DAVOS, Switzerland ―Two of the world’s largest nonprofits are joining forces to spark a new wave of civil disobedience to intensify pressure on governments and business leaders to avert a climate catastrophe.
Greenpeace International, which has traditionally focused on environmental issues, and Amnesty International, which has concentrated on human rights, are co-launching a Summit for Human Survival later this year to encourage nonviolent protests and other interventions that force greater action on climate change. The event is expected to include NGOs, grassroots activist groups, as well as arts and cultural organizations from across the world.
Kumi Naidoo, secretary-general of Amnesty, said it is essential for organizations across different sectors to join forces rather than seeing issues such as the environment, human rights and international development as separate. An important aim of the upcoming summit, Naidoo said, is to mobilize non-environmental communities to recognize the seriousness of climate change.
“One of our errors has been to see climate change only as an environmental issue,” he told HuffPost at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which hosts business, political and economic leaders. “We should never have framed it that way, and I hope we have not left it too late to create that intersectionality.”
In its report published last October, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the world has only 12 years left to avoid catastrophic climate change. Both Greenpeace and Amnesty believe that direct action is essential to wake people up to the immediacy of the problem.
Jennifer Morgan, head of Greenpeace International, told HuffPost that it is important for people to rise up and engage in nonviolent direct action to bring the urgency of this message to corporate leaders in a different way. She highlighted that this week more than 30,000 school students went on strike in Belgium seeking greater action on climate change and children in Berlin took to the streets calling for an early coal phase-out.
“The youth are demanding to be heard. The question is, why isn’t the Davos elite responding with the scale and pace required?” she said. “We have no time to waste.”
Naidoo, who was Morgan’s predecessor at Greenpeace International, believes one focus for direct action should be to push for an end to financial investments in the most polluting industries. That should include going after the big banks, he said, as they continue to fund the fossil fuel industry and are more sensitive to consumer pressure.
The idea of the Summit, said Naidoo, is not for it to dictate or try to coordinate centralized actions but rather to unite individuals and organizations so that they can collaborate in pushing for change. He pointed to new forms of protest such as the Extinction Rebellion movement, one of the many youth-driven civil disobedience movements focused on climate change. It began in the U.K. and is now launching chapters across the globe, including in the United States. Naidoo added that big international NGOs aren’t organizing this mobilization and that this sort of decentralization should be encouraged.
Both Naidoo and Morgan used the end of the WEF to lambast the politicians and business leaders present for not recognizing the planetary emergency we face. Naidoo criticized the leaders present and accused them of only caring about maintaining the status quo, pointing to their failure to act in the wake of the 2008 global financial collapse and the Asian financial crisis a decade earlier. Discussions about the need to scrap fossil fuel subsidies and address tax havens after the last global financial crisis had taken place, he said, but nothing significant had materialized.
“We need to fundamentally rethink what structural and systemic changes are needed in the economy to make sure we address climate and dangerous inequality, which is leading to massive social tensions. Instead, all we have seen is system recovery, system maintenance and system protection.”
As the world tinkers on the brink of a climate catastrophe, Morgan said, “it is deeply disturbing that … avoiding further temperature rise is not at the very center of all of the meetings of CEOs and world leaders.”
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