We recently wrapped up the outcomes of COP26 - the largest United Nations annual climate conference bringing together world leaders and civil society - and spoiler alert, it didn’t exactly deliver the bold actions required to combat climate change.
For those who attended the event, most of us are now in a post-COP26 funk, for those who watched the headlines flash by there is likely a sense of hopelessness and confusion, and for those whose lives are already directly impacted by this crisis I expect there is a feeling of rage, bitter resentment and fear.
But the agreed political outcomes of COP26 are only half the story. These outcomes were always going to be watered down, lacking in ambition, and totally blind to the pressing pace of the ongoing catastrophe. It’s the actions that we, as enraged, enthused, and powerful political agents take that will go down in history as the force for change that forced the world to wake up, speed up, and pay up.
It’s time for a revolution, and you are cordially invited.
UTILISE YOUR POWER
Now don’t freak out - I’m not asking anyone to superglue their face to a bank - but I am urging everyone to utilise all of the power they have available to them, to help build a wave of climate justice actions that make inaction on this crisis non-negotiable.
Power takes many forms, and is of course a highly privileged construct. Not everyone is in a position to take non-violent direct action, not everyone is in a position to make policy proposals to decision-makers. Both of these tactics to achieve change demand huge privileges of class, race, access to education, gender and age. So I’m simply asking you to take a look at your life, identify the groups you operate in, the platforms you have access to, the people you interact with, and decide where you will take action. Find a space where you feel safe, preferably alongside others, and think about a shared conversation, activity or movement you could organise or join. Find a group that brings you joy, find activities that are fun. Enthusiasm is infectious, keep putting that out into the world and it will catch on.
However, to be clear, the burden of action on climate change is not, and should never be, placed on the individual. It is not on you personally, to save the planet. But that doesn’t mean that every dinner time conversation, every tweet, every book club, and every protest, can’t, and doesn’t make a difference. In fact, it all accumulates into a radical force for change.
BECAUSE CIVIL SOCIETY IS POWERFUL
Protest, research, advocacy and outrage, has and does make an impact.
It’s through years of protesting and exposing the presence of big polluters at COP, that forced the UK Government to remove any direct fossil fuel sponsorship from this year's climate conference. Although the conference was not free from big polluter influence, it sent a clear message that it was no longer acceptable for global governments to cosy up to the industries responsible for this crisis. That is a win.
It’s the last four years of youth strikes for climate that made sticking to the science of 1.5 degrees a basic measurement of the success or failure of COP26 and mainstreamed action for climate justice among millions of young people worldwide. Fridays for Future sparked a massive conversation about the need to act now to save the future, by placing young people as critical spokespeople in this fight. That is a win.
It's the hard work of dedicated campaigns targeting our biggest enemies in the fight for climate justice, inside and outside of established political institutions. In 2021 Shell suffered multiple major court defeats. Two forced them to pay millions of dollars in compensation for their crimes on two separate oil spills in Nigeria, one to the Ejama-Ebubu community over a spill during the 1967-1970 Biafan war, and a second to local farming and fishing communities for leaks into the Niger Delta from 2004-2007. A third case led by Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) ended in historic defeat for Shell as the Dutch court ruled that the corporation must reduce 45% of their emissions by 2030, a decision Shell is currently trying to appeal against. Outside of the courts, civil society, led by the #StopCambo campaign and Friends of the Earth Scotland, has forced Shell to back out of the proposed new exploration of the Cambo Oil Field in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. Another embarrassing defeat for the fossil fuel giant. That is a win.
These are all wins.
CHANGE THE GAME
We need to revolutionize the way the world thinks about climate change. It’s the biggest extinction event of our lives, and it seems that governments need to be reminded of that, and fast. While our elected officials continue to encourage us to demand change, rather than making it, let’s demand so loudly that they can’t resist.
We’ve changed the game before, we are continuing to do it, and we won’t stop doing it.
The revolution’s underway, will you join it?
Find out more ways you can take action by subscribing to our Newsletter. Join a local Youth Strike group near you. Check out our “How Green Is Your MP?” page and write to your MP about an issue they can do better on. And feel free to contact us on social media if you need help getting started.