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Est. April 5, 2002
September 03, 2015 - Issue 619

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President Obama:
You Must Deposit
$10 billion into the
Green Climate Fund

By Barbara Lott-Holland

"For the 'Loss and Damages'
and Reparations to the Nations
and Peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin
America suffering from U.S. climate abuses."

The United Nations has established a Green Climate Fund to move at least $100 billion to Third World and oppressed nations to allow them to move towards non-polluting economies while the capitalist “North” worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since as Dr. King said, “The United States is the great purveyor of violence in the world” and now as we can see is also the Greatest Polluter in the World it has a moral and political obligation to pay the entire $100 billion and then some. But guess what? The United States has only “pledged” $3 Billion and how much do you think they have paid so far? Absolutely nothing. The Native Americans taught me about the “broken promises” of the U.S. government and as Dr. King observed at the March on Washington the U.S. has made promises to Black people that come back marked, “insufficient funds.” But these funds must be paid and paid now. The United States has a military budget of more than $600 billion and must deposit $10 billion of that immediately into the Green Climate Fund. A demand for $100 billion is not unreasonable but $10 billion now is an important beginning and far more than President Obama is willing to contribute—until we push him to do so.

The Labor/Community Strategy Center and our Fight for the Soul of the Cities is building a movement in the United States to demand that President Obama reduce U.S. greenhouse gases by at least 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2025--starting now. I recently returned from United Nations meetings in Bonn, Germany with Strategy Center director Eric Mann where we were working to open up more space for a Black centered anti-U.S. imperialism perspective on climate and calling the question “What Are We Going to do about the United States?” Now, after a week of work with other NGOs and leaders of social movements especially in the Third World; we have added another central demand--that the United States must deposit $10 billion into the Green Climate Fund Now.

This Green Climate Fund (GCF) has intrigued me from the day I first learned about it. Obviously we want to change every element of U.S. policy but since I strongly believe in the concept of reparations and in this case U.S. climate reparations to oppressed nations inside and outside the U.S. I was very excited to learn more about this very big piece of the puzzle. Let me tell you what I have learned so far.

The forthcoming Paris United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris in December of 2015 is a major showdown on climate. That meeting is also called COP 21—that is, “Conference of the Parties” which is the world governments that have been meeting on climate since 1995--thus that year was COP 1 and each year it goes up, so now in 2015 it is called COP 21.

At the COP 16 in Cancun the U.N. set up the Green Climate Fund. Let me use the exact language of the U.N. statement, “The Parties, established the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism of the Convention under Article 11. The GCF will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties. The Fund is governed by the GCF Board of 24 members equally divided between developed and developing countries. Its headquarters in Songdo So Korea and the interim trustee is the World Bank. The GCF will have the thematic funding windows for adaption and mitigation as well as a separate “private sector” facility.”

So obviously that is a lot to comprehend but as they say, starting with myself, let me work to “break it down.”

One thing I am learning is that the United Nations makes a lot of good statements but because it is dominated by the United States and the European Union the actual policies are usually very bad. There are several alternative blocks. The main one is called the G 77 and China which is the 3rd world countries; it is important that China is considered so powerful it must have its name mentioned. This is important because we are looking for forces counter to the United States to open up space for organizing. There is also the very important Association of Small Island States--nations whose entire existence is threatened by the rising waters, floods, and rising sea levels created by global warming from the United States and Europe. So when I heard that the United Nations was going to give $100 billion to the nations of the Third World I was very excited--only to find out that this is not true.

The Green Climate Fund was discussed in the Copenhagen Accord in 2009. It was formally established in Cancun in 2010. The governing body was adopted in Durban. Some of the larger pledges include US $3 billion, Japan $1.5 billion, UK $1,126 billion Germany $4 billion, Sweden $580 million, and Italy $313 million. But so far only $5.5 billion has been deposited. Japan deposited its $1.5 billion pledge. Germany has deposited $1 billion of its $4 billion. The U.S. has deposited nothing! At the annual meeting of The Board of The Green Climate Fund developed nations (the oppressor countries) officially agreed to raise $100 billion by 2020. The Green Climate Fund was created to assist 3rd world countries to reduce emissions and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. The GCF is not currently a binding document, it is hoped to become binding at the Paris Convention (COP 21).

Now I have learned that the plan is for the Primary Polluting Countries (called the Developed Countries) to in fact pledge only $10 billion. The plan is to “mobilize” money from the “private sector”-- which means some of the largest polluters could contribute to the fund without changing their actual policies— and yet even, that is not definite, enforceable, or real.

