Somalia on the Path to Recovery, but Real Challenges Remain

Africa, Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

A Somali woman goat-seller in Hargeisa livestock market. Photo: Credit: UNDP / Said Fadhaye

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Jan 18 2022 (IPS) – I arrived in Somalia in September 2019, two decades after having worked here previously. I knew that I was taking up a challenging assignment, but I was also looking forward to seeing Somalia’s progress.


Afflicted by decades of conflict, recurrent climatic shocks, disease outbreaks and poverty, Somalia was often called a ‘failed state.’ The narrative is now changing, and although fragile, Somalia is on a path to stability and the resilience of the Somali people is second to none.

That said, we are not under any illusion: significant challenges remain, and we must work even harder to preserve the gains made to date.

Somalia’s upward trajectory is evident in the construction boom, as one analyst noted — the sound of the hammer is replacing the sound of gunfire in Somalia’s capital.

The UN has been closely supporting the Somali people since the birth of the Republic in 1960. Currently, the UN’s various mandates are implemented through 26  Agencies, Funds and Programmes (both resident and non-resident), one political mission (UNSOM) and one logistical support mission (UNSOS). 

The UN’s commitment towards the Somali cause is articulated in detail in the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF 2021-2025), mirroring the priorities of Somalia’s Ninth National Development Plan (NDP-9).

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN marshalled support to help the Somali government respond to the virus outbreak. We continue to support the Somali authorities in seeking to defeat this pandemic and encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Elections are also on-going in Somalia. The UN is supporting the process to ensure that elections are held in a peaceful and transparent manner, while at the same time advocating for 30 per cent women’s quota in the Somali legislature.

While these are encouraging signs of progress, we must not forget Somalia’s long-standing challenges. According to UN’s projections for next year, an estimated 7.7 million Somalis (nearly half of the country’s population) will require humanitarian assistance and protection.

Women and children continue to bear the brunt of Somalia’s complex humanitarian crises, especially among the internally displaced communities. In light of the current serious droughts, the Somali government declared a humanitarian state of emergency on 23 November.

Yet, neither the government nor the humanitarian community has adequate resources to respond. With a few days remaining in the year, the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan which seeks US$1.09 billion remains only 70 per cent funded. Additional resources are urgently needed to prevent the dire humanitarian situation from becoming a catastrophe, so we continue to engage partners on this subject.

In this regard, I undertook missions to Europe in October and to the Gulf in September. Throughout my interactions with partners, I stressed the need for additional funding to address Somalia’s escalating humanitarian crisis and elaborated on how inaction not only risks a reversal of the gains but puts the lives of millions of Somalis in jeopardy.

Through my field visits in Somalia, I have also seen first-hand the grim realities of adverse climate conditions. Somalia is no doubt on the frontline of climate change. The recurrent droughts and floods are driving widespread displacement, rapid urbanization, hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Climate change is also increasingly seen as the driver of conflict and a threat to the country’s security as the struggle over meagre resources deepens divisions. In addition, the loss of traditional livelihoods makes people vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups such as Al-Shabaab.

Somalia is currently experiencing a third consecutive season of below-average rainfall, with nearly 80 per cent of the country experiencing drought conditions, water shortages and livestock deaths. One in five Somalis does not have enough water to cover his/her basic needs.

On a positive note, as part of the efforts to mitigate the climate emergency, the government, with the support of the United Nations, has recently adopted an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution to achieve global climate targets, in which Somalia committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

Somalia’s crises are multifaceted, and they require comprehensive solutions from all stakeholders. It is our collective responsibility to support the efforts of the Somali people to cope with these crises and find lasting solutions that build resilience against future shocks. We must not fail the people we pledged to serve.

Adam Abdelmoula is Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia. He told a press conference in December that the UN and its partners have launched a nearly $1.5 billion Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). Roughly 7.7 million people in the country will need assistance and protection in 2022, a 30 per cent rise in just one year.

  Source

On Nuclear Weapons, Actions Belie Reassuring Words

Armed Conflicts, Civil Society, Featured, Global, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Nuclear Energy – Nuclear Weapons, Peace, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Credit: Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament/Henry Kenyon

WASHINGTON DC, Jan 13 2022 (IPS) – On Jan. 3, the leaders of the five nuclear-armed members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) issued a rare joint statement on preventing nuclear war in which they affirmed, for the first time, the 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev maxim that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”


The U.S., Chinese, French, Russian, and UK effort was designed in part to create a positive atmosphere for the 10th NPT review conference, which has been delayed again by the pandemic. It also clearly aims to address global concerns about the rising danger of nuclear conflict among states and signals a potential for further cooperation to address this existential threat.

The question now is, do they have the will and the skill to translate their laudable intentions into action before it is too late?

