China’s Entry into the Muslim World

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Apr 7 2022 (IPS) – The retrenchment of American power in the Middle East and the larger Muslim world, coupled with the war in Ukraine, has provided a geopolitical breather for China. Beijing is effectively deploying this to make strategic inroads into the region, given this vacuum and focus on Europe.


The recent invitation to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to address the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Islamabad is a ‘historic first,’ and a significant breakthrough for Chinese diplomacy. For the first time, the foreign minister of the Peoples Republic of China was invited to address the most representative platform of the 57-member body representing the 1.5 billion Muslims.

During his speech at the OIC conference in Islamabad on the 22nd March 2022, Foreign Minister Wang Yi talked about the “long standing relationship between China and the Muslim world” and reaffirmed that China would continue supporting Muslim countries in their quest for political independence and economic development.

Historically, China has always been etched in the Muslim consciousness as a country with a great civilisation based on knowledge, learning and development. For example, there is a famous saying of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him), 1,400 years ago, which urged Muslims to “seek knowledge, even if you have to go to China,” implying that although China was physically far away from Arabia, it was a land of learning.

Soon after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, a professor of the prestigious American university Harvard, Prof. Samuel Huntington, talked of a ‘clash of civilisations’ in which he implied that Western civilization would be at odds with both the Islamic and the Confucian civilisations. Interestingly, he also talked of a united front of the Islamic and Confucian civilisations.

During his speech at the conference on Dialogue among Civilisations, held in Beijing in May 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned the contribution of the Islamic civilisation to “enrich the Chinese civilisation” and also referred to the Holy Mosque in Makkah (Mecca) as well as the travels to China of the Muslim explorer, Ibn Batuta, who wrote favourably on China and the Chinese people.

China has a longstanding relationship with the Muslim world. After the Chinese revolution in 1949, Pakistan was the first country in the Muslim world to recognise the People’s Republic of China in May 1950. The first institutional interaction between China and the Muslim countries took place at the 1955 Afro-Asian Summit in Bandung, Indonesia.

It was hosted by the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia and Pakistan and China were among the countries attending this historic summit. China shares a border with 14 countries, five of which are members of the OIC and none of these have border disputes with China.

In January 1965, when the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), was formed, China was among the first countries who recognised it. And in the 1960s and early 70s, China also provided material support and aid to various Muslim countries that were facing economic and political pressures, including Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, South Yemen and Egypt.

As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China also has been in the forefront of countries that have a proactive approach to the Muslim world. China, for example, presented a Middle East peace plan and it was unveiled during visits to China in May 2013 by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mehmood Abbas, and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

During his meeting with the two leaders, President Xi Jinping presented the 4-point peace plan that called for an independent Palestine State alongside Israel, based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. While recognising Israel’s right to exist in security, the Chinese peace plan also called for an end to building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories of Palestine, cessation of violence against civilians and termination of the Israel blockade of Gaza.

The peace plan also called for resolving the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and sought more humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians, while underlining that these are “necessary for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority.”

China also has been principled on the issue of Syria urging an end to both interference in Syrian affairs and an end to the Syrian civil war. In January 2022, China invited Syria to be part of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).

China today is the largest importer of crude oil in the world and almost 50% of that oil comes from the Muslim countries of the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, Iran and the UAE. Saudi Arabia has also invited President Xi Jinping to visit the Kingdom and there have been media reports that China and Saudi Arabia are engaged in discussions to have their oil trade done partially in Yuan or the RMB, the Chinese currency.

Defence cooperation between China and the Muslim world is also expanding and the Chinese advanced jetfighter J10C is now in use in countries like Pakistan and the UAE. In January 2022, China and Iran signed a comprehensive Strategic Accord which will run for 25 years, worth well over $400 billion dollars.

