Environment Forum

Bolivia global warming summit: a lifeline for “Mother Earth”?

boliviaChanging the world is no doubt a daunting task but that’s what leftist Bolivian president Evo Morales and thousands of environmental activists, representatives of grassroots groups, and the envoys of some 90 governments are striving to do this week in the small village of Tiquipaya, in central Bolivia.

    The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth started on Monday with a speech by Morales that was radical because it called for a new economic system, but was also peppered with some other surprises.
    Morales, an Aymara Indian who herded llamas as a boy and never finished secondary school, said that eating chicken fed with hormones causes “sexual deviation” in men and that European men lose their hair because they eat GM food.

    Overall, Morales’ speech was meant to stir dissent against capitalism.
    He said that consumerist lifestyle and global warming were cause and effect, and that the only way to stop temperatures from rising is to implement a economic model that he calls “vivir bien” or “to live well” – a political philosophy that draws from ancient indigenous traditions.
    “Humanity is at a crossroads and must choose whether to continue the path of capitalism and death or take the path of harmony with nature,” he said before a crowd of people in a soccer stadium under a blazing sun that left many – including this correspondent – wishing they had put on sun block.
    His message has struck a chord in thousands of people worried about global warming, who have travelled from all corners of the world to discuss a solution to what Morales likes to call “the climate crisis”. Bolivia has been among the most vocal opponents of the Copenhagen Accord, the non-binding deal from a summit in December backed by about 120 government and meant to keep any rise in temperatures below 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.morales

    The mood of the summit is chill, with people dancing to traditional music in the streets around the conference buildings, posing for pictures with llamas or eating free meals provided by organizers.
    The meeting has been dubbed the Woodstock of climate summits because people are allowed in for free, and because there are ad-hoc music concerts, theater, artists painting murals and Indians peddling handcrafts or organic products.
    “They are taking into consideration the ancestral traditions of indigenous peoples, that is a very positive thing … but this could end being a sing-along, something folkloric,” said Kanasami Gutierrez, a 45-year-old Bolivian. 
    Many participants told me they feel upbeat about the summit because by speaking up they feel they are now part of a solution, rather than part of the problem.
    “World leaders should listen the people’s voice, and not the voice of the capital. We hope this will be the space to consolidate a large alliance of social groups from all over the world,” said Itelvina Masioli, from Brazil, and a member of Via Campesina, a global farmers’ network.
    Others fear that the summit could issue a package of resolutions that will be unfeasible and tainted with radical leftist rhetoric, and therefore will not be taking seriously by global leaders in a U.N. meeting scheduled for late this year in Mexico.
    Author Naomi Klein told Reuters that the most important thing that will come out of the meeting is the “revitalization of the environmental movement, of the climate justice movement.”
    “The way climate change is discussed in the north is as if it’s something that is going to maybe happen in the future, it’s just hypothetical, all about grandchildren, not about the children that are living today. So it’s important… for people in the north to hear directly from countries like Bolivia that are living climate change now,” she said.

(Pictures: top - Ecuadorian indigenous men attend the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.  Centre right: Bolivia’s President Evo Morales speaks during the conference. Both pictures David Mercado/Reuters)

“Transparency” too controversial at U.N. climate talks

leadersCan you object to a proposal for U.N. climate negotiators to “continue to work in a transparent and inclusive manner in accordance with the principles of the United Nations”?

If your answer is a bemused ”No”, you definitely aren’t a negotiator.

Delegates from 175 nations at U.N. climate talks in Bonn spent spent the best part an hour late on the evening of April 11 arguing about the apparently innocuous phrase as part of a 2-page document reviving talks in 2010 after the Copenhagen summit in December failed to come up with a new treaty to fight global warming.

Turn out the lights for climate change (and polar bears)?

polar bearLights will go out around the world on Saturday from Beijing’s Forbidden City to a village in the Arctic where they usually keep street lights blazing to ward off polar bears.

The “Earth Hour” — when everyone is asked to turn off lights for an hour from 8.30 p.m. local time — is meant as a show of support for tougher action to confront climate change.

Organisers say that hundreds of millions of people last year joined in the annual event that has flourished since it began in Australia in 2007 and has won support from more than 120 nations, with endorsements from companies, government leaders and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Too few women in U.N. climate jobs? Ban names 19-man panel

banA women’s group is criticising the United Nations for appointing only men to a 19-strong panel of experts to work out how to raise billions of dollars to fight climate change.

