Briefing 12 – What is the COP?

Our latest briefing (number 12) explains what COP 26 is and discusses some of the issues that it raises. Like all our briefings it’s designed for downloading, sharing and distributing in workplaces and community settings.

What is the COP?

COP stands for ‘conference of the parties’.  Organised by the United Nations, it’s normally held on an annual basis and it is the place where the nations of the world come together to discuss policy on climate action.   So to give it its’ full title COP26 is the 26th annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

COP 26 was due to take place in Glasgow in November 2020. However, the actual event is always preceded by a number of inter-governmental meetings.  These have not taken place because of the global pandemic and as a result it has been postponed until 2021.  The new date is not yet known.  At the moment Glasgow is still expected to be the venue. 

A history of failure

The first COP was held in 1995 in Berlin.  It has taken place every year since then. 2020 will be the first year that a COP has been postponed.  In terms of making an impact on greenhouse gas emissions the COPs have been an abject failure. The two most common greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane.  When COP 25 took place in Madrid at the end of 2019 the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen 67 parts per million by volume (ppmv) above what it was when the first COP met in Berlin. To put this in perspective CO2 levels increased by more during the 25 years of COP discussions than they had in the previous 200 years.  Methane levels have tripled since 1995.  Greenhouse gases act like an insulating blanket over the earth’s atmosphere and are responsible for rising global temperatures.   So the massive increase in the amount of these gases in the atmosphere is the reason why the climate crisis is now acute and why rapid action to cut emissions is so important.

The Paris Agreement of 2015

Back in 2015 the COP (21) took place on Paris.  The conference ended with an agreement that has since been ratified by 189 out of the 197 countries that participated (The Paris Agreement).  Ratification committed countries to developing plans that would curtail global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees centigrade.  Those who have not ratified include some important oil producers.  Moreover, the USA ratified under Obama but has now withdrawn.  

In principle ratifying the Paris Agreement commits countries ‘to put forward their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead.’  The reality has been that progress has been negligible.  The agreement is essentially voluntary and avoids specific targets.  Patrick Bond notes the ‘Agreement’s lack of ambition, the nonbinding character of emission cuts, the banning of climate-debt (‘polluter pays’) liability claims, the reintroduction of market mechanisms, the failure to keep fossil fuels underground, and the inability to lock down three important sectors for emissions cuts: military, maritime transport and air transport.

Paris 2015- the big demonstration defies a police ban – image by Pete Cannell

COP 26

Along with committing countries to regular reporting on progress the Paris Agreement also scheduled 2020 and COP26 as a major milestone at which all the countries would need to assess progress.  Had the COP gone ahead in November an honest assessment could only have been that the Paris Agreement has been a failure.  The failure will have intensified by the time COP26 takes place in 2021.  No one should have high expectations that COP26 will take action to address this failure but it is an important opportunity for the climate movement to hold the rulers of the world to account.  Success for our side must mean a bigger, stronger, better-rooted movement that develops the strength to insist that governments take action.  

COP fault lines

The COP is dominated by the big powers.  So in the negotiations there are sharp divisions between the major industrial nations that are responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions and the global south, which endures the biggest impact of climate change.  These divisions were much in evidence at COP 25 in Madrid.  At the COPs and in the run up to them there is also a great deal of activity from non-state organisations.  Businesses, NGOs and union federations lobby before the event and can obtain credentials that enable them to be within the main conference areas.  There is of course a huge imbalance in resources between the corporate lobbyists and the climate campaigners.  Groups that represent women, indigenous people and poor people struggled to have their voices heard within the conference – indeed in Madrid some were excluded for holding a peaceful protest.  The climate movement is mostly excluded from the conference zone by barricades and police; we make our case on the streets and in meetings and the counter summit.  This will be the case in Glasgow.

Cop 25 in Madrid – image from Wikimedia Commons

Why should we organise for the COP?

