Thousands of people gathered at Mexico City’s symbolic Monument to the Revolution, demanding climate justice and respect for the environment in anticipation of the COP21 talks in Paris. A mix of environmental organizations, families and concerned citizens joined cities around the world, on Nov. 29 as world leaders from more than 190 countries arrived at the annual climate conference to discuss the current crisis and agree on plans to eradicate climate change.
On this sunny, autumn morning, hand-painted signs identified groups including World Wildlife Fund, Avaaz, Greenpeace, Tibet Mexico, Cáritas Mexicana (The Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral), Sin Maíz no Hay País (Without corn there is no country), the Mexican Alliance Against Fracking, No Deprimido Mixcoac (to protest deforestation in the name of urban development), Action 2015, the Center for Ecumenical Studies, among others. The colorful signs made out of recycled materials read, “End National Ecocide” to “Ride your bike, and leave your car” to “Clean air equals healthy lives.”
In front of the monument, a group waited for the march by dancing bachata. Others worked in the shade, finishing their signs. Organizers walked around passing out bright green climate march bracelets.
One of the protesters, Carmen Garza, had a simple reason for being there. “I love the world. I love the planet. I love plants,” she explained.
This year’s COP is especially important for an agreement on greenhouse emission reductions. COP conferences have failed to arrive at agreements capable of slowing global warming.
Olivia Pineda, Director of the Foundation of Comprehensive Social Development for the Future and an organizer of the Mexico City march stated, “We hope that in COP21 they effectively sign an international agreement to reduce fossil fuels and promote the use of clean energy.”
Pineda added, “Climate justice has everything to do with human rights. And yet, we have much work left to do to achieve this.”
“The first step is to pass the Law of Energy Transition.” Many of the protesters’ signs repeated the demand to Congress to approve the new law.
The Law of Energy Transition is part of Mexico’s latest energy reform package that commits to converting 35% of the country’s electricity generation into clean energy by 2024. It also commits to reducing greenhouse emissions, in accordance with Mexico’s General Climate Change Law and its international commitments presented at COP21.
As it stands now 80 percent of Mexico’s energy comes from fossil fuels that have a detrimental impact on the environment and climate. The Law of Energy Transition is the only part of the energy reform package with a detailed plan to incentivize and establish clean energy.
Until recently the Senate had not approved the law. Then on Nov. 30, one day after the global climate march, the Senate passed the law, but not without last minute changes to it.
Some of these changes consisted of reducing the obligations of corporations and changing the language from “renewable energy” to “clean energy” so that the steel industry, where some of the resistance to the law derived from, can continue to use natural gas. Critics claim that these modifications from the original legislative proposal expose that the Mexican government is more interested in preserving short-term profit and investment over ending climate change. Senators Dolores Padierna and Manuel Bartlett stated that the reformed law now serves to “protect business, not the environment.”
To Pineda, and many of the others at Mexico City’s gathering, this is a life-or-death issue. She stated, “We’re going to end up without a planet and what will we leave for the future generations? Nothing.”
All around the world, demonstrators spoke out to create a global presence during the COP21 negotiations in Paris, especially given that demonstrations have been prohibited due to the terrorist attacks that occurred last month.
Protesters in Mexico City and the estimated 785,000 around the world demonstrated their capacity to organize for climate justice. In countries throughout the world citizens are assuming the responsibility to educate communities and pressure governments to make drastic changes to end global warming.
It remains unclear what COP21 will bring to the climate justice fight. But protesters who are skeptical of the outcome in Paris are committed to continuing this fight at home.
Garza, who has been following the official talks, stated, “I don’t have grand expectations for COP21, but I do believe the pressure of the people will be seen and felt.”
Nicole Rothwell is an intern for the Americas Program and writes about global social movements, education, and human rights in the region.
Photos by Nicole Rothwell.