Imagine to be a part of a global united movement fighting for a living planet beyond climate and ecological breakdown and a life in dignity for all of us living on it; establishing all forms of (racial, climate, gender, class) justice within nations and between the global North and South, bringing the change for a sustainable society.
Imagine being the emergency break which stops the ongoing destruction of this beautiful planet and peoples’ livelihoods by the fossil society; which says “no” to the governments and stops the fossil fuel industry. The fires in the Amazonas and the Australian bushfires are real; so is the melting of the permafrost in Sibiria; the opening of new oil and coal infrastructure in Norway and Germany; and the financing of this destruction through Swiss banks. We need to change into a global emergency break, informing, stopping, blocking.
And imagine to be the dreamer and inventor of the new world, the sustainable one, creating with like-minded people the plans for the needed systemic holistic transformation and putting it into place, as teachers, architects, farmers, nurses, parents, industry workers, artists together with scientists: as people creating and working together in groups, even informed by ScientistsForFuture and uniting as PeopleForFuture, giving the lead to the ones most affected by the crises.
There is nothing like it now. But so many people around the world would like to join such a movement. So, let´s create it, for literally every person on this planet to join. The governments of almost all countries hold on to the status quo and ideas of “development” that are utterly unsustainable, bring more and more emissions and ultimately threaten breakdown of all societies. The last 10 years are the warmest ever measured. We are rushing towards a future with potentially billions of people living in uninhabitable places already within the life times of the young climate striker. And before ecosystems collapse, conflicts and violence are likely to emerge as glaciers melting away and famines from draught creates fights for water and land.
In order to be able to unite as such a united movement we need a compass which allows us to simultaneously be this emergency break and the inventors and realizers of the new world. When we march or strike or block, we need to formulate together the change we need to see. If everyone all over the world can stand up for the same core ideas, a compass for transformation, change will come.
This is a proposal for such a space and compass, which takes inspiration from the brilliant ideas of the young generation behind FridaysForFuture, the youth led movement for a livable future.
The rest is up to us adults from all walks of life, how we build our parallel and interconnected movement, we, the PeopleForFuture.
Rather than telling everyone what we exactly should demand and fight for, as political parties and many traditional civil society organisations do, we can start more broadly, making it possible to become a movement FOR movements, for everyone literally: being a member of a NGO, a grassroots movement, or just being oneself as concerned and engaged citizens. So, hopefully every movement, NGO or person would like to join and contribute to the common task.
Instead of organizing just one more march, or writing together one more text or doing one more campaign, can we organize an ongoing, connected force for real change. We must and can do all this in socially just ways so that we can live together in dignity within the limites of the planet and its ecosystems.
This is why it is important to present the compass in form of a framework and core values. It is then up to us as engaged people to invent and decide how exactly the transformation will look like in the places where we live and act. But we should not neglect the following framework and the following values.
This compass must be based upon clear foundations for sustainable societies. The following three documents provide solid common departure points: 1) the Paris agreement with both the goal of staying beneath 1.5 degrees warming, and the recognition of equity as a principle to achieving this; 2) the IPCC special report on 1,5°C which recognizes the severe impacts of even 1,5°C warming, and how extremely limited the remaining emission budget is for even a risky 2 in 3 chance of keeping below 1,5°C — 420 Gt in Jan 2018 and today (July 2020) less than 320 Gt; and 3) the UNEP Emissions Gap report which shows that the fossil fuel industry’s planned and existing fossil infrastructure corresponds to 50% higher emissions than compatible with 2°C and 120% higher emissions than compatible with 1,5°C.
The conclusion from these and other scientific reports that do not assume non-existing, risky future geo-engineering technologies or dubious off-setting and other false solutions show that the worldwide emissions have to go down by over 7 percent or more per year from now on; which means much higher reductions for richer countries — likely 12–15 percent each year. There is no plan for how to do this, by any government.
We do not accept our governments and societies sleep-walking into catastrophic futures. We can not accept the deforestation of the Amazonas rainforest anymore, the further export and acceptance of the wasteful way of life, the continued use of German coal power plants, the financing of the fossil society by the Swiss banks, the continued corruption and self-enrichment by elites in both poor and rich countries, and so on.
Formulating a framework based on fundamental, key pillars and a set of values creates a basis for systemic transformation. Such a framework should on the one hand expose how our governments fail, even as they claim to “follow Paris” or evade their responsibilities through “net zero 2050 goals”. And, on the other hand, such a framework should provide a specific enough compass for the transformation that is needed, with concreteness beyond the important principles of the Paris agreement and general calls to “listen to the science”:
The 3 pillars of the framework are
1) Stop the emissions and create emission budgets and political plans for the next ten years!
