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The UN climate talks in Durban were a failure and take the world a significant step back by further undermining an already flawed, inadequate multilateral system that is supposed to address the climate crisis, according to Friends of the Earth International.
Developed countries engaged in a smoke and mirrors trick of delivering rhetoric but no action, failed to commit to urgently needed deep emissions cuts, and even backtracked on past commitments to address the climate crisis, said Friends of the Earth International.
The outcome of the Durban talks, heralded by some as a step forward, in fact amounts to:
* No progress on fair and binding action on reducing emissions
* No progress on urgently needed climate finance
* Increased likelihood of further expansion of false solutions like carbon trading
* The further locking in of economies based on polluting fossil fuels
* The further unravelling of the legally-binding international framework to deliver climate action on the basis of science and equity.
While there was resistance from developing countries to the destructive proposals on the table in Durban, the final Durban outcome amounts to:
1. A new "Durban Platform" which will delay climate action for a decade. Instead of implementing the existing, ambitious and equitable negotiating roadmap that was agreed in Bali four years ago, a new process to launch negotiations for a new treaty was agreed in Durban. The "Durban Platform" will delay much needed climate action for a decade.
2. A substantial weakening of the Kyoto Protocol.The Kyoto Protocol is the only existing international framework for legally-binding emissions reductions by rich industrialised countries. These countries are responsible for three quarters of the emissions in the atmosphere despite only hosting 15% of the world's population. The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has still not been formally agreed and would only cover the European Union and a handful of other developed countries.
3. Drastically insufficient targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Taken alongside the expansive loopholes agreed to in Durban that serve to help countries avoid emissions cuts, these paltry pledges actually mean a likely net increase in emissions between now and 2020.
4. A shift of the burden for climate action to developing countries, which have done the least to cause global warming, have the least resources to combat it, and face the additional burden of having to address pressing poverty alleviation and development needs.
5. Absolutely no progress on urgently-needed, new and additional public financefor developing country climate action and adaptation measures to protect vulnerable communities from climate impacts. The Green Climate Fund was approved but with no means by which to fill the coffers and a provision agreed to that could allow multinational corporations and private financial actors to directly access the fund.
6. The increased likelihood of new opportunities for carbon trading,a destructive false solution to the climate crisis which locks in climate inaction, drives land grabbing and displacement of communities, and could contribute to another global financial collapse.
"Developed countries, led by the United States, accelerated the demolition of the world's international framework for fair and urgent climate action. And developing countries have been bullied and forced into accepting an agreement that could be a suicide pill for the world," said Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International.
"On the eve of the climate talks, hundreds of families in Durban lost their homes and some even their lives in devastating flooding. From the Horn of Africa to Thailand to Venezuela to the small island state of Tuvalu, hundreds of millions of people are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis they did not create. The lack of progress in Durban means that we are even closer to a future catastrophic 4 to 6 degrees Celsius of warming, which would condemn most of Africa and the small island states to climate catastrophe and devastate the lives and livelihoods of many millions more around the world" he continued.
The disastrous Durban outcome is attributable to a combined effort by the governments of rich industrialised countries, most notably the US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Russia and the European Union. The United States is most to blame, as it has been the most powerful driver in the dismantling of the legally-binding framework for developed country emissions reductions. It refused to take on emissions reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, and has attempted to replace this system with a weaker, ineffective system of voluntary pledges.
Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Australia and New Zealand have pursued a similar agenda of trying to escape their legal and moral obligation to act first and fastest to cut their emissions. Canada, Japan and the Russia have refused outright to emissions cuts under the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period, and Australia and New Zealand have made their commitments conditional, leaving the European Union and a handful of other developed countries covered by the agreement in Durban.
The European Union, heralded as a climate leader and the saviour of the Durban talks, had an agenda filled with false promises. The EU was a key architect of the new "Durban Platform" that will delay action for ten years, lock in low ambition and deliver a weaker, less effective system than the Kyoto Protocol. The EU's strategy in Durban was to split the group of developing countries and force emerging economies like India and China, with hundreds of millions of people still below the poverty line, to take on unfair responsibilities for tackling the climate crisis. The EU also blocked progress in closing dangerous loopholes in existing emissions targets, and was the principle driver of the push to expand destructive carbon trading.
The huge influence of corporate polluters and other corporate and financial vested interests over the positions of governments is the underlying reason why Durban's outcome was so disastrous. The pressure and influence of these interest groups undermines the ability of ordinary citizens and civil society to hold our governments to account for their action on climate and their positions in the international climate negotiations.
