Indigenous groups push for progress at climate summit

CBC News | Wednesday, December 16, 2009 + Climate Summit Articles/Speaches

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Indigenous Rights Talks in Capenhagen

Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network was among dozens who attended a protest Wednesday 15th December 2009, at Copenhagen's Bella Centre, the site of the UN climate talks.

Dozens of aboriginal protesters rallied Wednesday 15th December 2009, at the UN summit in Copenhagen to protest the slow pace of climate-change negotiations.

The People's Summit demonstration started at the Danish capital's Bella Centre, where officials from 192 countries are meeting.

Protesters, who included indigenous peoples and supporters from around the world, are also upset with Canada and other developed countries for not committing to bigger cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

"There's a lot of watering-down and compromising going on," Tom Goldtooth of the U.S.-based Indigenous Environmental Network told CBC News during Wednesday's protest, which later joined a larger group of protesters outside the Bella Center.

Goldtooth said protesters are "demanding 49 per cent reduction levels by 2020 - not 20 per cent, not six per cent like the United States is going to be asking for. No. They're demanding real solutions, not false solutions."

He added that protesters are worried countries will not reach a serious agreement to slow the warming global climate by the time the summit wraps up Friday.

Among the delegates in Copenhagen for the two-week United Nations summit is Yukon elder Stanley James, an adviser to the Arctic Athabaskan Council and the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council.

James said governments must include indigenous peoples in discussions about climate change, the effects of which he sees first-hand in Canada's North.

"It's been a number of years, I guess, they've talked about it, but they haven't done anything really in cleaning up the environment," said James, who was not part of Wednesday's rally.

"We need to have the aboriginal people at the table with those government people ... then things will change, I think."

World leaders are starting to arrive at the climate talks this week, with more than 115 expected. However, it remains to be seen what those leaders will achieve by the time the talks end.

Is Capitalism to Blame for Climate Change?

Stephen Messenger, Porto Alegre, Brazil www.treehugger.com16th december, 2009

When Bolivian President Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela took the stage at COP15, there was little doubt the pair were going to have some strong words for the international assembly--and they certainly didn't fail to bring them. But beyond the wild-eyed, rambunctious delivery of such sentiments as "rich nations are selfish," or they promote a "culture of death," was something far more interesting to ponder: "(Climate change) is not a cause but an effect: the effect of the capitalist way of life." While a knee-jerk scoff may be unavoidable to some, a reasoned assessment of this statement may conclude it to be truer than you'd think.

The two South American leaders compared the economic disputes between rich nations, and what they see as an unjust burden imposed the poorer countries, to the historic exploitation of indigenous people world-wide by the West, according to a report in O Estado.

In the past century our black and indigenous ancestors were treated as slaves, and their rights were not recognized. In a similar way, now our Mother Earth is being treated as a lifeless object, as if she had no rights. We have to abolish the slavery of Mother Earth. It is unacceptable for her to be the slave of capitalist countries. If we don't end this, we can forget about life
As the discussions of funding for poorer nations are heating up, Chávez highlights the disparities between wealth and financial responsibility when it comes to climate change:
I would like to remind you that the 500 million richest people in the world, that is, seven percent of the world's population, are responsible for 50 percent of polluting emissions, while the poorest 50 percent are only responsible for seven percent of emissions
While the content of the speeches made by Morales and Chávez may not have come as a surprise to most in the audience, the imagery the leaders used to articulate their point was of particular interest--especially considering the social implications of their elections. Hugo Chávez is of native Venezuelan decent and Evo Morales is Bolivia's first fully indigenous head of state in the 470 years since the Spanish Conquest.

The history of politics in Latin-America has been wrought with western involvement and Morales and Chávez have based their careers on their willingness to be confrontational against Western interests--seen often as pushing a corporate agenda to seize resources from the native peoples. This exploitation on the part of capitalistic interests has not ceased, Morales argues, but has expanded into the global problem of climate change as a result:
It is unacceptable that the atmosphere should belong to only a few countries for their development, and that these countries with their irrational industrialization should have filled it up with their greenhouse gas emissions. To pay back this debt, they must reduce and absorb those gases so that the atmosphere is distributed equitably.
The radical sentiments of Morales and Chávez shouldn't be shocking to those accustomed to their usually controversial stances in the past, but the allusion they draw to a historic capitalistic tendency to exploit resource rich nations is certainly of note--since too often, social injustice and economic imbalance is only viewed in hindsight. So, whether capitalism is to blame for clime change or not--and it very well may be--the real question is whether we'll take a lesson from history and not risk victimizing the most helpless of all--every future generation.

