Second Congress focuses on climate change
By Mike Feinstein, Advisor, International†Committee†of the Green Party of the United States
For the second time ever, Green Parties from around the world gathered together for a decision-making Congress. The first Global Greens Congress took place in April 2001 in Canberra, Australia. This time, with 625 delegates and observers participating from 88 countries, the Second Congress took place May 1-4 in S„o Paulo, Brazil.
In 2001, one of the key objectives of the Congress was to approve the first ever Global Greens Charter. In 2008, the political content was driven by the planetary need to respond to the ever-worsening global climate crisis. One of the reasons S„o Paulo was chosen as the Congress location was that as a traffic-clogged, sprawling metropolitan area of more than 18 million people, it highlights the challenges that ëmega-citiesí present in dealing with the climate crisis.
The Congress took place at the Memorial da AmÈrica Latina. Designed by world-famous architect Oscar Niemeyer, it is a center for Latin American studies and culture, and is based upon the idea of uniting Latin America through the arts and science. The site of numerous large-scale events and concerts, the Memorial provided a perfect environmentósymbolically and practicallyófor worldwide Greens to gather.
In a Thursday evening opening ceremony reminiscent of the Parade of Nations at the Olympics, representatives from each of the participating national Green parties and political groups came to the podium to make a welcoming statement, then stayed on stage, stretched from one side of the auditorium to the other, to present a virtual United Nations of Greens from around the world.
As U.S. Green alternate delegate John Rensenbrink (Maine) observed, ìIt was a deeply moving ceremony. You catch your heart in your throat at the sheer fact that gathered here are Greens from every continent and from most every land on earth, from so many different places and customs and languages, and yet all together united on powerful fundamentals about life and politicsóunited in a fierce determination to help save our species and achieve well-being for all.î
Opening comments were made by Greens from each of the four Federations or Networks that make up the Global GreensóAfrica, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Americas: Jose Luiz de FranÁa Penna, Pres ident of the host party, the Partido Verde do Brasil, Dr. Fadimata Bintou Toure espe Diallo, Parti Ecologiste du Mali, Kazumi Inamura, Co-Chair, Greens Japan and Prefectural member, Hyogo Prefec ture; and Ulrike Lunacek (Austria) and Philippe Lamberts (Belgium), co-spokespersons of the Euro pean Green Party.† The evening was capped by a music and dance performance by one of Brazilís well known Grupo de Capo eira Mizinga.
Despite the fact that people came from so many different cultures and backgrounds, a strong effort was made to ensure that the plenary proceedings were understandable to all. Simultaneous translation was provided in Portuguese, Spanish, French, German, and English. In order to respect their origins and enable them to speak most expressively, speakers were invited to present in their native tongues.
Friday was spent in workshops going over the initial set of five draft Congress declarations, which were prepared by the Global Greens Congress Steering Group (a group of 20 Greens from around the globe that planned and organized the Con gress and posted for comment before the Congress at plan21.globalgreens.org.
More than 100 amendments were submitted on the Congress documents. Mem bers of the Global Greens Congress Steer ing Group and others integrated the amendments and brought them back before the plenary session on Sunday.
Sundayís session was moderated by Johan Hamels (Belgium), one of three Eur opean members of the Global Green Co ordination, the 12-member coordinating body for the Global Greens, and Louise Crossley (Australia), who played a key role in coordinating the drafting process for the Global Greens Charter in 2001.
The decision-making process was based upon giving speaking and voting rights to up to three delegates from each Green party and/or political movement recognized by their respective federation/network as able to take part in decision-making at the Congress. If a country sent at least two delegates, one had to be a woman and one a man. If a country sent three delegates, it was strongly recommended that the third be under the age of 36, and, where possible, indigenous representatives be included.
The Congress approved four issue-based, action-oriented Declarations. With an eye towards the 2009 United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, which aims to produce a follow up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, the ìClimate Change óTime for Transformationî declaration stated that ìGlobal Greens consider it im perative that global greenhouse gas emissions peak no later than 2015, and that emissions thereafter decline to a level below the absorption capacity of natural sinks.î
To achieve this, the declaration called for developed countries to commit to domestic reductions of at least 40 percent by 2020 and reductions of at least 90 percent by 2050, compared with 1990 levels, through phasing out all government subsidies on coal, oil and natural gas; promoting investment in renewable energy and sustainable transport; energy conservation and efficiency; and adopting a ìpolluter paysî principle.
The Biodiversity and Climate Change declaration proposed a common protocol under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change: The Biodiversity and Climate Protocol. Among other things, this Protocol would exclude carbon offsets from emission trading systems in favor of the establishment of a very large global biodiversity fund, which would be funded in part from carbon taxes, a proportion of the proceeds of emissions trading schemes, and from the redirection of fossil fuel subsidies. The declaration also opposed mandatory targets and subsidies for agro-fuels ìexcept where their production is demonstrably greenhouse positive, does not impact on biodiversity, and does not compete against food production for land and water.î
Recognizing the ecological problems and social dislocation that rapid, ongoing urbanization brings, the Sustainable Cities declaration not only focused on green buildings, public transport and land use, but upon addressing poverty, economic op portunity and building community-based democracy.
Finally, the ì21 Commitments for the 21st Centuryî Declaration demonstrated how Greens would comprehensively change policy world-wide, including the adoption of the Tobin Tax (which would tax currency speculation worldwide) in order to help finance the Millennium Goals of the United Nations; fundamental reform of the World Trade Organization around fair trade principles; creating of a World Environmental Organization; and a global ban on the death penalty.
One of the other highlights of Greens coming together in S„o Paulo was the two-day meeting of 43 African Greens, which occurred before the Congress officially began. In past years, the challenges of organizing on limited resources across vast distances, and across a Francophone-Anglophone divide, have made it difficult in sustaining a Green Federation on the African level.
But the S„o Paulo meeting brought African Greens together in a unified way and led to their choosing new representatives to the Global Greens CoordinationóAdamou Garba (Niger Parti Vert), Frank Habineza (Rwanda Green Society) and Juliana Mugure (Mazingira Green Party/ Green Belt Movement, Kenya.) A bi-lingual English/French website for African Greens was also established as a result of this meeting, accessible both through www.africangreens.org and www.vertsafricain.org.
Global Young Greens