What you will find on this page: LATEST NEWSthe system is broken; latest newspeace indices & data; Indigenous communities; low income households (video); Free Trade Agreements; Australia’s FTA’s; debunking trade mythsinformation & resource sites. Also refer to page Downsizing Plan B as the issues are closely related

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The human ability to do has vastly outstripped the ability to understand

The saying, “you are only as strong as your weakest link” is very apt when trying to find ways to adapt/build community resilience in the face of climate change impacts. As report after report highlights the already vulnerable sections of our communities will be the first and hardest hit by climate change impacts and the least able to prepare and “bounce back” . i.e. those in poverty; displaced; those facing violence (in all shapes & forms); financially stressed; inadequately housed; inadequately situated; inadequately employed; suffering ill health; the old and the young.

For true adaptation and resilience to be achieved the long standing issues of the “vulnerable” need to be addressed. This is why equity and social justice issues are critically important when taking up the challenge that climate change presents. 

The system is broken

In 1992, the year of the Rio Earth Summit, the Asahi Glass Foundation established the Blue Planet Prize, an award presented to individuals or organizations worldwide in recognition of outstanding achievements in scientific research and its application that have helped provide solutions to global environmental problems: Gro Harlem Brundtland, Paul Ehrlich, Jose Goldemberg, James Hansen, Amory Lovins, Gene Likens, James Lovelock, Suki Manabe, Bob May, Hal Mooney, Karl-Henrik Robert, Emil Salim, Gordon Sato, Susan Solomon, Nicholas Stern, MS Swaminathan, Bob Watson, Barefoot College, Conservation International, International institute of Environment and Development, and International Union for the Conservation of Nature, The following is part of the introduction of a paper which is a synthesis of the key messages from the individual papers written by the Blue Planet Laureates 

We have a dream – a world without poverty – a world that is equitable – a world that respects human rights – a world with increased and improved ethical behavior regarding poverty and natural resources – a world that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, and where economic growth is accomplished within the constraints of realising social objectives of poverty eradication and social equity and within the constraints of life support nature’s carrying capacity, and a world where the challenges such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and social inequity have been successfully addressed. This is an achievable dream, but the system is broken and our current pathway will not realise it.

Unfortunately, humanity’s behaviour remains utterly inappropriate for dealing with the potentially lethal fallout from a combination of increasingly rapid technological evolution matched with very slow ethical-social evolution. The human ability to do has vastly outstripped the ability to understand. As a result civilization is faced with a perfect storm of problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich, the use of environmentally malign technologies, and gross inequalities. They include loss of the biodiversity that runs human life-support systems, climate disruption, global toxification, alteration of critical biogeochemical cycles, increasing probability of vast epidemics, and the specter of a civilization-destroying nuclear war. These biophysical problems are interacting tightly with human governance systems, institutions, and civil societies that are now inadequate to deal with them. Read More here

 

Peace Institute’s Catalogue of Indices

Global Peace indices

In this updated edition of the International Peace Institute’s Catalogue of Indices, more than 60 indices and indicators have been categorized into eight themes. Each index is accompanied by an interactive map, summary, score range, sortable data table, as well as links to primary data, methodologies, and reports. Index list: conflict; environment; freedom, gender, governance, health, socio-economics, technology. Access indices here 

The Global Peace Index measures peace as the “absence of violence and absence of the fear of violence” and seeks to determine trends in the key drivers of peace over time and the economic impact of violence on the global economy. The index uses 22 qualitative and quantitative indicators, classified under three themes: (1) ongoing domestic and international conflict, (2) societal safety, and (3) security and militarization. Scores range from 1 (best) to 5 (worst).