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price hailed the statement as “extraordinary.” A more sober reading shows that it falls woefully short of committing the five to the policies and actions necessary to prevent nuclear war.

In fact, the statement illustrates how their blind faith in deterrence theories, which hinge on a credible threat of using nuclear weapons, perpetuates conditions that could lead to nuclear catastrophe.

The statement asserts that “nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.” Yet, such broad language suggests they might use nuclear weapons to “defend” themselves against a wide range of threats, including non-nuclear threats.

Given the indiscriminate and horrific effects of nuclear weapons use, such policies are dangerous, immoral, and legally unjustifiable.

At the very least, if the leaders of these states are serious about averting nuclear war, they should formally adopt no-first-use policies or, as U.S. President Joe Biden promised in 2020, declare that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter or possibly respond to a nuclear attack.

Even this approach perpetuates circumstances that could lead to nuclear war by accident or miscalculation. The only way to ensure nuclear weapons are never used is “to do away with them entirely,” as President Ronald Reagan argued in 1984, and sooner rather than later.

But on disarmament, the statement only expressed a “desire to work with all states to create a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.” This vague, caveated promise rings hollow after years of stalled disarmament progress and an accelerating global nuclear arms race.

A year ago, Russia and the United States extended the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, but they have not begun negotiations on a follow-on agreement. Meanwhile, both spend billions of dollars annually to maintain and upgrade their nuclear forces, which far exceed any rational concept of what it takes to deter a nuclear attack.

China is on pace to double or triple the size of its land-based strategic missile force in the coming years. Worse still, despite past promises “to engage in the process leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons,” Chinese leaders are rebuffing calls to engage in arms control talks with the United States and others. The United Kingdom, meanwhile, announced last year it would increase its deployed strategic warhead ceiling.

Fresh statements by the five NPT nuclear-armed states reaffirming their “intention” to fulfill their NPT disarmament obligations are hardly credible in the absence of time-bound commitments to specific disarmament actions.

At the same time, the five, led by France, have criticized the good faith efforts by the majority of NPT non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to advance the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Contrary to claims by the nuclear-armed states, the TPNW reinforces the NPT and the norm against possessing, testing, and using nuclear weapons.

Rather than engage TPNW leaders on their substantive concerns, U.S. officials are pressuring influential states, including Sweden, Germany, and Japan, not to attend the first meeting of TPNW states-parties as observers. Such bullying will only reinforce enthusiasm for the TPNW and undermine U.S. credibility on nuclear matters.

The leaders of the nuclear five, especially Biden, can and must do better. Before the NPT review conference later this year, Russia and the United States should commit to conclude by 2025 negotiations on further verifiable cuts in strategic and nonstrategic nuclear forces and on constraints on long-range missile defenses.

China, France, and the UK should agree to join nuclear arms control talks no later than 2025 and to freeze their stockpiles as Washington and Moscow negotiate deeper cuts in theirs.

Instead of belittling the TPNW, the five states need to get their own houses in order. Concrete action on disarmament is overdue. It will help create a more stable and peaceful international security environment and facilitate the transformative move from unsustainable and dangerous deterrence doctrines toward a world free of the fear of nuclear Armageddon.

Source: Arms Control Today

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, Washington DC.

  Source

Mother of Summits: Sweet and Sour Diplomacy, but Nothing Cooked!

Conferences, Economy & Trade, Featured, Global, Global Geopolitics, Global Governance, Headlines, TerraViva United Nations

SINGAPORE, Nov 22 2021 (IPS) – It has been said that when Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of war. The summit of the leaders of world’s two strongest powers, the United States and China, came face to face at long last. Albeit virtually. Still, this was undoubtedly the “mother of summits” this year. There were two telephone conversations earlier, but according to US officials this nearly four hours of summitry was far more “candid intense, and deeper interaction”. If there was one single take-away from this meeting, it was the establishment beyond all reasonable doubt of the incontrovertible fact that the US and China were indeed the two most influential global state actors. The decisions between the two, represented by their leaders, would profoundly impact the rest of humanity far into the future.


Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury

Given that in terms of deliverables, the consensus among all analysts was that nothing significant was expected, the event was important in that it put to rest the bickering between the subordinates that was pushing the world towards a precipice. It was about time the supreme political masters, Joe Biden of the US and Xi Jinping assumed the reins of control of the most important relationship of our times. Both sides were intellectually convinced that the stiffest possible competition between the two was on the cards. The challenge was to manage this in a way to prevent a conflict that would be catastrophic. This was one point on which, luckily, there was understanding on both sides.

