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Category: Climate Debt

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA, 13 DECEMBER 2011 – 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. continue reading…

by Tim McSorley, Published in The Media Coop

At 15h00 local time in Durban, SA (8am EST), dozens of protesters gathered inside the International Conference Centre where the COP17 negotiations are entering their final hours. continue reading…

by Nnimmo Bassey

PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What role will Environmental Rights Action (ERA) and Friends of the Earth International be playing at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban? What will you be pushing for?

NNIMMO BASSEY: While there is a generally low level of expectation from the Durban Conference of the Parties (COP17), we see it as a great moment to stand with impacted peoples and the environmental justice movement and call for a climate tackling regime that understands the depth of the crises and the fact that the impacts are already manifesting. We will push for polluting countries to cut emissions at source and not through offsets and related market mechanisms that help polluters profit from the damage they do. We will push for legally binding emissions reduction targets to ensure that temperature increase is kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. ERA will demand the recognition and payment of the accumulated climate debt due to centuries of exploitation and colonisation of the atmosphere. continue reading…

The other debt crisis: climate debt

The climate crisis in Bolivia is not a headline or an abstraction – it is playing out in people’s lives in real time.

Melting glaciers are threatening the water supply of the country’s two biggest cities. Increasing droughts and floods are playing havoc with agriculture.

So it is no surprise that in climate negotiations, Bolivia is emerging as a leader in the global south – advancing both radical solutions and analysis that make rich countries distinctly nervous.

On this edition of Fault Lines, Avi Lewis travels to Bolivia to explore the country’s climate crusade from the inside.

It is the story of an emerging movement, based in the global south, raising questions about who owes what to whom in confronting the climate crisis.

And it is playing out in Bolivia’s epic landscape – from the tropical glaciers to the endless salt flats. A landscape that in normal times seems to mock the very idea that human beings can change the course of nature.

This episode of Fault Lines can be seen from Thursday, May 20, 2010 at the following times GMT: Thursday: 0600; Friday: 0030, 0830; Saturday: 2330; Sunday: 0630, 2130; Tuesday: 0530, 1230; Wednesday: 0300

To view the video on a full screen http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/faultlines/2010/05/2010518121127315453.html

Towards a Jubilee South Platform on Climate Change, Ecological Debt and Financial Sovereignty
Jubilee South shares with you the electronic version of a document it has produced on the relation between climate change, finance and ecological debt and false solutions. We invite you to continue reflecting and contributing to this debate. http://www.jubileesouth.org/files/cambioclimatico_en_baja_calidad.pdf

By Patrick Bond

May 5, 2010 — The “climate debt” that the industries and over-consumers of the global North owe Africans and other victims of climate change not responsible for causing the problem has accrued by virtue of the North’s excessive dumping of greenhouse gas emissions into the collective environmental space. Damage is being accounted for, including the more constrained space the South has for emissions. This historical injustice – and “debt” — is now nearly universally acknowledged (aside from Washington holdouts), and reparations plus adaptation finance are being widely demanded.In Copenhagen, the 2009 United Nations summit on climate change witnessed a great deal of theatre over conceptual problems, including, who should make emissions cuts and to what degree; should markets be the main mechanism; who owes a climate debt; how much is owed; and how the debt should be collected. The willingness of African heads of state to raise the matter publicly beginning in mid-2009 was notable, but their inability to ensure political solidarity led to the imposition of the Copenhagen Accord on December 18, in a manner that sets back the cause.

Read the full article

By Nicola Bullard, Focus on the Global South

Published in América Latina en Movimiento No 454 abril 2010, “Por un nuevo amanecer para la Madre Tierra”

Perhaps without fully realising either the meaning or the implications, progressive movements have gravitated around the slogan of “climate debt” as a way into the complex world of climate negotiations.

It is easy to understand why: debt is simple concept and in a just world, debts should be paid. But — more that that — the notion of climate debt goes to the heart of climate change politics. It raises the central question of historical responsibility and who owes whom for what. And by redefining “debt” as a systemic issue rather than a financial problem, it turns traditional rich-poor relations upside down. Usually it is the rich who are the creditors, demanding payment from the poor, but climate debt reverses that: it is now the poor and the marginalised – the Global South — who are calling in their debts, not for personal gain but for the future of humanity and Mother Earth.

As such, climate debt is a powerful idea that links issues, constituencies and strategies, with the added attraction of using simple language as a Trojan horse for complex and potentially subversive ideas. But without a clear idea of what “we” mean by climate debt, there is always the risk that the principles and ideas underpinning it will be coopted and diluted. Perhaps there is no definitive definition of climate debt, but as social justice movements and activists, it is useful to have a common vision of what we mean, and what we are asking for.

