UN Climate Summit in New York
Massive Turn Out in New York City
Expresses People’s Strong Opposition to
Neo-Liberal Destruction of Planet Earth
A massive demonstration of the political will to end the neoliberal destruction of Mother Earth took place in New York City on September 21, two days before the UN Climate Summit, with some 400,000 people from all over the United States and abroad participating.
The UN Climate Summit took place September 23 at UN Headquarters in New York. The Summit was not part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, and no negotiations related to the Convention took place at the Summit. “Its goal is to raise political will and mobilize action, thereby generating momentum toward a successful outcome of the negotiations,” states the Summit website. “The Secretary-General has asked world leaders to come to the Summit to announce bold actions that they will be taking in their countries. There will also be announcements from a number of coalition initiatives that have high potential to catalyze ambitious action on the ground. These coalitions, consisting of participants from Governments, the private sector and civil society, will address several high-impact areas, such as climate finance; energy efficiency; renewable energy; adaptation; disaster risk reduction and resilience; forests; agriculture; transportation; short-lived climate pollutants; and cities,” the announcement said.
In attendance at the UN Summit itself were more than 120 heads of state, as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations and private businesses. Included amongst the latter were monopolies that are amongst the worst polluters in the world. They used the occasion to “greenwash” their destruction of the social and natural environment.
U.S. President Barack Obama used his speech to the Summit to claim the U.S. is a global leader in environmental protection, despite all evidence to the contrary, saying that other countries should follow its example.
“The United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions,” Obama said. “Today I call on all countries to join us, not next year or the year after that, but right now. Because no nation can meet this global threat alone.”
Canada, another obstructor of action on climate change, was represented at the Summit by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. She laid out the various initiatives the Harper government self-servingly says prove its commitment to protecting the environment. In fact the Harper government has taken a wrecking ball to environmental legislation, regulations and research institutes, and attacked Indigenous peoples and gagged scientists, besides withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol. Canada has become known nationally and internationally for its yeoman’s service to the gas and energy monopolies and to mining companies which are causing grave harm to flora, fauna and humanity.
The claims made by the U.S. and Canada are contradicted by the experience at the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP 19) on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP 19 was held in Warsaw, Poland, from November 11 to 22, 2013. The Conference document made clear that there is a sharp divide between rich and poor countries on the question of climate change. In particular, there was a mass walkout of the G77+China bloc, a total of 133 countries, because of the intransigence of the U.S., Canada, the EU, Australia and other developed countries. In this context, Obama’s remarks in New York were a reminder to all that they should submit to the dictate of the U.S. and other developed countries. Moreover, U.S. tabulations do not take into account the enormous amount of pollution and destruction caused by its many military operations worldwide, which show that the Pentagon alone is the world’s biggest polluter (see item below).
Philippines-based non-governmental organization IBON reports:
“Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, speaking on behalf of G77 and China — the largest bloc comprising 133 developing countries — said that the international response to climate change must fully respect the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibility. CBDR means that while all states/countries have the common responsibility to protect the global environment, they have contributed differently to ecological problems, so their responsibility to reduce or control the effects and prevent future occurrences will be different according to their means and capabilities.
“Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro delivered a stark critique of the capitalist model, saying that it has for decades ignored nature’s capacity to restore itself. He expressed concern over the so-called Green Economy model that is being promoted as a capitalist solution, and asked if anyone still believed that multinational corporations could change overnight to become the saviors of the planet. He reiterated the call from the Margarita Declaration of the Social Pre-COP that Venezuela hosted in July, i.e., cambio el sistema, no el clima (system change, not climate change).
“The Climate Summit does not have a bearing on the official climate negotiations, the next round of which is set to take place at the forthcoming annual Conference of Parties in Lima, Peru (COP 20) in December this year. But the Summit is explicitly aimed at ‘putting climate change back at the top of the political agenda’ after the lackluster COPs of previous years. […]
“The question remains, however, in the minds of civil society, governments and other climate justice advocates across the globe: Will the momentum be sustained and provide enough power to break the deadlock in the climate talks, which has stalled climate action in previous years?
“Hoping for a breakthrough, all stakeholders are gearing up for Peru COP 20 just two months from now. But the world, especially poor, developing, and small-island countries, cannot wait much longer for continued climate deadlock and inaction.”