There was not much on anything else. Prior to the meeting that Biden was focussed on writing the rules of the engagement of China “in a way that is favourable to our interests and our values and those of our allies and partners”. Unsurprisingly, Xi and the Chinese did not play ball. Both sides basically emphatically stated their positions on issues and showed nary an inclination to concede an inch to the other. In the end, as was expected, there were no breakthroughs. The irreconcilable positions remained in- tact, with a vague call by both sides for more cooperation.

A virtual meeting is bereft of the positive influences of informal chats, banquets, and the opportunity of developing personal camaraderie. Still, both leaders exuded friendly demeanours, and Xi called Biden “an old friend”. On Taiwan, the dialogue was tough. Xi reminded Biden of the US position on the Peoples ‘Republic being the sole legitimate government of China , reinforced by here communiques issued in 1972, 1979 and 1982. Following the talks the White House clarified that the “One China’ was also guided by the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances committing the US to opposing” unilateral efforts to change the status quo”. Xi made it clear that Taiwan for China was a “core issue”; it was a province of China, and any support to its independence was akin to playing with fire. “Whoever plays with fire will get hurt” was a message he strongly underscored.

There seemed a glimmer of hope on one front, though. In the past China has refused to be drawn into any nuclear arms control agreements given that its arsenal was far smaller than those of the US and Russia. But recent significant qualitative improvements of its capabilities have been worrying the US. At the meeting China showed willingness to talk on the subject. However, there is no possibility of agreements beyond the rim of the saucer because the Chinese will naturally demand steep cuts in US numbers which will be unacceptable to Washington. However, there could be forward movement through diplomatic engagements on matters such as Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), will the positivity that would entail.

There is a fundamental difference in the approach of China and the US to negotiations. The US believes in a kind of “a la carte” method of choosing areas where it believes there is scope for collaboration while competition, and even confrontation, continues others. The Chinese on the other hand reject this as “cherry picking” and see the agenda as a comprehensive package. What is the use of understanding on one subject, while differences on another cam lead to war? Unless this basic divergence is resolved, negotiations are unlikely to be able to yield any worthwhile results. Discussions will continue to be both sweet and sour, as the summit deliberations were, but nothing seriously palatable will get cooked!

Xi has in the meanwhile has consolidated his own power in China to a point that he may be set obtain a third term of office. More importantly, he is viewed as the navigator in the journey towards national rejuvenation leading to China becoming a modern fully developed nation by 2049 which will bring him yet closer to the status of the Great helmsman, Chairman Mao Zedong, himself. All these were the outcome of the Sixth plenum of the Chinese Communist Party which met last week and adopted a “historical resolution” that buttressed Xi’s power and position.

Incidentally, in the history of the party this was the third historical resolution. The first was adopted in 1945 under Mao four years prior to the revolutionary victory, and the second by the ‘reformist” Deng Xiaoping. While Mao was the one who restored a sense of pride among the Chinese people enabling them “to stand up” and Deng made them rich through his reforms, Xi, by the dint of this “thought” (which supersedes “theory” in Chinese political lexicon) gave them strength and shared prosperity. In an abstruse political milieu where the count of numbers means a great deal, a Xinhua communique on the meeting mentioned Xi’s name at least fourteen times, compared to seven of Mao and Five of Deng. That tells a lot.

Consequently, it is now all but certain that Xi will be elected to an unprecedented third term in office as party General Secretary at the 20th Party Congress next year. There is also some talk that he may assume the title of “Chairman” as well which will bring him at par with Mao. The plenum also elevated Xi Jinping Thought to 21st Century Marxism, completing the process of “Sinicization” of Marxist philosophy. Xi has been pragmatic in welding the conservatism of Mao, but shunning his repressive methods, with the reforms of Deng, correcting the “capitalist excesses”, and bringing China on a socialist path that would lead to a “modern society” with “shared prosperity “. Small wonder that many Chinese observers are beginning to see him as a “Philosopher King” in the mould of Plato in the West and Confucius in the East, a perfect mix for the cauldron of power and authority. An interesting footnote is that the Chinese Communist Party formally announced its third “historical resolution”, cementing Xi’s powers hours after the Summit, though it was leaked earlier, which pointed to a thought-through calibrated set of actions.

Nowhere the same degree, Joe Biden also seems to have achieved a modicum of success of his own despite powerful head winds. He has managed to create a sense of cohesion among America’s allies, though his path has had numerous pitfalls and bumps. Importantly he has managed to secure the passage into law of the massive legislation in terms of the US $1.2 trillion bill on a revamp of infrastructures, to “build back better”, a campaign pledge. This for him is no mean achievement, proving that persistence pays. But for him and his Democratic Party the future is not as rosy as that what appears to be for his Chinese counterpart. A Republican win in the Presidential race is a distinct possibility. That could lead to turmoil and backlash in US domestic politics, requiring the identification of a common foe to rally the nation. China is the obvious candidate. If, consequently, the “ultimate red line” for China, such as on the issue of Taiwan is crossed, a catastrophe could follow.

