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Thousands Protest at U.N. Climate Summit in Coal-Heavy Poland, Facing Riot Police & Intimidation

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This week Democracy Now! is broadcasting from the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait have blocked language “welcoming” October’s landmark IPCC climate report that warned of the catastrophic effects of a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, beyond which global crises could unfold at a rapid pace. The four countries rejected using the word “welcome,” insisting that members instead “note” the findings of the widely cited U.N. report. We begin our coverage with voices of some of the thousands of climate activists from around the world who marched in Katowice on Saturday, calling for world leaders to do more to keep rising greenhouse gas emissions in check. We also speak with a member of the European Parliament who confronted undercover Polish officials who were monitoring the protest.

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

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, We’re broadcasting from the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, Poland. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Thousands of climate activists marched here in Katowice, Poland, on Saturday, calling for world leaders to do more to keep rising greenhouse gas emissions in check. It was the only permitted protest during the 2-week U.N. climate talks. Earlier this year, Poland’s right-wing government banned all spontaneous protests and gatherings within the city. The police have also been given the authority to carry out widespread surveillance during the summit. In addition, Polish authorities blocked some climate activists from entering the country. The Climate Action Network reports at least 12 members of civil society were denied entry into Poland.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on Saturday, Democracy Now! was out in the streets of Katowice.

PROTESTERS: Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!

KEVIN BUCKLAND: Hi. My name’s Kevin. I’m part of the Gastivists Collective. So, we’re here on the street, and we are surrounded by robocops, which is ridiculous. This is a completely peaceful protest, beautiful energy from people all around the world. But it is showing the relationship between state power in protecting the interests of the fossil fuel companies. And Europe imports about half of the world’s gas and produces almost none of it. So Europe has a hugely important role to play here. And using hundreds of billions of euros of public money to build a new generation of fossil fuel infrastructure, fossil gas infrastructure, is the wrong direction, when all that money could be spent on renewables.

If, while we’re resisting just coal and oil, they build the next generation of fossil fuel infrastructure, fossil gas infrastructure, we’re going to have to fight that one next. So we say, “Look, if the industry is selling gas as a bridge fuel, let’s take out the bridge. Let’s stop fossil fuel industry right here. And let’s go directly to the renewable energy transition we need.” We don’t have to lock ourselves into another 30 years of fossil fuel infrastructure.

PROTESTERS: Poland, not coal land! Poland, not coal land! Poland, not coal land!

DOROTHY NALUBEGA: I am Dorothy Nalubega. I’m from Uganda. I am part of the delegation of the Global Greens. The Global Greens is a network of all Green political parties in the world. And we are here at COP to push for policies to put for measures of climate mitigation that help all the world together, because climate change is a global—it’s a global issue.

Yet we know that being greedy is one of the grave causes of climate change. It is greed that has brought about the attack on the Hambach Forest in Germany. It is greed that has brought about the sand mining in Uganda, my country. It is greed that has brought about the attack on Mabira Forest in Uganda, my country. It is also greed that has brought about fracking in the U.K. So we are here today on the streets to join others to fight that, to give a message to our leaders to stop the greed and think about the generation to come.

PROTESTERS: Keep your coal in the hole. Keep your coal in the hole. Keep the oil in the soil. Keep the oil in the soil. Keep the tar in the sand. Keep the tar in the sand. Keep the gas in the land. Keep the gas in the land.

TETET LAURON: My name is Tetet Lauron, and I come from the Philippines. I’m with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. We’re saying feminists demand climate justice. We are here to expose and oppose the rise of macho-fascism, not just in the hallways of the negotiations, but all over the world. From where I come from, the Philippines, Duterte is a macho-fascist, killing environmental rights defenders, human rights defenders, feminists, everyone who gets in his way. And it’s the same thing all over the world. We see the rise of a macho-fascism who decide on what the future of our planet will be. We cannot allow that to happen. We need to rise up. Time is up for those leaders.

The governments here do not want critical voices, and they want to silence us. The Polish bill has been enacted since last year trying to silence critical voices during the climate talks. It says demonstrations not allowed, protests not allowed. But as you can see, even if they don’t allow it, we will assert for our right to express ourselves and to protest.

