Monday 30 November 2015

COP21 - a New Zealand perspective

No Climate For Change
The Paris conference will deliver only paper promises on global warming

by Gordon Campbell

25 November, 2015

The last time the global community tried to take collective action on climate change – in 2009 in Copenhagen – the world’s leaders finally came to agree that every not-too-onerous effort should be made to hold global warming to 2°C above the pre-industrial average. At Copenhagen, the Small Island Developing States (SIDs) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) raised their concerns that their very survival would depend on a 1.5°C upper limit. The world promised to look into that. 
So far, the scientists appointed to look into it – they’re fetchingly called the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED) – have found that yes indeed, the 2°C limit is too warm for many of the world’s vulnerable eco-systems and regions, and a 1.5°C limit would be significantly safer. Devising policies that will achieve anything like those targets is the challenge now facing the delegates to the climate change conference in Paris that kicks off on November 30. Luckily for planet Earth, this process will not depend on New Zealand leading the way. 
Why do I say that? At Paris, all 150 participant countries nations will have put forward their pledges (they’re called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs) that set out how they plan to combat climate change. In early July 2015, New Zealand tabled its INDC target which is to cut emissions by a paltry 11% on 1990 levels, by 2030. On the information available, this is the second weakest contribution ( next to that of Canada’s previous government) of any nation in the developed world.
Now that Canada’s new leaders have announced a firm commitment to climate change action, New Zealand will be heading into the Paris conference at the very bottom of the class among developed countries, and with the trends heading in the wrong direction. On current settings, New Zealand’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions will surpass those of the United States by 2025. As the authoritative Climate Action Tracker site stated in its analysis of our INDC paper:

If most other countries were to follow New Zealand’s approach, global warming would exceed 3–4°C ; a world that would see oceans acidifying, coral reefs dissolving, sea levels rising rapidly, and more than 40% species extinction.”

True, as Climate Action Tracker concedes, there is as yet no cost-effective solution available for New Zealand’s farm-based methane emissions. (Nitrous oxide emissions from fertilisers, everything else associated with intensive dairying are a quite different saga of culpable neglect.) Also, the main growth in New Zealand’s emissions since 1990 has occurred in transport, energy use in manufacturing and other areas of the economy – but without the New Zealand government making any substantive policy response. Climate Action Tracker again : 
There are virtually no policies in place to address the fastest-growing sources of emissions in New Zealand from transport and industrial sources, which comprise over 50% of the growth in emissions (excluding forestry) in New Zealand since 1990.

Luckily for New Zealand, we’ll be only a small fish in a very big pond in Paris. Individual nations will not be taken aside and pilloried for their (lack of) action and ambition at this conference. Moreover, despite our purely nominal response to what is a global problem, New Zealand seems likely to be heavily involved in the politicking surrounding at the Paris meeting. Under the so-called ‘New Zealand proposal,’ nations will be asked from the outset to embrace purely voluntary targets with a promise to review their progress at some future date. 
To Greens co-leader James Shaw, this – in effect – amounts to conceding defeat before the starting gun. “It is a case of claiming credit for taking the lowest common denominator approach. [Climate Change Minister] Tim Groser’s approach has been to propose a completely flaccid agreement, which is non-binding. Individual countries pledge what they think they can do and at some future point they’ll merely be asked : ‘Hey, how ya doin’? Like to do a bit more ? Maybe a bit less?’”

In practice, this level of pragmatism puts New Zealand at some risk. Few other countries have based their tourism brand on claiming to be environmentally pure and eco-responsible. At Paris, the spotlight will be on what steps countries are willing to take for planetary health and survival. To be seen as dragging our feet and being ultra-pragmatic at the world’s premier attempt to combat global warming involves taking a huge economic – and moral – risk. 
On RNZ’s Insight programme about the Paris conference earlier this month, Adrian Macey – New Zealand’s former climate change ambassador and former chief trade negotiator – outlined what he expected the main outcome in Paris would be. Macey envisaged a core legal agreement – which would be, he said, legally binding – sitting alongside the INDC targets put forward by each country. These voluntary targets will be subject to regular review, and measured against the 2°C target. 
Don’t get your hopes up about the “legally binding” bit. Anything decided at Paris will only be ’ binding” under international law, which is more like the rules of love than your mortgage contract with the bank. Meaning : if you act like a climate change cad after Paris, you may feel bad and could well cop a lot of dirty looks, but you won’t be subject to any formal penalties that you can’t walk away from. 
Macey confirmed as much to Werewolf. So.. Paris won’t be looking to create a binding, sanction-backed regime ? “ No, clearly not,” Macey relied, “ That’s a difference between Kyoto and the Paris agreement. Binding sanction-backed regimes do not have the slightest chance of being the result from Paris. You need to look no further than the fact such a regime is unacceptable to the largest [greenhouse] gas emitters…”

