Carbon burning, oceans rising
Though the actual meetings took place in Bonn, Germany, Fiji was the official host of COP23. Fiji, a country made up of 330 small islands in the South Pacific Ocean, claimed it did not have the infrastructure to host such a global encounter. While Germany continues to burn coal and other fossil fuels that produce 53% of its electricity, the 870,000 citizens of Fiji face the deadly wrath of climate change. Heavy flooding and rains are becoming an ever-increasing reality.
One major threat to Fiji and all coastal nations are rising sea levels. Sea levels are currently rising 3.4 mm per year — the fastest rate in over 2,000 years! The immediate cause is additional water added to oceans by melting ice caps, and made worse by the expansion of water as it heats up. But this is all linked to increased GHG emissions from the continued burning of fossil fuels. In July 2017, a gigantic break in Antarctica’s Larson ‘C’ Ice Shelf sent 5,800 square kilometres of ice into the ocean, producing a new iceberg four times the size of London, England. All coastal and island nations, their people and ecosystems, are at great risk as the climate crisis worsens. Efforts to promote food sovereignty and agroecology as a pathway for reducing emissions help to promote justice for the peoples of low-lying nation states, including Fiji.
What is capitalism?
In an open forum during COP22, LVC and ally participants gave short statements defining capitalism. They said that capitalism is …
– a system that goes against collective property, against the collectivity and socialization of the means of production.
– an economic system based on profit that does not take into account general interest.
– not just an economic system but a political system because governments’ policies support accumulation. People are not allowed to decide how to organize production.
– a global system. Capitalists solve their crises by becoming more and more global. They impose exploitation on all people around the world. Capitalist development is not for the nation but for a small group of powerful people.
– individualism and each for their own. In contrast, the people go for solidarity!
– the exploitation of nature. Small farmers do not produce excessive CO2 emissions, capitalist agribusiness does!
– a system where only some members of our community are valued. People are given value based on their location, gender, race, and sexuality. Capitalism creates disposable people.
– a destructive system that forces us to work together to overcome it.
Just Recovery & Just Transition
In the struggle for climate justice, we have so much to learn from one another and even more to do together. Collective action, matured through moments of critical reflection with allied movements and organizations, is creating the conditions for greater and greater convergence. Today, the global struggle for Food Sovereignty has become an integral part of the larger movement for climate justice, just transitions, and just recoveries.
As is described by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJA) in their COP23 Call to Action:
Just Transition is a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy that recognizes the rights of local ecosystems and nature to maintain their vital natural cycles of life. This means approaching production and consumption cycles holistically and waste free. The transition itself must be just and equitable; redressing past harms, ecological restoration and creating new relationships of power for the future through reparations. If the process of transition is not just, the outcome will never be. Just Transition describes both where we are going and how we get there.
Just Recovery is a visionary framework promoted by environmental justice and labor communities for recovery efforts during moments of climate disasters. A Just Recovery calls for not restoring the same level of failing and extractive fossil fuel and extreme energy infrastructure, but instead follows the leadership of frontline communities in defining what kind of recovery they need, and takes the opportunity for rebuilding post-disaster to transition and secure renewable energies and regenerative economies that can create jobs, protect the environment, and lead to resilient communities.
When the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance released the “We Are Mother Earth’s Red Line” report, outlining 5 core weaknesses about the global climate agreement:
1. The Agreement relies on voluntary versus mandatory emission cuts that do not meet targets scientists say are necessary to avoid climate catastrophe.
2. The Agreement advances pollution trading mechanisms that allow polluters to purchase “offsets” and continue extremely dangerous levels of emissions.
3. The Agreement relies on dirty energies and false promises including hydraulic fracturing (fracking), nuclear power, agro-fuels, carbon capture and sequestration and other technological proposals that pose serious ecological risks.
4. The operating text of the Agreement omits any mention of human rights or the rights of Indigenous Peoples and women.
5. The Agreement weakens or strips the rights of reparations owed to the Global South by the Global North.
The United Nations own analysis of the pledges made by countries of the world in adopting the Paris Agreement in 2015 assesses that these pledges are likely to still lead to global temperature increases of nearly 3 degrees celsius over the coming century. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) found that even if every country that made an emissions-cutting pledge in the Paris Agreement keeps its promise, the world will still fall 12 to 14 gigatons short each year of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels.
