Category Archives: Climatic Change and Resilience

The “ A, B , C “ of Large and Mega Dams

 What is a Dam, large and Mega?

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It is a big cement hall, that stop the course of the river. The word seems to be related to the Greek word taphos, meaning “grave” or “grave hill”, in reality it is a tombstone for the river.

By the International Commission of Large Dams (ICOLD), a large dam is higher than 15m while a Mega dam is over 100m. Most Mega dams worldwide are used for energy production.

Mega dams have been the center of many debates, research and studies for the last decade.

Between 1930 and 1970, the boom of Mega dams was seen to be synonymous with “economic development” and a symbol of human ability to assert control over nature. But then the truth of their negative impacts started to arise, and it become the center of many debates and arguments around costs-versus-benefits, ecological impacts, social impacts, etc.

From one side the proponents claim dams as a source of energy and as such a tool for development, from another side the opponents state that those benefits are far outweighed by disadvantages such as loss of communities livelihoods and rivers ecosystems to name just some.

The late 1980s and 1990s era, were marked by large protests, and controversial debates about mega dams. Pressure and huge campaigns from civil society, social movements and communities affected by dams to stop financing mega-dams. Same financed institutions, with the pressure and information about crimes against human rights, by mega dams financed by the world bank, funds were decrease to the world Bank Dams projects. Due to such an outcry, an independent commission under the chairmanship of Kader Asmal, the South African water minister, was created in April 1997, the “World Commission on Dams (WCD)”, to research the environmental, social and economic impacts of mega Dams globally. The WCD was composed of members of civil society, academia, private sector, professional associations and government representatives. The report findings and recommendations were launched under the patronage of Nelson Mandela in November 2000. The WCD found that while “ dams have made an important and significant contribution to human development, and benefits derived from them have been considerable… in too many cases an unacceptable and often unnecessary price has been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms, by people displaced, by communities downstream, by taxpayers and by the natural environment.” The study also made recommendations and provided guidelines which all dam projects should follow, including five core values and seven priorities detailed below:

Values

Equity,

Sustainability,

Efficiency,

Participatory decision-making and

Accountability.

Priorities

Gaining public acceptance,
comprehensive options assessment,

Addressing existing dams,

Sustaining Rivers and Livelihoods
Recognising entitlements and sharing benefits,
Ensuring compliance and

Sharing rivers for peace, development and security.

For a while, the understanding of the large costs of Mega dams started to become a reality, but suddenly with the climate crises, they came back with the tag of “Solution for Climate change”. But it is not a solution. It is riddled with problems and earns our tag of “false solution”.

At JA’s last year climate justice meeting “Seeding Climate justice II”, held in Maputo, JA invited Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Director of International Rivers (IR), who presented the impacts of dams on the climate, and debunked the myth that mega dams are one of the energy sources to address our climate crises. Without going into the known social and environmental impacts, the presenter began her presentation by asking “Hydro dams, do they provide CLEAN energy? NO, THEY DON’T, ITS NOT TRUE! They exacerbate climate change instead”. Dams especially tropical dams can often produce a huge amount of methane and carbon dioxide from rotting biomass in the reservoir. Then there are huge impacts of droughts and floods on the energy production, and dependency of hydroelectric on a changing climate is questionable.

Rudo spoke about the breakthrough research done in 2012, “ A Risky Climate for Southern African Hydro”, there was a lot of opposition, attacked by politicians, statements that IR ‘’was scaring people, and that was not going to happen’’. But it is real, 4 years after, we see that is happen, this year, Lake Kariba never went above 20% capacity, Lesotho Katse dam was 63%, Zambia that was 80% dependent of Hydro, due to a 2 years drought is turning into solar. This is real , Zambezi Basin countries will have a decrease in stream flow, as many studies estimate and a decrease of run-off to be between 26% to 40% by 2050. No one is trying to scare people, but it is already happen and is going to only become worse.

We recall back in 2012, when Rudo come to Maputo to present the finding of this study, we were attacked by most of the government participants at the launch meeting, to the point of becoming quite an ugly and unproductive meeting.

We raised the question again, how can Mozambique build a dam as risky as it is Mphanda Nkuwa is to the environmental and communities, seismic risk, and now adding the economic and climate change risk? Those risks exist, due to extreme climate changes, and they must be included in any evaluation and decision to build or not a dam.

But as the researcher stated on their study, that government, dam builders and decisions makers, are not taking into consideration the economic risks associated to climate change, in his wordsThere is been a neglect of climate risks in hydropower planning – in an approach that might be called either ‘wait and see’ or ‘head in the sand’ ”.

But it still amazes me how difficult is for people to understand and see mega dams for what they really are: a monstrosity that destroys lives, livelihoods and rivers ecosystem, to say some. In a way I can understand if you look into a coal power station, you see ugliness, you see smoke, pollution and a landscape that no one wants to live there if they have a choose. At the other end, a mega dam is an huge infrastructure that makes any engineers proud of it, a lake, and an enormous hall that splits water in amazing speed, and a sound that make you feel small in this world… for sure looks much better then a coal power station. But it is just that, a facade. Because it is not synonymous with development, just ask the 40-80 million people displaced by dams, how their lives and livelihoods have been destroyed. Neither is it a solution for climate change as it often emits methane (more in tropical areas), destroys forests for the reservoir. Neither it is good for the environmental as it block rivers and inundates forests and agricultural land , and deny downstream enough water for wetlands to operate accordingly. Neither they protect us, from flood if they are not build to do so, or a way to keep water during drought.

Why they do not protect us from floods…. Well, if they are build just for that, yes, but you do not need a Mega dam for that, a mega dam is either for energy production, irrigation or water supply. To produce energy, you need to keep as much water as possible, and then when a big flood comes, there is no space to keep all the water in, same for irrigation, and to protect us from floods we do not need mega dams, small dams are the ideal, and system that can divert water when is too much, same for drought.

JA released in 2009 a study about renewable energy sources for Mozambique, another study that was attacked by the government participants in such a way that the author had difficulties to do his presentation without being constantly interrupted, simply because that study showed that we do not need Mphanda Nkuwa, and there are other ways forward to have energy for everyone with less impacts. The magic potion is not that difficult, we need to start with decentralized energy systems, clean energy, solar, wind, even mini to small hydro dams, a mix of energy sources, which must be affordable by all people.

