World Leaders Speak on the Libyan Crisis

(Al Jazeera English: 0726 PST, March 29, 2011) World leaders have met at a summit in London to discuss the ongoing conflict in Libya, and possible outlooks both for the military intervention, and humanitarian and development aid going forward.


Here are excerpts from comments made by David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, and Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General.



Obama Defends Libya Action

(ITN News: 0037 PST, March 29, 2011) President Obama appears on US television to defend the military action being taken in Libya.




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Cancun on the Ground: Final Day at COP16 - Sink or Swim?

Giant Life Ring

Jamie Henn from stated in an interview on Tuesday with that he believes there are two difference strategies by which one could approach the UNFCCC climate talks in Cancun and other Conferences of the Parties (COPs). He says the first and most prevalent strategy is to try and make small steps of progress each year towards building a larger treaty. The other and more important strategy, in Henn's opinion, is to use the COPs as opportunities to create "outrage" on the lack of progress that are made at these negotiations by key countries who aren't "stepping up to the plate."

Today, on the final day of formal negotiations of COP16, Greenpeace and TckTckTck, along with volunteers from several other NGOs, showed their support for the latter strategy by carrying out an extravagant stunt on the beach outside the Crown Paradise Club resort in Cancun. Well over a hundred people showed up to participate and cover the event, which involved creating a bird's eye image (using the help of renowned human banner aerial artist John Quigley) of climate negotiators being rescued from the sea by a giant inflated life ring. 

The stunt venue was a nice departure from the cold, civilized rooms of the Cancunmesse and Moon Palace, and quite possibly the first time many of the hard working attendees had set foot on the beach during their time in Cancun.

Sandy NegotiatorsDozens of barefoot volunteers were given suits and business attire to put on for their roles as negotiators, and then were marched out to sea to start treading water. The remaining participants wearing green and blue shirts represented the civil society and used their bodies to spell out the word "HOPE?" on the sand. Then, the civil society leaped up to drag an enormous orange life ring (15 meters in diameter) into the water where the negotiators were floundering and simulating drowning. Fortunately, no one actually drowned (though their acting was very convincing!), because the civil society came to the rescue and pulled all of the flailing negotiators onto the ring and back to shore.

The symbolism of the event was very clear: Negotiators aren't making sufficient strides towards effectively mitigating green house gases and helping vulnerable communities who are already being impacted by climate change. Today is their last chance at this COP to make crucial compromises and commitments, and the civil society is here to help them do it.

Speaking after the stunt with some of the sandy, dripping wet participants, the tone of reactions was one of hope in these final hours. Local NGOs and folks from all over the world had come to the beach to join together and send a clear message to negotiators who once again hold the fate of the world in their hands. The act was not subtle, or forgiving, but it showed the great responsibility of COP16 participants to come to an agreement, and the urgency to do so. As talks wrap up today, we will find out if this outrage was heard.


Click here for more pictures from COP16.


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Cancun on the Ground: Keys to Climate Success - Creativity and Flexibility

Ban Ki-MoonAccording to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, here in Cancun, Mexico we are in the land of the ancient Mayan goddess Ixchel, who, along with reason and weaving, is the goddess of creativity. I believe that the latter of these three virtues, creativity, is certainly a key to success at these negotiations and beyond if we hope to solve the global climate crisis. 

One of the most important outcomes from last year’s negotiations in Copenhagen was that developed countries pledged to provide “new and additional resources” to fast track and long-term climate financing in support of mitigation and adaptation, approaching $30 billion by 2012 and $100 billion by 2020. Obviously, it is not easy to raise these large amounts of money, but a new report shows that while challenging, it is feasible to raise $100 billion, if not more, by 2020. 

In his welcoming remarks at a December 8th press briefing about the findings of his high-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated that, “climate change financing is not about charity… but ultimately an investment in a safer, more stable, more prosperous world for us all.” 

