partnership with communities. Such an approach will pave the way towards ecological equity, in which social justice and human rights, become an integral component of environmental justice.

Violations of community rights however continue unabated today, indicating the existence of larger systemic flaws and injustices within our political and economic systems. Communities nevertheless continue to resist in defence of their rights and livelihoods and in the process, direct us to real and meaningful solutions to biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. We support these communities in their struggles and call for an immediate halt to the senseless violation of environmental and human rights.

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Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Source:  Friends of the Earth International

NAGOYA, JAPAN, 28 October, 2010 – With only one day of negotiations left at the Convention on Biological Diversity’s summit in Nagoya, Japan, Friends of the Earth International urgently calls on governments to reject false solutions to halt biodiversity loss, such as trading biodiversity credits and other market-based mechanisms.

“It is urgent that the world ministers meeting in Nagoya take immediate action to preserve biodiversity. Nearly half of the world’s forests and around one-third of its species have been lost in the past three decades. The failure to meet the 2010 goals and targets that have been agreed under the Convention on Biological Diversity is unacceptable. But market based mechanisms now being discussed in Nagoya will not address the root problems of biodiversity loss,” said Isaac Rojas, the coordinator for Friends of the Earth International’s Forest and Biodiversity Program.

More than 100 representatives of environmental non profit organizations and local communities met in Penang, Malaysia from October 14 to 17 for a conference on Forest, Biodiversity, Community Rights and Indigenous Peoples, organized by Friends of the Earth. They came up with a statement for governments and corporations, asking them to stop the promotion of destructive projects and start taking real action to tackle biodiversity loss. The most important issues addressed in this statement are the commodification of biodiversity and the rights of communities and indigenous peoples.

One of the false solutions on the agenda for discussion in Nagoya is the Green Development Mechanism (GDM), modeled after the destructive Climate Development Mechanism, developed within the climate change negotiations. This market based scheme would create tradable biodiversity credits and make it possible to offset biodiversity and ecological loss instead of preventing it.

“We cannot and should not rely on market mechanisms to do the job that governments should be doing. Commodification and privatization of nature and biodiversity are false solutions. Biodiversity is not for sale. Existing financial incentives usually harm biodiversity conservation rather than supporting it, and often violate the rights of local communities,” said Isaac Rojas.

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Note: Simone is a participant in Global Justice Ecology Project’s New Voices on Climate Change Program.

by Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coaliton

Halfway the second week, everybody is holding their breath here at the Biodiversity Conference of the Parties: Will the 10th Conference of the Parties end up in a Copenhagen-style collapse? Or will this “softer”  Rio Convention succeed to fulfill its mandate and come up with 1) a strong protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing that has enough teeth to really prevent biopiracy, 2) a Strategic plan that includes strong and well-considered targets to halt biodiversity loss, which is critical for the survival of millions of people and life on earth itself, and 3) the new and additional financial resources that are necessary for that? And, perhaps more importantly, will the results of this conference be weak and meaningless, the typical product of a corporate-dominated process, or will they actually include some significant breakthroughs?

Even the latter is still possible: as we write, a far-reaching moratorium on geo-engineering could still be adopted, some of the draft recommendations regarding agrofuels are definitely worth the paper they are written on (others, admittedly, are not). In general many of the biodiversity negotiators have shown a remarkable concern about the possible impacts of climate change mitigation measures on not only biodiversity, but also people and their land rights. If one compares this process with the FCCC negotiations, the differences are absolutely notable. The rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, for example, are mentioned all over all the draft decisions. A gender mainstreaming strategy was adopted, and a plan to provide more coherence between poverty eradication efforts and biodiversity conservation.

But as always, in the last rushed hours a lot can be lost. One fundamental issue was already lost yesterday: the CBD seriously weakened its commitment to promote “ improved definitions of forests”. Instead, a text refering to the old decision to “ collaborate”  in reviewing forest definitions was adopted, which is a set-back of more than 2 years. It is clear the CBD is not planning to play a lead role in this issue that is so crucial for the future of the world’s forests. And while many of the references to the need to plant native trees and avoid the conversion of precious ecosystems in the text on climate change are worthwhile, all these texts could still be deleted during the tense and polarized negotiations that will continue tonight – and undoubtedly until Saturday morning early.

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Cross-posted from Yes! Magazine

By Mari Margil, Ben Price

Licking, Pennsylvania defies state law by banning corporations from dumping fracking wastewater.

Photo by Helen Slottje

In Pennsylvania—a central target for natural gas drilling and the controversial drilling practice known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”—local communities don’t have the legal authority to keep unwanted drilling from happening.

As fracking’s impacts on water safety make headlines and public resistance to drilling grows, some towns have tried to use land use zoning to keep drilling companies out—but they can’t use zoning laws to stop an activity the state has declared legal. (At best, they can zone where the corporations site their drill pads. But since drilling is not vertical but horizontal, there’s no way to contain its impact on a community’s water and environment.)

Taking local control

One small community in western Pennsylvania wanted more say over what happens within its borders. Licking Township, population 500, chose to defy state law with its own local ordinance, banning corporations from dumping fracking wastewater within its borders. Licking sits atop the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation that contains large and mostly untapped natural gas reserves. On Oct. 12, 2010, the Licking Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban corporations from dumping fracking wastewater within the township.

“When it comes to land use issues and the preservation of important resources, the local community is best suited to set priorities as they feel impacts most acutely,” said Mik Robertson, chairman of the Licking Township Supervisors.

Pennsylvania’s preferential laws for drilling companies are not unique. For years, the drilling industry has worked closely with government to pave the way for widespread drilling, eliminating regulatory barriers that may stand in its way. The so-called “Halliburton Loophole” was inserted into the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to exempt companies drilling for natural gas, including those drilling in the Marcellus Shale (which extends from New York to West Virginia) from having to comply. Corporations have also been exempted from a host of other laws and regulations, and states have enacted laws pre-empting municipalities from taking steps to reign in the industry.

The residents of Licking felt that they should be the ones to decide what happens in their township. “People have the right to determine what is suitable for their community, as they are most directly affected by intended or unintended consequences of resource extraction,” said Robertson.

The dangers of fracking

The residents of Licking aren’t alone in their concerns about fracking. Across the Appalachian highlands, residents worried about the health effects of fracking have been calling on their elected officials to protect them. In New York, a citizen movement convinced the state Senate to place a 9-month moratorium on the practice while its safety is evaluated. However, the moratorium is only temporary and has not been voted into state law.

