Looming ahead in eight months’ time is another Conference of Polluters, or COP (technically, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The last twenty did zilch to save us from climate catastrophe. Judging by early rough drafts of the Paris COP21 agreement recently leaked, another UN fiasco is inevitable.
The ‘Coalition Climat21’ strategy meeting for Paris was held in Tunis on March 23-24, just before the World Social Forum. I had a momentary sense this could be a breakthrough gathering, if indeed fusions were now ripe to move local versions of ‘Blockadia’ – i.e. hundreds of courageous physical resistances to CO2 and methane emissions sources – towards a genuine global political project. The diverse climate activists present seemed ready for progressive ideology, analysis, strategy, tactics and alliances. Between 150 and 400 people jammed a university auditorium over the course of the two days, mixing French, English and Arabic.
It was far more promising than the last time people gathered for a European COP, in 2009 at Copenhagen, when the naivety of ‘Seal the Deal’ rhetoric from mainstream climate organisations proved debilitating. That was a narrative akin to drawing lemmings towards – and over – a cliff: first up the hill of raised expectations placed on UN negotiators, before crashing down into a despondency void lasting several years. Recall that leaders of the US, Brazil, South Africa, India and China did a backroom deal that sabotaged a binding emissions follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol. In ‘Hopenhagen,’ even phrases like ‘System change not climate change’ were co-opted, as green capital educated by NGO allies agreed that a definition of ‘system’ (e.g. from fossil fuels to nuclear) could be sufficiently malleable to meet their rhetorical needs.
That precedent notwithstanding, the phrase “A climate movement across the movements” used here seemed to justify an urgent unity of diverse climate activists, along with heightened attempts to draw in those who should be using climate in their own specific sectoral work. The two beautiful words ‘Climate Justice’ are on many lips but I suspect the cause of unity may either erase them from the final phraseology or water them down to nebulousness.