Coronavirus Hasn´t Slowed Down Ecological Women Farmers in Peru’s Andes Highlands

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Quechua indigenous farmers from the town of Huasao, in the Andes highlands of Peru, cut insect repellent plants in front of Juana Gallegos' house, while others prepare the biol mixture, a liquid organic fertiliser that they use on their vegetable crops. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Quechua indigenous farmers from the town of Huasao, in the Andes highlands of Peru, cut insect repellent plants in front of Juana Gallegos’ house, while others prepare the biol mixture, a liquid organic fertiliser that they use on their vegetable crops. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

HUASAO, Peru, May 6 2020 (IPS) – It’s eight o’clock in the morning and Pascuala Ninantay is carrying two large containers of water in her wheelbarrow to prepare with neighbouring women farmers 200 litres of organic fertiliser, which will then be distributed to fertilise their crops, in this town in the Andes highlands of Peru.


“We grow healthy, nutritious food without chemicals,” she tells IPS, describing the sustainable agriculture she practices in Huasao, a town of about 1,500 people in Quispicanchi province, 3,300 metres above sea level, in the department of Cuzco in south-central Peru.

It will take them four hours to prepare the “biol”, a liquid fertiliser composed of natural inputs contributed by the local farmers as part of a collective work tradition of the Quechua indigenous people, to which most of the inhabitants of Huasao and neighbouring highlands villages in the area belong.

“Between all of us we bring the different ingredients, but we were short on water so I went to the spring to fill my ‘galoneras’ (multi-gallon containers),” explains Ninantay.

The women, gathered at the home of Juana Gallegos, work in community. While some gather insect repellent plants like nettles and muña (Minthostachys mollis, an Andes highlands plant), others prepare the huge plastic drum where they will make the mixture that includes ash and fresh cattle dung.

They keep working until the container is filled with 200 litres of the fertiliser which, after two months of fermentation in the sealed drum, will be distributed among them equally.

Making organic fertiliser is one of the agro-ecological practices that Ninantay and 15 of her neighbours have adopted to produce food that is both beneficial to health and adapted to climate change.

They are just a few of the almost 700,000 women who, according to official figures, are engaged in agricultural activities in Peru, and who play a key role in the food security and sovereignty of their communities, despite the fact that they do so under unequal conditions because they have less access to land, water management and credit than men.

That is the view of Elena Villanueva, a sociologist with the Flora Tristán Centre for Peruvian Women, a non-governmental organisation that for the past two years has been promoting women’s rights and technical training among small-scale women farmers in Huasao and six other areas of the region, with support from two institutions in Spain’s Basque Country: the Basque Development Cooperation agency and the non-governmental Mugen Gainetik.

“During this time we have seen how much power the 80 women we have supported have gained as a result of their awareness of their rights and their use of agro-ecological techniques. In a context of marked machismo (sexism), they are gaining recognition for their work, which was previously invisible,” she told IPS.

A group of women farmers are ready to head out to the plots they farm on the community lands outside of Huasao, a rural town in Peru's Andes highlands department of Cuzco. They are wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, because they depend on their production for food and income from the sale of the surplus, to cover their household expenses. CREDIT: Nayda Quispe/IPS

A group of women farmers are ready to head out to the plots they farm on the community lands outside of Huasao, a rural town in Peru’s Andes highlands department of Cuzco. They are wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, because they depend on their production for food and income from the sale of the surplus, to cover their household expenses. CREDIT: Nayda Quispe/IPS

This group of women farmers is convinced of the need for nutritious food that does not harm people’s health or nature, and they are happy to do their small part to make that happen.

“We want to have a variety of food constantly available, but taking care of our soil, water, plants, trees and air,” says Ninantay.

“We no longer use chemicals,” says Gallegos. “Thanks to the training we have received, we understood how the soil and our crops had become so dependent on those substances, we thought that only by using them would we have a good yield. But no, with our own fertilisers we grow lettuce, tomatoes, chard, artichokes, radishes and all our big, beautiful, tasty vegetables. Everything is organic.”

