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EcoUnionist News #81 - The #COP21 Greenwash

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 15, 2015

Paris, France: COP21 has concluded, and the results could be summed up as less-than-inspiring, but just about what many of us in the green unionist movement (small thought it still is) expected: a complete and total capitalist greenwash designed to make it look like more business as usual was somehow a change from business as usual. Without going into all of the gory details, the so-called "agreement" which took two weeks to hammer out doesn't even rearrange deckchairs on the Titanic. It rearranges the fabric on the deckchairs on the Titanic while at the same time proclaiming to seal the breach in the hull and pump out all of the water, yesterday.

In short, the backers of the deal (capitalists, politicians, mainstream Big Green environmental NGOs, and all of the fossil fuel capitalists pulling the strings) are proclaiming that somehow this "achievement" is "groundbreaking" because it advises, suggests, or pleads (depending on which part of the thesaurus one chooses) that the capitalist class voluntarily reduces the world's GHG emissions to a point "substantially lower than" 2°C (but doesn't even specify what many believe to be the needed limit of 1.5°C).

Of course, there are no hard limits, no enforcement mechanisms, no penalties for "ignoring" the suggested reductions. Worse still, the agreement removes all references to the rights of Indigenous peoples, does not address the disproportionate effects of capitalist GHG emissions on the Global South, women, or the working class. The excessive hoarding of wealth and disproportionate emissions caused by the Global North are not referenced. No mention is made of agroecology (thus paving the way for capitalist driven "climate-smart agriculture" (read "privatization")). No limits are to be placed on air travel. Nothing is said of energy democracy or just transition.

Worse still, all of this deal making took place in the shadow of what has become a fascist police-state atmosphere in Paris, France, in response to the tragic bombings and attacks that took place on November 13, 2015. While capitalist delegates and their enablers were allowed to seal the fate of the rest of us with near impugnity, dissent was smashed by placing restrictions on where protesters could demonstrate, and several clmate justice leaders were placed under house arrest (though, at the end of the two week clusterfuck, many defied the bans anyway, but only after many of the NGOs had demobilized the 100,000s more that would've joined in had the ban not been in place). Meanwhile, other events that had nothing to do with protesting COP21 were allowed to happen with little or no restriction.

While this is not the worst possible outcome one could have envisioned, it still leaves an enormity to be desired, and all of the self-congratulatory fawning over it by Big Green and the capitalist class won't change that.

Fortunately, this is not the end of the story.  In spite of the capitalist greenwashing attempts, most climate justice activists are not buying the official line, and have declared, rightly, that the struggle doesn't end here. The power does not lie in the hands of the capitalists or their enabling delegates. It does not lie in the halls of state or the inside-the-beltway offices of the Big Green NGOs. It belongs to the many who make up the noncapitalist class of the world, and when we realize it, organize, and act accordingly, this sham of a deal, and the capitalist system that spawned it can be banished to the dustbin of history where it rightly belongs, and replaced by a truly effective and tranformative framework for achieving the systemic change that is needed. An essential part of that change will involve the workers of the world organizing as a class along industrial lines. While this is not the only part of the strategy, it is nevertheless an important one.

There are many stories to be told about COP21, and they simply cannot be summarized into a single article, certainly not without much reflection.

Grey not Green: Technocratic Climate Agreement and Police State Terror

By Alexander Reid Ross - Earth First!, December 13, 2015

Image, right: Police confront Indigenous protest at COP21, Indigenous Environment Network.

World leaders congratulated one another with the help of some professional conservationists who have agreed that the climate accords are, as President Obama put it, “the enduring framework… the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way.”

During a protest march, indigenous activists presented to the world leaders a traditional cradleboard used to carry children by the Ponca Nation (Oklahoma, USA). Ponca elder Casey Camp-Horinek declared: “We come here with a present for Paris, we know what happened on November 13. We Indigenous people know how that feels to have someone kill the innocent ones. We offer this symbol in memory of lives lost, and we thank you for hosting us on this sacred day.”

The “mechanism” of the COP21 agreement calls for an “accelerated reduction” of carbon emissions to keep global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees. To get there, it summons a list of “shoulds” rather than “musts” with no actual “mechanism” of enforcement.

