After COP 21, the murders that hide behind international treaties

The Women's Global Call for Climate Justice

At COP 21, Grace Balawag, member of the IIPFCC (the International Indigenous People’s Forum on Climate Change) told us her concerns as the language of the treaty being negotiated started to exclude indigenous people. She talked about indigenous right to land, about indigenous peoples’ knowledge and expertise and how, instead of being respected, they were excluded from negotiations while the world’s largest corporations were ubiquitous throughout those discussions.

Three months after the agreement, women and men environmental activists from indigenous communities are still being murdered by hit men working for vested interests often supported by governments, as was recently the case in Honduras and South Africa. Countries like Honduras with its violent repressive regime are just proxies for the violent global market.

As Billy Kyte from Global Witness said, “Indigenous people are being killed in alarming numbers simply for defending rights to their land.” Land means subsistence for indigenous people certainly, but also for the human population as a whole. However, land means carbon exchange market for vested interests. For instance, the REDD program (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is actually a carbon market mechanism that treats the business-made environmental deficiencies as more business and speculative opportunities. Indigenous people see carbon exchange value programs like REDD made by and for unscrupulous corporations as a land grabbing mechanism, a new form of colonialism, “Yesterday’s genocide was done with guns and blankets with small pox. Now they are using carbon trading and REDD.” All this entails murders, and fabricates aggressive justifications for “potentially genocidal policies.” Shouldn’t we all see that?

It is women who have suffered and are still suffering the most under this oppressive system. And so it is indigenous women who show the way toward real solidarity for transformative actions for “Climate justice and women’s rights.”

Why has this market mechanism superseded legally binding resolutions? For the first time, the Paris Accord recognized the climate catastrophic disruption, but by not expressing strong support for indigenous rights, the signers have been complacent with those powers that order the murder of people who fight against the causes of this environmental and human disaster. Therefore, it has failed to propose meaningful solutions.

Grace Balawag reminds us how difficult it is to negotiate under this corporatization and financialization of “nature” and the importance of collaboration.

(Photo Credit: Brigitte Marti) (Interview filmed by Joachim Cairaschi, conducted by Brigitte Marti)

Three Months after the COP 21 the real fight for survival is on the ground

Climate Survival Justice

Last December in Paris, under the aegis of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations organized the conference on climate change, or COP 21. Representatives from the Global South, Indigenous people, Women’s constituency, and more, came to attempt to weigh in on agreements that were already negotiated among vested interests of the planet.

Evidently, this situation originated in the industrialized countries where wealth was exponentially increased through the capitalist neoliberal order. Accumulation of wealth equating with accumulation of power was the hidden part of the official discourse. The United States along with the leaders of the G20 countries imposed its economic corporate power and forced the elimination of some language from the initial document. Elimination of public voices also took place in Paris where many demonstrations were banned in the name of security.

To get a better insight into the situation, WIBG interviewed Tess Vistro, a representative of the people of the Philippines:

We asked her recently what the agreement meant from the perspective of the populations who are the most at risk with climate change and the most affected in contrast with the official discourse.

Here is her answer:

“The outcome is highly skewed in favor of rich developed countries and the target temperature limit put the planet and people into greater risks of damage which experts would say could already be irreversible; on the basis of the submitted intended nationally determined contribution (indcs); we are on a path to an increase of 3 degrees centigrade in the middle of the century – 2050;

“Paris treaty did not grasp the urgency of the risk and threat climate change is posing on humankind and all species in this planet. It just is divorced from the reality now that coastal communities in large numbers are now submerged in waters, that farming and food production have become unpredictable, and unsustainable; that women already reeling from poverty and gender discrimination to face again the problem of climate change devastations, is pushing millions of women into deeper poverty and deprivation and sexual violence; that climate change impacts are right in our midst, are with us, intends to stay with us with greater ferocity and destructiveness, and we urgently need to take bold actions now.

“The essence of the historical and primary responsibility of developed countries in bringing the planet and humankind out of this climate crises, has been passed on even to poor and climate vulnerable countries.

“Reneging on this responsibility, the Paris treaty called on private corporations to pitch in, making the task of combating climate change a huge profit taking endeavor, not a social responsibility of governments particularly developed countries. The treaty offered immense opportunities to rake in huge profits at the expense of poor vulnerable countries. Endorsed solutions are clearly cut out for the needs of private interests. The failed mechanism of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation(REDD+) under the framework of market mechanism of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes is clearly spelt out in the treaty. Under this mechanism, developed countries can invest funds for REDD+ projects in developing countries, and can account the amount of reduced GHG emission in their respective INDCs, and thereby can continue to do business as usual in their respective countries. Worse as per practice, projects and investments for REDD+ invested in developing countries are false programs of reforestation and are actually plantation projects of high value cash crops designed for export.

“The Paris treaty gave a clear signal and mandate for private corporations to move in unhampered and with clear assurances of almost no regulation, with the treaty making sure that poor countries will not be able to hold rich countries and corporations liable and demand compensation for loss and damage that may result. The treaty stipulated that the `the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.’

“The technologies for clean energy solutions are clearly in the control of rich developed countries, solar and wind and even seeds and production technology for biofuels are clearly in the hands of rich countries and corporations. Lands for the production of biofuels would surely come from countries in the global south, creating now the spectre of massive land grabbing, biofuels competing with lands devoted for food production, creating the spectre of food insecurity and hunger.

