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Archive for Climate Change

Eco-Instigator On International Rights of Nature Tribunal

Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) released the December 2015 edition of eco-Instigator with a detailed article on the International Rights of Nature Tribunal held in Paris during COP21.  Nnimmo Bassey served on the panel of distinguished judges at the Tribunal in Paris and presented for the Case on False Solutions for Climate Change during the Tribunal in Lima, Peru in December 2014.

Nnimmo Eco-I 10 CoverNnimmo Bassey

Nnimmo Bassey is founding Director of HOMEF and serves on the Foundation’s Advisory Board.

An architect, environmental and Rights of Mother Earth activist, author and poet, Nnimmo’s Reflections (Oil Politics): sharing opinion. mobilising for change. present profound food for thought and a way forward.

Nnimmo chaired Friends of the Earth International from 2008 through 2012 and was Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action for two decades. He was one of Time magazine’s Heroes of the Environment in 2009. In 2010, Nnimmo Bassey was named Right Livelihood Award “…for revealing the full ecological and human horrors of oil production and for his inspired work to strengthen the environmental movement in Nigeria and globally.” and in 2012 he was awarded the Rafto Prize as a Defender of victims of climate change.

Health of Mother Earth Foundation

“HOMEF is an environmental/ecological think tank and advocacy organisation. It is rooted in solidarity and in the building and protection of human and collective dignity.

We believe that neoliberal agendas driven by globalization of exploitation of the weak, despoliation of ecosystems and lack of respect for Mother Earth thrive mostly because of the ascendancy of enforced creed of might is right. This ethic permits the powerful to pollute, grab resources and degrade/destroy the rest simply because they can do so. HOMEF recognizes that this reign of (t)error can best be tackled through a conscious examination of the circumstances by which the trend crept in and got entrenched. Thus, HOMEF will have as a cardinal work track continuous political education aimed at examining the roots of exploitation of resources, labour, peoples and entire regions. HOMEF hopes through this to contribute to the building of movements for recovery of memory, dignity and harmonious living with full respect of natural cycles of Mother Earth.

Three key areas of focus are fossil fuels, the politics of hunger and creating spaces for knowledge generation and sharing.

The Advisory Board is composed of women and men who have distinguished themselves in the struggle for environmental justice and the rights of Mother Earth: – See more at: http://www.homef.org/content/about-home “

Two Good Days When Crimes Against Nature Were Exposed

By Nnimmo Bassey

For two days in the Maison des Metallos, Paris, experts, victims, prosecutors and judges presented or listened to cases of crimes against Mother Earth and at the end judgements were passed. There were solemn spiritual moments, moments of awe at the rapacious destructive capacities of humanity and many moments of tears as these destructions, including murders, were painted in words and pictures.

The International Rights of Nature Tribunal held parallel to the UNFCCC’s Conference of Parties where historical and current climate atrocities or real solutions are loath to be mentioned, not even in square brackets.from NnimmoThe Tribunal derives its authority from the peoples of the world as the children of the Earth. The basic framework comes from the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth (UDRME) that was adopted at the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in April 2010 after the spectacular failure of COP15 in Copenhagen. At the commencement of the sitting of the Tribunal on 4 December 2015, the presiding judge, Cormac Cullinan, led other judges to vote and formally adopt the Convention and Statutes of the tribunal. These guide the running of the Tribunal and underscore the solemn duty of sitting as judges on the cases of infringements against Mothrer Earth.

This was the third session of the Tribunal, having sat first in Quito, Ecuador in January 2014 and then in Lima, Peru in December of the same year. The Tribunal was hosted by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature in conjunction with NatureRights, End Ecocide on Earth and Attac France with Natalia Greene heading the secretariat.

As I sat on the panel of judges along with Tom Goldtooth (USA), Alberto Acosta (Ecuador), Osprey Orielle (USA), Terisa Turna (Canada), Felicio Pontes (Brazil), Damien Short (UK), Attosa Soltani (USA), Ruth Nyambura (Kenya), Christophe Bonneuil (France), Philippe Desbrosses (France) and Dominique Bourg (Switzerland) we were repeatedly reminded that all beings on Earth are our relatives and that what we do to anyone of the children of the Earth we do to ourselves. The preamble of the UDRME states that “We are all part of Mother Earth, an indivisible, living community of interrelated and interdependent beings with a common destiny.”

