The economic crisis is an opportunity to transform our economy
Cross Posted from Grist
It’s day four of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Poznan Poland, but it feels like I’ve been here for months. I’m up before the sun rises and in bed after midnight – and the action is nonstop. I with 500 youth delegates here from over 54 countries across the globe, from India to Peru, to Australia. Young people have been meeting with governments, participating in negotiations, harassing corporations, training each other in everything from climate justice to organizing skills, and speaking clearly and loudly: young people are collaborating across borders and have a shared vision. We want binding, equitable, science-based targets, and we’re going to fight for them.
One of the ways that we’ve been telling our story is through actions – we’ve been coordinating two per day! This afternoon, we hosted a “Who Wants To Be a Trillionaire?” game show. One contestant was the “big banks,” who have recently won 4.1 trillion dollars in government bailouts from the E.U. and the U.S. The other was a “climate rescue plan” which got over 40 times less – a measly 13.1 billion (if that doesn’t sound like a big disparity, check out the graph on this report here: http://www.ips-dc.org/getfile.php?id=314). The United States Congress has committed zero dollars (http://www.ips-dc.org/articles/913). Despite getting all the questions wrong, the “big banks” got all the money anyway. A rambunctious game show audience held a banner that said: “EU Bailout: $2.8 Trillion. US Bailout: $1.3 Trillion. Climate Rescue: Priceless”
Our point was simple: the same people who have spent decades telling us they can’t afford to save our planet, can clearly move trillions of dollars within weeks (when their own pocketbooks are directly affected). The issue is not lack of resources, its lack of political will. Youth are demanding our governments invest in a strong green economy, our planet, and our future.
Lucky for us, this economic crisis presents us with a wonderful opportunity. The opening day here in Poland, the UNFCCC said that the economic crisis is no excuse for inaction. We are saying that in fact, it’s the best reason in the world to invest in clean energy now, creating green jobs and sparking opportunity worldwide.
If we are bailing out failing industries (from financial systems to auto industries) with public funds, then the public should be able to make demands upon them. Journalist Naomi Klein once called the idea “people’s structural adjustment.” This is a powerful moment for governments who are suddenly having more control – if they choose to – over massive sectors of industry, by exercising leverage for climate demands. We need to renew these sectors. Its not just about money its about innovation and curbing their emissions. We can tie government lending to demands that industry become more innovative and more climate conscious.
We know that any solution to the climate crisis that is not equitable and just, is no solution at all. International youth are at the United Nations tasking the leaders of the world with no less than fundamentally changing the way our economies work. This crisis gives us an opportunity to take a massive step forward with instituting a Green New Deal and investing in a new truly just, sustainable economy.