The Most Successful Air Pollution Treaty You’ve Never Heard Of


An article by Elizabeth Moses, Beatriz Cardenas, and Jessica Seddon in the blog of the World Resources Institute

International consensus on cross-border environmental issues has been difficult to achieve, but the 40-year-old Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air-Pollution (or LRTAP as it is known to development professionals) has enjoyed great, if largely unsung, success in the fight against air pollution and climate change. The Convention also led to cleaner air and healthier forests, soils, and lakes in North America, and prevented 600,000 premature deaths annually in Europe.

Scooter-riders with face masks in Hanoi, Vietnam

Signed in 1979 by 32 European countries, the United States, and Canada, the agreement initially aimed to tackle acid rain. Over time, it became a model for effective international environmental cooperation, bringing together scientists and policymakers to solve complex transboundary problems. To date, over 51 countries have joined the Convention and a total of 8 protocols or international agreements have been added to address a range of environmental and health problems caused by industrialization, agricultural modernization, and fossil fuel consumption, including ground-level ozone, black carbon, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and particulate matter. These agreements are based on scientific assessment that identifies actions required to improve human health and ecosystems.

The Convention has delivered concrete results. Emissions of particulate matter and sulphur dropped by 30–80% since 1990 in Europe and 30–40% in North America. In Europe, these measures have extended life expectancy by a year. Nitrogen oxide releases have also been halved and lead pollution levels in UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) countries have been reduced by almost 80% between 1990–2012.

What Cities Can Learn from the Convention

This success is especially relevant for cities. With industrialization and population growth, air pollution is worsening in many developing cities, where pollution levels can be 4–14 times higher than World Health Organization air pollutant health guidelines. Because non-urban sources could also be major contributors to urban air pollution, many cities will be unable to reduce air pollution through local action alone. The Convention provides scientific tools, models, data, monitoring methods, guidance documents, and best practices so that cities can holistically address air pollution at the local level.

Policies Supported by Science

Unlike other environmental or climate change conventions, the Convention puts scientists in the same room as policymakers. This structure ensures that collaborative working groups, which include technical and scientific expertise across different fields, are linked to the political negotiation and decision-making process. This two-way engagement allows scientific information based on model outputs to define outcomes. Outcomes may involve reaching an agreement on pollution reduction levels, while also ensuring political negotiations and international political processes provide input on priorities for scientific research.

Ongoing interaction between policy makers and scientists has spurred informal communication, which has built trust and resulted in a common base of scientific research and knowledge. The Convention has been successful at fostering neutral, uncontroversial scientific results that can be used to foster good decision-making. Other conventions should take note and follow its lead.

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Question for this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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A Multi-Pollutant Approach

The introduction of the critical loads concept, implemented through the use of the RAINS (Regional Acidification Information Simulation) model, helped revolutionize the scientific assessments used to make decisions under the Convention. It was a key reason the Convention was able to move from a substance-to-substance to multi-pollutant strategy used in the Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-Level Ozone.

This concept integrates environmental effects of one or more pollutants with emission source data, atmospheric transportation estimates and abatement cost information. As a result, the Convention has created multiple reduction strategy options that are focused on effects instead of specific emission limits. These strategies enable states to focus on different pollutants at different times, and how they affect multiple environmental problems.

This scientific innovation increased state capacity to develop pollution reductions at lower costs and with more flexibility. It also provided states with optimized plans to use in their negotiations and facilitated the ability to secure political and private sector support for emission reduction strategies.

Flexible Enforcement & Transparent Data

The convention’s executive body approaches noncompliance through facilitation and cooperation. The body offers practical suggestions to accelerate emissions reductions. It also makes emission data reported by each party to the Convention publicly available, including historical trends, benchmarks and the strategies and policies they use.

Parties are required to report emissions and projections annually. Countries that haven’t complied with the convention’s emission targets must explain the reasons and problems they faced with implementation. This transparency and access to data has driven progress, strengthened compliance and reinforced incentives to respond to political demands.

Successful International Environmental Cooperation

Many view the Convention as one of the most successful ways of facilitating international environmental cooperation. The convention involves scientific coordination led by the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP). EMEP collects emission data, measures air and precipitation quality and models atmospheric transport and deposition of air pollutants. These data are used to evaluate the quantity and significance of transboundary fluxes (changes to air pollutant composition and concentrations) and any areas that exceed critical loads and threshold levels.

The Convention’s intergovernmental policy collaboration and coordination has simulated broader action on air pollution, including technical and policy ratification support to Eastern European countries. Convention representatives have also engaged with other international and regional agreements and organizations, such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, regional seas conventions such as HELCOM and OSPAR and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition around the intersectionality of air pollution and other environmental challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss.

What’s Next?

Considering the success of this agreement, deeper engagement with the Convention Executive Body at the UNECE could help other regions and non-member countries apply these lessons and drive momentum for multi-jurisdictional action. After the Convention’s 40th anniversary, the executive body established a forum for collaboration on reducing air pollution. The goal is that this will promote integrated approaches to address air pollution, aimed at achieving multiple benefits to human health, the economy, ecosystems, and efforts across sectors that improve air quality. 

(Thank you to the Good News Agency for calling this article to our attention>)

The Wet’suwet’en Fight Against New Pipeline Spreads Across Canada with Blockades & Occupations


A report from Democracy Now (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. )

A major anti-pipeline struggle continues in Canada, where protests have broken out across the country in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders whose sovereign land in northern British Columbia was raided last week and over the weekend by Canadian police. Dozens were arrested in the days-long raid of unceded indigenous territories, where hereditary chiefs have been in a protracted battle to protect their land from the construction of TransCanada’s 400-mile, $4.7 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline. The raids took place about 700 miles north of Vancouver and sparked outrage across the country. In Ontario, a Mohawk solidarity protest has shut down the Canadian National Railway for days, halting travel for tens of thousands of passengers. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a quick resolution to the protests on Wednesday. In New York, protesters on Wednesday gathered for a sit-in outside the United Nations headquarters in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders.

video of Democracy Now broadcast

For more, we go to Wet’suwet’en territory, where we’re joined by land defender and matriarch Molly Wickham. Her clan, the Gidimt’en Clan, was raided last week by 60 heavily militarized officers with assault rifles and dogs. And in Toronto, we’re joined by Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She is the chair in indigenous governance at Ryerson University.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we go to a major anti-pipeline struggle in Canada, where protests have broken out across the country in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders, whose sovereign land in northern British Columbia was brutally raided last week and over the weekend by Canadian police. Dozens were arrested in the days-long raid of unceded indigenous territories, where hereditary chiefs have been in a protracted battle to protect their land from the construction of TransCanada’s 400-mile, $4.7 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline. The raids took place about 700 miles north of Vancouver. This is a land defender confronting armed police officers last week.