It also came through that the crimes against Mother Earth are often wilfully committed because some people and the transnational corporations see nature as capital and Mother Earth as a dead organism. In a proposed case against cruel treatment of animals we saw shocking video of a wounded bull being butchered alive with hundreds of people gleefully watching.

The prosecutors, Ramiro Avila and Linda Sheehan led the witnesses in bringing out deep systemic alternatives to environmental protection and seeking to show that it must be acknowledged that ecosystems have the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate their vital cycles and that these ought to have legal standing in a court of law. The line-up of witnesses helped to ensure that Indigenous Peoples and oppressed communities had the space to share their unique concerns, knowledge and solutions about land, water, air and culture with the global community.

The presentations by experts and victims showed that climate change violates Articles 2 Sub sections a-j of the Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth, especially the right to life and to exist; the right to be respected and “the right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue its vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions.”

Witnesses underscored the fact that although climate change is caused mostly by human activities, it is inaccurate to place that blame and the burden for action on all humans. In his presentation, Pablo Solon stressed that 10% of the richest individuals in the world contribute 49 per cent of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 90 companies contribute over 60 per cent of all GHG emissions. The top corporate polluters include Chevron, ExxonMobil (USA), Saudi Aramco (Saudi), BP (UK), Gazprom (Russia) and Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands).

Evidence were adduced to show that the trio of governments/politicians, transnational corporations and the UNFCCC are complicit in the climate crimes as they work together to ensure that real solutions are avoided, binding commitments to cut emission are set aside in preference for voluntary or intended actions. In addition, the tribunal rejected the claims that destructive actions were taken on the basis of the necessity of development or that when emissions began to happen, and grew, the polluters did not know or anticipate the outcomes, are unacceptable.

The case was established that at play is the logic of capital and power and that the major corporations who have caused the problems are the sponsors of the COPs and have hijacked the system.

The fact that the extreme forms of extraction promoted by humans are crimes against Mother Earth came through very forcefully when the case of hydraulic fracturing or fracking was taken. Fracking was presented as a RAPE of the Earth and is one of the worst threats against the planet. Facts adduced in this case include that it sets stage for disaster each frack uses up to 2-8 million gallons of fresh water and that one well may be fracked up to 18 times. The process involves the use of up to 750 chemicals many of which, including benzene and formaldehyde are toxic. Billions of gallons of “frack fluid” and 60 per cent of chemicals used remain or are stored underground while the remainder are stored in open air pits. The Tribunal received evidence of radioactive wastes, toxic waters being left everywhere fracking takes place: in farms, schools, neighbourhoods as well as offshore. Witnesses and experts also insisted that fracking is guaranteed to pollute ground water. Testimonies of health impacts, deaths, rapes and other social disruptions dropped a pall of grieve over the venue of the meeting.

In the case against the Belo Monte and Tapajas mega dams in Brazil, the Tribunal was informed that 60-70 dams were being planned to be built over the next 20 years. Belo Monte alone will destroy 5000km2 of the forest and related biodiversity. The social impacts were described as ecological and cultural genocide against the indigenous communities.

Speaking forcefully about his lifelong work defending the Amazon forest, Cacique Raoni Kayapo told the Tribunal, “We all need nature to survive and it is fundamental that we protect her. Governments should hear the indigenous people who are in the frontlines of defending nature.” Looking piercingly at the panel of judges and then at the audience he intoned, “My struggle is for you, for all of us and for the future of humanity and for the future of our children.”

Other highlights of the sessions include the presentations that demanded that fossil fuels should be left under the ground in line with the findings of science requiring that this be done if we are to avoid catastrophic temperature rise. Oilwatch International presented the case for the creation of Annex Zero (0) nations, sub-nations and territories that have already taken steps or are in the process of doing so, of keeping fossil fuels under the ground. This was presented as real climate action and points at the pathway to a safe world. Examples were given of sites of such initiatives in all the continents of the world. Another highlight was the case for the recognition of ecocide in international criminal law.

