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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Become a Trustee of Planet Earth

Last year I addressed the Untied Nations on the need for a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights. One year on and Bolivia is now going to run with this idea. This week I am in Copenhagen for the Climate negotiations, but they look set to collapse. So, today I am launching a Planet Earth Trust for us the people to sign up to. Help me, with many millions of others, find the solution for life of all beings.

The planet is our capital asset and we the people have a responsibility to ensure that this asset is protected, not exploited. We can do that by being trustees for the planet. When humanity becomes the trustee of the planet and holds the asset in perpetuity for use of all beings, as guided by the principles, life is assured for us all.

This is a Planet Earth Trust, in which we the people are Trustees and All Beings are the Beneficiaries. Become a Trustee at

COP 15 a cop-out?

I am currently in Copenhagen for the International Climate negotiations, and everything hangs on a balance today, the last day. Here is some information on what I have been saying and doing whilst here. You can also watch much of what I am up to at Positive TV

Yesterday George Monbiot and I called on COP15 to become accountable and transparent to the people. I asked for the next COP to provide real-time video streaming of the negotiations, not that the politicians remain behind closed doors. I also called for a referendum by the people. Bolivia has been brave enough to run with this idea today! You can have your say by answering the following questions on their website


h3. 1) Do you agree with reestablishing harmony with nature while recognizing the rights of mother earth? YES or NO

h3. 2) Do you agree with changing this model of over-consumption and waste that represents the capitalist system? YES or NO

h3. 3) Do you agree that developed countries reduce and reabsorb their domestic greenhouse gas emissions for temperature not to rise more than 1 degree Celsius? YES or NO

h3. 4) Do you agree with transferring all that is spent in wars and for allocating a budget bigger than that used for defense to climate change? YES or NO

h3. 5) Do you agree with a Climate Justice Tribunal to judge those who destroy Mother Earth? YES or NO

Click here

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Planetary Slavery alive and well in Copenhagen

3 days left of this year's COP 15 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, and negotiations are at stalemate. The voice of the people is loud - but the problem is you can only really hear it 1 mile or so down the road from the Bella Centre, where the official negotiations are taking place, in Klimaforum, where the People's Climate Summit resides. It's a bit like the Edinburgh Festival - the more innovate stuff happens on the fringe. So it's become the people v's the politicians: the former is to be found downtown in old warehouses and a public gymnasium in the red light district, the latter is outside the city housed in a sterile conference centre surrounded by maximum security (I know - I failed to get in to hear a side event last week).

There was a small chink of light. This year a climate express train ran from London to Copenhagen with select invited peoples such as various UN Climate Ambassadors (Roz Savage), film makers (Age of Stupid), some UN bods, loads of press (from Treehugger to Die Welt) - and me. So, I had a chance to have a private audience with Achim Steiner of UNEP - an opportunity I would not have so easily stepped into otherwise, but few of the 100,000 who marched on the streets on Saturday will ever have the chance to burn his ear.

COPs are remarkable events. It works like this: inner circle are the negotiators and the country reps - they are the participants. Then you have the NGO's - they have observer status (quite literally as well as metaphorically, the NGO's are on the periphery of the negotiations) - they are both housed out at Bella. Back in town there are a host of others - lobbyists (650 oil lobbyists are reported to be in Copenhagen) of all hues, activists, organisers and particpants of the coinciding conferences, topical shows, exhibitions, speaker events, films, food, reports, workshops and the best ever flamenco.

These are the conclusions I have reached whilst here:

We must stop treating the planet as a business.
Our legal basis for all environmental protection is failing to protect the planet. Instead, it is clear that the environment rarely benefits - rather it is only business that really benefits. The COP negotiations are proving to be little more than a profit making machine, with money to be made by trading and power being vested in privatised and/or governmental entities. If we used the internationally recognised (and simple to implement) Public Trust Doctrines of law to protect the planet we would have a true and effective system of governance. But the problem is too many people at the COP negotiation table believe that the only way forward is to treat the planet as a business. This is despite the fact that we actually have the legal mechanisms we require to protect the planet - but they are not being used.

