Last weekend, activists from across the west coast joined residents of Richmond, CA for the West Coast Convergence for Climate Justice and Action, from September 18-20th at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Richmond. The goal of the Convergence was to connect local environmental justice struggles, especially the Richmond community’s ongoing struggle against the local Chevron refinery, to the global fight for climate justice. The global climate justice movement recognizes that the impacts of climate change fall most heavily on poor communities and that true solutions must come from those same communities on the front lines.
The West Coast Convergence for Climate Justice consisted of 3 days of plenary speeches, workshops, and strategy sessions, followed by a non-violent direct action on Monday, September 21st. Workshops and plenary sessions placed the local struggle against Chevron in the broader context of the movement for climate justice leading up to the Copenhagen climate negotiations. Speakers emphasized the role of corporations like Chevron in watering down climate policy and drew connections between the Richmond fight and other frontline community struggles, including those against tar sands in Canada and against the Dooda Desert Rock power plant in New Mexico. Other workshops focused on organizing skills and on local solutions, from urban gardening to local climate action plans. According to Carla Perez, one of the conference organizers, “the convergence was a gathering of stellar minds & hearts rooted in community organizing for social and ecological justice. It brought clarity and a deep understanding of the root causes of the climate problem and inspired Richmond leaders to connect their local work to this global struggle for a livable future.”
On Monday, September 21st, conference participants demonstrated outside of Senator Barbara Boxer’s office and outside of Chevron’s “Energy Solutions” office in downtown San Francisco demanding that corporations be kept out of climate policy. Some participants went in to deliver a letter to Senator Boxer’s office, asking her to design a climate bill that will not rely on corporate solutions to climate change like carbon offsets but rather will deliver meaningful emissions reductions while respecting the needs and role of frontline communities. “Congress should never consider adopting a climate bill (the American Clean Energy & Security Act) that was written by big oil and energy corporations in the first place”, said Ananda Lee Tan of Rising Tide North America, ” Along with massive subsidies to oil, coal, nuclear, bio-fuels and incinerator industries, cap and trade legislation will only serve to add hundreds of toxic smokestacks in our backyards.”
Participants took over the intersection in front of Chevron’s offices, where they unfurled a giant parachute banner reading, “Climate Justice or Climate Chaos?” to emphasize that false, corporate solutions will lead to dangerous climate chaos.
The West Coast Convergence for Climate Justice and Action is part of an annual series of climate convergences & climate camps all over the world. Climate camps started in August 2006, when 600 people gathered at the UK’s biggest single source of carbon dioxide, Drax coal-fired power station in West Yorkshire for ten days of learning and sustainable living, which culminated in a day of mass action against the power station. This year, convergences are occurring in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, France, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, India, Ukraine, and the United States.
The West Coast Convergence for Climate Justice and Action was hosted by the Mobilization for Climate Justice – West Coast, a coalition of 35 environmental, social justice, and community organizations in the Bay Area.