Introduce emissions budgets on all levels (global, national, local; following the 1.5 degree/67 percent-scenario of ca 320 Gt remaining; https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/chapter-2/);
and create — with systemic thinking and in a holistic way — climate action plans for all sectors (energy, transport, agriculture, finance, …) which show how the world can reduce its emissions in fair and equitable ways by >7 % per year from now on, the richer countries >12–15 % towards real zero emissions as fast as possible.
We can take part in this as teachers, architects, economists, scientists and so on. Build groups and start the work, and share it — our governments do not take the lead. The task is unprecedented and will require stringent regulations, bans, incentives, subsidies and social norms at a scale and ambition vastly exceeding today’s policies. But it can be done. And — it will require a reformulation of the very idea of ‘a good life for everyone within the planetary limits’.
2) Keep the fossil fuels (gas, oil, coal) in the ground by establishing a global
fossil fuel ”disarmament” treaty. Fossil fuels constitutes an existential threat on par with or exceeding weapons of mass destructions. Just like the world has dealt with nuclear weapons through collective action such as the nuclear non-proliferation and other disarmament treaties, we should/must call for a corresponding ‘Fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty’ which will ban all new building and investments in fossil infrastructure, and regulate and enable fair and equitable phase-out of existing fossil fuels as rapidly as possible (https://www.fossilfueltreaty.org/).
3) Establish a renewable global-local energy system and the infrastructure for a life in dignity for all. The transformation to 100% renewable energy provides unprecedented scope for new models of energy ownership, local economic development, democratization and participation. Wealthy countries with high historic emissions must support developing countries to undertake this renewable energy transition as part of their ‘fair share’ and climate justice obligations.
The 2 values are:
1) Let us do this with the value of social and climate justice and equity or fairness. This is not only the morally right way, but also the only way in practical terms– we can not put in place the transformative solutions needed without people agreeing and feeling a sense of fairness and justice. Economics and society must be structured in ways which do not harm the planetary boundaries (climate, biodiversity), while fulfilling the basic needs of every person (food, shelter, equality, political participation, education and so on). As importantly — equity and justice must also guide the far-reaching measures needed to enable people and communities to adapt to unavoidable impacts of climate change — and to compensate for, and address losses and damages for which one can not even adapt.
2) We strengthen a humane democracy by fighting and getting rid of all kinds of structures of dominance (gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, colonial…), allowing children, youth and the most affected by the climate and the many intertwined crises at the frontline take the lead. Let us size the momentum and build upon the demands for justice which the BlackLivesMatter movement and BIPOC-people articulate in so many places.
The basic idea is that if we combine the framework (3 pillars) and the sets of 2 values, we get a systemic holistic transformative politics. We cannot just cut emissions without guaranteeing that the poorest in our societies don’t suffer from it. The exact shape of this transformative politics must be discussed, developed, shaped and decided in different forms as participatory and democratic decision making approaches which will vary depending on cultural and societal contexts (e.g. social forums and citizen assemblies)
We must recognize there are different ways of taking action as part of the growing movement of movements, beyond participating in demonstrations, petitions, campaigns etc):
Activism 1: We can not accept the ongoing destruction; we have to take direct action and stop it.
Many historic examples of transformative social change have been centered on disruptive, direct action. Only a fraction of the potential power of a movement of movements have been unleased so far. Non-violent direct action like strikes and blockades at systemically important places (e.g. in front of parliaments) can be intensified. Direct actions to directly expose and stop destruction and extraction by fossil fuel companies through non-cooperation, boycotts, and various other forms of non violent direct action must be organized. Civil disobedience is an important aspect of democratic change.
Activism 2: But this is not enough. We must as a grassroots movement form continuous, ongoing and rapidly expanding common non-hierarchical platforms behind which everyone can stand, every day and allow us to boost our collective power. Such a platform can help us make governments and political parties accountable, all the time, both during election times and in between. And as importantly, such a platform can enhance our possibility to work together on a continuous, daily basis, spreading knowledge, producing insights, building power and setting the foundation for the needed transformative actions.
In short: If millions of people all over the living planet stand on a daily basis up for the same basic transformational principles and values, making their governments every day accountable for not respecting and acting on these principles and values, and if we everyday increase our direct actions to stop the destruction (also with civil disobedience) and make the needed change visible, we have the power as people to ensure that the necessary, transformative change will happen. This is far beyond a campaign or single actions. It is about the people standing up and organizing for their own and their fellow creatures’ and ecosystems’ survival and thriving.
(Many thanks to Niclas Hällström for the cooperation.)