These days, we’re witnessing the largest civil disobedience in the history of the environmental movement. People around the world are joining together in an unprecedented wave of escalated mass actions targeting the world’s most dangerous coal, oil and gas projects, under the banner of Break Free from fossil fuels.
The UK kicked off Break Free last week with three hundred people halting operations at the country’s largest opencast coal mine at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales for a day. The peaceful occupation and blockade ended with no arrests.
The following day, 10,000 marched in the Philippines calling for an end to coal — in a country where a month ago, police opened fire on farmers demanding relief for farm communities who have been hit heavily by a climate-change-exacerbated drought. Over the weekend, 2,000 Australians gathered in Newcastle to block the world’s largest coal port for a day.
Over the next couple of days, we will be seeing many more people around the world intensifying actions through peaceful civil disobedience. Nigerians will confront the oil industry, Brazilians will take action against fracking and Canadians are preparing to oppose a tar sands pipeline.
Thousands of people are expected to join an action to stop coal extraction in one of Europe’s biggest open-pit lignite mines in Lusatia, Germany between 13-16 May. Local communities there have struggled against mining and resettlement for decades. Now, Swedish state-owned company Vattenfall wants to sell its lignite operations to a Czech buyer — but the Swedish government needs to approve the deal.
The action called Ende Gelände (‘here and no further’) demands a coal phase-out now. The Swedish government and Vattenfall need to take responsibility and keep the coal in the ground, while the German government needs to put an end to coal. No more villages should be bulldozed, no new open-cast pits should be opened. The movement is pushing for a systemic shift to an energy system that prioritises people and the planet over corporate power and profit.
People from all over Europe are joining. Around 30 coaches from 13 countries have already been booked. Everyone, regardless of previous experience with similar actions, is welcome to join. There will be action trainings, legal briefings and workshops at the climate camp, which will be set up nearby the village of Proschim, which meets its own energy demands through community-based renewable sources but is slated to be eaten up by the mine.
2015 was the hottest year ever recorded and the impacts of climate change are already hitting communities around the world. The need to act on climate change has never been more urgent. Yet, while governments pledged to limit global warming to 1.5-2 ℃, there is a huge gap between their words and their actual plans for action.
It’s now up to ordinary people to close this gap by taking action to keep fossil fuels in the ground and accelerate the just transition to a community-based renewable energy system. That is why people everywhere are prepared to take escalated action like never before.