November 30, 2011

Canada Racks Up Fossil Awards in Durban as Rumors of Kyoto Withdrawal Swirl

As rumors swirled about Canada’s potential withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, the nation continued its Fossil Award–winning sweep at the COP17 talks in Durban, South Africa, on November 30 as the Climate Action Network (CAN) handed out its daily dose of anti-kudos to countries that put pollution-causing development ahead of lives.

On opening day, November 29, the northern nation won both second and first place for Environmental Minister Peter Kent’s continued bashing of developing countries as well as his implication that Canada would likely not sign on for an extension of the accord on emissions targets signed in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997.

In an interview with the Canadian Press before leaving for Durban, Kent said that lesser-developed countries must stop “wielding the historical guilty card” in asking for less-stringent emissions targets just because industrial countries historically have created more greenhouse gas emissions than other nations.

Kent further fueled the fire by claiming that “from Canada’s point of view, Kyoto was the biggest mistake the previous Liberal government made,” referring to Canada’s signing of the Kyoto Protocol.

This as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in its annual report to the U.N. talks said that 2011 has been the warmest year on record as far as climate goes.

With debate still raging over the use of bituminous crude from the notorious oil sands of northern Alberta, Canada, it would seem that Kent is hardly one to talk. Even China, one of the alleged major emitters, called on Canada to set a better example vis a vis combatting climate change. A Canadian withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol would hurt the international community’s attempts to mitigate climate change, the deputy head of the Chinese delegation to Durban told the Chinese news agency Xinhua. It would “definitely add to the obstacles in our negotiation,” he said.

At the same time, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other prominent Africans took out an ad in the conference’s daily newsletter ECO with “A Message for Canada during the UN Climate Summit in Durban” that was essentially a petition urging Canada to set a better example on combatting climate change the way it had against Apartheid in the 1980s.

“Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues like human rights and environmental protection,” the ad said. “Today you’re home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous effects of climate change. For us in Africa, climate change is a life and death issue. By dramatically increasing Canada’s global warming pollution, tar sands mining and drilling makes the problem worse, and exposes millions of Africans to more devastating drought and famine today and in the years to come. It’s time to draw the line. We call on Canada to change course and be a leader in clean energy and to support international action to reduce global warming pollution.”

The U.S.’s decision over the Keystone XL pipeline has been postponed until after the 2012 presidential election, and Canada has indicated it will take its oil sands products to Asia if the U.S. does not allow the construction of a 1,700-mile-long pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile several First Nations are set to reiterate their major opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in the wake of a report by the National Resources Defense Council, the sustainable-energy think tank the Pembina Institute, and the marine conservation group the Living Oceans Society saying that the pipeline would risk too much environmental damage to be feasible. Several First Nations of British Columbia will hold a press conference in Vancouver on December 1.

On the day that Kent’s attitude netted Canada’s two opening-day Fossil Awards, third place went to Britain—but only because of its efforts to bring Canada’s tar sands oil into Europe.

“This quotation from Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent, doesn’t even require paraphrasing in typical fossil humour—it is sufficiently outrageous on its own,” CAN said in bestowing those first Fossils.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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December 8, 2011

Battle Over the Trees: Indigenous Peoples Denounce REDD+ at COP 17 Talks

Filed under: Environment,News Alerts — Tags: , , , , , — Dina Gilio-Whitaker @ 8:36 pm

Indigenous peoples came to COP 17 with a simple message: Your Kyoto Protocol isn’t working for us.

Amid skepticism and growing doubt, the climate talks known as COP 17—shorthand for the 17th United Nations Conference of the Parties—began in Durban, South Africa, on November 28 and are set to end December 9. Many environmentalists arrived feeling that the world’s nations aren’t serious about taking action to prevent catastrophic global temperature increases, especially in regions most vulnerable to climate change and where indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected as temperatures rise.

On November 26, following a two-day workshop attended by representatives from Ecuador, Panama, India, Nicaragua, Peru and Samoa, the Indigenous Peoples’ Biocultural Climate Change Assessment (IPCCA) Initiative issued a strongly-worded declaration denouncing the schemes known as REDD and REDD+, which are acronyms for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. REDD and REDD+ were designed to halt deforestation in developing nations by placing monetary value on the carbon absorbing properties of trees which corporations from industrialized nations can then buy the rights to, giving them permission to emit greenhouse gases beyond their agreed upon limits.

Indigenous peoples living within the boundaries of nation-states are subject to the nations’ laws (usually without their consent), as are their lands and resources; and as the IPCCA declaration notes, most of the world’s remaining forests are within indigenous territories. The forests not only provide the livelihoods of the people, but for thousands of years they have been their homes and the places from which their cultures are derived and maintained. The view of forests as commodities to allow powerful nations to continue polluting is anathema to indigenous beliefs in the sanctity of nature—yet another violation of Mother Earth.

