14 December 2014

And With That, Lima, We're Through

* Click here for an update. A happy update!

What's the word for what happened in Lima at the COP20 climate change conference over the last two weeks? Besides ZERO, I mean. Nothing, nada, nichts. Nothing was accomplished. Absolutely sweet $#@! all. But what's the word to describe hundreds of countries and thousands of people getting together to solve the climate crisis and ACCOMPLISHING NOTHING? 
Despicable? Obscene? Callous? Negligent? Criminal? Suicidal? Ecocidal? Progenycidal, for sure. 
When I was out yesterday, I heard people talking today about the French Revolution. The guillotine. Aristocratic heads rolling. People getting sick and tired of the oligarchy having their way with the planet. Why are the rich not afraid of an uprising? 

Not one gawddamn blessed thing that is actually going to safeguard the future was agreed to. Not one! I'm sure they would disagree, with their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions and their Multilateral Assessments and their Adaptation Knowledge Initiative and their Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions and their Nazca Climate Action Portal (no, not NASCAR). But not a single one of those, well, whatever-they-are, gets us even heading in the direction of zero carbon, which is where we need to be by mid-century (with our emissions declining by the end of 2015 ... not sort of waiting until 2020 to even get started sort of thinking about slowing our emissions). I didn't hear any talk at all of adopting the IPCC's best-case scenario, RCP2.6! [Update: There is no mention of it in the draft agreement, although the spirit of it seems to have been included.]

Here's a short history of global action talk on climate change:

  • UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC)
  • Kyoto Protocol
  • Bali Roadmap
  • Poznan, um, nothing?
  • Copenhagen Accord
  • Cancun Agreements
  • Durban Outcomes (and the Durban Platform for Advanced Action)
  • Doha Climate Gateway
  • Warsaw Outcomes (Come on, Poland! "Outcomes" again -- can't you be more creative?) (p.s. Turns out they also offered the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage Associated with Climate Change Impacts)
  • Lima Call for Climate Action

I've had respect until today for the UNFCCC and its difficult task and the daunting process of bringing nearly 200 nations to consensus. But each year, it's more of the same old nothing. New names (ahem, Poland) for the same old empty promises. Now I'm convinced that this whole thing has been a charade, a farce played out to appease us -- no doubt so that we won't rise up!

You can read the pile of bollocks here: http://newsroom.unfccc.int/lima/lima-call-for-climate-action-puts-world-on-track-to-paris-2015/

So, I'm through. I'm finished. Over and out. If the fossil fuel corporations and the fossil-fooled governments of the world so badly want to extinguish most life on the planet, who am I to get in their way and try to ram a stick in their wheels? I mean, those poor rich bastards don't have all the money yet, so how can people like me even think of asking them to stop this deadly global game before they're through? The Burning Age truly is over, but it seems world leaders need to be burned before they'll admit it and embrace the Golden Age of Perpetual Energy.
Meanwhile, I think I'm going to focus on teaching children how to grow their own food, build their own soil, collect their own rainwater, and generate their own energy. I'm not saying that's going to be easy -- there are still lots of parents and teachers in my culture who don't recognize the threat that climate disruption poses to their children's food security. But at least I'll be doing something, and not just "talking" here with you every Sunday morning, achieving nothing (though I've enjoyed "meeting" some of you along the way).
This blog started out as a compendium of compassionate climate actions in countdown to the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. That COP15 finished off a lot of climate change activists. High hopes were dashed to smithereens. 

Many of us re-emerged a few months later and we've been slightly reinvigorated over the last few years (no thanks to the COPs but to sharing in a global civil society movement, and more recently, thanks to CAN International and to the IPCC's Really Cool Plan 2.6, which gave us some small remaining hope in hell of surviving this). 

But I, for one, have lost much of the resilience I came into this fight with. I don't want to hang around waiting for the utter disillusionment and anguish that the Paris COP21 seems likely to produce. My puny efforts won't make any difference anyway. (I can imagine how all the small island states must feel.) 
So picture me in the garden with the children at my school! Sowing, tending, harvesting in our six little beds. Building bat boxes and pruning raspberry canes. Playing Photosynthesis Relay and sitting quietly writing garden poetry or creating garden art. Baking pizzas we've made from scratch in the outdoor cob oven we built ourselves. 
Below is my parting gift for you. If the uprising happens (and not just in my pizza dough), I'll be there in a flash! Till then, take care.

p.s. Here's my favourite thing I've posted: 0 Days to Copenhagen - The Power of One (+ 3,741,952 Others) 



[p.s. If you're on a Mac using Safari and you get a "Blocked Plug-in" message, it means you need to update your Adobe Flash Player. (Ooh, listen to me, all technical!)]


