Grassroots groups call climate protests

June 21, 2015

Grassroots climate groups are calling for large protests in cities around the world to coincide with the United Nations climate talks held in Paris in November and December, known as COP21.

In France, a broad coalition of almost 100 groups, including trade unions, have created Coalition Climat 21 to organise mass mobilisations before and during the Paris talks.

The International Trade Union Confederation has called for its affiliates to join with civil society groups in organising protests on November 28. It will hold a trade union climate summit in Paris on September 14 and 15 to discuss the campaign for green jobs.

The protests will demand serious action on climate change that prioritises climate justice.

After years of UN talks failing to achieve an international agreement for significant cuts to greenhouse emissions, climate activists are not pinning their hopes on these talks.

But the talks are seen as a good opportunity to build the climate movement by organising large protests and advancing a vision for what a just post-carbon world could look like.

Coalition Climat 21 says: “The fight for a safe climate for all neither begins nor ends with the Paris climate talks. But 2015 is our best moment in years to come together to demand the world we know is within our reach.”

Despite, or rather because of, the inaction by governments, there is a global rise in direct action and protests by people around the world in their own communities — which US author and activist Naomi Klein calls “blockadia”.

From the battle to stop the tar sands drilling in North America, to the militant movements against gas fracking in many countries, and growing campaign for institutions to divest from fossil fuels, protests movements along with changing economics are placing the fossil fuel industry under pressure.

A renewed sense of hope in the climate movement was on display in New York last September when 400,000 people demonstrated for climate action in actions that coincided with COP20.

A draft climate agreement was reached during preliminary talks in Bonn in early June that aims to limit global emissions rise to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. But even if this survives negotiations to be included in the final document, how will this target be achieved?

International aid NGO ActionAid has warned that businesses are pushing for the goal of “net-zero emissions” to be included in the document. This sounds like a step forward, but it actually means something very different to “zero emissions”.

Instead of cutting emissions immediately, it promotes a business-as-usual approach. This would allow companies to “offset” their emissions through large-scale use of land, biofuels and biomass to absorb rising emissions. Or else by science fiction measures, such as dropping iron filings in the ocean to create algae blooms.

Not only will this approach delay real climate action, it will likely lead to land grabs in the developing world, driving the poorest off their land. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated it would require between 500 million and 6 billion hectares of land to offset at the rate needed.

Teresa Anderson, climate policy officer for ActionAid International said: “Talk of ‘net-zero emissions’ is not only unambitious and ambiguous, it is also dangerous. Farmers the world over need the climate talks to deliver urgent and massive emission reductions – or they could not just lose their crops but also the land they depend on for survival.”

Non-government organisations are also pushing for a new loss and damage mechanism to be included in the deal to give financial compensation for countries already affected by damage caused by the changing climate.

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