Planet in Crisis: where next for global action on climate change?

Kicking off this dynamic discussion of the biggest of issues was Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Salon. At last year’s Cancun  climate change talks, Bolivia broke the status quo by objecting to the negotiations. All countries that participated were under huge pressure to agree, comply, and push forward the bill, and Bolivia speaking out against the process was a significant step.

Salon was enourmously critical of the UN process in general, and said that the conditions of the climate change bill were disaterous for developing nations and the future of the planet as whole. A severe reluctance to significantly cut carbon emissions and prevent global temperatures from rising between 2 and 4 degrees is set to have unprecedented consequences for developing nations in particular, as well as threatening the very existence of small island states.

Salon stressed the need for social participation within the climate debate, making the point that the politicians and UN ministers in the boardrooms at Copenhagen and Cancun have not successfully represented the needs of people accross the globe. He also criticised the short-termist approach of politicians and the damaging effect this has within the global climate change strategy. Unfortunately, the majority of politicains are largely more concerned with winning elections and offering quick-fix solutions than planning holistically for the handling of the environmental crisis as part of the bigger picture.

Offering a more localised perspective in terms of the steps we can take to address climate change in the UK was Hugh Lanning, from the Public and Commercial services Union. His core narrative was focused around the fact that environmental issues are also social issues. He criticised the destructive methods employed by the current government, and their short term quick-fix spending and investment in unsustainable projects.  Lanning is demanding a mass creation of ‘climate jobs’ and a radical shift in the operations of public services. He pointed out that many skilled workers within British society – engineers, transport employees and construction workers for example – are the very people being affected by job cuts under the coalition government. Lanning emphasised that these are the people who need to be trained and invested in accordingly, in order that we can develop new, more environmentally intelligent methods of construction, insulation and a greener transport system, and ultimately boost the econmy in the long run.

The prevailing sentiment of the session, and one that united all the speakers despite their different fields, approaches and areas of expertise, was the importance of civil society participation in resolving the planet’s environmental crisis. Climate Camp participant Mel Evans also highlighted the need for the public as well as activists to put pressure on our governments in the North as well as targeting the root causes of climate change.

Mel encouarged the public to hold to account those corporations and multnationals that entirely disregard the best interest of the planet and its people in their relentless quest for profit. All the speakers seemed to agree that if we are going to find an effective solution to runaway climate change, we need to create a global climate alliance that represents the opinions of the people being effected directly by the crisis, not those who refuse to aknowledge its full magnitude and implications.

  • Alice Cutler

    Thanks for this, people may also be interested in this booklet, distributed at the conference, Space for Movement, reflections from Bolivia on Climate Justice, Social Movements and the State. Available in English ans Spanish to download from http://spaceformovement.wordpress.com/
    In the wake of the failed COP-15 in Copenhagen last December, Bolivia’s first indigenous president called for a World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (CMPCC). Was this the necessary space for social movements to respond where governments and the UN have failed? Was it an attempt to co-opt radical demands? Following the CMPCC in Cochabamba, April 2010, this booklet reflects on the lessons from Bolivia and the role of movements in the fight for climate justice.

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