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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
Climate justice now!
José Elosegui*
12/15/2010
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Social movements propose agenda at international conference on climate change.

Social movements from around the world, with large representation from Latin America, arrived in Cancun, Mexico, for the 16th Conference of the Parties of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP), which took place from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10. They came to lay out their demands and put pressure on the governments of industrialized countries that are unwilling to legally commit to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Fishermen, campesinos, farmers, women, unionists, environmentalists, and NGOs who gathered in Cancun raised their concerns about what they call “false solutions” or “market solutions,” highlighting Genetic Modified Organisms, agrofuels, large dams, nuclear power, the carbon market, Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) — notably, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) — and geoengineering as the main issues, among others, facing developing countries.

Representatives of grassroots organizations believe in the need to address the structural causes of climate change, primarily the capitalist system of production and consumption. To achieve climate justice, they say, it is necessary that developed countries pay the climate debt by dramatically reducing emissions, while transferring funding and technology for developing nations to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

“Thousands from Cancun”
“Campesina agriculture cools the planet,” said La Via Campesina, an umbrella group of campesino movements from around the world that for several years has made its presence known whenever there is a debate on the climate crisis.

Leading up to the COP in Cancun, rural workers made an international appeal for demonstrations throughout the world under the slogan “Thousands from Cancun”, in reference to the implementation of “thousands” of real solutions to climate change proposed by farmers around the globe.

“We support campesino agriculture, direct marketing channels, agroecology as the technological production model, and cooperation among campesino families,” Luis Gomes, leader of Brazil’s Landless Workers´ Movement (MST), told LATINAMERICA PRESS.

Industrial agriculture, with its use of large machinery and technological components, as well as deforestation and the global transportation of foodstuffs under the neoliberal trading model, are among the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, “local sustainable food production uses less energy, eliminates dependence on imported animal feed and keeps carbon in the soil, all the while increasing biodiversity,” La Via Campesina stated in a press release prior to COP.

To this end, “food sovereignty” has been La Via Campesina’s chief political demand to combat climate change since 1996. Food sovereignty implies the right of communities to determine what to produce and how to market it. It emphasizes small-scale sustainable production and agroecology, and mainly aims to supply the local markets.
Several indigenous representatives participated in the parallel activities of the Cancun meeting and monitored the negotiation process.

Representatives of native populations, speaking on behalf of more than 360 million people, especially objected to the REDD mechanism because they feel it implies the inclusion of forests and other ecosystems in international financial markets through the usurpation of the rights of peoples and communities to their lands and territories. They demanded that any plan to combat deforestation respect the rights of communities to their land and guarantee them participation and benefits.

Indigenous peoples are the most affected
Through a press release, the delegates for indigenous peoples asked that some  “inalienable minimum conditions, deeply linked to our human rights” be incorporated into the decisions of the COP. They emphasized “the right to self-determination, lands, territories, natural and genetic resources, free and informed consent and traditional knowledge.”

They also demanded “the full, effective and direct participation of indigenous peoples in all mechanisms, bodies, and procedures established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Indigenous populations, which are among the most affected by the climate crisis because of their close relationship with nature, demanded in Cancun that eventual agreements “ensure the inclusion, recognition and protection of proprietary technologies, seeds, cultural expressions, beliefs, heritage and ancestral knowledge.”

With regard to climate funding, indigenous representatives proposed “full and effective participation of our peoples in the management and distribution of resources as well as access to relevant technologies and capacity-building processes to address climate change.”

In conclusion, family farming, food and energy sovereignty, and community management of forests are “policy umbrellas” under which the main demands and solutions from campesino and indigenous representatives were presented at the COP in Cancun.

These approaches, which strongly questioned the capitalist system, present another way of understanding life in harmony with nature, and if implemented, will require dramatic reductions of contaminating emissions in key sectors. This is the implementation of the “Living well” concept to maintain a balance between human beings and Mother Nature, but the political will of governments is lacking.
—Latinamerica Press.


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Social movements demand firm commitments during Cancun summit to address climate change. (Photo: José Elosegui)
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