Paris Climate Summit as Opportunity for Global Movement Building

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Paris Climate Summit as Opportunity for Connecting the Dots and Global Movement Building

Some facts first, many of them taken from the latest New Internationalist No. 487 devoted to the Paris Climate Summit (COP 21) in early December. (The excellent introductory article ‘Forget Paris?’ by Jess Worth and Danny Chivers can be read online here: http://newint.org/features/2015/11/01/paris-cop-keynote/)

Useless Talkfests. Twenty years of international government meetings, one whole year of accumulated talking, have achieved nothing in terms of reducing the increasing threat of runaway global warming and total climate chaos. In that time global CO2 emissions have actually risen over 60%.

Usless Pledges. We already know that the voluntary, unenforceable emissions cuts which the most polluting governments are going to ‘pledge’ at COP21 in Paris won’t even keep global temperature rises below 3 degrees, a recipe for complete disaster, much less below the 1.5 degree rise considered relatively safe. (We have already warmed by 0.8 degrees above pre-industrial levels).

Why We Need Blockadia. To stay below 1.5 degrees, the maximum amount of CO2 the global economies can still emit is 240 billion tonnes, 840 billion tonnes to stay below 2 degrees. The amount that could be released by proven coal, oil and gas reserves is 3,270 billion tonnes, another 3,290 billion tonnes from mostly unproven shale gas, shale oil and coalbed methane reserves and 42,000 billion tonnes from unproven coal reserves. Thus, all but a very small fraction of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avoid the increasing likelihood of setting off self-escalating trigger points (e.g. melting permafrost and submarine methane hydrates) and runaway climate chaos.

Corporate False ‘Solutions’. To avoid keeping fossil fuels in the ground and to maintain power and the capitalist growth economy that is the root of the climate crisis, governments and corporations in Paris will be propagating their false ‘solutions’ like offsets and carbon trading, market-based approaches to forests (REDD) and to soil and water, large-scale geo-engineering and techno-fixes, nuclear energy, mega hydro dams, agro-fuels, ‘clean’ coal, GMOs, the ‘waste-to-energy’ industry. The corporate capture of climate programs and public discourse needs to be stopped, as does the so-called ‘Green Economy’ and the further commodification and financialization of nature and nature’s functions.

Climate Debt and Reparations. From a longer historical perspective, the top twelve nations responsible for the most per capita CO2 emissions since the beginning industrial age in 1850 are, in order of historical tonnes of CO2 emissions per person living today: US (1,167), UK (1,106), Germany (1,055), Canada (815), Russia (including Ukraine, 686), EU-28 (656), Australia (655), France (525), Japan (400), South Africa (284), Mexico (124), with China’s historical emissions (111 tonnes) only about 10% of each of the top three nations. India’s per capita emissions in the same time-frame were a mere 31 tonnes, and those of the least developed countries only 5 tonnes. Time for the rich nations to pay some reparations to the poor.

All these facts of course point to the need for system change, not climate change. As the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice (a global alliance of NGOs, http://demandclimatejustice.org/) says:

Nothing less than a systemic transformation of our societies, our economies, and our world will suffice to solve the climate crisis and close the ever-increasing inequality gap.

After over 20 years of stunted and ineffective action to reduce climate pollution by governments – particularly in wealthy countries that have failed to meet their legal and moral responsibilities – only urgent and transformative and systemic change that can address the root causes of the crisis and deliver what is needed to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the limit beyond which climate impacts will become potentially catastrophic.

The urgency to keep temperatures down is not just about the planet and the environment. It is about people, and our capacity as humanity to secure safe and dignified lives for all.

The same document also attests to an emerging process of connecting the dots between global and local, ecological and social issues:

All our struggles for justice around the world – for equality, food security, economic fairness, human rights, decent work, environmental protection and more – are interconnected and all are tied up in the struggle against runaway climate change.

Based on the growing solidarity between those demanding different aspects of the new world that is possible, we will hold all governments accountable not only to the policy outcome in Paris, but also to national and regional policies and to the actual needs of people and the planet.

