Archive for December, 2009

Climate Migrants/Refugees: An Open Wound

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

In the executive summary of the 2009 Care publication In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement I read the following statement: “Policy decisions made today will determine whether migration becomes a matter of choice amongst a range of adaptation options, or merely a matter of survival due to a collective failure by the international community to provide better alternatives”. Climate migrants or refugees – the vocabulary seems still undecided and constitutes a juridical debate which should, in my opinion, take into account the intimate connection between climate change and the violent conflicts it involves, thus making the expression “refugees” adequate – are already on the move today and some estimate their number may grow to 200 million by 2050. They represent an enormous challenge to the international community and (will) call upon the resources of many humanitarian organizations, amongst which the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

The JRS mission statement with its threefold focus – to accompany, to serve, to advocate – may provide us with some insight as to how to address the realities of climate migrants/refugees. These three verbs do not only indicate that we have a responsibility to care for refugees, to assist them in their own experiences and to make their voices heard. They also point out that the encounter with refugees and their experiences changes all of us, that refugees and migrants in their pain reveal the need to change our world if they are to live with dignity, that their experiences as if through a broken prism shed light on steps that we all can and have to take to build a more dignified and sustainable world. This is also the case with people who are on the move because of climate change and environmental deterioration: they show us what an inhospitable environment means for people and how it involves them in conflicts over meager resources, they remind us of the conditions to be put in place to make this earth a home to all of us: we have to mitigate not only our greenhouse gas emissions but also our exorbitant and selfish consumerist ways of life as well as our tendency to create safe havens for “our” people as over against the “others”; we have to share burdens in working out adaptation resilience, particularly for those who suffer most. Environmental refugees or migrants, therefore, are not merely a barometer indicating the facts and realities of climate change, they also point towards greater solidarity and sustainable patterns of life and show us that, one day, each one of us may become one such refugee for forgetting our embeddedness in nature and the fact that we depend upon one another for dignified life. By being present with the refugees, by listening to their experiences, by learning to speak their voice, JRS people transmit an experience of conversion that may change the world. Climate migrants/refugees lead us into a similar experience of conversion that will help us to address climate change in a very real and effective way. In the wound, there is blood of life.


Homilia del Arzobispo de Canterbury

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

El domingo 13 se celebró un servicio ecuménico en la catedral de Copenhague con motivo de la Conferencia del Cambio Climático, en este blog ya hemos dado cuenta de ello. Por su interés, hemos traducido la breve homilia del Arzobispo de Canterbury Rowan Williams. No se engañen por su apariencia suave, está cargada de densidad creyente.

Homilía Rowan Williams 13 diciembre 2009:  Williams Sermon Spanish 09.12.13

Homily Rowan Williams  December 13th: Williams Sermon English 09.12.13

Copenhagen – Just 48 Hours

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Posted by Frances Orchard CJ

As the Heads of States arrive in Copenhagen for the final 48-hours of the Climate Change Conference the sense of urgency has increased. This was detectable yesterday at the Bella Centre as the number of ad hoc media studios sprang up in the corridors, security tightened, and NGOs held demonstrations against their impending exclusion. The UN held a briefing session for the NGOs – at which all the heads of sections were available for questions. Ban Ki-moon, the UN General Secretary, remains optimistic that it is still possible to ‘seal a deal’.

This morning Bella closed its doors finally on all except a handful of NGOs and we have been allocated a new venue at the Forum Centre. I am writing in a vast and almost empty hall whilst the TV cameras beam in the politicians speaking at COP15. Accessing up to date news is possible only via the internet as we can no longer access media briefings.

There has been some movement over-night with an initiative from Mexico to start up a ‘green fund’ in an attempt to force a break-through on the financial issue. A welcome sign that the sense of urgency is bringing some action.

