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INDIA: Activists Protest Stance at UN Climate Talks

by KalyaniOneWorld South Asia
October 29th, 2002

Lambasting a United Nations-sponsored meeting on climate for failing to provide a platform for those communities already affected by pollution-related climate change, environmental groups said Tuesday that they would mobilize a global network to amplify these voices.

The decision was taken at the end of a weekend meeting of environmental groups and people's movements, which was held parallel to the official eighth Conference of the Parties (COP-8) negotiating the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Indian capital of New Delhi.

The new movement will aim to connect, both locally and globally, those "whose lives and livelihoods have been adversely impacted by climate changes," according to Amit Srivastava, the international programs coordinator of CorpWatch, the U.S.-based organization that helped organize the parallel meeting--the India Climate Justice Summit (ICJS).

Campaigners who attended the ICJS--including representatives from trade unions, rickshaw-pullers unions, members of indigenous communities, women activists, supporters of farmers' and fishworkers' lobbies, and others--gathered on Monday at the mausoleum of the world-renowned Indian peace activist, Mahatma Gandhi, to highlight the UN conference's failure to consider their experiences in the ten-day talks that run until November 1. Later in the evening, the demonstrators rallied outside the official venue of the conference.

"The voices of marginalized sections of people really affected by climate change are not being heard at all," said Chitra Gopalakrishnan, media campaigner at the Centre for Science and Environment, a leading Indian environmental group. "Neither are they a part of the negotiations, nor are their concerns being addressed by the conference," she said.

Indian farmers, for example, who this summer suffered from delayed monsoon rains attributed by experts to global warming, should have been given a platform at the COP-8 negotiations, according to Srivastava.

The late rains led to a 38 percent drop in crop production compared with previous years, and as a result, "farmers don't have enough produce to sell and are being pushed more and more into poverty," he said, adding that fishworkers, whose lakes and ponds dried up, were also adversely affected.

"Solutions to problems posed by climate change can only be found if these very communities...take ownership of issues of concern and provide the leadership needed for it," Srivastava said, adding that a plan of action for the new alliance--to be hammered out later this week--would include a strategy of data collection to assess the impact of climate change on communities.

It was hoped that ministers at COP-8 would attempt to reduce the effects of climate change by adopting policies that support more sustainable forms of economic growth. Instead, campaigners said that they feared that multinational corporations and industrialized nations would continue to protect their own trade interests, rather than attempting to address environmental concerns.

"These meetings resemble more of a trade meeting to push globalization over developing countries than a meeting to meet the genuine needs of people," said Medha Patkar, national coordinator of the National Alliance of People's Movements, another organizer of the ICJS.

Organizers of the international climate talks did not respond to the allegations. Calls to the Indian environment minister and the United Nations were not returned.





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