miércoles, diciembre 30, 2009

Earth Policy Institute
Earth Policy Release
December 30, 2009


Lester R. Brown


Some 3,000 years ago, farmers in eastern China domesticated the soybean. In 1765, the first soybeans were planted in North America. Today the soybean occupies more U.S. cropland than wheat. And in Brazil, where it spread even more rapidly, the soybean is invading the Amazon rainforest.

For close to two centuries after its introduction into the United States the soybean languished as a curiosity crop. Then during the 1950s, as Europe and Japan recovered from the war and as economic growth gathered momentum in the United States, the demand for meat, milk, and eggs climbed. But with little new grassland to support the expanding beef and dairy herds, farmers turned to grain to produce not only more beef and milk but also more pork, poultry, and eggs. World consumption of meat at 44 million tons in 1950 had already started the climb that would take it to 280 million tons in 2009, a sixfold rise.

This rise was partly dependent on the discovery by animal nutritionists that combining one part soybean meal with four parts grain would dramatically boost the efficiency with which livestock and poultry converted grain into animal protein. This generated a fast-growing market for soybeans from the mid-twentieth century onward. It was the soybean’s ticket to agricultural prominence, enabling soybeans to join wheat, rice, and corn as one of the world’s leading crops.

U.S. production of the soybean exploded after World War II. By 1960 it was close to triple that in China. By 1970 the United States was producing three fourths of the world’s soybeans and accounting for virtually all exports. And by 1995 the fast-expanding U.S. land area planted to soybeans had eclipsed that in wheat.

When world grain and soybean prices climbed in the mid-1970s, the United States—in an effort to curb domestic food price inflation—embargoed soybean exports. Japan, then the world’s leading importer, was soon looking for another supplier. And Brazil was looking for new crops to export. The rest is history. In 2009, the area in Brazil planted to soybeans exceeded that in all grains combined.

At about the same time the soybean gained a foothold in Argentina, where it staged the most spectacular takeover of all. Today more than twice as much land in Argentina produces soybeans as produces grain. Rarely does a single crop so dominate a country’s agriculture as the soybean does Argentina’s. Together, the United States, Brazil, and Argentina produce easily four fifths of the world’s soybean crop and account for 90 percent of the exports.

During the closing decades of the last century, Japan was the leading soybean importer, at nearly 5 million tons per year. As recently as 1995, China was essentially self-sufficient in soybeans, producing and consuming roughly 13 million tons of soybeans a year. Then the dam broke as rising incomes enabled many of China’s 1.3 billion people to move up the food chain, consuming more meat, milk, eggs, and farmed fish. By 2009 China was consuming 55 million tons of soybeans, of which 41 million tons were imported, accounting for 75 percent of its soaring consumption.

Today half of all soybean exports go to China, the country that gave the world the soybean. Soybean meal mixed with grain for animal feed made it possible for Chinese meat consumption to grow to double that in the United States.

Since 1950 the world soybean harvest has climbed from 17 million tons to 250 million tons, a gain of more than 14-fold.(See data.)This contrasts with growth in the world grain harvest of less than fourfold. Soybeans are the second-ranking U.S. crop after corn, and they totally dominate agriculture in both Brazil and Argentina.

Where does the 250-million-ton world soybean crop go? One tenth or so is consumed directly as food—tofu, meat substitutes, soy sauce, and other products. Nearly one fifth is extracted as oil, making it a leading table oil. The remainder, roughly 70 percent of the harvest, ends up as soybean meal to be consumed by livestock and poultry.

So although the soybean is everywhere, it is virtually invisible, embedded in livestock and poultry products. Most of the world harvest ends up in refrigerators in such products as milk, eggs, cheese, chicken, ham, beef, and ice cream.

Satisfying the global demand for soybeans, growing at nearly 6 million tons per year, poses a challenge. The soybean is a legume, fixing atmospheric nitrogen in the soil, which means it is not as fertilizer-responsive as, say, corn, which has a ravenous appetite for nitrogen. But because the soy plant uses a substantial fraction of its metabolic energy to fix nitrogen, it has less energy to devote to producing seed. This makes raising yields more difficult.

In contrast to the impressive gains in grain yields, scientists have had comparatively little success in raising soybean yields. Since 1950, U.S. corn yields have quadrupled while those of soybeans have barely doubled. Although the U.S. area in corn has remained essentially unchanged since 1950, the area in soybeans has expanded fivefold.(See data.) Farmers get more soybeans largely by planting more soybeans. Herein lies the dilemma: how to satisfy the continually expanding demand for soybeans without clearing so much of the Amazon rainforest that it dries out and becomes vulnerable to fire.

The Amazon is being cleared both by soybean growers and by ranchers, who are expanding Brazil’s national herd of beef cattle. Oftentimes, soybean growers buy land from cattlemen, who have cleared the land and grazed it for a few years, pushing them ever deeper into the Amazon rainforest.

The Amazon rainforest sustains one of the richest concentrations of plant and animal biological diversity in the world. It also recycles rainfall from the coastal regions to the continental interior, ensuring an adequate water supply for Brazil’s inland agriculture. And it is an enormous storehouse of carbon. Each of these three contributions is obviously of great importance. But it is the release of carbon, as deforestation progresses, that most directly affects the entire world. Continuing destruction of the Brazilian rainforest will release massive quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, helping to drive climate change.

Brazil has discussed reducing deforestation 80 percent by 2020 as part of its contribution to lowering global carbon emissions. Unfortunately, if soybean consumption continues to climb, the economic pressures to clear more land could make this difficult.

Although the deforestation is occurring within Brazil, it is the worldwide growth in demand for meat, milk, and eggs that is driving it. Put simply, saving the Amazon rainforest now depends on curbing the growth in demand for soybeans by stabilizing population worldwide as soon as possible. And for the world’s affluent population, it means moving down the food chain, eating less meat and thus lessening the growth in demand for soybeans. With food, as with energy, achieving an acceptable balance between supply and demand now means curbing growth in demand rather than just expanding supply.

# # #

Lester R. Brown is President of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0:
Mobilizing to Save Civilization

Data and additional resources at www.earthpolicy.org

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Agrocombustibles: ¿inocencia o cinismo?

Proyecto de Bioseguridad de Puerto Rico

¡El genio de los agrocombustibles es duro de matar! Aún a estas alturas una porción significativa del movimiento ambientalista, incluyendo en Puerto Rico y Estados Unidos, se aferra a la noción de que combustibles derivados de cultivos agrícolas, desperdicios animales y otras fuentes biológicas, pueden sacar al mundo de su dependencia de los combustibles fósiles y así vencer dos grandes amenazas globales, el cénit del petróleo y el calentamiento global. Llámenlos como quieran, biocombustibles, cultivos energéticos, agrocombustibles, agroenergía, éstos son una falacia en un ecosistema finito y en un sistema económico basado en el crecimiento descontrolado e ilimitado.

