Archive for the 'United Nations' Category

Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks

This post was written by SustainUS delegate Anirudh Sridhar and cross-posted on youthclimate.org

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

When Hitchcock’s first black bird landed on the frame of the playing ground, it seemed individual, particular. There was no need to derive a common theory about the bird in the larger scheme of things as a harbinger of anything significant. By the time the children looked out the window again, 4 more birds had arrived. Soon, the sky had become dark with the descent of an avian blanket of hundreds of birds. As delegates entered the U.N convention center at Doha for the second week of the COP 18 in Doha, they saw the first bird perched atop the escalators.

SustainUS, a youth led organization, along with Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition gathered around the entrance of the convention center and stood disenchanted and disenfranchised from the process, with a somber gloom. They held black cancerous spots that had been clogging the arteries of the negotiations, speaking about the chronic and acute influence of the fossil fuel industry on the levers of global climate change policy.

Mike Sandmel, the media chair of SustainUS and co-organizer of the event stated that “we hear a lot of stories about countries being painted as evil actors as if they were monolithic. Often, even in the choke points of the climate negotiations, there is a huge internal struggle for the environmental soul of the country. The fossil fuel industries control the strings of the country’s fate because of their financial influence and this event is to bring it out in the open.” As the delegates went past the signs that read “Fossil fuel industry groups spent upwards of $376 million on TV ads to influence 2012 elections in the US.” and “Preventing the tragedies of a  2°C temperature rise means staying within a carbon budget of 565 gigatons”, their minds were arrested as their bodies glided limply past. There were a few skeptical voices heard as one delegate from India remarked “Do these people not know that half the world’s population doesn’t have electricity?” Mostly, as the delegations passed, they documented the event in film while the media rushed onto the scene to get the individual perspectives.

Democracy Now interviewed Chi Tung-Hsien, a Taiwanese youth, and he said “Hurricane Sandy has recently shaken Americans awake from a deep sleep about the disastrous effects of climate change. In Taiwan, Sandy is the norm. With mudslides, a food crisis that is likely to lead the country into famine and constant threat of the rising oceans on their island, they live at the constant mercy of climate change.” Continue reading ‘Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks’

Doha Climate Talks: First Farce, then Tragedy

The lead-up to COP18 which started in Doha, Qatar this week, would have been farcical, if not for the tragic reminder from Hurricane Sandy that climate change is deadly, and is already upon us.

But for a moment, let’s appreciate the ironies:

Rio+20, “The Future We Want,” summit in June of this year was declared a failure on almost all counts. The tepid commitments, all voluntary, sound exactly like the future fossil fuel industries want. But in Doha, under the mandate of the UNFCCC, parties will agree on issues like finance, carbon markets, and REDD+.

Protester in Rio, June 2012.

Sounds reasonable? Think twice- COP18 is in Qatar, an OPEC nation with some of the highest emissions per capita that has been barely involved in climate negotiations. International campaigners Avaaz posted, “having one of the OPEC leaders in charge of climate talks is like asking Dracula to look after a blood bank.”

At least we can turn to our “climate leaders,” like the EU. Turns out the debt crisis has our European friends a little distracted from their climate commitments. Spain, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and France have all cut aid to renewables.

Well there are some “easy” issues to resolve in Doha, like fund transfers from wealthy countries to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation, right? But the farce continues- just in time for the conference to start, an international report finds that most wealthy countries are falling embarrassingly short of their commitments thus far for fund transfers. So much for the easy stuff.

Okay, at least they off-set their emissions! 25k metric tons of carbon was “eliminated” in the CDM carbon market to off-set 10,000 participants traveling to Doha. Yet this comes amidst mounting evidence that the carbon markets are broken, with the value of credits in the CDM plunging 93% in two years, and the EU system failing to reduce emissions. (I’ll spare the gory details of CDM’s social injustice.)

Yet, somehow in the fracas, carbon speculators are optimistic for Doha. Unlike the negotiators, they’ve figured out they can still make a handsome profit even if emissions don’t drop. In the rush to appease and appeal to business interests, negotiators have bought into a “Green Economy” narrative, where climate solutions are reduced to financial and technological fixes. REDD+, CDM, and other carbon offsets allow industrialized countries to avoid shifting their economies off fossil fuels, and speculators in new carbon markets reap the rewards.

