Millions of people worldwide are pressing their governments to curb greenhouse gas emissions ahead of next month’s Copenhagen climate talks, and the volume of protests has increased as world leaders downplay the significance of securing a global warming agreement this year.
A case in point is the TckTckTck campaign, a global alliance of roughly 250 organizations, ranging from green groups to religious organizations to trade unions.
In the span of three months, nearly 10 million people have signed on to TckTckTck to tell leaders they’re concerned about the future and ready for global climate action.
“The goal is to get world leaders to see that many, many people want this climate deal, not just the usual suspects,” Jason Mogus, digital organizer for TckTckTck, told SolveClimate.
The campaign claims its members have produced one of the “biggest mandates for change the world has seen.” When TckTckTck launched on Aug. 28, the chair of the Global Campaign for Climate Action, Kumi Naidoo (recently named executive director of Greenpeace International), called for TckTckTck to be a “massive push by ordinary men, women and young people.” He had a lofty number in mind — 6 million people.
“We figured if the stars aligned and we got really lucky, we might be able to count 6 million people around the world by now,” Mogus says on the TckTckTck web site. “The global climate movement … has clearly woken up this year.
“We’re honored, humbled and ecstatic to announce that our pledge count is now over 9.8 million people strong.”
The reason for the sudden surge in interest is simple, Mogus said: “People are concerned.”
“This issue cuts across traditional lines of interest. It cuts across generational lines, issue lines and geographic lines.” In fact, this may be “the first global issue that everyone is involved in and implicated in,” he told SolveClimate. And that, he added “is bringing in many, many people.”
From Pledges to Protests
While TckTckTck and similar online campaigns have been giving people worldwide a public voice on climate change, activists have increasingly been taking their climate concerns to the streets, with protests and other direct actions aimed at getting their governments to take stronger positions in Copenhagen.
In Canada, activists staged two climate sit-ins this week at the offices of Environment Minister Jim Prentice and Labor Minister Rona Ambrose.
“We’ve held rallies, phone-ins, flash mobs, we’ve written and talked to our MP’s and nothing has changed. Now we are taking the next step, in the tradition of Gandhi and the Civil Rights Movement, to do our part to solve the greatest environmental threat of our time,” said Keely Kidner, an organizer with Canada Climate Justice.
Their goal in occupying Prentice’s office on Monday was to get the environment minister to commit to cut Canada’s emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. That didn’t happen, and the protesters were eventually detained by police. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has committed Canada to a 3 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020, and he doesn’t appear to be budging ahead of Copenhagen.
At Ambrose’s office on Wednesday, another group of protesters was drawing attention to the tar sands industry’s contribution to global climate change, Kinder said. A youth-produced video out of Canada this week, The Tar Sands Blow, also urges Harper to stop the expansion of the tar sands, or oil sands, which it calls “the greatest mistake we’ve made.”
In Australia, 200 climate protesters blocked the entrance of parliament, calling for deep cuts from the Rudd government before 130 of them were arrested by police and taken away.
In Indonesia, protesters from Greenpeace chained themselves to four cranes at a paper mill on the island of Sumatra. Their goal was to highlight the role that deforestation plays in global warming.
The Washington, D.C.-based 1Sky campaign is organizing what its calling a “creative action” on Dec. 4 in front of the White House with images reflecting the urgency of the climate challenge.
The Obama administration announced this week that the U.S. would commit to a CO2 cut of about 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, equivalent to about 4 percent below 1990 levels. That target “simply is not enough,” 1Sky said.
“It is already clear today that without pressure the administration may well gravitate to the lowest common denominator. … The 1Sky network will continue to push for real proposals in Copenhagen and from the U.S. Senate,” the group said.
Taste of What’s to Come
When the climate summit opens in Copenhagen 10 days from now, up to 30,000 activists are expected to converge on the city, and they are already warning world leaders that they have no intention to sit idle.
Mogus expects to see hundreds of actions, from signs and banners to street theater.
The most disruptive protests are expected on Dec. 16, when Climate Justice Action holds its “Reclaim Power!” march. The group is already warning that it plans to storm the conference and “transform it into a People’s Summit for Climate Justice.”
“Using only the force of our bodies to achieve our goal, our Reclaim Power! march will … disrupt the sessions and use the space to talk about ‘our’ agenda, an agenda from below, an agenda of climate justice, of real solutions against their false ones,” the group writes.
“Our action is one of civil disobedience: We will overcome any physical barriers that stand in our way, but we will not respond with violence if the police try to escalate the situation.”
To handle the activist camp, Denmark’s parliament on Thursday approved new and controversial anti-riot measures. The policy will allow “preventive arresting,” which grants Danish police the power to detain anyone they believe may commit a crime in the future for up to 12 hours, no charges needed. Police will also be able to jail for up to 40 days protesters who obstruct officers.
“Open-air meetings may be prohibited when it is feared that they may constitute a danger to the public order,” the Danish police wrote in an earlier note. “Gatherings that may disturb the public order must not take place.”
Tannie Nyboe of the Climate Justice Action in Denmark was critical of the new police measures, saying they “will increase the repression of any protester or activist coming to Copenhagen.” It “creates an image of anyone concerned about climate change being a criminal,” she added.
“It’s unfortunate when governments feel like they have to crack down on civil rights,” Mogus said.