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Monday, November 18, 2013 Previous | Next

VIDEO: Voices of the March for Climate and Social Justice at COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland

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See some of the people who came from around the world to demand climate justice as delegates meet for the U.N. climate summit in Warsaw, Poland.

We speak with Rebecca Harms, president of the Green Group in the EU Parliament; Tolbert Thomas Jallah Jr., Pan African Climate Justice Alliance; Ashok Chandwaney, Sierra Student Coalition; Jamie Henn, 350.org; Deborah Oriama, Kenya Youth Climate Network; and Patrick Bond, climate activist and author from Durban, South Africa.

Democracy Now! is broadcasting live from the U.N. climate conference this week. Click here to see all of our reports and interviews.

REBECCA HARMS: My name is Rebecca Harms. I’m president of the Green Group in the European Parliament. So, we suffer from a certain rollback in the international climate policy. And in this march, we are trying to push the new thinking, the good thinking for the future ahead. So also in Poland and in Europe, many people know that ambitious climate strategy will not stop economic development, but will push a good economic development. Renewable efficiency, resource efficiency, this helps the climate and the economy.

RENÉE FELTZ: We’re here in Poland, where a new report has come out showing that the economy here is going to continue to rely on coal for many, many years. What are your thoughts on that, as we’re at the U.N. climate summit?

REBECCA HARMS: So, I learned that two-thirds of Polish citizens are against subsidizing coal. In six of the Polish cities, we suffer from very, very bad air quality. There are growing citizen initiatives against coal-fired power plants. So, our Polish government has not understood the future, but Polish citizens, yes. So, I hope that the climate skepticals and those politicians who listen too much to the old industry around coal, oil, etc., get not too much influence. I hope that reasonable people who think in a responsible way will—so, will be sufficiently here to prepare the next and the better negotiations.

PROTESTER: We want?

PROTESTERS: Climate justice now!

PROTESTER: We want?

PROTESTERS: Climate justice now!

PROTESTER: We want?

PROTESTERS: Climate justice now!

PROTESTER: We want?

PROTESTERS: Climate justice now!

PROTESTER: We want?

PROTESTERS: Climate justice now!

TOLBERT THOMAS JALLAH JR.: I’m from Liberia from the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, and my name is Tolbert Thomas Jallah Jr. And I’m here to demand climate justice, especially to you guys from the United States to accept your historical responsibilities for the mess you created in the atmosphere and to give justice to those who are suffering from the impact of your creation. So that’s why we’re here to demand climate justice now. So, could you tell your President Obama to ensure that climate justice prevail in all parts of the world?

MIKE BURKE: What does climate justice look like to you?

TOLBERT THOMAS JALLAH JR.: Paying back for the pollution you created on local communities, on poor communities, to be able to adapt and go beyond adaptation and ensure that loss and damage have been paid for.

PROTESTER: We want?

PROTESTERS: Climate justice now!

PROTESTER: We want?

PROTESTERS: Climate justice now!

PROTESTER: We want?

PROTESTERS: Climate justice now!

MIKE BURKE: And can you talk about the impact climate change has had in your community?

TOLBERT THOMAS JALLAH JR.: A huge devastation, a sea-level rise, a low food production, food insecurity, a flooding taking place in many parts of West Africa where I come from, and this is unacceptable. It’s unprecedented. And the wave is so huge. And we are demanding climate justice now.

PROTESTER: Social!

PROTESTERS: Justice!

PROTESTER: Social!

PROTESTERS: Justice!

PROTESTER: Climate!

PROTESTERS: Justice!

PROTESTER: Climate!

PROTESTERS: Justice!

ASHOK CHANDWANEY: My name is Ashok Chandwaney. I’m with the Sierra Student Coalition, and I’m from Seattle, or SeaTac, Washington. I’m here in Poland with the COP 19 delegation because climate change is the largest problem our generation faces, and this was more important than anything else I had to do in the last week and for the next week. I’m fasting in solidarity with Yeb Saño, who’s fasting in solidarity with the people in the Philippines, who were really—I mean, the Philippines got really—Typhoon Haiyan was terrible for the Philippines. A lot of people died. A lot of people have been displaced. And despite that, still at this conference, most of the negotiating teams are doing absolutely nothing to address climate change and climate disruption. We have Australia and Japan going back on their commitments, Canada congratulating them for it. All the while, people in the Philippines are still dying. So, I’m fasting because I want to bring attention to that story and want to push our leaders to move forward on climate change.

PROTESTERS: Time is running out! So it’s time to shout! Time is running out! So it’s time to shout!

