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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

COP17 Conferring in hypocrisy — time for paradigm change

Free Speech Radio News December 6, 2011, CAPTION
People from around the world participated in the December 3, 2011

Climate March in Durban, South Africa
including indigenous folks from South America — 
completely stoic during the dancing and singing
http://fsrn.org/Add caption
Activists off stage at COP 17 Durban
Re-reporting, editing by Carolyn Bennett

UNCC Durban photo
COP 17 UN Press Service photo
This is the second week of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. United Nations Press Service reports, “Thousands of representatives from governments, international organizations and civil society” began gathering in conference on November 28 “to advance ways to cut global carbon emissions and pollution.” The news report said “The stakes at the two-week long conference are high, as its outcome will determine the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the legally binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012.”  This week Democracy Now listened to voices in Durban.

African and Indian environmental activists Nnimmo Bassey and Praful Bidwai spoke with host Amy Goodman.

History Inescapable

Oil spill in Africa
Friends of the Earth photo
Child skims oil in
Africa's water source
Throughout a long history, Africa has been a major source for materials for energy, Nnimmo Bassey said — from human beings as an energy source to items like palm oil and other energy crops. Now, we are having a major shift to land grabbing in Africa for production of biofuels and agro fuels. Everything about Africa has been about extracting resources to power industry, to make life comfortable for people outside of Africa.

Oil spill Africa
African resources are not used by Africans. They are not used for Africa. They are not used to improve the situation on the continent, he said.

The fight for crude oil extraction, the fight for minerals like gold and diamond, all of this is done in a way that the African environment is severely degraded.

Oil companies are extracting with complete impunity, and abusing human rights in the way. The industry gets away with murder.

In this context are ongoing, many conflicts, conflict over diamond, conflict over gold. Wars on the continent trace to resources and life is precarious. All of this adds up to fry — cook the continent.

Creators of harm must do more than
duck and blame

“We cannot forget historical responsibility,” Indian activist Praful Bidwai said. South Africa’s emissions have increased at twice the global rate, India’s at four times the global rate, and China’s at five times the global rate, which means these countries are definitely the biggest current and future emitters, he said.

However, “the United States government is totally wrong in trying to blame China … as the biggest polluter. Though China is today the biggest emitter, the United States was the biggest emitter for 150 years; and those effects — already in the pipeline — will be felt for hundreds of years.

“Three-fourths of all the greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the atmosphere, and will stay there warming us up for thousands of years, come from the developed countries of the Global North, led by the United States, … which is responsible for more than one-quarter of all emissions accumulated in the atmosphere.”

We must therefore have “a balance between historical responsibility and current and future responsibility.” We must have “a principle of responsibility based upon the contribution to global warming by different countries; and here the industrialized countries have the maximum responsibility.”

Nnimmo Bassey reviews super powered obstruction, failed leadership, irresponsibility

Mexico Greenpeace photo
The United States “never signed the Kyoto Protocol,” he recalls; “never agreed to a legally binding agreement on emission reduction; and always favored a situation where they [the U.S. stands] apart and then allow[s] others to struggle against the tide.

“The major emitter of greenhouse gases” never having agreed fully to a multilateral system of cooperating with other countries in the world — the United States now teams with “heavily polluting nations such as Japan, Russia, Australia and Canada” in opposing a just and binding agreement on use and emissions. “The European Union generally speaks one language and walks the other way. In this way, rich countries are standing in the way of a real agreement that could avert disaster.” 

Climate change India
Bassey leaves a sad commentary on the situation inside the United Nations Climate Change Conference at Durban.  At COP 17, he says, “we are seeing a situation in which the negotiation is carried out on a big platform of hypocrisy, a lack of seriousness” when what we are looking for is a situation wherein decisions on global warming are taken, not by the corporate entities; but by people.

Leave oil in soil
Friends of the Earth
 “We believe,” Bassey said, “that the solution will come by peoples from outside the official conference halls.” He said, “We need to change the entire paradigm” because those inside the conference at Durban [and earlier conferences] “are not listening to voices — the democratic voices of people on the streets.”

