Last week, thousands of people gathered in Bonn, Germany to participate in the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, known as "COP 23", a kind of "little Potemkin town" of bureaucrats, politicians, environmentalists, journalists and local support staff, organized under strong security measures.
Sixty kilometers away, in the 12,000-year-old Hambach Forest, a large group of activists were defending the ancient forest from their houses built on the trees, as part of a permanent struggle to prevent destruction. from this unusual ecosystem and stop the expansion of Europe's largest open pit mine, a vast hole in the earth from which energy company RWE extracts lignite, also known as brown coal, the dirtiest coal on the planet.
The shadow of the policies adopted by US President Donald Trump hung over both meetings, who on June 1 announced that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the international treaty on climate change negotiated by all the countries of the world. .
Asad Rehman, executive director of the London-based organization War on Want, said since COP 23 in an interview with Democracy Now!: “Although the United States announces its withdrawal, it continues to play a very destructive role. Donald Trump came here with the support of his friends from the fossil fuel industry. He came here to ruin the climate talks. " The "COP" or "Conference of the Parties" of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is held every year in different cities around the world.
Big promises were made in Paris in 2015: every signatory to the Paris Agreement voluntarily pledged to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. In theory, if the parties deliver on their promise, then the global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels will not exceed 1.5, or in the worst case, 2 degrees Celsius, and so can be avoided. worst consequences of climatic changes. Rich countries, responsible for most of the polluting carbon emissions released into the atmosphere to date, pledged to transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to the poorest countries so that they can recover from the climate damage already caused and aspire to a development path based on renewable energy.
In response to Trump, American civil society created the “We Stay in the Agreement” coalition, made up of more than 2,500 elected officials, state and local governments, CEOs, businesses, universities, religious leaders, and grassroots organizations committed to complying with the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, as the Trump administration will not. It is a great coalition and it is not without disagreements. As California Governor Jerry Brown gave a speech in Bonn, protesters began chanting "California fracking spreads pollution" and "Leave it underground," in reference to gas and oil. From his podium, Brown responded to an indigenous activist: “Underground. I agree with you. Underground. We are going to put you underground so that we can continue ”. The grim image of a white governor threatening to put an American Indian underground was not lost on anyone.
Just a year ago, while the United States was celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday based on the systematic cover-up of the colonial genocide against American Indians, the Indian-led resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline in the tribal territory of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota was subjected to increasing state violence. Various police forces and the National Guard unleashed the use of weapons considered “non-lethal”, attacking the protesters with rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, LRAD sound devices, and water cannons. temperatures below zero.The Standing Rock Sioux refer to the pipeline as “the black snake,” as it transports fracturing oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota to the US Gulf of Mexico coast through South Dakota. Iowa and Illinois. The arrival of the black snake in Lakota territory was predicted long ago.
Last Thursday, as COP 23 entered its final stretch, a large spill was discovered in the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota. Some 800,000 liters of oil leaked from the pipeline, while TransCanada, the company that owns the pipeline, sought final permission from the Nebraska Public Utilities Commission to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite the spill, the Commission granted permission for the controversial Keystone XL to transport oil obtained from toxic tar sands from Canada to the US coast of the Gulf of Mexico, a region regularly hit by hurricanes, for refining. After years of resistance, President Obama finally stopped construction of the pipeline. As soon as he became president, Trump boasted of authorizing the construction and commissioning of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
Back in Germany's Hambach Forest, activists are preparing to confront the RWE and German police, who plan to raid their tree houses, arrest them all and cut down the remaining 10 percent of the ancient forest. A forest advocate named Indigo said: “The problem is the system we live in. If it is legal for a company to destroy the entire planet, then it is also time to resist against state power ”. On COP 23, which was taking place nearby, he added: “It is time for us to take responsibility for our own lives and create a world that gives us the power to act for ourselves, instead of waiting for others to solve. our problems".
A day before the inauguration of the climate summit, 4,500 people marched towards the open-pit mine and stopped work for the day. Nearby, in what remains of the occupied forest, a banner was hung between two ancient oak trees. In it you could read: "Respect my existence or expect resistance."
By Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
Spanish translation of the English text: Mercedes Eguiluz. Edition: María Eva Blotta and Democracy Now! in Spanish
Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now !, an international newscast that airs daily on more than 800 radio and television stations in English and more than 450 in Spanish. She is co-author of the book "Those who fight against the system: Ordinary heroes in extraordinary times in the United States", edited by Le Monde Diplomatique Cono Sur.