So, what kind of item is likely to find its way into the core agreement ? Only the Mom & apple pie stuff, it would seem. As Macey says, this part of the Paris deal won’t be much different from what’s already in the Climate Change Convention and/or Kyoto Protocol, save that the level of stabilising emissions will probably be formally quantified as at the 2 degree level. Unlike James Shaw, Macey feels positive about the “ New Zealand proposal” being peddled by Tim Groser. What mystifies Macey is how New Zealand got to claim IP rights on what is, in his view, a pretty obvious idea – namely, to keep the various INDCs separate from the core legal treaty. 
To Macey – and to Groser – this route recognises the realpolitik of the situation. A year ago, China and the United States reached a landmark – and voluntary – deal to limit emissions. In Paris. China would almost certainly never agree to be legally bound by specific targets, and the US Congress would hardly endorse a one-sided binding target for the US, without China doing likewise. No, Macey doesn’t buy the Greens argument that New Zealand has prematurely helped set the bar at Paris far too low, right from the start. 
Macey: “We really needed some framework for an acceptable outcome. Otherwise, [as at Copenhagen] the core of the negotiations could get totally bogged down in detail.” Shouldn’t the delegates have been put under a bit of pressure to angst over the issue of binding targets? “Well, then you would have less time to develop the transparency and accountability regime. You had to leave behind that binding/non binding ambiguity and – as Tim Groser says – get everyone on the bus first.” Even if out in the real world, this could well mean that everyone else misses the bus on climate change. 
Where Macey does feel genuinely critical of the New Zealand government is over its all-too-evident unwillingness to conduct an informed public debate, or to be transparent about the modeling and reasoning that has gone into formulating New Zealand’s INDC position. These are major failings, he believes, in a process where the accountability mechanisms – such as they are – depend totally on transparency. Macey’s blog post criticisms of this point can be found here.

Well… does the government actually want an informed public debate, or is it more interested in using secrecy as a tool to manage the politics of climate change – much as it has done with the TPP ? Macey answers only obliquely, by pointing to procedures in train that are soon likely to force the hand of central government. Namely : next year’s review of the Emissions Trading Scheme. Also : the pace of technological change, which is making climate- friendly practices more readily affordable. And finally, Macey has encountered a growing sense in business – and it would seem, among exporters in European markets – that we have to lift our game on climate change. “They’re looking for more from central government.”

Meanwhile, New Zealand is taking an INDC to Paris that may not even be legally valid. It proposes to use accounting – and access to greenhouse gas credits – available only to signatories to Kyoto’s second round. Problem being, New Zealand didn’t sign up to the second round. This problem crops up at the end of Climate Action Tracker’s damning analysis of the New Zealand INDC:

Based on current policies NZ emissions per capita, while likely to remain stable at around 17 tonnes of CO2e per person (or decrease slightly), are set to surpass those of the US by around 2025. US per capita emissions in 2012 were 20.6 tonnes of CO2e per person and decreasing steadily. This reflects the underlying reality that while the United States is taking action on climate change with a wide range of policies, New Zealand has few policies in place to cut emissions, and has no emissions cap in its domestic Emission Trading System (ETS).

If New Zealand applies the rules it is proposing to use after 2020 to account for its Kyoto surplus and forestry credits, its overall agriculture, energy, waste and industrial greenhouse gas emissions could increase to 11% above 1990 levels by 2030;

New Zealand’s proposed 2030 INDC target is not on a direct path to its 50% reduction by 2050 goal, unlike other major economies such as the EU and the USA. But New Zealand’s 2050 goal is also insufficient, and would require a 45% reduction by 2030 below 2005 levels (30% below 1990).

There are virtually no policies in place to address the fastest-growing sources of emissions in New Zealand from transport and industrial sources, which comprise over 50% of the growth in emissions (excluding forestry) in New Zealand since 1990.

While New Zealand has not agreed to accept a legally binding commitment for the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period, yet it appears to be planning to apply accounting rules that carry over surplus units from the first commitment period. This is something that is available to countries with commitments under the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, but not those without a commitment, like New Zealand. The legal basis upon which New Zealand is seeking to rely upon these accounting rules is therefore unclear. 
So we’re aiming to use credits to which we’re not entitled, to enable us to proceed on a business-as-usual basis during the 2020-2030 period. The sleight of hand involved is all but acknowledged by the wording in the New Zealand INDC document – which says the New Zealand position is only provisional pending “full and final agreement on the accounting rules/guidelines to apply” to the accounting rules for the land sector and access to carbon markets, or “ confirmation in Paris that accounting rules agreed post-Paris will not be applied retroactively.” Meaning: if Paris proves to be a stickler on the greenhouse gas accounting rules, then (a) we won’t be held to our own INDC commitments, and (b) if Paris sets new rules that allow us to proceed as planned, it had better not impose retrospective penalties for how we’ve bent the rules. 
That, at least, is what Dr Marcia Rocha from Climate Analytics seems to be saying : “Unusually, New Zealand’s INDC is stated as being provisional pending confirmation in or after Paris of the accounting rules for the land sector and access to carbon markets. However, New Zealand may struggle to secure the rules that it needs to allow its emissions to continue increasing, which raises another question: what would New Zealand’s target be if its preferred rule-set fails to materialise?” Good question. 
So, who will be the main players in Paris ? Sweden is being touted as a likely go-between in the dealings between the main emitters, and the developing world. Reportedly, Sweden has promised about $US580 million over four years to the Green Climate Fund, which is set to become a conduit of more than $100 billion a year in aid for developing nations by 2020, from public and private sources in First World economies. 
At 55 pages, the conference basic negotiating document in Paris is smaller than the 300 page behometh that finally sank Copenhagen. Even so, it won’t be plain sailing:

A lot of ministers are not happy that the text is so full of brackets so close to the meeting,” Sweden’s Environment Minister Asa Romson told reporters late on Monday as ministers gathered for warm-up talks. An updated draft text of an accord has whittled down a final text by about half to cover 55 pages, but it still has 1,490 brackets marking points of disagreement and remains far longer than hoped.

