July 21, 2023

Climate activists demand rapid system change as heatwaves, fires and floods hit home

Global – The deadly extreme weather currently devastating communities, infrastructure, businesses and ecosystems across the globe (1) has sparked renewed demands from climate activists for a rapid transition to renewable energy for all. The climate crisis is here: in the last week alone, headlines from across Europe, North America, Asia, the Pacific and Africa paint a disturbing picture that demonstrates the urgent need for a collective, urgent implementation of climate solutions.

Despite climate impacts demonstrating the clear need for rapid change, in recent weeks the EU fell short of delivering an adequate renewables target while bilateral climate talks between China and the USA failed to bridge their divide with ‘substantial differences’ remaining. Climate activists are demanding braver politics and stronger policies to deliver a transition to energy and economic systems that ensures that polluters pay their fair share to deliver distributed renewable energies that allow communities to thrive.

In order to start reducing the human costs of the climate crisis that hundreds of millions of people are experiencing (and to abide by the Paris Agreement), governments must ensure 1.5TW of renewable energy installations annually from 2030 onwards. Activists are calling for a global renewable energy target to be formally adopted in December at this year’s climate negotiations hosted by UAE (COP28). But more critically, they are demanding that governments regularly tax the soaring profits that oil corporations are making for their shareholders from burning fossil fuels. The demand is for this finance to be used to rapidly accelerate the transition to renewable energy that benefits all, especially those most vulnerable to impacts and those that have least responsibility for global heating.

Namrata Chowdhary, Head of Public Engagement at 350.org said:

“The extreme weather we are seeing across the world underscores how climate impacts are inextricably linked to prevailing, systemic inequities across societies everywhere around the globe. From monsoons in India that have already caused over 100 deaths, flooding in South Korea and Japan, to unprecedented heatwaves in Europe and fires in North America – the glaring discrepancy between those whose lives and livelihoods are pushed to the brink by climate change, and those who are able to weather impacts comfortably, grows ever more stark. We already have the solutions to bring about a more equitable, safe, and secure world. What we need at this critical juncture is for global leaders to step up, and take the decisive action urgently needed to implement them”.

Nicolò Wojewoda, Europe Regional Director at 350.org said:

“Last year 18,000 people in Italy died in the Europe-wide heatwave. This year the climate crisis is striking once again with record-breaking temperatures putting lives – especially those of the most vulnerable – at risk, and putting significant pressure on our ecosystems and infrastructure which our existence relies on. My native country is suffering, and I am appalled by the government’s response to this crisis, which will do nothing but dig us deeper in the hole we’re trying to get out of. But I also take heart that momentum is growing, around the world, to accelerate the just transition to renewable energy for all. We demand economic and energy system change, so that governments ensure polluters pay for decentralised, renewable energy access that allows our communities to thrive.”

Landry Ninteretse, Africa Regional Director at 350.org said:

“According to new research released by Oxford University, a number of countries in Central and West Africa will face the highest surge in heat exposure if the 1.5-degree Celsius limit of global heating is surpassed. This, coupled with the extreme impacts such as prolonged drought, severe flooding, and cyclones witnessed across the continent in recent times, demonstrate the continent’s extreme vulnerability to the climate crisis. The solutions to this crisis and other intertwined energy, health, and development challenges the continent is facing lie in the deployment of decentralised, affordable, and people-centered renewable energy systems instead of counting on outmoded dirty fossil fuels. Africa must leverage the continent’s wealth of renewable energy potential to foster a pathway to a liveable future built on safe and sustainable energy systems.”

Joseph Sikulu, Pacific Managing Director at 350.org said:

“Across the continents, we’re seeing devastating heatwaves and flooding, and we know this is the climate crisis. This week, we held the first Pacific Loss and Damage dialogue in Samoa, a nation that has suffered intense cyclones, tsunamis, and coral bleaching events. Why should we sit back and wait for more loss of life and more damage to our islands, when fossil fuel executives sit in their offices earning obscene profits off of our suffering? This year, Vanuatu was hit by two Category 4 cyclones in one week, and unless the developed world urgently transitions away from fossil fuels and towards equitable renewable energy, we will miss our chance at staying below 1.5 and the cyclones will only get worse.”

May Boeve, Executive Director at 350.org, said: 

“This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to extreme and unpredictable weather events, which are happening because of the climate crisis. The connection is clearer than ever between fossil fuel companies, their obscene profits, government inaction, and the drastic impact being felt by millions. These events are no longer random occurrences: this is the new normal that we can expect without decisive action to implement the solutions we have on hand. We need to future-proof our world, call on our leaders to hold polluting industries accountable, and implement policies that safeguard the lives and livelihoods of everyday people.”

(1) Current ongoing impacts of the climate crisis include:


  • Deadly flooding has killed 40 people in South Korea and one in Japan, while in India a super-charged monsoon season has already killed 117 people through ‘rain related incidents’.
  • China has been suffering for weeks with temperatures exceeding 40C causing power outages as grids struggle to cope. In Japan heat stroke alerts have been issued in Tokyo and across 16 other prefectures as temperatures soar.


  • Heatwave peaking Tuesday and Wednesday with record minimum temperatures that are just as dangerous – Italy facing record temps (48+ degrees), wildfires in Greece, Switzerland, Turkey and the Canary Islands.
  • From the coast to the mountains – evacuations in villages in Switzerland evacuated, coastal towns/kids summer camps in Greece. Thousands of firefighters currently engaged across Europe.
  • Risk to health, especially the elderly and vulnerable. In Italy, hospital emergency departments and calls to emergency numbers have seen an uptick in use of around 20 percent in recent days, according to local media.

North America

  • Huge swathes of Canada are suffering with deadly wilfires fires due to high temperatures and dry conditions.
  • More than 100 million Americans are under extreme heat warnings. The “heat dome” over Death Valley caused temperatures to rise above 56C on Monday – close to the hottest ever recorded on Earth.
  • From California to Pennsylvania communities are being displaced and devastated from both wildfires and flooding.  Vermont has declared a state of emergency. The US National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for parts of the midwest, and a severe thunderstorm watch for other states.

Notes to Editor

Media Contacts:

Scientific commentary on the current swathe of climate impacts:

World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) statement July, 2023:

  • “Temperatures in North America, Asia, and across North Africa and the Mediterranean will be above 40°C for a prolonged number of days this week as the heatwave intensifies.”
  • “This trend shows no signs of decreasing. So we’re in for a bit of a ride, I’m afraid, and they will have quite serious impacts on human health and livelihoods.”

Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London:

  • “The science has really moved on when it comes to attributing individual weather events. And we know that every heatwave that is happening today is hotter and longer because of human-induced climate change.”
  • “And we know very well that as long as we keep burning fossil fuels, these temperatures will keep increasing temperature records will keep on getting broken.”