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While the UN congratulates itself for having “successfully” concluded the 20th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 20) with a “draft agreement and concrete advances”, the majority of the social movements demanding climate justice in Lima expressed their deep concern over the results of the two weeks of official talks, not due to the lack of advance, but because of the fact that the talks advanced in the opposite direction of the necessary solutions proposed by the movements. Many reasons can explain these fateful outcomes, but two of them are very clear: the corporate capture of the UN and the lack of attention provided by this space to the proposals and demands of the social movements that every year demand strong actions to change a system that among other things is generating the climate crisis.
One of the main elements of the outcome of the negotiations summarized in the Lima Call for Climate Action is adaptation. It is possible to say that adapting to the climate crisis is a self-explanatory action that is not enough to face climate change. Now, this becomes something worse when we analyze who the COP 20 considers should adapt in the first place. According to the press release of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the President of the COP, the Peruvian Environment Minister, said “Lima has given new urgency towards fast tracking adaptation and building resilience across the developing world—not least by strengthening the link to finance and the development of national adaptation plans”. The “developing world” is the one that should adapt to the climate crisis.
Now, what actions did the UNFCCC suggested for the so-called developed countries? According to the fourth point raised in the document, the convention urges developed countries to provide financial support to developing countries so that they can adapt and mitigate their contribution to climate change. The document does not establish any other type of specific actions by developed countries. How will these countries reduce their emissions then? First of all, the COP 20 “invites” all countries to submit to the Executive Secretariat of the Convention their “intended nationally determined contributions” around climate change. This means that without having to comply with any criteria beyond the will of the countries, the parties are invited to submit before the COP 21 in Paris their plans of contributions around climate change.
The social movements demanding climate justice have highlighted the obligatory nature of incorporating the concept of differentiated historical responsibility in the negotiations. In this way, the historically most polluting countries came out on top. The final document recognizes that the COP 21 should have as a purpose reaching an ambitious agreement that reflects the “common but differentiated responsibilities” criteria, but it does not indentify how these differences will be established, so developing and developed countries could be considered equally responsible for climate change.
No surprises, but alarmed
The different social movements and international networks arrived to Lima without expectations about the official climate talks. They organized a 4-day Peoples´ Summit with over 160 activities and a march that took place on December 10 (Human Rights Day) which exceeded all expectations, flooding Lima streets with over 15 thousand people members of unions, student, indigenous, women and environmental groups from Peru and every continent.
Unanimous rejection by women, peasants, unions, indigenous people and environmentalists
“We came here knowing that the COPs cannot solve anything as long as we don´t change the capitalist system”, said activist Lucia Ortiz, coordinator of the Climate Justice and Energy Program of Friends of the Earth International. According to her, the civil society was called to a Peoples´ Summit to take place in parallel to the official negotiations “to monitor, denounce and reject the advance of false solutions”.
In this way, the REDD mechanisms (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), considered by the movements as a way to do business with the climate crisis without even facing it, have come out stronger in terms of the new protocol that should be signed next year in Paris.
Some examples of the problems these mechanisms can generate and are already generating include land use change: “now, a large extension of land can no longer be considered unproductive, because even though there are no people working on it, they can be considered “carbon farmers”. So large owners of lands and conservationist organizations (which own many lands) will be benefitted from selling carbon bonds”, said Lucia.
The trade union sector, each year more and more involved in the climate justice movement, was present at the Peoples´ Summit and also expressed their rejection to the climate conference: “Although several governments made reference to the importance of including a message for the workers of the world about the need for dignified job sources and a just transition in the Paris draft, the co-chairs are ignoring these demands, casting a shadow of doubt over who are the ones who are really driving this process”, said Sharan Burrow, General Secretariat of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
Something considered “historical” by the COP 20 Chair in the negotiations was the creation of a Lima Work Programme on Gender aiming to promote the effective participation of women at the UNFCCC and strengthening the work of empowering women and turning them into important actors of change in terms of adaptation and mitigation, according to an article published at the COP 20´s official website.
Tica Moreno, member of the feminist movement World March of Women, said: “this is not a recent strategy, it is an old strategy by the UN and several international agreements not only related to climate. In the case of climate, they are promoting “greenwashing” strategies, such as the case of green economy, but at the same time, their aim is to promote “gender washing”. In reality, the discourse of gender and women is used to promote programs of financialization of nature, such as REDD. And what we´ve seen at the Peoples´ Summit is that women are resisting in the territories these false solutions promoted by the capitalist system”.
The Latin American peasant movement, represented by the Latin American Coordination of Countryside Organizations (CLOC-Via Campesina) didn´t take long to express their rejection to the negotiations. In a statement, CLOC-VC referred to the final document as “weak” and they criticized the agroindustrial and agribusiness model as responsible for the climate crisis, due to their intensive use of fossil fuels in their different production stages, which is now being promoted as a response to climate change as Climate-Smart Agriculture.
Rejecting this strategy generated and promoted by the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) and the World Bank, CLOC-VC made reference once again to their proposal to promote small-scale peasant and family farming as an essential path towards climate and environmental justice.
Architecture of plundering
But the situation now is much more serious: not only the demands of measures to combat climate change are being increasingly flexibilized, with the added proposal for them to be determined by the free will of each country, but the United Nations is about to enshrine market strategies as action rules related to climate change.
As the popular movements are denouncing, this will not imply a change in the response to the climate issue, and will only serve to open the space for the financial capital, large transnational corporations and the most powerful countries to develop even more businesses, markets, and therefore, increase their profits.
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