WLOE report from Bonn, November 14, 2017

This article by WLOE internet project English editor Anna Gyorgy appeared in the November 16 issue of the Western Mass. weekly paper, the Montague Reporter
(Resource links on-line here)

Voices from Bonn: System Change not Climate Change

The long trip from Wendell back to the Rhine put me at the center of world discussions on climate. Bonn, former capital of a divided Germany, was my home base for decades. Now, thanks to a grant from The Traprock Center for Peace & Justice and its supporters, I am back for the 23rd ‘meeting of the parties’ of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP23.

I can witness this history, and report back. Not from the conference floor – check out the excellent reporting at Democracy Now! for that  --  but from the outside, attending some of the many meetings and actions of those demanding and working for strong action for climate protection and climate justice.

For delegates in Bonn from Nov. 6-17, the goal is to define and firm up the terms and goals of the Paris Agreement, drafted with much fanfare at COP21 in Paris in 2015. Participating countries agreed to make voluntary goals to keep the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and below the even more dangerous 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Putting things in perspective as COP23 opened, the World Meteorological Organization reported that 2017 was on its was to being one of the three hottest years on record. A one degree Celsius increase has already happened, and according to press and UN reports, current Paris pledges would leave the world “3C warmer than in pre-industrial times.” The UN warned that projections show a 3.2C increase by 2100.

Although the agreement is widely acknowledged as being too weak and as is, will keep us on a climate collision course, it has now been signed onto by all countries -- except ours. Perhaps a bright note is that official US withdrawal from the agreement will not be in force until November 4, 2020, the day after the 2020 elections. (Another reason why climate should finally become a major political issue in the U.S.)

Islands from Puerto Rico to Tuvalu are especially vulnerable to global warming, rising ocean levels and devastating storms. At this COP, front-line island nations of the world have a major voice, as Fiji, one of their own, is this year’s conference president. However as this archipelago of more than 330 islands in the south Pacific, already a victim of major storms, lacks the logistics to welcome some 25,000 delegates and others, the summit is taking place in Bonn, home to the UN climate change convention secretariat. 

As the second week of the conference began, the Global Carbon Project announced that CO2 emissions for 2017 would increase by 2%, after two stable years. And this increase is itself evidently related to climate change, as drought in China lowered its hydroelectric resources, leading to greater dependency on coal. This is just part of a serious picture, worldwide. Clearly big changes are needed to restore a measure of climate stability on this planet. And there are major differences in opinion and analysis about what needs to be done.

For activists from communities opposed to nuclear energy and its radwaste – some for decades, to the recently formed ‘GAStivists’ who see no diffference between reliance on ‘conventional’ and ‘fracked’ gas (“it’s all methane, and a climate killer”), to the indigenous people whose culture and livlihoods are threatened by climate change and ‘extractivist’ policies of endless growth, the slogans were loud and clear: “System change not climate change,” and “Climate Justice – Now!”

Challenging the status quo


This opposition set the tone for the climate conference before its official opening on November 6. From November 3 to 7, hundreds of people, mainly young and from European countries, gathered for a People's Climate Summit to discuss and hear from experts and affected people around the world, as they described climate disruption in their home communities and countries, and steps taken to counter it.

There were great workshops and panels, translated in from two to four languages, a raft of studies and literature, and a major demonstration on Saturday, November 4th, that brought 25,000 people into the streets of Bonn, 3,000 in a bicycle parade. It was the biggest climate march yet in Germany.

There “END COAL” was spelled out in bobbing black balloons on a giant banner behind the stage. International speakers addressed many climate and justice related themes, but a major focus was the hypocrisy of German energy policy. Although known around the world as a leader in renewable energy, Germany is in fact a major emitter of CO2, and dedicated to mining the dirtiest form of coal: brown coal, or lignite.


Ende Gelaende --  Stop Coal!

