An array of experts, political leaders, NGOs and indigenous peoples and communities have agreed to a rights approach as a crucial step in confronting the global climate crisis.
Dubbed the ‘gold standard’, the methodology emphasizes rights for Indigenous peoples and local communities.
It aims to strengthen respect, recognition and protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities as stewards and bearers of solutions to landscape restoration, conservation, and sustainable use; end persecution of land and environment defenders; build partnerships to enhance engagement and support for rights-based approaches to sustainable landscapes across scales and sectors; and, scale up efforts to legally recognize and secure collective land and resource rights across landscapes.
At the Global Landscapes Forum, held alongside the UNFCCC’s Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB50), the ‘gold standard’ approach was formally presented to kick-start consultations with Indigenous peoples’ organizations and NGOs from 83 countries around the globe who gathered at the summit.
The Forum, which every year carries a different theme through its series of events, news, workshops, community outreach and online courses, is focusing 2019 on rights—giving land rights the visibility they need to leapfrog to the top of global discussions, and frame rights as a solution to the climate change crisis.
The new standard, developed by the Indigenous People’s Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG), working with the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), will support the vital work Indigenous peoples and communities are already doing to adapt to global warming, threats to the world’s biodiversity and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Presentations and expert analysis during the two day summit showcased evidence from around the globe that when the authority of local communities over their forests and lands, as well as their rights, are legally recognized, deforestation rates are often reduced.
“By implementing a gold standard, we can both uphold and protect human rights and develop conservation, restoration and sustainable development initiatives that embrace the key role Indigenous peoples and local communities are already playing to protect our planet,” said Joan Carling, co-convener of IPMG.
IPMG recognizes that Indigenous and local communities are bearers of rights and solutions to common challenges.
“This will enable the partnership that we need to pave the way for a more sustainable, equitable and just future,” added Carling.
It is expected the consultations on this ‘gold standard’ will continue until year-end.
“It’s clear that when rights of local communities and indigenous peoples are recognized, there are significant benefits for the fight against climate change and environmental degradation,” said Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which jointly coordinates GLF with UN Environment and the World Bank.
“Whoever controls the rights over these landscapes has a very important part to play in fighting climate change,” he said.
According to the United Nations, Indigenous peoples make up less than six percent of the world’s population but account for 15 percent of the poorest people. They live in some 90 countries, representing 5,000 different cultures and speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages.
Alain Frechette, of Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), saidthe rights approach has been proven to be an essential condition for sustainable development projects to succeed.
“Rights – the ability of people to make basic decisions about their needs, the use of their lands, their ambitions and their hopes or aspirations – invariably determined social-ecological outcomes, including economic security, wellbeing and livelihoods.”
The basic principles of a gold standard already exist, such as free, prior and informed consent, according to Frechette. What has been lacking is the application of principles which would be boosted by high-level statements that could “spur a race to the top”.
The Forum heard that the lands of the world’s 350 million Indigenous peoples and local communities already act as powerful shields against climate change, holding 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity and sequestering nearly 300 billion metric tons of carbon. Over 80 percent of biological diversity is found on local peoples’ lands.
“Our identity is being threatened, and we need to avoid it being completely eradicated,” said Diel Mochire Mwenge of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to his testimony during the summit, Mwenge, who leads the Initiative Programme for the Development of the Pygme, witnessed more than a million people evicted from their traditional land to make way for a national park and given no benefits from the ecotourism industries brought in to replace them.
In the climate and development arenas, the most current alarm being sounded is for rights –securing the land rights and freedoms of Indigenous peoples, local communities and the marginalized members therein. How can these custodians ofa quarter of the world’s terrestrial surface be expected to care for their traditional lands if the lands don’t, in fact, belong to them? Or, worse, if they’re criminalized and endangered for doing so?
This year’s Global Landscapes Forum, which attracted over 600 delegates from across the globe was therefore convened to define a new ‘gold standard’ for rights, with the hope of securing the rights of these important but marginalised groups in the management of forests.
Climate finance remains a crucial topic at the UN climate talks, as it is the core aspect for implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Key issues include fulfilment of climate finance commitment of USD 100 billion per year by 2020, by the developed country Parties as well as transparency and accountability modalities.
It is against this background that civil society groups attending the SB50 talks in Bonn have warned the African group of negotiators to stay alert to manoeuvres by the global north to push for climate loans in place of grants.
“We are gravely concerned by the trend of commercialising climate action to an extent that the poor people who are supposed to benefit from these finances are left out or are just being used for business interests,” said Mithika Mwenda, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) Executive Director. “The narrative of loans and other false solutions on climate financingare not welcome. The poor people who are on the frontlines of the climate crisis are urgently looking for real solutions. We therefore urge the African Group of Negotiators to remain steadfast and not fall for the carrots being dangled by the global north."
