No. 59November 6, 2021
CALENDAR: DAYS OF ACTION FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE
Activists converged on Glasgow, Scotland in connection with the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties Summit (COP26) taking place there October 31 to November 12. In the days leading up to the Summit and over the course of the first week, multiple mass actions have taken place throughout Glasgow and around the fenced-off proceedings, as well as online. Related events are being held worldwide.
The mass actions held in Glasgow on October 30 and 31 as COP26 opened ensured the peoples’ demands set the tone for judging the negotiations taking place inside the hallowed halls where the people have no say over what is decided. Meanwhile, the COP26 Coalition has been holding its own assemblies independent of the official UN proceedings, where people from around the world and their collectives can speak in their own name to express their concerns.
The actions give expression to the peoples’ demand for meaningful and just action on climate change, not lip service. They demand actions that take as their starting point the well-being and rights of all humanity, not the further exploitation of vulnerable peoples and countries through self-serving schemes which serve the narrow interests of the wealthy elite and supranational oligopolies.
Worldwide, a day of action was held on Friday, October 29, calling for a “Fossil Free Future,” in addition to the weekly Friday school climate strikes led by the youth.
The group Greenham Women Walk to COP26 walked from the Faslane naval base on the Gare Loch, Argyll and Bute, Scotland to Glasgow, from October 28 to 31. The walk highlighted the links between nuclear weapons, military action, and climate emergency. Participants demanded that there be no more exceptions for military pollution in any forthcoming COP26 agreement.
Likewise, an online event titled “Resource Exploitation, Violent Conflict and Militarism — Drivers of Climate Catastrophe” was organized on October 30 by Peace Education Scotland and the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Monday, November 1 saw a mass rally called by Fridays for Future, the global network of youth who have been holding weekly school climate strikes for more than three years.
To coincide with the Mexican Day of the Dead, on November 2, the Scottish anti-war group Dove Tales presented an online evening of poetry and music, looking at “climate change from the angle of war and the devastation it causes to our planet.”
On November 3, Extinction Rebellion held an action to oppose greenwashing, referring to actions taken by governments and corporations meant to provide a veneer of concern about environmental matters, to cover up that they are carrying on business as usual.
A highlight of actions on November 4 was the Peace March called by the Scottish Peace Network that highlighted the need to oppose aggression, war and the arms trade as an essential part of ending environmental destruction and dealing with climate change. The march included a stop at the local operations of arms manufacturer BAE Systems. In a similar vein, activists protested against an arms fair in Malvern, England. Also taking place that day was the COP26 Toxic Tour, drawing attention to “Scotland’s toxic past, present and future.”
Friday, November 5 saw a mass rally called by Fridays for Future Scotland, with tens of thousands taking part. The energetic and uplifting atmosphere boded well for a successful mass action in Glasgow on November 6, as the COP26 Climate Summit reaches it midpoint.
Humanize the Natural and Social Environment
A major feature throughout the COP26 UN Climate Summit is to underscore that “leaders rule” and the people have no say and are ruled. This is enforced by a massive police presence at COP26, which is said to be the largest ever organized to enforce the overall exclusion of those most affected by climate change.
The UK government will reportedly spend as much as £250 million on policing at the summit, which is said to be the largest ever deployment of police in the UK, bigger than that of the June 2021 G7 Summit in Cornwall or the 2012 London Olympics. For three weeks, roughly 10,000 police officers from across the UK will be on duty every day in Glasgow, including 7,000 from outside Scotland. Armed officers and search dogs will patrol the city’s underground and overground rail networks for the duration of the summit. In addition, “The army has been brought in to assist with security, while UN troops will be on duty inside the main conference area,” The Times reported. The costs also include the high steel fence surrounding the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) where the official proceedings are taking place. The fence is said to be required to provide “a buffer against any potential terrorist attack.” It is also reported that Scottish police are using “an anti-terrorist traffic regulation order to close roads and paths around the SEC.”
Police officers have been deployed to outnumber those taking part in actions over the past week, activists report.
