Civil Society, Climate Change, Environment, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines

CLIMATE CHANGE: “We’re Not Finished Yet,” Civil Society Warns

Raúl Pierri and Daniela Estrada - IPS/TerraViva*

COPENHAGEN, Dec 19 2009 (IPS) - The climate change summit proved to be a “spectacular failure even according to its own terms,” but civil society had “some successes,” such as the inclusion of certain issues on the climate agenda, and making the voice of the South heard loud and clear.

Civil society march in Copenhagen.  Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

Civil society march in Copenhagen. Credit: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS

That was how activists assessed their efforts at 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as the climate change talks came to an agonising end Saturday in Copenhagen.

Barred from the Bella Center, the official venue, and treated harshly by security forces at some of the massive demonstrations held throughout the two weeks of the conference, representatives of civil society – gathered simultaneously in the Danish capital at their own people’s climate summit, Klimaforum09 – highlighted a series of victories achieved.

“Despite the lack of transparency, civil society organisations have given visibility to positions that are more in line with climate justice, which we see as the only way to move towards a sustainable planet,” Eduardo Giesen, Latin American and Caribbean coordinator for Friends of the Earth International’s Climate Justice and Energy Programme, told TerraViva.

“We focused our efforts on supporting developing countries so they could present a united front against the demands of the industrialised world, and not give in to pressures that in some cases bordered on colonialism,” he added.

Klimaforum09 closed its two weeks of activities with a concert and a ceremony where this year’s organisers transferred organisational duties to representatives of Mexico and Latin America, where the next parallel summit will be held in 2010.

“The general sensation is that what wasn’t achieved at the Bella Center was achieved at Klimaforum” in terms of content consensus and forging of alliances, Giesen said.

For her part, Canadian journalist and researcher Naomi Klein called on activists to not give up hope. “I think it’s really important to make sure that we don’t leave this gathering feeling discouraged,” she said.

According to Klein, the fact that negotiators at the Bella Center were unable to reach an agreement even within their own conception of how to address climate change is proof that it is a failed model.

“That’s why it is very important to go forward and tell a different story of what happened here in Copenhagen. That story must be that their model reveals itself to be a spectacular failure even according to its own terms,” she said.

“And because their model failed, it’s our turn now. So don’t allow yourselves to get depressed,” she added.

In Klein’s view, the model has failed because of its emphasis on the carbon market and other market-based mechanisms.

“Discourse about climate change has been really taken over by technocrats, (it’s become) very bureaucratised, and has been extremely exclusive. This is actually similar to the discussion on trade a decade ago, where it was all acronyms, all incredible impenetrable long talks,” she said.

“And many people felt: I can’t be part of the discussion, I don’t have an advanced degree on economics, I can’t participate,” she added.

Klein underlined the need to reject “the model” in which negotiations are conducted under the Convention.

“We need to reject any measure that allows the countries that created the problem to evade their responsibility, (which is) that they need to cut their emissions,” she stressed.

For his part, Giesen condemned international NGOs that “toe the line” of industrialised countries and back counterproductive mechanisms.

“Our NGOs work with communities to achieve environmental justice. We haven’t turned into consultancy firms seeking to finance their activities by any means, like certain multinational NGOs who have found in the carbon market a way to make a lot of money. They’ve bought into capitalism,” he said.

Klein, meanwhile, highlighted what she saw as the “successes” of the last two weeks. “The rich world can no longer claim not to know (what) failing to act (entails). The voices of the South, the cost of millions of lives, the disappearance of countries and cultures – all that has landed on the agenda,” she said.

Changing the system

“System Change – Not Climate Change,” is the title of the final statement from Klimaforum09, signed by some 360 organizations from around the world.

Drafted months ago and discussed over the last week in the Danish capital, this “People’s Declaration” argues that “there are solutions to the climate crisis,” and puts forward six demands.

“What people and the planet need is a just and sustainable transition of our societies to a form that will ensure the rights of life and dignity of all people and deliver a more fertile planet and more fulfilling lives to present and future generations,” it states.

The signatory organisations called on governments to take urgent climate action, most importantly the “complete abandonment of fossil fuels within the next 30 years, which must include specific milestones for every five-year period.”

They also demanded “an immediate cut in GHG (greenhouse gases) of industrialized countries of at least 40 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2020,” and “recognition, payment and compensation of climate debt for the overconsumption of atmospheric space and adverse effects of climate change on all affected groups and people.”

The statement goes on to reject “purely market-oriented and technology-centred false and dangerous solutions,” such as “nuclear energy, agro-fuels, carbon capture and storage, Clean Development Mechanisms, biochar, genetically ‘climate-readied’ crops, geoengineering, and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).”

The “real solutions” are “based on safe, clean, renewable, and sustainable use of natural resources, as well as transitions to food, energy, land, and water sovereignty.”

The signatory organisations also proposed that an “equitable tax on carbon emissions” be established instead of “the regime of tradable emission quotas,” and that multilateral financial bodies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund “be replaced by democratic and equitable institutions functioning in accordance with the United Nations Charter.”

They also demanded a “mechanism for strict surveillance and control of the operations of TNCs (transnational corporations).”

“Irrespective of the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change, there is an urgent need to build a global movement of movements dedicated to the long-term task of promoting a sustainable transition of our societies,” the statement concludes.

*This story appears in the IPS TerraViva online daily published for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.

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