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In 2020, the power of people must defeat failing politics : Tasneem Essop, CAN Executive Director


This blog first appeared as an article on Thomson Reuters Foundation 


We cannot cheer incrementalism when what we need is transformational change

2020 was pitched as a goalpost for climate ambition. A moment when the fog of political apathy would clear and governments moved by the mass strikes, the unwavering evidence from science and a commitment to honest governance would line up to deliver new climate targets that collectively cut global emissions by half by 2030.

There should have been substantial money on the table this year. A cumulation of the $100 billion a year that rich countries owe developing countries in climate finance, as was promised in 2009. 

Developed countries should have fulfilled their pre-2020 emission reduction commitments for an equitable transition to a zero-carbon future.  

By now governments should have agreed to a “loss and damage” funding mechanism as a lifeline of support and a means of justice to those suffering unavoidable climate damages. 

The 20 largest economies in the world should have ceased all new fossil fuel production and phased out harmful subsidies.

Following the debacle of COP25 in Madrid last December where large emitters, backed by the fossil fuel lobby, steadfastly blocked progress we now see them continue their regressive tactics at home. 

The Canadian government, in total violation of its own climate promises, is allowing a 670-km fossil gas pipeline to run through Indigenous people’s land. Japan is set to approve 22 new coal mines that will lock in emissions for decades. The Australian government continues to justify its addiction to coal even as the country is up in flames. The Bolsonaro government has submitted a bill to permit commercial mining on Indigenous people’s land. The United States, one of the largest emitters, has literally left the party but is still eating the cake. 

At the start of 2020, let’s take a moment to condemn the litany of lies and broken promises that have exacerbated this climate and ecological crisis. We grieve the loss of lives, lands, livelihoods and ecosystems that are a direct result of bad faith politics, of putting profit ahead of people especially the most vulnerable people in the global South.

If 2019 comes to be remembered as the year that the climate emergency finally broke through mass consciousness, 2020 must be remembered as the year that we stop shifting the goalposts to accommodate our weak leaders and mobilise the power of people to tip the scales towards lasting change.
It is time to not only hold those in power to account, but to let them feel the consequences of their inaction. Let us understand what is needed to do this and build our collective strength and courage.

We can no longer cheer meaningless incrementalism disguised as climate progress when what is needed is transformational change. There is no excuse to pivot to net-zero 2050 climate targets that defy science and principles of equity without taking immediate decisions to cut emissions at source. 

As we embark into a new era of organising and mobilisation in this ‘decade of climate ambition’, let us ask ourselves what international solidarity really means in a climate crisis. What will it take to tackle the ‘most powerful’ head on? How far are we willing to challenge ourselves in this long arc towards climate justice? How can we become better allies, build stronger and more inclusive networks and sustain each other through periods fraught with inevitable setbacks?   

While the youth and school strikers have had an enormous impact in such a short time, there is a diversity of resistance movements and frontline defenders from around the world to learn from and to learn about

We can begin by unpacking and unlearning assumptions, checking our impulses and privilege and stand ready to cede space and power to new voices and those historically marginalised. It is time to articulate and put into practice a climate activism that straddles social justice and labour movements, that fights racism and inequality and demands the full rights for Indigenous peoples. We must do this without diminishing, tokenizing or appropriating voices and victories from these inter-connected struggles.

Let us acknowledge the complexity of the task ahead and get prepared. Our foes are organised, desperate and willing to hold onto the status quo through any means. Politicians may lie to us and the fossil fuel cartel is frantically recycling misinformation to obfuscate the facts.
Unleashing the power of people in unity, respect and love is a critical responsibility this year. Now is the time to get this right. In 2020 we cannot afford to settle for what is “realistic” we must get what is necessary. 









By Tasneem Essop - CAN Interim Executive Director

The people have spoken. The people are acting. Around the world on Friday, over 4 million marched to demand their leaders take urgent action to respond to the growing climate emergency we face. But the power represented by the climate marchers does so much more than avert climate disaster: it also helps address the social and economic injustice that makes so many hundreds of millions of people so vulnerable to a changing climate. 

