The majority of humans on Earth are likely unaware that their 193 governments met in Cancun Mexico in December 2010. Their goal was to agree on ways to save the planet's climate from a brutal catastrophe.
Did anything happen? It depends on who you talk to.
I'm Alex Smith reporting. In this Radio Ecoshock special, you will hear five different voices on what really happened - inside the barricaded conference rooms, and outside in the streets.
Our guests are: Harvard policy expert Dr. Robert N. Stavins; Damon Moglen, head of the Climate Campaign for Friends of Earth, USA; Franklin Lopez, anarchist film-maker reporting from the Mexican climate activist scene; British radio broadcaster Phil England with a European perspective; and South American expert Nikolas Kozloff on Brazil, Bolivia, and the road not taken.
If you think international talks to save the Earth are boring, listen again. While we were waved away by the mainstream press, the usual suspects - from the World Bank to American arm twisters, busily tried to re-write the script.
Will the rich make big money from climate suffering? From the victims of floods, heat, drought, rising seas, and dying agriculture? Without our attention and action, that could be the New Deal.
There is a nexus of American analysts who find the Cancun COP-16 U.N. Conference was a success. The New York Time Headline: "Climate Talks End with Modest Deal on Emissions".
Harvard power Professor Robert Stavins says Cancun "must be judged a success".
We'll begin with Dr. Stavins, and move through more critical voices.
Professor Robert N. Stavins is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government. He is the Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, among many other titles.
His article on the Cancun talks, "What Happened (and why): An Assessment of the Cancun Agreements" has been widely republished in left-of-center media, including climateprogress.org and AlterNet. It is the most upbeat, positive analysis I could find.
Stavins thinks the U.N. agreements need to move away from the binding emissions targets of the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, building instead on last year's Copenhagen Accord, which has voluntary targets. At Cancun, there were two principle documents agreed with unwieldy names only a diplomat could love: "Outcome of the AWG-LCA" and "Outcome of the AWG-KP".
These are not legal agreements, but "Outcomes" of "Ad Hoc Working Groups" on "Long-term Cooperative Action" and "Further Commitments" by developed nations to the Kyoto Protocol.
Still awake? We'll get a much clearer picture from our Ecoshock guests, I promise.
I'll quickly run down Robert Stavins' reasons for guarded optimism about Cancun, before our other guests comment.
#1. The assembled countries agreed to limit global heating at 2 degrees C. Most scientists either say that is now impossible, or it is still too high, leading to massive ice melt and other damage.
Stavins then quotes Michael Levi, from the Council on Foreign Relations, who applauds the Cancun results, "not because it solves everything, but because it chooses not to." That sounds perverse to me, but Levi thinks other institutions, like the G-20, should control some climate initiatives.
And Stavins has a good point in the interview, that we despite our needs, we do NOT have a top-down command situation in this complex world. Emissions reductions will actually carried out not just by governments, but by business, small provinces, and myriad others. We have to deal with what is.
#2. There is more talk in the Cancun agreements to monitor and verify carbon emissions. China has resisted this, but agreed. If it works, it could be important for climate science at least, and may help future emissions deals get enforced?
#3. A "Green Climate Fund" was established, reaching $100 billion annually by 2020, to compensate countries damaged by climate change, to help them adapt. That would be run by the World Bank, and the details may shock you.
#4 At Cancun, an agreement on "Reduced Deforestation and Forest Degradation" - called REDD, was reached. It has some loop-holes, of course.
And finally, things like the Clean Development Mechanism, and carbon markets were strengthened. These are all developments favored by the United States, and by Wall Street. Which makes the meeting a success.
Strangely, the American Bloomberg business news service gave the Conference results a thumbs down, with this headline "Global Warming Deal Decades Away As 'Dysfunctional' U.S. Delays Commitment." Decades away, with no deal to reduce emissions, we can kiss our gentle ice-capped Earth good-bye.
Socialist writer Patrick Bond says "'Climate Capitalism' won at Cancun - everyone else loses."
Let's get to it. Here is the other side of the news on the United Nations Conference of the Parties - COP-16 - in Cancun, Mexico.
Following Harvard's Robert Stavins, we continue with Damon Moglen of Friends of Earth, and carry right on through the anarchist report, a Euro perspective, and the South American alternative.
Don't miss the interview with anarchist Franklin Lopez. He talks about his long journey by bus to the Summit, with other Mexican activists. They set up two "climate camps", complete with dome tents and food. Sadly one camp couldn't agree with the other, so no joint actions were held. But some shit was thrown, literally, toward heavily armed Mexican security forces, guarding a government ministry of environment office. Action on the streets.
Lopez reports a unique perspective, especially the hope from many outside the security fences, that the power brokers inside would fail.
Then I'm happy to welcome back the host of Climate Radio, from Resonance FM in London, Phil England. Phil and his team covered the Copenhagen climate summit (COP-15) last year so well! I knew he's be plugged in to the debates around this year's COP-16 in Cancun, even though he was not there.
True to form, Phil raises serious issues about this new climate deal. He suggests that although the poorer countries were promised aid in Copenhagen, to adapt to climate damage caused by the Northern industrial emissions - that has now morphed in Cancun to LOANS. So the poor countries will once again be saddled with debt, for a problem they did not cause - and pay wealthy bond holders interest on their suffering. It sounds like climate imperialism to me.
I suggest you listen again to Robert Stavins' interview, to really hear how all that is phrased. The keywords "private sector" funding, means loans. And the carbon markets are tossed in, along with the impossible daydream of carbon capture and storage, being pushed by the coal industry. That has never worked, and won't.
Nikolas Kozloff always has the inside scoop on countries we don't hear much about. Especially Brazil, which when you count their deforestation and agricultural emissions, are now the world's third largest source of greenhouse gases! And Brazil is breaking out as both an industrial economy and a new oil nation (with their recent large field discoveries off the Atlantic coast.)
We learn, partly from Wikileaks documents, that Brazil failed to fulfill the green role in South America. Despite the Green candidate getting 19 percent of the popular vote in the most recent Presidential elections!
Actually, I have a much longer interview with Nikolas, cut because we had so many guests this week. In a few days, I will post the whole 24 minute talk, all about Bolivia, Evo Morales, and South America's role in the Cancun climate talks. That will be in the "Climate2010" page of our audio-on-demand menu, at ecoshock.org. Well worth a listen.
That's it for our Radio Ecoshock Cancun climate summit coverage. You heard Dr. Robert Stavins from Harvard, Damon Moglen at Friends of Earth USA, Franklin Lopez, the anarchist film-maker reporting from the Mexican climate activist scene; British radio broadcaster Phil England with a European perspective - a real treat to have the host of "Climate Radio" on the air; and South American expert and author Nikolas Kozloff on Brazil, Bolivia, and the road not taken.
If you tuned in part way, or want to listen again, download this free mp3 from our web site, at ecoshock.org.
I'm Alex Smith, going hard, to give you a ring-side seat as humans decide whether to sink or swim.
In the full hour piece, you heard a mini-slice of music from Manu Chao's "Radiolina".
Thanks for listening.