SRIRAM MADHUSOODANAN: I’m Sriram Madhusoodanan from Corporate Accountability, based in Boston. And we’re here in solidarity with people’s movements around the world demanding climate justice, the people’s demands for climate justice at COP24. It’s absolutely extremely concerning that those organizations representing the voices of people are shut out when, in the same voice, just yesterday, an executive of Shell was practically boasting about their influence in the Paris Agreement and shaping parts of it, like Article 6 on markets. This is unacceptable. We have a corporation that still is not being held accountable for a long track record of human rights and environmental crimes, including in the Niger Delta. And for it to be boasting about how it is shaping the global agreement about how the world responds to climate change, that’s shameful, and that’s unacceptable.

JARON BROWNE: I’m Jaron Browne. I’m with Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. And I’m here with the It Takes Roots delegation from North America, front-line delegation. We feel like the solution of just transition is critical. And the conversation in Poland and being here even brings it more home to us, because we have folks in our movement from Appalachia who right now are taking over Mitch McConnell’s office this week because of the conditions happening with black lung and the serious health impacts for coal workers and also for communities whose water and land have been polluted. So, it’s not a question of, you know, workers versus community, but together we have real solutions. And that’s what our movements are bringing. We’re bringing a real vision of just transition that can transform the whole economy while also dealing with this urgent climate crisis.

YACEK BOZEK: Yacek Bozek, Klub Gaja. So, we are in Silesia area. This is the place, one of the places in Europe, where is not very nice air quality. Not very nice air quality is not very example—good example. We have some places in this place where air quality is the worst in Europe, like in Pszczyna, for example. And this is the reason that people have to use sometime the mask. This is the mask, anti-smoke mask. And this is the symbol for the COP24, that if we want to talk about changes, the first we have to think about people.

YUYUN HARMONO: My name is Yuyun Harmono. I’m from WALHI-Friends of the Earth Indonesia. We are here protesting our government, because our government plans to build more coal power plants. It’s not compatible with the scientists’ recommendation that we need to leave coal immediately. In developing countries, especially in the South, people are devastated because of climate change. There is a typhoon. There is a—people have to leave their places because they cannot live there anymore. The water is coming to their place. And it’s not—it’s impossible for them to live in that place. That is why we ask for the South, the developing countries, they have to act fast. They need to reduce their emissions. And they need to do it now.

MAKOMA LEKALAKALA: Makoma Lekalakala, and I’m from South Africa, Earthlife Africa. I’m here to amplify voices of poor people all over the world who are demanding climate justice. We have no more time. This is time to act. My main mission coming here was also to ensure that there is no nuclear subsidies in finance, in climate finance. Nuclear is not a solution to climate change. It can never be a solution to climate change because of the nuclear fuel chain, which is high carbon-intensive. So, at this COP, what we expect is for the negotiators to listen, to actually listen to what the IPCC report says, that nuclear is not a solution to climate change. It can never be a solution to climate change. And it should not even be considered.

VIDYA DINKER: My name is Vidya Dinker from INSAF, which is Indian Social Action Forum. And I come from South India, a coastal city, where there is ever-expanding industry taking away land and water from people and polluting our lives. Climate change is very real now. We see unprecedented flooding in our part of the world. We also see climate change, things getting hotter all the time. And we see that corporations are completely oblivious to it.

And even though our nations come here to COP and talk all the great talk, walking the walk is actually much needed, and that is not happening in our countries. They still support corporations and land grab for corporations. They are seeing that they get their subsidies. Farmers are struggling. We had a big march with farmers down Parliament Street from all over the country, congregating in Delhi, which is the national capital, demanding that there is a special session of Parliament for farmers’ issues, because farmers in India are committing suicide. They’re struggling every day. This kind of shortsighted development path that we are treading is something that is going to land us all into a hellhole.