"Shameful" for West to Spend Trillions on War and Only $10 Billion for Climate Change

Bolivian President Evo Morales |
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] And if we don't-and I repeat this-we're going to end our lives, all of us. So, as with the last country and with our black and indigenous brothers who were treated as slaves, and their rights were not recognized, now, today, too, our Mother Earth, she is treated as if she were a thing without life, as if she didn't have rights.

The second climate debt is the use of atmospheric space by the developed countries. It's not possible that atmospheric space be the exclusive property of just a few countries for their development, that the countries that are irrationally industrialized have taken over, with their greenhouse gases, the atmospheric space. To pay this debt, they should reduce their emissions and absorb their greenhouse gases in a way that there exists a fair distribution of atmospheric space between all of the countries, taking into consideration their population, because the countries that are on the path of development need atmospheric space for their development.

The third component of climate debt is the paying of reparations, reparations for damages that have been created by the irrationally industrialized countries. For humanity together, it's shameful that the Western countries have only offered $10 billion for climate change. I was looking at some figures. The United States-how much does the United States spend to export terrorism to Afghanistan, to export terrorism to Iraq, and to export military bases to South America? They don't only spend millions, but billions and trillions. I hope our figures are not wrong. For example, Obama, he asked his Congress for $40 billion more than what has already been spent. The budget of the United States is $687 billion for defense. And for climate change, to save life, to save humanity, they only put up $10 billion. This is shameful. The budget for the Iraq war, according to the figures we have, is $2.6 trillion for the Iraq war, to go kill in Iraq. Trillions of dollars. But directed towards paying the climate debt, $10 billion. This is completely unfair. These are our deep observations of what's going on. That's why-for the war, while trillions are going to the wars, on the other hand, to save humanity and the planet, they only want to direct $10 billion.

The rich countries should take in all of the migrants who will be generated by climate change or affected by climate change. I think our brothers from Africa, our indigenous brothers from [inaudible], have a lot of moral authority. We have been invaded, supposedly discovered in Africa or Latin America, when in reality it was an invasion and plundering of indigenous peoples. Therefore, now, in the face of the asymmetries between continents, our brothers come looking for work, and they're kicked out of Europe, they're kicked out of the United States. But our grandparents never kicked anyone out, and our brothers and sisters don't come here to take hectares of land or mines. They only come to improve their economic situation. Moreover, when they're affected by this climate change, how is it possible they would be expulsed from Europe when they are climate refugees? How is it possible that our brothers and sisters are not taken under and protected? That's why-therefore, our protest in the face of this discrimination to expulse immigrants, when we have never kicked immigrants out, we've never sent them home-

Australian Indigenous fire skills on show at Copenhagen

Emma Masters | ABC News | December 10th, 2009

A group from the Northern Territory is leaving for Copenhagen tomorrow to present its approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through fire management.

The North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance has developed a model to offset carbon emissions through controlled burning of tropical savannas.

The alliance's chief executive, Joe Morrison, says it takes a traditional Aboriginal approach to managing the land.

"It's really around savanna burning and being able to better manage fires in northern Australia, which is a fire-prone environment," he said.

"Using Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous employment to reduce the amount of country that is getting burnt annually, therefore reducing the amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere."

Mr Morrison says the group has already signed a carbon offset deal with a large mining company and is expanding its program from Arnhem Land to four other areas across north Australia.

He says there are opportunities for groups from around the world to adopt the model.

"Dealing with things like savanna fires a lot more better and reducing the amount of country that's getting burnt and the emissions is a very exciting opportunity for Indigenous people for a whole host of reasons, not to mention the economic development opportunities."


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