Las implicaciones para la seguridad alimentaria del Sur global son estremecedoras. La apropiación de grandes extensiones de tierra para dedicarlas a cultivos de exportación no es más que una continuación del modelo colonial agroexportador, el mismo modelo socialmente retrógrado, feudal, explotador y ambientalmente destructivo que ambientalistas y progresistas en el Norte y el Sur han tratado por décadas de erradicar.



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martes, diciembre 29, 2009

File:Jake flying Great Leonoptyrex.jpg


When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Critics have called alien epic Avatar a version of Dances With Wolves because it's about a white guy going native and becoming a great leader. But Avatar is just the latest scifi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy.


Dances with Discrimination: On “Avatar,” Racism, Misogyny, and Disabled Prejudice


sábado, diciembre 26, 2009


What was really decided in Copenhagen?
or, “50,000 people went to Denmark and all they got was a lousy 3-page political agreement”

Brian Tokar

Detailed accounts from participants in the recent Copenhagen climate summit are still coming in, but a few things are already quite clear, even as countries step up the blame game in response to the summit’s disappointing conclusion.

First, the 2 1/2 pages of diplomatic blather that the participating countries ultimately consented to “take note” of are completely self-contradictory, and commit no one to any specific actions to address the global climate crisis. There isn’t even a plan for moving UN-level negotiations forward. Friends of the Earth correctly described it as a “sham agreement,” British columnist George Monbiot called it an exercise in “saving face,” and former neoliberal shock doctor-turned-environmentalist Jeffrey Sachs termed it a farce. Long-time UN observer Martin Khor has pointed out that for a UN body to “take note” of a document means that not only was it not formally adopted, but it was not even “welcomed,” a common UN practice.

Second, the global divide between rich and poor has never been clearer, and those countries where people are already experiencing the droughts, floods, and the melting of glaciers that provide a vital source of freshwater expect to find themselves in increasingly desperate straits as the full effects of climate disruptions begin to emerge. Not to mention the small island nations that face near-certain annihilation as melting ice sheets bring rising seas, along with infiltrations of seawater into their scarce fresh water supplies. Especially despicable was the changing role of the governments of the rapidly developing “BASIC” countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), who claim to speak for the poor – in their own countries and around the world – when it is convenient, but mainly seek to protect the expanding riches of their own well-entrenched elites.

Third, even the meager and contradictory progress of the past 17 years of global climate talks is now at risk, as is the flawed but relatively open and inclusive UN process. After the 2007 climate summit in Bali, Indonesia, the Bush administration tried to initiate an alternate track of negotiations on climate policy that involved only a select handful of the more compliant countries. That strategy failed, partly because its figurehead was George Bush. Now that the Obama administration has adopted essentially the same approach, with the full collaboration of the “BASICs,” the utterly substanceless “Copenhagen Accord” can be seen as this coercive strategy’s first diplomatic success.

As I wrote just as the Copenhagen meeting was getting underway (see my “Repackaging Copenhagen,” posted in early December), the US had planned for some months to attempt to replace the quaint notion of a comprehensive global climate agreement with a patchwork of informal, individual country commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and undertake other appropriate measures. If the Copenhagen document means anything at all, it establishes that process as a new global norm for implementing climate policy. Nothing is binding, and everything is voluntary, only to be “assessed” informally after another five years have passed. (Pages 4 and 5 of the “accord” actually consist of a pair of high school-caliber charts where countries are free to simply write in their voluntary emissions targets and other mitigation actions, nominally by the end of January.)

The document was hammered out in a back room, WTO-style. It hedges all the important issues, and appends loopholes and contradictions to every substantive point that it pretends to make. While discussions will nominally continue under the two UN negotiating tracks established 2 years ago in Bali, the “accord” provides a justification for leading countries in the process—which Bill McKibben has termed the “league of superpolluters,” plus a few wannabes—to continue subverting and undermining those discussions in the name of a more efficient and streamlined process to continue business as usual for the benefit of the world’s elites.

As some have pointed out, it could have been worse. A useless non-agreement may be better than a coercive agreement that entrenches insufficient targets and destructive policy measures, such as expanding carbon markets. But the potential loss of an accountable UN process could prove to be an even worse outcome than that. The US, of course, has always tried to undermine the United Nations when it couldn’t overtly control it, but replacing the processes established under the 1992 UN climate convention with a cash-for-compliance, anything-goes circus that more closely mirrors the World Trade Organization’s discredited mechanisms doesn’t bode at all well for the future.

Did anything positive happen in Copenhagen? For climate justice activists around the world, Copenhagen may have been a long-sought Seattle moment. It was a unique opportunity for activists and NGO representatives from around the world to gather, forge personal ties, and begin raising the global profile of an essential climate justice agenda. Independent journalists, most notably Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now team, helped amplify the voices best able to explain how climate disruptions are no longer an abstract scientific issue, but one that is already impacting the lives of those least able to cope. Even the mainstream US press featured some notable stories of people around the world who are struggling to live with the effects of climate chaos. More than ever before, people are coming to understand that the only meaningful solution to the climate crisis is to “leave the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole, and the tar sands in the land,” following the slogan raised by campaigners against oil drilling in Ecuador’s endangered Yasuni National Park.

It was also a pivotal moment for the ALBA countries of Latin America—most notably Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela—which continued to the very end to stand up to intimidation from the US and other powerful countries, and refused to buckle under last-minute pressure to approve the vapid and destructive “Copenhagen Accord” as an agreement of the assembled nations. This is in stark contrast to the role of the European Union, which once stood for a strong worldwide agreement on greenhouse gas emissions, but has now fallen in line with the disruptive strategies of the US. Another positive income is that there was no new bone thrown to the world’s financial elites, who were banking on a Copenhagen agreement to help inflate their artificial market in tradable carbon allowances. Carbon prices in Europe have begun to decline, which may help prevent the enshrinement of carbon markets (so-called “cap and trade”) as the primary instrument of climate policy in the United States.

So now the struggle returns to the national and local levels, where people may be best able to create examples of just and effective ways to address the climate crisis. There is no shortage of positive, forward-looking approaches to reducing excess consumption and furthering the development of alternative energy sources, especially ones that can be democratically controlled by communities and not corporations. But the power of positive examples is far from sufficient to address the crucial problem of time. A few years ago, climate experts shocked the world by saying we had less than ten years to reverse course and do something to prevent irreversible tipping points in the global climate system. The disastrous outcome of the Copenhagen conference makes it harder than ever to feel confident that it isn’t too late.


Brian Tokar is the current director of the Institute for Social Ecology (social-ecology.org), author of The Green Alternative and Earth for Sale, editor of two books on the politics of biotechnology, Redesigning Life? and Gene Traders, and co-editor of the forthcoming collection, Crisis in Food and Agriculture: Conflict, Resistance and Renewal (Monthly Review Press). He works with Climate SOS and the Mobilization for Climate Justice (climatesos.org, actforclimatejustice.org).

