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climate justice

Grassroots and peasant’s movements deliver solutions that COP23 fails to provide

By Michaelin Sibanda and Boaventura Monjane - La Via Campesina, November 17, 2017

Food sovereignty and peasant agroecology – which should be understood in the context of national sovereignty – are the true solutions to build resilience and resistance.

The transnational corporations responsible for over 70% of the man-made emissions continue to push forward new false solutions to address the climate crisis. Such solutions not only focus on growing their profits but create more conditions to commodify nature, while turning a blind eye to the increasing social and environmental crisis they have created. Today, millions of peasants, indigenous people and fisherfolks are losing their source of livelihood to rising sea levels and adverse weather conditions.

It is clear that capital survives and feeds on chaos and destruction of nature. Human dignity and life are not respected at all. Recent climate disasters in Puerto Rico expose this immoral behavior. After suffering two hurricanes (Irma and Maria), the US administration blocked any form of assistance to rebuild the island, only allowing its corporations.

For Jesús Vázquez Negrón from Puerto Rico, who was attending the people’s mobilizations parallel to the 23rdedition of the Conference of Parties (COP23) in Bonn, climate change is real. “We are here to remind the world that the change must be systemic. That is why the proposal of systemic change proposed by La Via Campesina, a global grassroots movement and alliance, is crucial.”

The peasant struggle is not just about climate resilience – which is an act of resistance in itself. It is also a global fight against the expansion of agribusiness, which relies on free trade agreements. There is an urgent need to critically question the mass production of meat and reduce the import of feed from the global south to Europe.

To make sure they keep growing despite global climate change, transnational corporations have developed their own ways – false solutions such as blue carbon, REDD[1] mechanism and climate smart agriculture.

Another issue that is generally undermined in climate change debates is migration. There are today more than ever before a growing number of climate-migrants. According to Massa Koné of the Global Convergence of Land and Water Struggles – West Africa, the climate and the migrantion crisis are the two sides of the same coin. “…  It is those who try to contain migrations who have also provoked it! It is their false solutions that are taking over our land, disturb our rainfall, that create wars! This is why migration increases everyday”, says Koné.

The good news is that the debates have a strong youth movement that is leading the struggle in various places of the globe, as they are the future of humanity. “We are the present for a better future and we will not give up, but continue to defend the interests of the peasants, the whole society, for a social transformation. We, peasants across the world, firmly reject the industrial model of agriculture which is at the very root of climate change”, says young French peasant Fanny Metrat of Confederation Paysanne. “We are the ones who can cool the planet and feed the world”, she added.

There have been many COPs before and many more will follow, but their impact on public policies is minor. Sustainable development, green economy, REDD are the buzzwords of capitalism being hammered these days in Bonn. But social movements expect governments and multinationals around the negotiating table to deliver real solutions.

To change the system, grassroots and peasant movements have to keep growing and establish more alliances. Our governments do not realize the urgency of the situation but the peasantry suffers from it on a daily basis. Food sovereignty and peasant agroecology – which should be understood in the context of national sovereignty – are the true solutions to build their resilience and resistance.

Scientists Issue Dire Warning on Climate Change & Key Researcher Urges “Changes in How We Live”

Kevin Anderson interviewed by Amy Goodman - Democracy Now!, November 15, 2017

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from the U.N. climate summit in Bonn, Germany. The International Energy Agency predicts U.S. oil production is expected to grow an unparalleled rate in the coming years, even as the majority of scientists worldwide are saying countries need to cut down on fossil fuel extraction, not accelerate it. Meanwhile, a group of 15,000 scientists have come together to issue a dire “second notice” to humanity, 25 years after a group of scientists issued the “first notice” warning the world about climate change.

This comes as a major new study says European governments have drastically underestimated the methane emissions from gas. The report finds European Union nations can burn gas and other fossil fuels at the current rate for only nine more years before these countries will have exhausted their share of the Earth’s remaining carbon budget necessary to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Well, we’re joined now by the co-author of that report, one of the world’s leading climate scientists. He traveled here from England by train, refuses to fly because of its massive carbon footprint. Kevin Anderson is deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in Britain, co-author of the major new report entitled “Can the Climate Afford Europe’s Gas Addiction?”

Kevin Anderson, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. So, there’s so much to talk about. First, you took a train here, not a plane?

KEVIN ANDERSON: Yes. I always try and travel either by train or by ship, often by container ship. It’s not that I think the emissions necessarily from me or any other individual are, in themselves, really important. But I think it is really necessary, for those of us who judge that climate change is a huge and serious issue, that we demonstrate that in our own lives, and that we don’t just demonstrate it in what we do, but you try and push that agenda more widely, amongst our own colleagues, with our own universities, and then, of course, hopefully, eventually, that governments pick these things up and then scale up policies to drive this behavioral change at a national and then, hopefully, a global level.

