Asad Rehman sees the climate crisis reaching "code red" for humanity. The crisis is linked to many other crises such as the pandemic, inequality and austerity. Frustration about it is growing, which is why millions are taking to the streets. But at the COP26 in Glasgow, these voices were excluded from the negotiations. The COP is a big greenwash, he sais. The promises made by governments and companies are the same as ten years ago. But they are neither transparent nor backed by action. What is needed now is action, not just words. But sand is being thrown in the eyes of the public with slogans like climate neutrality and false solutions, assisted by lazy coverage of the media. Now there are only 10 years left to turn the tide. This requires a genuine Green New Deal and climate justice. The rich countries would have to decarbonize by 2030. Not only a change from fossil to renewable energies is needed, but also a just transition, especially with regard to the Global South and indigenous groups, whose rights must be respected. The successful protests from Chile to India give Reman hope for the turnaround.
Asad Rehman is director of War on Want. He was head for international climate at Friends of the Earth. Rehman has also served on boards of Amnesty International UK, Friends of the Earth International and Global Justice Now. He is a spokesperson for COP26 Coalition, an organization organizing the protests and the Peoples Summit for Climate Justice in Glasgow at COP26.
David Goeßmann: Asad Rehman, there were huge demonstrations yesterday and you have organized them. Talk about the mood inside the movements right now and what are the chances to pressure the governments to do the right thing?
Asad Rehman: Well, yesterday there were millions of people who marched all around the world. Over 150.000 people here in Glasgow, tens and tens of thousands around the country in the UK and across all around Europe and literally from every country from Brazil to Uganda to Taiwan to South Korea. People recognize, you know, not just that we're in a climate crisis and that the urgency we've all heard, the code red for humanity, and the need to tackle this crisis but of course recognize that this crisis is tied up with other crisis from the Covid pandemic and the inequalities of vaccines to austerity and inequality. And there is a deep frustration and I think a real anger. And that's what brought people out on the streets. And particularly because here in these negotiations, we the ordinary people who are the eyes and the ears and voices of people are locked out. We're not allowed in the negotiating rooms. We've been locked out of the venue and so people are taking to the streets and they're coming here to the people's summit. Not just to discuss what's wrong with the world but to discuss what are our plans to solve this crisis. What are our strategies? How we're building collective power. How do we work both in our own countries and across borders with each other to move the dial from injustice to justice. So what we've seen at the climate negotiations is really a lot of greenwash. So yes our political leaders now whether it's the prime minister Boris Johnson in the UK, president Joe Biden they've made tough sounding talks, speeches on climate. They say we recognize we hear what the people are saying out there. But what's really interesting is of course that they are not putting their plans on policies to deal with this crisis. They're not doing their fair share of action to keep temperatures below 1.5. They've yet to meet their promise of the 100 billion which as we know is a drop in the ocean to the scale of this crisis, refusing to accept liability for the damages and really moving away from the kind of false hope and the false solutions of net zero and carbon markets. Instead what we've seen is countless pronouncements. Actually outside of the UN process they're being made with multinationals the very same multinationals that caused this crisis who are now saying trust us we will solve this crisis. But we have heard these promises before. Many of the statements that are being made are recycled statements from a decade ago, unmet then. And now we've been told trust us again. These are not transparent, we can't hold them to account. There's no detail in them. They're just vague promises. What matters is hard negotiating facts, what's in the outcome of the climate negotiations. And if the UK government and if the US president are so committed to tackling the climate crisis then they should be putting that into their NDCs. They should be putting that into their plans of action. Instead both countries are about to sign off even more expansion of fossil fuels. More dirty oil, more dirty coal, more gas. They're turning their backs on the people of the global south. They're saying we will raise 130 trillion to solve the climate crisis. Well if you can't raise 100 billion how do we trust you to raise 130 trillion, so put your money where your mouth is. Then put the money on the table.
David Goeßmann: Voices of the global south are often sidelined or suppressed when it comes to solutions to the crisis. Why are these voices so important.
Asad Rehman: Well the voices are so important because you know our realities shape those policies. We know that solving the climate crisis without solving the crisis of inequality makes no sense. That often the very same solutions are required for both. We know that it's not possible to dig or burn your way out of this crisis by saying well we'll just keep growing infinite. We'll start a new wave of green colonialism and green extraction. That's the realities of people on the front line. So they're very different solutions. So how do we transform our energy system not simply from fossil fuels to renewable but how do we make sure it tackles energy poverty? How do we keep it within the limits of the planet? How do we make sure that everybody has the right to live with dignity and living wages? These are the kind of plans and policies that our movements already have been discussing and been fighting for decades. We put these plans on the table decades ago. And they've been ignored. Now as we stand on the edge of catastrophe. People are realizing that what we said what is exactly what is needed and those plans and policies are now becoming to be picked up by the young climate strikers, by new movements saying we know what needs to be done. And we are the ones that are going to do it.