In one incredible line likely difficult to swallow for many of the US’s allies and multinational corporations, the agreement states, “Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”

The agreement surges forward with a series of “recognitions” and “acknowledgements” meant perhaps as an eye to imperialist conditions in the Global South. For example, “acknowledging the specific needs and concerns of developing country Parties arising from the impact of the implementation of response measures[.]” Acknowledgement, unfortunately, has never been lacking. Assessing the immediate needs and demands is another thing entirely, and the climate agreement takes at best a glancing notice of this mechanism failure, relegating those discussions to ad hoc subgroups and committees.

In terms of actual execution, the agreement declares: “In accounting for anthropogenic emissions and removals corresponding to their nationally determined contributions, Parties shall promote environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency, and ensure the avoidance of double counting, in accordance with guidance adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.” Relying on the good faith of some of the most heinous violators of human and ecological rights in the world sounds great when read off of an official document signed by those perpetrators, but when one steps outside into an abject police state at permanent war with its own population and countless other groups, sects, and parties, the clarity begins to fade into an overwhelming, terrifying, and stark sense of grey.

Paris deal: Epic fail on a planetary scale

By Danny Chivers and Jess Worth - New Internationalist, December 12, 2015

Image, right: 'D12' day of action in Paris, France, 12 December 2015. by Allan Lisner, Indigenous Environment Network

Today, after two weeks of tortuous negotiations – well, 21 years, really – governments announced the Paris Agreement. This brand new climate deal will kick in in 2020. But is it really as ‘ambitious’ as the French government is claiming?

Before the talks began, social movements, environmental groups, and trade unions around the world came together and agreed on a set of criteria that the Paris deal would need to meet in order to be effective and fair. This ‘People’s Test’ is based on climate science and the needs of communities affected by climate change and other injustices across the globe.

To meet the People’s Test, the Paris deal would need to do the following four things:

  • 1. Catalyze immediate, urgent and drastic emission reductions;
  • 2. Provide adequate support for transformation;
  • 3. Deliver justice for impacted people;
  • 4. Focus on genuine, effective action rather than false solutions;

Does the deal pass the test? The 15,000 people who took to the Paris streets today to condemn the agreement clearly didn’t think so. Here’s New Internationalist’s (NI) assessment.

Paths Beyond Paris: Movements, Action and Solidarity Towards Climate Justice

By various - Carbon Trade Watch, December 2015

Over twenty years have passed since governments within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began to discuss the impending climate crisis. Year after year, we witness the talks moving further away from identifying the root causes of climate change while the increasing impacts affect even more peoples and regions. Every meeting has given more space for corporate involvement and less to the voices of those directly affected by these climate policies. Despite the promoters’ fancy “green” campaigns and videos, the main focus at the climate negotiations continues to be about saving the free-market economy for those who are holding the cards – the biggest transnational corporations and financial institutions. The same corporations that are largely behind the destruction of forests, rivers, diversity, territories – as well as the violation of human and collective rights and so on – are also the main polluters and plunderers of the Earth.

The climate crisis poses a real threat to the current economic model which is based on the continuous extraction and production of fossil fuels, hydrocarbons and “natural resources” such as land, minerals, wood and agriculture. If talks were to seriously address climate change, there would need to be a discussion on the many ways to support the hundreds of thousand of small-scale farmers, fishers, Indigenous Peoples, forest-dwelling communities and others whose territories and livelihoods are at risk from capital expansion, and how to transition to different economic systems where fossil fuels could be kept underground; where the consumption “mantra” would shift towards more local, diverse and collective discourses and practices. However, the hegemonic and colonial powers are once more violently closing doors, creating more “structural adjustments” and, ultimately, harming the people who are the least responsible for current and historical pollution levels suffering the most from the impacts.