To date, a chronic difficulty has been that climate mitigation is still widely seen to be the enemy of poverty reduction, which largely depends on policies that promote economic growth. Recently though, a convergence of sorts has been occurring between the developed and developing world on the need for collective action – driven in part by the evidence on where the rapid growth in emissions in currently coming from : 
Between 1850 and 2012, the United States and Europe produced 45% of greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere, compared to 18% from China and India, according to the non-profit organization Climate Analytics. Based on current practices, it is projected that by 2020, China alone will produce 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions, India 7% the United States 13% and the European Union 8% Climate change action by China and India is now critical.

The November 2014 voluntary accord between the US and China, and the China/India emissions reduction negotiations this year are steps in recognition of this situation. Probably too late and too little, but not inevitably the case. The feasible outcome from Paris, Macey believes, will be a system to ensure that the greenhouse gas inventories of countries are accurate and verifiable by the global policeman on such matters – which happens to be the Secretariat for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. As genuine global and/or regional emissions trading schemes begin to emerge during the next decade, they will set a realistic price on carbon – and in all lielhoodf, this will well north of the $50 a ton that the Treasury calculate its estimates for New Zealand. 
It will then be up to the UNFCCC to determine for instance – where the credits being claimed are real, and not the junk 20 cents a ton variety. Double counting is also an issue., Macey points out. “ If I buy some units friom Burkina Faso and count them against my targets, I don’t want Burkina Faso to be claiming them as well.” 
All of this sounds like a response – and a system – that’s going to be far too slow for those Pacific islands sinking beneath the rising sea, or for those countries being battered by hyper-cyclones. Macey can see the problem. At Paris, he says, there will be a lot of talk – and cost analysis – of the co-operation required on mitigation and adaptation, on transfer of technology, capacity building and loss and damage : “Countries will be expecting compensation for extreme events…” 
Naturally, Macey adds by way of an aside, New Zealand tends to focus on what global warming and rising sea levels may do to the Pacific. This recent report by Jan Wright, the Environment Commissioner, is a sober and balanced assessment of how and where New Zealand cities, transport links and low lying regions stand to be affected by a fairly modest rise in sea levels.

Yet in Vietnam and in Bangladesh, Macey continues, the people those who stand to be affected (by rising sea levels) number in the tens of millions, and not just the hundreds of thousands at risk in the Pacific. At Paris, the world can’t afford to be complacent about muddling though somehow. “We can’t assume that if it looks like we’re going to miss the target….we’ll go and help you build higher sea walls. We need to get this stuff done.”

Finally, the ordinary observer could be forgiven for feeling someewhat confused about where New Zealand is positioned with respect to stands on climate change in the decade to come. In one scenario, we will be entering the post 2020 period buoyed by credits ( however dubiously acquired) sufficient to enable business as usual – especially given that technological change ( Electric cars ! Methane- reduction science !) may well appear over the horizon soon enough to save our bacon. 

In the other less cheery scenario, we enter the 2020s with the prospect of the mass harvesting of the trees on which our carbon credits have hitherto depended – and where the foreign private owners of our forests may not be all that interested in funding a replanting programme timed to co-incide with our de-carbonisation needs. If we’re lucky, we may get a greenlight from the UNFCCC to “smooth out” the gap between the looming credit losses now, and any replanting due onstream in the distant future. In which case – and in any case – New Zealand would still have to spend large amounts of taxpayer money pre 2030 to buy the necessary offsets on the currently non-existent international market. (There’s an underlying assumption that a global ETS – or a sizeable regional one – will be up and running by 2030.)

Does it really matter which scenario is more likely to play out in the decade 2020-2030? Within a scheme of greenhouse gas reduction that remains voluntary, the potential costs – however huge they may be on paper – are at crunch, only theoretical. If we can grin and bear the reputational damage, we could always choose – come 2030, to walk away from our INDC provisions if the economic cost of them ends up looking exorbitant. In doing so, we’d be pretty confident that the rest of the world would be doing likewise, if faced with a similar-sized bill for its climate change commitments. 
That’s the problem with the Paris conference. While it busily sets itself to devise a new set of accounting systems for greenhouse gas emissions, the level of gross emissions in the real world appears set to keep on rising – at a rate which will be checked by politicians only to the degree required to allay the extremes of public concern. Tragically, that’s not going to be enough, soon enough, to save the regions and species currently at risk.
Footnote One: The review of our Emissions Trading Scheme referred to above by Adrian Macey has now begun, and agriculture has been omitted from its ambit. According to Tim Groser this is because there is as yet no affordable way of dealing with this country’s farm-based emissions.

Critics point out that (a) methane is not the only source of our farm-based emissions, (b) that a realistic carbon price signal to farmers is needed to tackle the land compaction and water pollution problems caused by intensive dairying and (c) without agriculture being in the frame, New Zealand is willfully refusing to devise a means of coping with the source of nearly half of its greenhouse gas emissions. 
Footnote Two On 2012 figures, agriculture accounted for the largest share – about 47% – of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. Energy use (excluding transport) accounted for about 24% of emissions and transport’s contribution was about 19%. However, the largest sources of emissions growth in this country since 1990 have been in transport, which accounted for 40% of the increase in emissions and agriculture about 28% – while energy (non-transport) emissions was running at 18% followed by industrial emissions at 14%. Government policy has not seriously addressed the areas of emissions growth, farm related or otherwise. In fact, the massive government investment in roading – and the related use of fossil fuels – has made government a key enabler of that growth.