If the politicians are not going to stop the trading, we the people will have to demand it.
Last week, Bolivia offered to present the People's suggestions into COP15. What was remarkable was the convergence of belief that the group had. The Klimaforum drafting group were 100% adamant that the trading has to stop. We all wanted a) big polluting business to be made illegal, b) fossil fuel subsidies to stop and c) a global fund for restoration by communities to be set up. What we came up with in 9 hours was a far more ambitious proposal than that which the politicians have been drafting for over 15 years. Will Bolivia present the proposals made by the people?

Replace Sustainability with Responsibility.
The REDD negotiations have been stalling due in part because of the inability to define sustainability - it is a word that causes more problems than solutions. Replace sustainability with responsibility and the outcome is vastly different and vastly improved. When we stop perceiving the planet as a business but instead take responsibility, then we step into the role of stewardship. Step into the realm of stewardship/trusteeship of the planet and responsibilities can be identified and acted upon.

Let the people's voice be heard.
Our political process is not reflecting the reality of those who care. For something this important there is no real democracy. The negotiations happen behind closed doors, security is high, emergency laws are created out of fear to tighten crowd control and the politicians do not hear what the people have to say. There is no proper mechanism for the people to be heard, which in a so-called democratic world is nothing short of an infringement of the human freedom of expression and speech. Rioting is not the answer, but what else remains? Desperate times bring desperate measures. Politicians, I ask you all, let us speak, listen to what we have to say and then act on our behalf.

Hopenhagen or Nopenhagen?


As I write this, we are down to three days here at the Copenhagen climate talks. And I am afraid to say that there is almost no reason to be encouraged. Everybody has card to put on the table but no one is playing.

Actually, not everybody has cards. The Least Developed Countries, the poorest of the poor, and the Association of Small Island States, also mostly poor, have little to offer beyond their presence. Their emissions are so small they can offer little in the way of mitigation. They come asking for help to adapt as weather patterns change, storms grow and seas rise. They are being offered a tiny fraction of what economists say they will need. The only card they have to play is to pack up and leave, refusing to sign on to a national suicide pact. Their presence here is now on a hair trigger.

To gain some influence in the talks, they are aligned with a large group of developing countries that goes by the name of the G77. Other than the poorest countries, this group includes what have become known as the BASIC countries. Those letters (kind of) stand for the names of the biggest of the emerging economies. Brazil, South Africa, India and China are most prominent. These countries have emissions profiles that are distinctive for a combination of four factors. They are a significant portion of current global emissions and they represent a large portion of future emissions growth, but they do not represent a significant proportion of historic emissions and their per capita emissions levels are far below the developed world. Each of these countries has made significant pledges to slow the growth of their emissions, but refuse to set limits on growth for economies that includes hundreds of millions of people that still live below income levels of two dollars per day.

Distinctive among this group is China, now the world’s largest emitter, right behind the U.S. Largest emitter and greatest source of emissions growth, but relatively small in terms of historic emissions and per capita emissions. Chinese emissions are still one-quarter of the U.S per person. The U.S. has made China the prime target of these talks. China has proposed to reduce its emissions intensity– the amount of carbon emitted per unit of economic activity -- by 40-45% by 2020. That is a significant contribution. If implemented and assuming the U.S. gets one of the bills now before Congress passed and implemented, China will still have emissions less than half per person in the U.S. in 2020. But the U.S. is pushing measurement, reporting and verification of that promise. China is resisting throwing its economy open to outside review. I hope China will move on this issue, but it is certain they will not move before others, especially until the U.S. puts more on the table.

There is one last group of G77 countries. They are largely oil producers led by Saudi Arabia. For the most part they are here to stop anything from happening to the oil industry. They are not afraid to take undisguised action to slow or stop the process. In the end though, they don’t have enough power alone to sink these talks.

First among developed countries is the European Union. The EU is perhaps the most transparent group here. But their pledge of 20% reduction from 1990 levels is not what it seems. The EU moves as a bloc of countries and includes Eastern European countries that had high post-Soviet emissions in 1990. Many of those countries are significantly below those levels now, allowing other EU countries higher emissions while still claiming overall reductions. But the EU is likely to move to a 30% reduction if other developing countries move further.

Of course the meaning of 30% depends on how you count. The biggest factor on counting is international offsets. Those currently come in the form of financing projects in other countries for the benefit of emission reduction credits. A new deal could significantly expand these offsets while also including a bunch of new credits from forestry projects in developing countries. My biggest worry for the last month has been that some kind of weak forest deal will get done here and be sold to the public as saving the forest to save the climate. So far what is on the table on forests is largely a greenwash for covering up general inaction.

