We are once again at a crossroads. The COP26 in Glasgow has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the climate collapse may already be upon us, with warning signs coming simultaneously from all around the world: the forest fires in California, in the Amazon and Pantanal, the floods in Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the collapse in Greenland’s ice shelves. These are now weekly events. They are the most visible symptoms of an ill-fated system.
Institutions, ministries, sections, departments, treaties, protocols and agreements have been created and signed, but greenhouse gas emissions’ records kept on being shattered, as a consequence of the systematic failure to addressing the root causes of the problem from a systemic perspective. The demand of the climate justice movement to join the dots between overlapping crises (environmental degradation, social injustice, racial oppression, gender injustice, inequalities) which has been going for decades now, keeps being ignored.
Achieving a just and egalitarian world, which respects planetary limits, and therefore guarantees a safe climate system, implies addressing intrinsic elements such as colonialism, labour, imbalance of power, participation, or the search for benefits for a few at the cost of the majority, just to mention a few aspects. Patches and empty speeches will still not work; there will always be an economic or financial justification to legitimise the polluters who have caused the problem.
To say that institutions have not delivered on the struggle against climate change may be the biggest understatement in human history. Emissions have not only not decreased in the necessary level to stop us reaching the point of no return, they have not decreased at all. Since the beginning of climate negotiations, emissions from fossil fuels have only dropped in the years of 2008 and in 2020. Neither happened because of climate action or institutional agreements, but due to capitalist crises.
More than half of all CO2 emissions in human history have happened after 1994, with the establishment of the World Trade Organisation. Because of this, we are now living in a new world, with a new climate, different from any experienced by the human species since the beginning of the Holocene, twelve thousand years ago. With the continuation of these emissions’ patterns, and with a pathway for “economic recovery” guided by the expansion of production and growth, we will reap the effects of a growingly uninhabitable planet, with growing areas being unable to sustain humans and other species.
Climate science offers strong warnings. In the 2018’s IPCC Report on 1.5ºC, scientists stated in the bluntest terms possible that to prevent global temperatures from reaching 1.5ºC temperature increase by 2100, 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by 2030. We know this is to be the greatest revolution in history, as more than breaking an energy system, it is a complete reshuffle of power systems. This is also why there is passive resistance inside institutions, whether they be governments, parties or private companies, and growingly an active resistance against any climate action, which now leads many governments around the world.
The challenge ahead involves taking responsibility into our own hands, and stopping the polluters, the powerful, and the extractivist thirst for commodities, to ensure the survival of life: a life worth living, for all people, leaving no one behind. Governments’ inaction leave us no choice.
We, as activists in the global climate justice movement, call for action on climate and social justice. We not only call for it, but we will develop territorial plans for how this can happen. We imagine and we are putting to practice an agreement between social movements and non-governmental organisations to actually achieve the 50% global greenhouse gas emissions cuts, under a lens of climate justice. We call it the Glasgow Agreement, the People’s Climate Commitment.
The Glasgow Agreement is built on the enormous strength from last years’ global mobilisations and on the last decades’ experiences in the field and at grassroots level. We will build national inventories of disaggregated emissions, to identify the infrastructures, the plants, the factories, the farms, the ports and airports, economic sectors that need to be shut down, that need to be resized, that need to be retrofitted. Responsibilities will be differentiated, as the richest countries will need to cut more, according to their historic responsibilities and their ability to transition, and we will apply the logic of fair shares to achieve the just cuts on a global scale.
This Glasgow Agreement action plan will provide the basis for a “Climate Agenda” from below that articulates struggles already in the field, providing a plan to achieve climate justice in its many dimensions. Rather than plans dictated from the top, which have proven not only to be unfair and destructive, but not even reach the necessary emissions’ cuts, we will build a plan of our own, from the grassroots and social movements, organised in the territories and in the different regions all around the world, applying the logic of just transition for workers and societies. We acknowledge the many difficulties that will arise from this process, which is one of international solidarity in a growingly repressive and selfish world. We don’t deny the constraints that exist, but we affirm the need to create tools to win.
The first signing of the Glasgow Agreement will be next November, when the COP26 should be taking place in Glasgow, in the “From the Ground Up” gathering for climate justice. The institutions stopped working, but we did not. We will never stop fighting for a future of justice and solidarity.
We call on all groups that see climate justice as the core of the struggle against climate catastrophe, all social organisations, grassroots movements, unions, companions, comrades, friends, allies, to join the Glasgow Agreement. Let us turn social power from below into the positive wheel of history!
Signed: Alejandra Jiménez (Mexico), Anabela Rodrigues (Mozambique), Bas Breet (The Netherlands), Dorothy Guerrero (UK), Francesca Loughran (Ireland), Ikal Angelei (Kenya), João Camargo (Portugal), Kjell Kuhne (Germany / Mexico), Makoma Lekalakala (South Africa), Matilde Alvim (Portugal), Mitzi Tan (Philippines), Nicole Becker (Argentina), Nicole Figueiredo (Brazil), Nnimmo Bassey (Nigeria), Samuel Martin-Sosa (Spain), and Sherelee Odayar (South Africa)