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Climate Justice Movement “Extremely Disappointed” in COP21 Draft’s “Failure to Step Up”

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Talks at the U.N. climate summit in Paris have been extended into the weekend as representatives from nearly 200 nations work to finalize a global accord. A new draft text includes the voluntary target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels. Including the 1.5 degrees Celsius target meets a key demand of low-lying and vulnerable nations. But environmentalists and civil society have criticized its voluntary nature along with many other provisions, including a failure to address gender equity; the weakening of access to financial assistance for vulnerable nations; the omission of specific dates for carbon cuts; and the failure to address military carbon emissions. The U.S. military alone uses $20 billion of energy a year—more than any other single U.S. consumer. We examine what is in the latest draft text—and what has been left out—with a roundtable of women: Chee Yoke Ling, a legal adviser to the Third World Network based in Malaysia; Ruth Nyambura, a Kenyan political ecologist; and Kandi Mossett, an indigenous activist from North Dakota and an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “We want to get out of this sinking ship, but countries like the U.S. are holding the lifeboats,” Nyambura says.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting live from the COP21 in Paris, France, where representatives of nearly 200 nations are working to finalize a global accord to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. The negotiations have been extended into the weekend. Officials released a 27-page draft text late Thursday. It still includes nearly 50 points of disagreement. The nonbinding text includes the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels. That’s a key demand of low-lying and vulnerable nations.

But environmentalists and civil society have expressed concern that the target is voluntary and also about many other points in the text, including the weakening of access to financial assistance for vulnerable nations, the omission of specific dates for carbon cuts, and the failure to address military carbon emissions. The U.S. military alone uses $20 billion of energy a year—more than any other single U.S. consumer.

Well, to talk more about what’s in the latest draft text and what’s been left out, we’re joined by three guests. Chee Yoke Ling is with us, legal adviser to the Third World Network. She is based in Beijing. Kandi Mossett is an indigenous activist from North Dakota and an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. And Ruth Nyambura also joins us, a Kenyan political ecologist.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Let’s begin with Chee Yoke Ling. Tell us about this latest draft that is working towards the final document.

CHEE YOKE LING: We are, in the climate justice movement, extremely disappointed with this latest draft, because we are actually here to have a Paris agreement to step up the implementation of our climate actions. And what actually governs climate actions for the countries of the world in the United Nations is already a treaty that exists, so the United Nation Climate Change Convention is a treaty that’s been around for more than 20 years. And we are here in Paris trying to reach an agreement to actually step up implementation. So if we look at what countries have agreed to do more than 20 years ago, then for what we are calling today, they scale up action, this actually—a very important principle is historical responsibility, because the global warming we see today is the result of accumulated greenhouse gases. And scientists—this is a scientific point. I think we need to stress that. So that’s why the convention, the U.N. treaty, says we must have [inaudible] have to do more of the share of cutting emissions, and then developing countries avoid emissions as—you know, in the same developmental pathway, and do more—

AMY GOODMAN: Isn’t it a big deal that 1.5 degrees, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit—


AMY GOODMAN: —as we say in the United States—


AMY GOODMAN: —has been agreed upon?

CHEE YOKE LING: There’s no agreement, actually, because we say that if we want to cut that, the question is: How do we share? How do we share the responsibility of doing the actions that will bring us to 1.5? Now, there’s been a lot of reporting about, you know, sure, many vulnerable countries, small island states, and even some of the bigger developing countries. They want strong action. But the 1.5 has to be in the context of actions that are fair, so that the rich and those who can do more should do their share, and then the poor should be helped to actually do their share. So what we see here, to get to the 1.5, where everybody is treated the same, where we see the rich countries, like the United States and the European countries or Japan, saying that “We will try to do the best, on a voluntary basis,” and they’re backing off from what they agreed to do 20 years ago. “We’re not cutting emissions at home,” in Europe or North America. “We’re not going to give money to help other countries do it.” So, 1.5 is a nice number, but how do you get to 1.5 in terms of real actions?

