21 December 2009


The reaction from NGOs and scientists to the outcome of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen has been one of disappointment.

"What we have after two years of negotiation is a half-baked text of unclear substance. With the possible exceptions of US legislation and the beginnings of financial flows, none of the political obstacles to effective climate action have been solved" said Kim Carstensen, Leader of the global conservation organization WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.

The accord "clearly falls well short of what the public around the world was expecting (…) it’s clearly not enough to keep temperatures on a track below two degrees" Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists reportedly said.

The two degree target is linked by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to keeping the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere below 450 ppm (parts per million). (although 350ppm is considered to be the only safe upper limit by some scientists) "Going above 450 parts per million will change everything. It’s not just one or two things. There will be changes in water, food, ecosystems, health, and those changes also interact with each other" according to Cynthia Rosenzweig a NASA climate impacts researcher.

Despite the deep disappointment of many who helped create it, the Copenhagen accord will stand as a first attempt to bring the biggest greenhouse gas polluting nations, the United States and China, into a political deal to curb soaring global emissions.

It also brought together 119 world leaders who acknowledged for the first time that climate change is one of the greatest economic and security challenges facing the planet, and almost every leader recognised that their economies would be forced to undergo a clean energy revolution within the next few decades.

By the end of next month, rich nations, including Australia, must lodge their 2020 targets to cut emissions under the accord while the big emerging polluters, including China, India, Brazil and Indonesia, have agreed to list the voluntary measures to curb theirs.

While acknowledging that the accord falls well short of what is needed it has been recognized as an essential beginning.

The world has begun to move, We all share the responsibility to ensure that movement gains momentum.


Rubber made in Liberia is listed among the goods produced by child labour in the 2009 report of the US Department of Labour

The US Tyre and rubber company Firestone, has operated the world’s largest rubber plantation in Liberia for more than eighty years. Firestone was sold to the Bridgestone Corporation, the world’s largest tyre and rubber company in 1988.

In 2007 Bridgestone's Liberian operation returned a profit of US$1.16 billion whilst paying its thousands of employees around $3.00 per day on the condition that they fulfilled a daily quota of tapping 650 rubber trees. As the estimated time needed to meet the quota is 42 hours per day (based on an admission of Dan Adomitis, President of Firestone Natural Rubber) workers are forced to bring their wives and children to work with them in the plantations.

In May 2006, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) released a report detailing the state of human rights on Liberia's rubber plantations. UNMIL found that several factors contribute to the occurrence of child labor on Firestone plantations: pressure to meet company quotas, incentive to support the family financially, and lack of access to basic education. The report also noted that workers' housing provided by Firestone has not been renovated since the houses were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s.

A recent BBC report states that the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia has also recently found that the Firestone Plantation has dumped toxic chemicals in local rivers used by the community for bathing and fishing.

A letter writing campaign on this issue is currently being organized by the Justice & International Mission Unit of the Uniting Church in Australia.


Noting the steadily increasing numbers of irregular migrants around the globe, Archbishop Tomasi the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, called for a new management strategy in dealing with the estimated 30-40 million people forced to leave their home countries as a result of environmental degradation, violations of human rights, wars or lack of opportunity.

In addressing the Council of the International Organization for Migration earlier this month, Archbishop Tomasi emphasized that the dignity and inalienable human rights of irregular migrants demand that they receive protection and the opportunity to enjoy their basic rights to contribute to society, find legal employment and have access to training and education.

In his statement Archbishop Tomasi pointed out that as a consequence of their status, irregular migrants become vulnerable to widespread exploitation and abuse and can be used for unfair competition, and experience serious, but avoidable personal and public health concerns.

Moreover, he went on to say, "irregular migrants are commonly pictured for political and media purposes—and at times perceived by public opinion—as simply losers, job stealers or worse, and a burden to social services when in fact they are active contributors to the economy."

Education and a more realistic portraying of irregular migrants in the media is needed to remove these misconceptions he said.


In November two vulture funds were awarded $20 million from Liberia in the High Court in London, for a debt dating back to the 1970s.

Vulture funds are private companies that try to scavenge profit from the debts of some of the world's poorest countries. They seek to profiteer by buying up the debts of heavily indebted poor countries at a cheap price, then try to recover the full amount, often by suing through the courts.

According to Jubilee Debt Campaign UK at least 54 companies, many based in tax havens, are known to have taken legal action against 12 of the world's poorest countries in recent years, for claims amounting to $1.5 billion.

This means money released by debt relief is going into the pockets of wealthy investors rather than being spent on health and education.

Jubilee Australia is working with the international debt campaign to build a global responsible financing framework — one which incorporates principles of fairness, mutual accountability and transparency.

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