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Beyond Democrat Dead-ends: What Real Climate Action Looks Like

By Carol Dansereau - CounterPunch, June 2, 2017

The global warming situation is absolutely crazy.  Millions of people are already experiencing drought, famine, floods, wildfires, superstorms and other climate disasters.  As a species, we are teetering on the edge of full-blown catastrophe, with extinction a distinct possibility.  Yet, we can’t seem to put in place obvious solutions that are sitting right there in front of us.

Even crazier, environmentalists repeatedly praise Democrats for phony climate action plans that don’t come close to what’s needed.

Take the “100 by ‘50” legislation recently introduced by Oregon Senator Merkley and other Democrats.  Environmental leaders lined up to celebrate this as the blueprint that will get us beyond global warming, even though it’s nothing of the sort.  Some environmentalists used their endorsements to denounce Republicans for being funded by the fossil fuel industry, deftly ignoring the funding received by Democrats from that same industry.  The message was clear: when we put Democrats back in power and pass a bill like “100 by ‘50”, we’ll be on our way to solving the climate crisis.

This is pure hogwash.  The Democrats have kept us running in circles as the climate crisis has deepened.   And although this new bill purports to get us to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2050—hence the catchy title—it almost certainly won’t do that.  Yes, it is “the most ambitious piece of climate legislation Congress has ever seen”.  But that’s only because prior offerings were so pathetic that “100 by ’50” seems ambitious in comparison.

It’s crucial that we understand this as Donald Trump and the Republicans move forward with their horrifying agenda.  More than ever, we need to be uniting behind a real climate action plan and the broader vision for society it engenders.  We need to be building a movement that has a clear understanding of where our power lies and how to use it.

GGJ Statement on Trump's Withdrawal from Paris Agreement

By staff - Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, June 2, 2017

While the accord was far from what the planet needs, Trump's reckless decision underscores a key overarching issue with the Paris Agreement in the first place.  When the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, we put out this report entitled "We Are Mother Earth’s Red Line: Frontline Communities Lead the Climate Justice Fight Beyond the Paris Agreement."  We laid out 5 key concerns in the report.  Our number one concern (see page 6) with the agreement was “The Agreement relies on voluntary versus mandatory emission cuts that do not meet targets scientists say are necessary to avoid climate catastrophe.”  Trump’s withdrawal is a clear example that voluntary pledges are not enough.

“Donald Trump is showing us the art of breaking a deal,” says Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network. “By abandoning the Paris Agreement, this administration will further perpetuate environmental racism and climate injustice against Indigenous peoples experiencing the worst effects of climate change across the globe. We’ve stated before that the Paris Agreement falls short of embracing the sort of climate solutions that lift up human rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples. Regardless of its shortcomings, it is critical that the United States be held accountable for its contributions to the climate chaos we are seeing across the globe and to take ambitious action to meet the Agreement’s goal to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Backing out of this agreement continues a long history of broken promises and threatens the vital and sacred life cycles of Mother Earth.”

Our number two concern (page 6) was “The Agreement advances pollution trading mechanisms that allow polluters to purchase “offsets” and continue extremely dangerous levels of emissions.”  If we truly aim to reach the stated goal of reducing carbon emissions to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we will never get there with a carbon market system.

Monique Verdin, Secretary of the United Houma Nation Tribal Council, Louisiana says “the Paris Accord is not a perfect solution, but to step out of it is to step back. Our coastal communities in the Mississippi River Delta are surrounded by a web of pipelines, oil and gas canals, while our sinking lands are pock marked by oil waste pits. We are being told that our traditional territories may have to be sacrificed to the sea and that our post-colonial sanctuary settlements may have to be abandoned in this unprecedented wake of sea-level rise. If we don’t change our relationships with extreme extraction the heartache of losing some of the most precious biodiversity in the world, will be disregarded for the delusions of “progress.”

While the agreement was far from what we need at the global scale, at minimum it was still a significant indication that world leaders were taking climate change seriously.  Across the globe, the Paris Agreement was being used as a baseline argument to continue promoting the real Just Transition that we need away from a fossil fuel economy.

