Monday, December 13, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Klimaforum: Bio-intensive, Animal-integrated, Perennial-based, Organic Regional Food Systems as the Climate's Saving Grace
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Going off word of mouth directions, we were looking for a 7-11 in Puertos Morelos. The only 7-11 we had so far encountered was one off the highway which seemed to be the center of exchange for ADO buses from the airport to the taxis and local route bus lines. After asking some shop owners in downtown Puertos Morelos, it turned out that was the only 7-11 in town. 20 pesos and a 5 minute cab ride later, we were waiting on the side of the 7-11 in front of a Klimaforum sign for some to-be known vehicle to pick us up.
About 30 minutes later our ride arrived – a dusty silver astrovan blasting conscious hip-hop from the states, and out came three people heading back to wherever. We got in with two Spanish speakers and a woman named Justine from an NGO in Brooklyn who was documenting the spread of industrial agriculture in the developing world. I was intrigued and excited for what was to come.
2.5 km from an ecopark boasting caves, ziplines, and crystal clear pools of natural springs was El Rey, which is a polo club. Ironically, the Klimaforum was hosted in the latter. We registered our names and emails, paid 10 pesos for the shuttle and began to explore the modest and seemingly quiet counter-UN event. On the gate entrance was the schedule for the day. It was about to be lunch and after that we decided to hear a presentation about how organic farming is, and should be, the saving grace for climate change mitigation as well as adaptation.
The feeling of the event was worlds away from the COP. The entire event was open air, side-events or workshops held in party tents on a large turf field, open-air café and stage that doubled as blogger’s post with wifi up until 5:00pm. The energy slower friendlier, and more communal; every one ate the same 40 peso ($3.50 USD) meal of rice, kidney beans, roast potatoes with veggi-sausage, and cilantro lime shredded carrots. English and Spanish mingled in the air and people of all walks, including young children, talked and ate together or ran around the field.
Simone and I walked around the inner perimeter of the field listening to the sounds of birds and we checked out the Meshwork:
The Meshwork is an interactive diagram that places important epicenters of change needed to prevent the destructive forces of climate change. Next to those epicenters were cards that described specific actions needed to see those changes. The idea then is that the connections made can be taken home with you by registering at the website www.2020climatesolutions.org which will connect you to similar people in your local area.
All in all it was quiet, calm and free spirited. Though not dull, there were many vibrant people who were looking for alternative roots to enacting changes, ones were they had more of a voice. Ironically though, it didn’t have a format all that different to the COP. There were some more spiritual activities like drum circles and dances for the earth, but the bulk of the experience was simultaneous hour and a half presentations.
I had later learned that the alternative forum experienced a rift as those from the Klimaforum received government funding for their event, those wanting a process completely exterior to the state formed the People’s Dialogue, though equally as elusive to find, but apparently more radical.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Questions from the Cornell community answered...
Q: I'm teaching a course next semester on "The Politics of Slow Moving Crises" on the difficulties political systems have in interpreting and responding to risks with long time horizons, like climate change. I'd be particularly curious in learning more about how participants at climate change negotiations evaluate the politics of addressing climate change, and if they view states' responses to climate change negatively, then what do they see as the alternative avenues to coordinating responses?
A: I can give an overview of how several developing countries are approaching REDD from attending the side event titled, "Souther Civil Society, Local Community and Indigenous Peoples Perspectives on REDD". Simone Lovera of the Global Forest Coalition and Friends of the Earth International advocates heavily against REDD for the reasons that governments that enact REDD are also involved with pre-existing conflicts of interest such as mining, logging, and biofuel concessions. Valuation of the forests, in her argument, comes from the indigenous's understanding and intimate connection with forest benefits, i.e. it s non market. She argued that there are several pre-existing frameworks that should be strengthened instead of ignored, pointing primarily to the UN Convention on Biodiversity and the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights. Other countries represented in the panel are less skeptical about REDD due to their involvement of indigenous peoples and small communities. Cited examples were a pilot project in Tanzania, a very successful, full-integration of indigenous rights in Paraguay with CAPI. Examples from Cameroon and Indonesia felt that much more work needed to be done to ensure indigenous rights as well as deforestation rather than just reduced emissions.
