Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!
The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.
TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.
Posted December 19, 2011 by Andrew Ranallo
We recently got to know Russ Kremer, lifelong pork farmer, president for 10 years of the Missouri Farmers Union, and co-founder and president of Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative. At an IATP briefing on Capitol Hill last week, Russ shared the story of how, seeing the effects of raising pigs in an industrial-style operation on the his own health and that of his pigs, he ultimately switched gears and became what he calls and "evangelist for ... non-antibiotic agriculture."
The December 13 briefing, “Keeping Antibiotics Working: Company Successes in Marketing 'Antibiotic-free' Meat and Poultry,” was sponsored by Representative Louise Slaughter (NY-28), and included not only Kremer but also Paul Willis of Niman Ranch, and CEOs Steve Ells (Chipotle) and Stephen McDonnell (Applegate Farms).
Read Russ Kremer’s remarks below:
Russ Kremer, Co-Founder and President of Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative
I am a farmer. It’s all I ever wanted to do since I was five years old.
I want to tell you that I’m an advocate for animal agriculture. I talk about my passion for sustainable agriculture.
In the late 80s, I was head of the Missouri Pork Producers. At that time there were 40,000 farms in Missouri that had pigs on them. Today it’s more like 500.
As an agriculture instructor for young adults, I know how important it is for rural kids with opportunities to raise pigs. There’s no better education than having to commit to caring for and raising a litter of pigs.
I worked with pigs on a small sustainable farm all my life. After leaving for college, I convinced my dad to expand our farm. During that expansion we got more industrialized—we were talked into big buildings thinking they were a cure-all. We adopted the use of antibiotics as ways to increase growth.
You need to remember that in rural settings, often times allied industry, including pharmaceutical companies, are our resources—I don’t criticize that, it’s where we learn a lot. In those meetings, in which they feed you, it’s a great social outlet, you pick up stuff that they teach you. It’s where you learn that if you feed this particular ingredient that your hogs will grow faster, be more efficient and make you more money.
In our agricultural system we produced more, and made more money. However, over the years in this system I started to notice things. Prior to using so many antibiotics, when a pig got sick it was easy to treat: you gave it a quick therapeutic dosage and it was over with.
As I saw the progression occur in our new system, I saw that it didn’t work as well any more. Treatments weren’t working. It was a sickening lifestyle for a while. You would go into a building where there were the little pigs and the medium size pigs, and I’d carry a pistol style syringe with me to treat these pigs morning noon and night. And yet, my pigs were dying.
When these pigs would die I would take them for post-mortem tests.
Each time, I would notice that the pigs were becoming less and less sensitive to the antibiotics that they were testing them to.
This really started to bother me, but it didn’t really hit home until one fateful day, in the spring of 1989 when I was riding a 500-pound boar hog to some sows, and the boar swung his head around and his tusk hit me in the lower part of my knee cap.
As a farm boy I didn’t really think much of that. Yeah, it hurt a little but I didn’t really go to doctors, so I simply poured the blood out of my boot, wrapped up my leg and went on my way.
Didn’t think anything of it until about a month later until I took a trip to Lexington Kentucky, and on the descent of the flight to Kentucky my leg that had been injured swelled up to twice its normal size. I did get medical attention then, and my doctor said, “no big deal, you have a strep infection.” At that time he prescribed penicillin, which I took.
But this didn’t cure. Three days later my leg was getting bigger, so I went back to my doctor and he prescribed amoxicillin. That didn’t work. Then azithromycin, then tetracycline, streptomycin. We went through six different antibiotics and nothing worked, and about three weeks later it started to go through my blood stream.I sat down with my doctor and said, “Doc, I think I might have something that my pig has.” We did some tests and that proved out. So my doctor asked me how I had treated my pig, and he prescribed me the human version of that prescription, put me in the hospital, and the rest of the story is that I’m alive today—it saved my life.
After that incident, I became an evangelist for this type of non-antibiotic agriculture. I went cold turkey—exterminated my diseased herd; went to a different style of growth; went with a drug-free system.