Surely the Chinese have made those calculations. From now to then, China and Xi will, while seeking to avoid an immediate conflict, be preparing to, in the words of the Global Times seen as a State media outlet, “to deal with the biggest storms in the world, the most powerful and comprehensive siege from the US and its allies”. Halfway down this decade it will be high- risk for one to wager too much in favour of peace!

Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury is the Honorary Fellow at the Institute of South Asia Studies, NUS. He is a former Foreign Advisor (Foreign Minister) of Bangladesh and President & Distinguished Fellow of Cosmos Foundation. The views addressed in the article are his own. He can be reached at: isasiac @nus.edu.sg

This story was originally published by Dhaka Courier.

 

Glasgow Summit Ends Amidst Climate of Disappointment

Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Conferences, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Energy, Environment, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Poverty & SDGs, Regional Categories

Climate Change

One of the family photos taken after the laborious end of the 26th climate summit in Glasgow, which closed a day later than scheduled with a Climate Pact described as falling short by even the most optimistic, lacking important decisions to combat the crisis and without directly confronting fossil fuels, the cause of the emergency. CREDIT: UNFCCC

One of the family photos taken after the laborious end of the 26th climate summit in Glasgow, which closed a day later than scheduled with a Climate Pact described as falling short by even the most optimistic, lacking important decisions to combat the crisis and without directly confronting fossil fuels, the cause of the emergency. CREDIT: UNFCCC

GLASGOW, Nov 14 2021 (IPS) – Developing countries will surely remember the Glasgow climate summit, the most important since 2015, as a fiasco that left them as an afterthought.


That was the prevailing sentiment among delegates from the developing South during the closing ceremony on the night of Saturday Nov. 13, one day after the scheduled end of the conference.

Bolivia’s chief negotiator, Diego Pacheco, questioned the outcome of the summit. “It is not fair to pass the responsibility to developing countries. Developed countries do not want to acknowledge their responsibility for the crisis. They have systematically broken their funding pledges and emission reduction commitments,” he told IPS minutes after the end of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) on climate change in Glasgow.

The 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ignored the public clamor, which took shape in the demands of indigenous peoples, young people, women, scientists and social movements around the world for substantive measures to combat the climate crisis, even though the goal of containing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is barely surviving on life support.

The Glasgow Climate Pact that came out of the summit finally mentions the need to move away from the use of coal. But it had to water down the stronger recommendation to “phase out” in order to overcome the last stumbling block.

In addition, COP26 broke a taboo, albeit very tepidly, after arduous marches and counter-marches in the negotiating room and in the three drafts of the Glasgow Pact: there was a mention of fossil fuels as part of the climate emergency. And it also stated the need to reduce “inefficient” subsidies for fossil fuels.

But the summit, where decisions are made by consensus, avoided a strong stance in this regard. It also avoided moving from recommendations to obligations for the next edition, to be held in Egypt, and those that follow, while the climate crisis continues causing severe droughts, devastating storms, melting of the polar ice caps and warming of the oceans.

In a plenary session that was delayed by several minutes, the final declaration underwent a last-minute change when India, one of the villains of the meeting – along with Saudi Arabia, Australia and Russia – asked for the phrase “phasing out” of coal to be replaced by “phasing down”, a change questioned by countries such as Mexico, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

A paradoxical fact at the close of COP26, where civil society organizations complained that they were left out, was the decision of several countries to endorse the final text even though they differed on several points, including the fossil energy face-lifts.

“Today, we can say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees within reach. But its pulse is weak. And it will only survive if we keep our promises. If we translate commitments into rapid action,” said conference chairman Alok Sharma, choking back tears after a pact – albeit a minimal one – was reached by negotiating three drafts and holding arduous discussions on the fossil fuel question, right up to the final plenary.

COP26 chair Alok Sharma blinked back tears during his closing speech at the climate summit, expressing the tension of negotiating the Glasgow Climate Pact, due to the hurdles thrown in the way of a consensus by the big coal and oil producers. CREDIT: UNFCCC-Twitter

COP26 chair Alok Sharma blinked back tears during his closing speech at the climate summit, expressing the tension of negotiating the Glasgow Climate Pact, due to the hurdles thrown in the way of a consensus by the big coal and oil producers. CREDIT: UNFCCC-Twitter

The South is still waiting

Lost amidst the impacts of the climate emergency and forgotten by the industrialized countries, the global South failed to obtain something vital for many of its nations: a clear plan and funding for loss and damage, an issue that was deferred to COP27 in Egypt.