Q: I hope that the delegation can give us a better idea how economically feasible geologic carbon sequestration will be in the future given the view of the conference presentations and attendees on some alternatives to encourage or force atmospheric CO2 reductions (like carbon tax, cap and trade, and legislative regulation of CO2 emissions).
A: From IEA sponsored side event I learned of an in depth report of the techno-economic aspects of CCS refer to IEA GHG Report 2008/2009 by Foster Wheeler Italy.
In dedicated CCS facilities energy efficiency goes down, capital costs increase, and the cost of electricity increase compared to Biomass CCS. In current carbon markets there is no clear language of how biomass CCS or CCS in general will fit in. It is unclear and currently being debated if CCS at all can be included in CDMs. CCS was however acknowledged in the IPCC GHG Guidelines (2006) Chapter 5.3 as being a reportable negative emission. The technical potential of Biomass CCS is 10 Gt in the power sector (33% of global electricity demand) and 5 Gt in biofuel sector (31% of global fuel demand), more realistic estimates tally out to 3 Gt. With the caveat that biomass supply is the largest limiting factor.
Q:I’m also interested in what they have to say about and risk analysis for geologic carbon sequestration for the supply of uncontaminated water. It is my impression that international concern about potable water supplies is growing, perhaps almost to the level of concerns about energy shortages. Is that a correct impression and what group or region is driving that change? I have worked on water resources for years. In the last decade it seemed that there was not all that much interest in water. What has changed now and why? Is population growth the driver or is it water needs associated with energy development (including water to grow ethanol) ? What do people see as the solution?
A: By 2050 65% of CCS projects will occur in developing countries and 45% of the projects will be associated with coal burning plants (the rest occurring in the sectors of nuclear, natural gas, and biofules primarily). I asked about the possible threat to potable water, especially considering the high occurrence of these projects in developing countries. A panelest from the IEA (International Energy Agency) acknowledged that there has been no official analysis and conceded that there may negative impacts on water, but there has been no quantification done yet. Other panelists remarked that CCS used in exhausted oil fields or into saline aquifers do not impact drinking water. A panelist from Chevron mentioned that in the US there is legislation to make sure that all steps in CCS are controlled. A panelist from Canada further clarified earlier points by saying that ground water is generally found 300 - 500ft below the surface and that these wells were at about 6,000ft below. An informed audience member told me later that no water is used in compressing CO2, however no one mentioned issues during drilling etc.
Population pressure and water was not discussed
Simone Lovera from the Global Forest Coalition (GFC) and Friends of the Earth International gave a very impassioned argument as to why REDD programs are often in direct conflict with the goal of reducing deforestation. The GFC is a group of 50 NGOs and Indigenous Peoples Organization which followall of the major intergovernmental forest negotiations, but they specifically address the underlying causes of deforestation. The causes she identified were: 1) Demand for wood. Governments are increasing demand by subsidizing wood fuel as a move away from coal. 2) Demand for land. Bioenergy programs promote expansion of land use, she argues to the point where if we derived all of our fuel from biomass there would be no unmanaged forest remaining, and further that bioenergy is promoted under REDD.
3) Conflict over land tenure. Ownership rights vs indigenous territories have plagued state-indigenous relations for centuries. 4) Industrialization, urbanizationm infrastructure. Institutions like the World Bank should not be promoting on the one hand reducing deforestation and on the other development of “under-utilized” land. 5) Poor central planning lack of political will, inadequate capacity. 6) Economic poverty, no alternative livelihood. 7) Climate change. 8) Neoliberal economic policies, unsustainable consumption and poverty.
There are however, uplifting cases of non-REDD forest conservation. These are based off of a non-market appreciation of forest ecosystem services such as clean and abundant water, food, and shelter. Those living in the forest consider themselves custodians of mother earth.
The panelists who described success had differing views. In 2009, Tanzania began "pro-poor" REDD pilot project . Norway has invested $75 million USD into an MRV program as well as 7 NGO projects, further the UN is investing $4.2 million USD. In Tanzania REDD can work because the villages and communities own the forest and therefore the money from emissions reductions will reach them. The locals welcome the opportunity for more income, to move away from slash and burn agriculture, and to funnel new monies towards schools and clinics.
In Paraguay, the organization CAPI was instrumental in involving indigenous cultures into the REDD negotiations which started in 2008. By keeping indigenous interests at the forefront through the whole process, the entire rights of these peoples have been incorporated for the first time in the UN-REDD Programme. More information can be found at www.capi.org.py/pueblos_indigenas.html (in spanish).
