When I attended my first international climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009, I was surprised by the limited opportunities to showcase the work that civil society, especially business leaders and innovators, were doing in their communities to tackle climate change.
It was not that these groups were not interested in participating in the conversations taking place in Copenhagen—on the contrary. Unfortunately, there were limited opportunities to share how innovative partnerships were already producing concrete results in the fight against climate change. Such a demonstration could have potentially helped bring together the national governments negotiating the outcome of the conference called the Copenhagen Accord.
Whether or not you think the Copenhagen conference was a success (I had my own thoughts after returning from the conference), one aspect that has substantially improved in the UNFCCC process since then is the ways in which non-state actors are participating and contributing to the overall goals of the international negotiations. Here is a recent interview (in Spanish) with Fernando Tudela, Mexico’s former Vice-minister of the Environment. In it, he explains how the Mexican government purposefully focused on new ways to engage both national governments and civil society to propose solutions to climate change and how this was critical to the success of the 2010 Cancun Climate Change Conference.
This year’s conference in Warsaw took the engagement by non-state actors to another level, truly turning the Warsaw conference into an opportunity to showcase concrete climate actions. Governments are increasingly open to acknowledging the work being done by non-state actors, learning from it, and perhaps finding ways to work together to take these efforts to scale. Thus, the Warsaw conference included a series of special events recognizing the activities that a myriad of actors, including cities and regional governments, corporations, and women’s groups are undertaking to address climate change. Most of these events took place inside the main conference venue, allowing national government officials to directly engage with corporate leaders and social innovators who are implementing concrete solutions to climate change.
The initiative I work on, Momentum for Change, played a prominent role during the Warsaw conference, highlighting specific examples of how communities, businesses, and civil society are coming together to tackle climate change. You can watch the main recognition event here:
The question now is how do Peru and France, as the countries responsible for organizing the upcoming international climate change conferences in 2014 and 2015, respectively, continue to make progress in bridging the world of the negotiations with the world of implementation led by international development agencies, business entities, civil society, and communities affected by climate change? It will not be an easy task, given the significant pressure for these countries to have the global community reach a universal climate agreement by 2015. There is also a busy schedule on the road to 2015, including concluding the negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. However, as long as the upcoming host governments continue to recognize that the involvement of non-state actors is essential to the success of the international negotiations, I expect to see an increased appetite for these actors’ participation. This will surely create the required groundswell of support for stronger action by all stakeholders, which will help secure an ambitious universal climate agreement in 2015.
Keeping in mind the recent successes achieved by the marriage equality movement in the US, I wanted to share a video that explains how some of these achievements came to be. In this video recorded during the Nathan Cummings Foundation’s Strategic Planning Process you can watch an amazing presentation by Ted Trimpa where he discusses how the marriage equality movement created a successful infrastructure to launch and maintain an effective national campaign. I wonder if some of the lessons he shared could be picked up by climate campaigners in the US and beyond, especially the linkage between philanthropy, policy and political spending to create social change.
I always loved the West Wing (I tend to re-watch it every so often). So when Newsnight came out, I was really excited. The show is a good reminder why Aaron Sorkin is a great writer. Below is a trailer for Newsnight:
However, someone sent me an online ad for Bridget Mary McCormack, a candidate for Michigan’s Supreme Court. It happens to be a 4-minute West Wing reunion with lots of the series’ main characters. Needless to say it is great! See below and enjoy!
Last night I read a pretty detailed review of Jeff Jarvis’ latest book Private Parts by Evgeny Morozov. To call it a “shellshacking” would be an understament…
After work I came home and saw that Jarvis had actually written a reply on Google+ and there had been a bit of back and forth (for some here and here) between Morozov and Jarvis on Twitter. I think the most interesting part of Jarvis’ response is the amount of comments from Jarvis supporters attacking Morozov’s critique. I found it interesting because many accused Morozov of being “cynical” and a “pessimist” especially against the “positive” and “forward-looking” cadre of cyber-utopians led by Jarvis and the like. It seemed that most people who supported Jarvis were from the US… It reminded me of a book by Barbara Ehrenreich titled Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World. How much is Internet-centrism a consequence of cultural norm? How much is it engrained in the “have a nice day!” society? I wrote Morozov about it on Twitter and if he responds, I’ll update the post!