Mwenda said developed countries should just show leadership and live up to their responsibilities by cutting carbon emissions and financially support climate action to address what they caused through their industrialisation activities over the years.
And commenting on the concerns, Zambian delegation Coordinator, Carol Mwape Zulu said Zambia is opposed to the commercialisation of climate financing as it goes against the spirit of the convention which respects common but differentiated responsibilities.
“The convention is clear on the responsibility of developed countries to provide financial and technical support to developing countries as a moral obligation to address climate change based on the historical context of the climate crisis,” said Mrs. Zulu. “This is also in view that loans overburden our small economies as developing countries.”
She said the priorities of African countries revolve around adaptation which is more of a social service than an income generating/revenue source as compared to mitigation measures such as carbon markets that have a revenue component.
“In this case therefore, grants become the main and preferred form of support to developing countries. At this session, Zambia has been making submissions for the financial budget of the convention for both the GCF and Adaptation Fund to prioritise grants for adaption in developing countries.”
After the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015, it was realised that the colossal sums of money needed for its implementation would require the private sector to get involved.
And at COP 22 in Marrakech, a full day was dedicated to Business and Industry at which it was agreed that business had a significant role to play in enabling the global economy to achieve – and exceed – its climate goals.
As a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, the private sector was seen as a crucial partner in securing a prosperous and sustainable low-carbon economy for all.
But with these concerns being raised about climate finance commercialisation, it could be important to revisit the private sector’s involvement in climate action especially on the modalities for financial support from developed to developing parties as enshrined in both the convention and the Paris Agreement.
BONN, Germany (PAMACC News)
The Conflict of interest debate at the UN Climate talks has taken a new twist as new research from Climate Investigations Center (CIC) has exposed a long history of fossil fuel industry lobbyist interference in climate change negotiations.
The research, which is based on 25 years of meeting “Participants” documents published by the UNFCCC uncovers for the first time how many fossil fuel industry trade groups and industry lobbyists attended the climate talks going back to the first Conference of the Parties in 1995.
The research builds on CIC’s release of an archive of documents from the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition (GCC). The documents show new details on how the GCC targeted the UNFCCC and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to undermine science and slow progress on climate policy.
The new research on meeting participants shows that once the GCC dissolved in 2001, the same corporations and sometimes the same people who were GCC members continued attending COP after COP until today.
“As the Global Climate Coalition documents show, corporate interference has not only been happening at the UNFCCC for decades, it has had a real impact on climate policy,” said SriramMadhusoodanan, Deputy Campaign Director at Corporate Accountability.
Madhusoodanan adds that the GCC used its access to derail policymaking and undermine climate science, and worked with Global North governments to advance its denier agenda.
According to Madhusoodanan, many of the same individuals and corporations associated with the GCC are still active today, still freely able to stalk the halls and influence governments at the talks.
“While their goal in 1995 was to derail the talks, now it’s to steer it toward false solutions that will allow their members—the fossil fuel industry—to continue business as usual,” alleges Madhusoodanan.
According to a tally of total number of delegates over the period 1995-2018, Trade Associations that count fossil fuel corporations as members have sent more than 6,400 delegates to the climate talks in the aforementioned period.
And Climate Investigations Centre Director, Kert Davies says the legacy of fossil fuel corporate impact on the UNFCCC process and the IPCC is both invisible and impossible to forget.
“Fossil fuel interests have tried from the very beginning to undermine and infiltrate this difficult global agreement to make sure that it failed or faltered at each step. As they win, the planet loses," says Davies.
And commenting on the findings, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) Executive Director, MithikaMwenda said the fossil fuel industry’s thirst for profit threatens to ruin the opportunity for urgent, ambitious and just climate action.
“For decades, they are allowed to come to these talks and pretend to be on our side,” said Mwenda. “They use their money and influence to steer these talks in their favour, regardless of the impact it has on people…And while they lobby, global north countries and others to maintain the status quo, their thirst for profit threatens to ruin the opportunity we have for urgent, ambitious, just action and turn it in to yet another money-making scheme.”
Meanwhile, NdivileMokoenaof the Women for climate justice Southern Africa, lamented how the polluter influence is hurting small scale agriculture, which is predominantly done by women.
Mokoena said the big push for industrial and commercial agriculture was placing markets and profits over communities.
"Agricultural activities in Africa particularly in South Africa are threatened by climate impacts like floods, storms, droughts and heavy soils. Rural women play a major role in small-scale agricultural production and 70% of all food is produced by small scale farmers who use low input and low emission technologies. But, the industrial and commercial “Climate Smart Agriculture” places markets and profits over communities. This involvement of corporate actors with clearly conflicting commercial interests in these talks will fatally undermine the integrity, effectiveness and legitimacy of UNFCCC’s work in the field of agriculture and climate change," said Mokoena.
