Climate change negotiations are being dominated by irresponsible states, polluters and corporations that only care about current operations and the furtherance of profits through more fossil fuel exploitation and in new carbon markets which are destroying forests, soil, wetlands, rivers, mangroves and oceans, and financializing and privatizing ecosystems and nature itself on which our lives depend.

This was more than evident in the last UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) in Warsaw, Poland where parallel to the climate negotiations there was a summit of the coal industries shamelessly promoting the lie of  “clean coal.” In Warsaw, the countries (past and present) most responsible for emissions did absolutely nothing to change the key socio-economic causes of climate crisis such as trade and investment, energy, transport or agriculture policies nor did they attempt to genuinely cut emissions at the source. The public funds pledged for adaptation and to the green climate fund were simply a joke compared to the funds allocated to subsidize dirty energy or to rescue banks and the financial system.

This situation led to the walk out of most of civil society organizations from the Warsaw climate talks to raise awareness and to shift the focus away from ‘inside’ negotiations to mobilizing people and frontline communities resisting polluting industries in order to send a clear message: People and communities around the world are already implementing climate-safe, local energy alternatives and governments should listen to them and stop implementing policies that favor polluting corporations and their market interests.

Six months have passed since Warsaw and the situation has worsened. The climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany (4-15 June) are not focused on how to reduce emissions to 38 Gt of CO2e by 2020 and to avoid burning the planet with emissions that will be approximately 57 Gt of CO2e by 2020. If we lose this decade, there will be no going back from climate chaos. No future agreement will be able to undo the damage of the emissions that are now being sent to the atmosphere. The time to act is now, there is absolutely no more time and energy to waste on false solutions that maintain business as usual.

Furthermore, Ban Ki Moon’s UN Climate Summit to take place New York in September, has been captured by corporations who will enjoy the precious access now expected of big business, including big polluters. This access deepens the illegitimate and dangerous corporate control of public policy spaces.

Climate change is not simply an environmental issue; it is the result of an unjust economic system that is in the business of pursuing endless growth, concentrating wealth in the hands of a few and over-exploiting nature to the point of collapse. To really address the climate crisis, overexploitation of nature and people - currently led by polluting corporations whose only priority is the maximization of their profits – should be immediately stopped. The proliferation of extractive and dirty industries, fracking and tar sands projects, privatization through natural disaster reconstruction projects and others are engendered by a capitalist system that needs to be changed. The climate crisis won't be solved without addressing the root causes of climate change.

“System change not climate change” means among other measures to leave more than two thirds of fossil fuel reserves under the soil; ban all new exploration and exploitation of oil, tar sands, shale oil and shale gas, coal, uranium, and gas; end the dominance of export-based industrial forms of food production, and promote small-scale farming and an agriculture system that ensures food sovereignty; support the development of local sustainable economies, based on communities participation, equity and protection of natural resources; dismantle the war industry and military infrastructure; reduce working hours and create more employment to restore nature; and stop and revert corporate driven trade and investment agreements. [1]


“System change not climate change” is also the struggle against false solutions to climate change like public subsidies to “clean coal” and Carbon Capture and Storage projects, carbon markets, the privatization of forests and biodiversity (like REDD), “climate smart agriculture”, geoengineering, synthetic biology, industrial agrofuels, GMOs and others.

“System change not climate change” requires that the WTO and Free trade agreements framework, the global empire of transnational corporations and banks be dismantled. Only a society that has the type of democratic control over policies, resources, finance and the means of production which is based on a fair and equitable distribution of all work (including care work and migrant workers), indigenous and women’s rights and respects the sovereignty of the people will be able to guarantee economic, social and environmental justice. System Change requires an end of the patriarchal society in order to guarantee women’s rights in all aspects of life.


Many proposals already contain key elements needed to build new systemic alternatives like Buen Vivir, defending the commons, respecting Indigenous territories and community conserved areas, the rights of Mother Earth – rights of Nature, food sovereignty, prosperity without growth, de-globalization, the happiness index, the duties to and rights of future generations, the Peoples Agreement of Cochabamba and others.

The climate crisis is a great threat that can only be addressed by joining social, democratic and environmental movements and struggles. The struggles are all on fronts, both outside and inside the climate negotiations, but they all need to follow a common strategy and to be focused on the same goal: changing the system in order to arrest climate change. Whether inside or outside, efforts must be made to end business as usual and stop the corporate takeover of the planet and its resources. There will be no going back from the climate chaos if we do nothing to confront and challenge the inaction of our governments hijacked by polluting corporations. It is crucial for us to all strengthen our concrete struggles on the ground and focus our energies on changing the system.


The time is over for weak strategies, half-measures or empty promises designed to perpetuate polluters and their business as usual ways. If we are to reclaim our future, we must change the present – change the system and not the climate. For that, we will need everyone.


Signed by:

Alliance of Progressive Labor - SENTRO, Philippines

Alternatives International

ATTAC France

Ecologistas en Acción

Fairwatch, Italy

Focus on the Global South

Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) Nigeria

Global Forest Coalition

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Migrants Rights International

OilWatch International

Polaris Institute

Transnational Institute




[1]  Climate Space Statement: To Reclaim Our Future, We Must Change the Present. Our Proposal for Changing the System and not the Climate

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