Indigenous activists from Latin America were put out by the sudden change in location of COP25 from Santiago, Chile to Madrid, Spain just one month before the UN Climate Conference was scheduled to begin. Their claims of being invisibilised, particularly from Mupache representatives whose communities are violently repressed by Chilean authorities, were emphasised during an event at the COP in which a group of indigenous leaders were allowed only 90 seconds to address the audience. It was alleged they were roughly handled as they were dragged from the stage to be followed by a famous Spanish actor who spoke for six minutes. The anecedote was was relayed to me via translation during a session on Sunday at the Cumbre Social por el Clima (People’s Summit) in Madrid, where it seemed indicative of the priorities of those organising the COP. Indeed, Minga Indígena, the Indigenous Peoples’ Climate Summit, is a significant part of the Cumbre Social por el Clima.
On Sunday December 8 a group of Indigenous representatives from Brazil staged a protest and press conference in front of the headquarters of Repsol, a Madrid-based energy company. They argued that companies such as this are responsible for the major oil spill, detected in August 2019 in the Northeast of Brazil that is moving southward. The origins of the spill remain unknown.
Also notable are representatives from the People’s Summit in Chile. While many in the country are occupied with anti-government protests and the means by which a new constitution will be drafted, a people’s summit occurred over 2–9 December, the first week of the COP. They seemed determined that ‘the place where neoliberalism was born is now where it will die’.
In contrast to the streets of Santiago, Madrid’s city government swung this year from the left to centre-right following elections in May. Several people have commented on the new mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida’s bid to dismantle Madrid Central, a low emission zone that has seen petrol-fueled cars banned from the city centre. Some have described him as an opportunist, seizing the chance to host the COP to bring his administration prestige and global attention, and invite CEO’s of Spanish oil and gas companies to sponsor the event. Indeed, the COP is being discussed as a vehicle to facilitate corporate greenwashing. Among certain sections of the city Almeida has earned the nickname ‘Carapolla’, which translates as ‘dickface’.