AMY GOODMAN: Ruth Nyambura, you are from Kenya, from eastern Africa, where President—well, President Obama’s family is from. Can you talk about your reaction to this—well, it’s the pre-final accord that we are just seeing now?

RUTH NYAMBURA: Well, I mean, the sentiment on the ground is basically, we seem to be on the Titanic, and all of us are sinking, and especially those of us from the Global South. We want to get out of this sinking ship, but can’t come out of it because the developed countries, led by the U.S., are holding the lifeboats. So we are stuck in this thing that’s going down.

It’s really—I mean, we really have to call it—it’s disgusting that we are—that we’re here. There’s no other way to call it. We have floods in India. We have drought in the last—the last five years. We’ve had drought every two, three years in eastern Horn of Africa. We are seeing the impact of the climate crisis, and not just with the dramatic—you know, the floods, the hurricanes and the typhoons—what’s happening to pastoralists, what’s happening to farmers on the ground, the unseen and less dramatic impacts of the climate crisis. And it’s really a shame that on a day that should be the last day of the negotiations, we are not there. We don’t even seem like we’re ever going to be there, to get commitments that actually reflect the lived realities of the people most impacted by the climate crisis and the consensus in the scientific community.

AMY GOODMAN: Women, in particular, how are they affected? And why are women affected any differently than any other person?

RUTH NYAMBURA: I mean, again, we go back to the gender—unfortunately, the gender-ascribed roles that women have in the society. So we have, for example, globally, 70 percent of food production is by women. In some parts, it’s 80 percent of food production is by women. Women are the majority of the food producers. Across the whole agricultural sector, they basically hold it down. We have the externalization of the costs of extractive industries. When you have pollution, when water is taken away from communities, goes to mining companies, goes to corporations, women have to spend even more time looking for water, you know, both because of patriarchy and because of the way the system has been organized. So, to have a text, one, that is—basically says nothing, with nothing around gender equality, that still proposes market solutions, that brought about the climate crisis—and again, knowing how the function of the market in the capitalist system that we are in, women are—benefit the least, if at all. Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So what needs to be done? What are you calling for, Ruth?

RUTH NYAMBURA: What we need, an ambitious—one, we need a binding commitment. When you talk about 1.5, again, 1.5 for many of us is still a death knell. But if you’re talking about 1.5, we must have mechanisms that actually—not just stating 1.5 degrees, we must have mechanisms that work, mechanisms that talk about food security, agroecology, funding that boosts agroecology, funding that—you know, adaptation, transportation, you know, issues about water, issues about access to land and resources. That must be taken into account in the document. Without that, it’s an empty document for women all over the world, and especially women from the Global South.

AMY GOODMAN: Kandi Mossett, tell us where you’re from in North Dakota and then how indigenous people are addressed, the concerns of indigenous people in the text.

KANDI MOSSETT: I grew up in a small town called New Town on a reservation in North Dakota. I’m a Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara woman. And this whole entire past two weeks has just been very heartbreaking and hard to take for us. It’s been a step backwards in the wrong direction. We actually have a text now where we’re just referenced in the preamble, so it’s not legally binding.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

KANDI MOSSETT: When we talk about—

AMY GOODMAN: The preamble is not legally binding?

KANDI MOSSETT: Right. So, there’s an article. When there’s language in the article, that’s legally binding language. And what they’ve actually done is taking out reference to indigenous peoples’ rights from the article and putting it only into the preamble, which is not legally binding. The same for human rights, the same for food sovereignty. There’s just different things that have happened in the text that—intergenerational equity is also in the preamble, so a lot of the youth are very upset as to what’s happening. And I think it’s kind of a shame that we’ve—actually, at the 21st COP, more than a shame, it’s a crime that we’ve taken a step backwards by taking out the rights of indigenous peoples.

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