Climate change and Indigenous communities

4 June 2008, Australian Human Rights Commission: Speech by Warwick Baird, Director, Native Title Unit, HREOC, Native Title Conference 2008: Extract from speech follow…There is a human rights element to climate change that gets lost in all the talk about the science and the economics. And part of that human rights element is engaging indigenous people in climate change policy, be that dealing with mitigation or adaptation, and ensuring that their human rights are protected. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is becoming a key document of international law to look to regarding those rights and to guide the development of climate change policy. Internationally United Nation processes are seeing recommendations being made to States to engage indigenous people. Yet national policy is being developed without Indigenous peoples engagement. So it is going to be up to Indigenous people to pressure government and parties to engage with them over climate change policy. Read More here

Risks from Climate Change to Indigenous Communities in the Tropical North of Australia, Dept. of Climate change Report (2009): This scoping study presents an assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on Indigenous settlements and communities across tropical northern Australia, including the Torres Strait Islands and the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Indigenous people in northern Australia face many existing challenges.These include: remoteness, poor health, inadequate infrastructure, lack of educational and employment opportunities, and low incomes. Climate change will exacerbate many of these pre-existing challenges. However, new opportunities also exist for some of these communities from climate change. Many of these opportunities will stem from existing roles that community members play in managing natural and cultural resources in remote areas on behalf of the nation. Access report here

See also the NCCCARF Report (2013) Aboriginal responses to climate change in arid zone Australia: Regional understandings and capacity building for adaptation

Climate change will greatly impact low income households

 

 

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS): Climate change will affect low income households and disadvantaged communities disproportionately. Low income earners tend to live in areas more likely to be adversely affected by climate change, and have far less ability to move or make other necessary adjustments to their living circumstances. On average, low income earners spend a greater proportion of their total weekly household budget on energy and water than wealthier households. As a proportion of household spending, lower income households spend almost twice as much as wealthier households. Similarly, the cost of water and sewage is, relatively, a third higher for low income households than it is for households on an average income.

Given that energy and water are essential services, when the prices of these services increase, householders are left with little option but to pay the extra. Few households with low incomes are able to afford significant energy efficiency measures such as insulation, new hot water systems or rainwater tanks. One in four Australian households are in private rental or public housing and do not have rights or incentives to make capital improvements. Energy consumption in low income households is partly shaped by the market in second-hand appliances. Many second-hand appliances are inefficient, waste energy and increase bills.

NCCARF Report 2013, Impact of climate change on disadvantaged groups: Issues and interventions: In Australia the impending effects of climate change and the widening gap between economically and socially advantaged and disadvantaged groups are both issues of widespread national government and community concern. However, the relationship between the two remains little investigated. This study has sought to contribute in this area by adding to the small body of empirical knowledge of the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of disadvantaged groups in Australia in the face of impending adverse impacts of climate change….. 
The effects of climate change are not distributed evenly across the continent and will be felt more in some areas, than others. Moreover, the impact of climate change is felt more by some members in the community than other because:
  • they have little choice in deciding where they live so that they are disproportionately concentrated in areas at high risk of negative environmental impacts;
  • they have less economic resources which mean that they are less able to fund adaptive responses to environmental change either in anticipation of such change in the future, or in response to actual impacts; and
  • they are less able to mobilize government and other resources in response to environmental change because of low levels of information, connections and power….

Social networks are crucial to the maintenance and development of social capital but it was interesting in the survey that respondents were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their social networks. These findings also have particular relevance when considering the impact of climate change. Accessibility to enable ready and frequent contact with services, formal and informal networks is of crucial importance to the entire population but especially those with economic problems. However, it is precisely the latter group that have the greatest physical accessibility problems again reflecting the multi-diciplinarity of disadvantage. This factor is especially significant in nonmetropolitan areas.

There was great difficulty experienced in both the survey and qualitative parts of the study in gaining full participation of Aboriginal respondents. Nevertheless, it is apparent that this group experience especially severe disadvantage, which generally limits their ability to access information, services and resources to allow them to cope effectively with economic, social and environmental shocks….

