Environmental Activists in Paris and San Diego: We Want More

by on December 15, 2015 · 0 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Energy, Environment, Health, History, Media, Organizing, Politics, San Diego, World News

climate greetingsBy Doug Porter

One hundred ninety nations reached an agreement in Paris this past weekend, theoretically setting the world on a path towards reducing carbon emissions. The San Diego City Council is poised to bless the long awaited Climate Action Plan. People took to the streets of Paris and the byways of Balboa Park over the weekend to affirm their commitment to seeing the challenges of climate change acted upon.

At last!–or so we’re told–there are processes in place to help save the planet, or at least, humanity’s position at the top of the food chain. The truth, however, is much different that the hype. Consider these deals “hope” without the “change.”

Neither the international agreement nor the local plan would have happened without grassroots activism. A legacy of misinformation and misdirection directed by the fossil fuel industry and its adherents was countered by thousands of actions involving millions of people.

The Paris Agreement

The United Nations Conference of the Parties on climate change, aka COP 21, has its origins with the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Countries came to Paris with carbon reduction targets, but renegotiating those targets was not on the agenda.

climate March 12 12COP21 ended with an agreement to not raise the Earth’s temperature by more than 2º Celsius (3.6º Fahrenheit) and to attempt to keep it at 1.5º Celsius (3.47º Fahrenheit). The targets of the nations, when combined, go beyond those levels.

What we have now amounts to a lowest common denominator consensus. A framework based on scientific data has been agreed upon, there are promises of future meetings, and a concurrence saying even more needs to be done.

From the Times of San Diego:

“This is a historic turning point in the quest to combat one of the biggest threats facing humanity,” said Gov. Jerry Brown. “Activists, businesses and sub-national leaders now need to redouble their efforts and push for increasingly aggressive action…”

…“The Paris Agreement that was signed at the end of the United Nations’ COP21 conference is transformational,” said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, who represents San diego. “It will change the world’s approach to fossil fuels, and it establishes an achievable path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to respond to the potentially devastating changes caused by climate change.”

Dissenting Points of View

What the COP21 lacks are specifics, enforceable provisions and adequate funding for developing nations most impacted by the climate crisis. These shortfalls were predictable, given the participation of countries dependent on oil as the basis of their economy, like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

The involvement of polluters via corporate underwriting of the conference and the political realities of developed countries like Australia and the United States (which combine denialism with corporate domination of government) served as a built-in impediment towards any bold actions.

Friends of the Earth International described the agreement as “a sham.” The New Internationalist, measuring the deal against the People’s Climate Test developed before COP21, described it as “an epic fail on a planetary scale.” Climate scientist James Hansen said it was a “fraud . . . fake . . . bullshit…”

Paris Protests Did Go On…

The massive street demonstrations planned for COP21 were largely cancelled due to the state of emergency existing following earlier terrorist attacks in Paris. Some activists ignored the ban on marches and were met with French security forces wielding pepper spray, tear gas, batons and arrests.

From Popular Resistance Newsletter:

There were a series of a wide variety of protests that did go forward. Indigenous peoples used kayactivism to urge keeping fossil fuels in the ground, Paris was plastered with wanted posters for ‘Climate Criminals’, US fracking opponents disrupted Paris talks, a massive sun was painted around the Arc de Triomphe demanding renewable energy, the Indigenous Environmental Network denounced false corporate ‘solutions’, a bank was taken over by song and dance protesting coal investment and ‘brandalists’ took over advertising posters throughout Paris highlighting the corporate takeover of the COP21.

The Louvre was the site of protests, inside an oil spill denounced polluting carbon energy corporations sponsorship of the museum and outside the museum, performers dressed in black held up umbrellas with letters spelling out the phrase “Fossil Free Culture.”

By the end, with a call for mass action, activists said they would move forward on a mass protest despite Hollande’s ban and defy the ban. They decried the deal saying it had failed humanity and the planet and promised to draw red lines throughout the city. They drew lines in banners, cloth, red roses and umbrellas calling for keeping fossil fuels in the ground and declaring no peace without climate justice. Police were out in force but they just watched.

Activists are already planning an active spring, with coordinated protests being planned for May to shut down the most carbon polluting projects on the planet. And protests against carbon-fuel infrastructure are continuing. Next Wednesday we are helping to organize protests against Bank of America for its funding of carbon pollution projects, our focus is on demanding BoA stop funding the fracked gas export terminal at Cove Point and other fracking-related projects.