PATRICIAH ROY AKULLO: My name is Patriciah Roy Akullo from the ACT Alliance Uganda Forum. We are here today because of the impact of climate change in our country. We are having long droughts and flooding at the same time. So, when we’re having so much drought, it means the communities cannot grow crops, so they’re having hunger, prolonged hunger. Children and women are affected. Children are not going to school, because they don’t have food at school. Their parents cannot afford school fees, because they don’t have crops to sell and raise money for their family. So the impact is quite grave. When it floods, the farm fields are flooded. Animals are dying. And if we do not see this as something grave, if the world cannot see our suffering and cannot commit to finance [inaudible], it’s not fair. It’s not climate justice. So that’s why the ACT Alliance is saying we want action now. Act now for climate justice.

JAKUB GOGOLEWSKI: My name is Jakub Gogolewski. I’m a finance campaigner with the coalition called Development YES-Open-Pit Mines NO. We are preventing all new lignite mines in Poland. And the colleagues behind me are trying to prevent what is deemed to be the last coal power plant in Poland, a very controversial project.

What we are also doing is we are using Poland to change the insurance industry. In Europe, there was a tremendous shift. In the U.S., the Insure Our Future campaign just started on U.S. insurers, which are still insuring the dirty tar sands pipelines and coal. There was a tremendous shift of the biggest reinsurers in Europe last year—Swiss Re, Munich Re. Brokers already tell us that projects in Asia, we are having problems to insure. So, this is working. So what we are saying is we actually can make coal uninsurable. If coal is not insurable, we don’t have to—we can build it in Turkey, we can build it in Indonesia, we can build it in Poland and other places that really need it.

PROTESTERS: What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!

AMY GOODMAN: Just some of the voices of thousands of people who marched Saturday for climate here in Katowice, Poland.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: During the protest, one member of the European Parliament, Thomas Waitz of Austria, confronted undercover Polish officials who were monitoring the protest. Democracy Now!’s Tami Woronoff spoke to Waitz shortly after the confrontation.

THOMAS WAITZ: So these people don’t want to tell us from which organization they are. I’m a member of the European Parliament. And he’s telling me, first, he’s not speaking English. Then he speaks English, and he says, “We are a group of friends here.” I would ask you a last time, legitimize yourself: From which organization are you? You’re all dressed in the same way here. For who are you working? Excuse me, sir? Can you hear me? So, this is something we see here, how the Polish government hides their own officials. They’re not even ready to say who they are and who they work for. My name is Thomas Waitz. I’m a member of the European Parliament.

TAMI WORONOFF: Where do you think they’re from?

THOMAS WAITZ: I think they’re a part of the Polish officials. I think they’re a part of the Secret Service, or they are part of the police force trying to hide their identity.

TAMI WORONOFF: Why do you think they’re here?

THOMAS WAITZ: I think they’re here to control the protest. I think they’re here to intervene from inside the protest if there’s any problems. But I don’t know what they’re actually doing here, because there’s so many police here. There are thousands of policemen guarding these very few protesters here, which is very ordinary people, normal people, not doing anything wrong. This is a complete ridiculous over-security measure here. It’s important that police guides the demonstration, but these persons here, they try to hide their identity, and they have a secret mission. And they’re also trying to hide their faces. They’re hiding their faces behind scarves.

TAMI WORONOFF: Can you describe the police presence here a little bit?

THOMAS WAITZ: The police presence is scary. The police is completely equipped with big amounts of tear gas. They’re equipped with electric Tasers. They are completely armed as they would go to war. And it’s a complete overdone security measure. And these people here are, I would say, 98 percent absolutely peaceful, normal citizens using their right to demonstrate. But this is a very militaristic and very aggressive attitude that we see, especially these guys, not even saying who they are working for. Who are you working for? Come on, tell us. He’s turning around. The message they send is that the official representatives of Polish politics do not see the climate rescue movement as allies but more as enemies. And I can feel that people feel threatened here as enemies and not as a welcomed part of civil society.

AMY GOODMAN: European Parliamentarian Thomas Waitz of Austria here in the streets of Katowice, Poland. When we come back, Democracy Now! goes into a coal mine. Stay with us.

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As Polish Gov’t Promotes Coal, Advocate Warns Coal Hastens Climate Change, Devastates Human Health

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