“Instead of kicking out these polluters, the UNFCCC kicked out the people. Instead of listening to our voices, they attempted to silence us.”
While UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was speaking at the Global Climate Action High-Level event in Madrid, saying “we need more ambition, more solidarity and more urgency”, about 300 civil society representatives from indigenous groups and environmental NGOs were being kicked out of the COP25 venue.
A few minutes earlier, they had organised a non-violent protest inside the halls of the climate conference venue to call for human rights and gender equality for all.
“Hundreds of us demonstrated inside the halls of COP25 today, not to block progress, but to drive it forward. Our motto was, “Step up, pay up.” It was a message to the rich countries who refuse to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement. It was a message to the corporate polluters, who roam these halls attempting to profit off the world’s suffering, instead of paying for the damage they’ve done.”
The mood among civil society was already low since the opening of COP25 as the largest emitters and countries such as Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India or China are accused of trying to limit the scale of what can be achieved at this year’s climate conference. Environmental NGOs have pointed out that issues such as the carbon markets, loss and damage, and the Gender Action Plan are making little or no progress in the negotiations. In addition, a study by Corporate Accountability has shown that the corporations bankrolling this year’s UN climate talks (Endesa, Iberdrola, Banco Santander and Suez) are some of Spain’s biggest polluters and tied to human rights abuses, shady lobbying and greenwashing around the globe.
In today’s action, activists were singing in frustrations, people were crying, there was a beautiful sensation of solidarity, explained one of the participants.
Taily Terena, from the Terena nation of Brazil, Women & Gender Constituency and the Indigenous People’s Constituency said:
“The rise of macho fascists from Brazil, Chile, the US, Philippines and other countries have not only eroded our rights but are affecting the lived experiences of indigenous peoples, women, non-binary peoples and people of colour. Feminists and indigenous people call for systems change immediately! Calling for the protection of human rights, especially for indigenous peoples, women and environmental defenders as they are the most affected and persecuted groups!”
“We’re here to demand rich gov’ts like the U.S., EU, Canada, Australia, and Japan reduce emissions and provide support for impacted communities. The ones that created the climate crisis, and bear the historical and current responsibility, must act!” writes the Women & Gender Constituency on Twitter.
Protesters at COP25 reported that the police pushed down and kicked a woman in the venue then laughed. With recent arrests and police brutality in Chile and Hong Kong, silencing the voices that are uncomfortable but necessary to hear is the opposite of what’s needed.
“We refused to be intimidated! We refuse to be coerced! Our voice will be heard!” said activists who were being escorted by private security outside of the conference venue.
The protest took place just hours after Greta Thunberg addressed the world and business leaders and accused them of “creative PR” and to use COP25 to “negotiate loopholes” instead of acting on climate: “The biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action”.
“We will not back down. We demand full access for civil society, the people of the world, to these negotiations and all international processes. We demand that our voices be heard” states a joint civil society statement.
Article by Anne-Sophie Garrigou, Editor-in-Chief
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