COP24: fostering activism in hard times
In addition to the cold, there is a lot to feel in Poland.
The first week of COP24 is not even over and there is already a feeling of worry around the venue. When you think of the UN Conference on Climate Change, you think of the gathering of many people from all over our Planet. And this is exactly what is happening in Katowice this year.
Poland uses mixed energy sources, the principal one being coal. After all, the country rests on a giant mine. The charcoal is extracted, sold, incessantly consumed. For this reason, many have expressed criticism toward the choice of having Poland hosting the COP24, despite the East-European Republic has been the seat of the event for three years in the last ten. Anyway, the hosting State is obliged to reach the goals set by the Paris Agreement: the coal-dependent Poland is, thus, forced to follow the path traced by that international agreement.
It is almost impossible to describe everything that happens at the XIV Conference of the Parties on Climate Change. However, in the frenzy of the two-week long negotiations, one thing is more discernible than others: the number of activists who have come together here to speak up is huge. Set afire by the urge that something must be done quickly, they are very wary to the point that one of them even tell us to watch out. They know that in last few years Poland has repressed many social movements in support of human rights.
Ever since it has been elected, the Polish government has cut the funds granted to some civil society organisations, receiving many negative feedbacks by the EU. Never Again, one of these organisations which fights against racism and xenophobia, has registered an increased rate of hate crimes since when the present government has taken the power. The president Andrzej Duda is a member of the Law and Justice party and, among his first actions as the Polish highest charge, he has dismissed the Council against racism. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported that Polish institutions ignore the problems around which social movements are founded and work.
This condition is shared by the Brazilian activists. Brazil is always considered a democratic country where freedom of speech is a right granted to everyone. But then, why is it that, while you read these words, it is likely that a Brazilian activist is threatened of death or killed? We must be constantly aware of this, especially in an era when the whole world is shaken by extremisms.
We are at the eve of a march for the climate. It is an event which takes place every year during the COP. Thousands of people will flood the streets of Katowice to march against climate change and to scream at the top of their lungs their disdain the inefficacy of the policies adopted by all the 197 country of the COP. They will demand for effective actions to be taken quickly, for they know that to procrastinate means to lose the chance of reducing the consequences of climate change.
We will join them tomorrow, 8th December. We will march through a country whose history is full of persecutions against social movements, of abusive uses of force against those who manifest their disagreement with the government. This is how Poland has recently worked: social movements have been muted so that they cannot protest the institutions.The march for climate, for peace, and for the future of our generations and of those who are to come takes place against this scenery.
This article was written in a conference room of a conference centre protected by police forces, even by special corps and snipers. The same forces which might be used against the activists who will take part in the march, if their actions are deemed offensive and unacceptable by the Polish government. We also know, however, that diplomacy should be the way and that violence must not be the protagonist of our manifestation.
Our fight against climate change needs to find more supporters, our movement needs to network with others. All environmental and social activists around the globe must be alert and ready to prevail over the extremism that threaten them. If we do not defeat those who deny climate change, we will not stand a chance against the fossil capital. In Poland it is freezing, but our hearts and minds are volcanic. Our energy renews every passing moment and its fuel is green as the nature we are trying to protect. We will march on, we will achieve what we crave.