Others whospokeon the research findings include SouparnaLahiri on behalf of the Climate Justice Now constituency, Michael Charles, of the Navajo Nation and a member of the Indigenous Peoples' Organization, LorineAzoulai representing hundreds of thousands of youth at the UN and Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory.
BONN, Germany (PAMACC News)
The Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) will this September join several other groups in the push for more favourable climate through investment on clean and renewable energy as opposed to fossil fuels.
Up to eight organisations are planning a major conference in South Africa this September to discuss and emphasise the need for more states to choose and invest on renewable energy.
This is considering that the world is building towards the greatest capital shift in history, from the fossil fuel past to the renewable energy future. With little time left before we lock in irreversible climate impacts, governments, investors and civil society must redouble their efforts.
The fossil fuel divestment and clean energy investment movement has emerged as one of the bright spots in the climate fight, mobilising trillions of dollars in service to the energy transition. To support this growing movement, the Wallace Global Fund, 350.org, GreenFaith, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Divest Invest, the Shine Campaign, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, and Fossil Free South Africa are organising a Global Divest Invest Summit in Cape Town, South Africa this September.
As the birthplace of the anti-Apartheid divestment movement, South Africa has unparalleled symbolism and emotional resonance to serve as host for the summit. More broadly, the significance of the conference’s location in the Global South cannot be overstated: The fossil fuel industry is vying to be the engine of rapid economic development in the region at the same time that the climate crisis demands we leapfrog dirty energy in favor of clean, distributed renewable energy systems. This is especially poignant for the more than 1 billion people in the developing world, who still lack basic energy access.
The conference is expected to help build momentum for the global Divest Invest movement by convening cities, faith-based organisations, foundations and universities for an interactive program that provides tools and resources to align capital with climate goals.
Its organisers also expect to provide, through the conference, a platform for new Divest Invest announcements and for the release of a high-level statement from movement leaders challenging the global community to leave fossil fuels in the ground.
The other objective of the conference would be to showcase the movement’s increasing foothold in the Global South, underscoring the urgent need for investments that help developing nations leapfrog dirty development and provide clean energy access.
Since its launch by students as a call to climate action in 2011, the fossil fuel divestment campaign has become a rapidly growing movement that has mobilised trillions of dollars to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and to support the clean energy transition. Today, more than 1,000 investors marshalling $8 trillion in assets have committed to divest, an increase of over 15,000% since 2014 when commitments stood at $52 billion. Increasingly, institutions are also tilting their portfolios towards climate solutions in renewable energy, efficiency, clean energy access and sustainable food and water programs.
The movement is having a material impact on the fossil fuel industry, as evidenced by the open admission by companies like Shell, that divestment poses a risk to their business, with the potential to impact share price and access to capital. Goldman Sachs recently said it “believes that the coal divestment movement has been a key driver of the coal sector’s 60% de-rating over the past ﬁve years.” Divestment campaigners around the world are pursuing sophisticated strategies targeting pension funds, insurance companies, cities, universities, faith groups and, most recently, asset managers.
Yet, while divestment remains dynamic and full of impact, the challenges are daunting: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently published a special report on 1.5 degrees that said civilisation had about a decade left to avoid catastrophic harm, adding that nothing short of “rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban infrastructure, and industrial systems” are needed now. While most countries in the world are committed to the Paris Agreement on paper, policies to support the clean energy transition often lag far behind the rhetoric.
Investors, with their trillions of dollars in assets, have the power to move faster than governments and catalyse the transition by shifting their capital out of the problems and into the solutions now. In so doing, they steer the backbone of politicians and policymakers to accelerate their own progress by giving them comfort that a mobilised constituency has their backs. Fossil fuel divestment and clean energy investment is more important than ever.
Why South Africa
South Africa is uniquely situated to host the conference, as divestment was used successfully as a tactic against the Apartheid government. The boycott and sanctions campaign raised awareness about the evil of the apartheid regime and built international solidarity. South Africa has played an influential role in the international climate talks, and hosted the 17th Conference of the Parties in December 2011. Cape Town is also significant as the first city in the Global South to have committed to divest from fossil fuels. Climate impacts are front and centre: Cape Town was recently brought to the brink by a severe water shortage brought on by a climate change-fueled drought. The country also recently suffered after heavy rains caused havoc in KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces, causing flooding and mudslides. Up to 80 lives were lost and many displaced to collective shelters. Several houses, religious structures and roads were also destroyed in the flooding that took place in May this year. Climate change was blamed for a lot of the losses incurred.
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