Press Conference: Declaration for Clean Energy

Watch the press conference of SJSF’s Declaration for Clean Energy at the UN Conference of the Parties in Cancun, Mexico!

Evo Morales at COP16

-by Moisés Flores Baca

It was around 10 am on Thursday, December ninth, and the COA COP16 delegation was due to have its daily meeting. Students slowly arrived to the coffe shop at Cancunmesse where the meeting was to take place. As we waited for the rest of the team to join us some of us fell onto Morpheus’ arms, resting our heads against the table that is meant for the coffee shop’s diners to have their food. The scene was quite comical and the opportunity to take funny pictures of people uncomfortably trying to have a nap at the table was not missed. When our professor and delegation leader Doreen Stabinsky joined us, one of us arrived carrying a new bag from the Korean booth, which has become quite popular for those. Doreen then asked where to get the bags, so one of my fellow COA delegates directed us to the right place. We got one of the colorful Korean bags for each of us. They are super eco friendly -apparently- because they are made of recycled banner material.

It took me a little longer than everybody else to go back to our meeting spot from the Korean booth because I was reading one of their hand outs, so when I got there everyone was gone except one -they had left my bag unattended which was not cool but that is OK-. We then went on a search for a television set where we could follow the speech by President Evo Morales. When we got to the patio area where there is a big television on a stage we found nobody and the screen was showing the obnoxious video that the Mexican government had been using to promote tourism in Mexico on every single screen I had seen at the conference since I arrived, with the cheesy slow motion sequences of beautiful women, the happy playing children and all those things that shout “we are such a happy people, come to our country and spend thousands of dollars!”.

So then we got back into one of the halls and found a TV that was showing live footage of the plenary room where Evo would give his speech. Expectation started growing fast. We figured it would be a while until the Bolivian ideologic -and some would say, spiritual- leader appeared, so we sat at one of the couches close to the TV. A couple of minutes into our daily meeting and the time had come. Buckle up, your minds are to be blown up. We gathered around the screen but could not hear anything, we could only see the images. I thought the volume was not the problem, but that there was no audio signal coming into the TV. Juan proved me wrong: he put the volume all the way up and then we could clearly hear what was going on. We first saw Patricia Espinosa, president of the COP16, give a starting sentence and then introduce Evo Morales.

Finally we saw him there, his solemn face, his calm manners, his characteristic jacket. He thanked the different members present at the meeting, in a rather awkward, too-quick way, like he does not like having to be all formal for this kind of events. He started very slowly and trippingly, like he was either looking for the best words to express what he wanted to say, or he was not that sure of what he was saying. He looked nervous. As he started gaining momentum and finishing his sentences in semi-normal lengths on time, I realized the amount of pronunciation and even grammar ’mistakes’ he was making. I took that as a proof that his mother tongue is not Spanish, but some indigenous language from Bolivia. Spanish is for him just a borrowed tongue he has to use to express to the world the desires and demands of those who have been forgotten at most levels: the indigenous, whose ways and cultures were never really vanished by the European penetration of the Americas, nor fully assimilated by the ‘new’ culture.

Most of the speech felt like the ‘generic’ Evo Morales speech but it was nevertheless worth watching. The passion he was putting in his words was made visible by his using a cloth to wipe the sweat trickling down his forehead. I looked around me and about 25 people had gathered to watch the screen. I could see some ‘gringos’ who did not seem to understand fully what was being said, but who still stood there, feeling the energy blasting out of the TV speakers. There were two men that took out their audio recorders and did not miss the chance to record the speech putting their devices next to the speakers. People then started taking pictures even though it was not even ‘the real thing’- we were watching it on TV.

Then, the key line of that speech appeared: “Si nosotros mandamos a la basura el Protocol de Kyoto, seriamos responsables de econocidio, ecocidio, y genocidio” (If we toss the Kyoto Protocol in the garbage, we would be responsible for econocide, ecocide, and genocide). The continuity of the speech was then interrupted by a round of powerful applauses that went on for almost a minute. Those words of wisdom captured a very uncomfortable truth of the state of the world: nowadays ‘not knowing’ cannot be an excused for inaction since we are constantly being bombarded with information from all fronts, including information about climate change and climate justice. We know what climate change is about, we know what we would have to do to stop it, we know that if we do not do so many preventable deaths will occur. Genocide can be passive: it does not have to be the privileged one shooting at the less-privileged ones, it can also be the privileged ones not helping the less-privileged even when they can, even when what ails the less-privileged is their fault.

No matter how faulty in terms of grammar and pronunciation, or confusing at times due to its slowness this first speech of Evo Morales at this COP was, we cannot deny the power and the honesty of his words.


Voices Suppressed become Shouts Heard as Youth are Detained at Moon Palace

-Mariana, Tara, and Ayla

“Justice Delayed is Justice Denied!”