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2009 un balance muy desbalanceado

RAPAL Uruguay
Diciembre 2009

Cultivos transgénicos. En Uruguay hay actualmente dos cultivos transgénicos: la soja y el maíz. De acuerdo al informe divulgado en agosto de este año por la Dirección de Estadísticas Agropecuarias (DIEA), durante la última década la soja ha mostrado un proceso de expansión ininterrumpido, acumulando en la zafra (2008-2009) prácticamente el 75% del área total de cultivos de verano. Según el Instituto Nacional de Semillas (INASE), la semilla de soja registrada es 100% transgénica. (1)

En la zafra 2007-2008 se cultivaron 461.900 hectáreas de soja, mientras que en la del 2008- 2009 se alcanzaron las 577.800 hectáreas. Es decir, que entre zafra y zafra se registró un aumento de cerca de 120 mil hectáreas.

En la última zafra, la producción del maíz fue uno de los cultivos más afectados por la sequía, en especial en las siembras de primera. De acuerdo a INASE, casi 85% de estas semillas son transgénicas y pertenecientes a las empresas Monsanto (Mon 810) y Syngenta (Bt 11). El área sembrada de maíz en la zafra 2007-2008 fue de 80.600 hectáreas y en la 2008-2009 creció a 87.500 hectáreas. (2) La sequía que azotó el territorio nacional durante el verano 2009 impidió un avance aún mayor de ambos cultivos.

Más transgénicos

En agosto de este año, el Gabinete Nacional de Bioseguridad presidido por el Ministerio de Ganadería, Agricultura y Pesca realizó autorizaciones a varios niveles: (3)

Autorizaciones aprobadas a fines del mes de agosto para realizar ensayos de evaluación nacional de cultivares:

Maíz GA21X Bt11 y maíz GA21, ambos pertenecen a la firma Yanfin SA representante en nuestro país de la multinacional Syngenta, para la realización de ensayos de Evaluación Nacional de Cultivares. También se aprueba el maíz de la empresa Monsanto NK603, con el mismo objetivo.

Aprobación de semillas para producción y exportación de las mismas

La empresa Hinkely S.A. representante de la empresa Monsanto en Uruguay, solicita en agosto de este año la autorización de la soja con “eventos apilados” MON89788 o también llamada “Roundup Ready 2”. El objetivo de la autorización es la producción de semillas y exportación para su posterior multiplicación y comercialización en su país de origen, Estados Unidos.

De acuerdo a la identificación y descripciones de la empresa sobre posibles efectos en el ambiente dice que, “la soja portadora del evento MON89788 carece del potencial de convertirse en una especie invasora o especie maleza, carece de especies sexualmente compatibles en Uruguay y no tiene un mayor impacto sobre la diversidad que otras variedades modernas de soja ya disponibles”.

De acuerdo la descripción dada por la empresa bien se podría pensar que la soja RR de la misma compañía “tiene impactos sobre la diversidad”, razón por la cual estarían promoviendo esta segunda soja, pero nada dice que por esa misma razón se eliminarían los cultivos de la misma a causa de sus impactos sobre la diversidad.

Monsanto se instala en Uruguay

Esta modalidad totalmente nueva para Uruguay, permite que la empresa Monsanto se instale en nuestro país para producir semillas transgénicas para exportación. En esta primera siembra se plantea hacerlo en un total de 2000 hectáreas. (4)

Según las autoridades de gobierno, la autorización para que la empresa Monsanto se instale en nuestro país con el objetivo de producir semillas para exportar se fundamenta en el hecho de que generará empleo. ¿Qué empleos podrá generar una empresa que todo lo realiza con maquinarias guiadas desde un escritorio a través de computadoras y que solo busca obtener ganancias a cualquier precio?

Para leer el artículo entero:


La agricultura orgánica puede ser una de las herramientas para luchar contra el calentamiento del planeta


Los resultados de los sistemas de cultivo del instituto de Rodale, Farming Systems Trial (FST) de Estados Unidos, que comenzó en 1981 como un experimento agronómico diseñado para comparar sistemas de cultivos orgánicos y convencionales, han demostrado que los sistemas orgánicos regeneradores de la agricultura convencional reducen en forma significativa las emisiones de dióxido de carbono, gas muy importante de efecto invernadero. Los datos del FST han revelado que el suelo con producción orgánica puede acumular más de una tonelada (1.135 kilos) de carbono por hectárea (1000 libras por acre).

Estos datos colocan la agricultura orgánica en un rol importante en el esfuerzo para retardar el cambio de clima y disminuir los gases de efecto invernadero.

leer artículo completo aquí

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miércoles, diciembre 23, 2009

Requiem for a Crowded Planet

This is what the failure of the climate talks means.

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 21st December 2009

The last time global negotiations collapsed like this was in Doha in 2001. After the trade talks fell apart, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) assured the delegates that there was nothing to fear: they would move to Mexico, where a deal would be done. The negotiations ran into the sand of the Mexican resort of Cancun, never to re-emerge. After eight years of dithering, nothing has been agreed.

When the climate talks in Copenhagen ended in failure last week, Yvo de Boer, the man in charge of the process, urged us not to worry: everything will be sorted out “in Mexico one year from now.”(1) Is Mexico the diplomatic equivalent of the Pacific garbage patch: the place where failed negotiations go to die?

De Boer might pretend that this is just a temporary hitch, but he knows what happens when talks lose momentum. A year ago I asked him what he feared most. This is what he said. “The worst-case scenario for me is that climate becomes a second WTO. … Copenhagen, for me, is a very clear deadline that I think we need to meet, and I am afraid that if we don’t, then the process will begin to slip, and like in the trade negotiations, one deadline after the other will not be met, and we sort of become the little orchestra on the Titanic.”(2)

We can live without a new trade agreement; we can’t live without a new climate agreement. One of the failings of the people who have tried to mobilise support for a climate treaty is that we have made the issue too complicated. So here is the simplest summary I can produce of why this matters.

Human beings can live in a wider range of conditions than almost any other species. But the climate of the past few thousand years has been amazingly kind to us. It has enabled us to spread into almost all regions of the world and to grow into the favourable ecological circumstances it has created. We currently enjoy the optimum conditions for supporting seven billion people.

A shift in global temperature reduces the range of places than can sustain human life. During the last ice age, humans were confined to low latitudes. The difference in the average global temperature between now and then was four degrees centigrade. Global warming will have the opposite effect, driving people into higher latitudes, principally as water supplies diminish.

Food production at high latitudes must rise as quickly as it falls elsewhere, but this is unlikely to happen. According to the body that summarises the findings of climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the potential for global food production “is very likely to decrease above about 3C”(3). The panel uses the phrase “very likely” to mean a probability of above 90%(4). Unless a strong climate deal is struck very soon, the probable outcome is a rise of three or more degrees by the end of the century.

Even in higher latitudes the habitable land area will decrease as the sea level rises. The likely rise this century - probably less than a metre - is threatening only to some populations, but the process does not stop in 2100. During the previous interglacial period, about 125,000 years ago, the average global temperature was around 1.3 degrees higher than it is today, as a result of changes in the earth’s orbit around the sun. A new paper in the scientific journal Nature shows that sea levels during that period were between 6.6 and 9.4 metres higher than today’s(5). Once the temperature had risen, the expansion of sea water and the melting of ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica was unstoppable. I wonder whether the government of Denmark, whose atrocious management of the conference contributed to its failure, would have tried harder if its people knew that in a few hundred years they won’t have a country any more.

