Tuesday, 29 December 2009

And you thought carbon offsets couldn’t get worse!

From Climate and Capitalism:

December 28, 2009

Climate and Capitalism has frequently commented on two widespread illusions – that global warming is caused by overpopulation, and that buying offsets is an effective way to combat greenhouse gas emissions. I never imagined that anyone would try to combine them.Edit

by Ian Angus

Three years ago, Carbon Trade Watch published a report called The Carbon Neutral Myth. Its main conclusion was summarized briefly:

“Carbon offsets are the modern day indulgences, sold to an increasingly carbon conscious public to absolve their climate sins. Scratch the surface, however, and a disturbing picture emerges, where creative accountancy and elaborate shell games cover up the impossibility of verifying genuine climate change benefits, and where communities in the South often have little choice as offset projects are inflicted on them.”

I wish I could say that things had improved since then, but they haven’t. It seems as though we hear about a new carbon offset schemes every week, and each one is less credible than the one before.

But competing designers of offset plans will have to work very hard to beat Optimum Population Trust (OPT), an English outfit that campaigns for population control in third world countries and for reduced immigration to the UK. For sheer chutzpah, it will be hard to beat PopOffsets.

You guessed it. Instead of actually reducing your carbon emissions, you can now pay OPT to persuade third world women not to have babies!

What’s more, it’s cheap. According to the website:

“Research is indicating that providing a currently unmet need for family planning is the lowest cost way of reducing CO2 emissions and climate change – possibly less than one third of the cost of other technological fixes – without any environmental downsides.”[1]

They have an online calculator to determine how much money you should pay to salve your conscience. As a resident of Canada, which has one of the world’s highest per capita emission rates, for just 100 euros I can get a Certificate that proclaims me “carbon neutral” for a year.

OPT says that it will use my money (“less minimal/unavoidable costs”) to provide grants to unnamed “family planning organizations.” Just in case you object on religious grounds, they promise that they will “not direct funding towards abortion services.”

Now there are some catches. According to the PopOffsets’ FAQ:

  • There are no standards for measuring or verifying the effectiveness of any voluntary offset program, including this one.
  • The PopOffsets plan is not accredited by anyone, but they “are running a campaign to achieve accreditation in the long term.”
  • They haven’t actually decided who will get the money.
  • And “more work needs to be carried out on quantifying this methodology of CO2 reductions.”

That last point should be nominated for Understatement of the Year.

I might take this a little more seriously if the money were used to reduce the birth rate among rich Brits. Just think how much lower England’s emissions would be if aristocrats and bank directors were limited to one spoiled child each. How many Bentleys and Jaguars could be taken off the road if the Royal Family stopped reproducing altogether?

But no. Rather than targeting the high-emitting rich, the only concrete project mentioned by PopOffsets is a family planning program in Madagascar, where – according to PopOffsets own website – annual emissions are just 0.1 tonnes per person. Per capita emissions in the UK are nearly 100 times that level – and the emissions generated by rich Britons are much higher.

In short, instead of targeting actual high emitters, PopOffsets blames the world’s poorest people for a problem created by the rich, and it solicits funds for unnamed projects whose impact on global warming is at best unmeasurable. Even if you are totally convinced that reducing population is the way to go, the PopOffsets scheme is hard to swallow.

There’s a satirical website, Cheatneutral.com, which promises to “neutralise your cheating,” by letting you pay someone else to remain monogamous and faithful. It says:

“Cheatneutral is about offsetting infidelity. We’re the only people doing it, and Cheatneutral is a joke.

“Carbon offsetting is about paying for the right to carry on emitting carbon. The Carbon offset industry sold £60 million of offsets last year, and is rapidly growing. Carbon offsetting is also a joke.”

I won’t be surprised if some unsuspecting websurfer mistakes PopOffsets for an even more elaborate joke. Unfortunately, it isn’t one.

* * * * * * * *


[1] In case you are wondering, the research turns out to be one paper done as a summer project by a grad student who was paid by OPT. Peer-reviewed? Not a chance.

Friday, 25 December 2009

CPI (ML): `Shameful betrayal' at Copenhagen -- India and China sign undemocratic US-scripted accord

By Radhika Krishnan (via LINKS)

December 24, 2009 -- Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation -- The 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) has finally ended in Copenhagen, and it is now time to officially write the obituary. This week-long conference, where 110 countries got together to try and evolve a blueprint to handle the climate change crisis, has quite predictably and most unfortunately ended in failure. Predictable, because for a long time now there have been indications that the US would continue to hold the rest of the world to ransom by refusing to accept responsibility for its role in creating the climate crisis.

Much was at stake at Copenhagen. The Kyoto Protocol, which was the first concerted attempt to address global warming, comes to an end in 2012 and the Copenhagen conference was meant to build on the foundations that Kyoto had set. The Kyoto agreement essentially suggested that all industrialised countries cut their carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists however believe that the emissions reductions suggested in Kyoto are far from sufficient to keep the atmospheric carbon dioxide at an acceptable level, and therefore it was widely hoped that the Copenhagen summit would result in an agreement wherein industrialised countries would commit themselves to deep cuts in their current emissions levels.

