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Monday, December 6, 2010
TRADING THE FOREST GODS FOR CARBON CREDIT
by Uchita de Zoysa (Convener-Climate Sustainability PLATFORM)
Carbon trading is like exchanging bad karma for the good; while the rich climate sinners keep living their destructive lifestyles, the poor are asked to continue to conserve the environment so the sinful emissions could be absorbed. The price to sin is just a few dollars, and then they get to keep profiting from the prevalent dirty brown economy. If the brown economy is serious being challenged, then the plan would be to green wash it and find another marketplace to keep the exploitation alive.
Trading ecological space for a few dollars
Sadly, some developing country governments are rushing into trading their forest gods and ecological space for a few dollars. That money will not be worth the cost that all nations will have to spend to adapt to climate change. But not like nations and communities, governments are only there for a few years and money matters more to be in power than serving the future generations! During that short period their partners in crime, the corporations, have been generous to show them the way to money. A New York Times article reported that “carbon trading is one of the fastest-growing specialties in financial services and companies are scrambling to get a slice of a market now worth about $30 billion and that could grow to $1 trillion within a decade. Carbon will be the world's biggest commodity market, and it could become the world's biggest market over all.”
Intra-national level climate justice and equity
While some developing country governments are looking at trading their forest gods, Indian mountain ecologist Prof. Jayanta Bandyopadhyay writing to the Calcutta Daily Telegraph had said, “Although about half of the Indian population has historically not emitted any significant amount of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, it will face the greatest impacts of global warming and related climate change. The question of delivering climate justice at the intra-national level is equally significant. The rich in India should not seek protection behind the vast numbers of the poor to present a low per-capita emission figure. India’s demand for climate justice at the international level can be more authentic if steps are taken within the country to advance climate justice and equity”.
Adding to the Indian debate Pradeep Mehta, a consumer activist from the ‘Consumer Unity Trust Society’ writing to the Economic Times said, “as an emerging power, India should also assume the responsibility of leading by example in climate issues. The resulting moral pressure on the rich to clean up their act is sure to have a greater impact than expressions of resolve not to compromise, which have had ‘zero success’ in mitigating climate change. After all, the impacts of climate change through decreased agricultural yield, floods, droughts and desertification will be felt mostly in the tropical zone, and therefore on India, China and their neighbours.”
Changing games of the carbon race
The Chinese President Hu Jintao, last year prior to COP15, pledged that China will change its fossil fuel based development course with significant cuts to their emissions, and that would be only if the developed countries can make their due commitments. China is the largest carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting country today even though their per capita emissions are low. The Americans have helped China to beat them in the emissions race simply by inducing an investment regime that saw a process which is called ‘made by America in China’. Now that the Chinese have inherited a new consumption culture, they would want to experience it for some time and that would increase the pressure on climate.
The world today is a place of inequity and injustice, and a new world needs to ensure equity in consumption, production, trade and wellbeing opportunities for all across the world and across society within nations. The struggle to achieving a better quality of life for consumers in developing countries is clearly denied by the over consumption lifestyles in developed countries. If the rich consumers in the emerging economies start consumer higher and if the consumers in the industrialised countries continue on the current consumption patterns, we will require more than several planets of resources to sustain them. If not, and if they still wish to consume the same volumes on this single planet, they may as well get rid of all the poor, and that would mean to eliminate half of the global population. In such a scenario, forest gods are the last to be remembered and the first to be traded.
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for more information on Cancun COP16 see OUTREACH Magazine @ http://www.stakeholderforum.org/sf/outreach/
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Friday, December 3, 2010
Another Green Revolution
or a One Straw Revolution?
By Uchita de Zoysa (Convener – Climate Sustainability PLATFORM)
I am one of those billions of people who love a simple plate of rice and curry. Another is Khuong Sopheak, of the Cambodian NGO Network. But the recent floods in Banteay Meanchey province in Cambodia have left his people in the region to give-up their traditional rice cultivation and find new agricultural practices. Cambodia is country that has produced a surplus of rice. In 2009 they had 7.3 million tonnes harvested and exported over 8,000 tonnes of milled rice mainly to Europe, Africa and the rest of Asia. Now the same people who provided rice to rest of the world may have to find their own pot of rice in neighbouring countries as climate refugees? Sopheak said “this is a new climate change related situation. People are asking the government for support because they do not have enough food as they could not produce rice during this year. But, the costs are too high even for the government. If they do not have enough food, illegal migration will increase as they will go to Thailand to earn money to survive and to support their families.”