The centre piece of China’s relationship with the Muslim world today is the BRI. Interestingly, the BRI was launched in two phases by President Xi Jinping, with two important speeches in two different Muslim countries. In September 2013, during the speech in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, President Xi Jinping announced the launch of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

During another speech in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, in November 2013, President Xi Jinping announced the launch of the Maritime Silk Road, both pillars of the BRI. And during his speech at the OIC conference on the 22nd March, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that “China is investing over 400 billion dollars in nearly 600 projects across the Muslim world under the BRI.”

He underlined that “China is ready to work with Islamic countries to promote a multi-polar world, democracy in international relations and diversity of human civilisation, and make unremitting efforts to build a community with a shared future for mankind”. On the issue of Palestine and Kashmir, Wang Yi said that “China shares the same aspirations as the OIC, seeking a comprehensive and just settlement of these disputes.”

Another example of close ties between China and the Muslim world was the February 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, where a majority of Muslim countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar had a high level of representation, despite the boycott called by certain Western countries. Also, only last week, on the 30th March, China hosted an important conference, the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan’s Neighboring Countries, which was well attended.

China has also received support from Muslim countries on the issue of Xinjiang at the UN Human Rights Council. In fact, in July 2019, when a group of 22 nations led by the West sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Council criticising China on Xinjiang, not a single Muslim country was a signatory of that letter, while another group of 37 countries submitted a letter on the same issue defending Chinese policies.

These countries included all the six Gulf countries plus Pakistan, Algeria, Syria, Egypt, Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, and Sudan — all Muslim countries.

Given the changing geopolitical scenario, where there is a shift in the global balance of economic and political power, away from West and toward the East, followed by calls for a New Cold War, China’s thrust for cooperation and connectivity, given the common threat of the Coronavirus pandemic and the need for connectivity through BRI, has a broad resonance in the Muslim world.

The Muslim countries see their relations with China as a strategic bond to promote stability, security and economic development in the Muslim world and the BRI has become the principal vehicle in the promotion of such an approach.

In the coming years, China’s partnership with the Muslim world is likely to be strengthened, given the mutuality of interests and the convergence of worldviews in upholding a world order based on International Law, the UN Charter and the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

Ironically, thirty years after enunciating the Huntington thesis on the ‘clash of civilisations,’ which talked of the Islamic and Confucian Civilisations co-existence with each other but possible confrontation with Western Civilisation, recent developments may be pointers to a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Source: Wall Street International MagazineTop of Form/OTHER NEWS
https://wsimag.com/economy-and-politics/69117-chinas-entry-into-the-muslim-world

Chairman of the Senate Defence Committee Pakistani, Senator Mushahid Hussain was Bureau Chief in Islamabad of Inter Press Service (IPS) during 1987-1997 & later in 2014. He launched the first Public Hearings on Environment & Climate Change in the Pakistan Parliament. As Senator, he chairs the Senate Sub Committee on ‘Green and Clean Islamabad’ which has launched a campaign to ban plastic use in the Pakistani capital.

IPS UN Bureau

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Changing a System that Exploits Nature and Women, for a Sustainable Future

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Women & Climate Change

Peruvian farmer Hilda Roca, 37, stands in her agro-ecological garden in Cusipata, a town located at more than 3,300 meters above sea level in the highlands of Cuzco, where she grows vegetables for her family and sells the surplus with the support of her adolescent daughter and son. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Peruvian farmer Hilda Roca, 37, stands in her agro-ecological garden in Cusipata, a town located at more than 3,300 meters above sea level in the highlands of Cuzco, where she grows vegetables for her family and sells the surplus with the support of her adolescent daughter and son. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Mar 7 2022 (IPS) – “Pachamama (Mother Earth) is upset with all the damage we are doing to her,” says Hilda Roca, an indigenous Peruvian farmer from Cusipata, in the Andes highlands of the department of Cuzco, referring to climate change and the havoc it is wreaking on her life and her environment.


