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climate activists

Activists protested at COP24 on Friday, the summit's final day, to demand that world leaders "stand with people, not polluters." (Photo: Corporate Accountability/Twitter)

'Stand With People, Not Polluters': Sit-In on Last Day of COP24 Highlights #PeoplesDemands for Ambitious Climate Action

More than 150 representatives from movements across the globe came together in protest at the "corporate-captured U.N. climate talks"

Jessica Corbett

As world leaders continue to negotiate a global game plan for climate action on the final day of the COP24 summit in Katowice, Poland, more than 150 representatives from movements across the globe came together for a sit-in to demand that governments "stand with people, not polluters" and "commit to action in line with the urgency of the crisis."

The purpose of the "corporate-captured U.N. climate talks," as the activists have called them, is to write a rulebook for the 2015 Paris agreement—supported by every nation on Earth except the United States, thanks to President Donald Trump's vow to withdraw from it. The accord aims to limit global warming within this century to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels.

"Governments must take responsibility and provide real leadership to halt climate breakdown. They are failing completely to do so, and their failures are on full display here at COP24," charges a statement from the sit-in organizers. "Inside these halls, we are calling on the rich polluting countries to stop obstructing progress and to support the just transition we need."

Demanding "climate justice and a world under 1.5ºC of warming," and accusing decisions-makers of sticking to "business as usual," the activists on Friday held up massive banners that read, "stand with people, not polluters," "system change, not climate change," and "which side are you on?"

The People's Demands, drafted with input from southern movements and climate justice groups worldwide, are:

  • Keep fossil fuels in the ground;
  • Reject false solutions that are displacing real, people-first solutions to the climate crisis;
  • Advance real solutions that are just, feasible, and essential;
  • Honor climate finance obligations to developing countries;
  • End corporate interference in and capture of the climate talks; and
  • Developed countries must honor their "Fair Shares" for largely fueling this crisis.

Friday also saw U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres—who warned on Wednesday that "it would be suicidal" to conclude COP24 without a bold strategy to limit global warming—return to Poland "to add support for a successful outcome," and youth activists striking in solidarity with 15-year-old Swedish climate advocate Greta Thunberg.

Poland, the global summit's host country, began circulating a draft of the Paris accord's rulebook on Wednesday and, according to BBC News, negotiators are "preparing to work well past the official close of the conference on Friday evening." Activists have expressed concern that in its current form, it won't ensure accountability for efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions in hopes of curbing global warming.

A key U.N. report released in October—which triggered a diplomatic standoff at the talks between a few oil-exporting nations, including the United States, and the rest of the world—warned that the international community must take immediate and unprecedented action to avert climate catastrophe.

COP24 comes amid worldwide protests demanding dramatic climate action in light of record-breaking levels of carbon emissions, "off the charts" rates of melting ice, and rapidly increasing concerns about extreme weather and species extinction. As one climate scientist concluded in Poland on Thursday, "I've worked on this for 30 years and I've never been as worried as I am today."


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