We are at a turning point in our response to the climate crisis. As the impacts of a destabilised climate are  frighteningly real, and the scientific and socio-economic case for action becomes overwhelmingly clear, a revolution is beginning that our political leaders can no longer ignore or stop.  

The climate marches, building on the engaged, sustained, energised and organised power on the ground  will force governments and businesses alike to increase their ambition to act or risk becoming irrelevant.   

That increase in ambition is long overdue. Scientists and activists have been warning of a looming climate emergency for years. Frontline and indigineous communities have been fighting for years. Despite these warnings, and despite the warm words and empty commitments of international climate treaties, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. For all the progress in developing low-carbon technology, and bringing down the cost of renewables, little has been done to challenge the power of vested fossil fuel lobbies.  

So what does that increased ambition look like? The science is clear: immediately, all countries must halve their emissions by 2030, set out a clear path of actions that get us to zero or near zero emissions by the middle of the century.  We will need this if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change while recognising that this level of action still only will only reduce risks by 50%.

The first step in this process must be rapid elimination of the use of fossil fuels in power generation, transport, industry and agriculture. Coal – that most polluting energy source – must be phased out first. The fossil fuel industry  must be faced down and brushed aside.   

The rich industrialised world has a moral obligation to both lead this process and to support developing countries with finance as they decarbonise. We are calling for wealthy countries to meet their long-standing obligation of providing $100 billion in climate finance each year, including by doubling their contributions to the UN’s Green Climate Fund this year.  

In addition, the poorest and most vulnerable people, especially women and girls, are facing the greatest impacts from climate change, despite having made almost no contribution to the problem. Rich countries should support the most vulnerable to deal with the loss and damage caused by climate change, by providing additional finance of at least $50 billion per year up to 2022. 

But this ambition, these efforts, and the financial flows involved are not just about averting disaster – they also promise enormous progress in promoting development, equality and economic and social justice. According to the International Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s Report on 1.5 degrees celsius, the measures required to decarbonise the global economy and protect the world’s climate could also – with the right political will and foresight – help us meet the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring a better future for billions around the world. It calls for rapid and radical transformation of our economic, financial, social and political systems.  

For example, the renewables revolution promises to democratise and distribute energy generation, giving resource-poor countries and communities the ability to produce their own energy, and end dependence on fossil fuel companies. It promises to create millions of well-paid jobs, livelihoods and ownership; and, by eliminating local pollution, it will help people live longer, healthier lives, and cut billions of dollars of healthcare costs.  

Protecting and enhancing forests will not only help store and absorb enormous quantities of carbon emissions, it will also help ensure the provision of ecosystem services – such as clean water, clean air, flood control and food security – on which hundreds of millions depend. Creating sustainable transport systems, which combine public transport with walking and cycling, will make our cities more pleasant and liveable, and will generate public health benefits. Adopting an agro-ecological approach to agriculture can increase yields for, and improve the resilience of the world’s food systems.  

The IPCC 1.5°C report sent a clear message that addressing climate change has the potential to also address key sustainable development challenges, contribute to poverty eradication  and help address inequality around the world. This message has not been given sufficient attention by governments, even though they adopted the 1.5 Report. 

Politicians, corporates and all should realise that the momentum that is building around climate action can and must put addressing structural inequality, poverty, and human rights at the center of our plans to address the climate emergency.  

A better world is possible. And the people are ready to fight for it. 


Reflections on the Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change

Today 515 investors managing $35 trillion in assets released the Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change -  the largest-ever group of investors calling on governments to step up climate ambition. 

Climate Action Network International, aware of the data in the latest IPCC Special Reports on 1.5-degrees Celsius, Land-use and Oceans and the Cryosphere respectively, understands that enhanced NDCs are required. Creating the conditions to make this possible, is crucial. Finance is always key in achieving ambitious targets and when an initiative coming from large investors asks governments to do more, our membership fully backs this call.

For humans as well as the ecosystems that support all life on earth, immediate and decisive climate action is clearly required. Now, from the responsible investors’ side it is as well.

As the statement says, “…the countries and companies that lead in implementing the Paris Agreement and enacting strong climate and low carbon energy policies will see significant economic benefits and attract increased investment that will create jobs in industries of the future.” 

