”We will build the movement of movements” – Campaigners meet at ‘Time to Act’ conference in Manchester

Article published: Sunday, October 11th 2015

As the Tories left town with egg on their face, a coalition of campaign groups hosted their own conference on Saturday called ‘Time to Act’ – a day of speeches and workshops covering a range of issues surrounding climate change.

Organised by individual campaigners alongside various groups including Global Justice Now, Campaign Against Climate Change, Stop TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and Friends of the Earth, to name a few, the event was called ahead of the Paris climate talks and ‘The People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs’ on the 29th November in London. Organisers emphasised the continued need to build support and solidarity for the movement.

The Paris meeting, scheduled for December, will be the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) where 190 countries will discuss the global plan to tackle climate change. However, campaigners aren’t so sure that we can rely on governments to act, Rachel Thompson from Reclaim the Power said: “The leaders won’t listen in Paris, they want global inequality. They are powerful and in that position because they benefit from fossil fuels.”

First to speak was John Hilary, the author of ‘The Poverty of Capitalism’ praised the opposition to the Tories in Manchester last week and said he was inspired to see so many diverse groups coming together to make positive change. “We are living through a special moment, people who have never been politically active before are saying ‘we know what the government is doing and we want nothing of it.’”

Hilary noted that people are linking different issues such as fracking, TTIP, austerity and making the connection that it’s down to a fundamental political choice. “People are looking at the system not to just tweak it, they are looking to make deep and lasting change.” On capitalism, Hilary stated: “It continues to expand without limit, but the natural world cannot survive this, capitalism refuses to respect nature’s limits.”

Speaking about the renewable energy revolution in Germany, about the campaign for ‘One Million Climate Jobs’ and the need to invest in clean energy, Hilary stated: “We need to build a broader movement for system change, we will build the movement of movements.”

Next to take to the stage was Kate Pickett, co-author of the influential book ‘The Spirit Level’. Pickett focused on the social and psychological impacts of capitalism, she talked about the importance of resolving inequality and the affect it has on all our lives. “A lot of people are suffering, outward wealth reflects inner worth. People need to understand we can build a sustainable society without losing any quality of life.” In dealing with these issues Pickett advocated the need for stronger communities, trade unions, more employee owned institutions and cooperatives. “Societies that work for the common good are more compassionate,” she added.

Nick Dearden, from Global Justice Now, brought the morning session to a close by addressing what he views as the biggest obstacle in the fight against climate change – global corporate deals like TTIP. “Trade agreements give corporations the power to sue governments, in secret courts, if they chose to act in the interests of the people. Our role is to expose dogma that fuels poverty, inequality and climate change, we need to take on the big six but most of all we need systematic change.”

Workshops, including ‘Inequality, Migration and Racism’ which gave people a chance to find out more and discuss a range of topics in more detail, ran throughout the afternoon. The room then stood in solidarity with Ryedale, North Yorkshire who are currently engaged in a campaign against Barclays bank that owns 97% of Third Energy, the company who are planning on fracking across their community.

As the afternoon went on attendees heard from Chris Baugh, from the Public Commercial Services Union, who opened his talk with: “Solidarity is the most powerful weapon against those who would divide us.” He scoffed at the self-proclaimed ‘greenest government ever’ who slashed subsides for wind and solar, cut funding to environmental agencies and who promote dirty energy such as fracking in protected areas.

Baugh went on to describe austerity as “just a transfer of wealth – the richest 1% now have as much as the poorest 55%.” He finished with an offer of hope, though: “Trade unions need to recognise climate change is a union issue, we need to use this opportunity to set out alternatives in the form of One Million Climate Jobs and to create new jobs away from the big polluters.”

Rachel Thompson, from Reclaim the Power, offered her take on the battle for the environment: “We need to focus on climate justice as a wider issue and not a single-narrative focus, it’s the system that creates climate change and furthers inequality.”

Thompson added that the movement must be more representative of society, that there should be a focus on personal stories rather than big names, and the importance of listening to the global south where climate change is happening already. “We need to respect the diversity of tactics as we all have the same aims, direct action doesn’t have to break the law. We need to get back to basics, what was achieved at Barton Moss in two years with the anti-fracking campaign was by normal people knocking on doors. IGas haven’t been back and the community has started their own energy co-op, if we can achieve that what else can we do?”

Other speakers included George Marshall of Climate Outreach Information Network, he expressed the need to appeal to people with different values and to counter the disassociation people feel when confronted with climate change. Martin Empson, co-author of ‘One Million Climate Jobs’, stressed the danger of a 4° temperature rise, the course we are heading for by the end of the Century, “It will be a different planet, It will be climate chaos.”

Friends of the Earth’s Asad Rehman brought the day to an end with a passionate speech highlighting how climate change is already happening across the world in the form of floods, droughts and extreme weather, but insisted that “for every problem we have a solution.”

All speakers echoed the importance of standing together, building a movement and how powerful we can be when united.

Carla Viney

Stop TTIP MCR meets every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at 7pm, usually in the UoM’s Student Union on Oxford Road.

Global Justice Now will be holding a meeting on TTIP on Monday 2nd November 6.30pm at Methodist Central Hall.

To find more about ‘One million climate jobs’ go to: http://www.campaigncc.org/sites/data/files/sites/data/files/Docs/one%20million%20climate%20jobs%202014.pdf

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