Cop25: Indemnification to accompany mitigation and adaptation?

At COP25 in Madrid in December 2019 Nicaragua’s Policy Minister Paul Oquist outlined to delegates the policy stance of his government to the issue of climate change and how to address it. In particular he explained the need to introduce into the system of adaptation and mitigation the notion of losses and gains, using the term ‘indemnification’, to redress the injustices of the historical causes of climate change. We consider this to be an important feature of any international mechanisms that seek to allocate funds for climate change action; and so we include his address here.

Dr. Paul Oquist Kelley Minister-Private Secretary for National Policies Presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua

Translated by

December 11th 2019

Madam President, Your Excellencies, Ministers, Special Guests
The President of the Republic of Nicaragua, Comandante Daniel Ortega Saavedra, and Vice President Compañera Rosario Murillo Zambrana, send their greetings and best wishes for the success of this COP, aimed at achieving a higher level of commitment and climate action.
Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities are not political positions but objective historical and contemporary realities. To maintain that we are all historically responsible for climate change would be tantamount to saying that we all participated equally in the Industrial Revolution, as well as in the massive accumulation of capital resulting from it. This was when most of our countries suffered at that time the yoke of colonialism and neocolonialism, as well as the slave trade and the exploitation of slave labour, which also contributed to the historical accumulation of those responsible.
To maintain that we are all equally and universally responsible for greenhouse gas emissions today, is equivalent to saying that the 100 countries with the lowest emissions that account for 3% of the total, have the same responsibility as the ten countries with the highest emissions that account for 72% of the total. At the same time, it is equivalent to saying that most countries with less than one ton of CO2 equivalent per capita have the same responsibility as countries with 18 tons or 16 tons per capita.
My country, Nicaragua, contributes 0.03% of total global emissions, with a per capita of 0.63 tons. Despite our negligible level of responsibility, we are actively working on mitigation and adaptation, as well as loss and damage, because we love Mother Earth, and we are concerned about the future of our country and the world. Nicaragua has gone from 25% renewable energy in 2007 to 62% in 2018, while electricity coverage has expanded from 54% of households in 2007 to 95% in 2018. We are committed to the 30×30 initiative to restore 2.8 million hectares degraded due to a historic, active agricultural frontier. We have committed in the Forest Carbon Partnership to capture 11 million tons of CO2(e) [carbon dioxide equivalent] over the next five years. We are also adapting a dry corridor to the new reality of climate change.
This effort has been in the context of average annual economic growth of 4.7% between 2011 and 2017, the third highest rate among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, accompanied by great social advances. These include the reduction of the maternal mortality rate from 92.8 per hundred thousand in 2007 to 34.1 today, and the reduction of the infant mortality rate from 29 to 12 per thousand children born. Chronic malnutrition in schools was reduced by 66%. General poverty was reduced from 47.9% to 24.9%, and extreme poverty from 17.3% to 6.9%. Very important in this world, the GINI measure of inequality in consumption went from 0.41 to 0.33. In 2007, Nicaragua ranked at 90 in the Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum in Davos, rising to the rank of number five in 2019, only below the Nordic countries. The indigenous and Afro-descendant population of the Caribbean Coast and Upper Wanki River or Coco, achieved the delimitation and titling of 37,800 square kilometers of their ancestral lands, in 23 territories, each with its own territorial government and control of its own resources.
However, Nicaragua, like 35 other countries around the world, has seen its capacity to respond to climate change and to achieve sustainable development goals undermined by coercive, unilateral, extraterritorial and illegal measures, which even criminalize third parties that do not comply with the illegal measures. Only sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council are legal in international law. The international system of bank transfers is key to the de facto imposition of these illegal, unilateral, coercive measures that violate the human and legal rights of individuals, organizations and entire countries. There are also covert actions of destabilization of governments and attempts at coups d’état, some successful and others not. In the Middle East, several countries have been invaded or bombed in wars of aggression. The Nuremberg court ruled that this type of war is the supreme violation of international law and human rights, because it contains within it the sum of all the evils of war. Even countries suffering the consequences of climate change see their ability to respond to the future shattered by catastrophic disasters and the lack of international compensation mechanisms. All these phenomena have affected the respective response capacity of developing countries.
Our Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement are incomplete, because they do not include an effective mechanism to finance response and recovery of losses and damages. Mitigation reduces the risk of loss and damage; adaptation reduces the impact of specific threats of loss and damage; loss and damage themselves are the end result of the very climate change we are seeking to minimize. Thus, we propose that the concept of losses and damages be elevated to the same level as mitigation and adaptation, in order to receive resources.
The President of Nicaragua, Comandante Daniel Ortega Saavedra, in his message to the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, stated that the only equitable and effective way to finance losses and damages is for the countries and corporations that have caused the problem and benefited from the use of carbon to accumulate capital to compensate countries that suffer the consequences of climate change without having caused it, in the proportion of their responsibility. We have the data from 1880 to date, both for countries and for corporations. Some people think this is a very radical proposal, but it is not. The concept that whoever causes damage to another must then compensate the other for the damage caused is called tort in common law. It is also in the Napoleonic codes and in Sharia law. So too, all ethical systems, and all religions of the world, contain the concept. However, the term most despised and feared in these negotiations is the word “indemnification”.

The developing countries need enormous financial resources for the future, to face mitigation, adaptation and losses and damages. In Copenhagen in 2009, funding of US$100 billion per year starting in 2020 was proposed and reiterated in successive COPs. We should not accept as part of the US$100 billion accounts of past expenses, we cannot finance our projects with them. Nor can we accept that the market mechanisms of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement replace the US$100 billion annually. We must not accept the postponement of the date after having already waited 10 long years. What is needed from 2020 onwards are new, fresh, liquid resources with equal access for all developing countries. To guarantee these requisites, if these funds appear, they should be channelled through the financial mechanisms of the Convention, namely the Green Climate Fund, the GEF, the Adaptation Fund, and the Least Developed Countries Fund.

The year 2019 will be remembered like 1848, 1871, 1968 and 1989, as a year when the street became important in world politics. Climate change is one of the drivers of this phenomenon in many countries, with youth on the front line. The 16-year-olds marching in the streets today will be 18 years old in two more years, and no one will speak of that youth as passive, disinterested and apolitical. A highly motivated voting youth can change the correlation of political forces in many countries, being decisive in countries now evenly split between opposing forces.
There is still a year before COP26 in 2020 but you see neither a working group advancing the US$100 billion a year nor a road map. Only Secretary General Antonio Guterres has asked President Emanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica to investigate the issue.

If the US$100 billion annual commitment in 2020 is broken, this could be termed the Fraud of the Century. In reality, much more is needed and US$100 billion has to be just a starting point. The US$100 billion myth has the aggravating factor that it reduced climate change spending and action in the critical decade of 2010 to date, and now we are suffering the consequences. What we cannot do at this time is to have another Lost Decade of financing and action on Climate Change.