So, given that we want to shift the terms of the debate, I think our Climate Justice Movement should support the demand that the United States alone should contribute $10 billon cash now into the Green Climate Fund which in turn would be used for direct grants to governments and organizations in the Third World for what is called “loss and damages” from the extreme weather events and “technology transfers” that would allow the transfer of the most advanced fuel efficient or zero emission technologies. The US military budget is over $600 billion and the US Senate voted in favor of $8 billion oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada to the U.S.; a $10 billion deposit is both justified and possible—and a demand for $100 billion is definitely possible if the climate justice movement was a lot more powerful.

From what I understand the U.S. and the E.U. have been fighting tooth and nail to keep out any language about “loss and damage” because they do not want to pay for past climate abuses. Instead they say “we should all start now” but that is of course because as with reparations for the Transatlantic Slave trade, Europe and the United States do not want to talk about their role. This demand calls the question.

As a working class woman of the Black Nation from South Central Los Angles, I understand the importance of the effects that this omission has on the lives of the most vulnerable, oppressed people all over the world--including my own people in Los Angeles, Africa, and throughout the Black Diaspora. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina more than 100,000 Black people are still struggling with their right of return. Many Black families in New Orleans have lost their family homes, family histories and cultures. I see this as a form of forced migration and the US using extreme weather conditions to try and justify whole communities being gentrified, over-policed, and criminalized when Black people try to fight for land and history. I have been telling people in the Black and Latino communities in Los Angeles and anywhere I go that we better take climate change seriously because we are all on the front lines of destruction so we need to be on the front lines of resistance. We are the first to go and the last, if at all, to be repatriated and repaired.

A joint statement made by Brazil, South Africa, India, and China states their disappointment in rich countries failure to make good on their promises of six years ago to mobilize funds to just start the process. If we are looking at the historical responsibility of countries for fossil fuel emissions and the impact that they have had on the planet, we in the U.S. owe it to our sisters and brothers of the 3rd world nations to compensate them for loss and damages.

I recognize my responsibility to help lead the call for “What Are We Going to Do About the United States” and to do so from a Black, climate justice, anti-imperialist perspective. When I represented the Strategy Center at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002 I played an active role in the “Women’s Tent” that was led by many Third World Women. I was struck by both the wonderful crafts and “micro-enterprises” (small business) the women organized. But I was also aware that some of the women were trying to put forth “sustainable economic development” without calling out the United States and Europe as their oppressors. When I started talking about the United States as an oppressor and Black people as an oppressed nation, people there were shocked and happy--not shocked that we were oppressed Third World people but shocked that people, especially from the US, would say that openly. That was the first time I came to understand how much the United States is dominating the United Nations and threatening any nations and people who even use terms that challenge them morally and politically. I also realized that the Strategy Center and people in the U.S. had a real responsibility to stand up to our own government in these spaces and how much people in the Third World were so appreciative--which was in fact the least we could do.

Finally, I am so grateful to the new friends I am making from Asia, Latin America, and especially Africa where I feel my roots, my soul, and my politics have been given new energy. As I am moving to call out my own government, using terms like reparations, Black nation, climate abuse, loss and damages, and imperialism I have been receiving a great deal of support from my sisters and brothers in the Third World who have said, “It means a lot when you call the question: “What Are We Going to Do About the United States.”

So, as they say, “in conclusion”

  • The Strategy Center and our Fight for the Soul of the Cities is calling for:
  • What Are We Going to Do About the United States?
  • President Obama: Cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 1990 levels by 2025--starting now; Frontloaded, verifiable, enforceable.
  • President Obama: Deposit $10 billion in the Green Climate Fund, Now!
  • Full Support and Priority for Loss and Damages and Reparations to the Nations and Peoples of the Third World inside and outside the United States.
  • We see this campaign as part of our Fight for the Soul of the Cities campaign in which we are working to to generate a comprehensive, revolutionary program to give focus to our work in Black and Latino communities

Those demands include:

  • No Cars in LA and U.S. Cities Stop the US war on the planet
  • Free the U.S. 2.5 million prisoners—stop the mass incarceration of Black and Latino communities
  • Open Borders and Amnesty for immigrants in the United States
  • Stop U.S. Drone Attacks – Support Sovereignty and Self-Determination against U.S. human rights abuses
  • Stop State Violence against Women in the home, community workplace—by the police, by the army, in the army.
  • Fight for the Right to Protest and organize—Stand up to the police and surveillance state
  • Self-determination for the Black Nation up to and including the right to secede from the United States
  • Build the People’s Movement for Climate Justice to Paris and Beyond Guest Commentator Barbara Lott-Holland is a long-time resident of South Central Los Angeles and Associate Director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center ( She has been the Co-chair of the Bus Riders Union and recipient of the Center’s Fannie Lou Hamer achievement award and the W.E.B.DuBois fellowship. She can be reached at [email protected].

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