Once they were producing their fresh produce using agro-ecological techniques, the women decided to also begin growing their staple crops of potatoes and corn organically. “I see that the plants are happier and the leaves are greener now that I fertilise them naturally,” says Ninantay.

Villanueva says these decisions on what to plant and how to do it contribute to new forms of agricultural production that meet the food needs of the women and their families while also contributing to the sustainable development of their communities.

“With agro-ecology they enrich their knowledge about the resistance of crops to climate change, they carry out integrated management of pests and diseases, and they have tools to improve their production planning,” she explains.

And even more important, “this process raises their self-esteem and strengthens their sense of being productive citizens because they are aware that they are taking care of biodiversity, diversifying their crops and increasing their yields,” she adds.

Thanks to this, these peasant women are obtaining surpluses that they now market.

Three times a week, Ninantay and the other women set up their stall in Huasao’s main square where they sell their products to the local population and to tourists who come in search of local healers, famous for their fortune telling and cures, which draw on traditional rituals and ceremonies.

The agro-ecological women farmers set up their stall three times a week in the main square of the rural municipality of Huasao to sell lettuce, tomatoes, Chinese onions, radish and other fresh produce. They are now marketing their wares in compliance with the health regulations put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic, for which they have received training from the municipal authorities. CREDIT: Nayda Quispe/IPS

The agro-ecological women farmers set up their stall three times a week in the main square of the rural municipality of Huasao to sell lettuce, tomatoes, Chinese onions, radish and other fresh produce. They are now marketing their wares in compliance with the health regulations put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic, for which they have received training from the municipal authorities. CREDIT: Nayda Quispe/IPS

Coronavirus alters local dynamics

However, the measures implemented by the central government on Mar. 15 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have reduced trade, by not allowing outsiders to visit Huasao, known locally as “the village of the witchdoctors” because of its healers.

But the work in the fields has not stopped; on the contrary, the women are working harder than ever.

“We used to have the income of my husband who worked in the city, but because of the state of emergency he can no longer leave,” says Ninantay. “My fellow women farmers are in the same boat, so we continue to harvest and sell in the square and what we earn goes to buying medicines, masks, bleach and other things for the home.”

Initially, she says, the husbands didn’t want their wives to participate in the project and stay overnight away from home to attend the training workshops. But after they saw the money they were saving on food and the income the women were earning, “they now recognise that our work is important.”

Their husbands, like most Huasao men, do not work in the fields. They work in construction or services in the city of Cuzco, about 20 km away, or migrate seasonally to mining regions in search of a better income.

So the community lands, where each family has usufruct rights on three-hectare plots, were left in the hands of women, even though the title is usually held by the men. With the opportunity offered by the Flora Tristán project, they have increased their harvests and are no longer merely subsistence farmers but earn an income as well.

Despite the pandemic, the women obtained permission from the authorities and received training on the care and prevention measures to be followed in order to market their products under conditions that are safe for them and their customers.

Their stall at the open-air market in the town’s main square is already known for offering healthy food, and on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays they run out of vegetables and other products they offer. They also sell their wares in other fairs and markets.

Their stall in the municipal market is also seen as an alternative to return to more natural foods in the face of the increasing change in eating patterns in rural areas.

“Many people don’t want to eat quinoa or ‘oca’ (Oxalis tuberosa, an Andean tuber), they prefer noodles or rice,” says Ninantay. “Children fill up on sweets and junk food and they are not getting good nutrition, and that’s not right. We have to educate people about healthy eating if we want strong new generations.”

She stresses the importance of people understanding that nature, “Mother Earth”, must be respected.

“We have to recover the wisdom of our ancestors, of our grandmothers, to take care of everything that we need to live,” she warns. “If we do not do this, our grandchildren and their children will not have water to drink, seeds to plant, or food to eat.”

Flora Tristán’s Villanueva announced that the 80 women farmers in the programme would participate in initiatives for the recovery of agricultural and water harvesting practices based on forestation and infiltration ditches, using native trees known as chachacomas (Escallonia resinosa) and queñuas (Polylepis).