Global Environment Facility (GEF) supports Costa Rica’s transition to an urban green economy

By Martin Mowforth

Key words: Global Environment Facility (GEF); Costa Rica; Greater Metropolitan Area; greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; decarbonisation; reforestation; urban green economy; electric train network; bicycle lanes; walkways.


The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was set up in 1990 by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The 1992 Rio Earth Summit offered the GEF as a mechanism to address the planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Through its Small Grants Programme, the GEF has provided support to more than 26,000 civil society and community initiatives in 135 countries.

Although this article reports on a Costa Rican project which would find few detractors, it is noteworthy that the GEF is not without its critics who point out that it is a means by which the global north can profit from the supposedly global problems experienced in the global south. These criticisms are summarised by Martin Mowforth in the article which follows this one in the list of this month’s additions to The Violence of Development website (May 2022).

In March 2022 the GEF took the decision to invest in the project ‘Transitioning to an urban green economy and delivering global environmental benefits’, led by the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Organisation for Tropical Studies, an international organisation with a base in Costa Rica.

The project aims at decarbonising the Greater Metropolitan Area of Costa Rica’s capital city, San José, by providing $10.3 million (US dollars) to invest in the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by the city. The investment will go towards the improvement of public transport, the greening of approximately 2,000 hectares of land and the implementation of an integrated urban planning strategy.

Expanding the electric train network was one of former President Alvarado’s stated aims and although he has now been replaced by Rodrigo Chaves (April 2022 election) it is likely that some of the GEF funds will be used to continue the work which had already been started on this programme.

Other transport improvements stemming from the initiative will include the construction of 8 km of bicycle lanes, 3 km of shared paths and pedestrian walkways and 20 km of green sidewalks with improved access.

Visitors to and residents of Costa Rican cities will be aware of the urgent need to improve the transport systems in the country’s cities most of which are known for their poor roads and traffic congestion.

An important part of the GEF-funded programme relates to reforestation which is expected to result in the planting of 1,000 trees per hectare and the capture of 24,000 tons of carbon dioxide. This part of the initiative will include the restoration of damaged ecosystems and the renovation of various landscapes.

Costa Rica has a National Decarbonisation Plan one of whose major aims is to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by the year 2050.



GEF, 24.03.22, ‘News from the GEF: Costa Rica aims to transition towards an urban green economy with GEF support’,

El Economista, 24.03.22, ‘Costa Rica recibirá del GEF $10.3 millones para descarbonización’.

Ileana Fernández, 26.03.22, ‘Costa Rica will receive $10.3 million to decarbonize the Greater Metropolitan Area’, The Tico Times, San José.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF)

By Martin Mowforth

May 2022

This month (May 2022) The Violence of Development website includes an article about the transition to an urban green economy in San José, Costa Rica. The set of projects involved in this transition is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) which has undoubtedly supported many valuable development projects in the past. But its development credentials are not beyond criticism as shown by the following amended extract from Mowforth and Munt (2016).


The 1992 Rio Summit offered the First World the ideal mechanism to achieve the globalisation of the control, management and ownership of biological diversity: the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The GEF was set up in November 1990 by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to assist the so-called developing world in funding projects which either protect biodiversity against destructive development or promote development which does not destroy biodiversity. The GEF, however, is not a development agency, as Pearce and Moran (1994) explain:

It operates via many development projects, but it modifies them so that the technologies used are cleaner than they otherwise would have been. Its purpose is not development as such, but the capture of global environmental value – the value that comes from reducing the ‘global bads’ of climate change, biodiversity loss and ozone layer depletion.

The 1992 Rio Summit allocated to the GEF the role of financial administrator for the Biodiversity and Climate Change Conventions which arose out of the conference. The post development critic Vandana Shiva (1993) is highly critical of this role and of the World Bank’s part in it:

The erosion of biodiversity is another area in which control has been shifted from the South to the North through its identification as a global problem … by treating biodiversity as a global resource, the World Bank emerges as its protector through GEF … and the North demands free access to the South’s biodiversity through the proposed Biodiversity Convention. But biodiversity is a resource over which local communities and nations have sovereign rights. Globalisation becomes a political means to erode these sovereign rights, and means to shift control over and access to biological resources from the gene-rich South to the gene-poor North. The ‘global environment’ thus emerges as the principal weapon to facilitate the North’s worldwide access to natural resources and raw materials on the one hand, and on the other, to enforce a worldwide sharing of the environmental costs it has generated, while retaining a monopoly of benefits reaped from the destruction it has wreaked on biological resources. The North’s slogan at UNCED [the 1992 Rio Summit] and the other global negotiation fora seems to be: ‘What’s yours is mine. What’s mine is mine.’

In 1992 Oliver Tickell articulated the suspicion of much of the socio-environmental movement, that control of the funds by the World Bank could only lead to the imposition of a First World agenda on the allocation of those funds. He also pointed out the contradiction in the GEF’s approach:

The main qualification for receiving a GEF grant for preserving biodiversity is apparently to be running a World Bank project that threatens or destroys that biodiversity, like a giant dam, or a plan to develop logging in untouched forests. Marcus Colchester of the World Rainforest Movement estimates that 70 per cent of GEF funds are tied to mainstream Bank projects, and are actually subsidising social and environmental destruction.

Despite the misgivings of much of the socio-environmental movement and others, Fernandes claims that ‘Already the leading northern NGOs appear to have developed strong coordinating GEF links with the World Bank, UNDP and UNEP (1994: 24); and Chatterjee and Finger claimed that the WWF is now the most consulted NGO on GEF projects (1994: 155). Fernandes’ analysis of the GEF suggests that a large number of integrated sustainable tourism projects received funding under phase I of the GEF. He quotes Soares of the Brazilian Institute for Economic and Social Analysis, who concludes that many GEF programmes, which are often linked to significant ecotourism and sustainable tourism components, represent ‘mainstays for a (development) model that unceasingly reproduces conditions for the planet’s deforestation, even while preaching its conservation’ (Soares, 1992: 48).

Fernandes also cites other fundamental flaws in the GEF mechanisms such as the stimulation of destructive competition between organisations working in the field of biodiversity, a failure to involve local communities, an over-dependence on international consultancies, and the creation of a number of ‘paper parks’ – a reference to the designation of parks by national governments which have few resources to provide management and protection systems on the ground. Moreover, the link between the World Bank and INGOs such as WWF, IUCN and Conservation International leads to these organisations adopting an approach more characteristic of the World Bank and advocating corporate schemes for a range of environmental programmes and projects which give ‘total management control’ to the ‘private or NGO sector’. As a result they fail to even ‘recognise the existence of village conservation movements opposing development projects’ (Lohmann, 1991: 98–9, cited in Fernandes, 1994: 26).


Fernandes, D. (1994) ‘The shaky ground of sustainable tourism’, TEI Quarterly Environment Journal 2(4): 26.