We can do, and we should think more on solutions to tackle and minimize climate change impacts, instead to follow a path that put us where we are…. In a crises, can we be more smart and take decisions that are smarter, at least we live in a era that we have many options, and we know what mistakes where made, that we can avoid them.

So why build mega dams, to destroy rivers systems, communities livelihoods, increase climate impacts adding the economic risk , is really a mega dam worthwhile? It is not a solution for the climate crises we are hurtling towards. Climate change will affect rivers flow, and worsen extreme and intense floods and droughts that will put a risk on the economic benefit, so why ????

For whom and what. That’s the million dollar question. Because is not for us the people, is not a solution for our climate crises, is not for the environment…. who is it for? And what is it for?

Some info on dams, from the article of 12 dams that change the world from: https://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/227-3

Chixoy: the grave on the Rio Negro

Dam-affected communities have often suffered repression and human rights abuses. In 1982, more than 400 indigenous men, women and children were massacred to make way for the World Bank’s Chixoy Dam in Guatemala. In a historic breakthrough, the country’s government in 2014 signed a $154m reparations agreement with the affected communities.

Banqiao: the dam that washed away

When dams are not properly built or maintained, they can break. In the world’s biggest dam disaster, the failure of China’s Banqiao Dam killed an estimated 171,000 people in 1975. In more than 100 cases, scientists have also linked dam building to earthquakes. Strong evidence suggests that China’s Sichuan earthquake, which killed 80,000 people in 2008, may have been triggered by the Zipingpu Dam.

Yacyretá: the monument to corruption

Large dams are often pet projects of dictators. Lacking accountability leads to massive corruption and cost overruns. On average, large dams experience cost overruns of 96% and are not economic. The cost of Argentina’s Yacyretá Dam has mushroomed from $2.5bn to $15bn. A former president called Yacyretá “a monument to corruption”.

Merowe: when Chinese dam builders went global

In 2003, the Chinese government decided to fund the Merowe Dam in Sudan as its first big overseas hydropower project. The dam displaced more than 50,000 people and caused serious human rights violations. Chinese banks and companies are by now involved in some 330 dams in 74 countries, leading an unprecedented global dam building boom.

Glines Canyon: the dam that came down

Dams have serious environmental impacts, and their benefits dwindle as they age. Since the 1930s, the United States has removed more than 1,150 dams to restore river ecosystems and particularly fish habitats. In 2014, the 64 meters high Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River in the Pacific northwest was breached in the world’s biggest dam removal so far.

Patagonia: the dams that were never built

Recent years, solar and wind energy have seen their commercial breakthrough. These renewable energy sources are cleaner than coal or hydropower and can be built were people need electricity, even far away from the electric grid. In 2014, Chile cancelled five dams in the Patagonia region under strong public pressure and approved 700 megawatts of new solar and wind farms.

Kariba: the dam that ended poverty in Southern Africa (or did it?)

The Kariba Dam on the Zambezi was built in the 1950s to power Zambia’s copper belt, as the first large dam funded by the World Bank. Kariba was considered the symbol of a “brave new world”, in which controlling nature would bring quick economic development. Yet the 57,000 people who were displaced by the dam suffered famine and are still impoverished

climate_graphic2

References on WCD and more info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Commission_on_Dams

https://energypedia.info/wiki/World_Commission_on_Dams_(WCD)_Report

http://www.unep.org/dams/documents/Default.asp?DocumentID=663

https://www.internationalrivers.org/campaigns/the-world-commission-on-dams

http://www.unep.org/dams/WCD/report/WCD_DAMS%20report.pdf

more https://www.internationalrivers.org/questions-and-answers-about-large-dams

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Under Water

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CORPORATE IMPUNITY: STRATEGIES OF STRUGGLE (PART II)

As we mentioned in last month’s article, corporate impunity – the crime that does pay off – is a complicated matter. At the moment, our chests are still filled with the breath of fresh air brought to us at the end of last month by the second session of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT), where a panel of 8 jurors and almost 200 participants listened attentively to the complaints of communities and activists who suffer first hand the consequences of a system that favours and protects transnational corporations. Experts noted and reiterated what is no longer news to us: the criminal behaviour of these corporations reflects the field of impunity in which they operate. In addition to providing us with a (unpublished) report of deliberations that will help to expose the behaviour of these companies, this jury also made clear that the mobilization of peoples and the opening of spaces like this court are a fundamental part of the fight for justice.

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About PPT, we have little more to say right now. You can find more information on the cases presented here, or read the press release of Southern Africa’s Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power’s (of which we are part) here. This year, the visibility given to the different cases was notorious (like this article on ProSavana in the South African press), and there was also room for an update on the cases brought to the PPT last year in Swaziland. But this is not the time to slow down – after the PPT, more important moments regarding this issue are coming up.

Nowadays, there is a great legal asymmetry between, on the one hand, the endless regulations that protect and safeguard private investments (even shielding them from political decisions that may conflict with the companies’ financial expectations), and on the other, the non-existent coercive legislation which upholds human rights. Corporations rely on a wide range of international norms that act in their defence – from free trade agreements to investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms – but none that regulates their actions in the light of their impacts. Apparently, for years now we have been hoping that, by themselves, guiding principles or corporate social responsibility (voluntary, unilateral, and non-enforceable) become enough to prevent corporate human rights abuses by the corporations, but obviously, this has not happened and will not happen.04

The national laws of countries such as ours are very weak, not to mention the very limited capacity to enforce them and supervise them. That is one of the reasons why Shell remains unpunished despite the criminal spills it is responsible for in Nigeria, or why hundreds of people are being driven from their land to make way for palm plantations in Indonesia. This is why fighting for the enforcement of existing national legislation is an important step, but it can not be the only one if we really want to stop the impunity of these powerful corporations. It is necessary to think beyond. In today’s globalized world, corporations operate in different national jurisdictions, and take advantage of this to evade accountability. For us, expanding the limits of international law and demanding legal instruments that provide a path from where victims of such violations may demand justice seems to be as urgent or even more.

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The Intergovernmental Working Group mandated to draft a binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014, will meet for the third time in October of this year, then, the concrete terms of the text to be included in the Treaty will be discussed. This initiative, which started with the governments of Ecuador and South Africa, has been gaining strength and supporters. Numerous countries, mostly in the Global South, have already expressed their support for the Treaty, as is the case of Uruguay, which sees in this instrument an opportunity to protect its public policies that are being threatened by the interests of transnational corporations. Mozambique, unfortunately, remains completely out of this discussion and didn’t even show up at the two sessions of the Working Group in the recent years.