All of it sends a clear message that the working people and especially the youth who have been fighting to put climate change on the agenda are to be considered a threat and criminalized, while those responsible for the plunder and unchecked despoiling of Mother Earth to enrich themselves are not to be held to account.
Many delegates to the proceedings of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland have informed of the great difficulties they experience to take part in meetings. Many from the poorer nations were not even able to make it to Glasgow due to high costs of travel and COVID-19-related travel restrictions. These issues plus the massive police presence have led people to conclude that this is the most exclusionary UN Climate Summit ever, despite the claims by the UK government that COP26 would be the most inclusive COP yet.
A report from the website SciDev.Net, that provides “news, views and analysis about science and technology for global development,” reports on the situation facing delegates from poorer less-developed countries (termed the “global South”) at COP26:
“A participation revolution is needed to stop the ‘outrageous’ exclusion of civil society and the global South from major international talks, development advocates have said amid accusations that COP26 is the least inclusive climate summit in a decade.
“Vaccine and visa complications, coupled with COVID-19 restrictions on capacity in official negotiating spaces, have left civil society and scientists from the global South outside of core proceedings in Glasgow, UK, say advocates.
“They believe the UN summit’s organizers have legal obligations to ensure that the people who are most impacted by climate change can contribute to negotiations and working groups.
“Sébastien Duyck, a senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law, said: ‘People have come from all regions, despite all of the hurdles — the economic costs of being here in Glasgow, the health risks associated with going back to their communities, to participate in the process.’
“But he said that of the thousands of accredited observers from the global South, Indigenous communities and environment organizations, ‘four representatives have been allowed in the entire room where negotiations take place. Not just the high-level segment of this COP, the entire working area where actual negotiations take place.’
“Duyck said with at least six simultaneous negotiations happening at a time, that meant global South and civil society were absent from some processes.
“‘We’ve seen the least inclusive beginning of a conference of parties since over a decade,’ Duyck said. ‘COVID-related restrictions cannot justify the fact that an entire network of environmental and development organizations will be allowed to send four delegates in the negotiating area.’
“One of the only civil society actions so far permitted in the Blue Zone — the restricted area at COP26 — was called off on Wednesday [November 3], as security struggled to control the number of reporters and supporters who gathered to see Indigenous communities protest an event on carbon markets.
“Duyck called on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] Secretariat and the UK as hosts to take immediate action to ensure that the voices of communities living with the impacts of climate change are ‘effectively and meaningfully heard in negotiating rooms.’
“The UK government had said the event would be the most inclusive COP ever. […]
“The COP26 organizing team on Tuesday [November 2] apologized for major delays for delegates entering the venue, and technical issues which had made accessing the digital platform, where events are being streamed, difficult.
“Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of UK-based charity Oxfam GB, told SciDev.Net that participation was vital at the summit because the people who had contributed ‘almost nothing’ to the climate crisis were living with the disastrous impacts.
“‘Their voices are hardly heard in these sorts of environments. We’ve got to fix that participation gap if we’re going to have any sort of successful process around climate change,’ he said.
“Intergovernmental processes generate a ‘double democratic deficit,’ Sriskandarajah says, as the poorest and most marginalized people are excluded from their national political systems, causing greater invisibility at the global level.
“‘The people whose lives are being affected now are two steps removed from influencing these sorts of processes, which at their heart should be about justice to those people,’ he added.
“‘We need a participation revolution.’
“Several delegates from the global North have told SciDev.Net that their colleagues from the global South had visa applications denied or delayed, causing them to miss speaking engagements.
“The executive director of the Act On Sahel movement, Kaossara Sani, of Togo, said she was a ‘missing voice in the climate debate and negotiations’ and questioned why the most affected by climate change were being excluded.”
The exclusion from decision-making on climate change, war and other crucial matters is the most serious problem that ordinary working people around the world face. This includes those living in all the countries where outmoded institutions of liberal democracy disempower the people and block them from having a say, and governments act to serve private supranational interests, in contradiction with the people’s rights and well-being at home and abroad. A participation revolution is precisely what’s needed.
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