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Climate Discord: From Hopenhagen to Nopenhagen December 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Environment, Uncategorized.
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“Many feel that Obama’s disruption of the process in Copenhagen may have fatally derailed 20 years of climate talks.”
Published on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 by TruthDig.com

by Amy Goodman

Barack Obama said, minutes before racing out of the U.N. climate summit, “We will not be legally bound by anything that took place here today.” These were among his remarks made to his own small White House press corps, excluding the 3,500 credentialed journalists covering the talks. It was late on Dec. 18, the last day of the summit, and reports were that the negotiations had failed. Copenhagen, which had been co-branded for the talks on billboards with Coke and Siemens as “Hopenhagen,” was looking more like “Nopenhagen.”

As I entered the Bella Center, the summit venue, that morning, I saw several dozen people sitting on the cold stone plaza outside the police line. Throughout the summit, people had filled this area, hoping to pick up credentials. Thousands from nongovernmental organizations and the press waited hours in the cold, only to be denied. On the final days of the summit, the area was cold and empty.

Most groups had been stripped of their credentials so the summit could meet the security and space needs for traveling heads of state, the U.N. claimed. These people sitting in the cold were engaged in a somber protest: They were shaving their heads. One woman told me, “I am shaving my head to show how really deeply touched I feel about what is happening in there. … There are 6 billion people out there, and inside they don’t seem to be talking about them.” She held a white sign, with just a pair of quotation marks, but no words. “What does the sign say?” I asked her. She had tears in her eyes, “It says nothing because I don’t know what to say anymore.”

Obama reportedly heard Friday of a meeting taking place between the heads of state of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and burst into the room, leading the group to consensus on “The Copenhagen Accord.” One hundred ninety-three countries were represented at the summit, most of them by their head of state. Obama and his small group defied U.N. procedure, resulting in the nonbinding, take-it-or-leave-it document.

The accord at least acknowledges that countries “agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science … so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.” For some, after eight years with President George W. Bush, just having a U.S. president who accepts science as a basis for policy might be considered a huge victory. The accord pledges “a goal of mobilizing jointly 100 billion dollars a year by 2020” for developing countries. This is less than many say is needed to solve the problem of adapting to climate change and building green economies in developing countries, and is only a nonbinding goal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to specify the U.S. share, only saying if countries didn’t come to an agreement it would not be on the table anymore.

Respected climate scientist James Hansen told me, “The wealthy countries are trying to basically buy off these countries that will, in effect, disappear,” adding, “based on our contribution to the carbon in the atmosphere, [the U.S. share] would be 27 percent, $27 billion per year.”

I asked Bolivian President Evo Morales for his solution. He recommends “all war spending be directed towards climate change, instead of spending it on troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan or the military bases in Latin America.” According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2008 the 15 countries with the highest military budgets spent close to $1.2 trillion on armed forces.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, one of the major NGOs stripped of credentials, criticized the outcome of the Copenhagen talks, writing: “The United States slammed through a flimsy agreement that was negotiated behind closed doors. The so-called ‘Copenhagen Accord’ is full of empty pledges.” But he also applauded “concerned citizens who marched, held vigils and sent messages to their leaders, [who] helped to create unstoppable momentum in the global movement for climate justice.”

Many feel that Obama’s disruption of the process in Copenhagen may have fatally derailed 20 years of climate talks. But Pica has it right. The Copenhagen climate summit failed to reach a fair, ambitious and binding agreement, but it inspired a new generation of activists to join what has emerged as a mature, sophisticated global movement for climate justice.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2009 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

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One Africa. One Degree. Two Degrees is Suicide. December 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Environment.
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 “$10 billion is not enough to buy us coffins”.

http://elliottverreault.wordpress.com/2009/12/09/one-africa-one-degree-two-degrees-is-suicide/

December 19, 209

Yesterday in Copenhagen, where leaders have come together to discuss the fate of the climate, lead G77 negotiator, Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, broke down in tears. To a small group of press and civil society supporters, he divulged that many African negotiators, pressured by developeing countries, and some succumbing to their own self-interest, were ready to sign a weak deal.

What would a weak deal look like? A deal that locks Africa and the rest of the world into a 2 degree, 450ppm scenario — what President Nasheed of the Maldives, and now many African civil society leaders call a “suicide pact.”

He did not start his speech immediately. Instead he sat silently, tears rolling down his face. He put his head in his hands and said “We have been asked to sign a suicide pact.” The room was frozen into silence, shocked by the sight of a powerful negotiator, an African elder if you like, exhibiting such strong emotion. He apologised to the audience, but said that in his part of Sudan it was “better to stand and cry than to walk away.”