David Goeßmann: You have already spoken about false solutions. What are the false solutions? What is so dangerous about them?
Asad Rehman: Well you can cook the carbon books, right. But you can't fool the climate science. The climate science is very clear. We have a carbon budget to limit temperatures to what well below 1.5 at best. At its most generous we have less than 10 years to cut our emissions. And what matters is our accumulated emissions, what we emit now not what we emit sometime in the future. Because all of these raise are temperature level. What we've seen here under the net zero rubric is government saying and corporations say: Let us continue to pollute and sometime in the distant future we'll invent technologies that will suck the carbon out of the atmosphere. Nobody knows what happens if you dial up the temperature and try and dial it down. What we do know is when you dial up the temperature people's lives and livelihoods are lost. Our ecosystems go out of wreck. We've seen melting of the arctic and the Antarctic. We've seen sea level rises. They are basically gambling with the very future of humanity and our planet with these risky technologies. So that's why it's so dangerous. It's simply a licence to continue to pollute.
David Goeßmann: What is about the media? Are the media doing their fair share and report accurately about the crisis and now about the course we are on? We are on a course three plus temperature rise probably in the future.
Asad Rehman: Unfortunately a lot of media are just taking sound bites from the UK government and reproduce them. I mean, we've had very critical conversations for example with the UK media saying just because the British government sends you an email in the morning saying this is our press release your job is not to simply reproduce it. As the media your job is to interrogate it. To see does live up to what it pronounces. To get the voices of climate scientists, of the academics to become on board. And instead what we're seeing is a really a very lazy journalism. Too much of the journalists particularly in the global north to willing to say our country are the climate champions. It's somebody else whose fault it is. It's not our fault. Well without recognizing the reality of course both of the climate science but also the reality of climate injustice. And our role as rich developed countries in creating that.
David Goeßmann: Movements demand a green your deal and climate justice. What does that mean and how should it be implemented in your view.
Asad Rehman: Look, a global green new deal is a radical interpretation, a radical framework. There are many different languages and words for it in many different areas. In Latin America people are calling it the eco-social pact. In Africa the eco-feminist pact. It's the justice transition. It's a recognition that we have to limit temperatures below 1.5. But that has to be done fairly. So that means rich countries decarbonized by 2030. It means we have to tackle global inequality and poverty. It means we have to live within the planetary limits. And that means no more unsustainable growth or extraction. But it also means recognizing that the injustices that we face today are because of injustices that have been hardwired into our economic and political systems. That's from slavery to colonialism to imperialism to neoliberalism, racism and patriarchy. These have been so embedded that they've created a sense that you can sacrifice both people and planet. You can sacrifice the poorest in the world, you can sacrifice black brown indigenous people and women. To turn that around you need to do all of these. We can do it. It means not just saying: fossil fuels to renewable energy. It says move from fossil fuels to energy being a public good. Equitably distributed, fairly shared with everybody. So we can tackle energy poverty. On food it's not simply saying, oh, let's go organic as if that's a solution. It's saying, food should be a right for everybody, controlled by people so we can cool the planet. But also feed the people. We know we can produce enough food to feed the world, three times over. Yet two billion people go hungry. Why? Because we have a broken food system. It means guaranteed people living wages, social protection, access to universal services. The very things that the global north has used to protect itself during this pandemic. It also means fixing the global economy, tax the rich, fix our trading system which locks in the power of dirty energy corporations. It means reparations, repaying the debt that the global north has taken from the global south. Look, trillions have flown from the global south to allow the global north to be developed. We need an equitable distribution of both finance but also lifting of technologies. So technologies can be shared. This is a moment for cooperation and solidarity not a moment for competition and profit.
David Goeßmann: What gives you a hope?
Asad Rehman: What gives me hope is people, people power, the people taking to the streets. Yesterday the people took the streets, day in day out. What gives me hope is the movements on the ground resisting the power of multinational. What gives me hope is the incredible energy that we're seeing all around the world. Look at Chile. The cradle of neoliberalism overthrown by a movement of movements approach. Look at the hundreds of millions of farmers taking to the streets in India against the BJP regime and the power of corporations. Everywhere this flame is burning because everybody knows that this world and our economy is rigged against them. Our challenge now is to turn that anger to turn that passion into solution and create the world that we want.
David Goeßmann: Thanks a lot Asad Rehman for the interview