Fracking involves pumping water laced with sand and a cocktail of chemicals underground to fracture the shale rock and release the natural gas. In the process, thousands of gallons of toxic wastewater are produced and can contaminate waterways and drinking water.  Natural gas wells are often driven through aquifers.

The impacts from drilling can include exploding wells, groundwater contamination, and fish kills. Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture quarantined cattle believed to have drunk from a frack wastewater spill.  Their milk was no longer considered safe to drink.

A new study by researchers at the University of Buffalo found that fracking also releases uranium trapped in the rock, raising additional health concerns.

Collateral damage includes lost property value, drying up of mortgage loans for prospective home buyers, and the threatened loss of organic certification for farmers. And it’s not only rural communities feeling the pressure. In Pittsburgh and Buffalo (both of which straddle the Marcellus), gas extraction corporations have quietly signed leases with landowners to drill under the surface.

A new direction

Drafted with the help of Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), the “Licking Township Community Water Rights and Self-Government Ordinance” is the first of its kind in the nation.

The City of Pittsburgh is also considering a CELDF-drafted ordinance, which is scheduled for a vote on November 16. With an expected veto-proof majority of City Council members in favor, that ordinance would impose an outright ban on gas drilling by corporations within city limits. Communities across the Marcellus Shale region, including Lehman Township in eastern Pennsylvania, are also considering CELDF ordinances that would ban corporations from drilling or from extracting water to use in drilling.

In addition to banning corporate disposal of frack wastewater, Licking Township’s ordinance asserts the right to local self-government and the community’s right to a healthy environment and to clean water. In adopting the ordinance, Licking joins more than a dozen other communities in legally recognizing the rights of nature and subordinating corporate constitutional rights to the rights of human and natural communities.

By recognizing the rights of nature, Licking is effectively protecting ecosystems and natural communities within the township from efforts by corporations to drill there—or by higher levels of governments to authorize that drilling. Residents of the community are empowered by the ordinance to enforce those rights on behalf of threatened ecosystems.

By prohibiting the introduction of frack wastewater into the Township’s environment, Licking’s new law effectively blocks hydro-fracturing. Critics of the ordinance claim that, by denying corporations that violate its prohibitions the civil rights protections conferred on them by the courts, the ordinance goes too far.

Robertson responds to these charges, saying, “People have rights, like the gifts of nature. People have rights to property. Property does not have rights. Corporations are property.”

Corporations may sue to overturn the ordinance, with the argument that it violates their corporate constitutional rights. Such a lawsuit would finally raise imperative questions about whose rights trump whose: Do the court-endowed privileges of corporations override the inalienable rights of the people and ecosystems of Licking Township, nullifying their claim to have a legal right to their health, safety, and welfare? Or does the community have the right to make critical decisions to protect its well-being—and that of the ecosystems upon which it depends?

Mari Margil and Ben Price wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Mari is the associate director and Ben is projects director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit, public interest law firm providing legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, agriculture, economy, and quality of life.


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Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

An Indian farming family carry bundles of paddy from a rice field in the northeastern state of Tripura. India has had food price inflation of 17% in the last year. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Rising food prices and shortages could cause instability in many countries as the cost of staple foods and vegetables reached their highest levels in two years, with scientists predicting further widespread droughts and floods.

Although food stocks are generally good despite much of this year’s harvests being wiped out in Pakistan and Russia, sugar and rice remain at a record price.

Global wheat and maize prices recently jumped nearly 30% in a few weeks while meat prices are at 20-year highs, according to the key Reuters-Jefferies commodity price indicator. Last week, the US predicted that global wheat harvests would be 30m tonnes lower than last year, a 5.5% fall. Meanwhile, the price of tomatoes in Egypt, garlic in China and bread in Pakistan are at near-record levels.

“The situation has deteriorated since September,” said Abdolreza Abbassian of the UN food and agriculture organisation. “In the last few weeks there have been signs we are heading the same way as in 2008.

“We may not get to the prices of 2008 but this time they could stay high much longer.”

However, opinions are sharply divided over whether these prices signal a world food crisis like the one in 2008 that helped cause riots in 25 countries, or simply reflect volatility in global commodity markets as countries claw their way through recession.

“A food crisis on the scale of two or three years ago is not imminent, but the underlying causes [of what happened then] are still there,” said Chris Leather, Oxfam’s food policy adviser.

“Prices are volatile and there is a lot of nervousness in the market. There are big differences between now and 2008. Harvests are generally better, global food stocks are better.”

But other analysts highlight the food riots in Mozambique that killed 12 people last month and claim that spiralling prices could promote further political turmoil.

They say this is particularly possible if the price of oil jumps, if there are further climatic shocks – suchas the floods in Pakistan or the heatwave in Russia – or if speculators buy deeper into global food markets.

“There is growing concern among countries about continuing volatility and uncertainty in food markets,” said Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank. “These concerns have been compounded by recent increases in grain prices.

“World food price volatility remains significant and in some countries, the volatility is adding to already higher local food prices.”

The bank last week said that food price volatility would last a further five years, and asked governments to contribute to a crisis fund after requests for more than $1bn (£635m) from developing countries were made.

“The food riots in Mozambique can be repeated anywhere in the coming years,” said Devinder Sharma, a leading Indian food analyst.

“Unless the world encourages developing countries to become self-sufficient in food grains, the threat of impending food riots will remain hanging over nations.

“The UN has expressed concern, but there is no effort to remove the imbalances in the food management system that is responsible for the crisis.”

Mounting anger has greeted food price inflation of 21% in Egypt in the last year, along with 17% rises in India and similar amounts in many other countries. Prices in the UK have risen 22% in three years.

The governments of Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil and the Philippines have all warned of possible food shortages next year, citing floods and droughts in 2010, expected extreme weather next year, and speculation by traders who are buying up food stocks for release when prices rise.

Food prices worldwide are not yet at the same level as 2008, but the UN’s food price index rose 5% last month and now stands at its highest level in two years.

World wheat and maize prices have risen 57%, rice 45% and sugar 55% over the last six months and soybeans are at their highest price for 16 months.

UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, says a combination of environmental degradation, urbanisation and large-scale land acquisitions by foreign investors for biofuels is squeezing land suitable for agriculture.

“Worldwide, 5m to 10m hectares of agricultural land are being lost annually due to severe degradation and another 19.5m are lost for industrial uses and urbanisation,” he says in a new report.

“But the pressure on land resulting from these factors has been boosted in recent years by policies favouring large-scale industrial plantations.

