The Result That Emerges From Cancun COP16


For many, the Cancun Accord is a positive outcome, probably because they would rather maintain the sense that "something came out of it" than analyze the contents and consequences of the most recent climate change conference. For those of us who identify with the principles of climate justice and the contents of the People's Agreement of Cochabamba, it is a text that is essentially the same as the Copenhagen Accord. It leaves ambiguous the most vital aspects of what a climate agreement must do based on science and the need for equity – one of the most pressing causes highlighted by the climate crisis.?? 

The Cancun Accord fails to establish binding commitments, it empowers the World Bank by opening up the possibility for more privatization, indebtedness and conditionalities, it establishes insufficient funds for responding to the impacts of global warming and taking up the task of adaptation, and it puts humanity at risk by threatening a rise in average temperature of greater than 2 degrees Celsius.?? 

When people demanded an effective agreement in Cancun, they were not talking about an agreement at any cost. That wasn't the idea. Far from advancing the goal of responding responsibly to climate change, it has offered up to "savage capitalism" and its institutions the very management of a crisis of breathtaking dimensions that jeopardizes the lives of millions of people. 

Although the result has been touted as the salvation of multilateralism, it paradoxically cements the model of "voluntary commitments" that is at the heart of the Copenhagen Accords. The threat is that in the future – as we said before – arguments about "urgency" and the debacle the planet faces due to climate change would be used to justify any kind of action, even if it is authoritarian, mercantilist, excludes the majority, or serves only to prop up the status quo of elites. It's basically saying, "Bye Bye, multilateralism."?? 

The hope and the will of the thousands of people struggling to advance the cause of climate justice, social justice and harmony with nature was trampled upon by the passing of a poor accord that doesn't even seek to clarify the specific content of emission reductions goals, and without ensuring a second period of the Kyoto Protocol which has the merit of establishing differentiated responsibilities among developed and developing countries.?? In the context of this deceptive consensus, those with positions based on principles, those that demanded a fair accord based on evidence provided by scientists and the need to honor the climate debt ended up being judged as "radicals." 

Now it seems it has become "radical" to respect the principles of the UN climate convention, that the issue of historic responsibility has gone out of style, that the urgent action called for by science is seen as ridiculous.?? During the first week of COP16, the World Forum on Vulnerability put out a report indicating that in 2010 at least 350,000 people died due to the direct impacts of climate change, and that in 2030 probably we may well be talking about 1 million annual or more deaths caused by climate change. We are now witnessing genocide, and there is no more appropriate term, for these deaths are not the result of some punishment fallen from the sky. Rather, they are the product of the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere which began with the era of industrialization and has worsened during the course of four decades, and which implies specific responsibilities according to the UN climate convention, the Kyoto Protocol, and the scientific reports of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). ?? 

We demand that governments tell the truth to the people, and that they explain the real consequences of climate change to their citizens. Promises of a safe future are not enough. What matters now is taking effective action and putting in place real measures to stop the destruction. 

??Many throw their hands up and say that those who pollute the most today are the emerging countries, and that in the future the biggest contaminators will be developing nations. They argue that this makes the UN climate change accords irrelevant. But it is easy to make these accusations without mentioning the historic debt of developed countries or the fact that western businesses take advantage of the favorable conditions and cheap labor that exists in developing world. It is precisely these profound asymmetries and the use of the laws of capital such as intellectual property rights and investment that have allowed these countries to move light years ahead in low carbon technologies and clean energy sources. This is precisely what is at play in the negotiations, and yet they prefer to hold up an empty shell of an agreement in order to maintain the state of slumber and culture of impunity that consumes us today. 

The impacts will be felt by those of us who live in the vulnerable countries of the south. And, as usual, it will be the people who will be forced to put their noses to the grindstone, as they always have. Workers in Europe are suffering the impacts of economic adjustment and seeing their labor rights eroded, just as students have less and less possibilities and their right to education is constantly threatened, just as immigrants are made to face hostility, and women must look after families, and indigenous peoples defend their territories, and the millions left homeless by floods and droughts are struggling to survive. 

The solution lies with the people, and I would even dare say that the agenda proposed by the People’s Accord has put forth a plan of action that is the fruit of so many struggles and has opened up a legitimate space from which we can dare to tell the truth. 

What remains for us to do today is to build solidarity in order to confront the crisis and protect the most vulnerable in this world, to maintain the dignity of the struggle for climate justice, but mostly to end the logic of impunity that still reigns over the globe. 

December 12, 2010 

La Paz, Bolivia 

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