What is climate debt?

The concept of ecological debt has been around for some years. Ecuador’s Accion Ecologica talks about ecological debt as “the debt accumulated by the Northern industrial countries towards the countries and peoples of the South on account of resource plundering, environmental damages, and the free occupation of environmental space to deposit wastes, such as greenhouse gases.”

In accounting terms, climate debt is just one line item in the much larger balance sheet of ecological debt, but it can be broken down into understandable and measurable parts.

One part of the climate debt relates to the impacts of the excessive emission of greenhouse gases that cause global warming: extreme and frequent climate events, floods, droughts, inundations, storms, loss of arable land and biodiversity, disease, landlessness, migration, poverty, and much more. In UN terms, these very real human impacts are sanitised and lumped together under “adaptation” costs.

A second element of the climate debt is the cost of reorganising societies and economies in such a way that greenhouse gas emissions are radically reduced: this is called mitigation, and it touches almost every aspect of human activity from agriculture, energy and transport through to how cities are organised, consumption patterns and global trade. For the Bolivian government, this is equivalent to a “development debt” which would be compensated by ensuring that all people have access to basic services and that all countries are sufficiently industrialised to ensure their independence.

A third part of the debt is more difficult to calculate – some call it the emissions debt. It refers to the fact that rich countries have used up most of the atmosphere’s capacity to absorb greenhouse gases, leaving no “atmospheric space” for the South to “grow”. Given that there is a very high correlation between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions in the current technological context, this means that developing countries are effectively being told that they must limit their economic growth. The only way to compensate this debt is for the rich countries to drastically reduce their own emissions.

The Bolivian government includes two other items in the climate debt calculation. In addition to the adaptation, mitigation and emissions debt, they identify a “migration debt” which would be compensated by dropping restrictive migration practices and treating all humans with dignity, and finally, the debt to Mother Earth.

According to the Bolivian government, this debt is

“impossible to compensate completely, because the atrocities committed by humanity have been too terrible. However, the minimum compensation of this debt consists of recognising the damage done, and adopting a United Nations Declaration on the Mother Earth’s Rights, to ensure that the same abuses will never be repeated in future.”

Considering all these components, the debt owed by the rich to the poor is unmeasurable.

Who is responsible for climate debt?

This question is at the heart of the UNFCCC negotiations, for behind the technical language, it’s all about money and economic interests. That is why the US conjured up the Copenhagen Accord during the COP15 – to redefine who is responsible and thus avoid paying its dues.

The current state of play is that the rich countries – and especially those who have the highest cumulative historical emissions – are simply not willing to pay their debt. Having accumulated wealth and security on the backs of the poor, through the destruction of nature and the extraction of resources, the rich European countries, the US, Japan, Australia and Canada are refusing to pay the bill, both in terms of the actual costs of mitigation and adaptation, but also in terms of changing their own profligate consumption. Not only are they refusing to reduce their own emissions – thus pushing the burden of reduction onto others – they are also trying to shift the blame to developing countries such as China, Brazil and Indian whose current emissions are growing at a rapid rate.

Can the debt be paid?

Although certain aspects of the debt can be counted and calculated – for example, the costs of clean technology, restoring devastated forests, shifting to sustainable agriculture, or building climate ready infrastructure, the real debt cannot be calculated. It is much more than a number or money; climate debt symbolises over 500 years of unequal relations between North and South, between rich and poor, between exploiters and exploited.

Climate debt is also a measure of the complete folly of capitalism – whether it’s free market or state-run – as a model for managing human society and the earth’s ecosystems. Ultimately, the only way that the debt can be repaid is by ensuring that the historic relations of inequality are broken once and for all and that no “new” debt will accumulate.  This requires system change, both in the North and in the South. That’s why climate debt is such a subversive idea.

* Nicola Bullard is a senior associate with Focus on the Global South, n.bullard@focusweb.org

Repay the climate debt

A just and effective outcome for Copenhagen

Endorsed by:

