The Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice (DCJ)

At the most recent negotiations of the global climate treaty, it seemed Big Polluters and Global North governments would get their way. And it would be at high cost to communities on the frontlines of climate change: Global South, Black, and Indigenous communities; communities of color; low-income communities; youth; and women. 

Photo Credit: Annabelle Avril

So the climate justice movement sounded the alarm—literally. They were led by the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice (DCJ). DCJ represents peoples’ movements and organizations around the world, primarily in the Global South. It also includes international members like Corporate Accountability.

The massive intervention took place as the head of the U.N. prepared to address official delegates in the formal negotiation hall. Suddenly, hundreds of people began banging on water bottles and coffee mugs—echoing the cacerolazo protests in Latin America. As the media gathered and Global South youth and Indigenous leaders began to speak, U.N. security guards tore through the crowd. They corralled the hundreds of activists out into a concrete-walled loading dock. 

The massive metal door banged shut. People from the front lines of the crisis were officially shut out. As Big Polluters stayed in. 

From that moment on, the treaty delegates from the Global South who were advocating for climate justice united in a whole new way. And in the end, they prevented Global North governments and Big Polluters from ramming through a whole package of catastrophic deals in the last moments of the negotiations. 

Building trust through action

This is what movement building looks like, and it’s what DCJ excels at. The coalition is coordinated by powerful campaigners Lidy Nacpil and Asad Rehman who have both been organizing for decades. DCJ mobilizes grassroots organizations on the frontlines of the climate crisis and international groups in solidarity with them, ensuring that people’s collective voices are heard and heeded in halls of power like at the U.N. climate negotiations. As Nacpil puts it, “No meaningful change can happen without movement and people’s action. Movements on the ground have to build the force and make active change happen.”

DCJ is not just a coalition of more than 200 organizations and movements, it is a place where a better future is being built, in real time, through the fostering of deep relationships and the crucial element of trust. “DCJ acts as a space for people to gather from very different places,” says Nathan Thanki, also a coordinator of DCJ. “People from regional networks around the world come together in the same space to think about—and debate—strategies, tactics and plans. We build power and trust through doing things together.”

This was evidenced during the climate treaty negotiations. Nacpil, Rehman, Thanki, and campaigners from around the world, including Corporate Accountability organizers, worked together behind the scenes to successfully carry out the intervention and other actions. The cumulative effect was a powerful centering of the collective voice of people most directly affected by the climate crisis. “When we are together, we can do dramatic things,” notes Nacpil. “They can’t stop us.” 

Exposing the role of corporations

“Corporate Accountability is a key actor within DCJ,” says Nacpil. The majority of DCJ member organizations rightly focus on holding national and local governments accountable to their people. Within DCJ, Corporate Accountability layers in the need to hold transnational corporations accountable as well. “This is an important feature of our partnership,” says Nacpil. “Corporate Accountability highlights the role of corporations. The key to fighting government inaction and abuses is to expose the corporate capture behind it.”  

Corporate Accountability’s approach is to work closely with the coalition to make sure campaign tactics work with the coalitions’ goals. From helping coordinate the intervention at the treaty meetings to the global campaign to make Big Polluters pay, Corporate Accountability “painstakingly adjusts plans to make it gel with the ecosystem of groups,” notes Thanki. Because of this, he says, “Corporate Accountability is entrusted to do the work by the collective.”

This give-and-take results in more equitable, stronger, and more effective campaign plans. “DCJ’s decades of organizing provides powerful guidance to the organizing to hold Big Polluters accountable for their deadly actions and inactions,” says Corporate Accountability Executive Director Patti Lynn. “Following the leadership of those who are on the frontlines of the climate crisis is critical to the just world we need.”

Global mobilization on twin crises

In addition to bringing the voices of movements to the halls of the U.N. climate treaty meeting, DCJ also coordinates Reclaim Power. This was the seventh year that organizers around the world—from Global south movements to Big Green groups—launched major campaigns that highlight the harms of fossil fuel and other dirty energy. “We have a common platform,” says Nacpil. “It’s a powerful moment for Southern movements to mobilize together.” The campaigns center the demand for a just transition that foregrounds the needs of and the solutions by the people.

This year brought not only an escalation of the climate crisis, but also the COVID-19 pandemic. As the disease began to spread rapidly around the globe, member organizations of DCJ came together to lay out a bold response. With a set of clear demands for government response, DCJ lifted up a visionary approach to dealing with the pandemic:

“Our movements have an expertise which is invaluable at this time. While COVID-19 and the climate crisis may have different direct causes, their root causes are the same: a reliance on the market, a failure of the state to address long-term threats, the absence of social protection, and an overarching economic model that protects investments over lives and the planet. The same extractivist system that extracts, burns and destroys ecosystems, is the same system which enables dangerous pathogens to spread. The solutions to the COVID-19 and climate crises are the same: solidarity, redistribution, collaboration, equity, and social protection. It is our opportunity and responsibility to join the dots, and use this political moment to confront corporate power, and build a more just and sustainable society.”

While the pandemic has forced DCJ to adjust plans for mobilization at the climate treaty negotiations and beyond, the coalition continues to organize toward a just future. No matter what 2021 brings, DCJ will continue to be unstoppable, organizing to ensure the people’s voices and demands and heard loud and clear.

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