The most recent United Nations Climate Conference resulted in an agreement between nearly 200 nations about the next steps in dealing with the climate crisis. It included for the first time ever language around transitioning away from fossil fuels. Heralded in some quarters as “the end of the era of fossil fuels,” critics say the deal is filled with loopholes that will undermine efforts to combat the climate crisis. The final text fails to explicitly call for a phaseout of fossil fuels, language sought by over 100 countries.
In our latest episode, Scott talks with journalist and author Tina Gerhardt (@TinaGerhardtEJ) about COP28, the negotiations, the agreement, industry influences, peoples’ movements influences and what it all means.
Bio// Tina Gerhardt is an environmental journalist who covers the UN climate change negotiations, climate change and sea level rise, each with a focus on environmental justice. Her writing has been published in Grist, The Guardian, The Nation, Orion and Sierra Magazine. She is author of Sea Change: An Atlas of Islands in a Rising Ocean (University of California Press, 2023).
More than 100 climate activists, including five children and a 97-year-old reverend, have been arrested, said the police, after a two-day blockade of one of the world’s largest coal ports in Australia, on Monday (Nov 27).
The protest group Rising Tide, which organised the blockade claims that the 30-hour blockade of the shipping lane in Port of Newcastle over the weekend prevented over half a million tonnes of coal from leaving the country.
What did the climate protesters do?
Hundreds of activists took to the Newcastle port’s shipping lane on Australia’s east coast swimming or using kayaks in protest of the government’s climate inaction and imploring them to end the country’s long reliance on fossil fuel exports.
Canberra is the world’s second-biggest coal exporter and heavily relies on fossil fuels for its own electricity needs. The government is also reportedly in the midst of planning a string of new coal mines, oil fields and gas projects.
The port in Australia’s east is around 170 kilometres away from Sydney and is said to be the country’s most important terminal for coal shipments.
Around 3,000 people from across the country took part in the 30-hour blockade, reported BBC, the permission for which was granted by the authorities. However, police boats reportedly started closing in after the deadline had crossed and the crowds of activists refused to leave the water.
‘Oldest Australian ever arrested and charged’
The New South Wales Police said five juveniles had also been arrested but did not give their ages. As per BBC, the five children were subsequently released.
The NSW police, in a statement, said that they have charged 104 people, on Monday. Among those arrested and charged was 97-year-old Uniting Church reverend Alan Stuart who as per Rising Tide’s post on X, is the “OLDEST PERSON EVER ARRESTED AND CHARGED IN AUSTRALIA”.
How to arrest a 97yo climate protector at the #PeoplesBlockade? Very carefully and to a heroes welcome! If charged, Reverend Alan Stuart will be the oldest person ever charged in Australia ?
“I am doing this for my grandchildren and future generations because I don’t want to leave them a world full of increasingly severe and frequent climate disasters,” said Stuart, in a statement prior to his arrest.
He added, “I am so sorry that they will have to suffer the consequences of our inaction. So, I think it is my duty to do what I can and to stand up for what I know is right.”
The group also called the protest the “biggest act of civil disobedience for climate in Australia’s history”.
“I’m doing this as a student because the decision makers in this country have consistently ignored young people’s voices,” said 17-year-old Anjali Beams who travelled from Adelaide and also remained past the 30-hour deadline.
“The Newcastle coal port is the largest coal port in the world, and I will not be complicit in letting my future get sold away by the fossil fuel industry for their profit,” she added.
San Francisco, CA – Members of the No to APEC Coalition engaged in a civil disobedience action by blocking access to the site of the APEC CEO Summit at the Moscone West Convention Center in defiance of the hyper-militarized structures erected by the local and federal government. This action is the latest effort by the No to APEC Coalition during its months-long campaign to highlight the global and local harms of free trade and global free market agendas while demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
A thousand people blockaded the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit this morning in San Francisco, attempting to prevent the 21 heads of state and over 1,200 CEOs of global corporations from meeting. #No2APECpic.twitter.com/7ZZNun5iKq
“We know APEC and IPEF do not represent the interest of the people or the planet,” said Rhonda Ramiro from the No to APEC Coalition. “We are fighting for a different world. A world where all workers have pay and workplace protection, where all working people have the right to unionize and organize, where value is what you contribute to the community. We call on the people to join us in shutting down APEC!”
