SF to Cancun: Social Movements Bring Hope as COP16 Falters

7 12 2010

Thousands of community activists around the world take action to promote Local Solutions to the Climate Crisis


The tone inside the conference center at the U.N. Climate Negotiations in Cancun has been a bit dismal this past week. Yet despite the reduced expectations inside, this morning the international peasant movement La Via Campesina gave us a new injection of hope and vision with a vibrant march of thousands of small farmers, Indigenous peoples and community activists through the streets in Mexico. It kicked off today’s international day of action – “1,000 Cancuns” – where grassroots organizations across the world demonstrated local resiliency and real solutions to the climate crisis. 30 coordinated events took place in the U.S. and Canada today, anchored by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance.

Here in San Francisco, more than a dozen local community organizations joined forces to help convert a Mission District parking lot into a community garden and park with affordable housing units. Click here for photos.

“This action demonstrates a tangible solution to the climate crisis by promoting local food production, challenging our dependence on automobiles and strengthening bonds within the community,” explained Teresa Almaguer of People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights (PODER) “The climate crisis requires community-based solutions and an end to corporate influence within the UN climate negotiations.” In addition to planting vegetables, participants enjoyed live music, theatrical performances and speakers all focusing on solutions to the climate crisis. A common theme at the event was increasing local food production in the fight against climate change, in contrast to the corporate-driven false solutions being put forth inside the U.N. negotiations.

“Industrial agriculture is one of the top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan of Movement Generation. “Agribusiness corporations profit from everything from fertilizer and pesticide sales to control of what goes onto supermarket shelves. The people are left paying the true costs in polluted water, depleted soil, diet-related diseases, and climate disruption. Meanwhile, U.S. agribusiness harms small farmers, farm workers and consumers – in the U.S. and around the world.” Read the rest of this entry »





At COP16 Cancun: Canadian First Nations Representatives Deploy Giant Human Banner Demanding End to Tar Sands Development

2 12 2010

Cancun, Mexico, Dec 2, 2010 — Indigenous Peoples of Canada and their allies from around the world are in Cancun at the COP-16 climate summit demanding real action to reduce fossil fuel pollution. Over twenty people with color-coded T-shirts that spelled out the words “Shut Down the Tar Sands” in both English and Spanish gathered in front of the Maya building to directly deliver their message to UNFCCC delegates. Participants included Indigenous community representatives from fossil fuel impacted community across Canada and the U.S., many carrying personal banners linking tar sands with the destruction of their territories.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree comes from a community impacted by tar sands. “We have seen the destruction of our lands happen right before our eyes. Our water is being contaminated and we are seeing droughts throughout the region. My family used to be able to drink from our watershed, and now within my lifetime we can no longer do so. Young and old people alike have developed respiratory illnesses as neighboring plants emit noxious gases into the air. First Nations and farming communities have reported health effects to the wildlife and livestock. The area is drastically changing – I fear for the future of my homeland.”

The tar sands are the fastest growing source of GHG emissions in Canada. Unless Canada changes track emissions from the tar sands industry are set to triple to over 120 millions tonnes. Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network said, “Our communities demand real solutions to address the climate crisis and that means shutting down the tar sands and a moratorium on new fossil fuel development.”

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Campement d’Action Climatique!

2 09 2010

Co-written by Maryam Adrangi and Joshua Kahn Russell
Last week saw the culmination of the Quebec Climate Action Camp, the most recent in a series of similar events around the world. Climate Camps look different in different places, but the general idea is to bring together like-minded people from around a region to build common strategies, share skills, and take ACTION!

The Tar Sands have been a focal point this year; in the UK Climate Camp brought together activists challenging the Royal Bank of Scottland’s investments in the Canadian gigaproject. Here in Dunham, Quebec, climate camp was set up to challenge a pipeline coming through this community. The proposed pipeline is called the Enbridge Trailbreaker project, and would bring dirty tar sands bitumen to Montreal and then down to Maine, eventually ending on tankers heading to refineries in the Gulf Coast.

The camp brought together activists from across Quebec, Ontario, the Northeastern US, and beyond, to learn about the intersections of climate and social justice issues, and plan out how to best work together in the coming year. Participants cooked, fed, and set up camp outside and were able to build lasting relationships between various communities to talk about how to build a climate movement.

Resistance to tar sands projects has been growing in Canada and people are taking action locally to end the addiction to fossil fuels and the injustices facing communities because of the dirty industry.

