A new anti-neoliberal climate movement momentum

Via Campesina demo at WTO meeting at Cancún 2003

The united demand against carbon trading by people’s movements and by the main international climate organization is a historic step forward. Initiated by the key climate justice movements, third world antidebt, the strongest international democratic environmental and farmers organizations, a main indigenous network and US environmental justice grass movement the dominant global network for the first time (to my knowledge) joined an anti-neoliberal demand. The initial signers were Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, Friends of the Earth International, Indigenous Environmental Network, La Via Campesina, and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and among those signing is 350.org Global.

This changes everything if we hold on to this new unity. The refusal by the dominant international climate organization 350.org to challenge the main political solution put forward by corporations and Western governments to solve the climate crisis has been an obstacle. By acting together against turning nature into a commodity a sharp conflict with those in power has now become central not only to the climate justice movement but also the mainstream climate movement.

In the beginning, the mainstream climate movement also refused to demand such solutions as a just transition. Piecemeal climate policies lacking a coherent combination of what the movement is against and what it is for can now be replaced by a more convincing message. A message that goes far beyond climate policies by demanding a social change that is necessary not only to stop global warming but also stop species extinction and other global threats to a planet where we and future generations can have a rich life with other species.

To establish a global market for so-called ecosystem services is what corporations and financial capital wish for. The demand against carbon trading goes far beyond climate politics, it is at the core of challenging also the corporate agenda on the global socio-ecological crisis.

It is also a possibility to establish a political platform with all people’s movement in a common concern against turning not only nature but also commons as the public sector and in general social rights into a commodity.

The road to this momentum has been long. One can wonder why it lasted such a long time to have a clear message opposing corporate interests calling for social justice between and within countries. After all, the international climate action days in 1991-94 in 70 countries had this conflict-oriented message.

But developing politics takes time. The school striking youth all over the world has crushed the single issue climate policy lobbying and expanded the movement both in message, issues, and quantity. No longer appeals are made to world leaders to act, we are rather back to the message made by international climate action days in 1991 saying “We can’t wait for governments to act!”. The youth also address firmly the whole global environmental crisis and not only climate issues. They have also been able to fo far beyond the “frontline” concept by mobilizing everywhere.

The middle-class domination is a limitation. But when now finally Via Campesina and other third world mass movements have their anti-neoliberal demand against carbon trading accepted by mainstream climate networks, we see a very new political dynamic. With small and medium-size farmers as the strongest global driving force behind a clear anti-neoliberal climate movement, a class dynamics can gather momentum uniting rural and urban class struggles with the middle class as a less strong and yet uniting force when the alliance with corporate neoliberal concerns gets challenged.

This gives room for both international, national and local alliances able to politicize the movement compatible with broader appeals as those made by Fridays for future. But it will only be possible if the anti-neoliberal demand together with just transition including both rural and urban concerns is made central to future international action days. The days when the Climate Justice movement limited itself to lobbying UN conferences are over. Now is the time for taking new initiatives uniting all the local struggles for democracy against corporate rule.

Tord Björk
coordinator of the EU committee in Friends of the Earth Sweden and board member of Activists for peace 

Quotes from the petition against carbon trading and links:

We, the undersigned, write to demand that carbon markets are kept out of the Paris Rulebook. We say NO to a resolution on carbon markets at COP25.

International rules for carbon markets will be a key item on the negotiating table in Madrid, and under Article 6 we may see carbon markets becoming part of the Paris rulebook this year. This would lock us in to even more emissions, further temperature rise, continued fossil fuel use and decades of inaction, distraction, and corporate power-grabbing.

…Carbon markets do not work. Cap and trade schemes have failed to reduce emissions or deliver real climate action. Under carbon market schemes, global emissions have continued to rise. Intrinsic flaws and loopholes render them unworkable. Offsetting requires scientifically dubious assumptions: mixing credits from different offsetting schemes mean that carbon offsets from different sources are counted as ‘equal’. Burning carbon from fossil fuels in one part of the world cannot be ‘balanced out’ by offsetting carbon from natural land carbon cycles—that’s not how ecosystems work. …

NO to carbon markets! NO to false solutions and dangerous distractions! NO to climate colonialism! NO to corporate power and impunity! COP25: Real, equitable action now!

English and Spanish versions


Swedish version



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