Mowforth and Munt (2016, 4th edition) Tourism and Sustainability: Development, globalisation and new tourism in the Third World, Routledge.

Pearce, D.W. and Moran, D. (1994) The Economic Value of Biodiversity, London: Earthscan, p.132.

Shiva, V. (1993) ‘The greening of the global reach’, in W. Sachs (ed.) Global Ecology, London, Zed Books, p.152.

Soares, M. (1992) Debt Swaps, Development and Environment, Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian Institute for Economic and Social Amalysis.

Tickell, O. (1992) ‘After the Summit’, Green Line, July 98: 3.

Indígenas salen al paso de declaraciones de Carlos Alvarado en la COP-26

Con referencia a nuestro resumen de las noticias y los temas pertinentes a COP-26 – véase el artículo previo cargado en noviembre 2021 – el 5 de noviembre el periódico costarricense Semanario Universidad incluyó un artículo por Vinicio Chacón sobre las diferencias entre el discurso del Presidente Costaricense Carlos Alvarado a la conferencia COP-26 y la realidad experimentado por los Pueblos Indígenos en ese país. Estamos muy agradecido a Vinicio por su autorización de incluir el artículo y su traducción en nuestro sitio web La Violencia del Desarrollo.

 Por Vinicio Chacón |

 5 noviembre, 2021   Semanario Universidad, San José, Costa Rica 

Recordaron agresiones sufridas, los asesinatos y muchos de los incumplimientos a sus derechos territoriales, tras discurso del mandatario en cumbre mundial.

“El Presidente dice que reconoce que cuidamos los bosques; no deberían haber muertos por defender la tierra, ni siquiera deberíamos estar en esta lucha”, dijo un activista identificado como Lesner, recuperador Bribri del clan Tuádiwak, en el territorio de Salitre.

Sus fuertes palabras fueron divulgadas por la Coordinadora de Lucha Sur Sur (CLSS) en un comunicado con el que salió al paso de las manifestaciones hechas por el presidente Carlos Alvarado en Glasgow, Escocia, en el marco de la cumbre mundial de cambio climático COP-26.

Durante la realización de un foro denominado “Bosques y Uso del Suelo” que se realizó el pasado lunes, Alvarado manifestó que “los mayores guardianes del bosque y la tierra son los Pueblos Indígenas”, al tiempo que resaltó el Programa de Pago por Servicios Ambientales (PSA) como un mecanismo para la conservación de bosques.

Al respecto, las organizaciones indígenas y campesinas que integran la CLSS expresaron un inconformidad con lo dicho por Alvarado, en primer lugar porque el Estado “no ha sido capaz, ni ha tenido la voluntad política para garantizar la vida e integridad personal de los Pueblos Originarios” y al respecto recordó “los asesinatos por razones políticas de Sergio Rojas Ortiz, Uniwak del Pueblo Bribri de Salitre el 18 de marzo de 2019 y de Jerhy Rivera Rivera del Pueblo Brörán de Térraba el 24 de febrero de 2020”.

En efecto, dos asesinatos en menos de un año de “hermanos que fueron asesinados defendiendo sus territorios y Pueblos”.

Al mismo tiempo, la organización recordó que el Informe de agresiones y violaciones a los Derechos Humanos contra los pueblos originarios en la Zona Sur de Costa Rica, publicado por la misma CLSS, denunció que durante 2020 se dieron 14 amenazas de muerte contra activistas de los Pueblos Originarios de la Zona Sur del país, así como dos defensores de los derechos humanos de estos Pueblos.

Ello es sólo una pequeña pero significativa parte de los 86 incidentes documentados en ese Informe y que se mantienen en la impunidad.


Deuda pendiente

Con gravedad, la CLSS subrayó que en los territorios indígenas de la zona Sur se mantiene una ocupación ilegal según detalla de un 40% de esos territorios por parte de personas no indígenas, que en algunos casos alcanza el un 75%.

Precisamente respecto al tema de saneamiento territorial, la CLSS resalta que el Plan de Recuperación de Territorios Indígenas (PRTI) que inició el gobierno en 2017, no se ha materializado en la devolución efectiva de “ni un solo terreno”, a excepción de dos fincas de Salitre que ya habían sido recuperados por los propios indígenas pero que “contrario a lo que este Pueblo solicitaba”, fueron entregados a la Asociación de Desarrollo Indígena.

Cabe recordar que estas asociaciones de desarrollo son instancias impuestas a los pueblos indígenas por el Estado, pero no se corresponden con sus tradiciones culturales o históricas, mientras que la organización de autogobierno que reconocen en el caso de ese territorio Bribri es el Concejo Ditsö Iriria Ajkönuk Wakpa.

La CLSS también denunció que el Estado ha sido incapaz de devolver los terrenos priorizados por las organizaciones propias de varios Pueblos Originarios, específicamente ocho en Salitre, 13 en Cabagra y 17 en Térraba. Además, durante 2020 y 2021 se han dado tres resoluciones judiciales que ordenan el desalojo de personas del pueblo Cabécar de China Kichá y una del pueblo Brörán de Térraba, que apeladas oportunamente, pero que tres de ellas aún representan “un peligro y una amenaza de desalojo judicial”.

Con gravedad, la CLSS se refirió al PSA y destacó la omisión de Alvarado de que esos pagos son gestionados y administrados por las mencionadas asociaciones de desarrollo indígena, que como se dijo, no se consideran organizaciones propias, sino más bien impuestas por el Estado en estas comunidades.

“Tampoco señala Alvarado los muchos casos en los que se encuentra denunciadas y en procesos judiciales, algunas de estas ADI, no todas, por el manejo irregular de los fondos provenientes de PSA y la poca participación real de las comunidades y propietarios de estos bosques, en las decisiones y beneficios económicos”, apunta el comunicado.

Una mujer recuperadora en la localidad de Crun Shurin, en el territorio Térraba del pueblo Brörán, no identificada en el documento divulgado, observó que ser “guardianes de los bosques”, como dijo Alvarado, “nos ha costado dos asesinatos de defensores de nuestros derechos como Pueblos Originarios, muchas personas más no podemos ni siquiera dormir tranquilas con nuestras familias por las amenazas de los terratenientes; somos guardianes pero tenemos a los poderes del Estado en contra de nuestros derechos”.

Por ello, asevero que “no se vale que el mundo escuche estas mentiras del presidente Carlos Alvarado, ya que nuestras luchas son muy desiguales y nosotras como mujeres indígenas sufrimos toda clase de atropellos por seguir acompañando y conservando a nuestra madre tierra para evitar que las empresas transnacionales con sus proyectos extractivos la sigan matando”.

“Nuestra lucha continuará por defender nuestras tierras que son un todo: Bosques, Agua, Aire, Espiritualidad, Cultura y Autonomía; aunque nos tengan amenazadas y aunque el Presidente Alvarado mienta en los foros internacionales”, añadió.