Today’s scheduled APEC CEO Summit included panels on sustainability and climate which featured Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods as well as heads of state including Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. While demonstrators locked themselves together to block entrances to the CEO Summit and called for “War Criminals Out of SF,” almost 200 gathered outside the Ritz Carlton to protest against Marcos Jr for “greenwashing” and selling out the Philippines to foreign investors.
“They call it free trade,” said Suzanne Ali from the Palestinian Youth Movement. “In reality, it is forced migration, it is destruction of the environment, it is destruction of our people, it is the depletion of natural resources, it is the fueling of war and genocide, and ultimately at the heart of it, is bloodthirst for profit.”
Will Wiltschko from Bay Climate Action said “Young people everywhere are angry at world leaders not taking action on climate change. The Indo-Pacific trade deal they’re expecting to announce this week ignores the climate reality that people around the world are facing. This ongoing collusion between APEC leaders and huge corporations won’t be tolerated.”
Organizations are condemning the anti-worker agenda of APEC which they claim will especially harm women. “The big tech agenda on women claims to advance women’s equality, when in reality these jobs pigeonhole women into low paying, exploitative jobs,” explains Katie Comfort of the International Women’s Alliance, “all while they make record breaking profits, and expand to new markets in these Asian countries.”
Conny Ford, a participant who risked arrest explained, “I am participating today because many of us workers have been through the last free trade deal for the southern hemispheres and it was a disaster. It was a disaster because no worker organizations were there at the table, and it meant low wages, extreme exploitation, and jobs shipped to the cheapest locations.”
Many of the corporations represented at the CEO summit including GM, Amazon and Kaiser have recently seen massive worker strikes and walkouts demanding better pay and working conditions. “Big tech seeks to offshore and outsource jobs for AI generation, customer service, and development on women so they can pay them unlivable wages and string them along with contractual work – all while they make record breaking profits, and expand to new markets in these Asian countries.”
“My family lost their house during Hurricane Maria and thousands of Puerto Ricans lost their lives. Our lives are threatened by the climate crisis that corporations like Exxon created and banks like Citi continue to finance,” said CJ Acevedo, with Climate Defenders. “That’s why this morning we performed a symbolic wedding to denounce the union between the CEOs of Citibank and ExxonMobil, who are sponsoring this event.”
In the wake of President Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, organizers are expressing concern that APEC’s profit-driven agenda will only breed further militarization and war in the Pacific Rim. Cody Urban with the Resist US Led War movement warns, “Biden’s complete disregard for the calls from the world for a ceasefire in Palestine and an end to the genocidal Israeli assault proves the White House only serves to keep the war industry alive.”
Over 150 organizations internationally – including unions, environmental justice groups, and migrant communities from APEC countries, have united under the No to APEC Coalition’s banner call of “People and Planet Over Profit Plunder.” In the lead up to the APEC Summit, the No to APEC Coalition’s efforts culminated in a resolution that passed unanimously within the SF Board of Supervisors, which dedicated $10 million towards local communities and small businesses who have been severely crippled by the APEC conference.
Organizers swore off violence, but the cops used their garden tools as an excuse to attack them anyway.
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Dozens of protesters began gathering early Monday morning in a small, unremarkable park in southeast Atlanta. By 9 a.m., over 400 people — a coalition of local Atlantans and visiting activists from around the country — had assembled to attend a day of protests dubbed “Block Cop City.” The event was just the latest mass demonstration in over two years of resistance against the construction of a vast police training facility, known as Cop City, over hundreds of acres of Atlanta’s forest land.
Cops reacted to the day of action by attacking a slow-moving, peaceful march with tear gas and rubber bullets, just the latest reminder of why the compound, designed to further militarized counterinsurgency policing, should never be built.
