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Off to the Races: WORLD SOCIAL FORUM HAS RESPONDED to Friedman's Challenge

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By Kevin Stoda. American in Germany

Last December, after a fairly disappointing USA (and European) showing at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, Thomas L. Friedman challenged the States of the World to a race to solve the head on natural catastrophe that foresees cooking the planet's inhabitants at 2 degrees to 4 degrees higher over the next 50 years. The Southern Hemisphere responded with a conference in Bolivia, saying that the race won't take place on its own as the state actors aren't as motivated as millions and billions of peoples at grass roots level can be to the challenges of global warming. (The could be because the nations of the world are run by elites who do not seem to know how to serve up truth to the masses of people who want action now and immediately on saving the climate and planet from a change has already been too fast for the poorest to survive in.)

It was in his editorial "OFF TO THE RACES", in the New York Times that Thomas Friedman publically made the challenge to the States of the World. Friedman explained that after the Copenhagen failures and retreats by many nation states, he thought there was a better way: "I've long believed there are two basic strategies for dealing with climate change -- the "Earth Day" strategy and the "Earth Race' strategy. This Copenhagen climate summit was based on the Earth Day strategy. It was not very impressive. This conference produced a series of limited, conditional, messy compromises, which it is not at all clear will get us any closer to mitigating climate change at the speed and scale we need."

Friedman added, "Indeed, anyone who watched the chaotic way this conference was "organized,' and the bickering by delegates with which it finished, has to ask whether this 17-year U.N. process to build a global framework to roll back global warming is broken: too many countries -- 193 -- and too many moving parts. I leave here feeling more strongly than ever that America needs to focus on its own Earth Race strategy instead. Let me explain."

This week, we observed many stumbles in the USA in such a race. This Earth Day Week 2010 began with the Kerry, Lieberman and Graham introduction of their climate control bill. Most consider the bill little-more-than-a-slap-in-the-face of Earth Day and to the EPA.

Far away in Cochabamba, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, Daphne Wysham criticized the abysmal Earth Day performance in the USA.

The Kerry, Lieberman and Graham bill has offered Americans and their corporations more scams and derivative style pollution trading. Wysham stated as much in an interview with Amy Goodman, "Now, what's going to happen . . . when Kerry, Lieberman and Graham introduce their bill? First of all, one of the conditions of the bill we're hearing is that it will eliminate the EPA authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which is a slap in the face to everything that Earth Day stands for, which is, as you mentioned, putting in place these very strong laws. Secondly, it will include cap-and-trade provisions between utilities, so you could have a nuclear power company trading with a coal power company, but if it's too expensive for them to meet their emissions targets, they could buy offsets. And what people here in Bolivia are saying is "Hands off our forests. We don't like carbon offsets.' And unanimously, all of the statements that are coming out of the different working groups here are condemning carbon markets. They say they failed in the European Union, they are not a solution, we don't have the atmospheric space to continue imagining that offsets are going to get us to where we need to go, which is 350 parts per million CO2. And so, here in Bolivia, there's a lot of hope that Earth Day actually means something, that it does mean, you know, reclaiming the right to controlling our natural resources. The indigenous people have made that claim. And unfortunately, that message is not being heard loudly and clearly enough in Washington."

Last week, in Hamburg, I met some students attending the country's only program for bankers and financiers wanting to invest in green technology and energy. They noted that it is well understood in Europe that competition, as offered by cap-and-trading practices (like in the Kerry, Lieberman and Graham legislation) , have not worked. In short, cap-and-trading is not seen--even in Europe (which passed the Kyoto Protocol into law years ago and) which employs cap-and-trade--as useful for combating climate warming.

Amy Goodman asked, "Who is influencing this [current USA] legislation? Who has the ear of these senators, and who gets heard?"

Wysham replied, "Well, right now, they are paying very close attention to the usual suspects: the US Chamber of Commerce, who has in its ranks the American Petroleum Institute, some of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the country. They're paying attention to some of the large environmental groups, like Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, others that are in favor of this cap-and-trade approach. So there are other groups. In fact, I'm part of a no-offsets coalition in the United States that includes people from all over the country who recognize that this two billion tons of carbon offsets that are in both the House and the Senate bill represents 30 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions. That means the US could do nothing verifiable, no verifiable emissions reductions, until 2030. We could buy our way out of the problem by, for example, gas flares. In Nigeria, gas flares are illegal. They've been claiming that they're going to end gas flaring in the Niger Delta for decades. Now, along comes the World Bank, through their Global Gas Flare Reduction Partnership, and they're going to actually pay corporations like Chevron to end gas flaring, which is illegal, and those credits will then count toward Chevron continuing to emit in the Global North, and they can claim emissions reductions. So, in fact, a carbon offset credit project like this has already been approved involving Eni, which is an Italian oil company. The UN CDM has approved a carbon offset credit involving gas flare reduction."

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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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