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Power to the People! - delegates voice their demand at the UNFCCC meeting in Bonn. Photo: Volveremos.
Power to the People! - delegates voice their demand at the UNFCCC meeting in Bonn. Photo: Volveremos.
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  • Power to the People! - delegates voice their demand at the UNFCCC meeting in Bonn. Photo: Volveremos.
    Power to the People! - delegates voice their demand at the UNFCCC meeting in Bonn. Photo: Volveremos.

Negotiating a global climate agreement - Power to the People!

Maruska Mileta & Jamie Gorman

7th June 2014

At last year's climate talks in Warsaw the corporate fossil fuel lobby was firmly in charge - and the result was catastrophic failure. At the talks now under way in Bonn, it's our turn to set the agenda - the billions of people crying out for positive action on climate and energy.

After the disastrous Warsaw conference, polluters must no longer be allowed to set the agenda for the future of the planet and our communities.

At the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany, social movements are demanding that the developed countries commit to ambitious action on climate change - laying the foundations for an effective, equitable climate treaty in 2015.

The talks this week are the first since the climate conference in Warsaw last November - where corporate sponsorship of the negotiations tarnished the process irrevocably.

Social movements and civil society walked out in protest at the lack of ambition by developed countries and the 'corporate capture' of the event, but stating "Volveremos - we'll be back!"

Today, civil society is back - and strengthened. Amongst us are the voices of those who are already acting with the urgency needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change - the huge majority of civil society around the world that cannot be ignored any longer.

Peoples Declaration widely welcomed

This morning the People's Declaration was presented to Venezuela's Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Claudia Salerno Caldera. Venezuela is hosting a civil society conference before this year's UN climate conference in Lima.

During small meetings afterwards the Presidents of the next climate conferences in Lima, Peru (2014) and Paris, France (2015) received it as well.

Peru's Minister for the Environment Manual Pulgar-Vidal welcomed the People's Declaration, as did Laurence Tubiana, special envoy for the French Foreign Affairs Minister.

The declaration condemns "the domination and sabotage of the international climate talks by powerful corporate interests" at the Warsaw talks. It sets out a clear agenda for climate justice (link to declaration: http://volveremos.org/)

The Volveremos coalition includes over 70 organisations from women's, farmers' and youth networks, the environmental movement and trade unions. Young Friends of the Earth Europe stands in solidarity with these movements and calls on EU governments to act on the voices of those who are being most affected by climate change; the Global South.

EU and G7 - still hooked on fossil fuels?

The talks in Bonn are essential to the road to Paris in 2015, where an ambitious and equitable global climate deal is urgently needed. Yet the question remains: which road will the EU and developed countries take at the climate talks in Paris and into the future?

Will they continue along the road carved by polluters in Warsaw or will they take the route of justice, necessary action and energy transformation?

Proposals unveiled by the EU and the G7 in Brussels this week suggest that governments in the Global North are still hooked on fossil fuel addiction. This is totally incompatible with tackling the climate crisis. 

We have also been hearing positive statements on climate action - for example the UK's statement in the Queens Speech that the government will "champion efforts to secure a global agreement on climate change". But at the same time a Bill was announced to expedite fracking.

Other countries are similarly compromised. So we have to wonder - which of these two contradictory policy directions will win out?

A clear and present danger

Since Warsaw the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have published two key reports which have shown the reality of human induced climate change.

They also underscored the need for urgent action to reduce emissions by the EU and other developed countries, who have a responsibility to take action having produced the vast majority of historic greenhouse gas emissions.

The People's Declaration further calls for governments, particularly in the Global North, to "commit to a global goal of limiting warming that recognises the latest IPCC's warnings on the threats of tipping points, and to the right to food and food sovereignty."

Governments are acting as if a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature rise would be acceptable. Yet the reality is that science suggests this would be too much for many vulnerable people and countries.

Polluters must no longer set the climate agenda

After the disastrous Warsaw conference, polluters must no longer be allowed to set the agenda for the future of the planet and our communities.

The planetary emergency requires us to transition beyond fossil fuels in our energy systems, not entrench ourselves ever more deeply in false solutions including fracking, nuclear, coal, agrofuels or hyper-dams.

The urgent action required is a question of social and environmental justice. Developed country governments must act in line with science and equity to reduce emissions and provide finance and technology for those in developing countries who urgently need it to adapt to climate change they are already experiencing.

Real solutions

The People's Declaration presented today calls for such a "swift global transformation away from the use of dirty fossil fuel and destructive energy systems driving the crisis". It also highlights the role of, "decentralised, community controlled, affordable, accessible" energy alternatives.

The neoliberal agenda of many EU governments is putting profit before people. Big fossil fuel businesses are having overbearing power over politicians, seeking private greed over public interest and the planet. This is the root causes of the climate crisis we are facing.

Many inspiring solutions which are helping to bring about an energy transition can be found in local communities.

People's control over energy and the decentralisation of energy systems, which are now mostly in the hands of big corporations, plays an essential part in stirring ambitious emissions reductions in developed countries.

Renewable energy for the people!

Community renewable energy systems are already reducing emissions, providing energy access to the billions of people who have survived without for far too long, and generating huge local benefits in employment and wider quality of life.

The sector offers enormous potential as a vehicle for mitigation - but to spread as fast as it needs to, and challenge heavily subsidised centralised fossil fuel-based power generation, it needs to be supported by government policy, enabling legislation and cost-effective financing mechanisms such as feed in tariffs.

In Sisante, Spain, a new community solar energy project is a partnership between communities, civil society and renewable energy provider technology. The partnership is putting the control of energy into the hands of those who use it.

The Sisante project is one of over 60 new community energy projects which are contributing to Spain's 40-60% share of renewable energy in the grid. That is only one of thousands projects across the world.

Building the climate justice movement

Community renewable energy projects show that the solutions to the climate crisis are being forged in the grassroots.

People want change because it is they - the local communities, Indigenous peoples, women, young people, workers and migrants - who are feeling the catastrophic social and environmental consequences of climate change.

Ordinary communities are showing the path to climate justice. From opposing large dams in the Philippines and Latin America and resisting the Keystone XL pipeline in Canada and the United States, to opposing destructive shale gas explorations in Ireland, the UK and Romania and fighting dirty coal fired projects in the Balkans and Poland.

The required systemic change urgently needs a broad people's movement which exerts real pressure on polluting corporations and governments who subsidise or condone their actions.

Sustainability or chaos?

So which road will the EU and developed countries take? Will they stand with the communities who are showing the path to a just and sustainable world?

Or will they walk hand and hand with polluters down the road of climate chaos?

 


 

Maruska Mileta & Jamie Gorman are climate justice campaigners with Young Friends of the Earth Europe.

Follow Young Friends of the Earth Europe at the UN climate intersessionals in Bonn for further updates and analysis:

 

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