SPECIAL COP23: Civil society calls for climate justice ahead of COP23

The launch of the international climate talks, which started yesterday (Nov. 6) in Bonn, has been accompanied by a bunch of events organized by the civil society. The starting pistol was already fired last weekend with, inter alia, the International Climate March held in Bonn on Saturday, November 4. Thousands of people protested under the motto “Fight for climate justice – end coal”, as Deutsche Welle and Reuters reported.

According to the official website of the initiative, more than 100 organisations and alliances participated to the demonstration. The march was organised by a broad alliance of civil society from Germany, including environmental and development organisations, churches, social movements and citizen initiatives. These included for instance the Climate Alliance Germany, which corresponds to the Climate Action Network of Germany and which encompasses more than 100 members, as well as larger organisations, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Germany, Oxfam and WWF. The demonstration was supported by many international alliances and entities, as for example the Climate Action Network International, and by several German parties.

The event started at a central square in Bonn with a starting rally. Then, the actual march through the city moved toward the UN Campus and the World Conference Centre, venue of the UNFCCC negotiations, and where the final rally took place. Speakers included Manuel Pulgar Vidal from WWF (formerly Minister of the Environment of Peru and President of COP20) and Jennifer Morgan from Greenpeace (formerly Director of the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute) as well as representatives of the Pacific Climate Warriors and a victim of typhoon Haiyan from the Philippines.

The protests especially addressed the use of lignite for power production in Germany, which is also produced in open pit coal mines nearby Bonn (less than 50 kilometres). According to Deutsche Welle, these mines are the Europe’s biggest source of CO2 emissions. As a result, Germany would be responsible for half of the CO2 emissions coming from coal power plants in Europe, which in turn amount to one fifth of the EU’s carbon footprint. Despite the well-known “Energiewende” in Germany, 77 coal power plants are still on the grid – and in contrast to many other EU countries, there is no deadline for coal power phase out in Germany yet.

The activists also raised attention to the fact that Germany is on the path to miss its 2020 climate target by magnitude. As the environmental ministry recently assumed, without any additional action, Germany will only achieve an emission reduction of around 32 percent below 1990 levels – compared to a 40-percent target. The conservatives, the liberals and the Green Party, who are currently negotiating a new governing coalition after the German federal elections in September, are deeply divided on climate policy – it is hence very uncertain if progress will be made on this issue in the coming months.

According to the organisers, about 25,000 people participated in the Climate March, which would translate into the largest demonstration against coal power that Germany has ever seen. However, the police counted only 11,000 protesters.

However, the Climate March was only one of the many events organised around COP23. Last weekend, the Conference of Youth (COY13) already took place along with the People’s Climate Summit. Another demonstration is planned for next Saturday, and many other events will be organised in Bonn, including church services, exhibitions, side events and so on.

(Image: International Climate March in Bonn, November 4, 2017. Photo credit: Michael Schneider)