It’s the last official night of negotiations, and within their meeting rooms at the Moon Palace, negotiators argue and debate about what should come from Cancun. What is missing, however, is an important voice – that of civil society, impacted just as much as negotiators by climate change. That voice has been tentatively, then more strongly, shouting from the sidelines, urging negotiators to do what is right by their people – indeed, by all people. An important voice in civil society is that of the Youth, who have been actively fighting for the last two weeks and last few years to have their say in what is to become of our future. Tonight, we witnessed, and were a part of, a gross violation of our right to have our voices heard.

The Youth have long been advocates of Human Rights, and this week have focused on pressuring negotiators to reexamine a crucial part of the negotiated texts. 1.5°C is the maximum amount of global warming that can be accepted without devastating effects on communities worldwide, and yet, at this point, many nations are still opting for the easier goal of 2°C, which was agreed upon in the Copenhagen Accord of last year. However, as the youth have declared, 1.5°C equals survival, and it is not acceptable to settle for a lesser goal.

Tonight, a large group of Youth from around the world gathered on the front steps of the Moon Palace (where the official negotiations are being held) as a voice for civil society. After a two hour delay in getting final approval by the UN Secretariat and Mexican security officials for an already sanctioned action, we spoke out in behalf of the those who no longer have a voice – the victims of the many climate change-related disasters worldwide in the past year. An estimated 21,000 (as est. by Oxfam International) have lost their lives to fires, landslides, floods, drought and other catastrophic events. In memory of these victims, and to stress the fact that this pressing issue is already affecting thousands worldwide, we stood with linked arms in solidarity, counting each victim one by one, with the goal of reaching all 21,000. This task, if completed, would take more than five hours, yet we were only officially allotted 30 minutes to get our message across.

As we stood counting, members of the group stepped forward one at a time to speak out to the gathering media about what we were doing, what we represented, and what we felt was happening in Cancun. They spoke about their hopes for the negotiations, and their fears that nothing substantial was getting done inside the negotiating rooms. Members of affected communities told stories about how climate change is impacting their home countries and personal lives. As they spoke, the group counted in hushed voices, only to rise powerfully again as each speaker finished. This continued for the half hour, with media members photographing and recording our solemn faces as the numbers we counted grew higher. At the end of the half hour, whispers were spread through the group, warning everyone that our time was up, and those who couldn’t risk their accreditation should leave now. At this point, we had counted to about 1,500, and our group grew smaller by about a third. As one member left from the front row, she loudly declared ”Bye guys, I have to go, I can’t get my accreditation taken away,” alerting the media to our predicament.

As time wore on, the news spread, and the media began to record the voices of those youth members who periodically came to tell us that this was our first, second, last warning that the UN security officials were coming. At 1,800 victims, we knew for sure that they were on their way, and we huddled closer together, still counting loudly, many crying – for the victims, and because we realized that just as importantly, the voice of civil society and youth was also being killed off. With the last warning, a cut-off point for many materialized – we were told that, if we continued, any accreditation for next year’s COP17 would also be stripped from us, as well as that of any audience members still around – they too, counted quietly under their breath, participating. At this point, the three of us stepped down, not sure if we were willing to risk that. The group on the steps was reduced to about ten members, and we watched with the audience as they passed 2,000, crying, and making the ultimate sacrifice. Many of that final group were experienced climate activists, risking participation in what they most cared about. As we watched them, we came to a point where we realized that standing up for what’s right was more important than having accreditation. The fact that officials were trying to quiet us as we pointed out the urgency of the need to come to a consensus that would save  human lives was just too much. Tara and Mariana pushed past the spectators and took their place again on the steps, next the banner that read, “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied – Bring 1.5°C Back.” As they continued to count, something touched home with Ayla, who had stayed among the spectators, and with four cameras on her tear-stained face, she joined Tara and Mariana back on the steps.

As we neared 2,400 deaths by climate change, the UN officials arrived and wasted no time in throwing the first detainee – a youth who had been speaking at the front of the group – into the bus that had come specifically for the purpose of carting us away. In a flash, more security officials were dragging one end of the group towards the bus, but we were linked so tightly together that to take one was to take all of us, and our banner, which remained in our hands as we continued shouting the death toll. More security officials got to the other end of the group – behind us three – and began to shove the entire group of 15 or so into the bus. As they did so, spectators began to boo, shouting “free our youth!” and pushing at the security. As soon as we were on the bus, we pressed our signs and faces to the windows, looking down on the chaotic crowd that was demanding our release and berating the security with a chant of “Shame on you!”

As the bus began to pull away, we began to regroup, checking on each other, and reassuring ourselves that everything would turn out just fine. Ayla and Mariana realized that all their belongings were still sitting against the building back at Moon Palace, and we all realized we had neither cell phone nor numbers with which to alert the rest of our delegation as to what was happening. But the entire group supported one another, with one participant having a friend collect our bags and another lending us his phone so that we could call the number that we realized was still written on Mariana’s arm from a march early this week – our delegation leader Doreen’s. We didn’t know where we were being taken, or even for sure whether we were being taken by the UN police or the Mexican Officials, but we all knew that we had done what we needed to do, and felt that we had gotten the strong reaction we needed for our message to get through.