The women hope that their experience and knowledge will be extended on a large scale, because although they share with their families, neighbours and relatives what they are learning, they believe that the authorities should help expand these practices.

“We would like not only Huasao, but all of Cuzco to be an agro-ecological region, so that we can help nature and guarantee healthy food for the families of the countryside and the city,” says Gallegos, convinced that if they could do it, everyone can.

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Harness Youth to Change World’s Future

Biodiversity, Climate Change, Conferences, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Gender, Global, Green Economy, Headlines, Human Rights, Inequity, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment, Women & Climate Change

Women bear the brunt of climate change disasters. Credit: Women Deliver

NEW YORK, Mar 31 2020 (IPS) – Vanessa Nakate of Uganda may have been cropped out of a photograph taken at the World Economic Forum, but she along with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg have made the climate crisis centre stage.


Women Deliver Young Leader Jyotir Nisha discusses with Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada on how to harness young people to overcome gender inequality and address climate change in a recent wide-ranging interview.

Quesada says key strategies to designing policy to fight climate change require unconventional decision-making to address challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, the fourth industrial revolution, and inequality.

“These are intertwined factors that can hinder development if unattended but, if tackled, they could potentially accelerate progress and wellbeing for all,” he says.

“And, of course, this is a task that young leaders are able to handle and produce the timely answers that are necessary.”

Bringing in her experience in the non-profit sector, Nisha says training girls and women in up-cycling plastic waste to produce handmade goods has assisted them to contribute to their family income and their empowerment in the community. The question is, how can this be broadened.

Quesada says women, in particular young women, are leading the way.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada. Credit: Women Deliver

“From cooperative seed banks, to early warning networks, from solar engineers to women politicians carving a path of sustainable policymaking. They are at the forefront of forest conservation, sustainable use of resources, and community enhancement, and restoration of landscapes and forest ecosystems,” he says.

However, women’s roles are often underestimated, unrecognised, and unpaid.

“Women and girls with access to technology have already begun developing innovative tools to reduce emissions by targeting sustainable consumption and production practices, including food waste, community waste management, energy efficiency, and sustainable fashion.”

The solutions exist, but much more is needed.

“It takes a whole-of-society approach for collaboration and cooperation on a bigger and enhanced scale.”

The President suggests that the way investments are made could be fundamental to ensure a flow of finance to the communities, including women, and youth. This will, he believes, provide “a stable source of funding for businesses and services that contribute to the solution of social or environmental challenges.”

The impact of this will be partnerships between traditional sources of finance, like international cooperation and development banks, and new partners, like philanthropy, hedge funds, or pension funds.

“And what better than young people giving the thrust that all this requires?”

Nisha says she was pleased to see the massive mobilisation of young people at the inaugural Climate Action Summit last year. The summit had little good news for climate change with concerns raised that the accelerating rise in sea level, melting ice would have on socio-economic development, health, displacement, food security and ecosystems. However, beyond taking to the streets, they also need to hold decision-makers accountable.

“In the last months we have witnessed the irruption of massive mobilisations in different parts of the world, lead mostly by young people. This would seem surprising for a generation that has been accused several times of passivity, indifference, and individualism,” Quesada says. “I truly believe that, as long as these demands are channelled through democratic and pacifist means, they are extremely important to set a bar and a standard of responsibility for us, decision-makers — who are, by the way, more and more often, young people.”

He adds that world leaders owe them explanations of the decisions made.

“We must also have the wisdom to pay attention to these demands and take into account their opinions and proposals to reach agreements that have the legitimacy of consensus-building.”

However, Nisha notes, while campaigns like the Deliver for Good campaign is working across sectors reports at COP25, and the recent World Economic Forum (Davos), “climate change continues to threaten progress made toward gender equality across every measure of development.”

At WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2020 showed that it would take more than a lifetime, 99.5 years in 2019 for gender parity across health, education, work and politics to be achieved.