The Tribunal accepted new cases including those that will try crimes against animals, the depletion of marine life, the Rosia Montana Mines in Romania, the extreme damage of the environment of the Niger Delta by the polluting acts of Shell and the crimes tied to the extraction of tar sands in Canada.

These were two days of plain talks and truth. They were days in which the raw injuries inflicted on Mother Earth and her children were laid bare. They were days of pain as well as of joy. Tears flowed freely from all sections of the hall. Indignation did not give birth to paralysis but to a resolve to stand up for Mother Earth.

In spite of the pains, the aches and the cries of Mother Earth that her children displayed, the words of Cases Camp Horinek kept echoing that the days of the Tribunal were indeed good days.

Nnimmo BasseyNnimmo Bassey

Nnimmo Bassey is director of an ecological think-tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and Coordinator of Oilwatch International. Bassey has authored books on the environment, architecture and poetry. He was chair of Friends of the Earth International (2008-2012) and Executive Director of Nigeria’s Environmental Rights Action (1993-2013). He was a co-recipient of the 2010 Right Livelihood Award also known as the “Alternative Noble Prize.” In 2012 he received the Rafto Human Rights Award. In 2014 he received Nigeria’s national honour as Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) in recognition of his environmental activism. His book, To Cook a Continent – Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa (Pambazuka Press, 2012) has been translated in Portuguese and Finnish (2014).

Economics for Earth’s Rights

Linda Sheehan, Earth Law CenterLinda Sheehan,  Executive Director ~ Earth Law Center, writing for New Economy Law Center, Vermont Law School

“In parallel with the recently concluded climate talks in Paris, I was fortunate to take part in several initiatives to raise awareness of the fundamental flaws in our legal and economic systems. These flaws are the driving force behind climate change, species extinctions, drying waterways and other, serious threats to the integrity of natural systems.

Put briefly, our legal and economic systems drive nature’s destruction by treating it merely as property to be exploited and degraded, rather than as an integral ecological partner with its own rights to exist and thrive. Even our best attempts at addressing global environmental harms place nature within the context of incessant economic growth, undermining nature’s protection.

Fighting for Our Shared Future Protecting Both Human Rights and Nature's RightsFor example, the new U.N. climate change agreement uses the terms “economy” or “economic” 26 times, yet it only mentions Earth once, and Nature not at all.[i] The agreement’s focus unfortunately is not on creating law and economic systems that benefit the Earth. Its focus is on contorting the law to benefit the same economic system that is destroying the Earth. This mythology pretends the natural world is a dead resource, merely an element of commerce and trade. It seems strange that we must say this, but we cannot live on a dead world. Moreover, we are not human on a degraded world; we are less than human. We must reject such an impoverished future.”

To call attention to this defective and injurious worldview, Earth Law Center released a new report in Paris demonstrating how our legal and economic systems increasingly violate basic human rights as well as nature’s own, inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. This report, Fighting for Our Shared Future: Protecting Both Human Rights and Nature’s Rights, details 100 examples of such “co-violations” of fundamental rights around the world and offers recommendations for change.[ii] Recommendations include recognition in law of the inherent rights of nature (as has been done in several countries and numerous U.S. cities and towns),[iii] immediate protection of the most vulnerable human and nature’s rights defenders (many of whom have been killed for their work),[iv] and implementation of economic alternatives, from new progress indicators to an overarching shift to ecological economics.[v]

Also in Paris, Earth Law Center acted as co-organizer of, and Co-Prosecutor for, the third International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature.[vi] This citizen-created Tribunal provided people a voice to testify publicly as to the destruction of the Earth – destruction that governments and corporations not only allow, but in some cases encourage. The Tribunal featured internationally renowned lawyers and leaders for Earth justice, who heard cases addressing issues such as climate change, GMOs, fracking, extractive industries, and other sources of nature’s rights violations.[vii] The Tribunal offered judgments and recommendations for the Earth’s protection and restoration based on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Read complete article at Economics for Earth’s Rights

[i] U.N. Conference of the Parties, 21st Session, “Adoption of the Paris Agreement,” FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1 (12 Dec. 2015); available at: www.unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf.

