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tightens its calendar for coal phase-out and New Zealand/Aotearoa announces an end to new permits for oil exploration.

In and of themselves, none of these measures cut deeply or quickly enough for the change we need, nor do they begin to touch the estimated $775 billion in fossil fuel subsidies. But academics Fergus Green and Richard Denniss believe the policies signal an important shift: the emergence of new ‘global norms’. These norms are starting to interact with the ways states perceive themselves in a similar way to past moral campaigns on slavery and apartheid. As the social legitimacy of post-carbon economics builds, they see a meaningful climate accord coming back within reach.15 When you consider Kingsmill Bond’s observation that four-fifths of people live in countries that import fossil fuels, a new geopolitical landscape in which countries start to bid for energy independence and break with the current consensus begins to enter the realms of possibility.16

A world to win On 15 March 2019, the day after Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique, over a million students around the world walked out of school in protest against governments’ failure to tackle climate change.

In Oxford, the atmosphere was celebratory and sombre. Two boys weighed up whether to turn their Krispy Kreme doughnut box into a placard. One teenager’s sign predicted that her children will ‘die from climate change’.

Walking among the students I recognized scientists from the talk by Danish climate expert Rogelj. ‘It makes you feel like the work you’ve been doing over the years pays off,’ said a smiling Karsten Haustein, who studies extreme weather events. ‘The message is getting through.’

In our current political landscape, ideas move fast. The global school strikes movement has spread from the loneprotest of a single Swedish schoolgirl in August 2018 to over 2,200 cities and towns, in 128 countries. Alongside it, the Green New Deal (GND) movement has emerged in the US, catapulted into mainstream politics by Sunrise, another youth-led movement. Championed by 29-year-old socialist Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, its radical plan – to fully decarbonize the US economy while addressing social inequality and repairing the historic oppression of indigenous communities – has captured the public imagination and transformed the US climate debate. At the last count, 100 Democrats have agreed to co-sponsor the GND resolution, and 10 presidential runners back it.

Another brand-new movement, Extinction Rebellion, has also appeared since October 2018, blocking London bridges, targeting government ministries and firing up a new cadre of activists. Moving in step is the ‘climate emergency’ movement, which has spread from Australia, and works to hold local officials to their green pledges. They join the many thousands already pursuing direct action, lawsuits and climate advocacy around the world.

The desire to build a better society within Earth’s boundaries is reshaping politics. As different constituencies align and start pulling together, we can start to tell new stories about the future. This isn’t about looking on the bright side, it’s about seeing where opportunities lie and seizing them with both hands. We still have an outside chance: from where we stand, to fail would still be a choice. In 2050, we may yet look back and ask, ‘How did we do that?’ ●

1 ‘Climate change making storms like Idai more severe, say experts’, The Guardian, 19 March 2019. 2 ‘Global Warming of 1.5°C’, IPCC Special Report, October 2019. 3 ‘The impacts of climate change at 1.5°C, 2°C and beyond’, Carbon Brief. 4 ‘Climate’s holy trinity’, lecture by Professor Kevin Anderson at Oxford Climate Society January 2019. View video at 5 Global Carbon Budget 2018. CarbonBudget2018 6 ‘Faster CO2 rise expected in 2019’, MetOffice, 25 January 2018. 7 Global Carbon Atlas CO2Emissions 8 ‘Costa Rica launches “unprecedented” push for zero emissions by 2050’, Reuters, 25 February 2019. 9 ‘Climate change policy can be overwhelming. Here’s a guide to the policies that work’,, 16 November 2018. 10 Chancel & Pikketty, ‘Carbon and inequality: from Kyoto to Paris’, Paris School of Economics, November 2015. 11 ‘World’s Richest Must Radically Change Lifestyles to Prevent Global Catastrophe’, Democracy Now, 11 December 2018. 12 ‘The Oil Industry’s Covert Campaign to Rewrite American Car Emissions Rules’, The New York Times, December 2018. 13 ‘Interactive: how climate finance flows around the world’, Carbon Brief, December 2019. ClimateFinanceFlows 14 ‘Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food system’ 16 January 2019.; ‘Guiding the transition to sustainable food and agricultural systems, the 10 elements of agroecology’, FAO, 2018; ‘Missing Pathways to 1.5°C’, CLARA, October 2018. 15 Fergus Green & Richard Denniss, ‘Cutting with both arms of the scissors: the economic and political case for restrictive supply-side climate policies’, Climatic Change, September 2018. ConstrainSupply 16 ‘A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation’, Carbon Tracker and Irena, 19 January 2019.

MAY- JUNE 2019

Climate justice


CLIMATE SCIENCE Best source of data on CO2 emissions Tracks progress of countries News and analysis UN climate science body, IPCC Land use, agriculture and climate change

TRANSITION POLICY Scenarios for a zero-emissions society Text of the US Green New Deal resolution Global manifesto for climate justice Network of cities ramping up ambition Interactive low-carbon roadmap

ACTION Organizing to keep fossil fuels in the ground Extinction Rebellion, civil disobedience Opposing Australia’s megacoalmine. Action at local authority level Kickstart your own transition Commit your firm to 100% renewables Canadians tackle climate, inequality and racism

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