“Climate and social justice,” “system change not climate change,” and simply “enough is enough” were among the messages of the posters young demonstrators hoisted when they marched outside COP26 in Glasgow on Nov. 5. This demonstration of 25,000 coincided with the climate conference’s Youth and Public Empowerment DayA select group of youth activists were invited in to share their appeals to world leaders to make concrete promises and take action to save the planet.
Post-COP26, it seems leaders didn’t heed these rallying cries. There has been widespread criticism that the incremental steps in the Glasgow Climate Pact — see “phasing down” of coal — won’t be enoughGlobal temperatures should not rise above 1.5 C. This will have irreparable effects like the flooding of low-lying areas. The consequences of a political system that is heavily dependent upon the fossil fuel sector were evident to COP delegates.
Greta Thunberg of Fridays For Future, who mobilized the COP26 youth protest, was one of many who blasted the conference as a failure and a “Global North greenwash festival.” More notably, Thunberg International leaders were urged by the group to recognize we can’t solve our environmental crises without addressing the root of the problem: extractive economies and inequities dating to colonialism.
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Thunberg’s call to widen our lens on the climate crisis to consider the systems that uphold oppression and injustice — like colonialism, capitalism and white supremacy — is in line with the youth climate activist zeitgeist. These youth see climate justice as their goal, and not just halting the climate change. This awakening is indicative of a shifting public narrative about social change and how to achieve it.
Canada is facing many crises, including COVID-19, Indigenous reconciliation and racial injustice, the growing wealth gap as well as the ecosystem collapse, housing crisis, precarious work, and the climate emergency. One thing is becoming increasingly clear: these issues are interconnected and have common causes.
These issues require bold systems change. It is not possible to solve them without radical policy changes. You can make changes such as wealth taxes, shifting subsidies to low-carbon and carbon-intensive sectors, circular economic strategies, massive investments, and other important ones. All forms of infrastructureNew consumption regulations are required.
Social change has always been a hindrance to bold system changes. It has been the limiting agent. Social change refers to a shift in the collective will to move in one direction. Chemistry teaches us that the limiting reagent in a chemical reaction is the first ingredient consumed. It limits the product that can be made.
As the pandemic showed, social change ultimately determines whether our leaders are allowed to take drastic actions. Social change is the missing ingredient in the climate crisis. To bring about the required change, broad social change is needed to challenge and redefine our economy in a way that protects our natural environment.
While we’re in an all-hands-on-deck moment, the community sector (charities, non-profits, social enterprises, and foundations) — with deep community connections and awareness of how social issues intersect — has an integral role in supporting a successful societal transition.
Tim Draimin, senior fellow at Community Foundations of Canada, explains philanthropic organizations like endowed foundations “should be the research and development for front-line work around social change.” He adds while there are organizations supporting practical aspects of climate action — like Green Economy Canada, a non-profit that supports organizations with plans to reduce their carbon footprint and get to net-zero — it’s equally important for the community sector to support citizen mobilization and reinforce democratic values.
We need widespread policy change to combat climate crisis. Please write @ml_baldwin & @devikashah. #ClimateCrisis #ActOnClimate #ClimateJustice #ClimateAction #transition #transformation
It is well known that people-powered movements are crucial to social change. In his analysis ofCOP26: The path forwardGeorge Monbiot, political and environmental activist, was citedThe rule of 25 percentAs the magic number required to influence government and industry through cultural norms. He argues that “just as the complex natural systems on which our lives depend can flip suddenly from one state to another, so can the systems that humans have created.”
How can we tip the scales? Building partnerships between the community sector, grassroots organizations and other organizations is one way to help movements for social change. It can be difficult to connect. Many grassroots initiatives don’t have charitable status, so it’s often It is difficult to secure donations.
There are still opportunities for the community sector, however, to forge new partnerships by providing unrestricted financing or incubating grassroots organisations on their journey to becoming registered charities. Community Foundations of Canada hosts, for example, the Indigenous Peoples Resilience FundThe, which provides infrastructure support and an all-Indigenous advisory team retains control over governance.
In Québec, Climate Justice Organizing HubThis non-profit helps to fill the gap in supporting grassroots organizations that work towards climate justice. The HUB is a “support structure designed around the needs of grassroots social movement organizers in so-called Canada,” offering capacity-building resources for youth organizers. The HUB is supported by both micro-funding as well as working with NGOs and ENGOs that offer expertise and resources.
The largest and most vocal of the HUB’s networks and groups is the Quebec student climate movement. This small group of student associations are well-known for their extensive organizing. Turning out 500,000 people to the streets of Montreal during 2019’s global climate strike, inspired by the Fridays For Future movement.
Tom Liacas, the Climate Justice Organizing HUB’s founder, explains how all Canadian student organizations are dealing with the same issues that the international movement. Canadian youth are taking action on intersecting issues such as Black Lives Matter and defunding police, migrant workers rights, and Indigenous justice movements, like Land Back. They are role models for all of us by being there for the crises that face us today.
COP26 was a demonstration of the failure of world leaders to try to solve the climate crisis and continue business as usual. To ensure an equitable transition out the climate crisis, post COVID, it is necessary to invest in inclusive, equitable networks and movements to promote social change.