In a dramatic move the United Nations had moved COP 25 from Santiago, Chile to Madrid, Spain after the Chilean government cancelled the invitation following extensive civil unrest. What does it mean for climate activists who went on slow travel to the COP?
Last month Greta Thunberg tweeted that she had been circumnavigating the world in the wrong direction. “As COP 25 has officially been moved from Santiago to Madrid I’ll need some help. It turns out I’ve travelled half around the world, the wrong way:) Now I need to find a way to cross the Atlantic in November… If anyone could help me find transport I would be so grateful. I’m so sorry I’ll not be able to visit South and Central America this time, I was so looking forward to this. But this is of course not about me, my experiences or where I wish to travel. We’re in a climate and ecological emergency. I send my support to the people in Chile”.
Hundred of thousands of climate scientists, politicians and activists have also had to change direction. Luckily for Europeans, they will no longer have to fly or find imaginative sea routes to COP but can take a train, bus, or arrive sustainably with Blablacar. And when they get there they will be welcomed with free travel passes as the Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition, the Community of Madrid and the City Council of Madrid have “signed an agreement to facilitate sustainable mobility during the celebration of the XXV Climate Summit of Chile that will be held in the Spanish capital between 2 and 13 December, by which 20,000 attendees will have a free transport pass for fifteen days”.
As #COP25 has officially been moved from Santiago to Madrid I’ll need some help.
It turns out I’ve traveled half around the world, the wrong way:)
Now I need to find a way to cross the Atlantic in November… If anyone could help me find transport I would be so grateful.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) November 1, 2019
Sail to the COP
Makery recently wrote about Greta’s original voyage across the Atlantic in the racing yacht Malizia 2, ‘She sees Land! cross the Atlantic like Greta’, and raised the issue of how no-fly activists can cross the Atlantic by sea. But Greta’s was not the only journey being undertaken to COP25. A group of school strikers and climate activists “#SailtotheCOP’ has also been its way to Chile and arrived recently in Brazil, only to have to post on their Facebook site a picture of their group looking frustrated saying “When you realize you have crossed the Atlantic…but ended up 6000 kilometers from the climate conference. Undeterred, they have stayed in Brazil – where climate action is certainly needed and have posted an open letter pleading with delegates not to fly to the new location. They are now sailing to Martinique, where they are organizing a crowdsourcing effort to get a replacement contingent to COP25.
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Help us get our message to the COP in Madrid! 🇪🇸 . Unfortunately the Sail to the COP sailors will not be able to attend the COP, now that it takes place in Madrid. We have been lucky to have found people that want to represent us there, but we need your help to make this happen. We know that we've asked a lot from you, but could you support our crowdfunding at www.sailtothecop.com/crowdfunding (link in bio)? . . . #railtothecop #cop25 #coy15 #unfccc #sailing #youth #sustainable #travel #sustainability #climate #climateaction #aviation #mobility #youthclimate #flyless #noflysci #climatecrisis #slowtravel #fleetforthefuture
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The news that the summit in Chile is not going ahead due to unrest in the country came “as a blow” to the 36 young Europeans on board the three-master Regina Maris. “It is bizarre to be working so intensely on implementing a plan that suddenly falls apart”, say the sailors. “At that point, the ship, was already halfway across the Atlantic on its way to South America. An about-turn is not an option, as some of the young people had appointments to keep in South America”.
But the relocation of the climate summit hasn’t caused the #SailtotheCOP crew to throw their mission overboard. Instead, in an open letter, the sailors have changed tack. They are calling on all European COP participants to avoid flying and travel to Madrid overland. ‘It is our mission to make the travel industry more sustainable and fairer,’ they say in the open letter. ‘Take your responsibilities seriously: take the train, the bus or the bike’. #SailtotheCOP has now become #RailtotheCOP.
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Today aviation is already responsible for 5% of global warming and the number of passengers is expected to double in the next 2 decades. 📈 . Now that the Climate conference has been moved to Madrid we call all COP25 participants from Europe to: Rail to the COP! Don’t fly but stay grounded, get back on track and be flight free for COP25. 🚃 . It is time to take action now. 1⃣ Share this video. 2⃣ Check out our website. 3⃣ Contact your countries participants. . It’s time to take action now. #railtothecop . . . #cop25 #coy15 #unfccc #sailing #youth #sustainable #travel #sustainability #climate #climateaction #aviation #mobility #unfccc #youthclimate #flyless #noflysci #climatecrisis #slowtravel #fleetforthefuture
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I asked Carolina Maienza, one of the organisers, based in the Netherlands about the initiative “We are 25 youth climate activists living in The Netherlands joining the call to #RailtotheCOP. We are traveling to Madrid to stand in solidarity with Chile and the global south, to demand a livable future and to strengthen global youth movements. We are traveling by bus and train to minimize the carbon emissions of our journey.” The idea was started from Sail to the COP. “We are doing it in a structured way from the Netherlands but there are also other people travelling from other countries under the hashtag #RailtotheCOP” . Rebels Beyond Borders is the co-ordinated action to take trains and buses from around the world by Extinction Rebellion.