Rise Up
by The Parachute Club

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power
(Rise up rise up) We're dancing into the sun
(Rise up rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up rise up) Spirits time has come

We want lovin' we want laughter again
We want heartbeat
We want madness to end, we want dancin'
We want to run in the streets
We want freedom to live in this peace
We want power, we want to make it okay
Want to be singin' at the end of the day
Children to breathe a new life
We want freedom to love who we please

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power
(Rise up rise up) Everybody is dancing into the sun
(Rise up rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up rise up) Spirits time has come

Talkin' 'bout the right time to be workin' for peace
Wantin' all the tension in the world to ease
We wantin' love while walking on the streets
We want to be free, we want that be free

Talking about a new way
Talking about changes and names
Talking about building the land of our dreams
His tightrope's gotta learn how to bend
We're makin' new plans
We're gonna start it again

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power
(Rise up rise up) Everybody is dancing into the sun
(Rise up rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up rise up) Spirits time has come

Rise up now

It's time, it's time, it's time

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power
(Rise up rise up) We're dancing into the sun
(Rise up rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up rise up) Everybody's time has come
Spirits time has come
Spirits time has come

(Rise up rise up) Oh rise and show your power
(Rise up rise up) We're dancing into the sun
(Rise up rise up) It's time for celebration
(Rise up rise up) Spirits time has come
Willing time has come
Spirits time has come

(Rise up)
Everybody
Time for you and me



07 December 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Frightening of Climate Change Finance


Lima, yada yada. As suspected, it's not looking like anything transformative is going to come out of the COP20 taking place in Peru this past week and next. [NEWS FLASH! DECLINING OUR EMISSIONS BY 2015 AND ACHIEVING ZERO CARBON BY MID-CENTURY ARE BOTH ON THE NEGOTIATING TABLE! 
IF WE CAN WE KEEP THEM THERE, THAT WILL BE TRANSFORMATIVE!] 

But climate change finance seems to be on the table more than ever before. Which means that countries are starting to show their true colours. (Ah, money. Doesn't tend to bring out the best in us, does it?)

THE GOOD
Hmmm, let's see. We're a little light on the "good" side. 

Indigenous and farmer communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon are taking Chevron, who dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into pristine rainforest, to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The company has been charged $9.5 billion (probably a mere drop in their bucket of oil) for the clean up, but refuses to pay. The ICC can legally prosecute individuals and corporations for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. (Perhaps ecocide and progenycide will be added to that list soon.)


In British Columbia, Canada, the Teachers Federation had the following very exciting (and timely) motion passed at the recent BC Federation of Labour convention (yeah, I know, it's all still just talk on paper, but I warned you that the "good" was skimpy):

Resolution GE:53
BECAUSE pension investments in companies whose practices are not socially and/or environmentally responsible undermine the labour movement's commitment to social justice; and
BECAUSE through strong advocacy for socially and environmentally responsible changes, pension trustees can greatly influence pension investment choices by the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC) which invest on behalf of Teachers' Pension Plan, College Pension Plan, Municipal Pension Plan, Public Service Pension Plan, and WCB Pension Plan; and
BECAUSE there is strong evidence that socially and environmentally responsible investments may perform as well or better than other investments; now
THE FEDERATION WILL encourage affiliates with pension investments in bcIMC to advocate collectively for socially environmentally responsible changes to its investment practices; and
THE FEDERATION WILL call on affiliates to develop consultation processes on social and environmental investment issues.

The Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD) reported that "real dollars can start being funnelled into adaptation and mitigation efforts in the Global South" as the Green Climate Fund announced in Lima that they will soon start accepting proposals. The Green Climate Fund was created as part of the Financial Mechanism of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing countries. Developed countries have been invited to make "ambitious and timely contributions" that "reflect the needs and challenges of developing countries in addressing climate change."

Unfortunately ...


THE BAD
Lots of this stuff.

The CYD also reported from Lima that the negotiators from the United States and Switzerland openly opposed legally binding commitments on climate financing. So all the poor big rich countries in the world "could essentially pick and choose how and when they would contribute to international climate funds (no big deal, we're only $90.2 billion short at this point)." 

According to Bloomberg, "The fund is meant to channel a portion of the $100 billion a year in climate-related aid that industrial nations promised in 2009 to bring to developing nations by 2020." (Mind you, it's said that the US doesn't want anything "legally binding" because then their climate-change-ignorant Congress has to get involved, and you know which way they're going to vote. But that shouldn't be the rest of the world's problem. Get your act in gear, America!)
"Yes, disappointment over perceived unfairness, injustice, promises not kept, tends to go hand in hand with increasing prosperity. Expectations are dashed. What can I say!"
 ~ Mary Douglas
Then the Swiss representatives threatened developing countries that any demands for finance commitments would jeopardize a strong outcome from COP20. Oh, pulleez Switzerland. (This earned them the Fossil of the Day award that day. Good. Canada spoke in support of the Swiss threat. Sheesh! But then, we've been wandering in the moral desert ever since a certain climate-change-ignorant prime minister was barely elected.) 

