We have not won at Paris But we will win
This weekend saw people descend on Wellington from around the country as part of Oil Free Wellington’s Change Everything Gathering and Community Flotilla. The gathering on Saturday saw Maori and Pacific voices talk about the interrelated impacts of climate change, colonisation and capitalism. Poverty campaigners, Unionists, and grass roots community groups discussed real solutions to climate change, firmly rooted in the concept of climate justice. (If you couldn’t make it but would like to hear some of the speeches please check this blog for updates)
We demonstrated one aspect of these real solutions on Sunday. A flotilla of one hundred people, with kayaks, paddle boards, dingies, and waka held a practice blockade in Wellington harbour. We unfurled a banner telling the fossil fuel industry to expect resistance, and demonstrated part of the action required to stop the industry and fight for climate justice. The flotilla was supported by a hundred on-shore talking about how ordinary people and grass roots and community organisations will create the meaningful change needed to fairly address climate change and its causes.
All of this happened while, on the other side of the world, delegations cried and cheered each other on for creating a climate change agreement which allows its under lying causes to continue. This agreement does not do enough to address climate change let alone deal with the social and political structures these negotiations have been part of and perpetuate. An aspirational target of a warming of 1.5 degrees celsius has been made, enough to give Pacific Island countries a chance of survival, but the non-binding emissions reductions committed to by countries lock the world in for much more than even the agreed 2 degrees warming limit.
Nothing has been done to address the pervasive and toxifying influence of the fossil fuel industry on these negotiations and political decision making. Absurd schemes such as carbon capture and storage and emissions trading still receive support, and very little is being done to reign in further fossil fuel exploration. For example, a call to drop fossil fuel subsidies has changed to a call to drop “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies.
All this would be a normal state of affairs of a big round of climate change negotiations if it weren’t for the fact that big green groups, media, and political parties are saying “we won.” We need to be careful and make sure we keep the momentum for a fair future and for climate justice going. People have turned out in their hundreds of thousands around the world demanding a fair future and this needs to continue not dissipate. Acts of civil disobedience and direct action should be encouraged not pushed aside because of the results of a corporate captured conference.
Only with a mixture of direct action, protest, and grassroots projects will we build a better world. We have seen examples of this in Wellington, and in other communities’ struggles in recent days, and it is this which gives hope for the future, not the halls of the Conference of Parties in Paris.