Climate justice: a temperature check

By Chris W on October 27, 2016

From fracking to divestment and the impact of Brexit on climate legislation, Friends across Britain have been taking action on climate justice. Chris Walker, Sustainability & Peace Programme Manager, discusses some of the highlights and challenges climate justice has faced in 2016.

If you’re following the news about climate change, it’s hard to know whether to feel hope or despair. Are we closer than ever to a global deal to curb carbon emissions, or are we approaching climate catastrophe? If current trends continue, the truth could be a bit of both. This summer, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged states to ratify the 2015 Paris climate accord. The deal would obligate states to take concrete steps to reduce emissions and recognises a preference to limit warming to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It would

now take only a handful of large states ratifying the accord for it to come into force. Yet at the same time, scientists announced that 2015 was the warmest year on record. With governments and corporations continuing to back the fossil fuels industry, it’s hard to imagine how and when governments will translate their pledges made at Paris into action.

One reason for hope is that the movement for climate justice is gathering pace. This vision of climate justice, which many Friends have explored as part of QPSW workshops this year, is not just a hope that those in power will sign a climate deal. It’s about a deep shift towards a green and fair economy. It demands that the highest emitters (people, companies and states) cut their emissions the most, and that people take back democratic control of resources like energy. 2016 has seen a wealth of action for climate justice in Britain and beyond, and Friends are playing their part.

One focus for action has been shale gas fracking. Through the turbulent times of Brexit and a new cabinet, the government may have hoped to keep their unpopular support for carbon-intensive industry quiet. The government has backed local authorities to support new fracking operations, including in Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire. In August, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, proposed to allow individuals to profit from allowing fracking to impact their property – a policy already in place in the US that campaigners fear could in part unleash the industry in the UK. In North Yorkshire, local residents and campaigners have joined forces to resist the damage fracking will cause to the local environment and the climate. Pickering & Hull Area Meeting has lodged objections to fracking with the local authority, joined protests and written to the press. “We believe that the search for new fossil fuels”, said their letter, “…is incompatible with the responsible use of the earth’s resources.” This follows a wave of action on ‘extreme extraction’ of fossil fuels, including when Friends joined hundreds taking direct action at the Ffos-y-fran opencast coalmine in South Wales in May.

The vote for Brexit and the arrival of a new government has also seen Friends speak out on this issue. It remains to be seen how the UK will cooperate with the EU on collective efforts to reduce emissions. Yet in one of her first moves as Prime Minister, Theresa May closed down the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and moved climate responsibilities to the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS). Campaigners fear this may mean fewer resources for and less strategic focus on tackling climate change. This summer, Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW), along with Friends in local meetings, called on the government to explain its strategy to meet the UK’s climate responsibilities.

Yet demanding action from politicians has not been the only focus for action. Quakers continue to join the ever-growing Fossil Free divestment movement. Many Friends have already taken the step of withdrawing their finances from the fossil fuels industry, and some are looking into how to positively reinvest in a greener and fairer economy (see page 8 for more details). Quakers are joining universities, faith groups, and charities in the UK and beyond in what has been described as the fastest-growing divestment campaign in history. In August, Bill McKibben, an inspiring climate scientist and one of the founders of the global Fossil Free campaign, visited Friends House to meet with campaigners about what’s next for the movement. We’ll be keeping Friends up to date on this in the coming months.

Want to take action on climate justice? Find out more and get in touch

For all Friends concerned about climate justice, a key challenge is to find ways we can use our voices and our power to influence change towards a sustainable society and economy. Over the next year, QPSW is keen to help you and your meeting do that. To find out more about our work on climate justice, how you and your meeting can take action, and about fossil fuels divestment, go to www. Do you have an idea for taking action on climate justice locally? If you want to share news, or if we can help you, contact Chris on 020 7663 1047 or at






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