Social PreCOP: the youth take the floor and the mesas begin

photo credit Zack Embree – see www.zackembree.com

by nathan thanki

Work at the social preCOP in Venezuela has finally begun on the process to prepare a declarative document reflecting the demands of social movements in relation to climate change and the international process.

Following a day of presentations from local governments—including the Mayor of Nantes and the Governor of Caracas—day two, called “Youth Take the Floor” began with a panel that included Jamie Peters, Silje Lundberg, Anjali Appadurai, Lorena Terrazas, and an 11 year old Venezuelan “guarda parquista.” Hector Rodriguez, Venezuela’s Minister for Education (Ministro del Poder Popular para Educacion) also featured, and Vice Minister for North America, Claudia Salerno, introduced the speakers and facilitated an extensive dialogue between the audience and panelists.

Jamie spoke about his experiences of working on climate change education in the UK, explaining that the educational model there, like most of Europe, is not open to naming and addressing the root causes of climate change, but instead depoliticizing the issue.

 

 

Silje talked about energy—beginning with the situation in Norway, which has gotten rich from many years of oil production. Norway, she said, cultivates a fairly green image both inside and outside the climate talk, but the reality is somewhat different. The oil industry keeps promoting the lie that Norway can extract all its oil reserves and the planet can avoid 2 degrees of warming. She asked how it could be considered fair that Norwegians each emit 11 tonnes of CO2 per year, whereas Indians only emit 1.7. She spoke about the alternatives of community owned renewable energy, highlighting some success stories in Europe. Anjali spoke about equity, specifically about how the idea of “intergenerational equity,” a concern for young people in the climate talks, is meaningless without an understanding of current inequities. The space was then opened for a dialogue, with questions first being addressed to Minister Rodriguez, who then left early in order to participate in “government on the streets.” The inputs ranged from questions for the Minister about how climate change can be brought into education and curricula, to specific recommendations on measures he should take.

 

 

 

Further questions for the panelists included: “What do world governments need to do to stop climate change;” “How does climate change education get reflected in the 2015 Paris agreement;” “How can we make vulnerable groups like single mothers and handicapped people part of the climate movement;” “What kind of community owned renewable energy plan could be implemented here on Margarita Islands,;” and “How can we prevent youth around the world falling for the myth of the American dream?” All the while, several groups of children from various youth movements in Venezuela sat listening attentively. Unlike the UN, under-18s are welcome here at the preCOP.

In the afternoon, a plenary session also held by Vice Minister Salerno elaborated more clearly on the methodology of work for the mesas, and introduced the Venezuelan team of rapporteurs. Concerns had been raised by some during a Climate Justice Assembly about having only Venezuelan rapporteurs, and so after an Assembly with the organising team, the methodology was revised to include rapporteurs from civil society who will work in tandem with the Venezuelans as part of a team.

 

When the five mesas went to their various rooms, they began by electing a facilitator. They are as follows:

Mesa I (Social Impacts of Climate Change): Beverly Keene, La Via Campesina

Mesa II (Climate Ethics: Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities): Alex Rafalowicz, Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice

Mesa III (Social Participation in Decision Making): Rosa Guillen, World March for Women

Mesa IV (Combating Climate Change: Direct Action for Transformation): Martin Drago, Friends of the Earth Uruguay

Mesa V (North-South Responsibilities: Commitments of the North to enable actions in the South): Lidy Nacpil, Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development

photo credit Zack Embree

Following an introductory speech by a member of the international civil society who we had agreed on previously, members of each mesa were given the floor for an initial go-round. Everyone had the opportunity to speak, and by and large everyone did. The process was participative, democratic, and respectful. The three-minute time limit was respected almost exactly. The UN climate negotiations have a lot to learn.

Today, the process continues. With only two days, the task of conducting such roundtable discussion in a participative and transparent way in order that they can produce, by consensus, politically relevant points is extremely difficult. We are here in the mesas engaging, with the hope that by the end of the week we can have agreement, in writing, on the main political points and demands. We will keep you updated.

On top of the pre-scheduled events, social organisations and movements present here have taken advantage of the opportunity to meet and plan for the coming months. Meetings have already been held regarding the planned events for the People’s Climate March in New York City in September and other plans around Ban ki Moon’s Climate Summit, as well as around the Cumbre de los Pueblos frente al Cambio Climatico, happening in Lima concurrently to the COP20 gathering.

photo credit Zack Embree

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