U.N. Climate Change negotiations in New Delhi
The Eighth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP), of the Convention of Climate Change, October 23 -November 1 is in deep shit. To quote the ECO of October 30, 2002, addressed to the Ministers that started the high level two-day portion of the conference:
What is behind this quote is the simple
fact that upon pressure from Saudi Arabia, the Indian Chair has eliminated
any reference to the Kyoto Protocol from the draft of the Delhi
Declaration. He even put things back seven years by mentioning
instead the Berlin Mandate that has long been supplanted by further
negotiations and agreed text.
Leaving things float for a year may kill
all what was achieved until now. One has to think twice before
resolving if this is not simply a submission to the U.S., in the light of
Russia's own problems with Chechnya. The Indians on the other hand
are clearly deferring to the Saudis and perhaps also to efforts made by
U.S. corporations to develop renewables in India while not doing anything
at home. I wish the U.S. press were present to report the great
promises the US showed HERE.
Pincas Jawetz, Culture Change International Editor
The Guardian Unlimited, London, editorialized in "
Wrap up of United Nations conference in Johannesburg, South Africa
The World Summit on Sustainable Development and its Oily Aftermath
For sustainable development, the Summit ended September 4th with mixed marks. The U.N., or the official part, got low marks; it actually reached bottom, while the European Union efforts resulted in a ray of hope for the future.
Disregarding the U.N. performance that put into question even the continuation of the U.N. Commission for Sustainable Development, September 26th, Pakistan distributed at the U.N. a "Non-Paper" ñ proposing a trio of future Commissions ñ each one dedicated, separately, to the follow up of a specific meeting: one for Doha Trade and Development, one for the Monterrey Finance and Development, and one for the Johannesburg Sustainable Development. What that means is: continue to celebrate at talk fests and forget that at Rio, in 1992, Sustainable Development was established as the paradigm that incorporates the Environment, Social aspects, and Economic development in one.
Rio tried to establish norms for the development process of the developing countries and for the consumption patterns of the developed countries so the future could be sustainable. In the running up to Johannesburg, more and more the sustainability aspect became less and less visible, so we have trade agreements that work against environmental laws in countries that dared to establish such laws, and talk of finances for development as if sustainable development was never raised. Johannesburg talked of poverty alleviation and other great targets for the Millennium but shied away from numerical targets in the energy area of how to achieve those ideas. Good people still believe that the world will go over the brink if development is not sustainable and if consumption patterns are not changed.
On September 4th, at the final session, it became clear that the Europeans had no stomach for establishing a date for any repeat performance of a major conference as they said not in five years nor in ten years. So, out of the blue, the Under Secretary General repeated several times that the implementation review of the Summit will be in seventeen years. S o 17 must be the lucky number for the rabbit-in-the-hat.
Strangely, it seems that the Wall Street Journal of October 7 had a way to explain the U.N.: Freedom House graded the 192 sovereign states into free with an elective process, partly free and not free ñ this according to the freedom they allow to their population.
The U.N. recognizes only 191 States - that is the "Free" state of Taiwan is an outsider.
In 85 States the population is "free", in 59 "partly free", and in 48 "not free". Now we understand that when people are not free to complain, also there is no chance the regime will worry about the environment. But is this all? We witnessed at Johannesburg an alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia that derailed any attempt at moves leading to sustainability ñ one country here is in the free column and the other is in the not-free column. So we see that not even the semblance of elections can withstand the interests of just one industry ñ OIL.
In Europe, where governments decided to tax the use of energy, both for revenue needed to run the vast social programs and in order to decrease consumption and outflow of funds, eventually green parties moved into their parliaments and into governments ñ this thanks to a proportional representation leading to coalitions where minority parties have a say.
When on September 4th Denmark, speaking for the European Union, said that Europe agreed to the consensus document because more could not be obtained, but Europe will establish its own norms and targets and move to decrease the use of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions, interestingly, many other countries - all small Island States, most Latin American countries - joined the European program. With Russia and China having promised to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the real action moves now to New Delhi, India, where the UN Framework Climate Change Convention, one of the surviving results of Rio, meets October 23 ñ November 1 to start looking at programs that will be possible after the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.
The U.S., that declared "Kyoto is Dead", will during October 24-26 have USAID and the World Alliance for Decentralized Energy (WADE) show as a side event in New Delhi: how to decrease greenhouse gasses by using decentralized energy sources such as solar and wind. Would it not be nice if those good folks would also teach here, at home, such methods. After all the Europeans have long proven that this is even economical. Even ENRON made money by building windmills in Europe.
One of the highlights at Johannesburg was a joint session were the leaders of Greenpeace, the leaders of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and Mr. "Enlightened Energy at the UN", Brazilian Professor Jose Goldemberg, explained that in order to fight climate change, what is needed are regulations by government so that business sees a level playing field and can proceed to introduce changes. There clearly is still no agreement on the size of regulation but there is full agreement that free enterprise can not mean a free-for-all. The Random House "Free" column may thus be very misleading if it boils down to "free only for the oil industry."
