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“Civil Society Isn’t Welcome & Corporations Are”: Youth Activist on Being Banned from Climate Talks

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After the Philippines lead climate negotiator, Naderev “Yeb” Saño, delivered an emotional speech to delegates at the U.N. climate summit, he was greeted by youth activists who held up a banner that read, “2012 Bopha 1,067; 2013 Haiyan 10,000+?” As a result, they were banned from the climate conference for their action. We speak with one of of the activists, 23-year-old Clémence Hutin from Push Europe, and get Saño’s response.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Just before we went to air, I went outside, because there was a young woman who is not allowed inside the conference right now. Her name is Clémence Hutin, and we had to meet her outside the National Stadium since she has now been banned from COP 19. This is what she had to say.

CLÉMENCE HUTIN: Clémence, I’m 23 years old. When we were in the plenary on Monday, we were listening to Yeb Saño’s speech. We gave him a standing ovation, because it was very heartbreaking. The whole room was very moved. Many negotiators were crying. So, we just felt the need to express basic solidarity at this time. So we clapped, and we escorted him to the exit. We actually warned the chief of security that we were going to do this. And when we met him at the entrance, it was very emotional. He hugged us. He greeted us. He thanked us for the solidarity. And we decided to get our banners out that we were preparing for the action, a sanctioned action, taking place the next day. And the banner was reading: “2012, 1,000 dead; 2013, 10,000-plus dead? How many more?” Just that, and the names of the places that had been hit by the typhoon. And the security just ripped the banners from our hands. They escorted us to the exit immediately, and we were de-badged within 10 minutes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, are you allowed back into the summit?

CLÉMENCE HUTIN: No. We’ve heard—the next day, the chief of security had told us that we could come back in; however, we were notified that Christiana Figueres had made the personal decision to ban us from the U.N. climate talks. We heard that we had been banned for five years. We heard about a lifetime ban, as well. Yesterday, thankfully, she sent us a letter to tell us that we could come in, back in, next year. But we are still banned this week for having expressed solidarity.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about this?

CLÉMENCE HUTIN: I feel very depressed. I’m 23 years old. I’m fighting for climate justice. And I see corporate logos absolutely everywhere here in the COP. The ArcelorMittal logo is stamped across the plenary hall.

AMY GOODMAN: And that is?

CLÉMENCE HUTIN: ArcelorMittal is a huge steel and mining company that is one of the just the dirtiest corporations in the world. They have their logo stamped on the plenary hall. They are most welcome, and a young person fighting for the climate is not. And I just don’t understand what the secretary’s message is here, because, for me, the UNFCCC is a democratic space. I don’t understand why civil society isn’t welcome here and corporations are. And I think it’s a very wrong message to be sending right now.

AMY GOODMAN: What does this mean? Where do you head now?

CLÉMENCE HUTIN: Right now I’m staying here in Warsaw. I’m helping young people organize outside of the talks, so that we can make our voices heard even though we’re not inside. And, yeah, maybe I’ll be back next year. I’m not sure.

AMY GOODMAN: Why does climate matter to you?

CLÉMENCE HUTIN: For me, climate is the biggest issue, the biggest challenge that humanity has ever faced. And we are at a tipping point, the crossroads. The time is now. We cannot delay this any further. People have been negotiating my whole life, and I feel like they need to stop speaking, stop talking, stop negotiating, and just act. We need to reduce emissions now. We need to leave fossil fuels in the ground now. And I’m feeling quite frustrated at the moment because that’s not the message that we’ve been getting this year.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re standing in front of a welcome sign.

CLÉMENCE HUTIN: Yeah, yeah, that’s quite ironic, isn’t it? And I’m also standing in front of a sign that reads “I care.” And I don’t feel like many people care here among the negotiators.

AMY GOODMAN: Will this stop your climate activism?

