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Crossing the Carbon Rubicon

By Andrew Simms - Red Pepper, January 6, 2017

What’s in a number? Quite a lot when the last time it prevailed in the sky above our heads was in the Pliocene period, between three and five million years ago, long before modern humans evolved. Last year, 2015, was the first since then that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the principal driver of man-made global warming, stayed above 400 parts per million (ppm). The higher it goes, the worse things get, and it is already a long way past the level considered necessary to stabilise our climate, 350ppm, the number taken for that reason by global climate campaign 350.org.

Nobody knows exactly where the line in the atmosphere lies beyond which the process of warming feeds off itself, inexorably moving beyond our ability to control climatic instability. It’s a game of chance and probability, and we are already playing climate roulette, in which current warming makes life difficult, and in some cases impossible, for many of the world’s most vulnerable people.

It does this in a range of ways, from the sheer impact of increasingly extreme weather events to effects on the price of food, forced displacement and movement of climate-borne diseases. A world of incipient warming is the enemy of everyone, but especially people with the least power, fewest assets, weakest support structures and inability to move. It is the enemy of every social ambition. Unless tackled, it spells out a great reversal of human progress. It is the one problem which, unless solved, unravels every other cause.

Our use of fossil fuel energy is the principal driver, if not the only one. The loss of natural habitats such as tropical and primary forests is another. A global climate agreement, the Paris Accord, has now entered into force. It has many flaws but includes a commitment to prevent warming of more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels, and an ambition to hold it to just 1.5 degrees. But add up all the current national commitments, and depending on whose modelling you look at, we’re either missing the two-degrees target by a little, or a lot. In either case only a small, or very small, fraction of the fossil fuels still left in the ground can be burned, even as major oil companies explore for new reserves.

Some argue that to dwell on this unambiguously dire situation leads only to paralysis. But unless we do take in the enormity of our predicament, it is unlikely that we will come up with responses that are remotely equal to the scale or immediacy of action required. As Thomas Hardy wrote, ‘If a way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.’

And that action, straightforwardly, is the rapid transition of energy-intensive societies. It requires the illumination of more convivial, low-consumption economies that will allow everyone to lead good lives while operating within planetary boundaries.

COP22’s Imperialist Environmentalism

By Joe Hayns - Jacobin, November 11, 2016

Each year, the world’s heads of state meet at the Conference of Parties (COP) to discuss how to “stabiliz[e] greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” as the guiding United Nations Framework on Climate Change demands.

Last year’s COP garnered international attention and praise. Le Monde’s verdict included a quote from the event’s president and Parti Socialiste foreign minister, Laurent Fabius (“a compromise guided by ‘climate justice’”). The Guardian called the meeting “a rare and heartening case of disparate peoples being led to a common conclusion by evidence and reason.” The New York Times declared that the negotiations ended with “a historic breakthrough.”

But many climate justice activists and scientists disagree. Against the “People’s Test” — “a set of criteria that the Paris deal would need to meet in order to be effective and fair” created by social movements, unions, and environmental groups — the Paris agreements failed on every count.

On Monday, COP22 began in Marrakech, Morocco. International attention will again focus on the political class’s negotiations. But if we’re serious about fighting climate change globally, we might be better off listening to the Moroccan activists currently fighting environmental ruination.

This resistance comes out of the country’s imperialist environmental policy, which, to paraphrase William Faulkner, isn’t past: it isn’t even history.

Solidarity Politics to Resist the Coming Regime

By Deborah S. Rogers - Common Dreams, November 23, 2016

Many have issued clarion calls for resistance against the neofascist headed for the White House, his odious henchmen in tow. Few, however, have outlined all the steps needed to block Trump’s repugnant agenda and build a united movement that can upend the power dynamic in this country. Here’s my list: two popular suggestions, and four that take us well outside our comfort zone.

