Archive for the 'Africa' Category

BREAKING: U.S. Youth Ejected from Climate Talks While Calling Out Congress’s Failure

Abigail Borah calls out Congress and the Obama Administration's inaction at the UN climate talks in South Africa before being removed by security

Abigail Borah calls out Congress and the Obama Administration's inaction at the UN climate talks in South Africa before being removed by security. credit: Katherine Rainone, SustainUS

Durban, South Africa – After nearly two weeks of stalled progress by the United States at the international climate talks, U.S. youth spoke out for a real, science-based climate treaty.  Abigail Borah, a New Jersey resident, interrupted the start of lead U.S. negotiator Todd Stern’s speech to call out members of Congress for impeding global climate progress, delivering a passionate call for an urgent path towards a fair and binding climate treaty. Stern was about to speak to international ministers and high-level negotiators at the closing plenary of the Durban climate change negotiations. Borah was ejected from the talks shortly following her speech.

Borah, a student at Middlebury College, spoke for U.S. negotiators because “they cannot speak on behalf of the United States of America”, highlighting that “the obstructionist Congress has shackled a just agreement and delayed ambition for far too long.” Her delivery was followed by applause from the entire plenary of leaders from around the world.

Since before the climate talks, the United States, blocked by a Congress hostile to climate action, has held the position of holding off on urgent pollution reductions targets until the year 2020. Studies from the International Energy Agency, numerous American scientists, and countless other peer-reviewed scientific papers show that waiting until 2020 to begin aggressive emissions reduction would cause irreversible climate change, including more severe tropical storms, worsening droughts, and devastation affecting communities and businesses across America.  Nevertheless, the United States has held strong to its woefully inadequate and voluntary commitments made in the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 and the Cancun Agreement in 2010.

“2020 is too late to wait,” urged Borah. “We need an urgent path towards a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty.”

The U.S. continues to negotiate on time borrowed from future generations, and with every step of inaction forces young people to suffer the quickly worsening climate challenges that previous generations have been unable and unwilling to address.

Photos are available here:

Video here:

And check out – U.S. Youth Say “2020: It’s too late to wait”

Full text of Abigail’s speech:

I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot.  The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long.  I am scared for my future.  2020 is too late to wait.  We need an urgent path to a fair ambitious and legally binding treaty.

you must take responsibility to act now, or you will threaten the lives of youth and the world’s most vulnerable.

You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions.  You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions not expectations.  Citizens across the world are being held hostage by stillborn negotiations.

We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric.  Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive. 2020 is too late to wait.

UN Agrees Moratorium on Geoengineering Experiments!

Moratorium in Nagoya!
Nagoya, Japan: News Release | 29 October 2010 |

Geoengineering Moratorium at UN Ministerial in Japan

Risky Climate Techno-fixes Blocked

NAGOYA, Japan – In a landmark consensus decision, the 193-member UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will close its tenth biennial meeting with a de facto moratorium on geoengineering projects and experiments.   “Any private or public experimentation or adventurism intended to manipulate the planetary thermostat will be in violation of this carefully crafted UN consensus,” stated Silvia Ribeiro, Latin American Director of ETC Group.

The agreement, reached during the ministerial portion of the two-week meeting which included 110 environment ministers, asks governments to ensure  that no geoengineering activities take place until risks to the environmental and biodiversity and associated social, cultural and economic impacts risks have been appropriately considered as well as the socio-economic impacts. The CBD secretariat was also instructed to report back on various geoengineering proposals and potential intergovernmental regulatory measures. Continue reading ‘UN Agrees Moratorium on Geoengineering Experiments!’

