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“The devil will actually be in the details”: UN climate change negotiations kick off

The COP27 takes place 6-18 November 2022 in Egypt

Babawale Obayanju, Friends of the Earth Africa

30 years after the adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the 27th Conference of the Parties to this Convention opened on Sunday, to negotiate potential solutions to the climate crisis. Better known as the COP27, this year’s event is held in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, which holds the principle of climate justice at its core, hosted a press conference on Sunday at the COP, to express its concerns, expectations and demands.

One of the main warnings from social movements is about corporate capture of the UN space. Polluting corporations, some of the principal culprits of the climate crisis, will not be the ones who put an end to it. They cannot be the ones negotiating the solutions. That is why over 400 organisations joined a campaign to kick big polluters out of the COP.

Friends of the Earth International’s main concern is one that many social movements and international organisations also share: avoiding and exposing the false solutions, such as Net Zero, offsetting, carbon removal and so-called ‘nature based solutions’. It is worth mentioning that last year at COP26, countries agreed rules for carbon markets (under Article 6 of the Convention).

Meena Raman, from SAM-Friends of the Earth Malaysia, expanded on this at the press conference: “What you will see is the legitimising of false solutions. Glasgow already did that. They give the pretence of the fact that if every country adopts Net Zero targets, the world is on track to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. This is a complete con game and it’s actually a fraud, which we have called out time and again.”

Carbon markets are a form of financialisation of nature, where carbon credits are bought and sold for offsetting emissions. These markets allow corporations to keep emitting carbon — in fact, they grant permissions to do so — as long as corporations pay to offset the emissions elsewhere, for example through supporting a tree-planting project in the Global South.

This type of so-called “solution” is both scientifically unfeasible and potentially damaging for human rights”.For instance, a recent report from Friends of the Earth International explains that oil giant Shell’s pathway to 1.5 degrees through offsetting would involve planting trees on a surface nearly the size of Brazil. The thing is: How would Shell acquire these lands? The only answer would be land grabbing and dispossession from Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

This year, as well as the false solutions of carbon markets, Net Zero and ‘nature based solutions‘, the threat of geoengineering is also making a comeback. Geoengineering — also called climate engineering — is a set of technologies designed to intervene and alter the planet’s climate systems at large scale. These technologies remain unproven.

The colonial logic of the Global North over the Global South remains intact, and should also be taken into account when assessing action on climate change. “Despite holding these COPs in the African soil, the plundering and land grabbing of African resources still continues. Africa is still seen as a dumping ground, a place where resources are extracted and taken away to other parts of the world and brought back to us in the form of used, finished products,” stated environmental activist Ubrei-Joe Maimoni, from Friends of the Earth Africa. They have published a position paper rejecting the rush for natural gas in Africa, and calling for pursuit of their Just Recovery Renewably Energy Plan for Africa.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth International’s Food Sovereignty coordinator, Kirtana Chandrasekaran said: “What we need is that the Governments urgently begin to coordinate a phase out of fossil fuel production and consumption, with equity and justice at its core.”

“We are here to demand climate justice. That means rich countries must do their fair share to address the climate crisis, through cutting their emissions, providing long overdue finance for adaptation and loss and damage,” added activist Rachel Kennerley from Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, Abeer Butmeh from PENGON-Friends of the Earth Palestine, considered that “climate justice cannot be achieved without social justice, without really strong political decisions, not greenwashing decisions.” One example is the Israeli water corporation Mekorot, which systematically violates the human right to water of the Palestinian people. “Climate justice cannot be achieved without putting all industrial corporations and water corporations under accountability,” she added.

In addition to denouncing false solutions and demanding concrete actions from developed countries in particular, Friends of the Earth International is working to promote real, people-led solutions, knowing that a just energy transition is possible.

In this regard, Chandrasekaran added: “We demand more support for small-scale community and peasant agroecology, artisanal fishing and those who still feed 70 to 80% of people on our planet.”

See this press release for opening comments from Friends of the Earth International, and further details of media contacts and an overview of their activities in Egypt in this press advisory.

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