"Developed country governments have connived to weaken the rules that require their countries to act on climate whilst strengthening the rules that allow their corporations to profit from the crisis" said Bobby Peek of groundWork / Friends of the Earth South Africa.
"After bailing out the banks, rich countries at the climate talks refused to commit a single new dollar for climate finance for developing countries. They insisted on allowing multinational corporations and global financial elites to directly access the Green Climate Fund, and pushed through the opening up of further possibilities for speculation via the dangerous carbon market bubble. It is clear in whose interests this deal has been advanced, and it isn't the 99% of people around the world," he continued.
Many developing country negotiators expressed growing concerns as the talks progressed. The Africa Group (comprising the 54 countries in Africa), India, Venezuela, Bolivia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Nicaragua and a number of small island states all pushed back against the destructive proposals being advanced. But developing countries were coerced into having to accept a "take it or leave it" package to save the Kyoto Protocol and the Green Climate Fund and failed to stand strong and united against the disastrous final outcome of the talks. One of the most vocal critics, India, caved at the last minute to demands by the US and other developed countries that provisions to safeguard an equitable approach to tackling the climate crisis be excluded from the Durban agreement.
"Ordinary people have once again been let down by governments. Behind the failure in Durban lies the huge influence of corporate polluters and the disproportionate power of the rich developed world. The noise of the vested interests has drowned out the voices of ordinary people in the ears of our leaders", said Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Climate Justice Coordinator at Friends of the Earth International
"It is clear that right now our governments cannot do the job we need them to do. But outside the negotiating halls, in our universities, our workplaces, and on the streets, vibrant movements are coming together to build a fair and better world. It is in this growing movement - of workers, women, farmers, students, Indigenous Peoples, and others affected by this greedy economic system - where we can find hope of solutions to the climate crisis" she continued.
WHERE NOW FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE?
Friends of the Earth International believes that we need to radically transform our global economy to create a more just and sustainable world. We need dramatic cuts in emissions on the basis of science and equity and a transformation in our economies to make this a reality. Developed countries also have a moral and legal obligation to honour their climate debt and provide adequate public finance to developing countries to develop sustainably and protect the vulnerable from climate impacts. A strong and fair UN agreement on climate is essential, and to get it we will work with others to strengthen the movement for justice in all countries and hold our governments to account to ensure that politics works for people and the planet, not for profit.
Friends of the Earth fights for a more healthy and just world. Together we speak truth to power and expose those who endanger the health of people and the planet for corporate profit. We organize to build long-term political power and campaign to change the rules of our economic and political systems that create injustice and destroy nature.(202) 783-7400
"As the climate crisis escalates," said one advocate, "ending these destructive extraction practices is a matter of survival—not just for the whales, otters, and other animals in the channel, but for all life on earth."
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a call from several fossil fuel companies to hear their challenge to a lower court ruling handed down a year ago, which prohibited fracking in federal waters off the coast of California.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last June upheld a decision to bar the issuing of permits for offshore fracking, finding that the U.S. Department of the Interior had violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act when it allowed fracking in offshore gas and oil wells in the Pacific.
In the original case, the ruling was the result of three separate lawsuits filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Wishtoyo Foundation, the Environmental Defense Center (EDC) and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, and the state of California, challenging the federal government.
Earlier this year, fossil fuel companies ExxonMobil and DCOR, LLC were joined by the American Petroleum Institute in intervening in the case, filing a petition for certiorari in an effort to overturn the 9th Circuit ruling.
Despite the history of the case, the Biden administration opposed the fossil fuel companies' move, with Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar writing in a Supreme Court brief last week that "the court of appeals' decision does not warrant this court's review."
"California's amazing coast and vulnerable marine life deserve this victory, which will protect the ecosystem from the many dangers of offshore fracking," said Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at CBD. "The fracking ban will help prevent more toxic chemicals from poisoning fish, sea otters, and other marine life."
EDC filed its lawsuit after finding in 2014 through several Freedom of Information Act requests that the federal government had issued more than 50 permits without conducting environmental reviews or a public comment process.
\u201cBig news in our Supreme Court case upholding a ban on offshore fracking. EDC discovered the federal government had approved 50 permits off the coast without proper review, and we filed our original lawsuit in 2014.\u201d— Environmental Defense Center (@Environmental Defense Center) 1685986264
"The Supreme Court was right to reject the oil industry's latest attempt to allow fracking and acidizing in our waters with zero meaningful environmental review," said Maggie Hall, senior attorney at EDC, on Monday. "The Santa Barbara Channel is one of the most ecologically rich and important regions in the world. As the climate crisis escalates, ending these destructive extraction practices is a matter of survival—not just for the whales, otters, and other animals in the channel, but for all life on earth."
