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Manifest: Rights of peasants – a step ahead for the future of humanity

By staff - La Via Campesina, March 17, 2017

The International Congress on Peasants’ Rights, which took place from 7 to 10 March in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, brought together close to one hundred peasants and representatives of food producers from all over the world,  along with the same diversity of human rights defenders and activists. The Congress concluded with the presentation of a Manifesto on the need for a Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, a text that was finalized with the contribution of the participants to the event. Below you can find the full text.

Almost 500 years ago, growing encroachments on peasants’ common lands by princes and churches led to rural uprisings in Southern Germany and to the drafting of the peasants’ “Twelve Articles”. This document represents the first record of demands for human rights and liberties in Europe, and included the right to equal access to lands, forests and fishing grounds. Although the feudal lords brutally crushed this revolt, peasants kept resisting and showing that the feudal nobility hadn’t defeated them. History shows that when peasants are rolled back in one place they reappear in another one. Peasant revolts are still on-going!

The Global Peasants’ Rights Congress, taking place from the 8th to the 10th of March 2017, shows this. More than 400 peasants, fishers, pastoralists, beekeepers, indigenous people, migrant and seasonal workers, rural women, youth, food consumers, NGOs’ representatives, academics, lawyers, activists and government representatives from more than 50 countries gathered together in the city of Schwäbisch Hall, a hotspot of the 16th-century “Great Peasants’ War”, to exchange views, to learn and to increase awareness about the current process of drafting a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. This Declaration has roots in an initiative of La Vía Campesina launched more than 15 years ago. With the sponsorship of the Bolivian Government, the process has been rapidly advancing in the UN Human Rights Council and will now go to a fourth round of negotiations in May 2017. This week’s Global Peasants’ Rights Congress showed that while we come from highly diverse backgrounds, we are nonetheless able to join hands in defense of human dignity and nature. This process resembles a river, with an increasing number of tributaries, crossing different landscapes and flowing together in a mighty stream of life.

Faced with the rise of nationalism and xenophobia, Food Sovereignty is more necessary than ever

By Michel Buisson, et. al. - La Via Campesina, March 17, 2017

With the Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the rise of the extreme right in Europe and the increase in migration, there is an urgent need to intensify the cooperation between countries and their populations. Wars, climate change, the depletion of natural resources, poverty, hunger and malnutrition, but also the increase in inequalities, are all fundamental problems that humanity must seek to resolve together.  This cannot be done without questioning both the current neoliberal globalization, and the xenophobic and nationalist orientations that are opposed to economic globalization while protecting and defending their own interests. 

The false answers to neoliberalism are in the spotlight, notably that of Donald Trump  who, in his presidential project,  on the one hand develops protections against imports and brings the Transpacific Treaty to a standstill, and on the other promotes financial capitalism, US transnational corporations, fossil fuels, and green capitalism,… while denying climate change and repressing social struggles. The European Union is no exception, which imposes on Africa very unequal economic partnership agreements (EPAs), and maintains, in its Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), masked tools enabling protection and dumping . Official criticism, including that of the IMF, of the defects or excesses of globalization, the postponement of the transatlantic treaty project (while the CETA  is in the process of adoption), and the current reduction in international trade, show us that the neoliberal framework is out of breath. But these developments do not prevent transnational corporations from pursuing their offensives, protecting themselves with patents, and seeking to impose private arbitration tribunals in trade agreements. 

Social movements are struggling against the negotiation of “free” trade agreements, and demanding climate justice, international solidarity, and that the human rights of all be respected, everywhere.  These various struggles aim to meet the expectations of the populations affected by the impacts of neoliberal globalization, in the areas of food, the environment, income and employment. At the heart of these struggles is the food sovereignty movement, which claims the right of peoples to democratically decide their food and agricultural policies, and aims at radically changing our food systems. 

Our response to the rise of nationalism and xenophobia lies in strengthening mobilizations at four levels (local, national, regional, international) to achieve food sovereignty, a demand made by the global peasant movement La Via Campesina and many other organizations since 1996.