Remembering COP15

As COP21 kicks off in Paris with tear gas and house arrests it is good to recall a watershed moment – COP15 in Copenhagen

I remember COP15, held in Copenhagen in 2009 in the follow-up to the financial meltdown. I remember watching with horror the coverage on Democracy Now! - how activists were hunted down by police an repressed, attendees from the Third World were made to queue for hours in the the freezing cold while others went home because they were refused entry to the proceedings.

This was the first time I saw the ugly side of the world as we have come to know it since demonstrated in a ‘democratic’ country that previously had a reputation for tolerance. It is when I lost hope in anything being ‘done’ about global warming and realised that any action to combat greenhouse gas emissions was being thrown under the bus.

It was also about the time that we began to see the very first postive feedbacks manifest themselves and climate change enter an abrupt phase.

COP15 – Copenhagen 2009

COP15 Demonstration Copenhagen Denmark 20091212 Massive Arrest

Our own Climate Change Negotiations Minister, Tim Groser came back and attacked the small nations of the Pacific who had tried to defend their own nations, for ‘scuppering’ agreement while the rich nations (including New Zealand) decided between themselves to do nothing

Tuvalu 'Shouting Match' at COP15 in Copenhagen

Barry Coates - Oxfam New Zealand talks to OneClimate at COP15 in Copenhagen

One of the most memorable speeches at the time was that of the president of the Maldives

Wrong Kind of Green Nov 29, 2015 / 1Sky, Greenpeace, Non-Profit Industrial Complex, Pacifism as Pathology


8 January, 2010

(From L) Paul de Clerck (Friends of the Earth International), Dorothy Guerrero (Focus on the Global South) and  Naomi Klein announces the winner of the Angry Mermaid award on December 15, 2009 at COP15. Monsanto received 37% of the votesahead of Royal Dutch Shell 18% and the American Petroleum Institute 14%.
Six years later, in 2016, Klein serves as the Rockefeller financed’s most valuable asset. Although Klein awarded Monsanto the “Angry Mermaid” award in 2009, consider founded TckTckTck (GCCA) with partner WWF (and 18 other NGOs) prior to COP15 where the TckTckTck alliance dominated the international conference grossly underminingsmall nations such as Bolivia. WWF’s alliance with Monsanto is extensively documented[Photograph: Olivier Morin/]
On the occasion of its ten-year anniversary, the antiglobalization movement has been brought out of its slumber. This is to be expected, as anniversaries and nostalgia often trump the here and now in political action. What is troublesome, though, is not the celebration of a historical moment but the attempted resurrection of this movement, known by some as the Global Justice Movement, under the banner of Climate Justice.

If only regenerating the zeitgeist of a radical moment was as simple as substituting ‘Climate’ for ‘Global’; if only movements appeared with such eas! In fact, this strategy, pursued to its fullest extent in Copenhagen during the UN COP15 Climate Change Summit, is proving more damaging than useful to those of us who are, and have been for the past decade, actively antagonistic to capitalism and its overarching global structures. Here, we will attempt to illustrate some of the problematic aspects of the troubled rebranding of a praxis particular to a decade past. Namely, we will address the following: the financialization of nature and the indirect reliance on markets and monetary solutions as catalysts for structural change, the obfuscation of internal class antagonisms within states of the Global South in favor of simplistic North-South dichotomies, and the pacification of militant action resulting from an alliance forged with transnational NGOs and reformist environmental groups who have been given minimal access to the halls of power in exchange for their successful policing of the movement.
Many of these problematic aspects of the movement’s rebranding became apparent in Copenhagen during the main, high-profile intellectual event that was organized by Climate Justice Action (CJA) on December 14 . CJA is a new alliance formed among (but of course not limited to) some of the Climate Camp activists from the UK, parts of the Interventionist Left from Germany, non-violent civil disobedience activists from the US and the Negrist Disobbedienti from Italy.
The event, which took place in the “freetown” of Christiania, consisted of the usual suspects: Naomi Klein, Michael Hardt, and CJA spokesperson Tadzio Mueller, and it was MCed by non-violent activist guru Lisa Fithian. In their shared political analysis, all of the speakers emphasized the rebirth of the anti-globalization movement. But an uncomfortable contradiction was overarching: while the speakers sought to underscore the continuity with the decade past, they also presented this summit as different, in that those who came to protest were to be one with a summit of world nations and accredited NGOs, instead of presenting a radical critique and alternative force.
Ecology as Economy and Nature as Investment Capital

