Hundreds of protesters from civil society organisations, peoples’ movements, trade unions, Indigenous Peoples, youth, women and gender groups joined forces on Wednesday, December 11, 2019 to demand rich countries step up ambition and action to tackle the climate crisis.
The demonstration, taking inspiration from a popular South American form of protest known as a cacerolazo, which originated in Chile and involves making noise by banging on pots and pans, took place as ministers headed into the late stages of talks at the United Nations climate conference in Madrid (COP 25).
More protesters from the People’s Summit (Cumbre Social) joined the action outside the Feria de Madrid conference centre. The cacerolazos drew attention to the injustice of inaction from rich countries as billions of people in the Global South are already seeing their lives devastated by the climate emergency.
However, no fewer than 15 persons were debarged during the action. Alarmed security officials directed activists outside the confines of the Feria de Madrid into a courtyard, formed a line of police to separate activists outside from the delegates and participants inside and then closed the garage door.
According to some observers, over a week of climate talks in Madrid have produced little to no progress on several key issues, including the need for the rich countries and polluting industries that have historically driven the climate crisis to provide finance to support communities recovering from increasingly severe disasters. Instead, the response from governments at the summit has been greenwashing, false solutions, and dangerous loopholes in proposed carbon markets, they claimed.
Developed nations are said to have worked to water down and strip away measures to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, women and communities in the Global South, and agreements on a robust Gender Action Plan.
The groups demonstrating, collectively representing hundreds of millions of members, expressed outrage that while big polluters and their lobbyists have been given free rein to influence negotiators, civil society’s response is being repressed, as eight people have been arrested at this year’s climate talks for protesting against conflicts of interest.
Avishek Shrestha, from Digo Bikas Institute Nepal, said: “We are here to remind governments that climate finance is a crucial pillar in the Paris Agreement and should no longer be sidelined. We are outraged by the fact that some governments, like the US, EU and Australia, continue to avoid their financial responsibility. Instead of acknowledging their fair share of obligations, they continue to be heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry. And now they are putting carbon trading and other market mechanisms on the table to conceal their insufficient and unfulfilled pledges at the Green Climate Fund, and avoid liability and financial obligations to address loss and damage.”
Kwami Kpondzo of Friends of the Earth Togo said: “Some countries in these halls behind us are trying to buy and sell pollution, double count carbon credits and include loopholes which would only give a license to big polluters to keep emitting. A dirty deal on carbon markets will lock us in to even more emissions, further temperature rise, continued fossil fuel use and decades of inaction, distraction, and corporate power-grabbing. At the very moment we should be cutting emissions they are trying to game the system.”
Tom Goldtooth, from Indigenous Environmental Network, commented: “Stop the planet grab for colonialism. The UN, the government, corporations, extractive industries, want to use half the world’s land, including Indigenous Peoples’ territories, for a false solution to climate change called carbon offsets. Carbon offsets do not reduce global warming. Carbon offsets privatise Mother Earth and nature, including the air we breathe. Offsets corrupt the sacred. Our sky is not for sale, nor is the future of humanity.”
Catherine Abreu, Climate Action Network Canada Executive Director, said: “For so many people gripped by devastating floods, fires and storms, time is up. And instead of helping them, rich countries hold on to their dollars and hold up loss and damage finance.”
Addressing politicians at COP25 in Madrid, Abreu added: “You talk about inclusivity and then developed and developing countries alike bicker over the few paltry words that enshrine human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples in these talks. You delay Just Transitions for workers and communities. You systematically chip away at civil society space. You can’t even land a Gender Action Plan.”
Taily Terena, from the Terena nation of Brazil, Women & Gender Constituency and the Indigenous People’s Constituency, said: “The rise of macho fascists from Brazil, Chile, the US, Philippines and other countries have not only eroded our rights but are affecting the lived experiences of indigenous peoples, women, non-binary peoples and people of colour. Feminists and indigenous people call for systems change immediately! Calling for the protection of human rights, especially for indigenous peoples, women and environmental defenders as they are the most affected and persecuted groups!”
Angela Valenzuela, from Fridays For Future, said: “From Santiago to Madrid, the world is waking up to the climate crisis. We have listened to the frontline communities, the science and the suffering of our people. We say enough! We no longer will support the systems that drive the climate crisis. We will continue to raise against governments that don’t represent us, and that prioritise profit over the wellbeing of its people and climate.”
Ms Lebogang Mulaisi, from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in South Africa, said: “Without a just transition we have no social justice. Climate change impacts everyone and especially my continent of Africa. Across the Global South the impact manifests in one crisis after another – on top of the climate crisis, there is an economic crisis, unemployment, poverty, inequality, as well as a political and social crisis in democracy.
Climate change is caused by our current system of production, distribution and consumption – a system which is both unjust and unsustainable within countries and across the world.”