“According to the World Bank, more than one-third of large-scale land acquisitions are intended to produce agrofuels.”

But the World Development Movement (WDM) in London warned that food speculation by hedge funds, pension funds and investment banks was likely to prompt further inflation.

According to the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, speculators on the trading floor of the Chicago Exchange bought futures contracts for about 40m tonnes of maize and 6m tonnes of wheat in the summer.

Longtime hedge fund manager Mike Masters, who has worked with WDM, said: “Because there is already much more capital available in the world than hard commodities, speculators can increase the price of consumable commodities, like foodstuffs or energy, much higher than traditional consumers and producers can react.

“When derivative markets are linked to commodity markets, this nearly unlimited capital from the financial sector can cause excessive price volatility.”

US government reports of much cooler-than-normal water temperatures in the Pacific, which traditionally lead to extreme weather around the world, last week added to food price uncertainties.

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

We, the undersigned, recognize Climate Disruption as a central issue of our time. With the right set of strategies and coordinated efforts we can mobilize diverse communities to powerful action. Our organizing strategy for climate justice is to: 1) Organize in, network with and support communities who have found their frontlines  of climate justice; 2) Organize with communities to identify their frontlines of climate justice, and 3) Coalesce these communities towards a common agenda that is manifested from locally defined strategies to state and national policy objectives through to international solidarity agreements.

Petition Text

To the Board and Staff of 1 Sky,

We are grassroots and allied organizations representing racial justice, indigenous rights, economic justice, immigrant rights, youth organizing and environmental justice communities actively engaged in Climate Justice organizing.

Given the very necessary discussion spurred by your recent public letter (August 8, 2010), we wanted to share with you some of the work we have been doing to protect people and planet, as well as our reflections on a forward-thinking movement strategy. Your honest reflections on the political moment in which we find ourselves, alongside the open invitation to join in this discussion, are heartening.

Organizing a Powerful Climate Justice Movement

Like you, we recognize Climate Disruption as a central issue of our time. With the right set of strategies and coordinated efforts we can mobilize diverse communities to powerful action. Our organizing strategy for climate justice is to: 1) Organize in, network with and support communities who have found their frontlines of climate justice; 2) Organize with communities to identify their frontlines of climate justice, and 3) Coalesce these communities towards a common agenda that is manifested from locally defined strategies to state and national policy objectives through to international solidarity agreements.

Community-Led Climate Justice has been Winning

In assessing the broader landscape of climate activism it is critical to recognize that despite the failure of DC policy-led campaigns, there have also been significant successes on the part of grassroots climate justice campaigns across the U.S.

Frontline communities, using grassroots, network-based and actions-led strategies around the country have had considerable success fighting climate-polluting industries in recent years, with far less resources than the large environmental groups in DC. These initiatives have prevented a massive amount of new industrial carbon from coming on board – here are just a few examples:

Stopping King Coal With Community Organizing: The Navajo Nation, led by a Dine’ (Navajo) and Hopi grassroots youth movement, forced the cancellation of a Life of Mine permit on Black Mesa, AZ, for the world’s largest coal company – Peabody Energy. Elsewhere in the U.S. community-based groups in Appalachia galvanized the youth climate movement in their campaigns to stop mountain-top removal (MTR) coal mining, and similar groups in the Powder River Basin have united farmers and ranchers against the expansion of some of the world’s largest coal deposits.

Derailing the Build-out of Coal Power: Nearly two thirds of the 151 new coal power plant proposals from the Bush Energy Plan have been cancelled, abandoned or stalled since 2007 – largely due to community-led opposition. A recent example of this success is the grassroots campaign of Dine’ grassroots and local citizen groups in the Burnham area of eastern Navajo Nation, NM that have prevented the creation of the Desert Rock coal plant, which would have been the third such polluting monolith in this small, rural community. Community-based networks such as the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Energy Justice Network and the Western Mining Action Network No Coal Network have played a major role in supporting these efforts to keep the world’s most climate polluting industry at bay.

Preventing the Proliferation of Incinerators: In the last 12 years, no new waste incinerators (which are more carbon-intensive than coal and one of the leading sources of cancer-causing dioxins) have been built in the US, and hundreds of proposals have been defeated by community organizing. In 2009 alone, members of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives prevented dozens of municipal waste incinerators, toxic waste incinerators, tire incinerators and biomass incinerators from being built, and forced Massachusetts to adopt a moratorium on incineration.

Defeating Big Oil In Our Own Backyards: A community-led coalition in Richmond, CA, has, stopped the permitting of Chevron’s refinery expansion in local courts. This expansion of the largest oil refinery on the west coast is part of a massive oil and gas sector expansion focused on importing heavy, high-carbon intensive crude oil from places like the Canada’s Tar Sands. This victory demonstrates that with limited resources, community-led campaigns can prevail over multi-million dollar PR and lobby campaigns deployed by oil companies like Chevron, when these strategies are rooted in organizing resistance in our own backyards.

REDOIL, (Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands) an Alaska Native grassroots network, has been effective at ensuring the Native community-based voice is in the forefront of protecting the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Together with allies, REDOIL has also prevented Shell from leasing the Alaska outer continental shelf for offshore oil exploration and drilling. Advancing recognition of culture, subsistence and food sovereignty rights of Alaska Natives within a diverse and threatened aquatic ecosystem has been at the heart of their strategy.

Stopping False Solutions like Mega Hydro: Indigenous communities along the Klamath River forced Pacificorp Power company to agree to “Undam the Klamath” by the year 2020, in order to restore the river’s natural ecosystems, salmon runs and traditional land-use capacity. For decades, Indigenous communities have been calling out false solutions – pointing to the fact that energy technologies that compromise traditional land-use, public health and local economies cannot be considered climate solutions.

Building Resilient Communities Through Local Action: In communities all over the US, frontline communities are successfully winning campaigns linking climate justice to basic survival:
• In San Antonio, Texas, the Southwest Workers Union led the fight to divert $20billion dollars from nuclear energy into renewable energy and energy efficiency. In addition, they launched a free weatherization program for low-income families and a community run organic farm.
• In Oakland, California, the Oakland Climate Action Coalition is leading the fight for an aggressive Climate Energy and Action Plan that both addresses climate disruption and local equity issues.