“In the Philippines an estimated 2 million hectares of lands is offered for the production of biofuels to foreign investors. This would have been enough to meet the rice needs of the current population of the country, based on a two cropping season. Another million hectares is allocated for palm oil plantations.

“The Philippines is one of the top 3 vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. And this is not a fiction. It happened already with typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon that made a land fall in this planet’s history. (Cyclone Winston that struck Fiji last month has come second only to Haiyan) and in one quick swoop has left dead 7,000 people and three thousand others who went missing to this day, destroyed infrastructures worth Php18 billion,1.1 million houses, devastated agriculture to the amount of Php 17 billion, displaced 1.4 million agricultural workers. About 20 typhoons lash out the country annually, inflicting damages and untold sufferings for affected Filipinos. But despite this, the Philippines and other vulnerable countries were still mandated to contribute through their INDCs.

“It is a great injustice for the Paris treaty to have mandated the poor vulnerable countries who have scant carbon footprint, and who can barely break out now from an endless cycle of devastation- rehabilitation- devastation, from climate change disasters, to contribute; it is clearly injustice to have unleashed the reins of private capital to profit from solutions proffered – which could be more of profit taking endeavors than solutions.

“But if there is anything positive or success that came out of Paris, it is the movement of peoples from different countries, diverse sectors, that have committed to work for a safe planet, for all of humankind and the generations to come. This was shown not only with the people’s actions in and outside negotiations in Paris, but also the people’s mobilizations from different at different dates parallel to COP 21.

“The failure of the Paris treaty to deliver, should be enough reason to sustain the work of CSOs, grassroots organizations and networks movements of people and women, indigenous people, youth, trade unions working collectively locally, nationally, regionally and globally for a more just , and fair climate change deal. Enough reason to stir up a groundswell of work in local, grassroots communities – the key to winning the fight for climate justice.

“Currently in the Philippines, the biggest issue continue to be the impacts of typhoon Haiyan and the continuing slow grind of work for rehabilitation. As it is election campaign period now, these climate issues are brought out by candidates criticizing the incumbent administration for its ineptness in delivering the funds for rehabilitation to the victims, three years after Haiyan. Among NGOs, this is taken as an opportunity to raise the issue of climate change.

“Globally for women, from my own perspective, issues related to solutions, financing and important role of women in mitigation and adaptation plans must be put forward in the forthcoming COP agenda. To be vigorously monitored further would be to ensure that the principles of human rights, gender equality, etc. as enshrined in the preamble of the treaty, ( a win for CSOs who have persevered for its inclusion in the treaty), be faithfully used as a guide in all decisions related to the implementation of the Paris treaty.”

Tess Vistro March 9, 2016

(Image credit: Brigitte Marti) (Interview filmed by Joachim Cairaschi, conducted by Brigitte Marti)

Radio WIBG: Sascha Gabizon and COP 21: “We need to include the language of gender equality”

Sascha Gabizon

COP 21 has opened in a difficult “climate.” After the attacks in Paris, a state of emergency has been declared. With that came the cancelation of all climate demonstrations organized by civil society. Nonetheless, a human-chain was organized gathering 10000 people; creative ways of demonstrating took place, thousands of shoes paved Republic Square to symbolize the march for the climate.

However, the abuses of the state of emergency are now being made visible and denounced, as 24 eco pacifist militants, some not even located in Paris, have been placed under a sort of house arrest during COP 21, marking the widening denial of democratic rights.

Climate change means the global elimination of people not only in Syria or Afghanistan but also generally in the global South. The COP negotiations work within the neoliberal market, shaping the climate paradigm as exchange value of the temperature degrees instead of taking into consideration the harshening condition of human lives, again ranked by gender, race and class.

In this context the task of Sascha Gabizon, one of the co-facilitators of the Women Gender Constituency, a large coalition of feminists and women’s movements, is going to be arduous.

Climate disasters target women. As Sascha recalled, in the 1991 floods in Bangladesh 90% of the casualties were women. As climate disasters occur regularly, as in the Philippines, they impact in majority women, mainly because of gendered distribution of labor and roles.

As a result, we see all kinds of radicalization against women with the widespread expansion of brutal practices against women, in their home, in their everyday life, in prisons and jails, as well as the erosion of women’s rights especially sexual and reproductive rights in an increasing number of countries.

Sascha insists: “We need to include, in the first article of the COP 21 agreement, the language of gender equality, of equality in terms of human rights as defined in the United Nations charter including the rights of indigenous populations. Moreover, she remarks that in the current negotiations, this language is shockingly deemed unnecessary even by countries such as Norway.”

By the same token, she underlines the impossibility of women’s groups even the largest to use the financial system for the climate as currently defined for any of their projects simply because it requires a 10 million Euros investment, an amount of money impossible to collect for these organizations. Additionally, locking up countries in the current public debt system has dire impacts on any initiatives, local or state especially in emerging countries.

Finally, the reality of the increase of temperature means the elimination of lands and therefore populations. While we are justly appalled by the deaths from blind attacks in the streets of Beirut, Tunis or Paris, our eyes turn away from the surviving struggles of the populations of the South who have not produced this climate disaster.

Listen to Sascha Gabizon

and a longer interview, in French, is available here.

(Photo Credit: UN Women / Fabricio Barreto)