World Bank to Finance Mega-Coal Plant in South Africa? It Could Come Down to the US

As an activist in the US working to phase out coal plants, it’s distressing to me to think that so much of what the US climate movement has accomplished in the last few years could be undone by one of the world’s largest coal plant proposals – the fate of which is likely to be decided in the next several days.  On Thursday, April 8th, the World Bank is expected to vote on a decision to lend $3.75 billion to a South African utility that wants to build a 4,800 MW (that’s right, 4,800 megawatts!!!) coal plant.  Environmental groups ranging from the Sierra Club to Friends of the Earth are up in arms, urging US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to vote against the loan (follow the links to the “take action” pages for these groups).

With its history of funding mega-dams that displace entire villages, and development projects that destroy rainforests, the World Bank has some work to do to improve its environmental and human rights image.  Helping to finance one of the world’s largest carbon pollution projects would not exactly be a step in the right direction, and would cast serious doubt over whether the World Bank’s recent statements on climate change are anything more than empty talk.  This is a project the World Bank needs to pull out of, and the United States must exert its influence to make that happen. Continue reading ‘World Bank to Finance Mega-Coal Plant in South Africa? It Could Come Down to the US’

Make Poverty History: Make Clean Energy Cheap

Originally published by The Stanford Review

“If you gave me only one wish for the next 50 years,” declared the world’s wealthiest man during last week’s TED 2010 conference, “I can pick who is president, I can pick a vaccine… or I can pick that [an energy technology] at half the cost with no CO2 emissions gets invented, this is the wish I would pick. This is the one with the greatest impact.”

Bill Gates is right. And he is not just talking about the impact on climate change, which does of course present a major threat. He is also talking about one of the most critical global imperatives to make poverty history: making clean energy cheap.

“If you could pick just one thing to lower the price of to reduce poverty, by far you would pick energy,” said Gates in his introduction. Gates should know as well as any development expert, since the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – the world’s largest transparent private foundation – has invested billions of dollars in extreme poverty alleviation since 1994.

Nearly 1.6 billion of our fellow human beings have no access to electricity, and around 2.4 billion people – over one third of global population – meet their basic cooking and heating needs by burning biomass, such as wood, crop waste, and dung. “Without access to modern, commercial energy, poor countries can be trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, social instability and underdevelopment,” concludes the International Energy Agency.

Continue reading ‘Make Poverty History: Make Clean Energy Cheap’

Battle Until Dawn for Humanity’s Survival

It is 6:13 am and in the Bella Conference Center I am listening to the chair of the AOSIS (Association of Small Island States) trying to fight off uncontrollable tears. I am almost certain that the Group of 77 (a behemoth of 130 plus developing country states) is coming to an end. Countries are divided and I am witnessing accusations fly across the plenary. Why has it taken us so long to arrive at this point? We sit here with the “Copenhangen Accord” staring at our faces. It is a document full of hot air and is not what billions of people across the planet had been promised to deliver atmospheric restitution. Once again the developed nations have managed to gain somewhat of an upper hand in the wake of greater sacrifices of the larger developing countries.

That aside, negotiators had feared from day one of the talks that the documents and the process of negotiating would not mature to the point required in order to allow negotiations to move into the high level segment where over 100 Heads of States would come to sign a just climate deal. Their fears were realized. The process has been deeply flawed and the voices of nations regarding lack of transparency, conspiracy to kill off the Kyoto protocol has been true. I often found myself being witness to the injustice within the UNFCCC process (where had I not gone to certain meetings, I would have missed out on joint drafting sessions which I assumed were only scheduled G-77 coordination meetings). Text messages were sent, rooms were changed, information was not available to all.

Continue reading ‘Battle Until Dawn for Humanity’s Survival’

COP-15: Climate Justice for the Poor, or Backroom Deals by the Rich?

Written by Jennifer Krill and Adrian Wilson.

Whispers in the hallways at the COP-15 Copenhagen climate negotiations emerged as a full blown controversy yesterday, when the UK Guardian published leaked text that was written by a secret group of negotiators, the so-called ‘Circle of Commitment’.  The U.S., UK, Denmark and other rich countries are apparently responsible for the text, which was written in secrecy in a dirty backroom deal. The Danish Text, as it’s being called here in Copenhagen, utterly excludes the U.N. process, especially cutting out the developing countries that are pushing for a strong, legally binding deal, with targets of 40-45% emissions reductions below 1990 levels in order to avert the risk of catastrophic climate change.