Before the negotiations officially began, the US came up with a proposal to cut its emissions to just 3 per cent below its 1990 levels. This proposal was patently absurd, since any meaningful effort towards mitigating the climate crisis demands that the US cut its emissions by at least 40 per cent. Apart from this pathetic offer, US President Barack Obama (representing his corporate funders) came to Copenhagen armed with the usual bullying tactics and United States’s oft-used trump card: unless India and China agree to binding emissions cuts, neither will we. In a most shameful betrayal of Third World unity, India and China responded to this blackmail by breaking away from the Group of 77 countries (G-77) and signing a US-scripted "deal" on the last day of the conference. It is indeed shocking and shameful that India and China, along with Brazil and South Africa, decided to sign this deal – an agreement which signifies an important departure from the developing countries’ long-standing position at the climate change talks.

Copenhagen agreement: recipe for disaster

The "Copenhagen Accord" that was finally tabled (though not approved) at the conference is nothing but a recipe for an environmental catastrophe of monumental proportions. To those millions all over the world who were looking forward to an agreement with some teeth, capable of ensuring swift and effective mitigation of the climate crisis, the agreement is a huge disappointment.

To begin with, the agreement mentions no legally binding emission cuts for industrialised countries, thus effectively letting them off the hook. Given the fact that prior to the conference, many other industrialised countries had promised reductions (the European Union for instance had unilaterally agreed to reduce its emissions by 20%, and the UK by 40%), it is clear that the US obduracy and arrogance finally scuttled any meaningful proposal. More importantly, the agreement asks developing countries to also "voluntarily" reduce emissions, thus eliminating the important distinction between developing and developed countries.

Developing countries have fought long and hard to maintain this distinction – and this huge political volte-face aided and abetted by India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh absolves the developed world from their historic role in creating the present crisis, and essentially locks existing inequities for perpetuity. The agreement also states that developing countries’ performance on emissions reductions (even those that are not funded by international finance and technology) will be subjected to “international consultation and analysis”. This clause clearly opens the door to enforcing international monitoring, and will soon lead to binding commitments by developing countries.

Regarding the other important agenda of funding mitigation efforts in developing countries, the developed countries have set a goal of mobilisng jointly US$100 billion a year by 2020. This includes a short-term financing pledge (for 2010-2012) of $10.6 billion from the EU, $11 billion from Japan and $3.6 billion from the US. To put this "dole" in perspective, the EU’s contribution (which is the largest) is approximately 0.5% of global entertainment and media spending, 0.7% of the US military expenditure for 2008 and 1.4% of the bailout package that richest corporations of the world received following the economic recession! The priorities of the powers-that-be, and the level of their commitment (or the lack of it) to tackling the climate crisis, has become abundantly clear.

Indian government surrender to US imperialism

At Copenhagen, Manmohan Singh and environment minister Jairam Ramesh worked overtime to broker this blatantly pro-US deal. An effort which earned them praise from none less than Obama in his post-conference speech. And while this betrayal of the G-77 and of India’s poor is shocking, it is certainly not surprising. Some time back, Ramesh wrote a “confidential” letter to the prime minister articulating precisely the agreement which has been now signed. At that time, the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) tried to defend itself and fend off the resulting uproar by distancing itself from Ramesh’s proposals. Now, after Prime Minister Singh himself has signed this proposal, the slavish, pro-US kowtowing of the UPA government stands thoroughly exposed. Let us not forget that India has already announced targets for reducing carbon intensity (i.e. not total greenhouse gas emissions, but emissions per unit of GDP generated) – as a result of a "bilateral agreement" with the US.

Not surprisingly, India’s and China’s stand has deservedly invited an angry response from the other developing countries. And it was not just the content of the agreement that merited their anger. The entire process of drafting the agreement was marked by secrecy and a lack of respect for basic democratic principles -- most countries were deliberately kept away from the drafting process. Bolivia, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Cuba have therefore blamed those who have drafted the deal for showing them great "disrespect" by leaving them out of the drafting process and imposing their document on the vast majority. The Sudanese G-77 delegate Lumumba Di-Aping has gone to the extent of comparing the deal to the Holocaust.

Overall, the Copenhagen summit was a shameful display of the UPA’s subservience to US imperialism. Instead of this betrayal, what Jairam Ramesh and Manmohan Singh should have done was to cash in on the massive worldwide support and aspirations for a meaningful agreement. They should have joined hands with the vulnerable coastal nations most likely to suffer the most from the climate crisis and the G-77 to build pressure on the US. The industrialised countries, including the US, have to be forced to accept responsibility for their huge greenhouse-gas emissions. More importantly, they have to be held accountable for the historic role that they have played over the past two centuries in contributing to the climate crisis through their capital and energy intensive economies.

India's emissions

India should of course also reduce its emissions – not because the US demands it, not even because it is a huge contributor of greenhouse-gas emissions (though India’s total emissions are quite high, its per capita emissions are just 0.9 tonnes per person per year compared to the United States' 20.1 tonnes and China’s 2.3 tonnes) but because it is in the larger interests of India’s poor, and because it is essential for maintaining the delicate ecological balance.