The Doha skyline.

The choice of some climate justice groups to skip the trip to Doha is looking better and better.

So is the COP system broken? Can we expect anything out of Doha? With Sandy barely behind us, and more storms on the horizon, a meaningful U.N. process may feel like our last hope. However most major decisions are mapped out in preparatory meetings, such as those in Bonn and Bangkok this year.  While the presence of critical voices is important, so far the COPs have proven to leave out indigenous peoples, youth, and others most impacted by climate change.  We can’t count on negotiators to broker our future with fossil fuel corporations.

The recent position paper from Focus on the Global South offers a critique and an alternative: “The capitalist system is seeking to get out of this economic crisis through a process of reconfiguration that implies a new process of exploitation of humans and nature… …To confront the interests and power of corporations, our struggle must have as starting point the daily life of the people affected by climate change and not the UNFCCC negotiations.”

Around the world, more and more people are connecting the dots and challenging the root causes of climate change and false solutions. From the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas, to First Nations in British Columbia, to indigenous communities impacted by REDD+ in Mexico, people are taking a stand for their communities and ecology. As Hurricane Sandy showed, if we aren’t already, we all may soon be on the frontlines of climate change.

As Focus on the Global South writes, “A ‘one size fits all’ model like neoliberalism or centralized bureaucratic socialism is not the answer. Instead, diversity should be expected and encouraged, as it is in nature.” Real solutions come from the grassroots.

From Pillars to Platform: Demystifying the Durban Outcome

“If we accept this text, we are killing ourselves.” These were the words of an ambassador from a small island nation in the final hours of the longest UN climate negotiations in history. “We may be small, but we are not dead,” he continued. With these strong statements, the ambassador sought to rally other countries like his to push back against the weak agreement the conference had produced.

Continue reading more on the Fletcher Forum.

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:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sustainus

Video here:

http://youtu.be/XDQxg7F2j1s

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQVpZQ1UlKw

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.

EXCLUSIVE: Leaked letter: ICCC climate skeptic conference “an elaborate hoax”

The following letter was sent to me by an anonymous employee at the Ranco Las Palmas Resort in Palm Springs, California. The author identifies themselves only as “Chucky”. It appears to have been written prior to the first International Conference on Climate Change–an annual gathering of so-called “climate skeptics” in Washington D.C.  The content of the letter suggests that the premise of the ICCC Conference is to manufacture uncertainty in the conversation about anthropogenic global warming.

The employee claims she found it in a briefcase that had been turned in to the lost-and-found desk at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort.  It is worth noting that the resort was the location of a retreat hosted by Charles and David Koch just one day prior to the briefcase being found. The letter includes no conclusive evidence that the letter was addressed to Charles and David Koch.  [I transcribed the letter below due to the difficulty of reading the handwriting. Notes added are in italics and bracketed. Links are included for background information.]

TRANSCRIPT:

Dear Charles and David,

Continue reading ‘EXCLUSIVE: Leaked letter: ICCC climate skeptic conference “an elaborate hoax”’

One Year to Earth Summit 2012: A New Generation Goes to Rio

This post was written by Michael Davidson.


12-year old Severn Suzuki Delivers Youth Plea at 1992 Rio Earth SummitOne year from this week, government leaders, civil society members and representatives of the business community will meet in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the future of the planet. The Earth Summit (also called Rio+20 after the first such global event in 1992) can help lead to a more prosperous world that utilizes natural resources more efficiently and responds to the needs of the most impacted communities of environmental degradation. But only if youth help write the story, and here’s why.

Rio 1992 was a watershed moment for the global environmental conscience. Treaties were signed, commissions created, and action plans drafted. Yet one of the most memorable speeches from the two-week conference was by a 12-year old girl (here’s what she’s doing now).

Now, a generation later, my generation is faced with two seemingly insurmountable challenges: the world is changing at a rate never before seen, and the current governance structures are insufficient to meet even the environmental problems of the 1970s.

Continue reading ‘One Year to Earth Summit 2012: A New Generation Goes to Rio’

From Bangkok to Power Shift

Cross-posted from 350.org

It’s the final day of the UN Climate Talks in Bangkok and the buzz here isn’t about the progress being made on a global treaty (not much), but about Power Shift.