Lessons from the Beltway Strategy

Our analysis of mainstream climate advocacy’s failure to win in the federal arena echoes yours, but differs in key areas. We agree there was insufficient investment in movement building, and a “beltway strategy” was prioritized without clarity on what the bottom lines were. “Anything is better than nothing,” will always lead to nothing, because it is a declaration of our intention to compromise. As a result, a decade of advocacy work, however well intentioned, migrated towards false solutions that hurt communities and compromised on key issues such as carbon markets and giveaways to polluters.

These compromises sold out poor communities in exchange for weak targets and more smokestacks that actually prevent us from getting anywhere close to what the science – and common sense – tells us is required. We encapsulate the lessons learned as follows:

Access was confused for Influence. We do not have influence in DC, regardless of how much face-time we get with legislators, or their staffers. To start from a place of power – you must first figure out where you have power, and build from there. We have power in our communities where we have relationships and can hold politicians and corporations accountable. In DC, corporate power rules because they can concentrate energy, resources and relationships there – in ways we cannot. However, when confronting these same corporations in our tribes, cities, and towns, we reveal that they are not nimble or powerful enough to defeat our communities.

Density was confused for Depth; and Mobilizing for Organizing. Since we are calling for a redoubling of grassroots organizing efforts, we should be clear what we mean. Grassroots Organizing is the process by which people in communities rally around a common cause, acting on their own behalf with allies and networks – often against powerful interests, often building new institutions needed to win a lasting change. The material conditions in communities have to change for the material conditions in DC to change. Anyone looking to support real and effective solutions would do well to look outside the beltway.

Targets were confused for Solutions. We will never win by centering our principal energy on CO2 targets alone. Real Solutions must move past carbon targets, whether it is parts per million or percentages of emissions. Here is why:

1) Targets reinforce the “carbon fundamentalism” frame that hides the root causes of climate change. By not talking about root causes, we miss opportunities to connect climate disruption with failures of economic systems, resource wars and forced migration, for example. Targets also serve to reduce discussion on climate to arenas where corporations have greater access.

2) How we get to the targets is more important than the targets. By staking our claim solely around a target, we leave the political space for false solutions wide open. From technology solutions such ast “clean coal”, “safe nuclear” and “renewable biomass” to market solutions such as offsets – these so-called solutions serve to line the pockets of those who got us into this mess in the first place, without dealing with the root cause. The targets we do articulate along with our solutions should be extremely aggressive and aligned with call from international social movements, such as those coming from the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.

Flipping the Script: Leading with the Grassroots

Given the significant gains we have had with community-led strategies for Climate Justice, and the failure of resource-intensive, beltway policy campaigns, we need to re-prioritize building power from the bottom up. The strategy we emphasize includes::

1) Investing in grassroots action at frontline struggles to win the victories that build our power, improve our communities and stop the corporations causing climate disruption;.
2) Prioritizing local organizing to build the resilient communities, economic alternatives, and political infrastructure that we need to weather the climate crisis; and,.
3) Supporting solidarity with grassroots movements around the world, to link our struggles, and to craft policies and structures we need internationally to support solutions determined locally.

International Solidarity for a Stronger Movement – Beyond Cancún

As grassroots forces, we have been building with social movements from around the world. Our groups were well represented at the World Peoples’ Summit Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Bolivia in April 2010. The Peoples’ Summit Conference modeled what a more democratic, transparent policy-making process could look like and resulted in proposals that were formally submitted to the UNFCCC, Conference of Parties 16, in Cancun. These submissions are in the negotiating text, being championed by several southern nations. The demands in these submissions are clear and strong – No Offsets, No (Carbon) Markets, No Commodification of our Atmosphere or of Life.

While “offsets” are often cloaked as opportunities for “clean development”, this claim fails on two counts. First, offsets do not lead to clean development but to greater destruction, displacement and disempowerment. Second, the very premise of offsets is that it is allowable to continue polluting in poor communities and communities of color in the U.S. to justify over-industrialization of communities and their resources elsewhere.

As communities fighting climate pollution in our own backyards, we link our struggles with social movements worldwide to stand against offsets and other false solutions and to build real solutions based in our communities. We call on you to stand with us. If there is anything you can take away from this letter, we reiterate: The equation of power in our movement, just as in our country, must be inverted.

The leadership is not going to come from beltway strategists navigating federal policy, with a grass-tops cultivated to support it. The leadership is coming from the grassroots everyday.

We will win Climate Justice by supporting the hundreds of communities around the country who are targeting the climate polluters in their communities, whether that is an energy source, a toxic industry, a dirty port, a big box chain, a freeway or a developer driving gentrification. Resources should be deployed to win those fights in those communities – for their own sake.

Grassroots Organizing Cools the Planet.
In power,

Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project
Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ)
Southwest Workers Union (SWU)
Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)
Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC)
Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands (REDOIL)
Communities for a Better Environment (CBE)
Just Transition Alliance (JTA)
Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)
Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT)
Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE)
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO)
Youth For Climate Justice (Y4CJ)
Justice in Nigeria Now (JINN)
Ironbound Community Corporation
Energy Justice Network
Stand Up / Save Lives Campaign
Earth Circle Conservation Recycling
Rising Tide North America
Don’t Waste Massachusetts Coalition
Global Justice and Ecology Project (GJEP)
The Ruckus Society
Grassroots International
smartMeme Strategy and Training
International Sustainability Institute
People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER)
Seventh Generation Fund
Berthold Environmental Awareness Committee
Save Our Sacred Earth

To sign on click here.

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Cross-posted from Survival International

Oil exploration in Peru’s Amazon has generated wide-scale indigenous protests. ©D. Dudenhoefer

Peru’s latest Amazon auction has been challenged by indigenous groups after it emerged that they may not have been consulted before their land was sold off to foreign oil companies last week.

An open letter signed by indigenous organization, AIDESEP, and the Legal Defense Institute, asks the Energy Ministry to clarify whether it sought consultation with Indians before awarding fourteen new contracts for oil and gas exploration.

Perupetro, the government body responsible for negotiating the contracts, had originally planned to hold the auction in August 2009, but it was postponed after violent conflict in the Amazon, sparked by indigenous protests over land, left more than 30 dead.

The most controversial company to benefit from the auction is Spain’s Repsol-YPF, which has won concession rights to four of the twenty-five available blocks. Repsol has been strongly criticized by both Peruvian and international organizations for its oil operations in Block 39 in the northern Amazon, where at least two uncontacted tribes are known to live.

Uncontacted tribes in Peru are under increasing threat from an exploration boom which has opened up over 70% of the Amazon to oil and gas companies.