Indonesia and Cameroon/Congo Basin have not seen such similar success, mostly due to ambiguous legal language, nebulous land tenure, and absent local voices at process meetings. Major challenges have been 1) Political framework. There is disharmony between policy and forest protection due mining, plantations, etc. 2) Fulfillment of rights. The forest and its peoples are inseparable, there have been no real strides to make right on this. 3) Financing and $ flows. Political corruption has made this a critical issue. 4) Technical aspects such as MRV. Giogio Budi of the Indonesian Civil Society on REDD showed a slide that illustrates the inherent conflift REDD and true deforestation by biofuels per se:
This panel discussion was presented by several UN organizations and surveyed several places where the UN is working to improve the capacity to deal with preparedness for climate change related challenges at the nation level.
Maria of UN-HABITAT spoke of urban measures for adaptation and mitigation in the Philipines, where a 1 m sea level rise will affect 80% of the municipalities.
Julia Jules of CD4CDM (Capacity Development for Clean Development Mechanisms) in Peru spoke at length at how Peru was doing everything imaginable to be carbon finance friendly. This mostly dealt with government and finance level organization and of course capacity development, which would be building Peru’s ability to accept these CDM funds by insuring financeable projects, as well as having all of their ducks in line in the way of eligibility, money distribution, money sourcing, etc. This paid off for them though, through partnerships with Scotia Bank, Banco Continental, and Banco de Credito Peru has welcomed $11 billion in new investments. This money will fund 45 new CDM projects. Peru is also heavily promoting their CDM efforts and have been noted in May 2008 as “country of the month” by CDM Highlights magazine and is currently 6th best host country for CDM investments by Point Carbon magazine. As of now, in 2010, there are 147 CDM projects in the energy sector totaling in 25,783 tons of CO2 per year reduced and in 2011 there will be 152 projects estimated to reduce emissions by 250,000 tons of CO2. More information can be found at fonamperu.com
Peter Holmgren of UN-REDD spoke of current REDD projects going on in Tanzania. He indicated the largest barrier to implementing REDD on a large scale were the transaction costs of training personnel to learn new technologies and to carry out the actual inventories of emissions in forests. This is also known as MRV, which stands for Monitoring, Recordkeeping, and Verification. MRV is currently the largest barrier for any terrestrial carbon management project looking to get funding from REDD and CDMs. The issue lies in the imperative to accurately measure emissions and sequestrations over huge areas of land with heterogeneous management, structure (topographically as well as in the vegetation), and soil, and then to track those measurements over time. To quote Holmgren “Forest MRV, without it, we can’t do anything”.
In order for participating, or interested countries to receive the compensation generated by REDD programs, the countries need to build their capacity to do MRV in order to submit a report. Not only capacity of states limited, but on the international level, Holmgren told us, there are not enough experts and implementers.
Tanzania represented an interesting case study where the FAO, UNDP, and UNEP have been working extensively with the Tanzanian National Forestry Program through longstanding work with the Forestry and Beekeeping Commission. This helps with capacity building, but the Brazilian Space Institute has been very instrumental by providing training workers to use remotely sensed data, like satellite images, as well as some technology transfer. In summary, REDD has much to offer, but also many demands. Costs need to be brought down, remote sensing needs to become available at the local level, training and training support is essential for the states to sustainably carry out REDD requirements as these projects can last up to a century or more. Holmgren also called for more Global South-to-Global South government collaboration as well as Global North-to-Global-North academic collaboration.
I asked the panel about how they felt food security and food sovereignty fit into capacity building, in the scope of the projects they reported on, my question went unanswered. It was clear to me that these UN efforts are tailored towards building capacity to generate CDM derived incomes for states, not necessarily building capacity of the people of those countries to adapt to the challenges that climate change presents.
The first event I attended was all about the role that states, governments, IGOs and NGOs have to increase education about reproductive health as well as sexually transmitted disease, however an even stronger current in this panel was about finance and increasing the amount of money that women contribute to their household as well as have access to - mainly by microfunds.