From the start the COP process has operated within the domain of market economic orthodoxy.  Crudely it has assumed that market forces will drive a move towards less carbon intensive technologies and hence reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  There have indeed been significant developments in sustainable technologies – particularly wind and solar.  And yet at the same time the big energy companies have also pursued a ruthless drive to exploit new hydrocarbon resources in a way that is completely incompatible with even the most modest targets for limiting global warming.   

COP 26 will take place in 2021 in the economic and social aftershocks of a global lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Mobilising for the COP is necessary because the event will be the occasion for a huge onslaught of ‘greenwashing’, aimed at persuading us all that the leaders of the world know best, and that the market, ‘business as usual’, can protect us.  Now more than ever we know that ‘business as usual’ is not simply ineffective in face of global crisis, it costs lives.  So building for mass protest in Glasgow is necessary, but is only part of the ongoing struggle to win a just transition to a people centred zero carbon economy.   

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From an activist perspective, looking beyond COP 25

Pedro Perez is a climate justice activist with a background in Human Rights and working with indigenous  Communities in Latin America.   He was in Madrid for COP 25 – in this article he reflects on the recent COP and considers the implications for COP26 in Glasgow.

This paper is a reflection of my experience during COP25 in Madrid:

COP 25 will go down in history as one of the most inconsequential conferences on climate change. A summit characterized by disagreements, a lack of consensus, and no significant agreements being reached to respond to the climate crisis. Civil society and social organizations that demanded climate justice and more action from industrialized countries, could not hide their disappointment and frustration at the end of the summit. There were those who considered COP 25 as shameful, while others described it as a failure.

The outcome of COP 25 is yet another reflection of how these large conferences have been organized and managed. Hosted by the United Nations, they are under the leadership of the countries of the global north and in part are financed with funds from large corporations.

The domination of the industrialized countries is clearly evident; they are the ones who lead and benefit from the summits. In practical terms, it could be said that COP 25 was a failure because significant agreements were not reached to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. From a media perspective, the summit represented a success for industrialized countries and large corporations, which, exercising control over the media, used them to greenwash their image and continue to manipulate society with false messages. They took advantage of the summit, as a sporsor, to give the impression they are committed to respecting the environment and nature while their economic activities continue to destroy the planet, causing climate, social and economic injustice.

Corporations such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, the energy sector and the financial world welcomed COP25. This double standard was evident in some of the publications (newspapers) on COP25 financed by Spanish corporations in the energy sector and distributed free of charge. Articles on climate change, had adverts from a travel company offered discounts on airline tickets. In another, Coca-Cola subtly transferred to the consumers of its products, the responsibility of recycling the millions of plastic bottles that the company produces every day.

At the initiative of Spain, COP25 was divided into two Zones, next to each other: the Blue and Green. zones. The Blue Zone was reserved for meetings of the scientific community, politicians and representatives of countries, corporations and, as observers, the accredited civil society. It is here that the countries of the global north and corporations assert their interest by creating powerful lobbies, which divides and creates blocks of countries, making it difficult to reach consensus and agreements on fundamental issues.

The Green Zone was a space open to the public in which Spain wanted to facilitate the participation of civil society from the global south and north and create a space to raise awareness and promote education on environmental issues related to climate change. However, the sponsors also had space here and took advantage to greenwash their image and present themselves as the standard bearers of innovation, science, transferable technology, capacity building and nature-based solutions. To show themselves as the leaders of the growing renewable energy market in the context of the neoliberal capitalist economic model which is beginning to be monopolized by energy corporations. That was a priority for Spain and an important area of ​​the Green Zone was used for that purpose.

In the Green Zone, social issues such as environmental justice and the agenda of the peoples of the global south were secondary, consigned to the background. While for example, the indigenous representatives of Chile, the host country, did have a presence here, it was not the most appropriate space to address the agenda of indigenous communities in any meaningful depth.

Spain’s lack of genuine interest in the agenda of the peoples of the global south and the demands of the movements and social organizations of the global north, led to the organization of a counter-summit, an alternative summit, the Social Summit with the support of environmentalists. The UGT union and the Complutense University of Madrid provided the spaces for it to take place.