Last month, Peru’s Constitutional Court ordered the government to improve its consultation process with indigenous communities following a formal complaint by AIDESEP.
In areas where consultation with tribal people is impossible – as is the case in areas inhabited by uncontacted tribes – Survival is calling for the immediate suspension of all hydrocarbon activity.

Survival International’s Director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘Granting companies like Repsol the right to work on uncontacted tribes’ land runs the very real risk of wiping out extremely vulnerable peoples. In cases where the free, prior and informed consent of Indians cannot be achieved, companies must stay away.’

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Cross-posted from AllAfrica

October 26,2010

By Kingsley Alu

African Delegation Protest at the COP-15 in Copenhagen Photo: Langelle/ GJEP-GFC

Against the backdrop of last year’s Conference of the Parties (COP 15) held in Copenhagen, Denmark to tackle issues of climate change, Kingsley Alu warns that this year’s COP 16 meeting due for Cancun, Mexico may not be any different.

Following a five – day climate negotiations in Bonn last week, social movements, environment experts and concerned agencies from around the world are getting ready for the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will take place in Cancun, Mexico from 29 November to 10 December, 2010.

The last COP 15 in Copenhagen last December demonstrated governments’ incapacity to tackle the root causes of the current climate chaos. At the very last moment, the US undemocratically pushed through the so called “Copenhagen Accord”, in an attempt to move the debate out of the UN and the Kyoto promises and to favour even more voluntarily free market solutions.

It does appear that every step forward has been replied with a ‘two-steps backward’ intervention by countries that hold the key to global action on climate.From all indications, Copenhagen’s indistinct outcomes are set to be repeated all over again. The meeting in Bonn was met with a profound display of disinterest.

There is no doubt that climate negotiations have turned into a huge market place. Developed countries, historically responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions have been inventing all possible diversionary themes to avoid reducing their own emissions. For example, the “Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM) under the Kyoto protocol allows countries to continue polluting and consuming as usual, while paying low prices supposedly so that developing countries reduce their emissions.

Many governments of developing countries, attracted by the potential profits, are betting on these false solutions and refusing to implement measures that effectively confront climate change, such as supporting sustainable peasant agriculture, orienting production towards internal markets, establishing effective energy saving policies for industry, etc.

It is about time the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) embark on resolute policies to contribute to solve the climate chaos. Countries need to take strong and binding commitments to radically cut gas emissions and radically change their mode of production and consumption.

The fact that climate change also is worsening the migration crisis is no longer an understatement. The droughts, the terrible floods caused by severe storms, water contamination, soil erosion and degradation, as well as other destructive impacts of the neoliberal environmental disaster are bringing about the displacement of thousands of people, mainly women and ruined farmers, from their rural communities and forcing them towards the cities and the North in a desperate search for the means of survival for them and their families.

It is estimated that 50 million people have been forced to migrate due to the effects of climate change. These “climate displaced persons” have come to swell the ranks of the more than 300 million people, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), that today represent the worse crisis of migration that humanity has faced.

But solutions do exist. There is urgent need for the UNFCCC to reject all false solutions being cooked up for the moment ahead of the conference date . Among them:

Geo-engineering: Large-scale proposals to deliberately alter the climate, such as biochar; genetically modified plants to supposedly increase reflectivity and resistance to drought, heat and salt; the fertilization of the ocean or the massive creation of clouds, only create new unmanageable problems, they are not solutions. Geo-engineering is only one example of how transnational companies are willing to play with the future of the planet and humanity in order to create new sources of profit.

Carbon trading schemes and Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM): Carbon trading has proven extremely lucrative in terms of generating investor dividends, but has completely failed in reducing greenhouse gas. In the new invented “carbon market” the price of carbon keeps dropping to rock bottom, which encourages further pollution. All carbon emissions should be reduced from the source, rather than allowing payment for the right to pollute.

Land and forest rights: The REDD + initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) should be rejected. Protecting forests and reforesting degraded forests is an obligation of all governments that should be implemented without limiting the autonomy, the rights or the control of indigenous and peasant peoples over the land and their territories, and without serving as an excuse so that other countries and corporations continue contaminating and planting tree monocultures. Territorial and cultural rights of indigenous and peasant peoples should be explicitly recognized in any climate accord.

The participation of the World Bank in the management of funds and policies related to climate change must be rejected.

Scientific research shows that peasant and indigenous peoples could reduce current global emissions to 75per cent by increasing biodiversity, recuperating soil organic matter, replacing industrial meat production with small-scale diversified food production, expanding local markets, halting deforestation and practicing integrated forest management.

Experts have contended that peasant agriculture not only contribute positively to the carbon balance of the planet, it also gives employment to over 3.2 billion people, women and men around the world, and it remains the best way to combat hunger, malnutrition and the current food crisis.

The right to land and the reclaiming for territories, food sovereignty, access to water as a common good and a human right, the right to use, conserve and exchange seeds, the de-concentration and promotion of local markets, are the indispensable conditions so that peasant and indigenous peoples can continue feeding the world and cooling the planet.

Because of the collapse of the financial speculative markets, investors are now looking for new ways to make large, quick profits. Some investors are engaging in massive, world-wide land-grabbing, the purchasing of agricultural lands in developing countries. This drives up the price of the land, pushing peasants off their farms, and putting developing countries in the position of having to put easy capital over their long-term agricultural interests. Additionally, control over biomass production such as agro-fuels increases the pressure on land.

It is the poor who are already bearing the brunt of this crisis; Rural families must absorb laid-off workers, employees are seeing their wages cut, citizens will pay higher taxes, children will be taken out of school to work, and millions will simply lose their jobs and sources of income. Meanwhile the banking system is rescued by governments who spent billions in bailing them out.

At the moment, governments are only concerned with stopping the slide, propping up the banks, and increasing GDP and global growth, while ignoring the pressing environmental concerns of a limited resource base and the climate change crisis.

The stimulus packages currently adopted by various countries and institutions to increase consumption are mainly a response to abusive corporate lobbies such as the car industry. By making only some minor changes, like producing higher mileage vehicles, these packages take minor and insufficient steps toward addressing the environmental challenges. The G20 stated that in total 500b dollars would be spent in order to “save and create millions of jobs that otherwise would have been destroyed” . The G20 states that it wants to “accelerate the transition to a green economy” but no concrete measures are mentioned.

Governments worldwide are encouraging the same system that has led to climate change, pollution, and global environmental degradation. Instead of leaving the initiative to the G20, the UN should use the opportunity of the coming conference to re-orient the global economy away from the current endless and wasteful consumption.

