Thousands March in Defense for Mother Earth Against False Solutions in Lima, Peru
December 12, 2014
Ana Isla and Terisa Turner
What is happening in the Conference of the Parties at Lima Peru?
Corporations and governments are interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However this reduction is, for them, problematic. Recent science shows that rather than providing real emissions reductions all programs that are presented as means for cutting greenhouse gas emissions have in fact increased them (that is, there are no real emissions reductions, as offsets move reductions from one place to another, but do not lead to overall reductions); these programs shift the burden on to the developing countries (and within them, particularly on to indigenous territories); they lock-in dirty technologies that are not cost-effective (thus delaying the decision to move to cleaner technologies allowing industrial countries to continue to lock-in polluting infrastructure, and therefore these societies rely even more on dirty energy).
Here we will mention only two of the many highly problematic issues arising in connection with the climate crisis talks in Lima:
- A) REDD+ (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). This program is based on a claim that a reduction in deforestation could decrease the world’s carbon emissions with least cost, especially to the industrial world. Therefore REDD needs an international carbon market. The idea is that corporations and industrial country governments can achieve emissions reductions through buying REDD forestry certifications that attest to the claim that carbon has been absorbed in the forest in question. Countries engaged in becoming ‘REDD-ready,’ – that is, by establishing and operating legal and physical requirements for implementing REDD programs, – have been receiving financing from the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the Norwegian government, USAID, and other bilateral actors. This REDD initiative has opened the door for hundreds of millions of dollars annually to be injected into forestry conservation in the so-called developing world.
The more powerful communicators of the industrial world assert that the commons have been destroyed by the commoners. However, other voices in the debate on the Commons have asserted the contrary and brought forward evidence that common good depend for their very existence and for their maintenance on the Commoners. The practice of the Kyoto Protocol (1997) as well as of REDD (introduced in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – UNFCCC- Bali conference in 2007 and implemented in 2009) is highly problematic for indigenous peoples everywhere. When indigenous lands are made part of REDD projects, their populations are typically prohibited from hunting, fishing and using biodiversity, all of which are the sources of their livelihoods. This exclusion exacerbates inequality, while producing huge profits for corporations and, often destroying indigenous territories (for instance by eliminating natural forests and replacing them with non-indigenous monocrop tree plantations). Despite these results, at the COP 20 in Lima, several countries have signed new REDD agreements. For example, Norway and Peru have signed a $300 million agreement. Another REDD agreement has been signed between Brazil and Germany.
- B) Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), an instance of geo-engineering. Geo-engineering refers to a set of proposed techniques to intervene in and alter earth ecosystems on a large scale. These interventions constitute manipulations of climate systems and are presented by their advocates as ‘technofixes’ for climate change. The proposed manipulations include Solar Radiation Management (block sunlight) and Carbon Dioxide Removal. Geo-engineering also covers other earth system interventions, notably in the oceans and the atmosphere (disrupting rain and wind patterns). This is a theoretical ‘Plan B’ to address climate change if governments fail to legislate and enforce measures to adequately reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some corporations see geo-engineering as a convenient means for increasing their profits. (etcgroup.org/issues/geoengineering).
While we anxiously await the determinations of COP 20 with respect to geo-engineering and especially carbon capture and storage (CCS); we do know that the 5th report of the group of expert climate scientists to the UNFCCC, released in October 2014, presents four scenarios for temperature rises into the future. Shockingly, all four scenarios assume the implementation of programs for carbon capture and storage as well as expanded nuclear energy. This reliance on and promotion of CCS is a cause for serious concern because carbon capture and storage is not a proven technology. It is highly experimental and expensive (and hence relies heavily on public funding through taxation as no corporation is willing to risk being the sole investor). Furthermore CCS is a huge and destructive water consumer. It cannot guarantee that carbon injected into the earth will not re-emerge elsewhere later with devastating effect.
Ana Isla is an Associate Professor at Brock University’s Department of Sociology & the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies.
Terisa Turner PhD is FOE Canada’s Senior Advisor on Energy Futures.