Me thinks the Swiss -- and several most other developed countries -- have forgotten that they signed onto the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change back in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, which included signing onto this:
"Industrialized nations agree under the Convention to support climate change activities in developing countries by providing financial support for action on climate change -- above and beyond any financial assistance they already provide to these countries. ... Industrialized countries also agree to share technology with less-advanced nations."                                 


THE DOWNRIGHT FRIGHTENING 

I'm starting to see "net zero" as a goal for greenhouse gas emissions. Folks, there is no such thing as "net zero." There is zero and there is a boondoggle. "Net zero" does not exist. (As someone who has been calling for ZERO carbon emissions for years now, I can say, it feels quite icky -- and disheartening -- to have "zero" co-opted. C'mon, people. WTF?) 

The world still seems intent on REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and other financial mechanisms that will turn natural ecosystems into a marketplace. As one friend explained by tweet: "REDD: Buy credits in order 2 keep polluting." Can't we just stop polluting and put our money into making the transition to a zero-carbon economy?

And finally, how about this for a headline?

Besieged by the rising tides of climate change, Kiribati buys land in Fiji 
Nation finalises purchase of land on Vanua Levu, 2,000km away, but it may be just the first of many seeking refuge  

The Guardian reported in July 2014: "The cost of protecting these places against rising sea levels, compared with national income, is among the highest in the world. Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Maldives are among the 10 countries where the financial impact of climate change is the most severe. This explains why small island states think it is so important to set up an international mechanism for loss and damage, to compensate for the irremediable consequences of global warming."

Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles ambassador at the United Nations, said: "When a population is forced to leave its country, it is no longer a matter of adaptation. Where will these countries find funds? It is up to the industrialised countried, which caused global warming, to shoulder their responsibilities." Jumeau wants to make the loss and damage mechanism a priority for the global deal on climate change slated to be signed a year from now in Paris.

But of course, poor impoverished little Switzerland isn't going to allow THAT!



30 November 2014

One Day to Go Till the Lima Climate Conference - We Know How to Save the World

Well, there's only a day left before the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru (COP20) begins.  I'm not a betting woman. I prefer to work a little magic. So let's, instead of taking wagers, conjure up the best possible outcome. 

Let's manifest that all the delegations from the laggard nations, developed or developing (you know who you are, Canada, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands!) never make it off the runway due to freak snowstorms and heat waves, or get lost en route along with their luggage. (Or maybe someone simply locks them in their hotel rooms in Lima.) They just don't show up and therefore can't stall the proceedings.

Then let's manifest that the big industrialized nations all shake hands with China and the USA, congratulating them for their hokey little historic pact. At least they're finally recognizing that Houston has a problem (translation: that there really is a climate change emergency). So we've got the two biggest emitters on board, and their cronies (Europe, Russia, etc.), wanting to bask in the accolades, jump on board, too. (Reminds me of my father, a 3-pack-a-day smoker, who quit smoking because of all the attention we gave my mom when she quit!)

Then the big players, who have found their hearts and their conscience, decide to listen to the little players. You know, the countries where people are already losing their lives, their loved ones and their livelihoods; their food security and their water sources; their homes and entire homelands, all due to climate disruption and chaos. They listen to the stories and the pleas of the G77, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Least Developed Countries (LDC), the Africa Group ... all negotiating blocs that have basically been ignored until now. 

Next up is a little international fireside reading of a very grim (get it? Grimm?) storybook: the IPCC's AR5 Synthesis Report, which "leaves no doubt: Climate change is set to inflict 'severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts' on people and the natural world unless carbon emissions are cut sharply and rapidly." SHARPLY and RAPIDLY, as my hubby points out, means at the least adopting the IPCC's best-case scenario, RCP2.6. "We have a rallying cry," he says.

And then, all together, these nations -- their negotiators and their leaders (who have just jetted in for the last couple of days) -- decide to lend an ear to the members of Climate Action Network (CAN) International, who have come up with the best-ever civil society emergency response to the climate change crisis

  • Start the decline in emissions next year. 
  • Get to zero carbon by mid-century. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the simple magic that can save our world. Abracadabra!


23 November 2014

One Week Until Lima ... Copenhagen Redux - A Message to All the Women Attending COP20


It was five years ago that I sent out this heartfelt request to all the women who were going to attend the Copenhagen climate talks. Today, I send it again, to all the women, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and godmothers who are attending the climate talks in Lima, Peru (COP20). And to all the mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and godmothers of all the men who will be attending the Lima climate talks. Please ... speak up for all the children, of all species!

A request to all women attending the climate talks

PLEASE WEAR BRIGHT COLOURS!
 