After the EU comes a group of developed countries called the Umbrella Group, including Japan, Russia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. These countries are a mixed bag. Canada is horrible and claims it is horrible because the U.S. is horrible. Russia is sitting on a load of hot air. That is the term for the emissions credits based on those higher 1990 levels that I talked about earlier. Russia can claim to reduce emissions about 40% below 1990 levels while nonetheless actually increasing emissions and selling that hot air to polluting countries. Japan under its new government might have a reasonable plan on the table but has been obstructive in negotiations. Australia and New Zealand embrace the general lack of ambition.

So it is clear, given this lack of action on the part of the rich countries that caused the climate problem in the first place, why developing countries say they need to see the rich countries move before they do.

Which brings me to the U.S. We are now proposing to reduce emissions a miserable 3-4% below 1990 levels. We have put no solid numbers on the table to help developing countries mitigate their emissions or adapt to the problem we helped create. We generally advocate for the biggest loopholes in the rules. Sometimes we even block proposals that everyone except OPEC supports. And we seem to be saying that we won’t do anything more, especially without China doing more. It is embarrassing to be an American at talks like these. I am incapable of defending my country’s actions.

What is especially frustrating is that about half of the biggest, richest environmental groups from the U.S. continue to back the U.S. negotiating position. They are like a broken record that argues that we can’t take strong action in Copenhagen because then the Senate will be scared off from passing a climate bill in the U.S. Arrgh! People used to say we needed a strong bill in the Senate to get a strong deal in Copenhagen. Now we are hearing we need a weak agreement in Copenhagen to get any bill in the Senate at all.

So it is easy to see why I say there is almost no reason to be encouraged. Almost no reason. Let me point out the cracks of light. First, other than the elites that run the show here, the world largely supports strong action on an international climate deal. The hundred thousand or so in the streets here on Saturday was just one example. Next the people I work with everyday are tireless, fierce and refuse to take no for an answer. It is almost impossible of believe that this level of dedication can fail. And finally, a solution is in the hands of one man who can change everything.

President Obama could come here and unlock a deal that is fair, ambitious and legally binding. He could instruct negotiators to stop creating loopholes and blocking honest progress. He could commit to go beyond the weak levels proposed in the current bills before Congress. He could pledge to raise funds to help the world’s most vulnerable adapt to a problem that was created by our American lifestyles of consumption. He could sign up to a deal that has real consequences for the failure to meet commitments.

The amount of goodwill that would be unlocked in the world from the result of such action would be like a flood. So many people are waiting for leadership. There is a vast ocean of positive action held back by a dam of fear and self-interest. The kind of deal the world needs is all on paper right now in brackets; it simply needs to be released from those brackets, to be agreed. The leaders of 110 countries are arriving already. Everybody necessary to tackle this greatest of all problems head on will be in the same city on the same day with the same purpose. This can still happen.

When so many people all want the same thing and their leaders fail to deliver, it rocks my faith in democracy to the core. But I am not a quitter. Let me try one more time. Let’s give this guy one more chance to really be different. We effectively have three more days there in the U.S. to ask for what we want. So I am going to ask you to help.

I know, it seems like such a weak response to such a big problem, but let’s at least try. Let’s try everything we can to get the message to Obama that we want real leadership on this issue. Many of you have been asking me if you can share my emails. I am not only giving you permission to share or publish this email anywhere you want. I am asking you to please do so. Please share this email with anyone you think might care.

Then I am asking you to make that one phone call a day until this deal is done – White House switchboard – 1-202-456-1111. “President Obama, please show real leadership on the climate issue, not just a greenwash deal. Deepen our cuts, put long-term funding on the table and stop waiting for other countries to go first. Prove that America is the world leader we always claim.”

Again, I know it is a small effort on such a big problem, a forwarded email and three one-minute phone calls. But don’t let its small nature stop you. The Earth needs people who care more than ever. Rare moments in history arise when the way forward appears as a fork in the road. We’ll never know what might have or failed to have tipped the balance.

Please give a little push with me.