The Social Summit for Climate convened a large demonstration in which thousands of people took to the streets of Madrid. It was attended by the Indigenous “Minga”, young people inspired by Greta Thunberg, human rights defenders, activists of the ecological movements and civil disobedience platforms, like Extinction Rebellion. The purpose was to draw the attention of governments and corporations, to the urgent need to assume a change in attitude and behavior, so that they recognize and assume responsibilities for the climate crisis that is caused by their economically motivated destructive activities. With a demand for environmental justice.

In the alternative summit they discussed among other issues: the causes that are giving rise to the climate crisis; the hidden face of the energy transition – the increase in the damaging extraction of the natural resources necessary for renewable technologies. The oil and gas fracking that remain the cheapest options to maintain economic “growth” and unlimited “progress”. False solutions such as carbon markets and REDDs; the neoliberal, patriarchal and neo-colonial capitalist economic model responsible for the environmental crisis, in which the solutions offered in the Blue and Green zones disastrously remain.

The alternative summit, which did not attract the attention of the official media, in practical terms was a success. Being a space for meeting and exchanging experiences, living together and joining the bonds of solidarity between the movements of the South and the global north. Strengthening the cohesion of the social movement that is growing significantly globally. A space for initiatives, of new plans and strategies to promote more ambitious actions ahead of COP26.

COP 26, Glasgow 2020 will have to assume the climatic emergency; pay attention to the gap between the global north and the global south that is widening significantly; respond to the social movement that is growing globally and that demands social justice and a more ambitious action to face the climatic emergency.

While the topics that will occupy the official agenda of the COP26, will be marked by a strengthening of the Paris Agreement that makes its implementation possible and has the capacity to assume the commitments of the Kyoto protocol that reaches its completion. But also, carbon market, update the NDCs and set new decarbonization goals.

COP26 in Glasgow will be the reflection of the commitment to the climate emergency and society. Its ambition will depend on the spaces assigned to civil society. COP26 can’t be used to greenwash the image and promote the lucrative interests of the corporations. It must be a space for radical approaches to climate and social justice and equality, diversity in participation of communities in the global north and genuine inclusion of the global south agendas and dialogue between all to create actions and solutions.

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Image from WikiMedia

Disaster Environmentalism

The People and Nature blog has just published three really thought proving articles.

The first ‘Disaster environmentalism looking the future in the face’ takes a critical look at recent writing by Rupert Read, Jem Bendell and others that argues that civilisational collapse as a result of climate change is inevitable and for approaches to dealing with collapse that require ‘deep adaptation’.

The second ‘Disaster environmentalism: roads to a post-growth economy’ is a contribution to the debate on Degrowth.   It argues that ‘“Economic growth”, as manifested by global capitalism, is completely unsustainable. “Green growth”, or “socialist growth”, are no substitutes. Our challenge to the economic system must open the way for a society based on human happiness and fulfillment, values completely at odds with – and distorted and defaced by – the rich-country consumerist ideology that helps to justify ever-expanding material production’.

The final post ‘Disaster environmentalism: what to do’ explores the political implications of the positions outlined in the first two posts and takes a sharp look at the politics and practice of social change.

Taken together the three posts are an important contribution to debate in the climate movement and recommended reading for climate activists.

Typhoon Ondoy Aftermath

Typhoon Ondoy Aftermath CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

COP25, social movements and climate justice

Latin American social movements have been organising in opposition to COP 25 from well before the upsurge of popular protest in Chile and the transfer of the UN Climate talks to Madrid. The ‘Regional Gathering: Climate crisis, energy transition and mining extractivism in Latin America’ was held from September 26 to 28 in Santiago, Chile. We reproduce the declaration issued by the gathering:

Declaration

Faced with the undeniable climate crisis and the false solutions proposed by multilateral spaces that have been co-opted by the transnational business sector and supported by governments, the meeting was organised by the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA), the Observatory of Mining Conflicts of Latin America (OCMAL) together with War on Want and Mining Watch Canada.
We consider:
That national and transnational companies and governments, mainly of the industrialised North, are those truly responsible for environmental breakdown due to their extractive activities in search of capitalist accumulation and the promotion of consumerism.
That the current discourse around the climate crisis places the blame on individual responsibility, thereby distracting the attention from those most responsible.
That the peoples, communities and organisations that resist these extractive activities – in defence of life, water and territories – are stigmatised, repressed, criminalised and murdered.
That companies and extractivist governments are the ones who commit true criminal acts against all forms of life, violating Human Rights and the Rights of Nature.
That mining extractivism in all its phases causes ecocide and ethnocide in the different territories where it operates.
That hidden behind the discourse of the ‘energy transition’ is a program of economic growth for the Global North which threatens to exponentially increase sacrifice zones under the auspices of guaranteeing the supply of minerals for so-called ‘green’ technologies. This will come at the cost of the exploitation of our territories and communities, all while intensifying the ecological crisis.
That the recent panic surrounding the climate crisis in the Global North can only ever be understood in the context of the struggles present in our urban and rural communities of the Global South, who have been resisting the intersecting social and ecological crises since the inception of colonialism. This panic cannot impose false solutions or reproduce extractivism.
That the climate crisis, as part of an ecological crisis, is a condition of the capitalist world development model.
We denounce:
Any attempt by mining companies to benefit from the climate crisis using deceptive initiatives such as: “inclusive tailings”, and the ‘adoption’ of environmental liabilities, Responsible Mining, Green Mining, Sustainable Mining, Ecological Mining, Clean Mining, Climate Smart Mining, Future Smart Mining, offsetting mechanisms for social and environmental damages, Green Economy and any other concept that seeks to wash its image or perpetuate impunity.
The actions of governments and corporations that dismember, divide, privatise, auction-off and commercialise nature and our territories to turn them into resources, merchandise or environmental services.
Visions of a transition which reproduce extractivist capitalism, including those focused on the nationalisation of minerals and oil and do not guarantee structural changes.
Any appropriation of local knowledge, expertise and wisdom by mining companies and governments to encourage extractive activities.
That extractivist companies, in addition to exploiting the environment, also engage in widespread corruption, eliminating trust in public institutions and the functioning of the judicial system.
That to date, the COPs have failed to provide real solutions to address climate injustice and inequality caused by predatory extractivism. Instead they have, under the pressure of Northern countries, made decisions in the interests of the economic model which is responsible for the ecological and climate crisis.
We recognise:
That the strength to face this crisis lies with young people, women, communities and organisations, movements and territories.
That our anti-capitalist struggle is also a decolonial, anti-patriarchal and anti-racist struggle.
That the true knowledge-keepers of territories are those who have historically inhabited them.
That nature is a subject of rights and recognition of this is a global necessity.
The self-determination of peoples to resist and say “no” to the invasion of mining companies in their territories.
We will fight
So that ecological justice emerges from the territories where the processes to protect life, water, ecosystems and Mother Earth are increasingly threatened and impacted by predatory extractivist capitalism.
To strengthen and respect the autonomy of communities and their organisations to define solutions in the framework of justice and equity based on nature, the planet and humanity.
For the respect of the Indigenous peoples, peasants and other communities, who are the guardians of their territories.
To cease the auctioning of mining and oil concessions in our territories.
Alongside frontline resistance to mega-mining and processes which seek mining-bans.
To ensure that mining companies which have benefited from the looting of nature are fully liable for mine-closure processes, and that integral repair of the territory arises from collective and participatory processes led by affected communities.
So that environmental catastrophes, pollution, murders and any other violation in territories affected by mining companies are recognised for what they are: crimes. It is urgent to develop binding policies and mechanisms to confront the generalised impunity enjoyed by companies, their owners, their executives and their financial centres.
To strengthen organisations and movements that fight in defence of the territories.
To develop regional solidarity and agreements to ensure food, energy and economic sovereignty.
To defend water in all its states as a source of life.
To sow, celebrate and strengthen territories free of mining.