Por su parte, Lesner también plantó cara al Presidente y dijo “no somos guardianes de nuestras tierras, nosotros somos parte de la tierra y la cuidamos de forma innata, natural. Ella nos cuida y nosotros la cuidamos, para nosotros el bosque es un ser vivo como cualquier otro elemento que compone esta tierra”.

Añadió que “no necesitamos dinero para cuidar nuestros bosques y tierras, porque a la hora de que se ofrece dinero por cuidar nuestros bosques y tierra, se pierde el sentido de vivir en equilibrio y se cuida solo por dinero. Nuestra cosmogonía dice como debemos vivir con nuestro bosque y tierra, el hacerlo pagado distorsiona esa forma de hacerlo.”


Indigenous groups rebut the statements of Carlos Alvarado at COP-26

Further to our round-up of Central America COP-26 related news and issues – see previous article uploaded in November 2021 – on 5th November the Costa Rican weekly newspaper Semanario Universidad included an article by Vinicio Chacón on the difference between Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado’s speech at the COP-26 conference and the reality experienced by Indigenous peoples in that country. We are grateful to Vinicio for his permission to include the article and its translation in The Violence of Development website.

By Vinicio Chacón | 5 November 2021,  Semanario Universidad, San José, Costa Rica

(English translation by Martin Mowforth)


Aggressions remembered, many assassinations and failures to implement land rights – after the leader’s speech at the global summit.

“The President says that he recognises that we look after the forests; there should be no killings of those who defend their land …”, said one activist identified as Lesner, a Bribri land recoverer of the Tuádiwak clan in the Salitre territory.

His striking words were repeated by the Coordinating Organisation of the South-South Struggle (CLSS by its Spanish initials) in a communication countering and examining the actual actions of President Carlos Alvarado against his words in Glasgow, Scotland, at the global summit on climate change, COP-26.

During one forum titled ‘Forests and Use of Soils’, Alvarado claimed that “the best guardians of the forests and the earth are the Indigenous Peoples”, at the same time he was projecting the Programme of Payment for Environmental Services (PSA by its Spanish initials) as a mechanism for forest conservation.

In this regard, the Indigenous and campesino organisations which make up the CLSS noted a mismatch between what Alvarado said, in the first place because the State “has not been able and has not had the political will to guarantee the life and personal integrity of the First Peoples” as witness “the 18th March 2019 assassination for political motives of Sergio Rojas Ortiz, a Uniwak of the Bribri People of Salitre and the 24th February 2020 assassination of Jerhy Rivera Rivera of the Brörán People of Térraba.” In effect, these were two assassinations in less than one year of “brothers who were assassinated for defending their lands and Peoples.”

At the same time, the CLSS published a report on the attacks against and violations of the human rights of the First Peoples in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica which denounced that during 2020 there were 14 death threats made against activists and human rights defenders of the First Peoples of the Southern Zone.

That is only one small element of the 86 incidents documented in the report and which remain in impunity.


Pending Debt

The CLSS emphasised that in the Indigenous territories of the Southern Zone an illegal occupation is maintained with 40 per cent of their territories held by non-Indigenous peoples, and in some cases this reaches 75 per cent.

With respect to the issue of land delineation, the CLSS noted that the Recovery Plan for Indigenous Territories (PRTI by its Spanish initials) initiated by the government in 2017 has not materialised with “not one single defined land area”, with the exception of two fincas [small farms] in Salitre which had already been recovered by the appropriate Indigenous Peoples but which “against the will of the People” were delivered to the Association of Indigenous Development.

It’s worth recalling that these development associations are organisations which were imposed on Indigenous Peoples by the State, but they do not correspond to their cultural or historic traditions, while the recognised organisation in Bribri territory is the Ditsö Itiria Ajkönuk Wakpa.

The CLSS also denounced that the State has been incapable of devolving the lands prioritized by the Original Peoples’ own organisations, specifically eight territories in Salitre, 13 in Cabagra and 17 in Térraba. Moreover, during 2020 and 2021 three judicial decisions ordered the eviction of Cabécar people from China Kichá and one decision relating to the eviction of the Brörán people of Térraba who appealed in time, but three of them are still under “the danger and threat of judicial eviction”.

The CLSS referred to the PSA and emphasised Alvarado’s omission that these payments are managed and administered by the above-mentioned Indigenous Development Associations, which as already mentioned are not considered as their own organisations but rather are seen as being imposed by the State on these communities. “Neither did Alvarado make note of the many denunciations and judicial procedures against the irregular management of funds from the PSA and the little real participation of the communities and owners of these forests in the decisions and economic benefits,” said the CLSS communication.

One unidentified woman, a land recoverer in the area of Crun Shurin in the Térraba territory of the Brörán People, observed that to be “a protector of the forests”, as Alvarado called them, “has cost us two assassinated First Peoples rights defenders, and many more of us cannot even sleep at peace at night along with our families because of the land owners’ threats. We are the forest protectors, but we face the powers of the State against our rights.”

Thus she asserted that “the world should not be listening to these lies by President Carlos Alvarado because our struggles are very unequal and as Indigenous women we suffer all manner of abuses for continuing to conserve our Mother Earth from the ravages of the transnational companies with their extractive projects.”

“Our struggle will continue to defend our lands which belong to all of us; Forests, Water, Air, Spirituality, Culture, and Autonomy; despite the threats we receive and despite the fact that President Alvarado lies in international summits,” she added.

For his part, Lesner also accused the President and said: “We are not protectors of our lands; we are part of the earth and we look after it in an intuitive and natural way. She looks after us and we look after her; for us the forest is a living being as are the other elements which make up the earth.”

He added that: “we don’t need money to look after our forests and our lands, because when we are offered money to look after the forest and the land, the sense of living in equilibrium is lost and we start looking after only money. Our cosmovision tells us how we must live with our forest and lands. Paying for it distorts this manner of living with it.”

Central America at COP26

On October 31st, international leaders convened in Glasgow, UK for the 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26). For two weeks, global leaders met to “bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.” This summary of numerous reports has been prepared by Martin Mowforth for The Violence of Development website.


Indigenous Environmental Defenders Notably Absent from COP26 Discussions 

On November 11th, the Guatemala Human Rights Committee (GHRC) posted a report as titled above. The following paragraphs give a few extracts from the report.

Current national commitments are far less than what is necessary for the world to limit temperature rise to less than 1.5oC, and despite the achievements of the conference, this will likely remain the case.


Where Are the Indigenous Defenders?  

Prior to and throughout the conference, global human rights organisations and environmental defenders called out the clear absence of defenders from the conference’s discussion. Formal recognition of Indigenous knowledge has increased in recent years, with the Paris accords formally recognizing the importance of local and Indigenous knowledge in resolving the climate crisis, but Indigenous activists say that this recognition has not increased their influence in international negotiations. Eriel Deranger, the executive director of Indigenous Climate Action, noted that “Indigenous people are more visible but we’re not taken any more seriously; we’re romanticised and tokenised.” In fact, members of the Indigenous Future Collectivealong with many other groups representing Indigenous peoples–could not gain full access and accreditation to participate in the COP26 process.