Mohamed Adow, director of the non-governmental Power Shift Africa, said the pact is “not good enough…There is no mention of solidarity and justice. We need a clear process to face loss and damage. There should be a link between emission reduction, financing and adaptation.”

The final decision by China, the United States, India and the European Union to turn their backs on a global fossil fuel exit and deny climate support to the most vulnerable nations left the developing world high and dry.

“There are things that cannot wait to COP27 or 2025. To face loss and damage, the most vulnerable countries need financing to battle the impacts on their territories,” Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, global climate and energy leader for the non-governmental World Wildlife Fund, told IPS.

Climate policies were, at least on the agenda, the focus of COP26.

The summit focused on carbon market rules, climate finance of at least 100 billion dollars per year, gaps between emission reduction targets and needed reductions, strategies for carbon neutrality by 2050, adaptation plans, and the working platform for local communities and indigenous peoples.

But the goal of hundreds of billions of dollars per year has been postponed, a reflection of the fact that financing for climate mitigation and adaptation is a touchy issue, especially for developed countries.

The corridors of the Blue Zone of the Scottish Events Campus, where the official part of the 26th Climate Conference was held in the city of Glasgow, were emptying on Saturday Nov. 13, at the end of the summit, which lasted a day longer than scheduled and ended with a negative balance according to civil society organizations. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The corridors of the Blue Zone of the Scottish Events Campus, where the official part of the 26th Climate Conference was held in the city of Glasgow, were emptying on Saturday Nov. 13, at the end of the summit, which lasted a day longer than scheduled and ended with a negative balance according to civil society organizations. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Offers and promises – on paper

One breakthrough at COP26 was the approval of the rules of the Paris Agreement, signed in the French capital in December 2015, at COP21, to form the basis on which subsequent summits have revolved. By 2024, all countries will have to report detailed data on emissions, which will form a baseline to assess future greenhouse gas reductions.

The agreement on the functioning of carbon markets creates a trading system between countries, but does not remove the possibility of countries and companies skirting the rules.

Industrialized countries committed to doubling adaptation finance by 2025 based on 2019 amounts. In addition, COP26 approved a new work program to increase greenhouse gas cuts, with reports due in 2022.

It also asked the UNFCCC to evaluate climate plans that year and its final declaration calls on countries to switch from coal and hydrocarbons to renewable energy.

Apart from the Climate Pact, the summit produced voluntary commitments against deforestation, emissions of methane, a gas more polluting than carbon dioxide, and the phasing out of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

In addition, at least 10 countries agreed to put an end to the issuing of new hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation licenses in their territories.

Furthermore, some thirty nations agreed to suspend public funding for coal, gas and oil by 2022.

 Demonstrations demanding ambitious, substantive and equitable measures to address the climate crisis continued throughout the 14-day climate summit in Glasgow, which ended on the night of Saturday Nov. 13 with disappointing results for the global South. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Demonstrations demanding ambitious, substantive and equitable measures to address the climate crisis continued throughout the 14-day climate summit in Glasgow, which ended on the night of Saturday Nov. 13 with disappointing results for the global South. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Finally, more than 100 stakeholders, including countries and companies, signed up to the elimination of cars with internal combustion engines by 2030, without the major automobile manufacturers such as Germany, Spain and France joining in, and a hundred nations signed a pact to promote sustainable agriculture.

All of the 2030 pledges, which still need concrete plans for implementation, imply a temperature rise of 2.8 degrees C by the end of this century, according to the independent Climate Action Tracker.

The climate plans of the 48 least developed countries (LDCs) would cost more than 93 billion dollars annually, the non-governmental International Institute for Environment and Development said in Glasgow.

In addition, annual adaptation costs in developing countries would be about 70 billion dollars, reaching a total of 140 to 300 billion dollars by 2030, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

But the largest disbursements are related to loss and damage, which would range between 290 billion and 580 billion dollars by 2030, and hence the enormous concern of these nations to obtain essential financing, according to a 2019 study. And their disappointment with the results of the Oct. 31-Nov.13 conference.

During his presentation at the closing plenary, Seve Paeniu, a climate envoy from Tuvalu, an island nation whose very existence is threatened by the rising sea level, showed a photo of his three grandchildren and said he had been thinking about what to say to them when he got home.

“Glasgow has made a promise to guarantee their future. It will be the best Christmas gift that I can bring home,” he said. But judging by the Climate Pact, Paeniu may have to look for another present.

IPS produced this article with the support of Iniciativa Climática of Mexico and the European Climate Foundation.

