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  • One of Criollo's photos of activists at COP21.

    One of Criollo's photos of activists at COP21. | Photo: Facebook / Manuel Criollo

Published 11 December 2015
teleSUR English speaks to Manuel Criollo, the director of organizing at the U.S.-based Labor rights and environmental campaign group The Strategy Center about the possible failure of nations to reach an agreement in COP21 climate change talks and what any forthcoming pact could mean for Latin America.

Manuel Criollo speaks at a demonstration in 2012. | Photo: Facebook / Manuel Criollo

Delegates from numerous countries have been locked in negotiations for hours in a bid to thrash out a climate change pact and have yet to reach a total agreement. As a result, the summit’s official closing date is being extended. What are the stumbling blocks the negotiators have faced in their talks for the 2020 climate change agreement?

Manuel Criollo: The story stays the same as it has for the past 20 years during this tragic climate chess game called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: On one side, the ex-colonial and imperialist powers of Europe, Japan and the white-settler nations of the Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States (its ringleader) and on the other side, stand the nations and peoples of the Third World (in U.N.-speak often referred as Developing Nations). It’s been a game of attrition, bullying, intimidation, divide-and-conquer and the constant changing of the rules at every turn.

The binding agreement has to recognize and compensate for the climate crimes and climate debt that these Developed Nations (developed out of colonial and imperial plunder) have and will continue to cause on the planet.

As a new draft of the Paris climate talks hits the halls of the U.N., one of the most important and yet utterly complicated early outcomes has been the embracing of a 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold by many parties, including the United States, to not surpass this climate threshold—a critical demand that many people of the world and those most impacted by the global warming have advocated for. Yet as negotiations move forward the details of the draft would render this important threshold a toothless and unenforceable goal and worst it would attempt to circumvent the idea of what been called “loss and damages” (U.N. talk to say climate reparations) for the climate crimes caused by the advent of U.S., European, Japanese colonial capitalist polluting development over the past 150 years.

The U.S. continues to be the director of a tragic play that openly calls for climate apartheid...

Another critical debate has been to continue efforts to undermine a core principal of these climate talks, which has been the principal of common but differential responsibility. Really, it’s been a major piece of contestation, and the U.S. reaction is to uphold climate apartheid, where it can scenically say, “we are no longer the leading emitter,” and this is no longer 1992 (hint, hint and wink, wink now it’s China), yet as a Venezuela climate negotiator so righteously questioned, “it’s annoying to hear that the world has changed (since Rio Earth Summit). It has not, 17 percent of the population (U.S. and its ex-colonial allies) consume 80 percent of the energy and the world has changed?”

And lastly, the idea of climate compensation for mitigation, adaptation and loss and damages and financing seem to be going up in smoke and now including very cynical proposals by the U.S. attempting to argue that their financing package for the Third World should include the remittance of Third World workers inside the U.S. (often miserably exploited, criminalized and marginalized) being sent out to their relatives in their home country.

Lastly, the divide and conquer strategy is in full bloom—where the U.S. has been able to break off small island nations from the rest of the global south, including the idea that the African continent will not be considered part of the most vulnerable countries in relationship to current and future climate crimes.


December 10, 2015Climate Justice groups rallied today in the Climate Generations Zone outside of the site of UN...

Posted by Manuel Criollo on Thursday, 10 December 2015

What are some of the topics in the ongoing debates between the nations? It is thought oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Venezuela, have had some grievances with the proposals, while China has also showed some dissent in proceedings.

The U.S. continues to be the director of a tragic play that openly calls for climate apartheid, and yet they are brilliantly winning the media war toward blaming any Third World villain of the day—China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa. Yet we have European greens blaming China and India as blocker of progress, yet are silent on the imperial maneuvering to wipe out Europe’s legacy of pollution and colonization that has caused the problem in the first place.

“The major obstacle to a long-lasting agreement and the question that people across the world is asking “what are we going to do about the United States?”

What seem to be playing out are the critical questions of financing and payment for the U.S. and Europe’s climate debt being pushed by China and India. Many African nations are leading the demand for an enforceable mechanism for loss and damages, and rightly saying that (the) U.S. attempt to push a no-liability clause on “loss and damages” would set a dangerous precedent for international agreements that would attempt to cap the growing demands for reparations from every modern crime from climate change, war crimes and the African slave trade. And while many countries, including Venezuela, had been attempting to curb the growing commodification of nature and market mechanisms this current draft continues toward this direction. Lastly, the current drafts have also nixed the proposal for an international tribunal on the crimes against nature, as advocated by Bolivia.

Officials such as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President of the COP21 Laurent Fabius said Friday that 90 percent of the agreement with be reached by Saturday, will this be the case? What details will need to be ironed after the summit officially ends?

The major obstacle to a long-lasting agreement and the question that people across the world is asking “what are we going to do about the United States?” In reality what is playing out is the reigning coronation for President Obama as a climate champion, who was also the key figure to completely undermine the Kyoto agreement. So there’s an urgency for a final pact because the earth is truly burning, yet the Paris Treaty, in its current form, will most likely be a prelude to a climate genocidal attack rather than a transformative, just and binding pact to save mother earth.

As a final question, I would like to know your thoughts of such climate change pact for Latin America and its people? How can the negotiations delay or lessen the effects of climate change for South American nations, for example?

The results of the pact and speed conclusions come to a close are critical for Latin America—our people are already feeling the impacts and facing climate crimes. The issues of mass migration, poverty, land grabs and commodification of mother earth will be central questions that the poor people, Indigenous people and Black people in our nations will be facing. Bolivia and other ALBA countries, and, more importantly, the leaders of social movements have attempted to provide leadership to save mother earth from this burning course.

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