Central America is Present: The Mesoamerican Climate Justice Campaign Makes its Way to Cancun

“Central America demands a climate where peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability flourish,” states the most recent communiqué from the Mesoamerican Climate Justice Campaign.  And now is their chance to bring this demand to the global negotiating tables.

“Central America demands a climate where peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability flourish,” states the most recent communiqué from the Mesoamerican Climate Justice Campaign.  And now is their chance to bring this demand to the global negotiating tables.

Representatives from Central American civil society are bringing proposals, demands, and local experiences to the official United Nations climate change negotiations as well as the alternative forum for climate justice organized by Mexican social movements, which are being held until December 10th, in Cancun, Quintana Roo, México.

As a region rich in biodiversity, culture, and histories of social movements, Central America is also a territory and population that is extremely vulnerable to climate change.  Communities in the region are currently affected by the impacts of climate change, including increased droughts, flooding, intense and sporadic storms, loss of crops and growing food insecurity, loss of coastlines, and more.

As a recent campaign communiqué states, Central America is responsible for approximately 0.5% of the total greenhouse gases of the planet, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientific body that gives information that provides information to the UNFCCC process, forecasts that in for the years 2020, 2050, and 2080, the temperature could reach an increase of 1.0 to 5.0 °C during the dry season, and 1.3 to 6.6 °C during the rainy season in the region.  As the campaign states, Central American countries are not responsible for having caused climate change, but they are among the hardest hit by the impacts.

The proposals and demands that the Mesoamerican Climate Justice Campaign brings to the table are the results of an intense labor over the past year to create truly participatory processes of consultation, popular education, and exchange with people in communities.  Campaign members have been working across the region (specifically in the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras, and in partnership with organizations in Mexico) to generate spaces for discussion, proposals, and action in the face of climate change.   Through this process, they have built a base with organizations from civil society and the people most impacted by climate change to derive the principal demands and actions that drive the campaign.

Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña-UNES- is an environmentalist organization based in El Salvador and member organization of the Mesoamerican Climate Justice Campaign.  Despite El Salvador being a country highly impacted by climate change, it does not have a national policy or work program on the issue.  Together with organizations of fishermen, indigenous people, women, faith based communities, local governments, and other NGOs, UNES has worked to create a series of community-based referendums with these sectors of the population, through which to draw out recommendations and proposals, which have been woven together in a national policy proposal that was presented to the Salvadoran government by campaign participants on October 13th, 2010.   Elements of the proposal are mirrored in some of the work that the official delegation from El Salvador is putting forth in the UN negotiations.

This participatory process provided an experience from which to learn, adapt, and continue moving forward.  It is a model which challenges top-down solutions, and seeks to get to the root of the problem.

Proposals for a better future

In a regional forum held in Guatemala from November 10th to 12th hundreds of members of the campaign came together to strategize, vision, and exchange.  By the end of the two days, the final position of the campaign had been drafted, titled, “Mesoamerican Climate Justice Campaign Statement to Central American Governments regarding the Climate Change Negotiations COP16 in Cancun, Mexico.”  This document is what the representatives of civil society in official negotiations refer to, and it serves as a guide to what the diverse organizations and membership of the campaign are demanding from their governments.

Amongst the principal demands, are:

  • Recognition of and reparations for the ecological debt: The climate debt is part of the large ecological debt that the North owes the South, which was acquired during centuries of plunder of natural resources and excessive exploitation of and violation of human rights.  Developed countries, whose economic models and lifestyles have produced the majority of emissions and thus are the principal causes of climate change, must assume their historical and current responsibility, recognizing and honoring their climate debt in all dimensions as a basis for a just, effective, and scientific solution to climate change.
  • Real commitments to reduce emissions: The campaign demands that developed countries commit to quantitative goals for emissions reduction which permit the return of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at 300 ppm, and limits the increase of the average global temperature to a maximum of 1°C.
  • Validity of the Kyoto Protocol: The campaign states that it is necessary that the climate negotiations occur within the framework of the UNFCCC, and rejects attempts to invalidate and evade Kyoto, citing the infamous Copenhagen Accord from last year´s negotiations, stating that “permits these developed countries to offer insufficient reductions of greenhouse gases.”
  • Mitigation: They demand that in Cancun the second amendment of the Kyoto Protocol should be approved to be extended from 2013 to 2017, in which developed countries must reduce their domestic emissions by 50% by 2020, since the levels in 1990; without including carbon trading and other “flexibilities” that hide the failure to comply with real reduction in greenhouse gases.
  • Adaptation: Adaptation and vulnerability reduction must be the principal themes from which national and regional strategies regarding climate change be constructed, the subject being a holistic relationship between nature and human beings.
  • Funding: The campaign calls for the construction of an Adaptation Fund, in the heart of the UNFCCC and without the participation of International Financial Institutions.  According to preliminary studies done through this Mesoamerican Campaign, it is estimated that Central America requires the transfer of 15 billion dollars annually, until 2030, to be able to put appropriate measures in place for climate adaptation and mitigation.
  • Rejection of False Solutions: The campaign rejects the solutions that are being promoted by industrialized countries such as Carbon Emissions Trading, carbon bonds, biofuel production, nuclear energy, geo-engineering, mega hydroelectrics, emissions transfers from North to South, genetically modified crops, synthetic biology, and Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), and sees them as false solutions that seek to evade the deep changes that are necessary to address the climate crisis.

The Mesoamerican Climate Justice Campaign in Cancun

The campaign has now come to the global climate change negotiations held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and also teamed up with Mexican Social Movements in creating the popular space called “Climate Dialogue”, where social movements and members of civil society are invited to attend and discuss their experiences on local levels and proposals for organizing.

Some members of the campaign are also participating in the official negotiations within the UNFCCC process.  Angel Ibarra is the President of Unidad Ecologica Salvadoreña (UNES) in El Salvador, and was invited to join the official delegation of El Salvador as a representative of civil society.  “We are present in the climate negotiations to seek a legally binding agreement, recognition of and funding for the ecological debt that Northern countries have with Southern ones, and maintain the population informed on what is happening inside the meetings.”

Carolina Amaya, of Unidad Ecologica Salvadoreña, has been present and active in both the official and alternative events.  She explains why campaign members have made the strategic decision to participate in both events, “we have designed our strategy that there are teams that participate inside and outside of the official delegations.  Each one depends on the other.  We have to know what our governments are negotiating on the inside in our name, and those of us that are outside, as we know that climate change is a global problem, it requires global action, so we are strengthening alliances with people in other countries.  We are the ones who are experiencing climate change, so this is the space for us to exchange, debate, and vision together.”

Cancun is not a beginning or an end for the struggle for climate justice in Central America.  It’s another opportunity to learn, share, and grow.  “Participating as Central America gives us the opportunity to understand and learn more about climate change.  We are able to strengthen our collective expressions and abilities to verbalize the problem of climate change.  This also gives us the opportunity to strengthen international alliances and changes to connect with other organizations and global campaigns,” added Carolina.

After Cancun, there will be a period of reflection, analysis, and evaluation, to see where the international negotiations will go, but also identify what is necessary on a community and national level, especially around organization, education, adaptation, and public policies.

“Sometimes these forums can motivate you or de-motivate you, “comments Carolina.  “Since this is a global problem you feel like you cannot do anything.  But for example, today, we learned about people in Ixcán, Guatemala who fought and won to stop the construction of a dam in their community.  Today an indigenous compañero told us, ‘when you get lost, you have to go back to where you came from’.   We have taken the wrong path as civilization, we have made mistakes.  So we need to go back as humanity, and fix our mistakes.”

The idea is to build both a genuine, participatory process, and concrete proposals from the bottom up, so Central American communities can forge their own paths towards sustainability, justice, health, and sovereignty.  These are steps in that process.