Actions and Activities at the UNFCCC COP16 in Cancun, Mexico
During the 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCFCCC) held in Cancun, Mexico from November 29 to December 10, 2010, various parallel actions and activities were undertaken by civil society groups to oppose any role of the World Bank in climate finance.
On December 2, 2010, a press conference by the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)-Philippines, Jubilee South, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and the NGO Forum on the ADB was organized.
Speakers from the South voiced out their rejection of any role in climate financing by the World Bank and other regional development banks such as the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the African Development Bank.
Abdul Awal of SUPRO presented their nationwide campaign in Bangladesh against the World Bank’s part as Trustee of the funds for climate change. He shared that the campaign convinced the Bangladeshi government to reject any loans and projects related to climate change that will come from the bank.
Meanwhile, Mithika Mwenda of PACJA articulated the irony of the World Bank handling climate finance while spending billions for fossil fuel projects. He cited that the most recent of these projects is the Mega Coal Plant in South Africa worth USD 3 billion.
On the other hand, Miguel Borba de Sa of Jubilee South Americas explained how the development paradigm of the World Bank failed to alleviate poverty, adding that the institution will likewise fail to deal with the ongoing climate crisis since the bank prioritizes profits over people and planet.
The groups declared that there will be vigorous campaigns worldwide in the next months to counter the World Bank’s expanding role in climate finance.
On December 3, 2010, a hundred activists took to the streets of downtown Cancun as delegates of the COP16 tackled their agenda at the Moon Palace Hotel, which lies in the outskirts of the city.
Chanting “World Bank Out of Climate!” and “Climate Reparations!”, the protesters marched from Palacio Municipal to a local branch of the global retail giant Walmart. Locals cheered the activists who were demonstrating along Tulum Avenue, the city center’s busiest street.
“Climate finance must not be given in the form of loans or other debt creating instruments. It is already a grave injustice that peoples of the South bear the brunt of the impacts of a crisis they had no part in creating. It is even a greater injustice that they are made to pay for the cost of dealing with these impacts,” explained Lidy Nacpil, Regional Coordinator of the Jubilee South – Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS-APMDD).
Nacpil further stressed that “the World Bank, serving as either source or channel for climate finance, means a significant amount of these funds will flow as loans.”
Vowing to continue their protests against any role of the World Bank and other development banks, the demonstrators declared December 8 as Global Day of Action to demand that the World Bank stay out of climate finance.
Aside from the 500 protesters expected in Cancun on December 8, there would be parallel actions in London, Manila, Jakarta, Dhaka, Brussels, Calcutta, and other cities.
Another press conference was held on December 7, 2010 by FDC-Philippines, JS-APMDD, NGO Forum on the ADB, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and Jubilee South. Civil society organizations from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean issued a joint declaration calling for climate justice while denouncing maneuvers in the UNFCCC process.
The declaration, read by Rosa Whittier of the Petroleum Workers Union of Trinidad and Tobago (OTWU), was a result of the South-South Summit on Climate Justice and Finance that was organized also in Cancun during the first week of the UNFCCC Summit.
The various groups, who also participated in the broad Mega March protest earlier in the day, pressed the UNFCCC governments, especially those from the Annex 1 countries to put people and planet first before other considerations.
Job Bordamonte of FDC-Philippines emphasized that the practice of exclusion and ‘green room’ maneuverings is against the general principles of the UNFCCC and negates the democratic values that the global multilateral processes must follow. He further stressed that the negotiations must be brought back to the legitimate structures in order to avoid the Cancun talks being just another Copenhagen failure.
Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director of Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth-Sri Lanka, criticized how the negotiations favor the World Bank in the management of the new climate fund that is being developed. This, according to him, is unacceptable given the track record of the World Bank.
At the end of the briefing, the activists flashed placards of “World Bank Out of Climate Finance” translated in different languages.
During the Global Day of Action on December 8, 2010, civil society groups from the North and the South launched a worldwide campaign demanding governments not to provide the World Bank with any role in climate financing.
The launching named the more than 200 organizations that signed the Open Letter to Governments in Cancun.
The petition urged governments to set up a Global Climate Fund under the authority of the UNFCCC that has an equitable governance structure, prioritizes the participation of affected communities, operates with full transparency and accountability, and provides direct access to funding.
The open letter also called on governments to reject any role of the World Bank in the establishment and management of the Global Climate Fund.
To press for the accountability of concerned institutions, three large effigies representing the World Bank, the United States and the European Union were carried during the march. A giant pig piñata, another representation of the WB, was smashed by the activists towards the end of the march to illustrate the desperate need of the peoples of the South for just and democratic climate financing.
In the afternoon a press conference was organized with only one speaker presenting the groups’ position. Four other leaders joined Reza Chowdhury of EquityBD (Bangladesh) in the panel but had their mouths sealed with a tape to symbolize the undemocratic handling of the UNFCCC processes.