Montreal, Canada - Intern from UNAC, working on CivWA
CIVICUS World Assembly
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is an international alliance of members and partners which constitutes an influential network of organisations at the local, national, regional and international levels and spans the spectrum of civil society <a>more</a>
Looking forward to keeping up with the CIVICUS Assembly 2011 online since I can’t be there. It’s harder to approach December’s COP 17 in Durban with the same optimism.
In three months time there will be another talkfest, better known as a meeting of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres is trying to be upbeat after the frustrations of Copenhagen and Cancun:
A record rise in global greenhouse emissions and ever tighter economic constraints make it crucial for United Nations climate talks in South Africa in November to overcome years of deadlock and deliver a solution, the U.N.’s climate chief told Reuters.
… Figueres said governments were very much “on track” to deliver on the main commitments agreed at a Mexico summit last year, related to finance, technology and adaptation measures.
Another important climate change meeting will be taking place at the same time: the Climate Communications Day, Addressing Climate Change with Innovation and Information, hosted by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED):
Climate change has been and remains a difficult topic to communicate. The science behind it is complex. The global scale and long-term nature of its impacts make it difficult to report on at the local level. Even extreme weather events, scientists insist, cannot be specifically ascribed to climate change, although many such events are likely to be impacted by it. And the future consequences, although likely dire, remain shrouded in varying degrees of uncertainty.
Add in the difficulty of preventing climate change - the frustration of individuals or even countries who may feel their efforts have little impact on this global threat, and the lack of political progress toward a strong international treaty - which tends to generate apathy - and the challenge of communicating climate change in an appealing way to wide audiences becomes clear.
Meanwhile if you have any questions about the science, there is an online roster of experts available for interviews with journalists, Climate Change Media Partnership .
A video about the threat facing Kiribati from rising sea levels, by Lauren Day from the UTS (University of Technology, Sydney):
From the Walkley Foundation’s Awards for Australian Journalism:
Our congratulations to Lauren Day (UTS), the 2011 Media Super Student Journalist of the Year!
Judges felt that Lauren’s television feature story, We are not refugees - about rising sea levels and the effects of climate change on the people of Kiribati, was an impressive piece of journalism. They said it was an excellent example of multi-skilling and initiative, as well as being well researched, nicely shot and beautifully told.
From Rich Bowden, of theangle.org, ‘independent Australasian news and analysis’:
A key report released yesterday by the Australian Government’s Climate Commission has served a grim warning to coastal regions of Western Australia about the effects of climate change. The Critical Decade study has singled out coastal areas such as Mandurah, Busselton, Rockingham and Bunbury as being most under threat of flooding and coastal erosion.
The commission found that sea levels were rising at twice the global average with sea temperatures also increasing.
It noted that the south west of the country had experienced a 15 per cent reduction in rainfall since the 1970s, a trend which if it continues, will have a major influence on Perth’s water supply and that of the south west farming region.
On another media matter, I would greatly appreciate your support to be part of a media panel at the New News Conference at the Melbourne Writers Festival next week. Mark Scott (Managing Director of ABC), Greg Hywood (CEO of Fairfax Media) and Sophie Black (Editor of Crikey) will discuss issues with media, journalism and the coverage of politics in news.
The person with the most votes at Our Say for their question of the Australian Media Leaders panel will join them. It would be good to have an activist blogger and citizen journalist as part of the event.
As well as COP17, the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa in late November this year, there is another opportunity for young activists to be involved in shaping their future:
Agents of Change (AoC) is now accepting applications to join the SustainUS youth delegation to The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), which will be held at the in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 4-6 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Rio + 20 is envisaged as a Conference at the highest possible level, including Heads of State and Government or other representatives. The Conference will result in a focused political document. The objective of the Conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges. The Conference will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development. Apply now to attend the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development!
The deadline is very close but don’t be put off. Applications must be received by 5pm EST August 19, 2011.
Please spread the word, especially to young people from the developing world who may be either studying or working in the U.S for six months, or youth who have U.S. citizenship.
