CLIMATE JUSTICE IN PERSPECTIVE

To encourage knowledge-sharing and information exchange with active participants in key international ‘climate justice’ networks

Photo shows the Opening Ceremony of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April 2010

The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 ended in failure but saw the strengthening at a global level of “climate justice” movements. This APE-funded research and solidarity project sought to consolidate these grassroots achievements through work with regional and global initiatives in Bolivia and South Africa.

In the wake of Copenhagen, Bolivia’s first Indigenous President called for a World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which was then held in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April 2010. It gathered over 30,000 people from Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations, local communities, NGOs and other civil society groups to discuss  alternatives to an unambitious global framework which sees climate change in terms of technocratic and market-based solutions.

The final People’s Agreement from this Conference has influenced debates across the spectrum of social movements and civil society organisations engaging with climate change, as well as being included in new negotiating drafts at UN climate talks. The APE funding enabled us to play a key role in the carbon market and forest working groups, leading to outcomes that rejected “false solutions” such as carbon trading and reflected a strong adherence to climate justice principles. We were actively involved in establishing a coalition of civil society groups and social movements to follow up the work on forests.

Following the People’s Conference in Cochabamba a publication called ‘Space for Movement? Reflections from Bolivia on Climate Justice, Solidarity and the State’ was released in July 2010, reflecting upon and discussing a range of climate justice perspectives and challenges. In Bolivia the clear distinctions between social movements and the state are being blurred, presenting new and difficult questions for social movements:

  • Is Bolivia’s government serving as a catalyst for social change?
  • Was the People’s Summit providing the necessary space for social movements to respond where governments and the UN are failing?
  • Was it an attempt to co-opt radical demands?
  • What do social movements and grassroots organisations mean by ‘climate justice’ and how can we effectively move towards it?

In this regard, the Summit served as an opportunity to discuss climate justice, capitalism, social movements and their relationship with governments, and strategies for action and solidarity. The publication explores some of the complex contradictions and shares some of what we learned in Bolivia, as well as addresses the implications and reactions of the UN in front of the Peoples’ Agreement that came out of this Conference.

To supplement this work, we engaged in a series of information sharing and outreach workshops in South Africa, which served as groundwork for a process of international climate justice coordination and exchange in the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference to be held there at the end of 2011.    

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