Food sovereignty is “the right of people, their countries or unions, to define their agriculture and food policy, without dumping vis-à-vis third countries", (La Via campesina, 2003). It « puts those who produce, process and consume healthy and local food at the heart of our agriculture and food systems […] instead of the demands of market and transnational companies …"(Nyéléni Forum, 2007). Food sovereignty is a democratic requirement, which goes contrary to the capturing of power by the corporate agenda. And this is not an agenda of withdrawal: the social movements who claim food sovereignty express international solidarity, and they do not question the role of international trade – although they call for its regulation and for a rebalancing between international trade and reinforcing local food systems.

Food sovereignty must be translated at the UN into new international trade rules, favouring the adoption, at national and regional levels, of agricultural policies that are adapted to the needs of countries in terms of market organization, and are conducive of sustainable agriculture and alternative production and exchange practices. It aims to provide food security in good conditions.

Food sovereignty is not autarky. It wants to put international trade in its proper place by giving priority to agriculture and food for the people, not to markets. It provides a new framework, favorable to policies of relocalization of production, agro-ecology, and sustainable access to/protection of natural resources. It makes it possible to develop culturally adapted food systems that prioritize nutrition, health, and the environment. 

At the international level, food sovereignty provides the basis for moving from currently hegemonic trade - favoured by WTO rules and benefiting powerful states and transnational companies -, to cooperative exchanges, which set limits on the advantages of countries that could abuse their competitive position.  To the duty of countries not to harm the agricultural economies of third countries, must correspond the right to put in place real protections – tariffs and import quotas in particular -, that are justified on economical, social and environmental grounds. 

Faced with the global concentration of agrifood power, consumers and citizens have developed both an increased understanding of the stakes and their capacity for action. Initiatives to relocalize food systems are multiplying but remain fragile under current policies. In this battle for food sovereignty, let us not leave peasants alone. Food is everyone’s business. Together,  peasant and civil society organizations, institutions, researchers, must propose new rules, new frameworks for international trade in agriculture and food and agriculture policies, building on successful local « transition » alternatives. It’s urgent. The forthcoming adoption at the UN of a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other people working in rural areas, and advances at the Committee for World Food Security (CFS), including on the importance of access to territorial markets for small food producers, should constitute a base towards food sovereignty.

Through the large and plural mobilizations it implies, and its many contributions, food sovereignty is an essential battle in this current period of high risk: to curb nationalism, injustices, xenophobia, and to safeguard and develop peasant agriculture, the production of affordable, nutritive and healthy food, and the protection of our planet.

Trump's Budget Severely Hurts Working Families, Communities and the Environment

By Sharon Singh - Common Dreams, March 16, 2017

WASHINGTON - In response to the Trump administration's budget release, Paul Getsos, National Coordinator of the Peoples Climate Movement issued the following quote:

"With this budget, the Trump administration once again proves that despite his campaign rhetoric, Donald Trump is fighting for corporations and the one percent and not for working people.

"Massive cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency will make it easier for corporations to pollute our lakes and rivers that we rely on for clean water and recreation. Cuts to economic development programs in urban and rural areas will hurt low-wage workers, especially struggling communities across the country.

"Coming off the heels of the Republican healthcare proposal, it is obvious leaders in Washington D.C. are working to re-make our country to one that benefits the very rich and moves away from supporting working and struggling families, ensuring our environment is clean enough for our children and creating economic opportunities for all Americans.

Why we must fight for a safe climate

By Zebedee Parkes - Green Left Weekly, February 17, 2017

My generation has never experienced a below average temperature. The last time the global temperature was below average was in February 1985.

The recent heatwaves across Australia ushered in a new record-breaking summer: every year for the past decade has been hotter than the last.

Meanwhile our political leaders — privileged white men in suits — brought coal into parliament and made jokes while they and their corporate mates continue to burn our collective future.

We are already getting a taste of what our future holds if we do not take urgent action.

Extreme bushfires have burnt down entire towns across Australia in the past couple of years. Pacific islands are already becoming uninhabitable due to rising sea levels. Climate change-induced droughts in Syria destroyed its agriculture and helped create the conditions that led to the civil war. Floods in Pakistan in 2011 affected 5.4 million people, destroying crops and leaving millions displaced, forced to live in makeshift shelters without access to safe drinking water. The Himalayan glaciers are already melting, potentially leaving 2 billion people across Asia without sufficient drinking water.