India should have demanded funding and technology transfer from the industrialised countries for reducing its emissions. Let us understand very clearly that this funding is not a "gift" from some of the richest countries in the world, it is rather a small attempt on their part to compensate the millions of poor in the developing countries for the massive crisis that they have plunged the world into through the mindless, profit-driven, ecologically insane "development" paradigm that they have been pursuing for centuries. This funding could have been used to completely revamp our internal energy policy. It is an ideal time and occasion to pull away from our fossil-dependent energy policy to a more ecologically sensible one that depends more on renewable sources of energy.

However, it is clear that the UPA is least interested in pursuing any of this. For instance, forcing India's industry to invest in cleaner technology or to comply with strict pollution standards is complete anathema to the current regime, which is hell-bent on protecting the huge profit margins of corporations. The UPA, with its single-minded agenda of pandering to US imperialism and corporate interests back home, would much rather take the business-as-usual approach.

And in the process, be party to what the Sudan has called the new Holocaust.

[This article will appear in the January 2010 edition of Liberation,the magazine of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation.]

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Garrett lies through his teeth - again!

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Artfully Dodging Responsibility, Peter Garrett, has a history of making it up to suit his purpose, but it's not often that it's quite so blatant.

In the aftermath of the disastrous Copenhagen Climate "talks", the Hon. Mr Garrett has issued a press release assuring us again of the government's intention to do something about climate change, someday, somehow. Maybe.

In this case, the magic words were in response to the release of the
Final Report (PDF) by Dr Alan Hawke of the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, namely that Garrett tells us:

The Government favours a market-based system to reduce our greenhouse emissions, and for that reason if the CPRS is passed there will be no need for a greenhouse trigger to be introduced, even as an interim measure. This is entirely consistent with Dr Hawke's intention."

Now, I'm sure Peter was counting on the Australian population being asleep, drunk, or otherwise occupied with stuffing its mouth and shopping trolley with Christmas junk, but some of us are still watching. You know, with the whole planet in the balance, Christmas seems even less meaningful than usual, and all that.

So what did we see, we few Watchmen? Well, hidden in the Hawke Report - on page 156 - was this nugget of gold (hat-tip to Alex Surace on the Grassroots Climate Oz elist):

“In light of the current uncertainty surrounding the CPRS, and the urgency in starting to tackle Australia’s carbon trajectory, the Review recommends that the Government consider implementing the following:

an interim greenhouse trigger, to be introduced as soon as possible by way of Regulations, continuing until commencement of the CPRS and ‘sunsetting’ once the CPRS is operational;”

Et tu, Peter? Rather than meet their election promise of a legislated greenhouse "trigger", enabling the minister, the public and the courts to stop or force changes to developments and activities that would release large quantities of greenhouse gasses, the Rudd government
has chosen to continue their abject grovelling before the free market and its polluting profiteers. Rather than regulating - and preventing - greenhouse gas emissions, they've decided to leave it to the market to decide whether we deserve to live or die.

If that were not enough, today we have the wise words from the crystal-ball gazers, sorry, "economists", assuring us that the best way to make enormous profits from, sorry, solve, the climate crisis is, indeed, an emissions trading scheme. This is despite the failure of an ETS in Europe recently, the relative failure of an ETS in SO2 emissions in the US over the past 30 years, the failure of Kyoto to do anything useful and the abject failure of the global market to do anything more than cause economic chaos, poverty, bankruptcy and a very small number of large bank balances.

[If you want to depress yourself with the facts on carbon trading, The Corner House can oblige you.]

And - as if to underline the "superiority" of the market to, say, direct investment in renewables - AGL has announced that the market mechanism peanuts the government is offering for renewable energy are, well, shit, and don't work, and they won't be investing in any more alternative energy. So there. :-p Brilliant stuff, no?

Add to that the Sinophobic blame-game coming out of Copenhagen (and the responses and rebuttals too).

And then Penny Wong's jealous dig at Hugo Chavez and the radical bloc in latin america:

"There are a few radical nations, a few radical states seeking to block action on climate change internationally, seeking to derail this process,"

These are of course the same radical countries actually calling for serious action on climate change, standing by Tuvalu and the small island nations most under threat from climate change, and calling for an absolute maximum of 1-1.5 degrees warming (but don't let that get in the way of a good lie, Penny).

It's enough to curdle your eggnog!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

FARC is being demonized: scholar

Colombia Reports

Colombia news - FARC guerrillas

A controversial new book by a Canadian scholar who spent nearly ten years studying the FARC-EP says the rebel group has been “demonized” by domestic and foreign powers. His book is intended to dispel the myths surrounding their cause.

In an interview with Colombia Reports, James J. Brittain, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, said that the book, released three months ago in North America and Europe, had already had an intensely polarized reception in academic and political circles.

Brittain said his research, which includes interviews carried out in the field with guerrillas and peasants alike, gave him an understanding of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - Peoples’ Army (FARC-EP) different from that portrayed in the “mainstream media.”

Scholars, journalists, and governments alike have categorized the FARC-EP as a “movement void of ideological position seeking individualistic economic power through violent means,” he claims.

