Building a global climate movement: COP21 and beyond

Over twenty years of UN climate talks have failed, writes Tabitha Spence. The global demonstrations today are signs of a building movement that is unprepared to accept further betrayals. But we’re going to need a whole new level of struggle to break the current deadlock.

Time to Act Demonstration London 7 March 2015 Photo: Axel
Time to Act Demonstration London 7 March 2015
Photo: Axel

Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was tasked with “stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system“. Oops…

Over two decades of negotiating at annual Conferences of the Parties (COPs) have yielded little more than an alphabet soup explosion of new acronyms and a staggering 63% rise in greenhouse gas emissions. This epic failure of the ‘international community’ to act has already warmed the planet a full degree, and many small island nations will likely be under water when the global temperature increases by another half a degree. The warming has set off a series of irreversible changes to Earth’s biophysical systems. These are combining with existing economic and political tensions to produce ever more terrible symptoms, from famine to war to mass migrations.

What has become abundantly clear is that, to quote Gramsci, the crisis consists in the fact that the old is dying, but the new cannot yet be born. We are seeing death and destruction on a massive scale as a direct and indirect consequence of climate change, but remain stuck within a logic that insists on putting profits above humanity and the very conditions of our existence.

As we have witnessed in all past failed attempts to reduce emissions, breaking the deadlock cannot occur without recognising the roots of the fundamentally oppressive and exploitative system, and then taking a clear position against it. Breaking the deadlock can only move into the realm of possible if we join forces across scales, institutions and parochial boundaries to posit a clear alternative and develop a strategy for getting there fast.

Much of the global climate justice movement has been working on ways to revolutionise the energy system within 2-3 decades, and the fact is the only fair way capable of doing what is required (keeping more than 80 percent of known fossil fuels in the ground) would entail eliminating the profit motive and putting power into the hands of the public to manage transport infrastructure and energy systems. A rising tide of public pressure is building, but we must keep joining forces and exerting our power at every point possible to deepen the fight for a liveable and just planet. We’ve got to amplify the struggle, now and into next year.

The immediate plan is to put the pressure on through escalating actions over the 2 weeks of the COP21, in London, Paris or wherever you can. Then we must support struggles and campaigns continuously that aim to develop and build the alternatives now, intervene in the fossil processes that need to die, and offer solidarity and support to those most affected.

Join the People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs in London today.

Assemble Park Lane, 12 noon. Sign up on facebook. For details of the different blocs on the march see here.


Key events during the COP

Nov 30: Global student day of climate action: COP on Campus

Dec 4- 6: Deadline Festival to get oil funding out of the arts at the Tate

Dec 12: Red line action at Parliament at the end of COP21


Dec 4: Crash the False Solutions 21 being promoted by corporate criminals

Dec 7: Trade Unions and Climate: Conversations with Jeremy Corbyn and Naomi Klein 

Dec 9: Big Oil out of Culture: action at the Louvre

Dec 12: Big decentralised actions of civil disobedience in Paris:


Upcoming rs21 meetings on climate

Climate Change, Oil and Imperialism public meeting hosted by East London rs21
7pm, Monday 7 December
Oxford House, Derbyshire Street, London E2 6HG (nearest tube Bethnal Green)

Climate activism after the COP
A meet-up for anybody interested getting involved in rs21’s climate and environmental group and to discuss how to take things forward after the COP.
7pm, Tuesday 12 January
Institute of Education bar 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL.


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