People’s Climate March in New York City
Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the People’s Climate March on September 21, held to coincide with the UN Climate Summit on September 23. Organizers reported that the march “drew approximately 400,000 people — more than quadrupling the pre-march estimates of 100,000 […]
“At 3:00pm, march organizers released an initial count of 310,000 people based on the crowd density along the march route, which stretched across Manhattan from 93rd Street and Central Park West to 34th Street and 11th Avenue. But as the day continued, reports came in of tens of thousands more protesters marching outside the official route, streaming down avenues in midtown Manhattan. At 5:00 pm, march organizers had to send out a text asking marchers to disperse from the march route because the crowds had swelled beyond the route’s capacity.” A total of 550 buses from nearly all 50 states flooded into Manhattan as well as two dedicated trains, one from DC and one from California, organizers also reported.
Amongst the many groups participating in the People’s Climate March were more than 1,000 organizations opposed to the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of the earth to extract oil.
They came from: Kern County, the most-fracked county in California with among the worst air quality in the country; the Fort Berthold reservation on the Bakken Shale of North Dakota and the site of an over one million gallon fracking waste spill this summer; Minisink, New York, in the heart of the rich Black Dirt growing region and the site of a compressor station that is already making residents sick from toxic gas releases; and many places in between.
New Yorkers Against Fracking, a group which is fighting to see that New York State remains free from fracking, wrote:
“We see New York’s powerful and diverse anti-fracking movement as the welcoming committee for concerned citizens and organizations from across the country. And, we are thrilled to welcome so many from so many different campaigns to the frack-free streets of New York City. We remain frack-free because of the unparalleled grassroots power and principled stance of the New York State anti-fracking movement, which has led the nation by preventing fracking and putting a bright spotlight on the science and facts proving the devastation caused by fracking.
“At this point, we all know that fracking is hazardous to your health. Evidence of risks and harms continues to grow, and Concerned Health Professionals of New York (CHPNY) recently published a Compendium featuring hundreds of important findings and peer-reviewed studies. We also know that fracking equals methane, equals climate change and, if Governor Cuomo was not already sure about that fact, he will be on September 21st.
“[…] We do not want fracking in New York State, Governor Cuomo. And, we do not want fracking infrastructure in New York State to carry dangerous fracked gas from Pennsylvania or North Dakota. We do not want any more fossil fuel development.
“It is time for New York State to be the leader it should be. It is time to commit to protecting the things that make New York great while helping to combat climate change like local, organic agriculture; renewable energy; strong communities; and clean air, water, land, and food.”
Other actions also part of the People’s Climate March were held around the world in more than 2,808 locations in 166 countries. In Canada, at least 22 cities and towns in Quebec joined in, while at least 3,000 people marched in Toronto and 2,500 in Vancouver.
New York City
Around the World
Trinidad and Tobago
Rio De Janeiro
Papua New Guinea
(With files from peoplesclimatemarch.org, IBON International. Photos: Avaaz, Peoples Climate March, 350.org, J Barcant, C Yakimov, M L Collis, C De Asmundis, R Khan, K Petersen, Ahmed, R Weber, V Mathioudakis, Earthhour, A Mayumi, A Bozzetto, H Temper, Laure, B Duran, R Neugebauer, C O’Leary, GetUP, R Kumar, S Ure, M Lucas, E Dumitru, E Parker, C Yakimov, N Jennings, Calgary Truth Media)
Pentagon, World’s Biggest Polluter
The U.S. military is the largest polluter in the world, responsible for the most widespread and destructive pollution of the planet. By far the greatest single assault on the environment and all peoples around the globe comes from the Pentagon. It is the largest institutional user of petroleum products and energy in general. It accounts for a full 80 per cent of the federal government’s energy demand. It produces more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined. It yearly dumps more than 750,000 tons of deadly pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange, solvents, petroleum, lead, mercury, and depleted uranium, along with vast amounts of radiation from weaponry produced, tested, and used. These are just some of the Pentagon’s criminal contamination of the human and natural environment. But it is exempt from both international and national greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental standards, and from providing the public information about its criminal pollution.
The government has systematically organized to keep the Pentagon exempt from any restrictions, including those of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and related laws and from climate accords like the Kyoto Accord. For Kyoto, then President Bush demanded an exemption from the restrictions in the accord, got them, and then refused to sign.
Pentagon pollution will continue to be exempt based on an executive order signed by President Barack Obama. It calls for other federal agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The exemptions mean the Pentagon has uninhibited use of fossil fuels, is free to release massive amounts of greenhouse gases, and goes unpunished for extensive releases of radioactive and chemical contaminants into the air, water, and soil.