What’s important about the discourse that is so powerful, coming from the Global South right now, about climate debt, is that we know that economic debt is a tool of domination and enforcement. It is how our governments impose their neoliberal capitalist policies around the world, so for the Global South to come to the table and say, ‘Wait a minute, we are the creditors and you are the debtors, you owe us a huge debt’ creates an equalizing dynamic in the negotiations.”
Let’s look at this contemporary notion of debt, highlighted by Naomi Klein as the principal avenue of struggle for the emerging climate justice movement. A decade ago, the issue of debt incurred through loans taken out from the IMF and World Bank was an integral part of the antiglobalization movement’s analysis and demand to “Drop the Debt.” Now, some of that era’s more prominent organizers and thinkers are presenting something deemed analogous and termed ‘climate debt’. The claim is simple: most of the greenhouse gases have historically been produced by wealthier industrial nations and since those in the Global South will feel most of its devastating environmental effects, those countries that created the problem owe the latter some amount of monetary reparations.
The idea of climate debt, however, poses two large problems.
First, while “Drop the Debt!” was one of the slogans of the antiglobalization movement, the analysis behind it was much more developed. Within the movement everyone recognized debt as a tool of capital for implementing neoliberal structural adjustment programs. Under pressure from piling debt, governments were forced to accept privatization programs and severe austerity regimes that further exposed local economies to the ravages of transnational capital. The idea was that by eliminating this debt, one would not only stop privatization (or at least its primary enabling mechanism) but also open up political space for local social movements to take advantage of. Yet something serious is overlooked in this rhetorical transfer of the concept of debt from the era of globalization to that of climate change. Contemporary demands for reparations justified by the notion of climate debt open a dangerous door to increased green capitalist investment in the Global South. This stands in contrast to the antiglobalization movement’s attempts to limit transnational capital’s advances in these same areas of the world through the elimination of neoliberal debt.
The recent emergence of a highly lucrative market formed around climate, and around carbon in particular cannot be overlooked when we attempt to understand the implications of climate reparations demands. While carbon exchanges are the most blatant form of this emerging green capitalist paradigm, value is being reassigned within many existing commodity markets based on their supposed impact on the climate. Everything from energy to agriculture, from cleaning products to electronics, and especially everything within the biosphere, is being incorporated into this regime of climate markets. One can only imagine the immense possibilities for speculation and financialization in these markets as the green bubble continues to grow.
The foreign aid and investment (i.e. development) that will flow into countries of the Global South as a result of climate debt reparations will have the effect of directly subsidizing those who seek to profit off of and monopolize these emerging climate markets. At the Klimaforum, the alternative forum designed to counter the UN summit, numerous panels presented the material effects that would result from a COP15 agreement. In one session on climate change and agricultural policies in Africa, members of the Africa Biodiversity Network outlined how governments on the continent were enclosing communally owned land, labeling it marginal and selling it to companies under Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs) for biofuel cultivation. CDMs were one of the Kyoto Protocol’s arrangements for attracting foreign investment into the Global South under the guise of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. These sorts of green capitalist projects will continue to proliferate across the globe in conjunction with aid given under the logic of climate debt and will help to initiate a new round of capitalist development and accumulation, displacing more people in the Global South and leading to detrimental impacts on ecosystems worldwide.
Second and perhaps more importantly, “Climate Debt” perpetuates a system that assigns economic and financial value to the biosphere, ecosystems and in this case a molecule of CO2 (which, in reductionist science, readily translates into degrees Celsius). “Climate Debt” is indeed an “equalizing dynamic”, as it infects relations between the Global North and South with the same logic of commodification that is central to those markets on which carbon is traded upon. In Copenhagen, that speculation on the value of CO2 preoccupied governments, NGOs, corporations and many of the activists organizing the protests. Advertisements for the windmill company Vestas dominated the metro line in Copenhagen leading to the Bella Center. After asserting that the time for action is now, they read “We must find a price for CO2”. Everyone from Vestas to the Sudanese government to large NGOs agree on this fundamental principle: that the destruction of nature and its consequences for humans can be remedied through financial markets and trade deals and that monetary value can be assigned to ecosystems. This continued path towards further commodification of nature and climate debt-driven capitalist development runs entirely antithetical to the antiglobalization movement that placed at its heart the conviction that “the world is not for sale!”
The Inside in the Outside

One of the banners and chants that took place during the CJA-organized Reclaim Power demonstration on December 16 was “Whose summit? Our Summit!”. This confused paradigm was omnipresent in the first transnational rendezvous of the Climate Justice Movement. Klein depicted her vision of the street movements’ relationship to those in power during her speech in Christiania as follows:
It’s nothing like Seattle, there are government delegations that are thinking about joining you. If this turns into a riot, it’s gonna be a riot. We know this story. I’m not saying it’s not an interesting story, but it is what it is. It’s only one story. It will turn into that. So I understand the question about how do we take care of each other but I disagree that that means fighting the cops. Never in my life have I ever said that before. [Laughs]. I have never condemned peoples’ tactics. I understand the rage. I don’t do this, I’m doing it now. Because I believe something very, very important is going on, a lot of courage is being shown inside that center. And people need the support.”

The concept that those in the streets outside of the summit are supposed to be part of the same political force as the NGOs and governments who have been given a seat at the table of summit negotiations was the main determining factor for the tenor of the actions in Copenhagen. The bureaucratization of the antiglobalization movement (or its remnants), with the increased involvement from NGOs and governments, has been a process that manifested itself in World Social Forums and Make Poverty History rallies. Yet in Copenhagen, NGOs were much more than a distracting sideshow. They formed a constricting force that blunted militant action and softened radical analysis through paternalism and assumed representation of whole continents.

