December 11th. Many of us woke up today with the news that the 16 year old that has been mobilizing youth in the Global North towards Climate Action, Greta Thunberg, was named Person of the Year by Time magazine. Today, however, at the venue of COP25 the voice of the civil society was shut. At an action organized by a large number of organizations (including climate NGOs, youth groups, trade unions, and indigenous peoples), over 200 climate activists stood up to demand rich countries to step up and pay up for the damages they have caused in a #cacerolazo that finished with them escorted by the police outside of the venue, and the risk of being debadged.
The irony is more upsetting than funny. In the context of climate crisis we are living, the voices of the civil society are fundamental. If these groups stand up in the middle of the conference is not because they want, is because they are the ones who suffer the worst effects of Climate Change and because the responsible for this crisis are not stepping up to meet the commitments they have voluntarily made under the Paris Agreement. They are stepping up also because the negotiations are failing at recognizing the urgency of effective action in the face of imminent destruction of the ecosphere and their communities across the world. This year alone, fires devastated the Amazon and Siberia, Hurricanes hit the coast of Mozambique creating irreparable damages, drought in northern Africa is leading to increased food insecurity, and so on and so forth. The losses and damages will grow with time so long as we fail to mitigate our carbon emissions with the urgency required, and those who will be mostly affected by it are the developing countries in the Global South from whom countries in the Global North have stolen resources to nurture their development. It is these people, the same people who are suffering, the ones who were silenced today.
To put this situation into context I must recall that COP25 was supposed to take place in Chile and have a Latinamerican focus. It was supposed to provide a space for Latinamerican people to visibilize their issues and demands and create political space for their voices to be heard. The unilateral decision of Sebastián Piñera of cancelling COP25 Chile and its further venue change to Madrid, took that opportunity out of the hands of the people. Now, with the forced silencing of the civil society, seems clear that COP25 is not a space for Climate Action, but for slow and negligent eurocentric diplomacy to take place. A space that makes a differentiation between the value of the voices of the people.
Civil Society groups have been demanding the creation of a Conflict of Interest policy so that big polluters company do not have the freedom to walk around the negotiation space and present themselves as the solution to the Climate Crisis. Campaigns like #PollutersOut are the representation of the efforts we make to make sure that we come with real sustainable solutions to our climate crisis. Nonetheless, instead of kicking polluters out, the UNFCCC 25th Conference of the Parties decided to kick the people out.
Regardless of whatever the UNFCCC secretariat decides to do with this situation, the naming of Greta Thunberg as Person of the Year is the consequence of many things from which I would like to highlight two: One, that people around the world have awakened; and two, that the media is recognizing the importance of elevating the discussion on Climate Change. If to these points we add the resilience of the people in Chile, who have been fighting for almost two months, I think it is safe to assume that no matter how hard they try to silence us, they won’t be able to. We will keep on fighting, we will keep on resisting. No price is too high to save our planet.