AMY GOODMAN: You have coined the term “the climate glitterati.” What do you mean?

KEVIN ANDERSON: I think there have been—for many years, there have been people, you know, the great and the good, in the climate world. And they have certainly tried very hard to address the issue of climate change, though I think, with the latest data, we can see that emissions are going up, even this year, in 2017. So, fundamentally, they and the rest of us have actually failed in delivering what we expected to or what we hoped for.

But this particular group, I think, have done remarkably well out of the climate change world, if you like, out of all of these, the COPs or negotiations, the engagement with policymakers, the trips to Davos and so forth. And I think, in doing that, in being part of the status quo, they have actually misunderstood that a significant part of the problem when it comes to climate change is making changes in how we live our lives today, particularly those of us who are the very high emitters. About 50 percent of global emission has just come from about 10 percent of the global population. And the climate glitterati are quite clearly—and I include myself there—are in that particular group. And we have to demonstrate leadership in what we do. And I think if people are going to take our very careful analysis seriously, then we have to lend that analysis credibility by demonstrating that we are adjusting our own lives accordingly.

Abrupt Climate Justice

By John Foran - Resilience, November 16, 2017

Three of the most intense hurricanes ever recorded just ripped through Puerto Rico and the southern US – within weeks of each other! Ash rained from the sky in Seattle and Portland for weeks. Record monsoons swept through Asia. Parts of Sierra Leone and Niger are underwater. San Francisco recorded its hottest day ever and Europe endured a triple-digit heat wave they called “Diablo.” The fucking devil is here man, and its name is climate change. – Wendy & Jesse & Hayley & Teresa, “Face Down Climate Change,” Slingshot issue 125 (Autumn 2017)

I recently attended a talk by Guy McPherson, generally acknowledged as the doyen –some consider him the “superhero” – of the abrupt climate change [ACC] thesis [note to readers:  I understand that Guy McPherson can be a “polarizing” figure for some in the Resilience community; I ask only that you read my essay with the usual care, and stay focused on the nuances of my argument!).  I only came across this debate because I met – to my great good fortune – Shanelle LeFage, a millennial expert on it, and have subsequently followed her leads into the literature, discussed below.  As I learned more, I began to realize something that I had always intimated:  the science is grimmer than any of us know…

This has important implications for how those of us in the global climate justice movement approach our work, that it’s high time we tease out and engage with.

Special Report: Revolt at Trump’s Pro-Coal, Pro-Nuclear & Pro-Gas Panel Rocks U.N. Climate Summit

By Amy Goodman - Democracy Now!, November 14, 2017

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re broadcasting live from the U.N. climate summit here in Bonn, Germany. Close to 200 countries are gathered. The U.S. says that it is pulling out of the climate accord. Well, on Monday night, activists and Democratic lawmakers staged a full-fledged revolt as the Trump administration made its official debut at this year’s COP at a forum pushing coal, gas and nuclear power. The presentation was entitled “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation.” It included speakers from coal company Peabody Energy, the nuclear engineering firm NuScale Power and a gas exporter. The panel was the only official appearance by the U.S. delegation during this year’s U.N. climate summit.

Well, Democracy Now! was there Monday night as the U.S. delegation made its official debut. It didn’t go too well. At least, it didn’t begin well, with a White House consultant telling Democracy Now! we could not film him.

Let's Just Admit It: Capitalism Doesn't Work

By John Atcheson - Common Dreams, November 13, 2017

In almost every way you examine it, capitalism – at least the relatively unconstrained, free- market variety practiced here in the US and supported by both parties -- has been an abysmal failure. Let’s take a close look some of its worst failings.  But first, it must be admitted that when it comes to exploiting people and the planet for the purpose of generating apparent wealth for the few, it has been a smashing success.  More about that notion of “apparent wealth” in a moment, but now, the specifics.

The logical end-point of a competitive system is an oligarchic monopoly

A recent report  by UBS reveals that the global march of economic inequality is accelerating.  The report found that the billionaire’s share of wealth grew by nearly 20 percent last year, reaching a level of disparity not seen since 1905, the gilded age.  Interestingly, the first gilded age followed decades of uber-free market laissez-faire policies, just as today’s gilded age has.

Not surprising, really. Empirical evidence shows that without constraint, markets will proceed toward a winner-take-all status. In short, monopolies and oligopolies. For example, the United States has had three periods of prolonged laissez-faire economic policies, and each was followed by extreme wealth inequality and the three biggest economic crises in US history, such inequality causes.

