Climate protests across Britain on Saturday condemned world leaders’ broken promises and empty words at the Cop27 conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt.
Thousands joined the demonstrations as part of a global day of action initiated by the African climate movement. Similar demonstrations were set to take place across the world.
Around 7,000 people in London began protests outside the offices of one of the biggest climate-killing companies on the planet—fossil fuel giant Shell. Helena told Socialist Worker she joined the demonstration because she “couldn’t afford to fall into despair” over climate change.
She added that it was “appalling” that Cop27 will see the largest number of fossil fuel delegates in the history of the Cop conferences. “They’ll be the largest proportion of lobbyists at this year’s Cop,” she said. “If financial interests rule the conference, those in power will compromise.”
Helena said she was protesting because activists in Egypt, which is ruled by the Western-backed regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, have been robbed of that right. There were several Egyptian solidarity groups at the demonstration.
Sohayb Farag, an Egyptian activist, told Socialist Worker, “We are seeking climate justice in Egypt, but it’s not easy to get change. We need free speech so we can speak up. We can’t do this under the regime of dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
“He has put over 60,000 prisoners in jail. If you protest over anything you can be locked away, even if you are protesting for the water or trees or green space.”
“Sisi is using Cop27 as a greenwash,” Sohayb added. “He’s using it to cover up how Egypt contributes to climate change and to cover up human rights abuses.”
Christopher, a US Indigenous activist, said world leaders choosing to host the conference in “an authoritarian country like Egypt is a way to try and cut out civil society from Cop”. “Those in power have made this decision so they can hold their backroom deals in peace,” he said.
As they marched down the streets, Egyptian activists chanted, “Free free, Egypt,” and, “Sisi killer, Sisi butcher.”
The demonstration marched from the Shell headquarters to Trafalgar Square in central London. Protesters held placards that read, “Shell stop ruining the planet,” and, “No climate justice without human rights.”
Protesters raged at the Tories’ push to introduce new draconian laws aimed at climate protesters. Ian from Luton Extinction Rebellion told Socialist Worker, “They’re trying to squash us and shut us up in Britain too.
“The right wing government wants to introduce a new Public Order Bill that really targets the tactics of our movement. Seeing that Just Stop Oil (JSO) protesters are being preemptively arrested should be a wake-up call.”
Ian added that he thought the left should mount a proper response to these attacks. RMT union member Arthur agreed. “The same laws that are used against climate activists will be used against trade unions,” he told Socialist Worker. “Handing the police more power will be a disaster for the workers’ movement.”
A popular chant at the protest was, “One struggle, one fight—climate justice, worker’s rights.” The demonstration was joined by activists from the Unison, UCU, NEU, and PCS unions.
Many of the people on the march agreed that world leaders’ climate pledges won’t be the best thing to come out of Cop. As Helena said, “The best thing to come out of Cop27 will always be the mobilisation of ordinary people against it.”
Meanwhile, thousands of people joined a demonstration in Edinburgh and around 1,500 marched in Sheffield. Over 500 took to the streets in Bristol. The banner at the front of the march read, “The world is on fire, only people power will put it out.”
At least 500 came out in Plymouth for a loud and lively protest with banners from the Unison, PCS and NEU unions. In Norwich, 200 activists turned out to hear speeches, including from students in the Fridays4Future group. Another 250 rallied in Portsmouth and 200 in Brighton. In Blackpool protesters were joined by JSO, the PCS and the local Labour Party.
We need more mass mobilisation to take on the world leaders, the corporations and their profit system that’s driving climate catastrophe.
Keep up pressure on the streets
They targeted the Egyptian embassy
But it’s only a change of language