The fight for climate justice will roar back up the agenda during the Covid reconstruction says Civicus #NeverMoreNeeded
Direct action by civil society pushed climate change into the headlines – and to the top of the political agenda, says a new report.
Global activist group Civicus says it was the actions of ordinary campaigners – such as the school strike movement - that made the environment one of the major issues of the day in 2019.
That changed once Covid struck, but the issue is completely unresolved and will come back with a vengeance once the initial crisis starts to abate.
For the first time, it includes a chapter on climate change. This reflects the importance of direct action by climate activists, which pushed the issue into the spotlight.
In a year of wildfires, flooding and other extreme climate events from the Amazon to Australia, the pandemic has given the world a temporary reprieve from the worst causes of climate harm, the report says.
The rapid spread of coronavirus has highlighted the necessity of respecting scientific advice and strengthening cooperation across borders - both are vital in the goal to build a better, greener post-pandemic world.
Its executive summary states: “Many of the governments and leaders that disregarded scientific advice on the pandemic, putting people at greater risk as a result, were also those that refuse to take the climate crisis seriously. On all fronts, the importance of acting on scientific consensus to protect people was clear.”
Direct action shoved the climate crisis into the headlines, most notably in the form of school strikes kicked off by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg. The lone strike she started in 2018 snowballed into Fridays for the Future, an international youth-led movement holding weekly climate strikes.
In the past year, students mobilised across 125 countries:
Report authors state: “In a reversal of stereotypical roles, it was young people who offered the voice of reason and showed their elders what it means to act responsibly.”
Part of the past year’s story was of the global south’s adoption and adaption of the school strike model, shaking off attempts by climate deniers to characterise the movement as something led by privileged people in the global north.
The State of Civil Society Report 2020 contains extensive interviews with young climate change activists from Sudan, Ghana, Bangladesh and the Philippines, showing that, “there are millions of Greta Thunbergs showing moral leadership around the world.”
Another activist response that swept the world was the non-partisan, direct-action civil disobedience movement, Extinction Rebellion. Founded in the UK, it spread to around 70 countries last year.
The worldwide prominence of school strikes and Extinction Rebellion led to many successes for the climate movement: 25 parliaments and over 1000 local authorities around the world declared climate emergencies, support for the Green New Deal package rallied, and some fossil fuel sponsorships were scrapped:
More action is needed in Latin American countries such as Brazil, Bolivia and Colombia, where nationalism and right-wing populism - together with climate-harming actions - go hand-in-hand.
The presidency of the far right Jair Bolsnonaro in Brazil is a particular problem.
At the moment, climate activists have suspended direct action and mass mobilisations as countries scramble to contain Covid-19 - but this pause is temporary.
In Scotland, the issue will come sharply into focus again as the country prepares to host the rescheduled COP26 climate talks in November 2021.
The report states: “The movement stands ready to reactivate itself, to insist that, when the world rebuilds in the wake of the pandemic, a greener world is possible. Civil society will insist that climate action and climate justice must form part of the recovery.”