Q: Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?
A: "I am currently a freelance researcher working with Greenpeace International in a very exciting project exploring alternative socio-economic models, with a post-extractivist and decolonial vision that considers and aims to empower knowledge and visions from the Global South. I'm also in collaboration with Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) from Argentina exploring the possibilities for Just Transitions in a coal-mining town of Patagonia called Rio Turbio, and with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung promoting narratives that link the social impacts of the ecological transitions and exploring ways to connect those dots. Beyond that, I usually write in elDiarioAR, an incipient and very exciting newspaper from Argentina, in partnership with eldiario.es. Additionally, I am very excited about a project born from my experience at the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity (hosted at the International Inequalities Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science) which is about to be born: it is a collective group called Society & Nature that explores our inter-relation as part of the world we inhabit as well as the challenges and opportunities to expand social rights within planetary boundaries both from a perspective of critical economy and industrializations for the XXI century."
Q: What do you hope COP26 will achieve?
A: "While climate negotiations are a very important multilateral space for acknowledging and discussing how to overcome the climate breakdown, they have become a sort of a talk-show where many leaders play a role that they don't follow with their domestic policies. As Greta Thunberg puts it: I don't expect more than 'bla, bla, bla'. Anyway, in policy terms, COP26 needs to agree and regalement Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. This implies to formally create a market of emissions where countries can trade their ambition, which can create double-accountings or other gimmicks to the emissions trading system. Specialists agree that the rules need to be strict in order to avoid that market from producing misleading results. Which brings us back to politics: a market without strong rules from the State can (and will) play with the objectives to make it more convenient for the parties, delaying the urgent climate action. Even if negotiators finally manage to agree on Article 6 in COP26, I believe that the context of a Great Lockdown and the advocacy from the Youth movement as well as an increasing social call for social and environmental justice, will unite struggles making them stronger. I really hope COP26 could be a platform that connects even further movements across the world in an overarching struggle to heal our bond with nature and between ourselves and rebuild a system that includes us all as equals."
Q: What excites you about the future?
A: "The possibility of resistance. With the rise of alt-right movements, proliferation of fake news and hate speech towards minorities, increasing inequalities and an ecological breakdown as an ongoing reality, the possibility to have a liveable future comes from the resistances. I believe that in order to avoid a new age of aggressive domination and exploitation, we need to be awake and ready, exploring and strengthening struggles from the margins, their alternative visions, building trenches of knowledge and information as well as a spirit of empathy and solidarity to consolidate truly collective and horizontal political alternatives that are able to transform the current hegemonic system."
Q: Why do eco-social transitions interest you, and what would you say to others who are interested in it/looking to find out more?
A: "We are at a tipping point for humanity. The climate and ecological breakdown produced mainly by countries of the Global North, the economic elites and a handful of fossil corporations, brings the whole of humanity to a point of no return in the ways we create, distribute and consume products and goods. This comes when around a third of the world's population has no access to safe water or safe and enough food. If the approach to overcome the climate crisis is merely technocratic, the social crisis will deepen strongly. Only with an approach that considers social and ecological justice as one struggle, we can build systemic alternatives that increase wealth redistribution (starting with a global debt cancellation as an ecological justice reparation), grant access to land, roof and work for those in need, promote equity in the deployment of renewable industrial capacity (removing intellectual property barriers and increasing cash and tech flows for this end from Northern to Southern geographies, for example), while increasing national possibilities to establish a universal basic income or job guarantees that foster the key areas that these transitions will demand.
I invite all environmental activists to think about how our actions today might impact not only nature but also societies in the near future. Asking ourselves the key question of belonging: who does the pronoun 'we' represent? Is nature included? Does it consider our fellow humans and other species' needs? Does a green deal sort it all, or the global dominance matrix will be refuelled, only that now with Lithium, Cobalt and other minerals and resources to feed the 'green revolution' with the same territorial and social impacts in the Global South? Embracing the questions and working towards their response in a shared vision with other movements that embrace the complexities but also the opportunities to have fair and inclusive transitions. For further reading, the Southern Eco-Social Pact from Latin America is one of the many coalitions exploring these questions and how to build back better, in a meaningful sense that understands that there's no social justice without environmental justice."
Mauro Fernández is an Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity. The Atlantic Institute, in partnership with the Rhodes Trust, connects the seven Atlantic Fellows programs (including the Social and Economic Equity program), building a global community of courageous leaders who address systemic causes of inequity. Mauro is a social and environmental campaigner, activist and communicator with more than 15 years of experience working against inequalities and systemic corruption. He has expertise in climate negotiations, energy transition and gender rights, as well as storytelling and digital and grassroots organising.
He has led campaigns at provincial, national and global levels, working with indigenous communities, volunteer groups, lawyers and campaigners from around the world. From 2007 to 2020, he worked for Greenpeace in Argentina, Chile and Colombia, where he headed its Climate and Energy unit, served as its Climate Policy Advisor, and participated in its Global Climate Political Unit. He was Greenpeace’s global Spanish-language spokesperson and negotiator at a number of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meetings, and in December 2018 served as a civil society observer at the first G20 meeting in Latin America. Find out more about Mauro and his work with the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity.