Indigenous Leaders and Delegates From the Global South Stage Walkout at COP25

Democracy Now! was broadcasting live from the United Nations climate summit in Madrid, Spain, when hundreds of climate advocates and people’s movements at the U.N. climate action summit staged a protest inside the conference venue. As the demonstration unfolds, we speak with Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network; Karin Nansen, chair of Friends of the Earth International; Nigerian climate activist Nnimmo Bassey with Health of Mother Earth Foundation; and indigenous climate activist Daiara Tukano from Brazil.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting here inside the U.N. climate summit in Madrid, Spain. Hundreds of protesters are right behind me, just next to our set, calling for climate justice. You can hear the chants. You can hear what they are saying. They are chanting. They’ve got banners.

We are joined here on the set by two of the people who are participating in the protest. Among those with us are the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Tom Goldtooth, and Friends of the Earth International’s Karin Nansen, here to tell us what’s going on.

Tom, can you describe for us what you’re seeing right behind us? Because I think people are about to give speeches.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: Yeah. This is really an interesting moment, where many of the civil society who are credentialed to come into these halls of the United Nations are very concerned again about the corporate takeover of these halls, that this has nothing to do with addressing global warming, climate change. It has everything to do with trading mechanisms. So, the people here — NGOs, indigenous peoples — all come together — the gender and women caucus — really in demanding that there be real solution, not false solution, and that the industrialized countries of the North really need to pay up on the climate equity issue over loss and damage issues in the Global South.

So, one of the issues that we are saying, as indigenous peoples, with the Indigenous Minga, the indigenous people that came on the outside of this venue at the Cumbre Social, is that this planet is nothing but a grab for CO2 colonialism. So, what we saw in the streets the other day in the mass mobilization, the march, the indigenous peoples who came here from Chile, came here from Ecuador, from Colombia, from Brazil, and us from the North standing with them, to denounce and link climate capitalism with neoliberalism, with imperialism and, you know, with the same policies coming out of the United States, the announcement of this insanity, that wants to prioritize Mother Earth.

AMY GOODMAN: And from you, Tom Goldtooth, I want to go back to Congressman Khanna for just one minute. If you can comment on the issue of the climate crisis and what the U.S. is doing about it?

REP. RO KHANNA: Well, Amy, I saw your exchange with Mayor Bloomberg, and I was shocked. I mean, here you were, giving him an opportunity to address the largest crisis in the world, and your question was so fair. You were asking him, “What would you do to deal with the systematic inequality around the world and the climate crisis?” I believe that we need to deal with the inequity in education, the inequity in healthcare, the inequity in housing, the inequity in child care and early development. And that’s what the U.N. development report calls for. That’s what many progressives in Congress are calling for. We have some of the greatest wealth inequality we have seen since the Great Depression. We need a program of public investment in people’s potential. And we also need, as Secretary Kerry and I outlined in The New York Times, a real plan for us to invest in renewable energy and have a way for America to lead. So, I appreciate you raising that issue with all of the presidential candidates.

AMY GOODMAN: Karin Nansen, if you can describe also what’s happening and why you’re here? Your T-shirt says “Justicia Climática.”

KARIN NANSEN: Yes. We are defending climate justice, which means calling on countries and the developed countries to take on their responsibility and urgently act by cutting emissions at source. They are now trying to sell the idea that carbon markets can solve the climate crisis. And this is not true and has been proved throughout the world, because the idea that selling the license to pollute could really cut down emissions is totally false. It’s really to make business out of a deep crisis that is affecting the lives and livelihoods of so many people around the world, mainly indigenous peoples and the communities that have done less to generate the crisis. So, what they are aiming for is really to take control over our livelihoods, over our territories. Carbon markets are not just a false solution; they are really a deep threat to the communities all over the world whose livelihoods depend on the forests, on the rivers, on their land for survival. And this is something we are really rejecting, because it means more and more corporate power. Those who have been polluting, those who are responsible for the crisis, want to make business out of the crisis and want to commodify nature and want to take control over our systems, our livelihoods and our systems. And we cannot allow for that.