A few thoughts on studying the most radical social movement of the 21st century

By John Foran - Resilience, March 14, 2016

Introduction

We are living through an unprecedented crisis, in a world beset by massive social problems – the obscene poverty and inequality that neoliberal capitalist globalization has wreaked on at least two-thirds of humanity, the immobility of the political elite almost everywhere, and cultures of violence that poison our lives from the most intimate relations to the mass murder of the world’s wars.

These interconnected problems are rooted in long-standing processes of inequality – patriarchy, racism, colonialism, capitalism, and now corporate-controlled globalization – whose ongoing, overlapping legacies are making the early twenty-first century a crucial hinge of history.

And now, with climate change, we are facing a perfect storm of suffering. In fact, given the timeline that climate science is screaming at us, we confront a crisis of humanity and of all species that must be resolved for better or worse by those living on this precarious planet today.  We are called by the urgency of the crisis to “change everything” as Naomi Klein puts it, and to do so in something like the next two decades.

With other observers, activists, and scholars I believe that only the assembling of the broadest, most powerful social movement the world has ever seen has a chance of doing this in the narrow window the science imposes on us. The movements for environmental, climate, and social justice that I have spent my life studying and now participate in must become much stronger than at present.  But my reading of world history leads me to believe that they can succeed.  They must, if we are to safely navigate the present crisis and even come out of it living in ways that are far more egalitarian, deeply democratic, and fulfilling than the world we presently inhabit.

Those of us who are academics (or journalists, or writers and creators of culture of every kind) need to focus our minds now, I think, on the “wicked” problem of climate change, to reinvigorate our own disciplines and work on our interdisciplinary skills (another way of saying learning how to connect the dots) and bring all this into a wide open dialogue, in ways that are consistent with the first principle of sociology, of ecology, of systems thinking, and, ironically enough, of Buddhism, as I understand it (and of Gaia theory, for that matter):  everything is connected.

How Strong is the Climate Justice Movement?

The movement I study and am part of is growing, getting bigger, stronger, smarter, more diverse, and more creative with every passing year – and that’s important.

But it’s still not enough.

The task – and the question on every scholar-activist’s mind – is how do we get from where we are to where we need to be?  And how do we do that thoughtfully, quickly, and for the long haul?

If I had to try to sum up the broad outlines of what the climate justice movement is planning going into 2016, it would be something like Resist, Rethink, Retool, Re-imagine…

Unify Fights Against Austerity and Climate Change

By Asbjørn Wahl - Social Europe, December 18, 2015

The Climate Summit in Paris has once again reminded us of how vulnerable we are on planet earth. However, humanity is faced with a number of deep and challenging crises: economic, social, political, over food – and, of course, over climate change, which is threatening the very existence of millions of people. These crises have many of the same root causes, going to the core of our economic system.

Strong vested interests are involved. It is thus an interest-based struggle we are facing. All over the world, people are organizing and fighting against the effects of the crises. Trade unions are heavily involved in many of these struggles, and so are many other movements – single-issue as well as broader social movements. Increasingly, our entire social model, the way we produce and consume, is under question. The way out of these crises requires a system change and this can only be achieved if we are able considerably to shift the balance of power in society. This leaves us with the challenge of unifying movements and continuing struggles – particularly to bring anti-austerity together with the struggle against climate change.

Agreement, But No Solution

At the recent Paris Summit (COP21), the first ever truly global agreement to fight the climate crisis was concluded. Governments have been negotiating for more than 20 years (more or less since the Rio Summit in 1992) in order to achieve that. During this period, however, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have not been cut. Quite the opposite. Emissions have increased immensely, by more than 60 per cent. Transport emissions have increased 120 per cent over the last 30 years, and they are still rising all over the world – even at a rate that outweighs cuts in other economic sectors.