The two-week climate camp ended with a march to the proposed pumping station for the pipeline. Local community member and climate camp participants rallied at the proposed site. “Our objective is to unite in order to act on the root causes of climate change. It is the right time to denounce and block the Trailbreaker project. Local communities and ecosystems cannot afford more oil spills, like that in the Gulf of Mexico.” says Pierre-Olivier Parent, a Climate Action Camp organizer.

Check out some of the media stories about the camp here, and stay up on Quebec action from Climate Justice Montreal

Moments like this are just another signal of increasingly mobilized action-oriented groups who are supporting communities resisting point-source fossil fuel destruction. A couple days ago in the Bay Area, 150 people took action on BP, Chevron, and the EPA, with 26 participating in civil disobedience. Its an exciting moment – lets keep building.





Lisa Jackson’s Reaction To Mountaintop Removal Activist Lock Down At EPA

18 03 2010

Photos by Chris Eichler

Group Erects Purple Mountain Majesty At EPA: “If Administrator Lisa Jackson Won’t Visit the Appalachian Mountains, They’ll Bring the Mountains to Her”

At 7:00 am this morning, a dozen brave activists released a 25-foot banner on the lawn of the EPA headquarters in Washington, DC. The message on the banner calls on the EPA to pledge to end mountaintop removal coal mining in 2010. But there’s a catch—the banner and two of its holders are suspended from two freestanding tripods 20-feet above the air, and after seven hours they are still hanging there with no sign of coming down.

Today’s protest is an attempt to further pressure EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to enforce the Clean Water Act and halt mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). Called the worst of the worst strip mining, the practice blows the tops off of whole mountains and contaminates drinking water all for a tiny amount of coal. Activists in today’s protest say they won’t leave unless Administrator Jackson commits to a flyover visit of the Appalachian Mountains and MTR sites, which, shockingly, she has never done before.

After seven hours, Administrator Jackson has made no such commitment. However, a few hours ago she tweeted her response to the protest gathering attention outside her window. As Administrator Jackson said in her tweet: “People are here today expressing views on MTM, a critical issue to our country. They’re concerned abt human health & water quality & so am I.”
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Bangkok: Rich countries try to kill the Kyoto Protocol, International Youth declare “No Confidence” in road to Copenhagen

7 10 2009

cross posted from Grist.

Today marked one of the final days of the Bangkok UN Climate Negotiations. With the end of this intersessional in sight, the International Youth Delegation (IYD) has officially declared “No Confidence” in the road to Copenhagen.

With youth delegates from over 30 countries engaging in the Bangkok process, the IYD cited pathetically weak targets from the North, alarm that a second commitment period in the Kyoto Protocol will not be secured, and a lack of guarantees for protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests, in its Declaration. The current text of the draft climate deal is so weak and so full of “false solutions” (measures like offsetting that actually make the problem worse) it is unacceptable.

Youth delegates representing each continent addressed the U.N. today, detailing the urgency of the crisis as it affects their communities currently, telling stories of their hope and organizing alongside their denunciation of the state of play in the UN Negotiations.

This week the Annex 1 (rich countries), attempted to kill the Kyoto Protocol (KP). We are nearing upon the end of the current KP term, and a lack of renewing it means that the world would lose the few legally binding international climate agreements it has (as insufficient as they are). The excuse is that the United States will not sign, and therefore the whole thing should be scrapped and an entirely new deal can be struck on its own. It is lunacy to think that this will yield a stronger outcome, and the G77 (the rest of the world) countries are furious. We have always known the US wont sign the KP; the world cannot continue to wait for the US to get on board. In Bali, the U.S. already committed to setting comparable targets to other Annex 1 countries, so the world could deal with the U.S. in the LCA (Long Term Cooperative Action).

This all amounts to a shell game: more dirty delaying tactics from self-interested countries who are content to strip away basic attempts at an international agreement (for example “compliance” – meaning that the U.S. would have international oversight of its targets, or “top-down target setting” – meaning the international community sets carbon targets together based on science, rather than each countries independently setting their targets based on what their fossil fuel extraction industries dictate).

Allowing the U.S. to drag the world out of existing legal obligations is disgraceful. These negotiations are going backwards.

Make no mistake: Our future is being held hostage to interests that have consistently thumbed their noses at the international community and their obligations to the rest of the world. This process has been polluted by self-interested corporations and nations looking to profit off of our crisis. They have been pushing false solutions that exacerbate rather than fix the problem. Not only are the targets set by rich countries weak, but they are deceptive. Rather than representing actual emissions reductions, they contain unacceptable proportions of offsets, which do not reduce emissions, and displace the burden back onto the developing countries of the world.
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Reparations for Climate Chaos

2 10 2009

Think Climate Finance is boring? Think again.

cross posted from Grist.

