What Next -- Climate Watch

Red Lines! A letter to ministers and negotiators in Doha

Letter to ministers_120px This letter from social movements and civil society to ministers and negotiators of all countries present at Doha set out red lines for people and the planet, warning governments walking away from these positions be condemned. The letter was later supported also by six of the largest environment and development organizations in the world (Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace, Action Aid, Oxfam, WWF and Christian Aid and trade union federation ITUC).

"Governments, rich and poor, must not agree to a “deal” that keeps the planet on track for 4°C and even higher levels of warming, condemning millions of our people to death, starvation, and forced migration."

"Governments cannot be distracted by a post-­2020 agreement.We need climate action now for this critical decade.Any government that walks away from these positions will be condemned. They will be condemned by global civil society.They will be condemned by their people.They will be condemned by history.They will condemn us all to devastating and irreversible climate change, withlife on planet Earth at stake."

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At Stake at Doha: A rules based international climte regime

At stake at Doha_120px A civil society Climate justice brief highlighting what is at stake in the Doha climate negotiations – the deregulation of the international climate regime to a 'pledge-and-review' architecture.

"This effort to dismantle the climate architecture as it applies to rich industrialized nations, to avoid existing commitments and to shift the burden to developing countries threatens a “lost decade” of inaction setting the world on course for a 6°C temperature rise and catastrophic climate impacts."
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Statement of Asia Social Movements on Climate Change at the Asia Social Movements Assembly

LVC Doha statement_120px
Link to full text of statement here:
We have seen climate change related phenomena with intensity never seen before, like Hurricane Sandy, in many parts of the world in the past year.We no longer have the luxury of time as incidents of increasingly severe storms, floods, droughts, disruption of water cycles and other similar eventsare becoming the “new normal” for many countries. It is also becoming apparent that climate change is instigating more forced migration, and will createmore climate refugees. An estimated 200 million people could be displaced by climate change by 2050. In 2010 alone, it was estimated that more than30 million people were forcibly displaced by environmental and weather-related disasters across Asia and this number will continue to rise. Climatechange has also been wreaking havoc on crops and farmlands, worsening the already growing food crisis and pushing even more people into hunger.

And yet, despite the increasing devastation wreaked by climate change on farmlands, livelihoods, and homes, the UN Framework Convention onClimate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations are moving backwards instead of moving closer to a global agreement that will stabilize and cut greenhousegas emissions. The premise of the climate negotiations has always been based on the principle that developed countries need to live up to theirhistorical responsibility and yet from Cancun to Durban to Qatar, negotiations have instead focused on how developed countries can escape theirprevious commitments. Now, with the current proposals on the table, not only are developed countries going to be able escape commitments bywatering obligations down to voluntary pledges but they will also be able to create more carbon markets and loopholes in order to not take any action atall. Estimates from a study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have calculated that even without all the loopholes, these currentpledges will lead to an increase in the temperature of up to 5 degrees centigrade.
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The inconvenient truth of carbon offsets

by Kevin Anderson
Deputy Director
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
University of Manchester, UK

Nature, vol. 484, no. 7 (link to pdf)
5 April 2012
Kevin offsets Nature_120px

Planet Under Pressure was a major conference on the environment held in London last week. As a climate-change scientist, I was invited to organize a session at it and to present my group's research. I declined the offer, and here is why.


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The inconvenient truth

The inconvenient truth
Sunita Narain, Centre for Science and Environment, February 1, 2012

Many years ago, in a desperately poor village in Rajasthan, people decided to plant trees on the land adjoining their pond so that its catchment would be protected. But this land belonged to the revenue department and people were fined for trespass. The issue hit national headlines. The stink made the local administration uncomfortable. They then came up with a brilliant game plan—they allotted the land to a group of equally poor people. In this way the poor ended up fighting the poor. The local government got away with the deliberate murder of a water body.