In 1989, after all those years, my hogs went drug free. I didn’t do it because I knew what Whole Foods or Chipotle or Niman Ranch was, I didn’t even know what natural organic meant. I did it because I was so remorseful that I was doing something wrong to society that I quit. It was the right thing to do. It was extremely sustainable to me—I didn’t have to pay $16,000 in drug bills. Finally, it’s been one of the most rewarding lifestyles I could ever have, now dealing with happy, healthy pigs.
This eventually led us 10 years later, after pork prices got really low, we knew that we needed to have a different marketing style, so a group of likeminded producers got together to create the Ozark Mountain Co-op and start a brand.
Part of what changed my life was going to Europe and seeing what was happening over there. I then came back to the U.S. and realizing that the consumers were our friends, and we needed authentic relationships with our customers.
Today this is part education, part work, but we now have 92 producers that are providing about 1,400 antibiotic-free hogs that make their ways to Applegate, Chipotle, Whole Foods, even the restaurant Agraria in Washington D.C.
Posted December 16, 2011 by
McDonnell said burgeoning consumer demand is why private Applegate has grown 25 to 30 percent every year since its founding. Applegate sources its turkey, hams and other meat products from more than 1,000 farms, including abroad; U.S. production alone is insufficient to meet its demand.
Today, American farmers raising animals without antibiotics do so despite policies that point them in the opposite direction. With this handicap, who will win out in the race to feed the global consumer who increasingly wants their meat antibiotic free? If it is to be our local farmer, then American policymakers better pay heed—and fast.
Posted December 15, 2011 by Dr. Steve Suppan
The chief U.S. climate negotiator, Todd Stern, explained to the delegates at the Conference of Parties (COP) at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that the United States sought “legal symmetry” among all parties. The New York Times dutifully reported the U.S. position, together with the U.S. view that China and India were blocking the “modernization” of the UNFCCC by not agreeing to assume the same obligations as developed countries in the new “legal framework” (in the U.S. phrasing), in effect would replace the UNFCCC and its foundational principles. The U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Changte, Todd Stern, said that the U.S. was fully satisfied with the outcome of the “Durban Platform” and implicitly with the replacement of the UNFCCC’s foundational principles with the U.S. principle of “legal symmetry.”
As the thinking goes, only with a new framework founded on the principle of “legal symmetry” and its attendant obligations, which would include developing countries paying for the cost of reducing greenhouse gases and of adapting to climate change, might the U.S. Senate overcome its climate change deniers and the filibuster to ratify a “modernized” framework by 2020 or so. On the face of it, “legal symmetry” offers the appearance of a fair and balanced UNFCCC. The “Durban Platform” pushed through as dawn broke on December 11—36 hours after the scheduled end of the COP and after many delegation heads had left—without all its content finalized, as the Indian negotiator, Ms. Jayanti Natarajan, noted while imploring developed countries not to reject the foundational principles of the UNFCCC. She called the platform a blank check that developing countries must agree to if they want any money with which to combat climate change. In the end, though, she agreed to the deal, reportedly to the applause of some of the remaining delegates.
However, the Durban Platform neglects the UNFCCC principles of “historical responsibility” for climate change, as well as “common but differentiated responsibility” and “equity,” i.e., measuring treaty obligations on a per capita basis. The U.S. hopes to replace annual reporting on the binding GHG emissions reductions of the Kyoto Protocol with the voluntary “pledge and review” effort it proposed at the Copenhagen COP in 2009. (No sooner had Canada’s environment minister returned from the negotiations, than he announced Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol to avoid paying what he said would be $14 billion in sanctions for failing to meet its greenhouse gas reduction obligations.)
The scientific evidence reported by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows clearly that the acceleration in the quantity of greenhouse gases begins with the Industrial Revolution. It is possible to debate when historical responsibility begins, whether in 1850 or with the first scientific measurement of greenhouse gases in the mid-20th century, or with the entry into force of the UNFCCC, but it is not possible to deny scientifically that some countries have emitted greenhouse gases for a far longer time and in far greater quantity over that time span than others. To deny historical responsibility for climate change is unscientific as well as anti-historical. A cynic would say that such denial is a prerogative of the Great Powers whose conquest of indigenous peoples and exploitation of their natural resources enables them to rewrite the history of climate change too. But there is a heavy price to be paid by those who are so powerful that they can make up their own reality, as Karl Rove famously said of the Bush administration, notorious for its political editing of its scientists’ climate reports.
