Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Climate Action: Can We Change the Climate From the Grassroots Up?

Insights + Opinion
Climate Action: Can We Change the Climate From the Grassroots Up?
Eucador's Waorani indigenous people celebrated a court ruling against oil extraction on their ancestral lands.

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Alarming headlines regarding the climate crisis often overshadow positive actions taken by citizens around the world, but that doesn't mean they're not happening.

They are, and sometimes with considerable success. DW looks at some civil society victories.


Blocking Fossil Fuels

Despite scientific warnings, governments and companies continue to green light fossil fuel projects around the world. But in many instances, these authorizations are accompanied by protests.

1. Hema Thermal Power Plant

Earlier this year, after more than a decade of vocal opposition to the planned Hema thermal power plant, villagers in the coastal Turkish region of Amasra welcomed a court ruling that rejected its construction. Locals had not only feared the destruction of their land, but also the impacts on their health and that of their children.

Amasra villagers have been protesting for years to prevent the construction of a power plant.

The win is a milestone for Turkish climate activists, whose struggle to stop the expansion of fossil fuel plants in the country still has a long way to go.

2. Rocky Hill Open-Cut Mine

Locals around the Australian town of Gloucester experienced similar satisfaction when a national court rejected a plan to build the Rocky Hill open-cut coal mine on the basis that it would increase greenhouse gas emissions at a time when they needed to be reduced. It took those involved in fighting the plans about a decade to achieve success.

It took protesters a decade to fight plans of an open-cut coal mine.

The judge said the negative impacts outweighed its economic and public benefits. Australia is the fourth largest coal producer in the world.

3. Hambach Forest

Germany has become the setting for one of the most iconic fights against coal mining in Europe.

Hundreds of people have spent five years living in tree houses in a bit to prevent a tiny fraction of the Hambach forest in North Rhine-Westphalia from being razed for the expansion of a nearby open-pit coal mine that has already devoured dozens of villages and 90% of the forest.

In 2018, the anti-coal movement brought together thousands of people in Germany's biggest climate march. A few months later, authorities agreed on a moratorium on logging. Only until 2020, however, so theirs is a bittersweet victory.

4. Divesting Money

More and more people are demanding that investors, such as faith-based organizations and pension funds, withdraw their financial support from fossil fuel projects. The global divestment movement has convinced over 1,000 institutions to commit to divesting from oil, coal and gas companies. This translates to almost $8 trillion (€7 trillion) less in assets from fossil fuel investments.

"The momentum has been driven by a people-powered grassroots movement, ordinary people on every continent pushing their local institutions to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry and for a world powered by 100% renewable energy," the NGO 350.org says.

Thousands Coming Together

Climate protests have long been a niche for dedicated eco warriors, but this year, they've become increasingly mainstream.

1. Fridays for Future

Kids who go on strike to protect their future are becoming the new normal. The Fridays for Future movement has managed to capture everyone's attention — in a way that not even the iconic images of starving polar bears achieved.

It all began with Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg skipping school on Fridays to take a lone stand outside her country's parliament. That singular action has since spurred hundreds of thousands of young people worldwide to participate in Friday school strikes calling for decisive climate action.

2. Extinction Rebellion

In early 2019, a mass civil disobedience campaign emerged on the streets of London. The protest group, which includes members of all ages and walks of life, occupied iconic sites in the English capital and saw some of its number strip off inside parliament.

A week of disruptive actions in April led to the arrest of more than 1,000 people, but it also scored the group considerable global attention. The movement has since expanded to more than 30 countries.

3. We Are Still In

U.S. President Donald Trump's intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement came as a shock, but U.S. American civil society quickly recovered. They gathered strength and created the We Are Still In coalition.

Since then, the group has tripled in size and now totals over 3,500 institutions, including local governments, faith communities, businesses and universities.

The group has generated hundreds of climate commitments, businesses have pledged to meet climate targets and over 100 U.S. cities have committed to switching to 100% percent renewable energy.

The Climate Crisis Goes to Court

Globally, more than a thousand court cases are demanding governments and polluters comply with laws to protect citizens. Some have already achieved success.

1. The Urgenda Case

In 2015, a group of Dutch citizens decided to hold their government accountable for contributing to climate change.

In a landmark ruling, a court in the Hague ordered the Netherlands government to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in the country by at least 25% within five years. However, the Dutch government appealed the decision and a final decision is now expected from the Netherlands' Supreme Court.

Whatever happens, the Urgenda case is seen by many as the climate's greatest legal milestone. It has inspired lawsuits across the world.

2. Waorani Against Oil

Earlier this year, Ecuador's Waorani indigenous people celebrated a court ruling that suspends the sale of the community's territory in the remote Amazon for the pursuit of oil extraction. The result came after more than five years of opposition from the indigenous group.

This victory could also mark a turning point for other indigenous communities struggling to defend their land rights and oppose oil exploration.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DW.

Seabirds often follow fishing vessels to find easy meals. Alexander Petrov / TASS via Getty Images

By Jim Palardy

As 2021 dawns, people, ecosystems, and wildlife worldwide are facing a panoply of environmental issues. In an effort to help experts and policymakers determine where they might focus research, a panel of 25 scientists and practitioners — including me — from around the globe held discussions in the fall to identify emerging issues that deserve increased attention.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A damaged home and flooding are seen in Creole, Louisiana, following Hurricane Laura's landfall on August 27, 2020. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Elliott Negin

What a difference an election makes. Thanks to the Biden-Harris victory in November, the next administration is poised to make a 180-degree turn to again address the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The new variant, known as B.1.1.7, spread quickly through southeastern England in December, causing case numbers to spike and triggering stricter lockdown measures. Hollie Adams / Getty Images

By Suresh Dhaniyala and Byron Erath

A fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found in at least 10 states, and people are wondering: How do I protect myself now?

Read More Show Less
A seagull flies in front of the Rampion offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom. Neil / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.

Read More Show Less

By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

Read More Show Less