Archive | December 7th, 2009

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“Our Grandchildren Will Ask Us What We Did”

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor



Local Government Climate Lounge. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch.

Local Government Climate Lounge. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch.

By Servaas van den Bosch


COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – Global warming will hit Africa hardest at the local level, yet municipalities are grossly overlooked by the decision-makers in Copenhagen. In response Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) launched a continent-wide declaration on climate change.

“Our grandchildren will ask us what granny did to prepare us for the effects of climate change,” counselor Agnes Ntlhangula reminded an audience of African local government officials. “Global warming will affect Africa in the worst way, because our people use natural resources. Yes, the developed countries should carry us forwards, but we must also take action ourselves.”

The African Local Government Declaration on Climate Change outlines a set of demands and recommendations from local governments in over twenty African countries. Representatives of Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda were present at the launch.

“The most immediate goal at this conference is to lobby for inclusion of local governments in the negotiating text,” said ICLEI Africa director Kobie Brand.

To do this, ICLEI has brought over 1100 local counselors, mayors and other representatives to the Danish capital. It’s the second largest delegation at the COP, and many of them are African.

“I am so impressed,” exclaimed ICLEI global president David Cadman. “Africa has to understand that it is an absolute leader when it comes to municipalities working together and getting organized. It needs to take that leadership role in this conference. Talk to your national delegations, urge them to step forward.”

“Politicians will only buy into something when they are supplied with lots of information,” Ntlhangula added.

“The voices of local governments are missing out. Not just here in Copenhagen but everywhere at national level,” argued Cecilia Njenga of the UN Habitat Centre in Nairobi. “It’s clear that we cannot incorporate the adaptation responses to climate change, but we are not there when the money-cake is divided.”

She urged local governments not to sit back in dealing with climate change. “We know that the biggest problems will occur with food security and water provision. Who else than the municipality is responsible for that? We have to think in a more holistic manner in solving these problems.”

“We cannot make the mistake that we made with HIV/AIDS,” warned Ntlhangula. “There we didn’t act until it was much too late. Let’s act on climate change while it’s fresh.”

Cadman said “The risky habits of the North are transferred to Africa, and the effects are floods and droughts alike. Africa has acknowledged this danger and is in the forefront in making the voice of local governments heard. I hope this declaration will become a much wider consensus statement.”

The document calls on Convention Parties to build a pro-poor framing of the global response to climate change and give a central place to cities and towns in mitigation and adaptation. “The African continent has the fastest growing urban population and our urban centres are the site of substantial development pressure, which are at the frontline of response to climate change,” the African Local Government declaration reads.

The flipside of this coin is the potential for African cities to contribute to the fight against global warming. “Imagine how much energy would be saved through a simple measure like installing ceilings in two million low-cost houses,” said Carstens Laugensen, environmental attaché of the Danish Embassy in Pretoria.

Two years ago the Danes initiated the Urban Environmental Management Programme (UEMP) and bankrolled it with 40 million dollars, eighty percent of which will go to implementation.

Municipalities can apply for grants under UEMP through the Ministry of Environment with a budget plan for projects of their own choice. “This is vital,” commented Laugensen. “How would we as Danes know what local solutions are required in Durban or Johannesburg?”

With UEMP money, Cape Town started a climate change think tank that must prepare the city for catastrophes. The city of Durban invested in both urban adaptation projects and community based initiatives in rural areas. Both cities, housing over three million people, are at risk from rising seas levels. Flash floods have badly damaged Durban in recent years.

According to Cadman UEMP can go a long way: “We should roll it out all over the continent.”

“The local governments that do well have to be our voice at a national level,” appealed Njenga. “We need our champions to speak for us.”

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Q&A: “We Are Moving Towards Modest Cooperation”

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

Mario Osava interviews Brazilian physicist JOSÉ GOLDEMBERG, key figure at 1992 Earth Summit


José Goldemberg. Credit: American Association for the Advancement of Science

José Goldemberg. Credit: American Association for the Advancement of Science

(IPS/TerraViva) – Vested interests in fossil fuels have blocked major steps against global warming so far, according to José Goldemberg, who has played a leading role at key times in the climate crisis facing humanity.

