“The climate crisis is not only about carbon”

Britain’s Assad Rahman, who has been involved in climate justice movements for nearly two decades, is a figure in the galaxy of the Anglo-Saxon environmental movement. He heads the NGO, which was founded in 1951, to fight against poverty. Today in Sharm el-Sheikh, the site of COP27, he was with Alaa Abdel Fattah’s sister as part of a campaign to support Egyptians. active. For him, the fight for climate is not just about carbon and polar bears.

Collected by our special correspondent in Sharm el-Sheikh

How is Alaa’s case a climate justice issue, other than being a citizen of a host country that sheds light on Alaa’s plight?

Alaa epitomizes the criminalization, imprisonment and killing of human rights defenders and climate activists not only in Egypt, but all over the world. Two environmentalists are killed every week in the world.

The term climate justice emerged from the history of struggles between movements in the South and environmental justice movements in the North. Everyone understood that the climate crisis is not only a carbon crisis, but a structural crisis that takes many forms. In addition to expressing existing injustices and inequalities, it makes them even more prominent. To make matters worse, these movements saw that people with destroyed homes, without regular resources for survival, without safety nets, without public services, were also the most vulnerable to climate change. And the more they demanded the right to support themselves or end poverty, the more repressive governments became. Thus, human rights are a structural element in the fight against climate change. Because one of the most basic rights is to live with dignity.

More than a hundred heads of state have been speaking for two days. Did you listen to the speeches? Still Blah Blah Blah ” what do you think?

Words are cheap! We will now see what exactly will be decided during these two weeks. It is important to understand that these climate negotiations are a place of confrontation between the world’s most powerful countries and those without power, not only liberal or capitalist, but those who benefit from the economic system created by colonialism.

When I came to these places for climate, a few years ago, the discussion revolved around polar bears, we talked about carbon. Today, heads of government use the term “climate justice”. You have the Prime Minister of Barbados saying we will not allow colonialism to happen again with climate justice flooding Pakistan with the word of reparations. All this shows that we have come a long way. The fact that rich countries ignore the demand for “harm and damage”, as they have been doing for 30 years, shows that the pressure on them is working.

You were center stage in Glasgow with the COP26 Coalition, which you co-founded and brought together various civil society actors. How do you evaluate the past year?

I don’t see the action coming from the states that we need. But we see more and more people connecting the links of a chain, to understand that climate change is costing them, to understand that it’s not just an energy crisis, it’s an energy crisis, and we want alternatives to provide alternatives. a healthier, more sustainable life.

Just before COP26 in Glasgow, IPCC reports warned that humanity is on a tightrope. Just before this COP, reports say we are on track to move away from the 1.5°C target [de réchauffement, prévu par l’Accord de Paris]. The countries said from the podium that they are taking the climate crisis seriously, and virtually all of them have increased their oil and gas consumption during the year, while signing agreements with southern countries to curb energy. , and they still haven’t paid the promised money.

Do you remember anything positive?

Today at least we have “loss and damage” is on the agenda. We have seen developing countries finally come forward and ask for a financial mechanism. We have a civil society that is increasingly mobilizing behind the intersectional demands for justice and climate. It gives me hope.

You say you were influenced by social movements in the South. However, how does the situation differ in the North, which tends towards the same goals of reducing the greenhouse effect?

The North has always had the luxury of seeing problems in isolation, of seeing climate change as a separate problem from issues of poverty and inequality, of being able to fight taxes and markets alongside enough food. But the movements in the South are forced to see everything in an intersectional way: injustices are intertwined, people’s reality of life is intersected. Lenses can no longer be seen from a single lens of the scope. More and more movements are realizing the necessity of this approach, the only way to achieve the change we want.

Do you think we should live to be able to fight the climate crisis?

I don’t think so. Years ago I heard governments at these COPs say: When the US and Europe face climate disasters, they will react. But they face it and do nothing. A crisis does not necessarily mean that change will be positive. What makes this positive is to ask ourselves if we have ideas, policies, and build power around them, ensuring that this transformation is just. Of course, climate change always opens more people’s eyes, which is very good. Awareness is important. But then the question is, what are we going to do with it? This is a battle we have yet to win in the North.

Environmental struggle sometimes takes a more radical character through civil disobedience. Not only today, but the history of actions for the environment is constant. Your comments and positions may seem quite radical. What do you think about methods of civil disobedience? Do you participate in these initiatives?

Change was never allowed without a part of civil disobedience, without people taking to the streets, without demands for the right to association, the right to vote, an end to slavery, decolonization. Why are scientists chained and imprisoned? Because even though they warned for years, they are not listened to. Now they are forced to leave their laboratories and go to the streets. It is important. If it wakes people up, shows them the importance of taking action, I’m all for civil disobedience. It is a piece of a puzzle, the evolution of our actions. In the North, they want to limit the right to demonstrate and the means of protest…

For example ?

In my country, Great Britain ! If a protest creates noise, it can be outlawed… They say it targets environmental activists, but in reality it only criminalizes and curtails the basic right to protest.

How did your commitment to social justice in general and then to climate justice come about?

I come from the anti-racist movement at a time when we were subjected to violent fascist attacks and racist murders. I grew up in the north of England, an area where the far right was very strong. My house was burned, we were attacked in our house, on the street, at school. We had to defend ourselves in our own communities. I have always argued that the cause is state violence, a violence that leaves people in despair and misery. People are dying, people are drowning in the Mediterranean because of inequalities in the world.

By joining these anti-racist movements, I quickly learned that the power is not in “I” but in “we” and that what happened to us is happening to others in other parts of the world and we need to do something together. reason. We were internationalists because racism is international. Having worked on racism, human rights, and the crisis of globalization, I immediately realized that climate change would make all these battles even more difficult. I also realized that if we left the fight against climate to what I would describe as “mainstream” environmental movements, they would have a narrow view of climate, whereas the climate cause recommends putting economic, social, and racial issues on the table.

Historically, the movements most pushing these measures were understandably predominantly black, mixed-race, working-class, poor, compared to the environmental movements in the US and UK. The concept of climate justice emerged in the 1990s, and in 2002 the climate justice conference established principles. Bali COP [en 2007] marked the moment when climate justice movements formally separated from the environmental mainstream and established themselves as a true network.

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