I've just returned from the Civicus 9th World Assembly in Montreal – and I took away a great deal of new hope and energy from the meeting.
The assembly is, if you like, a miniature version of the kind of coalition on climate justice I would like to see on a global level. Civicus unites representatives of civil society, donors, governments, business, academics, media and youth to bring about change; its power lies in the dedication of its diversity of members to work as a whole.
There is no "ours" or "theirs".
As executive Director of Greenpeace International for almost a year now, I have had the pleasure of meeting thousands of people who are ready to join a global coalition that would take this idea to a much more ambitious new level.
And the need for it is getting more pressing by the day. Although the climate in Canada was perfect, we were all too aware that elsewhere around the globe extreme weather events were underway, affecting primarily the poorest of the poor. Although events like the floods in Pakistan or the fires in Russia cannot be linked with 100% certainty to climate change, they are in line with scientists’ forecasts about what will happen in a warming world. And all serious climate scientists believe climate change is already having a negative impact on our planet - Kofi Annan's Global Humanitarian Forum counted 300,000 deaths in one year.
Where will the money for fighting climate change and adaptation to such events come from then?
That was one of the main issues we discussed in Montreal. Currently, the money being paid to victims is commonly referred to as "aid", but this term is wrong and based on a misunderstanding of climate change. Climate change is caused by the very carbon emissions that made those in the "developed world" richer than those elsewhere. Therefore asking the rich to help the poor deal with the catastrophes linked to climate change is anything but "aid" – it is a first step in reparations.
The question then becomes: what it will take to get the rich of this planet to make the changes necessary to protect the poor today – and the rest of us tomorrow? Sadly, we have seen too many governments renege on their promises. Last year's UN Copenhagen climate talks were nothing more than a travesty of a meeting, where we started out asking for a FAB treaty (a Fair, Ambitious, and Binding one) and ended with a FLAB one instead (Full of Loopholes And Bullshit).
That’s why we decided at the Civicus meeting that the only way to get action on climate change is to bring it about ourselves. You can join in too – by taking the Energy Revolution pledge today.
We agreed that we must work even harder to share expertise, to find common ground, to build creative alliances and to act decisively and passionately to engage those in power to do the right thing. The ideas of Montreal will feed into other international forums in the coming months, including the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) summit in New York in September. The energy generated will hopefully carry us through to the COP16 in Cancun, Mexico.
There, we will once again up the pressure to get governments to commit to the dramatic action needed to save our planet. I hope that, byl then, many more have come around to the understanding that we inhabit the same planet, share the same struggles and are all responsible for protecting our home for this and future generations. In the fight against climate change, there simply is no space for "ours" and "theirs".