One of the driving forces behind the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, when he was the Brazilian interim environment minister, Goldemberg says Brazil today lacks the leadership it exercised at the Earth Summit and in the subsequent negotiations that produced the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, because its current proposals are so lacking in vision.

A respected energy expert and winner of the 2008 Blue Planet Prize, a kind of environmental Nobel Prize awarded by the Japanese Asahi Glass Foundation, the 81-year-old physicist continues to work as a professor at the Institute of Electrotechnics and Energy at the University of São Paulo.

In this interview with TerraViva, Goldemberg said he expects an outcome of “modest cooperation” from the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-15), which opened Monday in Copenhagen.

TERRAVIVA: There is a tremendous difference between perceptions of climate change in 1992, and today. And carbon dioxide emissions have risen a great deal, in rich countries as well as in emerging ones, in spite of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. Were we naïve about it? Did science take too long to reveal the seriousness of the problem?

JOSÉ GOLDEMBERG: The 1992 “vision” was rather naïve. At the same time, we did not expect so much resistance from fossil fuel producers against changing their technologies and adopting newer and less polluting ones.

This explains why emissions reductions targets in the industrialised countries, spelled out in the Kyoto Protocol, have not been met. And developing countries, which had no binding reduction targets and were only responsible for 30 percent of global emissions in 1990, are now emitting 50 percent, but they are reluctant to take on commitments to reduce them.

This is partly due to the fact that the consequences of global warming take time to make themselves felt, so there is no very strong sense that urgent action is required.

TV: A change in the global energy mix cannot wait until oil runs out, let alone coal reserves. What can be done to overcome the inertia that is preventing a transition to a low-carbon economy?

JG: The assessment reports based on expert research published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the evidence that the signs of global warming are becoming clearer, are helping to motivate countries. There is no doubt, for instance, that the frequency of extreme climate events has increased in recent years.

TV: Can nuclear energy contribute to the solution?

JG: Yes, if the other problems associated with it are solved, such as safe disposal of radioactive waste and nuclear proliferation. These problems are different from those created by fossil fuels, and they are far from being solved, as can be seen in the cases of Iran and North Korea.

TV: What blocked the approval of your proposal of a target of 10 percent renewable energies in the global energy mix, which you presented at the Rio+10 conference, held in Johannesburg in 2002?

JG: The resistance of coal and oil producing countries, including the United States. The European Union enthusiastically supported my proposal, and in fact still does, and is now planning to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

TV: Why has ethanol not taken off as a fuel, as the Brazilian government wishes? Have its prospects changed, in the face of the near panic caused by climate change?

JG: Ethanol has not taken off because the United States and the European Union impose tariff barriers to protect their domestic industries, which produce fuel alcohol from maize and wheat at a cost two or three times higher than Brazilian ethanol made from sugarcane.

TV: What are your expectations of the COP 15 conference? Is the world moving towards another “cold war,” as Graciela Chichilnisky (an Argentine-American scientist who made valuable contributions to the Kyoto Protocol) claims, or towards cooperation, since nobody wins from global warming?

JG: I think we are moving towards modest cooperation, because even China and India are planning to do something to reduce their emissions, although not as much as is needed.

TV: Has Brazil taken on a leadership role again on environmental issues, as it did in Rio in 1992, and in Kyoto in 1997?

JG: No, because the Brazilian proposal on its emissions reductions to COP 15 was formulated belatedly, and is voluntary rather than binding, so it has been received with a certain lack of trust. It’s easy to promise to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent by 2020, but it’s harder to keep that promise.

In addition, the Brazilian proposal is conditional, rather vaguely, on financial support from industrialised countries. In contrast, the target adopted by the southern state of São Paulo, which is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in comparison to 2005  levels, is clear, objective, and was well received.