The G20 in London agreed to give the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 500 billion dollars in extra funds for loans to countries that face difficulties because of the crisis. This renewed focus on the IMF as “lender of last resort” removes economic control from the individual countries and places it in the hands of IMF economists who are proponents of strict neo liberal reforms. The IMF states that fiscal stimulus is needed; however, in some program countries, the IMF is still pushing the old policy stipulations: reduce public spending, cut salaries in the public sector and eliminate subsidies . We have already seen how these policies affected developing countries in the 1980s and 1990s: growth at the expense of the rural poor.

Those who are part of the crisis, such as the G8, the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and their collaborators in governments , should not be expected to resolve it. The UN should play a central role and facilitate an in-depth analysis of this crisis, including the participation of key actors in civil society. Solving this crisis must take place in democratic and representative forum, where participants from all nations can participate and without rich countries throwing dollar figures at poor countries in the hope that they could wake up the ghost of Copenhagen.

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Source: La Via Campesina

Over a thousand women and men, farmers, indigenous people, urban and rural people affected by social and environmental destruction are planning to march in 5 caravans towards Cancun, Mexico, in protest against the indolence of the dominant countries and capitalists of the world gathering for the conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change from November 29 to December 10, 2010.

The caravans co-organised by the National Assembly of People Affected by the Environment and the international peasant’s movement La Via Campesina and by a convergence of diverse social movements from the United States, Canada and Mexico will kick off in San Luis Potosi, Guadalajara, and Acapulco, joining other rural, urban and student movements in Mexico City on November 30 for a mass protest for environmental and social justice . Two other caravans will then depart from Oaxaca and Chiapas, all converging to Cancun on December 3 for the inauguration of the Farmers’s and Indigenous Camp organized by La Via Campesina.

The caravans’ journeys will bring local struggles against social and environmental injustices into the limelight as the global community convenes for the climate negotiations in Cancun. They will denounce the widespread apathy in the face of the current socio-environmental scandals, as well as the Mexican government’s maneuvering to implement mega-projects for “Clean Development Mechanisms (MDL)” which in fact devastate communities and the environment. This is the case of the large industrial pig farms such as Smithfield, the production of agrofuels for airplanes, the  ”semi- remediation” of open air garbage dumps, large hydro-dams and new GMO extensions.

In solidarity with this movement against corporate greed in the name of “climate change”, Via Campesina farmers from around the world and other activists will join the caravans. According to Henry Saragih, general coordinator of La Via Campesina, “leaders from Asia will also march with the affected people of Mexico and North America. In my country Indonesia, people also lead hundreds even thousands of struggles, at local level, against commercial projects destroying people livelihoods and the environment”.

Josie Riffaud, a Via Campesina farmer leader from France also insisted that “the solutions being discussed in the climate talks are very scary. We are being told that some projects will help solve the current climate chaos, but it is an illusion. We are seeing an increase of monoculture plantations, genetic engeneering, agrofuels plantations, landgrabbing, all of this will further increase devastation and exclusion”.


In Cancun, La Via Campesina and its allies will organise an “Alternative Global Forum for Life and Environmental and Social Justice”, on December 5 through 8, and a mass mobilisation of peasants, indigenous and social movements on December 7. At the same time, in Cancun and around the world, thousands of people and organisation will mobilise creating “thousands of Cancuns” to denounce the false solutions against climate change and to promote a real system change.


Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Cross-posted from The Guardian

Nagoya is another ill-tempered bout between the global haves and wanna-haves in which the fiercest blows are landing on the natural world

An origami artwork at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Photograph: IISD

One week down, one left to go. With time running out for a global biodiversity deal, there ought to be frenetic movement, a spirit of compromise and a sense of urgency at the United Nations COP10 conference in Nagoya.

But at this half-way stage, delegates appear more interested in protecting their national interests than reversing the precipitous decline of animal and plant life on Earth.

The conference started last Monday with the usual declarations of hope and exhortations to action. But the first week ended with scant progress, positions more entrenched than ever and a widespread mood of disappointment and frustration.

Wealthy nations, mostly in the European Union, are accused of holding back the money needed for protection of biodiversity hotspots in poorer countries and for failing to share the benefits that might come from exploiting the genetic resources of such areas (such as western companies creating drugs from plants in developing countries).

Without a deal on these issues, Brazil and other developing nations – which are home to most of the world’s natural capital – are holding up international efforts to establish a strategic plan to halt biodiversity loss by 2020.

Meanwhile, Canada is blocking discussion on bio-piracy and the rights of indigenous people. China is torpedoing moves to significantly expand maritime reserves. And the United States is once again playing by a completely different set of rules – having never signed the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in the first place.

In other words, Nagoya is another ill-tempered bout between the global haves and wanna-haves in which the fiercest blows are landing on the natural world that both sides claim to be protecting.

The parallels with last year’s Copenhagen climate conference are depressingly evident. Then, as now, the talks made no progress by the halfway point. Then, as now, the developed and developing world were at loggerheads. Then, as now, hopes for a breakthrough were pinned on the imminent arrival of political leaders.

Last year in Copenhagen, we were waiting for Barack Obama, Wen Jiabao, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy to fly in and save the day, but even that political A-team was barely able to cobble together a hodgepodge, watered-down accord.

This time, we await a far less heavy-hitting bunch of potential saviours. According to the organisers, only five heads of state will attend this summit, including the queen of Palau and the crown prince of Monaco. Most other countries will be represented by ministers, including the UK’s environment secretary, Caroline Spelman.

That does not, of course, mean a deal is impossible. There is no shortage of activity and endeavour. Some negotiators were working through the night last week to reduce the number of contentious brackets in the negotiating text (the sections that countries are yet to agree on). NGOs continue to push for an ambitious deal that will expand nature reserves, increase conservation funding and prevent bio-piracy.

But, unless a huge amount of progress is made this week, the likelihood once again at an UN environment conference is of no deal, a weak deal, or putting off the big decision until the next conference. Anyone for more déjà vu in India in 2012?

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

NAGOYA — With long-standing differences still dividing COP10 and the tone of negotiations hardening as the conference entered its final days, delegates and NGOs now believe only strong political leadership at the top will yield results.

Senior ministers, including five heads of state, were due to arrive beginning Tuesday for the remaining three days. The fate of the Nagoya meeting now depends on whether the ministers can take over from the bureaucrats who have been negotiating since Oct. 18 and conclude negotiations on three separate but related issues.