LAND DEFENDER: We are here for humanity, for life! We are unarmed! We are peaceful! You are killers! You are genocidal maniacs! You have your guns pointed at us!

AMY GOODMAN: The raids have sparked outrage across Canada and the world. In Ontario, a Mohawk solidarity protest has shut down the Canadian National Railway for days, halting travel for tens of thousands of passengers. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a quick resolution to the protests on Wednesday. In fact, his offices were occupied.
Well, for more, we go to Wet’suwet’en territory, where we’re joined by land defender, matriarch Molly Wickham. Her clan, the Gidimt’en Clan, was raided last week by 60 heavily militarized officers with assault rifles and dogs. And in Toronto, we’re joined by Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, chair of the indigenous governance at Ryerson University.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Molly Wickham, let’s begin with you. You’re right there at the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Can you talk about what is happening? Explain what the conflict is around this pipeline.

MOLLY WICKHAM: The conflict that has been going on around this pipeline has been going on for years. This isn’t something new. Last year, on January 7th, we were also raided by heavily militarized RCMP with lethal overwatch and —

AMY GOODMAN: And let me explain: RCMP is Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for the non-Canadian audience.

MOLLY WICKHAM: Oh, right, yes. And so, this is the second year in a row. And actually, the raid happened on the exact same location a year and a month after the raid that happened last year. And so this has been an ongoing battle. But it’s also a bigger issue around indigenous rights and title and sovereignty of our nation. We have a hereditary system that’s in place, that has never been extinguished. Our traditional governance system is in place, and this is a conflict between that governance system and colonization and the imposition of Indian Act ban systems, which were — came in through the Indian Act from the federal government and are being used against our own people to try and undermine our decision-making and our inherent right to make decisions and protect our territory.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what happened during the most recent arrests of the matriarchs performing a ceremony for missing and murdered indigenous women? If you can talk about the wearing of the red dresses and exactly what happened? And were you arrested, as well?

MOLLY WICKHAM: So, what happened up at Unist’ot’en — they’re our neighboring clan. We have five clans within the nation, and each clan is responsible for their territory. And so, they were doing a ceremony because they have a man camp that is built on their territory, which is supposed to house 400 men, 400 foreign workers that are coming from all different parts of so-called Canada and externally, and they’re not from our community. And we have a huge rate of murdered and missing indigenous women, especially in the north here, where our territory lies. The highway that runs through our territory is called the “Highway of Tears” because of the number of murdered and missing indigenous women. And so, they have been bringing attention to that fact, that these man camps bring increased rates of violence, increased rates of murder against our women, increased rates of domestic abuse and violence and drug abuse and alcohol abuse in our communities. And that’s what they were performing there. I was not at the Unist’ot’en Camp. I wasn’t arrested. I was one of the ones that was arrested last year. And currently I’m seven months pregnant and wasn’t permitted to be out on our territory during the raids.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about who owns Coastal GasLink? What is this project?

MOLLY WICKHAM: This is a project owned by TC Energy. They changed their name after last year. And they —

AMY GOODMAN: TC being TransCanada?

MOLLY WICKHAM: TransCanada, yeah. And so, they legally changed it to TC Energy. But this project has been ongoing for quite a while. They’ve had different investors, mostly Shell, Shell Canada. And they just received investment, new investment, by AIMCo, just recently, and that’s not quite finalized yet. But it’s very — they’re walking a tight line in terms of companies that want to invest in this project. LNG Canada is one of the biggest investments. And that’s the terminal that is looking to transport and liquefy the natural gas, or the fracked gas. And that project hasn’t gotten off the ground. And so, everybody talks about it as if it’s a done deal, but the actual terminal itself has not been built in Kitimat.

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Question for this article

Indigenous peoples, Are they the true guardians of nature?

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AMY GOODMAN: In Ontario, a Mohawk solidarity protest has shut down the Canadian National Railway for days, halting travel for tens of thousands of passengers. I want to turn to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responding to the solidarity protests.

PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: We recognize the important democratic right, and we will always defend it, of peaceful protest. This is an important part of our democracy in Canada. But we are also a country of the rule of law, and we need to make sure those laws are respected. That is why I will be — I am encouraging all parties to dialogue to resolve this as quickly as possible.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose own offices were occupied. Pamela Palmater is also with us, the Mi’kmaq lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, chair of indigenous governance at Ryerson University. Can you talk about the solidarity protests that are taking place across Canada, including directly in the prime minister’s office?

PAMELA PALMATER: Yeah. Well, there’s lots —

AMY GOODMAN: And respond to what he said.

PAMELA PALMATER: Yeah, there’s lots of solidarity protests. I mean, it’s the Mohawk, the Haudenosaunee peoples shutting down rails. And there’s lots of people. There was youth and others standing in solidarity at various legislatures, preventing access, occupying minister’s offices, also shutting down ports. There are people shutting down bridges, shutting down highways. Because this is a repeat offense. And you can’t attack indigenous peoples in a worse way than sending in the Royal Canadian military — Royal Canadian —

AMY GOODMAN: Mounted Police.

PAMELA PALMATER: RCMP, yeah, Mounted Police. I can’t get away from the militarized version of them. And how they’re always so heavily armed, how we found out that they were authorized for, quote-unquote, “lethal overwatch,” to use as much violence as possible against the Wet’suwet’en people to literally remove them from their homes, outside of Canada’s Constitution, in breach of Canada’s so-called rule of law, in breach of Wet’suwet’en law, in breach of international law. And so, indigenous peoples all across the country feel this, because this has happened in Oka, this has happened in Miꞌkmaq territory with Elsipogtog. You know, it’s happened in Standing Rock. It’s happened all over Turtle Island. And so, when the RCMP attack the Wet’suwet’en, they also attack us. So we raised in solidarity. And it’s often categorized as an anti-pipeline protest, but I don’t think that’s accurate. It is for some, but for most of us it’s about protecting our indigenous sovereignty and our land rights, which are the two issues that have never been resolved, and they’re always trumped, they’re always breached, despite how many court cases or how many international protections we have.