 

Social Movement Voices Fall on Deaf Ears of Governments at COP26

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Conferences, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Regional Categories

Climate Change

The climate summit COP26 was accompanied by protests by social movements, with demonstrators arriving in Glasgow from all over the world and expressing themselves in their own language or dressing up as dinosaurs to symbolize their criticism. But government delegates did not listen to their demands for ambitious and fair action to contain the global warming crisis. CREDIT: Laura Quiñones/UN

GLASGOW, Nov 11 2021 (IPS) – One element that runs through all social movement climate summits is their rejection of the official meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the low ambition of its outcomes – and the treaty’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) was no exception.


The leaders of the UNFCCC “gladly welcome those who caused the crisis. COP26 has done nothing but pretend and greenwash,” Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a member of the non-governmental organization Youth Advocates for Climate Action from the Philippines, told IPS during a rally at the Glasgow Screening Room, a few blocks from the venue where the official meeting is being held until Friday, Nov. 12.

The COP26 Coalition, the alternative summit to the climate conference, has been a motley crew of organizations and movements whose common demand was a real effort to fight the climate crisis through concrete and fair measures and whose 200 events in this Scottish city included workshops, forums, artistic presentations and protests, which ended on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

Among the demands with which the alternative meeting in Glasgow lobbied the 196 Parties to the UNFCCC were the abandonment of fossil fuels, the rejection of cosmetic solutions to the climate emergency, the demand for a just transition to a lower carbon economy and the call for reparations and redistribution of funds to indigenous communities and the global South.

The movement also called for a gender perspective in policies, climate justice – that those primarily responsible (developed nations) take responsibility and pay for their role -, respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, and a halt to air pollution.

Due to logistical issues and the limitations imposed by the covid-19 pandemic, which postponed the official summit for a year, the parallel sessions of the social movements were held in this Scottish city in a hybrid format, combining face-to-face and virtual participation. Exhibitors and online participants struggled with the quality of their internet connections.

One of the most unanimous and loudest criticisms from non-governmental social and environmental organizations focused on the exclusion of civil society groups from Latin America, Africa and Asia, due to the UK host government’s decision to modify the admission criteria according to the level of contagion in each country and the extent of vaccination.

In addition, they complained about the strict hurdles imposed by the COP26 presidency, held by the United Kingdom, supported by Italy, to the presence of NGO observers at the official negotiating tables, which undermined the transparency of the Glasgow process, whose agreements are to be embodied in a final declaration, which is weakening every day and whose final text will be released on Nov. 12 or 13, if the negotiations stretch out.

The alternative movement also had a formal but unofficial space in the so-called COP26 Green Zone, located in the same area as the official negotiations, in the center of Glasgow.

In the forums parallel to COP26 in Glasgow, indigenous women were major protagonists with their demands for respect for their rights and effective participation in the negotiations. In the picture, indigenous women delegates take part in a forum on women of the forest at the peoples' summit. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In the forums parallel to COP26 in Glasgow, indigenous women were major protagonists with their demands for respect for their rights and effective participation in the negotiations. In the picture, indigenous women delegates take part in a forum on women of the forest at the peoples’ summit. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In-depth solutions

One of their key proposals was for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty aimed at moving towards the end of the era of coal, gas and oil, the consumption of which is primarily responsible for the growing planetary climate emergency.

The initiative, which imitates the name of the treaty against nuclear weapons, demands an immediate end to the expansion of fossil fuel production, a fair phase-out and a just energy transition.

Countries and corporations “continue to invest capital in the extraction of fossil fuels. We need to see efforts to phase them out, to stop the financing, subsidies and exploitation of fossil fuels,” Tzeporah Berman, the Canadian chair of the anti-fossil fuel initiative, told IPS.

The idea for the treaty emerged in 2015 from a call by leaders and NGOs from Pacific island states – whose very existence is threatened by the climate crisis – and it was formally launched in 2020.

So far it has received the support of some 750 organizations, 12 cities, more than 2,500 scientists, academics, parliamentarians from around the world, and religious leaders, indigenous movements and more than 100 Nobel Prize winners.

Climate policies are the focus of COP26 which has addressed carbon market rules, at least 100 billion dollars a year in climate finance, gaps between emission reduction targets and necessary reductions, strategies for carbon neutrality by 2050, adaptation plans, and the working platform on local communities and indigenous peoples.

The International Rights of Nature Tribunal tried the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), parallel to COP26. In the case, Philippine activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan testified to the lack of effective action against the climate emergency. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The International Rights of Nature Tribunal tried the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), parallel to COP26. In the case, Philippine activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan testified to the lack of effective action against the climate emergency. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Indigenous people and rights of nature tribunal in the spotlight

Indigenous people, especially from the Amazon jungle, have been key participants at the latest edition of the alternative summit, with at least 40 activists present in Glasgow to complain about harassment by the government of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and demand more protection for the rainforest, whose destruction can have dramatic effects on the environmental health of the planet.

