Activists promise to make leaders and industry feel the heat

COP21: Environmental campaigners planning week of action next May

Oxfam activists  wearing masks depicting some of the world leaders outside the climate conference venue in France. Photograph: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

Oxfam activists wearing masks depicting some of the world leaders outside the climate conference venue in France. Photograph: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

 

Frank McDonald

in Paris

Whatever the outcome of the Paris climate conference, environmental activists have vowed to step up their campaign against the fossil-fuel industry worldwide, using non-violent civil disobedience to oppose planned coal mines, coal-fired power stations and other “dirty energy infrastructure”.

Payal Parekh, global managing director of 350.org, said a week of direct action is being planned for next May “all across the world”, adding that delegates and observers at the UN climate summit would “get the first taste of this” tomorrow with a demonstration at an “iconic site” in Paris.

Human chains

Outlining what the week of action in May 2016 might look like, she said: “You can imagine human chains peacefully blocking oil exports, ordinary people walking arm in arm on to coalfields and defiant marches heading towards the headquarters of fossil-fuel companies.”

Saying it was essential to keep 80 per cent of fossil-fuel reserves in the ground to meet climate targets, the scientist from Mumbai told the press that some of the countries to feel the heat would be Brazil, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa and the US.

Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace, recalled that previous struggles against injustice had only moved forward when decent men and women had stood up and said: “Enough is enough and no more. We’re prepared to put our lives on the line, we’re prepared to go to prison.”

A South African Indian, Mr Naidoo said civil-disobedience campaigns in the past had made political leaders “take notice, so we are talking, in alliance with a range of organisations in the coming years, about pushing the idea of ‘a billion acts of courage’ through new forms of resistance.”

He announced that the Philippines Human Rights Commission had just launched an investigation that Greenpeace hoped would “lead to litigation against the 50 largest fossil-fuel companies, who carry the biggest chunk of the responsibility for carbon accumulation [in the atmosphere].”

These companies, he said, needed to be held accountable for the loss of life and homes in the Philippines due to devastating typhoons. In addition to “going after” oil, coal and gas companies, they would also be mobilising against the financial institutions lending them money.

Queensland example

Mr Naidoo cited the example of a planned coal mine in Queensland, “the biggest mine Australia would build in its history”, which, as a result of protests targeting financial institutions, is “on hold because not a single bank wants to fund it”.