The potential bill that tax payers will foot for current inaction will be not only be in terms of climate-related impacts, as extreme or chronic weather events or stranded assets, but also witnessing how some countries will lose competitiveness in the coming new climate economy.

We support the Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change and notice that these governments are still on time to make definitive announcements on actions to be taken to articulate coherent policy frameworks steering to sustainable, carbon neutral and climate-resilient societies.

We also demand from the statement’s signatories that they should walk the talk, as some of these investors are still financing fossil fuel corporations enying climate change. 

In addition, they should also announce ambitious “solution side” projects that create the environmentally sustainable assets that responsible investors are looking for.

Introduction to the CVF Summit (Part 1)

The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) will hold its first global Summit at the level of Heads of State/Government on 22nd of November, 2018 (Majuro time), after the release of the IPCC 1.5 report on October 8th 2018 and ahead COP24, to allow leaders of all nations to take into account the latest scientific findings and translate them into a sound policy response. The Marshall Islands assumes the Chair of the CVF in mid-2018 and will therefore convene the Summit and hold it in a unique, entirely virtual format. It will release an outcome document of the vulnerable countries’ leaders (HOS/HOG) with member and observer state leaders delivering individual statements (video and/or written) issued online and via conventional/official channels. In order to highlight the importance of women’s leadership in climate action, President Heine of the Marshall Islands has appointed a special group of all-women ‘Summit Champions’, which will be co-chaired by Ms. Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, and Ms. Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All.

President Hilda Heine of Republic of Marshall Islands will announce the Summit on 27th of June, 2018 during the Sixth GEF Assembly at Vietnam. The objective for CAN as outreach focal point to The CVF is to rally as many countries as possible to announce that they will raise ambition including to enhance their NDCs. Several CVF members are expected to actually announce updated/enhanced NDCs as a part of their Summit statements. 2018 must be the trigger year if we want countries to review their NDCs in 2019 and submit them by 2020. This is a test for the five-year review cycle of the Paris Agreement. Therefore, a webinar was organised on June 13, 2018 to introduce the CVF Virtual Summit to CAN members on how they can support by encouraging their respective national governments to issue a response to the announcement of the Summit on 27th of June. The panel started with Matthew McKinnon and Kaveh Guilanpour, Advisors to CVF Chair from Marshall islands who provided a brief on the priorities of the Chair of CVF and expected outcomes from the Summit besides its virtual design running over 24 hours on Nov 22. CAN was represented by Wael Hmaidan and Hala Kilani who presented on role of CVF Summit in Step Up campaign as well as communications plan for the announcement on 27th June.

For more information, please download the slide deck used for the webinar.


Paving The Way Forward at COP23

In her final blog, LDP Fellow, Fatima Ahouli gives insight into COP 23


Paving The Way Forward at COP23


The 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), presided by Fiji, was the first COP for the newly-elected CANAW Board, and my first COP as a Regional Coordinator. With the kind support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, CANAW strategic partner, all 7 members of the Board had the opportunity to attend in Bonn and work together as a team for the first time.


Since last August, preparations for COP23 were the focus of the CANAW Board’s work, as well as my own as an LDP and as a Regional Coordinator. This was an exciting and challenging time.

In addition to my usual coordination tasks with our partner and the participants on the logistics, I have had an important role, along with the Board and the CANI secretariat, in coordinating and preparing the agendas for the different meetings and events that the Board and CANAW members needed to attend during the COP23.


In the first week of COP23 we had to quickly organise ourselves, our daily schedules and understand the workings of the conference to make best use of our time and energy. The COP is an extremely busy place with a lot going on. This year the conference was spread across two zones which were 1½ km apart, added an interesting dynamic to ensuring the right people were in the right place at the right time. For me, I had to balance my work in the civil society zone, where there were some fantastic events and opportunities to meet partners and stakeholders, with attending key parts of the negotiations in the main UNFCCC building.


We started having daily meetings, where I shared the updates from the CANI daily as well as from the events that I attended. The Board members as well as the other CANAW members who were present shared their updates and views on the process and progress of the negotiations.

The Board met with 7 delegations from the Arab region (Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Palestine, Soudan and Mauritania, Saudi Arabia), an idea that was agreed on during the daily meetings and had its implementation in the second week of COP23.