The United Nations climate negotiations continued in Cancun today but hopes of coming to a strong deal on limiting global greenhouse emissions are looking more and more like a pipe dream.
WMNF's Kelly Benjamin has been attending the talks and reports that Grenada’s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, representing the Alliance of Small Island States, many of whom are feeling immediate effects of climate change, gave a scathing critique of the UN talks.
"There's an urgent need to address the question of the Global Emissions Reduction Target. Madam President, just this morning we were presented with a ... report which indicated that the emission reduction pledges on the table are far from sufficient to reach the goal of 1.5 degrees [Celsius] as has been advocated by more than 106 countries, but Madam President, are we doing anything about closing the gap? Are we doing anything about raising the level of ambition?
"The answer is a resounding no. How are we to fix emissions in 2015 if we do not take decisions here to increase the level ambition to one that is consistent with the 1.5 degree goal? That brings me to the question of the second committment period of the Kyoto protocol. Why are we delaying a final decision on this?"
Outside the UN talks, protests led by indigenous groups have been taking place over the last week.
Rogelio Alquisiras Burgos is an organizer with UNORCA or the National Organization of Autonomous peasants and Via Campesina.
"The environmental crisis has forced us to face up some unbelievable events, so for now to produce and to harvest, it's getting more difficult to predict when is the best time do these, because now you have these very unexpected dry seasons or too much of a rainy season so that makes small farmers very vulnerable to these conditions. We see at a world point of view agricultural and local communities have been excluded from the benefits of public policies. These communities and local agricultural communities have been hurt by the interests of international treaties."
A surprising figure at the Via Campesina protests was Hollywood actress and environmental activist Darryl Hannah. She says it's unbelievable that indigenous groups do not have a voice at the UN climate negotiations.
"It's unbelievable they're not even invited in. It's just shocking. Enough of the talk, enough of the politics, enough of the economics, let's get to the action. People are taking action and they're demanding action. That's what it's going to take to really change the world to be the world that we want it to be."
Do you have any hopes of there being a binding agreement coming out of these talks?
"It's not looking very positive with the three biggest carbon emitters, the heads of state not even showing up. But I do have hope because I really feel that people, the public, people who live on this planet not the ones who just want to profit from it and get a better job in government. People have really hit the limit. They're sick of it, and so I think we're going to start seeing a lot of really dramatic shifts"
What would you like to see come out of the talks?
"An immediate commitment to moving to clean regenerative energy, abandoning chemically laden, genetically engineered monocrop agricultural system and getting a more common sense agricultural system, maybe some permaculture philosophies, and also protecting any ecosystems that we have left, especially fresh water, those ones in the oceans of course, less than one per cent of the oceans are actually preserved or protected and even those aren't even enforced. Twenty per cent of land is protected, but you know, one per cent of the oceans which is the majority of our planet. We've got to start creating some marine reserves, stop over fishing. Trawling should be against the law. Anybody who dredges and trawls is done, you know? Just common sense. Take a little common sense approach to the way that we deal with the natural world, that's it."
As we reported earlier this week, an agreement on REDD, meant to stop deforestation by having developed countries pay developing countries not cut down their forests is highly expected to come out of the Cancun talks. There have been encouraging developments on fundamental pieces of the REDD agreement, but nations have less than 48 more hours to secure a solid agreement that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and respects and protects the rights of indigenous people.
Tune in the rest of this week for continued reports on the progress toward such an agreement.
Originally aired on WMNF Radio in Tampa, Florida: 12.8.10 listen HERE.