Some excellent news amidst all the gloom lately. Introducing the Activista Blogger Swarm:
Today we announce the names of 10 Global Voices bloggers and 11 activists who will be working together virtually over the next months as part of a new mentoring initiative developed by Global Voices and Activista, the youth network of international development organization, ActionAid.
It is my pleasure and privilege to be mentoring one of the bloggers, Benadette Chandia Kodili, from Uganda. Kodili’s first post on the Swarm is not about climate change or the food crisis but another aspect of food altogether:
For a moment I wished people who are out there advocating for women’s rights were here to witness this magical moment: we were being served by an African man as the women looked on!
It may be a small gesture, but for those who know how women have always been treated in most African traditions, men as the boss and women as servants. This moment was precious. What makes a man a real man?
Please support the Activistas by reading and joining in their conversations.
It is well known and confirmed by the IPCC in all of its assessments that small island developing states (SIDS) – whether located in the tropics or higher latitudes – have characteristics that make them especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. These characteristics include their limited size, geographical dislocation, proneness to natural hazards and external shocks, high exposure of population and infrastructure and limited adaptive capacity. The vulnerabilities resulting from these characteristics are exacerbated by the effects of climate change – which include rising seas, acidification of oceans, coral bleaching, coastal erosion, flooding, loss of fresh water supplies, biodiversity loss and more frequent and intense weather events, including hurricanes.
Significant and sometimes severe impacts are already being experienced by small islands. Coral bleaching has already led to a loss of about 16 percent of the world’s coral reefs, with adverse effects on many islands. Intense tropical cyclones have become more frequent and stronger, and have caused much damage in the Pacific and Caribbean. Kiribati and the Maldives have already lost some of their islands to rising waters, and land losses have been reported in other Pacific Island countries as well as in the Caribbean. Shoreline erosion and flooding has caused major damage to roads, public utilities and households, and salt water damage to agricultural crops and fresh water lens has caused severe food and fresh water shortages in a number of low-lying islands.
These impacts are predicted to intensify and worsen rapidly in coming decades. Sea levels will rise, compounding the effects of more intense tropical storms, and threatening the territorial integrity and stability of political boundaries of many countries. In some cases the very existence of countries is in doubt. A recent submission by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to the UNFCCC indicated that a number of SIDS are now under threat of ‘statelessness’, a situation which may occur long before rising seas overtop the land.
At the recent UN climate meeting in Bonn, the commitments made after Cancun were questioned by developing countries:
One negotiator with the G77 group of developing countries, who asked to remain nameless, said: “We are battered by adverse impacts of climate change. Frontline states face a double crunch of climate heat and poverty. But even the fast-start finance agreed at Cancún has yet to reach the climate-marooned tens of millions people across Asia, Africa and Latin America. The money should be rolled out much more quickly.” Bonn climate talks: Developing nations question funding commitment
There has been some recent good news from Australia in supporting small island nations:
Aid to Africa and the Middle East and the small island nations of the pacific are in for a big boost.
If the world manages to achieve the kind of international agreement that is needed on global warming, it could be down to the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a physicist. According to Professor Hans Joachin Schellnhuber, she even understands some of the mathematics.
The Critical Decade, the keynote address for the FOUR DEGREES OR MORE? Australia in a Hot World conference, was not all doom and gloom but it is difficult to recall the optimistic bits.
The Professor maintains there is “something revolutionary happening in Germany”. It has taken a U-turn on nuclear power as the answer to reducing carbon emissions but “will honour its climate protection pledges” through renewable energy and other measures. He hopes this “post fossil-fuel/nuclear era” will be a step in the transition to a low carbon world.
He stressed the pressures on traditional democracy. We need to “extend or even transcend traditional democratic processes” to take into account the interests of “the generations not yet born …across space and time”.
He stressed that these processes must be “guided by insight” - in particular the insight of science but also of economics.
He presented a number of tipping point scenarios, some involving runaway greenhouse dynamics that 4+ degrees could bring:
Collapse of the Greenland Ice Sheet
Methane Hydrates release
Each of these would be irreversible in the short term. He was talking about 1000+ years.