Well, ok, to be honest, most delegates probably don’t know about the conference coming up in DC next weekend, but if all goes well, they will soon. After all, when it comes to saving the planet, the discussions and work that goes on in DC at Power Shift will be just as essential as the debates raging here at the UN.

Amongst civil society representatives, however, there is a building level of excitement about Power Shift and the growing climate movement.

Over the past three years, we have seen the explosion of the global climate movement. At Power Shift 2009, the organization I work with, 350.org, was little more than a small group of former students from Middlebury College and writer Bill McKibben. We spent the conference signing up students to take part in a global day of action on October 24 and Bill took the stage with a dancing 3, 5, and 0 to spread the most important number on earth: 350, as in 350 ppm, the safe level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere that we’re already past.

Fast forward to October 24, when there were over 5,200 events in 182 countries calling for action to get to 350 ppm. CNN called it, “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Since then, our movement has only grown. Last October, the Global Work Party brought together over 7,000 community events. 350.org now counts more than 500,000 supporters in 188 countries as part of our movement and its growing by the day. (Just yesterday, we merged with 1Sky in the US to build our movement even larger).

Power Shift will mark another turning point. Continue reading ‘From Bangkok to Power Shift’

COP16 In Two Minutes

Explaining what happens at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties is difficult at the best of times. Journalists, Civil Society organisations and governments struggle to translate the technical language of international climate policy into understandable public information. Young people can help distill the essence of the negotiations – and sometimes into video form.

In this example, the UK Youth Climate Coalition have summarised the COP16 Cancun talks in this short clip. Surprisingly and depressingly accurate.

U.S and China Race to the Clean Energy Future PART 2: Taking Action

This piece can also be found at: http://huff.to/gpT0Ee

Outside of the Cancun Messe at the international climate talks, runners Kevin Osborne from the U.S and Yingao Chen from China take their mark at the starting line. A sports commentator calls out: “It’s a beautiful day! The sun is shining, the wind is blowing and our two competitors are ready to begin this epic race for a brighter and more prosperous world”. At the sound of a whistle, the runners take off, racing toward the clean energy future.

What is the story behind this race? The U.S and China are major emitters and major economies with a complex relationship and huge opportunities to lead the clean energy economy…

At this moment in time, U.S is falling behind during a time that  we most need economic revitalization and a competitive new  job sector. While China has taken huge strides in building their  renewable energy sector, much of their turbines and solar  systems are exported while more new coal plants are  constructed to meet growing energy demands.

U.S leadership has come empty-handed to the negotiations and continues to accuse China of holding up progress. Relations between U.S and China remain tenuous and marked with antagonism and mistrust.

Can the two countries overcome their differences and rise to the challenge? Who will emerge victorious in the clean energy economy?

***

Continue reading ‘U.S and China Race to the Clean Energy Future PART 2: Taking Action’

Raising our voice for a Just and Stable Future

This Tuesday, student activists from New England had an exciting opportunity to present our Declaration for Clean Energy to leadership and press at the UN Conference of the Parties in Cancun, Mexico.

Students for a Just and Stable Future in front of the Massachusetts state house. The New England Coalition unites justice and sustainability issues and pressure the state government to act.

The Declaration for Clean Energy is a five page document written by 170 members of Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), a New England based network of students who have united to fight climate change and work towards a just and stable future for all of humanity.  At the press conference in Cancun, student delegates presented our declaration with a statement demanding legitimate action from policymakers on all levels of United States government to pass meaningful comprehensive legislation on climate, and insisting that global leaders agree to a legally binding treaty that will return our global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to a safe level of less than 350 parts per million.

As the international negotiations begin to wrap up, it is clear that they will not produce any real results.  Powerful nations are refusing to hold themselves accountable, the seriousness of the science is still being ignored, and the voices of youth and disadvantaged communities are being shut out completely.  Ethan Buckner, a student delegate from the Sierra Student Coalition who presented on our behalf, had his badge taken away and was removed from the negotiations shortly after our press conference simply for participating in a march alongside youth from the global south, indigenous people, and environmental justice communities who are already suffering from the effects from climate change.  Simply put, International leaders are ignoring the voice of the people, and they think they can get away with it. Continue reading ‘Raising our voice for a Just and Stable Future’


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