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Cancún agreement rescues UN credibility but falls short of saving planet

Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian
Members of campaign groups Greenpeace and TckTckTck use a giant lifesaver ring to tell delegates at Cancún they can still make a difference to climate change. Photograph: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA/Rex Features

The modest deal wrangled out by the 200 countries meeting at the Mexican resort of Cancún may have done more to save a dysfunctional UN negotiating process from collapse than protect the planet against climate change, analysts said today.

“The UN climate talks are off the life-support machine,” said Tim Gore of Oxfam. “The agreement falls short of the emissions cuts that are needed, but it lays out a path to move towards them.”

The agreement produced in the early hours of Saturday reinforces the promise made by rich countries last year to mobilise billions for a green climate fund to help poor countries defend themselves against climate damage.

It was not clear how the funds would be raised.
(12 December 2010)

Cancun climate breakthrough: It’s not perfect, but it’s a deal

Kate Sheppard, Grist
t’s not perfect, and it’s not binding, but international climate negotiators have struck a deal.

The final hours in Cancun were a world of difference from the closing night of the Copenhagen climate talks. Last year’s summit closed with drama, confusion, and plenty of unhappy delegations, but the Mexico conference came to an end with multiple standing ovations for the host country and widespread concurrence among countries to approve the text of an agreement.

It was after 3:00 a.m. when the parties adopted the agreement — or two agreements, really: one that delays a decision on the future of the Kyoto Protocol and another laying out in more detail a new deal on climate that includes major emitters like the U.S. and China. Of the 194 countries represented in Cancun, 193 backed the text — which, while it falls short on many fronts, represented “a new era in international cooperation on climate change,” said Patricia Espinosa, the minister of foreign affairs for Mexico and president of the summit.
(11 December 2010)

Bolivia’s defiant leader sets radical tone at Cancún climate talks

John Vidal, Guardian
Evo Morales is drawing on an indigenous vision to challenge western positions on rising temperatures

Of all the ministers and politicians parading the world stage in Cancún last week, President Evo Morales of Bolivia knows best the impact of a theatrical entrance. His entourage includes 15 colourfully dressed, bowler-hatted indigenous Aymara, an admiral in gold braid, teams of advisers and white-coated bodyguards, Mayan priests and ambassadors.

When the mop-haired, chubby-faced poster boy of Latin American socialist politics speaks, they stand around him, filling the stage with the physical embodiment of what is now called the “plurinational” state of Bolivia.

But then Morales is a true individual, the only head of state in Cancún who dared to insist that the world should hold global temperature rises to just 1C. As he argues, nature has rights.

Yestarday Bolivia was diplomatically isolated at the end of the UN talks but remained unrepentant, accusing other governments of a disastrous lack of ambition. Some groups have pressed him to tone down his demands to ensure that a political deal could be done at Cancún.
(11 December 2010)

Reading the Coca Leaves: Climate Change, Cancun and Bolivia

Medea Benjamin, Common Dreams
… Many mainstream environmentalists were quick to defend the Cancun agreement, insisting that that a weak agreement is better than nothing, since it allows the international process to go forward and allows activists to keep fighting for better outcomes in the future rounds, including at next year’s talks that will take place in Durban, South Africa. No agreement, they suggest, would have stopped the process cold.

But we should be clear that the minimalist agreement from Cancun is totally inadequate to address the climate crisis. It acknowledges that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required, but does not set binding targets. This is due, in large part, to the refusal of the United States — from the time of the Kyoto Accords — to agree to mandatory cuts.

The agreement sets up a much-needed Green Climate Fund to help poor nations obtain clean technologies but does not lay out clear sources of financing or how the fund will be controlled. The governments agreed to give an interim trustee role to the World Bank, a move that angered groups in the global south that have suffered at the hands of Bank and activists who have opposed the Bank on a policy level.

The agreement embraces a policy on “deforestation mitigation” known as REDD, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. This gives polluters in the north a chance to buy carbon credits for protecting forests in the global south. Bolivia, and most organizations on the ground and in the streets of Cancun for the past two weeks, object to REDD on the grounds that it commodifies the forests of the global South, endangers indigenous control over the forests and their right to livelihood, and allows northern polluters to keep polluting. Bolivian negotiator Pablo Solon said handing out carbon credits for protecting forests makes it easier for industrialized nations to achieve their emissions reductions targets without taking domestic action to rein in greenhouse gases. “We want to save the forest, but not save developed countries from the responsibility to cut their emissions,” Solon said.