Balboa Park COP21 March & Rally

Six hundred people marched through Balboa Park on Saturday, ending with a rally at the Bea Evenson fountain on the East end of the Prado.

climate paris

They were there to make the statement the COP21 deal is just a start, that further activism is needed, both locally and internationally.

From San Diego 350:

Speaker Jeff Severinghaus, Professor of Geosciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, emphasized the urgency and dangers of global warming. “Like the doctors fighting against lung cancer caused by cigarettes, we climate scientists are horrified by the inexorable decay of our planetary life support systems caused by fossil fuel burning. The time to act is now. We need world leaders to swiftly enact policy solutions that reduce fossil fuel emissions to near zero.”

Rev. J. Lee Hill, Jr., Pastor and Co-Chair of the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice, pointed to the moral and faith imperative to reduce global emissions and called for unity in our actions to address climate change. “God calls us to a life of ecological justice; to allow our faith to move us toward good acts of justice on the earth’s behalf. We must all come together, bridging our numerous divides, to demand action and change from our world leaders to make our world more inhabitable for future generations.”

“Climate change is the greatest threat to our generation,” said Sydney Helfand and Niki Nair, two of the leaders of the Middle School Green Team at La Jolla Country Day School. “We’re taking action; we implore you to join us.”

They were followed by Professor Jim Miller, of San Diego City College, and chair of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Environmental Caucus, who talked about why climate change is an issue of economic justice and intertwined with worker rights. “If we are really going to save the planet, we need a movement that unites economic and environmental justice and offers both a strong moral case for bold environmental action and a future that doesn’t further deepen already historic levels of economic inequality, protecting the interests of the affluent while leaving the poor behind.”

Anne Marie Tipton, of SanDiego350, spoke about what each of us can do to make a difference. “Individual actions and behaviors like driving less or eating less meat and dairy are important solutions to climate change, but working together in organizations like San Diego 350 on community-based solutions can give folks ‘more bang for their buck’ and it is way more fun!”

San Diego Councilmember David Alvarez then addressed the crowd and talked about climate justice in San Diego, who gets hurt by inaction and how we can fix that. He reminded the crowd that the San Diego Climate Action Plan will be voted on by the City Council on December 15. “The Climate Action Plan is critical to protecting and preserving our environment for future generations. In order to actually accomplish this, I will be keeping a close watch over the plan’s implementation through ongoing engagement and dialogue with a diverse mix of public stakeholders. Only by turning the plan into action, will we help the neighborhoods that are most harmed by climate change.”

Nicole Capretz, of Climate Action Campaign, then spoke about the importance of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan in setting the standard for other cities in the region. “The city is on the cusp of passing the most bold Climate Action Plan in the country with 100% clean energy mandate. Not only will this preserve the people and places we love in San Diego, it will be a model for the other cities in the region, state, nation and even internationally. It’s great news that San Diego is the vanguard in this movement to take control of our destiny and save our future for generations to come.”

The large number of speakers kept it short and sweet, with Rabbi Laurie Coskey telling the crowd “We cannot accept any agreement that does not commit sufficient resources to those who are most vulnerable.”


Meanwhile … Climate Action Plan Rally

climate3San Diego’s City Council will take its final vote on Tuesday to adopt the Climate Action Plan. Our fair city could end up as the largest city in the U.S. to commit to 100% clean energy.

City Councilmembers David Alvarez and Marti Emerald, alongside a coalition of community, business, labor, and environmental organizations, will rally the troops in support of the plan at a mid-day rally on Tuesday (Dec 15th) at City Hall Plaza.

The plan aims to protect San Diego’s people, quality of life, and economy against the threat of climate change by committing to cut citywide carbon emissions in half by 2035, with strategies to achieve:

  • 100% clean energy
  • 50% of commutes via transit, walking, and biking for residents living near transit
  • 35% urban tree canopy for shade and clean air
  • 0% waste

The Climate Action Plan –which suffers from some of the same lack of specificity as the COP21– isn’t a done deal until the vote takes place. Look for SDG&E and or their allies to be lurking in the background, hoping for a chance to undermine community choice aggregation.


The above is an excerpt – hell, it’s most of it – of Doug Porter’s daily column at our associates over at San Diego Free Press.


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