Having accepted that there is an important social inclusion dimension to effective adaptation to climate change, it is useful at the outset to put forward a basic framework for the application of the social inclusion lens to consider adaptation interventions for climate change. The following principles have been modified from a study in the United Kingdom which investigated how social justice issues can be incorporated into local adaptation to climate change approaches. It is argued here that they provide a valuable check list of the tasks that need to be undertaken to ensure that adaptation interventions are fully inclusive of disadvantaged groups: 

  • Take into account current and likely future climate change impacts.
  • Understand the factors contributing to vulnerability.
  • Identify the distribution of vulnerable groups likely to be affected and how this changes over time.
  • Involve these communities in developing and delivering plans and activities related to adaptation and supporting community resilience.
  • Assess the potential adverse implications of climate change for vulnerable groups and identify targeted adaptation activities for them.
  • Develop responses which build adaptive capacity, support adaptation actions and consider both physical infrastructure and service delivery.
  • Have awareness of the trade-offs that arise in striving to achieve socially just adaptation and minimising the negative effects on vulnerable communities.
  • Considering and assessing all adaptation options to ensure that the most beneficial to all groups is taken forward.

With these principles in mind the remainder of this section attempts to distil out of the findings of the study the main implications for policy. Read full report here

Free Trade Agreements

January 2016, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD): With the release of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) last fall, a debate has been growing over the so-called “trade” agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries. Should governments ratify the deal? Will it expand trade in a significant way? Who will be the winners and losers? But defining winners and losers only in trade terms will miss the much broader impacts of the TPP and hide the broader basis required for assessing its real impacts. In Canada, where IISD is headquartered, Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has initiated formal consultations on the TPP, promising it is open for full discussion. This is a welcome initiative. For IISD, this is a deal too far and its ratification should be rejected by the minister. In its place, there is a need to fundamentally re-consider the role that trade and investment agreements make to supporting inclusive and sustainable growth. This commentary summarizes IISD’s concerns with the TPP, and a follow up article will begin outlining solutions. Read Part 1 here

Concerned about Unfair Trade Agreements? AFTINET is a national network of community organisations and many individuals concerned about trade and investment policy. AFTINET grew out of the successful campaign by community organisations against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), which had attempted to restrict the ability of governments to regulate both investment and key areas of social policy.

The collapse of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Doha round of trade negotiations at the end of 2011 showed that the world trading system is failing to meet the needs of developing countries for fairer trade rules which do not erode social policies. Community organisations have continued the debate about international trade agreements and have demanded greater accountability by the Australian government for its role in the WTO and in bilateral and regional trade agreements like the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

AFTINET supplies education materials, regular bulletins and speakers at public events. They make submissions to government and opposition parties to change Australian trade policy. They form links with similar organisations in other countries to argue for different and fairer rules for international trade and investment. To see the work that we’re doing currently see our campaigns.

The nearly two decades of economic, environmental and cultural damage wrought by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), while by no means experienced equally, have been highly detrimental to the majority of people across the North American region. As a direct result of NAFTA, there are fewer good jobs, more struggling family farms, less stable food systems, and everyday consumer safety measures are weaker and social inequality grows. The pact’s intellectual property rules continue to undermine access to affordable medicine, while its financial service provisions have undermined banking regulations. NAFTA fueled even more the conditions that precipitated an economic emigration crisis and exacerbated a false drug war, leading to mass-scale human rights abuses where tens of thousands of citizens have been the victims. It has degraded the earth and its ecosystems in numerous ways, including from mining and other resource extraction projects, and has had pronounced effects on indigenous peoples’ sovereignty. Subsequent trade agreements have similarly propelled a race to the bottom in wages, labor rights and environmental protection, as well as deregulation and privatization, contributing to the worldwide financial and climate crises. Read More here

Senator Warren Releases Report Highlighting Decades of Broken Promises and Failures to Enforce Labor Standards in Trade Agreements

