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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
Another fruitless climate change conference
José Elosegui*
12/21/2011
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Developed countries resist drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The latest United Nations Climate Change Conference ended Dec. 10 with little to show for it. The 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, held by 190 countries, was marked by developed nations’ refusal to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

What they did agree on at the summit, held in Durban, South Africa Nov. 28-Dec. 10, was an extension of the Kyoto Protocol from 2013-2017. The agreement legally binds developed countries to lower their emissions. Participants also agreed to strengthen the Green Climate Fund, to help vulnerable countries adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as the so-called “Durban Platform,” a tool to encourage all nations to sign by 2015 a pact to fight climate change that would go into effect five years later.

But developed nations, those that have been historically responsible for climate change, tried to end the Kyoto Protocol and pressured emerging economies — mainly China and India — to accept obligatory commitments that shouldn’t apply to them, according to the Kyoto agreement.

Outside Durban’s International Convention Center, where the talks were held, peasant farmers, indigenous peoples, laborers, landless farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and other renewed their demands for justice in the issue and measures taken against climate change.

On Dec. 9, hundreds of people were demonstrating outside the site, demanding radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations.

“Durban Platform” questioned
Social organizations present at the debates said that the most worrying about the Durban Platform, an initiative of the European Union that calls for new negotiations for a future binding accord against factors that cause climate change, is that it does not necessarily call for required emissions reductions, and that it would also apply to emerging economies.
Environmentalist group Friends of the Earth International said that the talks were “disastrous,” particularly because the Durban Platform would mean no changes would take place for an additional five to 10 years.

While a possible agreement would have to be negotiated still, many developed countries, including the United States, were calling for a new system, based on promises of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The United States, along with Canada, Russia and Japan, attacked the Kyoto Protocol. Canada has announced that is leaving the pact.

Climate experts said that by maintaining the current trend of greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change, the global average temperature could climb 4º C, compared with pre-industrial levels, and the consequences of global warming could be catastrophic. Many specialists say the temperature shouldn’t increase by even 2º C.

While the richest countries have shown more willingness to finance climate change adaptation and mitigation programs, the United States, Great Britain and Japan called for transnational companies and banks to access directly the Green Climate Fund, which was founded at last year’s summit in Cancun, Mexico.

Latin America’s calls for change
Several Latin American social movements came to Durban. Extreme climate events — torrential rain, flooding, severe droughts — caused by climate change hit the region hard. The loss of crops and food security, impact on livestock, community displacement are among the secondary effects.

Mexican campesino leader Alberto Gómez, of the social movement Vía Campesina International, said his group’s priority is to make the rural workers’ voices heard.

“Peasant farming is an alternative, it is a real solution and it should not be considered as a way to do business and make profit,” he said.

During the 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba Bolivia, participants made an agreement, to demand that developed countries come up with concrete, quantifiable emission reducing goals, following the Kyoto Protocol, which requires reductions of at least 50 percent from 1990 levels.

The document also calls on industrialized countries to recognize and honor their debt to the climate, and that as a result, they should drastically to reduce their emissions, give funding to handle the climate change to developing nations and invest in clean and sustainable technology.

Women, the most affected
According to several women’s organizations present at the summit, women have suffered the most from climate change. They are often in charge of ensuring the subsistence of their communities and that work becomes difficult in cases of extreme climate change. But their demands go beyond that.

“We are here as part of the global resistance to capitalism, which is patriarchal and that today is increasingly expanding to the commercialization of nature on every level,” said Brazilian activist Tica Moreno, of the World Women’s March. “It’s a moment to position feminism as a part of the global front against patriarchal capitalism.”

Many social organizations and movements in Latin America say the neoliberal capitalist system is one of the main causes of climate change, and in turn, the cause of the food and financial crises.

Market forces “are taking advantage of women’s work … as if it were an inexhaustible resource of the system, the same thing they’re doing with nature,” Moreno said. “Our idea here is to show from a feminist perspective how the commercialization of life is interconnected in all spheres: nature, work and machismo.”

The World Women’s March also advocates that campesino agriculture could help solve climate change issues.

“Climate justice has a strong element of equality,” said Moreno. “It means that women must have autonomy over their bodies, their lives, their work. They need a life free of violence. In summary, climate justice is possible if there are equal relationships between men and women in all areas of life.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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Social organizations marched in Durban during the International Food Sovereignty Day to Cool Down the Earth. (Photo: José Elosegui).
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