The UN Climate Change Conference, officially the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, closed its 14-day meeting in Lima, Peru, late Dec. 14, two days after its scheduled end. The 196 parties to the UNFCCC approved a draft of a new treaty, to be formally approved next year in Paris, and to take effect by 2020. An earlier draft was rejected by developing nations, who accused rich bations of dodging their responsibilities to fight climate change and pay for its impacts. Peru's environment minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who chaired the summit, told reporters: "As a text it's not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties." Friends of the Earth's Asad Rehman took a darker view: "The only thing these talks have achieved is to reduce the chances of a fair and effective agreement to tackle climate change in Paris next year. Once again poorer nations have been bullied by the industrialized world into accepting an outcome which leaves many of their citizens facing the grim prospect of catastrophic climate change." (BBC News, ENS, Dec. 14)
Some 20,000 took over the streets of Lima Dec. 10 for a People's Climate March, the climax of an activist-organized parallel People's Summit. Environmental campaigners were joined by campesino and indigenous peoples from across Peru and other Andean nations, as well as student organizations and trade unions. March organizer Dipti Bhatnagar of FOE said: "The demand of this march is not a deal at the UN, but a deal at the UN that actually includes the rights and needs of impacted people. If there is no justice, there is no deal." (ENS, Dec. 11)
Organizations at the People's Summit issued statements rejecting extractive projects in the rainforest and Andean sierras, as well as fracking and GMO technology, but also "false solutions" such agro-fuels, carbon trading and the UN's REDD+ forest preservation plan. Statements also protested the "criminalization" of activists and opponents of the "extractive model." (Luces Indígenas, CONAMAQ, December 2014)
Terror in the rainforest; technocrats in denial
Two weeks before the summit opened, the NGO Global Witness issued a report, "Peru's Deadly Environment" (PDF), finding that at least 57 activists have been killed in Peru since 2002—more than 60% of them in the last four years. Only Brazil, Honduras and the Philippines have a more deadly record. The report found that "pressures from extractive industries has in many cases led to violence against protestors." Deforestation of the Peruvian Amazon—which accounts for about half of the country's carbon emissions—nearly doubled in 2012. The World Bank has estimated that as much as 80% of the country's timber exports were felled illegally. (The Guardian, Dec. 17)
Despite this abysmal record, Peru is embraced by technocratic UN programs such as REDD+. At the September UN climate talks in New York, Peru signed a $300 million deal with Norway aimed at reducing net deforestation to zero by 2021. Peru committed to increase by five million hectares the land titled to indigenous peoples, and to respect their territorial rights under the new consultation law and International Labor Organization convention 169. "There is growing evidence that economic growth and environmental protection can be combined," said Peru's President Ollanta Humala, calling the agreement "a major step forward in realizing the vision of deforestation-free development."
With more than 68 million hectares of forests, Peru has one of the world's five largest tropical forest areas. Some 350,000 indigenous people live in the Peruvian Amazon, including several "uncontacted" tribes in isolation from the outside world. "We have a lot of work to do to protect Peruvian forests, to formalize the rights of Peruvian indigenous peoples, to put Peru on a path toward sustainability," Humala said.
Outlined measures in the agreement with Norway include ending the transfer of forested lands from protected status to agricultural use—but alo establishing a public-private coalition with extractive corporations that are ostensibly committed to zero-deforestation policies. (The Guardian, Dec. 5; UN Climate Change Summit, Sept. 23)
Nincompoops in Nazca
The Lima summit was punctuated by an egregious faux pas for international climate campaigners. Peru is planning to file criminal charges against Greenpeace activists who may have permanently damaged the Nazca Lines World Heritage Site during a publicity stunt. The activists enetered a prohibited area beside the 2,000-year-old giant glyph of a hummingbird, where they laid big yellow cloth letters reading (in Englsih): "TIME FOR CHANGE! THE FUTURE IS RENEWABLE—GREENPEACE."
Following outrage, Greenpeace quickly issued a statement apologizing for "any moral offense" to the Peruvian people. The activist group said it would collaborate with the government to determine if damage was done to the site, and pledged not to use photos of the action in its campaigns. Greenpeace is also dispatching executive director Kumi Naidoo to Lima to apologize in person to the Peruvian government. But Peru asserts that Greenpeace has still failed to provide a full list of the names of the activists involved in the stun, some of whom are thought to have fled the country. (BBC World Service, Dec. 15; Greenpeace, Dec. 12; io9, Dec. 11; The Guardian, Dec. 10)