December 18, 2019

What you helped make possible at the UN climate talks

By now, you’ve probably seen some headlines declaring the U.N. climate talks in Madrid a failure. And there’s no doubt: These climate talks failed to deliver the climate justice people and the planet so urgently need.

Many of these stories rightly point out that this failure is because governments like the U.S., EU, Australia, and Canada blocked progress to avoid responsibility in Big Polluters’ name, attempting to weaken an already-too-weak Paris Agreement.

But in the end, while these polluters did manage to stall some critical policies from moving forward (for now), what also failed to go through at these talks was a terrible deal that would have condemned people and the planet. It was stopped because you, we, and the climate justice community showed up and checked polluters’ bullying in powerful new ways.

I wanted to take a moment to share with you a few important takeaways from my time here in Madrid — because it’s people like you, alongside our allies around the world, who make it all possible. Thank you!

Standing firm in the face of abusive power

Over the past two weeks, the U.S. acted as the ringleader of a group of Global North countries attempting to torpedo the Paris Agreement in the name of Big Polluters’ profits.

But a small group of governments from the Global South, and a united climate justice movement, stood strong and refused to give in to U.S. bullying.

Here are just a few of the things we and our allies were able to help accomplish with your support:

  • Together, we thwarted a bad polluter-driven deal that would actually have worsened the climate crisis. It would have locked in corporate market-based schemes that exacerbate existing inequities between the Global North and Global South by forcing the burden of reducing emissions onto communities who’ve done the least to cause the crisis and are already bearing the brunt of its effects.
  • While the movement you’ve helped build calling on governments to make Big Polluters pay for the damage they’ve knowingly caused grew more powerful, the U.S. tried to sneak in text that could have been used to secure immunity from liability for the most polluting countries and potentially corporations. But governments from the Global South stopped this ploy from being adopted at these talks, refusing to let polluters off the hook.
  • With the climate justice movement, Global South governments kept loss and damage financing from being completely wiped off the table, despite attempts by the U.S., EU and others to shut it down completely. It’s a matter of justice that those most responsible for the climate crisis, and who have profited richly as they’ve fueled it, must provide financing for the loss and damage experienced by communities on the frontlines of climate change. The U.S. and others blocked the creation of a finance mechanism at this COP — a huge injustice to those who are fighting for their lives and losing their homes in this moment. But the climate justice movement will continue to organize doggedly on this front.
  • Governments will pick up these issues in negotiations next year. And because of the power we built together, there is a way forward for real and just solutions to address the climate crisis. Solutions like keeping fossil fuels in the ground, transitioning to community-controlled renewable energy systems, and financing climate adaptation projects on the global frontlines of the climate crisis.

A united climate justice movement

You may have also seen the sobering images of rows of armed security shutting more than 300 of us out of the climate talks for peacefully protesting Global North and Big Polluter obstruction last Wednesday. That action brought together people from all sorts of backgrounds — indigenous leaders, youth, women and gender non-conforming folks, scientists, heads of some of the largest mainstream NGOs, climate justice movement leaders — in an unprecedented show of unity and shared demands.

The U.N.’s equally unprecedented reaction — kicking us all out and preventing all NGO participants from re-entering for the rest of the day –laid bare for the world that Global North and obstructionist governments at the U.N. climate treaty would rather listen to the polluters (who stayed in) than the people.

Corporate Accountability, people like you, and close partners like the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice played a critical role in that action — and in what followed: Moving forward in unity as a climate justice community to ultimately reject an unjust deal and secure the outcomes above.

Even more importantly, there’s a palpable shift in how the global climate justice community organizes together, in ways that are already reverberating beyond the walls of the climate talks. And that’s a huge and critical step forward for this movement.

Forward together, thanks to you

What was at stake these past two weeks was our chance of keeping as close as we possibly can to 1.5 degrees Celsius of planetary warming. Our chance at real climate solutions, at securing payment for debts owed to those whom this crisis is hitting first and worst. Our chance at a planet that can still hold and nurture life as we know it.

The U.S. and other Global North countries like the EU, Australia, and Canada would have blown that chance in the name of polluters’ profits — if we, our allies, our members like you, and the whole climate justice community hadn’t shown up. But we did. They did. YOU did.

So thank you for all that you did. And thank you for all you’ll continue to do to advance climate justice, toward a world where all people can thrive.

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