Thousands march in Brussels to declare “planet and people before profit”

The demonstration was organized in the backdrop of the ongoing 12-day-long, COP28 Summit underway in UAE, which kicked off on November 30.

By: Peoples Dispatch

Pro-Palestine protesters in Belgium in the Climate March. Image via PTB/PVDA

On December 3, more than 25,000 people marched in the Belgian capital of Brussels to demand comprehensive climate justice. The march was called to coincide with the opening of the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in the UAE. Demonstrators in Brussels have demanded that the needs of the planet and people must come before the profits of the war machine and multinational corporations. Marchers also expressed solidarity with Palestine people who have been subjected to a genocidal war unleashed by the Zionist state of Israel.

The march was called for by the Climate Coalition, and saw participation of left organizations such as the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA), youth and students groups RedFox and COMAC, as well as various trade unions.

Watch: What is stake at COP28?

The Workers’ Party of Belgium stated that “while the climate crisis intensifies every year, major oil giants continue to invest massively in fossil fuels rather than renewable sources.”

“There is a real need to switch to sustainable energy to effectively combat climate change. Despite the emergency, Belgium is one of the worst performers in Europe. Because Engie and the other energy giants want above all to ensure the sustainability of their profits. It doesn’t matter if it means polluting more and more. Investing in green energy is not a priority for them (and when they do, it is through large public subsidies, which are mainly used to line the pockets of shareholders),” added the party.

The so-called plan for green transition envisaged by the European Union (EU) has already been derailed by the acute energy shortage triggered by the war in Ukraine and profiteering by energy companies during the crunch period. The EU leveled harsh sanctions against Russian energy which saw it block the flow of cheap Russian gas to Europe and forced it to buy expensive fuel from the US. The Workers’ Party of Belgium wrote that “a United Nations report highlights that the United States continues to be the world’s largest producer of oil and gas and they even plan to increase oil and gas production to be able to export it. As for Europe and Belgium, they are lagging and are only providing subsidies for multinationals and imposing unfair taxes for workers.”

Over the past couple of years, many EU countries have decided to reopen coal mines and other hydrocarbon sources that were once shut down in the run-up for the green transition. Meanwhile, the ongoing initiatives in the name of fostering green transition in Europe have courted protests and controversies over contracts for lithium mining and green hydrogen projects in many countries including Serbia and Portugal. The UK government’s approval for the development of the controversial Rosebank oil and gas field project in Scottish territorial waters has also been widely criticized by climate activists and other progressive sections in the UK and abroad.

On November 28, Marc Botenda, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) stated that “the European Parliament’s recent legislation to facilitate production of green technologies pushes deep into deregulation: rapid permits, fewer impact studies, pressure on public authorities, possible installations in protected areas. And in addition, multinationals will have their say in the enforcement of laws!”

“Our proposals to attach sound social conditions to public money were rejected. The European state is at the service of shareholders and multinationals. This policy is a deadlock for workers and the environment. It’s high time to regain public control,” he added.

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