Tim Ream
15 December, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bolivia presents Bolivia presents Resolution “Harmony with Mother Earth” at the UN

The winds of change, they are a blowing. Values are suddenly the currency of the day. Time magazine believes we have the beginnings of a Responsibility Revolution. But to establish what those responsibilities are, the values that underpin them have to be determined first. Values are the bedrock of the new world that we are creating. So what of these values? Interestingly, it is not just the talk of imposed value (ie.monetary), rather intrinsic values. An intrinsic value is defined as 'the value of something in and for itself, irrespective of its utility for someone else'. What of the intrinsic value of our Planet? That is just what the Bolivians have suggested we address, along with the support of a further 22 nations.
Last week, on the 12th November, the Bolivian Ambassador Mr. Pablo Solon presented to the UN a Draft Resolution Presentation Speech “Harmony with Mother Earth” co-sponsored by Algeria, Benin, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Eritrea, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mauritius, Nepal, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Seychelles and Venezuela. The resolution seeks recognition of the Earth as a Whole and the interaction of human beings with that system of which we are a part.

Mr Solon stated to the UN: “We acknowledge and share the progress of the environmental agenda of the United Nations at the level of the biodiversity, the ozone layer, desertification, climate change and other sectors, but we are convinced that this needs to be supplemented with a more holistic approach given the serious global impacts we are witnessing.”

Of the approximately 200 items that the United Nations General Assembly Agenda has, about 10 deal with the environment and sustainable development, and none directly addresses the holistic, global and integrated relationship among human beings and the earth system as a whole. This parallels the focus of the forthcoming international climate change negotiations on the imposed value (i.e. the price we place on the planet’s resources; the financing of reduction of carbon emissions by use of carbon trading etc). To include recognition of the intrinsic value of the planet, as a living being with whom we have an interdependent relationship, would be an acknowledgment of Earth as a Whole, a concept Indigenous communities understand well.

Values: imposed v's intrinsic
It is the difference between treating the planet as a commodity and taking responsibility. Both start with very different paradigms. The former, from a position of viewing the planet as an inert being, from which we can take without consequence. The latter, a position of understanding the planet as a living being, where we are all interconnected and interdependent. The outcomes of such divergent views are dramatic - and we can see them being played out in the international climate change arena today.
It is not only the 350+ million indigenous peoples of the world and by a similar number of Buddhists who adhere by the intrinsic values of the planet: "1,360 experts from 95 countries that participated in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment ...propose that when analyzing and defining the actions that influence ecosystems it is necessary to consider not only welfare of human beings, but also the intrinsic values of the species and ecosystems."

Mr Solon’s proposal, supported by the 22 nations, for “a possible declaration of ethical principles and values to a life in harmony with Mother Earth” signals a growing momentum for recognition of what the Bolivian indigenous peoples term ‘buen vivir’ or ‘living well’ and in harmony with nature - a vision shared by many others throughout the world. The new paradigm is starting to take shape.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mother Earth rights and rights of all beings in Copenhagen Treaty

One year on from presenting planetary rights to the United Nations, Mother Earth rights and rights of all beings have been included in the forthcoming Copenhagen Treaty currently being drafted for the international climate change negotiations to be held in Copenhagen in December.

Paragraph 13 of the Non-Paper No 52 (of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Co-operative Action under the Convention, to give it it's full title) currently states:

"Noting that a shared vision for long-term cooperative action should take account not only of the rights of human beings, but also of the rights of Mother Earth and all its natural beings as the adverse effects of climate change also have a range of direct and indirect implications for the full and effective enjoyment of human rights - including the right to sustainable development, self determination, statehood, life, the right of people not to be deprived of their own means of subsistence, the right to water and the right to live well - and are increasingly posing a risk to security and the survival, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states."

As of yet, the inherent rights of the wider earth community have not been included. The rights listed are are specifically human-centered. Most are not rights identified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the exception being right to life), nor are they enshrined in national or international legislation. The proposed list does not take into account of the wider inherent rights that apply equally to all beings (including humans).

The inherent rights and freedoms that could be included here are:

1. the right not to be polluted;
2. the right to restorative justice; and

3. the freedom of a clean and healthy environment.

The implications of such wording for the future protection of biodiversity and restoration of large degraded eco-systems is of course enormous.

The right not to be polluted
By definition, pollution is the introduction of contaminants - be they synthetic or an excess of natural - into the environment that cause instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to physical systems and living organisms. Thus, the excess of greenhouse gases can be termed a pollutant. Such legislation is necessary to stop the continuance of large scale creation of GHG’s that are damaging to people and planet. Until we actually stop the pollution at source, no amount of offsetting, carbon crediting or carbon capture and storage will solve the problem.

