The UN Climate Change Conference, officially the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, closed its 14-day meeting in Lima, Peru, late Dec. 14, two days after its scheduled end. The 196 parties to the UNFCCC approved a draft of a new treaty, to be formally approved next year in Paris, and to take effect by 2020. An earlier draft was rejected by developing nations, who accused rich bations of dodging their responsibilities to fight climate change and pay for its impacts. Peru's environment minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who chaired the summit, told reporters: "As a text it's not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties." Friends of the Earth's Asad Rehman took a darker view: "The only thing these talks have achieved is to reduce the chances of a fair and effective agreement to tackle climate change in Paris next year. Once again poorer nations have been bullied by the industrialized world into accepting an outcome which leaves many of their citizens facing the grim prospect of catastrophic climate change." (BBC News, ENS, Dec. 14)
On Dec. 3, a group of Shuar indigenous women from Ecuador's Amazon arrived in Quito to demand an investigation in the death of community leader José Tendetza Antún, who was planning on travelling to Peru for the Lima climate summit this month to press demands for cancellation of a mining project. Tendetza represented that Shuar community of Yanúa, El Pangui canton, Zamora Chinchipe province (see map). He disappeared Nov. 28 while on his way to discuss the mine matter with officials in the town of Bomboíza. The community launched a search, and his body was found Dec. 2 by local gold-miners. But the remains were turned over directly to the authorities, and quickly buried. Shuar leaders are demanding they be exhumed, and an autopsy conducted. Shuar leader Domingo Ankuash said based on what the miners said, he believes Tendetza had been beaten to death, and perhaps tortured.
Following weeks of secret negotiations, the US and China on Nov. 12 announced a new agreement to reduce greenhouse gas output. Under the pact, the US seeks to reduce emissions up to 28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. This new goal is up from a previous target to cut emissions 17% by 2020, from 2005 levels. China did not set a specific target, but said CO2 emissions would peak by 2030. That year was also set by China for a 20% increase in the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption. The agreement marks the first time that China, now the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, has pledged to cap its emissions. The two countries together produce about 45% of the world's carbon dioxide, although the US produces far more than China in per capita terms.
Amid the current UN climate talks and massive march for action on climate change in New York City, the New York Times runs an oh-so-naughty op-ed by Nadine Unger, an assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry at Yale, entitled "To Save the Planet, Don't Plant Trees." Now, if she had reversed the title as "Don’t Plant Trees To Save the Planet," she might have had a bit of a case. We ourselves reject the "carbon trading" scam that gives corporations a license to pollute if they plant trees—despite the fact that they often don't even plant the trees, but just grab forested lands from indigenous peoples, and (worse) the burninng of fossil fuels releases carbon that had been more thoroughly "locked" than that in trees, which do eventually die and rot. This is indeed a point that "carbon trading" and "biofuels" boosters seek to obfuscate. But this is not Unger's point. Instead, she is literally loaning legitimacy to Reaganoid nonsense that "trees cause pollution." To wit:
For the first time, the US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to limit emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The response has been predictable. Environment News Service notes: "Democrats and public health and environmental groups rejoiced in the proposal of a measure they have advocated for years to fight climate change, but Republicans cried doom, warning that the rule would destroy the American economy." The New York Times writes: "[E]nvironmental advocates praised the proposed rule for its breadth and reach while the coal industry attacked it as a symbol of executive overreach that could wreak economic havoc." The Daily Beast's Jason Mark dubbed the program "Obamacare for the Air" because both plans are "numbingly complex," "based on a market system," "likely to transform a key sector of the economy," and "guaranteed to be intensely polarizing." In other words, a market-based plan is being attacked by the right as green totalitarianism. This would be perverse enough if the plan's goals were anywhere close to sufficient to actually address the climate crisis—which, again predictably, they are not.
The state government of Chiapas, Mexico, has cancelled a controversial forest protection plan that critics said failed to address the root causes of deforestation and could endanger the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples. The program is linked to California's cap-and-trade program through a complex "carbon offset" scheme that has yet to see the light of day. Carlos Morales Vázquez, the state's environment secretary, on July 8 told the Chiapas daily El Heraldo that the UN initiative that provided the model for the pact, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), "was an utter failure, and the program is cancelled."
Reprisals are feared in a sensitive part of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest following an attack by "uncontacted" tribesmen in which two members of the Waorani indigenous people were killed March 5. According to a preliminary investigation by the Orellana province public prosecutor's office, the victims were speared to death while walking near their village of Yarentaro, located along the Maxus Oil Road—within both Yasuní National Park, and the Bloc 16 oil exploration division, being developed by Repsol. The victims were identified as a Waorani elder and his wife. A statement by the Organization of the Waorani Nationality of Orellana (ONWO) said the attackers were from an isolated band of the Tageiri-Taromenane, which has long had territorial disputes with the closely related Waorani. The Taromenane are said to be a branch of the Waorani who spurned contact with evangelical missionaries in the 1950s by retreating deeper into the forest, and now roam the interior Yasuní as nomads.
Well, we're back online after four days of the electricity being out in Lower Manhattan, and our rage level is even higher than usual. Where to even begin? For starters, with the most obvious reality. This blogger is 50 years old and grew up in New York City. Never in my life have I experienced a storm of anywhere near this magnitude (actually prompting the mayor to announce a "mandatory evacuation" of low-lying areas) until Hurricane Irene last year—and now it just happened again, even worse (much worse) one year later with the Hurricane Sandy "Frankenstorm." Pretty ominous evidence that something is way out of wack.