Organizers were clear from the start: The protest activities — as had been agreed on in hourslong meetings in the prior days — would not involve property damage to construction vehicles at the site of the planned police facility. The tactic had been tried before, when a small amount of vandalism during a March day of action led to indiscriminate arrests and overreaching state domestic terrorism charges against 42 activists.
Monday’s participants planned simply to march, carrying banners and giant handmade puppets, to the Cop City construction area in the Weelaunee Forest, where they would plant nearly 100 saplings on cleared forest land.
Soon after the march turned onto a road with almost no traffic on it, lines of cops in riot gear amassed to block demonstrators’ route to the forest. Dozens of police vehicles swarmed the area, including an armored urban tank dubbed “the Beast.” As the marchers pushed slowly forward, the police moved in with shields and batons, shooting rubber bullets and launching flash-bang grenades and tear-gas canisters at the tightly packed group. Clouds of tear gas rolled over dozens of nearby, clearly identified journalists, myself included.
The protesters stayed in formation; they turned and marched back to their starting point, with a handful of activists hurriedly planting the tree saplings along the roadside.
“Ready to Plant Trees”
Now deep into its second year of organized, multifaceted resistance, the movement to stop Cop City and defend the Atlanta forest has again and again brought to glaring light the old lie: that police can be trusted to respect civil rights.
“Despite numerous stated commitments from religious leaders and city officials to honor the right to protest, armed riot police terrorized the crowd with tear gas grenades, attack dogs, clubs and ballistic shields,” said the Block Cop City organizers in a statement following the march.
The Cop City project was, of course, not blocked on Monday, but the abolitionist, environmentalist movement once again proved its staying power against aggressive police repression. Since its inception, activists opposing the $90 million police training facility have been attacked by police, mass arrested, and, in the intolerable case of Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán, riddled with 57 police bullets and killed.
Protesters face felonies for handing out flyers and fundraising for camping supplies. The government explicitly deemed opposition to Cop City a criminal enterprise when, in September, it announced racketeering charges against 61 activists, most of whom already face state domestic terror charges, for typical social justice activities like information sharing and mutual aid organizing. One such defendant, Indigenous activist Victor Puertas, was handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and remains in detention facing deportation in addition to the egregious criminal charges.
“Now planting shovels are weapons. What’s next? Midnight raids for owners of muck boots?”
Meanwhile, an activist effort to get a public vote on Cop City on the recent November ballot had garnered sufficient signatures from the public — over 100,000 of them — but was obstructed by the city government in a blatant assault on democratic processes.
Following Monday’s demonstration, Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum held a press briefing to defend the cops’ use of tear gas and other weapons. He claimed the protesters were “prepared to do harm” and pointed to a line of gardening tools — dibbles specifically — police had taken from the march site. These were, of course, the tools activists were using to plant saplings.
“People were really ready to plant trees,” said an organizer who helped bring 75 oak seedlings, 25 pines, and elderberry cuttings to the event. (She asked to remain anonymous for fear of police harassment.) “First it was terrorism if you had muddy clothes,” Sam, a Texas-based organizer with the Austin Weelaunee Defense Society who asked for anonymity, told me. Police had used mud on the shoes of activists, in a forest, to justify the March arrests for domestic terrorism. “Now planting shovels are weapons. What’s next? Midnight raids for owners of muck boots?”
“People Are Determined”
Despite the blunt, repressive instruments deployed by police, those fighting to defend the forest have never stopped. Instead, they adapted and shifted tactics. None of the activists I spoke to on Monday, many with skin and eyes still burning from tear gas, felt the march was a failure. They are already planning for their next steps.
A campaign, Uncover Cop City, is underway to put public pressure on insurance companies Nationwide and Accident Fund to end their subsidiaries’ liability contracts with the Atlanta Police Foundation, the corporate-backed nonprofit behind Cop City. Without the insurance contracts, Cop City’s construction is dead in the water. Previous direct targeting of companies involved in the project have led several contractors to drop out.