The stated aim of the Paris agreement is ambitious. The target of keeping global warming below 2oC was strengthened, so that governments should now “pursue efforts” to limit the temperature increase to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels. The weakness of the agreement is that there is a huge gap between this aim and the measures agreed upon to reach it. Based on the voluntary pledges (so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – INDCs) from all countries on how much they are prepared to cut their emissions, we are so far on course for a temperature increase of 3-4oC. This means climate catastrophe.

EcoUnionist News #81 - The #COP21 Greenwash

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 15, 2015

Paris, France: COP21 has concluded, and the results could be summed up as less-than-inspiring, but just about what many of us in the green unionist movement (small thought it still is) expected: a complete and total capitalist greenwash designed to make it look like more business as usual was somehow a change from business as usual. Without going into all of the gory details, the so-called "agreement" which took two weeks to hammer out doesn't even rearrange deckchairs on the Titanic. It rearranges the fabric on the deckchairs on the Titanic while at the same time proclaiming to seal the breach in the hull and pump out all of the water, yesterday.

In short, the backers of the deal (capitalists, politicians, mainstream Big Green environmental NGOs, and all of the fossil fuel capitalists pulling the strings) are proclaiming that somehow this "achievement" is "groundbreaking" because it advises, suggests, or pleads (depending on which part of the thesaurus one chooses) that the capitalist class voluntarily reduces the world's GHG emissions to a point "substantially lower than" 2°C (but doesn't even specify what many believe to be the needed limit of 1.5°C).

Of course, there are no hard limits, no enforcement mechanisms, no penalties for "ignoring" the suggested reductions. Worse still, the agreement removes all references to the rights of Indigenous peoples, does not address the disproportionate effects of capitalist GHG emissions on the Global South, women, or the working class. The excessive hoarding of wealth and disproportionate emissions caused by the Global North are not referenced. No mention is made of agroecology (thus paving the way for capitalist driven "climate-smart agriculture" (read "privatization")). No limits are to be placed on air travel. Nothing is said of energy democracy or just transition.

Worse still, all of this deal making took place in the shadow of what has become a fascist police-state atmosphere in Paris, France, in response to the tragic bombings and attacks that took place on November 13, 2015. While capitalist delegates and their enablers were allowed to seal the fate of the rest of us with near impugnity, dissent was smashed by placing restrictions on where protesters could demonstrate, and several clmate justice leaders were placed under house arrest (though, at the end of the two week clusterfuck, many defied the bans anyway, but only after many of the NGOs had demobilized the 100,000s more that would've joined in had the ban not been in place). Meanwhile, other events that had nothing to do with protesting COP21 were allowed to happen with little or no restriction.

While this is not the worst possible outcome one could have envisioned, it still leaves an enormity to be desired, and all of the self-congratulatory fawning over it by Big Green and the capitalist class won't change that.

Fortunately, this is not the end of the story.  In spite of the capitalist greenwashing attempts, most climate justice activists are not buying the official line, and have declared, rightly, that the struggle doesn't end here. The power does not lie in the hands of the capitalists or their enabling delegates. It does not lie in the halls of state or the inside-the-beltway offices of the Big Green NGOs. It belongs to the many who make up the noncapitalist class of the world, and when we realize it, organize, and act accordingly, this sham of a deal, and the capitalist system that spawned it can be banished to the dustbin of history where it rightly belongs, and replaced by a truly effective and tranformative framework for achieving the systemic change that is needed. An essential part of that change will involve the workers of the world organizing as a class along industrial lines. While this is not the only part of the strategy, it is nevertheless an important one.

There are many stories to be told about COP21, and they simply cannot be summarized into a single article, certainly not without much reflection.

"Liberté Is Not Just A Word": Klein, Corbyn Call for Mass Protest at COP21

By Nadia Prupis - Common Dreams, December 8, 2015

"By taking to the streets, we will be clearly and unequivocally rejecting the Hollande government's draconian and opportunistic bans on marches, protests, and demonstrations."

Video: At a packed meeting in Paris, Naomi Klein, supported by UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, calls for mass civil disobedience to break the ban on demonstrations on December 12. Trade unionists and others discuss the real solutions to climate change: an end to fossil fuels, energy democracy, and a just transition to millions of cllimate jobs.