This son of Nigeria suggests that an important key to achieving “people”-made decisions on climate change “is to decolonize governments of Africa.”

Climate Change Philippines

Sources and notes

“At Durban Summit, Leading African Activist Calls U.S. Emissions Stance ‘A Death Sentence for Africa,’” December 6, 2011 [interview with Nnimmo Bassey, author of To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and Climate Crisis in Africa], http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/6/at_durban_summit_leading_african_activist


One of Africa’s leading advocates and campaigners for the environment and human rights, Nnimmo Bassey has stood up against the practices of multinational corporations in his country, Nigeria, and the environmental devastation they leave behind destroying the lives and ignoring the rights of the local population.

Nnimmo Bassey is Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and Chair of Friends of the Earth International. In 2010, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award “...for revealing the full ecological and human horrors of oil production and for his inspired work to strengthen the environmental movement in Nigeria and globally.”

Nnimmo Bassey qualified as an architect and practiced in the public sector for ten years then in the 1980s, he became active in human rights issues as a member of the Board of Directors of Nigeria’s Civil Liberties Organization. In 1993, he co-founded Environmental Rights Action (ERA), a Nigerian advocacy NGO, to deal with environmental human rights issues in the country, http://www.rightlivelihood.org/bassey.htm

Environmental Rights Action (Friends of the Earth - Nigeria), http://www.eraction.org/

No land an island, no people apart

Praful Bidwai continues, offering alternatives to duck and blame

Move away from nation states as the only unit in which we understand this and talk about other norms or other criteria.

There is a good framework called the Greenhouse Development Rights Framework, which says, let’s draw a development threshold cutting across the countries of the world. Those who are above the development threshold … must bear the responsibility in proportion to their contribution to global warming.

Those below the threshold should not have to bear any responsibility, whether they live in the developed countries or the developing countries.

If you use that criterion, you get a much more balanced picture than what is being painted now with the bracketing of China and India together.

China [for example] has emissions comparable to those of Western Europe per capita, whereas India has emissions about five times lower so to bracket them together … is not very useful. Their obligations ought to be different.

… The United States is doing so repeatedly and blaming them as a way of avoiding and ducking its own responsibility. It talks about the Kyoto Protocol in respect of China, but it [the U.S.] has never—it never ratified the protocol itself.

Canada and Australia, which are signatories to the protocol, are going to exceed their emissions reduction targets by 30 percent or more.

…Countries like France, Italy and the Netherlands, which ought to have cut their own emissions at home, have been buying carbon credits cheap from the world market; and yet they are not meeting their Kyoto targets. So there’s a lot of cheating by the developed world.

“… The developed countries had committed themselves in 1992 to reach a plateau in their emissions by the year 2000 and yet today their emissions are rising; so they are in breach of their most solemn commitment under the climate convention.”

“U.S. Focus on China, India Emissions Burdens World’s Poor, Skirts Own Responsibility–Praful Bidwai,” December 06, 2011, http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/6/us_focus_on_china_india_emissions


Praful Bidwai is the co-author with Achin Vanaik of South Asia on a Short Fuse: Nuclear Politics and the Future of Global Disarmament, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999, a radical critique of the nuclearization of India and Pakistan and of reliance on nuclear weapons for security.  

An independent Journalist Praful Bidwai is also political columnist, social science researcher, and activist on issues of human rights, the environment, global justice and peace. He holds the Durgabai Deshmukh Chair in Social Development, Equity and Human Security at the Council for Social Development, Delhi, affiliated to the Indian Council for Social Science Research.

A former Senior Editor of The Times of India, Bidwai is one of South Asia’s most widely published columnists, whose articles appear in more than 25 newspapers and magazines. He is also frequently published by The Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique and Il Manifesto.

Bidwai is a founding member of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (India) and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. He received the Sean MacBride International Peace Prize (2000) of the International Peace Bureau, Geneva & London.

Source Transnational Institute, a worldwide fellowship of scholar activists, http://www.tni.org/users/praful-bidwai


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