MADRID, Spain, December 12, 2019 (ENS) – Young activists who occupied the main stage at the United Nations’ COP 25 climate conference in Madrid, Spain on Wednesday during the “high-level” part of the meeting, demanding that world leaders do more to address the climate crisis, were ejected from the building and stripped of their badges.

Fridays For Future, the student climate change strike group started by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, 16, occupied the main stage at COP25, soon after Thunberg, an invited speaker, delivered a powerful address from that same stage.

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Addressing the high-level segment of COP25, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, expresses horror at the climate crisis destroying planet Earth. Dec. 11, 2019, Madrid, Spain (Screengrab from video courtesy PBS)

“I shouldn’t be here,” declared Thunberg. “I should be in school or outside with the ocean. You all come to the young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my childhood with your empty words and yet, I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of endless economic growth. How dare you?”

Thunberg urged democratic climate action on the part of the general public worldwide. “It is the public opinion that runs the free world. Every great change throughout history has come from the people. We do not have to wait. We can start the change right now – we, the people.”

Just hours later, protesters with Fridays for Future took over the stage. The group chanted, “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now!”

They shouted, “We are unstoppable, another world is possible!”

Around 200 young campaigners staged a noisy demonstration in front of the main hall where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was due to update the conference on the progress of the talks.

They were expressing a frustrated sense of disappointment with the slow progress of the conference, in contrast to the urgency of climate scientists, climate-affected people, and activists.

As the group banged pots and pans and chanted slogans, UN security staff removed the protesters “abruptly and roughly” from the building, the demonstrators said. They were stripped of their badges, preventing them from returning to the talks.

Later, after consultations with the observer groups involved, the UNFCCC Secretariat, the COP25 organizing agency, agreed to allow those barred after the protest to return for the rest of the conference.

The UNFCCC Secretariat underlined the importance of participation of observers in the climate change conferences. Since the early days of the UNFCCC, non-governmental organizations have been actively involved, attending sessions and exchanging views with other participants, including with government delegations.

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Demonstrators taker over the main stage at COP25, Dec. 11, 2019, Madrid Spain (Photo courtesy FridayFor Future)

“The Secretariat also recognizes that this involvement allows vital experience, expertise, information, and perspectives from civil society to be brought into the process to generate new insights and approaches,” the UNFCCC said in a statement.

At the same time, the Secretariat stressed that “with the valuable support of UN Security, it is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of all participants at climate change conferences.”

The Secretariat highlighted the importance of the Guidelines For The Participation of Representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations At Meetings Of the Bodies of the UNFCCC which all conference participants accept that they have read and agree to comply with, along with the Code of Conduct.

Among other provisions, the guidelines establish the following obligations:

“Representatives of NGOs admitted to the sessions of the Conference of the Parties shall cooperate with and comply with requests and instructions from United Nations officials and security staff regarding the use of facilities and access to and conduct within the venues.”

“Interfering with the movement of participants at any time or location within the venues is not permitted.”

“Non-governmental observers shall refrain from using the UNFCCC venues for unauthorized demonstrations.”

The Guidelines state, “Any behavior not consistent with the approved guidelines may have an impact on the participation of the organization and/or of the individual.”

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Demonstrators crowd the corridors in front of the COP25 main conference hall, Dec. 11, 2019, Madrid, Spain (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)

Representatives from the concerned non-governmental observer organizations expressed their willingness to abide by the Guidelines as well as the Code of Conduct. They committed to request prior authorization for any future actions at the COP in accordance with established procedure.

“In light of this renewed commitment,” the Secretariat said, “those who took the action on Wednesday, December 11, will be allowed re-entry for the duration of COP25.”

The UNFCCC Secretariat said that it “remains committed to the inclusiveness and openness of the process and looks forward to strengthening the working relationship with observer organizations.”

This second week of COP25 has been marked by protests and demonstrations.

On Monday, Minga Indigena, the indigenous peoples’ alternative to COP25, also taking place in Madrid, and Extinction Rebellion, an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction, blocked the road leading to the COP25 entrance.

They installed a yellow boat, with people locked on to it, “to demand climate justice now for the Amazonia’s Indigenous people, the forest guardians defending the world’s most biodiverse region.”