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Rich Nations Resist Binding Commitments

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

Protesters in Copenhagen tell rich countries: "Pay your climate debt!" Credit: TerraViva
Protesters in Copenhagen tell rich countries: “Pay your climate debt!” Credit: TerraViva

Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN  (IPS/TerraViva) Betrayal and backsliding by rich countries marks the beginning of the final negotiations for a global climate treaty, according to many developing world participants at the U.N.-sponsored talks here.

“Developed countries express deep concern and commitment to action in their public statements, but it is completely different in the negotiating rooms,” said Algerian negotiator Kamel Djemouai, chair of the Africa group, which represents more than 50 African countries.

“What you hear in public is not what is being done,” Djemouai told delegates at a side meeting at the COP 15 climate meetings here.

At the last round of climate talks in Barcelona, African countries boycotted the meetings, saying that industrialised countries had set carbon-cutting targets too low to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change is already having significant impact on Africa and those impacts are a form of discrimination, Djemouai said.

“Science tells us that when the global average temperature is one degree C. higher, it will be two degrees C. hotter in Africa,” he added.

The current global average temperature is 0.78 degrees C higher than it was 100 years ago.

The United States and European Union are trying to “kill the Kyoto agreement” when the world must strengthen that agreement and follow the Bali Action Plan, Djemouai said.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol is the first international treaty to set down legally-binding targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least five percent between 2008 and 2012, compared to 1990 emissions. Developing countries have no targets.

The Protocol’s complex rulebook was completed in 2001 and it took effect on Feb. 16, 2005. It has been ratified by 183 countries plus the European Community, but not by the United States.

Instead, the U.S. and others want a new agreement here which may not be internationally binding, and only requires each country to make pledges and be subjected to peer review.

Under the Bali plan developed two years ago, all parties – including the U.S. – agreed to set specific mitigation targets, and work out technology transfer and financing arrangements to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate impacts here in Copenhagen.

Now developed countries are trying to change the agreement by adding in many other conditions before providing any real and effective targets, Djemouai said.

“We are just asking the developed countries to comply with the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recommendation of 25 to 40 percent emissions cuts by 2020,” he said.

Proposals to end Kyoto come as a shock to developing countries, said Martin Khor, executive director of the South Centre, an intergovernmental organisation of developing countries based in Geneva.

“Will the Bali action plan continue? If not, there will be a state of anarchy here,” Khor told delegates.

Khor acknowledges that the U.S., coming out of its “dark ages”, is not ready to make a full Kyoto-like binding agreement yet. But there is flexibility under the current rules for a significant U.S. commitment that is less legally binding without throwing out Kyoto, he said.

Instead, rich countries are trying to restart negotiations and have made emissions reduction commitments far below the 30 to 40 percent by 2020 that is needed to have any chance of keeping some small island states from being overwhelmed by rising sea levels, he said.

“Rich countries are climbing down from their commitments at a time when they should be stepping up, and shifting the responsibilities to developing countries,” Khor said.

There are serious implementation gaps at this point from developed countries, agreed Bernarditas de Castro-Muller, a negotiator from Philippines. Many that signed the Kyoto agreement have increased rather than reduced their emissions, and very little funding has been provided to help developing countries adapt, she said.

“We in the Philippines are scrounging around to find rice to feed our people after a series of devastating cyclones this year,” she noted.

Historically, about 80 percent of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere came from the rich countries, which represent 20 percent of the world’s population.

“That inequity can’t be ignored,” Castro-Muller said. Although current emissions are split 50-50 between developing and developed countries, a fifth of the global population is responsible for half of the emissions. “Is this equitable?” she asked.

Developing countries are prepared to take action to reduce emissions, but that is dependent on developed countries making science-based reductions and delivering on their promises to help poorer countries, she said.

“We are fighting for our existence here. We are fighting for justice,” Castro-Muller declared.