In Copenhagen, the movement was asked by these newly empowered managers of popular resistance to focus solely on supporting actors within the UN framework, primarily leaders of the Global South and NGOs, against others participating in the summit, mainly countries of the Global North. Nothing summarizes this orientation better than the embarrassingly disempowering Greenpeace slogans “Blah Blah Blah, Act Now!” and “Leaders Act!” Addressing politicians rather than ordinary people, the attitude embodied in these slogans is one of relegating the respectable force of almost 100,000 protesters to the role of merely nudging politicians to act in the desired direction, rather than encouraging people to act themselves. This is the logic of lobbying. No display of autonomous, revolutionary potential. Instead, the emphasis is on a mass display of obedient petitioning. One could have just filled out Greenpeace membership forms at home to the same effect.
A big impetus in forging an alliance with NGOs lay in the activists’ undoubtedly genuine desire to be in solidarity with the Global South. But the unfortunate outcome is that a whole hemisphere has been equated with a handful of NGO bureaucrats and allied government leaders who do not necessarily have the same interests as the members of the underclasses in the countries that they claim to represent. In meeting after meeting in Copenhagen where actions were to be planned around the COP15 summit, the presence of NGOs who work in the Global South was equated with the presence of the whole of the Global South itself. Even more disturbing was the fact that most of this rhetoric was advanced by white activists speaking for NGOs, which they posed as speaking on behalf of the Global South.
Klein is correct in this respect: Copenhagen really was nothing like Seattle. The most promising elements of the praxis presented by the antiglobalization movement emphasized the internal class antagonisms within all nation-states and the necessity of building militant resistance to local capitalist elites worldwide. Institutions such as the WTO and trade agreements such as NAFTA were understood as parts of a transnational scheme aimed at freeing local elites and financial capital from the confines of specific nation-states so as to enable a more thorough pillaging of workers and ecosystems across the globe. Ten years ago, resistance to transnational capital went hand in hand with resistance to corrupt governments North and South that were enabling the process of neoliberal globalization. Its important to note that critical voices such as Evo Morales have been added to the chorus of world leaders since then. However, the movement’s current focus on climate negotiations facilitated by the UN is missing a nuanced global class analysis. It instead falls back on a simplistic North-South dichotomy that mistakes working with state and NGO bureaucrats from the Global South for real solidarity with grassroots social movements struggling in the most exploited and oppressed areas of the world.
Enforced Homogeneity of Tactics

Aligning the movement with those working inside the COP15 summit not only had an effect on the politics in the streets but also a serious effect on the tactics of the actions. The relationship of the movement to the summit was one of the main points of discussion about a year ago while Climate Justice Action was being formed. NGOs who were part of the COP15 process argued against taking an oppositional stance towards the summit in its entirety, therefore disqualifying a strategy such as a full shutdown of the summit. The so-called inside/outside strategy arose from this process, and the main action, where people from the inside and the outside would meet in a parking lot outside of the summit for an alternative People’s Assembly, was planned to highlight the supposed political unity of those participating in the COP15 process and those who manifested a radical presence in the streets.
Having made promises to delegates inside the Bella Center on behalf of the movement, Naomi Klein asserted that “Anybody who escalates is not with us,” clearly indicating her allegiances. Rather than reentering the debate about the validity of ‘escalating’ tactics in general, arguing whether or not they are appropriate for this situation in particular, or attempting to figure out a way in which different tactics can operate in concert, the movement in Copenhagen was presented with oppressive paternalism disguised as a tactical preference for non-violence.
The antiglobalization movement attempted to surpass the eternal and dichotomizing debate about violence vs. non-violence by recognizing the validity of a diversity of tactics. But in Copenhagen, a move was made on the part of representatives from Climate Justice Action to shut down any discussion of militant tactics, using the excuse of the presence of people (conflated with NGOs) from the Global South. Demonstrators were told that any escalation would put these people in danger and possibly have them banned from traveling back to Europe in the future. With any discussion of confrontational and militant resistance successfully marginalized, the thousands of protesters who arrived in Copenhagen were left with demonstrations dictated by the needs and desires of those participating in and corroborating the summit.
Alongside the accreditation lines that stretched around the summit, UN banners proclaimed “Raise Your Voice,” signifying an invitation to participate for those willing to submit to the logic of NGO representation. As we continue to question the significance of NGO involvement and their belief that they are able to influence global decision-making processes, such as the COP15 summit, we must emphasize that these so-called participatory processes are in fact ones of recuperative pacification. In Copenhagen, like never before, this pacification was not only confined to the summit but was successfully extended outward into the demonstrations via movement leaders aligned with NGOs and governments given a seat at the table of negotiations. Those who came to pose a radical alternative to the COP15 in the streets found their energy hijacked by a logic that prioritized attempts to influence the failing summit, leaving street actions uninspired, muffled and constantly waiting for the promised breakthroughs inside the Bella Center that never materialized.
NGO anger mounted when a secondary pass was implemented to enter the summit during the finalfour days, when presidents and prime ministers were due to arrive. Lost in confusion, those demonstrating on the outside were first told that their role was to assist the NGOs on the inside and then were told that they were there to combat the exclusion of the NGOs from the summit. This demand not to be excluded from the summit became the focal politic of the CJA action on December 16. Although termed Reclaim Power, this action actually reinforced the summit, demanding “voices of the excluded to be heard.” This demand contradicted the fact that a great section of the Bella Center actually resembled an NGO Green Fair for the majority of the summit. It is clear that exclusionary participation is a structural part of the UN process and while a handful of NGOs were “kicked out” of the summit after signing on to Reclaim Power, NGO participation was primarily limited due to the simple fact that three times as many delegates were registered than the Bella Center could accommodate.
In the end, the display of inside/outside unity that the main action on the 16th attempted to manifest was a complete failure and never materialized. The insistence on strict non-violence prevented any successful attempt on the perimeter fence from the outside while on the inside the majority of the NGO representatives who had planned on joining the People’s Assembly were quickly dissuaded by the threat of arrest. The oppressive insistence by CJA leaders that all energy must be devoted to supporting those on the inside who could successfully influence the outcome of the summit resulted in little to no gains as the talks sputtered into irreconcilable antagonisms and no legally binding agreement at the summit’s close. An important opportunity to launch a militant movement with the potential to challenge the very foundations of global ecological collapse was successfully undermined leaving many demoralized and confused.
Looking Forward: The Real Enemy