The decision upheld by the Supreme Court forbids the Interior Department from issuing fracking permits without completing an assessment of the practice's adherence to the ESA and files an environmental impact statement that analyzes "the environmental impacts of extensive offshore fracking" and evaluates alternatives.
Monsell expressed hope that the Supreme Court's decision marks "the beginning of the end of drilling off California's coast" but noted that the Biden administration has welcomed fossil fuel extraction in federal waters, including in the Gulf of Mexico.
"Our ocean won't be truly protected," she said, "until offshore drilling stops once and for all."
"Public development banks must stop propping up a failing system, stand alongside Indigenous groups, and stop financing factory farming," said one campaigner.
A report published Monday reveals how multilateral development banks' financing of factory farms has unleashed significant social and ecological harm in Ecuador, and civil society groups say the banks' failure to consult or compensate affected Indigenous communities violates Ecuadorian law and their own policies.
Over the past 20 years, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and IDB Invest, respectively the private sector branches of the World Bank Group and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, have collectively poured more than $200 million into the expansion of PRONACA, Ecuador's fourth-largest corporation and by far its biggest pork and poultry producer.
The new analysis, assembled by the Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA) with support from a coalition of international advocacy groups including Friends of the Earth and World Animal Protection, details the dire consequences of this lending in a small province west of Ecuador's capital of Quito.
"By giving millions of dollars of public money to PRONACA, IDB Invest and the IFC are violating their own policies and causing negative impacts to Indigenous communities and fragile ecosystems in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas," Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of the Food and Agriculture Program at Friends of the Earth U.S., said in a statement.
"This report is more evidence that every dollar spent on factory farming harms communities and jeopardizes development progress," said Hamerschlag. "Public development banks must stop propping up a failing system, stand alongside Indigenous groups, and stop financing factory farming."
"We used to have a thriving tourism industry, and now we only have polluted air and water. The expansion of pig farms in our community will bring even more pollution to our already contaminated communities."
This is not the first time PRONACA, a meat giant operating more than 100 factory farms and slaughterhouses throughout Ecuador, has faced criticism for its deleterious social and ecological effects. In addition to documenting the historical and ongoing destruction the company has inflicted nationwide, the new investigation highlights how public development banks (PDBs) are complicit in the despoilation of communities in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, which is home to 15 factory farms.
It is based on surveys of local residents that CEDENMA, an alliance of 52 environmental groups, conducted in the wake of the most recent round of PDB lending to PRONACA. IDB Invest provided its first loan, worth $50 million, to the company in 2020. IFC followed up with a $50 million loan of its own in 2021, though the World Bank Group's latest PRONACA financing came on top of the $120 million it had already lent to the company.
"Our extensive interviews with community members found that PRONACA's intensive pig farms in the Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas region have continued to pollute the air and contaminate rivers, killing off fish which local people rely on for food and jobs, and harming local tourism," said CEDENMA vice president Natalia Greene.
The report estimates that PRONACA's swine production in the area generates roughly 15 million pounds of toxic waste each day, fouling the soil, air, and waterways. Moreover, it examines for the first time how IFC and IDB Invest's most recent loans to PRONACA failed to comply with Ecuadorian law and five of their own policies (Performance Standards 1, 3, 4, 6, and 7), which require them to inform Indigenous communities about new operations and compensate them for ensuing damages.
"We used to have a thriving tourism industry, and now we only have polluted air and water," said Ricardo Calazacon, a local Indigenous leader in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and medicinal plant expert. "The expansion of pig farms in our community will bring even more pollution to our already contaminated communities. We have filed many complaints about the company to the local authorities but they have not listened to us or done anything to resolve the problems."
The following six-minute video summarizes many of the report's findings.
"CEDENMA is deeply concerned about IFC and IDB Invest's failure to adequately enforce its standards and mandates with respect to PRONACA's severe impacts on the water and the health of locally affected Indigenous communities," said Greene. "We are urging the public development banks and the government to enforce their policies and laws and help resolve long-standing impacts of PRONACA's operations on the health and well-being of Indigenous communities."
Community members and civil society groups are calling on IFC, IDB Invest, and the Ecuadorian government to uphold their obligations and force PRONACA to monitor and clean up its pollution. Their demands come amid a broader global campaign to get PDBs to "Stop Financing Factory Farming" (SFFF), including fresh efforts to persuade newly inaugurated World Bank President Ajay Banga to end all support for destructive, high-emitting livestock operations.