These include a new protocol on access to genetic resources, a detailed strategy to preserve biodiversity in the next decade, and funds for developing countries struggling to cope with biodiversity loss.

The conclusion of an access and benefit-sharing (ABS) agreement on genetic resources, delegates and nongovernmental organizations say, remains the key to the conference’s success or failure.

But fundamental disagreements on how to include the rights of governments with large groups of indigenous peoples and how to prevent biopiracy continue to plague negotiations.

Canada has been singled out by NGOs for its attitude toward the rights of indigenous peoples in the new protocol.

Minister of Indian Affairs John Duncan told Canadian media last week that the ABS agreement was about intellectual property rights, not about the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Adopted in 2007 by the U.N. General Assembly, the declaration was opposed by Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s shocking that the Indian affairs minister would misinform the public. The (ABS) protocol addresses genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. The U.N. declaration affirms indigenous rights in all of these matters,” Armand MacKenzie, executive director of Canada’s Innu Nation, said Tuesday.

In the morning, the ABS negotiators had reported progress on the 23-page draft protocol that will set international rules on prospecting for genetic resources, turning them into commercial products, and returning the profits to either the countries of origin or the indigenous peoples from whose lands they came.

Much work remained, though. No progress was reported on issues like compensation for existing drugs and biotech products based on genetic resources and their associated knowledge, utilized without the consent of those on the lands where the resources were originally discovered.

The issue of monitoring, tracking and reporting the utilization of genetic resources and traditional knowledge is another sticking point.

Many developed countries, especially within the European Union, do not want to provide lists of checkpoints within a user country that would help prevent biopiracy.

Agreeing on biodiversity preservation targets by 2020 is another COP10 goal. Some progress, especially on establishing terrestrial protection zones, was reported Tuesday.

Delegates and NGOs were hopeful the Convention on Biodiversity establishes a target of at least 15 percent of terrestrial areas as protected zones, where there would be restrictions on human contact and intervention.

Other issues that senior ministers will have to work out include whether to reduce, by 2020, the loss of natural habitats by half or bring them close to zero, and whether to agree to eliminate destructive fishing practices, also by 2020, or to harvest fish in a sustainable manner and restore their numbers.

Much attention over the past week has been focused on the issue of protected marine areas. But ministers face a major problem with agreeing on a final number.

Some nations, including Japan, favor a 15 percent target. Other nations, such as China, do not want more than 6 percent, while others have suggested somewhere between 6 and 20 percent.

Doubts were growing Tuesday that even with strong political backing, the ministers could forge a compromise on a final number by Friday, when COP10 ends.

Not only are there different stances among the nations on numbers, but also many developing countries are skeptical financial aid will meet whatever strategic plan for 2020 the conference adopts.

Over the next few days, developed countries, including Japan, are expected to announce new financial packages designed to help developing countries formulate national strategies to deal with biodiversity loss.

Until the money is on the table, though, developing countries are reluctant to commit to specific targets.

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

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Cross-posted from The Guardian

Midterm election campaigns of Tea Party favourites DeMint and Inhofe have received over $240,000
Pdf: Read the full Climate Action Network report

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent

US Senate climate change deniers and Tea Party favourites including Jim DeMint and James Inhofe are being funded by BP and other polluters. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

BP and several other big European companies are funding the midterm election campaigns of Tea Party favourites who deny the existence of global warming or oppose Barack Obama’s energy agenda, the Guardian has learned.

An analysis of campaign finance by Climate Action Network Europe (Cane) found nearly 80% of campaign donations from a number of major European firms were directed towards senators who blocked action on climate change. These included incumbents who have been embraced by the Tea Party such as Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, and the notorious climate change denier James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma.

The report, released tomorrow, used information on the Open database to track what it called a co-ordinated attempt by some of Europe’s biggest polluters to influence the US midterms. It said: “The European companies are funding almost exclusively Senate candidates who have been outspoken in their opposition to comprehensive climate policy in the US and candidates who actively deny the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is caused by people.”

Obama and Democrats have accused corporate interests and anonymous donors of trying to hijack the midterms by funnelling money to the Chamber of Commerce and to conservative Tea Party groups. The Chamber of Commerce reportedly has raised $75m (£47m) for pro-business, mainly Republican candidates.

“Oil companies and the other special interests are spending millions on a campaign to gut clean-air standards and clean-energy standards, jeopardising the health and prosperity of this state,” Obama told a rally in California on Friday night.

Much of the speculation has focused on Karl Rove, the mastermind of George Bush’s victories, who has raised $15m for Republican candidates since September through a new organisation, American Crossroads. An NBC report warned that Rove was spearheading an effort to inject some $250m in television advertising for Republican candidates in the final days before the 2 November elections.

But Rove, appearing today on CBS television’s Face the Nation, accused Democrats of deploying the same tactics in 2008. “The president of the US had no problem at all when the Democrats did this,” he said. “It was not a threat to democracy when it helped him get elected.”

The Cane report said the companies, including BP, BASF, Bayer and Solvay, which are some of Europe’s biggest emitters, had collectively donated $240,200 to senators who blocked action on global warming – more even than the $217,000 the oil billionaires and Tea Party bankrollers, David and Charles Koch, have donated to Senate campaigns.

The biggest single donor was the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which gave $108,100 to senators. BP made $25,000 in campaign donations, of which $18,000 went to senators who opposed action on climate change. Recipients of the European campaign donations included some of the biggest climate deniers in the Senate, such as Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has called global warming a hoax.

The foreign corporate interest in America’s midterms is not restricted to Europe. A report by ThinkProgress, operated by the Centre for American Progress, tracked donations to the Chamber of Commerce from a number of Indian and Middle Eastern oil coal and electricity companies.

Foreign interest does not stop with the elections. The Guardian reported earlier this year that a Belgian-based chemical company, Solvay, was behind a front group that is suing to strip the Obama administration of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog

BLUE GAP, Ariz. — For decades, coal has been an economic lifeline for the Navajos, even as mining and power plant emissions dulled the blue skies and sullied the waters of their sprawling reservation.

But today there are stirrings of rebellion. Seeking to reverse years of environmental degradation and return to their traditional values, many Navajos are calling for a future built instead on solar farms, ecotourism and microbusinesses.

“At some point we have to wean ourselves,” Earl Tulley, a Navajo housing official, said of coal as he sat on the dirt floor of his family’s hogan, a traditional circular dwelling.

