In light of the recent news that in the House the Waxman cap and trade bill passed, I thought to bring our attention again to the  California Environmental Justice Movement's statement opposing carbon trading and to the Climate Justice Now! statement from South Africa in 2004 calling for solidarity against so-called carbon trading in all its forms.

There is still time to impact this issue at the Senate level.  Do review again these historic documents below and contact your Senator.


The California Environmental Justice Movement’s Declaration on Use of Carbon Trading Schemes to Address Climate Change

1. Whereas, the climate system of the planet and the energy choices we make are inextricably linked to a looming ecological and social catastrophe; and

2. Whereas, the United States and all other countries of the world face a moment of great promise and great peril regarding our energy production and use, including: 1) our overdependence on fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal; 2) the production and use of bio-fuels with dubious sustainability attributes; and 3) the resurgence of domestic and international nuclear power development; and

3. Whereas, Asian, Black, Latino, and Native American communities in the United States, as well as indigenous and poor people around the world, disproportionately bear the negative economic, environmental, and health impacts of the fossil fuel economy at every stage of its life cycle including its exploration, extraction, production, refining, distribution, consumption, and disposal of its waste; and

4. Whereas, global climate change caused by burning fossil fuels, resulting in the release of carbon dioxide, other green house gases, and associated co-pollutants into our oceans, air, soil, and vegetation jeopardizes the planet’s ability to maintain a livable climate and causes grave health problems in poor communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities around the world; and

5. Whereas, the international scientific community predicts that climate change will cause great human suffering, the brunt of which will be borne by the world’s poor, developing nations, disenfranchised indigenous communities, the infirm, and peoples of color that have been historically discriminated against at global, national, and local levels; and

6. Whereas, the best available science indicates that the planet is warming more rapidly than we understood when the Kyoto Accord was ratified and that reductions in greenhouse gases must be undertaken more quickly and with greater urgency than previously recognized; and

7. Whereas, many of the nations that ratified the Kyoto Accord are failing to meet the treaty’s requirements for greenhouse gas emission reductions; and

8. Whereas, the policy cornerstone of the Kyoto approach is a market-based system to allow nations to establish emissions “rights” and trading of “rights” to emit carbon, known as cap & trade under the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU- ETS); and

9. Whereas, the EU-ETS created transferable “rights” to dispose of carbon into the air, oceans, soil, and vegetation far in excess of the capacity of these systems to absorb it; and

10. Whereas, economic globalization steers international commodity markets to manufacture and privatize the “right” to dispose of green house gases and their co-pollutants into the air, oceans, soil, vegetation and human bodies and is in direct conflict with the true human rights of people and respect for our planet; and

11. Whereas, Phase 1 of the EU-ETS has been documented as giving billions of dollars worth of these “rights,” free of charge, to the biggest corporate emitters of greenhouse gases who are responsible for causing the global warming crisis and thereby created one of the largest transfers of wealth from low- and middle-income people to private corporations in the modern industrial era; and

12. Whereas, carbon trading under Phase 1 of the EU-ETS benefited fossil-fuel intensive corporations and stands in the way of the transition to clean renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency strategies that are critically necessary to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and

13. Whereas, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Accord, as well as voluntary private sector trading schemes, encourages industrialized countries and their corporations to finance or create carbon dumps in the Developing World as lucrative alternatives to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Developed Countries; and

14. Whereas, the EU-ETS and the CDM sanctions the continued exploration, extraction, refining, and burning of fossil fuels and finances projects such as private industrial tree plantations and large hydro-electric facilities that appropriate land and water resources jeopardizing the livelihoods of local communities in the Developing World as carbon dumps for industries in the Developed World; and

15. Whereas, the EU-ETS and CDM fail to address and further deepens entrenched social inequalities, irresponsible development trends, inadequate hazard reduction policies, and are silent on confronting disaster vulnerability of populations worldwide; and

16. Whereas, carbon trading is undemocratic because it allows entrenched polluters, market designers, and commodity traders to determine whether and where to reduce greenhouse gases and co-pollutant emissions without allowing impacted communities or governments to participate in those decisions; and

17. Whereas, the political power of the major global polluters has resulted in carbon trading schemes that include inadequate reporting systems, are impossible for the public and regulatory agencies to monitor, allow gaming of the system by market participants, and lack meaningful penalties for failure to comply; and

18. Whereas, greenhouse gases will be substantially reduced only through a transition to greater energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies that do not rely on fossil fuels; and

19. Whereas, capturing energy from the wind, sun, ocean, and heat stored within the Earth’s crust builds the health and self-reliance of people and our communities, protects the planet, creates jobs, and expands the global economy; and

20. Whereas, global energy transformation is the politically unifying and inclusive principle that affirms the rights of all people--including the poor, women, rural and indigenous communities--to have access to affordable and sustainable energy and the enhanced quality of life that such access affords; and

21. Whereas, the EU-ETS, including the CDM, is often portrayed as a necessary first step toward establishing an effective international climate change plan and has been presented as a model for California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

The California Environmental Justice Movement DECLARES that the EU-ETS, including the CDM, is a step in the wrong direction; and

The California Environmental Justice Movement FURTHER DECLARES that we will fight at every turn all efforts to establish a system of carbon trading and offset use in California; and

The California Environmental Justice Movement FURTHER DECLARES that our demands for real changes in the way we make and use energy will not be silenced by promises of money or token adjustments to the fundamentally flawed trading and offsets approach; so

BE IT THEREFORE, RESOLVED, that the California Environmental Justice Movement stands with communities around the world in opposition to carbon trading and offset use and the continued over reliance on fossil fuels; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the California Environmental Justice Movement will support conservation, regulatory, and other measures to address greenhouse gases only if they directly and significantly reduce emissions, require the shift away from use of fossil fuels and nuclear power, and do not cause or exacerbate the pollution burden of poor communities of color in the United States and developing nations around the world; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the California Environmental Justice Movement will oppose efforts by our state government to create a carbon trading and offset program, because such a program will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the pace called for by the international scientific community, it will not result in a shift to clean sustainable energy sources, it will support and enrich the state's worst polluters, it will fail to address the existing and future inequitable burden of pollution, it will deprive communities of the ability to protect and enhance their communities, and because if our state joins regional or international trading schemes it will further create incentives for carbon offset programs that harm communities in California, the region, the country, and developing nations around the world.