On the contrary, in his book, titled “Revolutionary Social Change in Colombia: The Origin and Direction of the FARC-EP,” Brittain argues that history has shown the rebel group to be “the most powerful and successful guerrilla army in the world.”

He says that no in-depth scholarship has previously been conducted on the FARC-EP’s ideological or practical relation to contemporary social change.

The book traces the growth of the rebel movement, from its roots in the Colombian Communist Party following the tumultuous era of political upheaval known as “La Violencia,” to its emergence as the FARC in the 1960s and early skirmishes with U.S.-backed government forces, and finally to the present day FARC-EP.

Brittain’s book is highly critical of U.S. involvement in Colombia, and argues that Washington has been the most influential force in the demonization of the FARC.

From his home in Canada, Brittain spoke with Colombia Reports about his fieldwork, and the passions his research has invoked from both sides of the political spectrum.

Colombia Reports: What was your motivation in conducting this study? Was it for political reasons, or scientific research?
Brittain: Definitely scientific research. I was interested; can a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla movement really create change? Can we see a Marxist-Leninist revolution create change that is legitimately of the people? Is the FARC really a people’s army? Over the years, I was amazed at a lot of the responses of everyday people - campesinos and indigenous people. There seems to be a very different presentation of the FARC coming from them than what I was reading in El Tiempo and the international mainstream media. Not that all the people were in open arms, but people were expressing different opinions of the FARC.

CR: Was the Colombian government aware of the theme of your research? Were there any problems from the government with visa issues or restriction of movement?
Brittain: There weren’t too many problems until the last year and a half. There have been issues, but interestingly they were from the Canadian government. The Canadian government seems to be really interested in what I was doing and they were getting info from the Colombian government. I had members of the Canadian version of the DAS (immigration service) contact me, asking what is the research about, etc. There have been threats, though. For example I received messages from the paramilitaries, from the Black Eagles. And most recently there have been accusations that I am not an academic but a sympathizer of the movement.

CR: How did you make contact with the FARC? And how did you move in and out of FARC-held territory?
Brittain: Since 2002 - this was when Plan Patriota was in full effect - it was actually quite easy. I was surprised. I think the FARC did a lot of intelligence to see who I was, what I was doing, but to get into guerrilla territory was easy. Because of the economic disparity, you can ask someone to take you to rebel areas for 50 bucks. And they'll do it. You hop into a boat, and sure enough it doesn’t take time for a guerrilla to stop the boat. Later there was an increased sensibility of what I was doing. You can literally email the FARC through a website. After I sat with them a few times they became comfortable enough to let me sit in a camp and let me document; that I wasn’t a gringo informant but an actual academic.

CR: Was there any moment when you felt threatened? Or that you felt uneasy?
Brittain: Well I think there were several times I was nervous, because I was obviously asking questions that perhaps they didn’t want to be asked. But I never felt threatened. The attitude was, among the peasants, that there was no one coming to talk to them. So on that end there was an attitude among the peasants, "please come and see what the guerrillas are doing here." I think, if something did happen to me, there would be backlash. It would have reflected negatively on them. The only times I felt threatened was running into state forces, or paramilitary groups; that was a whole different ballgame. There was one time I was stopped and they said freely, "let’s just take him out back and shoot him." Being told, "we could disappear you," that really stayed with me.

CR: How do you perceive the rebels, and why do you say people misunderstand the guerrilla?
Brittain: I think geopolitically Colombia is very important, and that there is a need to make Colombia look dangerous. Washington worked very closely, especially with Pastrana, to stabilize the country. From their perspective you have to make sure you eliminate any viable alternative, be it the Bolivarian alternative or what the FARC is doing. I think what is being portrayed in the mainstream media, they tell very clearly one side of the story. It is always from a single lens, be it the military or government officials. It paints a very different picture of the civil war.

CR: Your work is highly critical of U.S. involvement in Colombia. How has that been received?
Brittain: It is quite interesting because there has already been controversy...there seems to be almost a complete divide, people either agree with it or there is a completely polar opposite response, where people are dramatically opposed to the research, where they feel it’s propaganda or not true. And the fact that the government seems to be so interested in the research shows there is some interest in the subject.

CR: You mention the book as dispelling many of the myths surrounding the rebel group. What are the myths?

Brittain: The absolute number one myth is their indirect relationship to coca cultivation and the drug trade. It has not been thoroughly addressed. I hope what one gets out of the book is how the guerrilla is not directly involved in the process, cultivation, production or trafficking of drugs. But there are clearly fronts that are involved in taxing of the trade. It is clear they receive income from taxing but not from the production.

CR: What about reports of the FARC killing those engaged in coca eradication, some of them campesinos themselves? Doesn’t that suggest they have more of a keen interest in protecting the illicit crops and have more involvement than you say?
Brittain: Yes it has been seen that they will protect coca fields that are the only source of income for campesino farmers, to guarantee a return on their income. But unfortunately you get a minimal form of eradication, it is severely down recently. But their involvement is indirect. Another myth is the issue of human rights abuses. I think there is some very good work coming out by international human rights groups. But who is the actual perpetrator of human rights abuses? Since 2003 you see a significant proportion of human rights violations are at the hands of state or state-assisted paramilitary forces. Since ‘98 you see a minority of human rights abuses perpetrated by guerrilla fighters. Obviously the guerrilla is going to be involved in atrocious violent acts, but you have to put it in a proper context so that you don’t say the guerrilla is primarily responsible.

