Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New Year, No Resolutions on Climate Change

After the dramatic conclusion of the Bali talks over the weekend, MADRE produced a new commentary, illustrating some of the obstacles still to come. Here is an excerpt:

    Thanks in large part to pressure brought to bear by other delegates, the US representatives finally signed the Bali Action Plan. But what sort of a plan is this? The best that delegates in these climate change negotiations were able to say is that the path is open for progress in 2009, when a presumably more amenable US administration will be in office. In short, the Bali Action Plan represents the lowest common denominator of government positions and barely advances the climate agenda... (read more)

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Climate Change Has a Woman's Face

As the conference in Bali draws to a close, we thought this would be a good opportunity to recap a few of the key issues that MADRE emphasizes, such as the failure to include a gender perspective in climate negotiations and the need to employ a human rights framework in all strategies to address climate change. Amid dismal reports that US pressure has prompted negotiators to remove language referencing a specific target of 25-40% emissions cuts by 2020, this video, featuring Yifat, reminds us that the human face of climate change is a woman’s face.

Women’s leadership must guide the process of responding to climate change, and MADRE is proud to support this leadership. MADRE will continue to be engaged in the climate justice movement, and we are organizing an event in New York next month to continue this crucial discussion. If you are in the New York area, come hear from women working locally and globally to create community initiatives and international policies that address climate change and promote human rights and social justice. The panel will take place on January 24th, 2008 at Kimball Hall, New York University, from 10:30 am - 12:30 pm.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Indigenous Peoples Denounce the New Forest Carbon Partnership Facility

The World Bank can’t get a break. Despite every attempt to clothe their profit-oriented, short-sighted projects in the guise of “climate-friendly” programs, global civil society has been watching and has called them out on every turn. Yesterday, World Bank President Robert Zoellick—who you may also remember at the former US Trade Representative—held a press conference to announce the launch of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. Meanwhile, NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations gathered outside to stage a protest of this initiative.

It’s bad enough that the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility is just carbon trading by another name, which does more to increase the profits of polluting companies than to reduce carbon emissions. But these projects actually threaten to worsen climate change, by focusing on mono-culture tree plantations instead of preserving the biodiversity of existing forests. You can read more of our analysis on this particular approach to reducing deforestation here and here.

Even while paying lip service to the principle of free, prior, and informed consent protected by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in practice the World Bank has trampled this standard. When Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, asked the World Bank why it had failed to consult with the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus on its proposed Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, their answer was revealing. She was told point-blank that the project was “too abstract for Indigenous Peoples to understand.”

Only after this appalling rationale was exposed did the World Bank agree to hold consultations with the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus. But this tendency has been consistent in the larger proceedings of the Bali climate change conference. A civil society statement rejecting the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility can be found here.

In other news today, the negotiations in Bali shifted into high gear over whether to include mandatory emissions targets—a measure opposed by such big polluters as the US, Canada, China, and Japan—and with the end of the conference on Friday fast approaching. The draft text for the meeting currently references emissions reductions of 25%-40%, and even this weak “non-binding” language has sufficiently raised the hackles of US delegates to prompt an absolute rejection.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Climate Change on International Human Rights Day

This weekend, trade and finance ministers from 32 of the world's richer countries descended on Bali. There's no clearer sign of the direction that the UN climate change convention negotiations are moving in. An estimated 184 million people in Africa alone could be dead from climate change within a few decades. Clearly, it's time to formulate economic policies in keeping with the Earth's environmental limits. Instead, US and European Union trade ministers are in Bali clamoring for poorer countries to lift their tariff barriers on "environmentally friendly" products like wind turbines and hydrogen fuel cells (even though the UNFCCC obligates industrialized countries to undertake technology transfers to enable other countries to develop along a less carbon-intensive path).

In other words, it's business as usual, with the North's same-old trade agenda driving global environmental policy. As Nicola Bullard, senior researcher at Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based think tank, said, "The U.S. and the E.U. are trying to profit even after having polluted the world."

We arrived back in New York today, on International Human Rights Day—a particularly good moment to consider that technology transfers, and many other adaptation and mitigation projects being considered this week Bali, are not charitable contributions from the industrialized North. They are in fact human rights obligations. That's because impacts of climate change, such as hunger, homelessness, lack of sanitation and healthcare, displacement, and loss of culture are internationally recognized as human rights violations.

