Presenter Pablo Solón (Fundacion Solon, Focus on the Global South)
TOPIC EXPERT WITNESS/ VICTIM
Fossil Fuels Maxime Combes Desmond D'sa (Attac France) (South Africa)
Deforestation Miguel Lovera (Global Forest Coalition, Paraguay) and David Kureeba (Global Forest Coalition, Uganda)
Water and Climate Maude Barlow Michal Kravcik (Council of Canadians) (Slovakia)
Market Mechanisms, Badrul Alam Climate Smart (LVC & President, Bangladesh
Agriculture, Krishok Federation) and
Land Use Maria Isabel Carrillo (CONAVIGUA)
Bio-Energy with Pat Mooney (ETC Group)
and Storage (BECCS)
Free Trade Agreements Tony Clark (Polaris Institute, Canada)
Geoengineering Silvia Ribeiro
(ETC Group Mexico)
Nuclear Roland Desbordes Alexei Nesterenko (Belarus) (CRIIRAD)
Osprey Orielle Lake, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (USA)
Honorable President of the Tribunal and Ladies and Gentleman: I want to express my deepest appreciation for all the witnesses for Mother Earth who have spoken so powerfully in the defense of the web of life and their communities today. Particularly, I want to honor the voices of the Indigenous women that have spoken here and their efforts in traveling to Paris.
Thank you to the presenters of the climate crimes against nature case for such a compelling and critical testimony about climate change and false solutions.
The climate change presenters have made well-founded arguments illustrating the ways in which the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth have been fundamentally violated by global temperature rise, and by a myriad of false solutions being proposed for mitigation.
If global mean temperatures continue to rise– risks to ecosystems and livelihoods will surpass tolerable levels. Humans will no longer be able to inhabit many previously hospitable regions, and will suffer from extreme weather conditions, including rising sea levels, loss of arable lands, population displacement by violent storms and floods, droughts, biodiversity loss, mass extinctions, watershed destabilization, and life-threatening food scarcity.
Your arguments have made it clear that the consequences of climate change are leading to irreversible and fatal changes to the very web of life. Because of this and the destructive pressures from capitalism –based on endless material growth, an extractive economy, and a worldview based on domination, patriarchy and colonialism, we can see there are grave violations of Mother Earth’s rights that are not only destroying animals, forests, rivers, oceans and the atmosphere– but are bringing into question the very existence of the human species.
Pledges by nations to cut carbon emissions fall far too short of those needed to prevent climate catastrophe — clearly, this is not the time to be timid or think we are in a rehearsal for ambitious and just climate policies or a transformative revolution at a later date–the time is irrefutably now.
The fossil fuel industry, our governance structures and corporate institutions must be held accountable for these violations against Nature. While many world leaders hold on to the notion that we can postpone reductions in fossil fuels that are commensurate with the crisis at hand– nature is clearly demonstrating to us that Earth’s natural laws cannot be manipulated, purchased, compromised, or ignored.
The case presenters have shown us that climate destruction is one of the many symptoms of the underlying forces of class-based, hierarchical, capital-dominated economics that subordinate and disempower billions of people worldwide.
From the arguments, we can see that false solutions, such as geo-engineering, carbon capture and storage, nuclear energy, carbon markets and ‘climate smart’ agriculture are only furthering violations to Mother Earth’s rights. Geo-engineering is a techno fix that interferes with the natural laws of our Mother Earth. And, geo-engineering is doubly dangerous and destructive because it not only interferes with the earth’s natural ability to balance herself, it is also does nothing to address any of the root causes of climate change.
Naomi Klein has said, “The appeal of geo-engineering is that it doesn’t threaten our worldview. It leaves us in a dominant position. It says that there is an escape hatch.” In other words, it allows us to just keep doing what are doing, despite the fact that it is clearly not working.
Likewise, the case presenters have shown us that we must address serious problems created by trade deals like the TPP: the way they can be used against ambitious climate policy by giving foreign corporations the right to directly sue governments for new laws or regulations that they claim negatively affects their bottom line.