First, we need to have each other’s backs. Yes, I know, many have already said this. Now we need to make it concrete. We need hotlines, safe houses, support groups, and community meetings to share experiences and identify needs. Some will need body guards. We need methods of networking that exclude informants. We need to define a new ethic of intervention in public spaces when we see something that needs to be stopped. We need to exchange information across identity lines so we know what’s happening to others, and can ask for or offer help. We need an early warning system.

Second, we need to resist everything Trump, whether executive, legislative, judicial, national, local, corporate or social. Resistance can’t just be a catchy slogan; we need to actually do what it takes. Block it. Tie it up in court. Do an end run around it. Defund it. Walk out. Strike. Don’t cooperate. Refuse to comply. Gene Sharp, the famous non-violent resistance theorist, has written books on how ordinary people can make it impossible for governments to act against the public interest by withdrawing their consent and cooperation.

We need to get involved in decision-making at every level. By the time a national-level candidate is running, all the important decisions were made long ago. Join (or create) a political party at the local level. Run for mayor, city council, county commissioner or school board. Get involved at the state level – run for office or intervene in meetings of the public utilities commission, water permitting board, or legislative committees. Economic decision-making may be even more important. Join or create a workers’ or consumers’ cooperative. Push to set up a community or state bank. Establish a neighborhood small-scale renewable energy grid. If enough of us get involved at the local level, together we can change the political and economic equation throughout the entire nation.

We need to take back our time and money for political engagement. Public participation used to be commonplace in the US. But now, with worsening economic status and growing material expectations, most of us are working so long and hard that there is virtually no time left for political engagement. The people who can fully engage in politics now are those whose time is paid for as a candidate, consultant, party operative, or within a non-profit. Yet if we depend on corporate wealth and private foundations to make our political engagement possible, we have already lost. The only realistic way for most of us to gain more time is through reduced material consumption and increased collaboration. We need to stop buying excess stuff – donate to independent media or kick-ass political organizing instead! We need to learn how to share jobs, housing, vehicles, entertainment, childcare, eldercare, and all the other things that people think they have to do or enjoy individually. It’s time to break out of the rat race and find time for many more of us to be involved in community, state and national political life.

We need to build bridges with those who think differently from us. The right, despite serving the worst corporate masters, has successfully recruited large numbers of working people who are dissatisfied with the status quo. The Democrats, meanwhile, have abandoned them, while progressives have been unwilling to reach out and establish a dialogue with the white working class in recent years. In low-key conversations, I’ve been repeatedly amazed to find out that my right-leaning neighbors are mad about many of the same economic trends and abuses of power, and wish for many of the same outcomes. Yes, vocal Trump supporters tend to have views that can only be described as hateful. Once you identify common ground, however, you will learn when you can call on them to help fight an important battle. Even more powerful would be organizing to protect their economic survival when Trump throws them under the bus, as he inevitably will. Working toward shared goals can lead to increased tolerance and, eventually, respect. Change is possible.

We need to shift to a politics based on solidarity rather than identity. Wait—don’t we need to take a stand against Trump’s virulently racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and homophobic agenda? Yes. But going along with their divide-and-conquer strategy will only make things worse. We need to focus on building a united front that is strong enough to take on an authoritarian government backed by powerful corporations. If progressives remain Balkanized based on identity and refuse to join forces because of very real, long-standing and legitimate grievances, we are done for. We need to form coalitions, networks, and political parties that unite, not divide. We can take on Trump and address these urgent identity-based grievances in the process, by coming together in solidarity around common agendas. Will there be huge fights about what that common agenda is; what kind of internal decision-making to use; which policies to promote? Of course! It’s incredibly difficult to work through political and social differences. But it’s absolutely essential if we intend to take back power.

A quick fix is neither possible nor desirable in the urgent need to prevent Trump and his ilk from ramming through their devastating agenda. Ultimately, we can succeed only if we unite in solidarity, moving out of the "protest paradigm" and learning to exercise the power we have. Let’s get started now, before it’s too late!

After Brexit and Trump: don't demonise; localise!

By Helena Norberg-Hodge & Rupert Read - The Ecologist, November 22, 2016

The election of Donald Trump was a rude awakening from which many people in the US have still not recovered.