Additional Speakers: Sean Sweeney (Trade Unions for Energy Democracy), Lyda Forero (Transnational Institute–TNI, Columbia), Josua Mata (Philippino Workers Central–SENTRO, Philippines), Clara Paillard (Public & Commercial Services Union–PCS, United Kingdom) and Judy Gonzalez (New York State Nurses Association, USA)

In Paris on Monday, a panel of activists, including author Naomi Klein and UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, spoke to a packed crowd on the role of the global labor sector in the climate justice movement and called for mass civil disobedience to break French President François Hollande's ban on demonstrations during the COP21 summit.

Klein spoke candidly about the global climate agreement being hammered out by world leaders this month, stating, "The deal that will be unveiled in less than a week will not be enough to keep us safe. In fact, it will be extraordinarily dangerous."

Wealthy nations have set up inadequate climate targets that could allow average global temperatures to rise by 3 or 4 degrees Celsius, Klein said—far higher than the agreed-on threshold of 2°C, which scientists say would cause catastrophic extreme weather events. The deal is going to "steamroll over crucial scientific red lines... it is going to steamroll over equity red lines... it is going to steamroll over legal red lines."

"Which is why on December the 12th, at 12 o'clock—that's 12-12-12—many activists will be peacefully demonstrating against the violation of these red lines," Klein said, prompting a round of applause from the audience of roughly 800 trade unionists and other workers and activists.

The French government told us a big lie, and we believed it

By Jonathan Neale - Global Climate Jobs, December 8, 2015

After the killings in Paris, the government immediately banned all public demonstrations under a state of emergency. They told the climate coalition we could not march. That seemed to make a sort of sense to most people in the climate movement. Isn’t it terrible, we said. But most people in Paris thought they understood why the French government was doing it.

Except, when the Charlie Hebdo killings happened earlier this year, the French government called for a massive demonstration. No one – not one person in the world – suggested that demonstration interfered with security.

And I have been in Paris for a week. This is not a city under martial law, or a state of emergency. Police presence is light – hardly noticeable in most walks of life. In reality only one thing is forbidden in Paris – protesting to save the world’s climate.

The French government did not want a march of 500,000 in Paris on November 29. They saw their chance. They forbade the march. They used the deaths of all those people to stop us trying to save hundreds of millions more. Most of us were sick at heart, and shaken, and some of us were afraid. So they fooled us.

Why did they do that? Because this COP will end with an agreement that will make sure that global emissions rise next year, and in 2017, and in 2018, and in every year until 2030. At the end of the COP on Saturday the French government, the American, the Chinese, and all the rest, plan to trumpet that disaster in triumph across the world. To do that, they had to make sure we were not heard.

The French government have also ordered us not to demonstrate on Saturday at the end of the COP. But we have decided: we will protest together on Saturday in Paris. We hope you will protest or hold vigils – whatever you can do – across the world, to say this is not the end of the planet, we will fight on, in the living hope that we will win.

There will be trade unionists on that demonstration too, for many reasons. But one of them is that the right to free assembly, the right to meet in groups of more than two, the right to protest, is bedrock for trade unionism. Without those rights, working people cannot defend themselves.

Please join us.

Paths Beyond Paris: Movements, Action and Solidarity Towards Climate Justice

By various - Carbon Trade Watch, December 2015

Over twenty years have passed since governments within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began to discuss the impending climate crisis. Year after year, we witness the talks moving further away from identifying the root causes of climate change while the increasing impacts affect even more peoples and regions. Every meeting has given more space for corporate involvement and less to the voices of those directly affected by these climate policies. Despite the promoters’ fancy “green” campaigns and videos, the main focus at the climate negotiations continues to be about saving the free-market economy for those who are holding the cards – the biggest transnational corporations and financial institutions. The same corporations that are largely behind the destruction of forests, rivers, diversity, territories – as well as the violation of human and collective rights and so on – are also the main polluters and plunderers of the Earth.