Please inject some life into the talks — wear the colours of flowers and forests and sunsets and fresh fruit and children's smiles.



BE A MOTHER OR A GRANDMOTHER FIRST. Believe in your power! The "powers that be" need to hear that all the mothers of the world want what's best for the children of all species. Please represent all the mothers and grandmothers around the globe. Even if you don't have your own biological or adopted children, you are still a mother of all the children, everywhere. Speak up for them.

REMEMBER THAT CLIMATE CHANGE KNOWS NO BORDERS. Try to forget that you're in Lima, Peru representing your own country. Think of the planet as one nation, under one atmosphere that knows no boundaries. Speak for all human beings, as well as the rest of nature, which has no seat and no voice at the talks.

LET COMPASSION BE YOUR COMPASS. Remember that prosperity and a thriving economy are impossible if the natural environment is ailing. We must get our priorities right! If a decision doesn't have the Earth and the children's future at heart, then that decision is not a compassionate one.

CALL FOR ZERO CARBON ALONG WITH SOME URGENCY IN ACHIEVING IT. Try to rev up the imaginations of world leaders and negotiators of all ilks (even the heartless, uncreative ones). Help them envision the Golden Age of Renewable Energy that we should be quickly heading into.


LET COURAGE GUIDE YOU. Women are courageous in so many — often unsung — ways. Courage in Lima, though it won't be easy, will be simple. What a privileged position you are in! Please take advantage of it and be brave enough to speak up for all those who have so little — now and in the future. Be the peaceful warriors who safeguard the children.

REMEMBER THE GREAT WOMEN WHO HAVE ALREADY DEMONSTRATED THEIR COURAGE, women like Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas, Patricia Wright, Donella Meadows, Hazel Henderson, Sylvia Earle, Erin Brokovich, Sister Dorothy Stang, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Lois Gibbs, the women of the Chipko Movement, Beatrix Potter, Wangari Maathai, Julia Butterfly Hill, Betty Krawczyk, Vandana Shiva, Starhawk, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Hildegard of Bingen, Harriet Nahanee. Stand on their shoulders — and be climate heroes in Lima!

16 November 2014

A Big Step in the Right Direction: China and the US Agree to Do the Right Thing on Climate Change

Several years before I started hearing about climate change (and way before I morphed into a climate change activist), I made a childhood dream come true by travelling around the world. I took a leave of absence and my plan was to be gone for a year, but China's capitalist economic development had other plans for me.

My date of departure was carefully chosen. I left my home in British Columbia, Canada on the gorgeous September morning that I would normally have been heading back to school as a teacher.  The first stop on my trip was more random. The airline I booked with was about to start flying to Beijing. It seemed as good a first stop as any. I was on their inaugural flight. 

I hadn't thought it through very well. At my very first destination, I found myself completely illiterate and quite helpless. I quickly learned the character (or hanzi) for women's washroom, I can tell you. And I only found out later how blessed I was to spend my week there in sunshine. The Gobi desert didn't want me taking its sand home, and the streets were still filled with buses and bicycles, not cars.

Anyway, I had lots of adventures in China (and a few misadventures), but what I really want to share with you is what I witnessed there: the rapid rise of Chinese capitalism. And it was not a pretty sight. I met two doctors, married with one child, who were making the equivalent of $30 per month between them. They made me an absolutely delicious (and delightful) dinner, and when I suggested that they could open a restaurant, their food was so good, they admitted that they'd wanted to do that, but didn't know who to bribe in order to get the permits.

I wrote in my journal, "The Chinese are adopting all the very worst aspects of capitalism so fast that it's annoying." They just didn't seem to get that I was not going to buy their souvenirs on my way UP the Great Wall, no matter how much they accosted me. 

Not only that, but the Chinese economy was heating up so fast that with my Lonely Planet Guide for China only a year or two old, I spent three months' worth of my savings on only two weeks in China! That's how much the prices had soared. 

All that to say that it makes complete sense to me that China would want to make a commitment to fight fossil fuel greenhouse gas pollution. Over at ClimateProgress, Kiley Kroh explains:
"Late Tuesday night [11 November 2014], the U.S. and China announced an historic agreement to combat climate change, a major step forward from the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters. Not only does the agreement hold the two nations to taking additional steps to bring down the carbon emissions that drive climate change, but China just pledged to deploy a tremendous amount of clean energy."
Of course, it's not enough. Not by a long shot. Neither country is talking zero (carbon emissions) or 100% (renewable energy), but Obama is finally doing what he should have done in 2009 for the Copenhagen climate talks. And China ... well, much of China can barely breathe, so they couldn't hold out much longer either. 

Congrats to both President Obama and President Xi Jinping for taking this step in the right direction. Now, if they could just drag Australia's prime minister Tony Abbott and Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper along, kicking and screaming, we'd really get somewhere.