In contrast, 503 people with links to the fossil fuel industry were accredited for COP26. Maya K’iche’ human rights defender and journalist Andrea Ixchíu noted that Indigenous observers were not even allowed inside the rooms where the COP26 process took place. Instead, they were forced to watch the deliberations on a screen outside the room. Ixchíu called on COP26 to include Indigenous leaders “not just as observers, but as decision makers.”

Meanwhile, Indigenous defenders face deadly consequences for their work on the front lines of the fight to save the environment; defenders are not only excluded, but actively attacked. During the first week of COP26, Indigenous activists gathered to memorialize at least 1,005 environmental defenders who have been murdered since the signing of the Paris accords in 2016. Global Witness reported 227 murders of environmental defenders in 2020 alone, making it the deadliest year on record. With 13 recorded murders, Guatemala was the seventh deadliest country for land and environmental defenders in 2020 and the fourth deadliest per capita. The first draft of the Glasgow decision made no reference to the grave situation faced by environmental defenders.

Environmental defenders face threats and attacks on many levels, as seen recently in El Estor, Guatemala, where local resistance to a mining project that threatens Guatemala’s largest lake has been repeatedly met with violence and human rights violations. As resistance to the mine continues and the community faces a state of siege, the Convergence for Human Rights,  Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and GHRC, among others, have denounced excessive use of force and violence by state forces and the targeting of land defenders through raids and illegal detention.

Another example–the criminalization of Bernardo Caal–further conveys the threats faced by land defenders in Guatemala. Caal served as a leader against the OXEC hydroelectric project since 2015, which destroyed 15 hectares of forest and three sacred hills and restricted access to two sacred rivers where Q’eqchi’ people have fished and bathed for generations. Bernardo Caal was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison in 2018 on spurious charges, and remains incarcerated; his recent appeal was denied. …


Dangers of the Same Old Solutions    

Human rights organisations and environmental defenders have also emphasized the dangers of solutions that rely on the same mechanisms that created the climate crisis. A statement signed by over 250 international organisations denounced ‘nature-based solutions’ to climate change as a threat to the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples. While often promoted by major corporations as a means of achieving net zero emissions, these strategies, the letter warned, will lead to the privatization of natural spaces, monoculture, and the further dispossession of Indigenous peoples. …

In Guatemala, we’ve seen that investment in ‘green’ projects often has the same destructive consequences on Indigenous territory as extractive industries like mining or logging. For example, during Guatemala’s internal conflict, the Guatemalan government received funding from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to construct a hydroelectric dam on the Chixoy River. Over the course of the project, 444 Maya-Achí inhabitants of the region were massacred. The legacy continues, as evidenced by the case of the community of Laguna Larga where 111 families were evicted to make space for a proposed carbon credit project. Four years later, the community continues to live in deplorable conditions without access to basic human rights like health, water, and housing.

In a report released on October 27, the PRISMA Foundation warned against the reliance on large-scale investment in green development and the danger of excluding Indigenous communities. The World Resources Institute indicated the importance of protecting Indigenous land rights. Indigenous lands hold an estimated 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, and research found that securing Indigenous and Afro-descendant land tenure in South America reduced deforestation by 30-75 percent, but the group noted that Indigenous communities receive only a small portion of the funding directed to Indigenous land management. The report concluded with a call for a bottom-up approach to climate funding.


Indigenous Communities As ‘Living Solutions’ to the Climate Crisis 

In an open letter, international human rights groups called on COP26 and the UK government to address the climate emergency in partnership with environmental human rights defenders. According to Susi Bascon, Director of Peace Brigades International UK, “The knowledge, perception, and invaluable experience of environmental human rights defenders can no longer be ignored by any State that wishes to fully implement the Paris Agreement and avoid climate breakdown, ecological collapse, and escalating social inequality. Partnering with them is a must.”

Ending the criminalization of defenders and securing the access of Indigenous communities to their ancestral lands is an indispensable step towards fighting the climate crisis and preserving natural resources. According to Andrea Ixchíu, Indigenous communities are ‘living solutions’ to climate change and the only way to address the crisis is to “see what Indigenous communities have been doing for thousands of years.”


Central American Countries Seek Aid To Fight Climate Change 

Published 3 November 2021 

The following report relating to the position of Central American countries on the Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) was published in the Telesur Newsletter on 3rd November this year. Their terms and conditions allow us to reproduce the article here, for which we are grateful to Telesur. The piece was written at the beginning of COP26 and uses the future tense regarding the conference. We have left the article as it was written including its use of the future tense.

The countries of the Central American Integration System (SICA) will present a ‘unified position’ at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) in order to raise more strongly their requests for international assistance.

In its capacity as temporary president of the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD), Guatemala will propose that COP26 declare Central America as one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change.

Although the Central American nations only generate 0.35 per cent of CO2 emissions, they have been severely affected by hurricanes, floods and other extreme weather events, Guatemala’s Environment Minister Mario Rojas said. …

The people most vulnerable to natural disasters reside precisely in rural areas, where ecological deterioration further aggravates the impacts of global climate change. In Central America, high levels of deforestation make extreme weather events more easily turn into disasters, which greatly affects the levels of poverty and malnutrition, said Piedad Martin, the regional director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Since the beginning of the 21st century, Guatemala has lost almost 25 percent of its forests and over 25 percent of its watersheds have been polluted. While up to 80,000 hectares of native forests are lost in Honduras every year, only 3 percent of Salvadoran forests are still intact. …

Currently, SICA comprises Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. These countries will also demand urgent international financing mechanisms to combat the effects of climate change in their territories.


Belize’s delegation to COP26

The Government of Belize (GOB) sent a 30 person delegation to the recent COP26 conference in Glasgow.

The Public Service Union (PSU) of Belize questioned why so many people were included in the delegation given that the watchwords of the government have included ‘austerity’, ‘sacrifice’ and ‘management of financial resources’. They further questioned why it had not been possible for some of the delegation to attend remotely in order to save costs.

In response, the Prime Minister John Briceño pointed out that the conference directly involved several ministries including the Ministries of Sustainable Development, the Blue Economy, the Attorney General, Finance and Foreign Affairs. He also noted that funding for the delegation’s visit to Glasgow would come from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre which has its headquarters in Belize as well as from the conference itself.

The PSU, however, is clearly suspicious of the funding and said that it “expects FULL transparency from the GOB with the publication of the total cost incurred by the GOB, inclusive of airfare, hotel accommodations and daily costs. This would offer ALL Belizeans a better picture of what taxpayer dollars are being allocated to.”