The advisory group was tasked with identifing additional sources of funding to meet the goal of $100 billion by 2020, and a creative inventory of financing mechanisms was the result. The group did not look at the delivery of the mechanisms in detail-- that is for the countries to determine-- nor did they suggest what the balance of public vs. private funding might look like. Their intention was not to make policy decisions but rather, “to provide a toolbox for the decision making process,” said panel member Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, Mexican Minister of Finance. 

According to panel co-chair Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway, the report findings are, “a kind of menu where we as decision makers and governments can choose.” There is not one single solution to generate these funds, rather, it will need to come from a variety of sources, and private funding will need to be combined with traditional and new public funding. 

Instruments in the report include auctioning emission allowance (a not-so-new idea, which could raise $30 billion), C02 taxation for international transport (aviation and shipping industries, coming in at $10 billion), and the redirection of funds allocated for subsidizing fossil fuels (raising a possible $10 billion).

Carbon pricing appears to be an important item on the panel’s menu of financing options. Panel co-chair Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, began by noting that it would be difficult to generate these funds in an environment where the cost of carbon is too low, and Stoltenberg reminded that carbon pricing will not only raise revenue, but also give the right incentives to the developed world to reduce emissions.

While the long list of financial instruments offered by the panel is impressive, also worth noting is that such a varied group was able to come to agreement. Aside from the fact that so few women were involved (not a minor oversight as pointed out by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, during the Q&A), the 21-person panel included members from the developed and developing countries, and the private and public sectors.

This brings me to the second key to success: flexibility. Several comments at the briefing alluded to the challenges that this diverse group faced while coming to agreement on the report’s findings. But while each member may not have been 100% satisfied with every detail, they exercised flexibility and respected the views of other members ultimately coming to an agreement. Those at the press briefing were openly pleased with the final report and proud that such a diverse group had produced it.

Informal hallway conversations with conference attendees today provided a mixed review regarding which countries have been flexible vs. which have not. Many shared the opinion that the U.S., China, and Japan were among the least willing to compromise, and others noted that Bolivia, Chile and India showed willingness to negotiate outside their comfort zone. With the 16th Conference of the Parties formally closing tomorrow evening, time will soon tell what countries have or have not acknowledged creative new ideas and found the flexibility to reach around political obstacles. After all, as the Secretary-General has reminded, “Nature isn’t waiting while we negotiate.”


Watch an interview from with UN Fair Play's Charlie Young on the inequalities of negotiations:


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Cancun on the Ground: Mayan Community Mobilizes for Climate Justice

Mayan MarchTuesday, December 7th, in downtown Cancun, thousands of locals, NGOs and community groups took to the streets, mobilizing for climate justice in the wake of the UNFCCC negotiations. People carrying large banners, beating drums and chanting in unison, marched through busy streets filled with curious onlookers for almost two miles to draw attention to various issues surrounding climate change and its impacts. Countless local and state groups from Mexico and other parts of Latin America joined together, including the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade, the Indigenous Group Tepehuano of UNORCA (National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasants Organizations), and the Indigenous and Ecological Federation of Chiapas. Mexican chapters of organizations like Friends of the Earth,, Oxfam, and Greenpeace were also present and adding to the commotion.

While the nuances of their causes varied, the tone of the people gathering was clear: urgent action on climate change is vital. Perhaps the most vocal of the groups present at the march were the Mayan community members, who were teamed up with the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) and the Organization of Forest Producers' Cooperatives of the Zona Maya (OEPFZM), to express their dissatisfaction with the Mexican government for withholding compensation owed to them for an extreme decade-long drought, which has devastated corn crops, food security, and Mayan livelihoods.

The Mayan community is calling for drastic cuts in greenhouse gases by industrial countries, and immediate assistance for adapting to impacts of climate change, like the drought. Some feel it is possible that come Friday, when the UNFCCC talks come to a close, negotiations will establish a fund that will adequately help vulnerable communities cope with their changing climate. State Secretary Emiliano Ramos, felt fairly optimistic that progress could be made on issues that affect the world's poorest (he gauged his level of optimism at a "5" on a scale of one to ten), but others were not so hopeful. A man representing an indigenous group of UNORCA, had lost all faith in negotiations and just wanted emergency help of some kind for his climate-related hardships.