Just Transition solutions, including models of Food Sovereignty, Sustainable Housing and Energy Democracy, are where we are seeing inspiring campaigns that refuse the false choice between economic development and the protection of land, water, the health of Mother Earth, and the health of our communities. Just Transition also recognizes that Nature’s needs are also our own and must be elevated and protected by legal rights, and maintained through life-sustaining systems of exchange and reciprocity.
To learn more visit Grassroots Global Justice Alliance.
Geoengineering: new threats to food sovereignty
One of the most dangerous proposals around climate change is called geoengineering: the large-scale manipulation of the global climate by technological means to counteract the symtoms of climate chaos.
Behind the geoengineering proposals exists a confluence of interests, among them powerful industries and military forces. For countries and their transnational corporations with high levels of carbon emissions, geoengineering appears as a “technological solution” which would permit them to continue emitting greenhouse gases while doing more business — selling technologies for lowering the temperature or remove and store carbon.
Geoengineering means using technological means to intervene in terrestrial ecosystems, oceans and the atmosphere. In some cases to block or reflect part of the light from the sun which arrives to the Earth and so lower the temperature, in others to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the sea floor or in the soil. It also includes techniques to manipulate the local and regional climate such as cloud seeding and other proposals to redirect or dissolve hurricanes. All the proposals have serious environmental, social and geopolitical impacts. None of them are directed at changing the causes of climate change — if they work it would be only to manage the symptoms. Climate change will continue to increase, because geoengineering creates captive markets.
One proposal very commonly discussed among geoengineers is to create a huge artificial volcanic-type cloud over the Arctic by injecting sulphates into the stratosphere in order to block the light from the sun. According to scientific studies this could lower the temperature but also unbalance winds and rains in the southern hemisphere, disturbing the monsoon in Asia, producing droughts in Africa and increasing floods in Latin America, threatening water sources and the food supplies of millions of people. There would also be the need to continue injecting sulphites for an unspecified amount of time because if interrupted temperatures would rise rapidly and the impacts would be even harder to deal with than before the process was started. In spite of these enormous risks, the geoengineering program of Harvard University in the United States is already planning experiments in Arizona, in indigenous territories.
Another of the techniques being promoted — especially since the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change — is the so called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), and Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). CCS is a technology invented by the oil industry in order to extract oil from extreme depths. Pressurized Carbon Dioxide is injected in order to push out the oil, with the CO2 theoretically remaining at the bottom. The oil industry stopped using the technique (originally called Enhanced Oil Recovery) because it was not financially viable. However, if now there are subsidies and payments available for “sequestering” and storing carbon dioxide, they can create a circular business: they can extract more oil, making increased profits — in spite of being one of the principle culprits of climate change.
Even more perverse is the proposal Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). This involves enormous plantations of trees and crops to capture carbon while they grow, and then burn them to produce bioenergy, while burying the carbon produced by the combustion using CCS systems. To maintain the temperature below 2 degrees by 2100 with BECSS, it would be necessary to plant between 500 million and 6,000 million hectares of industrial monocultures, the impact of which would be devastating. Currently all the land cultivated in the world is around 1,500 million hectares. Obviously BECSS would compete with the production of food, with indigenous territories, with nature reserves and so on.
Even if BECSS in unviable, there are governments and businesses which promote it in order to “comply” with the Paris Agreement and to obtain carbon credits, with which the dispute for land and water, the threats and violence used to displace peasant farmers and indigenous peoples from their land, will only increase.
Geoengineering projects are so full of risk and potential impacts on the environment, indigenous peoples and peasant farmers that the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) decreed a moratorium on their use. However, the industries and governments that stand to make profits from climate change continue to promote their use.
Given the grave threats to Food Sovereignty, peasant life and cultures, indigenous peoples, the environment and biodiversity, it is crucial that movements and social organisaitons reject any experiment or proposal of geoengineering and fight for their complete prohibition.
More information on geoengineering and its impacts: Silvia Ribeiro, Grupo ETC, here.