by Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network, and member of the GGJ Coordinating Committee

tomGAs a delegate of GGJ to the International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change, held on the Isle of Margarita, Venezuela, I was always mindful of the question of how to engage, from a grassroots position, coming from a rural Native community. Additionally, as an Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), I have a mandate on climate justice in our work with Native/Indigenous communities directly experiencing the effects of a changing climate, extreme weather events, and with some communities; fighting existing and expansion of fossil fuel development.

The Margarita Declaration on Climate Change, as the outcome document from the Social PreCOP included the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the human rights of vulnerable communities and peoples, as a result of climate related impacts. This is consistent with the platforms of GGJ, IEN and the Climate Justice Alliance related to the link of rights and climate change. It is also in line with our demand for “System change not climate change” that requires an end to the global empire of transnational corporations and banks. Many of those corporations and banks have roots in the United States. Only a world that has democratic control over resources that is based on the rights of Indigenous peoples, workers (including migrant workers), women’s rights, the rights of future generations and youth, and that respects people will be able to guarantee economic, social, cultural and environmental-climate justice. As we are beginning to know, systems’ change requires a break from the patriarchal society in order to start looking at a new U.S. and global paradigm, from a property rights regime of ownership, to a paradigm that recognizes the rights of Mother Earth, of Nature. This redefines our relationship to the sacredness of the planet and its ecosystems and all aspects of life.

In Venezuela I witnessed civil society, peasants, small farmers and Indigenous peoples coming together to articulate the concerns with the failure of the world leaders within the United Nations climate negotiations (called Framework Convention on Climate Change-UNFCCC) to reach an international treaty-level agreement for real solutions for mitigating the climate crisis. At the recent Conference of the Parties (COP) of the world leaders in Warsaw, Poland in December 2013, frustrations and distrust lead to the walk out of civil society organizations from the Warsaw climate talks. This raised awareness, and shifted the focus to mobilizing people and to send a clear message: “People and communities around the world are already implementing climate-safe, local energy alternatives, just transition and governments should listen to them and not to polluting corporations.” This is the message of Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ), Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) and Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). This message was also expressed in the Social PreCOP.

It is my understanding the Margarita Declaration on Climate Change will be presented by the Venezuelan government at the upcoming UN Climate Summit on September 23, 2014. From there, the Declaration will be further strengthen at the second meeting of the Social preCOP meeting in Venezuela in November. The final Declaration will be presented at the 20th COP session of the UNFCCC in Lima, Peru in December 2014.

Since Warsaw, Poland in 2013, the situation with climate chaos has worsened. No future agreement will be able to undo the damage of the emissions that are now being sent to the atmosphere. The time to act is now, there is absolutely no more time to waste on business as usual. In the U.S. and Canada, and other industrialized countries, it is business as usual with the expansion of fossil fuel; such as the Canadian tar sands, hydro-fracturing in places like Fort Bethold, North Dakota, and in the city of Los Angeles and Obama pushing offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and in Alaska.

Climate change negotiations are also being dominated by polluters and corporations that care more about their current businesses and the future profits they can make in new carbon markets of forests, soil, agriculture, mangroves and oceans. The Margarita Declaration on Climate Change rejects carbon markets. Carbon offsets, such as California’s REDD offsets (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) are Greenwash mechanisms that only allow refineries to expand their combustion of fossil fuels, rather than reduce emissions at source.

As GGJ, we must continue to educate our member organizations, constituencies, communities we live in, and families about the real issues of climate change and organize for real solutions to provide the rights of our future generations.