Monique (last name missed), Founder of the Women's Parliament Forum and 1st presidential nominee in Suriname recalls the state's obligation and missed opportunities to support women, citing some 8 international treaties relating to women's rights and reproductive health and safety. Calling on the need address issues of infant and maternal mortality as well as family planning by integrating the resources at hand by the state along with the knowledge of NGOs more knowledgeable of women's needs. Relevance to climate change? Monique describes how Suriname had flooding of its interior rivers for the first time, while supplies were being sent the women of the communities contacted women's organizations to obtain more useful supplies for preventing disease, etc. It was these same women who were responsible for relocating the villages to higher elevations.
Judy Fink of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) brings girls and young women to developing countries such as Zambia to exchange knowledge of lifestyles but also to foster a peer relationship among women to empower them to make smart decisions regarding pregnancy and STDs.
Lucy R (lastname not taken) of the United Nations Development Programme sought to apply the issues of women's empowerment on a mainstream, programmatic level. She noted that 70% of the poor were women and saw that as the "low hanging fruit" to give women empowerment: representation in and access to financing projects. This would give women more power in how money is spent since it is usually sought in areas where women do most of the work such as provisioning of resources (food, water, fuel, etc.).
The next two panelists were men. One from the Ecological Christian Association spoke about how gender issues were not only women's issues. Saying that poverty creates weak family members who become more and more marginally productive, created an equation of sorts: weakness + poverty = marginalized & powerless. He noted that NAPAs don’t include any kind of finances for family planning. Listen to Izak from the Ecological Christian Association makes the case for women, gender, and health issues to be at the heart of all political decsiosns made here at COP16
The final panelist from the Population and Environmental Health Ethiopia Consortium spoke of on going successful projects in Ethiopia aimed at increasing community cohesion and strengthening women’s role in decision-making. The integration approach gave women money for contributing services such as tending apiaries and gardens as well as provisioning other important household resources to the point where the women were contributing equally to household finances with men, which increased their reproductive sovereignty and decision making. Increasing community cohesion allowed for multiple households in the community to contribute equally to several sectors thus reducing the requirements from each household. This gave community members, especially women, extra free time which they spent pursuing local politics or other interests.
The final example reminds me of the permaculture principle “multiple elements for a single function”. This sort of redundancy has been found extensively in natural ecosystems and contributes to the resilience the ecosystem in times of disturbance. I find it very fascinating to find permaculture principles at work in areas not relating to growing food, to see human communities applying lessons learnt from nature is very encouraging.
The entire side event was a fascinating look into an area I seldom learn about in my studies at Cornell and helped me to keep in mind the larger picture what the earth and humans are facing. I was uplifted by strides made in places with historically wide gender equality gaps. However, I was left with a nagging feeling, why is it that we seek to “raise” the women up to level of the man – especially with money as her proof of worth. Instead (or, simultaneously), shouldn’t we be teaching men to value the non-commoditized services that women contribute. It has eerie parallels to discussions of REDD and Payments for Ecosystem Services (covered next). Is our way forward guaranteed by the powers of commerce, which is arguably the force that brought us to this mess? Or, should we be divesting from the capitalist model of valuation and instead experience the benefits of the women (and the earth) not by how rich in money they make us, but by how rich in life we are because of them?
Today I attended:
Healthy Women, healthy planet: Women's empowerment, family planning, and resilience which is presented by Population Action International (11:30 - 1:00)
Capacity Development as a Driver of Low-Emission, Climate-Resilient Development presented by the UNDP and UNEP (1:20 - 2:40)
Southern Society, Local Community and Indigenous Peoples Perspectives on REDDpresented by Rainforest Foundation UK, Global Forest Coalition, and Tanzania Natural Resource Forum
Carbon Capture and Storage; Recent Developments and Next Steps presented byCarbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA)
To start, I entered the Cancunmesse very energized by all of the activity and was excited for a day of learning.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
30 November, 2010
The trip has begun, we’re 40 minutes into the flight. I started out pretty nervous of the impending trip – throwing myself into an international conference as my first go-around I felt was nothing to take lightly.
I wasn’t slated to arrive more than 75 minutes before the presentation began. We landed on time, but going through customs and waiting for the bus that was 40 minutes late quickly ate up the time I needed to check in at the hotel, register for the official side-event, and find the conference room. While being unable to attend this presentation I had helped to build was discouraging, having the time to adjust was however, appreciated.
