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OPINION: People power is what is needed to battle climate change

by Mitzi Jonelle Tan and Vanessa Nakate | Fridays for Future
Monday, 28 February 2022 09:00 GMT

Demonstrators carry placards at a Fridays for Future march during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 5, 2021. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

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

We, the people, are the climate impact the world needs

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, Disha A. Ravi, Vanessa Nakate, Luisa Neubauer, Patsy Islam-Parsons and Greta Thunberg, Fridays for Future; Nnimmo Bassey, Home of Mother Earth Foundation; Chibeze Ezekiel, Strategic Youth Network for Development; Amitav Ghosh, writer; Lidy Nacpil, Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development; Asad Rehman, War on Want; Luam Kidane, Thousand Currents, May Boeve, 350.org; and Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, poet and climate envoy with the Ministry of Environment for the Marshall Islands; Naomi Klein, University of British Columbia professor of climate Justice; and Wolfgang Cramer, research director, CNRS Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology

The IPCC report on climate impacts, released today, confirms what we already knew: that the climate crisis requires our urgent attention.

In a world where the temperature has already risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius, the report reveals that natural systems are about to reach 12 irreversible tipping points. The World Health Organization estimates that currently, up to 150,000 lives are lost a year due to climate change. But the crisis doesn’t affect us all equally.

People whose contribution to global emissions have been negligible are the ones left grappling to meet their basic needs and sustain their livelihoods, and it’s these communities who have historically faced other systems of oppression: BIPOC communities, women, the economically marginalised, and those in the Global South.

But the most affected are not merely passive victims. This month, in preparation for the release of the IPCC’s climate impacts report, 350 Pacific and the Pacific Climate Warriors (who famously said: “we are not drowning, we are fighting”) collaborated with the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities in the Philippines to hold a three-day training to teach climate-affected communities in Fiji to assemble and maintain solar power energy systems.

These communities — these leaders — are who we need to look to for concrete solutions to fight this crisis. Not solutions based on unproven, exclusive technologies, but solutions that are rooted in preserving ecosystems, are community-led and owned, decentralized, sustainable, accessible, affordable, and allow people to live in dignity and harmony with nature.

To see initiatives like this rolled out on a large scale will require unprecedented collective effort among top polluters. This means adequate investment, political will, funds for adaptation and mitigation, and reparations for loss and damage.

It is tempting to give in to the anger at knowing that these calls have been for so long ignored by the fossil fuel industry and those who prop it up. They have shown

us over and over that their profits matter more than the lives and livelihoods their business model is built on destroying.

But over the last few decades, the climate justice movement has achieved enormous successes. We’ve halted countless coal-fired power plants and oil pipelines, blocked legislation for new fossil fuel exploration and development, and divested trillions of dollars away from the fossil fuel industry.

With these achievements in mind (and the anger at our backs) we will continue. Over the next month under the rallying call “Fossil Fuels Did This”, 350.org along with local groups in the global climate justice movement are mobilizing to call out fossil fuel companies and the governments and financial institutions that back them.

Peaceful actions around the world will range from marches, to gatherings, webinars, murals, holographic projections, and visual installations. We will also soon be launching the International People’s Platform for Climate Justice — a space led by an international panel of activists, experts, scientists, and academics that aims to contextualize the findings of the IPCC report in terms of human impacts, offer solidarity, foster hope, and inspire determination.

The findings of the IPCC report may be somber, but the course we are on is neither inevitable nor immutable. Now it is time for people power to demand systemic change of unprecedented magnitude. Together, we have the power to set a different path. We, the people, are the impacts the world needs.