The PSU also mentioned the decision to cut salaries by 10 per cent and reminded the GOB that the spending should go towards the betterment of the country. Moreover, the GOB’s promises of austerity, accountability and transparency should be kept.


Marine Reserves Pooled at COP26

Along with Ecuador and Colombia, the Central American countries of Panama and Costa Rica agreed at COP26 to join their marine reserves to form one interconnected area that will serve as one of the world’s richest pockets of ocean biodiversity. It will be a fishing-free corridor covering more than 500,000 square km, in one of the world’s most important migratory routes for many species.

“It will be a living laboratory to carry out scientific research,” said Guillermo Lasso  (President of Ecuador) at a COP26 press conference. “We are currently reviewing proposals to fund the new MPA in Galapagos with a debt-for-nature swap. It will be the biggest one ever. But we’ll be careful on how we carry it out to maximise the environmental benefits for the marine reserve.”



Panama’s youthful COP26 delegation

On 10 November 2021, Ciara Nugent of Time Magazine wrote an article entitled ‘The Youngest Negotiating Team at COP26 has a Message for Other Countries’. A few brief extracts are included here.

When Juan Carlos Monterrey Gómez went to his first round of U.N. climate negotiations as part of Panama’s delegation in 2015, his colleagues told him not to talk about his age, in case it made other countries’ representatives take him less seriously. At the time, he was just 22. Now, aged 29 and the lead negotiator for Panama at COP26 in Glasgow, he won’t shut up about it. … “I want it to make the other negotiators uncomfortable. They need to remember that it’s our generation and younger generations that will be most impacted [by their decisions.]”

Panama claims that its negotiating team at COP26, comprising some 15 people with an average age of 29, is the youngest ever to represent a country at a U.N. climate summit. …

In a series of protests around the COP26 site over the last week, youth climate activists have warned that politicians at the summit are too focused on emissions targets that are decades away, and not enough on taking action to cut them in the next few months and years. “The voices of future generations are drowning in their greenwash and empty words and promises,” 18-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, told a crowd gathered at George Square in central Glasgow on Friday.

… The key to accelerating action in the U.N. climate process, Monterrey Gómez says, is to give more space in the talks to young people, who are going to experience worse climate change impacts for longer than older people. “If other countries gave young people the mic like Panama is doing,” Monterrey Gómez says, “we’d solve this in a few minutes.”


Nicaragua, COP26, Climate Justice and Reparations

By Helen Yuill (Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign), February 2021

This article was first published by the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign (NSC). We are grateful to Helen, a coordinator of the NSC, for permission to reproduce the article on The Violence of Development website. Helen made minor revisions of the original article for the TVOD website.

Key words: climate change; climate injustice; Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage; Paris Agreement; universal responsibility versus common but differentiated responsibility; COP26.


In the lead up to COP26 in November this year,  the Nicaraguan representative Dr Paul Oquist, argues that the high level of social and economic destruction caused by Covid-19 and its impact on humanity will be ‘small, transient and recoverable’ compared with the potential total, irreversible destruction of the climate crisis. This is a view now shared by millions across the globe.


Climate injustice is inseparable from social and economic injustice

Countries of the Global South, such as Nicaragua, have been impoverished by colonialism and centuries of subjugation to the needs and wants of the North.  The resulting climate injustice is therefore inseparable from the multiple forms of social and economic injustice and inequality between and within nations.

In the case of the climate crisis, countries of the Global South – such as Nicaragua – and their most marginalised citizens suffer the most severe consequences of climate extremes for which they bear least responsibility. These countries also lack the resources to confront the violence of poverty, the violence of Covid-19 and violence of the climate crisis.


Climate Justice and reparations for loss and damage

COP13 in Warsaw agreed the ‘Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage’ – here’s the link to the reference: The mechanism acknowledges that “loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change includes, and in some cases involves, more than that which can be reduced by adaptation.”

An Alliance of Small Island States and Least Developed countries argued a long standing claim for reparations for the disproportionate loss and damage they had suffered.  However, this was strongly resisted by developed countries, especially the US, and the final agreement focuses on ‘enhancing knowledge and understanding’ and ‘strengthening dialogue and coordination’, and ‘capacity building’.


The Paris Agreement 2015 (COP21) fudges the issue of loss and damage

Nicaragua initially refused(*) to sign the Paris Agreement arguing that “doing so would mean being complicit to an Agreement that would lead to a catastrophic three degree increase in global warming because ‘ the largest polluters lack the political will and ambition to address the most pressing issue facing the planet and humanity’.”

Instead of apportioning blame to the largest polluters, COP21 invented the concept of universal responsibilities which effectively meant that “we are all responsible for climate change and we all have to contribute to the solution”.  This nullified the concepts of historic responsibilities and common but differentiated responsibility central to the UN Convention on Climate Change.

Although the Paris Agreement provides for the continuation of the Warsaw International Mechanism it explicitly states that its inclusion “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”. The inclusion of this clause was the condition on which developed countries, particularly the United States, agreed to a reference to loss and damage.

This meant that there was no apportioning of blame on the largest polluters, including the UK, historically responsible for the highest levels of emissions. In effect this means forcing countries of the Global South to bear the cost of climate extremes through loss of lives, livelihoods and environmental destruction.

After COP21 Paul Oquist stated: “The Paris outcome is similar to the rescue by governments of the banks which caused the 2008 financial and economic crisis, passing the bill for the crisis on to workers, pensioners and taxpayers. In Paris, the rescue was of the COP21 governments which have caused global warming, passing the cost to those least responsible who will die in the largest numbers unable to make good their losses, much less adapt to a change in climate increasing in intensity as the century wears on.”


COP26 in Glasgow, November 2021

In the lead up to COP26, Nicaragua is advocating that leaders of countries such as the UK, who are most responsible for causing the crisis, must recognise and act on their historic responsibility to provide reparations in the form of climate finance.

Loss and damage must be raised to the same level as mitigation and adaptation: this is what would constitute climate justice.

For countries such as Nicaragua, this finance is critical to enable them to change their energy matrix to renewables, to finance extensive reafforestation, to put in place other emission reduction measures, and to meet sustainable development goals, particularly in poverty reduction.

Nicaragua is also calling for an international green alliance which would bring together developed and developing countries to confront the climate crisis.

(*) Nicaragua ratified the Paris Agreement in 2017 after finding itself – for completely opposite reasons – in a club of two with the Trump administration.

Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign:

UN Green Climate Fund awards $36 million to El Salvador

From: El Economista, 19 October 2018.

The Green Climate Fund is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is designed to assist developing countries in their efforts to adapt to climate change and to mitigate its effects. In October, the Fund awarded $35.8 million (USD) to El Salvador for a project to address climate change.

The project is entitled ‘Upgrading of climatic resilience in agroecosystems of the dry corridor of El Salvador’ – Reclima by its Spanish initials. It is designed to strengthen the climatic resilience of farmers who face the growing risks of increasing temperatures, irregular rains and other events attributable to variations in the climate.