As people are displaced from their homes by drought and sea level rise, and as food production declines, the planet will be unable to support the current population. The collapse in human numbers is unlikely to be either smooth or painless: while the average global temperature will rise gradually, the events associated with it will come in fits and starts: sudden droughts and storm surges.

This is why the least developed countries, which will be hit hardest, made the strongest demands in Copenhagen. One hundred and two poor nations called for the maximum global temperature rise to be limited not to two degrees but to 1.5. The chief negotiator for the G77 bloc complained that Africa was being asked “to sign a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries”(6).

The immediate reason for the failure of the talks can be summarised in two words: Barack Obama. The man elected to put aside childish things proved to be as susceptible to immediate self-interest as any other politician. Just as George Bush did in the approach to the Iraq war, Obama went behind the backs of the UN and most of its member states and assembled a coalition of the willing to strike a deal which outraged the rest of the world. This was then presented to poorer nations without negotiation; either they signed it or they lost the adaptation funds required to help them survive the first few decades of climate breakdown.

The British and American governments have blamed the Chinese government for the failure of the talks. It’s true that the Chinese worked hard to mess them up, but Obama also put Beijing in an impossible position. He demanded concessions while offering nothing. He must have known the importance of not losing face in Chinese politics: his unilateral diplomacy amounted to a demand for self-abasement. My guess is that this was a calculated manoeuvre guaranteed to produce instransigence, whereupon China could be blamed for the outcome he wanted.

Why would Obama do this? You have only to see the relief in Democratic circles to get your answer. Pushing a strong climate programme through the Senate, many of whose members are wholly owned subsidiaries of the energy industry, would have been the political battle of his life. Yet again, the absence of effective campaign finance reform in the US makes global progress almost impossible.

So what happens now? That depends on the other non-player at Copenhagen: you. For the past few years good, liberal, compassionate people - the kind who read the Guardian every day - have shaken their heads and tutted and wondered why someone doesn’t do something. Yet the number taking action has been pathetic. Demonstrations which should have brought millions onto the streets have struggled to mobilise a few thousand. As a result the political cost of the failure at Copenhagen is zero.

Is this music not to your taste sir, or madam? Perhaps you would like our little orchestra to play something louder, to drown out that horrible grinding noise.



1. Yvo de Boer, 19th December 2009. http://unfccc.int/2860.php

2. From transcript of video interview for the Guardian’s “Monbiot Meets” series. You can watch the edited discussion here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2008/dec/08/monbiot-yvo-de-boer-climate

3. IPCC, 2007. Assessing key vulnerabilities and the risk from climate change. Table 19.1. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter19.pdf

4. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/supporting-material/uncertainty-guidance-note.pdf

5. Robert E. Kopp et al, 17th December 2009. Probabilistic assessment of sea level during the last interglacial stage. Nature Vol 462, pp863-868. doi:10.1038/nature08686

6. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/20/copenhagen-obama-brown-climate

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Agrocombustibles incluidos en el comercio de carbono

Informe de Biodiversidad de CIP Programa de las Américas

Créditos de carbono: para destruir la
biodiversidad. Foto: www.salvalaselva.org.

Los créditos de carbono de las Naciones Unidas para subvencionar la producción de agrocombustibles amenazan la biodiversidad y los bosques, denuncia la campaña internacional Salva la Selva. Estos créditos son gestionados mediante el Mecanismo de Desarrollo Limpio (MDL), un llamado "mecanismo de mercado" establecido como parte del Protocolo de Kyoto, el cual hace posible que industrias contaminantes en países del Norte "compensen" por sus emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero financiando proyectos en el Sur global que supuestamente secuestran carbono.

"La mayoría de los créditos de carbono del MDL se dirigirán a industrias contaminantes en el Sur, a expensas de las comunidades locales, sus derechos y su medio ambiente", advierte Salva la Selva, cuya sede es en Alemania. "Cada vez más créditos de carbono del MDL se destinarán a plantaciones de monocultivo en el Sur -lo que desde ahora incluye plantaciones de soja, la palma aceitera y la jatrofa para agrocombustibles."

"Grandes cantidades de emisiones de dióxido de carbono de plantas energéticas a base de carbón en Europa pueden ahora ser oficialmente 'compensadas' por empresas que paguen para plantaciones de soja en Brasil, o de palma aceitera... Esto impulsará más deforestación y destrucción de otros ecosistemas, y así, más cambio climático."

La decisión de la junta ejecutiva del MDL de respaldar este "comercio de carbono" se debió en buena parte a una petición de la empresa Agrenco Group. Esta compañía se autodescribe como "una firma internacional especializada en el aprovisionamiento integrado de soluciones estandarizadas para clientes y socios en el sector de agronegocios... Asiste al ciclo completo desde el producto al consumidor, con financiación para agricultores, logística, almacenanamiento, operaciones portuarias, fletes, exportación y distribución."

El grueso de sus operaciones se ubican en los estados brasileños de Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás y Paraná, planea expandir sus actividades a los estados norteños de Maranhão, Piauí y Tocantins, y tiene además presencia en Paraguay y Argentina. Agrenco dice ser "un líder de mercado en la oferta de soya y derivados libres de transgénicos en el mercado europeo"- tiene unidades de distribución y mercadeo en Francia, Italia, Reino Unido y Noruega.

Según Salva la Selva, Agrenco usará el mercado de carbono para financiar sus monocultivos de soya en Mato Grosso. "Mato Grosso tiene la tasa más alta de deforestación dentro de la Amazonía, debido principalmente a los monocultivos de soja. El cerrado, que es la sabana más biodiversa del mundo, también está siendo destruida a causa de la expansión de la soja en Mato Grosso, y con ella, el sustento de comunidades indígenas, entre otras. Además, el Mato Grosso es uno de los dos estados en la Amazonía brasilera con la tasa más alta de apropiación ilegal de tierras, que es algo muy común entre las empresas que establecen plantaciones."

Salva la Selva exhorta a todos a firmar una carta a la junta ejecutiva del MDL en la cual se le pide que reconsidere su endoso a los agrocombustibles, el cual "se traducirá en más apropiación de tierras, más personas que pasan hambre, más destrucción de ecosistemas y biodiversidad, más contaminación de aguas y agotamiento y degradación del suelo y más cambio climático", dice el texto.

Para más información y para leer la carta: http://www.salvalaselva.org/protestaktion.php?id=495.

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martes, diciembre 22, 2009

For Obama, No Opportunity Too Big To Blow

Posted on EnviroNation

Contrary to countless reports, the debacle in Copenhagen was not everyone's fault. It did not happen because human beings are incapable of agreeing, or are inherently self-destructive. Nor was it all was China's fault, or the fault of the hapless UN.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but there was one country that possessed unique power to change the game. It didn't use it. If Barack Obama had come to Copenhagen with a transformative and inspiring commitment to getting the U.S. economy off fossil fuels, all the other major emitters would have stepped up. The EU, Japan, China and India had all indicated that they were willing to increase their levels of commitment, but only if the U.S. took the lead. Instead of leading, Obama arrived with embarrassingly low targets and the heavy emitters of the world took their cue from him.