An alliance was formed by civil society organizations from around the world to support the drafting of this law, and has actively participated in the sessions of the Working Group to ensure that it will truly represent the needs of those affected. One of the requirements of this alliance is that this treaty contains solid provisions that prohibit corporate interference in the process of formulating and implementing laws and policies. According to Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), also part of the Treaty Alliance, it must establish the criminal and civil liability of transnational corporations in order to fill existing legal gaps in international law, and should apply also to all subsidiary companies and those that form part of its supply chain. Learn more about FoEI’s contributions to the Treaty here.

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When existing legislation does not address all of society’s problems and needs, new legislation must be created. It was like that with the implementation of universal suffrage, with the abolition of slavery, and in so many other historical moments. We believe that we are about to reach an important milestone in the struggle for the sovereignty of peoples and against corporate impunity, and as the poet once said, there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

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Corporate Impunity: Strategies of struggle (Part I)

2016 was an important year in our continent’s struggle against corporate impunity: the first session of the Southern African Peoples Permanent Tribunal (PPT) took place in Swaziland. This Court, which was founded more than 30 years ago in Italy, is an independent body that examines situations of systemic human rights violations – especially in cases where existing legislation (both national and international) is not capable of safeguarding the rights of populations. Although it does not have the power to issue an obligatory sentence for the company (which, by the way, is very important and is one of the reasons we are working for – but let’s talk about it later on), the PPT is strategically very important: On the one hand, it allows victims to be heard and advised by a panel of experts from various areas and to establish partnerships; and on the other, it is a moment of complaint and visibility for the cases, and therefore, of exposure to infringing companies. And although in our country this criminal impunity is often seen as a synonym of cleverness and of the perpetrators degree of influence, on the international level things are not quite like that. Being labelled as a human rights violator is a matter of great concern to these corporations, and therefore it can lead to a change of attitude – not because their ethical principles and values are very important to them, but simply because a bad reputation affects the only thing that truly matters to corporations: their profits.

Ten cases from Swaziland, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique were presented in last year’s PPT, most of them related to the extractive industry. From our country, for the serious impacts that their activities have on the communities around them and for the noncompliance with the promises they made to those communities before settling in the region (to the point that one of them actually started its mining activities without resettling those living within the concession area – as we have denounced through various channels including this one), we took to the court VALE and JINDAL. A Panel of Jurors listened attentively to the communities’ grievances and to a contextualization made by invited experts, and then released its deliberations.

This year the process is repeated: in August, seven cases from the Southern Africa region will be presented by the affected communities themselves and by the civil society organizations who work with them. This time, the general theme of the cases is Land, Food and Agriculture. In addition to cases presented by Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mauritius – who will denounce large corporations such as Parmalat and Monsanto – this session of the PPT will also hear the denunciation of two Mozambican cases: the proposed Mphanda Nkuwa dam on the already strangled Zambezi River; and ProSavana, the Mozambican, Brazilian and Japanese governments’ triangular partnership program that aims to develop agribusiness in the Nacala Corridor. These two Mozambican cases have the same particularity: they are not yet implemented. However, and this is what made us chose these two cases for this year’s PPT (because, let’s face it, what we are not lacking in our country are examples of human rights violations by private initiatives), despite not being implemented yet, its impacts are not less significant.

In Mphanda Nkuwa, for example, local communities were visited for the first time in 2000 by representatives of the companies responsible for the construction of the dam. They ere warned that they could not build new houses in that region because they would not be compensated for them. Since then, these people live in total uncertainty and can no longer make any long-term plans, at the risk of losing their assets when they start construction. ProSavana, on the other hand, has been characterized by the secrecy, manipulation and misrepresentation of information with the aim of promoting a false idea that the project will promote agricultural development in the northern region of the country, while in fact it is an initiative that will serve to facilitate large scale encroachment of peasant lands. This program will also destroy the livelihoods of local populations and exacerbate their already grave poverty. There are already reports of manipulation and intimidation of leaders of local peasant organizations.

The mobilization of civil society (Mozambican, Japanese and Brazilian) in opposition to ProSavana was fundamental to halt to the initial plans of this program and postpone the conclusion of its Master Plan. The purpose of taking these two cases to the PPT is to bring together even more elements that may help stop these projects.

Spaces such as the PPT are also crucial for perceiving trends, identifying development models, and analyzing common practices of transnational corporations – as well as their strategies to escape responsibility. Thus, by moving these experiences to a more global scale, it is easy to see that these violations of fundamental human rights are not perpetrated by one or another transnational corporation in isolation. That is, these are not a couple of rotten apples in a sack full of beautiful apples. Rather, it is a generalized behavior that is enabled by an architecture of impunity, characteristic of our extractive capitalist development system. This architecture of impunity puts corporate rights above human rights, and makes way for an abundant number of examples of very lucrative corporate crimes.

The architecture of impunity consists of several elements and actors:

We have the economic power of corporations – on the basis of which these establish their relations with one another and with states – and of international financial institutions;

We have political power, which in turn is responsible for capturing policies and politicians that fail to regulate the collective interests of society to serve private interests;

Trade architecture, embodied by numerous trade and investment agreements, facilitates profit and allows corporations to file lawsuits against governments should they make decisions that affect their anticipated profits;

Legal power is represented by the financial capacity to hire and dispose of influential lawyers who defend corporations in endless processes, as well as by inadequate and insufficient legal instruments that regulate their actions; and finally

Social power, which is exercised in all spheres of our lives through the influence that corporations have in the media, academic spaces, civil society organizations, among others.

Discussing some of these elements and developing the cases that will be presented in the PPT next month, were the objectives that motivated the Workshop on the Architecture of Impunity, held in the context of the Southern Africa Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. Since it is the affected communities themselves who present the cases to the Panel of Jurors in the PPT, this enabled them to get the support of several resource people, to appeal, discuss and deepen the specificities of their denunciations and also to identify common ground with the other cases.