Oh, but the magic of competition makes companies compete for our dollar, so they can’t afford to exploit us, right? Not so much.

The magic elixir of competition doesn’t work—for the simple reason that there isn’t much competition anymore. Having convinced folks that regulation is bad, the Oligarchy is in the midst of a frenzy of mergers that is giving a few large conglomerates control of many of the major market sectors.

Derrick Thompson, in a recent article in the Atlantic, lays out some of the grim statistics that illustrate the trend. As Thompson writes,

To comprehend the scope of corporate consolidation, imagine a day in the life of a typical American and ask: How long does it take for her to interact with a market that isn’t nearly monopolized? She wakes up to browse the Internet, access to which is sold through a local monopoly. She stocks up on food at a superstore such as Walmart, which owns a quarter of the grocery market. If she gets indigestion, she might go to a         pharmacy, likely owned by one of three companies controlling 99 percent of that market. If she’s stressed and wants to relax outside the shadow of an oligopoly, she’ll have to stay away from ebooks, music, and beer; two companies control more than half     of all sales in each of these markets. There is no escape—literally. She can try boarding an airplane, but four corporations control 80 percent of the seats on domestic flights.

The consolidation of the media is yet another example; just six corporations now control 90 percent of the market. And of course, there’s the inconvenient fact that the “too-big-to-fail” banks that were a major cause of the 2008 Great Recession are now bigger and fewer.

This concentration of market power translates into lower wages, fewer jobs, and higher prices – exactly the opposite of what the neoclassical economic theory embraced by capitalists tells us will happen when we remove regulatory constraints – and exactly the opposite of what the Republicans’ trickle-down myth says will happen. Or what the neoliberal Democrats tell us, for that matter.

But it also gives the wealthy control over our political system, and the people have gotten wise to it.  That’s why a little over a quarter of the eligible voters were able to put Trump in power – most of the rest of us are completely turned off by a political system that’s clearly for sale and so, increasingly, many do not show up to vote.

That control has expressed itself in policies that result in extreme income disparities between the increasingly few haves and the expanding have-nots. Today, just five people have as much wealth as the 3.8 billion people comprising the least wealthy half of the world’s population, and nowhere in the developed world is the problem as acute as it is in America.  The system is rigged, and our belief in capitalism and the power of the magic markets is what allowed that.

La Via Campesina responds to COP23 calling for Peasant Agroecology

By Bernd Schmitz and Paula Gioia - La Via Campesina, November 9, 2017

Peasants, small farmers and Indigenous peoples ‘feed the world and cool the planet.’ This is what the global peasant movement, La Via Campesina, has come to Bonn, Germany, to put onto the agenda at the COP23 climate meetings — both in the official space and at the People’s Climate Summit where social movements met to strategize for alternatives to capitalism and its climate crisis.

According to ETC Group, peasants and Indigenous peoples are the sole food providers for 70 percent of the world’s population, and they use only 30 percent of the earth’s natural resources to get all of the food to the table.

“No chemical has ever touched our soil. We have held onto our traditional seeds which withstand many of the climate challenges we are facing”, explained Michaelin Sibanda, a young peasant from Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF). “We know that, to have healthy food and healthy ecosystems, we need to have healthy soil.”

The principles of agroecology help to conserve water, soils and seeds. But, for La Via Campesina, agroecology is also political: “It is proven that there is resilience in agroecology, and resilience is also resistance — it relates to the way we organize collectively and bring together concrete proposals for change that are sustained by work and struggle in our different territories,” explained Jesús Vázquez, a young organizer and activist from the Organization Boricuá of Agroecology in Puerto Rico. In September 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by two, back-to-back hurricanes which severely undermined all aspects of life on the island, including food production. Vázquez continued,

“In the context of these hurricanes, we have witnessed that agroecological practices are more resistant to extreme weather phenomena, they bring resilience. Many roots and tubers, have pulled through the disaster. Many peasants and farmers are already back in the fields planting and cultivating despite the fact that the Secretary of Agriculture says that agriculture is completely devastated throughout the island. We are here to remind governments that the change must be systemic.”

La Via Campesina and their allies’ proposals for addressing the climate crisis get to the root cause of the problem — corporate control over decision-making and the resulting processes of land and water grabbing, peasant criminalization and human rights abuses in the transnational supply chains used to produce food. “At the climate negotiations, governments are putting forward false solutions. We call them false because these proposals do not bring real change but, rather, bolster corporate profits,” said Fanny Metrat, from the French peasant organization Confédération Paysanne. “Carbon markets, geoengineering, so-called climate smart agriculture are being promoted by the same people who are also promoting emission-intensive livestock production and an export-based industrial agriculture which requires massive amounts of fossil fuels. It is a big contradiction,” she explained.