… I think Evo and my Bolivian coca farmer friend would agree that if we are to avoid ecocide, we cannot rely on government officials meetng in plush golf resorts. Instead, the solutions will come from organic farmers and social entrepreneurs. They will come activists who confront corporate polluters. They will come from passionate environmentalists putting even more pressure on their governments. They will come from those fighting for climate justice on their communities around the globe. Ultimately, they will come from a grassroots global movement steeped in the values of mother nature.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange. See Global Exchange’s new report on the Rights of Nature
(11 December 2010)

Cancun: Evo Morales Speaks on Climate Change and Capitalism

Bolivian president Evo Morales, Climate and Capitalism

“We came to Cancun to save nature, forests, planet Earth. We are not here to convert nature into a commodity. We have not come here to revitalize capitalism with carbon markets.”

Quotes from speech and press conference by Evo Morales, president of the plurinational state of Bolivia, at the UN climate talks in Cancun today, December 9, 2010. Climate & Capitalism will publish full transcripts as soon as they become available.

On what the goal of the summit should be:

“Our aim here is to look at how to cool down planet Earth. Our planet has a high temperature, it is wounded, and we are witnessing the convulsions of planet Earth. We have an enormous responsibility toward life and humanity. … I call on leaders to take responsibility, and make history by responding to the demands of the people.”

On the experience of Bolivians of climate change:

“It causes me a lot of a pain as President to listen to my brothers and sisters talking about permanent droughts… Without water, there is no production, and without production we lack food. It may be easy for us here in an air-conditioned room to continue with the policies of destruction of Mother Earth. We need instead to put ourselves in the shoes of families in Bolivia and worldwide that lack water and food and suffer misery and hunger. I feel that many delegates here have no idea what it is like to be a victim of climate change.”

On the need to tackle the causes of climate change:

“We talk about the effects and not the causes of the multiple crises we face: the climate crisis, the food crisis, the energy crisis. The climate crisis is one of the crises of capitalism. If we discuss and address these crises, we are are being responsible to our children, grandchildren and future generations.”

On the Kyoto Protocol:

“If, from here, we send the Kyoto Protocol to the rubbish bin we are responsible for ecocide and genocide because we will be sending many people to their deaths.”

On the consequences of an approach based on the Copenhagen Accord:

“According to the proposals from some powers, they are happy to put forward measures that would lead to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius and some think even of increases to 4 degrees. Imagine what our planet would look like with an increase in temperature of 2 degrees or 4 degrees, given that at 0.8 degrees we already have serious problems in the world.”

On the need to discuss the rights of nature:

“In past decades, the United Nations approved human rights, then civil rights, economic and political rights, and finally a few years ago indigenous rights. In this new century, it is time to debate and discuss rights of Mother Earth. These include the right to regenerate biocapacity, the right to life without contamination.”

On the need for new enforcement mechanisms to hold those responsible for climate change accountable:

“Laws must be complied with, which is why with much wisdom, the people have proposed creating an International Climate Justice Tribunal. We all know how important it is to create one to ensure compliance with the Kyoto Protocol.”

Against the use of carbon markets to prevent deforestation:

“We came to Cancun to save nature, forests, planet Earth. We are not here to convert nature into a commodity. We have not come here to revitalize capitalism with carbon markets.”

On the need for governments to respond to peoples’ demands:

“I am convinced that if presidents take on their responsibility, not to certain powers such as multinational companies, but instead to peoples and social movements, we can advance. Why don’t states here go to the Peoples’ Summit in Cancun, and listen to the concrete proposals of social movements who come here in representation of the victims of global warming? Why don’t we agree to a global referendum; take the historic decision of practicing global democracy, submitting ourselves to the demands of the people struggling against climate change and for life? If governments don’t act, it will be the people who will force their governments to act.

On Bolivia’s ‘radical’ position:

We are familiar with the slogan “Country or Death,” but it is better now to talk about “Planet or Death.” To try and look for an intermediary solution is to trick people. It is the major powers here that need to abandon their arrogance in the face of the peoples of the world. My experience as a social movement leader has been one of frequent attempts to isolate me by the major powers – something I am proud to do – but I will never isolate myself from the peoples.”
(9 December 2010)
Statement issued by the Plurinational State of Bolivia: Cancun deal is hollow and false