The fallacy that we can continue with the same economic model is irremediably flawed, bankrolled by big polluters, and intrinsically linked to land and livelihoods grabbing, especially in the Global South. Nonetheless, mechanisms like carbon markets, which expand the extractivist and free-market logic, continue to be promoted as unilateral, program- matic “solutions” to mitigate climate change and address deforestation and biodiversity loss. From carbon trading to forests and biodiversity offsets, the climate crisis has been turned into a business opportunity, worsening the already felt impacts, especially for those who are the least responsible. Debates over molecules of carbon being accounted for and “moved” or “stored” from one location to the other detracts from the necessary debates on shifting away from extraction, unjust power structures and oppression. While being fully informed of the causes of climate change, international climate negotiations strive to ensure that the hegemonic economic model expands and rewards polluters.

The consequence is that “climate policies” (aka economic policies) finance the most destructive industries and polluters, often destroying genuinely effective actions that support community livelihoods and keep fossil fuels in the ground. Moreover, these policies further the “financialization of nature” process, which presupposes the separation and quantification of the Earth’s cycles and functions – such as carbon, water and biodiversity – in or-der to turn them into “units” or “titles” that can be sold in financial and speculative markets. With governments establishing legal frameworks to set these markets in place, they also have provided the financial “infrastructure” for negotiating financial “instruments”, by using derivatives, hedge funds and others. While financial markets have a growing influence over economic policies, the “financialization of nature” hands over the management to the financial markets, whose sole concern is to further accumulate capital.

Read the report (PDF).

Archaeology as Disaster Capitalism

By Rich Hutchings and Marina La Salle - Department of Anthropology, Vancouver Island University, and Institute for Critical Heritage and Tourism, British Columbia, Canada, September 3, 2015

Archaeology is a form of disaster capitalism, characterized by specialist managers whose function is the clearance of Indigenous heritage from the landscape,making way for economic development. When presented with this critique, archaeologists respond strongly and emotionally, defending archaeology. Anger emanates from and revolves around the assertion that archaeologists are not just complicit in bu tintegral to the destruction of the very heritage they claim to protect. In what we believe is an act of philosophical and economic self-preservation, mainstream archaeologists actively forget the relationship between archaeology, violence, and the global heritage crisis. Securely defended by its practitioners, archaeology therefore re-mains an imperial force grounded in the ideology of growth, development, and progress.

Read the report (PDF).

Six Egregious Examples of Parent Rio Tinto’s Rights Violations Worldwide

By Dina Gilio-Whitaker - Indian Country Today, July 24, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

As opposition to the land-exchange deal that gave control of the Apache sacred site of Oak Flat to Resolution Copper Mining intensifies, a protest march has passed through New York City and arrived in Washington.

The land swap, slipped into the National Defense Authorization Bill in December 2014, could still be repealed, if a countermeasure introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva takes hold.

Resolution Copper Mining, beneficiary of the last-minute measure, is owned by Rio Tinto Group and BHP Billiton. Both parents have dismal human rights and environmental records. The subsidiary’s website recites such values as “accountability, respect, teamwork and integrity.” Front and center is its Native American Engagement campaign, which among other things provides scholarships to Native youth. (Sound familiar? Think Dan Snyder’s Original Americans Foundation).

But what do we really know about the company behind the project? 

“Rio Tinto has an established record of respect and partnership with the indigenous people who are connected to the land where we operate,” claimed Project Director Andrew Taplin to San Carlos Apache Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler in a March 2014  letter inviting him to meet with a Rio Tinto executive.

Rambler, however, has said that the tribe is against engaging with the mining behemoth, especially regarding public lands.

“They asked to meet with us, but as a council we decided that our relationship and our trust responsibility lies with the federal government,” he told Indian Country Today Media Network in a recent interview. “And this is public land with the U.S. Department of Agriculture—it’s Tonto National Forest.”

In its corporate handbook, Rio Tinto professes to “support and respect human rights consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and actively seek to ensure we are not complicit in human rights abuses committed by others” and “respect the diversity of indigenous peoples, acknowledging the unique and important interests that they have in the land, waters and environment as well as their history, culture and traditional ways.”

A closer look, however, reveals that Rio Tinto, which owns 55 percent of Resolution Copper, has a long history of colluding with governments that undermine the rights of workers and indigenous peoples in order to exploit resources. That those resources often exist in indigenous territories means that Indigenous Peoples are subject to a sort of double jeopardy in which they are expected to form a labor pool, and further expected to be happy to be employed in the ripping up of their ancestral lands.

