Chicago climate activists returned to the streets today – this time in the financial district in downtown Chicago – in a colorful demonstration against cap and trade, carbon offsets and other “false solutions” to climate change. Building on the long-term campaign to shut down the Crawford and Fisk coal-fired power plants in the city, community and environmental groups from across Chicago and beyond have come together to demand just, equitable, and effective solutions to the climate crisis.
The main target of today’s action is the Chicago Climate Exchange, the first and largest carbon market in North America. Several other “climate criminals” were visited during a march, including JP Morgan Chase, one of the leading funders of mountain top removal coal mining; Midwest Generation, the owner of Chicago’s two coal-fired power plants; and the Board of Trade, which trades in palm oil, one of the leading drivers of rainforest destruction.
The event kicked off at 11a.m. at Federal Plaza (Adams and Dearborn Street), and is part of a national day of action called for by the Mobilization for Climate Justice in the lead-up to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen and on the 10-year anniversary of the successful shutdown of the WTO in Seattle in 1999.
“From Chicago to Copenhagen, powerful companies are cashing in on the climate crisis, taking advantage of public concern over climate change in order to make a buck. Carbon trading institutions like the Chicago Climate Exchange are privatizing the air we breathe and handing over rights to the atmosphere to the biggest polluters,” stated Angie Viands, of Rainforest Action Network (RAN) Chicago. “Carbon Trading is a fraudulent market that intensifies social injustice, does not reduce emissions in a meaningful way, and acts as a dangerous distraction from the real climate solutions we urgently need.”
Event organizers seek to highlight the connections between the global drivers of climate change and local struggles for environmental justice and climate stability.
“The solution to climate change isn’t carbon trading; it is a just, rapid transition away from the industries that are poisoning our communities and the planet. We can begin by shutting down the Crawford and Fisk coal plants right here in Chicago,” said Dorian Breuer of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO).
While carbon trading is the centerpiece of plans to deal with the climate crisis both in the UN, and in the US Congress and Obama Administration, many civil society organizations consider this market-based approach to be ineffective and unacceptable from a climate justice perspective. “The air is not for sale!” declared Abigail Singer of the Mobilization for Climate Justice. “Cap and trade plans are an unprecedented and opportunistic attempt to privatize the atmosphere; in reality, many offset projects embody a new form of colonialism in the developing nations that are most heavily impacted by climate change. We reject these plans as inherently unjust as well as ineffective at reducing emissions.”
Criticism of carbon trading has been mounting, most recently from sources like top NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen and EPA attorneys Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel, who between them represent over 40 years of experience analyzing cap and trade and offset programs. Both were recently muzzled by the EPA for their outspoken criticism of Administration plans to pursue cap and trade and offsets which appeared as a Washington Post editorial.
Activists will also confront Midwest Generation LLC, owner of the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants in Pilsen and Little Village, Chicago. Local residents attribute numerous adverse health effects to the continued operation of the plants, prompting community groups LVEJO and PERRO to actively campaign for their closure. This demand has been heard by Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward), who announced plans on October 24th to introduce an ordinance which would effectively shut the plants down. The Fisk plant was the target of a large community demonstration in October on the 350 International Day of Climate Action. Together, Fisk and Crawford’s emissions represent one-fifth of Chicago’s carbon footprint.
“We are here today as a community demanding a transparent and truly renewable clean energy future. Our environment’s future should not be dependant on a market based system, it should be reliable to save our future. We demand our voice be heard!” said Kim Wasserman, Coordinator for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO)
“We have lived in the shadows of these coal plants for far too long. The recent lawsuits against the plants for health violations show that government is willing to move, but we need them to move faster and stronger,” Wasserman said.
“To bring atmospheric carbon into the safe zone of 350 parts per million (ppm), we must phase out dirty coal, invest in clean, decentralized, renewable energy, and adopt agriculture and forestry practices that sequester CO2. False solutions like carbon trading, so-called “clean coal” and nuclear power are not going to solve the climate crisis,” states Debra Michaud of Rainforest Action Network Chicago.
Organizers express opposition to currently proposed U.S. climate legislation which relies heavily on can and trade and carbon offsets.
“The current climate legislation is fatally flawed, setting weak targets and creating inappropriate tools,” remarks David Kraft of Nuclear Energy Information Service. “It should be modified to exclude false climate solutions, or else rejected; and certainly should NOT in its current form serve as the blueprint for the U.S. negotiating position in Copenhagen,” insists Kraft. A co-signed letter in opposition will be delivered to the offices of Sens. Richard Durbin and Roland Burris before the rally, and formal meetings requested of the Senators before they vote on the Senate version of the climate bill.
Some participants will take part in nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience at one of the sites along the march route.
Photos and updates from the event will be available at: http://howgreenischicago.org and http://www.actforclimatejustice.org. The procession will include a marching band and many colorful banners, props and signs.
Today’s action is one of nine major protests taking place across the US organized by the Mobilization for Climate Justice, Rising Tide North America, and the Climate Pledge of Resistance. Locally, five organizations that helped organize the October 24th protest rally at the Fisk coal-fired power plant in Chicago are endorsing today’s action and are participating in the march and rally: Rainforest Action Network Chicago, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, and Eco-Justice Collaborative.