A Global Movement for Climate Justice: A Declaration and a Call to Action

The Party's Over

In the wake of an unremitting and worsening cascade of killer storms, droughts, floods, heat waves there is a growing and irreversible global understanding of the need for common action for survival and to build a sustainable future. This does not mean the masters of fossil fuel business as usual have seen the light. Their determination to wring the last dollop of fossil fuel and with it the last dollar from an afflicted planet has not flagged. But the sun is inexorably rising.

Global challenges require both global solutions and maximally dispersed action. Each of us must act as trustee of our local ecosystem, our house, our neighborhood and, at the same time, as participant in a global movement for climate justice. While the responsibility of the rich, high energy using, high polluting world is far greater than that of the poor, low energy using, low polluting world, all of us must play a role in the solution to a common human problem.

Need for a Global Declaration

It's long past time to use do nothing global meetings on climate change to postpone action. If we cannot act globally, we must act internationally. If we can't act nationally, we must act locally.

In this time of prolonged crisis that threatens of all the world's people, whether you are sitting at a cafe in Paris, or growing rice in Southern China, we need a common global declaration that separates those committed to solutions from those supporting business and pollution as usual.

The Declaration needs to be broadly applicable to both rich and poor, developed and developing, historic polluters and new emitters, North and South, market and command economies, democracies and non-democracies.

The Declaration needs to focus in a crystal clear and meaningful way on a prompt end to the emission of green house gases and carbon pollution. It must include all aspects to the climate change challenge, not only focus on energy, but also agriculture, forestry, industry.

Such Declarations, are not meant as policy papers, but the expression of fundamental global necessity that over time can have enormous political impact, like the nuclear freeze, as talk of nuclear war became negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev about nuclear disarmament.

A Global Declaration for Climate Justice

Climate change resulting from industrial business and pollution as usual threatens both the future of humanity and the living world. We reject this path of mutual self-destruction. We pledge to support both personal and political actions that reduce total human related green house gas emissions to completely sustainable levels by 2050. Action must be global and encompass energy, agriculture, forestry, and industry.

A global solution must include transfer of technology and resources from rich to poor to facilitate global sustainability. The continued exploitation of natural capital and of people is the path to ruin. Global sustainability must be built upon a foundation of peace and climate justice where economic growth means ecological improvement and human well being.


Perhaps the Declaration goes viral, sparks discussion, change, and mass nonviolent civil disobedience. In the words of Mario Savio,“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

Roy Morrison's latest book is A Renewable Energy World and Other Adventures in Sustainability.

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Tags: activism, climate, environment, justice


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Comment by Roy Morrison on March 9, 2013 at 1:13pm


I agree completely that we need to internalize all costs in the market price system, otherwise the future  for capitalism and the ecosphere is grim. However, much can be done and must be done now before it is no longer free to pollute. Renewable resources are rapidly reaching price parity with poison power.

It's clear from an economic position that since most renewables have zero fuel costs and capital costs are continually decreasing that the end for the fossil fuel imperium is in the economic cards.The operational  cost of renewable energy are tiny to small operations and maintenance charges. The fundamental issue is the choice and the necessity to leave polluting fuels in the grand unless they can be used without releasing pollutants. the chance that fossil fuels can do that and be cost competitive with renewables is small. That's a political choice, not a tax, to mandate fossil fuels release zero pollutants.This is technically  possible.And might even be economic in competition with renewables. Scientists have just, on a small scale, shown ways to generate power from coal with zero carbon release and are preparing for a multi-megawatt scale test. 

It's vital to understand that there are enormous opportunities to build much of the efficient renewable energy infrastructure using market based finance taking advantage of  combining savings from efficiency and renewable  savings of fossil fuel costs. There are trillion of dollars of waste and fossil fuel costs to mine to help finance the clean energy future. Modest changes in market rules can help make this possible today.That is the subject of my current writing.

It's also important to understand that as renewables play a larger role , the cost of fossil fuels will collapse (taxed or not) as marginal demand decreases. Even modest improvements in efficiency leaves expensive to produce fossil fuels in the ground now, and cheap to produce fossil fuels for sale at low prices.The ultimate issue is not the need for carbon tax or rising prices of pollution, but an absolute limit placed on  release  of poision into the ecosphere. This can be accomplished either by leaving fossil fuels in the ground, or by industrial ecology in zero pollution zero waste production cycles.This is what mechanical, chemical, electrical and industrial engineering must be all about in the 21st century.

Economic growth and the creation of wealth must become synonymous will ecological improvement in the 21st century. It's long past time to leave the high pollution- high waste-high externality past of the 20th century behind. We have no other choice.


Comment by Andreas Rekdal on March 7, 2013 at 10:40am

Personally, I think the key lies in getting corporations to internalize externalized costs. Increased CO2 in the atmosphere, or polluted air and rivers are a real cost, in that they destroy valuable resources. It just so happen to be that they usually destroy other people's resources, future resources, or that the depreciation is so widespread that that unsustainable practices remain profitable unless governments impose environmental taxes. Until such taxes (or comparable mechanisms) are implemented, the price of dirty energy will remain artificially low, and there will be little incentive for innovation.

Comment by Roy Morrison on March 6, 2013 at 8:19pm


You raise critical questions. It's clear that there needs to be sufficient financial and technological resources made available to develop efficient renewable energy for all. I am working on a plan based on a per capita global energy entitlement and a tax on large energy user to transfer dollars from rich to poor. The good news is that renewable energy typically has a zero fuel cost and thus if capital questions can be resolved result in both cleaner and cheaper energy. So it's not a matter of the poor forfeiting energy development.

The industrialized nations responsible for historic global pollution and ecological damage have both a responsibility to remediate the consequences of their past actions and the self-interst in mutual survival and prosperity, The issue is to develop the mechanisms that facilitate the growth of a multi-trillion dollar renewable industry that will benefit all. The key question is mechanisms that facilitate the capitalization of the efficient renewable infrastructure. The savings from fossil fuels no longer purchased and burned will be enormous. But fossil fuel is at the heart of business and pollution as usual. To say that we can mine the funds spent on fossil fuels to finance the renewable transformation and save ourselves while building a sustainable future is the question that needs to be asked and then creatively answered.

Comment by Andreas Rekdal on March 6, 2013 at 6:09pm

Great piece!

In your view, how should we weigh the interests of developing nations in furthering their own development against the global interest of preventing further climate change? Clearly, climate change affects everyone (including citizens of the developing world), but convincing an impoverished farmer to forgo dirty energy might be tough if she depends on it to put food on her family's table.

Furthermore, our industrial and technological development came at a high environmental cost. To what extent are we responsible for providing developing nations with the means to attain comparable standards of living to ours without devastating the environment in the process? Surely, that burden should not be carried by developing nations alone, but how much do we really owe the developing world?

Finally, what do you think is the most important change Westerners can make to their lifestyles in order to become more environmentally responsible consumers?

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