The SFFF campaign was launched in 2021 to expose how "financing industrial-scale meat and dairy operations directly contradicts PDBs' commitments to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and align their lending with the Paris climate agreement."
A major share of deforestation in Latin America over the past 50 years can be attributed to land clearing for cattle and animal feed production. The corporate-dominated global food system is now the leading driver of biodiversity loss, and animal agriculture is responsible for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, the five largest PDBs have dumped more than $4.6 billion and counting into factory farms over the past decade.
"This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project."
California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Sunday accused Florida governor and 2024 GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis of duplicitously sending a group of South American migrants to Sacramento in a bid to score "cheap political points."
"This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project, his fingerprints are all over it," Bonta, a Democrat, told the Los Angeles Times. "The governor signed it, the Legislature approved to fund it in the budget, and they hired Vertol Systems Co., a vendor, to carry out the work."
"It's DeSantis being exactly who he is and advertising to the world that he is petty, little... and full of political stunts that hurt, harm, and abuse and exploit people to try and get cheap political points," he added. "It's wrong."
Bonta's remarks were based on documents the 16 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia were carrying that showed the chartered flight they took from New Mexico to Sacramento was coordinated by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Vertol Systems has arranged similar flights in the past, including the September 2022 transportation of a large group of Venezuelan and Colombian migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
"Human trafficking is not only despicable; it's a felony."
According to the faith-based community organizing group PICO California, the 16 South Americans were approached outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas by representatives of a private contractor who promised them jobs and other assistance. The group was bused from El Paso to New Mexico and then flown to Sacramento, where they were dropped off Friday night outside the city's main Catholic church.
"They were lied to and deceived," PICO campaign director Eddie Carmona told the Associated Press.
\u201cPICO CA ardently condemns the actions that led to 16 of our immigrant brothers & sisters being transported across the country under false pretenses. We are grateful to our Sac community @SacramentoACT for showing up with radical compassion. https://t.co/3mAyDzHde7\u201d— PICO California (@PICO California) 1685836583
Bonta told the Times that "they never intended to help them find a job but told them that they would do that so they could get on the plane and sign their documents and be transported to Sacramento."
"They completely exploited, abused, and manipulated these folks who were vulnerable and were hoping and dreaming of a job and told they would be helped finding that job only to be abandoned," he added.
Cecilia Flores, narrative and communications strategist at the multi-faith advocacy group Sacramento Area Congregations Together, toldKCRA that the migrants are "in shock."
"I think they're very exhausted," she added. "I think they are just trying to catch up with processing exactly what happened."
Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto told the Times that "the urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of goodwill."
"We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned," he added.
\u201cAn investigation is underway after over a dozen migrants arrived in Sacramento, CA by private jet with no prior arrangement or care in place and documentation \u201cpurporting to be from the government of the State of Florida."\n\nUsing people as pawns -- again.\nhttps://t.co/YJQj6uqrbf\u201d— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28 (@Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28) 1685896011
Bonta and Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newson said Saturday that they met with around a dozen of the affected migrants. Bonta said the California Department of Justice is investigating who paid for their flight and whether any laws were broken.
"While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting," Bonta said in a statement. "We are a nation built by immigrants and we must condemn the cruelty and hateful rhetoric of those, whether they are state leaders or private parties, who refuse to recognize humanity and who turn their backs on extending dignity and care to fellow human beings."
"California and the Sacramento community will welcome these individuals with open arms and provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they will need after such a harrowing experience," he added.
\u201cToday I met with over a dozen migrants who were brought to Sacramento by private plane, with no prior arrangement or care in place.\n\nWe are investigating the circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California.\u201d— Rob Bonta (@Rob Bonta) 1685845344
Democratic Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg also issued a statement Saturday asserting that "human trafficking is not only despicable; it's a felony."
"I urge the appropriate authorities to investigate how 16 vulnerable people were lured to travel from El Paso, Texas, to Sacramento," he added. "Whoever is behind this must answer the following: Is there anything more cruel than using scared human beings to score cheap political points?"
DeSantis, along with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey, Arizona's former GOP governor, have bused or flown more than 12,000 migrants to Democratic-led cities since April to protest what they falsely call the Biden administration's "open border" immigration policies.
Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature has recently authorized $22 million for DeSantis' program of sending migrants to sanctuary states and cities.