The bus took us to Cancunmesse and we felt a little better, coming to familiar grounds, but for reasons unknown to us, security officials at the entrance would not let the bus through. The bus driver then backed us out onto the highway again, and continued to drive past Cancunmesse to who-knows-what destination. However, just as we got past the gates on the other end of the complex, some commotion at the front of the bus caused us to pull over, and we suddenly found ourselves out of the bus, on the side of the road, not knowing what was next. We asked a Youth member what had happened, only to be told, “I’ll tell everyone later, let’s get across the highway.” So we dashed across the roadway and regrouped, to discover that someone had received a text from back at Moon Palace warning that they had heard security saying that as soon as we got off the bus, we would be arrested. The quick-thinking recipient of this message, upon realizing that our (perhaps sympathetic) driver didn’t know what to do with us, had convinced him to just let us off. The group shared a quick hug, then broke into smaller groups, made sure everyone had the money for a cab ride home, and dispersed quickly, aware of our conspicuousness by the road.

We COA delegates, accompanied by a Belgian reporter who had joined in counting with us, crossed back to the other side of the highway to find a ride home from some kind people who were just leaving the Cancunmesse, unaware of the happenings at the Moon Palace. As we made our way back to our hostel, we found ourselves elated at the realization that, at the very least, officials had never gotten our names or badges, and therefore, hopefully, hadn’t taken away our voice at this COP or the next.

The entire experience was both positive and frustrating. While we are happy that our voice – that of Youth and of civil society – has made an impact, we were aware that this was not the way we would have hoped to have it happen. Protests and images of young people being dragged away are powerful, but why is this the manner in which we feel we need to work to be heard? Even our entirely sanctioned events throughout the week have been delayed, denied, or canceled last minute, seemingly at the whim of the secretariat. The work of the Youth was not flippant or irrelevant – we have been trying to highlight immediate issues, only to be treated as immature and disruptive. The fact that 21,000 have died because Copenhagen did not produce an adequate decision is inconceivable, and yet it has happened this past year. Tonight was perhaps not the way we wanted to gain momentum, but the support and outrage of the crowd was a good sign that we are leaving our battle at a good conclusion for this COP, and that in the future, when civil society wants to speak out on behalf of endangered peoples worldwide, officials may choose to listen more carefully.

Click here for an early video of the action and encounter with UN security

Action Alert: Tell Canada and Japan to Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way!

-by Juan C. Soriano

Request from our friends from the Canadian Youth Delegation.

Please post widely! And invite everyone you know on Facebook

BREAKING: Canada was poised to be a major obstacle to negotiations by standing against the Kyoto Protocol process–but your pressure is paying off!

The Canadian delegation appears to be holding its fire on Kyoto for the time being.  There is a real sense that if we can move Japan off its obstructive position on the Kyoto Protocol that Canada will follow suit.

We’re asking you to do two things: call the Prime Minister’s Office and call the Japanese Embassy in Ottawa.

Call NOW to tell the Japanese Embassy to get out of the way:
Japanese Embassy: 613-241-8541
General email:
Post your message to the Japanese government:
Call NOW to tell Canada to stop supporting Japan’s obstruction!
Prime Minister’s Office: (613) 992-4211
Toll Free (ask to be put through to the Prime Minister’s Office): 1 (866) 599-4999

The Situation:
While current commitments under Kyoto are nowhere near an adequate response  to climate change, it is currently the only legal framework we have for a global deal. If developed nations like Canada and Japan block the Kyoto Protocol process, developing nations may walk away from the negotiations. If Kyoto continues, there is no reason that developing nations and the USA cannot also take on commitments. But without Kyoto, the entire negotiating process may be derailed: we’ll lose over ten years of hard work and will have no framework to create a legally binding deal. We’re fast approaching the time that science says we need to peak our emissions—we simply don’t have time to start from scratch.

Canada says that developing nations will not walk away from the talks because they have too much to lose—essentially saying that developed nations can hold support, such as technology transfer and adaptation financing, hostage while eroding the entire negotiating process. Yesterday, Environment Minister John Baird dismissed the central principle of developed nations’ historical responsibility for causing climate change as a “sidecar” issue. Canada is refusing to take responsibility for its contribution to climate change.

Throughout the negotiations, Japan has threatened to block the Kyoto process. We know that Japan, with Canada standing behind it, is one of the biggest obstacles to progress in these final hours. The Japanese Government is feeling the international heat, but we need to turn it up.

We need Japan to know the world is watching, and we need our government to know that by standing behind Japan they are acting directly against the desires of Canadians!

More information:
Brief on the role of Kyoto in Cancun prepared by CYD members earlier this week:

Political Representatives and Civil Society Groups Demand Canada Support Kyoto Continuation at Cancun Climate Talks (Climate Action Network Canada press release):

Video from yesterday’s press conference:

Youth Call for Canadian Commitment (Canadian Youth Delegation press release):

Summary of what we’ve heard about Canada’s stance on Kyoto from our negotiators:

In the news:–climate-future-lies-with-copenhagen-deal-not-kyoto-canada-says