(The "deal" that was ultimately rammed through was nothing more than a grubby pact between the world's biggest emitters: I'll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.)

I understand all the arguments about not promising what he can't deliver, about the dysfunction of the U.S. Senate, about the art of the possible. But spare me the lecture about how little power poor Obama has. No President since FDR has been handed as many opportunities to transform the U.S. into something that doesn't threaten the stability of life on this planet. He has refused to use each and every one of them. Let's look at the big three.

Blown Opportunity Number 1: The Stimulus Package

When Obama came to office he had a free hand and a blank check to design a spending package to stimulate the economy. He could have used that power to fashion what many were calling a "Green New Deal"—to build the best public transit systems and smart grids in the world. Instead, he experimented disastrously with reaching across the aisle to Republicans, low-balling the size of the stimulus and blowing much of it on tax cuts. Sure, he spent some money on weatherization, but public transit was inexplicably short changed while highways that perpetuate car culture won big.

Blown Opportunity Number 2: The Auto Bailouts

Speaking of the car culture, when Obama took office he also found himself in charge of two of the big three automakers, and all of the emissions for which they are responsible. A visionary leader committed to the fight against climate chaos would obviously have used that power to dramatically reengineer the failing industry so that its factories could build the infrastructure of the green economy the world desperately needs. Instead Obama saw his role as uninspiring down-sizer in chief, leaving the fundamentals of the industry unchanged.

Blown Opportunity Number 3: The Bank Bailouts

Obama, it's worth remembering, also came to office with the big banks on their knees -- it took real effort not to nationalize them. Once again, if Obama had dared to use the power that was handed to him by history, he could have mandated the banks to provide the loans for factories to be retrofitted and new green infrastructure to be built. Instead he declared that the government shouldn't tell the failed banks how to run their businesses. Green businesses report that it's harder than ever to get a loan.

Imagine if these three huge economic engines—the banks, the auto companies, the stimulus bill—had been harnessed to a common green vision. If that had happened, demand for a complementary energy bill would have been part of a coherent transformative agenda.

Whether the bill had passed or not, by the time Copenhagen had rolled around, the U.S. would already have been well on its way to dramatically cutting emissions, poised to inspire, rather than disappoint, the rest of the world.

There are very few U.S. Presidents who have squandered as many once-in-a-generation opportunities as Barack Obama. More than anyone else, the Copenhagen failure belongs to him.

Research support for Naomi Klein's reporting from Copenhagen was provided by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.


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WWF y el agronegocio


Informe de Biodiversidad de CIP Programa de las Américas

El WWF ha desempeñado un
rol importante en la inclusión
de los monocultivos del
Foto: www.servindi.org.

En años recientes un número creciente de ecologistas ha estado denunciando al Fondo Mundial por la Naturaleza (WWF), uno de los grupos ambientalistas más adinerados e influyentes del mundo, por sus íntimos vínculos con grandes corporaciones contaminadoras, especialmente las del agronegocio global.

"Mesas Redondas de Producción Sustentable de los peores monocultivos de la agricultura globalizada están siendo lideradas por el WWF", denuncia Javiera Rulli, del Grupo de Reflexión Rural. "La Mesa Redonda de Soja Responsable (RTRS), en la cual participan corporaciones tales como Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, Bunge y ADM, es el caso más controversial. Una mega operación de maquillaje verde para tapar la destrucción social y ambiental que origina la soja en Sudamérica; deforestación, contaminación del medio ambiente y personas. Innumerables registros de violaciones de Derechos Humanos perpetrados por el agronegocio son ignorados por el WWF con el fin de preservar Zonas de Alto Valor de Conservación. El WWF se ha integrado a los máximos grupos de lobby de la Organización Mundial de Comercio (OMC) para fomentar la privatización de los últimos bosques, y las certificaciones 'verdes'. El rol de la RTRS y la WWF en la cumbre del clima en Copenhague y la OMC en Ginebra es nefasto."

Según Rulli, el WWF ha desempeñado un rol importante en la inclusión de los monocultivos del agronegocio, como el de soya, en los mercados internacionales de carbono. Un personaje clave en este proceso ha sido el estadounidense Jason Clay, alto vicepresidente (senior vicepresident) del WWF. Clay es miembro del International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC). Esta institución, que regularmente hace cabildeo en la OMC, cuenta entre sus financiadores a Bunge, Cargill, Monsanto, Nestle, Syngenta, Unilever, y ministerios de los gobiernos holandés y alemán.

"No hay que desestimar el poder del IPC", aconseja Rulli. "Esta organización ha sido denunciada por ser promotora de la demanda ante la OMC contra la moratoria de transgénicos de Europa. También estuvo involucrada en el debilitamiento de la Convención de Biodiversidad para que ésta se sometiera a los acuerdos de la OMC. Sorpresivamente, nos informamos en su página, que WWF es miembro financiador. Lo cual deja claro que el WWF no se opone ni al libre comercio ni a los transgénicos."

Clay está también en el comité timón de la Plataforma sobre Cambio Climático, Agricultura y Comercio, iniciativa conjunta del IPC y el International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD). En octubre la Plataforma IPC-ICTSD envió una serie de recomendaciones a la OMC y la Conferencia de la ONU sobre Cambio Climático, que incluyen mecanismos de mercado de carbono.

"Ya no queda ninguna duda acerca de la complicidad de WWF con el tejido corporativo", dice Rulli. "Sus actos no se pueden justificar, ya no se trata meramente de una estrategia de visión estrecha y conservacionista... Uno de los roles de la WWF parece ser obstruir las denuncias y propuestas de los movimientos sociales ecologistas y de organizaciones sociales y científicas críticas. Su comportamiento encubre directamente a las corporaciones, logrando desviar las discusiones y las negociaciones políticas internacionales."


Rulli, Javiera. "WWF Siervo del Agronegocio y de la Globalización" http://www.servindi.org/actualidad/opinion/20196.

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lunes, diciembre 21, 2009

Nuevo clima en Copenhague


Copenhague, 18 de diciembre. Mientras escribo esta nota, no se sabe si habrá un nuevo acuerdo global sobre el cambio climático en la conferencia de Naciones Unidas que se realiza del 7 al 18 de diciembre. Pero en todos los escenarios de las negociaciones en curso, falla lo principal: ninguno va a modificar las causas del cambio climático, que implicaría cambiar radicalmente el modelo industrial de producción y consumo.

En las negociaciones, los países más industrializados plantean un nuevo acuerdo que incluya a Estados Unidos, pero que no sea legalmente vinculante. Le llaman políticamente vinculante, que es un eufemismo de haremos lo que queramos, si nos conviene, según el momento político.Quieren sustituir de facto el Protocolo de Kyoto, del que EU no es signatario y que es vinculante.