CR: Based on your personal experience, what sort of people is the FARC comprised of at present; are they forced conscripts, or are these really idealistic, radicalized peasants?
Brittain: The issue with force conscription is important to address. Unlike the paramilitary the FARC do not pay a monthly income to their average fighter. I actually argue forced conscription is potentially not as truthful as the state or the main media makes it out to be. From what I have seen if there were forced conscription there would be terrible low morale. If people wanted to leave, they could. People are overly encouraged to leave if they feel they can not devote their entire lives to the movement. In my ten years of research I have not seen one case where there was a child under sixteen, or any forced conscription at all.

CR: Do you think the common peasant, given the conditions in the campo, such as illiteracy and lack of education, can truly have a grasp on Marxist theory? Couldn’t it be argued that they are influenced by anti-Yankee demonization, i.e., they idea that the United States is the cause of all their problems?
Brittain: In the camps, you'll have some peasants that don’t know how to read at all. It’s ridiculous for a comandante to start lecturing on Trotsky because many of them can not read. Their education is very basic. It is only at higher levels that Marxist theory is touched upon. And outside the camps, the guerrillas are working with peasants, teaching them how to read. But, on the other hand, what ended up being said at a lot of these camps, in the aftermath of 9-11, is that they are not against the United States. What they are against is the political-economical system that is often enforced on the world. Instead of breeding this "Yankee imperialism blah blah blah," what they are doing is educating the average peasant that it is not the average American citizen that is against them.

CR: A lot of reports seems to indicate that lately the FARC have degenerated into a corrupt, dirty organization. Has the FARC tarnished itself through forced conscription, use of child soldiers, landmines, extortion, its leaders enjoying lavish lifestyles, and extrajudicial killings both within and outside their ranks?
Brittain: I have found very different reactions. There are many international actors looking to label FARC as a belligerent force, which under the Geneva Conventions would legitimize their fight to confront the state. The landmines they use are really primitive; they use whatever they can improvise to confront the state. So yes they do use this horrible weapon in their war. As for lavish lifestyles, in the camps the comandantes live the exact same life as the average fighter. On one trip I made, the lavish meal I shared with them was rat. That was the big fancy meal the comandante was eating. There is more of an outside distortion of what the FARC is, rather than them tarnishing themselves. I think the FARC are still for what they have been fighting for the last 45 years.

CR: What do you think about the recent account that three American contractors wrote about their observations of the guerrillas while held in captivity for 5 years? They describe inequality in the ranks between FARC commanders and subordinates, rebels who question their cause – even to the point of suicide as a way out.
Brittain: I think it is interesting what arises with the three contractors. They were treated as prisoners of war. If the FARC didn’t want to hold them according to the Geneva Conventions, they would have eliminated these people. They saw them as political commodity; they see all prisoners as a way to enter into peace talks. In my research what I saw was different. I think it is far more important to look at why the guerrilla continues to keep these people prisoners still. What I suspect is that they’re using these people, many of whom the FARC see as involved in the conflict; members of the government, members of the military, large landowners. They see these people as a means to set up a humanitarian exchange or to bring about peace negotiations. I think it is in no way comparable to Middle East image of hostages, where they are torturing or pulling out toenails. They are seen as political commodities as a way to get the state into negotiations to end the conflict.

CR: What would it take to get the FARC to the table? Do you think they could follow the example of FMLN in El Salvador, which fought a civil war, then became part of the political process, and now has seen the election of its first president?
Brittain: I really do, 100%. The parties can very easily start a peace process and negotiations. First of all a demilitarized zone, respected by all sides, where all can sit down in a place without conflict, with no threat from the resurgence in paramilitary activity which we have seen lately. Then I think we can see humanitarian exchange take place and also negotiations to end the conflict. Until there is a demilitarized zone there is no assurance. You have to stop the fighting in order to have negotiations.

CR: A demilitarized zone was ceded to the FARC in the past, and weren’t there accusations that they violated the ceasefire?
Brittain: Well yes, in the first days of that the AUC paramilitaries [United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia] murdered hundreds of people. In the past the state did nothing, so the FARC again took up arms in self defense and the defense of civilians. We can learn from the 1998-2002 peace process to set up a new, lasting peace process. The state has to ensure that there is a demilitarized zone, with enforcement to prevent aggression from gangs or paramilitaries. That was what we saw at that time, it was state forces or state forces with paramilitaries committing massacres. That's what we were seeing with the "false positives" [extra-judicial killings of civilians by the military, which are reported as FARC fighters killed in combat].

CR: What changes do you foresee in Colombian society, should the FARC ever achieve political power?
Brittain: I think it's really hard to foresee what they would do. If the FARC ever took state power, the response from the U.S. would be incredible, and we would see something like what happened in Nicaragua in the 1980s. If the FARC are to achieve any form of political power it would have to be with the backing and support of the people.

