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As global temperatures continue to rise, so will people

by Hoda Baraka, 350.org
Tuesday, 17 May 2016 22:30 GMT

An armada of kayakers block the Newcastle harbour entrance in Australia to prevent coal from getting to the port. Photo: 350.org

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

With countries still approving new fossil fuel energy plants, it's time for people to hold them accountable

For a total of 12 days, tens of thousands of people, in 13 countries took part in an unprecedented world-wide action against fossil fuels, clearly demonstrating the climate movement’s unwavering resolve to keep all coal, oil and gas is in the ground. Amassing under the banner of ‘Break Free’ the aim was to peacefully challenge the current global energy system, urging for a rapid and just transition to renewable energy.

Such an upsurge of diverse demonstrations had never previously been attempted. Participants ranged from lifelong activists to people joining for the first time; collectively they pushed the boundaries of conventional protest in finding new ways to demand action against climate change.

Driving these actions is the sudden and dramatic acceleration in the warming of the planet, so far every single month of 2016 is shattering heat records -- on the last day of mobilisation, a key monitoring site on Tasmania recorded atmospheric carbon-dioxide exceeding 400 parts per million for the first time ever.

This mass of irrefutable data that climate change is happening now, is combined with plummeting fossil fuel prices, historic investments in renewable energy and the growing gap between world governments' stated climate ambitions, and their demonstrated actions in approving new fossil fuel projects.

Faced with this vacuum of serious action to tackle climate change, campaigners, concerned citizens, representatives from indigenous communities and religious leaders all came together to collectively provide the much needed leadership by intensifying pressure through peaceful civil disobedience on a global scale.

Over the course of 12 days, activists stopped coal from entering or exiting the world’s largest coal port in Australia. Others stood up to South Africa’s most powerful family and left coal at their front door, while others still occupied train tracks overnight on both coasts of the United States to stop oil-filled ‘bomb trains’ from rolling. Over 3000 people shut down one of Europe’s biggest coal mines in Germany. 10,000 marched against a coal plant in Batangas, the Philippines, while 3,000 more sent an ear-splitting message to Indonesia’s president with a whistle demonstration against coal in Jakarta. In Aliaga, Turkey 2000 people marched to the gates of the Izmir region’s largest coal dump, and surrounded it with a giant red line.

While people in Umuarama, Brazil were cheering their city council’s newly announced ban on fracking, hundreds of people on land and water blockaded the Kinder Morgan tar sands facility in Metro-Vancouver, in Canada. Ecuadorian youth fighting to defend the Yasuni national forest from oil exploration confronted a refinery just hours after Nigerians marched along the coast Exxon wants to drill to say that it’s time to put food and people ahead of fossil fuels and profits.

In short, tens of thousands of activists took to the streets, occupied mines, blocked rail lines, linked arms, paddled in kayaks and held community meetings. It has been an unprecedented moment for local and international groups undertaking bold mobilizations; demonstrating their resolve to transition off fossil fuels and build the new kind of economy that we know is possible –centered on 100% renewable energy systems.

All of the people who took part in these actions demonstrated beyond any doubt, through their strength and bravery, that the time has come to overturn the status quo and build a healthier and more just world in its place. The combined global efforts of activists on six continents pose a serious threat to the future of the fossil fuel industry, already weakened by financial and political uncertainty.

As the impacts of a warming planet become more visible in the form of rising sea levels, drought and stronger storms, our greatest collective hope, moving forward through 2016, is that this movement continues to grow in size, strength and boldness to make a carbon free planet a reality. The citizens who joined the climate movement during Break Free will continue to be a part of the next phase of the movement as it becomes more vocal and powerful.