In response to audience questions, he contended that use of natural gas is the best transition but not for the long run without capture and storage by carbon sequestration. He also sees use of biomass as part of the solution. His view on the future of nuclear energy is that it is too expensive if all the real costs are taken into consideration.
If “generational” democracy is the key to embracing real action, the preponderance of baby boomers at the address is a major concern. Gen X and Y - where are you?
PM Gillard launches the Clean Energy Future website
Photo: Clean Energy Future
Australians remain divided after Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement of a Clean Energy package with a carbon price of $A 23 per tonne and an emissions trading scheme from 2015. Crikey had an early summary. The local blogosphere was quick off the mark.
Jeremy Sear of An Onymous Lefty laid on his customary sarcasm in THE CARBON TAX THAT WILL DOOM US ALL. His target was Tony Abbott, the leader of the Opposition Coalition parties that strongly oppose the plan:
Worst of all, how unfair is it for the government to finally release the details of the carbon price package and undermine Tony Abbott’s ability to completely make stuff up about it?
Of course I knew the announcement was coming but to find out the details of the proposal –in the link - and to hear such a clear and eloquent defence of the proposal from both was exciting. It is a political statement as well as an important application of the principle that markets are the best way of addressing carbon pollution problems. After a series of meandering twists Labor has finally got to the point it should have been at a year ago. Congratulations to all those who contributed to this outcome.
Open Your Eyes found lots to rail against in its Editorial:
Bureaucracy will flourish as reams of pencil pushers calculate a web of tax and rebates.
That Goldman Sachs and their friends in the banking work will ultimately profit massively as the scheme moves into carbon trading, which is due to commence within 3 years, and if ultimately brought in worldwide will lead to the creation of a market, according to the Wall Street Journal to be worth $US 3 trillion per year.
And that despite all the tax, the impoverishment for most, and profit for a few, the world’s climate will not be affected a jot.
Chris White, ‘Blogging from a life-long unionist’ is an advocate of a carbon tax, but wanted more action from his own political party:
It is a historic step forward for Australia to be finally taking action to price carbon. The time for talking is over as the damaging impacts of global warming become ever more apparent. By acting to reduce emissions, the politics of delay and denial will become a historic relic.
However the long delay in acting makes our challenge today bigger and more urgent than ever. The aspirations of the carbon pricing scheme are low in comparison with what the science community tells us we need to do to avoid great damage to Australia’s economy, our environment, and the way we live.
…So how does our 160 million tonnes reduction compare to China’s annual production of CO2? China produces 7,031 million tonnes of CO2 per annum. Thats 2.2 per cent of Chinas output. So if China increases it output by the same amount it did in 2010, by ten percent, the 160 million tonnes of Carbon Dioxide saved by Australia will be replaced by China in 3 months.
Billions of dollars in extra burdens on Australian workers, industry and consumers to be replaced by China in three months.
The Twitter tag #CP topped the OZ Trends. There was lots of Retweeting including this one by @dannolan who was busy during and after the media conference with quite a turn of phrase:
You can’t spell ‘carbon tax’ without SOCIALIST EUGENICS-LADEN MALTHUSIAN DEATH-PACT #cp
Speaking recently about his 2011 Update to the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review for the Australian government, Ross Garnaut argued that:
Australia is also very vulnerable because, of all the developed countries, we are located in a region of developing countries. Developing countries are going to have especially large challenges in adapting to climate change. The problems of our neighbours will become our problems.
The list of challenges in our region is a long one. Small Island States such as Tuvalu and Kiribati face possible annihilation from rising sea levels. Highly populous nations such as Bangladesh are not only vulnerable to higher sea levels but also the likelihood of more extreme weather events such as cylcones, floods and droughts. Food insecurity and increased poverty are inextricably linked to the climate change threats.
At a Make Poverty History Electoral Forum last year my local Federal Member of the House of Representatives and Opposition Shadow Finance Minister, Andrew Robb responded a question about whether Australia has an obligation to put forward a climate refugee policy. The first part of his answer was fairly bland:
If there are smaller Pacific nations that find themselves (sic) with problems in terms of rising sea levels, then the Aid budget going to those countries should be a priority.
Easy stuff, given that his side of politics opposes climate action such as a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme. His following remarks picked up a populist theme with much more contentious elements:
But it’s not just climate refugee policy, it’s also security policy. If what some people suggest is likely to happen, we could have millions and millions of people in the region, tens of millions who are homeless. We couldn’t cope with tens of millions.
Robb is, of course, referring to border protection and defence implications of climate change. The 19th and 20th Century fear of ‘Asian hordes’ still resonates in parts of the Australian community. The current debate about asylum seekers, so-called boat-people, is a modern example of this.
The Gillard Labor government is set to announce its carbon pricing and emissions trading scheme tomorrow. It is a hot topic to say the least. The following is a post from one of my blogs:
Thank goodness the carbon price phoney war is nearly over. Hopefully fear will be replaced with facts after the government’s Sunday announcement of their carbon emissions scheme.
The Federal Opposition has a lot to answer for. Tony Abbott’s partisan performance over carbon pricing reflects the quality of his leadership, rather than that of the economists he attacked recently. He has been busy bad mouthing them in a manner reminiscent of his calling climate science ‘crap’. He has been prepared to say and do whatever will help him to gain power.
It is a great shame that Australia’s response to the climate change challenge has become centred on ideological positioning by opportunist Abbott and populists such as Barnaby Joyce and Alan Jones.
The same is not the case in the United Kingdom where both sides of politics accept that the science is in and urgent action is necessary. The Department of Energy and Climate Change website has an unequivocal warning about greenhouse gas emissions: ‘Unless action is taken to reduce GHG emissions, there is a high risk of global warming well beyond a 2°C increase since pre-industrial times. This would have significant impact and could lead to severe, and possibly irreversible, damage to ecosystems and natural processes’.
The world is in the process of choosing its climate future and all governments must be held accountable for real, substantial action not just rationalisations that can be sold to the voters. That includes our own governments, including the State level. The choices we make should not be based on misinformation, deliberate sowing of confusion or economic fear mongering.
Our current situation is beyond reasonable doubt: the world is warming, humans are major contributors through greenhouse gas emissions, the consequences will be serious and for some catastrophic, the international community is taking action. In addition a low carbon economy, rather than being a drag on Australia’s prosperity, promises a more healthy nation in many senses of the word.
Ross Garnaut, who recently attacked the mainstream media for their ‘crude’ and ‘distorting’ coverage, is one of the presenters. It will be interesting to see what coverage they give his and other contributions to the ongoing policy debate. Keynote speaker Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Chair of the German Government’s Advisory Council on Global Change and other international contributors, should bring some very welcome sober and rational perspectives.
Let’s hope that Garnaut and his fellow presenters get the amount of coverage that the Lord Monckton generates with his attention-seeking travelling circus. It’s more hope than expectation based on the last couple of years of media mischief.
It’s hard to find the progress they talk about: little chance of a future for the Kyoto Protocol after 2012; nothing concrete about the Green Fund; not even a venue or date for the next preparatory meeting before UN climate summit in Durban South Africa in late November.
Negotiations made “clear advances” on such issues as extending carbon trading mechanisms, climate fund management and slowing deforestation
A mechanism to boost global green technology sharing was approved,which will include a Climate Technology Center and Network to establish a worldwide clean technology stakeholder community.
Strong convergence emerged on how the Adaptation Committee will be governed, what its composition will be and what its specific role will be. It could be operational by Durban.
Well worth reading the full post and following his links. His concluding comments:
I have an admiration for the stance taken by the Plurinational State of Bolivia, which gave a 25-minute evaluation of the conference. In short, Ambassador Pablo Solon said there had been no progress on the main substantive issue of the emissions pledges from the developed countries. In fact in some cases their efforts are deteriorating. On the other hand there seems great enthusiasm for extending market mechanisms. There is more interest in making money rather than in the science. In general, Bolivia is opposing the commodification of nature and insisting on the recognition of natural limits.
Interestingly, he doesn’t feel alone. He has plenty of friends in the corridor if not on the conference session floor.
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is an international alliance of members and partners which constitutes an influential network of organisations at the local, national, regional and international levels and spans the spectrum of civil society. Visit the World Assembly site