In a race against time, we decidedly step forward in order to take back our future. The student strikes for climate, that mobilized millions of young people all over the world in the name of climate justice, are a beacon of light for the huge transformation we must go through in the next decade – be it in the economy or in society – the 50% cut in emissions of greenhouse gases until 2030 will be the greatest transformation that humanity has ever gone through, and it is exactly what science tells us has to happen. Not doing this means destroying the physical conditions that have allowed human civilization. It means closing our eyes to climate injustice as a reality that worsens or even annihilates the lives of those who are already the most oppressed. Those who contribute the least to climate change are those that suffer its consequences the most.
We respond to the international call for a Global Climate Strike on the 27th of September. In Portugal, we want this protest to be transversal while retaining its sharpness. The past experiences – be it the school strikes for climate on the 15th of march and the 24th of may, the global marches for the climate, or the protests against fossil fuels – all show us that it is possible. We want to build this process with various different sectors of society, some of which are closer to these causes, while others are ever approaching.
To the global challenge of halving greenhouse gas emissions, we must add additional national and local challenges. These will give shape to more focused and concrete protests and campaigns. In this way we come to the list of demands that fit the Global Climate Strike in Portugal, such as a just transition that will guarantee carbon neutrality in Portugal by the year 2030. This being said, it’s urgent to:
– Close down the Sines and Pego power stations by the time of the next parliamentary term and commence the preparation to close down the combined cycle stations before 2030;
– Put an end to the petrol and gas concession contracts still existing in Portugal and revoke the legislation that allows the granting of new petrol and gas concessions in the country;
– Prohibit the import of natural gas obtained by hydraulic fracking and interrupt any expansion of its reception, storage and transport system (including the planned pipeline transport systems);
– Cancel any big projects that bring a guaranteed increase in greenhouse gas emissions such as, mainly, the port and airport expansions;
– Create a public sector that would lead the process of energy production. A production governed by the needs of the entire population, from renewable energy sources (namely wind and solar) and based on public investment and public services, from the transformation of resources to the installation of wind turbines and solar panels;
– Implement a true plan for energy efficiency, starting with public buildings but extending across every sector of society, allowing for energy savings of up to 30% in some sectors already in the short term. Also, demand the removal of asbestos and other carcinogenic substances from public buildings and buildings under public use;
– Electrify the national transport system, starting with public transport, by making the necessary investment towards promoting the use of means of transportation such as trains and surface trams, while ending the costly subsidies to the highly polluting aviation industry;
– Expand the public transport network in the main cities and create connections between them, paying particular attention to the complete renewal of the national railway in the context of international mobility. Requalify those parts of the network that are today deactivated and introduce free public transport during the next parliamentary term;
– Create a national plan for the management of forests and agriculture, geared towards eco-agriculture, guaranteeing that rural activities are well adapted to the soil and water conditions existent in each location. This means reducing intensive agriculture and animal farming, which depend on enormous quantities of water and chemical inputs, and fostering local production through the creation of proximity based markets that shorten the commercial circuit, with a view towards national self sufficiency in food production. It means adapting national forest areas to present and future climate conditions, fostering the diversification of species and promoting native trees, with the perspective of mitigating forest fires and diversifying the use of forests in rural areas, in detriment of the great extensions of monoculture that are dominant today. We demand the prohibition of chemical products proved to be dangerous to living beings, that contaminate the soil and the water. Reforestation and agricultural practices must be oriented towards the repopulation of pollinating insects, important for the survival of the flora;
– Ensure equal access to food and drinking water internationally, in order to prevent a true migration crisis in the next decades.
Winning these demands will require an unprecedented level of mobilization in society across the globe, including in Portugal. We need this mobilization to save millions of lives, to save civilization and biodiversity. We know we will need a level of massive public investment that, once again, we know to be possible (for example, the European Union used 40% of its GDP to rescue the finance industry during the financial crisis). To calculate the financial impact of not acting is a futile exercise: the economy as we know it will not survive climate chaos and the lives of humans and other living beings have no price. We live in a climate emergency, and it is urgent that the government declares a State of Emergency, acting immediately and accordingly.
To execute the various tasks necessary to transform the economy and society, it will be essential to create a public and cooperative sector dedicated to this transformation, something that is already contemplated in projects like the Climate Jobs Campaign (Empregos para o Clima) in Portugal or the Green New Deal in the United States: we will need hundreds of thousands of new jobs just in Portugal, and hundreds of millions all over the world, to guarantee this transition. The education sector must also be transformed, mainly through the creation of new jobs that meet the needs of research, education and vocational training. Priority should be given to those that work in sectors that will tend to disappear (e.g. fossil fuel industries, from production to final consumption) or that are going to be restructured in the next decade. The energy transition will simultaneously suppress and create jobs. A real just transition has to follow the principles of labor and social justice and equity.
For this to happen we will need to:
– Reduce the working week to 35 hours in all sectors. Introduce a 4 day working week, starting with energy intensive industries;
– Include in the public tender specifications for renewable energy production the creation of jobs for people currently working in thermal power stations and similar industries. In already existing contracts, a similar implementation process should be started,
– In places where jobs will be suppressed by the energy transition, develop the necessary conditions for the creation of new renewable energy, energy transition technology and public transport companies, giving priority to employing those workers who have lost their jobs
– Change labour legislation to facilitate access to unemployment benefits and early retirement, putting all the costs on companies employing the workers of affected sectors;
– Create training plans in coordination with unions, with no costs for the workers;
– Create a Permanent Forum between the state and trade unions in the affected sectors for the monitoring of the impact of the energy transition measures.
Societies, governments and people will have to cooperate and dedicate themselves to this unprecedented global and national, territorial and environmental, economical and social historical process. On the 27th of September we stop moving forward. We stop because our future, of all living generations, is being stolen from us right in front of our own eyes. We stop because we are the last generation that can solve the problem created by the system we live in and, therefore, we are those with the duty of guaranteeing that people born today will have at least the same conditions we had to live and prosper. We stop because we can’t tolerate the increased severity of social climate injustice that targets above all those who will meet the most obstacles in case of climate disaster: women ( domestic, family and health work on top of paid employment), disabled people, poorer people without access to a job and a living wage, decent housing, food and health, racially segregated people and other discriminated and excluded minorities.
We stop because it is not possible to continue pretending that it will be with small resolutions and ambitions that we move forward, but with concrete action and profound change, built socially to respond to an unparalleled problem. We stop for life. We stop for our lives. We stop because the fossil fuel machine needs to stop and we truly need to win this battle. We stop because time has run out.