You also have show us that market mechanisms are a violation of Mother Earth’s rights allowing for escalating destruction through the buying and selling of the right to pollute through schemes like carbon trading. It is not a surprise that in these schemes nature is assumed to be a commodity in that the commodification and financialization of nature is inherent in the capitalist system.
When we think about the rights of nature we have to ask: Do we have the right to sell and destroy something that belongs to everyone and should be a shared commons? And, does it make any sense to try to protect nature and heal our damaged ecosystems by further subjecting nature to an economic and legal system that caused the damage in the first place?
I have been deeply moved by the tribunal and all the cases we have heard today. Our Mother Earth is calling out to us and our hearts are breaking. She is letting us know that we are on a path of great devastation. Today, our hearts also break for our fallen sisters and brothers, Defenders of the Land, whose stories we have heard during the Tribunal and also those we are aware of worldwide.
And while it is true the Earth will live on and survive even we do not, it is tragic to think that our mark as species on this beautiful, numinous Planet will be one of destruction and violence, instead of beauty-making, dignity and harmony with Nature.
The presentation makes it clear that our legal and economic frameworks are at war with the sacred web of life. Clearly we need an entirely different legal configuration that recognizes that Earth’s living systems are not the enslaved property of humans for our exploitation. In order to live in harmony with the earth and safeguard a healthy world for present and future generations, we need to reform the destructive aspects of our modern life.
The climate change testimony highlights the urgent need to address actions that are real solutions based on climate justice and respect for the natural laws of our Mother Earth. I will briefly name here just 10 of a myriad of actions we need to take in concert given the scale of this crisis:
1- Advance a new society, based on social justice and environmental sustainability that recognizes Human Rights and Rights of Nature.
2- Limit global warming to well below 1.5 °Celsius.
3- Divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy.
4- End old growth and natural forest logging to limit climate change and sustain the biosphere
5- Respect all governmental treaties with Indigenous Peoples and defend their right to continue to inhabit traditional lands, undisturbed by industrial projects and extractive industries.
6- Reject greenhouse gas emissions reductions schemes that come from high-risk technologies like geo-engineering and nuclear power.
7- Mandate that trade agreements put long-term climactic stability over short-term trade and special interest lobbying and that trade agreements must be tied to social and environmental justice. We also must dismantle current corporate structures.
8- Address unsustainable consumption and production in the Global north. And, recognize historical responsibilities of industrialized countries.
9- Leave 80% of the remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground and stop further fossil fuel exploration and development
10- Transition to 100% renewable energy sources and decentralize and democratize ownership of this new energy economy.
In this sense, uplifting the Rights of nature can address our dysfunctional economic system and support the transition to a truly sustainable future. We need to support movements and governance and economic structures that are not based on endless material growth and instead envision a new way of living that is based on care for each other and Mother Earth. We are responsible to imagine and create a society with a new understanding of ourselves, progress and well-being.
Sumak Kawsy, living well, coming from the great wisdom of our Indigenous sisters and brothers, offers us an important direction forward to overcome current concepts of ‘development’ and well being. We need to embrace these ideas of Sumak Kawsy as we think upon reparation, mitigation, restoration and prevention of further damages and harm to each other and Mother Earth.
In closing, what is critical about Rights of Nature is that it can help us reconnect with Mother Earth. This is essential because underlying so many of the root causes of our destructive relationship with nature is a belief by many people that we are separate from nature. This sense of disconnect from our living earth has proven to not only be spiritually heartbreaking but a disaster in the human experiment.
My hope is that in finding our current legal and economic systems in violation of natures rights, we will have a deeply needed societal transformation.
The International Rights of Nature Tribunal has heard the climate crimes against nature case in tribunals in Ecuador, Peru and now France and we close the case today finding that the fossil fuel industry and all actors including governments and corporations that are engaged in false solutions to climate change in violation of the Rights of Nature– and that more deeply that the current economic and legal systems that perpetuate treating nature as our slave and commodifies the very system of life to be violating the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Nature.
Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation/Oilwatch (Nigeria)
I want us to recollect how Sister Casey Camp Horinek ended her presentation this morning. She said, “It is a good day”. And I want to say that today is a good day. It’s a good day for Mother Earth, that the children of the earth could speak up in her defense, and the children of Mother Earth can also decide where we must go next.
The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth that was agreed to at Cochabamba in 2010, clearly, and as said by the prosecutor, gave us the right to empower human beings and institutions to defend the rights of Mother Earth and all beings. In other words we can set up rules and regulations on how people and other beings relate to Mother Earth.
Today we heard from experts and from the testimonies we heard things particularly related to the Conference of Parties, ongoing in Paris at this time. We heard that the present COP is a farce and it’s merely a conference to adopt intended nationally determined contributions or suggestions that will only pave the way for the burning of the planet.
We also heard that the UN FCCC is not addressing the fundamental causes of global warming and is therefore deeply implicated in the ongoing climate crimes. In particular the COP is not making a proposal to restrict fossil fuel destruction and is not proposing how to actually stop deforestation. Neither is the COP making any meaningful agreements to reduce emissions from agriculture.
Now we have also heard that not all human beings are complicit in the climate crimes, or that just a handful of humans, 10% of the richest, contribute the bulk of the carbon emissions, along with a handful of corporations who look at nature as capital and who as you’ve heard also look at Mother Earth as a dead organism, which we know is not true.
So some of the things we noted today include the fact that climate change and social inequality are fueled by the same actors and that their claims that we don’t have alternatives is a cover up and must be rejected and is hereby rejected. We also heard that one of the articles in the present negotiation text states that negotiators should not take any measure that would affect international trade. However the crisis that we’re confronting cannot be solved without dealing with trade issues, so such arguments must also be rejected. Without forests there will be no life, and what we depend on are not produced by us, but by other children of Mother Earth. This was emphasized very clearly today.
We also noted the gap in the COP that water is not given a place in the negotiations and that our rivers have been dammed to death. Water is a human right, a public trust, and must not be seen as property. We also heard that industrial and chemical farming harmed the people, the environment, and equally that market mechanisms favor only businesses and not people.
Reliance on market mechanisms, bio energy, geoengineering, and other false solutions delay action on climate change and lock in harmful activities against Mother Earth. It broke Mother Earth’s heart to hear about the harmful effects of uranium mining and nuclear energy production and the fact that the waste water from these installations cannot really be returned to natural cycles of Mother Earth. They’re causing displacement of communities, and related disasters destroy and harm not just present generations but many generations to come. So the things we’ve resolved today include the fact that the capitalist system and current economic model and general economic system, all work against the general interests of Mother Earth and her children. So their interests must be changed, other wise the climate crisis will not be resolved.
We demand a declaration of a moratorium on all new fossil fuels projects, and indeed all fossil fuels must be left under the ground. Steps must be taken by government as demanded by the prosecutor, and peoples must reduce emissions, consume less, and change harmful energy systems. Corporations have no right to determine the energy systems for humans, and trade rules set up to exploit Mother Earth and to exploit her children, must be jettisoned. The unholy trinity of WTO, the World Bank, and the IMF must be objectively reexamined. Where it is not possible to modify it should be closed down. Privatization of water takes it off public trust and affects access to water, and so we declare that water must be taken out of the market system.
And finally, we are all children of Mother Earth, we can hear her cries, we can see her tears, we can see the pains, we can see the struggles, to restore, recover from harmful impacts of humans. It is time for us all, beyond what we decide here in tribunal, to individually and collectively, join hands and take steps to ensure that climate criminals are brought to book, and not allowed to every year waste resources and gather in comfortable halls, meet through nights and come out with no solutions. Thank you.
Tribunal Video Credits: A special thank you to Panasonic; 2nd Side Adventures, LLC; Diana Weynand, Producer, Supervising Editor; Clément Guerra, Camera; Sophie Guerra, Sound; and Editors: Sean Lea, Sachie Masuda, and Rebecca Ryden.