Grand Conference: Change the System, not the Climate!

12 August 2016
An intersectional battle for a just transition

On Thursday, August 11, 2016, the highly-anticipated Grand Conference Change the System, not the Climate ! at the Marie Gérin-Lajoie room at UQAM. There was so much excitement that a crowd of participants of the WSF was unfortunately unable to take part. Amongst the speakers: Naomi Klein, Anne-Céline Guyon, Maité Llanos, Tadzio Muller and Clayton Thomas-Muller.

This evening was presented by Alternatives and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung New York Foundation and had the defense of the rights of nature and environmental justice as themes. The speakers addressed more concretely the urgent necessity to transform the current system, said to be productive, based on the massive exploitation of fossil energies and marked by major social inequalities. They each shared their vision concerning the situation and the path to privilege  to allow a just transition to happen. Popular movements are at the heart of every deep societal change, precious keys have been shared to participants to initiate a transition towards an economic model that is free of carbon, socially just and bearer of a sustainable societal project.

Naomi Klein: alter-globalization activist and author of No Logo and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Canada)

For Naomi Klein, the problematics that are currently met are all connected together. The neoliberal model will never address the ecological crisis. As it based on growth at any price, its reforms and policies will always remain superficial. No real and profound change will ever take place in such circumstances. Neoliberalism is able to charm the population with an ecological speech, yet this does not serve any purpose if the policies and the governmental actions do not hold water. All neoliberalist barriers must be put down and the old models of growth must be rejected in order to hope to get out of such a risky situation. Klein calls for action in this era of change. Awareness of the mischiefs of capitalism is globalized, and it is time now more than ever to gather around together to create a new model, a culture where we take care of each other and of the Earth, an economy of care.

Anne-Céline Guyon : spokesperson of Stop Oléoducs on Quebec’s civic mobilization against the Energy Est Pipeline project (Canada)

Guyon denounced the extractivist model which ignores the right of people to dispose of themselves by going against any industrial projects and that denies the existence of climate change. She exposed the case of the Energy Est Pipeline project to demonstrate an example of massive mobilization of civil society having a real impact on the development of an industrial project. The more the people are aware of the project, the more they oppose it. This enterprise is becoming, little by little, in the collective imaginary a symbol of the impacts on human rights and on aboriginal communities. Finally, although it is necessary to fight back, it is also important to put forward new paths for a world with climate and social justice.

Maité Llanos : union activist and member of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy on the link between trade and the environment (Argentina)

Miss Llanos estimates that opening the debate on climate change in a neoliberal society will only grant a bigger space to the capitalist enterprises to develop a field of action that is ” acceptable “. Thus, talking about climate is a mistake if we wish to change the system. If a just transition is implemented, it needs to be directed by and for the people and not by and for the corporations. And then, trade agreements that grant too much attention to corporations need to be dismantled. We need to continue to create alliances, to extend mobilization in order to take down the system, the government and the corporations, and then to build a resistance and alternative front to globalized capitalism. 

Tadzio Muller : representative of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Germany and co-animator of Coalition Climat 21 on mobilization against coal-fired power stations in Germany (Germany)

” It is power that counts. ” For Tadzio Muller, the battle for climate change concerns capitalism and this battle is the one of civil society. Civil society will need to mobilize itself to see things change concretely by developing its own project, its own vision. Social movements are at the source of big societal change, not governmental policies. We need to mobilize as there is still time, before a declaration of rights for capitalist enterprises becomes greater in their field of action. Their access to a greater amount of powers will call for the end of the power of citizens, of the impact of their mobilization.

 Clayton Thomas-Muller : previous spokesperson for Idle No More and responsible of the campaign on the importance of stopping oil sands and to counter extractivism (Canada)

Clayton Thomas-Muller explains the ecological crisis as a disconnection of humanity in its sacred relationship with Mother Earth. The current economic model encourages us to fill the void left by the disconnection of nature due to over consumption in order to satisfy our greed. As long as we do not become aware of this vicious circle, we will never be able to find sustainable solutions, Thomas-Muller adds that by talking about climate change, it is important to address the themes of colonialism and of reconciliation, especially in a First Nations perspective. These two themes will allow us to remember the models that we should not reproduce (total expropriation, delocalization, assimilation) and to heal the wounds of the past to build new bases.