The climate crisis poses a real threat to the current economic model which is based on the continuous extraction and production of fossil fuels, hydrocarbons and “natural resources” such as land, minerals, wood and agriculture. If talks were to seriously address climate change, there would need to be a discussion on the many ways to support the hundreds of thousand of small-scale farmers, fishers, Indigenous Peoples, forest-dwelling communities and others whose territories and livelihoods are at risk from capital expansion, and how to transition to different economic systems where fossil fuels could be kept underground; where the consumption “mantra” would shift towards more local, diverse and collective discourses and practices. However, the hegemonic and colonial powers are once more violently closing doors, creating more “structural adjustments” and, ultimately, harming the people who are the least responsible for current and historical pollution levels suffering the most from the impacts.

The fallacy that we can continue with the same economic model is irremediably flawed, bankrolled by big polluters, and intrinsically linked to land and livelihoods grabbing, especially in the Global South. Nonetheless, mechanisms like carbon markets, which expand the extractivist and free-market logic, continue to be promoted as unilateral, program- matic “solutions” to mitigate climate change and address deforestation and biodiversity loss. From carbon trading to forests and biodiversity offsets, the climate crisis has been turned into a business opportunity, worsening the already felt impacts, especially for those who are the least responsible. Debates over molecules of carbon being accounted for and “moved” or “stored” from one location to the other detracts from the necessary debates on shifting away from extraction, unjust power structures and oppression. While being fully informed of the causes of climate change, international climate negotiations strive to ensure that the hegemonic economic model expands and rewards polluters.

The consequence is that “climate policies” (aka economic policies) finance the most destructive industries and polluters, often destroying genuinely effective actions that support community livelihoods and keep fossil fuels in the ground. Moreover, these policies further the “financialization of nature” process, which presupposes the separation and quantification of the Earth’s cycles and functions – such as carbon, water and biodiversity – in or-der to turn them into “units” or “titles” that can be sold in financial and speculative markets. With governments establishing legal frameworks to set these markets in place, they also have provided the financial “infrastructure” for negotiating financial “instruments”, by using derivatives, hedge funds and others. While financial markets have a growing influence over economic policies, the “financialization of nature” hands over the management to the financial markets, whose sole concern is to further accumulate capital.

Read the report (PDF).

Ambition and Smoke, Love and Courage: What to Expect from the Climate Treaty Negotiations in Paris

By John Foran - System Change not Climate Change, November 26, 2015

The most important question raised by the climate summit may be: Does the power to change the world belong to the people in the conference rooms of Le Bourget or to the people in the streets of Paris?” – Rebecca Solnit, “Power in Paris

The Paris COP 21 UN climate summit is upon us, now, starting on Monday, November 30.  I have spent the last year, ever since the dust of Lima was wiped from my shoes, trying my best to get a grasp on what was going to happen and communicating what I found out to all interested parties.  This has led to two long pieces, “Just Say ‘No’ to the Paris COP:  A Possible Way to Win Something for Climate Justice” and “A History of the Climate Negotiations in Six Videos.”

In the last two months, the world’s attention has really started to focus on climate, the COP, and the possibilities and probabilities of “success” and (gasp!) “failure.”  The murder of 129 people in the streets of Paris on Friday, November 13, has only trained hearts and minds more on this ground zero in the interlaced struggles for peace on Earth with justice.

Within twenty-four hours, the French government and the UNFCCC had reassured us that the COP would proceed exactly as planned, with added layers of security.  The incredible and creative plans of civil society for making sure that the world’s demand for climate justice will be heard in Paris hung in the balance until the government of François Hollande made it known that the twin bookends of our strategy – the massive march on Sunday, November 29 and the nonviolent civil disobedience and other acts of protest scheduled for the outcome of the COP on Friday and Saturday, December 11 and 12 – would be prohibited from occurring.