But the struggle to end corporate impunity is not only fought in the field of opinion sentences, nor is the important opinion of a panel of judges our only weapon to demand a different behavior from transnational corporations. Another battle is being waged to develop a legal instrument that will ultimately have the power to condemn and punish corporations – since the absence of such an instrument is currently one of the biggest gaps in international law. We are talking about the UN Intergovernmental Working Group, created in 2014 with the mandate to develop a binding treaty for transnational corporations on human rights issues, which will meet in October this year for its third session. At this time, transnational corporations simply have to follow voluntary standards and guiding principles that “advise” best practices on human rights issues. There is no doubt that this blind faith in corporate goodwill has had grave and irreparable consequences, both on people and on the planet. In next month’s article, we will look into this issue more carefully, getting deeper into the debate about the urgency of a legal mechanism that is accessible to any community affected by the operations of a transnational corporation. For now, we continue to look closely at next month’s PPT, certain that this will be another important moment regarding the convergence of struggles for a fairer, healthier and more common-good oriented world.

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When African Renewable Energy Was Hijacked

A few years ago, during the United Nations climate change negotiations in Paris in December 2015, 55 African leaders launched the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI). It pledged to follow a people-centred approach to renewable energy development and energy access work across our continent. It talked about rights and equity, very important for our context and for justice. It talked about community ownership and distributed power for African people, in both senses of the word ‘power’. It demanded new and additional renewable energy for our people – no double counting of funds for other projects. It was an African-owned and African-led initiative.

JA! people participated in the AREI meetings in Paris in December 2015 and in Marrakesh in November 2016. Civil society was included into this process from the beginning. Could this become something we would be proud of as Africans? The AREI was a unique approach, in a continent marred by ever-increasing development of dirty energies like coal, oil, gas and big hydro, where it is commonplace to sacrifice our people, kill the local ecology, grab lands and destroy the climate at the same time. The AREI put in strong and important criteria in place to avoid these terrible impacts and said that projects would not support fossil fuels or nuclear.

The AREI really pledged to be different. And this pledge to go for a different, people-based approach is really important. It moves us away from a system fix approach to a system change approach, to change the base principles which drive how we think about energy for people.

In Paris, developed countries stepped forward with $10 billion in pledges to support this initiative. But would these countries really let this initiative survive? Or would money talk? The frightening answer came just over a year later, and by early March 2017, the AREI was already in danger.

The first attack came from the European Commission (EC), and the French government which had helped birth this initiative in the UN talks in their country. What did the attack look like? They came forward at the board meeting with a plan to fund 19 renewable energy projects with an investment of a whopping 4.8 billion. You can read the press release dated 4 March of the European Commission at this link – http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-442_en.htm. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. The claim for 4.8 billion is false, they are providing a mere €300 million themselves and hoping to leverage the rest. Not just that, remember the AREI’s commitment for new and additional projects with strong criteria to prevent environmental injustices? Well, these proposed projects were already partly pre-existing ones, with all kinds of double-counting and dodgy accounting taking place on the financing. Some of the projects, like a geothermal project in Ethiopia, are from 2014, the year before the AREI initiative was even finalized. Worst of all, these projects are being rammed through without caring about criteria and impacts. Our colleagues discovered that at least 1 of these projects involves fossil fuels interests. We heard that 14 of these projects were just rubber-stamped through, while 5 of them were not even reviewed due to lack of time. The base principles of AREI were the first to be under attack. Even the vague notion of system change is threatening to the system.

 

African civil society began to hit back at this affront. By early April, JA! had joined over 180 African organizations who signed up to a letter demanding this hijack of the AREI be reversed. Last week at the UN negotiations in Bonn, on 18 May 2017, 111 international organizations outside of Africa released a letter supporting the African demands for the EC and France to stop the hijack of African renewable energy. A lot of media pick-up has happened around these letters.

The EC knows it is being watched and is now on the back-foot. Our European colleagues were invited to a meeting with them in Bonn last week, where they found out that the EC is seriously trying to do damage control. They are shocked by the media pick-up and are calling it a scandal. But they are not yet saying how they will do things differently. This meeting took place on 16 May 2017. Some mainstream system-fix type civil society people already wanted to stop the international letter since they said the EC is talking to us. Others said, no way, the EC and France need to be exposed and they made sure the letter was released 2 days later, before the Bonn talks closed. You can read the press release here- http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1102862873361&ca=c6022777-a64f-4bd8-b159-69ebbf8df668.

South-South Dialogue: The Bataan Statement

On the 29th and 30th of October, 2016, people from about 20 countries in the global south gathered together in Bataan city in the Philippines, to discuss about the climate catastrophe and dirty energy, from the perspective of southern countries and social, economic and environmental justice. JA! was proud to be part of that gathering. Below is the final statement released by the meeting.

 

SOUTH-SOUTH DIALOGUE: The Bataan Statement

1. The world has already begun to experience unprecedented and unparalleled catastrophes as a consequence of the global climate crisis. While governments have agreed to limit global average temperature rise to below 1.5-degrees Celsius under the Paris Agreement, the combined Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) of countries who committed to this target will still ultimately condemn present and future generations to a devastating 3-degree Celsius average increase in the global temperature. Disturbingly, the commitments submitted by the governments of the North fall way below their fair share in combating climate change. The worst lurks in the offing for, should all the coal projects under construction and in the pipeline go online it would usher in a 6-degree Celsius average global temperature increase.

2. The Global North, in continuing to deny their responsibility by not committing to and pursuing an ambitious mitigation pathway, is condemning numerous species to extinction and an end to biological life as we know it, even as we already contend with the impacts of a destabilized climate. It is putting the lives, homes, and livelihoods of peoples across the globe in harm’s way.

3. At the frontlines of suffering from the worst impacts of the climate crisis are indigenous peoples, women, children and youth, workers, farmers, pastoralists, elderly people, differently abled and other marginalized and vulnerable communities, especially of the Global South, who, without the technology and resources to adapt, are left to fend for themselves. This poses an added burden to their daily struggles for survival in the face of poverty, want, hunger, political disenfranchisement, and discrimination.

4. Real solutions to the climate crisis exist in many communities, and we need governments to recognise and promote them. Most, if not all, countries continue to pursue a development pathway heavily reliant on the mass-scale extraction and burning of fossil fuels, however, it is the North who engage in the transfer of their emissions to the South to socialize liability to the detriment of developing countries while concentrating economic gains in their favor. Northern countries and the elites of the South persist in peddling false solutions like the deceptive, dirty lie of “clean coal”, geo-engineering schemes, carbon capture and storage (CCS), bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) as the answer to the much-vaunted industrialization of countries in the South.

6. While we agree on our right to development, as the right of all peoples, we believe that development should not be through dirty energy or else it is not development. Development must mean building sustainable societies, empowering people and communities, challenging injustice, discrimination and inequality at all levels and ensuring security, well-being and peace for all people.