At COP23, these contradictions are becoming clear. The German government, a big promoter of green economy, has positioned itself as spearheading efforts to address climate change while also expanding the production of coal—the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. The international delegation of La Via Campesina members joined the over 4.000 people strong Ende Gelände (‘Here, and No Further’) march and civil disobedience action against Germany’s largest mining company, KWE, strengthening the message that the most important action to address climate crisis is to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Bernd Schmitz, from the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) the farmer member organization of La Via Campesina in Germany, underlined the need for changes in Germany. Speaking to journalists, Schmitz said,

“The consequences of global warming are felt all over the world. In Germany, we have had extreme droughts in some regions and extreme rains in others. This year, because of severe hailstorms, we lost nearly all fruit production in some areas of Germany! The government is too slow to respond to the problem. The AbL contends that smallholder agriculture, which includes a localized food chain and ecological food production, helps to solve the problem. This system uses less fossil energy, reducing the emission of dangerous greenhouse gases. Small farmers around the world urgently need support to feed people and maintain their livelihoods in the context of climate change.”

La Via Campesina has been joined by other frontline communities, including from within the It Takes Roots delegation of impacted communities based in the United States and also the fisherfolk and peasants within the Global Convergence for Land and Water Struggles. A representative of the West African contingent of the Convergence, Massa Koné, from Mali, was clear about the importance of working with allies to address climate change and multiple injustices: “As grassroots organizations, we have similar perspectives on the problems and what we need to do about them. La Via Campesina allows our communities to be heard. Our call for system change is urgent because the damage is growing. Commons, including land, forests and water, must be protected and restored to the people. We need to work together with our allies to be prepared for climate change.”

U.S. unions fighting climate change with innovative campaigns

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, November 7, 2017

Labour and climate activists gathered to exchange experiences and plan for future action at the Second Labor Convergence on Climate event, held on September 23-24, under the banner “Building Worker Power to Confront Climate Change.”  The meeting was hosted by the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS), which  recently released a report on the meetings  summarizing the impressive initiatives and projects,  including:  the Canadian Postal Workers Union proposal Delivering Community Power,  which envisions expansion and re-purposing of the postal station network to provide electric vehicle charging stations, farm-to-table food delivery, and  community banking ; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters described the San Francisco Zero Waste program that now diverts 80% of municipal waste from landfills into recycling and composting and provides union jobs; Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199  described their environmental and climate justice programs, resulting from the impact of disasters  like Superstorm Sandy;  worker training programs at the Net-Zero Energy training facility built by the  International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 595 in partnership with the Northern California National Electrical Contractors Association; the United Food and Commercial Workers described their experience with the  Good Food Purchasing Policy as a tool for protecting and enhancing labor standards for workers in the food industry and advancing climate justice; and the International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen profiled their successful Green Diesel campaign to win cleaner fuel engines and a visionary strategy called  “Solutionary Rail” ,  profiled in “How we can turn railroads into a climate solution”  in Grist (March 2017) and in “ Electric Trains everywhere – A Solution to crumbling roads and climate crisis”  in  YES Magazine (May 2017).

Participants at the Second Labor Convergence on Climate included over 130 people –  labour union leaders, organizers, and rank and file activists from 17 unions, 3 state federations/central labor councils and 6 labor support organizations,  as well as environmental and economic justice activists.

Food Sovereignty is the true solution to uphold Peoples’ Right to Climate Justice

By Ulf Allhoff-Cramer and Paula Gioia - La Via Campesina, November 6, 2017

PEASANT AGROECOLOGY CAN FEED THE WORLD AND COOL THE PLANET | FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IS THE TRUE SOLUTION TO UPHOLD PEOPLES’ RIGHT TO CLIMATE JUSTICE

On Friday, November 3rd, at 6pm in Bonn (Germany), the People’s Climate Summit 2017 began, opening an important space for social movements to put forward alternatives and solutions to the global climate crisis. This summit will last until 7th of November and bring together thousands of delegates and climate activists from all over the world.

Just this year, we witnessed several disasters due to increased impacts of climate change, both in scale and intensity: hurricanes, floods, tropical storms, droughts, heat waves and other forms of devastation. The most affected are the world’s peasants, poor people, rural workers, fisherfolk and Indigenous peoples, especially the women and youth among them. Tragically, many people have been uprooted from their homes and livelihoods and forced to migrate. The stakes for action are high and mounting.