The extensive global operations of the U.S. military (including full-scale aggressive wars, limited air strikes — themselves a major source of pollution and the Pentagon’s demand for oil — and other secret operations on more than 1,000 bases around the world and 6,000 facilities in the United States) are not counted against U.S. greenhouse gas limits. While official accounts put U.S. military usage at hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day, that does not include fuel consumed by contractors, in leased or private facilities, or in the production of weapons. The Iraq war alone emitted more greenhouse gases than 60 per cent of all other countries’ emissions.
Several key examples of Pentagon attacks on the human and natural environment are:
– Depleted uranium. Tens of thousands of pounds of micro-particles of radioactive and highly toxic waste contaminate the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Balkans as a result of U.S. aggression and use of these weapons.
– U.S.-made land mines and cluster bombs, spread over wide areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, continue to spread death and destruction even after wars have ceased.
– Thirty-five years after the Vietnam War, dioxin contamination is 300 to 400 times higher than “safe” levels, resulting in severe birth defects and cancers into the third generation of those affected.
– Rusting barrels of chemicals and solvents and millions of rounds of ammunition are criminally abandoned by the Pentagon in bases around the world.
– U.S. wars in Iraq have created severe desertification (degradation and severe drying) of 90 per cent of the land, changing Iraq from a food exporter into a country that imports 80 per cent of its food.
– In the U.S., military bases top the Superfund list of the most polluted places, as perchlorate and trichloroethylene seep into the drinking water, aquifers, and soil.
– Nuclear weapons testing in the American Southwest and the South Pacific Islands has contaminated millions of acres of land and water with radiation, while uranium tailings defile Navajo reservations. In addition, between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. dropped more than 60 nuclear weapons on the people of the Marshall Islands, contaminating them. The Chamoru people of Guam, being so close and downwind, also still experience an alarmingly high rate of related cancer.
A small sampling of the widespread and profound environmental damage caused by
U.S. bases in the Asia-Pacific region — click to enlarge.
The Navy also recently updated a 2009 five-year strategic plan to control the Arctic for North American monopolies, led by the U.S. It outlines the militarization of the Arctic in the name of national security, securing potential undersea riches, and other maritime interests. It anticipates the frozen Arctic Ocean to be open waters by the year 2030. This warming of the Arctic is connected with climate change yet far from addressing this issue, the U.S. is instead organizing to militarily dominate the Arctic.
The Navy plan strategizes on expanding fleet operations, resource development, research and reshaping global transportation. It includes “assessing current and required capability to execute undersea warfare, expeditionary warfare, strike warfare, strategic sealift, and regional security cooperation.” As part of implementing the plan the U.S. stationed thirty-six F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets, which is 20 per cent of the F-22 fleet, in Anchorage, Alaska.
As people demonstrate in New York City and worldwide demanding that the U.S. take responsibility for stopping its massive greenhouse gas emissions and attacks on the environment, many are making U.S. crimes of wars, massive Pentagon pollution and militarization of the planet a major target of resistance. Opposing U.S. wars and Pentagon pollution is integrally linked to defending the human and natural environment.
For Your Information
Statement of G77+China
Delivered by H.E. Mr. Evo Morales Ayma, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia and Chair of the Group of 77 at the Climate Summit (September 23, 2014, New York)
Mr. Secretary General,
1. Climate change is one of the most serious global challenges of our times. We underscore the fact that developing countries continue to suffer the most from the adverse impacts of climate change, the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and the impact of response measures, even though they are historically the least responsible for climate change. Accordingly, we call for developed countries to take the lead in responding to climate change. Climate change threatens not only the development prospects of developing countries and their achievement of sustainable development but also the very existence and survival of countries, societies and the ecosystems of our Mother Earth.
2. We affirm that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change. In this regard, we stress that the international response to climate change must fully respect the principles, provisions and ultimate objective of the Convention, in particular the principles of equity and of common but differentiated responsibilities.
3. Fulfilling the ultimate objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will require strengthening the multilateral, rules-based regime under the Convention and we therefore further reaffirm the importance of continuing the negotiations on climate change under the Convention. We therefore further reaffirm the importance of the negotiations on climate change under the Convention in accordance with its principles and provisions and of adopting, in 2015, a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties. The new agreement must address all elements of the Convention including adaptation in a balanced manner and be ambitious, equitable and firmly based on science.
Mr. Secretary General,
4. Developed countries, given their historical responsibility, need to take the lead in addressing this challenge in accordance with the principles and provisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
5. There is an urgent need to close the ambition gap. We express concern about the lack of fulfilment of commitments by developed countries. In addressing this gap, the focus must not be limited to mitigation only but also address gaps relating to finance, technology and support for capacity-building, balanced with a focus on adaptation to climate change. We emphasize that developed countries must take robust and ambitious mitigation commitments, with ambitious quantitative targets for limiting and reducing emissions.
