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! 

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?)

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 ...

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."                                 


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 countries, 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!

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?