On 17.04.09 the US Environmental Protection Agency ruled that excess greenhouse gas emissions are to be now termed as _"pollutants, which are a danger to public health"._ Greenhouse gases are also a danger to all beings health, as is cogently demonstrated by the loss of numerous species (the polar bear being the most obvious example). Likewise, Europe is now considering implementing a similar directive.
The right to restorative justice
Large scale restoration of degraded eco-systems (wetlands, forests, deserts etc) provides tangible, effective and true remedy on various fronts: the use of physical interventions to change biodiversity and biomass results in raised water tables, perennial agro-forestry practices, soil stability, natural fertility, hydrological regulation and the creation of natural carbon sinks. Correspondingly, such activities dramatically reduce biodiversity loss, fresh water stress, desertification, loss of soil fertility, poverty, disparity, population growth, conflict and climate change.

In China, the principle of restorative justice was applied with enormous success to the restoration of the Loess Plateau (referred to as the Loess Plateau principles) – 35,000 square kilometers of previously desert land (roughly the size of France) was restored to green oasis within 8 years (see: All that was learned from this project that had positive benefit has now become national policy, and all behaviours that were recognised to have negative input were banned.
The freedom of a clean and healthy environment
is the culmination of these two rights being applied. When both pollution and restoration are addressed, a clean and healthy environment for all beings is assured.

By including wider rights, the drafting of the Copenhagen Treaty would be a vitally important first step to integrating the principle of the interconnectedness of all life.

"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." Einstein

Pictures: Loess Plateau before and after restoration

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The People's Declaration

What is The Declaration of All Beings?

It is a self and community governance document to help shape our lives. It sets out the principles that can lead to a better world for us all, providing guidance, a way forward. It is a suggested path forward to create a better life for you, your children and the children of all beings, for all times. It is a powerful enabling tool, a matrix, the key to life itself.

Why is it referred to as The Peoples Declaration?

Because it is for the people of this planet to use – if you so wish. It is not a dogma or is it a legal requirement that is imposed by the state. It is for you to decide whether you accept and uphold what is presented here.

How does this compare with the Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights?

the Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights is a set of Rights that have been proposed to the United Nations to adopt, to create ‘hard law’ international legislation. The starting point is the Right Not to be Polluted, The Right to Restorative Justice and the Freedom to a Clean & Healthy Environment. The Universal Declaration of All Beings, however, is ‘soft law’; it expands on those initial rights, encompassing the values that shape our human responsibilities as well as the inherent rights and freedoms for all beings.

Who or what are All Beings?

  • All Beings = human beings + all that lives.
  • All that makes up the myriad of species and entities of this world.
  • The soil, the seas, the trees, the honey bee.
  • The 20 million plus species that provide support and benefit to Planet Earth.
  • The atmosphere, the biosphere, the geosphere, the stratosphere that surrounds us – even other planets.
  • The Declaration applies equally to Beings that we do not yet know of, the countless number of species that will evolve, that we have yet to discover, yet to meet, yet to identify.

Why is the Declaration laid out in a circular fashion?

The Declaration has been designed so that a child can understand it. It has been set out in a circular matrix for ease of use. It can be read from top to bottom, left to right, clockwise or otherwise. The Rights & Freedoms of All are underpinned by the Values, which in turn inform and lead to our Responsibilities. Our Responsibilities fall into two sub-categories, Obligations, and Duties. It is our Human Duties that we must act on now, for self and planet, to smooth our journey to raising our consciousness in preparation for the global shift at the end of 2012.

What can the Declaration be used for?

The Declaration is a proactive mechanism to change the world – yours and the planet’s. It can be applied to any situation any community large or small, at a personal, local, national and international level. It can be used:
  • for self contemplation, as a meditation or visualisation for self or in a group,
  • for future mapping, to co-create the future,
  • as a teaching aide, for children and adults alike,
  • as guidance for community decision making processes,
  • for decision making by setting up a Council of All Beings
  • as a global belief system to self-govern life on this planet
To read more, go to Trees Have Rights Too

Friday, July 17, 2009

Desertec Industrial Initiative

Monday found me in Munich with my fellow Board Members of the DESERTEC Foundation for the press conference of the ambitious launch of the DESERTEC Industrial Initiative (DII). The 12 founder European companies are HVDC makers ABB, the German insurer Munich Re, the energy groups E.ON and RWE, Deutsche Bank, HSH Nordbank, M+W Zander, MAN Solar Millenium, SCHOTT Solar, SIEMENS, ABENGOA Solar from Spain and the Cevital industrial group from Algeria. All the founder companies of the DII, whose regional focus is on Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (EUMENA), signed a memorandum of understanding on the DESERTEC Industrial Initiative.

