Social PreCOP: the youth take the floor and the mesas begin

photo credit Zack Embree – see

by nathan thanki

Work at the social preCOP in Venezuela has finally begun on the process to prepare a declarative document reflecting the demands of social movements in relation to climate change and the international process.

Following a day of presentations from local governments—including the Mayor of Nantes and the Governor of Caracas—day two, called “Youth Take the Floor” began with a panel that included Jamie Peters, Silje Lundberg, Anjali Appadurai, Lorena Terrazas, and an 11 year old Venezuelan “guarda parquista.” Hector Rodriguez, Venezuela’s Minister for Education (Ministro del Poder Popular para Educacion) also featured, and Vice Minister for North America, Claudia Salerno, introduced the speakers and facilitated an extensive dialogue between the audience and panelists. Read more…

Changing the System, Not the Climate: July Social PreCOP begins

by nathan thanki

Greetings from Las Islas Margaritas, the site of the first ever social preCOP on climate change. Over the past few years on this website you may have read many dispatches, reports, polemics, and laments from the prefabricated halls of various UN climate change negotiations. We have watched and written as the process to negotiate a new global climate treaty (or whatever) was launched in 2011 and stumbled clumsily forward ever since.

photo credit Zack Embree

In case you didn’t notice, those writings have become increasingly frustrated. The “international community” of diplomats has, with only a few notable exceptions, back-slapped itself towards the edge of a climate cliff. We are now faced with the scary reality that collectively, but especially among rich industrialised countries, the ambition level is so low that keeping further warming below dangerous levels is essentially impossible. The unfairness (the inequity) of the situation is also a sore point and the cause of much of our frustration—large parts of the “developing” world are already struggling with the concurrent forces of increasing poverty, energy and food shortages, and privatisation of the commons—consequences of unfair international trade rules. Now they must also suffer the impacts of a changing climate, impacts they had relatively little hand in producing. As far as we’ve seen, the negotiations are going off down the wrong track of doing nothing more than establish new carbon markets, as if that would address systemic problems. We can and do write a lot about the many reasons behind this, but largely it is due to powerful lobbies and an imbalance of geopolitical power—exemplified by last year’s preCOP in Warsaw, which was exclusively for the (mainly fossil fuel) private sector. Read more…

The way here and the way forward: negotiating a new climate agreement

by nathan thanki

At the end of an unseasonably warm week in Bonn, the sun set on yet another round of UNFCCC (climate change) negotiations. The session, quieter than the end of year COP (Conference of the Parties) jamboree, has only dealt with one negotiating track—the “ADP.” The ADP, or Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (there’s a reason we use acronyms), is a negotiating process established in 2011 in Durban that is supposed to come to a close before COP21 in 2015, which you should note happens to be in Paris. What exactly the ADP is meant to come to a close with is still a matter of debate among countries and observers. The exact language in the decision (1/CP.17) which mandated these talks is a feat of creative ambiguity: the ADP is meant to conclude with “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.”  The term “applicable to all” has been subject to much debate, too.

In short, the ADP negotiations have not gone well to date.

Read more…

US submits views on future climate agreement

by nathan thanki

Since the Durban round of UN climate talks in 2011, governments have been struggling towards an eventual global agreement to address climate change (ideally, some say they’re just negotiating the establishment of more markets). The negotiation process, named the “ADP” (the D stands for Durban) is mandated to conclude in Paris in December 2015 with some kind of outcome. The exact language is a feat of amazing creative ambiguity: the ADP is meant to conclude with “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.”

Todd Stern of the USA

So far the negotiations have not gone well, with fundamental ideological differences being masked over by procedural fights. The most recent meeting in Warsaw didn’t result in any great progress, mostly making vague references to prior vague commitments. The Warsaw outcome mentions for the first time “nationally determined contributions” to reducing GHG emissions, reflecting a step away from a global budget approach (whereby we say that the supposedly “safe” temperature increase of 2 degrees could only be achieved if we emit X amount of carbon, and the game is to then decide who can emit what share) to a “pledge and review” approach (Whereby countries “pledge” to do what is “nationally appropriate” given their circumstances).

Read more…

Designing for Activism

by nathan thanki

There are a surprising many similarities between designing on a computer and designing “in reality,” with bodies instead of pixels. Designing a poster requires many of the same skills as designing a creative direct action. Both are attempting to convey a message, often a demand or a request, through largely visual rhetoric which, like spoken language, has been developed within social interactions. The process of design is by and large the same: there is collaboration; there is a target audience; there is always a context; and there is a fair amount of soul-searching that goes on once the designer/activist begins to ask basic questions of the form and function of the project. Often the output, be it poster or protest, is part of a broader campaign. There are considerations of consistency, coherence, and timing; of modularity and reproducibility. Can the final product be photocopied or just copied—can it be adapted to different contexts? In any design process, the limitations are crucial. What is the scale, physical and temporal? How much money is available? What is the capacity of the designer/activist team? We are based in a material world that has material limits—this impacts the design process. Read more…