CLÉMENCE HUTIN: No, it won’t stop my climate activism; however, I may choose to fight this in a different way, because I feel like my faith in the UNFCCC is shaken right now.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Clémence Hutin. She is a young French woman who was thrown out with two other young activists. They were here, part of the young NGOs, YOUNGO, as they’re called, but because they stood with you with this banner as you walked out, to show solidarity, they have been banned from the summit for the entire summit. As you heard, she got a letter from Christiana Figueres saying she would not be allowed back in. It reminds me of two years ago after Anjali Appadurai, a young American student from College of the Atlantic, gave an address where the head of the general assembly said “thank you” at the end of the summit, “wish you had given this speech at the beginning.” She was banned the next year in Doha for the first week of that summit. Do you think that Clémence and the other two young activists should be allowed in?

NADEREVYEB” SAÑO: I have made representations to the secretariat for them to be allowed in. Obviously, they were here to express solidarity with the people of the Philippines, and that is a very moving gesture on their part. I see no reason why they should have been banned. We have received official explanation that only sanctioned actions within the venue would be tolerated. And the act of solidarity where they escorted me and unfurled some small banners was interpreted as an unsanctioned act. And, for me, that is very sad, because these are young people attending their first COP. And that is truly shaking, I would imagine, for them.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you had a chance to talk to Christiana Figueres, the head of the UNFCCC, to—since she personally has banned them?

NADEREVYEB” SAÑO: I sent correspondence to her office regarding this matter and interceding for these three young people to be allowed back in into the venue.

AMY GOODMAN: And to that other point that Clémence has made about the level of corporate involvement and the corporate sponsorship, it has been growing over the years. Now you actually, in your delegates’ bags, have the corporate logos emblazoned on them. And there’s a climate—what they’re calling a Coal & Climate Summit taking place at the same time here in Warsaw.

NADEREVYEB” SAÑO: Oh, it is quite troubling for us to see these two meetings taking place at the same time. But I am glad to have heard Christiana Figueres exhort—give an exhortation to the coal industry that they must transform their industry. And we share that sentiment, that the coal industry and the fossil fuel industry must transform, because the single biggest culprit for climate change is the fossil fuel industry, and that is something that we should work together to transform. This is about—if we talk about the industry, this is about moving brown investments into green investments, and that cannot happen unless the industry is willing to do so.

AMY GOODMAN: Two last quick questions. You mentioned four degrees Celsius being catastrophic, very much the direction we’re headed in. What would that look like for the Philippines?

NADEREVYEB” SAÑO: I can’t imagine that, Amy. That means collapse of our ecosystems, massive droughts, I would say more intense tropical cyclones. And I just can’t imagine how we will secure our food sources and our water sources. That would be more than catastrophic for my country. It’s just unthinkable.

AMY GOODMAN: Clearly, the U.S. Pentagon sees climate change as an enormous threat, putting out a report saying this is the threat of this century. And the reason it’s the, you know, Pentagon, the war department, is seeing that wars could break out over issues, for example, of climate refugees having to leave countries because they’ve been devastated and trying to get into other countries. Do you have a final message for the world, Yeb Saño?

NADEREVYEB” SAÑO: It’s always hard to encapsulate a single message to the world, as this has become a complex issue. But I just reiterate my appeal to the whole world, that this is something that we can turn around. And I appeal to our common humanity to pursue our common future, because this is not just about us, the current generation, it is about intergenerational responsibility. And I appeal to world leaders. We are not—and to quote, perhaps, an American Native chief, we did not inherit this planet from our ancestors; we are merely borrowing it from future generations.

AMY GOODMAN: And the role of direct action, as you’re taking now on this ninth day of your fast, as these young people took in the summit, even though you’re an official climate negotiator representing your government? The need for direct action?

NADEREVYEB” SAÑO: The Filipino spirit has always had this heart for the young people, for the youth. Even our national hero, in his most famous writings, he has said that the youth is the hope of our fatherland. And I would say the youth is the hope of this process. The youth is the hope of this planet.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Naderev “Yeb” Saño, Philippines climate commission, head of the Philippines climate delegation, on the ninth day of a hunger fast here in Warsaw, Poland, where the COP 19 is taking place—that’s the Conference of Parties, the U.N. Framework on Climate Change Conference. Next year, COP 20 will be in Lima, Peru, and then the binding agreements will take place the next year in Paris.

This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’ll be joined by a reporter from India who is the one who broke the story of the confidential government documents from the U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, to the U.S. climate negotiating team, saying “loss and damage” should be rephrased as “blame and liability.” Stay with us.

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