Di-Aping first attacked the 2 degrees C warming maximum that most rich countries currently consider acceptable. Referring continuously to science, in particular parts of the latest IPCC report (which he referenced by page and section) he said that 2 degrees C globally meant 3.5 degrees C for much of Africa. He called global warming of 2 degrees C “certain death for Africa”, a type of “climate fascism” imposed on Africa by high carbon emitters. He said Africa was being asked to sign on to an agreement that would allow this warming in exchange for $10 billion, and that Africa was also being asked to “celebrate” this deal.

He explained that, by wanting to subvert the established post-Kyoto process, the industrialised nations were effectively wanting to ignore historical emissions, and by locking in deals that would allow each citizen of those countries to carry on emitting a far greater amount of carbon per year than each citizen in poor countries, would prevent many African countries from lifting their people out of poverty. This was nothing less than a colonisation of the sky, he said. “$10 billion is not enough to buy us coffins”.

Calling the current deal that was being proposed “worse than no deal”, he called on Africans to reject it — “I would rather die with my dignity than sign a deal that will channel my people into a furnace.” Africans had to make clear demands of their leaders not to sign on. He suggested a couple of slogans: “One Africa, one degree” and “Two degrees is suicide”

The Courage to Say No December 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Environment.
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Published on Friday, December 18, 2009 by The Nationby Naomi Klein

CopenhagenOn the ninth day of the Copenhagen climate summit, Africa was sacrificed. The position of the G-77 negotiating bloc, including African states, had been clear: a 2 degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures translates into a 3-3.5 degree increase in Africa.

That means, according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, “an additional 55 million people could be at risk from hunger” and “water stress could affect between 350 and 600 million more people.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts the stakes like this: “We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale…. A global goal of about 2 degrees C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development.”

And yet that is precisely what Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, proposed to do when he stopped off in Paris on his way to Copenhagen: standing with President Nicolas Sarkozy, and claiming to speak on behalf of all of Africa (he is the head of the African climate-negotiating group), he unveiled a plan that includes the dreaded 2 degree increase and offers developing countries just $10 billion a year to help pay for everything climate related, from sea walls to malaria treatment to fighting deforestation.

It’s hard to believe this is the same man who only three months ago was saying this: “We will use our numbers to delegitimize any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position…. If need be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent…. What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above the minimum avoidable level.”

And this: “We will participate in the upcoming negotiations not as supplicants pleading for our case but as negotiators defending our views and interests.”

We don’t yet know what Zenawi got in exchange for so radically changing his tune or how, exactly, you go from a position calling for $400 billion a year in financing (the Africa group’s position) to a mere $10 billion. Similarly, we do not know what happened when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Philippine President Gloria Arroyo just weeks before the summit and all of a sudden the toughest Filipino negotiators were kicked off their delegation and the country, which had been demanding deep cuts from the rich world, suddenly fell in line.

We do know, from witnessing a series of these jarring about-faces, that the G-8 powers are willing to do just about anything to get a deal in Copenhagen. The urgency clearly does not flow from a burning desire to avert cataclysmic climate change, since the negotiators know full well that the paltry emissions cuts they are proposing are a guarantee that temperatures will rise a “Dantesque” 3.9 degrees, as Bill McKibben puts it.

Matthew Stilwell of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development–one of the most influential advisers in these talks–says the negotiations are not really about averting climate change but are a pitched battle over a profoundly valuable resource: the right to the sky. There is a limited amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere. If the rich countries fail to radically cut their emissions, then they are actively gobbling up the already insufficient share available to the South. What is at stake, Stilwell argues, is nothing less than “the importance of sharing the sky.”

Europe, he says, fully understands how much money will be made from carbon trading, since it has been using the mechanism for years. Developing countries, on the other hand, have never dealt with carbon restrictions, so many governments don’t really grasp what they are losing. Contrasting the value of the carbon market–$1.2 trillion a year, according to leading British economist Nicholas Stern–with the paltry $10 billion on the table for developing countries, Stilwell says that rich countries are trying to exchange “beads and blankets for Manhattan.” He adds: “This is a colonial moment. That’s why no stone has been left unturned in getting heads of state here to sign off on this kind of deal…. Then there’s no going back. You’ve carved up the last remaining unowned resource and allocated it to the wealthy.”

