Emmaus International

The state of emergency in France will significantly complicate the participation of civil society organisations from around the world in the COP21 climate change conference. However, Emmaus International general delegate Nathalie Péré-Marzano maintains that long-term solutions must be built based on the experience and assertions of the poorest populations, who are the first to be affected by climate change.

151125 COP21 Billet NPM"Haidar El Ali expressed this clearly at the 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar when he stated that, “there can be no ecology without democracy”. Minister of Ecology and the Protection of Nature under Macky Sall’s first government, this Senegalese ecologist knows what he is talking about. For more than 30 years, he has been campaigning tirelessly in favour of political ecology on a continent that has suffered the monopolisation of its natural resources and more than its fair share of corruption, injustices and human rights violations.

COP21 will begin in a few days’ time, hosted by a country that, for the next three months, will be existing in a “state of emergency” and implementing a raft of measures that will restrict our freedoms for the sake of protecting our security, Mr El Ali explains. Is this situation really conducive to ensuring that the conference takes place in a democratic atmosphere? Clearly not, and this issue has not even been addressed.

These restrictions on freedom will intensify the imbalance of power between decision-makers, lobby groups for the planet’s biggest polluters and civil society organisations that work in the service of public interest. What is the point of an international conference if the poorest people - the first victims of climate change - and the social movements that propose alternative solutions are not invited to the negotiating table? Need we recall that, for years, financial and economic decision-makers at the highest level have been agreeing on the same predatory model, of which they are the main beneficiaries, simultaneously allowing inequality to increase and the planet to deteriorate to the point at which it may become uninhabitable for future generations?

For Emmaus International and its 350 groups around the world, the key issue relating to climate change is the fact that, while it primarily affects the poorest populations, it is also intrinsically linked to factors that increase poverty and widen inequalities.
The two main drivers for success at the 21st climate change conference would be large-scale awareness raising combined with an historic show of courage on the part of politicians. We already know that the first will be difficult to achieve at the meeting, given how incredibly restricted civil society organisations will be in campaigning and making their voices heard. Will the second challenge be met? We’ll find out on 12 December.

Nathalie Péré-Marzano,
Chief Executive of Emmaus International