Mr. Tulley, who is running for vice president of the Navajo Nation in the Nov. 2 election, represents a growing movement among Navajos that embraces environmental healing and greater reliance on the sun and wind, abundant resources on a 17 million-acre reservation spanning Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

“We need to look at the bigger picture of sustainable development,” said Mr. Tulley, the first environmentalist to run on a Navajo presidential ticket.

With nearly 300,000 members, the Navajo Nation is the country’s largest tribe, according to Census Bureau estimates, and it has the biggest reservation. Coal mines and coal-fired power plants on the reservation and on lands shared with the Hopi provide about 1,500 jobs and more than a third of the tribe’s annual operating budget, the largest source of revenue after government grants and taxes.

At the grass-roots level, the internal movement advocating a retreat from coal is both a reaction to the environmental damage and the health consequences of mining — water loss and contamination, smog and soot pollution — and a reconsideration of centuries-old tenets.

In Navajo culture, some spiritual guides say, digging up the earth to retrieve resources like coal and uranium (which the reservation also produced until health issues led to a ban in 2005) is tantamount to cutting skin and represents a betrayal of a duty to protect the land.

“As medicine people, we don’t extract resources,” said Anthony Lee Sr., president of the Diné Hataalii Association, a group of about 100 healers known as medicine men and women.

But the shift is also prompted by economic realities. Tribal leaders say the Navajo Nation’s income from coal has dwindled 15 percent to 20 percent in recent years as federal and state pollution regulations have imposed costly restrictions and lessened the demand for mining.

Two coal mines on the reservation have shut down in the last five years. One of them, the Black Mesa mine, ceased operations because the owners of the power plant it fed in Laughlin, Nev., chose to close the plant in 2005 rather than spend $1.2 billion on retrofitting it to meet pollution controls required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Early this month, the E.P.A. signaled that it would require an Arizona utility to install $717 million in emission controls at another site on the reservation, the Four Corners Power Plant in New Mexico, describing it as the highest emitter of nitrous oxide of any power plant in the nation. It is also weighing costly new rules for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona.

And states that rely on Navajo coal, like California, are increasingly imposing greenhouse gas emissions standards and requiring renewable energy purchases, banning or restricting the use of coal for electricity.

So even as they seek higher royalties and new markets for their vast coal reserves, tribal officials say they are working to draft the tribe’s first comprehensive energy policy and are gradually turning to casinos, renewable energy projects and other sources for income.

This year the tribal government approved a wind farm to be built west of Flagstaff, Ariz., to power up to 20,000 homes in the region. Last year, the tribal legislative council also created a Navajo Green Economy Commission to promote environmentally friendly jobs and businesses.

“We need to create our own businesses and control our destiny,” said Ben Shelly, the Navajo Nation vice president, who is now running for president against Lynda Lovejoy, a state senator in New Mexico and Mr. Tulley’s running mate.

That message is gaining traction among Navajos who have reaped few benefits from coal or who feel that their health has suffered because of it.

Curtis Yazzie, 43, for example, lives in northeastern Arizona without running water or electricity in a log cabin just a stone’s throw from the Kayenta mine.

Tribal officials, who say some families live so remotely that it would cost too much to run power lines to their homes, have begun bringing hybrid solar and wind power to some of the estimated 18,000 homes on the reservation without electricity. But Mr. Yazzie says that air and water pollution, not electricity, are his first concerns.

“Quite a few of my relatives have made a good living working for the coal mine, but a lot of them are beginning to have health problems,” he said. “I don’t know how it’s going to affect me.”

One of those relatives is Daniel Benally, 73, who says he lives with shortness of breath after working for the Black Mesa mine in the same area for 35 years as a heavy equipment operator. Coal provided for his family, including 15 children from two marriages, but he said he now believed that the job was not worth the health and environmental problems.

“There’s no equity between benefit and damage,” he said in Navajo through a translator.

About 600 mine, pipeline and power plant jobs were affected when the Mohave Generating Station in Nevada and Peabody’s Black Mesa mine shut down.

But that also meant that Peabody stopped drawing water from the local aquifer for the coal slurry carried by an underground pipeline to the power plant — a victory for Navajo and national environmental groups active in the area, like the Sierra Club.

Studies have shown serious declines in the water levels of the Navajo aquifer after decades of massive pumping for coal slurry operations. And the E.P.A. has singled out the Four Corners Power Plant and the Navajo Generating Station as two of the largest air polluters in the country, affecting visibility in 27 of the area’s “most pristine and precious natural areas,” including the Grand Canyon.

The regional E.P.A. director, Jared Blumenfeld, said the plants were the nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 emitters of nitrogen oxides, which form fine particulates resulting in cases of asthma attacks, bronchitis, heart attacks and premature deaths.

Environmentalists are now advocating for a more diversified Navajo economy and trying to push power plants to invest in wind and solar projects.

“It’s a new day for the Navajo people,” said Lori Goodman, an official with Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, a group founded 22 years ago by Mr. Tulley. “We can’t be trashing the land anymore.”

Both presidential candidates in the Navajo election have made the pursuit of cleaner energy a campaign theme, but significant hurdles remain, including that Indian tribes, as sovereign entities, are not eligible for tax credits that help finance renewable energy projects elsewhere.

And replacing coal revenue would not be easy. The mining jobs that remain, which pay union wages, are still precious on a reservation where unemployment is estimated at 50 percent to 60 percent.

“Mining on Black Mesa,” Peabody officials said in a statement, “has generated $12 billion in direct and implied economic benefits over the past 40 years, created thousands of jobs, sent thousands of students to college and restored lands to a condition that is as much as 20 times more productive than native range.”

They added, “Renewables won’t come close to matching the scale of these benefits.”

But many Navajos see the waning of coal as inevitable and are already looking ahead. Some residents and communities are joining together or pairing with outside companies to pursue small-scale renewable energy projects on their own.

Wahleah Johns, a member of the new Navajo Green Economy Commission, is studying the feasibility of a small solar project on reclaimed mining lands with two associates. In the meantime, she uses solar panels as a consciousness-raising tool.

“How can we utilize reclamation lands?” she said to Mr. Yazzie during a recent visit as they held their young daughters in his living room. “Maybe we can use them for solar panels to generate electricity for Los Angeles, to transform something that’s been devastating for our land and water into something that can generate revenue for your family, for your kids.”

Mr. Yazzie, who lives with his wife, three children and two brothers, said he liked the idea. “Once Peabody takes all the coal out, it’ll be gone,” he said. “Solar would be long-term. Solar and wind, we don’t have a problem with. It’s pretty windy out here.”

Article source: GJEP Climate Connections Blog