Now published at Ceasefire Magazine.
In 2011 Anjali Appadurai gave a powerful speech at the UN climate talks on behalf of the youth of the world. She hounded negotiators for their lack of ambition, broken pledges and betrayal of future generations. In an exclusive interview with Ceasefire, she reflects on the incremental progress made in Warsaw in December, why a colonial attitude and corporate interests are holding us back, and on the solutions and strategies that can take us forward. Appadurai continues to track the negotiations with Third World Network and Earth in Brackets. You can view her 2013 TEDx talk and follow her on Twitter.
Phil England (PE): What’s at stake at the UN climate talks?
Anjali Appadurai (AA): With climate change I think we’ve really underestimated the gravity of the issue. The continued reports coming out from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are slowly helping to cement the idea that this has more consequences for the global community than any other problem we’ve tried to solve at the UN. What’s at stake is a global agreement which would not solve climate change in itself but would provide a legal framework within which solutions could be created and implemented.
PE: What is your overall sense of the progress made at the latest round of talks in Warsaw in December?
Videos of all the presentations given at the Radical Emissions Reductions Conference in December at the Royal Society are now available here. Here are the framework-setting opening speeches by Corrine Le Quere and Kevin Anderson, followed by Naomi Klein‘s keynote speech.
Here’s our interview with Pierre Friedlingstein – one of the lead authors on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report – which we were unable to fit into our October programme on Solutions. Here he explains some of the key findings of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report on the physical science of climate change.
This afternoon (Thursday 21 November) an estimated 800 members of civil society organisations at the UN climate talks staged a walk out today to highlight the lack of action by rich countries who are captured by vested interests. The unprecedented alliance of groups involved in the walk out included Oxfam, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, 350.org, International Trade Union Congress, Action Aid and the Philippines’ Peoples’ Movement on Climate Change.
I thought it was important to share these 15 minutes with you now as the UN climate talks start tomorrow, even though I recorded this interview for the next (18 Nov) show. This is Asad Rehman, head of the climate and energy programme at Friends of the Earth, speaking before he left for Warsaw. Here’s a transcript with some links:
This is such a good summary of the upcoming UN climate talks in Warsaw (11-22 November 2013) that I just had to post it. After the failure of COP15 (Copenhagen, 2009) it seemed like the UN climate talks were dead on their feet. But the latest IPCC report has given a renewed urgency to finding a global solution to this global problem. To do that we need to listen to the voice of civil society in the majority world (“Global South”) and move beyond the failed paradigms pushed by the rich world. This is their perspective in a press release from Climate Justice Info dated 4 November 2013.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) would not provide a representative for interview for our February programme, but they did agree to answer a few questions in writing. These responses were received on 18th February.
In short, the government says that meeting predicted oil demand is more important than climate security; and that current policies are sufficient. Both these positions are untenable. As to why the government has been working to water down EU legislation to make Arctic drilling safer, the government avoids the question.
My review of The Oil Road has been finally printed in today’s Independent, but has been heavily cut due to space restrictions. Here’s the original 600 word version that I submitted:
The Oil Road by James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello (Verso Books, £16.99)
In the same way our culture has become largely ignorant of the journey our food takes to get to our table, we are also ignorant of the route fossil fuels take to power our high-consumption, energy-intensive lifestyles. It’s the way both agribusiness and the energy companies like it – the less we know about the far-flung impacts of their enterprises the better.
Marriott and Minio-Paluello are two campaigners with the London-based oil watchdog Platform – an organisation that has bred a kind of activism that, while based in hard research, experiments with creative ways of communicating its findings. In The Oil Road the pair take one continuous trip along the route by which oil from the Caspian Sea arrives at the rate of a million barrels a day at the refineries of Western Europe.
The project is reminiscent of last year’s Extreme Rambling – Walking Israel’s Barrier for Fun by comedian-activist Mark Thomas, but comes after 12 years of visits along the route as part of an ongoing exploration of the impacts of BP’s controversial $25 billion investment in drilling platforms and pipelines. Here too we get to meet vicariously the people shaping and shaped by the route in question and reconstruct a more accurate picture of what is otherwise a hotly politicised, and therefore deliberately obfuscated, reality.
The journey starts at the Caspian oil wells in Baku, Azerbaijan where the familiar rusting landscapes of Soviet era ‘nodding donkey’ oil derricks are being overshadowed by the shiny steel and glass of a corrupt construction boom. The authors meet Sabit Bagirov, who led the state oil company during the negotiations that culminated in the signing of the ‘Contract of the Century’ in 1994, with a consortium of oil companies headed by BP.
Bagirov argues that the oil companies used the backdrop of the Azeri-Armenian conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory (1988-1994) to argue for a greater share because they would be operating in an environment of high-risk. Indeed over the course of the negotiations from 1989 to 1993, the proposed Azeri share dropped from 50% to 20%. Bagirov shows them the unpublished contract that includes a $90 million sweetener payment to the Azeri government, $30 million of which was delivered personally by Baroness Thatcher.
Once on the road we meet refugees from the now “frozen” conflict as well as householders under whose properties the pipeline runs and farmers still awaiting compensation for loss of income during the laying of the pipe. The ubiquitous BP public relations representatives are generally diverting and evasive but occasionally unwittingly frank. “The ultimate goal of community investment is to have good relations with communities – ultimately to secure BP’s assets,” says one about the corporation’s token social projects.
“We closed it down to the media,” says another when asked about the Russian bombing of the pipeline that BP had dismissed as “fanciful”. Our narrators had been able to confirm the reports of the attack by locating the site and standing in the surviving craters which ran up to four metres deep.
It’s a personable and lovingly-crafted narrative, a rich tapestry of first-hand anecdote and historical reconstruction with a political and social excavation of the geography that weaves in the region’s changing fortunes, from the Tsarist through the Soviet to the current pro-western repressive regimes.
Along the way there are important lessons for investors about how oil companies manage and disguise risk; for policy makers about the real meaning of “energy security” in the 21st century; and for activists thinking about where and when to intervene in a complex system.