As we grapple with these many disturbing trends that have arisen as primary tendencies defining the climate justice movement, we have no intention of further fetishizing the antiglobalization movement and glossing over its many shortcomings. Many of the tendencies we critique here were also apparent at that time. What is important to take away from comparisons between these two historical moments is that those in leadership positions within the contemporary movement that manifested in Copenhagen have learned all the wrong lessons from the past. They have discarded the most promising elements of the antiglobalization struggles: the total rejection of all market and commodity-based solutions, the focus on building grassroots resistance to the capitalist elites of all nation-states, and an understanding that diversity of tactics is a strength of our movements that needs to be encouraged.
The problematic tendencies outlined above led to a disempowering and ineffective mobilization in Copenhagen.Looking back, it is clear that those of us who traveled to the Copenhagen protests made great analytical and tactical mistakes. If climate change and global ecological collapse are indeed the largest threats facing our world today, then the most important front in this struggle must be against green capitalism. Attempting to influence the impotent and stumbling UN COP15 negotiations is a dead end and waste of energy when capital is quickly reorganizing to take advantage of the ‘green revolution’ and use it as a means of sustaining profits and solidifying its hegemony into the future.
Instead of focusing on the clearly bankrupt and stumbling summit happening at the Bella Center, we should have confronted the hyper-green capitalism of Hopenhagen, the massive effort of companies such as Siemens, Coca-Cola, Toyota and Vattenfall to greenwash their image and the other representations of this market ideology within the city center. In the future, our focus must be on destroying this reorganized and rebranded form of capitalism that is successfully manipulating concerns over climate change to continue its uninterrupted exploitation of people and the planet for the sake of accumulation. At our next rendezvous we also need to seriously consider if the NGO/non-profit industrial complex has become a hindrance rather than a contribution to our efforts and thus a parasite that must be neutralized before it can undermine future resistance.

A message from Paul Beckwith

Paul Beckwith: My Heartfelt Message to COP21 Negotiators


COP21 From An Absurdist Point Of View

29 November, 2015

There have been many analytical articles addressing the role of upcoming climate change negotiations in Paris (COP21), but it seems regarding it as a Theatre of the Absurd is perhaps one way to maintain one’s sanity at such times. That said, here is my contribution of likely scenes:

David Cameron will bike from his hotel, preceded and followed by armored limousines carrying his aides, security and materials.

Al Gore will give a speech, broadcast to Syrian refugee camps, explaining that climate change is the most imminent global threat, and therefore funds will be diverted from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to pay for the purchase of electric vehicles by rich Californians.

Delegates will refuse to drink Perrier, and hold up the proceedings until Fiji water is flown in.

Leonardo di Caprio will jet in from his Palm Springs mansion with his entourage, to encourage the world to live a simpler lifestyle.

Every time the names “Exxon” or “Koch” is uttered, horses all over Paris will whinny, as in Frau Blucher (Young Frankenstein).

An award will be given to the protester with the best costume: a drowning polar bear mauling a topless woman.

A group of unheralded academics will meet on the sidelines and develop a rational, workable proposal for reducing GHG emissions and be totally ignored.

Printing the conference proceedings will prove profitable as the company receives carbon credits for the paper used. The carbon effect of flying them home in delegates’ luggage will be ignored, especially since most will be left in hotel rooms.

A standing ovation will honor Haitian peasants for embracing a biomass lifestyle. An award made out of mud from a deforested hillside will be created for future presentations.

The Pope will offer indulgences to anyone buying an electric car. Tesla Motors will introduce three new models: Inferno ($35k), Purgatorio ($50k) and Paradiso ($95k). Sales slogan: “It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle than a rich man to enter heaven, unless he drives a Tesla!”[/entity]

Probably, the happiest people involved will be the African immigrants who are (allegedly) the source of most marijuana sales in Paris. And of course their customers.

Finally, the meeting will conclude with delegates pronouncing it a complete success in that none of them is blamed for climate change and all have agreed that someone else should pay to fix the problem.

Dr.Jim Salinger on rapid climate change

Today Kevin Hester and I had the honour to have a discussion with New Zealand climate scientist, Dr. Jim Salinger.

Here are some comments from Kevin

Today 30/11/2015, I had the honour of interviewing, alongside Robin Westenra, Dr Jim Salinger, who I consider to be NZ’s pre-eminent climate scientist, on the subject of Abrupt Climate Change.

Dr Salinger is the honorary academic at Auckland University’s School of Environment and has been a lead author for the IPCC, was a member of the Nobel Prize-winning team and spent 30 years with N.I.W.A.. the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere and the NZ Met Service.