7. We oppose all new coal projects. Furthermore, the climate science demands that all fossil fuels must remain in the ground to keep us from breaching the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold as set in the Paris Agreement. The North must scale up its ambitions in emissions reductions to steer the world away from the road to perdition. All countries should do their fair share of effort. It is thus imperative for countries of the North to fully decarbonize by 2030 and all countries well before 2050. Thus, the North must start phasing out its coal projects now. The South must cancel all coal projects in the pipeline while pursuing the transition to clean renewable forms of energy.

8. We must absolutely resist the attempts by the coal industry and governments to lock us in to coal power, leaving us with stranded assets. Coal extraction and burning do not only cause negative climate change impacts, they result in adverse health and environmental impacts threatening local ecosystems and community livelihoods. In areas where there are coal projects, resisting communities are met with and subjected to intimidation, harassment, human rights violations and other forms of violence.

9. Moreover, Southern governments should not hide behind the poor in their countries. While there are legitimate demands to address energy poverty in the south (1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity), this has been used as an excuse to promote dirty energy policies, which have only benefited elites, transnational corporations and financial institutions, and the governments that support them. Though Southern governments have rightly called out Northern countries for their culpability in creating the climate crisis, we have reached our ecological limits, and no country, North or South, can afford to pursue a carbon-intensive development pathway.

10. The remaining carbon budget must be equitably divided across countries, based on historical responsibility and historical emissions. We oppose the trading of countries’ share of carbon budget, as we oppose nature being turned into a trade-able commodity in other forms as well. The remaining carbon budget must be used for the country’s own development not for export and trade.

11. In the South, our countries have great, enormous potential for clean and renewable energy technologies. However, there are certain renewable energy projects that have contributed to social conflicts, land-grabbing, and exacerbating inequalities. We thus take a strong position that renewable energy projects must be implemented in an equitable, just, safe, sustainable, and democratic way that benefits all and creates truly sustainable societies. We can and must achieve energy sovereignty through fundamental transitions to 100% clean, safe, affordable, locally-appropriate and socially-owned, democratic renewable energy technologies. We also call on the North to deliver climate finance to the South in order to make the clean energy transition possible.

12. We reject any mitigation action that reinforces prevailing exploitative and oppressive relations and policies. Equity and justice should be the driving consideration in taking on the climate crisis.

13. Clearly, the climate science confirms that the sun has set on coal and other fossil fuels. They no longer have a place in an increasingly uncertain future. It is this generation that will make the difference. The urgency to act is especially true for countries of the South who are now bearing the brunt of climate-induced disasters. It is, thus, important for peoples of the South to unite and demand for immediate actions from the North and from their own governments. The window to act is fast closing. Our actions now carry intergenerational consequence as the welfare of this and future generations is hinged on the decision we make today. We offer hope and solidarity by resisting the continued fossil fuel dependence and struggling for genuine change.

Tuloy ang laban! (Onwards with the struggle!)

Signatories of attending organisations:

Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development

Botswana Climate Change Network – Botswana

CENSAT Agua Viva/ Friends of the Earth Colombia

Change/350Vietnam – Vietnam

Center for Energy, Ecology and Development – Philippines

Centre for Environmental Justice/ Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka

Ecodefense – Russia

Earthlife Africa – South Africa

Egyptians Against Coal – Egypt

Environics – India

GreenID – Vietnam

groundWork/FOE South Africa – South Africa

JATAM – Indonesia

Justica Ambiental/FOE Mozambique – Mozambique

Kenya Civil Society Platform on Oil – Kenya,

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice – Philippines

The Egyptian Centre for Civic and Legislation Reform – Egypt

Umeedenoo – Pakistan

Walhi/ Friends of the Earth Indonesia

The Tragic Murder of Berta Caceres

In the early hours of the morning of 3rd March, Indigenous activist from Honduras and human rights defender, Berta Cáceres, was murdered in her home.
 
Berta Caceres 2015 Goldman Environmental Award Recipient

Berta Caceres in the Rio Blanco region of western Honduras. Photo courtesy: Goldman Environmental Prize

Berta organised her fellow indigenous Lenca people. She was the co-founder, in 1993, of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). She was addressing the constant threats posed to indigenous communities in Honduras by illegal logging, and was supporting their fight for their territories and secure their livelihoods. They were opposing the Agua Zarca dam on the sacred Gualcarque river, which was being pushed by Chinese and Honduran companies.
Berta Caceres 2015 Goldman Environmental Award Recipient

Berta Caceres at her beloved and sacred Gualcarque River where she, and the people of Rio Blanco have maintained a two year struggle to halt construction on the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric project. Photo courtesy: Goldman Environmental Prize

 
Since the US-backed military coup in Honduras in 2009, activists and human rights defenders have been under severe threat. Gustavo Castro Soto, from Otros Mundos Chiapas (Friends of the Earth Mexico) was in Berta’s home and is a witness to Berta’s killing. As of this writing, we are demanding that Honduran authorities provide him with safe passage to return to Mexico unharmed.
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  Photo courtesy: Friends of the Earth International.

The Business of Manufacturing Doubt

We are a few short weeks away from what is meant to be an important event. An event where our world leaders get together to deal with one of the biggest threats of our time and to humanity as a whole: climate change. The event is the much-hyped COP 21 in Paris, France.

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Paris COP21 logo

Yet, almost everyone that really cares about stopping this climate catastrophe does not expect any major success or real solutions coming out of Paris this December. It is expected to be just another failed COP in a long line of endless failures of our leaders to have any backbone about dealing with climate change. And yes it just the political will that is potently lacking, because real solutions to the problem exist and people are working on such solutions every day.

So how can it be that after 21 long years of negotiations, we are still discussing and we still haven’t managed to figure out how to fix the problem of climate change in a global, binding and coordinated manner? The reasons are many, but there is one aspect of the problem that I would like to explore more, and which I feel has been a central cause of the problem around delayed action on climate change. That is the prevalence of manipulation of narratives, through “misdirection”, “distraction”, and “creation of doubt.”

In studying media coverage during the nineties until recently, we often saw an ongoing debate, often with one expert stating that climate change was happening and explaining the need for action, while another claimed that the science was unclear, complicated and that we needed to do more research and discussions before we do anything since that could cause major economic costs. This format gives the false impression that the scientific field is balanced in these different views, that there is still a debate to be had, that there are divergent opinion within the experts. If one looks at the time given to these two views, it is either equal time or in the case of some US channels actually more time is given to climate deniers then to the true experts.