For months now NGOs have gotten behind a message that the goal of Copenhagen is to “seal the deal.” Everywhere we look in the Bella Center, clocks are going “tck tck tck.” But any old deal isn’t good enough, especially because the only deal on offer won’t solve the climate crisis and might make things much worse, taking current inequalities between North and South and locking them in indefinitely. Augustine Njamnshi of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance puts the 2 degree proposal in harsh terms: “You cannot say you are proposing a ‘solution’ to climate change if your solution will see millions of Africans die and if the poor not the polluters keep paying for climate change.”

Stilwell says that the wrong kind of deal would “lock in the wrong approach all the way to 2020”–well past the deadline for peak emissions. But he insists that it’s not too late to avert this worst-case scenario. “I’d rather wait six months or a year and get it right because the science is growing, the political will is growing, the understanding of civil society and affected communities is growing, and they’ll be ready to hold their leaders to account to the right kind of a deal.”

At the start of these negotiations the mere notion of delay was environmental heresy. But now many are seeing the value of slowing down and getting it right. Most significant, after describing what 2 degrees would mean for Africa, Archbishop Tutu pronounced that it is “better to have no deal than to have a bad deal.” That may well be the best we can hope for in Copenhagen. It would be a political disaster for some heads of state–but it could be one last chance to avert the real disaster for everyone else.

Copyright © 2009 The Nation

*This column was first published in The Nation (www.thenation.com).

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.  See more at www.naomiklein.org.

Canada’s Stephen Harper is a Damn Disgrace December 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment.
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Dear friends,

Canada is blocking crucial UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen and secretly rolling back our efforts to fight climate change. A massive national outcry has stopped Harper before, the planet needs us now:

Sign The Petition!

Enough is enough. As the world mounts a desperate effort to stop catastrophic global warming in Copenhagen, Canada should be leading the way. Instead, we’re receiving global “fossil awards” for wrecking this crucial summit! And new leaked documents show that while the entire world is increasing cuts to carbon emissions, the government is secretly planning roll back ours.

At the Bali climate summit in 07, a massive national outcry forced Harper to stop blocking the talks. But the oil companies that PM Harper works for know that Copenhagen is the make or break moment for climate. It will not be easy to win this time, but to save the planet and our country we have to.

Let’s mount a tidal wave of pressure on Harper with the largest petition in Canadian history – click below to sign, and forward this email to everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/harper_enough_is_enough

The petition will be delivered directly to the Canadian delegation in Copenhagen as Harper arrives this week, and names of the signers will actually be read out in the summit hall. The Canadian delegation has become the object of international disbelief and ridicule in Copenhagen, but we can show the world that the Canadian people still hold our values of being good neighbours and global citizens.

Harper is undermining our deepest values and proudest traditions. But this is about more than our reputation. Studies show that climate change is already taking up to 300,000 human lives a year through turning millions of farms to dust and flooding vast areas. We can no longer allow Harper to make us responsible for these deaths, or put Canada’s economic future in jeopardy by sacrificing our green competitiveness for a brown economy based on the dirtiest (tar sands) oil in the world.

Copenhagen is seeking the biggest mandate in history to stop the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. History will be made in the next few days, and our country is the problem, not the solution. How will our children remember this moment? Let’s tell them we did all we could.

With hope,

Ricken, Laryn, Anne-Marie, Iain and the Avaaz Canada team

More information at these sites:
CBC — “Tories pondered weaker emission targets for oil and gas”: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/12/14/greenhouse-gas-emissions.html

Mail and Guardian — “Canada’s climate shame”: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-12-04-canadas-climate-shame

Toronto Star — “Who are the Yes Men and why did they punk Canada at Copenhagen”: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/738933–who-are-the-yes-men-and-why-did-they-punk-canada-at-copenhagen

Macleans — “Suddenly the world hates Canada”: http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/12/15/suddenly-the-world-hates-canada/3/

Fossil of the Day Awards: http://www.fossiloftheday.com/

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Why I’ll Get Arrested To Stop the Burning of Coal February 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Environment, Uncategorized.
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On March 2, environmentalist Bill McKibben will join demonstrators who plan to march on a coal-fired power plant in Washington D.C. In this article for Yale Environment 360, he explains why he’s ready to go to jail to protest the continued burning of coal.

by bill mckibben, www.e360.edu.yale, February 9, 2009

It may seem odd timing that many of us are heading to the nation’s capital early next month for a major act of civil disobedience at a coal-fired power plant, the first big protest of its kind against global warming in this country.

