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Failure and hope after the Climate Summit in Madrid
Sommet sur le climat de MadridSommet sur le climat de Madrid

The COP25 International Conference took place in Madrid (Spain) from December 2nd to 13th 2019. Jason Nardi, from RIPESS EU and RIPESS Intercontinental Coordinator, was there and participated in the “High-level circular economy roundtable” where he argued that we need a radically different approach to the economy.

Written by Jason Nardi, RIPESS’ Intercontinental Coordinator.

The 25th UN Climate Conference was held in Madrid (instead of Santiago in Chile, where it was supposed to take place) from 2 to 13 December: two weeks of negotiations among representatives of the nearly 200 countries that are parties to the UNFCCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

During this COP25, states were meant to finalize the rules of implementation of the Paris Agreement signed in 2015, which is supposed to be fully operational from 2020. Moreover, they were to increase the ambition of their emission reduction commitments, which are currently totally insufficient to achieve the objectives and to avoid the most serious consequences of global warming. The negotiations ended over 2 days beyond schedule and with a really weak agreement and substantial failure.

COP 25 was celebrated at the end of a year characterized by strong mobilizations of young people, which raised the attention on the climate crisis and the inaction of States to levels never reached before. Half a million people took to the streets in Madrid on Friday 6 December, calling for climate justice and responsibility of world governments. It was followed by the Climate Social Summit, the civil society event that saw more than 300 appointments promoted by activists from all over the world to propose alternative solutions, which ended with a statement titled: “The world has woken up to the climate emergency“.

Among the many spaces in the Social Summit, there was the Minga Indígena, organized by representatives of indigenous communities to talk about the impacts of climate change on their territories. Even though the official negotiations have moved to the Europe, South American civil society did not give up its space for expression, and in Santiago the two planned meetings of the Cumbre de los Pueblos and the Cumbre Social por la Acción Climática were celebrated.

RIPESS participated in both the official COP25 (see below the intervention of RIPESS coordinator Jason Nardi at the High level debate on “Circular economy, cities and buildings” in collaboration with FMDV and ICLEI) and in the Climate Social Summit, in several meetings organised by allies such as ECOLISE and members as REAS Madrid.

Next year’s COP, scheduled to take place in Glasgow between 9 and 19 November 2020, will be the final test for governments around the world. Mobilising our networks, movements and organisations at all levels is more crucial then ever to put more and more pressure on political representatives and governments who pull back from assuming their responsibilities and continuing to pursue a polluting, extractivist and destructive economic model, instead of taking real action to change it. And we need to link the mobilisation to the “transformative economies” that will gather in Barcelona at the WSFTE (June 25th-28th 2020).

In this sense, the number of legal actions brought by citizens and organisations against polluting states and companies is multiplying, calling for climate justice and the protection of fundamental human rights – the recent case won by the Urgenda foundation vs the Netherlands’ government is exemplary.

But even more hopeful are the positive actions taken at the local level and the potential of trans-local collaborations, involving cities who are investing in circular and social solidarity economy, where organised citizens, responsible governments and enterprises and other stakeholders can collaborate to build the climate resilient economic system and society we urgently need.


High-level circular economy roundtable: Cities and buildings as agents of climate action

Speech of Jason Nardi, RIPESS Intercontinental Coordinator

Three quarters of resource-use and greenhouse gas emissions already come from cities, and trends in urbanization, motorization, population and economic growth will further drive up these numbers if we don’t get smarter and more sustainable in the way we live, consume, travel, and produce. Many cities face serious air, water and waste pollution; direct result of unsustainable consumption and production patterns, making citizens’ health a key imperative for action.   Yet, the key to unlocking cities potential extends far beyond that: it is about raising political ambition, a constructive collaboration between different levels and sectors of government, innovative housing, urban and climate policies, sound economic incentives, and better urban planning. It is integrated and coordinated action of stakeholders such as innovators, policymakers, investors, developers, among others that will accelerate impact to help achieve the Paris Agreement goals.

(From the introduction to the Rountable)

1) From “Smart” to collectively intelligent cities

Many if not most of today’s  larger cities are ecologically unsustainable and socially unjust (concentration of emissions, pollution, bad quality housing, non resilient and very dependent from centralised provision – like energy, waste, transportation, etc.) and need to be re-designed all together, downsized and re-built.  They were planned or transformed around carbon intensive market-driven models, excluding many inhabitants and their communities, especially those living on informal economies as the majority of realities in the global south (60% average). If cities are like organisms, they should only grow to their natural limit, bioregional, livable and future capable. Perhaps less “smart” and more collectively intelligent.