Quesada says the climate catastrophe “demands that policymakers and practitioners renew commitments to sustainable development — at the heart of which is, and must continue to be, advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, and realising women’s rights as a pre-requisite for sustainable development.”

Costa Rica, he says, has been recognised internationally on two significant areas: the respect of human rights and environmental protection.

“The present Administration has taken these objectives a step further by paying particular attention to women’s rights, inclusion, and diversity, and including them as part of our core policy principles and our everyday practices,” he says. “We expect to increase women’s integration into productive processes and achieve women’s economic empowerment through specific policies linked to our long-term development strategy — the Decarbonization Plan — allowing the transformational changes our society needs.

However, the critical question, Nisha says, is: “What can world leaders and governments do today to ensure young people have a seat at the decision-making table?”

Quesada is confident that young people will be part of the solution.

“The challenges we are facing today are unprecedented precisely because previous generations did not have to face situations such as biodiversity loss, global warming, or the emergence of artificial intelligence and technology. Thus, we need new answers and solutions from Twenty-First Century people, and those should and will be put forward by the youth,” he says.

The importance of youth involvement was recently highlighted too at the meeting of African Leaders for Nutrition in Addis Ababa. African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina said Africa should invest in skills development for the youth so the continent’s entrepreneurs can leverage emerging technologies to transform Africa’s food system to generate new jobs. This is especially urgent as the population on the continent is expected to double to 2.5 billion people in 40 years putting pressure on governments to deliver more food and jobs in addition to better livelihoods.

In a recent interview with IPS International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Director General, Nteranya Sanginga, explained that this change is neither easy or necessarily something all leadership has taken on board.

“Our legacy is starting a programme to change the mindset of the youth in agriculture. Unfortunately (with) our governments that is where you have to go and change mindsets completely. Most probably 90 per cent of our leaders consider agriculture as a social activity basically for them its (seen as a) pain, penury. They proclaim that agriculture is a priority in resolving our problems, but we are not investing in it. We need that mindset completely changed.”

Quesada is unequivocal that this attitude needs to change.

“My advice to world leaders is to have the humility to listen to the people and to allow more inclusive and participatory decision-making. And to the young people, I can only encourage them to own their future, and to act accordingly, with vision, courage, and determination.”

 

Carbon Markets Can Provide a Crucial Part of the Solution to the Climate Crisis

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Opinion

Fenella Aouane, Principal Green Finance Specialist, Investment and Policy Solutions Division, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

SEOUL, South Korea, Dec 18 2019 (IPS) – One of the main discussions at the COP25 climate change talks was Article 6, which is designed to provide financial support to emerging economies and developing countries to help them reduce emissions by using global carbon markets. Carbon pricing is an essential piece of the puzzle to curb emissions. Without a value on carbon, there is less incentive to make positive changes, especially in the private sector. The most efficient way to carry this forward is to allow trading of carbon both nationally and internationally, which will ensure the lowest cost of mitigation for participants globally.


Fenella Aouane

The COP25 negotiations in Madrid have largely been dominated by Article 6 negotiations on potential carbon markets as they are perceived by many, including businesses, as a way to generate financial flows to emerging economies and developing countries, and to reduce emissions at the lowest possible cost. Thus, it’s crucial to adopt decisions on Article 6 as rules need to be set to show how such markets will operate – this is the guidance the Article 6 rulebook will create. The sooner the better, overall mitigation in global emissions (OMGE) will be possible under the Paris Agreement through international carbon trading with aspects such as corresponding adjustments, which were lacking under the Kyoto Protocol. Carbon markets are a way to not only manage mitigation emissions cuts, but help to find the lowest cost and therefore a strong motivator for implementing international efforts.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), a Seoul-based treaty-based international, inter-governmental organization that supports emerging economies and developing country governments transition to a model of economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive, is already involved in several programs, funded by developed country governments such as Norway and Sweden. GGGI is working with the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment on wider policy approaches, which have been made possible under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement through cooperative approaches. This program looks at helping its member and partner governments to identify areas above their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets, where emissions reductions directly resulting from policy interventions are quantified and transacted. This creates a flow of carbon finance, in exchange for the transfer of the resultant internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs). These programs will not only create ITMO transactions but also set up the lasting infrastructure needed for countries to be able to govern and properly account for future transfers, ensuring environmental integrity and transparency.