As I write my last blog – I return to Rome tomorrow – I am listening to Kevin Rudd the Australian prime minister: When the history of this century comes to be written this conference will be viewed as a defining moment for this planet. Will the peoples of world have acted in concert, or were we so consumed with petty national interests that we turned against each other and failed to act together to save the planet? This is the largest gathering of human leaders in our history. The peoples of the world will judge us not just as nations – but also as individuals for what we do or fail to do. Will we, or will we not, have responded in conscience to the indisputable facts put before us by science? When I go home I will need to face this question with the next generation: did I do everything in my power to bring about climate change? If not, we will have failed our children and our planet’s future. History will be our judge.

Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the UK is now speaking: we face the greatest global challenge of our time. We need to form a new alliance of the 192 countries present for the preservation of our planet. Scientific truths know no boundaries of nations or geography. Without a deal we will produce a new generation of poor as people flee climate change. The storms, floods, cyclones, droughts etc once thought to be the act of God are now known to be the act of man. We have a common future together. The challenges are difficult but there is no financial barrier, no lack of will. We must commit to a maximum of 2°C by 2015. Each country must commit to the highest possible level of mitigation possible for each. If we can find the funds to save our banks from the bankers we can find the funds to save our planet. There is no need to work against your national interests, but you need to advance your national interest more intelligently. History asks that we demand the most of ourselves. This conference will be blessed or blamed for generations to come. Our greatest national interest is the common future of this planet.

Fine words indeed – now we want to see the action. There are 48 hours in which to do it. Can self-interest be overcome for the sake of all?

Categories: COP 15, Politics, Uncategorized

Travelling on a Train Stimulates Thought

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

For various reasons, I had decided to return today to Leuven – by train, a 12 hour affair, which gave me ample time to reflect on the past days in Copenhagen and at the Bella Center. I started by feeling frustrated for having to leave at an interesting moment of the conference: not much has been reached up to now and I am left wondering whether the goals of the talks – reaching two track agreements (Kyoto and UNFCCC) on issues as mitigation, the financing of adaptation and the transfer of technology – are not themselves far below what could be expected in an urgent situation as we face today. I can only hope that in the coming two days, the presence of so many heads of state will allow for some real worldwide leadership and for some strong decisions. I felt also frustrated by the fact that from tomorrow on even more NGO-members, representing the public forum, will be excluded from the Bella Center. I can sympathize with the reasons for this, but it is really bad show, as the presence of critical and stimulating is a creative part of UN meetings as COP.

I did not only feel frustration; gratefully, I also overviewed some of the lessons learnt at COP15. I offer them in no particular order for further reflection and reactions …

(1) – We are facing an urgent and very serious worldwide challenge: the scientists keep reminding us of that and the expression “we are committed to …” that they like to use, indicates that we have to factor in for the near future some very threatening consequences of global climate change, consequences both for human beings and for the planet as a whole. In fifty years from now, the planet will look differently and human beings will live differently.

(2) – Our best available science (BAS) keeps evolving and deepening its insight in the crisis: IPCC V will involve more complexity (e.g. the role of the oceans) and will take more account of the social implications of what is happening. I think that heads of state and world leaders will also increasingly pay attention to the security aspects of global climate change. I feel, for myself, that science has to move to a higher “level,” i.e. finding a way to see the whole and not only analyze its parts as individual bits and pieces: the issue is not only to acquire more precisions on various aspects of the crisis, it is also to find a way to look at the crisis as a whole.

(3) – There is still a lot of skepticism around and – as illustrated by the hacking of the personal e-mails of scientists – the media seem to focus on these issues. In my personal opinion, this is irresponsible, although it takes account of the fact that skeptics exercise a real political influence that is felt at COP15.

(4) – The fact that the Bella Center is overrun by NGOs is a good and comforting sign: many people and organizations – particularly grassroot organizations – have grasped the importance and the significance of the global climate change crisis. And these people are active, they do not give in to despair, they challenge their politicians and they propose alternative life styles and alternative politics. The voice of these people is crucial and, therefore, it is really regrettable that decisions are being taken to limit their access to the Bella Center.

