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Was Cancun Climate Conference a Success?

Was Cancun Climate Conference a Success?

The United Nations-led Climate Conference at Cancun was not a diplomatic disaster, but for climate activists and grassroots groups, it wasn’t a success either. Representatives sent from around the globe to hammer out an agreement on climate change were unresponsive to grassroots concerns about how to lower carbon emissions quickly, and how to ensure fairness in the process.

“Some grassroots groups are losing their faith in the U.N.’s capacity to produce meaningful results,” Madeline Ostrader reported for Yes! Magazine. “After the United Nations expelled Native American leader Tom Goldtooth from the meeting last week, the Indigenous Environmental Network called the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change ‘the WTO of the sky.’”

While gloomy reports before the conference worried that international negotiations could veer entirely off course, the representatives at the conference did come up with an agreement that fleshed out last year’s Copenhagen Accord. It became clearer, though, that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process will not ultimately guard the interests of less powerful players.

Climbing over a low bar

Although diplomats congratulated themselves for their accomplishments, not everyone was so pleased,  Stephen Leahy reported at Inter Press Service.

“It’s pathetic the world community struggles so much just to climb over such a low bar,” commented [Kumi] Naidoo, [executive director of Greenpeace.] “Our only real hope is to mobilise a broad-based climate movement involving all sectors of the public and civil society before Durban.”

Indeed, this year’s conference saw a greater mobilization of outside forces than Copenhagen did. But by the end of the conference, activists were frustrated with the UN-led process, Democracy Now! reported, and began protesting in the area near the conference, under the close watch of UN guards:

When the demonstrators continued their vigil past the time allotted to them, U.N. guards moved in and dragged them towards a waiting bus. The protesters linked arms, and the scene quickly became chaotic. As they wrestled activists onto buses, U.N. guards also seized press credentials from the necks of journalists, and detained a photographer while seizing his camera.

Running REDD

There was one issue in particular, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, or REDD, a financial tool that allows countries to offset their emissions, that caused concern among climate activists. As Michelle Chen explained at ColorLines,  ”From a climate justice standpoint, the deal lost credibility once it was tainted with REDD, a supposed anti-deforestation initiative that indigenous communities have long decried as an assault on native people’s sovereignty and way of life.”

The program would seek to set aside forests, through financial incentives that would make it more profitable to preserve forests than to harvest them. The problem, in essence, is that the program would take away resources in developing countries, particularly in indigenous communities, in order to mitigate negative actions in developed countries.

At IPS, Stephen Leahy reported, “REDD remains very controversial. It is widely touted as a way to mobilise $10 to $30 billion annually to protect forests by selling carbon credits to industries in lieu of reductions in emissions. … Many indigenous and civil society groups reject REDD outright if it allows developed countries to avoid real emission reductions by offsetting their emissions.”

Developed vs. Developing

Balancing the interests of developing and developed countries has always been the thorny tangle at the center of climate negotiations, and the Cancun Agreement, critics say, favors developed countries.

As Tom Athanasiou writes at Earth Island Journal, “There’s an even deeper concern, that, in the words of the South Centre’s Martin Khor,  ’Cancun may be remembered in future as the place where the UNFCCC’s climate regime was changed significantly, with developed countries being treated more and more leniently, reaching a level like that of developing countries, while the developing countries are asked to increase their obligations to be more and more like developed countries.’”

REDD is an example of that sort of bargain: Developing countries have to sacrifice, too. But developed countries have, in this conference and at its predecessors, refused to make any real sacrifices. This round, it became clear that, in addition to the United States, other key countries, like Japan, would not be willing to commit to binding legal targets for carbon emissions.

Who benefits?

What’s worse, developed countries benefit, indirectly, from the financial mechanism proposed to regulate carbon, Madeline Ostrader writes.

“Many of the proposals for financing and regulating climate are designed to earn profits for the same banks that brought the global economy to its knees,” she explains. “Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have been vying for a stake in the global carbon offset trade—a proposed economic model for cutting emissions around the world.”

The movement of non-governmental groups and activists fighting to hold rich countries accountable has gained momentum in the past year. If international leaders are ever to move away from these imbalanced agreements, that movement will have to grow and convince a vocal majority of people around the world to support its calls to action. Only then will leaders feel pressure to write stronger, fairer agreements.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.


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Photo Credit: Cherrylynx
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

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45 comments

+ add your own
6:47PM PST on Feb 4, 2011

thanks.

7:23PM PST on Feb 3, 2011

As usual, nothing real will get done, because of greedy companies wanting to continue their pollution, -- until our backs are literally against the wall. By then, much will not be able to be done, and what we can do, will cost a whole lot more. Small, petty, short-sighted thinking. People not thinking ahead for their children, but only concerned with the big truck they want to drive now.

10:01AM PST on Jan 4, 2011

I'm the Stephen Leahy quoted in the article, and am a sci/enviro journalist covering all this stuff on regular basis which you can see here: http://stephenleahy.net/

Glad to see many of my articles are cited on care2. And that most comments are reasonable and supportive.

And Mike while the Iceland volcano did emit CO2 it was a tiny amount compared to human emissions. There are lots of good news sources to verify that fact. Global warming is not going away and we have to deal with it or suffer the consequences.

3:46AM PST on Dec 27, 2010

nothing new since Denmark

4:03PM PST on Dec 25, 2010

Thanks for the article.

9:34AM PST on Dec 22, 2010

The big money is ruining the planet. But they seem to be like a snake eating itself. Eventually there will be nothing more to eat.

7:38PM PST on Dec 20, 2010

Climate Change - Are You Sitting Down?






All of you, out there across the globe, who have fought so hard to tackle the hideous enemy of our planet, namely carbon emissions, you know .....that bogus god you worship of "Climate Change" or "Global Warming" ......well, I feel it is necessary to inform you of some bad news. It really does pain me to have to bring you this disappointing information.

Are you sitting down?

Okay, here's the bombshell. The current volcanic eruption going on in Iceland, since its first spewing of volcanic ash has, in just FOUR DAYS, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet - all of you.

Of course you know about this evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress - it's that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow and to synthesise into oxygen for us humans and all animal life.

I know, I know.... (group hug)...it's very disheartening to realise that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of: driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kid's "The Green Revolution" science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, vacationing at home instead of Bali, nearly getting h

10:05PM PST on Dec 19, 2010

Why is this so-surely anything that keeps the planet safer and hurts no-one is good and useful
QUOTE
Stephen Leahy reported, "REDD remains very controversial. It is widely touted as a way to mobilise $10 to $30 billion annually to protect forests by selling carbon credits to industries in lieu of reductions in emissions. … Many indigenous and civil society groups reject REDD outright if it allows developed countries to avoid real emission reductions by offsetting their emissions."

7:24PM PST on Dec 19, 2010

Noted. thanx

4:31PM PST on Dec 19, 2010

Actually they could regulate the climate with their HAARP technology, but they're not into that.

They are into 'georgia guidestones' stuff.

Regards...

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