The Brazil connection: agriculture, biofuels and land use

Posted March 16, 2011 by Ben Lilliston   

Today, four IATP staff will lead a small delegation of U.S. environmentalists, academics and corn/biofuel producers down to Brazil (we'll be reporting here on the trip throughout the next week). We're traveling to Brazil to learn more about something called "indirect land-use change" (ILUC)—a concept that has important implications for farmers, food security, the climate and, of course, land in both Brazil and the United States.

Indirect land-use change, very broadly, is the idea that what we grow on agricultural land in the U.S. affects agricultural production in other parts of the world. For example, more corn grown in the U.S. to meet biofuel markets has come at the expense of soybean production, signaling soybean producers in other parts of the world to expand production, often damaging the environment, so goes ILUC thinking. Disagreements over whether ILUC actually takes place, and if so, how much is occuring, have been part of heated debates over California's low-carbon fuel standards, national renewable fuel standards, the EU's biofuel mandates and at global climate talks. Disputes over ILUC have frequently pitted environmentalists against farmers.

ILUC discussions also often include Brazil. Like the U.S., Brazil has a booming biofuel sector. Like the U.S., it is a major player on international agricultural markets, particularly for soybeans and sugar. While the U.S. has long transformed most of its native landscape into farmland and cities, Brazil is still home to some of the most unique, biodiverse ecosystems in the world, including the Amazon and the Pantanal. And the biggest threat to these environmental treasures is expanded agricultural production.

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Reflections on right to water

Posted February 24, 2011 by Shiney Varghese   

This week, the U.N. Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, will visit the United States, giving us an opportunity to pause and reflect: What does right to water entail?

In early February, addressing the World Social Forum, the  Bolivian President Evo Morales said “We are going to go the U.N. to declare that water is a basic public need that must not be managed by private interests, but should be for all people, including people of rural areas."1

While some might disagree with his assertion that water should not be managed by private interests, few would challenge the idea that water should be for all. President Morales is calling for an expansion of right to water on two fronts, both in terms of its reach (to larger numbers) and in terms of its scope (to support life).Coming from the president of a nation, this is a very important statement in the international campaign towards the right to water. It seeks to connect the right to water to the right to life, which is central to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948, Article 3.)

Given that nearly three-quarters of the “water poor” belong to rural communities, it is high time that international deliberations around the right to water focus on rural communities access to safe water. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) obliges states to protect all human rights, but first and foremost, the right to life. It also obliges states to protect its citizens' cultural diversity, and their right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food. For rural communities, realization of each of these rights is dependent on their ability to access water in their immediate environment.

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A festival for social justice: reporting from the World Social Forum

Posted February 10, 2011 by Ben Lilliston   

It is now the fourth day of this great festival of ideas, discussions and debates about the key political issues of our times and the struggles taking place at local, national, regional and international levels to achieve social justice. The focus is inevitably on African issues of struggle and the various forces impacting local communities and national and Pan African trajectories.

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Women at the center of climate-friendly approaches to agriculture and water

Posted February 9, 2011 by Ben Lilliston   

Extreme weather events consistent with climate change are already playing havoc with the livelihoods and food security of much of the world’s poor. This is particularly true for arid and semi-arid areas of the global South. Yet, most proposals for agriculture being discussed at the U.N. global climate talks and elsewhere focus on new technological developments, like genetically engineered crops. But these approaches are based on still unproven claims and do not fully consider their impact on the natural world.

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New US interagency study on carbon markets

Posted January 21, 2011 by Dr. Steve Suppan   

On Tuesday, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission released an interagency study on carbon emissions markets. The 54-page study for the U.S. Congress was mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

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The climate deal that failed us

Posted December 12, 2010 by Ben Lilliston   

“History will be the judge of what has happened in Cancún.” These are the last lines of the Bolivian Government’s press release yesterday about the outcome of the climate negotiations here in Cancún. The talks ended here today after two weeks of negotiations by a 192 governments. It is a deal that will be remembered by our future generations as one that killed the climate treaty, unless we radically change course.

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Empty global climate deal leaves agriculture behind

Posted December 11, 2010 by Ben Lilliston   

IATP released the below press release today upon the conclusion of the global climate talks in Cancun.

Empty global climate deal leaves agriculture behind

Secret, last minute tactics symbolize flawed negotiating process

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Water warriors testify in Cancún

Posted December 10, 2010 by Ben Lilliston   

People working on water and climate change—water warriors—participated in a workshop organized at the alternate COP 16, known as Dialogo Climatico. At a session titled "Water, Dams and Disasters," we heard moving testimonies from those affected by toxic pollution in their air and water, and peasants displaced from their farms. 

Indigenous Rights and Water

“Indigenous Peoples 'managed' lands for thousands of years, and it wasn’t until the colonizers came that the problems began.”  

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Bolivia's Morales calls out capitalism on climate crisis

Posted December 10, 2010 by Ben Lilliston   

Evo 030 At a raucus rally last night at the camp of » Read the full post

"Perfectly just is not going to happen here"

Posted December 9, 2010 by Ben Lilliston   

"The perfect cannot be the enemy of the good. What we needed is 'good enough.' And 'good enough' is not 'perfectly just.' 'Perfectly just' is not going to happen here." These are the words yesterday of Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at an event here in Cancún presenting climate finance options to governments at the U.N. global climate talks.

The report from the High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing (AGF) was requested by Secretary General of the U.N. a few months after last year's failed negotiations in Copenhagen. The AGF's mission was to identify climate finance options for negotiators to help reach the goal of $100 billion a year by 2020 (a goal that most feel is not enough). Climate finance is critical as countries, particularly their agriculture sectors, become more and more affected by climate change. Here in Cancún, we've heard from farm groups in developing countries who are already experiencing extreme droughts and floods associated with climate change.

Last month, IATP and partner organizations sent out a press release critiquing the AGF report for being much worse than "good enough." We wrote that the report "unwisely emphasizes carbon markets and other private finance options, while irresponsibly advocating an increased role for multilateral development banks. Despite concluding that public sources of climate finance are available and promising, the report’s findings downplay the role that public finance can and must play in helping developing countries deal with climate change."

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