With $47 billion in revenues generated in 2014 alone and $83 billion in assets, Rio Tinto is considered one of the top three largest mining companies in the world, according to Statista.com. Rio Tinto mines many types of ore, including iron, bauxite, gold, diamonds, uranium, copper, coal and aluminum. Although based in Australia and London, Rio Tinto operates on six continents and works hard to project an image of environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

Rio Tinto claims to abide by the Global Reporting Initiative, a voluntary set of standards used by more than 6,000 companies internationally. The international labor rights group IndustriAll Global Union found, however, that just 60 percent of Rio Tinto’s sustainability claims were accurate in the social, environment, governance and economic categories. A study conducted by the group revealed that Rio Tinto had excluded controversial projects and community stakeholders from its claims, thus skewing the data.

In short, accounts of Rio Tinto’s unethical business practices could (and has) filled volumes. Here we list some of the most egregious, notorious transgressions against both Indigenous Peoples and labor rights—and often, both—worldwide.

More ESA "protection" for the Klamath Basin's Irrigation Elite

By Felice Pace - KlamBlog, July 22, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The Klamath Falls Herald and News got the headline just right: House passes Walden’s plan to help protect Klamath Project water users (emphasis added). The article goes on to report that "the proposal would confer applicant status on those irrigators, ensuring that they are included in Endangered Species Act consultations that could affect operations of the water project they rely upon." Republican Congressman Greg Walden was able to add the provision to the "Western Water and American Food Security Act" which passed the House with "bipartisan support". The legislation now goes to the U.S. Senate.

Walden's effort to "protect" federal irrigators from the Endangered Species Act implements one of the main objectives of the KBRA Water Deal: to provide "relief" to Klamath Project Irrigators from requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act. That relief will also come in the form of wink-and-nod approval of Habitat Conservation Plans that KlamBlog predicts will remove ESA constraints on irrigation within the sprawling federal irrigation project. KlamBlog has previously written in depth about what we call the KBRA's "wink-and-nod" approach to implementing the ESA. The newer Upper Basin Comprehensive Agreement extends the same ESA "relief" to irrigation interests above Upper Klamath Lake.   

In the news report Walden states that the provision he championed formalizes what is already the practice: the US Bureau of Reclamation  routinely involved organizations representing irrigators in consultations with the US Fish & Wildlife and National Matrine Fisheries Services. Those consultations focus on impacts the 200,000 acre irrigation project has on Kuptu, Tsuam and Achvuun (Shortnose and Lost River Suckers and Coho salmon).

Walden's move may be in response to an investigation being conducted by the Department of Interior.  A former employee has alleged that Reclamation misspent funds which were appropriated to benefit fish and wildlife in order to pay for private growers to pump groundwater for irrigation. Involving a private entity in agency-to-agency government consultations may violate rules designed to protect such consultations from private interest influence. That may be why Walden is pushing the provision now, that is, to legalize what is otherwise an illegal practice. Whether it is legal or not, commercial interests should not be part of ESA consultations which by law are supposed to be based on the best available science and the scientific opinions of expert agencies.

Of course Reclamation does not include all those to whom it supplies water in those ESA consultations. Instead, the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), which is controlled by a handful of large and powerful growers, is given a seat at the table while smaller irrigators are left outside.

And what about the tribes, fishermen and others who have a vital interest in how Klamath River water is managed? Why doesn't Mr. Walden want to give them a seat at the ESA consultation table too? With so many of us dependent on Klamath River water, why is just one interest singled out for special treatment with respect to those ESA consultations?

Jerry Brown gushes about "fighting climate change" at Vatican as he fracks California

By Dan Bacher - Daily Kos, July 21, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In yet another carefully choreographed photo opportunity to tout his "green" image while he promotes the expansion of fracking, Governor Jerry Brown today urged the world's mayors to "light a fire" and "join California in the fight against climate change."

Brown was speaking on the first day of the Vatican's symposium on climate change and modern slavery hosted by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences.