[ii] ELC’s December 2015 report Fighting for Our Shared Future is available at: http://bit.ly/1Ng3VyQ.

[iii] See http://www.earthlawcenter.org/literature/ and http://www.earthlawcenter.org/earth-community/ for more information.

[iv] As described in ELC’s report and elsewhere, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has found that “rights defenders are “increasingly branded ‘enemies of the state’ over development projects.” See: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13912&LangID=E.

[v] For example, Article 3(2)(l) of the 2010 Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, adopted by representatives of 140 countries in Bolivia, recognizes that we must “promote economic systems that are in harmony with Mother Earth and in accordance with the rights recognized in this Declaration.” Available at: https://therightsofnature.org/universal-declaration/.

A blue and just future is possible

Maude Barlow’s keynote speech from the International Conference on Water, Megacities and Global Change, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, December 1, 2015

Maude Barlow opening UNESCO Water, Megacities and Global Change

In early December, the world turned its attention to climate talks in Paris.  At their international headquarters in Paris, UNESCO convened the Water, Megacities and Global Change  conference to the address the critical threats to water from climate change, especially in the world’s megacities. Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and international water expert was a keynote speaker at the opening ceremony on December 1.

“How do we start to talk about the crisis of water and megacities?” Maude asks. “With a critical examination of these and other policies that favour global markets over the lives of people and the health of ecosystems. And by confronting the tyranny of the 1% with the creation of a just global economy.

We can start with a new water ethic. Rather than seeing water as a resource for profit, we need to understand that it is the essential element in all living ecosystems. All policies and practices must be planned with the preservation of water at their core. Not only do we have to reject the market model for our water future, we must put ourselves at the service of undoing what we have done to the natural world and hope it is not too late.

Our current legal systems for protecting the environment are not working because they were not designed to do so. They view nature and water as our property. We need new universal laws that respect the integrity of ecosystems and allow other species than our own to fulfil their evolutionary role on Earth.”

Maude closes with stating possibilities, “Imagine a world in which water becomes nature’s gift to teach us how to live in peace with one another and dwell more lightly on this lovely planet. It is all possible. A blue and just future is possible.”

Read Maude Barlow’s complete speech (in English).

Barlow gives testimony on water at International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris

Later in the week, Maude presented as an expert witness on water at the International Rights of Nature Tribunal in Paris.

“Displacing water from where it belongs to where we want it is a major cause of climate chaos unrecognized by many scientists and environmentalists alike. This practice is also destroying whole water systems. Over half the major rivers in China have disappeared. By destroying forests and wetlands, we destroy the lungs and kidneys of our watersheds. Since 1900, the planet has lost two thirds of its wetlands. Every minute, 36 football fields of trees are clear cut. These are crimes against the rights of nature.”

In addition to Council of Canadians, Maude Barlow serves as Executive/Board member of other earth justice organizations including the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, Food and Water Watch, International Forum on Globalization, World Future Council and Movement Rights.  In 2008/2009, she served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly and was a leader in the campaign to have water recognized as a human right by the UN. She is also the author of dozens of reports, as well as 17 books, including her latest, Blue Future: Protecting Water For People And The Planet Forever.

 

COP Out: The hollow promise of the Paris climate deal

Hal Rhoades, Gaia Foundation, December 16, 2015

COP21 has had a mixed reception and the agreement reached has been criticised more for what it doesn’t say as much as for what it does. The Gaia Foundation’s latest blog COP out: The hollow promise of the Paris climate deal reflects on what was agreed and highlights the powerful message from the International Rights of Nature Tribunal.

Hal Rhoades discusses why, despite the hype, the climate agreement hatched by world governments in Paris won’t save us from climate catastrophe. With analysis on key areas of the agreement text and discussion of the latest climate science, he argues that people’s movements, not multilateral theatrics, represent our best hope for avoiding climate disaster.

“Perhaps because it provided this anchor, for me, the most powerful event in the civil society spaces outside COP21was the International Rights of Nature Tribunal. The Tribunal advances a new legal paradigm that draws on Indigenous knowledge and governance systems, recognising nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. It represents one critical way to revive the planetary realism we need so desperately right now and is a model that should be taken and replicated elsewhere, and soon.

