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Climate justice movements multiply as 2030 climate deadline looms

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Twitter photo by Greta Thunberg.

A new constellation of movements -- including Environnement Jeunesse, the Sunrise Movement, Earth Strike, Extinction Rebellion, and the Progressive International -- have formed in recent months to challenge the existential threat of climate breakdown.

The global average temperature has already risen from 0.65 degrees Celsius in 1880 to 1.06 degrees Celsius in 2012 and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now says we have 12 years left to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Sunrise Movement legislative campaign

The Sunrise Movement's website notes, "We're building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and well-being of all people."

It adds, "[Self-described democratic socialist] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a Select Committee for a Green New Deal, a plan that would transform our economy and society at the scale needed to stop the climate crisis."

That select committee would complete the Plan for a Green New Deal by no later than January 1, 2020 and would seek to achieve "100% of national power generation from renewable sources" no later than 10 years after that.

The United States is the second-largest emitter of carbon pollution in the world.

There has also been a call for a Green New Deal in Canada/Good Work Guarantee as outlined by Clayton Thomas-Müller recently in this piece in the National Observer.

The Environnement Jeunesse court challenge

Environnement Jeunesse has launched a $350-million legal challenge against the federal governmen  on behalf of youth in Quebec under 35 years of age for violating the rights of young people by failing to tackle climate change.

"The group is hoping to emulate the success of the Urgenda Foundation campaign in the Netherlands, whose case forcing the Dutch government to accelerate its emissions cuts was upheld in a Hague court last month. The severity of the climate crisis demands that the cuts be deeper, judges there ruled," the National Observer reports.

CTV adds, "The lawsuit is part of a global movement to use the courts to pressure government into taking more action on the environment. ...Similar legal actions are ongoing in the United States, Belgium, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, Colombia and the United Kingdom."

And a Canadian Press article notes, "The filing in Quebec Superior Court is the first step in proceedings that could take several years."

The Skolstrejk för klimatet student strike

In August of this year, 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg decided to take action with a school strike for the climate.

Thunberg writes, "I decided to walk out of school and sit on the ground outside the Swedish parliament to demand our politicians treat climate change for what it is: the biggest issue we have ever faced."

She adds, "Countries like Sweden need to start reducing our emissions by at least 15 per cent every year if we consider the aspect of equality or climate justice -- a principle that is clearly stated everywhere in the Paris Agreement."

Just recently, thousands of schoolchildren across Australia, inspired by Thunberg, participated in a "Strike 4 Climate Action" by walking out of school to demand that Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government take action to address climate change.

And now the Toronto-based group FridaysforFuture #Climatestrike Toronto/GTA is supporting Thunberg's call for a student strike on Friday, December 7 during the COP24 climate summit in Poland.

The Earth Strike general strike

Earth Strike is planning to "organize worldwide actions, culminating in a global strike" with a key demand of "unambiguous and binding agreements" that would halve carbon net emissions by 2030 and achieve zero net emissions by 2050.

The "Kickoff Protest" will be on January 15, 2019, a "Halfway Earth Day Protest" will take place on April 27, 2019, a "Final Pre-Strike Protest" on August 1, 2019, and then a "General Strike to Save the Planet" will take place on September 27, 2019.

The call for this general strike next year falls on the centennial anniversary of the historic Winnipeg General Strike.

The Extinction Rebellion direct action campaign

The group notes on its website that: "We aim to promote a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximizes well-being and minimizes harm."

Their key demands include "legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025."

Extinction Rebellion has utilized direct action with the belief that "non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change" and aims at "mobilizing 3.5 per cent of the population to achieve system change."

The Extinction Rebellion Facebook page has promoted the idea of "a rebellion on an international scale" and is now calling on "rebels" to save the date of April 15, 2019 to be on the streets.

Within the period of a week, more than 2,100 people have started following local, regional, provincial and national Extinction Rebellion Facebook pages in Canada.

The Progressive International global network

DiEM25 (founded by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis) and The Sanders Institute (founded by Bernie Sanders' wife Jane Sanders) have issued a Call to Action "to create a global network of individuals and organizations that will fight together for dignity, peace, prosperity and the future of our planet."

Progressive International states, "Unfettered globalization promised peace and prosperity. But it delivered financial crisis, needless war, and disastrous climate change, instead."

It also promises to develop "a bold International New Deal."

NDP MP Niki Ashton has now joined the call for a Progressive International network.

What's next?

There are also strong divestment and Indigenous rights movements, as well as campaigns to stop pipelines and fossil fuel projects that fit into this picture.

It remains to be seen which of these movements can be sustained and make an impact and if there is space for collaboration among them.

It's also uncertain what roles traditional environmental non-governmental organizations, progressive political parties, the labour movement, grassroots activist groups, Indigenous peoples, people of colour/racialized peoples and others will play within these nascent movements.

Stay tuned!

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Twitter photo by Greta Thunberg.

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