Civil Society Rejects ‘False Solutions’

Posted on 06 December 2010 by admin

Protestors insisted on protection of the interests of indigenous people and peasant farmers. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

Protestors insisted on protection of the interests of indigenous people and peasant farmers. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/IPS

By Mantoe Phakathi

CANCÚN, Dec 6, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva) – As ministers arrived for the second week of climate change negotiations in the Mexican resort city of Cancún, an estimated two thousand marchers took to the streets to oppose what they called a capitalist outcome of deliberations.

“We’re seeing a green capitalism here in Cancún, where rich countries are calling for solutions aimed at violating the rights of not only the environment but also of grassroots groups,” said Mary Lon Malig, from peasant farmers’ organisation La Via Campesina.

The marchers – led by Via Campesina, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, environmental group Friends of the Earth, and others – rejected the emerging outlines of agreement on such things as expanding the Clean Development Mechanism, the finalising of a REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) programme, and the prominence given to bio-fuels.

Protestors demanded solutions to global warming that will not deprive indigenous people and smallholder farmers of their rights of access to natural resources such as water and land.

“We’re saying No! to the privatisation of water because this is a natural resource that should be available even to the poorest of the poor,” she said.

Malig told protestors at the march’s end point in the Plaza de la Reforma that countries pushing for fuels derived from biomass – ranging from maize and palm kernels, to sugar cane and jatropha – as part of the solution to climate change were supporting a strategy that would deprive indigenous people of land.

“We’re faced with a situation where land is going to be grabbed from peasant farmers by our governments to give way to huge hectares [for] plantations of bio-fuels owned by transnational corporations,” said Malig.

REDD programmes also came under strong criticism from marchers. Critics said the sale of carbon credits to polluting countries to raise funds to protect and restore forests in developing countries would only allow the developed world to continue polluting.

“This means the communities who live next to fossil refineries in the U.S. will continue getting diseases such as cancer from the fossil fuels,” said GGJI’s Sunyoung Young.

Young said the communities whose health is affected by these refineries in the United States are overwhelmingly poor people, blacks, Asians and migrants.

Elsewhere, REDD programmes have been criticised for blocking access of forest-dependent peoples to resources in the name of conservation, while any financial benefits from the sale of carbon credits go to governments rather than local communities.

The Clean Development Mechanism, which assigns carbon credits to development projects deemed less polluting than alternatives, also attracted criticism from marchers. They said the CDM leads to the adoption of false solutions to climate change, such as nuclear energy.

Drawing inspiration from previous struggles by civil society to against global negotiations led by governments and business, the march celebrated the example of Korean farmer Lee Kyung-hae, who plunged a knife into his own heart in protest against World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations in 2003.

He was hailed as a selfless hero who gave up his life to oppose the WTO, which civil society has widely criticised as favouring large corporate interests.

As the march began at the Via Campesina camp at the Unidad Deportiva Jacinto Canek in central Cancún, incense was burned in Lee’s memory. Others put down flowers, oranges and a variety of maize seeds – Mexico is the birthplace of corn – at the Via Campesina camp in downtown Cancún.

“We’re trying to connect with the spirit of Lee,” said one of the protesters after placing flowers.

Doudou Pierre Fetile, a peasant farmer from Haiti, said smallholders continue to struggle against unfair terms of trade. He feared the climate negotiations were being carried out in the same vein.

“REDD is one of the examples where poor farmers will lose land to give way to plantations of trees under the excuse that they are used as carbon sink,” said Fetile.

He said indigenous farmers have the solution to global warming, but are not included in the negotiations.

“Let’s go back to the indigenous ways of life,” said Fetile. “Let’s evaluate the way in which we’re producing because therein lies the climate change problem.”

As the politicians join negotiatiors in Cancún, and agreements are hammered out, civil society began asserting its voice. A massive march is planned for Dec. 7.


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