Tag Archives: UNFCCC


I think today must go down in history as the moment when humanity collectively failed to secure its own future. It also has to be seen as one of the greatest crimes of the rich and powerful of the world against the vast majority of humanity that has ever been committed.

Although I won’t hear the full skinny on final negotiations inside the COP17 conference until later in the day, it’s already clear that the news is not going to be good.

Here’s what former Bolivian ambassador to the UN Pablo Solon had to say in a hasty email sent out while negotiators sprinted towards the finish line last night:

A few moments ago we found out the decisions that they have been cooking behind the scenes. In Durban they won’t approve a second period of commitments of the Kyoto Protocol. This will happen at the end of next year: in COP18. In Durban they will only take note of the draft amendments and the “intention” of rich countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol will lose its heart. The promises of reductions by rich countries will be incredibly low until 2020 and will lead to a temperature increase of more than 4 degrees C. The Kyoto Protocol will turn into a Zombie without a global figure for reduction of emissions by industrialised countries, and will carry on walking until 2020 just so that carbon markets don’t disappear. In 2020 it will enter into effect in “a new legal framework appliable to everyone”. By everyone, they mean diluting the difference between developed and developing countries, between countries responsible for climate change and those who victims. The US managed to eliminate any mention of a “binding” agreement. That means the “new legal framework” will be an empty gesture without any effect. This will become known as the lost decade of the fight against climate change. Genocide and ecocide will reach proportions that we have not yet seen. The Great Escape by the Rich has turned into the Great Swindle.

Solon does not toss around terms like genocide and ecocide carelessly. The failure to agree to a just and binding replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, the only climate agreement that humanity has ever reached that had any real teeth, signals the inability of humanity in general, and the rich nations in particular, to agree on a course of action that goes beyond competitive, short term interests. We’re essentially looking at a world in which inter-imperial tensions are being ratcheted up, leaving the rulers of powerful nations thinking only about their defensive interests. The killing irony is that this behavior will only ensure greater hostility and competition.

If one looks at the geologic record, it’s clear that human beings have enjoyed a period of extraordinary environmental stability over the last 10,000 years. It is likely that this stability would have ended one way or another at some point, but, with the failure of negotiations at COP17 to achieve any of the goals that the climate justice movement has been pushing for, we have ourselves ensured that this window of stability will close quickly and ferociously.

It’s hard not to think that we’re not all that different from other primates. Despite our vaunted claims to self-consciousness, historical awareness, and collective rationality, at the end of the day we seem to be ruled by the basest of our passions.

Today we have ensured that we will be unable to take our fate into our own hands. And it is the poor and weak, people like the rural farm women I’ve met over the last two weeks during my stay in South Africa, who will be the first to be devoured by the holocaust we are unleashing.

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We’re fucked!

To put some perspective on the passionate calls for systemic change that I’ve been detailing in this blog, an article just ran in the New York Times announcing that “global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning jumped by the largest amount on record last year, upending the notion that the brief decline during the recession might persist through the recovery.” According to the article, this increase of 5.9% is the largest absolute increase in any year since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

To underscore the gravity of this situation, various scientific bodies have released reports emphasizing that the world has only a few years left to make significant cuts to prevent run-away climate change. As a recent article in The Guardian explains,


The United Nations Environment Programme’s Bridging the Emissions Gap report shows that, even if all countries implement their emissions targets for 2020 to their maximum extent, total emissions in that year will still exceed the level required to hold global warming to the UN’s 2C goal. Further action is needed now, it pointed out, if this emissions gap is to be closed. At the same time, the International Energy Agency warned that the world has only five years seriously to start replacing fossil fuels by low carbon energy and energy efficiency. Failure to make the required investment by 2017 would “lock in” high future emissions to such an extent that the 2C goal would become unattainable.

How are the elite negotiators meeting in downtown Durban at the IFCCC reacting to this situation? According to this same Guardian article, some delegates here at the UNFCCC are arguing that a new round of negotiations shouldn’t even begin until 2015, and that the targets implemented by such eventual talks shouldn’t kick in until after 2020.

There appear to be two main sides in the conflict here in Durban. On one side are the countries most vulnerable to climate change – the small islands and least developed nations – and the European Union. This group wants negotiations on a new legal agreement to begin next year, to conclude in 2015, and to enter into force as early as possible thereafter (the EU has said no later than 2020).

On the other side is an unlikely alliance of the usual developed country laggards – the US, Canad, Russia, and Japan– and two of the largest emerging economies, China and India. It is this side that is advocating that no new negotiations should start until after 2015 at the earliest.

Given this impasse, it’s very hard not to feel that we’re all truly fucked. Of course, the real question that then arises is who is gonna get fucked first and hardest. And that question is already evident on the ground. Last night, for example, I went down to the tent where the South African Rural Women’s Movement is holding its meetings. Large groups of women were sitting there on chairs in a bright white tent watching a film on a big screen tv. The film had interviews with rural leaders who details, in a sobering parade, how climate change is already making life far more difficult for farmers in the world’s poor nations. Far from being “least developed,” which of course implies a temporal lag, these people are inhabiting a future of climate change-driven scarcity, duress, and conflict that the rest of us in the overdeveloped nations will soon come to know.

If only the voices of people’s movements that surround me were to be heard in the air conditioned meeting halls of the UNFCCC. But their cries of alarm, along with the stern warnings of scientists around the world, are falling on deaf ears. And this seems to just the beginning of the holocaust that is about to enfold the planet.

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