GGGI has a key role to play. A further good example is GGGI’s recent collaboration with the Swedish Energy Agency (SEA). The two organizations will work together to catalyze international trading of mitigation outcomes in support of the increased climate ambitions needed under the Paris Agreement. Through a joint cooperation, SEA and GGGI will identify and structure mitigation activities and support the establishment of governance frameworks within host countries as required under the developing rulebook of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, with the goal of completing ITMO transactions.

Although specific rules related to cooperative approaches under Article 6 have yet to be codified, Article 6 aims at supporting the authorization of international emissions trades while avoiding double counting and ensuring environmental integrity, permitting the movement of the related emission reductions between registries, and better linking national emission trading schemes, project-level transactions, and cooperative approaches.

What next? Carbon markets can and should be seen as an opportunity to lower the cost of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and enabling countries to commit to more ambitious targets. At next year’s Glasgow climate change conference, countries need to come forward with more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions. GGGI’s work on pioneering designs for international carbon transactions over 2020 will help shape how the carbon markets can contribute to this increased ambition. It has also made the 2020 NDCs a priority in support of its Members and will ensure that there is strong support to deliver this next year. We need to come to Glasgow with concrete plans and steps. However, tackling climate change cannot be solved by one government alone. There needs to be high-level political commitment and collective action – these are a must.

 

Social Summit Demands Stronger Commitments in Climate Talks

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Climate Change

One of the continuous protests staged at the Social Summit for Climate Action, meeting Dec. 7-13 parallel to the official 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) on climate change. The Summit, hosted by the Complutense University of Madrid, is tackling issues such as the controversial trading of carbon credits, human rights in the climate struggle and opposition to the growing production of hydrocarbons. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

One of the continuous protests staged at the Social Summit for Climate Action, meeting Dec. 7-13 parallel to the official 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) on climate change. The Summit, hosted by the Complutense University of Madrid, is tackling issues such as the controversial trading of carbon credits, human rights in the climate struggle and opposition to the growing production of hydrocarbons. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

MADRID, Dec 9 2019 (IPS) – As the COP25 deliberations enter the decisive final week, representatives of environmental and social organisations gathered in a parallel summit are pressing the governments to adopt stronger commitments in the face of a worsening climate emergency.


In the debates in the week-long Social Summit for Climate Action, which began Dec. 7 parallel to the Dec. 2-13 United Nations 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25) on climate change taking place in Madrid, skepticism has been expressed with respect to the results to come out of the official meeting.

“Nothing good is going to come out of it for Central America, only proposals that are going to make it more vulnerable. The damage is going to become more serious,” Carolina Amaya, representative of the Salvadoran Ecological Unit, told IPS, pointing out that the region is one of the most exposed to the climate crisis, facing persistent droughts, intense storms, rising sea levels and climate migrants.

The social summit is taking place at the public Complutense University, in the west of the Spanish capital, about 15 km from the IFEMA fairgrounds which are hosting COP25 after Chile pulled out on Oct. 30 from holding the event due to massive anti-government protests and social unrest.

The alternative activities, which also end on Friday Dec. 13, include a varied menu of issues, such as free trade and its socioenvironmental impacts, oil drilling in indigenous territories, the protection of forests, and opposition to trading reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which cause global warming.

They are also discussing the monetisation of environmental services, increased funding for the most vulnerable nations, climate justice and attacks against land rights activists.

The Madrid Social Summit is also holding sessions in Santiago de Chile, under the same slogan, “Beyond COP25: People for Climate”, although there are fewer representatives of organised civil society than at previous COPs because of the last minute change of venue.

