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'People's tribunal' finds world leaders guilty over climate change

CAMPAIGNERS and former Cop negotiators put the United Nations “on trial” yesterday for failing to deliver climate justice over more than two decades of organising the leaders’ conference. 

At a symbolic “People’s Tribunal,” on Sunday, the United Nations Framework of Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was found guilty of multiple climate crimes. 

The tribunal was held as part of the People’s Summit, a counter-conference running alongside the official summit in Glasgow. 

Formulated in the style of a court trial, the People’s Tribunal considered six charges, including failure to tackle the root causes of climate change, failure to regulate corporations and failure to address global injustice. 

Delivering its verdict, the jury found the convention guilty of all six, calling for Cop to “disband in its current form and be reconstituted from the ground up” as a means of redress. 

“It has formed an intimate partnership with the very corporations that have created the climate crisis,” Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research director Vijay Prashad, one of the five jury members, told the tribunal.

“It has refused to democratise the process to listen to those on the frontlines of the climate crisis … who bear the brunt of a crisis that they did not produce.”

Opening the tribunal, Dorothy Guerrero from Global Justice Now said the event followed a “rich tradition” of symbolic trials in Latin America by communities that refused official means to hold past dictatorships to account for their crimes. 

First to give evidence was the tribunal’s “chief prosecutor” Pablo Salon, the former UN ambassador for Bolivia between 2009 and 2011. 

Showing a series of graphs, Mr Salon said the summit was “failing” because commitments made by world leaders so far at Cop26 wouldn’t cut emissions even to the levels needed to limit a rise in climate warming to 2°C. 

“If we continue like this we are for sure going to fail, we are already failing and we have to do something about it,” he said. 

“If you ask me, I don’t think a miracle will happen. No, I have been an ambassador to the UN, that will not happen. The solution has to come from the grassroots.”

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a youth Filipino climate activist with the Fridays for Future movement said the youth felt a “strong sense of betrayal” from world leaders, “as they go on with their empty promises and lies inside the UNFCCC.”

“There’s climate trauma and climate anxiety that young people are feeling today and that the UNFCCC continues to have these conferences that keep the people most impacted out. 

“There’s a clear conflict of interest when the polluters causing the climate crisis feel more welcome and are more invited to a UN climate summit.

“Enough is enough. This summit so far has done nothing but greenwashing.”

Director of the Nigeria-based ecological think tank Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nnimmo Bassey, spoke out about the violence against climate activists fighting against fossil fuel companies.

 “There are so many environmental activists who have lost their lives while fighting to defend their territories and defend their people and defend ecosystems,” he said. 

“Over the last two years, we’ve had an official record of 1,300 oil spills.

“Because nobody at the Cop has been bold to say enough is enough, they are allowed to continue.

“This tribunal is the right place for us to say these kinds of atrocities, this kind of ecocide cannot be tolerated any longer.”

Ivonne Yanez from Ecuador-based environmental group Accion Ecuadorian accused the climate summits of failing to tackle the root causes of climate change. 

“For 25 years, the Cops … have made more than 400 decisions, have made more than 35 resolutions, a lot of mandates, agreements and of course plenty of plans of action. [None] of these documents mentioned that we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

“And at the same time, during this 25 years, the dose of CO2 in the atmosphere increased more than 55 per cent a year,” she added. 

The jury also called for the trillions of pounds kept in tax havens to be expropriated to fund the climate transition. 

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