The Switch • November 2010


The Switch is a monthly newsletter distributed by the Northern Alliance for Sustainability (ANPED) on initiatives that are making the switch to a sustainable society. The Switch covers various campaigns, new book releases, academic papers, policy processes and more. It takes a holistic and progressive approach to the sustainability debate and does not shy away from addressing controversial topics. The Switch also keeps you updated on upcoming conferences and events. The Switch is open for your news, events and articles as well. So please send them to us !! If you have any other recommendations or comments, don’t hesitate to contact the editor of The Switch, Nick Meynen, meynen.nick[at]

ALBA: United Nations needs to adopt Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth

On November 5, 2010, a group of countries united in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) issued a joint communication from La Paz, Bolivia, to declare that nature has no price. Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua all want to express their skepticism with the push within the UN to promote a Global Green New Deal. They consider studies such as the Stern Report as tools to promote privatization of nature, which they cannot accept. As the high level climate talks in Cancun kick off, they have a clear message: Cancun cannot be another Copenhagen. Carbon market mechanisms are not negotiable for any of these countries, as they are convinced that nature is not for sale. Finally, they believe it is urgent to adopt at the United Nations a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

Click here for the declaration in English and here for the original Spanish.

RIO+20: national platforms start popping up.

If you say Global Green New Deal, Rio+20 might come to the mind. In the last Switch we reported on websites popping up, but now the first national network to prepare for Rio+20 has been created (as far as we know). The Canadian Earth Summit Coalition is a self-organized, independent and informal civil society network of non-governmental, academic and research organizations from across Canada that have come together to work towards Canadian leadership at Rio+20. Hopefully more will follow soon!

CDMWatch and EIA: EU takes milestone move to ban fake carbon credits





On 25 November 2010, a proposal on banning offsetting credits from industrial gas projects in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme was published by the European Commission. CDMWatch and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), who received worldwide media attention earlier this year when exposing how these gas projects created fake carbon credits, welcomed this bold step. “This is a milestone in terms of removing fake carbon credits from the system and helping to improve the environmental effectiveness of the EU ETS” said Eva Filzmoser, Program Director of CDM Watch. According to Fionnuala Walravens, Campaigner at EIA, “The Commission has stood firm, placing environmental integrity over industry interests, which is a credit to the EU policy process”.

The draft Regulation presented proposes a full ban on the use of credits from HFC-23 and N2from adipic acid destruction projects within the EU ETS as of 1 January 2013. But once you consider the scale of the loophole so far, you realize that this is good, but not good enough. Today, almost 70% of all carbon credits sold by developing countries to developed countries (since 2005) came from these two project types, now considered a loophole by the EU. If the EU now considers them as so bad that they will be banned in the future, will it go on to cancel all the fraudulently achieved credits from the past? At present, the EU just says something like “OK, we know you guys did not actually reduce emission in the past five years, when you bought these credits, but we can't retroactively change all these accounts so we will let that one slip through. And oh yes, you can keep fooling the climate up to 31 December 2012. But after that, we don't allow you to buy false credits in the EU ETS (although you can still use the backdoor of the Effort Sharing Directive, if you really want)” The day after the EU's announcement, a report claims that the world is warming 'faster than we thought'. And now for the million dollar question: how did that happen?

Click here for more information on the work of CDMWatch and here for the work of EIA

Cancun kicks off

Speaking of climate change, while you read this newsletter, technocrats from all over the world have gathered in Cancun to scrap brackets in texts which probably only they can truly read. All in the hope that one day soon, preferably by 10 December, their bosses will come and sign a readable text that the world will know as a global agreement to do something about the worst effects of climate change. But once you start reading anything that comes from the climate change community, you can't help but feel pity for those poor soldiers of a seemingly lost battle. A typical news article would go like this: “U.N. seeks climate progress; deal may be years off” (Reuters). Or: “The Emissions Gap Report” (UNEP). In the opening sentence of the press release on this last report, we learn that nations could deliver 60% of the reductions we need, if all pledges made in Copenhagen are met. So IF all pledges are met and IF all reductions on paper are also real reductions (which is currently not the case, see previous article) then we are, well, still 40% short of preventing run-away climate change. So the best case scenario is a worldwide disaster.
For those of you in search of a ray of hope: take a look at “How the developing world is starting a new era of climate change leadership” (WWF) or at “Maldives takes step to "carbon neutrality" by 2020” (Reuters). For a flicker of hope within the mainstream media in the rich world: “Climate change v capitalism: the feast is almost over” (guardian). In this last article, the author explains why you can't tackle climate change AND aim for economic growth. But if growth is not possible, what do we want and how do we get there? That brings us to the next article.

CASSE and EJfA: Enough is Enough: Ideas for a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources.

