The real power is below

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‘The real power is below’

Solutions from the climate justice frontline.

Angela Valenzuela, Chilean youth delegate from ‘Earth in Brackets’


We wrote a song about the climate talks called ‘Hombre de Papel’ [‘Paper Man’]. The song said people should not be silent. They should come together and shout. We sang the song at the conference in front of Christiana Figueres (the UN Climate chief) and other delegates. After the song, the delegate from Bolivia spoke, and he was nearly crying. He said, ‘Yes, we the Paper Men need to do our work well to get a safe future.’

It brought all the people together. We all have different ages and political views and the music helped. We need to find practical solutions and we need people to be critical. We must hope that things can be different.


Jim Schulz, Democracy Center, Bolivia


The groups that can change things are smaller groups that are less important than governments. They can bring in renewable energy, change patterns of transport and stop using dirty energy. Activists can have more effect here.

Governments are not brave. They start things after other people have proved that they work. After the Paris talks, activists need to choose carefully where they use their energy.

We are fighting against big business. They have a lot of money and don’t want change. And they are very good at changing money into political power. We know how most battles will end before they start. The higher up you go in politics, the more powerful the businesses are, and the weaker the people get. But lower down, people’s movements are so much stronger and businesses are weaker.

Harjeet Singh, Climate Policy Manager, ActionAid International, India


Developing countries have said that Paris must not only focus on ‘mitigation’ (cutting carbon emissions). They must also talk about adapting to climate change and helping with damage.

We know there will be a lot of effects of climate change in the next 50 to 100 years. Even if we stop all the emissions now and use 100 per cent renewable energy, the future is scary. So where is the money and the ability to help with all the effects, in both rich and poor countries?

There’s a problem when environmental organizations show climate change with a polar bear, some wind farms and some solar panels. That’s not the whole story. Solar panels will not help with the effects on agriculture, food security, housing and disasters. We need money to help developing countries develop, to cut their emissions and help with effects of climate change.

Nnimmo Bassey, ‘Health of Mother Earth Foundation’, Nigeria


There is good news: when the people at the climate talks can’t make decisions, ordinary people are taking action. Women are fighting against big dams in Honduras, and a weaver stopped mining companies from destroying a forest in West Timor. (

In Nigeria, the Ogoni people forced Shell to leave their land in 1993. And they haven’t let them come back. They forced Shell to clean up the environment and now the government is getting serious about this.

In northern Burkina Faso, I met Yacouba Sawadogo, the ‘Man Who Stopped The Desert’. He has worked just with his hands for more than 40 years to grow a 28-hectare forest in the Sahel, using local knowledge and technology. This is the real power in the fight to stop global warming.

Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO (a very big trade union in the Philippines)


We were talking in our trade union and we agreed that the North must pay. But there are poor and rich people in the North. So if they use government money, people like Donald Trump pay the same as a single mother with no job. And that’s not fair! So we must make richer people pay more.

It’s exciting to discuss this in the labour movement; last year they wouldn’t even talk about climate change. People now know we’re not asking them to fight something new – it’s connected to the whole system.

The fight for a million climate jobs and energy democracy is making people active. Because of this, on 30 November, the Philippines labour movement will bring thousands of working-class people out on the streets to demand ‘system change, not climate change’.

Lidy Nacpil, Asian People's Movement on Debt and Development, and Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice


How do we use the power of the movement we are building? We need to change the politics in our own countries to win the bigger fights.

When we were fighting against the Marcos dictatorship we started different types of strike to weaken the power of the people who controlled us, and force something to change.

It’s not enough to get millions of people onto the streets. Action should be so strong that the country stops, so people can refuse to allow things to continue as usual. We need many many people to stop for a day – or more – to say ‘enough!’

George Nacewa, Fiji co-ordinator, and member of the ‘Pacific Climate Warriors’


Climate change in the Pacific is about survival. Many of us support our Pacific Island leaders when they said they want to stop all new coalmines, and agree in Paris to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. If not, many of the Pacific communities will disappear.

We are also doing a lot of work with Indigenous people and other communities. In 2014, the Pacific Climate Warriors stopped the largest coal port in the world working to send a message to the fossil fuel industry. This year we plan to send a message to people who invest in the climate crisis.

We are travelling around our countries to get stories of how climate change is destroying the Pacific way of life. We will make traditional mats from the stories and take them to the people who make the decisions.


(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).