After months of careful planning, on the day after the demo, 4,000 people went to the site of Germany’s biggest surface mine – a moon-like landscape of devastation just 50 kilometers north of Bonn. In the largest civil disobedience action against the largest CO2 emitter in Europe, 3,000 people were able to get on the site and shut it down for the day. The action was seen in living rooms across the country and helped make the crucial exit from coal a major topic in the political talks around formation of a new coalition government, which are going on parallel to the climate negotiations.

Every day at the conference will be full, as delegates from the most affected countries press for financial aid to repair damages and invest in renewable energy and efficiency; oppose massive, often privately funded and for-profit plantation projects; demand a greater voice for indigenous people and women; and more. Alongside the many talks and closed negotiating sessions are numerous side events, many put on by the same social movements and progressive parties that organized the Peoples Climate Summit. 

For more information on some of the key topics involved, check out the websites of groups offering excellent resources on many key issues. Which I look forward to writing and talking about -- and showing – when get back home with my videos, photos and all that documentation. The energy, knowledge and vital determination to change the current system of exploitation, privatization and destruction shown in Bonn gives hope.

Here are just some of the excellent resources I collected:


See the
Ende Gelaende Facebook page for photos, videos and more.

For extensive research on coal world-wide by the German Green Party’s Heinrich Böll Foundation, Friends of the Earth International, and the German FOE partner BUND see: Coal Atlas at https://www.boell.de/en/dossier-coal-atlas-facts-and-figures-fossil-fuel

The Corporate Europe Observatory’s new report The Great Gas Lock-in shows how gas industry lobbying could lock Europe into 40-50 more years of dependency on fossil fuels. https://corporateeurope.org/

The GAStivists at www.gastivists.org say: “Don’t let the gas industry greenwash COP23!”

Food and Water Europe have many resources on gas and fracking, and I learned a lot from: The Trans-Atlantic Plastics Pipeline: How Pennsylvania’s Fracking Boom Crosses the Atlantic On “how America’s oil and gas rush is now coming to Europe, polluting both sides of the pond, contributing to climate change and threatening coastal wildlife.”

CLIMATE CONFERENCE NEGOTIATIONS: The Third World Network has updates from all meetings at https://twnetwork.org/meeting/bonn-climate-change-conference-nov-2017

CLIMATE REFUGEES: See this new report by Oxfam:

ITTAKESROOTS.ORG “is a multiracial alliance of alliances bringing together 150 organizations in 30 states nationwide & in Canada.” It includes the Climate Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network and the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance.

Gender CC: women for climate justice: http://www.gendercc.net/home.html

**  See http://www.womengenderclimate.org/

**“Rising Current, Stronger Movements” a zine by young feminists. See https://youngfeministclimatestorytelling.com/

** WoMin, Africa: “Extractives vs development sovereignty: building living consent rights for African women”, This 16 page article was presented at the Peoples Climate Summit by WoMin, “an alliance of organisations that span the African continent.” download here:

**  Democracy Now! Reporting from Bonn: https://www.democracynow.org/topics/bonn_climate_summit_2017

**  See the many reports in English from the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (assoc. with the German Left Party) at: https://www.rosalux.de/en/dossiers/climate-justice/cop23-in-bonn/

** From the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Green Party): https://www.boell.de/en/2017/11/01/fiji-un-climate-change-conference-2017-cop23-what-stake-bonn

Big meat and dairy’s supersized climate footprint: https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5825-big-meat-and-dairy-s-supersized-climate-footprint

“Climate change smoke and mirrors,” etcgroup.org and Heinrich Böll Foundation. download: https://www.boell.de/en/2017/10/09/climate-change-smoke-and-mirrors-civil-society-briefing-geoengineering?dimension1=ds_geoengineering

See also: Mapping Geogengineering Projects, an interactive map from ETC Group and Heinrich Boell Foundation showing growth of climate control efforts, at: www.map.geoengineeringmonitor.org

Information on climate engineering: www.geoengineeringmonitor.org

Web dossier: www.boell.de/en/geoengineering