The price is not merely reflected in the devastating effects of a 3 to 4 degree centigrade increase that may occur under the “pledge and review” quasi-commitments. The price includes the costs of what happens if the new Major Emitters (those who have “graduated” to that status in the perverse State Department jargon), such as China and Brazil, likewise make up their own realities about climate change, such as altering their quasi-commitments of “pledge and review” in response to their corporations’ needs for yet more “flexibility mechanisms.”
China and Brazil may have agreed not to block the Durban Platform because they want the opportunity to profit from the alternative reality that is carbon emissions trading, legitimized under the Kyoto Protocol, at the insistence of the United States. Indeed, Brazil’s chief negotiator was enthusiastic about the Durban Platform. The beginning of the negotiations took place as carbon prices under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme fell to record lows. Strangely, there was no discussion, at least publicly, among the delegates of the failure of the Kyoto Protocol market mechanisms to send an adequately high and predictable price signal to induce big investments in low-carbon technology.
Instead, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperation discussed, according to the conclusions of the U.S. chair, Daniel Reifsnyder, “new market mechanisms” (paragraphs 76–80) that would presumably succeed where carbon trading has failed. “New market mechanisms” are not defined, but is a placeholder for whatever kinds of financial instruments would succeed the “market mechanisms” of carbon trading under the Kyoto Protocol. The chair invited parties and observer organizations to comment on “new market mechanisms” by March 5, in preparation for the May meeting of the Working Group in Bonn.
Because Reifsnyder ignored most developing country interventions in reaching his conclusions, his report was not adopted by consensus of the parties. Instead, he violated diplomatic protocol and sent the report under his personal authority for adoption by the COP. The conclusions were declared adopted by the South African president of the COP in the wrenching endgame of the dawn of December 11. IATP has reported on one such idea for a “new market mechanism,” the “green sectoral bond” promoted by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA). The “green sectoral bond” would allow developing countries to borrow money against the collateral of their estimated carbon emissions offset potential in the form of offset credits to be traded in the carbon derivatives markets.
Other “new market mechanisms” are perhaps even more “innovative.” Couldn’t the landscape, i.e., forests, farmlands and watersheds, be measured to determine a baseline for adaptation and a standardized unit of adaptation that could be turned into an adaptation credit for trading in the way that emissions offset credits now are bought and sold? Some scholars are exploring such a “new market mechanism.” Other financial “innovations” reported during the Durban side events included “biodiversity credits” and “water derivatives” to better price water in national programs for adaptation. At a side event, Brazil discussed how it was developing policy outside legislative channels to enable new market mechanisms for biodiversity, which it will presumably report to the Ad Hoc Working Group.
There is a huge opportunity cost to exploring “new market mechanisms” and to public subsidies for the old failing market mechanisms, such as those of the World Bank BioCarbon Fund’s projects for carbon market “readiness.” While the World Bank tries to prop up failing carbon markets, and investment banks and their advisors explore “new market mechanisms,” direct investment in mitigation and adaptation flounders. Furthermore, there is an opportunity cost to failing to reduce greenhouse gases by agreeing in the Durban Platform to negotiate a new framework by 2020, based on voluntary quasi-commitments that are considered inadequate to prevent the horrors forecast from a 3 to 4 degree centigrade increase.
During the Cold War, the Great Powers worked out a carefully balanced deal on nuclear warfare preparedness, which we still co-exist with, called Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). It would be no small irony if the planet were destroyed slowly under a doctrine of “legal symmetry” before a failure of MAD could do that work quickly.
Posted December 13, 2011 by Doreen Stabinsky
There is little doubt that agriculture is both affected by and directly affects climate change. Exactly how to address agriculture within the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UFCCC), however, is not easy to answer. Before Durban, negotiating text had been circulating since before the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, virtually unchanged for two years.
How could agriculture be so controversial, one might wonder? One of the main sticking points for agreement over the agriculture text was the legal context in which negotiations were set. Agriculture was being considered under a mitigation workstream in the Bali Action Plan called “Cooperative sectoral approaches and sector-specific actions.” The framing constraints imposed on the negotiations by a mitigation context made many countries unhappy. Most developing countries, for example, are much more concerned about impacts of climate change on agricultural production and adaptation challenges, and felt no need to agree on how to cooperate on mitigation within the sector. The two weeks of negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009 were taken up convincing developed countries to insert language on adaptation, food security and small farmers, but in the end no agreement on the complete text was reached.