Just in case some of you have been duped by this, it is useful to go through a quick timeline to understand how corporations and governments have been especially effective at redefining the narrative in the face of overwhelming evidence. As early as 1859 Tyndall shows the effect of greenhouse gases and suggested that increases in these gases could case climate change. In 1896 Arrhenius releases its first study calculating the effect of global warming from human emissions of CO2. Just a year later Chamberlin produced the first simple global carbon model with feedbacks, while Callendar in 1938 used records from 147 weather stations to show a correlation between temperature increase and CO2 concentrations. Since then more and more research has clearly showed the link between human-based emissions and climate change, such issues as data showing CO2 based global warming is underway, from the melting of Antarctic ice sheets, to complex global weather models showing the existence of climate change and much, much more all this already existed by the 1960s.

In the 1970s, numerous conferences and institutions starting raising concerns about climate change, with an ever-increasing consensus among leading scientists that serious global climate change was caused by humans and that action was necessary. In the 1970s there were still scientists and experts that had doubts, but as their own research continued one by one they shifted to the truth. By 1985, already 30 years ago, the Villach Conference had declared consensus among experts and called on governments to consider international agreements to restrict emissions.

The world reacted and in 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established and in 1990 they released their first report stating that the world was warming. In 2005, the Kyoto Protocol became the first international law to deal with climate change. Many felt it was too weak, but given that this was a first step, with a guarantee that stronger agreements were to follow, many felt that at least things looked like they were heading in the right direction. However, as we all know it didn’t go as hoped and the Kyoto Protocol died a slow, painful death around 2012 with no new binding global agreement to replace it. Reason seems to have retreated and it feels we are further away from a solution than we were even 10 years ago.

Today for every 100 research papers published on climate change, 99 support the reality of climate change. Don’t be surprised if the last one which doesn’t support the reality is funded by the fossil fuel industry. The problem is that decisions are not based on facts, but political and corporate interests. However, civil society can be a major thorn in the side of these narrow corporate interests; hence defining a narrative to their interests becomes an important part of continued corporate control of our spaces and government.

The public relations type approach that corporates use to develop their narratives is not fine-tuned to facts but rather to peoples’ interests and emotions. It is based on charm, slickness, catchy messages and charisma, and therefor very effective. In contrast the factual science-based approach to develop a narrative is far more restrictive as it needs to be based on data, on falsifiable hypotheses and complex details that are regularly revised, changed and fine-tuned as new research and data are constantly being discovered. This isn’t a good path for igniting mass interest. Add the fact that corporations control most of the media sources, or have the funds to spread their toxic untrue narrative to an endless degree. We can start to understand why we are failing.

In the case of the climate change narrative a further dose of distraction, intentional misinterpretation, suppression of facts, dubious think tanks, pseudo-experts, and more, have even further distorted the odds. For those who are interested in more details can read an interesting book titled “Merchants of Doubt” or watch the documentary of the same name. This book reveals the history of corporate public relations efforts to cast doubt, confusion and skepticism around genuine scientific research if that research goes against their self-interest.

merchants of doubt book

Merchants of Doubt book

The interesting thing that one notices when reading the book is how similar has been the doubt-generating approach to diverse topics and issues from DDT pesticides to ozone depleting CFC´s, from acid rain to the flame-retardants industry. All used the corporate narratives to create doubt and skepticism on the existence of a problem, leading to major delays is solving these issues. The first step to solving any problem is agreeing that there is a problem. If the problem is ignored for long enough, then the solution of what it will take to stop this crisis, can well be ignored. The case that really stands out in the book is that of tobacco industry. The strategies used today for casting doubt on climate change were so similar to the strategies for fudging the health impacts of tobacco. There is even an overlap of the actual pseudo-experts involved. If you can sell big tobacco´s narrative, you can sell any narrative.

Also the reason why tobacco is an important case study is because they wrote the book on using public relations to keep the reality and consequences well hidden. An infamous 1969 tobacco executive memo explained it best by saying “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

The science was clear already in 1950 with numerous studies showing the link between cancer and tobacco. By the end of the 1950s, even the tobacco´s own research had concluded that their product was addictive and caused cancer. In the light of this the tobacco industry realized that denying the harms of smoking would not be enough or effective as a sales strategy. Instead it was important to insist that there were “two sides” to the story and to use the transient and changing nature of science in their favour. It got heavily involved in funding opposing research and partnering with research institutions, and even created some such as the Tobacco Industry Research Committee (TIRC). At least the link with the TIRC was clear, most of the funding was not made known it came from the tobacco industry so to seem independent. Some of the research was heavily base, but some was genuine and good, such as the link between genetics and cancer, but the use of the research was to create alternative hypothesis to better develop doubt.

They developed a diverse and intense advertising campaigns becoming the biggest advertisers in sports and other sectors. They used influential professions such as getting doctors to support the use of tobacco or at least to claim that they smoked. It is technically not a lie, but one can see the problem from miles away. They sponsor celebrities, and sell lifestyles. They were among the first to link up with Hollywood for product placement in movies. The 80´s superman movies had Superman and even Lois Lane (confident girlfriend) smoke for the first time in the franchise and throughout the movies there were Malboro adverts.

All this allowed the tobacco industry to avoid regulation, legislation, liaibility, etc, but more sadly it allow the continued delay to solving the problem and must always keep in mind that when one says delays it mean much more than time, it often mean loss of life.

Climate change has followed the same strategy and the fossil fuel industries and others have been successfully delaying action and capturing our global spaces such as the UNFCCC to the point where even thought the last IPCC report on climate change highlighted the severe and shocking state of our climate and called for drastic action, we still do not expect much of the Paris COP, which is where we met to get some form of international agreement. We have the facts, we know what needs to be done, but our leaders do not want to do it….and the general public in the critical countries like the USA are “doubtful” of the true causes of climate change. Many still doubt  if climate change really exists or not. It may seem like a joke to us, but it is true in many parts of USA. It also help to deny climate change when accepting it means changing some of the excesses of consumption that has become part and parcel of the American way of life and a path that many of our elites have adopted and even elaborated on.