Por otro lado, los países del G77 reclaman compromisos legalmente vinculantes de parte de los países industrializados, con metas de reducción de emisiones mínimas de alrededor de 50% para el año 2020 (mucho más de lo que ninguno ha propuesto) y recursos para adaptación de los países de Sur al caos climático. Quieren que sea dentro del Protocolo de Kyoto, prolongando su vigencia, porque un nuevo proceso llevaría años durante los cuales los países del Norte no tendrían obligaciones legalmente establecidas.

Sin embargo, el Protocolo de Kyoto ya era tremendamente limitado en los porcentajes acordados y dañino en la forma de cumplirlos: acepta como reducción el pago de créditos de carbono, que en realidad no es tal, sino sencillamente nuevos negocios, sobre todo para las empresas más grandes y contaminantes. Un pequeño ejemplo: en Copenhague tomé un taxi que anunciaba este taxi es carbono-neutral. Le preguntamos al conductor qué quería decir y se rió. Dijo que era lo mismo de siempre, pero pagaba una cantidad que se enviaba a Nigeria para que allí las empresas petroleras plantaran unos arbolitos, que se supone absorbían el equivalente del carbono de su taxi. No se lo creía, pero desde que tenía ese cartel, tiene más clientes y gana mucho más de lo que paga a Nigeria. El problema, explicó, es que es muy buen negocio y no hay que hacer nada, entonces muchos querrán hacerlo y habrá demasiada competencia. Que la Shell en Nigeria desplaza y mata a los indígenas que allí viven y a sus tierras, tanto para la explotación petrolera como para las plantaciones –que le resultan un excelente y subsidiado negocio allí y en otros países–, no figuraba en su ecuación.

Más allá de titulares, la Convención aprobó aumentar esos mecanismos de mercado. Por ejemplo, a través del programa REDD (reducción de las emisiones debidas a la deforestación y degradación de bosques), que implica una nueva ola de apropiación empresarial de los bosques, y paradójicamente, premios para deforestar y sustituir los bosques naturales con plantaciones. El problema comienza, explica el Movimiento Mundial por los Bosques Tropicales, con la definición de bosque. Según la convención, cualquier área superior a 500 metros cuadrados con una cubierta forestal del 10 por ciento y con árboles que puedan alcanzar dos metros de altura, es un bosque. Hasta los bosques cortados a tala rasa estarían incluidos en esta definición de bosque (wrm.org.uy)

También avanzaron en incorporar la agricultura como forma de obtener créditos de carbono, abriendo las puertas a que los extensos monocultivos de soya transgénica y muchos otros desarrollos altamente nocivos de la agricultura industrial que provocan el cambio climático, puedan beneficiarse entrando en estos esquemas.

Otra caja de Pandora es el nuevo aumento de apoyo para la transferencia de tecnología, sin ningún mecanismo de evaluación previa de riesgo ambiental y social. Muchas de los anuncios sobre millones de dólares comprometidos para adaptación o mitigación en un nuevo Fondo Climático, tienen que ver con el subsidio a la propiedad intelectual y la transferencia de tecnologías altamente riesgosas para aumentar esos y otros desarrollos. Por ejemplo, la muy nombrada contribución de miles de millones de dólares anuales de EU en el marco de la convención podría ser para pagar a sus trasnacionales la transferencia de biología sintética para agrocombustibles de tercera generación o de tecnologías de geoingeniería, como el biochar o la captura y almacenamiento de carbono a grandes profundidades en formaciones geológicas (CCS), que además de riesgoso, justifica seguir explotando la sucia energía carbo-eléctrica.

No obstante, algo sí cambió radical y definitivamente en Copenhague. Muchos movimientos y organizaciones sociales, así como jóvenes organizados autogestionariamente de toda Europa y allende el mar, tomaron las calles para dejar claro que el clima y el planeta son demasiado importantes para dejarlos en manos de transnacionales y negociados gubernamentales.

Cien mil personas marcharon en la manifestación más grande de Dinamarca en las últimas décadas. Días después, miles de jóvenes, junto a movimientos y organizaciones sociales, se lanzaron contra las gruesas barreras policíacas que rodeaban el centro de convenciones, para denunciar la farsa e instalar la asamblea de los pueblos. En una imagen demasiado parecida al mundo real, rodeados de cientos de policías, helicópteros y camiones represivos que defendían a los gobiernos y empresas, los movimientos se sentaron en el suelo y compartieron las verdaderas alternativas al cambio climático: las formas campesinas de vivir y producir, la soberanía alimentaria, la autonomía indígena, dejar el petróleo y carbón en el suelo, el trabajo digno, la diversidad, la necesidad de mundos sin fronteras. Es apenas el comienzo. México es la próxima parada.

Silvia Ribeiro es Investigadora del Grupo ETC

Fuente: La Jornada

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From the Via Campesina web site:

Traders failed in Copenhagen. The future lies in people’s hands

Sunday, 20 December 2009
(Copenhagen, 19 December 2009) The climate talks this week in Copenhagen ended in failure. Governments of the world showed themselves incapable or unwilling to make the changes necessary to find a just solution to the current climate chaos. The talks have been driven by self interest and trade “solutions” that have so far proven useless.
Josie Riffaud, one of the leaders of the farmers movement Via Campesina said: “Money and market solutions will not resolve the current crisis. We need a radical change in the way we produce and we consume and this is what was not discussed in Copenhagen”.

The governments of industrialized and industrializing countries showed themselves to be unwilling to tackle the model of development which has created and economic and environmental disaster.
They were incapable of considering real solutions and to see that carbon markets will not solve the climate crisis.
The drastic emissions cuts (included in a binding deal), reorientation of agro-export economies, agrarian reform and other measures which could really contribute to slowing the heating of the earth were not discussed or considered. Once again governments acting in individual self interest have failed to consider the real alternatives offered by International social movements, environmental groups, indigenous peoples and others in creating a more just and fair society.
Even though the “Copenhagen deal” doesn’t mention agriculture explicitly, it seemed during the two weeks of talks that the UNFCCC wanted to include soils in the carbon capture methods, and include agriculture in it's technology transfer – opening up space for transnational companies to receive subsidies for introducing GMO seeds and industrial agricultural methods such as non-till agriculture. This is exactly the type of agricltural development that has led us to the current environmenent and social crisis in the countryside.
The real power in Copenhagen was expressed in the streets and in the halls of the Bella centre on the 16th of December, when activists, community groups, international and local social movements and NGOs from the North and South pushed to meet each other in a symbolic “3rd” space outside the Bella center.
The vicious repression of the police, including the preemptive arrest of many of the spokespeople of the movement “Climate Justice Action” further showed the desperation of governments to prevent the voices of real solutions being heard.
We cannot look to governments to provide a magical solution to the Climate Crisis. Under the guidance of transnational corporations, they only prepare a further round of capital speculation, this time using Carbon, the building blocks of life itself as their stocks and shares.
In view of the failure of the COP 15 – international social movements are more ready than ever to tackle the problems of the world and will mobilise for the next climate conference in Mexico due at the end of 2010 - their time has come and governments will have no choice but to listen.

