Saturday, November 13, 2010

It is that time of the year when...

...some group, country or person cease the opportunity to call for stronger environmental protection during conflict. This year Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggest the UN adopt a convention to ban destruction of forests or pollution to reduce the pressure on the environment and natural resources. The occasion is, of course, International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

The time of the year when I note the Geneva Conventions already does address the environment:

Methods or means of warfare that are intended or may be expected to case widespread, long-term and severe damage to the environment are prohibited.
- (Protocol I, Art. 35, Sec. 3)

Attacks against crops, livestock and agricultural areas needed for food production for the civilian population are prohibited. [...] Attacks against civilian drinking water installation and irrigation works are prohibited.
- ( Protocol I, Art. 54 , Sec. 2)

(Quotes from

But should the convention be stricter? Should it be more often enforced? Yes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What does climate change have to do with conflict?

Rebecca Sargent at a piece of conflict has been reading CLIMATE CHANGE, CONFLICT AND FRAGILITY - Understanding the linkages, shaping effective responses, a report by Dan Smith and Janani Vivekananda of International Alert. (It's from November 2009 and a copy of it has been waiting on my hard disk for me to read it for quite a while now. But why not check out Rebecca's take on it right away?)

Part one - Exacerbation of conflict in fragile states during climate change
One needs only see the example of the Haitian earthquake, the current flooding in Pakistan or even the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in the southern US to know that extreme weather can have an effect on peace and security in an area. [...] Current international negotiations on reducing global warming and responding to climate change almost entirely ignore the aspect of this heightened risk of conflict. [...] Managing water supply is vital. Not only is it necessary for human life, but water shortages also affect agriculture causing increased food insecurity, especially for the poor. [...] Water shortages and food insecurity often lead to violent conflict where poverty, weak governance, political marginalization and corruption reign supreme. [...] Migration of people increases the likelihood of conflict, as newcomers are seen as an unwanted burden that compound social pressures or even transfer conflict from one location to another. Attempting to block immigration with regulations and physical barriers may exacerbate the conflict risk.
Part two - Policy and adaptation recommendations for reducing conflict risk
Good governance means increased resilience to violent conflict or poverty. [...] Many rich countries will be simultaneously shifting to low-carbon economies to meet demands on climate change adaptability. This shift must be peace-friendly and supportive of the adaptive development happening in poorer countries. For example, a switch to bio-fuel in richer countries caused food prices to rise by 30% in 2008, which directly caused violence in over 30 countries.
Rebecca's final comment isn't from the report:
If these crises are compounded and not isolated to one location within a nation, or result in large-scale destruction of entire areas, even rich states may be unable to deal with the crises that emerge. The expectations in richer states for action is higher, therefore state failure may be reacted to with all the more intense violence.

"This report explores the complexities of responding to climate change in fragile and conflict affected contexts. It highlights the interaction between the impact of climate change and the social and political realities in which people live and stresses that it is this that will determine their capacity to adapt. To be effective, the goal of policy responses must be to address the political dimension of adapting to climate change, and the underlying causes of vulnerability where the state is unable to carry out its core functions. The report sets out five policy objectives and some key observations on getting the institutional structures right in order to achieve this goal. The reports findings urge policy makers to look beyond technical fixes and to address the interlinked political, social and institutional constraints to effective responses."
Figure 1, page 10, chapter 2.3 "Climate change in fragile states".
The report exists in a context of development aid hence to some degree focus on how foreign aid from rich countries should change. From the Conclusion:
It is wrong to imply that henceforth there will be old-style development with adaptation on top. [...] it seems likely that much and probably most expenditure on adaptation will simply be indistinguishable from expenditure on development because the activities will be fused.
The over all conclusion is summed up in five bullet points:
  1. Adaptation to climate change needs to be conflict-sensitive.
  2. Peacebuilding needs to be climate-proof.
  3. A low-carbon economy must be supportive of development and peace.
  4. Poor countries’ social capacity to understand and manage climate and conflict risks must be strengthened.
  5. Climate-related migration should be planned for and coped with peacefully.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Yes Men adbusts Chevron greenwash

A day-long comedy of errors began when the Yes Men, supported by Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch, pre-empted Chevron's enormous new “We Agree” ad campaign with a satirical version of their own. The activists' version highlights Chevron's environmental and social abuses - the same abuses they say Chevron is attempting to “greenwash.”

From the Punk Chevron Ad Contest gallery:

The Ecowar Special:

A personal favourite:

The ecologist's version:

The UN MDG / TH!NK3 edition:

One from the American political fringe:

For you and me?:

The Yes Men even spiced up the Chevron press release:
“Chevron does not take this attack lightly,” said Hewitt Pate, General Counsel for Chevron. “We invest extremely heavily in our campaigns, and we take them extremely seriously. Such actions can never be tolerated.” Though the exact cost of “We Agree” must remain confidential, Chevron routinely spends $90 million per year on US advertising alone.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Water wars!... or climate peace?

Two climate change stories: one driving African tribes into new conflict and another leading old foes on a shared diplomatic course.

The conflict

For thousands of years, nomadic herdsmen have roamed the harsh, semi-arid lowlands that stretch across 80 percent of Kenya and 60 percent of Ethiopia. [...] As temperatures in the region have risen and water supplies have dwindled, the pastoralists have had to range more widely in search of suitable water and land. That search has brought tribal groups in Ethiopia and Kenya in increasing conflict, as pastoral communities kill each other over water and grass.
Watch the video at / When The Water Ends: Africa’s Climate Conflicts.

The diplomacy

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are among 15 Mediterranean nations who have just signed a historic agreement to work together to combat the effects of climate change, one month ahead of the next United Nations conference on climate change, meeting at Cancun in November. [...] Both Israel and Palestine are acutely aware of their vulnerability to climate change, which is expected to make water resources even more scarce for what is already the most water-stressed highly populated area in the world. The region faces a potential 4 degree rise in average temperatures and a 70% drop in precipitation. Sea level rise is expected to further contaminate nearby aquifers such as the coastal aquifer of Gaza that provides water to 1.5 million Palestinians. The annual decrease in rainfall is already raising farm prices for fruits and vegetables, and creating a two-tiered class system for water: those who can afford to pay, and those who can’t.

Check out the Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative website (via Green Prophet).

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