Pincas Jawetz was involved in the recent launching of ISEO - the Geneva based International Sustainable Energy Organization. He has traveled to New Delhi to follow up with the UN Framework Climate Change Convention process, representing Culture Change. Following is his previous dispatch from Johannesburg during the World Summit:
Nonprofit groups are second-class citizens at World Summit on Sustainable Development
by Pincas Jawetz
Whoever thinks that the NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) are a welcome component of the Summit in South Africa should have his head checked. Some may say that this is caused by an effort to avoid turning Johannesburg into Durban where NGOs took off on extraneous purposes and left a black eye to the human rights issue. In Jo'burg the NGOs will be located at a safe distance and will have little access to where the action counts.
But above is only part of the truth. In effect the NGOs were handed systematically set-backs by the Commission for Sustainable Development. Since after Rio, slowly, the NGOs became one of nine so called major groups and the CSD leadership tries to limit their appearance before the Summit only as part of "Multi-stakeholder Dialogues". The strength of the NGOs is in their diversity and their grass-roots experience, but the CSD leaders want them to negotiate a common stand even before they sit down for the MSD.
Indeed, many NGOs have much more members than the population of most UN member states, but some of these large NGOs are not even on the ECOSOC list. Those that are will see their issues mauled down to pap and then their spokespersons will sit on a panel with business and industry, large farmers, labor unions etc. Under these conditions what can you expect for the environment? Even the "Scientific and Technological Community" will be led by big industry employed engineers worrying rather about their jobs than about mother earth.
Pincas Jawetz is in Johannesburg for the United Nations conference on Sustainable Development. He represents Culture Change magazine, and will be filing more dispatches as the conference proceeds as well as subsequently. He can be contacted through email@example.com.
Where lies failure of
the World Summit
"Sustainable development" is almost as much of a contradiction in terms as "sustainable growth." Yet, more growth is exactly what the powerful interests are gunning for at the current United Nations meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. The World Summit on Sustainable Development is the ten-year follow-up of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which was about solving the environmental crisis. You might ask, how can growth be a sacred cow at this point in our overpopulated and polluted state?
In 1992, my colleagues attended in Rio and we dubbed it Earth Plummet. As with George Bush the First, no one expects much global responsibility from his son. The global crisis is not so much one of leadership but of industrial development and growth as a way of running the world. The preordained failure of the U.N. meeting in Johannesburg is due in part to an environmental movement that is split and compromised. Many nonprofit groups (NGOs, or non-governmental organizations) in attendance in Johannesburg are weak on some key issues of sustainabilty and development.
The rationale of sustainable development/growth is that "poverty" must be eliminated before there can be environmental protection. The best example is a person being unable to buy cooking fuel, so roots are dug up for burning, causing erosion or desertification. What is not stated is that the poor person digging up roots for fuel had lost his or her land due to interference in traditional rights, and was forced into a cash crop arrangement amidst a gangster-controlled, overpopulated country buying arms from the U.S., most likely.
Moreover, in the assumptions of the industrial elite running the world and giving out "development" loans, fighting "poverty" means many more polluting consumer products manufactured and shipped (via petroleum) for the Third World. That would also mean creating more roads, motor vehicles, and electric power, to bridge the "north-south gap."
Besides adding more greenhouse gases, the problem would remain that there isn't nearly enough petroleum to begin to fuel the southern countries' "development" anything like the north's industrialization and consumption.
On top of that confusion, the world has been receiving an intensifying amount of false information from the funded environmentalist sector that claims a massive consumer economy can be maintained simply by switching to renewable energy.
What about population growth? Surely, that must be stopped and reversed if we are to achieve sustainability on a global scale. But not according to delegates and most NGOs at a similar U.N. conference in Cairo on Population and Development in 1994: the only politically correct mantra is that there must be more economic development and education so that people will have fewer children. However, author Virginia Abernethy had already proven the fallacy of the conventional view of the "demographic transition," in her 1993 book Population Politics. Rather, it is the sense of economic austerity and uncertainty that guides couples to have fewer children, Dr. Abernethy demonstrated.
Development must become redevelopment or undevelopment, so that urban sprawl is reversed. Fortunately, on hand at the U.N. conference in Johannesburg is Richard Register of Ecocity Builders, who has devised and brought about sane urban development in Berkeley, California. In place of building anew and gobbling up more farmland and wildlife habitat, restoration and repair must prevail which provides much employment.
However, government number-crunchers and their corporate and academic friends deem poverty to be the absence of consumption. Such as, no dishwashing machines and other major appliances for each household means poverty relative to Wonder Bread America. For families to share an oven is culturally foreign to well-heeled bureaucrats and corporate executives. Also, there is no consideration for the idea of spending more time with one's family as a measure of good economics. After all, how can a few capitalists profit by tolerating that? Ecological development that restores traditional, community interaction is hardly making a dent in the U.S., but it is part of the foundation of healthy, long-term economic planning.