11.11.11- Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement, Belgium
5Cs Human Rights Group, Nairobi, Kenya
Acción Ecológica, Chile
ActionAid International
Africa Action, USA
Alianza de Pueblos del Sur Acreedores de Deuda Ecologica
Alianza por la Justicia Climática (Climate Justice Alliance), Chile
Alliance for Global Justice
Alliance of People’s Movement, India
Almáciga Grupo de trabajo Intercultural, España, Colombia
AMAN – Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, Indonesia
American Jewish World Service (AJWS), USA
Analysis, Dili, Timor-Leste
Anti Debt Coalition (KAU), Indonesia
Arid Lands Institute
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
Asia Indigenous Women’s Network (AIWN)
Association for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policies (ATIPP)
ATTAC – Argentina
ATTAC – France
ATTAC – Japan
Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network
Bali Collaboration on Climate Change
BanglaPraxis, Bangladesh
Berne Declaration, Switzerland
Bharatiya Krishak Samaj, India
Boro People’s Forum (BPF)
CADPI (Centro Para La Autonomia Y Desarollo de los Pueblos Indigenas), Nicaragua
Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale (CRBM), Italy
Center for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia
Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project, South Africa
Centre for Society and Religion, Sri Lanka
Chile Sustentable, Chile
Christian Aid, UK
CIRUM Culture Identity and Resources Use Management, Vietnam
CODE Consultancy on Development, Vietnam
Community Research and Development Centre (CREDC), Nigeria
Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia
Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Philippines
Core Centre for Organisation Research and Education, India
CREED Citizens’ alliance in Reforms for Equitable and Efficient Development, Pakistan
Defendamos la Ciudad, Chile
Defensores del Bosque Chileno
Development Fund, Norway
Down to Earth (DTE), Indonesia
Eagle Clan Arawaks of Barbados and Guyana
Earthlife Africa, South Africa
Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
Economic Justice and Development Organization (EJAD), Pakistan
Economic Justice Network (EJN) of the Fellowship of Christian Councils, South Africa
Economic Justice Network of FOCCISA, Southern Africa
Environmental Investigation Agency, USA
Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria
Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh (Equitybd)
FASE – Solidarity and Education, Brazil
Federation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Asia (FITPA)
Fiscalía del Medio Ambiente (FIMA), Chile
FOCO Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos, Argentina
Focus on the Global South, Thailand
Friends of the Earth International (with 77 member groups)
Fundación Solon, Bolivia
Global Exchange, USA
Global Forest Coalition
Global Youth Climate Movement
Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters JPIC, USA
IBON Europe
IBON Foundation, Philippines
Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples North East Zone (ICITP-NEZ)
Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), India
Indigenous Knowledge and Peoples (IKAP), Thailand
Indigenous Peoples Caucus of the Greater Caribbean
Indigenous Peoples Development Facilitators Forum (IPDFF)
Indigenous Peoples’ Forum of North East India
Indonesian Society for Social Transformation (INSIST), Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), Indonesia
International Forum on Globalization
IWA (Indigenous World Association)
Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement- International, Togo
Jubilee Debt Campaign, UK
Jubilee Montana Network
Jubilee South
Jubilee South Africa
Jubilee South-Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS APMDD)
Jubilee USA
Jubileo Sur-Americas
Kediri Bersama Rakyat, Indonesia
Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Centre, Nigeria
La’o Hamutuk – Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring
LDC Watch, Global
Maleya Foundation
Marcha mundial de las Mujeres, México- Zona Centro
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, USA
Montagnard Foundation, Inc.
Movimento pelas Serras e Águas de Minas, Minas Gerais, Brasil
Mujeres para el Dialogo, A.C.
Naga Women’s Union, Manipur
National Alliance for Human rights and Social Justice (HR Alliance), Nepal
National Fisheries Solidarity Movement Of Sri Lanka
National Forum of Forest People & Forest Workers, India
National Network of Indigenous Women
NEPAD, Centrafrique
Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples
New Economics Foundation, UK
NGO Forum on the ADB
Nicaragua Network, USA
North East Alliance on Trade, Finance and Development, North East India
Ocean Revolution
Ole Siosiomaga Society Incorporated (OLSSI) in Samoa, the Pacific
Oxfam International
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum
Participatory Research & Action Network-PRAN, Bangladesh
Pax Romana-IMCS Asia Pacific
Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), Philippines
Practical Action UK
Q’eqchi Council of Belize
Rapa Nui Parliament
REBRIP – Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples
Red Nacional Género y Economía   (REDGE)
Red Wamani – (IMP)
Resource Institute of Social Education-RISE, India
RNDD Niger
Rural Reconstruction Nepal  (RRN), Nepal
Rural Women’s Liberation Movement, India
Rural Workers Movement, India
Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM)
Sawit Watch, Indonesia
Shimin Gaikou Centre (SGC), Japan
Siembra, A.C.
Society for Rural Education and Development
Society for Threatened Peoples International
Solidarity Workshop
SONIA, Italie
South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE), Nepal
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, South Africa
SPERI, Vietnam
Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Liberia
Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, USA
Tamil Nadu Dalit Women’s Movement, India
Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum, India
TARA-Ping Pu, Taiwan
TEBTEBBA – Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research & Education
The European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad)
The Grassroots Policy Network (Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs), USA
The Indigenous Environmental Network  (IEN)
The Right to Food Network (RtFN), Nepal
The United Confederation of Taino People, Caribbean
Third World Network
Ulashi Sreejony Sangha (USS), Bangladesh
Watch Indonesia!
Women Environmental Conservation based in Uganda – Karamoja and other indigenous organizations
Workers Centre, New Delhi, India
World Development Movement (UK)
World March of Women, Kenya
World Rainforest Movement
Yayasan Tanaman, Flores, Indonesia
Zero Corruption Coalition, Nigeria