I started reading Evgeny Morozov’s The Net Delusion and find it very interesting. It is obviously very timely due to the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt. The book argues for a more sophisticated look at the role that social media can play in promoting socio-political change. I’ll try to write a full review when I’m done, but share one thought with Lee Siegel who reviewed the book for the New York Times; Morozov does exhibit “traces of the Eastern European intellectual fatalist gloom from time.” The book so far reminds me of my time participating in Vacel Havel’s Student Forum 2000, and learning about the NGO community (which Morozov actually belonged to) in Central and Eastern Europe trying to promote democratic values with a constant dose of cynicism and dark humor. In any case… a proper review will come in the next few days.
By the time I got around to writing about the Bonn April 2010 meetings, I found out that a lot of people have already written a lot about it, so I’m just going to list a few pieces that I thought are worth-reading:
I find it particularly amazing how a fairly unexpected win by Scott Brown in Massachusetts may derail any chance of securing a legally binding treaty on climate change. Even before his election, the potential of passing a cap-and-trade bill in the US Congress seemed as a very challenging undertaking. Now, without a filibuster-majority, there is not any chance to pass a comprehensive climate change bill this year. Instead, the US Congress will likely pass a bipartisan energy bill, focusing on issues of energy security and efficiency, but without the much needed cap in carbon emissions. This would pretty much relinquish the Obama administration’s ability to cut a real global deal with legally binding provisions, and may even throw away the possibility of implementing the Copenhagen Accords.
Key developing countries such as China and India already seized the opportunity to jump ship from signing into the Copenhagen Accords, which they were responsible for putting together (China in particular was responsible for deleting any mention of mitigation targets by developed countries by 2050). One of the reasons they have claimed for not following up with their commitments was the election of Scott Brown and the unlikelihood of an improved US negotiating position.
I hope that the Obama administration is able to pull some type of miracle and convince some Republicans to sign up to a comprehensive climate bill, otherwise the whole world will be condemned by parochial politics in Massachusetts.
After returning to Bonn, I have had a chance to reflect on the outcome of COP 15. The lack of success had a significant toll on the emotional and physical health of many of my colleagues and friends attending the Summit, but I want to focus on constructive solutions to some of the many problems that came up from COP 15.
1) Logistics: Over 40 thousand people ended up showing up in Copenhagen for COP 15, while the Bella Center only was able to hold 15 thousand people. It is incredible that the UN and the Danish government could not predict that logistical nightmare that many participants had to endure on their way in to the negotiations. It is imperative that for upcoming conferences, the UN and the host country recognize that climate change has become a top-political issue and will bring thousands of activists, government officials and media representatives interested in influencing the process. For example, passes could be mailed in advance or distributed in multiple venues throughout the host city, accreditation could reflect the venue’s size (!) and increasing efforts for video conferencing the sessions could be put in place.
2) Consensus vs. majority-based decision-making: One thing that was demonstrated at COP 15 was that the consensus-based model for decision making within the UNFCCC process is dated. The Copenhagen Accord was by no means the perfect outcome, but it still provided a good first step for on-going negotiations. The role of certain countries in bringing their national ideological struggles to the Summit, while denying the international community of some progress in its attempt to deal with climate change was regrettable. I hope that Parties to the UNFCCC reconsider this process, otherwise climate change issues may end up being discussed in a smaller, less democratic setting.
3) The role of the media: For the first time in its history, a COP meeting attracted a level of media attention reserved for high-level meetings for (controversial) organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). On one hand this demonstrates the level of political relevance that climate change has been able to achieve, but it also contributes to the circus atmosphere felt in Copenhagen. A colleague told me that when you have over 5 thousand journalists all seeking for the juiciest story, it is only inevitable for tensions to rise as politicians try to look good for audiences back home. For example, the media pressure may have led President Obama to rush an agreement with a limited amount of countries. I was particularly surprised to see journalists holding negotiating text before government officials did!