Climate refugees will add to the food crisis as well as urbanization issues. While half of the world’s population is concentrated in urban areas, climate security and prosperity of the predominantly agrarian rural population needs more focus of the policy makers? In the aftermath of the financial downturn in 2008, a new green revolution is being proposed by the green economy initiatives and it appears to be another green technology drive. The first green revolution that mechanized agriculture and food production could not solve the worlds hunger problem, and a second may not provide the true answers. In this respect “One-Straw Revolution” by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese scientist who proved that chemical and machinery use in agriculture are not necessary to harvest good yielding crops should be revisited. Fukuoka practiced a system of farming he referred to as “natural farming.” The essence of Fukuoka’s method is to reproduce natural conditions as closely as possible. Fukuoka in an interview had said “if modern agriculture continues to follow the path it’s on now, it’s finished. The food-growing situation may seem to be in good shape today, but that’s just an illusion based on the current availability of petroleum fuels. All the wheat, corn, and other crops that are produced on big American farms may be alive and growing, but they’re not products of real nature or real agriculture. They’re manufactured rather than grown. The earth isn’t producing those things... petroleum is!”
Now that we all have agreed on a future non-dependent on petroleum, what is the way forward? Have those negotiating for a deal on climate change considered a One-Straw Revolution or just believe that another Green Revolution would provide the miracles? The climate negotiations rather annoyingly continue to debate the issue of technology transfer. Why would someone want technology that is known to be destructive? Why should someone withhold technology that is vital to meet the challenges of climate change across the world? Why should another negotiate to preserve the right of ownership, when the entire world is challenged by a changing climate? Perhaps because these people see the challenges of climate change as a market opportunity and they also know that technology will remain a critical mode to bargain for the best deal?
If climate change is becoming the greatest challenge to be faced by humans according to the IPCC and the scientific community, then why worry about bargains? Well, firstly we are human and not any other animal; and are selfish by nature. Secondly, because we also know that while natural disasters will strike us time and time again, the real threat will be in another thirty to forty years time, and during that period we will not be equally affected? It is also not a secret that during the transition, technology will play a critical role in the global trade balance and economic power politics? The green economy is therefore being designed on a technological platform and the advantages are still held by the corporations in the North. Whatever the reasons, if the negotiators are coming with bags to fill up for their individual countries or corporations, then they are not negotiating for a better world.
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SHOW US POLITICAL WILL
UCHITA DE ZOYSA (CONVENER – CLIMATE SUSTAINABILITY PLATFORM)
Two weeks before Cancun COP16, rain started pouring into the Capital City Colombo in Sri Lanka crippling life activities and destroying roads, walls, houses, vehicles, etc. To start with, the parliament went under water and the MP’s had to be rescued by the armed forces. The flood waters came rushing through the road to my house and the neighbours’ parapet wall collapsed onto mine. Few miles away my friends home went under water and he called me and said “so this is what climate change is going to be like and we now need to adjust to the new conditions”. Many in the city had similar and sadder stories and all ended with new hardships and extra expenses. All of us down here are already preparing for the now frequent climate disasters; adaptation is already costing us!
Equity, mitigation and adaptation
Speaking to me on Cancun responsibilities, former Vice Chair of IPCC-AR4 Prof. Mohan Munasinghe demanded that political will to raise the resources to accelerate adaptation is demonstrated during the current round of climate negotiations. He said; "Even if progress on mitigation is slow, there is no excuse to delay more rapid progress on agreements to reduce climate change vulnerability and promote adaptation among the poorest and hardest hit groups in all countries. We know what needs to be done. We have the frameworks like Sustainomics, tools, policies and practical examples to start this process immediately, but sadly, the political will is lacking. Adaptation can be accelerated dramatically using funding amounting to just a small fraction of the USD 5 trillion that was raised so quickly to halt the recent financial meltdown. Equity and ethical principles should be used when negotiators consider how the burdens of both climate change impacts/adaptation and mitigation are distributed. The most effective way of addressing climate change is to integrate both adaptation and mitigation measures into sustainable development strategy. Civil society and business need to be more pro-active in pushing governments to take action now."
UN climate change negotiations are failing
International climate change negotiations are failing because they are not based on such foundations that offer equity, wellbeing and happiness of all. These negotiations at the United Nations are designed as a process of bargaining led by short sighted political leadership and their representatives. It is a bargaining place for the managers of the prevailing erroneous global governance and economic system. UN negotiations are not places where the countries congregate with mutual trust or confidence. Each of them tries to bargain for their own best share, rather than for the betterment of the planet. Therefore, these negotiations can hardly provide hope of a radical change in the approach or attitude towards creating a different system for a better world. If the international climate negotiations continue to fail in reaching an implementable agreement very soon, we would be allowing our global leadership to design for us an ultimate destiny to perish.
