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Climate Justice Article Table of Contents:

‘Climate capitalism’ won at Cancun – everyone else loses
Unpacking the Hot Air Industry
Cloistered Climate Talks

Emissions Punted to Durban, Breakthrough Seen on Forests

Cancun Betrayal, UNFCCC Unmasked as WTO of the Sky
Reaction To The Climate Talks In Cancun

1‘Climate capitalism’ won at Cancun – everyone else loses

by Patrick Bond

CANCUN, MEXICO. The December 11 closure of the 16th Conference of the Parties – the global climate summit – in balmy Cancun was portrayed by most participants and mainstream journalists as a victory, a ‘step forward’. Bragged US State Department lead negotiator Todd Stern, “Ideas that were first of all, skeletal last year, and not approved, are now approved and elaborated.”

After elite despondency when the Copenhagen Accord was signed last December 18 by five countries behind the scenes, resulting in universal criticism, there is now a modicum of optimism for the next meeting of heads of state and ministers, in steamy Durban in the dogdays of a South African summer a year from now. But this hope relies upon a revival of market-based climate strategies which, in reality, are failing everywhere they have been tried.

The elites’ positive spin is based on reaching an international consensus (though Bolivia formally dissented) and establishing instruments to manage the climate crisis using capitalist techniques. Cancun’s defenders argue that the last hours’ agreements include acknowledgements that emissions cuts must keep world temperature increases below 2°C, with consideration to be given to lowering the target to 1.5°C.

Negotiators also endorsed greater transparency about emissions, a Green Climate Fund led by the World Bank, introduction of forest-related investments, transfers of technology for renewable energy, capacity-building and a strategy for reaching legally-binding protocols in future. According to UN climate official Christiana Figueres, formerly a leading carbon trader, “Cancun has done its job. Nations have shown they can work together under a common roof, to reach consensus on a common cause.”

Status quo or step back?

But look soberly at what was needed to reverse current warming and what was actually delivered. Negotiators in Cancun’s luxury Moon Palace hotel complex failed by any reasonable measure. As Bolivian President Evo Morales complained, “It’s easy for people in an air-conditioned room to continue with the policies of destruction of Mother Earth. We need instead to put ourselves in the shoes of families in Bolivia and worldwide that lack water and food and suffer misery and hunger. People here in Cancun have no idea what it is like to be a victim of climate change.”


2 Unpacking the hot air industry

The first priority for developing countries when it comes to climate change mitigation should be reducing poverty, but the market-based approach of carbon trading is doing little to alleviate imbalances in the system

By 2009, more than 17 years after the non-binding UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the Rio Earth Summit, developed countries had channeled just $3bn in climate funding to developing countries. In contrast, developed governments – chiefly the US – invest over $700bn each year in global fossil-fuel subsidies, using taxpayer funds to externalize the true costs of carbon-intensive economies. Countries, like Nigeria, that experience oil-related ecosystem degradation estimate the cost of damage to the environment at $5bn per year.

Studies from the University of Berkeley attempt to measure the impact of ‘ecological debt’ between rich and poor countries. They argue that ‘rich countries’ owe the developing world $2.3trn for things such as deforestation, the depletion of fisheries, ozone layer depletion and the conversion of mangrove swamps to export-oriented fish farms between 1960 and 2000.

By repackaging climate finance under the umbrella of ‘aid’, developed countries exploiting the ‘atmospheric commons’ have managed to delegitimize the issue of ecological debt. This debt – which is managed by remote-control in a globalized world – is crucial to diagnosing the problem of climate change.

Pay your way

In the process, entire continents, like Africa, which produce just 3-5% of global emissions, will be forced to bear the brunt of carbon-intensive global economic systems. By 2020, it is estimated Africa could lose 50% of its rain-fed agriculture harvest, while by 2100 the continent could lose as much as 90% of net revenue from crops thanks to climate change. Even Africa’s major emitters such as Nigeria generate emissions chiefly through ‘rich country’ corporations such as Shell, via gas flaring which accounts for over 50% of industrial emissions. At 102m tonnes in 2005, the company’s emissions were larger than those produced by 150 individual countries.


 Cloistered Climate Talks
By Laura Carlsen
Foreign Policy in Focus - December 9, 2010

Emissions Punted to Durban, Breakthrough Seen on Forests
By Stephen Leahy
InterPress- December 11, 2010

Cancun Betrayal, UNFCCC Unmasked as WTO of the Sky
Indigenous Environmental Network - 12.11.2010

Reaction To The Climate Talks In Cancun Friends of the Earth U.S. - December 11, 2010 http://www.foe.org/reaction-climate-talks-cancun