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From 4-17 November 2017, Friends of the Earth representatives from around the world came together at the COP23 climate talks (COP23), hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, Germany, to call for an end to dirty energy and for justice for climate impacted peoples. This year’s COP was held on the doorstep of a vast open coal mine.

The conference ended disappointingly. Little progress was made by developed countries on issues of climate finance for energy transformation and support for people already impacted by the changing climate in the global South (loss and damage).

Developed countries also procrastinated on increasing their short-term emissions cuts, and carbon markets and other false solutions to climate change made a resurgence.

Meanwhile, hopes for a German coal phase-out, for which Friends of the Earth Germany/ BUND, Young Friends of the Earth Germany/ BUNDJugend and others mobilized came tantalizingly close, but did not materialize.

At the same time, a flurry of inspiring actions and events demonstrated the power of the people in fighting dirty energy around the world.

Climate change is impacting people right now

On the first day of COP, Friends of the Earth International hosted an event on the devastating ways climate change is already impacting communities. The powerful and emotional stories from people on the frontline of climate change provided us with a stark reminder of why we were are all there.

Stella-Miria Robinson from the Climate Frontlines Collective at Friends of the Earth Australia/Brisbane said that people forced to migrate because of rising sea levels are losing their culture and traditions. Chief Joey Dearling, from the Karoo region of South Africa, described how he led his tribe in a traditional rain dance ceremony, and the feeling of failing his community when the rains didn’t come and all the cattle died.

For her part, Katia Avilés-Vázquez described the reality in hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico, which has no recourse to a just recovery or transition.

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific/ APAC also launched their new report on Just solutions for climate-induced migration in Asia Pacific.

Theiva Lingam, Friends of the Earth regional facilitator for APAC shared her own climate story: while she was in Bonn, her parents’, relatives’ and friends’ houses in Malaysia were flooded by monsoon rainfalls. Her story was a stark reminder that climate-related disasters like this are becoming the norm in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere.

Developed countries must take urgent and just pre-2020 climate action 

These stories from the frontline highlight that urgent progress is crucial, but rather than scaling up their efforts, developed countries blocked progress on pre-2020 urgent action on mitigation and finance.

Together with our allies at Demand Climate Justice we took action to remind negotiators that climate justice means climate action now. In another joint action we put forward eight new demands for governments to ensure a real energy transformation before the end of 2018.

But climate action must not only happen urgently – it must also be just. As part of the Civil Society Equity Review we launched an updated fair shares analysis, and Sara Shaw from Friends of the Earth International spoke at the side event panel discussing the implications of the report and the need for an urgent scale up in mitigation action and finance by rich countries who are not doing their fair share.

Germany and Japan’s dirty secrets

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COP23 took place just a few trains stops away from the Hambach lignite coal mine, which is still being expanded at the expense of a 12,000 year old forest and surrounding villages.

On Saturday 4 November, ahead of the COP, over 25,000 people took to the streets in the biggest anti-coal march in German history, to demand climate justice and an end to coal and dirty energy.

The march culminated in rousing speeches from impacted peoples and climate activists on a stage over which a crane held up a sign of balloons spelling out ‘End Coal’.

Action continued on Sunday 5 November, when thousands of people joined a peaceful and powerful march to the Hambach coal mine. After the march a number of groups entered the mine and shut it down for the day.

BUNDjugend set up a creative performance in the UNFCCC zone and handed out coal souvenirs to delegates to expose the Energiewende champion’s dirty secret.

For their part, Friends of the Earth Indonesia/ WALHI and Friends of the Earth Japan took action to highlight Japan’s role as the biggest public financier of coal in the world, and in particular the devastating effects these investments have on communities in Indonesia.

Taking the Norwegian government to court

Another group of inspiring young people, Young Friends of the Earth Norway, took the stage to highlight their legal case against the Norwegian government, whose plans to drill for oil in the Arctic would  breach the Paris Agreement and the Norwegian constitution.

Fossil gas

As part of the launch of Friends of the Earth Europe’s new report, Can the Climate Afford Europe’s Gas Addiction?, we held a number of actions and a side event which highlighted the dangers of gas expansion in Europe and its existing climate impacts in Lancashire in the UK, the Karoo in South Africa and the Rovuma basin in Mozambique. Jagoda Munic of Friends of the Earth Europe shared the report conclusions, which demonstrate there is no room for Europe to exploit ANY fossil fuels, including gas, and climate scientist Kevin Anderson spoke powerfully about the dangers of gas and how it is incompatible with Europe’s carbon budget.

Dirty energy is not clean

To spread the message that nuclear energy is not a clean solution to climate change, Friends of the Earth International joined Don’t Nuke the Climate on an anti-nuclear march through the streets of Bonn and at other anti-nuclear actions.

The start of the second week saw an extraordinary protest against the US’s side event on ‘clean fossil fuels’ and nuclear, which resulted in a room packed with protesters – who once ejected left behind an empty room and an enormous and overwhelming peaceful protest outside.

Communities are fighting dirty energy

Throughout COP, Friends of the Earth members shared many stories of dirty energy struggles across the world.

For example, Yuyun Harmono of WALHI shared his story about the impact of coal mining and burning in Indonesia, where 100 new coal fired power plants are planned over the next 20 years, while Kwami Kpondzo of Friends of the Earth Togo spoke of the struggle to stop offshore oil exploitation in Togo.

Godwin Ojo of Friends of the Earth Nigeria spoke of the devastating impact that decades of oil exploitation have had in the Niger Delta.

And Mary Church of Friends of the Earth Scotland shared the recent success in banning fracking in Scotland.

We need a Just Transition

A crucial area much discussed outside the formal negotiations was the need for a just transition from dirty energy to a people-centred clean energy system. This was discussed in joint event with the International Trade Union Federation/ ITUC.

Panelists from unions and environmental groups around the world shared insights into how we can together work for decent jobs on a green planet. This event was a part of our strategy in building a vision (and reality) of a transformed energy system.

No false solutions: Carbon markets and geoengineering

Carbon markets once again emerged as a damaging distraction from the real task of reducing emissions. Friends of the Earth International opposes the use of these false solutions to the climate crisis, and we ended the COP with a strong action to highlight their dangers.

Discussions around geoengineering also took place with an event hosted by BUND and the Heinrich Boll Foundation. Geoengineering is another false solution, and can harm indigenous people, forests and biodiversity.

These actions at COP echoed mobilizations by civil society groups around the world. We will keep fighting alongside communities to stop dirty energy and for the finance needed for energy transformation, and we will keep calling for a ‘just transition’ from dirty energy to a new system that is clean and benefits communities and workers.

Emissions are rising but so is people power. We will take the lead to stop the climate crisis and fight for justice. As Dipti Bhatnagar from Friends of the Earth Mozambique/Ja! said:

“We will not go quietly into that dark night. We need to fight. With great hope and great optimism and love for each other and this planet we call home. And people power will make it happen!”

More photos from COP23 can be found on our Flickr.