“The life of people and Pachamama has become a business. Life, for Indigenous Peoples, is sacred, and we therefore consider REDD+ and the carbon market a hypocrisy which will not impact global warming,” the declaration states.

The declaration asserts that the so-called “green economy” “is a vehicle for promoting trends of commodification of nature. It is a vehicle to impose neo-liberal environmental strategies on developing countries, which undermines traditional communal land tenure systems.” Polluting corporations from industrialized nations who have purchased emission rights through the cap and trade carbon market system are effectively given free rein to continue mining for and burning fossil fuels, while collaborating with colonial governments who continually reinforce their power over indigenous communities. Companies that benefit from the traditional forest management practices of indigenous peoples from which their pollution permits are derived can even pit groups of indigenous peoples against each other when other tribal people are negatively impacted by the extractive processes of those companies in distant locations. Additionally, revenues that are generated by nations through the sale of pollution rights based on indigenous forest territories usually don’t find their way into indigenous communities. The violation of indigenous rights is manifest in many other ways as well, including forced removals due to land grabs, the creation of institutions that concentrate ever greater power in state hands, ignoring of traditional forest management practices, and impacts on food security and traditional health care systems.

The IPCCA declaration notes some of the other risks to indigenous communities and the environment created by REDD/REDD+, including the establishment of monocultured tree plantations and genetically modified trees. The United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) definition of “forests” includes monocultured tree plantations, which critics contend encourages clear cutting of natural forests in favor of replanting, benefitting industrial loggers under the guise of practicing “sustainable forest management,” to say nothing of how clear cutting impacts indigenous communities.

What will better serve forest conservation and indigenous communities, activists say, is for management efforts to remain in indigenous and local communities. In a seminar held at the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa by indigenous, community, peasant and women’s groups to address forest management practices in the context of climate change mitigation efforts, representatives agreed that their traditional practices which have been working for generations are still viable today, instead of top-down, government imposed forest protection programs that violate human rights and ultimately result in further deforestation and degradation. Citing studies that compare forest protected areas with community managed practices, conference participants emphasized that what is needed is land reform that supports indigenous and community rights, traditional governance, food sovereignty, sustainable alternative livelihood options, and an end to logging, mining, and the planting of large tree plantations.

In its final section, the declaration spoke to Natives around the world, cautioning that “Indigenous peoples should not commit themselves to a process that does not respect them,” and dubbing REDD “a false solution that breeds a new form of climate racism.”

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December 13, 2011

Merry, Tarry Christmas: Canada Exits Kyoto

It’s official: Canada will not renew its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 when the existing agreement expires, becoming the first country ever to formally withdraw from the accords.

“The Kyoto Protocol does not cover the world’s largest two emitters, United States and China, and therefore cannot work,” Kent said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s now clear that Kyoto is not the path forward to a global solution to climate change. If anything it’s an impediment.”

His announcement came a day after he returned from the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which adjourned on Sunday December 11.

In being the first country to exit the Protocol—although the U.S. has never joined—Canada earned outright censure from China, Japan and other countries. Under its commitment, Canada was supposed to reduce its greenhouse gases by six percent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012, but those emissions by some estimates may be more than 30 percent above that, The Globe and Mail reported.

Indeed, emissions from the Alberta oil sands, which holds the world’s third-largest oil reserves, are going in the wrong direction. With more than 170 billion barrels, by 2025 the 1.5 million barrels produced daily is slated to rise to 3.7 million, the AP said. Currently Canada’s oil sands are its fastest-growing source of emissions.

“It allows us to continue to create jobs and growth in Canada,” Kent told reporters about the withdrawal, according to the AP.

China and Japan called the decision regrettable. China, although it is one of the world’s largest emitters, has less strict requirements because of its status as a developing nation, one of the reasons Canadian leaders think the accords won’t work.

“It is regrettable and flies in the face of the efforts of the international community for Canada to leave the Kyoto Protocol at a time when the Durban meeting, as everyone knows, made important progress by securing a second phase of commitment to the Protocol,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters, according to Reuters.

A last-minute agreement at Durban extended the Kyoto Protocol commitment through 2017, with a sketch of a treaty to include all nations in binding commitments by 2020.

None of this is soon enough for countries like Tuvalu, an island nation in the South Pacific that is already affected by rising sea levels.

“For a vulnerable country like Tuvalu, its an act of sabotage on our future,” Ian Fry, its lead negotiator, told Reuters. “Withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol is a reckless and totally irresponsible act.”

Canada had already come under fire throughout the Durban talks, from censure over its harsh stance on developing nations, emissions and the Protocol, to the tongue-in-cheek but deadly serious Fossil Awards bestowed by the Climate Action Network, of which it won several.

The country is taking heat domestically too, with rising opposition to an expansion of the Alberta oil sands operations as the U.S. postpones its decision on the 1,700-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline that would wend its way to the Gulf of Mexico through environmentally sensitive areas and sacred sites.

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