18 May 2015: Broken Promises: Decades of Failure to Enforce Labor Standards in Free Trade Agreements a report prepared by the staff of Sen. Elizabeth Warren: However, the history of these agreements betrays a harsh truth: that the actual enforcement of labor provisions of past U.S. FTAs lags far behind the promises. This analysis by the staff of Sen. Warren reveals that despite decades of nearly identical promises, the United States repeatedly fails to enforce or adopts unenforceable labor standards in free trade agreements. Again and again, proponents of free trade agreements claim that this time, a new trade agreement has strong and meaningful protections; again and again, those protections prove unable to stop the worst abuses. Lack of enforcement by both Democratic and Republican presidents and other flaws with the treaties have allowed countries with weaker laws and standards and widespread labor and environment abuses to undermine treaty provisions, leaving U.S. workers and other interested parties with no recourse. This analysis finds: Read More here

Sen Warren’s Report concludes: The TPP is being hailed as the strongest free trade agreement yet. But this is not the first time this claim has been made. Proponents of previous trade agreements have made similar claims about every free trade agreement signed in the last 20 years, from the NAFTA agreement in 1993 to the more recent agreements with Colombia and Panama. By now, we have two decades of experience with free trade agreements under both Democratic and Republican Presidents. Supporters of these agreements have always promised that they contain tough standards to protect workers. But this analysis reveals that the rhetoric has not matched the reality. There have been widespread enforcement problems and flaws that prevent enforcement of the labor provisions of these free trade agreements. GAO concluded that USTR and DOL “do not systemically monitor and enforce compliance with FTA labor provisions,”67 and that the U.S. agencies generally have not been “identifying compliance problems, developing and implementing responses, and taking enforcement actions.”68 Reports by the State Department and the Department of Labor reveal persistent problems with child labor and labor rights in countries that have signed free trade agreements with the United States And case studies of several countries that have signed U.S. free trade agreements reveal continuing horrific labor abuses: Guatemala was named ‘the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists” five years after entering a trade agreement with the U.S.; in Colombia, despite the existence of a special Labor Action Plan put in place to address long-standing problems, 105 union activists have been murdered and 1,337 death threats have been issued since the U.S. Free Trade Agreement was finalized.

13 May 2015, The Guardian, You down with TPP? An explainer on Obama’s ‘secret’ trade pact. Everything you wanted to know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership – the trade agreement encompassing 40% of the global economy – but were afraid to ask: So why does Obama want to fast-track the TPP? The trade agreement is a big deal. Besides the US, it involves 11 other countries and covers about 40% of the world’s economy. In addition to trade, the agreement covers intellectual-property rights and financial regulations. Negotiations have been long and difficult. He wants to present a pact for a final vote and not have to constantly re-negotiate with Congress, special interest groups in the US, and the other countries. Who are the other countries? Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The notable exception is China. In part, the deal is meant to tackle China’s dominance in the region. China has its own trade plans under discussion but could one day be part of the TPP. Read More here

Australia’s Venture into free trade agreements

16 March 2015, The Drum: The TPP has the potential for real harm. Most free trade agreements deliver little in the way of benefits, apart from photo opportunities for politicians, but the highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership has the potential for real harm in Australia, writes Ian Verrender. Read More here

22 May 2015, Truthdig, An Exclusive Book Excerpt From ‘Trade Is War’: Below is an exclusive excerpt from ‘Trade Is War: The West’s War Against the World’ by Yash Tandon (OR Books, 2015). In the book, Tandon—a Ugandan expert on international relations, politics and economics—argues that the “soft power” exerted by international powers through economic channels is anything but soft—and that free trade (or the refusal to adopt free trade policies) leads to physical violence, especially for poorer countries. To make his case, Tandon draws on both his extensive understanding of the Global South and his hands-on experience advising African leaders on trade agreements. Tandon describes how nongovernmental organizations and big agricultural corporations team up to override local agricultural custom, often at the expense of farmers: Read More here

Debunking US Trade Myths

Debunking Data Distortions from Obama’s Trade Representative: 

Years of unfair trade deals modelled after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have contributed to ballooning U.S. trade deficits, mass off-shoring of good U.S. jobs, and a historic increase in U.S. income inequality. But rather than change failed trade policies, the administration appears bent on trying to hide the facts — by changing the data. As U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman pushes for the largest expansions of the NAFTA model to date — the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) — his office has resorted to data distortions to obscure the dismal outcomes of past trade deals. Read More here  (As Australia so closely follows US the above is relevant to Oz as well)

 

Key Information & Resource Sites

Carbon Trade Watch: By centring its work on bottom-up community-led projects and campaigns, Carbon Trade Watch aims to provide a durable body of research which ensures that a holistic and justice-based analysis of climate change and environmental policies is not forgotten or compromised.