Sometimes an idea has it's time. For DESERTEC this seems to be it. Arising out of a decision between Munich Re and the DESERTEC Foundation a month ago to found the DII, these 12 companies eagerly stepped forward to join, with many more queueing behind to participate. In the whole of it's history, Munich Re has never hosted such an enormous press conference (housed in a glorious palace with underground tunnels connecting other buildings - so complex you need guides in pretty red uniforms to take you from one area to the next without getting lost. I'll wager they have to sit exams just to ensure they know where to go). As you can imagine such an auspicious event being organised by Germans, this was run with military efficiency. The line-up was stellar, with the various Chairmen of the founder companies speaking of their strong commitment to back the most ambitious project ever for renewable energy, plus a sprinkling of MENA embassy representatives, and bold support from German governmental ministers, including Matthais Machnig, Secretary of State to the German Federal Ministry of Environment. Other participants included key North African players such as Lalia Georgy, Chair for Technical Affairs NREA, Egypt and Jamia Matar, Head of Energy Department, League of Arab States. All were timetabled in to speak to the minute, and at the end of the session I glanced at my watch to discover that it had indeed concluded at the appointed time - to the minute. This is one of the reasons I so admire Germany; such efficiency gives great confidence that things will indeed come to be done as planned. Quite simply, this country gets things done.

It was exactly one year ago that President Sarkozy launched the Med Solar Plan under his Union for the Mediterranaean. Industry, always capable of moving fast, have now taken up the baton. These companies, and many more who have stepped forward are wanting to be at the forefront of what they perceive to be the building of the new world. The DII itself is based on New World principles of co-operation rather than competitiveness. By 31st October a planning entity in the form of an incorporated company will be in place for the DII. It will not be in istelf a profit-led organisation but rather one to ensure the advancement of the DESERTEC principles, to which all future shareholders will subscribe. All companies involved will of course benefit enormously in pursuing the commonly shared objectives. The vision is now to become reality.

The aim is to ensure by 2050 that solar power from the northern Sahara will meet at least 15 percent of European electricity needs and a significant proportion of local electricity demand in the countries of North Africa. The purpose of the newly founded initiative is to clarify the technological issues and create the neccessary political, socio-political and economic foundations and develop a vaible implementation plan within the next three years. The DII is expected to network closely with the scientific community, non-governmental organisations and governement organisations. The DESERTEC Foundation will play a central role in this respect.

What I witnessed in Munich was a collective endeavour to make things happen. Industry can always move faster than governments in this regard, and today demonstrated much promise. One of the biggest hurdles so far has been political will. That is now shifting as well.

But we are still living in a world of 'should' rather than 'must'. The difference between these two words is legislation, from business as usual with nobs on to a radical and rapid turn-around governed by international law. This industrial initiative is a clear indication that industry is now gearing up and ready for entering into the world of must. International legisation such as a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights would provide one such mechanism to accellarate DII into ever more rapid transformation. The Right Not To Be Polluted would effect enormous advancement to put in place a clean electricity framework worldwide in as little as 10 years. Such a right would place the burden on the other foot - it would be for energy companies to positively advance clean energy systems and the generation of dirty energy (note that 78% of excess GHG's are generated by fossil fuel) would be rendered illegal. Emergency legislation to ensure this effect could be passed overnight (every country in the world can use emergency legislation - Bush recently did so by pushing through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act 2008 in his 11th hour to bail out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion).

It all just depends on whether you now think we have reached a state of emergency. The scientists do, much of the world does, now we have to persuade governments that it is so. What an irony it is that governments are the ones slowest to recognise this.

What we need now in Europe Middle East and North Africa is the equivalent of Al Gore's recent Climate Project - We Can Solve the Climate Crisis - petitioning from the people to push for the aim of repowering America with 100% clean electricity within 10 years. Over 2.3 million have already pledged their support. The same can be done here, so lets do it!

