Global Land Grabbing by Speculators, Investment banks, Pension funds

Kenya green hills CIAT Neil Palmer sml

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 10, 2012 (IPS)

Land is the missing element at next month’s big U.N. sustainable development summit known as Rio+20, where nations of the world will meet Jun. 20-22 with the goal of setting a new course to ensure the survival and flourishing of humanity.

However, governments are apparently unaware that a reversal of decades of land reform is underway with speculators, investment banks, pension funds and other powerful financial interests taking control of perhaps 200 million hectares of land from poor farmers in Africa, Latin America and Asia in recent years. Speculators and investors know land is the key to three necessities of life: food, water and energy. But neither land nor community land rights are on the summit agenda.

“Rural people are losing control over land and water because of this global land grab,” said Honduran farmer leader Rafael Alegria of the international farmers’ movement La Via Campesina.

Anywhere from 80 to 227 million hectares of rural, often agrarian land have been taken over by private and corporate interests in recent years, according to an April report released by Friends of the Earth International.

Many small land holders are being displaced in Central America and up to 40 percent of Honduran small farmers live in extreme poverty, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Alegria told IPS through a translator.

Continue reading

UN Climate Talks End In Dramatic Showdown But Little Progress

COP 19 Final Showdown between US and Fiji
COP 19 Final Showdown between US and Fiji

By Stephen Leahy

WARSAW, Nov 24 2013 (IPS)

The U.N. climate talks in Warsaw ended in dramatic fashion Saturday evening in what looked like a schoolyard fight with a mob of dark-suited supporters packed around the weary combatants, Todd Stern of the United States and Sai Navoti of Fiji representing G77 nations.

It took two weeks and 36 straight hours of negotiations to get to this point.

At issue in this classic North versus South battle was the creation of a third pillar of a new climate treaty to be finalised in 2015. Countries of the South, with 80 percent of the world’s people, finally won, creating a loss and damage pillar to go with the mitigation (emissions reduction) and adaptation pillars.

Super-typhoon Haiyan’s impact on the Philippines just days before the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) amply illustrated the reality of loss and damages arising from climate change.  Philippines lead negotiator Yeb Saño made an emotional speech announcing “fast for the climate” at the COP19 opening that garnered worldwide attention, including nearly a million YouTube views

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Critics Brand Climate Talks Another Lost Opportunity

findlay ohio flooding AP

By Stephen Leahy

DOHA, Qatar, Dec 11 2012 (IPS)

Rich countries came to the U.N. climate talks in Doha intent on delaying needed action on climate change for another three years and a still to be hammered out new global treaty.

This delay will be extraordinarily expensive and risky.

Every year that fossil fuel emissions fail to decline adds to the cost and reduces the odds that a global temperature rise can be kept below two degrees C.

“Science says emissions need to peak in 2015,” said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, as the final plenary of COP 18 concluded last Saturday night, a full day late.

The 195 parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) approved a set of documents called “The Doha Climate Gateway” that does not increase emission reductions or guarantee much-needed financial help to poor countries suffering present and future impacts of climate change.

“Doha is a betrayal of people living with impacts now. And it is a sellout of our children and grandchildren’s future,” said Naidoo.

“The fossil fuel industry won,” said Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ director of strategy and policy, who has attended nearly every one of these climate negotiations over the past 18 years.

“The science is clear that four-fifths of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground but we continue to burn them like there is no tomorrow,” Meyer said.

“Doha became more of a trade fair…Negotiators protected the interests of corporations and not the needs of people,” he told IPS.

More than 16,000 delegates participated in the two-week conference of the parties (COP) in Doha, Qatar, a country rich in oil and gas in the heart of the Middle East fossil fuel empire.

Meyer, along with representatives from more than 700 civil society organisations, blamed the U.S. for blocking proposals for greater emissions cuts. The U.S. also refused to commit a singly penny to assisting countries hard hit by climate change. U.S. negotiators did acknowledge poor countries were suffering costly damages and losses.

The world has already warmed 0.8 degrees C, altering weather patterns and increasing extreme events which have led to nearly 400,000 deaths and more than 1.2 trillion dollars being lost every year, according a 2011 study.

A delegate from Bangladesh told IPS that climate-related damages cost his country three to four percent of its annual GDP. Climate change, which is also driven by deforestation and land conversion for agriculture, is undercutting development and will push his country’s and other countries’ economies into a steady decline, he said.