A climate con: Analysis of the "Copenhagen Accord"

By David Spratt and Damien Lawson - Climate Code Red
21 December 2009
Climate Action Centre Briefing Note
''In biblical terms it looks like we are being offered 30 pieces of silver to betray our future and our people … our future is not for sale.'' Ian Fry, Tuvalu negotiator

"This is a declaration that small and poor countries don't matter, that international civil society doesn't matter, and that serious limits on carbon don't matter. The president has wrecked the UN and he's wrecked the possibility of a tough plan to control global warming. It may get Obama a reputation as a tough American leader, but it's at the expense of everything progressives have held dear. 189 countries have been left powerless, and the foxes now guard the carbon henhouse without any oversight." Bill McKibben, 350.org

"The city of Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport. There are no targets for carbon cuts and no agreement on a legally binding treaty. It is now evident that beating global warming will require a radically different model of politics than the one on display here in Copenhagen." John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK

"So that's it. The world's worst polluters – the people who are drastically altering the climate – gathered here in Copenhagen to announce they were going to carry on cooking, in defiance of all the scientific warnings. They didn't seal the deal; they sealed the coffin for the world's low-lying islands, its glaciers, its North Pole, and millions of lives. Those of us who watched this conference with open eyes aren't surprised. Every day, practical, intelligent solutions that would cut our emissions of warming gases have been offered by scientists, developing countries and protesters – and they have been systematically vetoed by the governments of North America and Europe." Johann Hari, The Independent, 19 December 2009

"I think that our prime minister has played an outstanding role ... He's been working very hard for the last few months... and he's just been fantastic all the way, he just shines at it... he's been really important through these meetings". Tim Flannery, ABC News, 19 February 2009


read the full article here

LINKS resources on Copenhagen

Resources on the Copenhagen climate talks from LINKS - International Journal or Socialist Renewal

Copenhagen: `Imperial' climate deal rejected by poor-country delegates

Hugo Chavez denounces Obama's ``imperial'' deal. Photo COP15.

December 18, 2009 -- Speaking on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela took the floor at the plenary of the COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen to denounce the final ``deal'' that was soon to emerge and be imposed on the majority poor-country delegates, and which would fall far short of their demands.

Chavez accused US President Barack Obama of behaving like an emperor “who comes in during the middle of the night … and cooks up a document that we will not accept, we will never accept”.

Chávez declared that “all countries are equal”. He would not accept that some countries had prepared a text for a climate deal and just “slipped [it] under the door” to be signed by the others. He accused them of “a real lack of transparency”.

“We can’t wait any longer, we are leaving … We are leaving, knowing that it wasn’t possible getting a deal,” he said.

Copenhagen: Democracy Now! interview with Evo Morales -- `We cannot end global warming without ending capitalism'

December 17, 2009 -- Democracy Now! -- Bolivia's President Evo Morales joins us in Copenhagen to talk about the UN climate talks, capitalism, climate debt and much more. “Policies of unlimited industrialisation are what destroys the environment”, Morales said. “And that irrational industrialisation is capitalism.”

AMY GOODMAN: This is Climate Countdown. It’s Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from inside the Bella Center [in Copenhagen].

It’s just one day before the COP15 UN climate summit comes to a close. The summit has been described as the biggest gathering on climate change in history. And now, ten days after it started, are the talks on the brink of collapse?

Copenhagen: Full speech -- Chavez salutes protesters, calls for system change to save planet

Hugo Chavez speaking to the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen. Photo from Telesur.

By Kiraz Janicke, Caracas

December 16, 2009 – Venezuelanalysis.com – During his speech to the 15th United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP15) in Copenhagen, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez slammed the “lack of political will” of the most powerful nations to take serious action to avert climate change, and called for systemic change to save the planet.

Copenhagen: People's summit develops a people-powered response to the climate crisis

``System change not climate change'' protest, Copenhagen, December 12, 2009. Photo Klimaforum.

By Lauren Carroll Harris, Copenhagen

December 15, 2009 -- Green Left Weekly -- Just over a week into the December 7-18 United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen (COP15) , thousands of ordinary people from around the world have already participated in what is being billed as the “people’s climate summit”, Klimaforum09, also taking place in the Danish capital. The difference between the two forums could not be more stark.

Outside Copenhagen’s Bella Centre, where COP15 is being held, has a circus-like quality, with delegates battling their way through a gauntlet of protesters and lobbyists. One group carries a banner emblazoned with the slogan “EU: pay your climate debt” and chants “The world is watching”. Inside, registered delegates, government diplomats and NGO members make their way through airport-style security checks to participate in what is increasingly seen as a redundant talkshop.

Fidel Castro: The truth about what happened at Copenhagen

Copenhagen, December 12, 2009. Photo by Lauren Carroll Harris.

By Fidel Castro Ruz

December 19, 2009 -- Until very recently, the discussion revolved around the kind of society we would have. Today, the discussion centres on whether human society will survive. These are not dramatic phrases. We must get used to the true facts. Hope is the last thing human beings can relinquish. With truthful arguments, men and women of all ages, especially young people, have waged an exemplary battle at the Copengahen COP15 summit and taught the world a great lesson.

