Spend the trillions on climate

December 15, 2008

By MARTIN KHOR, Third World Network, December 15, 2008

The two crises of our times — economic recession and global warming — should be tackled together. The trillions of dollars earmarked for economic recovery can be spent to fight climate change.

THE economic crisis should not stop governments from serious action to combat climate change, but should instead be an opportunity to fund climate-related activities.

This was a clear message that came out of the last days of the United Nations climate talks at Poznan in Poland.

The two major crises of our times – the economic recession and global warming – were addressed by the UN secretary-general and some world leaders at the opening ceremony of the ministerial segment of the two-week talks.

If the US and Europe can come up with so many trillions of dollars to save their financial institutions within a few months, surely there is money to tackle the climate crisis, which is a far bigger problem involving the world’s survival.

This point was made most emphatically by Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo, who warned of an emerging mood that countries cannot act on climate when there is an economic crisis.

“If Europe sends a signal that it can make commitments on climate only in prosperous times, what are developing countries, including India and China, going to say?” he asked. “Some balk at the financial resources required, but if there is political will this money can be found, like the US$7 tril (RM25tril) raised for tackling the financial crisis.

“We hear the banks and financial institutions need to be bailed out as they are too big to fail. Climate change is an even bigger problem, in which we cannot fail.”

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon said the world faced two crises, the financial and climate crises. He proposed that a big part of the fiscal stimulus that countries are planning to counter the recession with be spent on investing in a green future that fights climate change and creates jobs.

He said that leadership is needed, and mentioned Europe, the US (where the incoming administration is putting energy and climate at the centre of US policy), China (where one fourth of its fiscal stimulus package is to scale up energy conservation and environmental protection), and India (with its climate plan and its development of solar and wind energy).

“The coming year is the year of climate change,” Ban said. “While the economic crisis is serious, the stakes in climate are higher, and climate change must be at the top of our national agendas. There can be no backsliding.”

He called on countries to break free from entrenched positions, from who is to blame and who will move first.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia, whose Pacific island state is facing extinction from rising sea levels, attacked the lack of progress in the fund under the Kyoto Protocol meant to help countries adapt to climate change.

“We need the funds now as climate change is already affecting us,” he said. “But some key developed countries are making the adaptation fund inaccessible to developing countries. This is totally unacceptable.”

While the Poznan talks were going on, bad news came from a summit of European leaders in Brussels which decided to lower the targets set for their industries to comply with regulations to limit their Greenhouse Gas emissions.

The companies are asked to cap their emissions at specified levels and those exceeding these have to pay for permits under the original scheme.

The Brussels meeting last Friday agreed to exempt many of the most polluting industries from payment, after complaints from auto and other companies affected by the recession.

Major groups such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Oxfam immediately attacked the decision as a betrayal of what had previously been European leadership on climate action.

Although the European Union is to keep its target of reducing emissions by 20% by 2020, the groups estimated the Summit decision will allow companies to pay others outside the EU to undertake up to two-thirds of the total reduction for them.

There will thus be little domestic action to curb emissions.

The high rhetoric in Poznan was thus being contradicted by the political decisions in Brussels.

The Poznan meeting was given a little boost by the presence of some American figures linked to US President-elect Barack Obama, like Senator John Kerry who promised the new administration would soon take climate action at home and globally.

The proof of the pudding is, however, in the eating, and we will soon see if this rhetoric is matched or contrasted with real action by the US, which under President Bush has been the worst “climate sceptic” refusing to take action.

The Poznan talks ended early on Saturday morning, and there will be many more meetings next year as the countries race to reach a global deal on actions by December.

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Save the Planet from Capitalism: Letter on climate change from the Bolivian President Evo Morales

December 12, 2008

November 28, 2008

Letter of the President of Bolivia, Mr. Evo Morales Ayma, which he sent to the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Mr. Yvo de Boer.

Climate Change: Save the Planet from Capitalism

Sisters and brothers:

Today, our Mother Earth is ill. From the beginning of the 21st century we have lived the hottest years of the last thousand years. Global warming is generating abrupt changes in the weather: the retreat of glaciers and the decrease of the polar ice caps; the increase of the sea level and the flooding of coastal areas, where approximately 60% of the world population live; the increase in the processes of desertification and the decrease of fresh water sources; a higher frequency in
natural disasters that the communities of the earth suffer (1); the extinction of animal and vegetal species; and the spread of diseases in areas that before were free from those diseases.

One of the most tragic consequences of the climate change is that some nations and territories are the condemned to disappear by the increase of the sea level.

