False Solutions

December 7, 2008

For several reasons, I am obliged to blog this rather overlooked, minor player in the cacophony of voices clamoring to be heard here at COP-14 (the formal designation of the meeting).  As I have noted elsewhere (see Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing post) there are numerous false solutions to global warming being foisted on the world.  Some may prove to be so in hindsight, since the consequences of major tinkering with the systems of the Earth by our imperfect minds and hands can never quite be completely anticipated. But others may prove to be the product of the same self-interested, flawed paradigms that created the problem in the first place.

I gained admission to COP-14 as the ‘guest’ of the Ecology Center, out of Berkeley California (another long story that one, since we were mutually strangers in the great climate change cloud before the conference).  Their primary message here in Poznan relates to the closely related false-solution/true-solution pair of waste incineration and recycling.

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Plenary Sessions

December 4, 2008

Dec 3rd –  Today I decided to attend one of the plenary sessions.  They are the main event, the real deal, where the rubber meets the road (see how deeply the old paradigm is ingrained in even the language).  They are also quite boring at first blush.  They are held in a huge room, with space for up to 4 member of about 190 national delegations, plus other organization parties to the talks, like the World Bank, UNESCO, indigenous peoples’ organizations, environmental organizations (not all, but some have ‘standing’ to ask for the floor).  These are the meetings where anyone with standing who wants to talk gets a chance to say their piece.

The tend to be very polite, and comment usually (but not always) start off with an expression to the chairperson, nation sponsoring the particular meeting (these things cost large sums to put on after all), and so on.  The statements are almost always written out in advance and read verbatim.  Hence they are not usually passionate statements; but there are exceptions.

The plenary session I attended today was one on CDM, or Clean Development Mechanism.  Statements at this one were limited to 2 minutes in respect of all the parties that need to be heard.  Most statements were relatively stayed affairs, good for catching up on email to.  But a few were noteworthy and I snapped to attention to get what was happening.   For example the speaker representing indigenous peoples just skewered the CDM as imposing things upon indigenous peoples.  That’s a theme echoed a lot here at the conference.

The speaker for the Climate Action Network, a consortium of climate change non-profit groups said the Clean Development Mechanism was ‘failing in it’s doables, that it actually undermines efforts to cut emissions in some ways, that it does not properly incentivize projects which create ‘additionalities’, decreases in emissions beyond what was already going to happen, that it permits too many ‘leakages’, loss of emissions controls inadvertently or by the intention of unscrupulous parties, that too few projects are being created in the least developed countries… The list went on and the speaker ‘timed out’, but the president of this year’s COP gave her additional time.

Tuvalu made many technical comments to improve the CDM framework.  I must note how sharp most of the speakers seem.  Small nations, island nations, ‘third world’ nations… we tend to think they own’t have the brightest people in their midst.  Think again.  Their negotiators are some of the sharpest most powerful and passionate speakers.

The speaker from Cuba got my attention heartily.  He cited the vast damage done to the island from the last 4 hurricanes that came by in 2008, two within one month’s time.  Even if they were compensated that amount we could not repair the damage.  He passionately documented the problem for the most exposed nations.

For the Earth – §

Cross Currents

December 2, 2008

December 2nd – A young man representing the indigenous peoples of Bolivia just stole the show. Let me explain this exceptional moment.

After the initial presentations critiquing REDD, in the comments part of the breakout session, a woman from the Nature Conservancy took the microphone to offer that her agency was in fact doing appropriate projects with indigenous peoples, and mentioned some specific areas.

But the fellow I mentioned above then took the microphone and took her to task.  He IS an indigenous person, not an abstraction, who came here to represent the voice and interests of his people and other neighboring peoples.  He spoke through translation of such well-intentioned NGO projects force upon his people without prior informed consent, against their perception of their own interests, for which they received no benefit.  He drew applause.

So there is no clear consensus that the mechanisms under negotiation, such as REDD and CDM, are even beneficial in the first place, as all sorts of ‘cheats’, ‘leakage’, and regressive financial flows are claimed possible and even inescapable under these mechanisms.

The currents and cross currents at this conference are amazing.  That something positive, comprehensive, and effective may come out of the conference is an amazing concept.

For the Earth – §