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Great New York Times column:

Op-Ed Contributor

Clear-Cutting the Truth About Trees

Published: December 19, 2009

Burlington, Vt.

THE Copenhagen climate-change summit meeting is behind us, and did not achieve what was hoped for. There was no lack of good intentions, but they generated conflicts rather than solutions, and the product was a weak agreement to disagree in the future. Forests were part of the discussion, and several things were understood: carbon dioxide is a potentially world-altering lethal pollutant, fossil fuels are the problem, biofuels are part of the solution. But exactly how to pare down the use of fossil fuels and switch to energy sources derived from plant material? That is the problem.

Biofuels are the indirect use of solar energy packaged into plants by the best solar-panel technology that has ever been invented, and it is far easier to grow green power than to build nuclear plants, dam our waterways and put windmills on our scenic mountaintops. Yet our current plans to shift to green energy — centered on so-called carbon offsets and cap-and-trade systems — are in some applications sorely misguided.

Contrary to what you might hear from energy companies and environmentally conscious celebrities, offsets don’t magically make carbon emissions disappear. Worse, relying on them to stem global warming may devastate our vital forest ecosystems.

On the industrial scale, carbon trading works like this: Limits (caps) are set on carbon emissions so that the true costs of our energy use are not just passed on to our descendants or people in some distant country. As an incentive to help the planet, savings of carbon emissions that one achieves below the designated cap can then be traded, as offsets, to another polluter who can then go over his cap by an equal amount. While carbon credits can be generated by switching to cleaner technology or nonpolluting sources in energy production, they can also be gained by unrelated steps, like planting trees, that are said to deter global warming.

Thus, if I burn coal in my business, I can plant pines in Chile and earn an offset, which will then allow me to burn even more coal. On a smaller scale, Al Gore purchases carbon offsets that he says make up for the emissions from the jets he uses in spreading his message of conservation. All this may seem logical, and energy companies would have you believe it works in the real world. But it is actually terrible for the planet, which is governed by the dictates of physics and biology.

Part of the problem is the public misunderstanding of how forests and carbon relate. Trees are often called a “carbon sink” — implying that they will sop up carbon from the atmosphere for all eternity. This is not true: the carbon they take up when they are alive is released after they die, whether from natural causes or by the hand of man. The only true solution to achieving global “carbon balance” is to leave the fossil carbon where it is — underground.

Beyond that, planting more trees is decidedly not the same thing as saving our forests. Instead, planting trees invariably means using them as a sustainable crop, which leads not only to a continuous cycle of carbon releases, but also to the increased destruction of our natural environment.

A few environmental groups in Copenhagen were considered unwelcome guests for loudly pointing out that the carbon-trading proposals bandied about at the meetings subsidize forest destruction and will lead to large-scale destruction of ecosystems and unprecedented “land grabs.” (Disclosure: my wife is a researcher for one of those groups.) But such claims are correct. More than anything, carbon offsets will allow rich countries to burn ever more fossil fuels under the “clean development mechanism” of the Kyoto Protocol, the system that sets the values, in terms of tons of carbon equivalent, of emission-reduction efforts.

In fact, most of the problems with the system can be traced back to the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997. After much political wrangling, the Kyoto delegates decided that there would be no carbon-reduction credits for saving existing forests. Since planting new trees does get one credits, Kyoto actually created a rationale for clear-cutting old growth.

This is horrifying. The world’s forests are a key to our survival, and that of millions of other species. Not only are they critical to providing us with building material, paper, food, recreation and oxygen, they also ground us spiritually and connect us to our primal past. Never before in earth’s history have our forests been under such attack. And the global-warming folks at Copenhagen seem oblivious, buying into the corporate view of forests as an exploitable resource.

A forest is an ecosystem. It is not something planted. A forest grows on its own. There are many kinds of forests that will grow practically anywhere, each under its own special local conditions. When a tree falls, the race is on immediately to replace it. In the forests I study, there so many seeds and seedlings that if a square foot of ground space opens up, more than a hundred trees of many different species compete to grow there.


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sábado, diciembre 19, 2009

War and Warming
by Stephen Kretzmann

The connections between war and warming go deeper than as Alan Greenspan put it, the "politically inconvenient" “everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil". When we choose to go to war, that choice means money is no longer available for other things, such as clean energy or funding for communities vulnerable to climate impacts around the world. And the war itself, with all its planes, trucks, missiles, and ships, emits huge amounts of greenhouse gases – that no one tracks.

Fighting wars is mind-bendingly expensive, exceeding the costs of even the bank bailout money. Some key figures:
  • Projected Total Cost Iraq War: at least $3 trillion
  • Total Obama Admin (FY2010) Defense Budget request: $687 billion
  • Additional amount estimated for Obama's Afghan surge: $40 billion
The fact that the Obama administration has already chosen to invest further in war has a rather steep opportunity cost, in addition to its actual cost.

The money that has been spent this decade by the American taxpayer on war could instead, had we wanted it to, funded all the needed global investments in clean energy out to 2030.

The sums being discussed here in Copenhagen are actually much more modest than the trillions spent recently on war. The United Nations recently estimated that $500 billion would be needed (from all the developed world – not just the US) to help build a global clean energy economy and to help vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. Oxfam puts it at $200 billion.

Sadly, even these sums aren’t on the table. There is an ongoing discussion of just $10 billion in so-called "fast track funding", and of that, the US has pledged “its fair share. Jonathan Pershing, Obama’s Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, seems to be arguing that this is only $1.5 billion.

That’s right, that would be half of ongoing subsidies to fossil fuels.

There is currently nothing, nada, zip on the table for long term climate finance.

Obama to World: Drop Dead.

Turns out that money doesn’t actually grow on trees – it’s manufactured in weapons factories.

Emissions from war are more difficult to quantify. On the fifth anniversary of the war, Oil Change International published A Climate of War, a report that quantified the emissions of the war from March 2003 through until December 2007. We used very conservative estimates and left many things out when we couldn't get reliable numbers, and still the number was staggering.

The Iraq war was responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) from March 2003 through December 2007. To put that into perspective, if the US military operations in Iraq were ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do annually. Falling between New Zealand and Cuba, the war emits more than 60% of all countries.

This was a difficult report to write – because this information is not readily available. The reason the information is not available is because military emissions abroad are exempt from national reporting requirements under US law and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

All these emissions need to be counted, because the atmosphere doesn't care if you're looking for weapons of mass destruction or terrorists, or even fighting the good fight (not that we’ve seen much of that recently). These are currently completely uncounted emissions. It’s a loophole big enough to drive a tank through.

So while President Obama is receiving his Peace Prize for whatever it is he might do someday on climate change, perhaps someone should ask if the emissions from the Afghan surge will swamp the meager reductions that the US has on the table in Copenhagen. But that’s not really a politically convenient question, now is it?

-Steve Kretzmann is Director of Oil Change International.

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Memo to Danes: Even You Cannot Control This Summit
By Naomi Klein, posted on EnviroNation, December 13, 2009

On Saturday night, after a week of living off of conference center snack bars, a group of us were invited to a delicious home-cooked meal with a real live Danish family. After spending the evening gawking at their stylish furnishings, a few of us had a question: Why are Danes so good at design?