Everything began with the industrial revolution in 1750, which gave birth to the capitalist system. In two and a half centuries, the so called “developed” countries have consumed a large part of the fossil fuels created over five million centuries.

Competition and the thirst for profit without limits of the capitalist system are destroying the planet. Under Capitalism we are not human beings but consumers. Under Capitalism mother earth does not exist, instead there are raw materials. Capitalism is the source of the asymmetries and imbalances in the world. It generates luxury, ostentation and waste for a few, while millions in the world die from hunger in the world. In the hands of Capitalism everything becomes a
commodity: the water, the soil, the human genome, the ancestral cultures, justice, ethics, death … and life itself. Everything, absolutely everything, can be bought and sold and under Capitalism. And even “climate change” itself has become a business.

“Climate change” has placed all humankind before great choice: to continue in the ways of capitalism and death, or to start down the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.

In the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the developed countries and economies in transition committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% below the 1990 levels, through the implementation of different mechanisms among which market mechanisms predominate.

Until 2006, greenhouse effect gases, far from being reduced, have increased by 9.1% in relation to the 1990 levels, demonstrating also in this way the breach of commitments by the developed countries.

The market mechanisms applied in the developing countries (2) have not accomplished a significant reduction of greenhouse effect gas emissions.

Just as well as the market is incapable of regulating global financial and productive system, the market is unable to regulate greenhouse effect gas emissions and will only generate a big business for financial agents and major corporations.

The earth is much more important than stock exchanges of Wall Street and the world.

While the United States and the European Union allocate 4,100 billion dollars to save the bankers from a financial crisis that they themselves have caused, programs on climate change get 313 times less, that is to say, only 13 billion dollars.

The resources for climate change are unfairly distributed. More resources are directed to reduce emissions (mitigation) and less to reduce the effects of climate change that all the countries suffer (adaptation) (3). The vast majority of resources flow to those countries that have contaminated the most, and not to the countries where we have preserved the environment most. Around 80% of the Clean Development Mechanism projects are concentrated in four emerging countries.

Capitalist logic promotes a paradox in which the sectors that have contributed the most to deterioration of the environment are those that benefit the most from climate change programs.

At the same time, technology transfer and the financing for clean and sustainable development of the countries of the South have remained just speeches.

The next Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen must allow us to make a leap forward if we want to save Mother Earth and humanity. For that purpose the following proposals for the process from Poznan to Copenhagen:

Attack the structural causes of climate change

1) Debate the structural causes of climate change. As long as we do not change the capitalist system for a system based in complementarity, solidarity and harmony between the people and nature, the measures that we adopt will be palliatives that will be limited and precarious in character. For us, what has failed is the model of “living better”, of unlimited development, industrialisation without frontiers, of modernity that deprecates history, of increasing accumulation of goods at the expense of others and nature. For that reason we promote the idea of Living Well, in harmony with other human beings and with our Mother Earth.

2) Developed countries need to control their patterns of consumption – of luxury and waste – especially the excessive consumption of fossil fuels.  Subsidies of fossil fuel, that reach 150-250 billions of dollars (4), must be progressively eliminated. It is fundamental to develop alternative forms of power, such as solar, geothermal, wind and hydroelectric both at small and medium scales.

3) Agrofuels are not an alternative, because they put the production of foodstuffs for transport before the production of food for human beings. Agrofuels expand the agricultural frontier destroying forests and biodiversity, generate monocropping, promote land concentration, deteriorate soils, exhaust water sources, contribute to rises in food prices and, in many cases, result in more consumption of more energy than is produced.

Substantial commitments to emissions reduction that are met

4) Strict fulfilment by 2012 of the commitments (5) of the developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% below the 1990 levels. It is unacceptable that the countries that polluted the planet throughout the course of history make statements about larger reductions in the future while not complying with their present commitments.

5) Establish new minimum commitments for the developed countries of greenhouse gas emission reduction of 40% by 2020 and 90% by for 2050, taking as a starting point 1990 emission levels. These minimum commitments must be met internally in developed countries and not through flexible market mechanisms that allow for the purchase of certified emissions reduction certificates to continue polluting in their own country.

Likewise, monitoring mechanisms must be established for the measuring, reporting and verifying that are transparent and accessible to the public, to guarantee the compliance of commitments.

6) Developing countries not responsible for the historical pollution must preserve the necessary space to implement an alternative and sustainable form of development that does not repeat the mistakes of savage industrialisation that has brought us to the current situation. To ensure this process, developing countries need, as a prerequisite, finance and technology transfer.

