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Rejection of free trade agreements and the demand for a decent income at the heart of farmers’ mobilizations in Europe

By European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) - La Via Campesina, January 25, 2024

In Germany, France, Poland, Romania, Belgium and beyond, we are seeing increasing numbers of farmers taking to the streets. Low incomes and a lack of future prospects for the vast majority of farmers is at the root of this discontent, which is largely linked to the neo-liberal policies the European Union has pursued for decades. ECVC is calling for these protests to be taken seriously and for a change in the direction of European agricultural and food policies: it is time to put an end to Free Trade Agreements and resolutely set out on the road to food sovereignty.

Huge numbers of farmers have been taking action across different European countries in recent weeks. Many farmers are struggling under the pressure of neoliberal policies that prevent fair prices. Debt and work overload are skyrocketing, while farm incomes are plummeting.

European farmers need real answers to their problems, not smoke and mirrors. We demand an immediate end to negotiations on the FTA with MERCOSUR countries and a moratorium on all other FTAs currently being negotiated. We demand the effective application of the Unfair Trading Prices (UTP) directive and a ban on selling below production costs at European level, following the example of Spain. Prices paid to farmers must cover production costs and ensure a decent income. Our incomes depend on agricultural prices, and it is unacceptable that these should be subject to financial speculation.

We therefore call for agricultural policies based on market regulation, with prices that cover production costs and public stocks. We call for sufficient budget to allow CAP subsidies to be redistributed to support the transition to an agricultural model capable of meeting the challenges of the climate and biodiversity crises. All farmers who already practice environmentally-friendly farming practices and all those who decide to embark on an agroecological, more sustainable transition process must be supported and accompanied in the long term. It is unacceptable that under the current CAP, a minority of very large farms receive hundreds of thousands of euros in public aid while the majority of European farmers receive little to no aid at all.

ECVC is concerned to see attempts from the far right to exploit and use this anger and the mobilisations to drive its own agenda, including denying climate change, calling for lower environmental standards and blaming migrant workers in rural areas, all of which has nothing to do with farmers’ interests nor improves their future prospects. On the contrary, denying the realities of the climate crisis risks trapping farmers in a succession of increasingly intense disasters, from heatwaves and droughts to floods and storms. We need to take action, and we farmers are ready to make the necessary changes to tackle environmental, climate and food problems but this will not be possible as long as we are forced to produce at low prices in a globalised and deregulated market. Similarly, migrant workers today play a fundamental role both in agricultural production and in the agri-food industry: without these workers, we would be short of labour forces in Europe to produce and process food. The rights of agricultural workers must be fully respected.

ECVC is calling on political decision-makers at European level to act quickly to respond to the anger and concerns of farmers. We need a real change in agricultural policy that puts farmers at the heart of policy-making and gives us prospects for the future. ECVC proposes real solutions to this crisis, described in our Manifesto for agricultural transition in the face of systemic climate crises.

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Lessons from Germany for a Just Transition

By Florian Ranft and Johanna Siebert - Green European Journal, January 19, 2024

External shocks, coalition infighting, and an opportunistic far right have driven the German government’s approval rate to a new low. Contested climate policies offer Greens in Berlin and across Europe some useful lessons: to gain support from the people, the green transition needs to address social concerns, allow for democratic participation, and be implemented locally.

Economic recession, budget cuts, and the rise of the far right are the new reality in Germany – an explosive mix, we know from historical experience. Little over two years into government, the self-proclaimed “coalition of progress” is being put to the test. The approval ratings of the coalition parties ‒ the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens, and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) ‒ are at a new low, even though the coalition has implemented many of its policy pledges. 

While it’s not uncommon for mid-term approval ratings to be low, the government is going through a particularly tough time. Setting out with the ambition to “dare more progress” by boosting renewables, expanding affordable housing, and raising spending on education, the governing parties have found themselves sidetracked. The multiple interlocking crises of Putin’s war in Ukraine, surging energy prices, the rising cost of living, and higher borrowing costs certainly played a role.

On top of that, the ideological differences between the coalition partners have made finding common ground on economic and social reforms difficult. This is particularly true for climate policies, as demonstrated last year by the dispute over the Building Energy Act. The Green party’s flagship bill ‒ aimed at phasing out oil and gas heating systems ‒ was vehemently opposed by the FDP as too costly, opening a rift in the coalition. What was intended as a major step towards reaching Germany’s emission target in the building sector has now been so watered down that the country looks unlikely to reach its 2030 emissions reduction target.

While the Greens are pushing for pragmatic change within the limits of what’s possible, the FDP ‒ reflecting a reform-sceptic electorate ‒ is calling for a return to “fiscal prudence” after Germany suspended the constitutional “debt brake” for the fourth year in a row in 2023. The SPD and its Chancellor Olaf Scholz play the role of mediating the tension, while also pushing their own signature policies such as increasing the minimum wage to 12 euros per hour and expanding social security benefits. Yet, there is an open question regarding Scholz’s leadership within the coalition. Especially in terms of international politics, the chancellor’s agenda seems directionless in light of global challenges. 

Meanwhile, the (far) right has been capitalising on the governmental infighting. Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is successfully taking advantage of the general discontent and the heightened sense of economic and social insecurity. In the latest state elections in Bavaria and Hessen last October, the AfD achieved its best-ever results in western Germany. Since last summer, the AfD has been steadily ahead of all government coalition parties in national polls. Today it is in the lead in Brandenburg, Thuringia, and Saxony – three East German states due to hold regional elections this year. And it is also making gains at the local level, with the AfD’s first county commissioner in Sonneberg, Thuringia, and first mayors in Raguhn-Jeßnitz, Saxony-Anhalt and Pirna, Saxony. Although these are relatively small cities, the political victories have a high symbolic meaning.

The furore over the Building Energy Act appears to be a taste of what’s to come. The more ambitious and far-reaching the climate proposal, the stronger the political and societal resistance – a development that tends to play into the hands of far-right actors. How can progressives counter the far right’s challenges without compromising their reform agenda ahead of the European elections in June? 

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Renewable Energy is (Mostly) Green and Not Inherently Capitalist, Volume 1: Wind Power (REVISED)

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Eco Union Caucus, Revised January 16, 2024

Is renewable energy actually green? Are wind, solar, and storage infrastructure projects a climate and/or envi­ronmental solution or are they just feel-good, greenwashing, false "solutions" that either perpetuate the deep­ening climate and environmental crisis or just represent further extractivism by the capitalist class and the privileged Global North at the expense of front-line communities and the Global South? 

This document argues that, while there is no guarantee that renewable energy projects will ultimately be truly "green", there is nothing inherent in the technology itself that precludes them from being so. Ultimately the "green"-ness of the project depends on the level of rank-and-file, democratic, front-line community and working-class grassroots power with the orga­nized leverage to counter the forces that would use renewable energy to perpetuate the capitalist, colonialist, extractivist system that created the cli­mate and environmental crisis in which we find ourselves.

In‌ order to do that, we mustn't fall prey to the misconceptions and inaccuracies that paint renewable energy infrastructure projects as inherently anti-green. This series attempts to do just that. This first Volume, on utility scale wind power addresses several arguments made against it, including (but not limited to) the following misconceptions:

  • Humanity must abandon electricity completely;
  • Degrowth is the only solution;
  • New wind developments only expand overall consumption;
  • Wind power is unreliable and intermittent;
  • Wind power is just another form of "green" capitalism;
  • The extraction of resources necessary to build wind power negates any of their alleged green benefits;
  • Wind power is an extinction-level event threat to birds, bats, whales, and other wildlife (and possibly humans);
  • Only locally distributed renewable energy arrayed in microgrids should be built without any--even a small percentage--of utility scale wind developments;
  • Only nationalized and/or state-owned utility scale renewable energy developments should be built;
  • No wind power developments will be green unless we first organize a socialist revolution, because eve­rything else represents misplaced faith in capitalist market forces.

In fact, none of the above arguments are automatically true (and the majority are almost completely untrue). However, they're often repeated, sometimes ignorantly, but not too infrequently in bad faith. This document is offered as an inoculation and antidote to these misconceptions and misinformation.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Jeremy Brecher on How Labor and Climate Movements Build Power from Below

By Bob Buzzcanco, Scott Parkin, and Jeremey Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 14, 2023

In the latest Green and Red Podcast, Bob and Scott talk with author, labor historian and activist Jeremy Brecher who’s been engaged at the intersection of labor, the environment, and the climate for decades. Over 50 years ago, Jeremy authored “Strike,” a labor history classic. And then more recently he’s worked at the intersection of the labor and climate movements. We talk with Jeremy about strikes, unions, and union leadership since he first published “Strike;” the recent “Hot Labor Summer” of 2023; the labor-climate movements and much more.

Jeremy Brecher is a writer, historian, and activist who is the author of more than a dozen books on labor and social movements. His works include the labor history classic “Strike” and “Against Doom: A Climate Insurgency Manual.” Jeremy is also a Senior Advisor for the Labor Network for Sustainability.