Photo Credit: Mat McDermott

By contrast, the leaked text effectively kills the Kyoto Protocol and its emphasis on compliance and binding targets, while gutting much of the negotiations that have been underway over the last two years. Here’s a short summary of a few of the problems with the leaked text:

  • The Danish Text repeatedly refers to “the shared vision limiting global average temperature rise to a maximum of 2 degrees [Celsius] above pre-industrial levels.” This vision is certainly not shared - as the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance stated yesterday, “according to the IPCC a two degree increase in the global mean temperature will mean a three or more degree increase for temperatures in Africa, [causing] 50% reduction in crop yields in some areas.”
  • The text also specifies that “developed country parties commit to deliver upfront public financing for 2010-201[2] corresponding on average to [10] billion USD annually for early action, capacity building, technology and strengthening adaptation and mitigation readiness in developing countries.” While this figure is still bracketed, the idea that the Global North is considering initially giving only $10 billion per year in mitigation funding to the Global South is viewed by many G-77 nations as a slap in the face – especially given that the governments of the Global North have spent over $4 trillion in the past two years on economic stimulus and bailouts of the banking and auto industries. (NOTE: In negotiating text, the brackets refer to sections that are still in negotiation.) Continue reading ‘COP-15: Climate Justice for the Poor, or Backroom Deals by the Rich?’

Saudi Arabia, Don’t Trade Climate for Oil.

4077552848_29e1c1a987This morning a group of youth climate activists attending the UNFCCC negotiations in Barcelona stood in solitary with actions in over 18 developing countries including Bangladesh, Benin, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mexico, India, Nepal, and Nigeria to name just a few. Community groups from these regions converged on local Saudi Arabian embassy’s delivering letters and holding protests to call for Saudi Arabia to stop obstructing progress and support the position of developing nations in the negotiations, rather than stymie them.

In just the last few days in Barcelona, Saudi Arabia has managed to undermine and block consensus several key issues that are important for developing countries. They tried to remove language that would specifically support poor and vulnerable countries; they delayed progress on adaptation discussions; they were the only country to block consensus on having an additional negotiations session; and they even were the only country that said that there is no need to agree on a numerical global goal for emission reduction.

Continue reading ‘Saudi Arabia, Don’t Trade Climate for Oil.’

Rich countries halt Barcelona climate talks with inaction – Africa walks out

Cross posted from Grist

African negotiators at the U.N. climate talks in Barcelona just refused to continue formal discussions about all other issues until wealthy countries live up to their legal and moral responsibility to commit to deep emissions reductions. Rich countries (also called “Annex 1 countries”) have ground negotiations to a halt by failing to agree their new targets under the Kyoto Protocol (KP), driving developing countries to put their feet down. This walkout is significant and opens up political space – it means many of the countries in Africa just stopped one half of the UN climate negotiation process until rich countries say how much they will reduce their carbon.

We’re down to the wire: just four negotiating days left before the big agreement in Copenhagen is supposed to go down.  Its day one, and we saw just a taste of the breakdowns to come. While rich countries continue to undermine commitments for the Kyoto Protocol (one of two negotiating tracks for Copenhagen which is supposed to be renewed for a second commitment period of Annex 1 targets), the spin has already taken hold: they’re blaming Africa for their own delay-mongering. Oy vey.

In response, movement and civil society organizations held a demonstration at the U.N. building in support of African delegates’ insistence that developed countries commit to new, strong binding targets. Delegates and observers were invited to join a human shield against the killing of Kyoto targets (complete with an Annex 1 grim reaper) and instead urged to promote at least 40% emission reductions with no offsets by 2020.