To help governments cope, industrialised nations promised to put 100 billion dollars a year into a Green Climate Fund by 2020. To bridge the gap until then, developing nations asked for 60 billion dollars in total by 2015. Britain, Germany and a few other countries promised to contribute six billion dollars.

But the U.S., Canada, Japan and others agreed only to more talks next year.

“The U.S. spends 60 billion dollars on its military marching bands,” said Naidoo.

The only hope is to build a robust grassroots movement to force countries to act in the interest of the public and future generations, he said.

“We have to build a new social movement like (the one) that overcame slavery,” agreed Oxfam International climate change policy advisor Tim Gore.

“We reject what our leaders are doing here. We are more angry, more impassioned to defeat this process,” said Gore.

The COP process is an obstacle because a few big countries can easily block the will of the majority, said Mohamed Aslam, former environment minister and chief negotiator for the Republic of the Maldives.

“The signs of global warming are obvious and we know that the safe limit is to stay below 1.5 C…and yet we are failing to act,” Aslam said in a press conference.

The U.N. spends millions of dollars on these negotiations and they are going nowhere, he said. “We are running out of time. (We) need to take this to another fora,” he said.

What is lacking is a real commitment to reduce global emissions, said Christina Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“What needs to change most is political will,” Figueres told IPS.

In Doha, the U.N. secretary-general announced a world leaders’ summit in 2014 to hammer out emission reduction targets to keep warming below two degrees C. The Doha Climate Gateway confirmed details for a new negotiation track to have a new global climate treaty ready for ratification in 2015 and go into force in 2020.

Under this agreement all countries will likely be obligated to make emission cuts, varying in depth and timing. Without additional cuts before 2020, reductions afterwards will need to be rapid and massive, moving to a zero-fossil fuel emission society in a few decades based on the science.

The Doha agreement includes a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol with the European Union, Australia and a few other countries agreeing to cut fossil fuel emissions between 2013 and 2020. However, they did not set new targets, agreeing instead to a mandatory review of targets in 2014.

The nations involved only represent 12 percent of global emissions, and do not include large developing country emitters like China, India and Brazil. The U.S. has never participated, while Canada and Japan have opted out of the second phase but are supposed to make to make comparable cuts but offered nothing new.

“Rich countries think they can protect themselves from the impacts, leaving the poor with no clear pathway to the future,” said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid.

“Our leaders have let us down. Civil society will have to lead to get the future we really want,” said Adow.

Original IPS story

Be Part of a New Collaborative Approach to Media Coverage of Climate

Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 10.09.20 PM

Frustrated by the lack of interest in climate coverage by mainstream media, 15 young journalists on 4 continents want to bring a new collaborative approach to climate change journalism. This is a voluntary effort to both increase and improve reporting called the Climate News Mosaic (CNM).


They need your help for their first collaborative project to connect what’s happening at the UN climate conference (COP) in Warsaw this November with climate impacts/perspectives on the ground from their home countries.

Here’s how it will work:

* 2 or 3 journalists will go to the COP in Warsaw to report and co-ordinate. The rest will be back home doing local coverage on climate. Everyone contributes and shares interviews, links to reports, sources, A/V and so on.

* Members (mainly freelancers) do articles, audio and video for their own outlets. Some 25-30 original stories in at least 4 languages will be made available for use in whole or in part by any media outlet anywhere in the world.

* A live blog placed on a number non-profit news sites like IPSEarth Journalism Network , and others will bring the public a wealth of current info on what is happening at the Warsaw COP but also from other countries. (i.e. a short video from Warsaw, a photo from a rally in San Francisco, a soundbite from a press conference in Nairobi, a quote from an interview with an Italian scholar.)

Learn more about CNM participants on this global map with short bios.

I’m sort of the mentor having used crowd-sourced funding to support my science and climate journalism the past 4 years. That support kept me going and in 2012 I was a co-winner of the Prince Albert/United Nations Global Prize for media coverage of climate change.

For-profit media owners are simply not interested in good science and environment reporting. Coverage of climate change has been in sharp decline since the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009. Even the New York Times closed its environment desk this year. It’s not that there isn’t a lot to report on. Quite the opposite.

Here’s how you can help:

Please spread the word about this project. We need to raise $6000 for travel, accomodation and other costs to do the Warsaw COP reporting.  Please click on Indiegogo to contribute what you can. (There are ‘perks’ for contributors including a Google Hangout.)