Peasants at the frontline of the climate struggle share testimonies

By Jang Su-ji - La Via Campesina, January 10, 2024

Peasants around the globe find themselves at the forefront of the intensifying climate crisis, grappling with scorching droughts, heatwaves, torrential downpours, typhoons, and hailstorms. The adverse impacts of climate change is escalating rapidly, posing a direct threat to agriculture and food production worldwide. The 8th International Conference of La Via Campesina, held in Bogotá, Colombia, in December, provided a space for its members – small-holder farmers from more than 80 countries – to highlight the ongoing crises in their territories.

Chilean beekeepers, who spoke during the meeting, explained how they were among those who bore the brunt of this crisis. Extreme droughts had ignited forest fires, wreaking havoc on their livelihoods. In Turkey, according to peasant accounts, agricultural production plummeted by 50-60% in 2023 due to climate change effects, and the government’s responses, such as investing in solar panels on farmland and promoting electric vehicles, faced criticism for their inadequacy and unintended consequences – as they often came up on greenfield and fertile lands. In Sri Lanka, floods and droughts regularly disrupt farming, exacerbated by the government’s sale of natural resources to multinational corporations, leading to deforestation and hindering tea cultivation. Cambodian peasants explained how they grapple with the fallout of repeated typhoons, floods, and severe droughts, causing a 30% decline in agricultural production and forcing rural youth to migrate, jeopardizing food security.

Senegalese peasants also shared about their challenges. Fisherfolk and farmers are losing jobs due to flooding, prompting calls for international prosecution of transnational corporations responsible for climate impacts. Guatemalan peasants recounted how they are combating water resource depletion and forest loss, promoting agroecological farming to respond to climate change. Paraguayan peasants, facing deforestation and fires, are also advocating for agroecology as a solution. Those who came from Niger shared their experiences of severe food crises due to temperature increases, drought, and flooding, emphasizing the need to reduce carbon emissions and produce locally accessible agricultural products.

In Palestine, the combination of war and occupation accelerated climate change, diminishing agricultural production and food sovereignty. Palestinian peasants confront the accelerated impact of climate change under Israeli occupation, with olive trees being cut down, water resources seized, and high water prices imposed.

The Korean peasants who spoke at the Conference urged global unity against capitalist forces and multinational corporations to address the social and environmental aspects of the climate crisis. They also reflected on the global impact of the climate crisis, highlighting unpredictable losses for farmers and advocating against agrochemicals. This found echo among the French peasants who also called for international solidarity, prioritizing agroecology, and exposing false solutions and colonialist land grabs. Brazilian peasants who spoke at the event decried transnational corporations exploiting land and people, emphasizing the importance of concrete proposals and alternative solutions.

Congolese peasants asserted that the fight against climate change was a collective struggle, emphasizing biodiversity conservation and ecological agriculture for healthy food and planet protection. Honduran peasants stressed the importance of supporting agroecology schools and international aid to combat climate change. Peasants in the Dominican Republic emphasized the need to mobilize against neoliberal policies, capitalism, and imperialism in both rural and urban areas, advocating for large-scale campaigns to shift to ecological agriculture and achieve food sovereignty.

These testimonies of peasants worldwide revealed a shared struggle against the escalating climate crisis. From South America to Asia and Africa, the call for sustainable alternatives, such as agroecology, and the denouncement of inadequate responses and corporate exploitation echoed a united plea for global action to safeguard the future of agriculture and food production.

Big Oil's Dark Money Ad Campaign Exposed

By Staff - Center for Biological Diversity, January 8, 2024

This is an ongoing pillar of the fossil fuel industry’s playbook in California: front groups organized and funded by the oil companies masquerade as “broad coalitions” of concerned citizens and business representatives but are functionally opaque entities with a single mission: furthering the oil and gas industry’s agenda in the state.

Usually organized as 501(c)(4) nonprofits (“social welfare organizations”), such groups are referred to as “dark money” because they’re able to spend money on certain types of campaigns without revealing their donors. Under California law, these types of groups are legally permitted to spend funds on “issue advocacy” campaigns without revealing their donors.

Because these “issue advocacy” campaigns don’t explicitly advocate for or against ballot measures or referenda, millions of dollars can be spent to subtly influence voters without disclosing the true funders behind the messaging campaign. Because of the lack of donor disclosure, we refer to these groups as “dark money groups.”

This report profiles three such groups that have been actively pushing an oil industry ad campaign to promote anti-SB1137 talking points (higher gas prices, losing good jobs, foreign oil); all three track back to the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA) and to the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the top lobbyist for the oil industry in the western United States.

Download a copy of this publication here (link).

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