After all, Barack Obama’s in power. He’s appointed scientific advisers who actually believe in… science, and he’s done more in a few weeks to deal with climate change than all the presidents of the last 20 years combined. Stalwarts like John Kerry, Henry Waxman, and Ed Markey are chairing the relevant congressional committees. The auto companies, humbled, are promising to build rational vehicles if only we give them some cash. What’s to protest? Why not just give the good guys a break?

If you think about it a little longer, though, you realize this is just the moment to up the ante. For one thing, it would have done no good in the past: you think Dick Cheney was going to pay attention?

More importantly, we need a powerful and active movement not to force the administration and the Democrats in Congress to do something they don’t want to, but to give them the political space they need to act on their convictions. Barack Obama was a community organizer — he understands that major change only comes when it’s demanded, when there’s some force noisy enough to drown out the eternal hum of business as usual, of vested interest, of inertia.

Consider what has to happen if we’re going to deal with global warming in a real way. NASA climate scientist James Hansen — who has announced he plans to join us and get arrested for trespassing in the action we’re planning for March 2 — has demonstrated two things in recent papers. One, that any concentration of carbon dioxide greater than 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is not compatible with the “planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” And two, that the world as a whole must stop burning coal by 2030 — and the developed world well before that — if we are to have any hope of ever getting the planet back down below that 350 number.

That should give you some sense of what Obama’s up against. Coal provides 50 percent of our electricity. That juice comes from hundreds of expensive, enormous plants, each one of them owned by rich and powerful companies. Shutting these plants down — or getting the companies to install expensive equipment that might be able to separate carbon from the exhaust stream and sequester it safely in some mine somewhere — will be incredibly hard. Investors are planning on running those plants another half-century to make back their money — the sunk costs involved are probably on the scale of those lousy mortgages now bankrupting our economy.

And if you think it’s tough for us, imagine the Chinese. They’ve been opening a coal-burning power plant a week. You want to tell them to start shutting them down when that coal-fired power represents the easiest way to pull people out of poverty across Asia?

The only hope of making the kind of change required is to really stick in people’s minds a simple idea: Coal is bad. It’s bad when you mine it, it’s bad for the city where you burn it, and it’s bad for the climate.

Happily, there’s no place that makes that point much more easily than the power plant Congress owns not far from the U.S. Capitol building. It’s antiquated (built today, it wouldn’t meet the standards of the Clean Air Act). It’s filthy — one study estimates that it and the other coal-fired power plants ringing the District of Columbia cause the deaths of at least 515 people a year. It’s among the largest point sources of CO2 in the capital. It helps support the mining industry that is scalping the summits of neighboring West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky. Oh, and it would be easy enough to fix. In fact, the facility can already burn some natural gas instead, and a modest retrofit would let it convert away from coal entirely.

Not only that, but it’s owned by Congress. They don’t need to ask any utility executives. They could just have a vote and do it — as easy as you deciding to put a new, clean furnace in your basement. It would even stimulate the local economy.

All of which means it’s the perfect target. Not because shutting it down would do much, except for the people who live right nearby. But becase it’s a way to get conversation started.  When civil disobedience works, it’s because it demonstrates some willingness to bear a certain amount of pain for some larger end — a way to say, “Coal is bad enough that I’m willing to get arrested.” Which is not the biggest deal on earth, but if you’re going to be asking the Chinese, say, to start turning off their coal-fired plants, you can probably keep a straighter face if you’ve made at least a mild sacrifice yourself.

There are dangers in this kind of strategy too. It could turn people off, make them think that global warming protesters are crazy hippies harkening back to the ’60s. I don’t mind hippies in the slightest, but when the writer Wendell Berry and I sent out the original invitation to this action, we asked that those who wanted to be arrested wear their dress clothes. And not just because it’s serious business — but also in hopes of discouraging the hardcore anarchists and troublemakers attracted to such events, sort of in the way that convenience stores play classical music to keep folks from loitering outside.

The other danger is that it might convince activists that this is the most important work to do, the main tool in the toolbox. That’s almost certainly not true, which is why it’s appropriate that Powershift, the huge gathering of young people the same weekend in D.C., will focus on lobbying on Capitol Hill that Monday morning of the protest. Lobbying first, sitting-in second. And third, and most important of all, the suddenly swelling movement toward symbolic action next fall on a global basis. 350.org, the campaign I helped found, is looking for new ways to make a point, with a global day of action on Oct. 24 that will link people up from high in the Himalayas to underwater on the Great Barrier Reef to… Your Town Here.

A little Facebook, a little Twitter, and a little sitting down in the street where the police don’t want you. We’ve got to see what works!

POSTED ON 19 Feb 2009 IN Climate North America