I write from a former home in Bonn. Why? Because from November 6-17, Germany is hosting the 23rd UN world climate change conference, where government delegations from around the world will discuss next steps after their 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming. Yes, the one that now only the USA has not signed.
The island nation of Fiji is conference president, but because it is threatened by climate disruption and unable to welcome some 20,000 delegates and others, the summit is being held in Bonn, home to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). With the current backdrop of disastrous storms, wildfires and melting glaciers, strengthening the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement is key. But will it happen?
Thanks to a grant from the Traprock Center for Peace & Justice I can be part of this history, and report back. Not from the conference floor, but outside, from the many meetings and actions bringing together those demanding – and working for — stronger action for climate protection.
My first days were at the November 3-7 People’s Climate Summit, organized by German Green and Left Party foundations and major German non-governmental organizations, from 350.org to Oxfam Germany. In many panels and workshops, people from climate ‘hot spots’ told how they are affected by climate change and the actions they are taking.
With Fiji in the limelight, the situation of Pacific islanders gets new attention. We learn that as rising sea waters engulf low-lying island nations, salt water invades limited ground water, making it useless for drinking or agriculture. “So we are less threatened by drowning than by dying of thirst!” says a spokesman for Kiribati, a nation of 33 islands in the South Pacific.
I look forward to sharing an impressive stack of new publications, my first videos and much more upon my return. A high point thus far was the weekend of November 4-5. That Saturday 25,000 people, including a bicycle contingent of 3,000, marched against coal, for a fossil-fuel free future and “system change not climate change.”
The focus on the largest CO2 emitter in Europe — a giant open-pit lignite (soft coal) mine north of Bonn continued on Sunday, when 4,000 people went on the site in a non-violent direct action that “brought the problem into German living rooms” as the evening news showed lines of protestors heading across scarred open expanses toward massive excavating machines (see the Ende Gelaende Facebook page for photos).
The next Save the Climate demonstration will be on November 11th. On that date, the 99th anniversary of the end of World War I, we can make connections between militarism and climate disruption. As Traprock director Pat Hynes writes in her article War and Warming: Can We Save the Planet Without Taking on the Pentagon? ,
“Climate change is inevitably an issue of peace because the Pentagon is the single largest contributor of climate change emissions in the world. And as the Pentagon goes, so go the military budgets of other major powers.”
“Between 2010-2015,” Hynes continues, “the federal government invested $56 billion in clean energy internationally, while it recently committed to $1 trillion for modernizing nuclear weapons, their infrastructure and their delivery systems by 2030.”
Is this the future we want? Other countries have taken the lead in ecological transitions; we need to know their stories.
Following the summit, I will interview German activists and experts. After so much success with solar and wind energy, why is there still such dependence on coal — and cars? How successful is the country’s post-Fukushima nuclear plant shut-down and phase-out?
And then there is the recent influx of refugees — and right-wing movements against them. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s new movie “Human Flow” brings the reality home: 65 million people are fleeing war, oppression and climate disruption, the largest number of refugees since World War II.
Germany has changed since I lived there, and now the US has too, in ways that alarm and astonish the world. Much will be learned and exchanged this month, and I look forward to coming home again, to tell the tale.
This article first appeared:
- Greenfield Recorder: November 13, 2017 –My Turn: Heading home to Germany to learn about climate change