From her town, more than 3,300 meters above sea level, she told IPS that if women were in power equally with men, measures in favor of nature that would alleviate the climate chaos would have been approved long ago. “But we need to fight sexism so that we are not discriminated against and so our rights are respected,” said the Quechua-speaking farmer.

The link between climate change and gender is the focus of the United Nations’ celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day, Mar. 8, under the theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.

The aim is to “make visible how the climate crisis is a problem that is closely related to inequality, and in particular to gender inequality, which is expressed in an unequal distribution of power, resources, wealth, work and time between women and men,” Ana Güezmes, director of the Gender Affairs Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), told IPS.

Latin America is highly vulnerable to the climate crisis despite the fact that it emits less than 10 percent of the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.

In addition, climate injustice has a female face in the region: lower-income population groups, where the proportion of women is higher, are more exposed to climate effects due to their limited access to opportunities, despite the fact that they are less responsible for emissions.

The extreme poverty rate in the region increased from 13.1 percent to 13.8 percent of the population – from 81 to 86 million people – between 2020 and 2021, according to data released by ECLAC in January. Women between 25 and 59 years of age are the most affected compared to their male counterparts. This situation is worse among indigenous and rural populations, who depend on nature for their livelihoods.

These aspects were highlighted at ECLAC’s 62nd Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women, held Jan. 26-27, whose declaration warns that women and girls affected by the adverse impacts of climate change and disasters face specific barriers to access to water and sanitation, health and education services, and food security.

And it is women who are mainly responsible for feeding their families, fetching water and firewood, and taking care of the vegetable garden and animals.

“That is why we maintain that the post-pandemic recovery must be transformative in terms of sustainability and equality,” Güezmes emphasized from ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, Chile.

To this end, she said, this recovery “must untie the four structural knots of gender inequality that affect the region so much: socioeconomic inequality and poverty; the sexual division of labor and the unjust organization of caregiving; the concentration of power and patriarchal, discriminatory and violent cultural patterns; and the predominance of the culture of privilege.”

Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people of Colombia. : Courtesy of Luz Mery Panche

Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people of Colombia. : Courtesy of Luz Mery Panche

Reconciling with Mother Earth

Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people, discussed the need to incorporate a gender perspective into the climate crisis. She talked to IPS from San Vicente del Caguán, in the department of Caquetá, in the Amazon region of Colombia, a country facing violent attacks on defenders of land and the environment.

For her, more than sustainable, “it is about moving towards a sustainable future.”

“We need to change the conditions that have generated war and chaos in the country, which is due to the hijacking of political and economic power by an elite that has been in the decision-making spaces since the country emerged 200 years ago,” she said.

Panche is a member of the National Ethnic Peace Coordination committee (Cenpaz) and in that capacity is part of the special high-level body with ethnic peoples for the implementation of the peace agreement in her country. She is a human rights activist and a defender of the Amazon rainforest.

She argued that to achieve a sustainable future “we must reconcile with Mother Earth and move towards the happy, joyful way of life that we deserve as human beings.”

This, she said, starts by changing the economic model violently imposed on many areas without taking into account the use of the soil, its capacities and benefits; by changing concepts of economy and the educational model; and by organizing local economies and focusing on a future of respect, solidarity and fraternity.

Panche said that in order to move towards this model, women “must have informed participation regarding the effects of climate change.

“Although we prefer to call Mother Earth’s fever ‘global warming’. And it is up to us to remember to make decisions that put us back on the ancestral path of harmony and balance, what we call returning to the origin, to the womb, to improve coexistence and the sense of humanity,” she said.

Uruguayan ecofeminist Lilian Celiberti carries a banner reading "Our body, our territory" in the streets of Tarapoto, a city in the central Peruvian jungle, during an edition of the Pan-Amazon Social Forum. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Uruguayan ecofeminist Lilian Celiberti carries a banner reading “Our body, our territory” in the streets of Tarapoto, a city in the central Peruvian jungle, during an edition of the Pan-Amazon Social Forum. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Changing times: another kind of coexistence with nature and equality

Lilian Celiberti, Uruguayan ecofeminist and founder of the non-governmental Cotidiano Mujer and Colectivo Dafnias, told IPS from Montevideo that governments have the tools to work on gender equality today in order to have a sustainable future tomorrow, as this year’s Mar. 8 slogan states.