An Integral Financial Mechanism to address ecological debt

7) Acknowledging the historical ecological debt that they owe to the planet, developed countries must create an Integral Financial Mechanism to support developing countries in: implementation of their plans and programmes for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change; the innovation, development and transfer of technology; in the preservation and improvement of the sinks and reservoirs; response actions to the serious natural disasters caused by climate change; and the carrying out of sustainable and eco-friendly development plans.

8) This Integral Financial Mechanism, in order to be effective, must count on a contribution of at least 1% of the GDP in developed countries (6) and other contributions from taxes on oil and gas, financial transactions, sea and air transport, and the profits of transnational companies.

9) Contributions from developed countries must be additional to Official Development Assistance (ODA), bilateral aid or aid channelled through organisms not part of the United Nations. Any finance outside the UNFCCC cannot be considered as the fulfilment of developed country’s commitments under the Convention.

10)  Finance has to be directed to the plans or national programmes of the different States and not to projects that follow market logic.

11) Financing must not be concentrated just in some developed countries but has to give priority to the countries that have contributed less to greenhouse gas emissions, those that preserve nature and are suffering the impact of climate change.

12) The Integral Financial Mechanism must be under the coverage of the United Nations, not under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and other intermediaries such as the World Bank and regional development banks; its management must be collective, transparent and non-bureaucratic. Its decisions must be made by all member countries, especially by developing countries, and not by the donors or bureaucratic administrators.

Technology Transfer to developing countries

13) Innovation and technology related to climate changes must be within the public domain, not under any private monopolistic patent regime that obstructs and makes technology transfer more expensive to developing countries.

14) Products that are the fruit of public financing for technology innovation and development of have to be placed within the public domain and not under a privateregime of patents (7), so that they can be freely accessed by developing countries.

15) Encourage and improve the system of voluntary and compulsory licenses so that all countries can access products already patented quickly and free of cost. Developed countries cannot treat patents and intellectual property rights as something “sacred” that has to be preserved at any cost. The regime of flexibilities available for the intellectual property rights in the cases of serious problems for public health has to be adapted and substantially enlarged to heal Mother Earth.

16) Recover and promote indigenous peoples practices in harmony with nature which have proven to be sustainable through centuries.

Adaptation and mitigation with the participation of all the people

17) Promote mitigation actions, programs and plans with the participation of local communities and indigenous people in the framework of full respect for and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The best mechanism to confront the challenge of climate change are not market mechanisms, but conscious, motivated, and well organized human beings endowed with an identity of their own.

18) The reduction of the emissions from deforestation and forest degradation must be based on a mechanism of direct compensation from developed to developing countries, through a sovereign implementation that ensures broad participation of local communities, and a mechanism for monitoring, reporting and verifying that is transparent and public.

A UN for the Environment and Climate Change

19) We need a World Environment and Climate Change Organization to which multilateral trade and financial organizations are subordinated, so as to promote a different model of development that environmentally friendly and resolves the profound problems of impoverishment.  This organization must have effective follow-up, verification and sanctioning mechanisms to ensure that the present and future agreements are complied with.

20) It is fundamental to structurally transform the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the international economic system as a whole, in order to guarantee fair and complementary trade, as well as financing without conditions for sustainable development that avoids the waste of natural resources and fossil fuels in the production processes, trade and product transport. In this negotiation process towards Copenhagen, it is fundamental to guarantee the participation of our people as active stakeholders at a national, regional and worldwide level, especially taking into account those sectors most affected, such as indigenous peoples who have always promoted the defense of Mother Earth.

Humankind is capable of saving the earth if we recover the principles of solidarity,
complementarity, and harmony with nature in contraposition to the reign of competition, profits and rampant consumption of natural resources.

Footnotes:

1. Due to the “Niña” phenomenon, that becomes more frequent as a result of the climate change, Bolivia has lost 4% of its GDP in 2007.

2. Known as the Clean Development Mechanism

3. At the present there is only one Adaptation Fund with approximately 500 million dollars for more than 150 developing countries. According to the UNFCCC Secretary, 171 billion dollars are required for adaptation, and 380 billion dollars are required for mitigation.

4. Stern report

5. Kyoto Protocol, Art. 3.

6. The Stern Review has suggested one percent of global GDP, which represents less than 700 billion dollars per year.

7. According to UNCTAD (1998), Public financing in developing countries contributes with 40% of the resources for innovation and development of technology.


‘Don’t Leave it to the World Bank’

December 10, 2008

By Ramesh Jaura, IPSNews, December 10, 2008

POZNAN, Dec 10 (IPS) – Leading environment groups have opposed plans to hand over financing to check climate change to the World Bank.