And as Tom was saying, the North is not — neither willing to pay for their historical responsibility; they are not willing to pay for the loss and damages that’s already taken place all over the world and affecting communities. It means the lives of peoples. And this is not taken care for in this conference. So that’s why we are joining forces, from outside and inside the COP, to make sure that our voices are heard, that we bring the message forward so also the whole population and the whole world understand that we are being set into a trap. And, in fact, Third World countries are being pushed into the corner to accept these carbon markets, because they are not even offered any finance for the loss and damage.

So we are calling also on our countries not to accept carbon markets. We think it’s fundamental to understand and listen to the communities on the ground that are suffering the impacts of climate change. We cannot allow to keep giving license to pollute and to continue to destroy the environment. And the crisis is here now. They need to act now. It’s really taking the lives of so many people around the world and displacing people from their territories, from their communities, and destroying their livelihoods.

AMY GOODMAN: Tom, I want to go back to you, and then we’re going to hear the speakers. The people behind us are shouting “Shame! Shame!” “The people, united, will never be defeated,” in Spanish, in English. They’re also saying, “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” What climate justice means?

TOM GOLDTOOTH: Right now this is a historical moment, because in the environmental and climate justice and social justice movement, right here today, we are standing here with International Climate Action Network, CAN-International. And those are some of the largest NGOs, that weren’t on the same page on lifting up false solution, but they’re here today because there is a movement lifting up the injustice, environmental racism, the inequity frame that’s existing in these halls.

It’s ironic that as indigenous peoples here, our caucus has been lobbying and fighting for language on rights of indigenous peoples. The human rights NGO has been trying to strengthen human rights language. It’s ironic within the U.N., because now, in UNFCCC here, they’re recognizing our traditional knowledge, but they’re not recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples. So it’s raising some serious question. Why is it that they’e after recognizing — they’re after our traditional knowledge? We’re saying also, our traditional knowledge is not for sale.

So, it’s linking up this issue right now. This movement also is lifting up the importance of the territorial integrity of Mother Earth, that Mother Earth is a living entity, that we have to be really serious here, as civil society negotiators, on flipping the script on how it looks towards its relationship to that sacredness of Mother Earth. That’s what we’ve also been demanding here, is a new level of negotiation that recognizes the values of how we are living, our capitalism, our economy. That’s what this is about.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, we’re going to go right now to my colleague Nermeen Shaikh, who is in the middle of the crowd, and she is talking to Nnimmo Bassey of Nigeria.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Nnimmo Bassey, we’re standing here at the main plenary hall, where there’s a massive protest happening. Can you explain what are the protesters saying?

NNIMMO BASSEY: Well, basically, the COP has been moving in a dangerously bad direction, getting away from any sense of responsibility about what is going on. And the protesters here are saying that the trajectory on which the COP negotiation is moving, which is towards market mechanisms rather than real climate action, is the wrong direction and that this cannot be accepted. We’re seeing a situation where the rich, polluting countries are not ready to fund climate adaptation and mitigation to pay for loss and damage. And protesters are saying, “Look, you have to respect indigenous territories. You have to respect the rights of people from less polluting nations, and that what we need now is real climate action and not just another talk show.”

This COP has become nothing, nothing other than a talk show. And nations are here looking for avenues by which to avoid action. This cannot be the way to organize negotiations. People are coming here to find ways of not doing anything. Apart from the fact that the Paris Agreement itself is problematic, what we are seeing in the COP is that there is no will, don’t see a sense of the realization of the emergency that the world is in now. And what we just want the world to know, what — those in the plenary hall to know, is that what is going on is an emergency. It’s a situation where climate crisis is engulfing the entire planet, the entire world. It’s not just for poor countries. It’s not only for vulnerable countries or for small island states alone. It’s a global problem. And negotiators, ministers, politicians don’t seem to realize this. They think they can take the high land, escape from the problems and then allow those that they can dispense with to be swept away by the tide. But this is what is being protested against, that they have to take real climate action.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And who’s holding up the negotiations?

NNIMMO BASSEY: Well, as usual, those holding up negotiations are the rich, powerful countries, those who are most responsible for the global warming itself, most responsible for the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. And it includes even the United States, that has already said they are leaving the COP. If the U.S. is leaving the COP, why are they here bringing up more stumbling blocks? This is a problem. And the U.S. has a coterie of nations right behind them. We have the EU. We have Australia. We have Japan. These are countries who consistently have watered down the negotiations right from day one.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Thank you so much, Nnimmo Bassey. We’re now going to go back to Amy in the studio.