Paragraphs on trade were also inserted at that time, insisting that nothing agreed to in those talks could be used to create barriers to international trade. This proved the most important issue blocking progress on the agriculture text in these intervening two years, including at negotiations in Cancún in December 2010. Countries such as Argentina and Brazil were adamant that no text would go ahead without those paragraphs; New Zealand, the United States and other developed countries insisted against them. Cancún ended as it began, in deadlock over an essentially unchanged text.
Procedurally in Durban, the negotiations on agriculture were contained within the track on “Cooperative sectoral approaches,” and developing countries used this tactically to keep any conversation on agriculture linked to the broader debate about a “General Framework” for how all sectoral approaches should be addressed. They felt no real need to conclude the negotiations on agriculture, and instead used the negotiating space to press for their trade language, knowing that developed countries were really keen to have a decision on agriculture, and that this interest might afford these developing countries some leverage on other issues such as trade.
This whole story should beg the question of why developed countries were so keen on an outcome on agriculture to begin with, but no developing countries were part of the clamor for including agriculture, and clearly the U.S. and its allies were doing all they could in Durban to try to get one or two African countries to even show up in the negotiating room and utter the phrase “work program.” Particularly for African countries, agriculture is much more important as an issue under adaptation, not mitigation.
One clear reason is developed country interest in creating market-based mechanisms in the agriculture sector. Developed country agriculture makes significant contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions. Emitters could reduce their emissions directly, at the national level, in which case you don’t need an international mechanism for reductions. Or, emitters could design a sectoral trading or crediting mechanism where emissions are reduced in one part of the world, but paid for, and reductions credited to, emitters in another part of the world. The European Union is keen to develop such a sectoral mechanism in agriculture. New Zealand—with huge emissions from its agriculture sector that it doesn’t necessarily want to reduce—is also looking for a way out of its own obligations. The United States, always a fan of market mechanisms, lent significant weight in the negotiations as convener of the pro-agriculture group of developed countries.
So what finally happened in Durban? The main text desired by the developed countries would have established a “work program,” that is, a series of technical papers, workshops, and ultimately perhaps legal decisions. Such a process would have likely included work to develop and sanction standardized methodologies to count emission reductions or carbon sequestration such as, for example, methods to measure soil carbon sequestration. UNFCCC validation of methodologies could provide credibility and increase investor confidence in the nascent but floundering market in agricultural soil carbon.
But Durban began with positions hardened and there was no change in political landscape to unblock the process towards such a work program. The World Bank (supportive of carbon markets) had tried to contribute to momentum for a work program by sponsoring a series of meetings over the year, including a meeting of African agriculture ministers (seven showed up) in September in Johannesburg, which crafted and issued a ministerial declaration calling for a work program. This effort made little noise in the negotiating room.
The political puppeteers knew that no progress would be made during negotiations, so they arranged to not negotiate the agriculture text at all over the two weeks. Their plan was to push the disagreement to the ministerial level where they hoped they would be able to manufacture their deal behind closed doors. The French environment minister convened a series of consultations with key players and crafted the final compromise text:
D. Cooperative sectoral approaches and sector-specific actions, in order to enhance the implementation of Article 4, paragraph 1(c), of the Convention
68. Agrees to continue its consideration of a general framework for cooperative sectoral approaches and sector-specific actions with a view to adopting a decision on this matter at its eighteenth session, as appropriate;
69. Requests the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice [SBSTA} to consider issues related to agriculture at its thirty-sixth session, with the aim of exchanging views and the Conference of the Parties adopting a decision on this matter at its eighteenth session;
70. Invites Parties and accredited observer organizations to submit to the secretariat, by 5 March 2012, their views on the issues referred to in paragraph 69 above;
71. Requests the secretariat to compile submissions referred to in paragraph 70 above by Parties into a miscellaneous document for consideration by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice at its thirty-sixth session.
