Monday, December 21, 2009

The People of the Planet v's the Politicians: How to turn a bad COP into a good COP

So the climate negotiations are over. The end result was a 3 page document, now named the Copenhagen Accord (not a Treaty because it is non-binding, it states a few principles to "take note of") which no country has signed up to in any event. In other words, it has no lawful authority or standing at all, it is a mere statement of vague intent. Arguably this is a crime against the planet (a sin of omission, you might say) and against all those who live within, upon and on it.

Compare this to how an international genocide case would be addressed (the abuse here being the equivalent - let us call it Planet Earth genocide, or for short: terracide). This is a case for the International Criminal Court, which is where genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are heard. For our purposes, the ICC powers have now been extended to address terracide as well (for we accept that damage and death of the planet means damage and death of many species, including humans, who are dependent upon the survival of planet life). The case has been brought on behalf of The People of the Planet against their heads of state who we claim have failed to take action to stop the terracide.

Counsel for the various heads of states (the heads of state are vicariously liable for those who have been perpetrators of terracide on their patch of the planet), present to the court an unsigned piece of paper proposing a suggested outcome - only none have signed it. The judge points out that an unsigned document is not an outcome that a court of law can accept. It is a comprehensive failure to negotiate and moreover the listed terms of (non)agreement are on the face of it unacceptable. And so it is that The Peoples case for Planet Earth shall be immediately listed for trial to be heard on the earliest possible date.

Meanwhile, in the world arena of political posturing, with no judge to take control of the situation, proceedings have been adjourned for the 15th time over 15 years, with no set date put in place. Interim measures have proven to be utterly ineffectual and the terracide of our planet continues unabated....

.....Friday night through to the small hours of Saturday I was holed up in the aptly named Fresh Air Centre.

It is the hub for the alternative reporters - the bloggers, the independents, the green journos, the non-mainstream voices; the ones seeking to report the truth, not just the hot air. I say this informedly after witnessing propaganda news coming out of the likes of CNN (distraction news: continual reporting on how bad China's pollution is) and on local Danish news (false news: how the Danish PM had saved the day).

We sat there digesting the live streaming of Obama's press statement from the airbase before he headed home and the subsequent responses from the Bella Centre from the other Heads of State. Only, the streaming was constantly cut, and in the end we were left with very little from any nation. Our sources in the Bella Centre were faring no better, and although they were there literally outside the negotiation room, they were unable to access any more information. Those out on the streets (this was now 2am) who earlier had gone to march in protest had all been rounded up under the newly imposed preventative powers of the police (paranoia powers: if in doubt, spray pepper gas and arrest anyone acting suspiciously). Hundreds were left seated outside on the cold ground, handcuffed and held there through the night (presumably until the negotiators had gotten safely to their beds). It was minus 7 degrees outside.

All of this is so wrong.

Why has this all gone so horribly wrong?

3 issues come to the fore. Barak Obama in his final statement touched on the same three points that cut to the crux of the problem.

As counsel acting on behalf of the people of the planet, I present an emergency application for remedial steps to be imposed in time for the next COP.

The Peoples Reasons:

1. The system as it currently stands does not work. As has been demonstrated with the comprehensive failure of the 187 ratified parties to uphold the binding Kyoto Agreement, it is pointless to sign up to any type of new agreement, especially an even weaker non-binding one.

2. Utter lack of transparency of proceedings. In these climate negotiations, we have evidence that documents were suppressed and meetings held behind closed doors. We call for full and frank disclosure to be implemented so that everybody knows what is happening and we can collectively come to informed decision making. We call for any information which is of potential assistance to be publicly disclosed all to scrutinise. If pertinent and relevant, concealment of evidence and process cannot be an option.

3. There has been a complete disintegration of trust. Accusations of secret meetings, the implementation and use of excessive policing laws, the ousting of NGO's - all this and more bear the hallmark scars of the collapse of trust. It is pertinent to remember that the politicians and heads of state are there to represent us, the people.

The Peoples Proposals:
1. Change the approach from business as usual to rapid transition.
a) Instead of market provision agreements, implement binding international public trust doctrine law. This would ensure a shift from business opportunities being put first to planet protection being foremost, with direct responsibility and protection provisions implemented which identify duties and obligations. Mechanisms for restorative and ecological justice can then be put in place which if ignored are actionable in a court of law;
b) cut the damaging subsidies ($300 billion per annum which props up the fossil fuel industry), replacing them with emergency subsidies for the rapid roll-out of clean energy solutions (with each nation putting in place the required emergency legislation to facilitate this);
c) replace the word sustainability with responsibility in all documents.

2. Change the procedure from hidden to transparent.
Transparency and accountability procedures be implemented at all levels. The onus will be on the UN to give full and frank disclosure of all proceedings. Any information which is of potential assistance shall be disclosed all to scrutinise. In a court of law the onus is on the defendant to ensure that all procedures and all documents in the negotiation process are open to public scrutiny at all times. This must be the norm for the UN. Closed door meetings be banned. Specific application will have to be heard to determine whether there is exceptional reason for public interest immunity to apply, with right to appeal.
a) all negotiators to be under the age of 40 - they are the ones who are going to have to live through the outcome;
b) all negotiations are filmed live for real-time public access;
c) the public who are in attendance at the COP will be given the ability to vote on issues as they arise to give real-time indicators of their views into the process to assist with negotiations;
d) all leaders make themselves available to their people at some point during the COP to account for their progress.

3. Establish trust between our leaders and between the politicians and people.
This will be achieved in part by implementation of the above suggestions, but more steps are required:
a) banish the 3 tier system (negotiators = participants, NGO's = observers, the remainder are excluded) and treat all who attend as participants;
b) de-criminalise the process. Cancel the police powers which alienate the process;
c) ensure gender balance at all levels - 51% of the world is female, but 96% of the negotiators at top level are male. With more female input we would have a better balance of proposed solutions
d) provide for, listen to and act upon the voice of the people - those who come with wisdom, the indigenous voice, the activists, those who have travelled to the negotiations out of the personal agenda that they care for the planet and want to find an equitable solution. All voices be fully acknowleged and embraced, not marginalised;
e) ensure enough time for negotiations and for rest. Leaders allocating just 2 days to the process has proven to be useless. Decisions made on 48 hours worth of concentrated sleep deprived negotiations lead to desperate and misplaced responses (as COP 15 demonstrated);
f) implement and subsidise supportive mechanisms that are required on a basic level: sustenance and nourishment for all, intellectually, physically and spiritually. For example, more events be open to the public online and on ground to demystify the various aspects of the process (the People's Climate Summit to be implemented at each COP with even more accessibility to all, with more voices being heard from all arenas), good affordable fresh organic food (too many activists were starving by the end of the fortnight due to exhorbitant basic living expenses), more host family support (5,000 people stayed with host families in Copenhagen), massages for participants...

4. The next COP be in 6 months.
Such is the urgency of the problem, a year is too long to wait to begin again - six months should be the absolute latest. When all of the above is implemented, then we will hear Barak Obama and all our leaders making a speech worthy of a standing ovation.

With enormous thanks to all the people of the planet who helped with their proposals for a good COP. Together we can make this happen. Sign up to become a Trustee of Planet Earth here

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