4) The role of the United Nations: As I mentioned before, there is a serious risk for the negotiation process on climate change issues to be taken out of the UNFCCC context. This is indeed a very dangerous prospect! Not just for the obvious personal reasons, but because the UN, with all of its imperfections, still remains the only inclusive global forum. I do think that the process needs to be reformed (see point 2), but government officials, especially those from small developing countries should discourage any attempts to move the negotiation setting to grouping such as the G7 or G20.
I’ll make sure to keep sharing my thoughts on the UNFCCC process on this blog! I remain hopeful that COP 16 in Mexico will help us get back on track to save humanity from irreversible climate change.
(see English version at the bottom)
Saludos! Ya han pasado varios meses desde la ultima vez que escribí una nota en este blog. He estado repleto de trabajo y he participado activamente como voluntario en ONGs amigas, y en unas iniciativas personales las cuales compartiré muy pronto. De cualquier forma, me sentí obligado a compartir unas líneas sobre la situación actual en Honduras.
Casi una docena de amig@s de toda la región, incluyendo activistas de derechos humanos en Honduras me han escrito compartiendo su indignación y preocupación por la situación política de ese país. Todos se han demostrado en contra del golpe de estado; algunos por razones netamente jurídicas (el golpe fue un acto ilegal) y otros por razones ideológicas (como activistas de derechos humanos la mayoría tiende a ser izquierdista). Mis amig@s y familiares venezolanos muestran una opinión totalmente opuesta. Ellos se manifiestan en apoyo del golpe de estado (al cual se refieren como vacío de poder), enfatizan que todos los poderes públicos están a favor del nuevo estatus quo (porque Zelaya quebrantó las leyes al convocar la encuesta) y demuestran alegría con la idea de que las actividades expansionistas del venezolano Hugo Chávez han sido detenidas. ¡Estas por supuesto son apreciaciones totalmente distintas de un mismo hecho! ¿Cómo es esto posible? Lo trataré de explicar…
Después de varios días de observación, mi análisis es el siguiente: se llevo a cabo un golpe de estado ilegal en Honduras, el cual es muy difícil de justificar. Los poderes públicos debieron haber empezado un proceso jurídico que pudiera separar al presidente de su cargo, si en realidad había cometido infracciones en contra de su nación. Esto hubiese mantenido el hilo institucional de Honduras y fortalecido sus instituciones. Pero, como analista de políticas internacionales también tengo que entender la realidad política e institucional actual en America Latina. El continente vive en un mundo de paradojas y realismo mágico que es difícil de comprender. Sea creado una moda mediante la cual gobernantes como Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales y Rafael Correa han usado el disfraz de la institucionalidad para consolidar su poder como presidentes, dejando al resto de los poderes públicos como sirvientes leales de sus proyectos políticos, en vez de vehículos de contrapeso dentro de un sistema verdaderamente democrático. O sea, no existen métodos legales ni elecciones confiables, que permitan una alternabilidad democrática en estos países (esto sirve de aclaratoria para mis amig@s que mencionan las elecciones como medio viable para la alternabilidad política en el continente). De una manera novedosa, para llamarlo de alguna forma, han logrado utilizar el sistema para disfrazar sus regimenes autoritarios bajo la manta de la democracia. Lo que existe, como existía en la Argentina de Perón y recientemente auspiciado por hombres como Norberto Ceresole (mentor de Chávez), es una relación pueblo-caudillo, que no deja espacios para otras instituciones democráticas. La gente se relaciona directamente con el líder, y los demás actores políticos solamente están como parte de un reparto de segunda que apoya lo que diga el líder en su momento (claro hay que notar que todos son hombres… este neo-caudillismo no dejo por fuera el machismo que nos caracteriza a los latinoamericanos, pero eso es para otro post…).
