COP21 Final Agreement Will Include the Flaws of the Kyoto Protocol
Mary Lou Malig of the Global Forest Coalition says the negotiations in Paris are pursuing market-based solutions that will not save the planet
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
The United Nations’ two-week-long climate conference known as COP 21 is on its third day in Paris. It began on Monday with the stated goal of negotiating a binding global climate agreement that would limit the rise in global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius. However, our next guest, Mary Lou Malig, says that the negotiations were flawed from the outset, and past agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol have shown how market mechanisms and carbon markets lead to massive cheating on targets for limiting emissions.
Mary Lou Malig is joining us from Paris today, and she is a researcher and trade analyst and campaign coordinator for the Global Forest Coalition. The group recently released a report titled Land, Forests, and Hot Air. Mary Lou Malig, thank you for joining us today.
MARY LOU MALIG: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Sharmini.
PERIES: So Mary Lou, you say that this conference, COP 21, is flawed from its beginning. Why?
MALIG: Yes, because of the fact that they allowed a flexibility mechanism in the Kyoto Protocol. In the Kyoto Protocol there was language about historical accountability of 37 industrialized countries and how scientifically they were proven to be responsible for the pollution and the warming of the planet. And so they had the legal commitment to cut emissions by at least 5 percent below 1990 levels in the commitment period from 2008-2012.
However, instead of being, instead of having to cut only at source, meaning at home cutting your dirty industries, cutting your, cutting back on fossil fuel consumption, cutting back on coal, cutting back on other dirty forms of energy, the Kyoto Protocol allowed for a flexibility mechanism which was basically these 37 industrialized countries could offset their emissions by doing “clean” development projects in developing countries, or by buying and selling their carbon credits.
PERIES: Give us some examples of this carbon credit offset scenario.
MALIG: A scenario would be that one of the 37, one of the 37 industrialized countries, instead of closing down a coal power plant would then go to a poor, developing country, give them money to plant some trees. Let’s say a million trees. And then they earn credits from that. And because of the credits that they’ve earned, they don’t have to close the coal power plant, because they’re offsetting their pollution.
PERIES: And why do you say it’s not working, and it’s cheating?
MALIG: Well, because we only have one atmosphere. You know, it’s not–it’s the market, this whole idea of a carbon market, was very unreal. I mean, it was not, it wasn’t as if, if you planted some trees that it would then negate your coal power plant pollution. And also, a lot of the tree plantations and clean development mechanisms of clean development projects that they did were harmful to the communities, harmful to the environment, harmful to the biodiversity of the place. For example, an entire area in Indonesia where they wiped out, they removed some–they forcibly removed communities in order to plant plantations. And then those plantations would absorb, supposedly, the carbon emissions of equal to Manchester.
So it’s science fiction. I mean, it’s–we only have one atmosphere.
PERIES: Plus it led to, in places like Canada where we had a Conservative government for about ten years, and where corporations actually lobbied the government to abandon the Kyoto agreement altogether.
MALIG: Mm-hmm. And also, it led to the collapse of the emission trading scheme, because the price of carbon was too low. So the markets collapsed. They didn’t have any–nobody, nobody was buying anymore. So it was an overestimate. They priced, they put too much carbon credits into the market. So it brought the price too low, and emissions trading scheme of the European Union collapsed.
PERIES: And you also say that the World Bank, because they supported the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degredation, what they called the red scheme, and the final rules of which were to be formally adopted in Paris, has added significantly to this kind of cheating.
MALIG: Yes, exactly. And they have a new proposal called Climate Smart Agriculture, which basically is about creating a new market for soils. For land, for–so in the negotiations this would be under land use. But land use and land use change and forestry, it sounds very technical. And you wouldn’t really think–you wouldn’t really think of it as related to agriculture, but land–it’s definitely related to agriculture.
And the new proposal of the World Bank is to create this new program called Climate Smart Agriculture, which sounds very nice. But actually, it’s about carbon accounting determining agricultural policy. Because what they want to do is to produce more food and less land with crops that are able to withstand drought or flood or rain, or any kind of weather, which means they’re GM, genetically modified. And that will be able to absorb carbon. And then it will be introduced, a market on soils, so that they can then trade the credits that they have from the sinks in their soils, which is crazy, because of the impermanence of carbon being absorbed by soil in the first place, but also because it’s going to create another land grab for, like how red became a forest grab from communities, Planet Smart Agriculture will become a land grab from farmers.
PERIES: Mary Lou, what is the best case scenario you can hope for under these very restricted circumstances in Paris?
MALIG: Well, we’re really not expecting a good deal. Definitely, undoubtedly, what’s on the table is more markets, is going to be not–it’s probably not going to be legally binding. Or if they make it legally binding they’re not going to include the intended nationally determined contributions in that.
So really, we’re expecting a bad deal. I mean, I know a lot of people are saying that oh, Paris is going to save the world. But that’s not true. And I think the best case scenario is that the front line communities and the people at the grassroots, the people who are fighting these battles nationally on the ground, really get together and push for change from outside. I think if we can’t change it, if we can’t get a good deal because the UN has been taken over by corporations, then the best case scenario we have is that the people take over. And the people push from, from their fights, and push nationally. And push, push their governments to be accountable to them, to have clean jobs, to have a just transition, to have real energy, clean energy, to have zero deforestation. And really push for system change. Because that’s how we’re going to move forward.
PERIES: Mary Lou Malig, I thank you so much for joining us today, and we look forward to hearing from you again.
MALIG: Thank you so much for the opportunity and for having me.
PERIES: You’re most welcome. And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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