Protesters Demand G20 Nations Do More to Address Climate Change

Posted July 12, 2017

MP3 Interview with Cassady Craighill, media officer with Greenpeace USA, conducted by Scott Harris

G20

An estimated 100,000 activists from across Europe and elsewhere converged on Hamburg, Germany to engage in multi-issue protests at the Group of 20, or G20 summit meeting July 7-8. U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were among the leaders of the G20 industrial nations who gathered in Hamburg to discuss trade, immigration, terrorism and human rights.

Although a group of militant protesters received most of the corporate media attention due to their running street battles with some of the 20,000 police deployed in Hamburg, most of those protesting were peaceful. Activists who came to Hamburg organized an alternative summit meeting and participated in diverse actions designed to focus attention on issues including ongoing wars, climate change, economic inequality and the plight of immigrants.

Greenpeace was among the many international non-governmental organizations with a presence in Hamburg, where members staged several actions. Activists in kayaks and small boats wrote the words, “End Coal,” on a ship delivering 75,000 tons of coal to the German port, while others scaled a city bridge and suspended a large banner with the same message: “G20 End Coal.“ Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Cassady Craighill, a media officer with Greenpeace USA, who discusses the climate issues that were the focus of her group’s protests at the G20 summit meeting. [Rush transcript]

CASSADY CRAIGHILL: Certainly, a kind of beehive of activity both in the officials meetings and on the street. Greenpeace was there and we obviously are an organization that prioritizes as nonviolent. But the G20 is a place where people can see the power imbalance and so Greenpeace, at these types of events and gatherings on the world stage, pushes the narrative to really shift that power back into the hands of the people rather than corporate interests and the economic elite. So that was certainly one of our priorities there.

The Paris Climate Agreement was of course one of the top agenda items this year. And we wanted to raise awareness to how much Trump had set us back, but not just the United States – the whole world. And send the message that was not something that really reflected the needs and desires of people in the United States, but also people around the world. So, the G20 is really a unique event where it is such a gathering of the most powerful in the world. But to have such a diverse group of protesters there was really important and I think really shifted the narrative this year.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I know Greenpeace was concerned about the continued burning of coal throughout the world, particularly industrial nations. And there was a coal ship, I believe, that was delivering a shipment of coal to the Hamburg port and Greenpeace had a creative way to focus their attention on the continued burning of coal and its contribution to climate change. You want to tell our listeners a bit about what happened to that coal ship?

CASSADY CRAIGHILL: Sure. The coal action was one of the few that Greenpeace did during the G20. And the overall message there was that you can't have global climate action without phasing out the burning of coal and switching to 100 percent renewable energy. So we really wanted to point out some of the lip service that is often paid to climate action still needs some more substantial, significant steps to phasing out those fossil fuels, including coal – but also of course, oil and gas, particularly in the United States.

So, Germany is one of the countries that is still too reliant on coal, yet is seen as a leader on climate change. And so that was a moment to really highlight that you can say what you want at these sorts of meetings, but unless you're actually backing it up with action and actually phasing out those dirty fossil fuel sources and energy sources, then we're really not making the progress, at a global level that we need.

That was to really point out that even a country as progressive as Germany is, it still has an addiction to fossil fuel that needs to be addressed.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Cassady, what was the response of the G20 nations to Donald Trump's announcement on June 1st that he's pulling out of the Paris climate accord? From what I understood, a lot of these leaders did reaffirm their commitment to the Paris accord, some even bolstering their commitments from that were made originally. But you could provide a summary of some of the responses of these world leaders to the Trump pullout.

CASSADY CRAIGHILL: Like you said, the rest of the G20 – or G19, really – now needs to double down on their commitment and I think it's up to people around the world to push those countries to do so, particularly ones that are in such a great position to do so. Europe, Canada, Asian countries I think all realize that they need to double-down on those commitments and are doing so. I think at this point, of course, having the United States in that agreement would help, but the fact of the matter is that there are so many other forces in the United States that are moving forward with that progress. You know, the leading companies in this country – from Apple to Google to Facebook – are making their own commitments. Mayors around the country to Virginia to San Francisco, to the Southwest. All four corners of the country are making their own commitments and moving forward on them. So I think that it's important for us to signal to the rest of the world that despite the president of the United States not listening to the majority of scientists in the world and not joining respected leaders in this agreement, that the rest of the United States is going to do so.

And I think it's important for other leaders, particularly the developing world in countries like India, to continue to push Trump to rethink this decision. They may be the only one to have that leverage and it's important for them. But in the meantime, Trump is not any sort of person to reason with. They need to be even more ambitious about their original commitments.

For more information, visit Greenpeace at greenpeace.org; 350.org at 350.org; Friends of the Earth at foe.org; The Sierra Club at sierraclub.org.

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