San Francisco’s Rise for Climate march, part of an international day of climate events and estimated to be 30,000 strong, was led by large indigenous groups including many Native Americans, some who danced in ceremonial regalia, along with many other groups and individuals making up a diverse, musical, and creative crowd of all ages on the sunny Saturday before the upcoming San Francisco Climate Summit. The colorful event included a plethora of expressive signs, banners and even messaged tee shirts, many with various calls for Jerry Brown to stand up to big oil. A group called “Brown’s Last Chance” chanted “Jerry Brown – keep it in the ground, if you don’t do it we’ll shut it down”.
“We are part of the Brown’s Last Chance campaign. We’re marching, we’ve got a message that Jerry Brown – if he wants to be a real climate leader – it’s not enough just to say we just got build up renewables or create energy efficiency. We have to keep fossil fuels in the ground. We have to start a just transition from all fossil fuel production, beginning with protecting the front line communities in California that are being poisoned by toxic neighborhood oil drilling right now. We need a 2500 foot setback, a health and safety buffer zone to protect those communities, and if Jerry won’t do that, after California scientists three years ago gave us the information that we needed that it needed to be done, then his legacy is of a failure to protect our communities, a failure of the climate – not leadership. That’s our message, this is Jerry Brown’s last chance.” ~ Kai Newkirk, part of the Brown’s Last Chance campaign.
While COP21 negotiators were reviewing the final text Saturday and with the outcome of the negotiations still uncertain, thousands of protesters took their message to the streets of Paris in defiance of the ban on protests which has been in effect since the terrorist attacks.
Demonstrators marched from the famous Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower in a colorful event complete with music, singing, and chants including ‘climate justice’.
The demonstration carried the ‘red line’ theme forward from the previous day inside the COP, though on a much larger scale, with enormous banners unfurled, one reading ‘it’s up to us to keep in in the ground’. While there was a substantial police presence the event was peaceful.
‘…well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5’
From the draft agreement: ‘Emphasizing with serious concern the urgent need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5’
On what was to have been the final day of the negotiations, civil society groups staged a protest inside the COP21 grounds, where they unfurled a long red cloth representing a red line from the red Eiffel Tower replica and along the outdoor walkway between the buildings.
The negotiations have been extended at least until Saturday afternoon, and protests are planned in Paris at Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, in defiance of the official ban on protests that has been in effect since the terror attacks.
The ribbon, held by perhaps a hundred demonstrators, caused some congestion as delegates and others couldn’t cross it during the half hour event, and in addition many came out to see the event is what has been an unusually quite COP due to restrictions on demonstrations.
Simone Lovera of the Global Forest Coalition appeared as a panelist inside COP21 to comment on a draft of the Paris Agreement.
Other panelists were Eberto Diaz, La Via Campesina, Jose Bravo, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, and Maxime Combes ATTAC France. The intensity and implications of these arguments sheds some light as to why the delegates will spend so much time struggling over whether or not to include what might appear to be a simple phrase in the text.
“We’ve seen the latest text and we are very concerned that there are still references to a so called net approach in that text, which basically means that forests and land use in general, including agriculture, could be used as compensation for fossil fuel emissions, you know, the net zero approach, in which means that you can continue to emit as long as you compensate it by planting a bunch of trees.”
“We actually think that this is one of the biggest and most dangerous of all these false solutions. And we’ve actually already see it with bioenergy all over the world. People are calling here for 100% renewables, but it’s over forgotten that in continents like Europe, 60-70% of this renewable energy is in reality bioenergy. And bioenergy is not renewable. It’s not that if you burn a tree, that immediately the next day, boop, there is a new tree. There a tremendous time lapse between burning trees and burning other biomass and the time that that biomass has actually grown back. And that is in the best case, that such a tree actually grows back, it could take up to 150 years.”
“We do not have 150 years for climate change solutions, we do not even have 10 years for climate change solutions, we need solutions right now. “
“That is why, bioenergy is not carbon neutral at all. And it’s one of those many many myths that has been spinned around in this conference. You know, that through accounting mechanisms that are used at the moment, bioenergy is classified as carbon neutral, while in reality it causes massive emissions. It also causes massive deforestation and forest degradation all over the world, and a general degradation of ecosystems – as has been noted already by many decision makers for example in the convention on biodiversity.”
“Besides that there’s this whole idea that planting trees would be a solution, but trees, sadly, in these days of climate change, are a very unreliable carbon sink. We’ve already seen all over the world massive forest fires. People that now live between monoculture tree plantations are basically living in a between a time bomb. Because more than anything, monoculture tree plantations are very susceptible to fires. And sadly, instead of restoring lands, we see more and more that governments are promoting monoculture tree plantations.”
“In countries like Brazil, China, India, EU and the US., we see that as compensations for emissions, massive monoculture tree plantations are being planted. For example, lands that are classified as degraded and marginal, but that are really pastoralist lands, the lands of indigenous peoples, the lands of marginal peoples.”
“And now there an even more dangerous option on the table, which is bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration. This has been baptized by one of our colleagues as the phantom of the COP opera.”
“Because it doesn’t exist, its scientifically simply not viable. But at the same time, massive subsidies are being pushed into these false solutions, you know as sort of the last angle, to ensure that business as usual can continue while countries pretend, just pretend to mitigate emissions.”
“And the main victims of this are those people that have weaker land rights, like women. You know, these kind of manipulations around land use, these policies that use land as a resource in which you can just use to mitigate climate change, mainly impacts indigenous peoples, women, and other groups in society that have weak tenure rights, and are just very often kicked off their lands to make a place for these monoculture tree plantations.”
