Civil Society Alarmed at Climate Technology Quick Fixes in Copenhagen

Copenhagen, December 10, 2009 – Over 160 civil society groups, including

social movements and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), today released

a joint declaration on technology: “Let’s Look Before We Leap!”. The

declaration alerts governments to the absence of any precautionary

environmental and social assessment mechanisms in the draft Copenhagen

agreement on technology, and claims that the current approach poses grave

threats to human health, human rights, rural livelihoods, diverse

ecosystems and climate stability.

The negotiating texts in Copenhagen refer repeatedly to the need to rapidly

develop and deploy so-called “environmentally sound technologies”. However,

the text is silent on evaluating controversial new technologies which claim

to be climate-friendly but are in fact harmful. Civil society groups are

increasingly concerned that many technologies that will be fast-tracked

through this new system are risky and untested, potentially adding a new

wave of environmental and social problems that will compound the climate

crisis. The declaration released today points to technologies such as

geoengineering, genetic engineering, agrofuels (biofuels) and biochar as

examples of risky or hazardous technologies that may receive an unwarranted

boost through agreements made in Copenhagen.

“On top of being the victims of the climate crisis, we don´t want to become

guinea pigs for new unproven technologies or for old hazardous technologies

such as nuclear power, with the excuse that more technology is needed to

fix the climate,” said Ricardo Navarro from Friends of the Earth

International. “It is totally irresponsible that negotiators are discussing

the development and transfer of technologies without any mechanism to

filter which ones can be useful and which ones will create more problems

for people and the environment. We need the immediate inclusion and

application of the precautionary principle”, added Navarro.

Among the climate change techno-fixes that could be promoted under the

present text are proposals for large-scale climate manipulation, known as

geoengineering. Geoengineering proponents include industry-friendly climate

skeptics such as Bjorn Lomborg who claim that a large technical fix skirts

the need for action on emissions reductions. “Fighting climate change with

geoengineering is like fighting fire with gasoline,” explains Silvia

Ribeiro from ETC Group´s Mexico office. “Proposals such as dumping tonnes

of iron in our oceans or injecting sulphates in the stratosphere to reflect

sunlight are extremely dangerous. They could worsen existing problems, like

ozone depletion and drought in sub-Saharan Africa, and their impacts will

be felt in countries and by people who won’t even have a chance to say what

they think of these ideas. Geoengineering is geopiracy and this kind of

gambling with Gaia needs to be excluded from any consideration in climate


Paul Nicholson from La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement

representing small farmers in 69 countries, reminded delegates that new

technologies introduced over the past few decades, such as genetically

modified crops and tree monocultures, have had extensive negative impacts

on peasants and the environment. “We small-scale farmers and peasants of

the world already have a diversity of proven technologies that are cooling

the planet and feeding the majority of the people in the world. These need

to be affirmed, not threatened by the introduction of new dangerous

technologies that can displace or contaminate the diversity of crops and

cultures that are a real solution for both the climate and the food


“Whatever technology agreement comes out of this meeting must not just

become a funding mechanism for venture-capital-backed green-washing

exercises”, said Chee Yoke Ling from Third World Network. “In the context

of the carbon trade, "environmentally sound technologies’ are often more

hype than heft. We need an agreement that will facilitate access to truly

environmentally sound technologies and clean energy and that will not

result in the global expansion of bad ideas. Governments already recognize

the principle of prior assessment in the international Cartagena Protocol

on Biosafety. We need even stronger rules in an agreement on climate

technology”, she added.

“At a time when the geoengineering lobby is jockeying for money, influence

and power, a wide-open agreement facilitating the rapid expansion of

technological fixes is suicidal”, reminded Silvia Ribeiro from ETC Group.

“The geoengineers will argue that it is too late for mitigation, and that

humanity is on an inevitable march to manipulate the climate by applying

extreme technologies. The geopirates are standing in the wings, and

increasingly on stage, waiting for this COP to fail so they can step into

the breach with their own fast and cheap solution,” concluded Ribeiro.

The statement “Let’s Look Before We Leap” demands a clear and consistent

international approach for all new technologies on climate change: States

at COP 15 must ensure that strict precautionary mechanisms for technology

assessment are enacted and are made legally binding, so that the risks and

likely impacts, and appropriateness, of these new technologies, can be

properly and democratically evaluated before they are rolled out. Any new

body dealing with technology assessment and transfer must include equitable

representation of communities most affected by climate change, as well as

ensuring gender and regional balance, participation of peasants and

indigenous peoples so that their views will be taken into account.

The “Let’s Look Before We Leap” statement and the list of organizations

that have signed it to date can be downloaded in English, French, Spanish,

Italian and Chinese at


Further information:

Ricardo Navarro (FOEI) + 45 6172 3116 , cesta@cesta-foe.org

Paul Nicholson (La Via Campesina) + 45 5059 8325,


Silvia Ribeiro ETC Group, +45 5269 1147 silvia@etcgroup.org

Diana Bronson, ETC Group, tel + 1 514 6299236 diana@etcgroup.org

Chee Yoke Ling, Third World Network + 45 5269 4755



~ by Cory Morningstar on December 11, 2009.

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