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Grassroots groups were mobilizing in early August in Richmond, California, in ongoing preparation for the People's Climate March and Summit. (Photo: Grassroots Global Justice Alliance)

Groups Slam 'Corporate Takeover' of UN Climate Summit, Call for System Change

Representing over 200 million people around the world, groups declare: "To deal with the crisis, we must address the root causes and change the system"

Sarah Lazare

Ahead of the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, which trumpets itself as an event to "catalyze ambitious action," grassroots organizations from around the world are warning that the global gathering, in fact, has been hijacked by corporations that are pursuing "false promises" and "exploiting the tragedy of climate change."

"The undersigned social movements that all together represent more than 200 million people around the world, denounce [the] corporate takeover of the UN and the climate negotiations process and call for a deep systemic change," reads a statement, released Tuesday by international social movement groups, including La Via Campesina, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, and more.

"There will be no going back from the climate chaos if we do not fight for real solutions and do nothing to confront and challenge the inaction of our governments’ policy-making being hijacked by polluting corporations," the statement continues. "It is crucial for us to unify and strengthen our economic, social and environmental struggles and focus our energies on changing the capitalist system."

But this capitalist system will be heavily represented at the upcoming UN summit, which will take place September 23 at the New York City headquarters of the UN. The meeting was convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to showcase "government, finance, business, and civil society" solutions to the climate crisis, according to a UN announcement. The summit, which President Obama is expected to attend, will not host negotiations for binding climate commitments, but rather will provide a platform for the announcement of voluntary commitments to cut emissions, as well a host of so-called private-public partnerships.

While the summit is not open to the public, corporations have been invited to play a large roll in its numerous events and plenaries, which will include a "Private Sector Luncheon," the launch of the "We Mean Business" corporate coalition, and heavy participation from the Caring for Climate "UN Initiative for Business Leadership"—which was established in 2007 and includes numerous corporate backers from the oil, gas, and coal industries. 

Critics charge that this and other UN climate meetings have devolved into platforms for corporations, while civil society participation and protests are excluded and forcibly silenced.

"The Summit has been surrounded by a lot of fanfare but proposes voluntary pledges for emission cuts, market-based and destructive public-private partnership initiatives such as REDD+, Climate-Smart Agriculture and the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative," reads the Tuesday statement. "These are all false solutions of the green economy that seeks to further commodify life and nature and further capitalist profit."

The groups argue that real solutions require binding commitments, plans to leave fossil fuels in the ground, a "transition to renewable energy," and the development of public transportation and community-based agriculture and food security models. Ultimately, they urge that a real solution will require a shift away from the capitalist economic system and the "dismantling" of war and military industries and infrastructure.

Leading up to and during the UN gathering, organizations from around the world will offer a different message outside the summit's closed doors by staging a number of events, including: a People's Climate March on September 21; People's Climate Justice Summit September 22 and 23; Converge for Climate Conference from Sept. 21-23; and the Religions for the Earth Conference September 19 through 21.

Cindy Wiesner, National Coordinator for the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, told Common Dreams, "People on the front-lines of the climate crisis know what action needs to be taken and are ready to make change happen. We need our governments and global leaders to catch up with the people on the ground."


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