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From false solutions to real solutions for Climate Change

From false solutions to real solutions for Climate Change

By Patrick Bond

The Wall Street Journal confirmed in March 2007 that emissions trading "will make a profit for some very large companies, but don't believe for a minute that this charade will be of any use in solving global warming." The document refers to carbon trading as an "old-fashioned pursuit of profit ... making money by cheating the regulatory process."


Amid her welcome criticism of the biofuel mania, published in ZNEt, Vandana Shiva includes the following point: "The Kyoto protocol completely avoided the material challenge of stopping activities that lead to increased emissions, and the political challenge to regulate polluters and make them pay, in accordance with the principles adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio. Instead, Kyoto chose to put in place the mechanism of emissions trading, which actually rewards the polluters, assigning them rights to the atmosphere and to trade these rights to pollute. "

By the way, in 1997 in Kyoto, Al Gore managed to mislead negotiators, leading them to adopt carbon trading as the central climate strategy, in exchange for Washington's support - which never materialized.

Similarly, in December 2007, the Conference of the Parties in Bali allowed the "everyone against America" ​​debate to hide much more enduring problems. Even many well-intentioned environmentalists and citizens think that building on the Kyoto postulates is the correct strategy for post-Bali negotiations.

These include the NGO network known as the Climate Action Network and corporate-funded environmental groups such as IUCN, the Sierra Club, the World Wildlife Federation, and the Environmental Defense Fund. US Senators Sanders, Kerry, Liebeman, McCain, Leahy, Feinstein, Bingaman, Snow, Specter, Alexander and Carper all proposed laws in 2007 to implement emissions trading.

"Solving a market problem (pollution) with a market solution" remains a precept for some 'light' greens, despite a year full of scandalous reports, both from researchers and the press.

A year ago, Citigroup's Peter Aherton confessed in a Power-Point presentation that the European Union's Emissions Trading System (ETS) "did nothing to stop emissions" and acted as a " strongly regressive tax, taxing primarily the poor. " Regarding the fulfillment of the policy goals, he admitted that "prices went up, emissions went up, profits went up ... so no, not really. Who wins and who loses? All generation companies - won. Generation companies of coal-based power and nuclear power - the ones that gained the most. Hedge funds and energy traders - gained even more. Those who lost… ahem… consumers! " .

The Wall Street Journal confirmed in March 2007 that emissions trading "will make a profit for some very large companies, but don't believe for a minute that this charade will be of any use in solving global warming." The document refers to carbon trading as an "old-fashioned pursuit of profit ... making money by cheating the regulatory process."

Speaking on the BBC Channel Four newscast in March 2007, the European Energy Commissioner delivered his verdict on the ETS: "a failure." Yvo de Boer, the phlegmatic head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned of "the possibility that the market could also collapse." In April 2006, the price of carbon on the European market fell by half overnight due to mismanagement by the ETS authorities.

But not only in Europe. According to an investigation of carbon trading (through the Clean Development Mechanism, CDM) in the Third World, conducted by Newsweek magazine in March 2007, this "is not working ... [and represents] a grossly inefficient path of reducing carbon emissions in the developing world ". The magazine calls this trade a fraudulent ‘cap game’ that has transferred "$ 3 billion to some of the worst carbon polluters in the developing world."

After an exhaustive series of articles on the problems associated with carbon trading and offsets, the Financial Times concludes that it is nothing more than a carbon "smoke screen".

In June, The Guardian newspaper titled its investigation in the same mocking tone: "The Truth About Kyoto - Huge Profits, And A Bit Of Carbon Saved ... Abuse And Incompetence In The Fight Against Global Warming ... The Inconvenient Truth About The Industry of carbon offsets ".

Meanwhile, the professionalism and good sense of the big green groups - or simply their cronyism (as key CAN personnel now work in the industry) - have rendered them utterly useless as vigilant observers of carbon trading.

So who do you turn to?

