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Entries tagged "climate change"

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Serendipity at the climate negotiations

December 2, 2010 ·

Getting ready for the global climate summit in Cancun was a practice in not getting my hopes up. Everywhere I looked –the news, statements from the U.S., even in the environmental community – I was warned to keep my expectations of anything significant being accomplished this year low.

It was as if people had been traumatized by the outcome of last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen – a back-room deal that broke trust between the countries of the global South and North, blatant disregard for the right of civil society to participate in a process that would decide the fate of humanity, and in the end a total lack of commitment by the countries most responsible for climate change to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

OK, I admit, it was a little disheartening.

But I’m not ready to give up all hope. I believe that the people of the world are ready to push like hell to move forward on an agreement that’s based on science and equity. And to do it in a transparent, democratic way in multilateral spaces.

One experience in particular has left me feeling hopeful.

It was a last minute serendipitous meeting with the Conference of Youth. Late on Thanksgiving Day, I received an invitation to talk about Climate Justice Now – a network of movements and organizations dedicated to bringing social justice into the negotiations.

When I arrived the next night I made my way to the venue – a pool-side thatched roof hotel restaurant overlooking the lagoon – and was astonished to see well over 100 young climate activists. On a Friday night. In Cancun. And they were hanging out waiting anxiously to get down to business and talk climate change. That’s serious dedication.

The exchange was incredible. Myself and about a half dozen other guests from social movements, NGOs and campaigns shared our plans for Cancun in 15 minute speed-dating style pitches. In each round, I had an overflowing table of youth that wanted to talk about climate justice, and in particular, keeping the World Bank’s hands out of the climate finance cookie jar.

I went through my pitch about the World Bank’s track record of ecological and human rights violations. I talked about how the Bank has actually increased its fossil fuel lending by 116% this year to a record $6.6 billion. And I explained why the World Bank has to be kept out of climate finance because its “one-dollar-one-vote” system means that its programs and policies are skewed in favor of the world’s biggest historical greenhouse gas villains, leaving little say for those most impacted by climate change.

The result – the youth asked me to help arrange a briefing for their climate finance working group. We’re also strategizing about how youth can join the global campaign to keep the World Bank out of climate finance through actions, media and organizing inside and outside the negotiating halls.

To be honest, even if we don’t get a deal here in Cancun, I’ll leave Mexico hopeful in knowing that a new generation of economic and climate justice activists is coming into their own.

What Do the Elections Mean for the Environment?

November 4, 2010 ·

The Real News Network interviewed IPS's environmental expert Daphne Wysham on what's in store for the environment over the next two years.

Better Late Than Never: Obama puts solar panels on White House

October 5, 2010 ·

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 25: A group demanding that solar panels be put on the White House protest outside of the Fairmont Hotel before U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for a fundraiser May 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Hundreds of protestors from different political groups staged the demonstration at a campaign fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)"No."

That was the disappointing response from the Obama White House a few weeks ago to the plea from climate change activists who transported solar panels dating back to the Carter Administration to the White House to get them reinstalled. President Jimmy Carter placed solar panels on the White House roof during the energy crisis of the 1970s--only to see them removed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Writer and climate activist Bill McKibben and his group 350.org managed to find them, dust them off, and offer them up as one small gesture President Obama could take, sending a signal, once again, that the White House was serious about supporting clean, renewable energy. The rejection was stunning.

People puzzled over why. Maybe the White House figured placing panels from Carter on the White House roof would allow for too close an association with a one-term president. Maybe he just didn't get it.

Well, just as mysteriously, on October 5 came the announcement that the "no" had been transformed into a  "yes"--with some caveats. The White House will install a new set of solar panels and bring solar heated water some time in 2011.

Perhaps this change of heart had something to do with disgruntled climate change activists responding to the Obama Administration's first "no" with calls to indeed make him a one-term president. Maybe it had something to do with the upcoming mobilization of 350.org activists on October 10, 2010--10-10-10--in a global work party to take action on climate change with 6,174 events and actions planned in 184 countries. Or maybe it had a little to do with the fact that solar
is now out-competing nuclear power, with costs coming down for solar while costs continue to rise for nuclear, and the U.S. losing out to China in the production of solar cells.

Or maybe Obama finally listened to the U.S. Department of Energy which has claimed solar could indeed power the U.S. economy, dispelling the myth that base load power can only come from large coal, gas, hydro and nuclear power plants. The DOE claims that:

"...photovoltaic (PV) technology can meet electricity demand on any scale. The solar energy resource in a 100-mile-square area of Nevada could supply the United States with all its electricity (about 800 gigawatts) using modestly efficient (10%) commercial PV modules.. The land requirement to produce 800 gigawatts would average out to be about 17 x 17 miles per state. Alternatively, PV systems built in the "brownfields"—the estimated 5 million acres of abandoned industrial sites in our nation's cities—could supply 90% of America's current electricity..."