“Our main demand is demarcation of our territories,” because this guarantees a number of rights, Cristiane Pankararu, a member of the Pankararu people and leader of Brazil’s non-governmental National Association of Indigenous Women Warriors (ANMIGA), told IPS.

Her organization belongs to the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, whose demands are demarcation, climate solutions based on indigenous peoples’ knowledge and practices, and investment in forest protection.

One of the most symbolic activities of the counter-summit was the Fifth International Rights of Nature Tribunal, which tried the cases of “False solutions to the climate change crisis” and “The Amazon, a threatened living entity”.

In the first verdict, the tribunal, which sat for the first time in 2014 and was composed this time of seven judges from six countries, found the UNFCCC at fault for failing to attack the roots of the climate emergency.

In the second ruling, the jury, composed of nine experts from seven countries, accused developed countries and China, as well as agricultural, mining and food corporations, of destroying the Amazon, the planet’s main rainforest ecosystem, which is threatened by these extractive activities.

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, listed three serious problems: the role of large corporations, the protection of corporate intellectual property, and the power of corporations to sue states that want to protect the environment, in international arbitration tribunals.

“It is a profound symptom of how the global economy protects the interests of large corporations, especially extractive ones, and that has not been addressed at the COP,” he told IPS.

A dialogue of the deaf has prevailed between the UNFCCC and civil society, as the official summit has ignored the demands of social movements.

“They have not listened to us. We are here to demand action. We don’t need another COP to solve the climate crisis, we need change,” Tan complained.

Despite the obstacles, “we will not stop participating actively. The women’s movement is unifying. It is a slow process, because people are not used to being led by women,” Pankararu said.

IPS produced this article with the support of Iniciativa Climática of Mexico and the European Climate Foundation.

  Source

Indigenous Peoples Want to Move Towards Clean Energy Sovereignty

Civil Society, Climate Action, Climate Change, Conferences, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Energy, Environment, Featured, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Regional Categories

Climate Change

At an event in the so-called Green Zone, Canadian native leaders and the non-governmental Indigenous Clean Energy launched a global hub of social enterprises to pass on knowledge and advice during the Glasgow climate summit. In the picture, Mihskakwan James Harper (R) of the Cree indigenous community explains a mixed battery energy storage project built by a private firm and an indigenous company in the province of Ontario, Canada. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

At an event in the so-called Green Zone, Canadian native leaders and the non-governmental Indigenous Clean Energy launched a global hub of social enterprises to pass on knowledge and advice during the Glasgow climate summit. In the picture, Mihskakwan James Harper (R) of the Cree indigenous community explains a mixed battery energy storage project built by a private firm and an indigenous company in the province of Ontario, Canada. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

GLASGOW, Nov 9 2021 (IPS) – In the community of Bella Bella on Turtle Island in the western Canadian province of British Columbia, the indigenous Heiltsuk people capture heat from the air through devices in 40 percent of their homes, in a plan aimed at sustainable energy sovereignty.


“We use less energy, pay less, and that’s good for our health,” Leona Humchitt, a member of the Heiltsuk community, told IPS during a forum on indigenous micro-grids in the so-called Green Zone of the climate summit being hosted by Glasgow, Scotland since Oct. 31. “The project coincides with our view. We need to have a good relationship with nature.”

For native groups, these initiatives mean moving towards energy sovereignty to avoid dependence on projects that have no connection to local populations, combating energy poverty, paving the transition to cleaner sources and combating the exclusion they suffer in the renewable energies sector due to government policies and corporate decisions.

The modernisation process that began in the first quarter of 2021 lowered electricity rates from 2,880 dollars a year to about 1,200 dollars for each participating household.

In addition, the switch to heat pumps eliminates five tons of pollutant emissions per year and has reduced the community’s annual diesel consumption of 2,000 litres per household, which is usually supplied by a private hydroelectric plant.

Funded by the Canadian government and non-governmental organisations, the “Strategic Fuel Switching” project is part of the Heiltsuk Climate Action plan, which also includes measures such as biofuel and biomass from marine algae and carbon credits from marine ecosystems.

In 2017, more than 250 remote indigenous communities, out of 292 in Canada, relied on their own electricity microgeneration grids, dependent especially on diesel generators.

The venture in the Heiltsuk community, which is part of the three major Canadian native peoples, is included in a portfolio of indigenous transitional energy initiatives that have been incorporated into the non-governmental Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE) social enterprise in Canada.

A global hub for social entrepreneurship was one of the initiatives launched in the Green Zone, an open event held parallel to the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), whose annual session ends Nov. 12.

ICE has a list of 197 projects – 72 in bioenergy, 127 in energy efficiency, and 19 in other alternative sources – with more than one megawatt of installed capacity. These initiatives together represent 1.49 billion dollars in revenue over 10 years.