Their shock is similar to that felt by UK progressives, Greens, and those on the Left following the Brexit referendum.

In both cases, the visceral reaction was heightened by the barely-disguised racist and xenophobic messaging underpinning these campaigns.

Before these sentiments grow even more extreme, it's vital that we understand their root cause. If we simply react in horror and outrage, if we only protest and denounce, then we fail to grasp the deeper ramifications of their votes.

For the defeat of both the Clinton campaign in the US and the Remain campaign in the UK can be explained by their inability to address the pain endured by ordinary citizens in the era of globalisation.

By failing to focus on the reckless profiteers driving the global economy, they allowed their opponents to offer a less truthful and more hateful explanation for voters' social and economic distress.

In order to move forward, we need to give those who voted for Trump and Brexit something better to believe in. And we can. Because in both countries, voters emphatically rejected the system that has inflicted so much social and economic insecurity: pro-corporate globalisation. And that is the silver lining to the dark storm clouds we see.

Trump’s election showed widespread discontent: Our job is to help transform popular discontent into a political force

By Michael Eisenscher - Popular Resistance, November 19, 2016

Election night put most progressives into a state of shock and disbelief – a metaphysical body blow to all the values and ideals to which we are committed. Even though we knew intellectually that Trump might win, we didn’t really believe it would happen. The pollsters said it would not happen. Most of the corporate media said it would not happen. Most of the power structure was committed to preventing it. Who imagined that a crude narcissistic loud-mouthed bigot could win a national election for the highest office in the land! But that’s what happened.

The day after, the enormity of what had happened started to sink in. Trump’s promised Supreme Court appointments alone could reverse decades of hard fought victories, most especially in relation to human rights and civil liberties. Agencies like the NLRB, EPA, FDA and more could be gutted and regulatory protections they were established to enforce evaporate overnight. He’s already said he intends to move forward to deport two to three million immigrants. Racists, bigots and reactionaries of all sorts have been emboldened and attacks on Muslims, immigrants and people of color have escalated. Trump’s retrograde climate denial and commitment to his fossil fuel industry backers puts the population of the entire planet into peril as a consequence of unchecked global warming.

Trump, a man with a world-sized ego but virtually no experience in foreign relations or governing, will turn running the country over to a band of neocons and social reactionaries – like Vice President Mike Pence – who now see the opportunity to complete the revolution they started when George W. Bush held office. (Imagine a cabinet composed entirely of Dick Cheney clones.) It’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

With all three branches of government in the hands of the GOP, Trump will seek to dismantle the funding restrictions imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 that capped spending and requires that any increases in military spending be matched by equivalent increases in domestic funding. Once that is accomplished, the sluice gate between the Treasury and Pentagon will be lifted. Domestic programs that provide what’s left of a social safety net and social programs that serve working people and the poor will be drained into the swamp of the military-industrial complex.

As dire as the threats that Trump represents are, for me they have a ring of familiarity. Although the politics, social composition and economics of the U.S. are dramatically changed, I hear an echo of an earlier era – one of which an overwhelming majority of those who voted this month have no memory.

I am a child of the Cold War, born on the early side of the baby boom generation in 1944. I am just old enough to remember the McCarthy era of the 1950s. Living in Milwaukee, for my family the witch hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy were very real. Because my father was a leader in the Wisconsin Communist Party, the FBI was a haunting presence in my family’s life. “Better dead than red” characterized the political climate in which the left strived to remain true to its progressive values. Being labeled a “red” meant being fired, blacklisted, threatened, harassed, and in some cases physically assaulted.

Then came Tricky Dick Nixon, an arch reactionary who made his reputation as one of the Cold War’s ugliest witch hunters. On the day that Nixon was elected, alarm bells sounded not unlike those that are ringing now. There was once again the sniff of fascism in the air.

They rang again when Ronald Reagan, former president of the Screen Actors Guild who led the purge of the left in his union, took office. Prior to switching from B-films to politics, he had appeared weekly on TV as the huckster for General Electric, one of the most prominent and powerful advocates for militarism and an aggressive foreign policy throughout the Cold War.

