Grassroots Reflections on the COP25

by Nancy Huizar and Sean O’Neill

Got Green is an environmental justice organization that builds community power in working-class communities in South Seattle. Got Green envisions healthy and resilient communities, where all people are able to: (1) work meaningful jobs that nourish our earth, our communities, and our souls; (2) eat affordable, healthy food that is grown with dignity for workers and the environment; (3) live in safe and sustainable housing, rooted in climate resilient neighborhoods; (4) and care for our environment in our relationship to the land, the climate, and each other.

Got Green’s Climate Justice Organizer Nancy Huizar had the opportunity to travel to Madrid to meet with social movement leaders during the week of COP25 – the United Nations’ climate conference.  The following is a conversation between Nancy Huizar and Sean O’Neill (Got Green’s Development Director) about the purpose of this trip, the proposals being discussed at COP25, and the need for international solidarity.

Got Green members at COP 25 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo courtesy of Got Green)


Sean O’Neill: What is COP25 and why do some folks have concerns?  

Nancy Huizar: COP is the climate conference held by the United Nations. This year’s COP25 was originally scheduled to be in Chile, but due to the popular uprising (sparked by transit fare hikes and more broadly about the cost of living, privatization and inequality), the president of Chile relocated COP25 to Spain in an attempt to avoid international scrutiny.   The agenda for COP25 is to sort out the details for Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Currently in this piece of the agreement are market mechanisms that will continue to allow polluters to pollute under the guise of carbon offsets, geoengineering, and other corporate-backed false solutions. The most recent negotiations removed human rights language in Article 6.  Shell Oil has publicly boasted about writing this article.


SO: Why travel from Seattle to the COP25 in Madrid?

NH: The decisions being made at COP25 affect us here locally and the communities we stand in solidarity with across the United States and around the world. As we strive for climate solutions locally, there are national or global implications and we want to avoid gaps in how we carry out our work.  As we fight for decarbonization by 2030 in Seattle, the creation of thousands of unionized green jobs, free public transit, a green homes guarantee, and other climate resilience investments that centers racial and economic justice, we need to be aware and connect this work to global struggles for climate justice.


SO: Who are you there with?

NH: Got Green was invited to join the It Take Roots (ITR) contingent during the week of COP25 — which is an alliance of alliances primarily based in the United States.  The ITR alliances that traveled to COP25 are Grassroots Global Justice, Climate Justice Alliance, and Indigenous Environmental Network. Got Green is one of many grassroots organizations from the United States (and Canada) on the ground for the week of COP25 — groups range from Cooperation Jackson (Jackson, MI) and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth to Indigenous Climate Action (Canada) and Organización Boricuá (Puerto Rico). This is an opportunity to strategize and take action together.


SO: What are your contingents goals?  

NH: The goal is to bring awareness to the pieces of article 6 being market-based solutions that serve the interests of the fossil fuel industry and the status quo, not the real community-based solutions we need. We are with people’s movements from around the world demanding that politicians on the inside of COP25 listen to the people  instead of the corporations pushing these false solutions.


SO: What types of activities have been particularly inspiring for you?

NH: Learning about La Vía Campesina’s food sovereignty work around the world was inspiring to me – this happened at the Cumbre (people’s summit) — a gathering of social movement organizations discussing community-based climate solutions that happened outside COP25.   Additionally, there were many marches and actions that took place. For example, Indigenous Environmental Network and Indigenous Climate Action did an action with a short skit and a few speakers and it was great to hear from folks from all over the world who are saying no to climate action that perpetuates colonization and neoliberalism.


SO: How is this relevant to our work in Seattle and our broader work in the United States

NH: This is relevant because we will continue to see impacts of climate change.  Governmental “leaders” continue to try and say carbon offsets, cap and trade, and so-called “nature based” solutions  (eg: the erroneous claim made by oil, gas, and coal companies that solely investing in reforestation – ie: planting trees as a means to absorb carbon from the atmosphere – will allow them to continue their unrestricted extraction of fossil fuels), but we have seen since the early 1990s that this has not been the case.

In the Seattle area, Puget Sound Energy (the area’s privatized energy utility company) is actively promoting carbon offsets to help them green-wash their continuation of working with and profiting from fossil fuels — eg: PSE’s active plans to build fracked gas infrastructure on indigenous land. This example not only speaks to the limitations of carbon offsets, but also how decarbonization must be linked to decolonization and decommodification (via energy democracy and public ownership).

In WA State, many politicians continue to push for a cap and trade policy (often looking to the failed policy in California) as a compromise between climate advocates and the fossil fuel industry.  This won’t get us what we ultimately need, which is sweeping action that will effectively decarbonize and dismantle these industries with a just transition for fossil fuel workers that protects their salaries, pensions, and benefits. This requires tremendous political courage and, more importantly, this requires people’s movements – locally and globally – to force those in power to do what is needed.

The climate crisis requires bold, transformative action — specifically being uncompromising in keeping fossil fuels in the ground and centering community driven solutions, where climate action directly benefits workers and communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis.    The current proposals that continue to gain traction among the economic and political elite (due to aggressive lobbying by the fossil fuel industry) are either distractions or actively harmful — especially for communities that disproportionately experience pollution, poverty, and climate impacts.   From carbon offsets to geoengineering, these solutions will not lead to what our planet and communities fundamentally need. However, with connected and visionary peoples movements at the local, national, and international levels, we have a chance of winning transformative climate justice.


Featured image courtesy of Got Green