The opportunity to interview Dr Salinger stemmed from the question I posed to him in the Q & A of a public seminar in Hamilton inappropriately named 
"The Greatest Climate Change Show on Earth" on the 12 of November 2015

I posed the question to the panel “ When are we going to start conceding that we are now in abrupt climate change”? Dr Salinger replied “ I will answer that gentleman’s question and the answer is now, we are in abrupt climate change.”

This is I believe, a seminal moment in New Zealand climate science history when such a respected scientist publically speaks so frankly.

The significance of the word ‘Abrupt’ cannot be underestimated and brings into question the subject of ‘Climate Tipping Points’ and how rapidly they will tip the biosphere into a level of chaos that will make the current climate disruption seem like “ The Good Old Days”.

Read Professor Guy McPherson’s monster climate change essay detailing over 50 positive reinforcing feedback loops / tipping points;

My own position with regard to our climate catastrophe is that we are past “ The point of no return” as our polar ice caps are melting in an unstoppable death spiral, faster than previously thought with huge quantities of methane being released from both the permafrost, the sub-marine clathrate deposits and remarkably from peat bogs burning in Siberia and the 11,000 forest fires currently burning in Indonesia which are emitting more carbon than the USA which before these fires were deliberately started was the world’s 2nd largest emitter. The Indonesian fires alone are the equivalent of the second largest country in terms of emissions on this planet appearing out of nowhere, whilst we have 8.5 million acres burning in America alone and millions of acres burning uncontrollably in Siberia.

Abrupt climate change is now upon us and we need to do Everything within our power to reduce our emissions which brings us to the issue of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.

If the government of John Key were to sign the TPPA we would be severely exposed to legal action under the Investor disputes clause which would leave us open to legal action in overseas tribunals if we instigated emission controls that could be deemed to breach the agreement or the rights of the corporations behind it.

I brought up the subject of deep sea drilling and whether we should have a moratorium on deep sea drilling and Dr Salinger agreed and in answer to my question agreed that it could possibly destabilise the sub-marine clathrates.

Also discussed was the issue of Nuclear being promoted at Cop 21 in Paris as a solution to climate change and to paraphrase Albert Einstein “ If the answer is nuclear power it must have been a stupid question. Nuclear is a stupid way to boil water”

It is now time for our politicians of every ‘stripe’ to discuss abrupt climate change and for NGO’s like Greenpeace, Oxfam, et al to all accept the significance of this new paradigm and to prepare accordingly which to date they have all avoided.

Dr Salinger has graciously agreed to be re-interviewed in the coming months where we will recap the outcome of the Paris talks and update what I now refer to as The Great Unraveling.

This is a photo of myself and Dr Salinger on the recent climate change march in Auckland.

NZ climate scientist Jim Salinger interviewed

And a recent artiole from Carbon News

How climate change has taken a turn for the worse

The world is now in abrupt climate change, says a New Zealander who was one of the first scientists in the world to talk about human-induced climate change.

And as the world’s leaders head to Paris for talks over a new climate treaty, Dr Jim Salinger is instead putting his faith in ordinary people.

Abrupt climate change refers to substantial climate changes over a short period of time. Salinger says that the current frequency of droughts and storms once classed one-in-a-hundred-year events says to him that the world has now entered abrupt climate change.

"We’ve probably been in it since 2010,” he told Carbon News.

Salinger came across the fact that the world was warming almost by accident in the 1970s. For his PhD, he analysed New Zealand’s climate records, expecting to find, in line with the thinking of the day, evidence that the world was slowly moving toward another ice age.

But his finding that the climate was, in fact, warming, led to post-doctoral research at the University of East Anglia, and the publication of scientific papers.

Initially, the discussion was largely academic, but by 1990 it was becoming “pretty clear” that, left unchecked, climate change would be disastrous for humans and the world as they knew it, he says.

Now honorary academic at Auckland University’s School of Environment, Salinger has been a lead author for the IPCC (and was a member of the Nobel Prize-winning team) and spent 30 years with the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (Niwa), and the Met Service.

With such a background, you would think that he would be a certainty for the COP21 (Conference of the Parties) talks in Paris, but he says he has never taken part in any of the COP talks because he has little faith in the ability of politicians to do what needs to be done.

Instead, he focuses on helping the public to understand what is happening.

I’m keen on talking to the people in the streets,” he said. “It’s got to start at the grass roots. If we can get enough action at the grass roots, they will put pressure on the politicians.”

So he spends as much time as he can talking at public meetings, such as the recent Greatest Show on Earth panel in Hamilton.

The science behind climate change isn’t difficult to understand, he says, when it’s explained properly, and he believes that public acceptance is growing.

Definitely today, compared with five years ago, there’s much more acceptance of the science,” he said.

That doesn’t mean, however, that everybody accepts it; Salinger has been the target of groups trying to discredit the science of climate change.

He says he deals with it by trying to remain calm and rational, and by allowing the science to speak for itself.

And despite the fact he – possibly more than any other New Zealander – understands just how close the world is to unliveable climate changes, Salinger remains optimistic that the world will act in time to avoid the worst impacts.

There is always hope,” he said. “People need to think what steps they are taking that will add up to a much larger action. Everybody has to be in the tent.”

But with the latest science showing that the world has warmed by an average 1deg since 1850, and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now at 400 parts per million (scientists had recommended not exceeding 350ppm), there is no time to waste, Salinger says.