Bozuwa: NIEO Congress speech


Speech by Johanna Bozuwa, Executive Director of the Climate and Community Project on the 50th Anniversary in Havana.

Esteemed colleagues, thank you for bringing us here today and for the discussion. We have learned so much from the framing, ideas, and proposals brought through yesterday and today. Thank you to the Government of Cuba and Progressive International as our hosts.

What I want to bring into this conversation is the opportunity the green transition gives us. Right now, corporate power and capitalism are willing to profit off the green transition while perpetuating the fossil fueled economy. A world ruled by multinational corporations and backed by their enabling countries, most clearly the United States, may bring a green transition but far too late and without justice.

But this is not set in stone— the future of the transition is to be fought for. I believe we can build the alternative (we all have to be optimists to be in this room). But it means that we need to build coordination and international solidarity. But what does that look like? How do we do this? Especially as a person embedded within the political context of the United States, what is our role?

I will try to concretize by taking on a signifier of the transition, drawing from my dear colleague, Thea Riofrancos who is not here today. The Electric Vehicle. It is a beacon of the green transition. Headlines in the New York Times describe the ascendance of the electric vehicle as an indicator that the transition is, in fact ,working.

For whom, though? The upper middle class of the United States and Europe? For others, the transition means something else. Indigenous communities watch the same multinational mining companies come onto their land for lithium. Black families in the United States lose the bus route they depend on to get to work because of another cut to public transit funding in favor of new highways for Chevy trucks. Workers have to fight for living wages in Mexico, the United States, and elsewhere as the cars they build change. Here we see the neoliberal, colonial, and corporate supply chain at work. But, of course, within these struggles, there is opportunity for solidarity.

So I build on the proposals that have already been brought to the floor. Of course there are many ideas and things to be done, but I will propose just a couple. One, we need to build supply chain solidarity particularly on the emerging and not-yet-calcified green commodity chains— as colleagues Fadhel Kabob, Amir Lebdioui, and Isabel Estevez already mentioned. Two, we need to coalesce for coordinated action that brings together researchers, trade unionists, policymakers, movement leaders, communicators for plans of action as Kai Koddenbrock brought to the table yesterday.

We have the opportunity we convene folks across boundaries and borders to evaluate these supply chains like electrified transportation, from lithium extraction to battery and car manufacturing to the folks riding and driving to end of life— and do so across the Global South and Global North. Through coordinated strategy, we have a possibility to reimagine these supply chains and rebuild different sort of future. For instance, one can imagine a coordinated bloc of Global South countries taking control of lithium extraction regulations and processes, that then my allies in the United States can reinforce by leveraging our Congressional relationships to influence tax and trade policy in the US.

There is no question that there will be tension. But right now those tensions are being used against us. Indigenous communities living next to the ravaged earth of lithium mining may in fact strongly oppose extraction. Whereas trade unionists rely on the extraction for manufacturing to feed their families. Climate activists tell Indigenous groups to quiet down and not say anything bad about electric batteries because they’re putting the transition in peril. Instead of being divided, we need to put our comrades in climate, our trade unionists allies, and our Indigenous partners in direct conversations.

To do this requires resources and work. I’ve spoken about one supply chain, but I think this discussion can apply in a range of contexts. I see four key ways for us to build the political power we need:

  1. We need spaces run by us, like this, specified to certain issues or commodity chains to break through the tough questions, understand our respective positions in the ecosystem, so the international Left has a united front.
  2. We need a research agenda that provides the background and policy proposals to move that can inform and emerge out of those spaces.
  3. We need to identify strategic leverage points and and tailored mobilization tactics. Our trade unionists, community organizers, Indigenous leaders in conversation with one another about how, for instance, contract negotiations could reinforce Indigenous sovereignty.
  4. We need to be ready to govern. We need pipelines of diplomats, administrators, policymakers that come from our movements that have the capabilities to implement the vision, readily in conversation with their external allies.

Just as commodities move in and across our borders, we can import and export movement tactics and strategies, research capacity and development, and policy proposals and regulatory frameworks to build the new international economic order via the green transition.

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Johanna Bozuwa
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