Kamese Geoffrey of NAPE/ Friends of the Earth Uganda warned, “Rich countries are attempting to dodge their legal and moral responsibilities to reduce emissions. Developing countries and communities have historically had practically no fault in the creation of climate change, yet they will be the first to face the devastating impacts of climate change.”

Many of us have longstanding criticisms of the Kyoto Protocol, particularly its market mechanisms. But here’s why Kyoto is important:

Continue reading ‘Rich countries halt Barcelona climate talks with inaction – Africa walks out’

Water: When Nightmares Come True

Retreating Lake Naivasha in May

I always thought it was a little overly dramatic when people used to say, with that gleam of fire in their eyes and intense certainty in their voices, “The next world war will be fought over water.” I didn’t notice their resigned sadness after saying that and seeing the response of the audience, of my response.

Water wars, we imagined, were decades away. Climate refugees fleeing drought and devastation would be seen in generations, not in ours. People would recognize when resources were becoming so scarce and develop cooperative strategies for conservation long before it came to the point of fighting over them. Right?

The sad climate “joke” five years ago was that we’d need to bring melting icebergs to sub-Saharan Africa to support life. But in Kenya today, aid workers are already flying water in from other countries. Today, thousands of men and women are already dying from lack of the most basic human need — water.

From NY Times: An elderly woman is given water in the Turkana region of Kenya. Many of the elderly are too weak and sick to feed themselves or drink

Today, when I repeat the phrase – “Wars will be fought over water” – with the same confidence and intensity, the same fire, and the same resigned sadness, I know that fights over water are not generations – or even years – away. We may not have another world war, but I have no question that we will see more devastation and violence, if we need to see any more than the lives being lost every day in Kenya.

There is no water to drink, let alone have water to wash hands to prevent the spread of diarrheal diseases. There is no water to drink, let alone have water to farm. Lakes have been retreating for years as water is used for farming, for geothermal energy, and for survival, and the lakes’ disappearances are threatening not only water animals like flamingos and hippos, but all of the biodiversity for which Kenya is famous.

NYT: "'We eat once a day, said Mrs. Bai, 65, explaining how she and her family had survived the lack of rain."

At the same time, in India, thousands of farmers commit suicide annually due to desperation caused by cycles of debt, but also cycles of increasing drought and irregular rain. Farmers who would rather die than face the shame and sadness of watching their families die of starvation, have killed not only themselves but their families as well. This year has been one of India’s worst monsoons in recent history, with too little rains coming too late, and often all at once.

On the brink of death, is there a question of anything but desperation?

Read more on what we can expect – and what we can do. Continue reading ‘Water: When Nightmares Come True’

Report on Survival in the Lead Up to Copenhagen: APPLY TODAY


Do you want to report on the most compelling stories of the climate crisis?  Are you an amateur photographer wanting to learn the skills of your trade while doing your part to save the climate? Or maybe you are a videographer wanting to change the outcome of the UN Climate Negotiations (COP 15).

We are calling all passionate youth journalists who want to use their skills to launch “Survival,” to the forefront of the international political debate, amplify voices underrepresented by traditional media, and report on the most compelling climate stories from around thplease_cop13_bali_unfccc.jpg | Robert vanWaarden_1251738776963e world.

Project Survival Media is a global youth journalism network that aims to influence the outcome of the COP 15 by broadcasting the most critical message of our time: As world leaders negotiate a new climate treaty, “Survival is Not Negotiable.”

We are seven media teams, one for each continent.  We build stories together that will focus on those roles in society that are most impacted by climate change: factory workers, farmers, mothers, organizers, and health care providers.

Who is eligible?
-    Any young person between the ages of 15-30.
-    Have some experience in any of the following: blogging, reporting, photography, or videography.
-    Has either a background in: climate change, human rights issues, global and local environmental justice struggles.
-    Living anywhere on one of the seven continents

Click Here to complete an application to be on the Project Survival Regional Media Teams.  ALL applications must be submitted by: September 11th, 2009.