This is a fresh new idea: Independent journalists in different countries working together to provide all of us with the news and information on the most important issue of our time.

Please join in and help out.

Climate Change Opportunity to Boost Economies – European Vision

[This re-post of an article showing countries moving to renewable energy to create jobs and reduce dependence on expensive, polluting and climate destroying fossil fuels. — Stephen]

By Stephen Leahy

BONN, Jun 20, 2011 (IPS)

If we’re lucky, by the time a tough but fair international treaty to meet the climate change challenge is finalised, it will be largely unnecessary. The snail’s pace of negotiations certainly gives countries plenty of time to understand the financial, social and environmental advantages of kicking their dangerous addiction to fossil fuels.

That may be a cynical optimist’s hope, but the European Union is already moving in that direction.

Climate change is now seen as an opportunity to deal with the economic downturn in Europe,” said Jürgen Lefevere, a European Commission negotiator at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating session that ended late Friday in Bonn.

“It is no longer just an environmental issue for us,” Lefevere said at a final press conference.

China also understands the opportunity.

Renewable energy sources like wind and solar now account for 11.4 percent of China’s electricity, and that figure will be 20 percent by 2020, says Liu Qiang, a researcher at the Energy Research Institute of the National Development Reform Commission, China.

“China takes this very seriously,” Qiang said, noting that there are significant investments and research in smarter electrical grids and energy storage in China.

Looking to 2050, the era of fossil fuels will be over in a world of vibrant economies and societies powered entirely by clean, cheap and renewable energy, says Niklas Hoehne, director of Energy and Climate Policy at Ecofys, an energy consulting company based in the Netherlands.

“The cost is about two to three percent of global GDP (gross domestic product) from now until 2035, and then the costs decline,” said Hoehne, a co-author of the Ecofys technical study called “The Energy Report“, which demonstrates how the world could reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

That investment is far less than the costs of climate change will be without major reductions in emissions, he told IPS. Continue reading

Danger in Turning Africa’s Foodlands into “Carbon Farms”

Keep Agriculture for Food, not Carbon$$

By Stephen Leahy

DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 2 2011 (IPS)

Civil society has warned of the danger of turning Africa’s food-producing lands into “carbon farms” so that rich countries can avoid making cuts in their carbon emissions.

On Friday, they called on host country South Africa to refrain from forcing so-called “climate smart” agriculture into the United Nations climate treaty negotiations known as the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17).

South African President Jacob Zuma has stated that agriculture should be part of a new climate treaty. South African officials have previously told IPS they want it included so there will be “specific funds and specific actions” for agriculture under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“Putting agriculture into a future climate treaty is supposedly a consolation prize to Africa for failure by rich countries to agree to legally binding targets,” said Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation, an international non-governmental organisation based in London.

“This consolation prize is a poisoned chalice. It will lead to land grabs and deliver African farmers into the hands of fickle carbon markets,” Anderson told IPS.

Agriculture is a major source of global warming gases like carbon and methane – directly accounting for 15 percent to 30 percent of global emissions. When the entire food production system is included, total agriculture emissions represent nearly half of all emissions. For those reasons there have been previous efforts to incorporate agriculture under a new climate treaty.

             Become a Partner in Independent Enviro Journalism

Changes in agricultural practices can greatly reduce emissions. However, the best way to do that is through regulations, not a climate treaty and carbon credits, said Anderson.

“Why are markets now seen as the only solution when less than 10 years ago they weren’t a focus at all?” Continue reading

Geoengineering for a Desperate Planet — UN Declares Global Moratorium

By Stephen Leahy*

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 25, 2010 (Tierramérica)

[Update from Nagoya 30 October 2010. Global moratorium passes.]

Delegates to the world summit on biodiversity here are calling for a moratorium on climate engineering research, like the idea of putting huge mirrors in outer space to reflect some of the sun’s heating rays away from the planet.

Climate engineering or geoengineering refers to any large-scale, human- made effort to manipulate the planet to adapt to climate change.

Representatives from Africa and Asia expressed concern about the negative impacts of geoengineering during the opening week of the 10th Conference of Parties (COP 10) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Oct. 18-29. They were joined by civil society organisations in calling for a moratorium on geoengineering experiments.

The geoengineering proposals include installing giant vertical pipes in the ocean to bring cold water to the surface, pumping vast amounts of sulphates into the stratosphere to block sunlight, or blowing ocean salt spray into clouds to increase their reflectivity.

[Previously posted – Full Story here]