Total number of endorsements as of 8 July 2009: 232

A just and effective outcome for Copenhagen


We the undersigned groups, including development, environment, gender and youth organisations, faith-based communities, indigenous peoples, and social and economic justice movements in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America call on the rich industrialized world to acknowledge its historic and current responsibility for the causes and adverse effects of climate change, and to fully, effectively and immediately repay its climate debt to poor countries, communities and people.

Climate change threatens the balance of life on Earth. Oceans are rising and acidifying; ice caps and glaciers are melting; forests, coral reefs and other ecosystems are changing or collapsing. The existence of some communities is imperilled, while others face growing barriers to their development. Unless curbed, an impending climate catastrophe risks increasingly violent weather, collapsing food systems, mass migration and unprecedented human conflict.

Poor countries, communities and people have contributed least to the causes of climate change, yet are its first and worst victims. At greatest risk are women, indigenous peoples, poor people, small farmers, fisher-folk and forest communities, people relying on scarce water resources, youth and other groups susceptible to harm and health impacts.

A wealthy minority of the world’s countries, corporations and people, by contrast, are the principal cause of climate change. The developed countries representing less than one fifth of the world’s population have emitted almost three quarters of all historical emissions. Their excessive historical and current emissions occupy the atmosphere and are the main cause of current and committed future warming.

Developed countries have consumed more than their fair share of the Earth’s atmospheric space. On a per person basis, they are responsible for more than ten times the historical emissions of developing countries. Their per person emissions today are more than four times those of developing countries.

For their disproportionate contribution to the causes and consequences of climate change, developed countries owe a two-fold climate debt to the poor majority:

For their excessive historical and current per person emissions – denying developing countries their fair share of atmospheric space – they have run up an “emissions debt” to developing countries; and

For their disproportionate contribution to the effects of climate change – requiring developing countries to adapt to rising climate impacts and damage – they have run up an “adaptation debt” to developing countries.

Together the sum of these debts – emissions debt and adaptation debt – constitutes their climate debt, which is part of a larger ecological, social and economic debt owed by the rich industrialized world to the poor majority.

Honouring these obligations is not only right; it is the basis of a fair and effective solution to climate change. Those who benefited most in the course of causing climate change must compensate those who contributed least but bear its adverse effects. They must compensate developing countries for the two-fold barrier to their development – mitigating and adapting to climate change – which were not present for developed countries during the course of their development but which they have caused.

Developed countries, however, intend to write-off rather than honour their debt. In their submissions to the climate negotiations they seek to pass on substantial adaptation costs to developing countries; evading rather than honouring their adaptation debt. And they seek to continue their high per person emissions; deepening rather than repaying their emissions debt, consuming additional atmospheric space, and crowding the world’s poor majority into a small and shrinking remainder.

We are concerned that continued excessive consumption of atmospheric space by the world’s wealthy at the expense of the world’s poor – who need access to energy and resources to build the schools, houses and infrastructure that the rich world already has and continues to benefit from – puts at risk the prospects of any viable solution to climate change and, with it, the safety of all nations and peoples, and the Earth.

As the basis of a fair and effective climate outcome we therefore call on developed countries to acknowledge and repay the full measure of their climate debt to developing countries commencing in Copenhagen. We demand that they :

Repay their adaptation debt to developing countries by committing to full financing and compensation for the adverse effects of climate change on all affected countries, groups and people;

Repay their emissions debt to developing countries through the deepest possible domestic reductions, and by committing to assigned amounts of emissions that reflect the full measure of their historical and continued excessive contributions to climate change; and

Make available to developing countries the financing and technology required to cover the additional costs of mitigating and adapting to climate change, in accordance with the Climate Convention.

Meeting these demands is a basic prerequisite for success in December 2009. Copenhagen must be a key turning point for climate justice – a major milestone on the journey towards safeguarding the Earth’s climate system and ensuring a future in which the rights and aspirations of all people can be realized.