People power shines as UN climate talks fail to deliver
After running into extra time, the UN climate conference (COP24) finally finished late on Saturday night. Here’s our wrap up from two long weeks in Poland.
This was the 24thannual UN climate change conference, and it might have been the longest yet – starting a day earlier than originally planned, and going into about 30 hours extra time at the end. Although negotiators failed to deliver the immediate action and route map needed to chart our way out of the climate crisis, people power is offering solutions and inspiration in abundance.
What was agreed at the talks?
The conference wrapped up on Saturday night with countries agreeing the ‘Paris rulebook’. These rules will determine how we tackle climate change for decades ahead, and will impact the lives of billions of people.
However, it is clear that the rulebook was written by, and for, the rich. It doesn’t require wealthy countries – those who have done the most to cause climate change – to urgently increase their action or deliver vital climate finance.
Happening just weeks after the stark warning from UN experts the IPCC that we need rapid, systemic change across our societies – or face the catastrophic impacts of 1.5ºC of warming as early as 2030 – this meeting should have been about urgently increasing action and ambition.
Remarkably, the final outcome failed to even welcome the IPCC report. Negotiators wrangled over whether to ‘welcome’ or ‘note’ the report and in the end, after some serious interference by the US (who, despite Trump saying they’re going to leave the Paris Agreement are still showing up at these talks to hinder progress) and other major oil producing countries, the final decision was to “welcome the timely contribution”.
But the real issue here is not the failure to welcome the report, but the failure to act on its findings.
It’s tough going to sit inside those rooms and watch the frustratingly slow progress, and the blatant attempts by some to block climate action. But it is a key part of our role at COP to expose that what’s happening here is not enough, and to show and demand the real solutions.
People’s demands for climate justice
During the talks, we came together with climate justice allies from around the world to launch the people’s demands for climate justice. These call on governments to keep fossil fuels in the ground and to advance just, people-centred solutions, to end corporate interference in the COP talks and for rich countries to do their fair share of climate action and pay their climate debt.
Day 3 at #COP24 starts with the launch of the #peoplesdemands for #climatejustice
🚫 Keep fossil fuels in the ground
❌Reject false solutions
✔ Just, people centred solutions
💰 Pay climate finance
🚫 No polluters in climate talks
🌍 Developed countries do their fair share pic.twitter.com/HPeOhNqtZA
— Caroline Rance (@CaroRance) December 4, 2018
Kick polluters out of UN Climate talks
Throughout the two weeks of the talks, we exposed corporate greenwashing inside the talks. We joined our colleagues from Friends of the Earth Nigeria to protest against convicted climate criminals Shell while they held a corporate event inside the venue; we stood with frontline communities and indigenous people from North America as they staged a takeover of the Trump administration’s event before we all walked out leaving the hall empty; and we walked out of the EU pavilion to protest their event with a huge corporation promoting methane gas – a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
This is the moment protestors disrupted the U.S. pro-fossil fuel event at #COP24, breaking out in laughter right after the Trump administration’s moderator said “fossil fuels will continue to play a role” in the world pic.twitter.com/ByMHuINGge
— Brian L Kahn (@blkahn) December 10, 2018
Civil society sit-in
On the final day of talks, as we could see the outcomes weren’t looking good, we occupied the central hall of the venue together with our Friends of the Earth International colleagues and climate justice allies from around the world, including Indigenous people and communities living on the front line of climate impacts.
We came together to demand climate justice, to demand that negotiators act with urgency and integrity, that they listen to the voices of those living with the harsh realities of climate impacts and act accordingly. It was an incredibly powerful, hopeful action.
People power across the world
We may only have been a few hundred inside the COP venue, but we stand with the tens of thousands who marched on the streets of Katowice the weekend before, who marched in Cologne, Brussels and Paris, with those who rallied on the streets in Edinburgh, with frontline communities resisting dirty energy all across the world – whether it’s fracking in Lancashire, pipe lines in North America or coal mines in Indonesia.
Together, we are already making a difference. As our governments fail to take the lead at this crucial time, we must come together and show the way forward. And it starts at home.
As Scotland’s new climate change bill makes its way through Parliament it is up to us to demand the urgent action needed to improve this bill and strengthen climate action, remembering that others are doing the same all over the world.