The impact of the climate crisis is all too visible. Bushfires have killed more than 20 people in south-eastern Australia and forced thousands more to flee their homes. Floods and storms have left hundreds dead and many more destitute in Argentina, Uruguay, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. And in the UK, record temperatures were seen last summer and this winter.
Last year, people across the world took to the streets to demand goverments act to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Did you watch and wonder what you could do to help the global climate movement?
If so, this year presents a remarkable opportunity. With the 26th Conference of the Parties UN climate conference taking place in Glasgow this November, there has never been a better time to add your voice to those calling for urgent action to end our reliance on fossil fuels, cut greenhouse gases and protect the planet from global heating.
At COP 26, world leaders will be under huge pressure to come up with an international, united and effective response to the climate emergency. Those involved in the recent wave of climate action believe much can be done beforehand to ensure nations take effective action. “There is no doubt 2020 is going to be a really big year,” says Kim Bryan, of the US group 350.org.“In Glasgow, nations will be expected to agree formal commitments to tackle climate change. And people pressure is really making a difference.”
What group should I join?
A number of Scottish organisations are building their campaigns in the run-up to COP, including Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, a collection of more than 40 civil society organisations. But there have never been so many options for would-be activists, from traditional NGOs such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, to more radical groups such as Extinction Rebellion (XR) and its youth section, the school strikes movement, run by the UK Student Climate Network, and grassroots organisations such as Onca in Brighton or Clean Air for Southall and Hayes. “There is going to be a mixture of mobilisation for the coming year, and hopefully a lot of it will be led by grassroots groups,” says Guppi Bola of Wretched of the Earth, an activist coalition that supports the global south and people of colour seeking climate justice.
Do my choices as a consumer still matter?
With 40% of UK emissions coming from households, the independent Committee on Climate Change says what we do can play an important part in reducing emissions. From choosing renewable energy to heat their home, to improving household insulation and choosing an electric vehicle, individuals can cut their carbon footprint. Reducing your overall consumption – of clothes, household goods or toys – can also help reduce the UK’s carbon emissions. The latest data reveals that in 2016 UK consumption represented 784m tonnes of CO2.
How can I campaign locally?
You could set up a local Friends of the Earth action group. The charity is supporting those who want to build community action groups to put pressure on councils to adopt climate action plans. The aim is to build upwards to push the government to adopt a national action plan that will put the UK on a path to net-zero emissions by 2045 by tackling transport, heating, energy and agriculture. “This will be the backbone of our campaigning this year,” says Claire Norman of FOE.
Extinction Rebellion encourages anyone in an area without a local group to set one up. Creating a Facebook page or hosting a public meeting are ways to start off your group. “The basic idea is to inform and inspire new people and then get them into groups to take on roles and jobs so the whole mobilisation can grow quickly,” says XR.
Which groups ensure BME and indigenous voices are heard?
Finding a group that embraces diversity may be hard. Craig Bennett, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, has warned of the environmental movement becoming stuck in “a white middle-class ghetto”.
That said, Daze Aghaji of XR youth recommends her own organisation, “because we are extremely diverse. We have really worked on this because we know that XR was coming under criticism over lack of diversity. We are creating bonds with activists in the global south, and we are taking on topics that are hard to talk about, like mental health and climate change.”
Bola, meanwhile, says that people of colour should join local groups where they feel comfortable doing so, and that many grassroots groups in metropolitan areas are more diverse and representative of society.
Clare Rodger of the UK Student Climate Network says: “There is more that we could be doing to make sure that everyone is equally valued and listened to. This includes encouraging more boys to get involved in the climate justice movement.”
How can I campaign at work?
If you have a unionised workplace, ask your union to get involved. Petition or lobby your company to carry out an audit of its carbon footprint – from its energy emissions and transport to the staff canteen. Then push for it to commit to reducing its carbon emissions, moving to net zero.
Is physical protest the best way to fight the climate crisis?
There are many ways to show concern and to act, says Rodger. Some involve direct action and protest, others do not. “I think people should just do whatever they feel most comfortable doing, whether it is joining a school strike, or lobbying your MP or taking action to lobby your employer at work. What is important is to join the movement in whatever way you can.”
How useful is getting arrested during a protest?
Taking direct action can lead to arrest. Mass arrests, such as those that took place during the XR protests last year, can also be used as a form of disruption. XR provides advice on how an activist can use the criminal justice process, from arrest to prosecution, to raise public and political awareness of the climate emergency. But arrest is not for everyone.
“It is an individual choice for some people, and we will support those people,” said Aghaji. “But there is so much else to do, away from direct action, that is not often seen – for example, there is the education work we do to build the climate movement.”
How helpful are online petitions?
Change.org says the ability of ordinary people to set up petitions helps to level the playing field. “You no longer need to be a politician or CEO to make change happen,” says a spokesperson. “Anyone can start a petition on Change.org and raise awareness of an issue. Then the people who sign the petition become a community that work together to win the campaign.”
Often petitions focus on a small area relating to climate change or the environment. “Some of the most successful petitions are ‘little big things’ – campaigns to change one tangible part of a wider problem. This paves the way for the public to make change on huge issues like stopping climate change, where it can be hard to know where to start,” the spokesperson adds.
How can I find out a politician’s record on environmental issues?
Try theyworkforyou.com, which takes data from the UK parliament to show you how your MP voted on issues such as the third runway at Heathrow, fracking, and carbon capture and storage.
The Guardian’s polluters project also provides a handy guide to how MPs have voted on key environmental legislation. In the US, 350.org is running a “climate test” to show where presidential candidates stand on key issues.
Which issues could be solved by political action?
Building pressure to reduce UK emissions to net zero sooner than 2050 – the current government target – and pushing for a carbon tax are key campaign areas. In the UK, transport accounts for a third of all carbon emissions. So you could campaign for policies to reduce transport emissions – for example, through a much earlier ban on diesel and petrol vehicles than the current 2040 deadline, an end to the freeze on fuel duty, or cuts to rail fares. These are political decisions that could speed up change.
How can I show solidarity with Greta Thunberg?
Fridays for Future is the schools strikes movement Thunberg inspired. According to 350.org, which works with the movement, joining in the school strikes is one of the best ways to support her. The next day of action is 14 February.
The global movement inspired in part by the school strikes helped give Thunberg the profile to speak at the UN, says Bryan. “Building this movement, growing it, making sure it has more profile and drives more action is important in the coming year.”
A key month is April, when there will be three days of action across the world, including a global strike and a rebellion led by XR.
Source: Climate change | The Guardian