I recall this tragic episode as I watch recent developments on climate change.
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Tariq Banuri on Rio +20

Message of Tariq Banuri posted on the Rio+20 page.The Rio+20 Co-Chairs have circulated the zero draft of the negotiation text. It is faithful to the substance and the tone of the discussions at the 2nd Intersessional, whose minutes have also been released. Civil society will need to engage actively with governments and the Bureau in order to push them into raising the level of ambition, which currently
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The politics of climate change and the global crisis

Check out this new book by Praful Bidwai, who's been associated with the What Next initiative since the very beginning. The book came out just before the Durban meeting and discusses, among other things, climate change in both an international equity context as well as the Indian domestic equity context. Below a brief about the book from the Transnational Institute website.
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Post-Durban, India has its task cut out

Interesting analysis and reflections on what happened in Durban and India's role.
Hindu_5 jan 2012
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Major Clash of Paradigms in the Durban Climate Talks

South Centre bulletin 58
Here is a detailed account and analysis by Meena Raman of Third World Network of what happened in the dramatic end of the Durban COP17 negotiations, and implications for the future. The article was originally published in South Centre's South Bulletin (

Download a pdf-version of the whole issue here. Link to South Centre web page here.

Major Clash of Paradigms in the Durban Climate Talks
[South Bulletin 58 Article]

By Meena Raman

The main outcome of the two-week Durban climate change conference was the launching of a new round of negotiations known as the Durban Platform aimed at a new regime (whether a protocol or other legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and involving all countries.

The draft decision on this was provided at an informal plenary late on the night of Saturday 10 December long after the Conference was scheduled to end and when many Ministers and senior officials had already left Durban.

It was given to participants as part of a package of four decisions on a take-it-or-leave it basis with little time for the members to consider or discuss among themselves in an unusual and unprecedented set of procedures.
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Time out: Analysis of Durban and its outcome by Centre for Science and Environment

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What really happened in Durban? Check out this extensive coverage by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India, in their magazine Down to Earth, 31 December issue.

The 17th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change met in Durban in December 2011. Negotiations were heated and acrimonious, as the world desperately searched for new ways to avoid the toughest of questions -- how to drastically reduce emissions to keep the world somewhat within safe levels and how to do this while ensuring equity. With uneasy answers, the easy solution was to push the world to another round of messy negotiations for a new treaty, protocol or legal instrument or something like that. But one move of the developed world was to change the nature of the original treaty that differentiates between past polluters, responsible for the first action, and the rest. The aim at Durban was to erase equity as the basis of any global agreement to cut emissions. Ironically, the world chose the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela to set the scene to build a new apartheid in climate talks. Down To Earth and the Centre for Science and Environment bring you an analysis…

To continute read, download the 17-page pdf-version of the thorough feature story with graphs, boxes and explanations. Or click here to find the original story at the CSE website.

You may also want to read this prophetic reflection by Sunita Narain of CSE, only a few hours before the COP finally ended.

And -- here's a link to a Guardian article by Sunita Narain "The EU's climate evangelism has got us nowhere: Europe must stop trying to bend developing countries to agree to a legal deal in the hope that this will bring the US on board", published 9 December.
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Who Will Control the Green Economy?

News Release

15 December 2011

ETC_ Green_Economy_shadow_186pxl
Who Will Control the Green Economy?
New report on Corporate Concentration in the Life Industries

From the UN Rio+20 preparatory meetings in New York, ETC Group today launches Who Will Control the Green Economy? The 60-page report connects the dots between the climate and oil crises, new technologies and corporate power. The report warns that the world’s largest companies are riding the coattails of the “Green Economy” while gearing up for their boldest coup to-date – not just by making strategic acquisitions and tapping new markets, but also by penetrating new industrial sectors.
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Equity: The next frontier in climate talks

Down to Earth Editorial:
Equity: The next frontier in climate talks
by Sunita Narain