So in the end, there was no work program on agriculture established at COP17, merely an exchange of views at the SBSTA. What will happen in the UNFCCC beyond this step is unclear, though the desire on the part of developed countries to establish some sort of trading mechanism in the sector is unlikely to disappear.
What we can expect is a continuation of this conversation on climate change, agriculture, food security and markets in various additional forums in 2012, including at Rio+20 and in the Committee on World Food Security. In effect, there is already a work program on agriculture and climate change in progress, managed by the World Bank, the The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and the FAO, and some of its products, such as a roadmap for Greening the Economy with Agriculture, can be expected to be launched at key meetings over the course of the year. In fact, the drivers of the agriculture and climate change agenda don’t really need a decision at the UNFCCC to move their agenda forward.
Posted December 9, 2011 by Colleen Borgendale
The COP17 climate talks are wrapping up and IATP staff are on their way home from Durban, South Africa. Throughout the 10-day summit, IATP met with media representatives, delegates and NGO partners on a range of issues related to agriculture and climate change. We’ve prepared a summary of press coverage from Durban and a compilation of materials that the IATP team produced during the summit. A post-conference report will be available as soon as staff have returned.
IATP staffers in the news
Inter Press Service News
Mail & Guardian
IOL: Daily News
IATP in the news
Climate Justice Now!
Friends of the Earth Internationl
World Bank Out of Climate Finance
Share the World's Resources
IATP blogs from Durban
Civil society in Durban: "Reject carbon markets for agriculture"
Stakes are high for agriculture at climate talks
Wearing blinders: The UNFCCC and agriculture's adaptation challenge
The Durban pantomime
The Sound of Food Sovereignty in Durban
IATP documents from Durban
Soil Carbon Sequestration for Carbon Markets the Wrong Approach to Agriculture
Posted December 9, 2011 by Andrew Ranallo
In his December Commissioner's Column, Minnesota's Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson touts the benefits the state sees from the strong and expanding Farm-to-School movement taking place thanks to organizations like IATP, the Minnesota School Nutrition Association, and of course state agencies like the Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Education and Health.
Our students are enjoying fresh, wholesome, locally grown produce. Our farmers are enjoying a new, domestic market for their products. Our local communities are enjoying new business activity, and our state is enjoying greater agricultural literacy. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Posted December 8, 2011 by Karen Hansen-Kuhn
My mother was a kitchen girlMy father was a garden boyThat’s why I’m a farmer now
Posted December 7, 2011 by Doreen Stabinsky
Doreen Stabinsky is blogging for IATP from the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
One of the major issues being considered here at COP17 is adaptation.
Adaptation is the term used for any type of effort taken to adapt systems to changing climates. In agriculture, adaptation could mean building irrigation systems, improving soil water–holding capacity by adding manures or compost, or reducing post-harvest losses, which in turn could reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate impacts.
In the context of climate change negotiations, adaptation gets lost in the morass of acronyms and institutional mechanisms. At this particular meeting, developing country frustration with inaction and a lack of sufficient funding permeated the multiple agenda items dealing with adaptation: the Nairobi work program review, discussion of modalities and guidelines for development of National Adaptation Plans, a work program on loss and damage, the establishment of an Adaptation Committee, and the Adaptation Fund.
Agriculture enters specifically into the negotiations primarily as a sector, with an equal or lesser status with water, coastal and marine ecosystems, mountain ecosystems and forests, among others. That adaptation in agricultural systems could have such contested priority, given the centrality of the sector to the livelihoods of so many, is a bit hard to understand. But given the paucity of resources to go around, developing countries squabble over what little there is, and in the adaptation debate that squabbling manifests itself in contests over whose pet sector will be prioritized this year. This year, water has won, at least in the debate over the next phase of work in the Nairobi work program.
One might expect that in negotiations on the contents of a work program on loss and damage that agriculture would fare better. The new work program on loss and damage established last year is to specifically include impacts from slow onset and extreme events. Slow onset temperature rise threatens to cause a slow, steady decrease in crop yields. It is difficult to assess risks from these sorts of losses and even more difficult to value those impacts, meaning that a program of work could identify critical research and possible options for addressing those impacts. A technical paper on slow onset events will be prepared by the secretariat in advance of the next meeting in May, but without specific mention of agriculture in the mandate for its preparation.