The Bali Conference recorded the creation of an alternative movement under construction outside of those: the network for ‘Climate Justice Now’ composed of Carbon Trade Watch (a project of the Transnational Institute); the Center for Environmental Concerns; Focus on the Global South; the Freedom from Debt Coalition of the Philippines; Friends of the Earth International; Women for Climate Justice; the Global Forest Coalition; the Global Justice Ecology Project; the International Forum on Globalization (International Forum on Globalization); the Kalikasan-Peoples Network for the Environment; Via Campesina; the Durban Group for Climate Justice; Oilwatch; the Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition; Sustainable Energy and Economy Network (from the Institute for Policy Studies); the Indigenous Environmental Network; the Third World Network; the Climate Justice Forum of Indonesian Civil Society Organizations; and the Global Movement for Tropical Forests.


This alliance criticized carbon trading and called for genuine solutions; "Consumption reduction; massive financial transfers from North to South based on historical responsibility and ecological debt, aimed at adaptation and mitigation costs paid for through a reorientation of the military budget, the application of innovative taxes and the cancellation of debt; leaving fossil fuels underground and investing in efficient, safe and clean energy sources and community-managed renewable energy; conserving resources according to rights, in order to enforce people's land rights indigenous peoples and the sovereignty of the peoples over energy, forests, land and water, and through sustainable family agriculture and the food sovereignty of the peoples ".

In October 2004, the Durban Group was founded with the aim of tackling the issues of carbon trading, warning of all the dangers mentioned, in particular Shiva's point that the transfer of the right to pollute constitutes a Trillion dollar gift to those responsible for the bulk of climate problems.

But the establishment characters will continue to confuse things. At the Bali meeting, one of the key leaders of the Third World was South African Minister of the Environment Marthinus van Schallwyk - FW de Klerk's successor as leader of the National Party, having served in the appartheid police as a spy for his fellow students (he later founded the National Party into the African National Congress, the ruling party, and was rewarded with a petty ministry). His strategy to lure the United States into the fold involved paying the price of removing any emissions targets and accountability mechanisms from the official declaration and strengthening carbon trading.

Van Schalkwyk's leadership is an exercise in cross-dressing, as he said nothing about the $ 20 billion his own country spends on new investments - partly privatized through AES, a US multinational - in cheap coal-fired electricity generation. , for the benefit of large companies; he supports the expansion of atomic energy. South Africa already has a production of emissions per person per unit of GDP twenty times that of the United States, and Schalkwyk's official carbon trading policy argues that this is basically a "business opportunity".

This is so only if there is no resistance; In Durban, Sajida Khan fought carbon trading before she died of cancer, a disease caused by a landfill near her home during the apartheid era - the pilot experience for methane extraction, funded by the Clean Development Mechanism in South Africa.

As opposed to carbon trading, what is reverberating within grassroots movements, among miners and in resistance struggles in many parts of the world, is a very different strategy and demand from civil society activists : Leave the oil in the ground, and the resources on the ground!

This call was first made by the OilWatch group (then headquartered in Quito, Ecuador) in 1997, as a strategy for the climate in Kyoto. The heroic activists of Acción Ecológica participated in the fight to stop oil exploitation in part of the Yasuni National Park. This led President Rafael Correa to declare in mid-2007 that the North should pay Ecuador about US $ 5 billion as compensation for its commitment to permanently renounce the exploitation of the Yasuni (although there is concern among indigenous peoples about the oil extraction in neighboring areas, especially at the hands of the voracious Brazilian company Petrobras).

A year ago, at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, many more groups understood the importance of this movement, thanks to the eloquence of activists from the Niger Delta, such as those from the Port Harcourt NGO Environmental Rights Action (ERA ) -Friends of the Earth Nigeria. For example, female community activists systematically cut off production in the oil fields with sit-ups in which they undressed, thus showing their utter disrespect for oil multinationals.

In my own neighborhood, which includes two of Africa's largest refineries, the South Durban Community and Environmental Alliance has mobilized against corporate and municipal environmental crimes, including three major explosions and fires since September and the widespread killing of fish at Christmas, caused by a toxic spill in the port of Durban, the busiest in Africa.

