Speaking (dirty) truths to (polluting) power

On Monday, in protest at fossil fuel side events taking place inside the climate talks (and their general grip over climate policy at national and international level), CEO helped organise a direct action with climate justice youth inside the UN negotiations.

Godwin Ojo, from Environmental Rights Action (Friends of the Earth Nigeria), delivered a rousing speech (see video  in front of a big banner reading Get Fossil Fuels Out of the COP with many youth supporting the action with tshirts that read #GetTheFFout.

But having a protest outside in a courtyard is all very well, but if those you're protesting against are meeting inside, then surely you should be there? Shell, the World Coal Association, and - disappointingly - the London School for Economics' Lord Nicholas Stern were all set to speak, but the arrival of peaceful activists and a hungry-for-anything-vaguely-more-interesting-than-paint-dryingly-boring-negotiations press corp meant the room was even too full for the speakers to walk in. They did get there in the end, but all those from civil society walked out at the start of Lord Stern's segment in protest at his legitimising of the false climate solutions put forward by Shell and others.

We also put out a press release, along with youth groups and 350.org:

Indigenous peoples and affected communities speak out against the industry, call for fossil fuel companies to be banned from the UN Climate Talks

Lima, Peru – This Monday morning, civil society groups will protest outside of a fossil fuel industry side event at the COP20 and call on the UNFCCC to ban fossil fuel lobbyists from the UN climate talks.

Representatives from indigenous communities in Colombia, Peru, and Canada will speak out against the environmental and human right violations caused by the fossil fuel industry. Activists will call on fossil fuel industry lobbyists to be banned from the UN Climate Talks and all contact with climate policy makers.

“Shell has left the Niger Delta an environmental disaster area, a crime scene that is tantamount to ecocide, and crime against humanity.”  Says Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, “The company has taken our resources, polluted our waters and is now reluctant to clean up. They have no place in Nigeria, or in the climate negotiations, and there is no place for dirty energy in a sustainable energy future,”

The protest is planned ahead of a side-event hosted by the Global CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) Institute. The side-event features speakers from the World Coal Association and Shell, as well as economist Lord Nicholas Stern. The event is part of a series hosted by the International Emissions Trading Association and sponsored by industry giants such as Chevron.

Chevron’s crimes include attacks on human rights and environmental destruction in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Shell is a key player in the Canadian tar sands and number one target in a global campaign to end oil drilling in the arctic. Both companies, along with the World Coal Association, have a track record of lobbying against climate action around the world.

"Chevron and Shell are stealing the future of our children and all life as we know it. Mother Earth cannot breathe-in any more carbon. Rather than doing the right thing and cut their emissions at source, these oil criminals are using carbon sequestration scams, including forest carbon markets, aka REDD." says Tom BK Goldtooth, with the Indigenous Environmental Network. Goldtooth added, "These allow claims of carbon neutrality while at the same time continuing to contaminate the water shed, destroy the ecosystem and endangering the health of the Dene and Cree indigenous communities. These companies should be banned from the UN climate negotiations and from lobbying at national level for participating in and promoting the global climate ponzi scam that is REDD.”

The original title of the panel, “Why Divest from Fossil Fuels When a Future with Low Emission Fossil Energy Use is Already a Reality?” was later changed to try and downplay its controversial content.

Civil society has seized on the event as an example of the corporate influence that threatens progress at the UN Climate Talks. While the World Health Organization has banned tobacco industry lobbyists from taking part in tobacco control policy making at national and international level, the climate process has no such protections.

"We'd be outraged if we thought the tobacco industry was dictating our government's policy on public health, but that's exactly what's happening with climate policy.” Said Pascoe Sabido at Corporate Europe Observatory, “The same polluting industries most responsible for causing the crisis are getting to decide how we respond to it - and shifting from business as usual is not part of the plan. Without tackling the influence of the fossil fuel industry, we're never going to stop dangerous climate change. That means banning fossil fuel lobbying at all levels, not just in the UN talks, by which time it’s often too late to make a difference."

The panel is also a sign that the growing fossil fuel divestment movement has put industry on the defensive. Over the past two years, the fossil fuel divestment campaign has spread to hundreds of universities, cities, and religious institutions around the world. Over 180 public institutions and thousands of individuals have divested from fossil fuels, together representing over $50 billion in assets.

“The divestment movement has helped crystallize the reality of the fossil fuel era coming to an end,” said Jamie Henn, Strategy and Communications Director for the climate campaign group 350.org. “Worldwide, people are standing up to the industry to protest their environmental crimes and divest from their destruction.”

As it becomes increasingly clear that the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves must remain underground in order to limit global warming to below 2°C, let alone 1.5°C, the fossil fuel industry has seized on carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a panacea to all their woes. However, CCS has never been proven at scale and test cases have been extremely expensive. The technology has been called a “unicorn” and “make-believe” on the part of the industry.

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