By Agbonkhese Oboh
Hundreds of protesters from civil society organisations, peoples’ movements, trade unions, indigenous peoples, youths, women and gender groups joined forces, Wednesday, to demand rich countries step up ambition and action to tackle the climate crisis.
The demonstration took place as ministers headed into the late stages of talks at the United Nations Climate Conference of Parties, COP 25, in Madrid.
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More protesters from the People’s Summit (Cumbre Social) joined the action outside the Feria de Madrid conference centre, drawing attention to the injustice of inaction from rich countries as billions of people in the Global South are already seeing their lives devastated by the climate emergency.
Rights groups say over a week of climate talks in Madrid have produced little to no progress on several key issues, including the need for the rich countries and polluting industries that have historically driven the climate crisis to provide finance to support communities recovering from increasingly severe disasters.
Instead, the activists said, the response from governments at the summit has been green-washing, false solutions, and
dangerous loopholes in proposed carbon markets.
Developed nations have also worked to water down and strip away measures to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, women and communities in the Global South, and agreements on a robust gender action plan, they added.
The groups demonstrating Wednesday, collectively representing hundreds of millions of members, expressed outrage that while big polluters and their lobbyists have been given free rein to influence negotiators, civil society’s response is being repressed, as eight people have been arrested at this year’s climate talks for protesting against conflicts of interest.
Avishek Shrestha, from Digo Bikas Institute Nepal, said: “We are here to remind governments that climate finance is a crucial pillar in the Paris Agreement and should no longer be sidelined.
“We are outraged by the fact that some governments, like the US, EU and Australia continue to avoid their financial responsibility. Instead of acknowledging their fair share
of obligations, they continue to be heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry.
“And now they are putting carbon trading and other market mechanisms on the table to conceal their insufficient and unfulfilled pledges at the Green Climate Fund, and avoid liability and financial obligations to address loss and damage.”
For Kwami Kpondzo of Friends of the Earth Togo, “some countries in these halls behind us are trying to buy and sell pollution, double count carbon credits and include loopholes which would only give a license to big polluters to keep emitting.
“A dirty deal on carbon markets will lock us in to even more emissions, further temperature rise, continued fossil fuel use and decades of inaction, distraction, and corporate power-grabbing. At the very moment we should be cutting emissions they are trying to game the system.
“Tom Goldtooth, from Indigenous Environmental Network, commented: “Stop the planet grab for colonialism. The UN, the government, corporations, extractive industries, want to use half the world’s land, including indigenous peoples’ territories, for a false solution to climate change called carbon offsets.
“Carbon offsets do not reduce global warming but privatises Mother Earth and nature, including the air we breathe. Offsets corrupt the sacred. Our sky is not for sale, nor is the future of humanity.”
Catherine Abreu, Climate Action Network Canada Executive Director, said: “For so many people gripped by devastating floods, fires and storms, time is up. And instead of helping them, rich countries hold on to their dollars and hold up loss and damage finance.”
Addressing politicians at COP25 in Madrid, Abreu added: “You talk about inclusivity and then developed and developing countries alike bicker over the few paltry words that enshrine human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples in these talks.
“You delay Just Transitions for workers and communities. You systematically chip away at civil society space. You can’t even land a Gender Action Plan.”
According to Taily Terena, from the Terena nation of Brazil, Women & Gender Constituency and the
Indigenous People’s Constituency, “the rise of macho fascists from Brazil, Chile, the US, Philippines and other countries have not only eroded our rights but are affecting the lived experiences of indigenous peoples, women, non-binary
peoples and people of colour.
“Feminists and indigenous people call for systems change immediately.
“Calling for the protection of human rights, especially for indigenous peoples, women and environmental defenders as they are the most affected and persecuted groups.”
Angela Valenzuela, from Fridays For Future, said: “From Santiago to Madrid, the world is waking up to the climate crisis. We have listened to the frontline communities, the science and the suffering of our people. We say enough.
“We no longer will support the systems that drive the climate crisis. We will continue to rise against governments that don’t represent us, and that prioritise profit over the wellbeing of its people and climate.”
Ms Lebogang Mulaisi, from the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU, South Africa, said: “Without a just transition we have no social justice. Climate change impacts everyone and especially my continent of Africa.
“Across the Global South the impact manifests in one crisis after another — on top of the climate crisis, there is an economic crisis, unemployment, poverty, inequality, as well as the political and social crisis in democracy.
“Climate change is caused by our current system of production,
distribution and consumption—a system which is both unjust and unsustainable within countries and across the world.”