“We see the same thing in agriculture now, where they are trying to promote climate smart agriculture, which is a very corporate dominant model of big financiers trying to make a very profitable business out of carbon offset sinks…”
“We think that the whole narrow approach of carbon accounting will always lead to a marginalization of the human rights aspect, of the social aspect, of the land use aspect, of the biodiversity aspect, of ecosystems. And that’s why we do not want land to be included in accounting framework.”
“Sure, we absolutely absolutely need sustainable land use, we need sustainable agriculture, we need sustainable livestock production. If we really want solutions also to climate change, we need to address the over consumption of unsustainably produced meat and dairy. But we cannot do that through a carbon accounting framework, because we are also talking about people’s foods, we’re talking about people’s lands, we’re talking about people’s rights. So that’s why you need a holistic approach.”
“Climate mitigation and resilience is a co-benefit of land use policies that should first and foremost focus on people’s right to food and people’s right to land.”
Tom Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network appeared as part of a panel discussion with Pablo Salon and Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of WECAN on the International Rights Of Nature Tribunal.
“I’m glad to be here, and I was the tribunal judge for the topic of financialization of nature.”
“The tribunal members as far as, civil society, indigenous peoples, members of La Via Campesina, peasants and small farmers, especially people of the Global South, we’re very concerned of the escalation of the market system. Not only within the negotiations here of this COP 21. but outside of the COP, with movements such as the biodiversity offset movement here in Europe, conservation offsets. And it was all bundled up with the concern about is this part of a movement of objectification by capitalism, by corporations, and with support of the financial institutions, like development banks, regional development banks, the World Bank, Chase Manhattan, as well as investment from extractive energy, including governments like Norway.”
“And as we looked at this issue and brought this case before this tribunal in Paris, we found moving evidence by experts and witnesses that this critical topic of financialization of nature is rapidly become the vocabulary of nature conservation debate. In fact it’s the main mechanism that has been incorporated within the Paris Agreement. Within the Paris Agreement you’ve got the article section that emphasizes in cloaked terminology a market mechanism being presented as a mechanism for sustainable development.”
“That brings up a lot of concerns of course, in addition to the rights of mother earth, the rights of nature, is the tremendous risk on violation of human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples. As we looked and explored this, market mechanisms, we had to look at various free market economies, carbon trading, carbon offsets, clean development mechanisms, and other market mechanisms that allow the polluter to profit while the impacts of climate change and the world still has disproportionate impact to ethnic communities, indigenous communities, in the North, people of color, low income, where polluting companies in the North like Chevron continue to expand their release of toxic emissions contribution to greenhouse gas concentrations while they buy and rent trees in the Global South.”
“The tribunal found evidence that the financialization of nature process separates and quantifies the earth cycles and functions such as carbon, water, forest, fauna and biodiversity, turning them into units to be sold in financial and speculative markets. This includes the mechanism of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation known as REDD, including payment for environmental services all bundled up as as a form of objectification of the sacredness of mother earth. With many indigenous people that have testified, this is also a violation of the traditional indigenous cosmo-vision.”
“So that conclusion was yes, this financialization of nature is part of a green economy regime that puts a monetary price on nature, on mother earth, as part of a derivative market that would only increase the destruction of mother earth. The tribunal found that mother earth is a source of life which needs to be protected, and not a resource to be exploited and commodified as natural capital.”
“So the tribunal found that they will keep this case open and continue to hear cases of where these market mechanisms continue to violate the universal declaration on the rights of mother earth. Its a very serious issue when it’s the main mitigation solution that’s emerging out of this COP 21. Thank you very much”
Q & A
“The biggest challenge to the dominant society, the biggest challenge to the populations of an industrialized society is that they have been removed from nature. Whatever that history is here in Europe, people from Europe migrated and occupied our territories in United States. They didn’t understand what their own relationship was with the mother earth. Some of the small farmers did, but not the collectivity of the settlers who came.”
“So indigenous people, we have that relationship to that sacredness, but we have a situation of colonization, that separates our life, uses our natural environment, trees for an example, as part of a resource, not for us, not for us, whether it’s water, but a resource to feed the world. So the world’s out of balance. As we fight for our own survival – because this climate issue is a life and death issue. So we are trying to address our own issues for survival, and yes, sometimes we get challenged with trying to find a balance on what that direction is. And with the temptations of big money, I’m talking millions of dollars, from the World Bank, and other NGOs, and foundations and countries like Norway, throwing millions of dollars down to support a false solution like carbon market system, tears at the fabric of our peoples. That’s the danger. And I’ve seen that fragmentation. But we’re going to work it out ourselves, we’re going to work it out ourselves. Thank you.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke at a press conference inside COP21 in Paris. Here’s a few excerpts where he speaks about the INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) and the need to reach an agreement by the end of the conference Friday.
“The national climate plans are a welcome start but they fall short of our goal to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius. We much go much farther and much faster. That is why we need action now here in Paris. We cannot afford half measures or delay. We have less than just four days of negotiations left. Some tough issue still remain.”
“A political momentum like this may not come again. I urge ministers and negotiators gathered here not to squander it. I’m confident that Paris can be a turning point, a decisive turning point in our history to a cleaner healthier more sustainable and prosperous future.” ~ United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
While demonstrations at COP21 have been largely subdued after the mass rally was cancelled due to terror concerns, a few actions pop up here and there. Here demonstrators call for a 1.5 C warming limit and for rich countries to contribute more.