But whatever caused the change of heart, President Obama has restored a small sense of hope among climate activists that he really will make climate change a focus for him in coming months. It's a small gesture, but in dark times such as these, small gestures can lead to more meaningful and transformational ones. Let's hope this change of heart is one we can believe in.

Is the UN the Right Place to Talk About Climate?

June 8, 2010 ·

UN Climate Change conference, Bonn Germany.BONN, GERMANY – When I told my friends that I was heading to Bonn, Germany for a session of the UN climate talks, they bemoaned the general lack of anything interesting to do here. Why not go to a city with verve, like Berlin — or at least one with some culture, like Munich?

But Bonn has at two compelling things going for it.

1)     There is a killer museum honoring the life and work of Ludwig von Beethoven.

2)     The world's governments are gathered here for two weeks deciding how to carve up the atmosphere — one of the greatest remaining global commons.

The meeting here in Bonn is a follow-up to the better-known climate negotiations that took place in Copenhagen last December, where little consensus was reached within the official UN spaces.

At the same meeting, President Obama pushed through what has become known as the Copenhagen Accord — a statement that largely reflects U.S. positions and interests, which has gained signatures, if not support, from a growing number of countries.

But the accord’s very existence, the secretive manner in which it was drafted and the process for getting governments’ endorsement, have generated fierce debate about the efficacy of the UN as the forum in which to solve the climate crisis.

On one side of the debate are developed countries and NGOs that tow their line (invoking the need to remain politically relevant in battles over domestic climate and other legislation back home). These guys are generally of the belief that it’s impossible to get consensus among 192 countries, and so the UN is at best irrelevant and in the worst case, fumbles any hope of an effective negotiating process (as evidence they recount the image of long lines of freezing delegates locked outside conference halls in Copenhagen).

The proposal by this camp is to pull the key issues — targets, money, legal commitments — out of the UN and into smaller group discussions whose outcomes could be fed into the official negotiations — or not.

On the other side of the spectrum are many of the social movements from the anti-corporate globalization struggle calling for an overhaul of the way we think about climate change and its solutions. This camp sees the UN as a space where political positions are easily swayed by business lobbyists and undemocratic global institutions like the World Bank. They reject the UN as an illegitimate space in which to make decisions on the behalf of those most impacted by climate change — very often the same people who are marginalized by their own governments.

These movements are calling for peoples solutions manifested on the ground in each community, woven together in networks of solidarity and social justice.

But there’s a sweet spot between these two poles. While recognizing the UN’s limitations as a facilitator of negotiations with so much at stake, and that the process which they are attempting to facilitate is between parties that are not truly representative (or necessarily democratic) — the UN is the only forum were all countries that have signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change have equal representation. And as the People’s Conference on Climate Change recently hosted by the Bolivian government in Cochabamba shows, civil society can ally itself with progressive governments to make political and substantive policy interventions in these multilateral processes.

The question that still lingers is whether the chairs of the relevant UN working groups will incorporate people's proposals — in the form of official party submissions — into the global discussion this week in Bonn.

From the Frontlines: May 28th, 2010

May 28, 2010 ·

Goldcorp's Marlin open-pit mine in Guatemala in May 2010. Photo: Tracy Glynn/NB Media Co-opPeople will be marching against hate in Arizona this weekend, joining the AFL-CIO, SEIU, PDA, and the National Day Laborers' Union.

Sudan inaugurated incumbent President Omar Al-Bashir with pomp and circumstance yesterday in Khartoum.  While well attended by neighboring Arab leaders and Sudanese representatives, western and sub-Saharan leaders notably boycotted the ceremony, hoping to delegitimize the controversial elections last month.

Obama affirms moratorium on deepwater drilling and defended his administration’s response to the Gulf oil leak. In conjunction with the president’s press conference, the head of the Minerals Management Service in charge of the Gulf’s drilling operations announced his resignation.

A liability cap is just another term for "bailout." And it looks like, thanks to Mitch McConnell and others in the Senate, BP (yes, that BP) is poised to get one heck of a bailout for polluting our Gulf.

And on the other side of the Capitol, the House rebuffs a veto threat on the fighter jet engine program.

A landslide election in Ethiopia Monday reinstated four-time incumbent Zenawi Meles and his EPRDF party, despite a trend towards more open, democratic elections in the previous 2005 election cycle. 

"If the mine would leave, it would leave us in peace and we would live as before, happily. No more women would be persecuted and criminalized." Women stand their ground against a Canadian gold mine in Guatemala.

Indonesia announces a two-year moratorium on logging in an unprecedented climate change effort, acknowledging scientists’ estimates that deforestation accounts for 20 percent of all CO2 emissions.

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