And for me, I find it really upsetting that the prime minister, who is not even in Canada, who is actually traveling the world trying to campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, you know, in order to maintain peace and security worldwide, can’t do that or follow the rule of law here in Canada. And as you know, the RCMP denied media access to record what was happening, to be able to report on what was happening, removed media people, arrested some of the media. So, they’re reaching their own Constitution, their own Charter of Rights, yet they espouse the rule of law. And to my mind, what he’s really talking about is the law of rulers. They pick and choose which laws suit their economic and political purposes, while at the same time continuing to commit genocide against indigenous peoples, because we know from the national inquiry one of the ways to commit genocide against indigenous peoples is to forcibly remove them from their lands, which is something that is completely prohibited under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is now supposed to be law in B.C.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain how the Wet’suwet’en system of governance, how it has affected how hereditary chiefs have tried to engage with the governments of Canada and British Columbia on this pipeline issue? Pamela Palmater?

PAMELA PALMATER: Is that a question for Molly? Oh, sorry. Well, I don’t speak for the Wet’suwet’en, but what I know from talking to Wet’suwet’en peoples, like Molly and other hereditary leaders, is that, you know, this isn’t new. This is something that —

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me put that question to Molly Wickham. Molly, if you can explain how the hereditary chiefs work and how that has affected their communication with both Canada and British Columbia and the company?

MOLLY WICKHAM: So, we have 13 house chiefs. We have five clans. And our house chiefs are the speakers on behalf of the clans collectively. We’ve maintained this system. Our laws are solidified and ratified in our feast hall, in our potlatch, which was banned by the federal government. And so, this is the way that we have always governed ourselves. This is the way that we are moving forward with this movement, is that it’s our traditional leadership and our hereditary system that are making the — speaking on behalf of our decision-makers, which are our clans and our chiefs.

And so, the company has actively undermined — the federal government and the provincial government have actively undermined our system of governance by going to elected band councils, which were imposed by the Indian Act and the federal government. And so, we are asserting ourselves, as we always have. We’ve never been — you know, we’ve always been on our territories. We’ve always occupied our territories. We’ve always used this system of governance and collective decision-making to say and discuss what is and what is not allowed on our territory. And we have very strong trespass laws. And Coastal GasLink, TC Energy, the province and the federal government are providing false authority and false permission, unauthorized permission, on lands that we hold full jurisdiction to, to make decisions on.

AMY GOODMAN: To settle this, can you pronounce, Molly Wickham, “Wet’suwet’en”? Can you pronounce your nation?

MOLLY WICKHAM: Yes. We are the Wet’suwet’en Nation, and I belong to the Gidimt’en Clan. It’s one of the five clans of the nation.

AMY GOODMAN: And are the raids over? And what is happening with the actual pipeline being built? And what are you demanding of the Canadian government?

MOLLY WICKHAM: We had three raids on Gidimt’en territory alone over the course of five days, and it resulted in 21 arrests of our camps, of our territory, 15 of which are moving forward with charges against our land defenders, heavily militarized police force coming in and removing everybody from the territory. And so, they were not successful in removing our entire camp at Gidimt’en at 44 kilometer, where the raid happened last year, so we still have people that are there. We have people that are moving back in. The tactical teams have left the area, but there’s still a huge RCMP presence and police presence on our territory. The chiefs have — they served an eviction notice on February 4th — or, January 4th to all Coastal GasLink employees on 22,000 square kilometers of our territory. And that eviction notice still stands. And that eviction notice will continue to be enforced by the Wet’suwet’en according to Wet’suwet’en law.

AMY GOODMAN: Molly Wickham, I want to thank you so much for being with us, land defender, chief, matriarch of the Gidimt’en Clan of Wet’suwet’en Nation. And Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer, member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick, thank you so much for joining us, as we continue to cover that struggle.

Greta Thunberg Addresses Global Elite at Davos: Our House Is Still on Fire


An article from Democracy Now (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License)

The 17-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg delivered a speech Tuesday to the world leaders and global elite gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, one year after she first condemned the forum for its inaction on climate change. “We don’t need a ‘low-carbon economy.’ We don’t need to ‘lower emissions.’ Our emissions have to stop,” Thunberg said. “And until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus, then we must forget about net zero. We need real zero.”

Video of Thunberg speech

AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show with the words of a 17-year-old: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. She just turned 17 in the last weeks. She addressed world leaders today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

GRETA THUNBERG: One year ago, I came to Davos and told you that our house is on fire. I said I wanted you to panic. I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do. But don’t worry. It’s fine. Trust me. I’ve done this before. And I can assure you: It doesn’t lead to anything.

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Question for this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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And for the record, when we children tell you to panic, we’re not telling you to go on like before. We’re not telling you to rely on technologies that don’t even exist today at scale and that science says perhaps never will. We are not telling you to keep talking about reaching net zero emissions or carbon neutrality by cheating and fiddling around with numbers. We’re not telling you to offset your emissions by just paying someone else to plant trees in places like Africa, while at the same time forests like the Amazon are being slaughtered at an infinitely higher rate. Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough of what is needed, and it cannot replace real mitigation and rewilding nature.

And let’s be clear: We don’t need a low-carbon economy. We don’t need to lower emissions. Our emissions have to stop, if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5-degree target. And until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus, then we must forget about net zero. We need real zero, because distant net-zero emission targets will mean absolutely nothing if we just continue to ignore the carbon dioxide budget that applies for today, not distant future dates. If high emissions continue like now even for a few years, that remaining budget will soon be completely used up.

The fact that the U.S.A. is leaving the Paris accord seemed to outrage and worry everyone. And it should. But the fact that we are all about to fail the commitments you signed up for in the Paris Agreement doesn’t seem to bother the people in power even the least. Any plan or policy of yours that doesn’t include radical emission cuts at the source starting today is completely insufficient for meeting the 1.5- or well below 2-degree commitments of the Paris Agreement.