THEREFORE, We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, affirm our solidarity with the California Environmental Justice Movement, poor, and indigenous people around the world.

Climate Justice Now!
The Durban Declaration on Carbon Trading

As representatives of people’s movements and independent organisations, we reject the claim that carbon trading will halt the climate crisis. This crisis has been caused more than anything else by the mining of fossil fuels and the release of their carbon to the oceans, air, soil and living things. This excessive burning of fossil fuels is now jeopardising Earth’s ability to maintain a liveable climate.

Governments, export credit agencies, corporations and international financial institutions continue to support and finance fossil fuel exploration, extraction and other activities that worsen global warming, such as forest degradation and destruction on a massive scale, while dedicating only token sums to renewable energy. It is particularly disturbing that the World Bank has recently defied the recommendation of its own Extractive Industries Review which calls for the phasing out of World Bank financing for coal, oil and gas extraction.

We denounce the further delays in ending fossil fuel extraction that are being caused by corporate, government and United Nations’ attempts to construct a “carbon market”, including a market trading in “carbon sinks”.

History has seen attempts to commodify land, food, labour, forests, water, genes and ideas. Carbon trading follows in the footsteps of this history and turns the earth’s carbon-cycling capacity into property to be bought or sold in a global market. Through this process of creating a new commodity – carbon - the Earth’s ability and capacity to support a climate conducive to life and human societies is now passing into the same corporate hands that are destroying the climate.

People around the world need to be made aware of this commodification and privatization and actively intervene to ensure the protection of the Earth’s climate.

Carbon trading will not contribute to achieving this protection of the Earth’s climate. It is a false solution which entrenches and magnifies social inequalities in many ways:

• The carbon market creates transferable rights to dump carbon in the air, oceans, soil and vegetation far in excess of the capacity of these systems to hold it. Billions of dollars worth of these rights are to be awarded free of charge to the biggest corporate emitters of greenhouse gases in the electric power, iron and steel, cement, pulp and paper, and other sectors in industrialised nations who have caused the climate crisis and already exploit these systems the most. Costs of future reductions in fossil fuel use are likely to fall disproportionately on the public sector, communities, indigenous peoples and individual taxpayers.

• The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), as well as many private sector trading schemes, encourage industrialised countries and their corporations to finance or create cheap carbon dumps such as large-scale tree plantations in the South as a lucrative alternative to reducing emissions in the North. Other CDM projects, such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) -reduction schemes, focus on end-of pipe technologies and thus do nothing to reduce the impact of fossil fuel industries’ impacts on local communities. In addition, these projects dwarf the tiny volume of renewable energy projects which constitute the CDM’s sustainable development window-dressing.

• Impacts from fossil-fuel industries and other greenhouse-gas producing industries such as displacement, pollution, or climate change, are already disproportionately felt by small island states, coastal peoples, indigenous peoples, local communities, fisherfolk, women, youth, poor people, elderly and marginalized communities. CDM projects intensify these impacts in several ways. First, they sanction continued exploration for, and extraction, refining and burning of fossil fuels. Second, by providing finance for private sector projects such as industrial tree plantations, they appropriate land, water and air already supporting the lives and livelihoods of local communities for new carbon dumps for Northern industries.

• The refusal to phase out the use of coal, oil and gas, which is further entrenched by carbon trading, is also causing more and more military conflicts around the world, magnifying social and environmental injustice. This in turn diverts vast resources to military budgets which could otherwise be utilized to support economies based on renewable energies and energy efficiency.

In addition to these injustices, the internal weaknesses and contradictions of carbon trading are in fact likely to make global warming worse rather than “mitigate” it. CDM projects, for instance, cannot be verified to be “neutralizing” any given quantity of fossil fuel extraction and burning. Their claim to be able to do so is increasingly dangerous because it creates the illusion that consumption and production patterns, particularly in the North, can be maintained without harming the climate.

In addition, because of the verification problem, as well as a lack of credible regulation, no one in the CDM market is likely to be sure what they are buying. Without a viable commodity to trade, the CDM market and similar private sector trading schemes are a total waste of time when the world has a critical climate crisis to address.

In an absurd contradiction the World Bank facilitates these false, market-based approaches to climate change through its Prototype Carbon Fund, the BioCarbon Fund and the Community Development Carbon Fund at the same time it is promoting, on a far greater scale, the continued exploration for, and extraction and burning of fossil fuels – many of which are to ensure increased emissions of the North.

In conclusion, ‘giving carbon a price’ will not prove to be any more effective, democratic, or conducive to human welfare, than giving genes, forests, biodiversity or clean rivers a price.

We reaffirm that drastic reductions in emissions from fossil fuel use are a pre-requisite if we are to avert the climate crisis. We affirm our responsibility to coming generations to seek real solutions that are viable and truly sustainable and that do not sacrifice marginalized communities.

We therefore commit ourselves to help build a global grassroots movement for climate justice, mobilize communities around the world and pledge our solidarity with people opposing carbon trading on the ground.

Signed 10 October 2004
Glenmore Centre, Durban, South Africa