DESERTEC Industrial Initiative

Press: Renewable Energy World, Reuters

See here for excellent summary of international news coverage in English (best heading of the day: 'All the Worlds Saviours are Sitting in Munich Today!')

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Matrix of Life

The last year has been a remarkable journey for me. This is my story.

It began with a simple thought on the 28th June 2008 after seeing my brother's film on the 10 New Commandments at last year's Edinburgh Film Festival. What would be the top 10 Rights that should be drafted into a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights? I had been playing around with the idea of how to instigate a Duty of Care for the planet into international legislation, and the UN seemed the inevitable starting point. Three days later whilst up a Scottish hillside searching out the ancient cup and ring rocks of the Kilmartin Glen , I set my intent. Such a Declaration was the necessary starting point to re-establish the relationship we humans have lost with nature. How, I wondered, could I get this to the attention of the UN?

Telephone reception being rarer than sightings of mating osprey, I switched on my mobile; a momentary flicker of activity and it rang. It was the United Nations. The date was fixed, and 5 months later I had presented my proposal.

That was the beginning, and those who have followed my blog, the Trees Have Rights Too website and heard me speak at various conferences know of some of the landmark moments. Last week, my journey culminated with me travelling into the heart of Sweden to present the call for a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights at the Tallberg Forum.

Tallberg is a remarkable place in Sweden situated on the edge of the Siljan, a lake created by a meteorite over 300 million years ago. Such achingly beautiful countryside, the stillness of the lake stretching out below, it served as a potent reminder of the planet it all it's glory.

We heard from the world's foremost experts on climate change, we held workshops on potential solutions, we plotted and planned. People from the world's foremost institutions came together with the intent of making the planet a better place. These are the people who can take an idea and make it happen. As a counterbalance to all the intense discussions, I camped out beside the lake, I swam, and I thought more. Two messages came across strongly; firstly, it is too late for many of the longer-term plans being debated within the international fora. Secondly, our time-lines are wrong. We need to be looking at the next 3 years, not the next 20 to 50 years.

I realised that a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights was Plan A, but that a Plan B was needed, and by the 28th June, I had in my hand a Plan B.

So, I arrived at Tallberg with an idea - an idea for international legislation, and departed with an idea for a global social movement - a social declaration for all beings, a declaration that applied to individuals and communities rather than one within the hard law context, one that all could apply to ensure life for all, one based on values and our duty to the planet. This is not to negate the Planetary Rights, it is a part of it, but we need to go further, I realised.

Of course, no-one has ownership of ideas, and so I have now handed over the baton for Planetary Rights to the institutions and organisations that can drive it into the UN. That is the top down approach. My work in this regard is now done - my campaign is in effect over, as I believe that the baton has now been safely handed over.

Now we also need is to address matters from the other end of the spectrum - something that speaks not to institutions but to people.

What I devised was a matrix - a matrix for all life.

I can feel a global social movement coming on...

Today is the 4th of July, my birthday, and it's a glorious day. I am beside water again, this time the wide and wild expanse of Holkham beach in Norfolk, with winds caressing the sands over the empty dunes. Time now for a little time out.

Today is also known as Independence day. I look forward to the day it is renamed Interdependence day.

Thankyou all who have helped me in my journey over the past year. May this next one be even more exciting.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Redrawing the Map of the World

I have just returned from Anchorage, Alaska, from my attendance at the Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change. Of the 350 million Indigenous Peoples in the world, their most senior leaders from all corners of the globe coalesced for the purpose of finalizing the Anchorage Declaration. As a Celt, technically I can claim to be an indigenous person, but for the purpose of this conference, I was there in ‘observer’ capacity only - to listen but not to be heard. This is a disempowering state to be in, it has to be conceded, and one that ultimately proved to be most instructive.

What I heard over the first days was truly humbling. Stories from Asia, Africa, the Arctic, Latin America, North America, the Carribean and the Pacific of trauma, death and loss due to being the peoples at the forefront of climate change disasters. The same message came across time and again – these peoples, who tend not to be the ones generating the excess greenhouse gases, are the ones who are suffering the most.