“Indigenous activists from across the globe are part of multi-front anti-colonial struggles.”
But what about the indigenous campaigners from both the South and the North who were planning to attend? I asked activist Florian Carl, researching with Jason Hickel at Goldsmiths University, and project co-ordinator of the People’s Climate Case and who is helping to facilitate people travelling from the Sápmi territory and other regions to Madrid about this turnaround He notes that “Indigenous activists from across the globe are part of multi-front anti-colonial struggles. Time and time again, they remind activists from majority societies to stand up and speak out for decolonisation and climate justice. Indigenous activists highlight, for example, connections between the climate crisis and the ongoing impacts of colonialism, austerity, and capitalism. This is why, during COP25 in Madrid, it is going to be important to prioritise solidarity and to amplify shared narratives with the global uprising across the planet. This includes supporting the work of indigenous groups in Chile and Amazon who are proceeding with a people’s climate assembly in Santiago during the same time”. The Sámi youth organisation Sáminuorra are a plaintiff in the People’s Climate Case, and they are going to COP25.”
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Idag har Martina och Sara-Elvira deltagit i klimatstrejken i Stockholm med en uppslutning på över 60,000! HELT OTROLIGT! Miljöfrågan är någonting som betyder väldigt mycket för oss i Sáminuorra och därför är representationer som denna viktig. Vi samer blir påverkade av klimatförändringarna redan idag och att vi måste göra nånting är för oss en självklarhet. #climatestrike #fridaysforfuture
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Extinction Rebellion is maintaining a pre-COP presence in South America, particularly in Brazil, with #ForestCOP one of the organisers speaks: “I’m Alejandra. 23 years old. Colombian born, Canary Islands raised, UK based activist. I’m one of the coordinators of XR Internationalist Solidarity Network and member of XR Youth in the UK. We travelled to South America with the goal to move the Amazon from the periphery to the centre of the global debate about the breakdown of the climate and other natural life support systems. We also want to demonstrate that Brazil can continue to play a positive role despite the country’s decision not to host this year’s official United Nations climate talks in the wake of ultra-nationalist Jair Bolsonaro’s presidential election victory. The event, which has been dubbed the #ForestCOP and takes place a few weeks before the official COP 25 climate conference in Madrid (we were originally going to also attend the COP in Chile).It has been organised by Brazil’s biggest environmental organisation, the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), with the Ibirapitanga Institute and the Iriri extractivist association.”
Video log by Alejandra and Robin from XR Youth:
As well as Extinction Rebellion organising a number of creative actions at the COP at Madrid such as the now international Red Rebel Brigade, producers and activists Lucy Neal and Anne Langford of Culture Declares Emergency are hoping to take a mass performance parodying airport landing crew – seen recently to spectacular effect during the recent International Rebellion. “We are hoping to take Anne-Marie Culhane’s Landing Crew – rehearsed at the Siobhan Davies Studios and performed around London in October, in Trafalgar Square, The Mall, Horseguards and elsewhere. It’s inspiring to be part of, is beautiful to watch and creates a great contemplative space v the public, artworks, direct action, the police and the press. The words Rebellion, Emergency and Extinction are spelled out slowly, airport landing crew style. The Super Mario moustaches, you will agree, make it. Whilst in Madrid we’re also setting up a Madrid hub for Culture Declares Emergency to connect with the 700 or so ‘declarers’ here in the UK”. They are looking for performers and artists to participate in Madrid at COP25. (stop press – this may not now happen because of the SNCF strike making it difficult to travel overland.)
Meanwhile, as I write, Greta Thunberg is halfway across the Atlantic, heading for Lisbon and thence to Madrid. This time she is transported in the catamaran La Vagabonde by a Youtube celebrity couple, Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu and their baby, with over a million subscribers who have followed their mishaps including “terrifying storms, pirate scares, financial breakdowns, equipment failures, water shortages, and other interesting mishaps” since 2014.
So happy to say I'll hopefully make it to COP25 in Madrid.
I’ve been offered a ride from Virginia on the 48ft catamaran La Vagabonde. Australians @Sailing_LaVaga ,Elayna Carausu & @_NikkiHenderson from England will take me across the Atlantic.
We sail for Europe tomorrow morning! pic.twitter.com/qJcgREe332
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) November 12, 2019
Greta is accompanied again by her father and an experienced yachtswoman Nikki Henderson, so hopefully Greta will arrive on her reverse journey safely – ready to continue activating us with her urgent message.
The COP25 website.