Dominating the Johannesburg conference are forces led by the World Bank. Its vice president for sustainable development, Ian Johnson, recently said there could be no question of an acceptable future "unless we can make major inroads into crippling poverty. We believe poverty is at the heart of unsustainable development." The World Bank has always served major financial and corporate interests in extracting nonrenewable resources for major markets, as part of "free trade." Third Worlders are urged to generate more cash and debt instead of bartering and subsistence food growing and gathering. The World Bank does not address the north's greed or contribution to unsustainable development. The last thing the Bank is going to advocate is fewer north Americans and their consuming habits, although our population growth threatens the planet as much as any threat facing humanity and countless species.
Compromised green vision
If, several decades ago, industrial nations had substituted the internal- combustion motor-vehicle fleet for vehicles powered by renewable energy, this could have brought us all to a different global juncture by nowóprovided all countries had stopped population growth. But, with today's sad health of the world's life-support system, major reductions in energy use are imperativeóto the tune of perhaps 80% reduction in fossil fuel use immediately, says the world scientific community working in climate studies. Conservation therefore must be so massive as to render unrecognizable today's unsustainable, highly vulnerable consumer society. This is because global warming is well underway, with decades of future harm already unleashed that will take effect even if greenhouse gas emissions stopped right now.
Yet, the dominating message from the funded environmentalist sector is not that we slash energy use. Only Dick Cheney has been more dismissive of serious conservation. The progressive wing of the status quo pushes adoption of maximum renewable energy as fast as possible, while ignoring (1) the entropy of uncounted billions of gizmos manufactured, and (2) that non-petroleum energy cannot feed billions of people. Any transition from today's agricultural and distributive infrastructure to a sustainable system requires renewable energy, but how much is necessary per capita, and for what population size?
Renewable energy sounds good, but how feasible is it in the aggregate? (Some forms are a net gain in pollution, as in biodiesel.) The information is scanty and looks doubtful. For example, the proponents of renewable energy usually disclose nothing on their technologies' "imbedded energy"óhow much energy (fossil, usually) went into making the solar panels, copper wire, windmill poles, etc. The lack of flexibility of those energy technologies means that we cannot derive multiple fuels and materials out of them, as we get from petroleum (e.g., tires, asphalt, plastics). Again, what could be the population size of the "green consumer economy?"
Perhaps half the world's six billion people are fed via petroleum-oriented agriculture. This is highly unsustainable partly because, aside from the ecological damage, the world is now reaching its peak of oil extraction. This means that the imminent downturn in supplies will only intensify, triggering shortage, as the old growth-economy will never come back.
Other forms of energy cannot substitute for petroleum, partly because the net energy of non-petroleum energy sources is so low, compared to the cheap oil that once came out of new oil wells in the U.S. and is still pumped in much of the Middle East. Despite the petroleum reality facing our overpopulation, many environmentalists and others anticipate massive population growth as inevitable.
Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, DC group with a presence in Johannesburg this week, points out that "Reducing world dependence on fossil fuels before a major crisis forces an unplanned transition should be considered a security priority." However, Worldwatch's basic solution, cleaner energy, has its limitations. Organizations such as Worldwatch over hype renewable energy in an overpopulated world that is not prepared for the end of plentiful petroleum.
The funded environmental movement and the status quo of the current, failing socioeconomic system assumes only the economy's continuity; therefore, they engage in denial of both the petroleum-reality of overpopulation and today's completely unsustainable infrastructure. They should publicly ask, "how big an economy can be supported by what mix of energy technologies, for how long?"
Several august nonprofit/non-industry organizations are capable of quantifying the possible role of renewables. Worldwatch, for one, is responsible enough not to blindly tout more "clean cars" as the main approach to air pollution. Although Worldwatch is unsurpassed in providing crucial, timely detail on the destruction of the planet and positive news such as the number of additional windmills constructed, the group is careful never to publish or analyze the twin realities of (1) overpopulation as having been achieved in the U.S. and elsewhere, and (2) petroleum dependence being so out of control that we are all well over the brink, assuring an historic population crash.
Finally, unless today's life-and-death global issues are heeded as part of a rejection of mainstream, modern materialist culture that relies on exploitation and oppression, a sustainable future is not in the offing. Fortunately, some of the grassroots NGOs understand concepts such as carrying capacity (the number of a given species that a given environment can sustain indefinitely). Such knowledge guides their work and their members' lifestyles. This is a big part of the network of culture changers who take pride in living well on less money, in harmony with nature (almost), while enjoying the conviviality of a closer community within the faltering global ecos which they bravely defend.
For Palestine-Israel negative "development" (effects of war), see http://www.culturechange.org/palestine's_de-development.htm
Visit Ecocity Builders' website: http://www.citizen-planners.org/ecocitybuilders/
For sustainable living strategies, visit the Culture Change website's page on climate protection: http://culturechange.org/global_warming_pledge.html