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“Nos encaminamos a una modesta cooperación”

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

José Goldemberg. Crédito: American Association for the Advancement of Science

José Goldemberg. Crédito: American Association for the Advancement of Science

Mario Osava entrevista al físico brasileño y protagonista de Río-92 JOSÉ GOLDEMBERG

RÍO DE JANEIRO (IPS/TerraViva) Los intereses vinculados a los combustibles fósiles lograron hasta ahora trabar las principales acciones para contener el calentamiento de la Tierra, según el brasileño José Goldemberg, protagonista de los momentos cruciales de este nuevo desafío de la humanidad.

Impulsor de la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo que se celebró en Río de Janeiro en 1992, cuando era secretario nacional de Ambiente, Goldemberg no ve en la actitud brasileña de hoy el liderazgo ejercido en aquella cumbre y en las negociaciones que siguieron para forjar el Protocolo de Kyoto en 1997, por la timidez de las propuestas actuales. Continue Reading

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COP15: “Please Help the World”

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

Bhutan delegates. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch.

Bhutan delegates. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch.

By Servaas van den Bosch

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – On a video screen a child watches a climate change report and dreams of a wasteland shaken by earthquakes, battered by cyclones and overrun with storm surges. She wakes up screaming and begs the delegates to “please help the world”

With this cry of desperation still resonating in the ears of 1500 or so negotiators, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) kicked off in Copenhagen on Monday morning. Organisers pressed the countries present to reach a deal, despite tempered expectations in the run up to the UNFCCC conference. Continue Reading

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América Latina entre la aspiración y el realismo

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

El trigo es uno de los cultivos latinoamericanos que más sufren el cambio climático. Crédito: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

El trigo es uno de los cultivos latinoamericanos que más sufren el cambio climático. Crédito: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

Por Daniela Estrada y Raúl Pierri *

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) América Latina llega a Copenhague reclamando que el Norte rico pague su deuda climática obligándose a reducir su contaminación y proveyendo recursos al Sur. Pero, ante los riesgos de fracaso, nadie descarta aceptar al menos compromisos políticos.

El propósito latinoamericano es que se adopte un acuerdo legalmente vinculante, pero la región no rechaza la idea de sumarse a un eventual pacto político que establezca reducciones voluntarias de gases de efecto invernadero (GEI) causantes del recalentamiento planetario. Continue Reading

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Climate Justice: The Only Solution to the Climate Crisis

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

Nnimmo Bassey. Credit: Courtesy FOEI

Nnimmo Bassey. Credit: Courtesy FOEI

By Nnimmo Bassey

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) – The Copenhagen climate talks could become a milestone towards ‘Climate Justice’.

Unfortunately, the chances of achieving a just and effective UN agreement in Copenhagen are very slim, mainly because the leaders of rich, developed countries are not addressing the climate crisis with the holistic, rights-based approach known as Climate Justice.

Scientists tell us that we are at the start of a climate crisis. This crisis is about people and about justice, not just polar bears. Continue Reading

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EL TIEMPO ES HOY – Beds are burning – Tck Tck Tck (Justicia Climática)

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

Artistas peruanos se suman a campaña mundial contra el cambio climático

Lanzaron canción y videoclip “El Tiempo es Hoy”

Anunciaron gran concierto gratuito para el jueves 10 de diciembre

Cecilia Bracamonte, William Luna, Ernesto Pimentel, Carmina Cannavino, Elsa María Elejalde, Pepe Vásquez, Daniel F, Elsa María Elejalde, Rafo Ráez, Jorge Pardo, Julio Andrade y María del Carmen Dongo presentaron hoy el video “El Tiempo es Hoy”, junto con los representantes del MOCICC y de Oxfam Internacional.

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CHINA: One Green Leap Forward, Two Steps Backward

Posted on 07 December 2009 by editor

By Antoaneta Bezlova

BEIJING  (IPS/TerraViva)  With low carbon seen as the new buzzword for government promotion and backed by Beijing as the new economic growth engine, China is poised for a green leap forward. But the political overtones of the drive and the zeal of local governments jumping on the low carbon bandwagon have raised concerns that the new green campaign may result in overcapacity, worsening China’s frictions with its trade partners. Continue Reading

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