The principle of compensation for victims of pollution is firmly established in international environmental law. So are principles of human rights, like the right to a means of subsistence, the right to property (not only property that you own, but also land that your culture and physical survival depends on), the right to health, the right to culture, and the right to life. All of these rights—enshrined in international instruments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (signed 59 years ago today), and the International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights—are violated by governments that fail to redress the impacts of climate change.

The global track record on climate change needs dramatic improvement in order to promote human rights. Developed countries, and especially the US, must stop dragging their feet on setting up mandatory carbon emission cuts. But they also need to make sure that the policies they do put in place don't create a whole new set of human rights violations. That's exactly what's happening now with policies like industrial-scale agrofuels, the CDM, and so called "avoided deforestation." Women, in particular, are being harmed in the places where these policies are being put into effect.

We've focused a lot on this gendered dimension of climate change policies in the blog so far. And today, on International Human Rights Day, we want to emphasize that climate change should not be viewed an opportunity to promote free trade, but as a human rights issue. Human rights is the framework that can best protect women and families in the places most effected by climate change and generate solutions to protect us all for the long term.

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How Carbon Emissions Cause Human Trafficking: The Human Rights Connection (Plus Video)

It is no secret that critical dangers—such as hunger, climate disasters, and drought—now confront people across the world, and that these threats are exacerbated by human-triggered climate change. But in the official meetings in Bali, there's been little discussion of the fact that women are disproportionately threatened by climate change.

This is true both because it's women's responsibility to provide their families with food, water, fuel wood, and other natural resources being destroyed by climate change; and because women have far fewer resources to survive and adapt to climate change. This year, governments have finally started discussing the pretty obvious fact that poor people will be the ones hurt first and worst by climate change. But few are talking about the fact that 70% of poor people worldwide are women.

During our many meetings, briefings, and discussions here in Bali, we have emphasized the need to infuse issues of gender and social justice into the climate change discussion.

To drive the point home, MADRE organized a public panel alongside the official discussions. We were joined by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; Simone Lovera of the Global Forest Coalition; and Anastasia Pinto of the Centre for Organisation Research and Education in India.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz laid out her critique of the dominant scheme being promoted as a solution to climate change: the carbon trade. Simone Lovera spoke of the human rights violations perpetuated by agrofuel plantations in Paraguay. And Anastasia Pinto talked about what happens to many women and children in the immediate aftermath of climate disasters. Here's what she had to say:

"The first ones to reach the disaster scene are not the rescue workers, the police, or the humanitarian aid agencies. The first ones to arrive are the traffickers. They descend within 24 hours and are gone again within 72 hours—just as the aid agencies begin to arrive. The traffickers simply sweep the area, picking up dazed children who are wandering about lost and young women who are frantically searching for their babies. Everyone is desperate to escape the area, so people go with them willingly. Once the women and children—some as young as three or four—realize that these men are not taking them to safety or helping them find their families, it is too late. By then they have been pushed into the most damaging, hazardous, and soul-destroying work there is. Climate disasters are a golden opportunity for this industry."

Below we've posted a few videos from the MADRE side event.

Simone Lovera, on the effects of agrofuel plantations on Indigenous Peoples:

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, on the faulty logic of the carbon trade:

Yifat Susskind, on the dangers of widespread agrofuel expansion:

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Saturday, December 8, 2007

PS About Deforestation

Want more information about deforestation, climate change, and women's human rights? Click here for more of MADRE's analysis and to get a glimpse of the message that we have been conveying here in Bali.

Here's a hint about the root of the problem:

"Our enormously productive economy…demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and selling of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever-increasing rate." Read on to find out who said that.

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Global Trade Rules Damage Climate and Biodiversity

The severe endangerment of the orangutan has made news headlines, and so have the efforts of those trying to save the lives of the remaining few. But the degradation wrought by climate change on the whole range of our planet's life—from tiny microbes that form the basis of our ecosystems on up—is a catastrophe less often denounced. Climate change is accelerating the eradication of more species than have been lost at any other point in human history—more than 140,000 each year. This loss of life threatens to radically alter conditions for human survival.

Women across the world have been at the forefront of movements to protect biodiversity, with their knowledge of seeds, genetic resources, and agriculture. This MADRE analysis details why biodiversity is a women's issue and explains how government policies, particularly global trade rules, are threatening the survival of the planet as we know it.

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