The project will be supported by the Salvadoran Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).


Summary of ‘Myths and Truths about the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (COP-21)’

By Dr Paul Oquist, Head of Nicaraguan COP-21 Delegation, January, 2016

Dr Paul Oquist

Dr Paul Oquist

Myth No 1: The Paris Agreement will limit the rise in average global temperature to between 1.5 to 2 degrees this century.

Truth No 1: The Paris Agreement will lead us to a world with a three degree increase in global temperature this century.  This is more than 50% above the target of 2 degrees and 100% more than the 1.5 degree target.  What other programme in the world would be considered a success when it fails to meet its targets by 50 – 100 %?

The majority of developing countries, including Nicaragua, support the goal of limiting the rise in average global temperature to 1.5 degrees this century. The majority of developed countries support the target of two degrees centigrade.

Myth No 2: The Paris COP-21 Meetings and Agreement have been honest and transparent.

In preparation for COP-21, countries agreed to submit documents outlining their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) post-2020 as their commitment to collective action toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.

To keep average global temperature rise under 2 degrees centigrade with regard to preindustrial levels, would require a reduction in emissions to 40 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases. However, according to INDCs submitted, emissions of greenhouse gases in 2030 would lead to a projected 55 gigatonnes. This is likely to mean a rise in average temperatures of between 2.7 and 3.5 degrees centigrade.

Because of Nicaragua’s insistence, the fact that the current INDCs will lead to 55 gigatonnes of emissions by 2030 was included in the document. But the document did not show that this means a 3 degree centigrade rise in average temperature this century.

The omission of this fact illustrates the seriousness of the failure to address the magnitude of the challenge.

The use of voluntary mechanisms of the INDCs, in an environment of weak political commitment, has also helped to bring about the enormous failure to meet targets.

Myth No 3: The great achievement of the COP-21 is that the INDCs of more than 147 countries are based on the principle of universal responsibilities.

Truth No 3: The INDCs are based on the principle that “we are all responsible for climate change and we all have to contribute to the solution.” This means there is no apportioning of blame.

COP-21 invented the concept of universal responsibilities to nullify the concepts of “historic responsibilities” and “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR), the hallmark of the UN Convention on Climate Change. In this way COP-21 has destroyed what was left of the Convention.

Logic shows us that the only way to resolve the problem of current and future emissions is to reach targets based on the concept of “historic responsibilities”.

The three largest producers of greenhouse gases are responsible for 48% of global emissions.  The top 10% of countries represent 72% and the top 20% of countries represent 78% of global emissions. The same countries also represent 76% of global GNP.  This indicates that the countries that cause the majority of emissions have the ability to solve this because they also have the necessary economic resources.

The 100 countries with the least emissions represent only 3% of global emissions.

In order to limit global warming to 2 degrees, it is obvious that the biggest reduction must come from those who produce the most greenhouses emissions, especially the 10 largest emitters.

INDCs based on voluntary “universal responsibilities” will be a failure. The only solution is to have a quota system based on historic responsibilities and obligatory common◦ but differentiated responsibilities.

Myth No 4: The COP-21 Summit and the approval of the Paris agreement took place within the framework of a democratic process with open to participation by all parties.

Truth No 4: The Presidency closed COP-21 with an anti-procedural dictate, and with substantial neo-colonial impositions, explained as an alleged “typographical error”; this was an abuse of all developing countries and of multilateralism.

For the most part, the process of preparatory meetings was accompanied by consultations, and updated versions of the document incorporating elements of these consultations. However, in the final session, the COP presidency reverted to the anti-democratic imposition that has been the Modus Operandi of various other such conferences.

It was more important to save the face of the Presidency, keep the support of the second-largest emitter, and give the impression of “the success” of the meeting, than stop climate change and global warming, and save Mother Earth and humanity.

The negotiating groups of developing countries (G-77 + China, “Like Minded countries”, and ALBA), were committed to carrying out the Paris Agreement within the Framework Convention, respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). The United States, on the other hand, had been clear that it could accept a legally binding document, but with the exception of the sections on emissions and funding; in other words, all except the two most important elements.

At the last minute the COP-21 Presidency made a critical change to the wording of Article 4.4, establishing that “developed countries should (instead of shall) take the lead in reducing emissions”.  The article continues, “developing countries should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.”

The weakening of the wording crossed the red negotiating line of developing countries: the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Some developing countries, after identifying the grave implication of this change in the text, were ready to express their disagreement once the French Presidency opened the floor for interventions. However, he then went on to declare the document adopted without listening to requests from various countries thereby abusing the rights of Nicaragua and other countries.

After this unexpected blow, Nicaragua clarified that it  “never considered blocking the document, but only made concrete suggestions to improve it, and to announce that it would not submit an INDC because it refused to be complicit in the deaths, losses, damage and destruction that a world three degrees warmer will represent”.

Nicaragua could not accept a document that does not include a compensation mechanism from countries that have caused climate change to countries that have suffered the consequences. Therefore, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage is effectively nullified.

Myth No 5: It was a great victory for the countries most affected by climate change to have the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage included in the document

Truth No 5:  On 1 October 1st  2015, the Vice President of Nicaragua, Omar Halleslevens, read  a message from the President Daniel Ortega Saavedra, at the UN General Assembly.

Nicaragua hoped that, from COP-21, would come a compensation mechanism for the countries that are suffering year on year from the deaths, damages and losses caused by climate change. The countries with the historic responsibilities for having caused the problem must compensate those countries that are suffering the consequences despite having had no role in their creation.

Multiple times, Nicaragua introduced a clause to this effect in the Paris Agreement, whilst the co-facilitators, with equal persistence, removed it due to opposition from developed countries, especially the United States.

On the other hand, the United States played three roles in the negotiation of loss and damage. First, it supported the Small Island States and the Least Developed Countries in the hope of maintaining a monopoly over the status of highly vulnerable countries.

Since the Cancún climate change summit in 2010, the US has opposed considering Central America a highly vulnerable zone, despite the fact that science demonstrates this vulnerability year on year. Central America believes that this cannot be a closed category, and that with the advance of climate change to more and more regions, more and more countries will be included in this group, eventually practically every country in the world. It believes that today Central America, South Asia and South East Asia must be classified as highly vulnerable regions, in addition to those already included.

A world three degrees warmer is prescribed for our grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, due to developed countries’ low level of ambition for reduction. And to top it all, compensation rights are refused.  Intergenerational solidarity ended in Paris. Has there been a more unilateral and unbalanced multilateral agreement this century?


Truth No 6: We are being led to believe that there will be a massive ratification of the Paris Agreement as a necessary element of its legitimisation. The relevant Article specifies that the Accord will come into force 30 days after ratification by 55 countries, which must also account for 50% of the emissions.

The number of countries required for bringing the Agreement into force is very small (55 out of 194) but the quantity of emissions is very high (50%), which guarantees control of the ratification process by the developed countries.