(5) – At a political level, the most important challenge seems to me to be to move out of the framework defined by “I represent my own country or nation”. Where are the politicians who represent worldwide humanity? Where are the politicians who voice the concerns of nature, of disappearing species of plants and animals, of the forests, of the oceans, etc.? Nation-voices are not helpful if they are not embedded in the deep concern for human beings worldwide and for the planet as a whole.

(6) – The worldwide environmental crisis is a social crisis, a crisis of human life on the planet earth, and of justice. The crisis is about people who suffer and give voice to what is happening. It is about the contrast between rich and poor, between those who are responsible for the human impact on climate change and those who most suffer its consequences. Over and over again, at the Bella Center, the poor and suffering people are given a voice, and attention is paid to issues of young people, of migrants, of gender and of indigenous people. Justice is not about the poor and excluded people being better human beings for their poverty and exclusion; it is about the willingness to let their experiences shed light on what is happening, because in them the struggle for life and hope is especially strong and revealing. They remind us that all of us have a responsibility for the dignity and well being of all, particularly of the most forgotten. Their voices may also help all of us to listen to the voices of nature and of the planet, as is illustrated by the strong advocacy for forests and biodiversity from the side of indigenous people. Theologians would point out that here we see the option for the poor at work. This is a crisis about human dignity and about creational dignity.

(7) – Because issues of justice are at stake, COP15 is also about reconciliation WITH reparations – Climate Justice is an important idea and it should inform the discussions about financing mitigation and adaptation. How are we going to find an new equilibrium of equity and justice between developed, emerging and developing countries and people? I feel it as a desolation that at COP15, negotiators seem to think only in strict economical terms and to understand the goal of development as the style of life of the rich countries. Is there no need for a deeper reflection on words as growth and development? The “vision text” seems very crucial from this perspective.

(8) – There remains an important issue of how the place of human beings on this planet has to be understood. Obviously, the climate change crisis is about human beings: they are to a large extent responsible for it, they suffer from the crisis, and the fate of human beings is a core concern of us and of COP15. But, there is more at stake: the crisis is also about the planet and about the relationships between human beings and the planet. Evolution theory may help us out here, to show both human embeddedness in nature, as well as the importance of human beings in nature that has given itself new possibilities and perspectives in human beings.

(9) – There is an important role for religions, although they were but little present at COP15, i.e. in the Bella Center and amidst the negotiations. There have been, of course, some remarkable religious events outside of the Bella Center, and I think especially of Rowan Williams’ sermon in Copenhagen’s cathedral. Religions touch the capacity to face truth and reality (particularly when it has become difficult to face these, as is the case with global climate change), they are spaces for visions and hope, they are intimately connected to cosmologies and worldviews and, therefore, also to nature itself, they use methodologies of discernment that are more holistic than scientific, economic, military, etc. perspectives, they pay attention to the voices of broken people and broken creatures, they can mobilize and motivate people. There is a great need for these religious voices, also amongst politicians and leaders who are facing the current challenges. Leadership at this level and at this moment requires a worldwide perspective and a strong rootedness in constructive and pro-active values.

(10) – I also come home with ideas about the role of the Jesuits and the Ignatian Family. They have a worldwide presence, a universal scope and reach at many levels that they can efficiently interconnect: presence in the field, academic research in universities, the capacity to build local and international institutions (as the Jesuit Refugee Service), possibilities to advocate at political level and in political institutions, a spirituality in which common apostolic discernment plays an important role, influence in the media of communication, etc. To have received these capacities is at this moment of history a very precious gift and puts the Ignatian Family and the Jesuits at a “kairos” in which they can commit wholeheartedly and, in doing so, rediscover who they are.