Despite my plans on going back to Cancunmesse (the conference center where the official side events were happening), to catch some other side events, a series of events guided by Murphy’s Law kept me at the hotel. Once again feeling discouraged about missing a whole day of activity. The events of my day however, did incite some interesting conversations and thoughts about climate change, public perception, and the role of economies in directing change.
So far we have talked to two “lay peoples” about our activities in Cancun, and have made observations about the world and the people in it while at our hotel:
Omar was our cab driver, to the airport, as well as family friend. He of course asked the obligate, “What are you doing in Cancun”, probably expecting and answer most similar to “vacation”. I told him about COP16, which he called an “environmentalist conference”, and remarked that “ Global warming, in the summer – I don’t like it, but in the winter – I could use some more”. I chuckled about that familiar do-nothing attitude which seeks comfort, but we reminded him that climate change isn’t just about warming, but also about sea level rise, increasing storm frequency. “Yes, yes”, he acknowledged. When people focus on the phrase “Global Warming” they think only about warming, which sounds good to people on a gloomy late-November day in NYC. That phrase loses site of the bigger scope of the effects and its just plain inaccurate. Somehow the bigger scope of the issue needs to be better conveyed to the public. This is not just about warmer summers and less snowy days, this is about tilting the equilibrium way out of balance. This is also about bringing social equity to the table and creating a future where we acknowledge and held accontable the changes we inflict on each other in a globalized world.
Our other encounter was with a gregarious woman on the plane. Regina was an elderly Hasidic-Italian immigrant to Brooklyn on her way to Cancun to vacation for 4 weeks. When we told her that we were going to COP16 it rang a bell to her, but she shrugged it off with naivety. She mumbled something about a friend of hers telling her how important it was and that there was going to be a march in the streets, which I think was a reference to Via la Campesina’s 1000’s of Cancun, or perhaps something with the Klimaforum. Regardless, she lamented that we going to do work and not vacation. As young people, I think we feel a responsibility to help restore and regenerate the earth that we will be spending many decades to come, as well as raising generations to come. Climate change for that reason has piqued the interest of younger citizens, but unfortunately our major agents of enacting change (government, multinational businesses) are run by older folks who are for the most part determinately more conservative (read, less progressive).
The Cancun airport surprised me for reasons I should have anticipated. The walls were abound with advertisements for COP16 – sending pleas for meaningful treaties, or posters for various clean energy projects. I wonder what the advertisements are at the Mexico City airport, or how the walls of the Cancun airport will be dressed come Dec 6, when COP16 has come to a close. The Cancun airport also has a fleet of 100% biodiesel busses that service it, and taxi cabs that pushed for “veg-power”, calling for organic and vegan dietary choices. My impression of that part of the Yucatan Peninsula from the plane as we were landing was mostly of awe of how it was still mostly unbroken vegetation. Practically no roads penetrated the scrubby forest compared to the fractured-mosaic look of US lands.
The last chapter of the Day 1 journey was the hotel experience. I booked myself at the Jade Now Resort, mostly out of haste due to the lateness I (we) organized this Cornell delegation. Additionally, this hotel is one of the ‘official’ hotels of the COP meaning there is a free bus shuttle service to the Cancunmesse and other hotels/convention centers where side events will take place. This purportedly all-inclusive stay, comes with internet for $15 USD per day, ridiculous! I will have to do most of my posting from the Cancunmesse or other places with free or much cheaper wifi. The Jade Now is an over-glorified, US comfort zone- like a shopping mall on the beach, as I presume all resorts really are. With no real local fare on the 5 restaurants on the grounds, we are hoping that tomorrow’s fresh fruit salad comes with avocados, guavas, etc. I did however have a dinner that included roasted cactus leaves, when I inquired about which kind of cactus it was from, the waiter bewilderedly shrugged and said, “Mexican cactus?” I was disappointed, but not shocked, these resorts really do alienate people from their natural surroundings due to the higher-prized pastime of shopping, and experiencing false-culture; false culture being commercialized, commoditized, and turned token.
While forking in “delicious Mexican food” we pondered if hosting delegates, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, academics, and activists in this kind of a place was really setting a good example for COP16 outcomes. These resorts are exorbitantly wastefull and don’t empower their guests to think about the real changes that will need to be made in the coming decades. We could only ponder this for so long until a mariachi band lulled our spinning minds with a lovely serenade.