The call for Climate Justice – a report from Paris

By Heather in Paris, Wednesday 9th December 2015

Another world is possible, necessary and urgent. This is the message coming through loud and clear, not from the official COP21 but from the Climate Action Zone where we are with people from all over the world concerned about life, livelihoods and the wellbeing of all.

Every evening we hear depressing updates from the official talks. The voluntary emissions reductions that countries have promised so far do not fall within the 2 degrees global temperature rise, which scientists say is the maximum to avoid climate chaos. Rights of indigenous people have been taken out of the main text, as has a commitment to a just transition to a low carbon economy. The substantive text centres on extending carbon markets and negotiations, and with 48 hours to go, talks centre on whether the review date should be 8 or 9 years away. I am realising the interests of the corporations are superseding the needs of people all over the world and our life support systems now and into the future.

In contrast, at the Climate Action Zone I am inspired by a network of women from sub Saharan Africa who tell, not only how droughts and floods are massively affecting their lives and livelihoods, but also how big mining companies and transnationals engaged in export crops are taking over and polluting their land. They are not asking for aid, but organising and asking for solidarity to get the corporations out of their land, to receive compensation for the damage, to set a ceiling of 1.5 degrees temperature rise, and support for community-controlled, nature-friendly farming and fishing.

On the Metro this morning I met a Peruvian farmer wearing a ‘La Via Campesina’ scarf, with his German friend. I learnt that the farmer is taking out a lawsuit, supported by a top German lawyer, against a big German fossil fuel company for its contribution to the melting of the glaciers in the Andes which is depriving his land of water. I learn there is now an international network of environmental lawyers taking up similar cases.

Our solidarity today has taken a creative bent. We took our black umbrellas to the Louvre, which is being sponsored by Total and Eni. Through the instigation of “Oil out of Art” we staged a performance with our umbrellas spelling out “Fossil Free Culture”. While inside the Louvre half-a-dozen climate campaigners danced barefoot through spilt dark brown paint leaving oil-like footprints on the marble floor.

I continue to be moved by meeting people from countries already affected by climate change, and heartened by their resilience. I am learning how nature-friendly, community-controlled ways can cool our planet. I am aware the official talks are not bearing in mind the lives or livelihoods of these people. I am realising our call for climate justice is not to our leaders at COP21, but it is to ourselves. Here we are sharing ways we can cool the planet, live co-operatively and be creative. I am encouraged by the many international movements that are growing, that we can be part of beyond COP21, in working for a planet where we can all not just be alive – but thrive.

I’m finishing now – to make my banner: “1.5 for all to stay alive“.