“A planet of men? Since when?” asks the German-based Gender CC — Women for Climate Justice in a statement. (An update — since the list was announced, U.N. officials say that a woman has been added — French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde)

The new panel, to be co-chaired by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, will look into ways to raise at least $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries combat climate change. The panel includes Guyana’s president, Norway’s prime minister, finance ministers, investors and leading economists: all men.

from UK News:

Climate scientists seek to calm storm of doubt

INDIAIf the scientific evidence for manmade global warming is so compelling, why do so many people still have their doubts?

Why do politicians and the media often discuss global warming with such certainty, ignoring the scientists' carefully worded caveats?

And how much harder will it be to persuade the sceptics after the uproar over whether scientists exaggerated unreliable evidence or colluded to withhold information to strengthen their case?

from Global News Journal:

“Earth to Ban Ki-moon” or how a deal was sealed in Copenhagen

cop15Sweden complained that the recent Copenhagen climate change summit was a "disaster." British Prime Minister Gordon Brown described it as "at best flawed and at worst chaotic." Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, dubbed the outcome confirmation of a "climate apartheid." For South Africa it was simply "not acceptable."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who for over a year had been urging the 192 members of the United Nations to "seal the deal" in Copenhagen, saw things differently. In a statement issued by his press office, Ban said the two-week meeting had a "successful conclusion with substantive outcomes." Speaking to reporters, the secretary-general expanded on that: "Finally we sealed the deal. And it is a real deal. Bringing world leaders to the table paid off." However, he tempered his praise for the participating delegations by noting that the outcome "may not be everything that everyone hoped for."

In fact, the outcome fell far short of what Ban had been calling for over the last year. He had originally hoped the meeting would produce a legally binding agreement with ambitious targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and funding to help developing nations cope with global warming. Instead it "noted" an accord struck by the United States, China and other emerging powers that was widely criticized as unambitious and unspecific.

Rainy Taiwan faces awkward water shortage

jennings Chronically rainy Taiwan faces a rare water shortage as leaders ask that people on the dense, consumption-happy island of 23 million finally start changing habits as dry weather is forecast into early 2010. 

Taiwan, a west Pacific island covered with rainforests and topical fruit orchards, is used to rain in all seasons, bringing as much as 3,800 mm (150 inches) on average in the first 10 months of every year. But reservoirs have slipped in 2009 due to a chain of regional weather pattern flukes giving Taiwan too much dry high pressure while other parts of Asia get more storms than normal, the Central Weather Bureau  says.

Deadly typhoon Morakot  in August brought more than half the year’s rain to much of south Taiwan, washing away drought fears as well as a lot of other things. But the three-day storm dumped too much rain at once for much storage or use. Despite the typhoon, southern Taiwan’s anchor city Kaohsiung was 20 mm below average in the first 10 months of 2009, with the typhoon’s contribution about half the 1,747 mm total. Below-average rainfall resumed after the typhoon, the weather bureau said, and the same is forecast through February.jennings2

from Mario Di Simine:

Video: Protests under way in Copenhagen

Demonstrators came out in force early Saturday morning as the sun broke through the clouds that have blanketed Copenhagen during the first week of COP15.  A huge march, with about 60,000 protesters expected, is planned for later in the day but smaller rallies are already under way as groups make their way to the main event -- the march to the Bella Center, host of the COP15 global climate conference.

Here are some video clips from one march, where protesters held aloft banners reading "Demand Climate Justice" and "Face Facts, Make Pacts". They want global leaders gathering in Copenhagen to commit to eliminating or at the very least radically reducing CO2 greenhouse gas emissions.

from Mario Di Simine:

WWF, businesses deal on emissions

The debate over lowering greenhouse gas emissions is sometimes depicted as a fight between environmental groups concerned over the health of the planet and businesses concerned about economic growth and bottom-line erosion.

Occasionally, though, there is a meeting of like minds between the two.

The WWF has a program in which it partners with companies to target emissions reductions. The Climate Savers program is an agreement between the WWF and its partner companies to lay out targets and set out projects to meet those goals.

"We want to show that doing business and reducing emissions go hand in hand," said Matthew Banks, a senior program officer at the WWF and an economist.

Day Two: Reaction to the EPA

(Updated with comments from Dr. Gidon Eshel, physics professor, Bard College)

On the first day of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleared the way for regulation of greenhouse gases without new laws passed by Congress, reflecting President Barack Obama’s commitment to act on climate change.

The EPA ruling that greenhouse gases endanger human health was widely expected, but for the record, Reuters.com asked our panel of experts on climate change what they thought of the decision.

Watch this space throughout the conference, which runs to Dec. 18. We’ll be asking some of the world’s foremost thinkers timely questions about breaking news and overarching themes about fighting global warming. We hope you will join the discussion.