In 1992, when the world met to discuss an agreement on climate change, equity was a simple concept: sharing the global commons -- the atmosphere in this case -- equally among all. It did not provoke much anxiety, for there were no real claimants. However, this does not mean the concept was readily accepted. A small group of industrialized countries had burnt fossil fuels for 100 years and built up enormous wealth. This club had to decide what to do to cut emissions, and it claimed all countries were equally responsible for the problem. In 1991, just as the climate convention was being finalised, a report, released by an influential Washington think tank, broke the news that its analysis showed India, China and other developing countries were equally responsible for greenhouse gases. Anil Agarwal and I rebutted this and brought in the issue of equitable access to the global commons. We also showed, beyond doubt, that the industrialised countries were singularly responsible for the increased greenhouse gases.
In 1992, it was accepted
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Third World Network: News Updates from COP17 Durban


For detailed coverage of all the key discussions sessions and negotiations at COP17, Durban, the 28 (!) Third World Network News Updates are indispensable. Links to pdf versions in reversed chronological order below. For Third World Networks homepage with News Updates and Briefing papers from other negotiations sessions, go to: http://www.twnside.org.sg

TWN News update 1_Durban_shadow_186 pxl

Update No. 29: Movement of Technology Mechanism in Durban Outcome
by Elpidio V. Peria (21 Dec 11)

Update No. 28: Kyoto Protocol "second commitment period" remains uncertain
by Chee Yoke Ling (16 Dec 11)

Update No. 27: Decision on Green Climate Fund adopted
by Meena Raman (15 Dec 11)

Update No. 26: AWGLCA Chair transmits report for adoption despite strong protests
by Meena Raman (14 Dec 11)

Update No. 25: Major clash of paradigms in launch of new climate talks
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Sivan Kartha on the Durban outcomes: "Deeply worrying"


We have a glass, and time will tell whether it is half-full, half-empty, or purely decorative. We will see whether the yet-to-be-negotiated "protocol, legal instrument, or agreed outcome with legal force" is actually be capable of ramping up global ambition.

And on that score, I'm deeply worried. Yes, Durban gave us (something like) the "legally binding" language that we wanted. But, as far as I can see, Durban also took us several LARGE steps backward in terms of "trust-building", which many of us have believed for a long time is inexpendable if a real global solution to the crisis is to be found. And this further undermining of trust makes it less likely that the dearly sought language on "legally binding" will actually lead to something meaningful.

Specifically, here's how I fear trust has been undermined:
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On the "Durban Platform for Enhanced Action"

The decision to establish an Ad Hoc Working Group on the "Durban Platform for Enhanced Action" (DPEA), i.e. the controversial "Durban Mandate", was a remarkable show of bad process in the last hours of the conference -- already on 30 hours overtime with many Ministers (particularly from developing countries) already on their way home.

The implications will be felt for a long time to come…

We are likely to see an erosion of the science-based "top-down" (i.e. starting with emissions reductions as deemed required based on science) principled climate regime of the Kyoto Protocol -- with a further shift towards the US-championed voluntary, bottom-up "pledge" system where countries just notify what they intend to do: currently this amounts to only 13-18% cuts by the rich countries (which could in reality amount to zero cuts due to the extensive "loopholes" that the rich countries refuse to remove). It's naive to believe that pledges will be sufficient to ramp up commitments towards the 40-50% that is needed by 2020, and the the 90-100% needed by 2050!

The mandate for the new agreement is remarkable open, which paves the ground for endless negotiations with little prospect to reach anywhere near the regime -- the Bali Action Plan -- that was still the basis for negotiations when the Durban meeting started. There are also reasons to be very worried from an equity and climate justice perspective -- although the new platform is placed under the Climate Convention with its fundamental principle of "common but differentiated responsibility", USA and other Annex 1 countries will press hard to erode any equity related mechanisms.

In short, by opening up for the Durban mandate, the world has given a blank check to the US and others to effectively stall and weaken the future climate regime -- while squandering the relative firm basis that already existed: the Bali Action Plan. Considering the effectiveness of the US negotiations since Copenhagen (they have likely attained most of their stated goals), and the dismal domestic political situation (with climate change denying Republicans dominating Congress, and Obama acting more destructive than George W Bush as he actively steers the world onto the wrong path rather than just standing aside), it is naive to believe there could be anything meaningful coming out of open-ended negotiations on the DPEA over the next few years.
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