On the Paris Climate Conference and the Trial of the Delta 5

On January 12, 2016, we held the first meeting of the Energy and Environment Committee. The committee, in my view, is mandated with providing leadership on environmental policy and energy and allied technology policy. Below are my introductory remarks, regarding the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris and the beginning of the trial of courageous climate activists known as the Delta 5.


I intend to make this committee available to environmental activists to discuss and build their movements. In most meetings, I hope to have an agenda item to discuss environmental news, time permitting. At which time we will discuss issues like the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

As we all know, representatives from 196 nations across the world converged in Paris in December to discuss the climate crisis. While capitalist world leaders and the media largely came together to celebrate Paris and the call to halt warming at 1.5 degrees as a victory, environmental activists were quick to note, and correct to note, that this victory was hollow. James Hansen, one of our nation’s foremost environmental scientists, called the agreement signed by the leaders of nations “a fraud… There is no action, just promises.”

Naomi Klein, famed environmental activist, said that, “there is just such a tremendous gulf between what politicians are saying, and what their policies will deliver, which is a world of catastrophic warming. The targets add up to 3 to 4 degrees of warming, which is incompatible with anything that you could call organized civilized society.”

So we should discuss these issues in more detail, and in subsequent meetings. As far as the actual results of the conference, it’s the usual lethal mixture of insufficient market mechanisms and an over-reliance on technological solutions to address pollution after the fact. The 31 page agreement does not even mention the phrase “fossil fuels.”

I also wanted to extend solidarity to grassroots activists who are showing courage as we speak. Five of them are Abby Brockway, Mike LaPointe, Patrick Mazza, Jackie Minchew and Liz Spoerri,who are famously known as the Delta 5, who went on trial just yesterday here in the Pacific Northwest for taking nonviolent action to prevent a mile-long oil train from departing Everett. These organizers are just ordinary people – they are parents, a small business owner, a writer, and a labor activist – and they will make history in court by presenting a so-called “necessity defense,” citing climate change. A “necessity defense” allows a jury to decide that the defendants legitimately felt their actions were done to mitigate a greater harm to society.

To quote the Delta 5, “The defendants feel that our democracy is so corrupted by corporate political power and money that normal legislative solutions to climate change are no longer a viable path for change, and that it is time for a massive, non-violent social movement to force our government to take the actions that scientists say are necessary to restore our earth’s energy balance.”

As many here are doing, I am watching this case closely. The fact that the judge is allowing a necessity defense to be presented on climate change really reflects the times we live in, and is a clear indication of the impact that nonviolent direct action has had in pushing forward the struggle on sustainability issues.

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