There are moments to talk and moments to act. Almost four years ago, sixteen Greenpeace activists agreed that the huge risk the Cofrentes nuclear station in Valencia, Spain, was posing, required concrete and public action. On February 15th 2011, they entered the nuclear power plant and painted “Peligro Nuclear” (Nuclear Danger) on its cooling towers. Tomorrow, the sixteen activists and an independent journalist who was documenting the action are facing trial for their actions that could sentence them to almost three years in jail. Moreover, Greenpeace may have to pay a fine of about 360,000 euros. It will be the harshest trial in 30 years of peaceful activism in Spain.
I repeat. There is a time for talking and a time for action. Yesterday afternoon, the Greenpeace delegation at the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) in Lima, Peru, decided to take a stand in solidarity. We want to believe that climate negotiations are a place of action! This is why we call on your support – media included – by holding up and spreading the message “#Cofrentes17″ in solidarity with our 17 activists. Anyhow, the Spanish Constitution is on our side. Article 45 explicitly declares that “protecting the environment is a duty, and protesting is a right.”
That said, we ask the negotiators present in Lima to take this message back home and guarantee the right to protest everywhere in the world. In the 21st century we cannot allow any country, not Spain, not Peru or any other country, to disrespect the right to protest as a means of influence and transformation. The biggest revolutionary tipping points have been the result of protest – from the abolition of slavery to the recent uprising for more democracy in Europe and around the world.
At the COP 20, world leaders must identify and commit to the actions that will avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The #Cofrentes17 – as thousands of supporters know them in social media – acted to bring attention to the dangers of nuclear power: the most expensive, risky (see Ukraine) and centralized energy source. It cannot be considered a solution to climate change or an option to fulfill the global goal of universalizing energy access.
We are confident that the Valencian Justice will hold up Article 45 of the Spanish Constitution and we expect the activists to be acquitted from all charges. We hope that this trial will reinforce our right to peaceful protest in Spain and everywhere while putting a spotlight on the high risks associated with nuclear power.
Spain needs to undertake a transition from nuclear energy and fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil to safe and clean renewable energy. If we want to avert the worst effects of climate change and prevent environmental disasters, e.g. the one close to the Mediterranean coast near Tarragona, Catalonia, a few days ago, we have to phase out dirty energies and phase in solar and wind energy. To protect the environment, and boost the economy, we need to start a just transition towards a system based on 100% renewable energy for all in 2050. It should be made a priority in Spain and is one of Greenpeace’s main demands at the COP 20.
We hope to build on the #Cofrentes17 legacy and abandon the era of fossil and fissile fuels. We want to look at a future that is fair and sustainable; supports the freedom of speech and democracy. A future in which citizens benefit from an energy community unified by renewable energy. The dream of a green and peaceful future gives us the strenght and courage to take action and keep the future of humanity in our hands.
Mauro Fernández is a Buenos Aires based climate campaigner following Latin American perspectives at the COP20 for Greenpeace International.
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