It is important now that Cuba and the world come to know as much as possible of what happened in Copenhagen. The truth can be stronger than the influenced and often misinformed minds of those holding in their hands the destiny of the world.

Beyond Copenhagen: left alternatives to capitalism

Copenhagen, December 12, 2009. Photo by Lauren Carroll Harris.

By Lauren Carroll Harris, Copenhagen

"Can a finite Earth support an infinite project? The thesis of capitalism, infinite development, is a destructive pattern, let’s face it. How long are we going to tolerate the current international economic order and prevailing market mechanisms? How long are we going to allow huge epidemics like HIV/AIDS to ravage entire populations? How long are we going to allow the hungry to not eat or to be able to feed their own children? How long are we going to allow millions of children to die from curable diseases? How long will we allow armed conflicts to massacre millions of innocent human beings in order for the powerful to seize the resources of other peoples?"

-- Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, speaking at COP15, December 16, 2009

Lumumba Di-Aping: Third World hero of Copenhagen

Lumumba Di-Aping. Photo by Jens Norgaard Larsen/Reuters.

By Derek Barry

December 16, 2009 -- Woolly Days -- Lumumba Di-Aping has made the brave call that no Australian politician has been game to make, callin Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd a climate sceptic. The key negotiator at Copenhagen on behalf of the G77-China group told the ABC (also see below) that Rudd’s message to his own people was a fabrication which “does not relate to the facts because his actions are climate change scepticism in action”. Di-Aping was pointing the disparity between Rudd’s sayings and actions on climate change. “It's puzzling in the sense that here is a Prime Minister who actually won the elections because of his commitment to climate change”, Di-Aping said. “And within a very short period of time he changes his mind, changes his position, he start acting as if he has been converted into climate change scepticism.”

Evo Morales at Copenhagen: `Shameful' for West to spend trillions on war and just $10 billion for climate change

December 16, 2009 -- Democracy Now! -- In a press conference on December 16, Bolivia's President Evo Morales said, “The budget of the United States is US$687 billion for defence. And for climate change, to save life, to save humanity, they only put up $10 billion. This is shameful.”

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up today's broadcast with a leader from another side of the world, from Latin America, we’re going to turn right now to Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, who, just a few minutes ago, finished a speech in the next room. He just recently arrived here in Copenhagen. The Bolivian President Morales.

    PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] And if we don’t—and I repeat this—we’re going to end our lives, all of us. So, as with the last country and with our black and indigenous brothers who were treated as slaves, and their rights were not recognised, now, today, too, our Mother Earth, she is treated as if she were a thing without life, as if she didn’t have rights.

Copenhagen: Venezuela accuses -- `Thirty industrialised countries are destroying the world'

By Telesur, translated by Kiraz Janicke

December 15, 2009 -- Venezuelanalysis.com -- The Venezuelan delegation to the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, denounced today the attitude of developed countries in the world meeting for not committing to reduce emissions of polluting gases because this would presumably affect their economies. The delegation said that developing nations “will not let them get away with it” because it is unacceptable that they do not take into account that they are responsible for the future of the planet.

In an interview with Telesur, Claudia Salerno, director of the Venezuelan environment ministry’s Office of International Cooperation, explained that the 30 industrialised countries have the potential to “change the destiny of the world, but today they are telling us that it is too expensive and they are unwilling to let the GDP of their economies be impacted by the response measures to climate change.”

“That is unacceptable, I not only point out to them, but I accuse them… not only are they going to be responsible for climate change but they will be responsible for the future of this planet”, said the official.

Copenhagen: Maldives, Tuvalu, small island nations lead fight for real action on climate

President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed: ``You can't negotiate with physics!''.

December 15, 2009 -- Klimaforum09 -- The president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, stressed the power of people to take action on climate change, when he spoke to a packed audience at Klimaforum09, the alternative climate summit in Copenhagen, on December 14.

“The social movements have the power to save the planet from the effects of climate change. My message to you is to continue the process of movement building after the conference”, the president said.

Mohamed Nasheed used his own personal story to illustrate the point. A few years ago he was in prison because of his work as a human rights activists, but upon his release he became the first democratic elected president of the island nation acutely threatened by the rising sea levels.

`The main issue for us is Mother Earth' -- Bolivia's delegation to Copenhagen climate talks

`Repay the climate debt!'

December 9, 2009 -- Democracy Now!

ANJALI KAMAT: Angelica, maybe we can start with you. Talk about the Danish text and your reaction.

ANGELICA NAVARRO, chief climate negotiator for Bolivia: Well, I have to say that everybody was taken a little bit by surprise, but I also want to congratulate the very good work that the press has been doing, because we have learned it from the press, actually. And the reaction has been quite straightforward from the G77, and in two accounts: on process and on the content.

And on the process, I have to say that we are quite surprised, because this is not what we were expecting. One hundred and ninety-two countries are united here to try to come to a deal. And there is this pallid process that basically seems to be untransparent, undemocratic, nonparticipatory, top down, that it seems to be imposing itself on what we are trying to achieve with 192 countries. We think that we have to come back to the real track, and that is a track with participation, inclusiveness and democracy. That is for the process.

