History's Lesson for Climate Action: No Other Choice 'but Mass Mobilization'

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With less than 100 days until high-level UN climate talks take place in Paris, key leaders from the global climate justice movement have come together with a joint statement that affirms their belief that only mass popular mobilizations across the planet demanding a drastic reckoning with the world's fossil fuel paradigm will suffice when it comes to confronting the increasingly dire and intertwined threats of neoliberal capitalism and planetary climate change.

In a pair of "concretely" expressed demands aimed at world leaders, the signatories to the statement say governments must "end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry" and move swiftly to "freeze fossil fuel extraction by leaving untouched 80% of all existing fossil fuel reserves."

With the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) scheduled to hold its 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) meeting in France at the end of November, the list of notable activists, academics, and policy experts—including South African Archbisop Desmond Tutu, Canadian author and journalist Naomi Klein, Greenpeace International head Kumi Naidoo, Indian biophysicist Vandana Shiva, American linguist Noam Chomsky, Nigerian environmental campaigner Nnimmo Bassey, former climate negotiator for the Philippines Yeb Saño, and many others—acknowledges that twenty previous meetings over recent years have accomplished far too little while the planetary crisis of global warming has only worsened.

"For more than 20 years," the statement declares, "governments have been meeting, yet greenhouse gas emissions have not decreased and the climate keeps changing. The forces of inertia and obstruction prevail, even as scientific warnings become ever more dire."

Acknowledging their set of demands "implies a great historical shift," the signers of the statement say the globalized justice movement for will no longer "wait for states" to make the needed changes on schedules dictated by the powerful fossil fuel corporations, large agro-businesses, financial elites, or governments in the thrall of such interests.

"Slavery and apartheid did not end because states decided to abolish them," the statement reads. "Mass mobilisations left political leaders no other choice."

The statement will be officially published on Thursday as part of a book and media project, called Stop Climate Crimes, orchestrated by the climate action group 350.org and French campaigners at Attac, which focuses on creating a more sustainable and equitable global economy. Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350, told the Guardian the project is a solid first step ahead of COP21 and an indication of the messaging that groups like his will be articulating ahead of, during, and after the talks.

"It’s important for everyone to know that the players at Paris aren’t just government officials and their industry sidekicks," McKibben said. "Civil society is going to have its say, and noisily if need be."

The Guardian's Emma Howard, who had an advanced look at the Stop Climate Crimesproject, reports:

The book is a collection of essays, many published for the first time. In the foreword, Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town who rose to fame for his stance against apartheid, writes: "Reducing our carbon footprint is not just a scientific necessity; it has also emerged as the human rights challenge of our time ... history proves that when human beings walk together in pursuit of a righteous cause, nothing can resist."

In an essay on how climate change is impacting Africa, the Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey writes: "Temperature rises pose universal problems to the whole world, but more so for Africa. This is so because Africa has 50% higher temperatures than the global average ... burning Africa is what is at stake."

Last week, 350.org executive director May Boeve, released details of her group's action plan surrounding the Paris talks by informing supporters that the time for "feeling powerless" in the face of climate crisis and government inertia was over. With a set of actions scheduled prior to the talks across the world and a vocal presence during COP21 itself, Boeve indicated that the most exciting activism would likely come in the new year when activists will mobilize "in a global wave of action unlike any" the world has seen before.

"Not one big march in one city, not a scattering of local actions," she continued, "but rather a wave of historic national and continent-wide mobilizations targeting the fossil fuel projects that must be kept in the ground, and backing the energy solutions that will take their place."

Meanwhile, international civil society groups in recent weeks have released documents articulating what, in their minds, a successful climate agreement in Paris would like and briefing statements about what the inherent limitations of the UNFCCC process continue to be. Scientists from around the world have also made it clear that immediate and meaningful climate action is essential in order to stave off the worst impacts of a rapidly warming world.

The joint statement, entitled "Freeze Fossil Fuel Extraction to Stop Climate Crimes" and published online here, follows in its entirety:

We are at a crossroads. We do not want to be compelled to survive in a world that has been made barely livable for us. From South Pacific Islands to the shores of Louisiana, from the Maldives to the Sahel, from Greenland to the Alps, the daily lives of millions of us are already being disrupted by the consequences of climate change. Through ocean acidification, the submersion of South Pacific Islands, forced migration in the Indian Subcontinent and Africa, frequent storms and hurricanes, the current ecocide affects all species and ecosystems, threatening the rights of future generations. And we are not equally impacted by climate change: Indigenous and peasant communities, poor communities in the global South and in the global North are at the frontlines and most affected by these and other impacts of climate disruption.

We are not under any illusions. For more than 20 years, governments have been meeting, yet greenhouse gas emissions have not decreased and the climate keeps changing. The forces of inertia and obstruction prevail, even as scientific warnings become ever more dire.

This comes as no surprise. Decades of liberalization of trade and investments have undermined the capacity of states to confront the climate crisis. At every stage powerful forces – fossil fuel corporations, agro-business companies, financial institutions, dogmatic economists, skeptics and deniers, and governments in the thrall of these interests – stand in the way or promote false solutions. Ninety companies are responsible for two-thirds of recorded greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Genuine responses to climate change threatens their power and wealth, threatens free market ideology, and threatens the structures and subsidies that support and underwrite them.

We know that global corporations and governments will not give up the profits they reap through the extraction of coal, gas and oil reserves; and through global fossil fuel-based industrial agriculture. Our continuing ability to act, think, love, care, work, create, produce, contemplate, struggle, however, demands that we force them to. To be able to continue to thrive as communities, individuals and citizens, we all must strive for change. Our common humanity and the Earth demand it.