The consequences of climate change will only get worse if we do not make serious changes rapidly. Already the Artic Sea ice is melting, which could mean sea level rises of 3–5 metres, making many coastal cities uninhabitable.

This ecological crisis is the result of human activity. Because of a constant drive for profits, corporations are felling the Amazon rainforest at an alarming rate to create cattle pastures for beef production. The Amazon forest is one of the most crucial in the world in terms of soaking up carbon dioxide.

When we desperately need to reduce emissions, corporations, often backed and funded by governments, continue to build major fossil fuel projects, such as the Adani coalmine, poison our water and destroy farmland with gas fracking projects and pursue unsustainable projects that are destroying crucial ecosystems, such as the Beeliar Wetlands and the Great Barrier Reef.

No matter how urgent the need for action on climate change, corporations and their governments refuse to change. 

Solar power is now cheaper in some parts of the world than fossil fuels. In Australia, scientific studies show we have the capacity to have 100% renewables in 10 years. Yet the government continues to give billions a year in subsidies to fossil fuel corporations — money that could be going to renewable energy.

Since the international climate talks in Paris in December 2015, when the world cried out for serious climate action, Australia’s big four banks have poured $5.6 billion into fossil fuels. Governments and the fossil fuel industry are not going to change their destructive practices unless we force them to.

To do this and give ourselves a chance of a future we need to change our economic system. Right now eight men own more wealth — and all the privileges and power that go with it — than the poorest 50% of the Earth’s population.

For serious climate action to be a reality we need a society where the majority of people — workers, farmers, students, the poor, First Nations people and refugees, the victims of climate change — are making decisions in the interests of our collective future.  

To achieve this will take a gigantic struggle. But it also presents an opportunity to change the world. As Naomi Klein, author of Capitalism vs the Climate said: “I think climate change can be the catalyst we need … In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality.”

If we address climate change, we can begin to construct the kind of world we want to live in.

Apollo-Earth: A Wake Up Call In Our Race against Time

By Rupert Read and Deepak Rughani - The Ecologist, March 9, 2017

Why a project to find common meaning in our common struggle to prevent climate-catastrophe deserves the name 'Apollo-Earth'

There is a mission brewing and building, a mission that needs all hands that are ready: To bring the 'un-named movement' - the 'for-life' story of our time - to a tipping point.

This needs to happen faster than the rate at which our planet is approaching fatal climatic tipping points (fatal, that is, to us - always remember that it isn't strictly speaking 'the planet' that needs saving, only the animals, including ourselves, who live on it). The climate nemesis we face is now quite predictable: it is a 'white' swan event: But it could still be forestalled, with determination. If that forestalling is to be successfully accomplished, if together we are to choose to save ourselves and our descendants, then we need to see a radical shift in humanity's collective response to the rapidly growing threat of breakdown of our environmental life-support systems.

This will only happen if the forces of negativity, idiocy and oppression are outweighed by the force for rebellion, for sanity and for good in the epic struggle which will define our century.

TUED energy and climate retreat, Cutchogue, Long Island, April 3-4, 2017, hosted by Local 3, IBEW

By Staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, February 25, 2017

A Discussion on Union Strategy and Policy in a Time of Resistance

April 3rd & 4th at Local 3 IBEW’s Education and Cultural Center in Cutchogue, Long Island, New York. Dinner and reception to follow (check out morning of April 5th).

See below for information about the purpose of the retreat and discussion topics.

Confirmed international participants:

Daniel Angelim (Trade Union Confederation of the Americas)
David Boys (Public Services International)
Daniel Chavez (Transnational Institute, Netherlands)
Hector de la Cueva (CILAC-Mexico)
Bruno Dobrusin (CTA, Argentina)
Simona Fabiani (CGIL, Italy)
Luz Gonzalez (CUT, Brazil)
Kate Lee (Union Aid Abroad /APHEDA, Australia)
Wol-san Liem (KPTU, Korea)
Maite Llanos (TUED, Geneva)
Sam Mason (PCS, UK)
Josua Mata (Sentro, Philippines)
Lance McCallum (Electrical Trades Union, Australia)
Philip Pearson (TUED, UK)
Allison Roche (UNISON, UK)
Ashim Roy (NTUI, India)
Asbjorn Wahl (NUMGE, Norway)

We are all energy unions now.

