2016: a year of escalation for climate action

After the predictable failure of the Paris climate talks to deliver anything meaningful, 2016 must be the year we escalate grassroots activism to do more in a year than our governments have done in 21, writes Sam Blacksmith

February 6, 2016
5 min read

ende-gelandeEnde Gelande – coal mine occupation in Germany

Climate change is acting as catalyst for growing inequality in an already unequal world. It’s already increasing water shortages, food shortages and conflict. A study recently found that drought, worsened by climate change, led to the mass migration which helped spark the Syrian war. But if we seize the opportunity, climate change can be a catalyst for good too, bringing us together to take action.

Predictably, the recent climate negotiations in Paris ended with promises void of substance. It was another depressing attempt to kick the can down the road, condemning millions to hunger and destitution. This is exactly what was expected by anyone who knows anything of the history of our governments’ inaction on this issue.

2015 might have been a bad year for climate negotiations but it was a good year for the grassroots. From direct action to divestment and community energy co-ops, the grassroots are leading the way. Our governments are inert and unable to react in the manner and to the degree that climate change calls for. We must therefore react ourselves, which is why 2016 must be a year where we reclaim the power from our politicians and from the corporations whose interests they promote.

This was always the vision, even before Paris. Knowing the deal would fail, and not wanting to repeat the mistakes of Copenhagen, mobilisations around COP21 were a vehicle for movement-building rather than influencing a broken process, to come out stronger, broader and bigger, ready for mass escalation in 2016. We drew our red lines in Paris, and marked the targets for 2016. Now it’s time to hit them.

Global shutdown

In the week of 7-15 May there will be a wave of global mass actions, shutting down major, iconic fossil fuel infrastructure projects across the world. The week of action will be kicked off by frontline communities in the Philippines, followed by actions in Indonesia, Australia, North and South America, Europe, Africa, Israel, Palestine and more. Germany will see a mass direct action on a coal mine near Berlin, following the success of Ende Gelände in summer 2015 which involved 1,500 people taking direct action to shut down an enormous coal mine in the Rhineland for a day. This is no normal week of action. Being based on the principles of escalation, mass participation and linked, global action, this will be civil disobedience on a scale not seen before.

Meanwhile in the UK, direct action network Reclaim the Power is calling a year of climate action in 2016. ‘Groundswell’ is a structure that links, amplifies and encourages the escalation of the work already being done across the UK. It is a supportive framework for people and groups new to direct action. Acting together and in solidarity with grassroots movements taking action on climate chaos around the world, it’s an invitation to share and learn from each another, to celebrate what the movement has already achieved and to encourage others to get involved in this year.

At the core of Groundswell is you and your friends, groups, and organisations. You can decide what your actions will look like. Reclaim the Power can also offer ready-made ‘off the shelf’ actions for those who want to build their confidence with greater support. Along with other groups, Reclaim the Power can offer help, training and support for teams who want it. Groups sign up to one action every three months, building towards collaborative large scale events as the year goes on.

Inspired by the ground-breaking Climate Games that brought together direct action and real life action adventure gaming in Paris via an online platform, the Groundswell website (coming soon) will have a secure, purpose-built media-sharing platform to update participants about other groups’ actions as and when they happen, providing inspiration and motivation.

The global climate movement is gaining momentum. The groundswell is coming. We need to keep up this momentum to win this battle. It will need a lot of us working together. But if our governments won’t make the changes we needed we must make it happen ourselves. Together, we can do more for climate justice in a year than our governments have done in the last 21.

www.reclaimthepower.org.uk/groundswell, www.breakfree2016.org


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill


8