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Cancún conference: dirty great COP out

World leaders failed the planet yet again in Cancún, Mexico when the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP16) could not reach a legally binding agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol – which runs out in 2012.

Less than half as many delegates and observers attended, compared to the 45,000 at the previous COP15 conference in Copenhagen, as they entered discussions with “low expectations”.

The most important decisions were pushed back to future negotiations, like the date before which countries must “peak” their emissions. Not one country increased its emission reduction targets. They promoted new market mechanisms, a $100bn a year fund to help countries adapt to climate change by 2020, and a mechanism allowing (mainly rich) countries to offset their climate emissions by protecting forests.

And to back market policies up, wealthy nations have habitually resorted to bullying. WikiLeaks revelations have the US and the EU using espionage and threats of aid withdrawal to get support for the Copenhagen accord. An exchange between Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, and US deputy national security adviser, Michael Froman, discussed the need to “neutralise, co-opt or marginalise unhelpful countries including Venezuela and Bolivia”.

Only Bolivia stood up and refused to accept any language referring to markets in the forest treaty, bringing alternative proposals from the World People’s Conference in Cochabamba in April 2010. This attracted 35,000 people from more than 70 countries, including representatives of 40 governments. Yet the Cancún conference systematically excluded these voices.

Outside of the official conference, 100 buses, carrying almost 3,000 people from 12 countries from all over Mexico and Latin America, arrived to participate in an alternative conference, organised by Via Campesina, the international movement of peasant farmers. For the second year running, the main slogan of the international demonstration on 7 December was: “System change instead of climate change”.

“What they are proposing is good only for capitalists. Capitalism has caused climate change and now it wants to make new business from it. They want to turn the air into a commodity. They want to put a price tag on everything,” said Luis Gomes de Maura of the Brazilian landless workers’ movement. “These are false solutions to climate change.”

This shows how the way to stop climate change is to build a global mass movement to challenge false market ‘solutions’ to climate change, and the rich corporations that seek to force them on us.

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