This past month, I attended the U.N. climate negotiations (COP 24) this year in Katowice, Poland as a U.S. youth delegate. During this time, I was able to work alongside multiple civil society organizations who are fighting to be heard outside of the negotiation rooms at COP. This year, I wanted to present some of the highlights of people power that I witnessed while being on the ground. You can also read my personal insights on a recent article I published here.
During the first week of COP 24, Climate justice groups held an action to spread word about the #PeoplesDemands – a comprehensive list of climate justice demands from civil society to government representatives at COP. Multiple leaders from frontline communities around the world told their stories and concerns that the world is not taking the immediate action necessary for climate solutions. They demanded that world leaders stand with people, not polluters at this year’s talks together with over 235,000 people from around the world who signed on to the demands in solidarity. On the second week of COP, civil society leaders delivered the People’s Demands to the U.N. secretariat as well as EU/ US representatives.
Disrupting U.S. Pro-Fossil Fuel Panel:
On the second week of COP, a group of Indigenous youth, frontline, and community members joined together to disrupt the U.S. government’s pro-fossil fuel panel that was promoting an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy that would be the antithesis of climate action. We laughed, shamed, and walked out on the panelists who represented the fossil fuel industry to expose the corporate influence present at COP each year. The walk out culminated in a rally full of cheers and praise for reclaiming people power in a space that continuously tries to shut out frontline communities.
A group of activists and community members staged a walk out of an EU sponsored event that promoted natural gas as a ‘clean energy’ solution to meet the world’s 2050 green house gas emission reduction goals. Gas is not a solution to climate change- it is a distraction posed by the gas lobby to ignore the need for a transition to 100% renewable energy. The keynote speaker Marco Alverà was President of GasNaturally and CEO of Snam, the Italian gas pipeline company behind the controversial Trans-Adriatic mega Pipeline (TAP). If completed, the pipeline will bring Azeri gas to Europe, but it is being heavily resisted by local communities. People on the ground at COP were ready to call out the EU for sponsoring false solutions to the climate crisis and instead hosted their own event outside promoting how communities are resisting the growth of gas infrastructure.
People’s Power On the Steps of COP24:
Civil society concluded COP with a final action on the second week of the climate talks before final decisions were made on Saturday evening. People across the world lifted up signs asking world leaders, “Which side are you on?” With a response demanding that the world take the cries of the people seriously before it is too late.
As the recent IPCC report claims, there is only a bit over a decade left for the world to massively transition and transform our economies, energy systems, and societies to address the crisis. After a disappointing conclusion of COP 24 this year from weak policies/ guidelines established in the Paris Rulebook to neglecting critical conversations around carbon markets, hope continues to be a scarce commodity found in the negotiation rooms of COP. People power, however, continues to reign as a beacon of light for all of us fighting for a world that we know is possible and can be achieved if we continue to organize and take back the spaces that can no longer be owned or co-opted by the fossil fuel industry.