Japan Turns Its Back on Kyoto Protocol

Environment News Service (ENS)
Japan rocked the UN climate talks in Cancun Monday with the declaration that the Japanese government would not agree to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.

Jun Arima, an official with Japan’s Economics Trade and Industry Department, said that his country would not inscribe its greenhouse gas emissions target under the Kyoto Protocol on any conditions or under any circumstances.

“Even if the Kyoto Protocol’s extension becomes a major item on the agenda at Cancun and Japan finds itself isolated over it, Japan will not agree to it,” said Hideki Minamikawa, vice minister for global environmental affairs at the Environment Ministry.

Japan’s move surprised many delegations although Prime Minister Naoto Kan, said as early as October that he was opposed to simply extending the Kyoto Protocol beyond its expiry date of 2012 if a replacement agreement is not reached in time.
(2 Decmber 2010)

GOP Moves Quickly to Kill House Climate-Change Panel

Bloomberg News, Boston Globe
Republicans will eliminate the House committee created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to highlight the threat of climate change, Representative James Sensenbrenner, the top Republican on the panel, said yesterday.

In one of her first acts as speaker in 2007, Pelosi, a California Democrat, created the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to draw attention to climate-change science and showcase how a cap on carbon dioxide need not be a threat to economic growth.

Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat, was named chairman.

Republicans, who won control of the House in the Nov. 2 election, have opposed legislative efforts to regulate carbon emissions.
(2 Decmber 2010)

The Cancún Climate Summit – Opening Day Coverage

Albert Bates, Peak Surfer
Cancún, México. Uniformly, expectations are being downplayed for any concrete action to be achieved here, which makes one only wonder, so why are 15,000 people converging on Cancún to work on a treaty to prevent catastrophic climate change?

Michael Jacobs, one of UKPM Gordon Brown’s climate change advisers, told a London newspaper “Let’s get the bad news out of the way first – there isn’t going to be a legally binding global climate treaty for at least three years.” That seems the consensus view here.

Which made it all the more interesting that on one wall of Cancún Messe are these charts of delegates’ and observers’ carbon footprints for all of the Climate COPs since the Earth Charter was translated into the big three frameworks for action (the convention on climate change, the convention on biodiversity and the convention on desertification) — 17 years ago.

If people are trying to save the planet from the runaway carbon cycle, is having meetings in places that maximize our carbon footprint the best way to do that?

Cancún is particularly poignant as COP sites go, because it is such a perfect encapsulation of the mental disconnect between the scale of the challenge and what will be actually required. We can either impose that requirement on ourselves by legally-binding treaty or it will be imposed on us involuntarily by Newtonian physics. Nature bats last.

A mere forty years ago this area had been a string of small fishing villages working the seemingly inexaustible reef ecosystems for a daily catch, and beyond the beach, dense rainforest and tiny, remote Mayan settlements all the way to Mérida, the colonial capital of New Spain.

México decided to invest its one-time bonanza of petrodollars — now in rapid decline, not to say freefall — in tourism. In that 40 years it went from exporting food to the world to becoming a net importer of its most important staples — rice, beans and corn. Instead of selling huaraches and jalapeños, it sold turquoise beaches, Jose Cuervo tequila, and Corona. México cut a 50-mile swath of mangroves to erect luxury resort hotels and tethered itself to multi-thousand-mile jet flights from London, Paris and Atlanta. Now that peak oil has arrived, it is a good day to die.

Climate change will heal the sore that Cancún has scratched, because all of this will soon enough be under the Caribbean Sea. It was there recently before, between just the last two ice ages, when a 1-degree C increase covered a large part of this flat, low-lying Yucatán Peninsula with ocean. This will happen again, in the lifetime of many of the delegates here. Perhaps that is why they are partying like its 1999.

The center of the conference is in the Hotel Moon Palace, with 2,457 rooms fetching some $750 per night. Each room comes with a double-occupancy Jacuzzi and a sea view, liquor dispenser with top shelf brands of whisky, rum, tequila and vodka, and LCD TV with Fox News locked in. There are three Jack Nicklaus golf courses and spas and a half-dozen upscale restaurants with dinner buffets starting at $50 if you didn’t book the all-inclusive. You can swim to two of the restaurants (and three beach bars) by either the ocean or the 220-meter chlorine river that winds through the connecting patios by the beach. With their rooms comp’d by their governments, delegates can unwind with a hot stone and aloe massage by the pool, balneotherapy in one of 6 private suites, or facials and body scrubs in 20 spa rooms.

… So it should come as no surprise that at the official reception dinner, where all the music was provided by military bands, the food was catered by Margarita Carrillo de Salinas, owner and executive chef of Don Emiliano in Cabo San Lucas, Casa México in Mexico City and La Colina in Tokyo. Chef Margarita is the leader of the Slow Food movement in Baja and recently accepted a UN award on behalf of México for its “World Heritage” cuisine. It was lovely to see La Maestra getting down with the Mariachis and dancing until after midnight with delegates and NGOs.