Yet these people have no say in the current international climate change negotiations. At best they are able to have what is called ‘observer ‘ status, which means they do not have an active say in the decision-making. This is despite the fact that these peoples are the ones worst affected by climate change, the ones losing their peoples, their land, their homes, their communities torn asunder. All they can do is observe those who are sitting at the negotiation table in their limited and compromised attempts to solve the problem by market led solutions. As they perceive it (and not such an inaccurate description) all this amounts to is the unsuccessful attempt to trade away the planet. They can see all too clearly that such deals are simply not working.

Despite 7 years of carbon offsetting, questionable Clean Development Mechanism projects, limited roll-out of energy efficiency, much hot air vented over the need to see if we can successfully hide enormous amounts of CO2 back under the earth (CCS), and the attempts to rebrand coal as clean, greenhouse gases have escalated beyond all predictions. Reported to have hit 397ppm just this week, we have overshot greenhouse gas levels now by a long way, especially if you subscribe to climate expert and NASA Head of Goddard Institute for Space Studies James Hanson, who calls for 350ppm if we are to avoid planetary disaster.

So, back to the conference in Alaska. I was lucky. Unlike the 350 million Indigenous Peoples of the world who have no voice at the Kyoto talks, I was exceptionally allowed to contribute to this conference. To do so was an honour I shall never forget. My suggestion was that the Anchorage Declaration was an opportunity for the Indigenous Peoples of the world to embed their values, values that the so-called developed world have lost sight of: values such as our interconnectedness with nature, the need to respect nature’s own laws and the need to work as one in harmony with the planet. Such values had been repeatedly referenced throughout the conference, and these values are intrinsic within their spiritual practices from all corners of the globe – from Amazonian tribal practices, to the Sami convictions and the Zulu way of life. This is a knowledge that must be brought to the so-called developed world international climate change negotiation table.

Remap the World: Ecological Creditors v's Ecological Debtors
I suggested that the time has come to remap the world. It’s a theme I addressed the United Nations on the 6th November 2008, when I addressed them on the need for a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights. A world drawn on developed v’s developing countries basis is hierarchical and one based on outmoded empire way of thinking. It is restrictive, inaccurate, out of date and out of step with today’s realities. So very last century – infact, I would say it was so very 18th Century. It smacks of a time of the so-called Great Colonial Empire when slaves were simply a commodity to be traded, with no regard for consequence. We, the so called developed world, are doing the precisely the same today – only this time the commodity in question is the ecology of the planet. Time now to shift our approach and recognize that we have a world of ecological debtors and ecological creditors, and that it is time to stop those who are generating ever more outstanding debt and hold these ecological debtors to account.

Ecological creditors are not countries, but communities; those who are living on the planet without despoiling it, those who are living in harmony and who understand the inherent interconnectedness with all eco-systems. The ecological debtors on the other hand are those communities who are razing the planet, seizing it’s resources without concern for the consequence of others. The world of illegal loggers, extractive industries, intensive monoculture, GMO and agrochemical corporations – these are our modern world communities of ecological debtors. If we are to be serious in our attempts to stop the further escalation of greenhouse gases, we must put a stop to these debtor practices. After all, the planet is not a bank – there is no overdrawing facility. Just as we are witnessing an economic crisis due to a system built on the sand of borrowing with no pay-back, so now we are seeing the consequences of taking from the planet without recourse.

The Anchorage Declaration is a hugely important document. It is a positioning of those peoples who are affected most by climate change to demand a role as participants within the international climate change decision-making fora. I for one wholeheartedly support this move and call on them to stand strong with Unity. But it is not just the Elders who spoke at the conference. The youth voice of the Indigenous Peoples is particularly strong. They do not broker with compromise - after all it is the youth that have to live with the evolving world. Their strength is in their ability to ensure that compromise does not happen.

We can learn from the indigenous wisdom and values – indigenous peoples understand the inherent rights of the planet, and I am delighted to hear support for a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights. On 22nd April Evo Morales, the first indigenous president in Bolivia's history, told the UN General Assembly that people cannot put their interests above those of the Earth. "Not just human beings have rights, but the planet has rights," he said. "What's happening with climate change is that the rights of Mother Earth are not being respected."

The remapping of the planet has now begun.Webcast of Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change, Anchorage, Alaska, April 20 - 24 2009.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year - from Matt

In need of some winter joy? All you need ask is...where the hell is Matt?