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‘Climate capitalism’ won at Cancun – everyone else loses | Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

December 15, 2010

Not everybody agrees about the Cancun Agreement… There are so many different perspectives… I believe everybody should read more before forming their own judgements… =)

Here’s a link to an article… what do you think?

– aLgae

– – –

Read the full article –

‘Climate capitalism’ won at Cancun – everyone else loses | Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.


For Bolivia’s UN ambassador Pablo Solon, Cancun “does not represent a step forward, it is a step backwards”, because the non-binding commitments made to reduce emissions by around 15 per cent by 2020 simply cannot stabilise temperature at the “level which is sustainable for human life and the life of the planet”.


Most specialists agree that even if the unambitious Copenhagen and Cancun promises are kept (a big if), the result will be a cataclysmic 4-5°C rise in world temperature over this century, and if they are not, 7°C is likely. Even with a rise of 2°C, scientists generally agree that small islands will sink, Andean and Himalayan glaciers will melt, coastal areas – such as much of Bangladesh and many port cities – will drown and Africa will dry out – or in some places flood – so much that nine of ten peasants will not survive.

The politicians and officials have been warned of this often enough by climate scientists, but are beholden to powerful business interests that have lined up to either promote climate denialism, or to generate national-versus-national negotiating blocs destined to fail in their race to gain most emission rights. As a result, in spite of a band-aid set of agreements, the distance between negotiators and the masses of people and the planet grew larger not smaller over the last two weeks.



Wikileaking climate bribery

To illustrate, smaller governments were “bullied, hustled around, lured with petty bribes, called names and coerced into accepting the games of the rich and emerging-rich nations”, says Soumya Dutta of the South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy. “Many debt-ridden small African nations are seeing the money that they might get through the scheming designs of Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), and have capitulated under the attack of this REDD brigade. It’s a win-win situation, both for the rich nations, as well as for the rich of the poor nations. The real poor are a burden in any case, to be kept at arms length – if not further.”



REDD as wedge

Besides Bolivia’s leadership, the world’s best hope for contestation of these power relationships rests with civil society activism. Along with La Via Campesina network of peasant organisations, which attracted a Mexico-wide caravan and staged a militant march that nearly reached the airport access road on the morning of December 7 as heads of state flew into Cancun, the most visible poor peoples’ representatives were from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). On December 8, IEN spokesperson Tom Goldtooth was denied entry to the UN forum due to his high-profile role in non-violent protests.



The founder of watchdog NGO REDD-Monitor, Chris Lang, argues that attempts to reform the system failed because, first, “protecting intact natural forest and restoring degraded natural forest is not a ‘core objective’ of the REDD deal agreed in Cancun. We still don’t have a sensible definition of forests that would exclude industrial tree plantations, to give the most obvious example of how protecting intact natural forest isn’t in there – also ‘sustainable management of forests’ is in there, which translates as logging.”

Second, says Lang, “The rights and interests of indigenous peoples and forest communities are not protected in the Cancun REDD deal – they are demoted to an annex, with a note that ‘safeguards’ should be ‘promoted and supported’. That could mean anything governments want it to mean.”
During the Cancun negotiations, positioning on REDD came to signal whether climate activists were pro- or anti-capitalist, although a difficult in-between area was staked out by Greenpeace and the International Forum on Globalisation, both, confusingly, advocated a non-market REDD arrangement (as if the balance of forces would allow such). But they and their allies lost, and as Friends of the Earth chapters in Latin America and the Caribbean explained, “The new texts continue seeing forests as mere carbon reservoirs (sinks) and are geared towards emissions trading.”



Climate debt and command and control

Many critics of REDD and other CDMs, including Evo Morales, put the idea of climate debt at the core of a replacement financing framework. They therefore demand that the carbon markets be decommissioned, because their fatal flaws include rising levels of corruption, periodic chaotic volatility and extremely low prices that are inadequate to attract investment capital into renewable energy and more efficient transport. Such investments minimally would cost the equivalent of €50/tonne of carbon, but the European Union’s emissions trading scheme fell from €30/tonne in 2008 to less than €10/tonne last year, and now hovers around €15/tonne. This makes it much cheaper for business to keep polluting than to restructure.



Climate justice instead of climate capitalism

But by all accounts, one reason the climate-capitalist fantasy moved ahead at Cancun so decisively was the fragmented nature of this kind of resistance. Crucial ideological and geographical divides were evident within Mexico’s progressive forces, a problem which must be avoided in the coming period as the healing of divisions over market-related strategies proceeds. Grassroots activists are unimpressed by Cancun’s last-gasp attempt at climate-capitalist revivalism.

Indeed, the limited prospects for elite environmental management of this crisis confirm how badly a coherent alternative is needed.

Fortunately, the Peoples’ Agreement of Cochabamba emerged in April from a consultative meeting that drew 35,000 mainly civil society activists. The Cochabamba conference call includes:

  • 50 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2017;
  • stabilising temperature rises to 1°C and 300 parts per million;
  • acknowledging the climate debt owed by developed countries;
  • full respect for human rights and the inherent rights of Indigenous people;
  • a universal declaration of rights of Mother Earth to ensure harmony with nature;
  • establishment of an International Court of Climate Justice;
  • rejection of carbon markets and commodification of nature and forests through REDD;
  • promotion of measures that change the consumption patterns of developed countries;
  • end of intellectual property rights for technologies useful for mitigating climate change; and
  • payment of 6 per cent of developed countries’ GDP to addressing climate change.


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