800px-Protestas_en_Chile_20191022_07

Signatories:
Asamblea por la Defensa del Elki (Chile/Elqui)
Acción Ecológica (Ecuador/Quito)
Asamblea por el Agua del Guasco Alto (Chile/Huasco)
Belén dice NO a la minería (Chile/Arica)
CENSAT Agua Viva (Colombia/Bogotá)
Centro de Documentación e Información Bolivia (CEDIB) (Bolivia/Cochabamba)
Centro de Investigación sobre Inversión y Comercio (CEICOM) (El Salvador/ San Salvador)
Codemaa (Chile/Atacama)
Comunidad Indígena Diaguita Patay Co (Chile/Huasco)
Coordinadora Ambiental Valles en Movimiento Limarí – Monte Patria (Chile/Limarí–Monte Patria)
Coordinadora Penco-Lirquén (Chile/Penco-Lirquén)
Coordinadora por la Defensa del Río Loa y la Madre Tierra (Chile/Calama)
London Mining Network (Reino Unido/Londres)
Movimiento por las Sierras y Aguas de Minas Gerais (Brasil/ Minas Gerais)
Mesa Comunal de Turismo Monte Patria y Limarí (Chile/Monte Patria – Limarí)
Mining Watch Canada (Canadá/Ottawa)
Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros en América Latina (OCMAL) (Chile/Santiago)
Observatorio Conflictos Mineros de Zacatecas (OCMZAC) (México/Zacatecas)
Observatorio de Ecología Política de Venezuela (OEPV) (Venezuela/Caracas)
Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales (OLCA) (Chile/Santiago)
Observatorio Plurinacional de Salares Andinos (OPSA) (Chile/Atacama)
Putaendo Resiste (Chile/Putaendo)
Red de Afectados por la Vale (Brasil/Minas Gerais, Brumadinho)
Red de Mujeres El Loa (Chile/Calama)
War on Want (Reino Unido/Londres)

 

Solidarity with Chile! System change not climate change

The COP 25 talks began in Madrid on Monday this week.  Originally scheduled for Chile the conference was transferred to Spain as millions took to the streets in Chile to protest against the high cost of living, privatisation and inequality.

These United Nations meetings (COP = conference of the parties) have taken place annually since the first summit in 1995.  On a number of occasions the COP meetings have set specific targets for reducing green house gas emissions.  None of these targets have been met; on the contrary there has been a huge rise.  The two most common greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide and methane.  In the 25 years since the Berlin summit atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen by 67 parts per million by volume (ppmv).  This is a bigger increase than took place in the previous 200 years.  Methane levels have tripled since the Berlin summit.

There are two solidarity events taking place this Friday evening (6th December):

In Edinburgh a human chain in Princes Street – assembling at the Usher Hall in Lothian Road at 5.30pm.  More details on Facebook 

and Glasgow 17:30-18:30  Buchanan Street Steps, Facebook for more details

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Image by Pete Cannell, Flickr COP 22 Paris, 2015

COP25 Vigil for Climate Justice

Scot.E3 is part of the Green Friday Alliance organising an Edinburgh vigil for climate justice.
Join the GREEN FRIDAY alliance for the vigil to demand CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW from the UN after 25 years of failed international climate talks, and from the government in the coming general election.

We’ll start with guest speakers and climate carols at 5.30pm outside Usher Hall on Lothian Road.

Then we will go to make a human chain along the western end of Prince’s Street from 6:15pm for a vigil for climate justice and in solidarity with social justice protesters in Chile, where the government has chosen to pull out of hosting COP 25, the latest United Nations climate conference, rather than meet their demands.

We’ll end in St Cuthbert’s Church at around 7.00 pm to hear from campaigners who will dial in from the UN talks, now in Madrid, where they have been moved to.

Please help join us in PUTTING PEOPLE AND PLANET BEFORE PROFIT, with banners, climate carols and Chilean waves, on this international day of action.

Bring your banners, placards, torches, whistles, music …
Wear something bright. Wrap up warm!

REGISTER ON EVENTBRITE:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/vigil-for-climate-justice-at-cop-25-tickets-83356847575

SHARE ON FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/events/737986893342928/

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