And again, this is not about right or left. We couldn’t care less about your party politics. From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left, as well as the center, have all failed. No political ideology or economic structure has been able to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world, because that world, in case you haven’t noticed, is currently on fire.

AMY GOODMAN: Seventeen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressing world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. She spoke just after President Trump spoke at the gathering, touting the economy but not talking about the climate crisis, which is the focus of the World Economic Forum, the World Economic Forum in Davos. That does it for our show. We’ll post her whole speech online.

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

BlackRock goes green? Investment giant joins Climate Action 100+ amid controversy


An article by Toby Hill from Green Biz

BlackRock became the latest signatory to Climate Action 100+, adding the substantial weight of its $6.8 trillion in assets under management to the investor engagement initiative that works to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take action on climate change.

BlackRock joins 370 global investors already signed up to the scheme, bringing total assets under management by those participating to over $41 billion.

As signatories, investors commit to engaging with companies on a range of climate-related fronts. The group typically has called on firms to take bolder steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, implement a strong governance framework for managing climate-related risks and opportunities, and provide enhanced corporate disclosure in line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

“BlackRock is one of the largest and most influential asset managers in the world and will bring even more heft to investor engagement through Climate Action 100+,” said Emily Chew, steering committee chair at Climate Action 100+. “We look forward to working with BlackRock to build on the initiative’s success and work to ensure companies take the urgent and necessary action needed in response to the climate crisis.”

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Question for this article:

Divestment: is it an effective tool to promote sustainable development?

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BlackRock’s decision to join the group builds on a series of recent statements on the importance of climate action from the influential investment giant.

CEO Larry Fink has highlighted “climate change” and “environmental risks and opportunities” as key engagement priorities in both his 2018  and 2019 letters to CEOs. The firm also  strengthened its proxy voting guidelines (PDF)  regarding climate change in January 2019.

Joining Climate Action 100+ “is a natural progression of the work our investment stewardship team has done,” BlackRock told Bloomberg in an emailed statement. “We believe evidence of the impact of climate risk on investment portfolios is building rapidly and we are accelerating our engagement with companies on this critical issue,” the firm added.

However, the U.S. investment giant also has faced criticism for sometimes failing to take concrete action on climate change when opportunities have presented themselves. Sustainability non-profit Ceres last year ranked BlackRock 43 among 48 asset managers in a green investment league table, finding it had backed just one in 10 climate-related proposals from shareholders. Indeed, in the past the firm has voted against shareholder proposals brought about by ClimateAction 100+ itself. Such inaction led former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to recently accuse the firm of being “full of greenwash.”

Climate finance experts welcomed BlackRock’s decision to join the group while emphasizing that the company had to work effectively with Climate Action 100+ to encourage more companies to develop ambitious climate strategies.

“Given the immediate need for companies, particularly in the fossil fuel heavy energy sector, to produce Paris-consistent transition plans, Blackrock’s support has just come at the right time,” said Carbon Tracker chairman Mark Campanale. “The challenge now is to see a ‘high bar’ on climate disclosure followed, as well as business alignment by fossil fuel companies such as Exxon, on the goals of the Paris agreement. Blackrock needs to lend its voice to the many involved in CA100+ calling for no new investment in expanding fossil fuel production.”

International Peace Bureau: the ‘carbon boot-print’


An information paper by Jessica Fort and Philipp Straub from the International Peace Bureau and a press release from the IPB

The US military is not only the most funded army in the world, it is also “one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries”. The Department of Defence’s daily consumption alone is greater than the total national consumption of countries like Sweden, Switzerland or Chile. And the US has been continuously at war, or engaged in military actions, since late 2001.

War and militarism, and their associated ‘carbon boot-prints’, are severely accelerating climate change. However, the military’s significant contribution to climate change has still received little attention. It is not only the US army that has a severe impact on climate change, Europe’s military is also running its bases and its various operations and contributing to the rise in carbon emissions. However, obtaining accurate data about any form of military energy consumption is very difficult.

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Question for this article:

What is the relation between the environment and peace

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

(continued from left column)

The entire IPB Information Paper by Jessica Fort and Philipp Straub is available here: IPB Information Paper – the carbon boot-print

IPB stresses the COP25 to include the military in its climate action work and to adopt provisions covering military compliance. The COP25 must include military emissions in their calculations and the CO2 emissions laundering has to stop. It should also include a blueprint to reduce military emissions.

IPB urges the State Parties to the Paris Agreement to adjust its provision to military emissions, not leaving decisions up to nation states as to which national sectors should make emissions cuts.

IPB calls for an inclusion of military greenhouse gas emission into climate change regulations. Moreover, countries need to be obliged, without exemption, to cut military emissions and transparently report them.

IPB calls for more academic studies (in line with the study from Brown University report) and an IPCC or equal special report. The report needs to be a common project of academics and the civil society. [Crawford N (2019). Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War. Brown University, USA ]

At Major March in Madrid, Indigenous & Youth Activists Slam Global Leaders for Climate Inaction


A broadcast by Democracy Now (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.)

We broadcast from Madrid, Spain, where the 25th United Nations climate conference is in its second week and representatives from almost 200 countries have gathered for the final days of negotiations. The summit — known as COP25, or conference of parties — has so far focused on meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius,” or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But climate scientists say the talks are failing to produce the drastic measures necessary to address the climate crisis. Since the Paris Agreement four years ago, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 4%, and this year’s summit shows no sign of arresting that trend.

Full video of broadcast

On Friday, as hundreds of thousands prepared to take to the streets of Madrid in protest, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg told reporters that the global climate strikes have “not translated into action” by governments. Protesters then marched through Madrid’s city center Friday night in a massive climate demonstration led by indigenous leaders and youth activists. Democracy Now! was there in the streets.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from inside the United Nations Climate Change Conference here in Madrid, Spain, where representatives from almost 200 countries have gathered for the final days of negotiations. The climate summit, known as COP25 for “conference of parties,” has so far focused on meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius — that’s 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But climate scientists say the talks are failing to take the drastic measures necessary to address the climate crisis. Since the Paris Agreement four years ago, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 4%, and this year’s summit shows no sign of arresting that trend. On Friday, as hundreds of thousands prepared to take to the streets of Madrid in protest, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed reporters.