The frequency of natural disasters
We are already experiencing natural disasters at a regular frequency across the world like no other time in human history. Seeing highly developed cities in USA and Europe getting submerged in flood waters, regular landslides in China, and earth quakes in Pakistan, tsunami’s in the sea close to Indonesia is driving fear in the minds of millions. If we are to believe the fourth assessment report of the IPCC and the warnings by the climate scientists, then we may well get ready for a life on earth filled with catastrophic natural calamities. While such dangerous climate change can still be evaded, there is simply no faith, trust and confidence in the current global leadership in making commitments required to face that challenge. Even if promises are made by them, there is no assurance that they will actually meet the commitments made.
The next generation
So we do fear our fate on earth. The worst part of this fear is not really for me or my generation, but to understand that my daughter and her generation will suffer a destiny of uncertainty and destitution. My daughter is only eleven years old. In 2050 she will be over fifty years and would have gone through all the changes in the climate as predicted by scientists of our times. Worst is that she might have to face the consequences of the mistakes made by our generation. By that time my daughter would be having her own children and perhaps grand children as well, and she would be living in a state of constant worry for her family. Her worries will be much greater than mine; and that worries me no end. I am just one father of several billion who worries about the future of their children. Can leaders in Cancun show more compassion towards our children and their futures? Can that compassion become the fuel necessary to ignite the political will that we desperately seek?
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The Challenge is not Adapting to a Livable World!
A Warmer Earth Still Could be Our Happy Planet!
by Uchita de Zoysa, Convenor – Climate Sustainability PLATFORM
The focus of our challenge on earth should not be diluted or diverted towards merely adapting to a liveable world. Even in a world with increased temperature, the future human generations should be able to find wellbeing and happiness. The adaptation challenge is not to compromise on a liveable world but to take necessary action to create prosperity in a changing climate on earth. The danger of the compromised approach suggests that we humans will suffer in a 2°C plus temperature rise. Humans have shown their resilience throughout history and should be able to make a warmer world into a happy planet. But that is only if we all can agree to give away with the current system that promotes consumerist lifestyles that may take us beyond a 4°C rise in heat that is not even suited for human habitation.
The problem lay within our inherited world of false ideals that we keep on passing to our future generations. We have been told that capacity building in life is for higher income and acquisitions, and that development would mean commitment to achieve such materialistic targets. Only a few nations on earth have experienced development in the market economy based development approach. For the past many decades we have been told that some countries are developed and that some are developing. I have waited over four decades to understand 'development' as it has never reached my country - Sri Lanka. Then I meet so many people from the branded developing countries, while travelling across the world and at conferences, and they too do not seem to have a clear idea and do appear to struggle as much as I do. I also associate a lot of people from the categorized developed countries, and they do not seem to have found contentment or happiness in the development given to them. While they have already had their higher incomes and acquisitions, it is puzzling to see why they are not content and happy in life. Now that the French and British governments have understood that the GDP based economic growth approach does not reflect the nation’s prosperity in the wellbeing of their citizens, perhaps the UN and USA can start appreciating those smaller Southern nations who have been rebelling to retain their sufficiency pathways to prosperity approach.
In these times of change, greening the existing industrial production system will not help green the economy and achieve climate sustainability. It will not take us towards a carbon neutral society and drive us away from the wasteful lifestyles. A new green world order has to be more authentic than making mountains of the green labelling and green procurement businesses. Such a new world order will have to make sufficiency based considerations more pertinent. Sufficiency can firstly reduce greed and want for over-consumption through a state of adequacy and contentment. It can also innovate on indigenous knowledge systems to produce without waste, more efficiently, become more self-reliant, and less dependent on external resources. The national economic crisis in 1997 is what lead the King of Thailand to officially pronounce a ‘philosophy of the sufficiency economy’ as the way forward in that country. Subsequently the Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan from 2002 to 2006 in the county, adopted sufficiency economy as their economic policy and explained that its goals are to achieve sustainable development and proper well-being for Thai people. It is a balanced development which took into account the economy, society, politics, and environment, aiming to make people in the society happy, self-reliant, and abreast with the world, while still preserving the Thai national identity. Just like in Thailand, many smaller nations believe in sufficiency as the way to national prosperity and wellbeing of their people and are involuntarily dragged into suffering through a global economic and governance system that thinks otherwise.
Those who have dragged us towards a state of climate change that threatens human existence on earth are now trying to discover a way for us to survive in a liveable world. This cannot and should not be the aspiration and determination of humankind. That is a compromise that we, as a generation, are trying to make on the lives of all future generations. While enjoying the offerings on earth today, we are planning a world of lesser enjoyment for the future humans. If we are only negotiating for a liveable world for our children and their children, then we are demonstrating intrinsically our selfish nature as a generation and it is simply fighting to get the best share for ourselves. Climate change has also provided the humans a historical opportunity to act as one species, and the act needs to be mindful this time.
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