Parties hope this week to conclude negotiations on an Adaptation Committee within the UNFCCC. The vision for this committee is to establish another institutional mechanism that would specifically coordinate all the ongoing work on adaptation. The frustration of developing countries with the Nairobi work program—which was really just a series of reports, technical papers and workshops—led them to demand a mechanism with an implementation mandate, through functions such as provision of technical support and guidance to parties. The main issue still to be resolved this week is the composition of the committee—developing countries want a majority in the committee makeup, developed countries want to maintain more control and are looking to share the body 50:50.
The extreme politicization of the climate change issue makes it difficult for sensible solutions to emerge from the negotiating process. Impacts on agriculture are already happening, likely with increasing frequency. Floods in Pakistan last year and Thailand this year destroyed crops. Droughts and heat waves in the last two years have drastically reduced wheat yields in Russia, corn yields in the midwest U.S., and decimated agriculture in Texas. A multi-year drought in the Horn of Africa threatens the lives of millions. Nothing that the UNFCCC has done in the last two decades or two weeks of its existence makes me confident it is up to the agricultural adaptation challenge.
Instead, for action on agricultural adaptation, parties should be looking outside of the UNFCCC. U.N. agencies, such as the FAO, IFAD and the World Meteorological Organization, and the research networks of the CGIAR centers are more appropriate institutions to organize and coordinate the work needed on adaptation in agriculture. Parties should look beyond the UNFCCC blinders if they are serious about the adaptation challenge.
Posted December 7, 2011 by Dale Wiehoff
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) held a Farmers March in Washington, D.C., on December 4 to highlight issues of corporate control of the food system. Farmers, community gardeners, food workers and activists spoke on issues such as fair prices for farmers, sustainable farming, local food and the growing specter of hunger in America.
Unregulated commodity speculation and corporate greed have contributed to a global food crisis that includes the 45 million Americans currently receiving food assistance. (See recent interview with with Jim Harkness, president of IATP.) And how are national political leaders responding to this crisis, which was created by the banks? With proposals to cut food assistance, which would only intensify food insecurity. In other parts of the world, the response to such policies has been food riots and national uprisings. As the peaceful and thoughtful OWS Farmers March demonstrated, we don't need to go down that road, but if we hope to avoid it, we had better act immediately to reform our corporate-controlled food system.
Posted December 7, 2011 by Dr. Steve Suppan
IATP’s Steve Suppan is blogging from the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
The high-level session on Wednesday changes the scenery of what one observer called the negotiations pantomime. Many of the more than a thousand observer organizations (NGOs, farmers, private sector, etc.) in Durban have worked in alliances to boil down their policy briefs into a page or less of suggested negotiating text bullet points. Security guards permitting, we try to hand these lobbying documents to the delegates as they enter rooms to negotiate texts to hand over to their bosses. The Heads of State and other higher-level officials will make political decisions about the texts thus far negotiated.
In a theatrical pantomime, gestures, not words, convey the story. In a negotiations pantomime, positions taken on the dozens of agenda items before the negotiators become the gestures. Some of the gestures mean what they mime, some are empty placeholders that may or may not be given concrete meaning by the political decision-makers in the negotiations endgame.
IATP has worked to cover three agenda topics: agriculture, "new market mechanisms" for reducing greenhouse gases ("mitigation"), and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to finance developing country projects to adapt to and mitigate climate change. This blog will reflect on the GCF and new market mechanisms’ pantomimes.
A few words about the negotiations process. There are at least four levels of negotiations: 1.) formal plenaries for opening and closing statements, elections of officers, approval of agendas and other Conference of the Parties (COP) business; 2.) informals (nongovernmental observers allowed), where positions are stated but texts are not negotiated; 3.) informal formals (government delegates only to negotiate texts); 4.) Green Room (some governments invited on non-transparent basis to negotiate the final COP decisions: named for the notorious World Trade Organization negotiating process).