All this makes Paris a potential opportunity for building the overarching global climate justice movement and solidarity we need to transform the system from below. Creative direct actions and mass civil disobedience will, as always, be the key to movement building and grassroots pressure in Paris. As John Jordan (from The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, http://labofii.net/) notes and advises:

The dots are finally being joined between the climate catastrophe, the refugee crisis, our value systems and capitalism. Rising faster than the seas, the global climate justice movement could have its coming-out party in Paris. The action will kick off with Global Climate Marches on 28 and 29 November, in cities across the world. (cf. globalclimatemarch.org)

The Citizen Climate Summit will take place on 5-6 December, in the Paris suburb of Montrueil. A huge gathering of NGOs and activists, including a village of alternatives. (cf. coalitionclimat21.org/en)

[You can also] take part in the world’s largest disobedient action adventure game, whether you’re coming to the COP or not. The Climate Games is a brand new form of protest, where play and politics merge. Working in teams, armed with courage, a mobile phone and plans for creative mischief, you can use an online app and map to target corporate baddies, report your action and see where Team Blue (the police) are lurking. There will be awards for particularly funny, effective or media-savvy actions. (cf. climategames.net)

On December 11-12, the movements will have the last word. They will announce ‘red lines’: the minimal necessities for a liveable planet, such as emissions cuts and finance. Inevitably, the summit agreement will cross these lines. As the final plenary begins, thousands will take part in what could be the largest ever act of civil disobedience for climate justice, by surrounding the summit with red lines and occupying the streets. Sign up here: 350.org/d12

And this is from an article in the Guardian (A.N. Brussels, ‘Activists promise largest climate civil disobedience ever at Paris summit’, 8 October 2025):

“The redlines idea strikes just the right balance between ‘shut it down’ and ‘do your job’,” the author and campaigner Naomi Klein told the Guardian. “I also think that it is strong enough to grab the narrative, which will be critical if governments try to sell a bad deal as a success.”

On the last day of the summit – 11 or 12 December – thousands of people are expected to converge around the Le Brouget summit site with inflatable red lines, said John Jordan, an artist and prominent activist in the laboratory of insurrectionary imagination.
“The idea is not to lock the delegates in but to have acts of civil disobedience that block the streets and infrastructure, if they cross red lines that are minimal necessities for a liveable planet.”

Protesters can choose the red line they want to join, whether it is equitable climate finance for poorer countries, or meaningful emissions reductions. At the blockades, forums will debate a new wave of actions in 2016 aimed at keeping fossil fuels locked underground.
“It is going to be the largest mass civil disobedience climate justice action that we have ever seen in Europe,” said Prayal Parekh, a campaigner with 350.org. “We’re sensing a lot of excitement and appetite. It’s going to be colourful.”

Juliette Rousseau, a spokeswoman for Coalition Climat 21 added: “It is the first time in France that we have had such a broad coalition – over 130 members – backing such a diversity of actions and tactics, from demonstration to disobedient actions.”

Heartening indeed.

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on November 6, 2015.

4 Responses to “Paris Climate Summit as Opportunity for Global Movement Building”

  1. and now I see the NY Times reporting that Obama is set to reject Keystone XL. They also report that an investigation of Exxon/Mobile is underway for “climate crimes” and ex-Mayor Bloomberg is initiating a media campaign to expose state AG’s who are fighting the Clean Power Plan ( as they are doing here in Montana) As I noted in my last comment, I see this as further evidence of nervousness by elites over maintaining the legitimacy of their sacred “democratic/capitalist ” system. They realize that if too many “assets” are “stranded” and global growth stagnates, on top of other crises now coming to a head, things get ugly fast.

    The question becomes; which meme or slogan or demand builds upon the “red line” and opens a real crack in the legitimacy of the ruling ideology? What gives it a real shake, to its foundation, or to use a different metaphor, pulls back the curtain to expose the hollow core inside the elaborate facade? And then takes that trauma (sudden knowing) and directs it in a positive rather than reactionary direction? The Obamas and Bloombergs hope to manage the transition. I want history to start again! but so does the extreme Right.

  2. The push here is to bankrupt these coal companies. They need to export this coal and the rail lines run right through lots of communities that are resisting. Saw where Australian activists stopped some big coal mine from being developed.

    • Go the local resistance, global Blockadia! Fracking has been stopped in northern NSW after the community did a lot of jumping up and down. Not sure about having stopped some big new coal mine. There are still two huge coal projects, one in the Liverpool Plains of NSW (prime farming soils) and one in the Galilee Basin in Queensland, that have not been stopped as yet.

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