Right now, government representatives from around the world are gathered in Durban, South Africa, for the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference – better known as the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17). Historically, these closed-door meetings are where some of the world’s largest polluting countries – including the United States – discuss (and occasionally adopt) global climate policy. At last year’s COP16 meeting in Cancun, Mexico, these governments negotiated the details of polluting and land-grabbing projects like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and other carbon-trading schemes, which are fundamentally about profit – not forests, not people, and not global warming or climate change.
Outside of the official United Nations gathering, social movements and civil society groups are meeting in other parts of Durban to create a meaningful alternative to COP17 to advance climate justice solutions. Their climate justice agenda includes stopping false solutions like cap-and-trade, REDD and other market-based (read profit-centered) carbon trading mechanisms, while advocating for the principles and guidelines of food sovereignty and the Cochabamba Accords. It also includes pressuring industrialized nations to adopt the science-based emissions target reductions outlined in the Cochabamba Accords – a reduction of 50 percent of current levels by 2017.
Grassroots International is joining with the Via Campesina, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and other partners and allies in an effort to build “1000 Durbans for Climate Justice” around the world through a global day of action. Tomorrow, December 3, will be a day for people across North America and around the world to denounce the system that allows corporations to profit from harming our communities and our planet. Grassroots joins our partners and allies in calling on people to take action for climate justice.
The cornerstone action in North America will be to stop the TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone XL Pipeline designed to carry synthetic crude oil from the Alberta Tar Sands through the Western Plains and the Midwest to the southern U.S. This proposed pipeline would stretch 1,980 miles, from Alberta, Canada to Texas, carrying up to 900,000 barrels per day of crude oil produced from tar sands to be refined for shipment overseas. The current stretch of the Keystone Pipeline running through the Western Plains of the US has already resulted in twelve devastating oil spills – including one that had a “six-story geyser” dumping 21,000 gallons of oil in North Dakota.
In response to this threat, First Nations and indigenous peoples have led a multi-year campaign to stop the tar sands, together with family farmers, environmental organizations, faith-based groups, youth and students, labor unions, and rural citizens living along the proposed route in opposition to the pipeline. Their efforts paid off when President Obama and the State Department recently announced that they would seek a new environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline, and are asking TransCanada Corporation to evaluate other options, such as rerouting the pipeline.
While the Obama administration’s decision will delay the Keystone XL pipeline, there is still a very real threat that the pipeline could be approved in the future, with rerouting plans as one alternative the corporation is considering. There are still other tar sands pipeline proposals on the horizon.
You can be part of creating the “1000s of Durbans” right where you are by adding your voice today to stop the Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline. Our goal is to have 5,000 people take action with us and to also deliver these names to State Department the week of December 5th.