A COP without the full-throated participation of global civil society, however, has a less than zero chance of succeeding, whatever that nebulous term connotes.  Just as the COP must go on, so, too, will we, the countless members of the global climate justice movement, whether marching under that banner in Paris or simply showing up in our hearts and heads.

But the carefully prepared script that global elites have been busy writing for Paris may not end up to end the way they think, and here’s why.

Paris: closed to civil society, open to greenwashers

By Pascoe Sabido - New Internationalist, November 24, 2015

Image, right: In preparation for the Paris climate talks Philippines groups launch climate justice march. 350.org / AC Dimatatac under a Creative Commons Licence

In the days after the tragic events on 13 November in Paris, everything concerning the climate talks was in limbo. A state of emergency was called. Would the summit go ahead at all? What would it mean for the mass mobilizations being planned?

The week that followed has seen the state of emergency extended for three months and the government ban all demonstrations. Not just the big demos, but any gathering of more than two people bearing a political message. The political message behind that decision is clear: the government is criminalizing social movements and supressing dissent. Christmas markets, football matches, other mass public events can take place; it’s the politics that’s the problem.

While the government has clamped down on political expression from civil society, its support for big business shindigs has not waivered.

The first tweet to come from the official COP21 account following the attacks claimed that ‘Paris is still standing and ready for COP21’, and linked directly to a statement from the Solutions COP21 corporate-expo.

The organizers of the event claimed the attack ‘was an attack against life, youth, friendliness and culture, thus targeting our capacity to live together’ but that their event was ‘a direct answer to all those who are willing to add a concrete contribution toward the evolution of our societies following a positive and equitable approach, and to foster solidarity toward those in need, besides preserving our quality of life.’

What they fail to mention is that Solutions COP21 is a platform for some of the world’s most socially and environmentally destructive corporations, whose business models constantly attack life, youth, friendliness, solidarity and any notion of an equitable approach.

Sponsored by the likes of dirty energy giant Engie (formerly GDF Suez, also an official sponsor of COP21) alongside fracking enthusiast Suez Environment and agrofuels giant Avril-Sofiproteol, the event at the Grand Palais will also welcome Vinci, the company behind the proposed airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, coal financiers HSBC and BNP Paribas, and Coca-Cola, among many others.

As the organizers are proud to admit, corporate climate criminals will be joined inside the event by small and medium enterprises, NGOs (some of whom have pulled out after public pressure) and international artists (some of whom have refused to pull out on discovering the true nature of the event).

Such an ensemble lends a veneer of respectability that money can’t buy. But what it can buy is political access. Corporate packages ranging up to $266,000 ensure you don’t have to settle for mere exhibition space but can have VIP access to networking areas with negotiators and politicians, as well as guaranteed TV coverage.

In short, the French government has put its weight behind a corporate greenwashing event for the biggest polluters to push their false solutions – such as fracking, nuclear energy, GMOs and market-based solutions – at the same time as silencing those very communities coming to Paris to denounce such destructive business practices and the fatal impacts they have on the ground.

Before the attacks took place, there was already a public call for mass civil disobedience against (false) Solutions COP21, coming from a diverse range of organizations including ATTAC France, Via Campesina, the trade union Solidaires, the grassroots activist networks Climate Justice Action and the JEDIs, Sortir du Nucleaire and Corporate Europe Observatory. Huge uncertainty followed, but hearing the response from both the organizers of Solutions COP21 and the French government, it now feels more important than ever for the mobilization to take place.

The fight for climate justice is intertwined with the fight for peace, not just in Europe but in communities around the world facing violence and terror as a result of our extractivist economic model.

If the French government thinks that events in the Grand Palais are more important than the voices of those on the frontline fighting climate change and its causes, then that’s where their message needs to be delivered.

If you are in Paris on Friday 4 December, make your way to the venue from 10.00am, where guides will take you on a ‘toxic tour’ around the expo with representatives of frontline communities as they call out the false solutions on offer. Meanwhile, creative acts of civil disobedience are planned to stop the event from staying open.

As others in the climate movement have said already, now is not the time to stay silent. No-one intends to.

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