Global Climate Change – COP 16 Meeting in Cancun

LSW has found work done by Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based Americas Program of the Center for International Policy and a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus (, to be of great assistance in understanding the issues involved in global climate change in general and in looking at the goings on at COP 16. COP, by the way, stands for conference of parties, and COP 16 is (taking a mighty deep breath):

“The United Nations Climate Change Conference is taking place in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010. It encompasses the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), as well as the thirty-third sessions of both the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), and the fifteenth session of the AWG-KP and thirteenth session of the AWG-LCA.”

If you can understand all that you probably are so screwed into UN climate change talks and Kyoto Protocol you don’t need to read the rest of this. Or, maybe precisely therefore, the rest of this may serve to help you think differently about climate change.

LSW would place people’s take on climate change into three categories: those who refuse to believe that human made climate change is happening, those who believe to some degree and seek to use market based mechanisms and technological fixes to correct the problem, and those who more than the second group seem to deal with the problem directly and head on.

Carlsen writes in a piece, “Worlds Collide at Cancun Climate Talks”, found several place on the net, that

“World leaders wasted precious years overcoming the bogus arguments of spurious scientists and purchased politicians who had a vested interest in denying that the climate was even changing. When that became impossible due to overwhelming scientific evidence, , leaders have turned to a set of market-based mechanisms and technological fixes that avoid real commitments and promote the same economic model responsible for the crisis.”

LSW would predict that any scientists who are still denying the existence of human-caused climate change can be found to be receiving money in one form or another from commercial entities with vested interests in the energy industry as it is now configured, whether on the payroll directly from an oil or gas or coal company or employed by an image company working for those vested interests or working for a political entity who are supporting those same interests.

The second group mentioned by Carlsen encompasses a vast array of political entitities, companies and individuals. Carlsen looks closely at these ‘false solutions’, which:

“Rather than addressing the current model of production, trade, and consumption that has caused the crisis, these false solutions aim to deepen it”

CDMs (Clean Development Mechanisms), launched by the Kyoto Treaty, are founded on comittments required of countries and companies that subscribe to the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce carbon emissions to agreed upon levels. CDMs are projects that are supposed to reduce emissions. Emission reduction credits that a country or company can gain by supporting projects in other countries which will reduce CO2 emissions.
From the UNFCC site:

” Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets.”

For example,

“A CDM project activity might involve, for example, a rural electrification project using solar panels or the installation of more energy-efficient boilers.”

the UNFCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) writes.

In other words, companies and countries can continue spewing out CO2 if they can find a project which qualifies as an emission reduction mechanism. These emission reductions are quantified under the term carbon credits or CER credits. You buy so and so many carbon credits which allow you to spew out a comparable amount of CO2.

These carbon credits are now traded like commoodities on carbon trading markets. Some are predicting a carbon credits bubble, otheres say that Goldman Sachs was salivating at the prospect of expanding their carbon credits activities to the U.S. had Obama’s Cap and Trade legislation been passed. Carbon trading along with Al Gore and Goldman Sachs seem to be a hate object for Glenn Beck and some on the Christian right, judging by Internet searches.

Carlsen looks at two examples of CDM projects in Mexico. One set of projects attempts to manage the huge amount of methane released by factory farms which only serves to continue the model on which these factory farms are based instead of regulating them, or breaking them up. Carlsen reminds us that it was one of these hog farms in Veracruz which was the point of origin for the Swine Flu epidemic.

Her second example are hydroelectric plants.

” A hydroelectric plant slated for construction in the state of Guerrero at La Parota would flood 17,000 hectares that support extraordinary biodiversity and numerous indigenous and small farming communities. The project was suspended following a legal ruling that the governmental Federal Energy Commission had manipulated local assemblies to approve the dam construction. The dam construction that would displace an estimated 25,000 people has now been reactivated, thanks in part to a $400 million loan from the Inter-American Development bank to support Mexico’s climate change agenda. In addition to the social costs of displacement and the loss of carbon capture from the flooding, studies by International Rivers and others show that large dams are significant sources of greenhouse gases.”

The International Rivers site contains excellent information on how tropical dams contribute to the emission of methane into the atmosphere. Simply put:

“Greenhouse gases, primarily methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), are emitted from all of the dozens of reservoirs where measurements have been made. Gases are emitted from the surface of the reservoir, at turbines and spillways, and for tens of kilometers downstream (see schematic). Emissions are highest in hot climates. Hydro plants in the tropics with large reservoirs relative to their generating capacity can have a much greater impact on global warming than fossil fuel plants generating equivalent amounts of electricity “


“The “fuel” for these emissions is the rotting of organic matter from the vegetation and soils flooded when the reservoir is first filled. The carbon in the plankton and plants that live and die in the reservoir, the detritus washed down from the watershed above, and the seasonal flooding of plants along the reservoir fringes, ensure that emissions continue for the lifetime of the reservoir. “

Carlsen mentions in addition the UN REDD programs which LSW had never even heard of.

“Other false solutions that will be promoted in the Cancun talks and strongly opposed by many grassroots organizations include the UN REDD program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). The international small farmers organization Via Campesina, which rejects the REDD program, states, “Protecting forests and reforesting degraded forests is an obligation of all governments that should be implemented without limiting the autonomy, the rights or the control of indigenous and peasant peoples over the land and their territories, and without serving as an excuse so that other countries and corporations continue contaminating and planting tree monocultures.””

Look at REDD Monitor for good information about the effects of the REDD programs. Examination of several REDD projects illuminate the difference between utopian dreams and practical nightmares embedded in these programs. The terms of the deal, by which rich countries transfer large amounts of money to poor countries who in theory use the transferred monies to finance projects that reduce emissions of gasses that raise the temperature on earth, become interpreted in such a way that activities which were supposed to result in decreased emissions just continue to merrily allow the same amount of climate gasses as previously, or an increased amount. Sometimes the transferred monies increase the already prevalent corruption extant in the developing country. And the REDD projects can contribute to the loss of control over lands where indigenous and small farmers live.

Carlsen concludes:

“Two worlds will collide in Cancun, but they share a single planet. If the world that defends our current model of production and consumption prevails, the planet will edge ever closer to catastrophe.

The second world offers hope of a new path. Its solutions are multiple and small-scale, and require political will more than massive resources or new technologies. This second world seeks a new balance in our lives between our environment, our food systems, and our jobs.”

It would seem to LSW that CDM is not an effective way to reduce human produced climate change, and in fact is simply a way for the rich to further enrich themselves at the expense of normal people. Given the fact that capitalism has arrived at an out of control hyper state, market based solutions can only be expected to assist in the transfer of money from the majority of people to the filthy rich as well as in the transfer of control of our lives to others.

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