In the darkest days of the McCarthy era, it was hard to imagine that within a decade we would see the birth of new civil rights, women’s and antiwar movements that would transform the social order and the popular culture of the nation. On the morning after the Nixon and Reagan elections, the future looked grim and threatening. The prospect for progressive change appeared to be fading from the horizon.

I can recall how frightened people were at the prospect of what lay ahead for themselves, their family, community and the nation. Those were decades in which the arms race and threat of all out nuclear war stoked fears of global annihilation. With the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still fresh in the collective memory of the country, the fear of a nuclear holocaust was very real.

But there is an important lesson embedded in that history. Most of the American people actually believe in democracy, freedom, justice and fairness. As dark and threatening as conditions might have appeared in the moment, the fundamental instinct for goodness of a majority of people ultimately surfaced.

Airport expansion is a racist policy

By Jo Ram - Red Pepper, November 2016

On 19 November, activists blockaded one of the key access roads to Heathrow airport with a banner saying ‘Climate Change is A Racist Crisis’. More groups had interventions planned but the police foiled their attempts. 15 arrests took place throughout the day. 100s also took part in a nearby demonstration despite heavy police presence. This action was coordinated by Rising Up! and comes a few weeks after Theresa May gave the green light to the building of a third runway at Heathrow.

For the climate and everyone who doesn’t belong to the global political elite, May’s decision doesn’t make sense. Thousands will see their home demolished to make way for the new runway. Only 15% are responsible for 70% of UK’s international flights - so airport expansion doesn’t really benefit the average person who goes on holiday once or twice a year. Plus, a large proportion of Heathrow flights are short haul, whose routes could be better serviced by improved rail infrastructure. More crucially, flying is the most emissions-intensive form of transport and the fastest growing cause of climate change. It is not possible for the UK government to expand airports and meet existing commitments on climate action.

The subtext of this decision is loud and clear: the government’s doesn’t care either about the local community, who are fiercely opposed to the expansion, or about the vast majority of the world’s population, for whom climate change is truly an existential threat.

International Trade Union Confederation unveils a Just Transition Centre at COP22

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, November 16, 2016

The 22nd meeting of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP22) in Marrakesh Morrocco concluded on November 18, having made dogged progress despite the looming spectre of President Donald Trump . (see “7 things you missed at COP22 while Trump hogged the headlines“). 150 trade union members from 50 countries comprised a delegation led by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). On November 18, the ITUC released their assessment of COP22: “ Marrakech Climate Conference: Real Progress on economic diversification, transformation and just transition, but more ambition and more finance needed”.

The three “top line” ITUC demands going in to the meetings can be summed up as: greater ambition and urgency for action; commitments on climate finance, especially for vulnerable countries, and commitment to just transition for workers and communities. The summary of demands is reproduced at the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy website and described in detail in the ITUC Frontlines Briefing: Climate Justice COP 22 Special Edition. (Note that one of the case studies in the Special Edition highlights the president of Unifor Local 707A in Fort McMurray, Alberta, who describes the union’s efforts to lobby government, to bargain for just transition provisions, and to sponsor job fairs for displaced workers.) The union demands are consistent with the issues raised in Setting the Path Toward 1.5 C – A Civil Society Equity Review of Pre-2020 Ambition. The ITUC is a signatory to the Setting the Path document – along with dozens of other civil society groups, including Canada Action Network, David Suzuki Foundation, and Friends of the Earth Canada.

The ITUC Special Edition statement announced “…the ITUC and its partners are establishing a Just Transition Centre . The Centre will facilitate government, business, trade unions, communities, investors and civil society groups to collaborate in the national, industrial, workplace and community planning, agreements, technologies, investments and the necessary public policies.” The “partners” mentioned include the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the B Team , an international network of business executives who believe that “the purpose of business is to become a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit” and We Mean Business, a coalition of business, NGO and government policy organizations promoting the transition to a low-carbon economy.