Mihskakwan James Harper, an indigenous man from the Cree people of Sturgeon Lake in the western Canadian province of Alberta, said it is not only about energy sovereignty, but also about community power to dispose of their own resources.

“We change our self-consumption and the communities benefit themselves from the energy, and the earth get benefits as well. Without us, we are not going to reach the climate goals. We show that indigenous peoples can bring innovations and solutions to the climate crisis,” Harper, who is development manager at the NR Stor energy company, told IPS.

NR Stor Inc. and the Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation in the Canadian province of Ontario are building the Oneida battery storage project – with a capacity of 250 MW and an investment of 400 million dollars – in the south of the province.

The facility, which will prevent some 4.1 million tons of pollutant emissions, the largest of its kind in Canada and one of the largest in the world, will provide clean and stable energy capacity by storing renewable energy off-peak for release when demand rises.

ICE estimates 4.3 billion dollars in investments are needed to underpin this energy efficiency that would create some 73,000 direct and indirect jobs and would cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than five million tons over 10 years.

Electric vehicles are still a pipe dream in many indigenous communities, due to their price and the lack of charging infrastructure. In the picture, an electric car is charged at a station in downtown Glasgow, near COP26. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Electric vehicles are still a pipe dream in many indigenous communities, due to their price and the lack of charging infrastructure. In the picture, an electric car is charged at a station in downtown Glasgow, near COP26. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Slow progress

The increase in clean sources plays a decisive role in achieving one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out in 2015 by the international community in the 2030 Agenda, within the framework of the United Nations.

SDG 7 is aimed at affordable, modern energy for all.

But processes similar to Canada’s ICE are proceeding at a slow pace.

Two projects of the Right Energy Partnership with Indigenous Peoples (REP), launched in 2018 by the non-governmental Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development, are being implemented in El Salvador and Honduras.

In El Salvador, the project is “Access to photovoltaic energy for indigenous peoples”, carried out since 2020 in conjunction with the non-governmental National Salvadoran Indigenous Coordination Council (CCNIS).

It is financed with 150,000 dollars from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme to provide 24 solar power systems to three communities in the town of Guatajiagua, in the eastern department of Morazán.

In Honduras, the Lenca Indigenous Community Council and the Pro Construction Committee are installing a mini-hydroelectric plant to benefit two Lenca indigenous communities in the municipality of San Francisco de Opalaca, in the southwestern department of Intibucá.

The project “Hydroelectric power generation for environmental protection and socioeconomic development in the Lenca communities of Plan de Barrios and El Zapotillo”, launched in 2019, received 150,000 dollars in GEF funding.

Clean alternative sources face community distrust due to human rights violations committed by wind, solar and hydroelectric plant owners in countries such as Colombia, Honduras and Mexico, including land dispossession, contracts harmful to local communities and lack of free consultation and adequate information prior to project design.

Amazonian indigenous people participate in protests by social movements in Glasgow, in which they claimed that their voices were not adequately heard at COP26. CREDIT: Arturo Contreras/Pie de Página

Amazonian indigenous people participate in protests by social movements in Glasgow, in which they claimed that their voices were not adequately heard at COP26. CREDIT: Arturo Contreras/Pie de Página

The evolution of energy initiatives has been slow, due to funding barriers and the limitations imposed by the covid-19 pandemic.

“Our main interest is to enable access to affordable renewable energy and for indigenous peoples to participate in the projects,” Eileen Mairena-Cunningham, REP project coordinator, told IPS.

“These processes should be led by indigenous organisations. Of course we are interested in participating in the global networks,” added the Miskita indigenous woman from Nicaragua.

After the always difficult first step, indigenous communities want to accelerate progress towards these goals.

In Bella Bella, Canada, the hope is to progressively replace diesel with biofuel in vehicles and in the boats that are vital to the fishing community.

“We are not going to electrify transportation overnight,” Humchitt said. “But we see an opportunity in biodiesel. We have to go forward on this issue.”

Harper concurred with that vision. “Of course we want EVs, as they become accessible and satisfy our own needs. We want to get rid of diesel. The communities have to lead the process of the local transition,” he said.

Mairena-Cunningham stressed that indigenous peoples attach primary importance to participating in global networks.

“Existing projects leave us with lessons of what can be done in our territory,” said the activist. “There is a need for policies that facilitate indigenous participation and special safeguards for access to the land. Capacity building is also needed.”

Renewable energies can be added to ecological measures that indigenous peoples already use, such as forest protection and biodiversity and water conservation. But their local implementation requires more than just willingness.

IPS produced this article with the support of Iniciativa Climática of Mexico and the European Climate Foundation.