Categories: COP 15

Interesting Proposals

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

In a presentation about the regional initiatives of the United Nations, Ricardo Lagos, ex-president of Chile and special envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations for climate change, has commented on two very interesting proposals regarding some of the many obstacles that are taking hold at the summit in Copenhagen.  By both their content and because of whom he represents, they seem to be two very interesting suggestions.  They seem to present, at least, two reasonable ways to advance the blocked negotiations.

First obstacle: Developed countries do not accept the agreement on gas emissions that are binding and compulsory to them, but not binding or compulsory to developing nations, as is the case with the current Kyoto agreement.  Developing countries refuse to accept any compulsory or obligatory initiatives because they feel that these can present an unwanted economic burden.  They will only agree to the initiatives if they are ‘generously’ financed.  And it does not seem that any party is ready to put forth the money.  The alternative, as Lagos has commented, could be to prepare a ‘catalog’ of possible initiatives in order to reduce the emissions of gas.  The developing countries would voluntarily agree to some of the measures in order to contribute to the global reduction of emissions.  These would be binding agreements for the participating countries, but they would be able to choose how to meet the demands according to the local economic, geographical and social reality.  For the time being, the agreements only address global figures.  This could be overcome by recurring to national plans of action that are in agreement with pre-established conditions.  Among theses conditions, reforestation could play a prominent role.

Second obstacle: Some countries will not allow for an international body to supervise the emission of gases.  This is seen as a threat to their sovereignty.  The proposal would be to establish a regional supervision in direct relation to the regional branches of the United Nations.  Regional supervision may be easier to accept.  Logically, all countries have more influence at the regional level than they do globally.  It would seem more like supervision among neighbors.

These kind of proposals bring fresh air to the negotiations, so necessary in the midst of discouraging perspectives.

From Copenhagen – Dec 16, 2009

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Posted by Frances Orchard CJ.

‘Race to save Climate Change’ and ‘COP Out?’ are the media headlines as the Climate Change Conference moves into its final few days. Today the Ministers are at work with the negotiators and tomorrow over a hundred Heads of State arrive to ‘seal the deal’ – or not. What is so frustrating about this conference is that there is little dissent among the various parties as to what needs to be done. The obstacles are all about how to do it; who should pay for what; and who can take an advantage over political rivals.

On Friday last the COP15 chairman’s draft report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action (AWG LCA) set out clearly what needed to be done:

‘A long-term and ambitious global goal for emission reductions, as part of the shared vision for long-term cooperative action, should be based on the best scientific knowledge and supported by medium-term goals for emission reductions, taking into account historical responsibilities and an equitable share in the atmospheric space.’

The draft report stated the ultimate objective of (i) an increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels of not more than 2°C or even 1.5°C, (ii) a global reduction of emissions of between 50% -95% from the 1990 levels by 2050, (iii) developed countries should provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, and technology to support the adaptation action needed in developing countries.

If this could be achieved it would amount to the FAB (‘fair, ambitious and binding’) success that the Alliance of NGOs (CAN) is seeking. However, the gaps between the different countries to reach agreement are enormous. The emission reductions currently on the table from developing and developed countries will fail to meet the challenge posed by science. At this rate the world will be closer to a catastrophic 4°C temperature increase rather than the scientifically desirable 1.5°C. There is then the huge financial gap between what is needed for mitigation and adaptation in relation to climate change and what the developed countries are offering. The EU has put forward some quite generous offers, and Norway and Mexico are proposing a new green fund, but collectively the developed countries financial contributions fall far short of what is needed. All this is undermining the trust that must be present if a FAB deal is to be realized. Threats and accusations, mistrust and suspicion – particularly between industrialized and developing countries – are surfacing as the time pressure mounts. The US has been assigned the role of ‘the elephant in the room’ as its offers fall far short of of the category ‘ambitious.’ But as Al Gore reminded us at a presentation yesterday if the Americans can put a man on the moon then they can throw their weight behind a FAB deal – if they want to. Al Gore concluded his presentation by challenging the politicians: ‘We have the solutions and we have the technology. We need the political will. I believe that political will is a renewable source.’