JAMIE HENN: I’m Jamie Henn with 350.org, and we’re here to support a lot of the actions and young people who are standing up to the industry and trying to push for action here in Warsaw. Well, it’s been a really interesting first week of the talks. I think that expectations were really low, going into Warsaw. But the meetings have been fascinating because of the tragedy in the Philippines, which has just been this heartbreaking event that’s been a—cast a shadow, really, over the proceedings, but also intensified the commitment, I think, from civil society, as well as from negotiators, to really push for action.

Second, I think that this COP has been called the corporate COP or the coal COP. We’re seeing for the first time the real effect of the fossil fuel industry so front and center in these negotiations. So, a lot of civil society groups are really saying it’s time to both figure out how to stand up to this industry outside this process, but begin to push for the type of regulations and safeguards that would keep corporations out of these events so that we can actually make progress. That’s a debate that will be continuing next week, as people put forward proposals about trying to limit the ability of companies, like the largest steel company in the world or BMW and others that have fought against regulations here in Europe, from really influencing these proceedings in the wrong direction.

MIKE BURKE: Now, there’s a major coal summit that’s also being held right now in the same city?

JAMIE HENN: That’s right. It’s like throwing a cigarette expo next to a meeting of world cancer experts or something, or, you know, it’s the arms fair next to the peace summit. The coal conference starts on Monday and Tuesday, right across the street from the convention center. Especially disappointing is the fact that U.N. Climate Secretary Christiana Figueres is speaking at that summit. Civil society and young people asked her not to attend. She refused and is going. So we really hope that she actually stands up and says the right things on coal. I think it will be really problematic if the U.N. still associates with the industries that they’re actually trying to regulate and greenwashes for the fossil fuel industry. So, there’s going to be quite a bit of protest outside of that summit, and maybe a little bit inside—we’ll see. But that’s exactly the type of thing we need to see at these events, is people realizing that this industry isn’t here to be part of the solution, they’re trying to block progress. And I think that Warsaw, if anything, has sharpened that debate in a way that will be useful for this process, as well as the efforts back at home to really push for climate action.

PROTESTER: What do you want?

PROTESTERS: Climate justice!

PROTESTER: When do you want it?

PROTESTERS: Now!

PROTESTER: When do you want it?

PROTESTERS: Now!

DEBORAH ORIAMA: Deborah is my name, from Kenya, and from [inaudible], actually. So, basically, in the COP, within Poland, I’m here for climate justice. So it’s an issue of human rights. It’s an issue of sustainable future. It’s an issue of sustainable development. It’s an issue that is a threat to the human population, as you may see. And more concerned about the human, there is also just the environment and the animal planet and everything else. That is something of concern, because if we don’t have it in the next five, 10 years, then we don’t have somewhere to go. Like, as they are saying, there is no plan B. We cannot move the planet to Mars or—I don’t know. Yes. So it’s important for young people to have these issues as a concern, as something that is very important in their lives.

PATRICK BOND: I’m Patrick Bond in Durban, South Africa, the Centre for Civil Society. And two years ago in Durban, the COP 17 was a terrible disappointment. And I’m here with a lot of the activists from the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and other groups really to see if we can revive the momentum of climate justice, which we sort of lost at that point. And the enemy team, which is the bankers and the bureaucrats, are trying to revive their vision—carbon trading—as the core solution. It was in the Kyoto Protocol. And the question is whether they’re going to find any more money and subsidies to bring it back. We hope not.

PROTESTER: What do we want?

PROTESTERS: Climate justice!

PROTESTER: When do we want it?

PROTESTERS: Now!

PATRICK BOND: The carbon trading idea that the COP 19 is probably going to try to revive at the global scale really has been absolutely a failure here in Europe, and partly because the Polish government and the corporations have abused it so much. But, in general, the idea that we should turn over the planet to bankers to allow them to arrange an efficient trading of the right to pollute—carbon trading—from the Kyoto Protocol—Al Gore was very much in support of them—that’s really not worked. And now Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank president, has put that back onto the agenda a few weeks ago. So I’m quite worried that unless we show more of the opposition and the demand for absolute cuts, paying climate debt and not messing around with banker-type solutions like trading in rights to pollute, we might see this problem get much, much worse more quickly. It’s what we call a false solution, and therefore has to be contested, along with all the other areas of debate here, especially the fact that, again and again, the United States will come to these meetings, sabotage. And what I’m also worried about, they did an alliance the last time in Europe, in Copenhagen, with Brazil, with China, with India and South Africa, the BASIC countries. And that was why the Copenhagen Accord was such a disaster, you know, basically big polluters slapping each other on the back: "I pollute more; you pollute more—it’s a deal." And that was the nature of the last major effort to get protesters out on the streets. So we have to really redouble our efforts to make sure that configuration doesn’t occur again.

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