Victor Menotti, Executive Director of IFG, felt what was needed most from developed countries was real commitments, not just pledges. He expressed hopes that there would be "goodwill and cooperation [in talks] and that governments would come to their senses" but that it would take "a lot of noise on the street to make that happen."

As we marched with the people through the avenues of downtown Cancun under the hot midday sun, the energy of the group seemed endless. Our final destination was the Palacio Municipal where we expected people to disperse, or at least sit down to rest. But upon arriving, there was a stage set up complete with live music and MC, and giant house-sized corn cob structures illustrating (with a touch of humor) the plight of the indigenous Mayan farmer. The crowd was instantly reinvigorated and the mobilization continued on for hours.

With Friday's outcome still hanging in the balance, the fate of the Mayan farming community and many other vulnerable areas around the world that are most heavily affected by decreases in rainfall and other environmental changes, is unknown. Hopefully Tuesday's noise on the street caught the attention of negotiators not far down the road at the Moon Palace conference center.



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Cancun on the Ground: Poor People Losing Twice

Developing countries are hardest hit and not yet served by funds that should be helping them.  

On the first day of week two of the UNFCCC climate negotiations, things are busy at the Cancunmesse exhibition hall, which is filled with hundreds of booths staffed by NGO, IGO, and national representatives. Among them are antipoverty development organizations such as Oxfam, WEDO, and CARE who are calling for the establishment of a fair global climate fund that will meet the needs and rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities. They, and scores of other attendees at the conference, believe that climate change poses an unprecedented threat to poor people who are already struggling to sustain their livelihoods and maintain food security, and that women and other marginalized groups are most vulnerable.


UK Ambassador to Mexico speaks at Funding the Future

UK Ambassador to Mexico speaks at Funding

the Future press conference

Yesterday afternoon at a press briefing titled Funding the Future organized by Oxfam International, six panelists shared their visions and experiences to help set the path to establish a fair global climate fund by week’s end. Top climate negotiators and ministers responsible for actualizing this goal are in Cancun right now and more are flying in this week. Although the first week of talks seems to have shown a fairly positive spirit and willingness to compromise on the part of many countries, a feeling of trepidation is present that the building pressure to make progress regarding emissions cuts and the Kyoto Protocol may result in insufficient time and energy for agreement on the establishment of a fair climate fund. 

So what is this fund and how is it different from what Tim Gore, International Policy Advisor for Oxfam, calls the “spaghetti bowl of different climate financing channels” that currently exists?  Well, as outlined in a letter signed by 215 civil society organizations released today at the press briefing, in order for the fund to be legitimate and effective it must:


  • Be established under the authority of the UNFCCC, a legitimate forum where all countries are represented. 
  • Have equitable representation for developing countries on the board and not be donor country dominated. 
  • Ensure consideration is given to gender and multicultural balance on the board.
  • Guarantee at least 50 percent of the resources of the fund are channeled to adaptation.
  • Be a one-stop shop with the vast majority of climate financing passing through the fund.
  • Ensure that vulnerable communities, especially women and indigenous populations, participate fully in decisions on uses and monitoring at the national level.

"There's a problem with the current system," explained Gore. "We think that the current arrangements for managing climate finances are really broken. They're not delivering the money to those that need it most and can spend it best."

Cate Owren, Program Director for WEDO, noted that, while climate financing is politically challenging, it should not be economically challenging because investments now save money in the future. She also reiterated that design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the fund will be crucial and will help prevent a negative impact on women and marginalized groups. Stories of climate adaptation needs and successes were shared by Alcinda Abreu, Mozambique’s Minister for Coordination of Environmental Affairs. 

The briefing began and ended with the message that the establishment of this fund in Cancun will not only help developing countries adapt to the changing climate and adopt low-carbon development pathways, but also help rebuild trust in the negotiations. While a legally binding climate agreement seems almost certainly not on the cards for this round of negotiations, a fair global climate fund will hopefully produce tangible, concrete outcomes by Friday that addresses the need for both mitigation and adaptation assistance.



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