But the legacy of resistance to abuses associated with fossil fuels dates back much further, and includes environmentalists in Alaska and California who managed to stop drilling and even exploration. In Norway, the global justice group ATTAC raised concerns about these same issues at a conference last October, and began hard work to persuade the managers of the powerful Norwegian Oil Fund to use the vast revenues earned. from the exploitation of its North Sea heritage to pay Ecuadorians part of the ecological debt owed to them.

Perhaps the most eloquent climate analyst in the North is George Monbiot, and it turned out that instead of going to Bali, he stayed at his home in Britain causing a stir with his Guardian column:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I have the answer! Incredible as it may sound, I have stumbled upon the only technology that will save us from rampant climate change! From the bottom of my kind heart I offer it free of charge. No patent, no fine print "No hidden clauses. This technology - a radical new way to capture and store carbon - is already causing a stir among scientists. It is cheap, it is efficient, and it can be applied immediately. It is called ... leaving fossil fuels underground." "

"On a dark day last week, as governments gathered in Bali to prevaricate on climate change, a group of us tried to put this policy into practice. We sneaked into an open pit coal mine that was being dug in Ffos-y-fran in South Wales and we occupied the bulldozers, closing the work for that day. We were motivated by a fact that has been overlooked by the wise heads in Bali: if they are extracted, fossil fuels will be used ".

Canada is another of the places in the North where activists are working to get oil underground. At an Edmonton conference last November, the Parkland Institute of the University of Alberta and its allies argued in favor of not continuing with ventures in areas of tar sand deposits (where it is necessary to burn one liter of fuel for every three that are mined, and devastating local water, fisheries and air quality).

Institute Director Gordon Laxer made a strong case for setting exceptionally strict limits on water use and greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands extraction; realistic financial deposit and land reclamation plans; that the production of dirty energy is no longer subsidized; provisions for Canadian energy security (as much of the oil sands extraction is exported to the United States); and charging much higher rates on dirty energy to fund the clean energy industry (Alberta currently has a very low concession fee).

I have enthusiastically brought up this claim in many places in the past two years, commenting on the moral, political, economic and ecological merits of leaving the oil underground. Unfortunately, in addition to confessing my deepest regret for the excessive fuel used by the planes that took me on this crusade, I must report that the only place where the message fell like a bucket of cold water was among the dear colleagues of the petro-socialist Venezuela.

It does not matter, there are many examples in which communities and environmentalists armed with courage, have managed with their campaigns to keep non-renewable resources (not only fossil fuels) in the subsoil and the earth, for the benefit of the environment and the stability of the community, discouraging political corruption and favoring the health and safety of workers.

The cases of greatest interest here in South Africa today are that of the great platinum fields of the Limpopo Province and that of titanium and other minerals from the dunes of the Wild Coast (where, ironically, the movie Blood Diamond was filmed. of blood)). The hardened communities in the fight put up resistance against multinational companies, but they need the presence of a vigorous solidarity, since the extraction of these resources is extremely costly in terms of the use of local land, the displacement of farmers, the extraction of water , energy consumption, and political corruption, and demand constant vigilance and community solidarity.

The awareness that local activists are generating with these campaigns makes us all more aware of how negative spurious strategies such as carbon trading are, in contrast to a genuine project to change the world.

* Patrick Bond directs the Center for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa (www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs ), to get in touch, write to [email protected] .

This article was first published in MRZine, an electronic monthly newsletter, at http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/bond060108.html Source: Focus on Trade, published by Focus on the Global South, which provides news and analysis on regional and global trends in the economy and trade, the political economy of globalization, and popular struggles for resistance and alternatives to world capitalism. Focus on the Global South is an autonomous policy research and action program, associated with the Institute for Social Research (CUSRI) of the University of Chulalongkorn, based in Bangkok, Thailand.- Translation: Alicia Porrini and Alberto Villarreal for REDES-Amigos of the Earth Uruguay (www.redes.org.uy )


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