“Humanity is on a collision course with itself. We are generating nuclear waste that we can’t get rid of for a million years! We are taking back the planet’s climate to a state that existed millions of years ago and it is unjust and inhumane for our generation to do so. Our actions are not only harming ourselves but also future generations who never contributed to the climate crisis. For peasants all over the world, climate change is a question of survival. The climate crisis has to be stopped!”, says Ulf Allhoff-Cramer of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL).

To the accelerating crisis, world governments are responding with business-as-usual ‘false’ solutions that seek to maintain and expand markets for transnational corporations. These false solutions, including Carbon Capture and storage, creation of carbon markets, so-called Climate Smart Agriculture, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), geoengineering and other schemes further degrade life on Earth. They do not meet the requirements for action that science and justice demand. We must, therefore, make peoples’ voices heard at all levels of the UN COP23.

“The voice of the people is needed now more than ever before. We urgently need to mobilize together with civil society to push for our true solutions based on food sovereignty, which cool the Earth and increase democratic control of energy production at the local level. We must change the system, and by this, stop the system from changing the climate”, says Paula Gioia, who is La Via Campesina’s International Coordinating Committee member from the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC).

La Via Campesina—the world’s largest peasant movement—will be represented at the People’s Summit by delegates from East Timor, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Brazil, Puerto Rico, USA, Canada, France and Belgium. They will cooperate with the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) – LVC’s member organisation in Germany – and other allied grassroots movements and NGOs.

The programmes include plenary sessions, a people’s tribunal for the rights of nature and street mobilisations. Many issues will be discussed including: peasant agroecology, food sovereignty, climate justice, just transition towards building local economies and the collective cooling of the planet. Other issues of importance such as migrant rights in a context of climate crisis will also be addressed.

This Is Blockadia

By Daria Rivin and Alice Owen - Common Dreams, November 3, 2017

As world leaders prepare to meet in Germany to negotiate climate action at COP23, activists are putting words into action by blockading a nearby coal mine. Their message is that leaders need to grasp the urgency of keeping fossil fuels in the ground, right here and right now. With an increasing frequency and intensity, such direct actions and the associated demands for climate justice are unfolding on every continent.

These interwoven spaces of resistances are Blockadia. Based on the new Blockadia Map of 70 cases, an international team of researchers has observed a significant increase in the frequency of these resistances; all conflicts with a known start date before 2006 amount to 16 cases, whereas there are 48 conflicts starting within the last ten years.

In solidarity with all climate change affected communities of the world

By staff - La Via Campesina, November 1, 2017

Solidarity Statement

Harare: October 27, 2017

La Via Campesina International Coordinating Committee (ICC) gathered in Harare affirms its support and solidarity with the victims of the climate crisis around the world.

Since August this year we witnessed several disasters due to increased impacts of the human made climate change both in scale and intensity: hurricanes, floods, tropical storms, droughts, heat waves and more. This year only the Atlantic hurricane season had about 15 tropical storms, 10 hurricanes of which 6 (Harvey, Irma, Maria, etc.), were major and led lost lives, homes, and damage running in to huge financial impacts in Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, United States of America, etc. Africa also experienced flooding in West Africa (i.e. Sierra Leone) besides continuing droughts in parts of North and sub-Sahara Africa. In Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc.) experienced flooding which led to thousands of deaths and the destruction of croplands.

In Europe too, severe droughts and high temperatures and winds have made it difficult to control forest fires. Recently, intense storms (Xavier, Herwart, Ophelia) have battered some countries (Germany, Ireland, Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic) leaving a trail of destruction devastating storms. In all these cases hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, thousands killed. The most affected are our brothers and sisters, the peasants, poor people, rural workers, the indigenous and the fisherfolk, some of whom have been forced to migrate. Climate change continues to aggravate the life conditions of many peasants who are already suffering marginalisation and repression from capitalist state. Both in the urban areas and countryside, our sisters and brothers have limited resources to rebuild their lives, their homes, their plots and their communities.

La Via Campesina is appalled by the continued denial of the link between these climate change catastrophes to anthropogenic emissions and also by the recent pull out by U.S. President Donald Trump.

We urgently call upon our allies, friends and social movements to galvanise their struggles towards a system change. We urgently need to mobilize together with the civil society to push for our true solutions based on food sovereignty and peasant agroecology which cool the Earth and increase democratic control of energy production at the local level.

Therefore, during the forthcoming UN climate talks in Bonn (Germany) we will be on the streets pushing forward our peasant agenda, our true solutions and staying in solidarity with all climate change affected communities of the world today.

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