Activists from Friends of the Earth, including from Justiça Ambiental, were present at the preparatory meeting for the social pre-COP held in Venezuela in July 2014. We were among about 280 activists from 130 civil society organisations, from Venezuela and across the world. We met for 4 days at Isla Margarita, an island off the mainland of Venezuela, to move to defeat climate change.
Activists at Isla Margarita for the social pre-COP
This social pre-COP was a unique event. There is a pre-COP held every year before the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COPs, which are the official UN climate change negotiations. However, civil society is usually never included in the pre-COP. This time, the Venezuelan government had a vision to involve civil society and make this a social pre-COP.
Claudia Salerno. Photo credit: Zack Embree
In fact, the Venezuela government had to make a special effort to politely decline the meddling of the UNFCCC Secretariat in this July meeting that just happened. The pre-COP is being held in 2 parts, one in July and the other in early November. The Secretariat was discouraged from attending the July meeting because the space was for civil society to speak to one another freely. This was a very positive step and allowed rich exchange between civil society organisations and social movements from 6 continents. There was also a bit of freedom to deviate from the strict, alienating language of the UNFCCC space. Usually, the UNFCCC requires people to learn a whole new language to engage with the space. “Do you speak climate change?” asked Claudia Salerno, the Vice-Minister of Venezuela, while she was addressing a climate justice assembly. The July meeting allowed the space for the peoples’ demands in our own words.
The content discussions took place in 5 mesas (roundtables), namely: (1) Social Impacts of Climate Change, (2) Climate and Ethics: differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, (3) Social participation to combat climate change, (4) Social Action for transformation, (5) Empowering Actions in Developing Countries.
Each mesa debated issues under their topic and finalised the language they would like to contribute to the final declaration. It was very important that the declaration process was driven almost entirely by the people, not by governments or by bureaucrats. When the final Margarita declaration was read out by the Venezuela government officials late afternoon on Friday, 18 July, the words were of the participants.
The Margarita Declaration was quite an inspiring document, and included strong statements like calling for the eradication of dirty energy and talked about leaving 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground to stop catastrophic climate change.
Vice-Minister Salerno acknowledged that Venezuela also needs to change, and that developing countries need a just transition away from dirty energy. This was a big step. At a time when other governments, from USA to Australia, India to Indonesia, Argentina to Mozambique all want to ignore climate science and increase dirty energy, this acknowledgement is a step in the right direction.
The declaration acknowledged the historical responsibility of developed countries in creating the crisis and demanded them to reduce emissions drastically, while also providing finance and technology to developing countries so we can provide our people with energy and a life of dignity without dirty and harmful energy.
Responding to the corporate capture of UN spaces and governments, the declaration rejected the interference of corporations in UN decisions.
The declaration unequivocally rejected false solutions to the climate crisis, including carbon markets, commodification of life; geo-engineering, agrofuels, agrotoxics, ‘green economy’, intellectual property rights; the mega-dams, monocultures and nuclear energy.
Notably, the declaration stated that fighting climate change needs a transformation of the economic, political, social and cultural systems at all levels. We need to transform the consumption model into Buen Vivir (Good Living) and global cooperative societies. We agree and, interestingly, JA hosted a seminar on Buen Vivir in Catembe last September.
It was interesting to reflect on Mozambique’s experience while watching Venezuela’s reaction to the declaration. Mozambique also has no historical responsibility for climate change. However, our country is going full steam ahead with dirty energy development, most of which is not even for our people, but rather it is being sold to the highest bidder and shipped out of the ports. We demand community-owned renewable energy to meet the needs of our people, not large-scale dirty energy for elites. You can find the Margarita declaration in English and Spanish.
Activists at pre-COP showing solidarity with Gaza. Photo credit: Jagoda Munic