Both Connie Hedegaard, the President of COP15, and Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN have addressed the NGOs and urged them to put pressure on their respective governments to commit to a FAB deal. It is therefore a little less than ironic that NGOs are finding it increasingly difficult to access the Bella Conference Centre. We have been told that the Bella Centre has a capacity for 15,000 and that 45,000 registered for COP15. Now that the politicians and Heads of State are arriving in force with their entourages and the press pack in pursuit, the number of NGOs allowed admission, even if in possession of a valid pass, is being cut. Yesterday we required an additional pass to gain access so as to cut the total number of NGOs to 7,000. Tomorrow, the 17th December, NGO delegates will be cut back to 1,000. The authorities have not yet informed us how the rationing is to be done. If it is anything like the chaos outside the Centre over the past few days we may just to ‘frozen out’ in both senses of the world as temperatures in Copenhagen drop to below zero and NGOs stick it out in the cold – some for ten hours – to gain access. As I write, I can hear the chanting of protests going on in a different part of the Centre. My guess that it is the NGOs are protesting inside the Centre whilst they still can. Keeping up public pressure by whatever means is critical over the next few days.

There are plenty of cartoons doing the rounds here at the Bella Centre. One I found particularly apt was of two under-nourished polar bears each, mobile in hand, sitting on a rapidly melting iceberg. One phones the other with the news: ‘It’s Copenhagen. They say can we hang on for another twelve months?’ I am not getting sentimental about polar bears, but as symbols for the future of humanity time is not on our side – not here at COP15 and not for the humanity unless we can achieve a FAB deal.

Categories: COP 15

Interesantes propuestas

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

En una presentación sobre acciones regionales de Naciones Unidas el ex – presidente chileno Ricardo Lagos, enviado especial del Secretario General de Naciones Unidas para el cambio climático,  ha comentado dos propuestas muy interesantes, sobre otros tantos bloqueos que están atenazando la cumbre de Copenhague. Por quién lo ha hecho, y por el contenido, me parece que pueden ser dos sugerencias muy interesantes. Al menos parecen dos caminos razonables para intentar desbloquear estas negociaciones.

Primer bloqueo: Los países desarrollados no admiten un acuerdo de emisión de gases que sea solo obligatorio para ellos pero no obligatorio para el resto de países envías de desarrollo, como sucede actualmente con el Protocolo de Kioto. Los países en vías de desarrollo se resisten a aceptar compromisos obligatorios porque sienten que pueden ser una carga económica muy pesada, sólo los aceptaría si están “generosamente” financiados, y no parece que nadie esté dispuesto a poner mucho dinero. La alternativa, comentada por Ricardo Lagos, podría estar en preparar un “catálogo” de acciones posibles para reducir las emisiones de gases, los países en vías de desarrollo se comprometerían voluntariamente con algunas de estas medidas para contribuir a una reducción global de emisiones. Serían pues compromisos, que les obligarían, pero podrían elegir cómo lograrlos, con acciones adecuadas a cada realidad económica, geográfica y social. Hasta ahora los compromisos sólo hablan de cifras globales, esto podría superarse recurriendo a planes nacionales de acuerdo con este catálogo de acciones posibles preestablecidas. Entre éstas la reforestación podría jugar un papel muy importante.

Segundo bloqueo. Algunos países se niegan a una supervisión internacional de sus emisiones de gases por considerarlo una intromisión en su soberanía. La propuesta sería la de establecer una supervisión regional, en concreto a través de los organismos regionales de Naciones Unidas. La supervisión regional puede ser más fácilmente aceptada pues, lógicamente, todos los países tienen mayor influencia en los organismos regionales que en otros de nivel mundial. Sería algo así como los vecinos vigilándose mutuamente.

En medio de este ambiente tan pesimista, con posiciones tan enfrentadas y sin buenas noticias, escuchar propuestas concretas como éstas que promueven el consenso es una buena noticia.