WhyHunger reports from Mexico as part of an international climate justice delegation organized by La Via Campesina. (Day 3)
WhyHunger’s Global Movements Program Outreach and Partnerships Coordinator, Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau, has recently returned from Mexico, where he was part of an international climate justice delegation organized by La Via Campesina to coincide with the official climate talks (COP 16) taking place in Cancun. The first leg of his journey was a caravan from San Luis Potosí in the center of the country to Mexico City, stopping along the way in communities impacted by climate change and environmental destruction. His third report follows.
On Day 3, Via Campesina and representatives from the other organizations who organized the caravans held a press conference and rally in Mexico City to report back from the first leg of the caravans and to articulate our reasons for going to Cancun. It was a really illuminating event that laid bare the false solutions to climate change.
Among the speakers were Larry Lohmann from the United Kingdom, who reported about the awful and unlawful practices and projects of governments and corporations that his caravan had witnessed. He spoke specifically about mines and toxic landfills, the latter of which were actually being considered “clean” according to the false solutions to curb climate change. The particular landfill his caravan visited had decided to bury its waste, allowing it to be considered a clean site and thus worthy of pollution credits. Under the proposed carbon trading and offset programs, non-polluting areas are allowed to sell their pollution credits to industrial countries who have used up their pollution credits. This means that this site would make money by creating a new landfill on top of the old one, now filled with toxic waste from other countries. The loopholes in these programs that we were shown were simply astounding.
Another example of these faulty proposals from the United Nations which was also discussed during this press conference is what are called “Clean Developments Mechanisms,” which are meant to support development in a way that reduces the impact on the environmental and the climate. A particularly heinous case in Mexico concerns pig CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations, factory farms), which would receive payments for burning the methane produce by pigs in order to convert it to carbon dioxide. Methane is forty times more damaging for the climate than carbon dioxide, so this plan would reduce damaging emissions, yet in practice the regulations would support a massively polluting industry that is actually considered by most experts to be the source of last year’s swine flu outbreak.
These proposed policies to stop climate change and further environmental degradation are all problematic because at root each is market-based. Instead of simply passing international laws forbidding higher emissions, further deforestation, or continuing pollution, the countries that are members of the COP (Conference of the Parties), are attempting to make money. Programs like carbon trading, carbon offsets, and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) — the focus of the Cancun talks — all place monetary values on the environment and encourage the finance industry to regulate the environment instead of democratic governments. Rather than prioritizing saving the planet and saving human lives, it seems that governments are prioritizing the economy by creating the next speculation bubble.
In order to carry this message to the Mexican government and the international community, we marched through the streets of Mexico City, several thousand strong. Our commitment to climate justice is renewed, and we are now ready for the second leg of our caravan to Cancun!