In all of this, there is an abiding sense of dancing on a grave. The trouble is, it is our grave. All of ours. There is no joy in that, not really. There is only a profound disconnect.
(30 November 2010)
Albert Bates, permaculturalist, activist and writer, is blogging on the Cancun conference at his blog. Some articles are also posted on Jan Lundberg’s site Culture Change. -BA

Cancún climate change summit: Is God determined to prevent a deal?

George Monbiot, Guardian
While the rich parts of the world are covered in snow and ice, the rest of the world cooks

Is the divine presence a Republican? Or is He/She/It running an inter-galactic fossil fuel conglomerate? As His name doesn’t feature on the exxonsecrets site, the Congressional funding database or any of the other sponsored denier lists, we’ll never know, but whatever the explanation may be, the Paraclete appears to be as determined as any terrestrial corporate frontman to prevent a successful conclusion to the climate talks.

How do I know? Because every time anyone gets together to try to prevent global climate breakdown, He swaths the rich, densely habited parts of the world with snow and ice, while leaving obscurer places to cook.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organisation has just reported that 2010 is likely to be one of the three warmest years on record. Combining the WMO’s database with the temperatures measured by the US agencies Nasa and NOAA gives this year a ranking so far of equal first or equal second. But you’d scarcely believe it if you live in northern Europe or parts of the US, where (alongside a few anomalously hot ones) we’ve been hit by a series of freakishly cold weather events.

During the climate talks in Copenhagen last December, a band of hideous weather was aimed with surgical precision at Denmark, the UK, Germany, France, Russia and the US. Everything above and below this band was unseasonally hot: in the case of the Arctic, 7.5C above the monthly average. As we don’t live in the Arctic, we didn’t notice, but the cold weather in London, Washington, Paris, Berlin and Copenhagen was missed by no one. To prove that it was no accident, the man upstairs ensured that the entire tract of sea between the UK and Denmark was anomalously warm, even as people stuck in the endless queues outside the Bella Centre in Copenhagen were fainting from the cold.
(2 Decmber 2010)

Vía Campesina: Statement on the Climate Summit in Cancun

CLOC-Vía Campesina
As the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations — CLOC / Via Campesina — we appeal to women, men, youth, children and elderly people worldwide to join the great global movement called “Thousands of Cancuns for Climate Justice” which is a clear demonstration not only that the peoples and social movements are engaged in the debate, construction and positioning of the discussion around climate change but also, that we are denouncing and resisting the model of development that has deepened the climate crisis.

In this regard, we affirm that the Peoples’ Accord emitted at the Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, is one of the most interesting proposals. We therefore demand that it be debated and further developed within COP 16, along the same approach that it was built on, that is, within the framework of the discussions and proposals of the peoples, social movements and organizations. As CLOC / Via Campesina we believe that the capitalist model based on the exploitation of natural resources, with the idea of unlimited progress, is primarily responsible for the environmental disaster that we are now experiencing.

The impact of the climate crisis that affects all of humanity is the result of the implementation of this perverse model that prioritizes market policies at the expense of life itself. For farmers and peasants of the world, climate change has a direct impact on both rural and urban areas, with floods, droughts, disruption of natural rain cycles and the emergence of new pests, that are destroying small-scale agriculture and livestock that contribute substantially to feeding the majority of human beings, when hunger remains a major challenge for the world.

Faced with this situation, as the CLOC / Via Campesina, a historical movement that interconnects struggles at the continental level:

1. We bring our energies as La Via Campesina International, chanting our slogan “Peasant agriculture cools the planet”, as our banner of struggle and resistance. We believe this is a way to support a de-privatization struggle for life as a viable, existing and really possible alternative.

2. We declare the failure of the Cancun Climate Summit in wanting to impose an illegitimate “agreement”, since the prior negotiating tables are managed by a handful of countries outside the genuine process of multilateral negotiations. We consider that blackmail is being used to try to bring off this imposition.
(29 November 2010)

Food Security Wanes as World Warms

Janet Raloff, Science News
Since summer, signs of severe food insecurity — droughts, food riots, five- to tenfold increases in produce costs — have erupted around the globe. Several new reports now argue that regionally catastrophic crop failures — largely due to heat stress — are signals that global warming may have begun outpacing the ability of farmers to adapt.

Some one billion people already suffer serious malnutrition. That number could mushroom, the new reports argue, if governments big and small don’t begin heeding warning signs like spikes in the price of food staples.

Severe summer droughts in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan ravaged 2010 cereal yields. When Russia, the fourth largest wheat exporter, imposed an export ban in August, international markets responded with price spikes.
(2 Decmber 2010)