GRETA THUNBERG: We have been striking now for over a year, and still basically nothing has happened. The climate crisis is still being ignored by those in power. And we cannot go on like this. It is not a sustainable solution that children skip school. We cannot go on like that. So, we don’t want to continue, so we would love some action from the people in power, I mean, because people are suffering and dying from the climate and ecological emergency today, and we cannot wait any longer.

AMY GOODMAN: Protesters then marched through Madrid’s city center Friday night in a massive climate demonstration led by indigenous leaders and youth activists. Democracy Now! was there in the streets.

PROTESTERS: ¡Ni una especie menos, ni un grado más! ¡Ni una especie menos, ni un grado más!

VIDYA DINKER: My name is Vidya. I’m from India, the south of India, a coastal community. Coastal communities across Asia are now, you know, getting that bad end of the stick because of the climate emergency. We are here to speak for our people. We know that our governments and everybody in the U.N. is now being controlled by lobbyists with oil companies and fossil fuel companies. This cannot be. We need to cut through, and we need to see that the voice of the people is heard here. There must be a loss and damage fund so that people can cope with climate emergencies.

PROTESTERS: What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!

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Question for this article:

Sustainable Development Summits of States, What are the results?

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

Are we seeing the dawn of a global youth movement?

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GODWIN OJO: I’m Godwin Ojo. I’m from Nigeria, Environmental Rights Action, Friends of the Earth. We are here to stop corporate power. We are here to stop corporate capture of the state, corporate capture of the United Nations, corporate capture of resources. And we want to make the voices of local communities all over the world to count, and to put an end to climate change. Nigeria is highly impacted. All over the south, there is flooding. A lot of people are dying from climate change. And now the farmers are not able to plant because there is rainfall problems in Nigeria.

TA’KAIYA BLANEY: My name is Ta’Kaiya Blaney. I’m from the Tla’amin Nation, which is located in lands illegally occupied by Canada. And I’m here because indigenous youth are on the forefront of climate change. And the climate solutions being proposed by our government are a continuation of indigenous genocide. In the Wet’suwet’en territory, we have Coastal Gaslink invading those homelands and forcibly removing indigenous people from their ancestral territories for LNG, which is, according to these governments, a climate solution because it’s a transition from coal. So we’re here to say that, like, climate solutions and the fight for climate change has to be a fight for indigenous peoples, and it has to be a fight for indigenous rights, because, as indigenous youth, we don’t have a choice to act. This is about our survival.

PROTESTERS: What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!

JUAN PABLO ORREGO: I’m Juan Pablo Orrego from Chile. And we are marching for fighting climate change and also for, you know, the stop of the repression in Chile, where people are getting hurt. And we are walking for deep changes in our economic systems so we stop hurting the environment and harming people. Chile is a country that is extremely vulnerable to climate change for geographical reasons. You know, we have the driest desert in the world, in the north. So we are being affected severely. We have a desertification process happening in three-quarters of the country. It’s very severe. The river that feeds water to Santiago de Chile has lost 50% of its flow in the last decade. That’s how serious this is. And, you know, this is the 25th conference, and nothing has changed. They have been talking for 25 years, a quarter of a century, and nothing has changed, really, in the ground, and carbon dioxide keeps rising in the atmosphere. So, when are we going to really act — you know, the governments — to change things in the ground? If you go to the COP, the official COP, you’re going to see that all the companies that are guilty for the situation we are in today are sponsoring the COP. So it’s a very powerful greenwashing.

PROTESTERS: ¡Ni un grado más, ni una especie menos! ¡Ni un grado más, ni una especie menos!

ALETHEA PHILLIPS: [speaking Omaha-Ponca] Hello. My name is Alethea Phillips. I’m from the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska. I’m here with SustainUS’ first-ever all-indigenous youth delegation to attend the U.N. climate negotiations. It’s really powerful for all these indigenous people to be coming here to Spain, somewhere that was — that has impacted us so heavily by colonization and the continuation of colonization in the climate crisis. For us, a lot of people at COP, these countries, they have never learned how to live sustainably. They’ve always been based upon a system that takes and needs more and more, whereas indigenous people, like, our traditions have always been sustainable, and because of colonization, that’s been taken away from us. So, for us to be here, it’s not so much that we’re trying to learn how to live sustainably. We’ve always been protectors of the land. We’ve always worked with nature, not against it. So, going forward, it’s really important that we really look to indigenous people as leaders of the climate movement, and not just victims.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: We’re here to build solidarity. We’re here to stand in support of the people of Chile. We’re here to support the people of Colombia and Ecuador and Brazil who are fighting climate capitalism. We have to stand together with the people of the streets and of the forests and the land and the oceans, fighting neoliberalism, fighting imperialism. We’re fighting against the United States and its white supremacy, militarization. We have to look at these things and stand together in solidarity with the people.

AMY GOODMAN: That last voice, Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

In Final Hours, COP 25 Denounced as ‘Utter Failure’ as Deal Is Stripped of Ambition and US Refuses to Accept Liability for Climate Crisis


An article from Common Dreams (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License)

After the COP 25 talks on the Paris climate agreement went into overtime Friday night amid a stalled agreement on wealthy countries’ contributions to greatly reducing climate-warming carbon emissions, civil society groups and climate scientists were shocked by the weak language that emerged from the late-night talks on Saturday.

Activists protesting outside IFEMA, where UN Climate Change Conference COP25 is being held. (Photo: Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The latest text includes an “invitation” for countries to communicate their mid-term and long-term climate plans, and the majority of delegations, which attempted to push countries including the U.S. towards ambitious climate targets, were unable Saturday to sway the U.S. away from language regarding carbon markets.

Nearly 100 civil society organizations on Saturday released a  joint statement  condemning the U.S., Australia, the E.U., and other wealthy countries that emit much of the carbon that’s warming the planet, for insisting on a deal “only for the corporate elites, while damning people and the planet.”

As of Saturday, civil society groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Oil Change International, and Friends of the Earth said, the deal that had been hammered out by the parties included an agenda brought by big polluters “straight to the halls of the U.N.” with the help of countries “historically most responsible for the climate crisis.”

At the behest of fossil fuel corporations, they said, wealthy countries are insisting on using carbon markets to “offset” instead of cut emissions, and  “nature based solutions,” which the civil society groups said is likely a euphemism for “large scale biomass burning, carbon storage technologies, the commodification of the ocean”—which will contribute to deforestation and displace food production.

