By Maruska Mileta and Jamie Gorman.
Today at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany, civil society and social movements are calling on the developed countries including the EU to commit to ambitious and equitable action on climate change as the process continues to develop a new global climate treaty which is expected to be agreed in Paris in 2015.
The talks this week are the first since the climate conference in Warsaw last November where corporate sponsorship of the negotiations tarnished the process irrevocably, causing social movements and civil society to walk out in protest at the lack of ambition by developed countries and the ‘corporate capture’ of the event, but stating “Volveremos- we’ll be back!”
Today, civil society is back, far more strengthened. Amongst us are the voices of those who are already acting with the urgency needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – the huge majority of civil society around the world that cannot be ignored any longer.
This morning the People’s Declaration was presented toVenezuela’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Claudia Salerno Caldera who received the declaration. Venezuela is hosting a civil society conference before this year’s UN climate conference in Lima.
During small meetings afterwards the Presidents of the next climate conferences in Lima, Peru (2014) and Paris, France (2015) received it as well. Minister for the Environment for Peru Manual Pulgar-Vidal welcomed the People’s Declaration as well as Laurence Tubiana, special envoy for the French Foreign Affairs Minister.
The Volveremos coalition includes over 70 organisations from women’s, farmers’ and youth networks, the environmental movement and trade unions. Young Friends of the Earth Europe stands in solidarity with these movements and calls on EU governments to act on the voices of those who are being most affected by climate change; the Global South.
The road to Paris and beyond
The talks in Bonn are highly essential to the road to Paris in 2015, where an ambitious and equitable global climate deal is urgently needed. Yet the question remains, which road will the EU and developed countries take at the climate talks in Paris and into the future? Will they continue along the road carved by polluters in Warsaw or will they take the route of justice, necessary action and energy transformation?
Proposals unveiled by the EU and the G7 in Brussels this week suggest that governments in the Global North are still hooked on fossil fuel addiction. This is totally incompatible with tackling the climate crisis.
Since Warsaw the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have published two key reports which have shown the reality of human induced climate change and further underscored the need for urgent action to reduce emissions by the EU and other developed countries, who have a responsibility to take action having produced the vast majority of historic greenhouse gas emissions.
The People’s Declaration further calls for governments, particularly in the Global North, to ‘commit to a global goal of limiting warming that recognises the latest IPCC’s warnings on the threats of tipping points, and to the right to food and food sovereignty.’ Governments are acting as if a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise would be acceptable. Yet the reality is that science suggests this would be too much for many vulnerable people and countries.
After the disastrous Warsaw conference, polluters must no longer be allowed to set the agenda for the future of the planet and our communities. The planetary emergency requires us to transition beyond fossil fuels in our energy systems, not entrench ourselves ever more deeply in false solutions including fracking, nuclear, coal, agrofuels or hyper-dams.
The urgent action required is a question of social and environmental justice; developed country governments must act in line with science and equity to reduce emissions and provide finance and technology for those in developing countries who urgently need it to adapt to climate change they are already experiencing.
The People’s Declaration presented today calls for such a ‘swift global transformation away from the use of dirty fossil fuel and destructive energy systems driving the crisis’. The declaration highlights the role of, “decentralised, community controlled, affordable, [and] accessible” energy alternatives.
The neoliberal agenda of many EU governments is putting profit before people. Big fossil fuel businesses are having overbearing power over politicians, seeking private greed over public interest and the planet. This is the root causes of the climate crisis we are facing.
Many inspiring solutions which are helping to bring about an energy transition can be found in local communities. People’s control over energy and the decentralisation of energy systems, which are now mostly in the hands of big corporations, plays an essential part in stiring ambitious emissions reductions in developed countries.
Community renewable energy systems are already reducing emissions, provide energy access to the billions of people without access to energy, generate huge local benefits such as jobs and provide enormous potential as a vehicle for mitigation if supported through enabling legislation and policy by governments such as feed in tariff systems or other support schemes.
In Sisante, Spain, a new community solar energy project is a partnership between communities, civil society and renewable energy provider technology. The partnership is putting the control of energy into the hands of those who use it. The Sisante project is one of over 60 new community energy projects which are contributing to Spain’s 40-60% share of renewable energy in the grid. That is only one of thousands projects across the world.
Building the climate justice movement
Community renewable energy projects show that the solutions to the climate crisis are being forged in the grassroots. People want change because it is they – the local communities, Indigenous peoples, women, young people, workers and migrants – who are feeling the catastrophic social and environmental consequences of climate change.
Ordinary communities are showing the path to climate justice. From opposing large dams in the Philippines and Latin America and resisting the Keystone XL pipeline in Canada and the United States, to opposing destructive shale gas explorations in Ireland, the UK and Romania and fighting dirty coal fired projects in the Balkans and Poland.
The required systemic change urgently needs a broad people’s movement which exerts real pressure on polluting corporations and governments who subsidise or condone their actions.
So which road will the EU and developed countries take? Will they stand with the communities who are showing the path to a just and sustainable world?
Or will they walk hand and hand with polluters down the road of climate chaos?
Maruska Mileta and Jamie Gorman are climate justice campaigners with Young Friends of the Earth Europe.
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Note that the EJOLT Atlas of Environmental Justice maps over 1000 spaces of environmental resistance and many of them are fighting for climate justice in particular. Find these conflicts by clicking “fossil fuels and climate justice” in the legend or through the many filter options.