Header image

Pablo Solón Romero is the former Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations and recipient of the 2011 International Human Rights Award from the Global Exchange. His work for human rights and climate justice have made him a key player in international negotiations on current climate change problems such as the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

While COP-17 talks were occuring in Durban, South Africa, Pablo gave his insight on the negotiations that had already taken place and the possible conclusion of these negotiations.

Durban Turning Into “Great Escape 3″ Starring Powerful Countries, Says Pablo Solon at COP17


Pablo Solón addresses the results of the latest COP talks in his recent article “The Durban Package: Laisser faire, laisser passer”. As scientists around the world from all fields of study are producing evidence of rapid change in our environment and the consequential harm on all living beings within this environment,  we would expect the COP-17 talks to express urgency in taking action towards eco/human rights justice but instead the agreements made during COP-17 delay any action in resolving the critical state of human existence on Earth.

The Durban Package: “Laisser faire, laisser passer”

Pablo Solón

The Climate Change Conference ended two days later than expected, adopting a set of decisions that were known only a few hours before their adoption. Some decisions were even not complete at the moment of their consideration. Paragraphs were missing and some delegations didn’t even have copies of these drafts. The package of decisions was released by the South African presidency with the ultimatum of “Take it or leave it”. Only the European Union was allowed to make last minute amendments at the plenary.

Several delegations made harsh criticisms to the documents and expressed their opposition to sections of them. However, no delegation explicitly objected the subsequent adoption of these decisions. At the end, the whole package was adopted by consensus without the objection of any delegation. The core elements of the Durban Package can be summarized as follows:

Read more: https://pablosolon.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/the-durban-package-laisser-faire-laisser-passer/

Leaders across the globe have come together for COP talks in Copenhagen (COP-15), Cancun (COP-16) and now Durban; the common ground for these talks has become their passive attitudes and in turn, inadequate commitments towards reforming their nation’s use of natural resources. Pablo brings to light this tread followed throughout the COP talks. The aftermath of COP-17 reflects Pablo’s initial opinions and predictions made during the live coverage of the talks. The framework and procedure of COP needs to be considered for reform; these talks are meant to deal with the pattern of climate change issues included rising global temperature so our nations are coming together for the sake of our future but what future will we have if the actions being taken are simply excuses to allow human society to continue blindly as it has thus far. But consider, what actions lead to the present devastating state of the earth and our society anyway?

Pablo Solón Romero. “The Durban Package: Laisser faire, laisser passer”. pablosolon.wordpress.com. 16th Dec. 2011<http://pablosolon.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/the-durban-package-laisser-faire-laisser-passer/>


COP-17 Debrief

Posted by admin in COP 17 - (Comments Off)

On January 12th, 2012, IRIS will be hosting a debriefing of COP-17 with the delegation from York University and the youth delegation from Nanisiniq: Arviat History Project to share their experiences at this year’s COP talks in Durban, South Africa. York University delegates include Ewa Modlinska who is completing her Masters in Environmental Studies and Alex Todd, MA candidate in the Department of Geography. In addition, the panel will be joined by Associate Professor Ellie Perkins and Postdoctoral Fellow Rachel Hirsch from the Faculty of Environmental Studies who have expertise in this area. The youth delegation from the Arviat History Project will be represented by April Dutheil, a social advocate and researcher on the issues of the Canadian North. The debrief is an open disscussion and participation from the audience is welcomed.

Event Details

COP-17 Debriefing

Date: January 12, 2012

Time: 3pm to 5pm

Location: Stedman Lecture Halls (SLH) Room 120E at York University, Keele Campus

If you can not attend in person, it is still possible to join us electronically through http://connect.yorku.ca/cop17debrief

Equity and Right to Development in Climate Change talks

December 6, 2011

Ewa Modlinska

As climate change talks in Durban continue to be submerged in self-interest and bureaucracy, Indian panel re-emphasizes the importance of equity and fairness for an effective climate agreement.

The continued controversial topic in COP17 is how ‘developing’ countries should be included in a post-Kyoto agreement. There is a number of very powerful developed countries, including the United States and Canada, that will not sign a legally binding agreement until developing countries (especially emerging economies such as India, China, and Brazil) are forced to limit their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is supported by the argument that due to the global nature of GHGs, the actions of Annex I (developed) countries in limiting their GHG emissions will be offset by the emissions of developing countries as their economies grow. This definitely has some standing. However, the proposed as well as existing national climate change policies presented here in COP17 by developing countries show that the developing world is already taking action on climate change proportional to their political and economic realities.

Developing countries want to take action on climate change, but they also want to make sure that any kind of (binding or voluntary) agreement that comes out of Durban will adequately incorporate equity and justice. The historical perspective on climate change is that ‘developed’ countries have contributed most to the present day crises: with less than 20% of the world’s population, developed countries are responsible for 75% of global GHG emissions (UNFCCC 2009). The people most vulnerable to climate change impacts, however, are the undernourished communities in developing countries as well as climate-change refugees that will be displaced by sea-level rises and natural disasters. Yet, these people have not received the economic benefits that developed countries gained from industrial, carbon-intense development. Additionally, some developing countries were/are disadvantaged by industrial, and now, capitalistic development. In the name of climate-change action, how can we (the higher-income countries) now refuse developing countries their ‘right to development’? Placing GHG emission targets on developing countries means limiting their economic growth.