The U.S. is also reportedly still objecting to provisions that would hold it liable for the destruction the climate crisis has already wreaked in island nations.

The deal as it stands would “condemn those on the frontlines of the climate crisis, while hiding the crimes of polluters,” said the groups. “And it would lead to increased inequality with no increase in ambition, no real emissions reductions, and no pathway to 1.5 [degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.]”

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Question for this article:

Sustainable Development Summits of States, What are the results?

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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The COP 25 summit approached its end after demonstrators staged sit-ins and other protests, with security officials barring about 200 campaigners from the talks after they staged a sit-in. The demonstrators followed in the footsteps of the global climate strike which have drawn millions in the past year.

“I’ve been attending these climate negotiations since they first started in 1991,” Alden Meyer, director of strategy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the BBC. “But never have I seen the almost total disconnect we’ve seen here at COP25 in Madrid between what the science requires and the people of the world demand, and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action.”

Other critics on social media wrote that the talks had descended into “disarray,” with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) calling them an “utter failure.”

“This is nothing less than a breakdown in the Paris Agreement. This is not climate leadership, this is a betrayal of humanity and future generations,” tweeted climate scientist Eric Holthaus.

“What’s happening today at COP 25 is a clear and present threat to civilization itself,” Holthaus added. “The Trump administration and its fossil fuel allies around the world have sabotaged the Paris Agreement—the only global treaty we have to fight climate change. This is a betrayal of humanity.”

Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network Canada was among those who spoke at the People’s Closing Plenary Saturday afternoon, where people from marginalized and frontline groups decried the breakdown of the conference and the real-world consequences it will have.

“For so many people gripped by devastating floods, fires, and storms, time is up,” Abreu said. “And instead of helping them, rich countries hold on to your dollars and hold up loss and damage. Public mobilizations are swamping the streets. The status quo you are working so stubbornly to protect is not working for people or the planet.”
Harjeet Singh, of ActionAid International lambasted wealthy countries including the U.S. for fighting to avoid liability for helping to accelerate the climate crisis.

“Developing countries came to this climate conference with the expectation that the people who have lost their crops to drought, or who have lost their homes to cyclones, will finally get help from the UN system,” said Singh. “Instead, they have faced bullying, arm-twisting and blackmail. Rich countries most responsible for the crisis have refused to provide a single penny of new money to support communities to recover from the devastation caused by increasingly frequent and severe climate disasters.”

The civil society groups’ joint statement noted that in the final hours of the summit, “it is not too late for developing countries to stand strong, to resolutely refuse the agenda of polluters.”

“From the Amazon to the Arctic, our world is on fire,” the statement read. “Allowing expansion of coal, oil and gas production at this moment of history is throwing gasoline on the fire.”

The U.S. is trying to get out of paying climate damages to poor countries


A blog by Emily Atkin at Heated World

Activists say the Paris agreement will be “on the verge of collapse” if rich countries don’t commit to paying poor countries for devastating climate-related losses.

This is what climate activist Greta Thunberg said . . .

After a three week catamaran journey  across the Atlantic Ocean—and a train ride from Portugal—famed youth climate activist Greta Thunberg arrived in Madrid, Spain on Friday for the United Nations climate change conference known as COP25: the last time nations will come together before the Paris climate agreement is officially implemented in 2020.

Thunberg’s immediate message was one of frustration and urgency.

“We have been striking for over a year, and basically nothing has happened,” she told activists shortly after her arrival, and shortly before leading a march of 500,000 people  through Madrid. “The climate crisis is still being ignored by those in power, and we cannot go on like this.”

There are people who will take Thunberg’s statement as a knock on her own activist movement. But those people willingly misinterpret her intention. Clearly, Thunberg is not saying that the climate strikes haven’t changed public opinion and understanding about climate change.

She’s saying that, despite a sea change in public opinion and understanding about the climate crisis, no one with any true power to change the global emissions trajectory has yet done anything about it. She’s saying that no one with any true power at the U.N. climate talks seems to understand the urgency of this crisis.

And she’s right. As an example, just look at what the United States is doing at COP25.

A proposal to avoid paying for climate impacts on the vulnerable

Last night, a source at the U.N. climate talks sent HEATED a photograph of a proposal being floated by the Trump administration’s diplomatic team. The proposal surrounds the problem of “loss and damage,” which refers to the “unavoidable and irreversible impacts of climate change, where mitigation has failed, and adaptation is not possible.”

I’m not sharing the photograph directly because it contains identifying information about the person who shared it, which would put that person’s job at risk. But here’s what the U.S. proposal on loss and damage says—and fair warning, to anyone who isn’t intricately involved with international climate politics, it reads like complete gibberish:

The decision package from the WIM to serve the COP in addition to the CMA could have the following components:

1. Serves both the CMA and COP as a single-consulted body with a single agenda, in accordance with past COP decisions/Paris Agreement

2. The agreement in paragraph 51 of 1/CP.21 on liability and compensation apples to work of the WIM serving the CMA and the COP

3. All Parties to the Convention (including those that are not Parties to Paris) and eligible to serve on the Excom

4. Annual report by the Excom to the COP and CMA considered jointly by the SBI and SBSTA in a single joint contact group

Fortunately, Harjeet Singh helped translate the document into real person words. Singh is the global lead on climate change for ActionAid, and has been following the U.N. negotiations about how to deal with climate loss and damage for a decade.

With this proposal, Singh said, “The U.S. is now attempting to add further protections for itself and fossil fuel companies against liability claims into the complex web of international climate legislation.”

And if this proposal is adopted at COP25 this week, Singh said, “the countries least responsible for the crisis, but are suffering the most, could stand even less chance of receiving financial support to recover from the devastating impacts of increasingly frequent and severe droughts, flooding and sea level rise.”

How in the world is that what the proposal says?

The U.S. proposal surrounds the WIM—that is, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. This mechanism was established by the U.N. in 2013, so that rich countries that are most responsible for the climate crisis could help financially support poorer countries already experiencing climate disasters, since those countries hold far less responsibility for the crisis.

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Question for this article:

Sustainable Development Summits of States, What are the results?

