This episode presents a chronological sweep of field recordings and interviews taken in Madrid during COP25, December 2019, by our guest host Dr. Sumugan Sivanesan. It begins with the December 6 Manifestacíon in which around 500,000 people marched in the streets of Madrid, before tracing discussions at the Social Summit for the Climate (Cumbre Social por el Clima) at Complutense University and at other actions around the city. In front of the US embassy, this episode focuses on a demonstration led by Indigenous women who sang the Women’s Warrior Song, a song written by Martina Pierre from the Lil’wat First Nation that honors missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Indigenous women face the highest rates of murder and sexual assault in North America, and in Madrid the song connected these crimes to extractivist fossil fuel industries operating on unceded Indigenous lands. The montage culminates five days later with a casserolado noise demonstration outside the COP, in support of Indigenous delegates, Fridays For Future, and other civil society groups staging a demonstration inside the COP against the removal of references to Human Rights in the negotiations and widespread reports of bullying and inaction.
This episode includes interviews and speeches by:
ASAD REHMAN, Executive Director of War on Want
VANESSA NAKATE, Founder of the Rise Up Movement
NICOLE FIGUEIREDO DE OLIVEIRA, Director of 350.org in Brazil and Latin America
MARTA BORDONS MARTÍNEZ, Climate activist, Fridays for Future Sevilla
MOÑEKA DE ORO, member of the Micronesia Climate Alliance
NIGEL HENRI ROBINSON, Denesuline organizer, radio host, and humorist from Cold Lake First Nations, Indigenous Climate Action
CHIEF DANA TIZYA-TRAMM, Vuntut Gwitchen First Nation
Muchas gracias to Grey Filastine and all who participated in Sound Swarm #5; Amalen, Danny, Delia, and Kevin from the Artivist Network; Fiona Capdevila, and Stijn Verhoeff.
And a special thanks to Ruth Miller from Native Movement, who shared the history and meaning behind the Women’s Warrior Song.
WHOSE SOLUTIONS?: CORPORATE CAPTURE OF COP25
BY SUMUGAN SIVANESAN
In October 2019, the UN COP bureau accepted an offer from Spain to move COP25 to Madrid in December, after Chile, announced Santiago was no longer a suitable host due to political upheavals. Nevertheless, Chile remained the president of the Conference of Parties in Madrid.
Since COP15 in Paris 2015, only one of these Summits has been held outside of Europe; in Marrakesh 2016. When I arrived in Madrid, a friend from Barcelona told me that despite the late change of location, there was some excitement around this COP as it was more accessible to activists from Spain and Portugal who were reluctant to fly to Germany, France, and Poland. However, many activists were also cynical about Madrid’s offer to host the COP. In contrast to the streets of Santiago, Madrid’s city government swung from Left to Center-Right following elections in May 2019. Locals discussed mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida’s bid to dismantle Madrid Central, a low emission zone banning petrol-fueled cars from the city center. Some described Martínez-Almeida as an opportunist, seizing the chance to host the COP to bring his administration global attention and prestige.
Activists often describe the COP as a vehicle to facilitate “corporate greenwashing,” in which representatives of extractive industries responsible for emissions and toxicity are able to brand the event and promote their interests. During a ‘Toxic Tour’ of Madrid’s financial district, activists explained that when Spanish President Pedro Sánchez announced that Madrid would host COP25, he contacted the Ibex35—the 35 biggest listed companies in the Spanish stock exchange—offering them tax breaks for a range of sponsorship packages worth millions of euros. Spanish coal, oil, and gas companies Iberdrola and Endesa soon signed on to become ‘”Diamond sponsors” of COP25, contributing €2 million each. Other patrons included Santander Bank (€1 million) which is heavily involved in coal financing and Suez, one of the largest water privatization firms in the world. Such deals drew criticisms about the ‘”corporate capture” of the COP, which included representatives from Shell participating on panels, despite criticism that the company had influenced the wording of the Paris Agreement, specifically Article 6 concerning carbon markets. As one of many independent tours operating in downtown Madrid on a sunny Saturday morning, the Toxic Tour was singled out by police who threatened them with fines of over €3,000 if the group did not disperse.
Article 6 was one of the key issues discussed at COP25,with delegates attempting to develop a “rule book” to regulate the implementation carbon markets. As part of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) corporations such as BP, Chevron, Shell, and Total have lobbied against placing limits or protections on trading schemes, such as those to ensure the rights of indigenous people, women and the poor who often bear the brunt of ecological violence. Even after the negotiations extended for two extra days, COP25 concluded with an impasse. Australia was accused of cheating for insisting that it use “carryover” carbon credits to achieve its emissions targets for 2030, a method described as an accounting loophole. Alongside the US and Brazil, the country in the midst of a nation-wide wildfire emergency, was called out for blocking progress in Madrid and the Paris Agreement’s ambitions to limit global warming to 1.5° C. Notably, the Australian Government hosted an invitation only reception in Madrid with the Carbon Market Institute, whose members include, again, Shell and BP alongside gas and oil company ConocoPhillips. For many civil society groups, the influence of “big business” on governments and in the COP are indicative that “solutions” based on neoliberal ideology are assumed to be the only means to “save the planet” rather than strategies devised by civil society groups, indigenous peoples and trade unions. Grasping on this sentiment during a general assembly at Cumbre Social, representatives from the People’s Summit in Chile reflecting on the constitutional reforms occurring there claimed that “the place where neoliberalism was born is now where it will die.”
Sumugan Sivanesan is an anti-disciplinary artist, researcher, and writer. Often working collaboratively, his interests span migrant histories and minority politics, activist media, artist infrastructures, and more-than-human rights. He is active with the Black Earth Environmental and Climate Justice Collective in Berlin and blogs at: www.shadowofthefuture.org.
Photo credit: Adam Berry
Interviews, recordings, and post-production by Sumugan Sivanesan
Photograph by Sumugan Sivanesan
Assistance by edna bonhomme and Kristyna Comer
Special thanks to the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.