The retreat is being convened at a time when President Trump has made clear his enthusiastic support for more fracking of shale gas and shale oil, and his desire to remove regulations on fossil fuels. Executive Orders have indicated President Trump’s support for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. A number of key US unions have endorsed these actions. Meanwhile, The White House has removed all references to climate change from its website, and the President has vowed to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement and reign in the EPA.

Jobs and Climate Justice

We share a common atmosphere and all rely on the ecosystems that sustain life. All over the world unions and social movements are being drawn into struggles over the future of energy. Therefore a clear, compelling, and effective strategy for a transformative transition for energy is needed in order to meet the political challenges in the US and elsewhere.

Likely discussion questions:

  • The Trump Agenda: How can progressive labor in the US respond to the “energy superpower” argument?
  • What is the record of “labor-environmental” alliances and coalitions in the US and internationally?
  • Should we defend the Paris climate agreement?
  • Centers of resistance: What role for cities and states?
  • What is happening in key “carbon battlegrounds” countries like Australia, India, South Africa and the UK?
  • How can unions champion public renewable power and build union strength in the renewables sector?

A recent TUED Working Paper, Energy Transition: Are We Winning?, explains what is going on in the global energy system and the need for progressive and forward-looking unions internationally to work together to develop a more coherent and compelling approach to energy transition.

Peasants of the world unite in Schwaebisch Hall for a declaration on Peasants' Rights

By Rudolf Bühler, Geneviève Savigny, Sofia Monsalve - La Via Campesina, February 23, 2017

Peasants* feed the majority of the world‘s population. Still, they are increasingly repressed by governments, as well as by the food and agro industries. From 7th to 10th of March, over a hundred peasant and food producer representatives from all over the world will meet with politicians, human rights advocates and Global South activists to pave the way for stronger legal protection of their basic rights in the German town Schwaebisch Hall. Supported by 40 partners, the Global Peasants‘ Rights Congress is the result of intensive and joint work by organizations struggling for the rights of peasants: the “Foundation House of Farmers” (HdB), the “Farmers’ Cooperative Schwaebisch Hall” (BESH), the “European Coordination Via Campesina” (ECVC), the Working-group Peasantry Farming (AbL) and FIAN International (FIAN).

Peasants fulfill a most fundamental task: They feed the vast majority of the world‘s population. According to their ancient know-how about soil cultivation, breeding and harvesting, they cultivate their land in a sustainable manner that corresponds to the local conditions. In doing so, they preserve biodiversity, increase soil fertility and contribute to strengthening the region’s added-value.

Nevertheless, peasants are increasingly losing their access to land due to unfair competition from powerful local elites and transnational corporations. This includes practices that ultimately grant the genetic base of their plant breeds and stock to multinational monopolies. In such a context of landgrabbing and biopiracy, many small scale food producers lose their livelihoods along with their traditional knowledge. Additionally, as regional food markets erode, food production for local needs is increasingly being replaced by export-oriented cash crops. Peasants who resist those developments are often harassed and criminalized.

The existing international legal framework does not protect peasants sufficiently against these threats to their livelihoods. Since its founding in 2012, the foundation House of Farmers has strived for instruments that strengthen peasants‘rights. In doing so, they support the worldwide peasants’ movement La Via Campesina and the international human rights organization FIAN. For several years, these have, together with others, successfully carried out advocacy work at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to establish an Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG) to draft the “UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas”.

In a joint effort, the organizations will bring together peasant representatives from all over the world, who will report on the violations of their rights and work together on a peasants’ rights manifest. The manifest will address the UN working group and will encourage all State parties in the UNHRC to strengthen the rights of peasants nationally and internationally. 

The Global Peasants’ Rights Congress will take place from the 7th to 10th of March in Schwaebisch Hall. Among others, inputs will be given by: Klaus Töpfer, former director of the environment program of the UN (UNEP), Nardi Suxo Iturry, Bolivian ambassador und chairlady of the open-ended working-group on peasants rights at the UNHRC and Pat Mooney, winner of the Right Livelihood Award from the ETC Group, Rudolf Bühler, founder of the “Foundation House of Farmers”, Henry Saragih and Elizabeth Mpofu, the leaders of La Via Campesina, the world’s biggest peasant movement. For more information, see: http://www.global-peasants-rights.com.