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Stop global warming! Roads sign in Muscat, Oman, September 2009

Now this may seem like a global issue with big players outside the reality of Mozambique, but many of these tricks and strategies are being used day-by-day with us, with Mozambique´s civil society. Its was used when dealing with the illegal logging, the gas, the coal and much more. It is currently happening with Prosavana, one of the largest land grabs in Africa, were civil society has identified numerous fatal flaws and have asked for a halt to the project. The government has done numerous fancy looking documents showing the benefits. It has done a master plan with all the correct language of sustainability, equity, community empowerment, gender sensitivity, etc…They know what to say and they know that what they say and what they do doesn´t have to be the same. Once the project has started its almost impossible to stop, so they just need to say the right thing until the ball gets rolling.

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Coal mining dust in Tete province, Mozambique

Hence, the government has shown a willingness to sit down and discuss. “Let’s not be extreme, they say. “Let’s not halt the project, but find a solution to improve this Prosavana program, work together, etc. It places civil society in a situation where if we say no it makes us look stubborn and feeds the notions of being extreme. The truth is that while we sit down and discuss, chat and work together the project continues. Word stay words and nothing changes in reality. We increase the credibility of the project as they can claim civil society participations. We have been there and have done that too many times.

Let me put it in a simpler way. If I served you a fish that was rotten, you would not accept it and send it back. My reaction should be to say sorry and getting something new, but instead of me throwing it out I say let us talk about it, let us fix the problem. Well I can put salt and piri-piri to help improve the taste and a lot of garlic to improve the smell. Let us not be extreme and compromise. Would you now eat the rotten fish? Didn’t think so. Hence we should find ways ourselves having to discuss projects and issues that are fundamentaly flawed and which affect so many people so deeply. It because the fish is only a few meticais so we can throw it out, but these projects and issues are millions of dollars and that is enough to buy over morality.

The later the change occurs the less impact it has and the slower the results. Do not forget that these issues are linked to peoples’ lives. In the case of climate change one must not forget when we discuss this limit or that limit, we are basically discussing if a few million people can die or many millions can die, that how sever the situation is if we delay action or do too little too late. Do not let the powers at be take us on these endless roundabouts while they continue to impact peoples’ lives.

 

Maputo Declaration of African Civil Society on Climate Justice

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Climate justice advocates, community peoples and mass movements’ representatives met in Maputo, Mozambique from 21-23 April 2015 to consider the roots, manifestations and impacts of climate change on Africa and to consider needed responses to the crises.

At the end of the deliberations it was agreed that Africa is disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis although she has not significantly contributed to the problem. The conference also noted that the climate crisis is systemic in nature and is a result of defective economic and political systems that require urgent overhaul. In particular, the meeting considered that Africa has been massively plundered over the centuries and continues to suffer severe impacts from resource exploitation and related conflicts.

The meeting noted that the Africa Rising narrative is based on the faulty premises of neoliberalism using tools like discredited measures of GDP and is presented as a bait to draw the continent deeper into extractivism and to promote consumerism.

The meeting further noted human and environmental rights abuses on the continent, as well as the ecological, economic, financial crises, all adversely affect her peoples and impair their capacity to adapt to, mitigate impacts and build collective resilience to climate change.

The meeting frowned at the widening gap between our governments and the grassroots and the increasing corporate capture of African governments and public institutions. These constitute obstacles to the securing climate justice for our peoples.

The long walk to climate justice requires mass education of our populace, as well as our policy makers, on the underpinnings of the climate crisis, the vigorous assertion of our rights and the forging ahead with real alternatives including those of social and political structures and systems. It also demands collective and popular struggles to resist neo-colonialism, new forms of oppression and new manifestations of violence including criminalisation of activists and social movements, and xenophobia. We recognise that as climate change worsens, it will increase the resource crunch and migrations and will lead to more conflicts between people. We also recognise that the exploitation of migrant labour by corporations often leads to conflicts between neighbouring countries.

With justice and equality as the irreducible minimum, the conference further noted and declared as follows:

  1. All nations must act together to ensure that global average temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels as anything beyond that will mean a burning of Africa;
  1. In Paris COP21, we demand that African governments defend positions that benefit Africans not the World Bank or corporations;
  1. We reject carbon markets, financialisation of land and natural resources, consumerism and commodification of nature, and all forms of carbon slavery;
  1. We reject all false solutions to climate change including, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), industrial tree plantations, genetic engineering, agrofuels and geoengineering, noting, for example, that clean coal does not exist;
  1. We reject the false notion of “green economy” that is nothing but a ploy to commodify and hasten the destruction of nature;
  1. Renewable energy that is socially controlled must be promoted across the continent.
  1. We call for the creation of financial systems that promote and facilitate clean energy options including by supporting subsidies, facilitated loans, research and development;
  1. We demand an end to financial systems built on extensive subsidies, externalisation of costs, over-optimistic projections, and corruption;
  1. We resolve to work towards reclaiming energy as a public good that is not for profit and reject corporations-driven energy systems;
  1. We say no to mining as we lived better without extreme extractive activities.
  1. Our land is our present and our future livelihood and we reject land grabbing in all its forms including particularly for so-called “investment” projects that are setting the path beyond land grabbing to a full continent grab;
  1. There must be full, transparent and prior informed consent of communities before the use of their lands for any sort of projects;
  1. In all cases the welfare of local communities and our environment must come be prioritised over the profits of investment companies.

In line with the above and through other considerations, the conference demands as follows:

  1. Governments must ensure that the energy needs and priorities of local households, local producers and women – including with regard to social services, transport, health, education and childcare – should be privileged over those of corporations and the rich;
  1. We demand that no new oil exploration permits or coal mines should be granted in order to preserve our environment and to keep in line with demands by science that fossil fuels be left in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change;
  1. We call for and support public and social control of the transition to renewable energy, including by community-based cooperatives, civil society collectives and the provision of local level infrastructure;
  1. Governments must dismantle the barriers of privilege and power including those created and reinforced by financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank;
  1. We demand urgent technology transfer for clean energy production, the abolishment of intellectual property and increased research and development funds to tackle climate change;
  1. We demand full recognition of local community knowledge of forests, food production, medicinal and cultural uses of land and forests; funding of research in this area and use as part of the public education system;
  1. We demand an urgent transition from dirty energy forms to clean energy systems while ensuring that workers are properly equipped and provided with new healthy jobs created by this shift;
  1. Governments must support agro-ecological food production in the hands of small scale producers, prioritise food production over cash crops in order to promote food security in the context of food sovereignty;
  1. Governments to ensure the protection and recognition of farmers’ rights to save, sell and exchange their seeds while rejecting genetic engineering and synthetic biology, including of those seeds manipulated and presented as being climate smart;
  1. Ensure access, security, control, and right to use land for women. We recognise land as a common good;
  1. Tree plantations must not be misrepresented as forests and trees must not be seen simply as carbon stocks, sinks or banks;
  1. Community forest management systems should be adopted across the continent as communities have a genuine stake in preserving the health of forests;
  1. The right to clean water should be enshrined in the constitutions of all African countries;
  1. Governments must halt the privatisation of water and restore public control in already privatised ones;
  1. Governments should halt the building of big dams, other mega structures and unnecessary infrastructure;
  1. Governments should be responsible for holding corporations accountable for all environments degraded by ongoing or historical extractive and other polluting activities. Corporations who have created this contamination must pay to clean it up, but their payment does not constitute ownership of these environments;
  1. Governments to ensure the cost of social and health ills by using energy derived from fossil fuels are not externalised to the people and the environment;
  1. Governments must take up the responsibility of providing hospitals, schools and other social services and not leave these for corporations to provide as corporate social responsibility or other green washing acts.

Conference participants resolved to work with other movements in Africa and globally for the overturning of the capitalist patriarchal system promoted and protected by the global financial institutions, corporations and the global elite to secure the survival of humans and the rights of Mother Earth to maintain her natural cycles.

Signatures:

(A). Signers who participated in the meeting:

Lista

(B). Organisations that signed in solidarity after the meeting: 

  1. Southern Africa Green Revolutionary Council (SAGRC)
  2. GRAIN
  3. COECOCEIBA – Friends of the Earth Costa Rica
  4. Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC)
  5. Friends of the Earth Brasil
  6. Sobrevivencia – Friends of the Earth Paraguay
  7. Movimiento Madre Tierra – Friends of the Earth Honduras
  8. Otros Mundos Chiapas – Friends of the Earth México
  9. CESTA – Friends of the Earth El Salvador
  10. CEIBA – Friends of the Earth Guatemala
  11. CENSAT Agua Viva – Friends of the Earth Colombia
  12. NAPE – Friends of the Earth Uganda
  13. Russian Social Ecological Union / Friends of the Earth Russia
  14. Friends of the Siberian Forests Russia
  15. Oilwatch International
  16. Oilwatch Africa
  17. Carbon Trade Watch
  18. Chalimbana Headwaters Conservation Trust, Zimbabwe
  19. Gaia Foundation
  20. United Methodist Caretakers of God’s Creation.
  21. Mupo Foundation
  22. Surplus People Project
  23. Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo extractivo Minero ­M4
  24. The Inter­American Platform for Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD)
  25. Holy Cross International Justice Office
  26. The Corner House
  27. Global Justice Now
  28. Biofuelwatch, UK/US
  29. Corporate Europe Observatory
  30. Woodland League (Ireland)
  31. Consumers Association of Penang (Malaysia)
  32. Institute for Policy Studies, Climate Policy Programme (USA)
  33. Earth in Brackets
  34. Grassroots International
  35. The Rules
  36. INT Lawyers (International Lawyers)
  37. Khulumani Support Group (South Africa)
  38. Global Forest Coalition
  39. World Rainforest Movement
  40. Young Friends of the Earth Europe
  41. CCFD-Terre Solidaire
  42. The Union Of Agriculture Work Committees (UAWC) in Palestine
  43. One Million Climate Jobs Campaign
  44. International Development Exchange (IDEX)
  45. Oilwatch Latin America
  46. Friends of the Earth Togo
  47. Centre pour l’Environnement et le Development Cameroun (CEDCAM) / Friends of the Earth Cameroon

The world should remember: Lima talks did nothing to stop the climate crisis

The UN climate change talks in Lima are over. Instead of finishing on Friday afternoon, they went on till 4am on Sunday. It came close to a few break-downs because developing countries were really pushing back at the way at which developed countries were trying to control the situation. But finally there was a so-called ‘consensus’. But make no mistake, what was agreed in Lima did not and will not do anything to stop climate change.

The final approved text was driven by the interests of rich developed countries and corporations. This contrasted sharply with the real leadership and inspiration demonstrated in Lima by social movements, organisations and the communities on the frontline, who are already suffering the impacts of climate change.

Rich developed countries came to Lima determined to ensure that the outcome reflected their short term economic interests, as if the climate crisis really does not matter. The outcome lacks courage, justice and solidarity with the billions of people affected by climate change.

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Activists chanting “no justice, no deal” 2 hours before the final terrible text was approved. Photo credit: Yumi Sato
At the same time as the negotiations, again this year the Philippines endured more extreme weather and communities around the world are paying for the carbon excess of others with their lives and livelihoods. The Lima outcome failed people and the planet at a time when real solutions are needed more urgently than ever before.

The outcome says nothing about the drastic emissions reductions needed before 2020, without which we are at risk of an even greater temperature rise and climate breakdown. The outcome undermines historical responsibility. The urgent obligation of developed countries to provide climate finance is glaringly missing. This text creates an architecture that will set us up for a doomed deal in Paris. This is completely unacceptable. Governments of developed countries need to urgently find the necessary courage and political will to deal with the scale of this planetary emergency.

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Protest inside COP 20 demanding an end to dirty energy. Photo credit: Luka Tomac

But away from the negotiating halls, people continue to mobilize and build an enduring movement to implement the real solutions to the climate crisis. Justiça Ambiental was there observing and building alliances with movements and organisations. The Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change (Cumbre de los Pueblos/ Cupula dos Povos) – which ran parallel to the UN talks – gathered together social movements and organisations from Peru, Latin America and all over the world. They exchanged experiences and continued to build momentum for the transformation needed to address the roots of the climate crisis and create a better, cleaner and more just world.

Almost 20,000 people marched in a huge protest (the March in Defense of Mother Earth) on December 10 — international human rights day.

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Thousands marching into the historic Plaza San Martin in central Lima, demanding climate justice. Photo credit: Luka Tomac

From farmers to miners to environmentalists to students… Marchers called for justice and real solutions to the climate crisis, including steep and immediate reductions in carbon emissions, stopping fossil fuels and deforestation, building renewable community-owned energy solutions, and protecting our agroecological food sovereignty systems.

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No false solutions! No REDD! Demands from the Dec 10 Human Rights Day march in Lima. Photo credit: Babawale Obayanju

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