As an aside: The CEO of We Mean Business wrote A Just Transition to defeat the populist politicians (Nov. 5), summing up the business point of view about Just Transition. See excerpts here.

The European Trade Union Congress, a member of ITUC, promoted five demands in its own Position Statement , adopted by the Executive Committee on the 26-27 October. The ETUC demands largely mirror those of ITUC but also call for concrete action to move the issue of Just Transition from the Preamble of the Paris Agreement, ( where it landed by compromise ) . “The COP 22 must now urge Parties to integrate just transition elements into their national contributions, notably by mandating the Subsidiary Bodies Implementation (SBI) and for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), for they define the terms of this integration.” The ETUC urges that the ILO Principles for a just transition to environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all provide an internationally recognized reference for governments and social partners concerning just transition.

The Canadian Labour Congress, Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux and Centrale des Syndicats Democratiques in Canada, and the American Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) are ITUC affiliates. Details, pictures, videos are posted on Twitter at #unions4climate.

Our land is worth more than carbon: Civil Society Statement COP 22

By staff - La Via Campesina, November 16, 2016

The Paris Agreement required the 196 Parties to the UN Climate Convention to limit temperature increases to 2° or 1.5°C below preindustrial levels. While COP21 benefitted from a high degree of mobilization linked to the adoption of an international agreement, COP 22 on the other hand has received rather less attention. 

Yet the stakes remain significant. 

In its haste, COP 22, being called the “action COP” or the “agriculture COP”, is in danger of adopting various misguided solutions for agriculture. Last May at the Climate Convention HQ in Bonn, discussion on this sector was a source of tension between countries. They studiously avoided the key question of differentiating between agricultural models according to their impact on climate change and their ability to provide food sovereignty to people. At the same time, and outside official negotiating channels, voluntary initiatives, especially in the private sector, have expanded and may well become incorporated in countries’ future public policies. 

Although 94% of countries mention agriculture in their strategies for combating climate change, the Paris Agreement fails to mention the word “agriculture” even once. You have to read between the lines to understand what is really at stake. 

It is really the highly political subject of agriculture that hides behind the use of the expression “carbon sink”. It is true that the soil plays an important role in sequestering CO2 (carbon dioxide), turning it into a genuine “carbon sink”, like forests. Yet that is not soil’s only role, particularly if farming land that is central to food sovereignty is involved. Unfortunately its use (employing the expression “land use”) in combating climate change represents a huge opportunity currently for those promoting misguided solutions and serves as an excuse for public inaction. 

In searching for a balance between emissions and absorption by greenhouse gas sinks, the Paris Agreement enshrined the principle of compensation in dealing with the climate crisis. This notion does not mean that emissions actually have to decrease but that emissions and absorption can cancel each other out. This approach has already begun with forests through the highly controversial REDD+ mechanism and, to an increasing degree, is now targeting farming land, the new carbon Eldorado. 

We must remember that unlike avoided emissions, natural carbon sequestration is reversible and has a limited lifetime. So rather than attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically, agriculture is becoming a unit of accounting permitting emissions to continue or even increase. Consequently, though roundly condemned by civil society and social movements, various initiatives have arisen around climate discussions that appear to many to be misguided solutions. This is the case with climate-smart agriculture and its global alliance (GACSA) which, in the absence of clear criteria, does a balancing act between promoting agroecology and the use of GM seeds and their herbicides. Moreover, 60% of GACSA’s private sector members are companies in the pesticide and agricultural input sector. 

This alliance and its concept are nothing more than an empty shell that agro-industrial multinationals can hide in to continue the industrialization of agriculture, to the detriment of smallholders. 

Similarly, the 4 per 1000 initiative fails to make clear choices in promoting transition in farming systems. Its scattergun approach to the problem fails to take account of considerations beyond carbon sequestration such as the use of herbicides for example. 

Unless there is a real re-examination of agro-industrial models that are highly dependent on chemical inputs and based on exports, such initiatives have absolutely no place in the list of solutions. 

