The European Assembly for Climate Justice, which took place in Brussels from 26th to 29th November, brought over 250 people from 10 European countries together for 4 days of debates, discussion, action, and networking.
The event gave a clear signal that the UN climate negotiations, taking place in Cancún, Mexico must not be used to further the interests of rich industrialized countries, and big business. The participants also discussed the way in which European countries are responding to the climate crisis – and specifically the need to ensure that action to tackle climate change also brings us closer to achieving justice within and between countries.
The assembly was inspired by the call made by La Via Campesina for “Thousands of Cancuns” during the negotiations in Cancun. It was organised by European and Belgian environmental and social movements including Friends of the Earth, Climat et Justice Sociale, Climate Justice Action Belgium/Climate Action Camp Belgium and La Via Campesina. Participants came from (at least) Belgium, UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Russia and Denmark.
The weekend began on Friday when Brussels’ regular critical mass took on an international dimension. More than 120 cyclists, including a mounted samba band, toured the part of town where the European Institutions are located.
(video of the event…, photos…, more photos and report…)
A wide range of workshops on Saturday morning discussed issues related to climate justice in the European context and the role of EU governments and corporations in the climate crisis, including: access to water and energy, food sovereignty, the role of trade unions and “green capitalism”, carbon trading and offsetting, as well as the impact of mining, oil and gas extraction.
The General Assembly on Saturday afternoon discussed a statement that will be sent to EU negotiators in Cancun, and brings together demands for climate and social justice. European organisations are invited to sign on to this statement.
If you would like to sign on, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
(read the statement…)
Saturday ended with a conference featuring Manolo Gari, director of ISTAS, an organisation of the union Commissiones Obreras specialised in environmental and health topics, and Peter Polder from “Groen front” (green front) in the Netherlands. Two other international speakers also brought their first hand experiences of the struggle against climate change, and for climate justice. Evguenia Tchirikova from Russia told the assembly about the battle to defend the Khimki forest on the edge of Moscow, in which she is a leading figure. The Khimki forest is one forest but is emblematic of the thousands of forests, lakes and other natural resources in Russia and around the world and those who are trying to profit from their destruction.
Qalandar Bux Memon from Pakistan, a lecturer at the Lahore university, shared his experiences of this year’s devastating floods which left one fifth of the country under water and 10 million people without homes. Unprecedented rainfall was the biggest factor, but this was exacerbated by melting glaciers, deforestation and mangrove destruction, as well as decisions taken in the interests of local and international elites.
On Sunday morning, the discussion turned to planning strategies for the months and years ahead, with discussions on tackling the power of business lobbyists, and the ways in which we can join up environmental and social justice struggles.
(report to follow…)
In the afternoon, we joined the climate justice bloc in the “Sing for the Climate” event, organised by the Belgian Climate Coalition. Although our singing, and our demand for “system change not climate change”, was not always in tune with the rest of the demonstration, we sent a clear signal that tackling the climate crisis cannot be at the expense of social justice! Qalandar Bux Memon spoke at the meeting after the event. In name of Climate and Social Justice he stressed the importance of a social, environmental and ethical mobilisation.
The assembly ended on Monday afternoon with some of the individuals and organisations who had participated in the assembly non-violently occupying the office of IETA, the International Emissions Trading Association. This lobby organisation represents its big business members, and pushes for an expansion of the international carbon markets both within the EU and in the UN climate negotiations. The action successfully stopped some of their key staff members preparing for their departure to Cancún.
(video…, report…, photos…)
The events in Brussels continue over the duration of the UN climate conference, with a youth convergence “Cancun in Brussels” organised by Young Friends of the Earth Europe.