Around 140 climate activists gathered to debate how to take the fight for ecological justice forward in Bristol on Saturday.
A similar meeting, also organised under the “climate emergency summit” banner, drew around 120 in Manchester.
Bristol climate striker Aden made the case for giving young people a chance to vote in elections.
“We should be living in a functioning democracy, but we’re not,” he said.
“The youth are ignored—we have kids being arrested on the streets as part of protest with Extinction Rebellion.
“We want the vote but the Tories don’t want to do that because they’ll lose—they’re scared of people, the people they’re meant to represent.”
The electric atmosphere from Friday’s 30,000-strong march headed by Greta Thunberg (see left) filtered through to the afternoon’s sessions. The summit also heard from local campaigners such as Tarisha Finnegan-Clarke from Bristol Airport Action Network.
She reflected on the recent council decision not to expand Bristol Airport, and a recent court ruling that blocks Heathrow’s third runway.
“It seems the aims of the Paris Agreement was not at the forefront of the minds of the owners of Bristol Airport,” she said.
“In the second phase of our campaign we will fight to keep them accountable to it.”
Students and workers debated how to grow the climate movement that has reached unprecedented levels in Bristol and across Britain.
Huw Williams, a Unison union member, said, “It’s great to see trade union banners on climate strikes, but let’s be honest, the trade union movement has not stepped up to the plate.
“Let’s face up to the climate emergency now and think about what we can do before Cop26.” The United Nations Cop26 talks in Glasgow are a key organising focus for many climate activists.
Suzanne Jeffery, chair of Campaign against Climate Change, said November’s negotiations meant activists in Britain “have a very specific responsibility to deliver a movement with deep social roots”.
In a session on building the climate strikes, University of Bristol student David said union members and students were organising to join school strikers on future action dates.
The next school strike is set for 13 March and a national rebellion is planned for 23 May.
Climate activists should use any opportunity to throw themselves into building a bigger and stronger movement.
We won’t budgie,’ says XR
Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists staged a three-day protest against coal mine expansion in north east England last week.
Rebels are fighting plans to expand the Bradley mine at Pont Valley in County Durham.
Activists, some dressed as canaries, scaled over and crawled under barbed wire fences to gain access to the site. “If things got unsustainable for life underground, the canaries down the mine used to peg it before the miners did,” one said.
“Here we are, trying to stop the coal mine because there’s no need for coal.”
The operation is owned by Banks Mining, which has issued a planning application to expand.
It would see an extra 90,000 tonnes of coal and 20,000 tonnes of fireclay mined a year.
Protester Paul Shepherd said, “We hope Banks’ shareholders sell their shares or put pressure on the management to divest from coal.”
Workers need green jobs
Drax, Britain’s biggest power plant, is due to stop burning coal next year.
The plans mean the plant in Yorkshire is four years ahead of the government’s 2025 ban on coal-fire electricity.
The plans could see up to 230 jobs cut—underlining the important of having workers at the heart of the energy transition.
Workers threatened by Drax’s plans could be employed in the renewable energy sector, and in building the vital infrastructure needed to cope with climate catastrophe.
The Drax Group claims to be on track to become “carbon negative” by 2030.
But it also wants to replace two coal-fire power units with gas-fired units, and build a further two gas-fire units on the same site.