That is why other more eco-systemic and fair approaches are needed: Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) and finance are based on circular economy, from the bottom up, with long tested and innovative solutions adapted to very different contexts.  They are done with collective, cooperative shared intelligence and efficient use of existing resources, recreating agro-ecological and re-localised supply chains.

Deregulated extractive linear economic growth and global financialised “free market” competition are among the root causes of the ecological and climate emergency we are in, let alone the inequality and poverty gaps they generate.

Greening economic growth does not make it more sustainable and a true circular economy is incompatible with today’s economic system.  We need a just transition to a living economy, where we produce and consume less, reuse, repair, redistribute and regenerate more.  “Circular” without social economic rights is not viable.

2) Including marginalised communities and informal workers in circular dynamics

Informal workers account for 50 to 80 percent of urban (self) employment of the global south. Yet they are largely excluded from public infrastructure and services, public space, and public procurement contracts.  They are already contributing to a circular resilient low carbon economy, but rarely recognized nor supported or offered financial means, starting with women, who are half the population.

We need a radically different approach to the economy,  based on decentralized and collective ownership, cooperative and democratic organization and management, short supply chains and local solidarity economic circuits.  This has proven to work in many cases all over the world.

There are thousand of examples where collaboration between informal, solidarity economy and cooperative enterprises and finance with local governments have been successful in giving answers to both social, urban and environmental issues – and contributing to a low-carbon human activity.

A few examples:

Bamako in Mali has been working on transforming 50000 tons of solid waste into fertilizer and energy.  The municipality, SSE structures and peasant organi‎sations are all involved. Waste for composting is recovered from markets, schools, etc. it’s at the beginning but promising.

In Solapur, India  the women-led beedi and textile workers housing cooperative together with the workers union has built almost 16000 houses (and other 30000 are on the way) made for climate local conditions, with materials locally sourced, participation of the workers, who from renting slum huts became owners of their sustainable homes in a town they built, with support of the local government and with community services, schools, hospitals and local farmers market (they won the Transformative cities award, 2018).

3) Right to the city and the New Urban Agenda

This is what we call Right to the city recognized by Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda: participatory urban planning by and for people and communities, inclusive, fair and sustainable cities, creating de-commodified spaces for local economic circuits, food and energy sovereignty and urban commons.  And larger alliances, such as those among cities (as iclae) or built among States and the UN, such as the Global alliance launched by France.

In order to do this, there needs to be the political will and courage to (re) municipalise essential public services and infrastructures, with public-community partnerships and democratic control and management: enabling community coop housing and land-trusts, citizen-controlled water, decentralised energy production, shared and public mobility, circular waste mgmt and low-emission and resilient alternatives for the building and construction sector, with a special focus on the use of local materials and knowledge, community fab-labs and maker spaces and inclusion of most vulnerable population groups.

Market-led solutions have failed in most cases – it is time to act giving control back to the people, for a just, socially inclusive and healthy society.

That is what circular economy is and should be.

Climate Emergency, Responses and Alternatives from the Social and Solidarity Economy
Foto Blog El Salto Diario

Blog of El Salto Diario, 19/09/2019, Comisión Ecología de la Red de Economía Solidaria de Cataluña (XES)

With the Climate Strike of September 27 and the week of actions planned for the previous week on the horizon, we reflect on the role of the Solidarity Economy in these mobilizations and its ability to contribute to moving towards more sustainable and supportive post-carbon societies.

We have 11 years (only) left to reach the allowable global temperature limit of the planet, and once exceeded it will lead to an irreversible and unprecedented change in the Earth’s climate that will pose a threat to future generations. This was the forceful emergency message of the United Nations (UN) after its 73rd High Level Meeting on Climate and Sustainable Development last March. (…)

The impacts generated by climate change are direct and indirect, and related to human activity, according to scientific evidence. Natural ecosystems are intimately interrelated with this activity.

Faced with this, several States and Administrations around the world have declared the Climate Emergency, a total of some 800, a figure in continuous growth since the city of Darebin, Australia, declared in 2016 for the first time this state of Climate Emergency.

Along with these institutional pronouncements, various social and ecological movements, trade unions, administrations and, of course, also the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) are articulating and mobilizing to achieve impact actions that contribute to the paradigm shift necessary to face this emergency. The call for a Strike against Climate Change on September 27 and the mobilizations planned for the week of September 20 to 27 are proof of this, and there are many movements and organizations that are working to make these calls a success.