Industrialised countries may be required to provide more than 100 billion dollars for developing countries to build low-carbon economies, according to unofficial estimates. This money should not be handled by the World Bank, 142 organisations fighting for climate justice said in a joint statement Tuesday (Dec. 9) at the UN climate talks under way in the Polish city Poznan.

The talks joined by some 11,000 participants from 192 nations began Dec. 1. They enter a critical phase Thursday (Dec. 11) when environment ministers and senior government officials begin the ministerial segment of the talks, and conclude the marathon gathering the next day.

The two-week sessions are a bridge between climate change talks in Bali (December 2007) and Copenhagen, a halfway mark in negotiations on an ambitious and effective global climate change deal due to be concluded in the Danish capital next year.

As discussions continue here on ways to guarantee that developing countries have direct access to mitigation and adaptation funds, the group of non-governmental organisations from around the globe said the World Bank Group was positioning itself to take significant control of climate change financing.

In a joint statement they called instead for climate funds and their utilisation to be made fully accountable to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The G-77 group of developing countries and China, together representing 133 developing countries at the UN climate talks, are known to favour climate funds under the UNFCCC.

“The World Bank is not a credible institution to play any role in addressing the climate crisis,” says Friends of the Earth U.S. international finance campaigner Karen Orenstein. “Its climate investment funds are irreparably flawed and should be shut down.

“Developing countries urgently need billions of dollars — to cope with the increase of storms, droughts, famines and floods that they face due to climate change, and to build low carbon economies. But these funds must come through financial mechanisms controlled by the UN climate convention, in which all parties have equal say.”

“It is simply outrageous for climate financing to be given to southern countries in the form of loans,” said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Jubilee South Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development.

“Peoples of the South are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of poverty and lack of government programmes and resources, which is in no small part due to the debt they are forced to pay to northern countries,” Nacpil added.

“Now the World Bank and northern governments, who bear overwhelming responsibility for the climate crisis, want our people to assume the cost of dealing with its impacts and add to our debt burdens. This is unjust on many levels. Further, it is sheer hypocrisy for the World Bank to claim any role in supposedly assisting the South in addressing the climate crisis when it continues to finance environmentally destructive projects and policies.”

The three-page statement signed by organisations from all continents argues that the World Bank is not only a major climate polluter and a major deforester, but a major rights violator. Above all, it is “an undemocratic institution”. Besides, the statement says, its recent climate initiatives are severely flawed.

Despite professed concern regarding climate change, the World Bank is actually increasing its support for fossil fuel projects, the document argues. From 1997 to 2007, the Bank is said to have financed carbon dioxide emissions about 45 times the annual emissions of the UK.

In the last year, the World Bank group has increased lending for coal, oil, and gas by 94 percent, totalling over 3 billion dollars. Coal lending alone increased 256 percent in the last year.

The World Bank’s own 2004 extractive industries review recommended an immediate end to coal financing and a phase out of investments in oil production by 2008. It found that “…oftentimes the environment and the poor have been further threatened by the expansion of a country’s extractive industries sector.”

Yet in April 2008, the Bank approved a 450 million dollar loan for a massive 4,000 megawatt coal project in India, expected to be one of the 50 largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world. “Given the World Bank’s existing and increasing support for fossil fuels, it is an inappropriate institution to lead the fight against global climate change,” the joint statement says.

Backing its view that the World Bank is “a major deforester”, the paper says deforestation accounts for some 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but the Bank continues to promote industrial logging and agrofuels.

A 2007 World Bank inspection panel report strongly criticised the Bank’s support for industrial logging and violating the rights of indigenous Pygmy and other forest-dependent communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the world’s second largest tract of rainforests.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector lending arm of the World Bank group, finances soy and oil palm plantations, cattle ranching, and shrimp farming in mangrove forests.

The IFC has a long record of support for livestock-based agribusiness, with a 732 million dollar investment over a six-year period for livestock production projects. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of global warming emissions.

The World Bank is a major rights violator, the joint statement says, because numerous communities throughout the world — from those impacted by the Chad-Cameroon pipeline to the Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project in Laos — have suffered human and environmental rights violations as a direct result of World Bank-backed projects.

The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) will include forests in dubious carbon offsetting schemes that allow industrialised countries to buy their way out of meaningful emissions reductions.

“In violation of the Bank’s own policies, the FCPF has failed to ensure meaningful participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in its design,” the environment groups say. (END/2008)