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 negotiations."
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 crises."
"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
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
Ricardo Navarro (FOEI) + 45 6172 3116 , firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Nicholson (La Via Campesina) + 45 5059 8325, email@example.com
Silvia Ribeiro ETC group, +45 5269 1147 firstname.lastname@example.org
Diana Bronson, ETC group, tel + 1 514 6299236 email@example.com
Chee Yoke Ling, Third World Network + 45 5269 4755 firstname.lastname@example.org