But what does it mean to declare a state of Climate Emergency? Does the alert that the social and environmental movements of the world are putting on the public agenda have the same strategy to put an end to climate change? Is it possible to promote peace, prosperity and the Sustainable Development Goals in a globally capitalist world, based on linear economic growth, which does not take into account the limits of the planet? Do the Sustainable Development Goals really promote a Social Economy, fair, equitable and democratically radical throughout the world?

An ESS for the EcoSocial Transition

Faced with all these questions, the entities that promote ecology within the Social and Solidarity Economy have their proposals. The SSE is part of the set of transforming economies that are erected as an alternative economic model to the prevailing capitalist model and that prioritize the welfare of people and their environment. They are, therefore, the most suitable to provide an effective solution that reduces the socio-environmental impacts that our society has generated and that have resulted in the current climate emergency situation.

The SSE comprises a great variety of initiatives that develop an economic activity from a collective base with a clear will to contribute to the transformation of our society, integrating social and environmental criteria in its values, organization and activities.

Within the SSE we find formulas as diverse as cooperatives, foundations and even associations, which incorporate a certain level of professionalism. Thus, the link with grassroots social movements is very close, to the extent that some initiatives arise from the hand of people linked to these movements, who decide to take a further step for the implementation of their social and environmental demands, carrying out projects or services related to these demands or simply developing an economic activity with a more sustainable approach.

The SSE is an economic practice that is developed in different sectors of the economy, such as: communication, energy, mobility, agroecology, food, consumption, etc. Many of these initiatives are clear examples of success, such as the renewable energy consumption cooperative Som Energia, whose work contributes to the fight against climate change. Emerging from the university world and closely linked to social movements, it has reached 60,270 members. It is an experience that also makes it possible to empower people to consume renewable energy sources and even participate in the generation of energy itself, either in collective facilities or as a prosumer.

The SSE is therefore an opportunity to build socioeconomic models that contribute to the transition to the post-carbon society to which we are heading. But there may be many post-carbon societies and various transitions to reach them. We need this ecological transition to be an opportunity to build more just, equitable and democratic societies. And this transition process must be rapid, because we have little time, and if it is not led by the Social and Solidarity Economy and other alternatives, the big corporations will do it.

But is the Social and Solidarity Economy ready? It is important that the fabric of the SSE asks itself this question, and sees the transitions as a great opportunity to accelerate and grow these alternatives that have been cultivated for years. Because if we don’t manage to build this necessary space from the SSE, we may find ourselves with undesirable scenarios, more and more unequal and with a growth of ecofascisms.

Challenges on the horizon

We have several challenges to strengthen the SSE in the face of the Climate Emergency situation. We need to make the ecological transition the backbone of our strategies for promoting and strengthening the SSE, which entails, for example, prioritizing the strategic sectors for the transition.

On the other hand, we must orient the SSE to its growth, in order to generate broad and replicable alternatives that can compete with large corporations. Likewise, we must influence the educational and cultural model, which promotes individualism, fostering instead cooperation and solidarity, and deepen the links and alliances that can be woven between transformative economic initiatives and social movements that fight for social rights, the environment and climate emergency.

But, in addition to the day-to-day transformation actions that we contribute from the SSE in pursuit of the decarbonization of our lives and activities, the great challenge is to extrapolate these more ecological and democratic operating models to the rest of society. And we have to start with the social entities, cooperatives and companies of the SSE themselves, which have yet to incorporate a more ecological and environmentally friendly vision into their operations. This is, in fact, one of the objectives for which the Ecology Commission of the XES (Xarxa d’Economia Solidaria de Catalunya) was born: “to strengthen the ecological dimension of the Social and Solidarity Economy”.

There is a long way to go with the whole universe of the SSE and the climate movements, and as we point out it must be extended to the whole of society, given the urgency of the problem and the need to provide short-term responses to the climate emergency.

In this process, the next calls for mobilization for climate justice to raise awareness and generate the paradigm shift necessary to move to a decarbonized society and economy will be key. In these mobilizations, we are going to bring together diverse entities and people, and the entities of the Social and Solidarity Economy must play a key role as the engine of this global paradigm shift.

Therefore, we assume as our own the declaration of Climate Emergency, (in Spanish) and we call for active mobilization and massive participation in the World Climate Strike next September 27, as well as in the activities of this First Wave of mobilizations, scheduled since September 20.

Because, the Social and Solidarity Economy will be sustainable and fair or it won’t be.
Because only from a firm and clear commitment to a decarbonized economy will we see the world in which we want to live.
We ‘ll meet on the Wave!

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