The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) and Economic Justice for All (EJfA) jointly published a 130-page report full of detailed ideas on how to turn our current system into a sustainable one. One where we don't need economic growth. The report is a spin-off from Steady State Economy Conference held in Leeds, UK on 19th June 2010, and includes a lot of material from keynote speakers and outcomes from the workshops. According to Brian Czech, president of CASSE, the report is as well documented as a Jared Diamond bestseller. Part from 184 footnotes for further reading, it contains a lot of graphs and figures that might be suitable for your own presentations. And last but not least, according to Brian, “this is the most complete collection of steady state policy initiatives, tools and reforms available at present”.

Click here to read the summary, digest the full report or watch some related video's.

VIDEO: From electronics to a system analysis

For those in search of a more personal, practical and simple problem-solution story, you might want to see the latest story of stuff movie on electronics. The original “The story of stuff”, an animation movie by Annie Leonard, opened the eyes of many who were previously not involved in sustainable production and consumption debates, or debates whatsoever. Maybe because her easy and clear message is freely accessible on the internet and the short movies are just fun to watch. Or maybe because she cuts through the spin and detail and goes straight to the problem at hand and how it directly affects us all. Millions have already watched the short movies and at least a million will probably watch her newest one. In “the story of electronics”, we learn how and why electronics are designed for the dump, what consequences this has and how it could be done differently. Online there's plenty of room for debate, for digging deeper into details and for taking action yourself. Just take 8 minutes of your precious time and click here.
If you have some more time and prefer a clear cut lecture on the broader picture, not just on electronics, here's for some more movies to watch:

On November 20th, the 30th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures brought together three strong voices calling for change in our economic system and outlining strategies for that change. The purpose of the New Economics Institute, who organized the lectures, is to develop, research, and help implement systemic solutions to a series of systemic problems that now face humanity. The talks by Gus Speth, Neva Goodwin and Stewart Wallis may now be viewed online:


BOOK: It has to be Climate Sustainability (Uchita De Zoysa)

The step from video to book is not so hard, especially when you consider that this books reads like you're actually listening to a speech as well. This little pocket is something you might want to read on your plane, or (we hope) train, to this next big international conference where mostly Western professors will again discuss poverty reductions strategies over steak. Uchita is also doing the international circuit, for 20 years now, but he is clearly frustrated and he wrote that frustration down. “A small section of empowered people have the power to determine poverty eradication policies”, while “many of them have never missed a meal.” He describes the growing gap between what the mass of poor people actually feels, even physically, and how their supposed priorities are usually discussed. For Uchita, “the UNO is a white elephant”. He joins the chorus from the South by claiming that “The responsibilities of climate offenders should no longer be prolonged through hypocritical negotiations, and the debtors of the earth should be brought to justice without any further delay.” His book sometimes resembles a long flaming speech full of slogans and it is rather short on details, but Uchita's shouting is probably a good reflection of the way more and more people from the South feel. His book gives a better idea about what the poor really aspire.

NGOs call for resource use cap

Meanwhile, a group of central and eastern European NGOs has made it clear what their aspirations are. They launched a campaign to persuade policy makers that capping resource use must become a central plank of environmental policy. Hungary-based, and ANPED-member, CEEweb for Biodiversity argues that increasing consumption is at the heart of current problems such as climate change. Addressing sustainability issues individually has failed, it says, because the underlying causes are unsustainable consumption, cheap fossil fuels, “and more underlying drivers like inequality, belief in material values and in continuous GDP growth.” Putting limits on resource use would provide a more holistic response, it argues. The group set as aims for the campaign by 2012 to persuade all decision makers to realize that capping resource use is essential and by 2014 to see that “relevant measures” are taken. CEEweb for Biodiversity launched the campaign this week at a kick-off meeting of the Resource Cap Coalition in Europe. However, some communities are not waiting for the usual 'decision makers' to come out and start the transition...

Liveable communities

And the winners of this month are ... Canada, New Zealand and South Africa! More specifically, three cutting-edge environmental and community initiatives in these countries, who received an international award of liveable community. During the award ceremony in Chicago, on the 8th of November 2010, projects ranging from city greening in Johannesburg to a project in Vancouver that turned wasteland into a vibrant sustainable community received some welcome attention. If you're working in and with communities towards a sustainable future: check out the website for some best practices. All results and more information on this competition can be found here.

Civil society and ecological economics

We're rounding up with the rounding up of an interesting project. On the 21th November, Civil Society Engagement with Ecological Economics (CEECEC) published a last newsletter that summarizes some of the results of this two-year project. This coalition of CSOs with academics has produced no less than 14 detailed case studies on environmental conflicts worldwide, all collected in a practical handbook on ecological economics, available here. The handbook also contains an extensive glossary. Hyperlinks lead the interested reader further. In the wake of CEECECs success, the team around Juan Martinez Alier from the University of Barcelona, managed to start a follow-up project that is even bigger: Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT). This will kick off February 2011 and will bring 23 organizations around the world together in making a global map of environmental conflicts, among other things. As ANPED is one of the main partners of this project, more news on what's happing there will follow.