Truth No 7: The Paris outcome is similar to the rescue by governments of the banks which caused the financial and economic crisis, passing the bill for the crisis on to workers, pensioners and taxpayers. In Paris, the rescue was of the COP-21 governments of the countries which have caused global warming, passing the cost to those least responsible who will die in the largest numbers unable to make good their losses, much less adapt to a change in climate increasing in intensity as the century wears on.

The Paris Agreement is not enough because it does not transform nor even inconvenience the current model of production, consumption, finance and lifestyle, which is unsustainable.  After Paris, the stock markets of the world yawned.

They foresaw no impact on the anti-values which drive limitless, endless and senseless accumulation and consumption. The Paris agreement does not solve problems but simply postpones them. It also reduces the pressure on the model by being voluntary and having mandatory targets that fluctuate according to the results of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) exercise every 5 years.

Note regarding Climate Change

Chapter 6 of ‘the Violence of Development’ relates the issue of deforestation to climate change by briefly covering carbon emissions, carbon sequestration, carbon trading, the United Nation’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the UN-REDD programme (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). The same material will not be repeated here, but the issue of climate change is of such breadth and significance that it affects many other aspects of production, distribution and consumption, not simply forestry. For this reason, Chapter 10 also includes the issue of climate change as it affects Central America.

The reader is referred back to Chapter 6 in both the book and the website for much relevant material. This section of Chapter 10 includes items which explain and/or illustrate the significance of climate change to life in Central America. In some cases, these may provide supporting evidence of issues raised earlier in Chapter 6 or elsewhere in the book; in other cases, they stand alone as single examples of the effects of some aspect of climate change.

Nicaragua Signs Paris Climate Agreement

By John Perry

This article was first published in the London Review of Books blog on Oct. 3, 2017 and is reprinted with permission of the author. Nicaragua signed the Paris Agreement on Oct. 23, 2017. (In November 2017, Syria also announced its intention to sign the agreement, leaving only the United States of America as the solitary nation outside the agreement.)

While Donald Trump gives the appearance of wavering over his decision to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Nicaragua has decided to sign it. It was one of only two countries not to sign in Paris last year; the other was Syria. Nicaragua abstained out of principle: the agreement didn’t go far enough. The target – to keep the average global temperature no more than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels – was insufficient, and in any case unlikely to be met. An unfair burden was being put on developing nations and not enough money was being promised to help them build low carbon economies. I met Nicaragua’s climate change negotiator, Paul Oquist, in June, a few days after Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. I suggested it would be an excellent moment for Nicaragua to change its mind, though claim no credit for the subsequent decision; I can’t have been the only one to think so.

When Daniel Ortega returned to power in 2007 after 16 years of neoliberal governments, most of Nicaragua’s electricity was produced by burning oil. Shortages led to daily blackouts. Nicaragua was the poorest country in Central America but had the highest electricity prices. Ten years later, blackouts are much less frequent, prices have stabilized and more than half the electricity comes from renewable sources, with a realistic aim of reaching 90 per cent by 2020. Costa Rica has already exceeded that target, but three-quarters is via hydroelectricity, which may be vulnerable as climate change speeds up. Nicaragua’s energy matrix is more balanced, using wind, geothermal, solar and biomass alongside hydro.

Latin America has plentiful renewable sources for electricity generation; the next challenge in reducing emissions will be transport. Even in the bigger cities, public transport is often inadequate and unattractive to the growing numbers who can afford cars. Weaning people off petrol or diesel cars and onto public transport means a major change in mindset for an elite whose point of reference is Miami. In a continent where railways have fallen into disuse and only the poor take buses, infrastructure investment currently means building more roads.

Latin America is a major supplier of ‘ecosystem services’, principally the huge tropical forests that absorb carbon. North of the Amazon, Nicaragua has the biggest area of tropical forest in the hemisphere, but it is under constant threat from settlement, especially for cattle ranching. Ortega has granted a Chinese company the rights to build an inter-oceanic canal, rivalling Panama, on the grounds that it’s the only way to conserve the rainforest. The income from the canal, he argues, combined with the need to guarantee its water sources, will enable Nicaragua to defend the remaining forests and replant the areas now given over to cattle. The canal company, which has yet to start digging, has just announced a big tree-planting scheme.

Nicaragua has suffered several years of limited rainy seasons; the prognosis is for the droughts to get worse. Coffee production and other crops are threatened by rising temperatures. Yet the country generates only 0.03 per cent of global carbon emissions, a paltry 0.8 metric tons per head annually. Costa Rica produces twice that amount per head, the UK eight times and the US twenty times. If developed countries (the US excepted) are serious about the Paris Agreement, they’ll put money into helping poor countries achieve higher living standards without raising emissions. Even the IMF thinks they should do this. But Nicaragua’s skepticism about the likelihood of it happening is more than justified, even if, as an ‘act of solidarity’ with the poorest and most vulnerable nations, it goes ahead and signs.


John Perry lives in Masaya, Nicaragua where he works on UK housing and migration issues and writes about those and other topics covered in his ‘Two Worlds’ blog which can be found at: .

More on Costa Rica’s carbon neutral efforts, 2017

Key words: fossil fuels; alternative energy sources; Reventazón hydro-electricity dam; car ownership growth; pollution levels.

In early January this year [2017] it was widely reported that in 2016 Costa Rica had produced 98% of its electricity without fossil fuels. This is an achievement that few countries have managed, including those that are much larger and richer than Costa Rica, and it is of course an achievement of which Costa Ricans are rightly proud.

Two factors, however, serve to undermine this achievement. First, the reliance of the renewables sector on hydro-electricity generated from large-scale dams; and second the growing use of cars in the country which means that, despite its renewable electricity generation, its demand for oil continues to increase.

Lindsay Fendt in San José reported for The Guardian on 5th January this year[1] that despite the country’s recent investments in wind and geothermal plants, it still regularly produces more than 70% of its electricity each year from dams. Solar power, Fendt suggests, ”has been pushed aside due to political concerns that home-generated [solar] power would cut into the state electricity company’s profits.”

Moreover, she reports that although the Reventazón hydro-electric dam became fully operational last September and can power over half a million homes, it was heavily criticised by environmental groups for its location in a critical wildlife corridor. Its alteration of the flow regime of the Reventazón River also attracted protests.

Costa Rican transport can certainly not claim any pretensions to sustainability, with a massive recent growth in car ownership to a level of 287 cars per 1,000 population – a level above both the world and the Latin American averages. Furthermore, only 2% of the country’s vehicles are hybrids or electric cars that can use the renewable electricity grid. The resulting pollution levels are giving cause for concern, especially in the capital San José.

So, behind Costa Rica’s reputation for environmental sustainable development – a reputation well-deserved relative to most other countries – there remain issues relating to pollution levels which reflect questions over the decisions made by Costa Rican politicians.