A reality check for climate change negotiations is recognizing the different economic and political capacities of countries to introduce climate change mitigation measures. By allowing voluntary measures in the Cancun Agreement for both developed and developing countries, the financial burden for climate change action has shifted to developing countries. The Cancun Agreement moved away from the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ of developed and developing countries that was introduced in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The issue here is that while the developed world does not want to pay for climate change measures via GHG limits to capitalistic growth, developing countries cannot afford to pay for climate change action. Additionally, the Global South should not have to pay for something that they are not responsible for creating.

If we want developing countries to economically grow in a sustainable manner, a lot of money will be required to decouple their economic growth from GHG emissions.

Reflecting on the COP17 side-events’ schedule and coverage, it becomes clear that the discussion has shifted to financial-support instruments for developing countries and voluntary commitments for both the developed and the developing worlds. The idea of a second-commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol or an altogether new legally binding Durban Protocol seems to have been abandoned. But nothing is certain until the end of the negotiation talks. Presently, the side-events discussion has centered on the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as well as marked-based initiatives such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). The continued discussion on the transfer of finances from the developed world is a welcomed initiative. But if we are talking about equity and justice in climate change negotiations, financial initiatives should not replace the necessary actions that developed countries should take as part of their responsibility for releasing GHG emissions.

Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests and Centre for Science and Environment side event at COP 17: The imperative of equity for an effective climate agreement. Monday, December 5, 2011









With the final stages of COP17 getting underway at Durban the IRIS team were curious to see exactly what the York  U community thought about climate justice. Exactly what kinds of promises would they like their governments to make at Durban? And what’s standing in our way for a more sustainable society?

To find out, the IRIS team set up a table at York U for November the week of the 21st to chat with anyone willing to share their views on climate change. We asked strangers to write down their ideas onto a large sheet of paper so others could maybe build off their thoughts and develop a mind map for sustainability. There really was no telling what the York population would think.

One reoccurring theme articulated by the students was the concern for endangered species; specifically polar bears. I suspect the latest Coca-Cola campaign had some role to play in bringing this concern to the forefront of our society. While there had always been an awareness of this issue, it was fascinating to see the scope to which ideas circulate and percolate through our media outlets.

Of course, Climate justice entails so much more than polar bears and the York U community certainly did not lack the imagination to show this.

By the third day of tabling I struck up a conversation with a student who when asked about climate justice, told me that her interests were really more centred on economic issues. The anonymous student then turned around and walked to the library. It was too bad I couldn’t have chatted with her longer. It would of allowed me to share at least some of the points jotted down on our mind maps. One of my favourite constructions included the connection of global warming to climate justice which was followed by a relationship to sinking cities, refugees and unemployment.  This message resonates deeply with a large number of York members, who underlined economic and social problems as being inherently linked to global climate change. This was also emphasized in conversation with Eric Miller; a Professor of Environmental Economics at York. He stopped to chat with IRIS later on that day to note the dangers in believing that one can dichotomize the relationship between the planet and trade. To do so, is to forget that our material base of production relies on the use of natural resources.

This point was further expressed on our mind maps as students and faculty members highlighted the finite amount of resources available on our planet. This point not only challenges our current trade principles for being environmentally myopic but also raises the question: Is this the way we want to organize production? Is this the way we want to organize societies?

For the few students I engaged with who worried that students were simply apathetic on the issue, my only wish is that they had the moment to meet with some of the faces that built our maps and the IRIS team tabling behind them. When I tabled with IRIS volunteers like Ewa Moodlinsk, Alex Todd, Leandra Aguiar and Michelle Alexandra, I was overwhelmed by their passion in engaging with anyone who could spare the moment to discuss climate change, COP17 and all the actions we can take to develop a more sustainable future.

The mind map was a testimony of the York community’s concern for climate justice. Many of the illustrations on the map encouraged personal actions like going vegan, using reusable bottles and leaving the car at home. Other statements called for governments to hold corporate actors accountable for their crimes on the planet and to shift investment away from things like military and tar sands towards the development of solar and wind energy in Canada.

Another thought that was imprinted onto the mind map was Awareness. One of the mind map participant who underlined this thought, explained to me that awareness involves more than a list of facts on climate change. More than that, she believed that our governments and media have a duty to better package the sustainable alternatives we have in our lives. I had to say that I agreed with this point. From conversation with students, very few were aware about when COP17 took place and even fewer students were aware of its existence.

The York community is filled with passionate minds who want to build a world that doesn’t compromise the lives of future generations. What’s left is a need to foster this spirit with a type of leadership that doesn’t shift environmental responsibility onto developing nations. Canada needs a government who will encourage sustainability and discipline renegades on the environment. Maybe Coca-Cola can cram that onto their next can.