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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The WIM sounds pretty cool, but there’s always been a problem with it. The WIM has never had a finance mechanism —meaning, there’s been no way for rich countries like the U.S. to actually pay into it, because it doesn’t say how much countries like the U.S. should compensate countries for the impacts of global warming.

So that’s one thing countries are trying to figure out at the U.N. climate talks this week: How to fix the WIM so that the most vulnerable people on the planet don’t have to pay for billions—or more likely, trillions—in climate damages they didn’t cause.

The U.S.’s proposal, however, doesn’t attempt to add a financing mechanism to the WIM. Instead, Singh said, “The U.S. is using the opportunity to make changes to the way the WIM is governed, to cover its own back and keep developing countries hit by climate disasters mired in debt and poverty.”

This is making climate justice activists—not to mention people from actual developing countries—very mad.

At a press conference at the U.N. on Monday morning, Singh didn’t cite the U.S. proposal explicitly, but warned that wealthy countries were trying to get out of creating a financing mechanism for the WIM, and therefore avoid the obligation for paying poor countries for the damage they caused.

“If rich countries do not allow this architecture to be created … the Paris agreement is on the verge of collapse before it properly begins next year,” he said.

An unsurprising development

It’s not particularly surprising that the United States government would try to avoid financial responsibility for other countries’ climate damages—nor is the attempt unique to the Trump administration, said Taylor Billings, the press secretary for Corporate Accountability, a group that launches global campaigns on holding fossil fuel companies and other corporations accountable for climate change.

“The U.S. is always trying to get out of its historical responsibility for climate change,” she said.

Indeed, as the New York Times reported last year, industrialized nations including the U.S. have routinely failed on their promises to help poor countries deal with devastating climate effects.

In 2009, they pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 for that purpose. But that money “has been slow to materialize,” the Times reported, “with only $3.5 billion actually committed  out of $10.3 billion pledged to a prominent United Nations program  called the Green Climate Fund.” Both Obama and Trump failed to fulfill pledges, the Times reported—though Trump has been much worse. Not only is he attempting to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement; last year, he straight-up canceled $2 billion in promised climate aid to poor countries.

With this new proposal, Billings said, “The U.S. is trying to torch the Paris agreement on its way out.” Justice for poor and developing nations “is the core of what the Paris agreement should do,” she said. “If the U.S. gets its way, that won’t happen.”

The week ahead

Whether the U.S. proposal on loss and damage will be adopted is anyone’s guess. Obviously, it’s in developed countries’ interest to avoid creating a financing mechanism for the WIM—but developing countries will depend on that mechanism for their survival. Meetings on proposals like this tend to be closed to press, so the outcome will likely depend on whether representatives from developing countries push back strongly enough.

Meanwhile, activists like Thunberg are trying to direct some media attention away from themselves and toward those countries currently experiencing unjust loss and damage from the climate crisis.

“We have noticed there is some media attention,” Thunberg said at a press conference at the U.N. this morning. “And we thought it is our moral duty to use that media attention .. .to lend our voices to those who need to tell their stories.

We are privileged, and our stories have been told many times over and over again. It is not our stories that need to be told and listened to.

It is the others, especially from the Global South and Indigenous communities who need to tell their stories. Because the climate emergency is not just something that will impact us in the future. It is not something that will have an impact on children living today when they grow up. It is already affecting countless people today. People are suffering and dying from it today.

So that’s why we’ve created this event, to hope it will be some kind of platform to share the stories that need to be shared.

Six justice activists shared their stories at the press conference. You can listen to them all by clicking HERE.

Nepal urges concrete plans to tackle climate emergency


An article by Lok Raj Joshi based on articles in The Himayan Times, The Kathmandu Post , the UN climate Summit and the United Nations Climate Change website.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Conference of Parties, COP-25) is in progress in Madrid, Spain. The event started on December 2 and will conclude on December 13. Heads of state/governments and environment ministers from 197 countries as well as representatives of various organizations working in the climate change sector are participating. The conference aims to negotiate plans to limit global warming in line with the Paris Agreement. Under the Paris Agreement, governments had agreed to update their climate plans by 2020.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

However, it has been reported that a little (not much) progress has been made till now in COP-25 on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement that calls for minimizing unfair carbon markets. It needs to be noted that carbon emission is the prime cause of global warming. It has also been reported that responsible parties are far from finding compromise positions on mobilizing finance and support for loss and damage. This has drawn huge attention from the victims of global warming, climate scientists, social justice protesters and people around the globe. An estimated 500,000 people, led by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg marched through Madrid on Friday night. One million people marched in Santiago, Chile.

A government team from Nepal led by the Minister for Forests and Environment, Shakti Bahadur Basnet, is taking part in COP-25. He is scheduled to address the special session of COP-25 on Wednesday. Nepal is going to propose formulating a plan for coping with the adverse conditions resulting from global warming. Nepal is also lobbying for the Green Climate Fund. Highly affected countries like Nepal are entitled to receive it as compensation from the responsible countries that are releasing large quantity of carbon into the atmosphere.

Although Nepal has not been able to raise the issue of global warming strongly in the international forums, Nepal is serious about the disasters caused by it. Scientific evidence clearly shows that Nepal is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the planet and it is already facing the disasters of the man-made global warming. The latest landmark study in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, which covers 3,500 kilometres across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan, has projected an alarming future for economically and geographically challenged developing countries like Nepal. The study by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has concluded that the region would lose one-third of the region’s glaciers by the end of the century.

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Question for this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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Considering the geographical and economic characteristics of Nepal, climate change is an urgent matter for Nepalese people. First, its northern region is comprised of the snow-covered Himalaya mountains including the top of the earth Sagarmatha (internationally famous as The Mount Everest) and the south is the Terai (plain area). The middle hilly region is mostly dependent on water flowing from the Himalayas and the crops from the Terai. The Terai itself depends on water from the north and supplies food to the rest of the nation. This relationship makes the adverse effects of global warming even more complex, more intense and more widespread creating a vicious cycle of disasters in Nepal. Second, agriculture and tourism based on natural beauties including the Himalayas, rivers, glaciers, lakes, jungles and wild animals are the major sources of income for Nepal. Hydroelectricity is the most potential area that is expected to contribute to realization of the Nepalese dream of prosperity. Unfortunately, these all have been the first targets of global warming.