"We have fierce opposition and blind inertia," Brown claimed. "And that opposition is well-financed, hundreds of millions of dollars going into propaganda, into falsifying the scientific record, bamboozling people of every country. We have to fight that propaganda and overcome the inertia and the tremendous opposition."

"Mayors, you are at the bottom of this power chain and you have got to light a fire. We have to join together. We have to make a change. It's up to us to make it happen," Brown said.

Without a hint of irony, Brown also gushed about the "interconnectedness of all beings" as his administration rushes the construction of the Delta tunnels, potentially the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history, and presides over water policies that have brought winter run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and Sacramento splittail to the brink of extinction.

"The role of nature, the interconnectedness of all beings, these are ideas that while implicit, have never been so clear as they have been made in this encyclical," stated Brown.

The Vatican's symposium aims to drive awareness, dialogue and action at the local level on climate change and modern slavery – two interconnected issues highlighted in the pope's recent encyclical, according to an announcement from the Governor's Office.

Governor Brown will address the symposium again during tomorrow's program.

You can expect the mainstream media and some corporate "environmental" groups to gush over Brown's grandstanding at the Vatican with little critical analysis of the Governor's actual environmental record, a toxic legacy that I have documented in article after article.

Fortunately, faith leaders from Brown’s home state and environmental experts introduced a critical note to the narrative about Brown's visit to the Vatican when they commended the Pope for his leadership and urged him to take this opportunity to call on Brown and other leaders to ban fracking and take every possible measure to protect "our climate."

“We in the faith community applaud Pope Francis for highlighting the moral imperative of addressing climate change and protecting creation, and appreciate that he is bringing leaders like Jerry Brown to the Vatican to highlight the issue,” said Rev. Ambrose Carroll, a senior pastor at the Church by the Side of Road in Oakland, Calif., and a member of Faith Against Fracking. “We hope he will be able to get Governor Brown to see the indisputable incompatibility of his attempts to fight climate change while enabling the worst climate polluters to continue fracking.”

Sid Ryan on the unstoppable alliance of labour, environment and Indigenous groups

Sid Ryan Interviewed by Steve Cornwell - Rabble.Ca, July 16, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The recent March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate brought together -- among others -- Indigenous, labour, and environmentalist groups. What do you expect to arise out of such a diverse movement of groups and communities?

The march is a way to announce to the world that there is a very powerful coalition coming together. I think people are beginning to believe that a lot of what we need to be doing is dealing with the climate. We know that all of our different groups, labour, First Nations, environmentalists, if we don't come together to put the pressure on, we're not going to be successful.

I was at the Battle in Seattle. You had the community activists, environmentalists, and you had a lot people from around the world and different organizations coming into Seattle. The labour movement had its own separate demonstration in a football stadium five miles out of town in a football field. There were all these wonderful speeches taking place in this football field.

But downtown Seattle was erupting with running battles between police, environmentalists, students and activists from around the world. We were completely disconnected. I thought "wow, now I can see why sometimes these other organizations say to the labour movement that we don't see you guys involved in the fight." Even though we think we're supportive of all of their issues, we seem to be doing it apart from them.

I see the July 5 march as a coming out of a new movement -- the beginnings of us saying that we're willing to work together. We know that shifting away from a carbon-based economy is a difficult decision, certainly for labour. But we're going to be there and we're going to be a part of it, and the hope is to build something much much bigger.

The aim is to say to the world that there is a new game in town, and keep your eye on it because it can build into something very powerful.

A truly green economy requires alliances between labour and Indigenous people

By Harsha Walia - Ricochet, June 3, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Dozens of social movement organizers recently gathered in Toronto at a meeting convened by the This Changes Everything team to envision a new economy centered on climate justice. With relentless extractions of labour and land harming all life on earth, cross-sectoral alliances are necessary.

But a number of predictable tensions bubbled up at the gathering, some related to land defence and workers’ rights. How do we shift from a petro-economy to prevent catastrophic climate change while safeguarding workers whose livelihoods depend on the resource economy? Over the past few decades a green economy, which would ensure jobs and equity within a low-carbon economy, has been posited as a solution.

Extending from this and in the context of reconciliation, I want to envision emancipatory possibilities of solidarity between workers’ movements for self-management and Indigenous struggles for self-determination.

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