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Report-back from New York: Advancing strategies from Cochabamba to Cancun

 “If there is not social mobilization before or during Cancun [climate negotiations], it is very probable that the interests of those that want to do business and sell nature and don’t want to take any serious measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will succeed.”

These were passionate words spoken by Pablo Solon last night at a meeting I attended in New York. Solon, Bolivian UN Ambassador, was present alongside Bolivian President Evo Morales and twenty-five representatives of social movements and organizations from Canada (including Blue Planet Project organizer Anil Naidoo), the U.S. and South America to discuss strategies leading into the Cancun round of UN climate negotiations (November 29 to December 10).

The meeting focused on strategies building on Cochabamba (a reference to the World’s People Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth that will ensure a strong civil society voice in Cancun and around the world demanding climate justice.

After hearing an update on official negotiations from Solon and reports from Mexican allies actively organizing towards Cancun, President Morales addressed the group. Morales continues to be a powerful advocate for the urgent need to address the climate crisis, from a framework of respecting Mother Earth rights and advancing justice. This contrasts the business as usual approach taken by some states promoting false solutions to the climate crisis, such as carbon offsets which delay emission reductions in the global North while doing little to reduce emissions in the global South. It also starkly contrasts the Harper government which continues to defend the tar sands while promoting a downright laughable emission reduction target (amounts to a 2.5 per cent increase above 1990 levels by 2020) with little to no plans to meet it.

Here are some updates from last night.

UN negotiation process

Thanks to efforts on the part of the Bolivian government and social movements, key proposals from the People’s Agreement, have been included in the current negotiating text. The People’s Agreement is a significant document that emerged from the working group process at the Cochabamba conference, and is a direct response to the weak Copenhagen Accord.

There remains a large divide in the talks between global North and South countries over responsibilities for reducing emissions and financing climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. There is one more round of preparatory talks October 4-9 in Tianjin, China before the Cancun negotiations. The different proposals in the text will be negotiated in Tianjin. There is the potential for certain proposals, particularly those generating debate, to be shelved until COP17 negotiations in South Africa, late 2011. There is an ongoing push on the part of certain governments such as the U.S. and Canada to turn the weak Copenhagen Accord into a post-Kyoto agreement.

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) will be a serious battleground in Cancun. While mainstream media is framing REDD as an area where progress is being made, REDD along with all carbon offsets, are categorically rejected in the People’s Agreement and by the climate justice movement as false solutions to the climate crisis (to read more about criticisms of REDD, refer here, here and here).

Plans for mobilizing in Cancun are moving forward

The evening’s discussions affirmed that Cancun is an important opportunity to hold our government leaders to account and demonstrate support for the Cochabamba People’s Agreement and climate justice.

There will be a significant mobilization of people in the lead up to, and during Cancun negotiations. 
While there are certainly challenges in organizing for significant numbers of people to merge in Cancun including ongoing negotiations with municipal and federal governments to secure physical space for alternative events, there are a number of initiatives already underway. In addition to what happens in the streets, there will be people with accreditation, ‘on the inside,’ observing official talks, holding side events, challenging false climate ‘solutions’ such as REDD and the expansion of carbon markets and supporting the People’s Agreement.  

Via Campesina, an international peasant movement that strongly supports the People’s Agreement, is organizing a series of caravans departing from various parts of Mexico and converging in Mexico City for a mass demonstration on November 30. From there, the caravans will continue to Cancun where Via Campesina will hold an Alternative Global forum for Live and Environmental and Social Justice which will include a large camping area for people to stay, discussions and actions will take place from December 4 to 10.  You can read more about Via Campesina’s plans here.

The Diálogo Climático-Espacio Mexicano is a network of regional, national and international movements and organizations that are organizing an open, inclusive and independent space to hold conferences, workshops, seminars, panels, meetings and more. They are also involved in the demonstrations and marches that will happen in Cancun, as well as organizing additional caravans from Mexico and neighbouring countries. Yu can read their call-out invitation to participate here.

There will also be a Klimaforum10 (based on the Klimaforum during Copenhagen negotiations) which will provide an alternative space.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, Blue Planet Project organizer Anil Naidoo, Campaigns and Communications Director Brent Patterson and Mexico City-based Blue Planet Project organizer Claudia Campero Arena, and I will be on the ground in Cancun. We are currently planning a series of workshops,a book launch, a roundtable supporting the call from Cochabamba for a referendum on climate change, a demonstration and participation in a major march, and much more. More details soon!

International call to action

While government leaders may delay, people around the world will be mobilizing to advance climate justice. December 7th has been noted by a number of movements and organizations as a focused day of action.

Joining this global movement, the Council of Canadians alongside the Indigenous Environmental Network, KAIROS and the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition issued a call to action for People’s Assemblies on Climate Justice during the Cancun negotiations.

People’s Assemblies on Climate Justice are movement-building and organizing events. A gathering of people that will transform awareness into action through community-based climate justice actions.

To find out more and get involved, visit: www.canadians.org/assemblies.