The last UNFCCC COP meeting in Cancún established the GCF, and was part of a Green Room deal. As mentioned in our first Durban blog, the U.S. and some other developed country Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) oppose giving the COP oversight of the GCF Board. Furthermore, developed countries will not capitalize the GCF unless there is a private sector facility through which private firms can execute projects in developing countries with public funds in the GCF, but without oversight by the Designated National Authorities (the national governments where the projects actually take place). These authorities are supposed to approve and review the performance of all projects in the national plans on adaptation and mitigation that are to be reported by all parties to the COP annually.
Diplomatic protocol forbids a frank discussion, at least in sessions open to observers, about why developed countries want a UNFCCC financial mechanism that the COP does not control and that allows the private sector climate change investments to circumvent governmental authority. However, at least a partial explanation for the developed country distrust of the COP and governmental authority can be gathered from outside the negotiations.
At a U.N. Environmental Program side event on private sector views on the GCF, one private sector representative (a former British official) said that corporations viewed “policy risk” as a major investment risk. They would not invest in long-term infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gases unless their “policy risks” were reduced by loan guarantees and guarantees of regulatory certainty. (According to an October report of the Climate Policy Initiative, there is no private sector investment in adaptation. Failure to adapt to climate change is very costly to corporate operations and the countries from which corporations source raw materials, but adaptation projects do not generate profits.)
The shortcomings of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) provide some insight into potential problems with the GCF. In the informals, several developing countries complained about being able to access finance from the GEF, which finances climate change projects and is outside COP authority. The GEF is housed in the World Bank, which is the interim trustee for the GCF. The United States has proposed that the bank provide the executive staff for the GCF, a proposal, which if adopted by the COP in a Green Room take-it-or-leave-it decision, would put the World Bank as trustee in charge of reviewing the performance of the bank staff, a basic fiduciary conflict of interest. A “firewall” will be proposed between the World Bank as trustee and as GCF executive branch, but such firewalls have traditionally been breached.
To somebody reading the headlines about the crashing price of carbon emissions credits under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the COP debate about “market mechanisms,” i.e., variants on carbon credit trading, must seem very strange. How can a $7 per metric ton carbon price induce any major polluter to invest in low-carbon technology to comply with a cap on its carbon emissions? The debate about “new market mechanisms,” e.g., emissions offset credits based on agricultural soil carbon sequestration, criticized by IATP and other NGOs must seem even stranger. Proposals at the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) to create offset credits from biodiversity, as measured by carbon, in the canopies of tropical jungles, must seem, and is, otherworldly.
Again, some background is helpful to understand the pantomime. The United States does not wish to agree to any legally binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases under the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol agreed in 1992. However, as a condition of considering the possibility of joining the Kyoto Protocol, Vice President Al Gore insisted that “market mechanisms” be included to allow “flexibilities” for the developed countries to meet reduction commitments. The U.S. Senate did not, of course, ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. government has proposed to replace the protocol with a voluntary “pledge and review” "commitment" to reduce GHGs. Now the U.S. and other development countries are seeking ways to save “market mechanisms” and indeed introduce “new market mechanisms” while killing the Kyoto Protocol.
Developing countries are nearly unanimous in their determination to save the Kyoto Protocol and its legally binding commitments. However, as developed country emitters fail to reduce proportionally in response to the ever more dire forecasts of climate science and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the need for adaptation, particularly for the most climate-vulnerable countries, becomes ever more urgent.
According to a Climate Policy Initiative report, just five percent of 97 USD billion in 2009-10 climate finance flow went to projects to adapt to climate change. Despite impassioned pleas by developing country delegates for money to adapt, the big money goes to mitigation. For the private sector, the source of at least $74 billion USD of those climate finance flows, mostly in market rate loans for mitigation projects, adaptation is not profitable. For bilateral government donors and multilateral Public Private Partnership projects, their distrust of developing country governments, plus the desire to pressure developing countries into surrendering the Kyoto Protocol and assenting to “pledge and review” dictates that adaptation be scarcely financed.
Such negotiating and finance tactics are at the core of the brutal Durban pantomime. However, as climate change becomes more severe and unpredictable, it is certain that the effects of climate change on all COP members will not be pantomimed. The protests, particularly of Canadian youth against their government’s determination to increase its GHG production by mining the tar sands of Alberta, and of peasant farmers showing how to adapt through agroecology, have provided some relief from an otherwise tragic Durban COP.