Quite apart from the question of the agricultural model there is also the danger of pressure on land and the financialization of natural resources. Therefore by putting a value, through compensation, on farming land as a tool in combating climate change, you increase the pressure on it. So the small scale farmers who were already the first victims of climate change become doubly threatened. If we are to encourage investment in agriculture to sequester more carbon, especially from private sources, much greater expanses of land will be needed with an increased risk of land grabbing. This danger would be multiplied if the race for land were accompanied by mechanisms linked to carbon finance. Numerous studies on similar mechanisms developed for forests (like REDD+) have already demonstrated the dangers of an approach that pays scant consideration to protecting human rights. This approach to combating climate change opens the door ever wider to endangering small scale farmers’ rights and their acquired knowledge, food sovereignty and ecosystem integrity. 

Our organisations deprecate this rush towards compensation to tackle the climate crisis. Only immediate, drastic reduction of greenhouse gases will prevent a dramatic increase in the impact of this crisis even though it will still only limit it. Farming land cannot become an accounting tool for managing the climate crisis. It is fundamental to around a billion people in the world who are working towards food sovereignty, an inalienable right of people who have already been harmed enough. We support the continued existence of agriculture suited to meeting the agricultural challenges already magnified by the climate crisis. Such farming methods, based on peasant agroecology which, in addition to a store of good practice, imply socially- and ecologically-based farming rooted in its home territory and a rejection of the financialization of Nature.

Election of Trump clarifies the struggle for climate justice

By Nicolas Haeringer and Tadzio Müller - New Internationalist, November 11, 2016

Until Donald Trump’s electoral success, there was at least some reason to believe that the momentum was finally on the side of climate justice. After a cycle of failures and defeats, our mobilizations were finally proving to have an impact – from actions targeting infrastructures to the divestment movement, there were important successes, amplifying what seems to be the irresistible rise of a 100 per cent renewable future.

The climate summit in Paris was not Copenhagen. COP21 enabled the climate movement to enter a new stage with clearer strategic perspectives building stronger alliances among very diverse actors. COP21 (and the momentum it created) has not only changed the political landscape from a movement’s perspective. It has had an impact on the institutional sphere too. As such, this is no guarantee that world leaders will finally opt for bold climate action. But it enables us not only to demand actions but also to hold public actors accountable for decisions they’ve made. It makes our demands stronger: they’re not ‘only’ about climate anymore, but are demands for democracy, and leave us the space to defend the idea of a ‘climate state of necessity’.

Of course, these successes and progresses came with issues, doubts and debates within the movement. But we had this strong feeling that we were beginning to win: after an action this May in the East German lignite region of Lusatia, a thousand people in a circus tent shouted ‘we are unstoppable, another world is possible!’ – and meant it!

It is pretty easy, after Wednesday’s US presidential election result, to give up on hope – and consider Trump’s victory a serious setback. It is only going to be a setback if we let it be so. In that perspective, his victory ironically comes with a clarification, and a major simplification of the climate math. If Trump is to do what he said he was going to do (i.e. drill, drill and drill), it concretely means that the carbon budget for the rest of the world has in fact dropped to zero on election night.

That fact shouldn’t scare us. It is actually a very powerful and simple tool, which shows us what the next steps for the climate movement should be: if the UNFCCC process isn’t going to stop climate chaos, and if the US is being run by a madman – then the movements need to stop it themselves, and those outside of the US have to step up their game to impose fossil-fuel phase-outs everywhere. It also shows us what our solidarity with the communities at the frontline of the fight against climate change and fossil fuel extraction in the US should look like: the best way to build and show that solidarity is by freezing fossil fuel infrastructures everywhere.

To be sure: in a world where someone who claims that climate change is a ‘hoax cooked up by the Chinese’ has just been elected to what is perceived to be the most powerful office on the planet, it is not enough to simply claim that science, truth and reason now dictate how we step up our fight against the fossil fuel industry. After all, Trump’s success rested to a significant extent on the fact that he ignored established ‘truths’, and that his supporters frequently did not care that he was lying, or making utterly absurd statements about building walls and ‘making Mexico pay’ for them.

