COP21 Green-washed Logo is a Tonne of Hot Air

Literally. Does this logo just released by the UNFCCC remind you of anything? Something that is touted as green but in reality is leading to Tonnes of methane emissions and ruining air, water, and human health around the world? 

“Natural” Gas company and project logos, perhaps? You know- that ones that make this dangerous and dirty form of energy look like it’s a clean energy source? That’s what I thought, too.

 

And of course the color scheme looks like a more infamously green-washed icon: 

 

I personally prefer more honest logos… like this one:

More on Green-washing in a bit. Just let these images sink in for a bit.

The “A” in USA Does Not Stand for “Accountability”

Or Action. Or Ambition. Or Admirable. Or.. well anything positive as far as I’m concerned.

The UN Climate Talks are approaching being the longest in history as we await the re-opening of the negotiations at 11pm in Lima. The spark seems to have left and the fear of having a “deal” that doesn’t take into account the rights of people already impacted by climate change is looming over the whole conference center. Unless something drastic happens in the next 24 hours, this COP will do more than fail. It will lead to a dramatic step backwards in addressing climate change in a fair and equitable way.

The Venue after 1am is not the most pleasant place to be.

The Venue after 1am is not the most pleasant place to be.

I’m running on less than 4 hours of sleep after having stayed at the conference space until almost 4am to watch a new draft proposal of the Durban Platform on Enhanced Action (ADP) being unleashed. Yes, unleashed, not revealed or unveiled. The draft was essentially written without the consent of parties other than those in the “Umbrella group” which can lovingly be defined as the stallers of progress… or:

The Umbrella Group A loose coalition of non-EU developed countries which formed following the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. There is no formal list, but the Group is usually made up of Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the US. The Umbrella Group evolved from the JUSSCANNZ (an acronym for Japan, the USA, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway and New Zealand) group, which was active during the Kyoto Protocol negotiations.

Rihanna would definitely not want to take part in any of these groups despite her affection for umbrellas.

In the past week the United States has made one thing very clear: they do not want to be held accountable for Climate Change nor do they want to contribute what they are historically obligated to.

Our lead negotiator has said “I’m not a human rights man” when asked questions about equity, “We, the US, believe that Fair and Equitable mean the same thing so we would want to use one or the other. We prefer the use of Fair” in the more recent negotiations, and quite simply that “Climate Change is not the responsibility of just one country”.

Lead Negotiator Trigg Talley speaking in the ADP.

Lead Negotiator Trigg Talley speaking in the ADP.

As I sit here in the venue on what we all hope will be the last night of the COP, I’m stuck thinking of just how much this conference is smoke and mirrors. The draft ADP text, the deal that is supposed to emerge from Paris, is being written in a non-transparent manner and all vulnerable countries are crying foul. This can’t be real. How can a country that has been priding itself on being “ambitious” be the one keeping any action from happening?

This should invoke a feeling of impending doom.

This should invoke a feeling of impending doom.

Being from the US, I wish that I could make our negotiators understand that we have a historic responsibility that extends beyond our “historic emissions”. Our historical responsibility lies in the very existence of our “democracy” and the capitalist economy that continues the world’s development in the interest of the richest 1% and proceeds to steal the land of indigenous peoples everywhere while exploiting natural resources and polluting those that remain. The US has a historical responsibility for its oppression and hegemony that has hurled the world towards a 4 degree future, well beyond the limit defined by the best science.

The United States has to recognize and act on their responsibility to the world. Perhaps cutting fossil fuel subsidies and war spending might make it easier to follow through, huh?

Proud to be an American?

I really struggle with this, I’ve found, when I’m abroad. There are normally three reactions from people when I tell them that I’m from the United States 1) they get really excited 2) they get mad at me for everything that the U.S. has done 3) they stop talking to me.

A few days ago, I experienced number 2 while I was getting breakfast in my hostel. I entered our kitchen to hear a man pushing my fellow delegate about why we were here working on climate change issues. He was arguing that climate change is in the past and that we should be focusing on current issues (his example was “people in Africa don’t have water!” to which I responded, “yes, and increasingly more people don’t because of climate change). As we kept talking a bit, we realized it was not so much that he was against us working on climate change, it was more that he was upset about what the U.S. government is doing to his home country  and he wants us to make them accountable for it. According to this fellow hostel dweller, the U.S. is sending the chemical weapons from Syria to Albania to be “destroyed”. What bothers him is a) he’s from Albania b) according to our fellow hostel-er they don’t actually have the facilities to process the weapons- they will just be buried in the area where people whom Albania cares the least about live.

This conversation quickly shifted from us being on the defensive about why we were there to work on climate change to listening to our new acquaintance air his grievances. It’s true that my country continues to dominate other countries. It’s true that my country continues to push burdens that they don’t want onto other, less noticeable countries . It’s true that my country is not taking a firm stand with climate change and continues to block progress in negotiations. What do I have to be proud of?

The export of this?

IMG_6733

What about hegemony? 
IMG_6569

It pains me sometimes to, what it feels like, confess that I’m from the United States. What I’m proud of is that myself and my fellow delegates recognize that we do not come from a perfect country. The United States is not a perfect model- and we want to change that.

I may not be proud of all the my country has done, but I am definitely proud of the individuals that I know. I know so many wonderful and innovative people who care deeply about one another and the work that they’re doing. I’m proud of where I come from and the people I know.

This is an internal struggle that has been a part of me before COP and has since been exasperated. Other traveling folks from the United States, how do you (if you do) experience this?