Remember when the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and International Monetary Fund were constantly making global headlines for their fierce opposition from people’s movements around the world? Well, international Finance Institutions (including the World Bank) are rearing their ugly heads again – this time with the U.N. as their vehicle.

Today, more than 50 social movements, trade unions, environmental groups and NGOs from 17 countries issued a statement at the United Nations in Bangkok, where UNFCCC climate negotiations move into their fifth day.

The groups, which include several large international networks, said that rich countries should acknowledge their historical responsibility and the “ecological and climate debts” they owe to developing countries. “Deep, drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, through domestic measures is part of reparations,” the statement said. “They took much more than their fair share of atmospheric space, and in the process denied the people of developing countries – the people of the South – their rightful share. They must give it back.”

photo: Janet Redman

And they’re right. As colleagues here in Bangkok talk about their newly-homeless families from the floods earlier this week in the Philippines, it is undeniable that the economic prosperity of the North is the gift-that-keeps-on-giving to the South – this time around in the form of devastating climate change. Tom Pickens from Friends of the Earth described it like having a fancy four course meal in an expensive restaurant – and then forcing someone walking by on the street outside to pay.

Reparations for these debts, according to Fabrina Furtado from Jubilee South, also include the “complete restoration of territories and ecosystems, reconstruction of basic infrastructure, recovery of social rights, and the restoration of the well being of the peoples of the South.”

Reparations must come from public sources.

The groups decried alleged attempts by Annex 1 (Northern) countries to “avoid taking full responsibility” for the consequences of their excessive emissions. In their statement, groups expressed strong opposition to giving any role in climate finance or climate programs to the World Bank, regional development banks and other international financial institutions – and emphasized the need for “a new global fund.”

These views are similar to those of the G77 plus China group, a bloc of more than 130 developing countries in the climate negotiations that considers the World Bank inappropriate for channeling developed countries’ financial obligations under the Convention – largely because of its undemocratic and unaccountable governance structure.

The group’s critique of the World Bank and related financial institutions goes even further. Elena Gerebizza of the Italian NGO Campaign for the Reform of the World Bank said, “The World Bank and other international financial institutions are in large part responsible for the current economic, financial and climate crises. We cannot expect them to play a positive role nor to contribute to real solutions.” “On the contrary,” she added, “these institutions have been pushing false solutions, such as the expansion of the carbon market, which increase financial instability and take away space for serious thinking about real solutions for the climate crisis.”

Whew. United States, ready to listen yet?





U.N. Climate Talks Bangkok day 3: Filipino activists call for justice as Manila floods

29 09 2009

Cross Posted From Grist.

Flooding in the Philippines yesterday displaced over 600,000 people. As if we didn’t need more of an urgent call to solve the climate crisis.

Increased intensity of flooding is among one of the may well-documented impacts of global warming. The implications have hit our organizing here at the UN in Bangkok too – as some activists had to go to support their families amidst crisis.

But Filipino groups are still here in full force, emboldened to call for the solutions their communities need – this morning The Peasant Movement of the Philippines and the National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines held a demonstration in front of the United Nations Climate Change Negotiations in Bangkok.

With vivid street theater, the groups called to abandon false solutions to climate change – such as biofuels.

Demonstrators this morning said “Climate change is not only jeopardizing our future but is being used by multi-national and trans-national corporations who are the main contributors to global warming to rake in more profit from our misery…vast tracts of agricultural lands around the world are being controlled and converted by plunderers into cash-crop plantations such as biofuels and other corporate schemes that forcibly drives us out from our land.”

Their calls for climate equity in negotiations were echoed by even more demonstrators today from Jubilee South and many others, calling on rich countries to pay their ecological and climate debt to the rest of the world. Activists from Thailand, Nepal, Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Africa, and Latin America mobilized to push Northern countries to recognize their historical and disproportionate contributions to climate change, and the disproportionate negative impacts suffered by the Global South. This concept of climate debt is increasingly gaining traction among international civil society, flipping on its head the idea of the debt owed by the South to the North from loans from international finance institutions.

As civil society groups call for financing and compensation for the averse affects of climate change for affected peoples, delegates inside the UN continue to debate on our 3rd day of the climate talks. The pressure is on, and the 600,000 people displaced in the last day only add to the urgency.