Civil society groups are also organising activities at their green pavilion within the official COP25 compound of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where their participation is more formal and ceremonious.

The demands of civil society gained visibility thanks to the mass demonstration held in Madrid on Friday Dec. 6, with the participation of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, the reluctant star of the official conference and social summit.

COP25 is the third consecutive COP held in Europe, this time under the motto “Time to act”.

The deliberations, which enter the crucial phase of the adoption of agreements Tuesday Dec. 10, are focusing on financing national climate policies, rules for emission reduction markets, and the preparation of the update of emissions reductions and funding of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, designed to assist regions particularly affected by climate change.

COP25 is the climate summit that directly precedes the 2020 entrance into effect of the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted in the French capital in 2015, which left key areas to be hashed out at the current conference, such as the controversial emissions market.

In their statement to the COP, the organisations criticise the economic model based on the extraction of natural resources and mass consumption, blaming it for the climate crisis, and complaining about the lack of results in the UNFCCC meetings.

“The scientific diagnosis is clear regarding the seriousness and urgency of the moment. Economic growth happens at the expense of the most vulnerable people,” says the statement, which defends climate justice “as the backbone of the social fights of our time” and “the broadest umbrella that exists to protect all the diversity of struggles for another possible world.”

At the social summit, the first “Latin American Climate Manifesto was presented on Monday Dec. 9, which lashes out at carbon credit trading, the role of corporations in climate change and the increase in production of hydrocarbons, while expressing support for the growth of agroecology, the defence of human rights and the demand for climate justice.

In addition, indigenous peoples are holding their own meeting, the “indigenous Minga“, with the message “Traditional knowledge at the service of humanity in the face of climate change.” They are demanding respect for their rights, participation in the negotiations and recognition of their role as guardians of ecosystems such as forests.

“We are here to raise our voices and offer our contribution to fight” against the climate emergency, Jozileia Kaingang, a chief of the Kaingang people and a representative of the non-governmental Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, told IPS.

Brazilian indigenous groups are in conflict with the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro because of its attempts to undermine their rights and encourage the commercial exploitation of their territories. In fact, the Brazilian government delegation does not include a single indigenous member – unprecedented in the recent history of the COPs.

Faced with this dispute and the critical situation of the Amazon jungle, Brazil’s indigenous people have sent representatives to Madrid to speak out and seek solidarity.

The murder of two leaders of the Guajajara people in northeastern Brazil on Saturday Dec. 7 shook the indigenous delegation. Two murders had already occurred in that native community in the last two months.

In 2017, the States Parties to the UNFCCC adopted at COP23 the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform for the exchange of experiences and best practices, thereby ensuring the participation of these groups in the negotiations of the convention.

The Platform’s facilitative working group, composed of delegates from seven States Parties and seven indigenous peoples, is currently developing its plan for the period 2020-2021.

Martín Vilela, a representative of the Bolivian Platform for Climate Change umbrella group of local organisations, questioned the effectiveness of the climate summits.

“The agreements are only paper. Emissions continue to rise and countries’ voluntary targets are insufficient. The countries have to be more ambitious if they really want to avoid major disasters,” he told IPS.

Social organizations fear that the Paris Agreement, when it replaces the Kyoto Protocol next year, will be stillborn, because countries are failing to keep their promises, even though scientists are warning that the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is insufficient.

The Agreement sets mandatory emission reduction targets for industrialised countries and voluntary targets for developing countries in the South.

“The countries need to know that we’re monitoring them. We, the organisations, must prepare ourselves to demand better action,” said Amaya from El Salvador.

For her part, Brazil’s Kaingang argued that the climate struggle would only be effective if it includes indigenous peoples.

COP26 will be hosted by Glasgow, Scotland in November 2020, after pre-conference meetings in Germany and Italy.

This article was supported by the COP25 Latin American Journalistic Coverage Programme.

 

Under Pressure. Can COP25 Deliver?

