The climate justice movement is on the rise at COP26

The climate justice movement is on the rise at COP26

By: Nick Dearden
Date: 8 November 2021
Campaigns: Climate

I’ve been in Glasgow all week, and already one thing is clear to me: world leaders cannot ignore us any longer. We’ve shifted the dial on climate justice. While governments are still a long way from taking the action we need, the climate justice movement is now setting the terms of the debate.

Six years ago I was in Paris for COP21. At that time, we were still having to combat the argument that climate change wasn’t happening, or if it was, it wasn’t caused by human beings. That myth is now dead.

Six years ago, too much of the environmental movement was still focussed on lifestyle changes. Today, the movement is clear: we can’t deal with climate change unless we rewrite the rules of the global economy, putting front and centre the needs and demands of those in the global south who are suffering most from climate change, even though they bear least responsibility for it. In Glasgow, like it or not, politicians are having to respond in kind.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the actions announced here are what we want or need. Not yet. Some proposals, like the deal to stop funding fossil fuels overseas, which we’ve been campaigning on for the last 2 years, are indeed a step forward. But many others, like Rishi Sunak’s pledge to ‘rewire the global financial system’, are a huge amount of greenwash.

But even the fact that politicians are having to pay lip service to climate justice means bigger change is now possible. And on Saturday we were out in force in Glasgow, and around the UK, building the movement that can make this change happen.

On the streets

This week I’ve felt very honoured to be part of this organisation and this movement. On Friday, I joined 50 members of our rapidly growing youth network on the Fridays for Future demonstration – one of the youngest and most vibrant protests I’ve been on in a long time. The work our activists are doing, all around the country, to build pressure for change is inspiring and necessary.

Joining the youth climate strike on Friday.

Our youth network making banners

On Saturday, we joined an estimated 100,000 people marching in Glasgow, as well as many thousands more in London and dozens of other places around the country. Around the world, more than 300 protests took place. A massive thank you to everyone who was part of it.

Marching with ATTAC France in Glasgow.

Taking a stand against corporate courts on the London march.

In the media

From the beginning of the summit, our reactions and analysis have been in the media, pointing out the limitations of the proposals put forward by the British government, and explaining the radical change we really need to a wider public.

We’ve exposed the impact of vaccine inequality on participation in COP26, condemned attempts to blame India and China for the current insufficient global targets, questioned the motives of huge fossil fuel financiers claiming to go green and explained the differences between pledges and real action.

Global Justice Now’s Dorothy Guerrero at a COP26 Coalition press conference. (Photo: Jerome Phelps)


Building the movement

Yesterday we organised a high-profile People’s Tribunal event with movement leaders from across the global south, building solidarity links and developing the understanding of campaigners here, fortifying them for the long campaign ahead.

On Sunday morning we put the UNFCCC on trial as part of the People’s Summit. (Credit: Oliver Kornblihtt/Mídia NINJA)

We have also been spreading the word about our crucial campaigns for climate justice. Firstly, through our webinar on Corporate Courts and Climate Crisis. You can watch it back here:

And on Wednesday we co-hosted a movement assembly on economic justice, which discussed the impact of the global south debt crisis on climate action.

Wednesday’s Movement Assembly on economic justice. (Credit: Mídia NINJA)

The blame game

As the summit continues this week, we’ve got to be ready to expose the spin. Because COP26 is almost certain to end without the kind of radical agreement we need for climate justice, and wealthy governments will try to blame China and India – if they don’t get away with spinning it as a success.

Of course it’s true we all need to play our part to halt climate change. But our job is to place the primary duty on the wealthy countries that caused climate change. They must act first. The broken promises on climate finance, on vaccine equity and on dealing with global inequality are a major hindrance to dealing with climate change here. We need to change that now – to rebuild trust through radical action.

The changes we’re calling for are transformational. It’s big. And it won’t happen overnight, as urgent as the situation might be. They require us to build power through our global movement. But I can see the change, and I’m so proud of the role we’re playing in bringing that about.

Top photo: As many as 100,000 people marched in Glasgow on Saturday to demand climate justice. Credit: Mídia NINJA.