The COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 closed in Katowice, Poland on December 15. Over the past two weeks at the conference, demand for climate action has been increasing. However, despite the last minute efforts to put together the rulebook of the Paris climate accord, delegates failed to deliver a strong enough set of guidelines.
Although the talks failed to deliver a functional rulebook for the Paris agreement, there were plenty of signs of emerging leadership to carry the climate agenda forward. A press conference held in Katowice during the COP24 celebrated 1,000 people powered divestment commitments and highlighted some major wins till date spanning 37 countries since 2012. The commitments came from cities like New York, Berlin and Cape Town, medical institutions like the American Public Health Association, faith groups like the Diocese of Assisi, insurance giants and investment funds like Norway's sovereign wealth fund and the country of Ireland.
Responding to teen activist Greta Thunberg's call for school strikes, youths in Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and Australia skipped school in demand for climate action. The climate strike continues to spread. Parents, young people, teachers and others can all take part in the climate strike. In the United States, over 1,000 young people flooded the halls of Congress to demand action on a Green New Deal before the end of the year, resulting in over 100 arrests. As the Sunrise Movement steadily pushes new representatives to go on record, the call for a Green New Deal is spreading. It has already spread to Canada.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, people gathered in Cape Town during the country's Energy Week to oppose the national Development Bank's (DBSA) plans to fund Thabametsi coal plant. Their actions coincided with a push to showcase eight inspiring campaigns of people-power against carbon bombs all over the world. Three of the eight projects spotlighted during the COP are in countries where very little energy comes from coal. These were Sendou in Senegal, Rampal in Bangladesh, and Lamu in Kenya.
Even before the Talks officially began, people were setting the tone. A day before the start, 75,000 marched in Brussels, Belgium and 35,000 came out in Germany, split between Berlin and Cologne. That momentum came through again on December 08, with a peaceful march in Katowice to sound the climate alarm around France and Europe. But it was not easy. Some 15 activists were turned away at the border in Poland.
There was more good news in the form of climate actions. Wales, the birthplace of the fossil-fuelled industrial revolution, committed to phase out fossil fuels in favour of renewable while the leading public health body in the UK ended investment in all fossil fuels. Also in the UK, 200 members of the British Parliament committed to push Parliament to divest its own pension fund. The city of Mountain View, in California, has also divested, along with Lambeth in the UK. So much inspiring activism around COP24 has come from the growing climate movement in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.
However, fossil fuel projects are still being planned around the world. COP has shown that people power is the only thing that will stop these carbon bombs from going ahead and pushing us towards climate breakdown. People have the ultimate power in power (energy) sector, where all the commitments at COP can be accomplished by bringing about a fossil-fuel free world. This can be ensured through a global campaign led by local groups demanding that local communities and institutions commit to: a fast and just transition to 100 per cent renewable energy for all; no new fossil fuel projects anywhere, and, no longer paying even a single penny for 'dirty energy'.
Polin Kumar Saha is Senior Research Associate and sustainability professional at BRAC Research and Evaluation Division.