Dentro del marco de las relaciones internacionales, también se esta dando a lugar otra cosa fuera de lo común, en el que espacios como la OEA se están utilizando como herramientas para perpetuar el circulo vicioso en el que se encuentran los gobiernos de la denominada Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas (ALBA). Se esta convirtiendo en un grupo de apoyo, alimentado mediante el uso de los petrodólares, mediante se defiende cualquier agresión en contra de los dirigentes narcisistas (como los llama Andrés Oppenheimer), en vez de defender a las instituciones democráticas en dichos países. Como diría el mismo Sr. Oppenheimer en una columna reciente, ¡la OEA se ha convertido en un espacio donde permiten que un dictador militar como Raúl Castro despotrique en contra de los ataques anti-democráticos del gobierno en Honduras! (WTF?!?)
En fin, espero que mis amig@s hondureños puedan decidir el futuro de su país de una manera que refuerce su derecho a su autodeterminación como pueblo. De igual forma, creo que si el gobierno actual en Honduras se mantiene, crearía un precedente político fuera de lo común en el continente; si desconoces las leyes y la constitución te arriesgas a ser destituido por el Congreso y la Corte Suprema y puesto en un avión a un país vecino así seas el presidente del país. Por algo seria que ya Hugo Chávez empezó a decir que había que hacer hasta lo imposible para evitar que los partidos políticos que lo antagonizan obtengan cuotas de representación en la Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela…
Greetings! It has been months since I posted to this blog, but I have been full of work and been actively volunteering with some NGOs. I also have started working on some other initiatives that I’ll share soon. However, I wanted to write a few lines about the current situation in Honduras.
Almost a dozen friends from across Latin America, including human rights activists in Honduras, have written heartfelt notes regarding the current political situation in this Central American country. They are all against the coup; some of them for legal reasons (the coup was completely illegal) and others for ideological reasons (as human rights activists they tend to be leftists for the most part). My friends and family members in Venezuela have a completely opposite point of view. They fully support the coup (they say that democratic institutions responded to a power vacuum), stress that all branches of government are in favor of maintaining the current status quo (given that Zelaya broke the laws by organizing a referendum) and are actually happy about stopping Chavez’s expansionist activities. These are obviously completely different observations of the same event! How is this possible? I’ll try to explain…
After paying attention to the situation for a few days, I think that the coup in Honduras was illegal and it is very hard to justify. All branches of government should have started a legal process against the president if he was really breaking Honduras’ laws. This would have maintained the rule of law and strengthened the country’s institutions. However, as an international relations analyst I also have to acknowledge the current political reality in Latin America. The continent lives in a really convoluted state of paradoxes and magical realism that is hard to explain. Regional leaders like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa have started to use their electoral victories as a way to legitimize their power grab, whereas other branches of government no longer provide a system of check and balances. There are not any real legal methods or trustworthy electoral processes to provide a true sense of democracy with alternating political parties (I write this as a warning to my friends who claim that electoral processes can guarantee democratic institutions in these countries – Chavez, Morales and Correa control the entities that run the elections!). Today, these countries practice what used to be the norm in Peron’s Argentina and encouraged by men like Norberto Ceresole; a direct relationship between the people and their leader. This type of relationship does not allow other branches of government to hold real power, and are relinquished to satisfy the leader’s wishes (it is important to note that all these leaders are men, not women – this “neo-caudillismo” has not left out the chauvinism that characterizes Latin American societies, but I could discuss this in another post…).
Something very strange is also playing out within the world of international relations; the members of the so-called Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) are now using institutions such as the OAS as tools to perpetuate their authoritarian regimes. It is essentially becoming a support group for the leaders of these countries as they strengthen their internal positions, instead of a promoter of democratic institutions across the region. As Andres Oppenheimer recently wrote, the OAS has become a place where a military dictator such as Raul Castro attacks the new Honduras government for its lack of democratic credentials! (WTF?!?)
I hope that my Honduran friends are able to decide their fate in their own terms. I also think that if the current government is able to hold on to power, it will create a huge political precedent in the region; if a president disregards the constitution, he/she is risking a coup supported by all other branches of government. No wonder Hugo Chavez recently expressed his concern about potential gains by political enemies within the Venezuelan National Assembly…