There is no one solution to climate crisis, no silver bullet. Nor can any one person, or government, or group of governments articulate an entire alternative system to our current one that is at war with people and planet. Rather, the systems change we want and so desperately need will emerge from the actions of our societies’, bravest, most vibrant, resilient and determined groups, who are driven by a moral imperative that transcends current norms and augurs a better future. Ever was it thus.”

Read Gaia Foundation’s blog at COP out: The hollow promise of the Paris climate deal

From Paris with love for lake Poopó

By Pablo Solón, El Observatorio Boliviano de Cambio Climático y “Desarrollo”, 21 December 2015

Lake Poopó becomes a desert while in Paris, governments conclude an agreement they call “historic” to address climate change. Will the Paris Agreement save over 125,000 lakes that are in danger of disappearing in the world due to climate change?

 From Paris with love for lake Poopó

The second largest lake in Bolivia did not disappear by magic. The causes of their demise are many and complex, but among them is the rise in temperature and increased frequency of natural disasters like El Niño caused by climate change. The lake Poopó that had an expanse of 2,337 km2 and a depth of 2.5 meters, is now a desert with a few puddles in the middle with no more than 30 centimeters of water depth.

If the average temperature rose globally by 0.8 °C due to climate change, on the lake Poopó the increase went to 2.5 °C leaving in its path thousands of dead fish, dead flamingos, fishing boats anchored to the ground, and hundreds of indigenous people, who for centuries were devoted to fishing, that now roam for help thinking of a very uncertain future. That is the true face of climate change that expands like a cancer throughout the world.

Will the Paris Agreement save over 125,000 lakes that are in danger of disappearing in the world due to climate change? 

Read the full text at Paris and the break with reality

Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments

By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster. George Monbiot, The Guardian

Monbiot goes on to note:

Inside the narrow frame within which the talks have taken place, the draft agreement at the UN climate talks in Paris is a great success. The relief and self-congratulation with which the final text was greeted, acknowledges the failure at Copenhagen six years ago, where the negotiations ran wildly over time before collapsing. The Paris agreement is still awaiting formal adoption, but its aspirational limit of 1.5C of global warming, after the rejection of this demand for so many years, can be seen within this frame as a resounding victory. In this respect and others, the final text is stronger than most people anticipated.

Outside the frame it looks like something else. I doubt any of the negotiators believe that there will be no more than 1.5C of global warming as a result of these talks. As the preamble to the agreement acknowledges, even 2C, in view of the weak promises governments brought to Paris, is wildly ambitious … read the complete article

Nature’s rights and human rights : building legal, economic and social solutions to planetary crisis

Hosted by The Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, NatureRights, EndEcocide on Earth, and Attac France, December 3, 2015, at A Place to B, Paris, France

Video of Nature’s rights and human rights : building legal, economic and social solutions to planetary crisis Conference. The video opens in French but many speakers are in English starting at 42 seconds with Cormac Cullinan and Natalia Greene.

The well-being of humans and nature are inextricably linked. Across the globe, we injure both people and ecosystems by treating the natural world as property to fuel incessant economic growth. These injuries have risen to the level of simultaneous violations, or “co-violations,” of human rights and nature’s rights. Many co-violations are fueled by our legal and economic systems, which legalize and even encourage environmental destruction for profit. This workshop will explore co-violation trends, especially with respect to mining and other extractive industries. It also highlights specific solutions, including recognition of the rights of nature and a robust climate change treaty. The workshop features the release of Earth Law Center’s comprehensive report on rights violations worldwide, “Fighting for Our Shared Future: Protecting Both Human Rights and Nature’s Rights.”

Introduced by Samanta Novella with Cormac Cullinan and Natalia Greene.

Other speakers include Geneviève Azam, Alberto Acosta, Patricia Gualinga, Cormac Cullinan, Tom Goldtooth, Shannon Biggs, Corinne Lepage, Koffi Dogbevi, Mireille Delmas-Marty, Emilie Gaillard Emilie, Osprey Orielle Lake, Yann Aguila, Laurent Neyret, Roger Cox, Marie-odile Bertella, Valérie Cabanes, Marie Toussaint, and  Vandana Shiva