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Civil society groups met in Bonn and demanded government leaders either “stand with us" or "step aside” in the effort for a new energy future. (Courtesy of: volveremos.org)

Civil society groups met in Bonn and demanded government leaders either “stand with us" or "step aside” in the effort for a new energy future. (Courtesy of: volveremos.org)

Global Citizens to Elites: Join Climate Fight 'Or Step Aside'

As world leaders gather in Bonn for new talks, civil society says continued inaction cannot be tolerated

Jon Queally

More than 100 organizations representing millions of global citizens held a demonstration in Bonn, Germany on Friday as they delivered a direct message to government leaders gathered for climate talks with a simple, but urgent message: "Stand with us, or step aside."

The morning event saw organizations from every continent – including trade unions, social movements, environmental groups, gender and youth groups, indigenous groups and NGOs – join together to demand climate justice as they warned that current levels of inaction by governments are dangerously off-track in addressing the climate emergency.

"We are more determined than ever to fight for the survival of our families, our communities and our peoples across the world – a survival that rests on nothing less than the fundamental transformation of a system that has generated massive impoverishment, injustices and a climate crisis that threatens all life on earth."

The groups delivered a joint declaration to government envoys to the talks. "The global climate movement is building its strength and power in every country of the world," it read in part. "We call on those who claim to represent us to either act in our interests or step aside."

Representatives from the coalition joined together under a large banner that offered their alternative to a fossil fuel-intensive energy system as the ultimate answer to human-caused global warming. "Renewable Energy. People’s Power now!" the sign said.

And the coalition's declaration articulated the motivations, growing impatience, and determination of their members:

We are more determined than ever to fight for the survival of our families, our communities and our peoples across the world – a survival that rests on nothing less than the fundamental transformation of a system that has generated massive impoverishment, injustices and a climate crisis that threatens all life on earth. People are waging this fight in various arenas in every corner of the globe, over every dimension of their lives – food, energy, health and security, jobs and livelihoods.

People are mobilizing everywhere and taking to the streets in bigger numbers and increasing intensity to stand up to vested interests and fight for their future and those of the next generations. People driven solutions, compatible with planetary limits are being created and asserted at local, national and global levels – aimed at meeting the needs of people rather than the relentless pursuit of profits for big business and wealthy elites.

We are back, far more strengthened in giving voice to those who are already acting with the urgency needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change - the huge majority of civil society around the world that you, ministers, represent and can not ignore any longer.

The Bonn Climate Change Conference was a precursor to a higher-level conference in Paris at the end of next year by which time nations say they will finally commit to a new climate agreement. Having seen failure year after year, however, civil society groups have largely lost faith in the possibility of world governments—especially the largest polluters like the U.S., Canada, and China—from taking the necessary steps to meet the challenge laid out by scientists and experts.

At the last UN climate conference in Warsaw, this same coalition of civil society groups staged a mass walk-out as they protested what they saw as the complete failure of progress and the stranglehold by which fossil fuel interests dominated the negotiations.

"These negotiations are a matter of life and death for many who live in vulnerable countries – where worse typhoons and droughts mean much more suffering," said Lidy Nacpil of the Philippines, director of Jubilee South – Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development. "We will continue to take action against those who claim to be leaders, calling on them to take up our solutions and beat back the vested interests that want business as usual and dress it up as progress."

Specifically, according to the declaration, the groups want world governments to:

  • Commit to a global goal of limiting warming that recognizes the latest IPCC’s warnings on the threats of tipping points, and to the right to food and food sovereignty, recalling that science suggests that 1.5C of warming would be too much for many vulnerable peoples and countries.
  • Deliver a swift global transformation away from the use of dirty fossil fuel and destructive energy systems driving the crisis, towards a carbon-free and renewable energy economy that, primarily amongst others, is decentralized, community controlled, affordable, accessible to all people for their basic needs and well-being;
  • Urgently scale up targets for emissions cuts in the pre-2020 period, and set emission targets comparable to the scale of the emergency for 2020-2025;
  • Ensure equitable and fair sharing of efforts among all countries based on their historical responsibility, their capacities, and the urgency of the crisis
  • Enable people to deal with climate impacts by protecting the rights of peoples and communities, building resilience, addressing loss and damage, and ensuring a just transition to climate resilient, low carbon, equitable and democratic economy and society.
  • Define and commit to concrete targets for the transfer of finance and technology to make global transformation possible
  • Reject the damaging influence of corporate interests on climate policy  and prevent their promotion of false solutions as the global response to the climate crisis

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