AMY GOODMAN: OK. That was Nnimmo Bassey, Nnimmo Bassey from Nigeria, speaking to Nermeen Shaikh. We thank you so much, Nermeen, for that interview. We are speaking here to Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, a member of the Diné and Dakota nations who lives in Minnesota. We also have with us Karin Nansen. Where are you from, Karin?

KARIN NANSEN: Urguay.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re from Uruguay. You’re from Latin America, where so many environmental defenders have been killed, most recently in Brazil.

KARIN NANSEN: Yes, exactly. And this is very connected to the fight we have here, because as companies, transnational corporations get into our territories to develop their business activities, people who are resisting and fighting, but people who are also defending their means of survival, their livelihoods, who are defending their rivers, forests, land, are being killed. And this is the logic that is being imposed in our societies, a logic that is very perverse, because it means that those who are fighting for justice, who are building the society we aim for, those peoples are being killed. And the violence is even more brutal against women, and even more so if they are indigenous women or Afro-descended women, whose bodies carry all the oppressions of this system.

So that’s why we think it’s so important to denounce what is taking on — what is happening in the territories all over Latin America, but also throughout the world, and to be able to build international solidarity in order to stand together. So, this demonstration, inside and outside, is also a manifestation of the international solidarity we are aiming to build and we have been building together for the past years, in order to make sure that nobody else is killed, nobody else is threatened because they’re opposing business activities that are coming to destroy their territories, their means of survival. These business activities are mostly mining activities, oil exploration, oil exploitation. It’s also about the expansion of agribusiness in our lands. And this is also what false solutions mean.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to a neighbor not so far from you, in Brazil. Again, Nermeen Shaikh is in the middle of the crowd. Nermeen Shaikh, take it away in this last minute.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Daiara Tukano, you’re here from Brazil. Explain why you’re at this protest.

DAIARA TUKANO: At this moment, Brazil is under a coup d’état. We have been attacked in so many ways. We have been attacked to our democracy. We have been attacked to our forest. And we, as originary people, as indigenous people from the forest, are trying to defend what is left of nature. Indigenous territories defend more than 80% of biodiversity in this world. Biodiversity is connected to cultural diversity. It is in our knowledge, in our way of life, that life is still living in our territory. It’s true indigenous perspective that we can find the solutions to reconnect to all the ecosystem and stop doing this suicidal movement through the necropolitics, through the necro-economy that is governing all over the world.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And thank you so much, Daiara Tukano. We’re going to go back now to Amy Goodman in the studio here at COP.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much, Nermeen. Right now the protesters are walking by us, by Tom and Karin. Security opened up what looks like a large garage door. They’re holding the front person, who’s got his hand up in a fist. And now hundreds of people are passing us as they walk out of the COP. As they walk out of the COP, it’s not clear why they’re walking out of the COP.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: They shouldn’t. They’ll lose their badges.

AMY GOODMAN: But what they’re doing — Tom, why don’t you explain?

TOM GOLDTOOTH: They should not go.

KARIN NANSEN: They shouldn’t go.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: There’s a possibility that they’re going to lose their badges. Don’t follow. You’re going to lose your badges.

AMY GOODMAN: Tom is afraid that they will lose their badges —

KARIN NANSEN: Yes. They shouldn’t leave.

AMY GOODMAN: — if they walk out of the COP. But that’s just what people are doing right now.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: There’s a risk — there’s a risk you’re going to lose your badges.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there, but we’ll pick it up tomorrow on Democracy Now! Voices of protest at the U.N. climate summit right here in Madrid, Spain. Hundreds of people, every level, from scientists to activists, indigenous leader, are here. Thank you so much to Karin Nansen and to Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network for being here, Karin with Friends of the Earth International.

And in breaking news, Time magazine has named Greta Thunberg Person of the Year. That does it for our show. I’m Amy Goodman, with our whole team here in Madrid, Spain, at the U.N. climate summit. Thanks so much for joining us.