A diversified climate movement?

9 Jan

This reply was written in response to an article, ‘The Dead End of Climate Justice’ published in Counterpunch. Below is the email which I have sent to the authors.

Dear Mr Simons and Mr Tonak,

In response to your opinion piece, ‘The Dead End of Climate Justice’, published in Counterpunch, I would like to comment on some of your criticisms against the climate movement and its proposed solutions.

First, you claimed that climate debt is problematic since it serves as a backdoor for the corporations in the North to engage in green capitalist investment ventures into the South. The Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs) was cited as an example. In your article, you also claimed that the monetisation of carbon dioxide or CO2 is antithetical to the premise of antiglobalisation movement.

Like you, I am of two minds on how climate debt works but not for the same reasons.

1. Basically, this means developed states would pledge a certain amount of money to developing countries to help them either transition to cleaner and renewable technologies or alliterate the effects of climate change. In one of her opinion pieces, Klein suggested that an example of a climate debt would be to pay Ecuador not to pump oil out of the ground.

My concern is how these reparations would be deployed for its intended purposes and whether the process, procedures and managers/ states would be held accountable/ transparent.

Your argument that activists such as Klein and the Climate Justice Coalition endorsed such ‘business-friendly’ measures is not true. In an article entitled, ‘Climate Rage’ by Klein (in which she also briefly explained what climate debt is), (http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2009/11/climate-rage), she wrote,

‘As faith in government action dwindles, however, climate activists are treating Copenhagen as an opportunity of a different kind. On track to be the largest environmental gathering in history, the summit represents a chance to seize the political terrain back from business-friendly half-measures, such as carbon offsets and emissions trading, and introduce some effective, common-sense proposals— ideas that have less to do with creating complex new markets for pollution and more to do with keeping coal and oil in the ground’.

Moreover, the proposal for the Climate Debt, would not be in the form of loans (but grants) and not to be disbursed by the international financial organisations such as the IMF/ WB but ‘controlled by the United Nations climate convention, where developing countries would have a direct say in how the money is spent’.

Therefore, the notion of climate debt (if implemented with safeguards and ‘correctly’) would hardly be considered a form of ‘green capital investment’ imposed unwillingly upon the developing states by the West.

Second, you argued that the inside/ outside divide is frustrating activists whom are more intent on militant actions. I quote,

‘NGOs were much more than a distracting sideshow. They formed a constricting force that blunted militant action and softened radical analysis through paternalism and assumed representation of whole continents’.

Before debating on the merits of ‘how far’ activists should go, there have been indeed a radical left group, ‘Never Trust a Cop’ which calls for sabotage during COP15. This resulted in the mass arrest of 1000 activists in the first major protest. Moreover, according to Indymedia Denmark, various groups have also organised their own activities which I believe are not related to the Climate Justice Action coalition. I doubt that any activist who visits Copenhagen to protest is bound to do what Climate Justice coalition has urged for. Moreover, according to this statement, ‘CJA statement on Copenhagen Protests’, (http://www.aktivism.info/socialforumjourney/?p=866), the coalition welcomes a ‘range of difference in the approach, values, demands and tactics used to bring about change’.

Furthermore, contrary to your assertions that ‘inside/outside unity’ failed, it generated an intense outcry against police repressive efforts. Anectdotal accounts published in Indymedia shows that many of these activists were intent and stayed on being non-violent even after facing a barrage of police batons and pepper sprays. If they had retailed with violence, there would have been less condemnation against the police. The message to combat climate change would also have been derailed by mainstream media’s sensational coverage of ‘the troublemakers’.

The truth is non-violence action serves both tactical and ideological functions in any social movements, certainly far more effective than violence. One can read up on the history of many global and local social movements to comprehend its usefulness.

While I understand your frustrations with the outcomes of Copenhagen; and that green capitalism is not the solution to our environmental problems, I disagree  with the notion of a ‘ NGO/non-profit industrial complex’ as a ‘parasite’ that must be ‘neutralised’.

The effectiveness of a movement in effecting changes has always been dependent on its diverse network of activists and their tolerance towards their counterparts (who may not necessarily agree with each other all the time). If we succumb to the temptation of strictly carving the movement up as you believed, we would be walking right into the trap of the adversaries.

Yours Sincerely


P.S. My reply to your comments would be posted in my blog at ‘Readings from a Political Duo-ble’, ‘https://aussgworldpolitics.wordpress.com/


One Response to “A diversified climate movement?”

  1. michaeljamesbarker January 11, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    Today I have just published a related article that critiques the United Nations role in promoting corporate environmentalism, see

    Taking Strong Action for Capitalist-Led Environmental Destruction, Swans Commentary, January 11, 2010. (Critique of the United Nations, the Stockholm Conference, and the Earth Summit.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: