We need a global community to fight climate change

by Sara Shaw and Dipti Bhatnagar | Friends of the Earth
Thursday, 12 October 2017 09:23 GMT

A protester carries a sign depicting the earth during the Peoples Climate March near the White House. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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The only way to take on dirty energy and climate change is to build movements of people

The year 2017 has seen a succession of devastating hurricanes, rains and flooding, wildfires and heatwaves and droughts.

These events are becoming more frequent, from South Asia to Latin America and the Caribbeanto name a few.

As with all disasters, the poor and vulnerable pay the heaviest price, from communities displaced by landslides in Sierra Leone to Indian farmers committing suicide after losing their livestock to drought.

The exact cause of each disaster is complex, but the science is clear: These impacts will become more common as the planet gets hotter, and such changes in climate are driven by our relentless extraction and consumption of fossil fuels, mass deforestation and industrial agriculture.

And yet the fossil fuel industry remains stubbornly persistent, with 850 new coal plants planned in 62 countries. Sometimes, this happens under the guise of tackling ‘energy poverty’ in developing countries, while in fact making communities poorer.

In just one example, coal mining in Indonesia has devastated rainforests, and polluted rivers and fields. People’s livelihoods were destroyed, and promises of jobs from the mining were broken.

Oil and gas, including fracking, together with nuclear energy and hydropower, also harm people and environment, while those challenging these industries face threats to their lives.

The problem may seem intractable, especially given the scale. But there is a solution: protecting the world’s forests, sustainable approaches to agriculture, an immediate end to dirty energy in the global North and financial and technological support for the global South to pursue clean development.

Alternatives like wind or solar already exist and offer an opportunity to build an entirely new energy system that serves communities not corporations, people not profit.

Community-led projects, from Scotland to Denmark to South Africa to Palestine, have demonstrated how we can ditch fossil fuels in favour of clean energy that also helps create jobs and social benefits.

The challenge is how to scale this up. A political transformation is needed, from a system that is driven by profit and consumption (neoliberalism), to one focused on justice and sustainability.

Because the world’s governments are not doing enough, and are often captured by the interests of transnational corporations, we need movements of people who can challenge the dominant economic system and push for change.

We must come together across communities, countries and continents to oppose dirty energy, battle by battle. This includes connecting dirty energy operations with their financial backers to challenge their activities on a global scale.

For example, Friends of the Earth (FoE) Indonesia/ WALHI joined forces with Friends of the Earth groups in Japan and France to challenge the construction of new coal fired power stations in their country, to be funded by Japanese and French banks. Shutting off, or delaying the financing can halt, or slow down such projects.

In Togo, Friends of the Earth alerted local communities to potential oil drilling in their area and the devastating impacts this had in neighbouring countries. This resulted in the cancellation of the oil contract, but the fight continues.

And in Victoria state, Australia, thousands of people joined forces to successfully demand a ban on fracking, through petitions, lobbying, rallies and creative actions like a video of 2,000 sheep spelling out ‘BAN GAS’.

Similar campaigns led to fracking bans in Ireland, France, Bulgaria and Scotland, and parts of the United States and Canada.

We can learn from these initiatives and build a global movement of people who will fight dirty energy and climate change.

As we mobilise, we can overcome corporate power and truly start to change the underlying economic system that is destroying our planet.

Sara Shaw and Dipti Bhatnagar are international program coordinators for Climate Justice and Energy at Friends of the Earth International.