The impossible can become possible

By Andrea Vasquez

Two great Mother Earth defenders were present on the last day of COP 21 in the public area. They were accompanied by Valerie Cabanes (human rights lawyer), and Gert Peter Brucht (Planete Amazone). The room was packed and it was almost impossible to enter, but thanks to a miracle I found myself in front of Cacique Raoni Metuktire (Kayapó indigenous leader from Brazil) and Paul Watson (president of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, NGO that works to protect marine life and ecosystems). Listening their words of wisdom I was able taste their strength, which made me feel empowered and gave me hope.

Some highlights stated by the panelists in the session were:

  • Because of the vast amounts of international waters that are unseen and unmonitored there is constant abuse and over exploitation of the marine life. Sea Shepherd have implemented a navy of nine ships ocean guardians which constantly navigate around the world intervening about illegal activities.
  • Although there is good legislation that could be useful to care our oceans, there is lack of economic a political motivation to implement them, so the super powers get to do what they want.
  • Land defenders are dying but the news don’t talk about this. Most of media and politics are owned by companies so, we have to force them to serve the people instead. We can’t depend on these guys.
  • In order to start a revolution is needed 7% of the world population that is engaged and committed to change the status quo. However, what is really going to motivate people is when nature start to hit the population harder. We have to do it, otherwise we will die.
  • Promote a biocentric instead of and anthropocentric paradigms.
  • Introduce in the international law system a 5th crime, ecocide. Ecocide refers to the attack against Nature (oceans, tree species, animals, etc). This crime takes place when the living conditions, not just for human beings but for the rest of the creation, are destroyed  during present and future contexts.

Devastation have been created by the course of European companies. Dams are horrendously catastrophic for us, in addition to these dams [other impacts] can be encountered everywhere. This is detrimental for us—Cacique Raoni Metuktire

We need to follow the leadership of indigenous peoples because we already forgot that we are not the center of the creation—Paul Watson

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With Raoni Metuktire

The final message from the panelists was that our governments are not going to do what we need and address the root causes of global warming, so the people have to do it. Although these ideas are not just thoughts discussed by indigenous peoples or organizations that work with social and environmental justice but also within several sessions in the COP 21, not much is reflected on official agreements. As civil society/the people and grassroots movements, there is certainly more work we have to do.

Check The Paris Agreement in the following link  http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

 

Well below 2°C

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Week 2 Delegation

By Niclas Aleff

That’s it! Today is Sunday COP21, possibly one of the most important and game-changing conferences yet, ended yesterday. After two weeks of negotiations 196 parties finally reached on what will be referred to as the Paris agreement. This final Paris agreement is very promising and will hopefully positively influence the nations’ efforts on limiting global warming , as it aims to “[…] holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C […]”. However, this agreement must only be a first step. Many critical issues are still formulated vaguely and almost no binding decisions were stipulated.

I am back at home, summarizing and reflecting the past eight days while daily routine is slowly catching up on me again. The past week in Paris has surely been one of the most intense, educational, and disturbing weeks of my life. In many cases I have for the first time fully understood and comprehended what I’ve only been aware of previously. Being at COP means to be intensively confronted with the same issues and discussions every day and all day. The daily amount of new impressions, experiences, and opinions one is exposed is enormous. I am still overwhelmed and will probably need days, if not weeks to evaluate the past week. During our time at Le Bourget COP was the only news on our minds, no refugees, no war in the middle east, and surely no weather report nor the winning lottery numbers. It’s irritating now, to see climate change being just one of many topics as just a few days ago to us it was the most important and only issue present.

Let’s hope that action will follow words, and the urgency of the issue will be fully understood, acknowledged and eventually will lead to an effective limitation of global warming.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate in and to observe this milestone conference. I hope that you enjoyed reading our blogs and that we were able to give you a brief impression of the atmosphere as well as the issues being discussed, by sharing our thoughts, opinions, and (new) knowledge.

It was a pleasure to be part of a strong IFSA youth involvement at the GLF, and a small but nice IFSA delegation at COP. I’m proud to be part of this organization as it offers young people a wide range of opportunities to broaden their horizons, and meet inspiring youth from all over world!

Nic

PS: Find the Paris agreement here.

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09.pdf

http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09.pdf

Search for Positivity

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Generation Climate entry

By Niclas Aleff

Reading our previous blogs I noticed a lot of negativity, caused by the critical style of writing. There are a lot of things at COP21 that should be questioned and looked at from a critical perspective. However, not everything at COP is bad, and therefore as well as the simple reason that I’m tired of writing about negative topics I went on a mission today: The search for positive topics.

The venue at Le Bourget is subdivided into different areas. Today I exclusively went to the part which is open to the French public, called Climate Generation Area. Even being only a few hundred meters away from the so called Blue Zone, the tents accommodating Climate Generation have their own unique vibe. As soon as I had passed the security check and had entered the big entrance hall I was welcomed by the dances and songs of the “Children of the setting Sun”, a group of young Native Americans from the Lummi tribe. It was a completely different atmosphere to that I had experienced the previous three days. People seemed a lot more relaxed, and less important, yet very interested and curious.

I was very pleased with my first impression and decided to get myself a map of the venue and start exploring the different exhibition rooms. It was a lot of fun to walk from stand to stand, talk to and discuss with people about their projects, heritage, but most importantly their passion. This way I met Tom, an elderly man from California who told me about his NGO, kyotoUSA.org, an organization which helps cities, schools, and communities to develop sustainable strategies to reduce climate altering greenhouse gas emissions. Shortly after having been talking to Tom I

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Grow your own mushrooms

entered what was referred to as the Villa, an apartment which’s interior was mainly consisting of climate smart products largely manufactured from recycled materials. The Villa is run by shamengo.com a website that provides a platform for entrepreneurs from across the globe to promote their inventions and ideas towards a greener and more sustainable world.

By the time I entered the second exhibition room I was already very happy with the day. The conversations I have had and the great activism which I witnessed at Generation Climate was very inspiring and motivating.

The second room wasn’t very different from the previous one, a lot of stands focusing on all different kinds of topics, but there was one

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Smog Tasting

particular stand that arrested my special attention. The stand was part of an art project called “Smog Tasting”. The idea is simple yet brilliant. Artists and workshop participants use egg foams, which consist up to 90% out of air, to capture a sample of the surrounding air. The egg foams absorb not only the air but also all other particular matter in the air like heavy metals and VOCs. These samples have been taken in many places across

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Different smogs to be tasted

the world to taste the air quality. After taking the sample it can either be analyzed in a lab or be baked and served to people, the second option is what they did at their stand. I was so fortunate to try the London Pea-Soup-Smog from 1952, an experience that I would’ve been happy to miss out on. What I really like about this stand is the way arts and sciences are used to emphasize the direct link between pollution and our health.

Summarizing my day, I think I found what I’ve been looking for. The Generation Climate is the complementary other side of COP. The past three days have been very technical and abstract, today was completely different. Instead of high profile politicians, scientists and functionaries, people from across society were the centre of attention, presenting and addressing their solutions, problems and wishes. It was easy to identify oneself with their projects and it was great to see people acting to find small real world solutions to real world problems.

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Men discussing about the most efficient sites to generate energy from renewable sources.

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

Civil society thriving for a better future: Inspiring cases from Argentina and New York

By Andrea Vasquez

Organized grassroots organizations around the world are rising to face of public policies that are benefit big business development, but detrimental to the public and ecosystems that sustain us. One of this movements is the Argentinean Autonomous Workers’ Central Union that started operations in the mid 1990’s to construct a better social model and to address current neoliberal regime and policies in Latin America. In this COP21 they propose non-market solutions to address climate change, new models of development with a just transition, social justice, a dignifying work, just distribution of richness, and a participatory democracy.

Politicians don’t do policies [for the people] anymore, so we need an integrated approach to fight against the “you can’t do it.” Let’s change the system, not the climate — Joaquin Turco

How their work is articulated? This organization works in coalition with other social associations like original nations from Argentina and students associations. The movement it was formed an anti-fracking movement around three axes: (1) Defense of territorial rights, (2) Impacts of fracking in the environment and (3) Energy sovereignty. In order to achieve their objectives, the movement is based pacific and non-violent actions.

Through media companies’ pressure is very strong and it can confuse the citizens and generate an unfair battle — Joaquin Turco

Fossil fuels army has arrived and resistance is futile

Is the exploitation of fossil fuels inevitable? Sandra Steingraber (EcoWatch, Author of Living Downstream) after fighting cancer and succeeding, believes that it is possible. Combining public concern about negative impacts of extractive activities and strong science to back up the struggles is a good combo for a successful strategy.

An extractive company was decided to exploit the rich deposits of fossil fuels under New Yorker bedrock. They were not able to extract a drop! Told us Sandra pride of what her community was able to achieve. By bringing good science into the daily conversation and getting citizens familiarized with the meaning of technical processes and terms and to understand what does fracking really mean (beyond the multimillionaire marketing campaigns) made New Yorkers to become agents of change and gave them hope.

But, where to look for hope in apparently deemed, inevitable, and self-destructive future? Well, Sandra gave us some tips about how and where to get inspiration, motivation, and hope to act and perform our duty as world citizens/ human-beings: look into your own personal history, look for stories about people that stand up and fight, and look in the everyday life actions such a good run with a wonderful sunset.

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From left to right: Joaquin Turco, Kassie Siegel (Moderator), Sandra Steingraber, Wenonah Hauter

 

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

 

COP21 Impressions

By Niclas Aleff

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

Carbon Sequestration, Agriculture and the INDCs; the role of agriculture in the conversation on climate

By Jesse Way

Here in Paris the discussion around how we will limit global temperature rise often focuses on the decarbonization of the energy industry. It is generally accepted here at COP 21 (from nearly every country of the world except Saudi Arabia and those it has been speaking on behalf of) for the need to move from an economy reliant on carbon polluting fossil fuels to one that is based on renewable energy sources. The need for change is acknowledged – the debate here remains more focused on how fast that transition must take place, how much it will cost and who is going to pay for it.

The role of forestry and the need to reduce deforestation is also recognized as our worlds forests play an essential role in sequestering carbon and therefore mitigating the dangerous effects of increasing carbon emissions.

However a third player in this conversation – agriculture – remains for the most part on the sidelines of discussions. How can the sector that is responsible for feeding the world remain such a marginalized component of the conversation? Agriculture, and more particularly small holder farmers and the need to improve their livelihoods, productivity and ecological resilience was a featured topic at this past weekends Global Landscapes Forum but here at COP it is often described only on the fringes of other conversations. We sit here today with not a single instance of the word ‘agriculture’ appearing in the draft agreement.

Although absent from the draft text, over 80% of countries do refer to agriculture in their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions aka how much each country is proposing to cut carbon emissions by). This overwhelming majority of countries mentioning agriculture demonstrates the importance improved methods of food production will play in accomplishing the carbon reduction goals set out by individual countries.

This integral role of agriculture in the conversation on climate was finally made more visible through the side event: ‘Carbon Sequestration, Agriculture and the INDCs: Soils for Food Security and Climate’.

As mentioned agriculture is absent from the Paris draft text agreement released yesterday; food security is mentioned but its role is very much under-appreciated. It was highlighted during the session that there should be as much of a focus on the carbonization of our agricultural systems as there is on the decarbonization of our energy sectors.

The recent launch of the 4p1000 initiative (http://4p1000.org) is a part of the drive to better acknowledge the role of soil carbon sequestration in not only mitigating carbon concentrations in our atmosphere but also increasing the productivity and profitability of agricultural landscapes. The premise is simple: by increasing soil carbon by 0.4% per year in agricultural landscapes we can sequester enough carbon to halt the annual increase of CO2 to our atmosphere.

Agroecological farming practises that lead to increasing soil carbon content are an essential component of achieving global food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as improving the livleihoods of small holder farmers around the world. Through improved pasture grazing, better utilization of cover crops, the addition of perennials into annual crop production, agroforestry practises and other means of more agroecological farming we can not only feed the world but also combat climate change!

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

Is Free Trade Blocking Climate Action?

By Justine Moonens

Yesterday, I went to a panel about climate change and trade. A topic often omitted from the climate talks, but very influential on current and future climate action. In light of the two new trade agreements being negotiated at the moment, TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) this is a very crucial topic to be informed about. These agreements play a key role in constraining the possibilities of governments of developing effective climate policies. Corporate watchdog organisations describe the situation as, « it is either trade agreements or the climate ». The panel consisted of representatives from Global Forest Coalition, Corporate Europe Observatory, Attac France, Friends of the Earth Europe, Sierra Club, AITEC and the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy. The following information is a summary of the panel discussion.

Trade agreements are multilateral agreements that deal with trade barriers. These barriers are financial such as export taxes, but also non-financial, such as environmental regulation, food security standards, etc. These agreements are solely concerned with investor’s rights and most of them give corporations the opportunity to sue governments when they pass regulations that restrict their profits. These cases do not take place in courts, but in investor-state dispute settlements presided by private corporate lawyers. The legal fees for these courts often amount to millions of dollars for countries, even if they win the lawsuit. If they lose, countries have to pay astronomically high fines too. Being threated by such high public costs, countries think twice before passing environmental regulations. And guess who are one of the most fervent users of dispute settlements. Fossil fuel companies indeed. A recent emblematic case is Germany being sued for putting restrictions on coal plants.

Addressing free trade in climate negotiations is crucial for multiple reasons.

  1. It strongly promotes the flow of goods. The more export, the better. Meaning more green house gas emissions from transportation.
  2. Most free trade agreements prohibit differentiating fuels by their carbon content. This means that countries are not able to develop policies that stimulate the use of fuels with low carbon contents. It also restricts countries from having policies that promote local green energy.
  3. Free trade promotes intensive, export-oriented agriculture and works against food security by lowering food safety and environmental standards, and increasing dependency in importing countries. Food security is an important issue in climate negotiations, because climate chaos will cause decreased agricultural yields all over the planet. At the moment food security & agriculture is addressed in 80 % of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’S) countries have prepared for this COP.

While TTIP is being negotiated, it is already blocking future climate action. (Sorry, for who is more interested in TPP. The panel mainly focused on Europe). A few days ago, a memo from the European Commission was leaked, where the EU stated that EU negotiators have to go against any mention of trade in the Paris Agreement. According to Maxime Combes (Attac France), this also blocks the mobilization of finance for mitigation and adaptation, because some financing mechanisms could be a distortion of free market trade. Having effective finance mechanisms within the Paris Agreement is crucial for developing countries to be able to take mitigation and adaptation measures.

TTIP not only blocks climate action, but also hands over a lot of power to corporations. According to Pascoe Sabido (Corporate Europe Observatory) most of TTIP’s content comes directly from business lobby proposals. 92% of the EU commission’s consultations on TTIP were with industry. Here is a quick wish list of TTIP’s biggest lobby group and one of the most regressive anti-climate lobby’s, Business Europe.

  • Stopping environmental policies
  • Stop governments from restricting polluting products
  • Enhance the carbon market (Carbon offsets are a great way for them to keep emitting greenhouse gases)
  • No differentiation in mitigation efforts between developed and developing countries, so that every country stays equally competitive on the market.

Looking at these wishes it is chilling to realise that at the heart of TTIP lies something called ‘regulatory cooperation’. A system that gives corporations from sectors involved in TTIP the ability to comment on new regulations at the regional, national and EU level. TTIP would probably mean the end of Europe strong food standards on GMO’s and additives in animal food. The US has already challenged the EU to court for its food regulations. Ben Lilliston (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy) told that these kinds of trade agreements are a threat for local agriculture. It boosts the use of patenting rights for agricultural seeds, increasing the power biotech companies have over local farmers.

It is also very interesting that climate change and deforestation are never mentioned in World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, which you would expect for being such a big issue and considering the role trade can play in combating climate change and deforestation. Even if, like Mary-Louise Malig (Global Forest Coalition) says, a significant number of UNFCCC negotiators present here in Paris are also involved in WTO negotiations and will fly after COP 21 to Nairobi for a new round of WTO negotiations. In contrast to UN agreements that are weakly to mostly not enforceable, WTO agreements are extremely secretive and enforceable. In my opinion, this fact should really make you think about whom our governments are protecting and being held accountable to. The principle of these two kinds of negotiations is the same: governments from all over the world coming together to make decisions about global issues. One often heard argument for making UN agreements not too legally binding is that this would mean handing over a part of national sovereignty. While, loosing national sovereignty is exactly what mechanism such as regulatory cooperation and investor-state dispute settlements imply.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.