But against this, she said, there are economic interests at play that maintain a development proposal based on growth and extreme exploitation of nature.

She called for boosting local economies and agroecology among other community alternatives in the Latin American region that run counter to the dominant government approach.

“But I believe that we are at a very complex crossroads and that only social participation will be able to find paths of multiple, diverse participation and collective sustainability that incorporate care policies and awareness of the eco-dependence of human society,” she said.

Celiberti said “we are on a planet of finite resources and we have to generate a new relationship with nature, but I see that governments are far from this kind of thinking.”

ECLAC’s Güezmes emphasized that social movements, especially those led by young indigenous and non-indigenous women in the region, have exposed the multiple asymmetries and inequalities that exist.

Ana Güezmes is director of the Gender Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. CREDIT: ECLAC

Ana Güezmes is director of the Gender Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. CREDIT: ECLAC

“We have an intergenerational debt, where young women have put at the center of the debate the unsustainability of the current development style that has direct impacts on our future at a global level and direct impacts on their livelihoods, territories and communities,” said Güezmes, who is from Spain and has worked for years within the United Nations in several Latin American countries.

She recognized the contribution of feminist movements that focus on a redistribution of power, resources and time to move towards an egalitarian model that includes the reduction of violence.

And she warned that from a climate perspective, the window of opportunity for action is closing, so we must act quickly, creating synergies between gender equality and climate change responses.

Güezmes said that “we are looking at a change of era” with global challenges that require a profound transformation that recognizes how the economy, society and the environment are interrelated. “To leave no one behind and no woman out, we must advance synergistically among these three dimensions of development: economic, social and environmental,” she remarked.

The expert cited gender equality as a central element of sustainable development because women need to be at the center of the responses. To this end, ECLAC plans to promote affirmative actions that bolster comprehensive care systems, decent work and the full and effective participation of women in strategic sectors of the economy.

She also raised the need to build “a renewed global pact” to strengthen multilateralism and achieve greater solidarity with middle-income countries on issues central to inclusive growth, sustainable development and gender equality.

“We have reiterated the urgent need to advance new political, social and fiscal pacts focused on structural change for equality,” Güezmes stressed.

She stated that in this perspective, the participation of women in all their diversity in decision-making processes is very important, particularly with regard to climate change.

To this end, she remarked, it is necessary to monitor their degree of intervention at the local, national and international levels – where asymmetry persists – and to provide women’s organizations, especially grassroots ones, with the necessary resources to become involved in such spaces.

“It involves strengthening financial flows so that they reach women who are at the forefront of responses to climate change and who are familiar with the situation in their communities, and boosting their capacities so that women from indigenous, native and Afro-descendant peoples participate in decision-making spaces related to the environment to promote the exchange of their ancestral knowledge on adaptation and mitigation measures,” she said.

Güezmes highlighted the contribution of women environmental activists and defenders to democracy, peace and sustainable development. It is necessary to “recognize their contribution to the protection of biodiversity and to development, despite doing so in conditions of fragility and exploitation and having less access to land, productive resources and their control,” she said.

For her part, Roca, who like other local women in the Peruvian Andes highlands practices agroecology to adapt to climate change and reconcile with Pachamama, calls for their voices to be heard.

“We have ideas and proposals and they need to be taken into account to improve the climate and our lives,” the indigenous farmer said.

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On Nuclear Weapons, Actions Belie Reassuring Words

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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.

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Glasgow Summit Ends Amidst Climate of Disappointment

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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

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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.

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Indigenous Peoples Want to Move Towards Clean Energy Sovereignty

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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.