If Trump’s success is also the success of a ‘post-truth politics’, what does that mean for climate justice politics? It means that we need to leave the intellectually easy certainty of science and of ‘carbon budgets’ behind to a certain extent – science has played a huge role in shaping our movement and our successes, and there is no reason for it to cease. But the laws of physics don’t care about politics, and last night the former proved to be more powerful than the latter. In a trumped-down world, we might respond that the laws of politics don’t care about physics, that ‘truth’ as we traditionally understand it plays less and less of a role.

Trump won because his political discourse resonated with people on an affective level, that is to say: it made them feel understood and it made them feel powerful. Politics in the liberal/leftist tradition too often concerns itself with interests and truths (and then we often wonder why people vote ‘against their interests’, implying, rather arrogantly, that they have been duped by something we like to call a ‘hegemonic ideology’). But in the words of philosopher Baruch Spinoza, since people ‘are led more by passion than by reason, it naturally follows that a multitude will unite and consent to be guided as if by one mind not at reason’s prompting but through some common affect’.

If this is true – and we believe it is, all the more so in an age where neoliberal and centre-left elites have for decades used seemingly inescapable truths (‘There Is No Alternative’) as a battering ram against the historical achievements of working class movements, and where social media are producing multiple-truth-echo-chambers – then climate (justice) politics has to leave the high ground of science.

It has to recreate itself as a politics that makes people feel empowered, that starts not from carbon budgets per se, but from the struggles of those frontline communities most negatively affected, and that, quite simply put, is appealing enough to fight the racist, sexist, nativist juggernaut currently remaking the global North.

In short: we need less COP23, and more Ende Gelände; less potentially doomed fights for carbon taxes in Congress, and more effective, powerful and inclusive struggles like those against the Keystone XL or the Dakota Access pipelines – or rather, we need to embrace them and build them into one movement. Which means more organizing, more peaceful civil disobedience and less time in the political halls of the UN.

Not because the latter are wrong or bad or necessarily ineffective (though unfortunately they often are) – but because in a world where Trump is president of the US, if climate politics remain tied to reason and truth, and to global elite jamborees, it will necessarily fail.

Only a climate justice politics that exceeds the affective attractiveness of the jargon of the other side can win the fights we need to win. This is what many groups are already doing – those who are on the frontline.

The Politics of Hosting

By Daniel Voskoboynik - The Verb, November 6, 2016; Image by Hasna Lahmini

Climate summits let host governments publicise their environmental credentials, but we cannot be blind to their injustices.

This year the United Nations climate negotiations descends upon Marrakech. The stage is set for negotiators to continue their granular discussions, but also for the Moroccan government to showcase its own environmental ambition.

Praise has surrounded the Moroccan government’s audacious plans for renewable energy, which aim to generate over half of the country’s energy from wind, water and solar by 2030. In February, King Mohamed VI unveiled the first part of the world’s biggest solar energy complex in the city of Ouarzazate.

While the Moroccan government has welcomed the spotlight, the conference has also drawn attention to its more authoritarian and repressive elements.

Morocco has just experienced its most intense public protests since the Arab Spring. On 28 October, fisherman Mouhcine Fikri was crushed to death by a garbage truck compactor in the port town of Hoceima, as he tried to recover goods confiscated by the police. Activists accused police officers of ordering Fikri’s death, and civil rights associations denounced the illegality of the confiscation. Fikri’s individual case has been seen as emblematic of what is known as hogra: arbitrary abuses at the hands of the authorities.

These abuses occur in a wider context of human rights violations, corruption and impunity, in which the makhzen (the King and the royal establishment) exert decisive political control. Abuse of the rule of law by security forces is widespread.

Moroccan activists and journalists are routinely harassed or arrested. During the conference, negotiators and observers will likely be communicating through platforms such as Whatsapp, Skype and Viber. These VoIP (voice over international protocol) applications however were only recently unblocked in Morocco, and citizens fear they will be restricted once the summit concludes.

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