Global Policy Forum

GCAP to Take Up Climate Change as a Core Issue


By Rahul Kumar

May 21, 2007

The Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) - one of the largest anti-poverty movements has added climate change to its core agenda after a lengthy and a heated debate. Taking up climate change as a main activity for GCAP apart from its four core issues - more and better quality development aid, equitable trade, cancellation of debt and accountability of governments - caused much friction between the activists of the North and the South at the recently-held Montevideo meeting of GCAP. GCAP, which was inaugurated in Porto Allegre in 2005 by Brazilian President Lula da Silva, consists of hundreds of organisations representing over 150 million people in over 80 countries. The worldwide coalition has garnered massive support from the common man globally in its fight against poverty and met with success in getting the rich countries to waive the debt of some of the poor African countries.

South African GCAP representative Hassen Lorgat said: "We do not discount the importance of the issue but the discussion over climate change does not take into account issues of food security, it also does not talk about the ‘polluter pays principle'. Some of the things that are being discussed are unacceptable to us." To a question whether the climate change agenda is being pushed by the countries of the North to the countries of the South, Ted van Hees from the GCAP Campaign, the Netherlands, said: "Well, climate change affects both – the people in the North as well as in the South. Tackling it, therefore, is in our joint interest. It may not be the main focus of GCAP work but we should closely look at the overlap between climate change and poverty and vice versa."

Director of the UN Millennium Campaign (UNMC) Salil Shetty said: "GCAP is already working on the rights of the poor including rights of people to water, land, forests and natural resources. These are issues which are directly related to climate change. My feeling is that by including climate change into its agenda, we will be addressing the issue directly. At the same time, the climate change agenda at the global level should not override the issue at the country level – which is poverty." Laying down a strategy for GCAP´s work on climate change, Shetty emphasised: "At the national level GCAP will push for the rights of the poor on natural resources. At the international level, it will push the rich nations to share with the poor nations the cost of complying with climate change regulations. The countries of the South can reduce emissions but they need to be compensated for that."

"We will, therefore, seek extra aid for tackling climate change in the nations of the South and this will be above the edisting aid they get for development issues. They cannot reduce emissions at the cost of growth or at the cost of reducing poverty. By working on climate change directly GCAP will better protect the interests of the poor," emphasised Shetty. GCAP has currently established a working group which will guide the campaign on how to deal with the issue and also suggest methods of linking up with global climate campaigns. Justifying the decision by GCAP to take up the issue, GCAP representative from Europe Ben Margolis said: "Significant decisions on climate change have been made at the international level which will impact upon legislation of national governments. We want that GCAP should be there to influence these decisions. In the case of countries like Bangladesh, climate change is a current issue and not one that will crop up after five years, or for that matter, ten years." When asked if Bangladesh should accord priority to democracy, governance and poverty over climate change, Margolis said: "Well, poverty, democracy, governance, population and climate change all are issues for the country."

Giving an insight into why climate change was taken up as a core issue, Ana Agostino from the GCAP's Feminist Task Force (FTF) said: "GCAP has been espousing for a new economic model which is based on equity, equitable use of resources and one that is based on less consumption and consumerism. We have been talking about climate change without saying so." Agostino added that GCAP may not concentrate on climate change right now, "but it will definitely be on our policy statement. We are not looking at climate change as an environment issue but as an issue linked to people therefore it will be there as a link between climate change and poverty." GCAP has been discussing the issue for over six months now, thinking whether to work on the issue alone or to join hands with current climate change networks. The working group is also trying to find out about the priority that needs to be given to climate change from its current work.

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