For us, the Nepalese people, it is unfortunate to see the reluctance of the responsible parties to accept the scientific conclusions regarding global warming and to internalize the gravity of the adversities caused by it. Its serious adverse effects which are unpredictable at the same time, have threatened the livelihood of the Nepalese people. In the most recent instance of extreme weather events in the country, incessant heavy rainfalls, floods and landslides claimed more than five dozen lives in various parts of the country. 

The Prime Minister of Nepal, KP Oli has said, “The country is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change although our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is negligible. Rising temperature, retreating glaciers, erratic rainfall and extreme weather events are causing damages to our people and economy. The climate is becoming more vulnerable and unpredictable. We received a delayed monsoon. We also had first tornado in our recorded history. As a result of rapid industrialization, the adverse impact of climate change is also increasing. Some countries are well prepared to deal with them, but countries like Nepal are most vulnerable. I urge scientists to consider small mountainous and small-island nations while preparing the report.” This is what Prime Minister Oli said addressing the Second Lead Authors Meeting of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC Working Group (II) held in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, in July this year.

More than 260 climate scientists from more than 60 countries and bureau members IPCC had gathered to discuss the pressing issue. As an intergovernmental body of the United Nations, the IPCC provides scientific evidence of climate change; its impact on various sectors. It also informs about the natural, political and economic impacts of global warming along with possible solutions. “Meeting here in Kathmandu reminds us in a very direct way of the strong interdependence of human and natural systems, and how both are threatened by climate change. Key aspects of our report and reasons to act on climate change are very evident here,” said Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts.

From the global viewpoint, no country in the world is going to benefit from global warming in the long run. Therefore, it is in the best interest of all people around the world to tackle this issue wisely and timely. No development can be called a real development when it does not care about the future of humanity and the home planet. Also, it is not only a pure environmental issue; it is a case of social injustice too. Innocent people are facing the dreadful consequences of irresponsible activities by others. It is high time that all environmental scientists, youths, civil societies, political leaders and all responsible citizens around the world raise their voice to make all the concerned parties realize the gravity of the issue and take appropriate actions without any delay.

Catholic church denounces ‘attacks’ on Amazon people and forest


An article by Chloé Farand from Climate Change News

The Catholic church in the Amazon has denounced attacks on the environment and the life of indigenous people — setting out on a collision course with Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro.

Catholic bishops from the Amazon region committed to a more active role in the world’s most important forest following three weeks of discussions at the first Amazon synod in Rome.

Pope Francis with indigenous representatives in Rome for the first Amazon synod. (Photo: Amazon Synod of Bishops)

In a statement  concluding the synod on Saturday, they called on countries to stop considering the forest as “an inexhaustible pantry” and to end large scale extractive activities such as mining and forest extraction, large infrastructure projects and the promotion of monoculture and extensive livestock farming.

Bishops agreed that “one of the main causes of destruction in the Amazon is predatory extractivism that responds to the logic of greed,” which they said had been “at the root of conflicts” in the region.

“In this way,” the statement said, “the church undertakes to be an ally of the Amazonian people to denounce the attacks on the life of the indigenous communities, the projects that affect the environment, the lack of demarcation of their territories, as well as the economic model of predatory and ecocidal development.”

The synod, which was called by Pope Francis in 2017, was the result of a two-year consultation process by the Catholic church across the Amazon basin, asking more than 80,000 people how the church should engage in the region.

Bishops agreed the need for an alternative development plan for the Amazon, focused on indigenous rights and environmental protection – in stark opposition to Brazilian president Bolsonaro’s own plan for the forest.

The Amazon basin is located across nine countries but about 60% of the forest cover is contained within Brazil’s borders, the country with the largest Catholic population in the world.

Bolsonaro was elected on a campaign pledge to open-up the Amazon for mining and developments. Although land disputes across the Amazon are not new, his rhetoric against indigenous people has emboldened land-grabbers, loggers and miners to encroach indigenous territories, leading to violence and murders.

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Question for this article

Indigenous peoples, Are they the true guardians of nature?

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spike in deforestation  and the degradation of the world’s largest tropical rainforest has also sparked serious concerns the Amazon is releasing more carbon than it is absorbing. Indigenous communities have been widely recognised as the most effective guardians against the destruction of the forest [See Brazil’s indigenous tribes protest Bolsonaro assimilation plan].

Under the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people, indigenous communities have a right to “own, use, develop and control” their lands and states must “give legal recognition and protection to these lands”.

Across the Amazon region, these rights have come under growing pressure from farming and extracting industries, something the synod described as “scandalous”.

In Brazil, the constitution entrenches indigenous land rights in law but Bolsonaro is expected to announce a raft of draft measures  to revise indigenous demarcations in favour of the agribusiness industry.

Paulo Moutinho, a co-founder and senior scientist at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), told Climate Home News the synod’s proposals had “potential to create a conflict between the church and the Brazilian government administration” but also the “potential to reach a great audience” given the church’s presence across the region.

“If the Bolsonaro administration will listen to what the church is saying, that is another story,” he said.

Under the church’s plan, a development model would be established in partnership with Amazon communities and scientific institutions to support “sustainable economy, circular and ecological” projects, such as bio-production cooperatives and sustainable forest reserves.

Reverend Augusto Zampini, director of development and faith at the Vatican who was involved in the organisation of the synod, told Climate Home News the meeting was focused on concrete actions the church could take “to respond to the destruction of the biological heart of the planet and its people”.

“There is no way you can respond by doing the same thing that we have been doing for ages,” he said, citing the need for cross-border structures across the region. “We have to change and we want the world to change as well.”

Proposed changes also include the ordination of married men as priests and to re-open the debate on ordaining women as deacons to address the scarcity of clergy in the region.

For the church to become “an ally” of the indigenous people also means that it has to take into account “their own knowledge and their own wisdom,” Zampini said. “We want a model that creates value for the land, for the people and for the economy.”
While he acknowledged the move was in direct contradiction with Bolsonaro’s policies, he insisted the church was “not against anybody nor against the right of nations to decide what they want for their countries”.

“Countries have the right to develop themselves but they don’t have the right to destroy their own people. There are laws in Brazil that need to be respected,” he added. “If we don’t save the Amazon, we won’t save the planet.”