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Opinion

Farhana Haque Rahman is Senior Vice President of IPS Inter Press Service; a journalist and communications expert, she is a former senior official of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Climate change effects, such as extreme weather events, drive up environmental remediation costs. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

ROME, Dec 2 2019 (IPS) – Mass public pressure backed by the weight of scientific reports is starting to bring governments to their senses as the annual UN climate summit kicks off in Madrid today.


But despite warnings that the planet is reaching critical tipping points, the two weeks of talks with nearly 30,000 participants and dozens of heads of government attending may still end in that familiar sense of disappointment and an opportunity missed.

The annual Conference of the Parties, this year being COP25, was to have been a highly arcane if crucial process of finding agreement on carbon markets, known in the jargon as Article 6 of the ‘rulebook’ to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement on stopping the planet from overheating.

Highly contentious, and in part pitting developing countries like Brazil, China and India against others, the Article 6 debate could not be resolved at last year’s summit – COP24 in Katowice, Poland – nor at meetings in Bonn in June and hence was left for COP25 to try and fix. The other big elephant in the room – setting more ambitious national targets to reduce carbon emissions – was conveniently going to be left to be settled at next year’s COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

But action is needed now, and senior officials representing nearly 200 countries have been put on notice that the climate emergency in all its forms is dominating the public sphere across the world. Just last week we saw student-led demonstrations and strikes in many places that appropriately fell on Black Friday, delivering a broadside against rampant consumerism as well as government inaction.

Farhana Haque Rahman

“Striking is not a choice we relish; we do it because we see no other options,” youth leaders Greta Thunberg of Sweden, Luisa Neubauer of Germany and Angela Valenzuela of Chile declared in a joint statement.

“We have watched a string of United Nations climate conferences unfold. Countless negotiations have produced much-hyped but ultimately empty commitments from the world’s governments—the same governments that allow fossil fuel companies to drill for ever-more oil and gas, and burn away our futures for their profit.”

UN Secretary General António Guterres has told COP25 that “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon”.

“In the crucial 12 months ahead, it is essential that we secure more ambitious national commitments – particularly from the main emitters – to immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a pace consistent to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions,” Guterres said.

Just last month the UN Environment Programme’s annual Emissions Gap Report warned that the Paris Agreement ambition of keeping average temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times was “on the brink of becoming impossible”.

Global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 would have to be under 25 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to reach that target but, at current rates of growth, emissions are projected to reach more than double that level. Clearly drastic action is needed.

Reinforcing the sense of emergency, the World Meteorological Organization reported that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases reached new record highs in 2018. China is the world’s largest emitter.

Spain stepped in to offer Madrid as a venue for COP25 after Chile withdrew as host because of mass anti-government unrest. However Chile is still leading the conference and together with Spain will be pushing countries to act quickly to raise the ambition of their carbon emission reduction targets. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says the goal is for “the largest number of countries” to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.

From 2020 to 2030, emissions must be cut 7.6% a year to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, the UNEP says.

However the main negotiation process in Madrid is expected to focus on the unfinished business of the market-based mechanisms to create and manage new carbon markets under the Paris Agreement. This would allow countries and industries to earn credits for above-target emission reductions that can then be traded. Big developing countries have already accumulated huge amounts of carbon credits under the previous but now largely discredited carbon credit scheme. It is a highly complex tangle of interests.

Carbon Brief, a UK-based climate website, says the Article 6 debate has the potential to “make or break” implementation of the Paris Agreement which comes into force next year.

“To its proponents, Article 6 offers a path to significantly raising climate ambition or lowering costs, while engaging the private sector and spreading finance, technology and expertise into new areas. To its critics, it risks fatally undermining the ambition of the Paris Agreement at a time when there is clear evidence of the need to go further and faster to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” Carbon Brief explains.

While Article 6 is a highly technical area, the underlying issues are political, with some countries forming unofficial alliances to defend their own interests rather than the common good of the planet. But politicians have been put on notice that this time the world’s public is watching closely. Horse-trading cannot be allowed to put our futures at risk.