Even Trump Can’t Stop the Tide of Green Jobs

By Yana Kunichoff - In These Times, February 22, 2017

Donald Trump was elected in November on a platform that included both climate denial and the promise of jobs for Rust Belt communities still hurting from deindustrialization. In the months since, his strategy to create jobs has become increasingly clear: tax breaks and public shaming of companies planning to move their operations out of the country.

Take the case of Carrier, a manufacturing plant in Indianapolis that produces air conditioners. Trump first threatened to slap tariffs on Carrier’s imports after the company announced it would move a plant to Mexico. Then, he reportedly called Greg Hayes, CEO of the parent company United Technologies, who agreed to keep the plant in the United States in exchange for $7 million in tax breaks. (Carrier later admitted that only a portion of the plant’s jobs would remain in the country.)

The company’s decision to keep jobs in the United States was declared a victory for the Trump PR machine, but it’s unclear that it can create a major change in access to jobs in the long-term. Hayes, announcing that the tax breaks would allow additional investment into the plant, noted that the surge of money would go towards automation. And with automation, eventually, comes a loss of jobs.

“Automation means less people,” Hayes told CNN. “I think we’ll have a reduction of workforce at some point in time once they get all the automation in and up and running.”

Unlike traditional manufacturing jobs, green jobs in the clean energy industry have been on a steady upward swing. This past spring, for example, U.S. jobs in solar energy overtook those in oil and natural gas, and a Rockefeller Foundation-Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors study found that energy retrofitting buildings in the United States could create more than 3 million “job years” of employment.

That means green jobs remain one of the key hopes for revitalizing communities. But can they move forward under a climate-skeptic and coal-loving president?

A just transition to sustainable jobs

By Bill Onasch - Socialist Action, February 22, 2017

The Trump administration wasted no time before launching a veritable blitzkrieg on all fronts in pursuit of an “alt-right” America First agenda. But resistance has been swift and massive.

In addition to various movements mobilizing we also heard from scientists. Agence France Presse (AFP) reported: “Comments by U.S. President Donald Trump on nuclear weapons and climate change have helped make the world less safe, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warned … moving its symbolic ‘Doomsday Clock’ 30 seconds closer to midnight.”

This heightened warning by atomic scientists about two overarching crises closely followed an announcement by climate scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that, for the third consecutive year, 2016 had been the hottest since record keeping began in 1880.

Trump replaces an Obama administration that offered token gestures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are the prime culprit in heating our planet, while at the same time also promoting fossil-fuel expansion through destructive fracking of gas and oil.

Now, the 45th president has dismissed global warming as a job-killing hoax perpetrated by China to sabotage the American economy. Rather than presenting any of his signature “alternative facts” to bolster this fantastic conspiracy theory, he has focused on the job-killing argument. Jobs are a big and legitimate concern of the working-class majority.

Brace for impact: it’s time to build the fight for climate adaptation

By Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik - New Internationalist, February 22, 2017

The fight to tackle climate change has two core branches: mitigation (curbing excessive greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation (addressing the effects of climate change that are already unfolding). But although both areas are needed, the public tends to focus on the former in discussions on climate change.

The pressing priority is always to pull down emissions. Climate change is portrayed a future threat and our responsibility to act is framed in reference to our children and grandchildren. If environmental ruin is already here, it is deemed marginal compared to the tempests amassing on the horizon.

But this uneven focus on the future understates the gravity of present impacts. Today, climate change accounts for 87 per cent of disasters worldwide. Some of the worst droughts in decades are continuing to unravel across southeastern Africa and Latin America. Cyclonic storms, floods, wildfires, and landslides are bearing on the world’s most vulnerable populations.

The sudden violence of disasters is paralleled by the brutality of gradual change. Coastlines are being shaved and eroded by rising tides. The encroachment of sea water is increasing the salinity of littoral lands, leaving them withered and infertile. Rain patterns are shifting, shattering the millions who rely on the sky for sustenance. Every second, one person is forced to flee their home due to extreme climactic conditions.

This context of daily displacement and desolation means that the fight to tackle climate change today is fundamentally a fight to determine the fatality of the future. Yet adaptation, the crucial tool in that fight, has been side-lined and neglected.

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