6. The Kyoto Protocol remains an important instrument to contribute to close the ambition gap and to addressing the climate crisis. In Doha (Qatar) we took a fundamental step to further enhance the international climate change regime, through the historic adoption of a fully ratifiable amendment to the Kyoto Protocol for its second commitment period. We have reached concrete provisions for ensuring the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr. Secretary General,
7. The Group of 77 and China urges Annex I Parties to fully implement the decisions achieved in Doha on the second commitment period. This will be essential for allowing the Kyoto Protocol to continue to serve as a cornerstone of the multilaterally-agreed rules based system under the Convention and a full reflection of its principles, in particular the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.
8. Increasing pre-2020 ambition must be primarily achieved through the implementation of the 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the outcome of the Bali Action Plan in accordance with principles and provisions of the Convention, with developed country Parties taking the lead. The pre-2020 mitigation gap would not even have existed if the developed countries had committed to an emission reduction of 40% below their 1990 levels by 2020.
9. We emphasize our extreme disappointment and concern over those developed country Parties that are not Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, have withdrawn from the KP or that have not yet ratified the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. We believe that the failure of any developed country Party to ratify a legally-binding, quantified commitment under the Kyoto Protocol for the post-2020 period raises serious concerns about its credibility and sincerity in combating climate change. We urge all Parties to the Kyoto Protocol to revisit and increase the ambition of their second commitment period targets and ratify these enhanced commitments. We further urge all developed country Parties, whether they are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol or not, to revisit and increase the level of their mitigation ambition for the pre-2020 period under the Convention, without conditionality.
10. The full ratification of the Doha amendment by Annex I Parties will be crucial to build trust. Ratification of the second commitment period is an important stepping stone towards the new 2015 Agreement and its entry into force and implementation from 2020.
11. The extent to which developing countries will effectively implement their commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will depend on the effective implementation by developed countries of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries.
Mr. Secretary General,
12. There is an urgent need to have a clear commitment of Developed country Parties to provide at least USD70 billion per year by 2016 rising to USD100 billion per year by 2020 as a floor for accounting, and leading to further increased commitments on the provision of financial support for the post-2020 period.
13. The efforts of developing countries for contributing with mitigation actions should be undertaken through the provision of finance, development and transfer of technology and capacity-building, taking into account the imperatives of equitable access to sustainable development, the right to development, the survival of countries and protecting the integrity of Mother Earth.
Mr. Secretary General,
14. The adverse impacts of climate change are devastating societies in the developing world, threatening the right to development and survival of peoples and nations. Developing countries are suffering the permanent hits of extreme events, eroding drastically our advances in the process of poverty eradication and sustainable development. We need structural solutions to climate crisis as well as immediate measures in order to address the impacts of extreme events. The Group welcomes the outcome of the COP19 decision of the Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate change impacts, and the need to make this mechanism functional is paramount. This mechanism must address the needs of developing countries emerging from extreme and slow-onset events, and the urgency for this mechanism has only increased. We call for the operationalization of the Mechanism established by this decision, taking into account the principles of the Convention and the national development processes. Carrying out such actions requires the provision of adequate support and creating the appropriate arrangements and for meaningful activities.
Mr. Secretary General,
15. The objective of the Convention, as set out in Article 2, is to achieve the stabilization of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. It further provides for the parameters of the timeframe in which this ultimate objective should be achieved, to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.
16. We all have to contribute to the solutions to climate change, it is true, but in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. We underscore that Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) need to be seen in a balanced and comprehensive context of the 2015 agreement, and therefore have to include and equally address mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, transfer, capacity building and transparency of action and support. Developing countries will also require provision of support for their domestic preparations for their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.
Mr. Secretary General,
17. The twenty-first century is the time for the countries and the peoples from the South to develop their economies and societies in order to fulfill human needs sustainably, in harmony with nature and respect for Mother Earth and its ecosystems.
I8. The Earth and its ecosystems are our home and we are convinced that, in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations, it is necessary to promote harmony with nature and the Earth.
19. We consider that mitigation of and adaptation to climate change are contingent upon different sociocultural contexts, taking particular account of indigenous peoples and local communities and their traditional knowledge systems and practices, including their holistic view of community and environment, as a major means of adapting to climate change.
20. Sustainable development involves a change in the order of priorities from the generation of material wealth to the satisfaction of human needs in harmony with nature. The excessive orientation towards profit neither respects Mother Earth nor takes into account human needs. The continuation of this unequal system will lead to further inequality.
(UN. Photo: Xinhua)