 

Africa’s Civil Society Calls for Action as COP25 Kicks off in Madrid

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Climate Change

In Africa, climate change has caused drought, change in distribution of rainfall, the drying-up of rivers. Intense flooding causes landslides and in Kenya, residents of West Pokot County are currently grappling with with the deaths of 50 people who were last week buried alive by landslides following heavy rainfall that continues to pound the East African region. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

MADRID, Dec 2 2019 (IPS) – During the 25th round of climate change negotiations starting today in Madrid, Spain, African civil society organisations will call on governments from both developing and developed nations to play their promised roles in combating climate change.


“We’re fatigued by COP [Conference of Parties] jamborees which have become a ritual every year,” said Dr Mithika Mwenda of the Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) – an umbrella organisation that brings together over 1,000 African climate and environment civil society organisations.

“We know the science is clear about the level [in which] we need to act, yet we procrastinate and prevaricate while maintaining our profligate lifestyles,” he told IPS in an interview.

The 25th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP 25) comes a week after the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report warning that unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 percent each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will miss the opportunity to get on track towards the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement is an agreement reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris, France, where the world’s nations undertook a determined course to reduce climate change. Among the commitments was to reduce the increase in global temperatures.

The annual Emissions Gap Report, which was released on Nov. 26 warns that even if all current unconditional commitments under the Paris Agreement are implemented, temperatures are expected to rise by 3.2°C, bringing even wider-ranging and more destructive climate impacts.

“Any slight change in global temperatures can have a devastating effect on millions of livelihoods, and could expose people to life-threatening heat waves, water shortages and coastal flooding,” said Dr Mohammed Said, a climate change research scientist based in Kenya.

According to his research in Kenya’s Arid and Semi Arid regions, people in counties that experienced increased temperatures in the past 50 years have suffered significant loss of livelihoods with some having to change their lifestyles altogether.

“In Turkana County for example, the temperatures increased by 1.8°C, and as a result, the cattle population declined by 60 percent, and now residents have been forced to turn to more resilient camels, goats and sheep,” he told IPS.

It is the same situation all over the world. A study published in Nature Climate Change points out that if global warming causes a rise of 1.5°C or 2°C, then there will be extremely hot summers across Australia, more frequent drought conditions and more frequent heat leading to bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

Another study by the United Kingdom’s Met Office reveals that the changing climate will make heat waves a common phenomena worldwide and even intense in the U.K..

In Africa, climate change has caused flooding, drought, change in the distribution of rainfall, and the drying up of rivers. It has affected agriculture, food security and human health. And it has also led to conflicts over resources, impacting national security in various countries.

In Kenya, residents of West Pokot County are currently grappling with the deaths of 50 people who were last week buried alive by landslides following heavy rainfall that continues to pound the East African region.

According to the Kenya Meteorological Department, the above-normal rainfall has been caused by sea surface temperature anomalies in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans caused by global warming. Floods in the region, which have already displaced hundreds of households and have swept away bridges, roads and property, are expected to continue for the next three weeks, according to the meteorological focus.

However, Mwenda believes that all is not lost. He notes that though the Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) are inadequate to lead to emission levels required by science and justice, there is still hope that momentum building on their implementation won’t be compromised.

“We will not be tired of telling our leaders that the future generations will judge them harshly as they have failed to rise to the occasion even when science is very clear that we have exceeded planetary boundaries,” he said.

In order to address climate change adequately, civil society is also calling for a dedicated financial mechanism to be established in Madrid to support Loss and Damage with a clear agreement on new sources of finance.

During the 19th round of negotiations in Poland, the COP established the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (Loss and Damage Mechanism), to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

“As we head to Madrid, we expect that all countries will endeavour to deliver on ambitious commitments in climate finance, especially in regard to loss and damage, strong national targets, and clear rules on trading emissions between countries,” said Robert Bakiika, the Executive Director of EMLI Bwaise Facility, a Ugandan NGO and one of the admitted observer organisations at the UNFCCC.