"We're control freaks," our hostess replied instantly. "It comes from being a small country with not much power. We have to control what we can."

When it comes to producing absurdly appealing light fixtures and shockingly comfortable desk chairs, that Danish form of displacement is clearly a very good thing. When it comes to hosting a world-changing summit, the Danish need for control is proving to be a serious problem.

The Danes have invested a huge amount of money co-branding their capitol city (now "Hopenhagen") with a summit that will supposedly save the world. That would be fine if this summit actually were on track to save the world. But since it isn't, the Danes are frantically trying to redesign us.

Take the weekend's protests. By the end, around 1,100 people had been arrested. That's just nuts. Saturday's march of roughly 100,000 people came at a crucial juncture in the climate negotiations, when all signs pointed either to break down or a dangerously weak deal. The march was festive and peaceful but also tough. "The Climate Doesn't Negotiate" was the message, and western negotiators need to head it.

When a handful of people starting throwing stones and setting off sound grenades (no, they weren't "gunshots" as the Huffington Post breathlessly reported), the marchers handled it themselves, instructing the people responsible to leave the protest, which they promptly did. I was in that part of the march, and it barely interrupted my conversation. Calling this a "riot," as the British Telegraph absurdly did, really isn't fair to serious rioters, of which there are plenty in Europe.

Never mind. The Copenhagen cops used a little shattered glass as the pretext for detaining almost a thousand people, picking up another hundred the next day. Hundreds of those arrested were corralled together, forced to sit on the freezing pavement for hours, with wrists cuffed (and some ankles too). According to organizer Tadzio Müller, these were not the people who threw rocks but "the treatment was humiliating," with some of the detainees urinating on themselves because they were not allowed to move.

The arrests, part of a pattern all week, felt like a warning: deviations from the "Hopenhagen" message will not be tolerated.

Inside the official summit, delegates apparently gathered around flat screen TVs and watched the police push protestors against walls and break up the march. For some it must have felt familiar. After all, that's pretty much what the Danish government and other Western powers have been doing here all week: trying to break up the G77 bloc of developing countries by using classic divide and conquer tactics, including pushing especially vulnerable states up against the wall with special offers.

Having learned nothing from the "leaked Danish text," this evening featured a meeting of 40 states invited to hash out a deal; the rest of the ministers from the 192 states represented have no idea what they decided--hardly the democracy promised by the UN.

The real test of Danish control issues will come on Wednesday, at the Reclaim Power action. In the morning demonstrators are going to march to the Bella Center to demand real solutions to the climate crisis, not the fuzzy math and carbon trading on offer inside. The delegates on the inside who feel the same way--and there are thousands--are being invited to join the demonstrators.

If all goes well, somewhere in the vicinity of the Bella Center will be a "people's assembly," a chance to highlight some of the many common sense solutions that have been shut out of the official negotiations, including keeping Alberta's tar sands in the ground and paying climate "reparations."

The organizers of Reclaim Power have stated clearly that they are committed to non-violent civil disobedience. Even if attacked by police, they will not respond with violence. Still, the specter of unscripted dissent upstaging the official conference on Wednesday no doubt has our Danish hosts deeply freaked out.

Let's hope they don't deal with their control issues by trying to hoard everyone into pens: the protestors kept far from the Bella Center; the delegates locked inside. Because this action--more than anything that has happened so far--has the potential to send a clear and much-needed message to the world: only a deal that is dictated by both science and justice will do.

So memo to our Danish hosts: sure, Copenhagen is your city, and we love you for your bicycles and windmills. But it's everyone's planet. Stop trying to design us out of the picture.

Research support for Naomi Klein's reporting from Copenhagen was provided by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

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viernes, diciembre 18, 2009

Copenhagen: Where Obama Took on Africa

by Naomi Klein, posted on EnviroNation, December 8, 2009

The highlight of my first day at COP15 was a conversation with the extraordinary Nigerian poet and activist Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International. We talked about the fact that some of the toughest activists here still pull their punches when it comes to Obama, even as his climate team works tirelessly to do away with the Kyoto Protocol, replacing it with much weaker piecemeal targets.

If George W. Bush had pulled some of the things Obama has done here, he would have been burned in effigy on the steps of the convention center. With Obama, however, even the most timid actions are greeted as historic breakthroughs, or at least a good start.

"Everyone says: 'give Obama time,'" Bassey told me. "But when it comes to climate change, there is no more time." The best analogy, he said, is a soccer game that has gone into overtime. "It's not even injury time, it's sudden death. It’s the nick of time, but there is no more extra time."

The solution for Bassey is not carbon trading or sinks but "serious emissions cuts at the source. Leave the oil in the ground, leave the coal in the hole, leave the tar sands in the land." In Nigeria, where Bassey lives, Friends of the Earth is calling for no new oil development whatsoever, though it does accept more efficient use of existing fields. If Obama isn't willing to consider those types of solutions, Bassey says, "he may as well be coming for vacation."

Those kinds of gloves off criticisms are scarce around here. Most groups don’t seem to have figured out their Obama-era strategy yet: Tough love? Gentle encouragement? Blaming Congress? Bassey likened the political discombobulation to what his own country went through when democracy finally replaced dictatorship in 1999. Suddenly they didn’t know how to fight anymore, and it was all about giving the politicians time—despite the fact that the oil companies were still ravaging the Delta and violence was (and still is) spiraling out of control. Sometimes hope can be dangerous.

Speaking of hope, the Scandinavian establishment is still clearly swooning over Obama, showering him with prizes for things he hasn't done yet and renaming this city "Hopenhagen" for the duration – a not too subtle homage to Mr. Hope himself.

In sharp contrast, one of the most interesting developments here is that Africa is clearly cooling off its Obama love affair. For months the African negotiating bloc has been the toughest and most united voice in the climate talks. At a pre-conference negotiation in Barcelona, the African team walked out en masse—a protest against the paltry emissions cuts proposed by the rich world, led by the U.S.

The African bloc has plenty of dodgy actors in it, of course, and standing up on this one issue does not turn a war criminal into a hero. That said, when it comes to climate change, Africa has emerged here as the conscience of the world– and its best hope of avoiding a disastrously weak deal.

Today, while big NGOs bit their tongues, Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of the G77 group of developing nations, greeted the news that rich countries will spend a mere $10-billion helping poor states cope with climate change by saying that it was "not enough to buy us coffins." And when the Danish draft of the final agreement was leaked to The Guardian—incorporating much of Washington’s destructive wish list—it was the Africans who were out protesting it first.

Obama, the son of a Kenyan man, still inspires a great deal of pride among African delegates here, and rightfully so. But the louder message we are hearing is that that the continent has a great many sons and daughters and our collective failure to address the climate crisis is an immediate threat to their survival. As the African delegates chanted at the Bella Center tonight: "We will not die quietly."

Note: After my interview with him, Nnimmo Bassey reiterated some of what he said to our friends at The Uptake, who are videoblogging the conference. You can check it out on Youtube.

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