Global Exchange is an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world.

Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice: A centre for thought leadership, education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those people vulnerable to the impacts of climate change who are usually forgotten – the poor, the disempowered and the marginalised across the world. Also check out the “useful links” page. 

Public Citizen serves as the people’s voice in the nation’s capital. Since our founding in 1971, we have delved into an array of areas, but our work on each issue shares an overarching goal: To ensure that all citizens are represented in the halls of power. globalization & trade; climate & energy

Caritas Australia  helps people help themselves — regardless of ethnicity, religion or political beliefs. Our agency supports long-term development programs in impoverished communities in Africa, Asia, East Timor, Latin America, Indigenous Australia and the Pacific — helping oppressed people to rediscover their dignity by taking greater control over their lives and overcoming poverty.

Global Witness exposes the hidden links between demand for natural resources, corruption, armed conflict and environmental destruction. 

Noam Chomsky website was originally created by Pablo Stafforini, with the purpose of celebrating Chomsky’s work and encouraging activism worldwide. In December 2003, it became Noam Chomsky’s official website.Noam Chomsky is a US political theorist and activist, and institute professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Besides his work in linguistics, Chomsky is internationally recognized as one of the most critically engaged public intellectuals alive today. Chomsky continues to be an unapologetic critic of both American foreign policy and its ambitions for geopolitical hegemony and the neoliberal turn of global capitalism, which he identifies in terms of class warfare waged from above against the needs and interests of the great majority. Chomsky is also an incisive critic of the ideological role of the mainstream corporate mass media, which, he maintains, “manufactures consent” toward the desirability of capitalism and the political powers supportive of it.

The Global Observatory provides timely analysis on peace and security issues by experts, journalists, and policymakers. It is published by the International Peace Institute.

MigrationMap.net:  Where are migrants coming from? Where have migrants left?

DARA Impact Matters: Since 2007, the first year of the Humanitarian Response Index, DARA has been sending research teams to the field to collect comparable information about the overall  response to humanitarian crises, with a specific focus on the OECD/DAC donors’ performance.

International Organization for Migration: Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.

Veterans for Peace: Veterans For Peace is a global organization of Military Veterans and allies whose collective efforts are to build a culture of peace by using our experiences and lifting our voices. We inform the public of the true causes of war and the enormous costs of wars, with an obligation to heal the wounds of wars.

Iraq Body Count: Iraq Body Count (IBC) records the violent deaths that have resulted from the 2003 military intervention in Iraq. Its detailed public database includes civilian deaths caused by US-led coalition and Iraqi government forces and paramilitary or criminal attacks by others. IBC’s documentary evidence is drawn from crosschecked media reports of violence leading to deaths, or of bodies being found, and is supplemented by the careful review and integration of hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures or records.

Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere (MAHB)The goal of the MAHB is to create a platform to help global civil society address the interconnections among the greatest threats to human well-being: failure of ecosystem services, economic inequity, social injustice, hunger, epidemics, toxic chemicals, and loss of security to crime, terrorism and war, especially resource wars (veiled or not), to name a few. 

Journeys for Climate Justice (JCJ) is an innovative Australian not-for-profit organisation tackling climate change issues in the Asia Pacific Region.  We aim to address the inequitable impacts of climate change, which fall on communities that have contributed the least to the problem and have the least resources to cope with them. JCJ differs from offsetting companies because it directs funds to innovative climate change projects that build momentum for change.