We are confident in our capacity to stop climate crimes. In the past, determined women and men have resisted and overcome the crimes of slavery, totalitarianism, colonialism or apartheid. They decided to fight for justice and solidarity and knew no one would do it for them. Climate change is a similar challenge, and we are nurturing a similar uprising.

We are working to change everything. We can open the way to a more livable future, and our actions are much more powerful than we think. Around the world, our communities are fighting against the real drivers of the climate crisis, protecting territories, working to reduce their emissions, building their resilience, achieving food autonomy through small scale ecological farming, etc.

On the eve of the UN Climate Conference to be held in Paris-Le Bourget, we declare our determination to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This is the only way forward.

Concretely, governments have to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and to freeze fossil fuel extraction by leaving untouched 80% of all existing fossil fuel reserves.

We know that this implies a great historical shift. We will not wait for states to make it happen. Slavery and apartheid did not end because states decided to abolish them. Mass mobilisations left political leaders no other choice.

The situation today is precarious. We have, however, a unique opportunity to reinvigorate democracy, to dismantle the dominance of corporate political power, to transform radically our modes of production and consumption. Ending the era of fossil fuels is one important step towards the fair and sustainable society we need.

We will not waste this opportunity, in Paris or elsewhere, today or tomorrow.

The statement and its call for action was officially supported by the following individuals:

Agnès Sinaï (Institut Momentum), Alberto Acosta (économiste), Alex Randall (Climate Outreach), Amy Dahan (Historienne des Sciences), Bernard Guri (Centre for Indigenous Knowledge & Organisational Development), Bill McKibben (fondateur de 350.org), Boaventura de Sousa Santos (sociologue), Catherine Larrère (philosophe), Christophe Bonneuil (historien), Cindy Wiesner (Coordinator of Grassroots, Global Justice Alliance, USA), Claire Nouvian (Bloom), Claude Lorius (glaciologue), Clive Hamilton (philosophe), David Graeber (anthropologue), Desmond Tutu (archevêque émérite), Dominique Bourg (philosophe), Dominique Méda (sociologue), Edgardo Lander (sociologue), Eduardo Viveiros de Castro (anthropologue), Emilie Hache (philosophe), Erri de Luca (écrivain), Esperanza Martinez (ancienne ministre de la Santé publique du Paraguay), Esther Vivas (chercheure et militante altermondialiste), François Gemenne (politiste), Frank Murazumi (Amis de la Terre Ouganda), Gaël Giraud (économiste), Geneviève Azam (économiste), George Monbiot (journaliste), Gerry Arrances (militant anti-charbon), Gilles Boeuf (président du MNHN), Gilles Clément (paysagiste), Gilles-Éric Séralini Godwin Ojo (Amis de la Terre, Nigeria), Gus Massiah (Cedetim), Guy Aurenche (président du CCFD), Isabelle Frémeaux (Laboratoire des Imaginaires Insurrectionnels), Isabelle Stengers (philosophe), Jacques Testart (biologiste), Jean-Baptiste Fressoz (historien), Jean-Pierre Dupuy (philosophe), Jean Gadrey (économiste), Jeanne Planche (Attac France), John Holloway (sociologue et philosophe), Joan Martinez Alier (économiste), John Jordan (Laboratoire des Imaginaires Insurrectionnels), Jon Palais (Bizi !), Kaddour Hadadi (musicien et chanteur, HK et les Saltimbanks), Kevin Smith (Liberate Tate), Kumi Naidoo (Greenpeace International), Larry Lohmann (The Corner House), Lech Kowalski (réalisateur), Leonardo Boff (théologien), Lidy Nacpil (Jubilee South), Mamadou Goïta (Institut de recherche et de promotion des alternatives au développement, Mali), Louise Hazan (350.org), Marc Dufumier (agronome), Marc Luyckx Ghisi (écrivain), Marc Robert (chimiste), Marie-Monique Robin (journaliste), Maude Barlow (Food & Water Watch), Maxime Combes (économiste, membre d’Attac), Naomi Klein (essayiste), Michael Hardt (philosophe), Michael Löwy (sociologue), Mike Davis (historien et sociologue), Noam Chomsky (linguiste et philosophe), Nick Hildyard (The Corner House), Nicolas Haeringer (350.org), Nnimmo Bassey (Oil Watch International), Noble Wadzah (Oil Watch Afrique), Olivier Bétourné (éditeur), Olivier de Schutter (juriste), Pablo Servigne (collapsologue), Pablo Solon (ancien ambassadeur de la Bolivie), Pat Mooney (ETC Group), Patrick Chamoiseau (écrivain), Patrick Viveret (philosophe), Paul Lannoye (ancien député européen), Philippe Bihouix (ingénieur), Philippe Desbrosses (Intelligence Verte), Philippe Descola (anthropologue), Pierre Rabhi (agronome et penseur de l’écologie), Pierre-Henri Gouyon (écologue), Priscilla Achakpa (Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, Nigéria), Razmig Keucheyan (sociologue), Rebecca Foon (musicienne), Roger Cox (avocat), Saskia Sassen (sociologue), Serge Latouche (économiste), Soumya Dutta (Alliance nationale des mouvements anti-nucléaires, Inde), Stefan C. Aykut (politiste), Susan George (économiste), Swoon (artiste), Thomas Coutrot (économiste, porte-parole d’Attac), Tom Kucharz (Ecologistas en Accion, Espagne), Tony Clarke (International Forum on Globalization), Txetx Etcheverry (Alternatiba), Valérie Cabannes (End Ecocide), Valérie Masson-Delmotte (climatologue), Vandana Shiva (physcienne et écologiste), Vincent Devictor (écologue), Vivienne Westwood (styliste), Yeb Saño (ancien ambassadeur des Philippines pour le climat), Yvonne Yanez (Oil Watch).

This story was originally published on Common Dreams.


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