Written on the yellow boat were the words REBELS BEYOND BORDER on one side and on the other side CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW in the six official languages ​​of the United Nations.

The action comes after two indigenous leaders from the Guajajara tribe were fatally shot and two others wounded on Sunday, December 8 in Brazil’s Maranhão state, in an attack near to where another prominent indigenous forest defender was murdered last month, says Extinction Rebellion.

Extinction Rebellion places the blame on Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro’s government who, the group says, has a “long-term strategy to undermine current legal protection and open up the lands to exploitation by agribusiness.”

Christian Poirier of Amazon Watch warned, “An institutionalized genocide of indigenous peoples is taking place in Brazil. They are being left alone, vulnerable to all kinds of threats and violence. ”

Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation, APIB, published an ad in the “Financial Times” special COP25 supplement. Made possible by an anonymous donor and participation of Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network, the ad names who they consider the worst offenders financing Amazon destruction.

Named in the APIB ad are: BlackRock, an American global investment management corporation with $6.8 trillion under management; Vanguard, an American registered investment advisor with over $5.3 trillion under management; JPMorgan Chase, an American multinational investment bank with $2.7 trillion under management; Santander, the main financial group in Spain, its country of origin, and in Latin America; BNP Paribas, a French international banking group; and HSBC,  a British multinational investment bank.

Sônia Guajajara, APIB executive coordinator, states in the ad, “To major U.S. and European financial institutions: your money, and the money of your investors, is driving the destruction of our home: the Amazon rainforest. By financing companies that buy and sell commodities from conflict areas, such as soy and beef, you are promoting deforestation and violence on our lands, while unleashing climate chaos. We, indigenous peoples of Brazil, ask that you stop enabling this disaster.”

Minga issued a statement saying, “We are asking delegates to condemn the actions of the Brazilian State, the Brazilian Agribusiness lobby (Bancada Ruralista) as well as other criminally inactive governments and extractivist corporations throughout the Amazon Basin for their complicity in ecocide and destruction of the Amazon Rainforest, for the murders of environmental defenders, and for the cultural assimilation and genocide of Amazonia’s Indigenous peoples.”

At COP25, Indigenous leaders representing 20 nationalities from Ecuador and Peru called for global support to stop oil drilling and mining in the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region – the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystem on the planet.

A new report released Monday, “The Amazon Headwaters: Territories for life Under Threat,” finds that this is more than a regional issue: this is a global crisis that endangers the world’s 1.5° C goal.

The Amazon Sacred Headwaters Initiative is led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, CONFENIAE, of Ecuador, and the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest, AIDESEP, of Peru, in partnership with the Pachamama Alliance, Amazon Watch, Fundación Pachamama, and Stand.earth.

“Enough is enough. For decades we have made it clear that we don’t want drilling and mining in our territories,” said CONFENIAE President Marlon Vargas. “Now western science shows that it is not just fossil fuel emissions, but also the forest destruction that comes with it. With less than a decade to stop climate change, we need to draw a line and decide what is the price we are willing to pay for some barrels of oil.”

The Sacred Headwaters region, an area the size of Italy which encompasses the watersheds and forests at the source of the Amazon River, is considered globally important due to its biological and cultural diversity.

The region covers 30 million hectares in Ecuador and Peru and is home to over 20 indigenous nationalities, some of them uncontacted. Leaving the region’s estimated five billion barrels of unexplored oil reserves in the ground is equivalent to avoiding over two billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the report says.
Deforestation promoted by the advance of industrial development could lead to the additional emission of four billion tons of carbon.

“It is absurd that all these countries come to talk about stopping climate change while at the same time forcing new oil drilling in our territories, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest,” said Wrays Perez, president of the Wampis Nation of Peru.

The new research report on the Amazon Headwaters shows that there are 27 oil blocks that threaten this region and that companies from Chile, the original host of COP25, and China, host of next year’s Conference on Biodiversity, threaten the future of the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region.

Amazon Watch Climate and Energy Director Kevin Koenig said, “Our investigation shows that a massive portion of the existing and expanded crude oil production is being used to pay off billions in loans to China – a country with a stated ambition to advance an ecological civilization, and that over 50 percent of the crude oil from the Western Amazon goes to California’s refineries, a state that prides itself as a climate leader.”

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