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Civil society endeavors to include priorities in the agenda during COP-20

Organizations and movements freely expressed their proposals and priorities on issues such as agriculture, sustainability, new models of development, mobility, among others.

Representatives from more than 190 countries met in Lima, Peru, at the 20th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations on Climate Change, COP 20, in order to discuss a new climate agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and to formulate new policies addressing the problems caused by climate change.

The meeting, conducted between December 1st and 12th, 2014, allowed countries to present their proposals and define elements on the new convention, but did not deliver any specific decision. The new document will be signed at the end of the year at COP 21 in Paris, and the agreement will enter into force only from 2020.

The importance of an event of this size to be held in Peru is clear when looking at data presented by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which states that the country is the third most vulnerable to climate change in the world, behind only Bangladesh and Honduras. Moreover, according to the Peru COP 20 Group – a collective of organizations, unions, movements, indigenous groups and other institutions of Peruvian civil society – Latin America invests less than 1% of GDP in environmental protection. However, given the broad environmental diversity of the region, Latin American countries will be the ones to receive most of the effects caused by global warming.

In addition to the official delegations of each country at COP 20, the participation of representatives of movements and civil society organizations was important to push for the inclusion of certain guidelines in the debate. However, it was at the People’s Summit against Climate Change, a COP 20 side event, where civil society was able to freely express their proposals and priorities on issues such as agriculture, sustainability, new models of development, and mobility, among others.

According to Adriana Ramos, of the Socio-Environmental Institute – a member organization of Abong (Brazilian Association of Non-Governmental Organizations), a National Platform member of IFP (International Forum of National NGO Platforms) – Brazil does not intend to take on new commitments given the decrease of emissions already delivered by the reduction of deforestation in the Amazon in recent years. “During the event, the country presented a proposal for the construction of the global agreement establishing a way to implement the regime of common but differentiated responsibilities, in which developing countries have to make commitments in relation to their historical responsibilities,” said Ramos.

For Josefina Huamán, of Asociación Nacional de Centros (ANC) – Peruvian national platform member of IFP – the periods of booms and growth of the national economy, based on the intensive exploitation of certain natural resources, have left no significant contributions to the integral national development. “Countries with very high economic, social, cultural and educational development are poor in natural resources; Japan and Switzerland, for example. But countries with non-renewable natural resources such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, are still submerged in major social crises, high rates of poverty, exclusion and inequality,” she says.

According to Ramos, as well as Peru and other Latin American countries, Brazil is prominent in the international scene in relation to indigenous issues, the recognition of land rights and the defense of traditional communities being the main agenda of Brazilian civil society in this COP.

In places like the People’s Summit and events self-organized by civil society at COP 20, such as the March in Defense of Mother Earth, organizations were able to highlight their agendas, including soil management, universal rights and the rights of indigenous peoples, central themes during the early informal meetings held by the entities.

The issue of indigenous and traditional peoples is directly related to the maintenance of forests, biodiversity and natural resources, as these peoples distinguish themselves in managing their territories and in the sustainable management of natural resources to reduce vulnerability to climate change.

The APIB – Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil- issued a statement saying that “Southern countries, especially of Latin America, have the opportunity to compose a model of alternative development at COP 20, with a view to a low carbon economy.” However, the association says the governments of these countries choose to keep the dominant development model, which represents a threat to native peoples. “On the one hand, civil society and the people and traditional community leaders are marking a strong presence in the People’s Summit and COP 20 events, denouncing these threats. On the other hand, the government omits itself in relation to these threats and increases risks by insisting on the implementation of works without consultation, and by signaling changes in the indigenous land demarcation procedure,” stressed Ramos.