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Providing Context for the People’s Climate March Sunday

On Sunday, Sept. 21, thousands will march in New York City in advance of the U.N. Climate Summit next Tuesday, where nations will meet to discuss potential solutions to curb carbon emissions.

However, the talks scheduled for Paris next year is when the finalized rules and regulations will be implemented.

In fact, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said last year she was hopeful for a combined effort of nations to address climate change after the failure of an agreement at Copenhagen in 2009.

What is very different is that we all went to 2009 having made our own decision that governments had to come to an agreement. But there was actually no commitment of governments to come to an agreement.

The memory of the Copenhagen talks is still in the minds of environmentalists, the talks were deemed a significant failure with the United States more interested in employing its surveillance equipment than providing a framework to curb carbon emissions.

Roz Savage, an environmentalist well known for rowing across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, was present at the Copenhagen talks in 2009. However, as she documented in her book Stop Drifting, Start Rowing, she too felt disappointed by a lack of an agreement, perhaps most telling when she recounted meeting with Kiribati President Anote Tong.

While the climate talks were in their final throes, I was having dinner with President Anote Tong and the rest of the Kiribati delegation in a curry restaurant in downtown Copenhagen. The President was open about his feelings: ‘We are trying to maintain our composure, but I am very sad … We were naive and vulnerable … I wish I was so much more ruthless.’ That evening the negotiations ended in failure.

Since 2009, there has barely been any efforts to contain carbon emissions. Rather, nations like the United States or Mexico decided to offer oil and natural gas to private companies, which will certainly goes against curbing climate change.

There is more in terms of the effects of climate change since 2009, yet one of the most alarming pieces of information is how Limits to Growth, a book from 1972 predicting the collapse of civilization, was found to be correct so far in its hypothesis. The scarce nimber of resources, combined with an unsustainable system built on consumption, would eventually spell doom if nothing is done.

It is what makes such talks important, yet preparations for the Paris conference next year might as well be considered over, as Chris Williams argued in a recent piece in The Indypendent titled “Why U.N. Climate Talks Continue to Fail.” The failure of previous agreements only reinforce how the following summit will provide no solution.

[Conference of Parties] 21 will be held in Paris in 2015 and is meant to finalize a global deal to replace Kyoto with real and significant pledges on carbon reductions. However, according to participants in the process, COP 21 is already dead in the water. There will be no specific limits on emissions or targets for doing so; nothing will be legally enforceable; and whatever happens will be merely voluntary, as the United States — the world’s largest economy — has long insisted.

Thus, thousands will be in New York City on Monday to show how important it is to reach an agreement and implement solutions. Certainly there will still be the clamor for reform within the UN as some environmentalists still hold on that view. Yet the paradigm may be shifting with Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything, providing the lead example .

The question of capitalism is now on the table and how it connects with the idea of cutting carbon emissions. As Klein told John Tarleton of The Indypendent, current calls for cutting carbon emissions are incompatible with the capitalist system’s desire to continue to profit. Indeed, when the ice in the Arctic started to melt and exposed valuable natural resources, nations did not worry about what caused this. Instead, they are fighting one another to gain control of these resources for themselves.

Over the next few days activists will speak in panels on specific environmental issues, motivate others to join the march, actually march on Sunday and even flood Wall Street the following day.

Firedoglake will provide coverage for most of these events surrounding this monumental convocation for whatever happens in the next few days will be significant for the environment movement today and the future of our planet.

Poster by Crystal Clarity

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Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan is a freelance journalist in Queens, NY and written for publications such as The Nation, In These Times, Truthout and more.

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