COP15: Justice movement holds own assembly as U.N. prepares to block people from negotiations

Image Courtesy: Indigenous Environmental Network

Protesting development of the Canadian tar sands, called the "the largest and most carbon intensive industrial project on the planet," in Copenhagen.

Jill Johnson

[email protected]

COPENHAGEN, Denmark â?? The temperature has dropped to freezing in Copenhagen as the streets are increasingly becoming a military zone and talks inside are headed from bad to worse. Despite the hope the world had for the U.S. to act as a new global leader, it looks like they are taking over in the usual self-serving, profit-driven fashion. The pan-African delegation and other developing nations have called the discussions a “suicide pact,” since no real solutions (from industrialized countries) have been put on the table.

Across the City, the KlimaForum is organized as an open people's space to build movement and dialogue about climate justice. Thousands of representatives from affected communities converged at the People's Movement Assembly on Sunday to share their struggles, victories, and vision for system change to protect people and the planet. The forum combined spirituality, poetry, music, video and statements from six continents.

For me, the global consensus around many of the issues was striking.

A few of the highlights:

  • Markets have not worked for our communities in the past and they won't solve the climate crisis. No carbon trading.
  • Carbon offsets destroy communities in the south and allow polluters to keep poisoning us in the north. We need real reductions at the source.
  • Communities in the north and south have suffered as a result of corporations and industrialized governments tied to the fossil fuel industry; the fact that those least responsible for this will bear the biggest loss and ecological debt must be addressed
  • We can't buy our way out of the problem. Greenwashing and consumerism won't fix the planet or our health.

Rather than the governments welcoming our voices, the Bella Center is closing its doors to the majority of “civil society” organizations beginning tomorrow. We are being locked out of the negotiations as delegates are trading away our future behind closed doors. This action simply reiterates the FAILURE in Copenhagen. No decision about us can be made without us.

More detailsâ?¦

Carbon Offsets — all carbon is not created equal

Many governments, industry, and mainstream environmental NGOs claim that the climate problem can be solved by planting trees â?? primarily eucalyptus plantations in the global south. This way, we can keep driving our SUVS, avoid investment in energy efficiency and keep burning coal. This is a false solution. It steals land from farmers and indigenous folks and allows polluting industries to stay in our backyard and increase toxic emissions. For instance, CPS claimed it could “offset” the new coal-fired power plant by planting 500 trees in District 3 — and keep pumping sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury into the southeast side.

Ecological Debt

This is a relatively new concept for us in the north, but widely visible here at COP15. Newspapers widely reported the statement by U.S. Head Delegate Todd Stern stated that “the sense of guilt or culpability or reparations, I just categorically reject that.” I have attended several workshops by southern movements discussing the concept of debt. For generations, the industrialized countries have gotten rich through the exploitation of people, land, or resources in south: the mass transfer of resources from south to north. According to a member of La Via Campesina from Brasil, the results are the loss of land, culture, the ability to live in harmony with nature, and the capacity to produce. The Bolivian government has systematized the concept of climate debt as the occupation of the atmosphere by developed countries thus ethically requiring the north to support the mitigation and adaptation in the south.


More than a year ago, Obama spoke of climate change, stating, “Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.”

It is time for structural change, we, as global movements, cannot rely on the same people causing and profiting from the problem to solve it.

Jill Johnson is the organizing director for the San Antonio-based Southwest Workers' Union, a non-profit organization dedicated to worker rights, environmental justice and community empowerment.


COP15: Losing credentials and finding power at the Peoples Climate Summit

Diana Lopez

[email protected]

Today is the 9th day of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations for a cleaner future and my third day in Copenhagen. This negotiated future is to be based on renewable energy, create truly green jobs, and force oil companies to clean up their spills, and lead to the building of community gardens. Well, at least that's part of my hope for the future.

Preparing for my journey to Copenhagen I stumbled upon many news and blogging sites announcing the strong presence of climate justice activists that have sent a powerful message for just legislation that will benefit everyone. A big hoot to them.

Upon arriving we scurried on the metro, which is free to all UNFCCC-accredited participants, I waited in line for a few hours in the freezing temperatures (that my San Antonian butt dislikes very much) and went through security zones on par with the worst airports.

Ultimately, my epic journey to get my credentials was a failure. Instead of enthusiasm for participating in one of the most historic marches in the world, I felt it a waste of my time. (read JJ's blog San Antonians join protest.)

My initial thought was of all the important meetings I was going to miss out on, the key decisions and network opportunities. After attending the Klimaforum, which is the independent Peoples Climate Summit, I felt that this is the space where all the decisions that will initially change the world are taking place. The estimation has been around 25,000 people were here talking about grassroots-level organizing, learning, educating, networking, and taking part in actions and protests.

As the days go by there is a sense of urgency from people of color in Copenhagen trying to get the real issue across instead of the image of violence, an image I have yet to see. This is important because these talks will affect the rest of our lives, and the real voices who are on the frontline of climate change are being shut down by larger environmental groups and the industrialized governments.

From Copenhagen La Lucha Continua!

Diana Lopez is the environmental justice organizer for the San Antonio-based Southwest Workers' Union, a non-profit organization dedicated to worker rights, environmental justice and community empowerment.


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