A lesson from Seattle for Copenhagen: Vigorous activism can defeat the denialists

Protest in Seattle, 1999.

By Patrick Bond

December 1, 2009 -- Preparations for the December 7-18 Copenhagen climate summit are going as expected, including a rare sighting of the African elites' stiffened spines. That's a great development (maybe decisive), more about that below.

While activists help raise the temperature on the streets outside the Bella Centre on December 12, 13 and 16, inside we will see global North elites defensively armed with pathetic non-binding carbon emissions cuts (US President Barack Obama's promise is a mere 4% below 1990 levels) and carbon trading, but without offering the money to repay the North's ecological debt to the global South.

The first and third of these are lamentable enough, the second is the most serious diversion from the crucial work of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A nine-minute film launched on the internet on December 1, The Story of Cap and Trade, gives all the ammunition climate activists need to understand and critique emissions trading, and to seek genuine solutions.

Saturday, 19 December 2009


For immediate release, December 18, 2009


COPENHAGEN, DENMARK -- Commenting on the failure of rich country governments to secure a strong and fair UN agreement to tackle climate change in Copenhagen, Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth
International, said:

“Copenhagen has been an abject failure. Justice has not been done. By delaying action, rich countries have condemned millions of the world’s poorest people to hunger, suffering and loss of life as climate change
accelerates. The blame for this disastrous outcome is squarely on the developed nations.

“We are disgusted by the failure of rich countries to commit to the emissions reductions they know are needed, especially the US, which is the world's largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases. In contrast African nations, China and others in the developing world deserve praise for their progressive positions and constructive approach. Major developing countries cannot be blamed for the failure of rich industrialised countries.”

A confidential United Nations paper leaked on December 17 predicts that average temperatures rise will far exceed the 2 degree threshold set by the UN even if current international pledges are fully implemented. This is effectively a death sentence for many in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, including small island states, who had demanded a limit of 1.5 degrees.

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, added:

“Instead of committing to deep cuts in emissions and putting new, public money on the table to help solve the climate crisis, rich countries have bullied developing nations to accept far less. Those most responsible for putting the planet in this mess have not shown the guts required to fix it and have instead acted to protect short-term political interests.

“The only real leadership at the conference has come from the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who’ve come together to demand strong action to prevent climate catastrophe. Their voices are loud and growing – and Friends of the Earth International will continue to be part of the fight for climate justice.”

Friends of the Earth International has been one of the key contributors to the alternative people's summit known as the Klimaforum with allied organisations such as La Via Campesina and the World March of Women.

Friends of the Earth will continue to fight for a strong and fair agreement to tackle climate change.

“There is a growing climate justice movement and more and more people are getting involved. This is the beginning of change. Everyone can pressure their government to take a stronger stance. Everyone can take action to tackle climate change, consuming less, saving energy and improving energy efficiency for instance,“ said Palle Bendsen from NOAH / Friends of the Earth Denmark.


* Rich, developed countries did not commit to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% in comparison with 1990 levels by 2020. These cuts should be made at home - with no offsetting. Offsetting, including through the 'Clean Development Mechanism', is a false solution and should be rejected.

* Rich, developed countries did not acknowledge the climate debt that they owe to developing countries as a result of decades of pollution.

* The World Bank and its climate funds have not been rejected despite the fact that they are set to increase developing country debt and promote dirty energy such as “clean” coal.

* Forests are still included in ‘carbon offsetting initiatives’ and this does not help to combat climate change. It diverts attention from the real solutions to climate change and deforestation. Copenhagen talks did not state that plantations are not forests. Damaging monoculture tree plantations have not been excluded from the UN climate negotiations.

* False solutions like nuclear energy and agrofuels have not been excluded from the UN talks.

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International: + 45 61 72 57 01

Meena Raman, Hon. Secretary, Friends of the Earth Malaysia: + 45 52 68 46 29

Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth US President, + 45 30 74 47 09

Elizabeth Bast, Friends of the Earth International: + 45 61 27 63 06

Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth England, Wales & Northern Ireland, + 44 7720 147280 (+45 6178 2833)

Lars Haltbrekken, Friends of the Earth Norway chairman: + 47 916 12 191

Palle Bendsen from NOAH / Friends of the Earth Denmark: + 45 30 13 76 95

Helen Burley, Friends of the Earth International media line: + 45 53 99 59 27

Henry Rummins, Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland email: henry.rummins@foe.co.uk or call +44 776 16 01 666 (UK mobile) or + 45 617 20 747

Nick Berning, Friends of the Earth US communications: +45 30 48 31 73 or email NBerning@foe.org

Rikke Rasmussen, NOAH / Friends of the Earth Denmark press officer: Tel: +45 21 68 18 05 or email _rikrassen@gmail.com

Friday, 11 December 2009

Australian Socialist Alliance's address to the International Encounter of Left Parties, Caracas, November 2009

One of the delegates of Australia's Socialist Alliance, Federico Fuentes, addresses the International Encounter of Left Parties held in Caracas, November 19-21, 2009.