By Sarah Bates
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Protest can turn climate chaos into Tory chaos for Johnson

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Issue 2691
Students march in London during a school climate strike last year
Students march in London during a school climate strike last year (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Boris Johnson has lurched into the chaos of cobbling together a team and strategy for hosting the United Nations (UN) Cop26 talks in Glasgow.

Johnson held a disastrous launch last week, where he failed to announce plans to cut carbon emissions or organise a strategy for Cop in November.

And since he suddenly sacked Claire O’Neill as Cop26 president, Johnson has had trouble filling the post. Former Tory leaders David Cameron and William Hague have both rejected the offer of the position.

But that’s not Johnson’s only fire to fight. Whitehall and the Scottish government are locked in an “extraordinary state of standoff,” according to O’Neill.

A key point of contention is whether the Glasgow Science Centre will be used by the Scottish government teams or as an official Cop26 venue.

And the two administrations are battling over who will foot the estimated £200 million policing bill for the event.

Megan Rose from Scottish Youth Climate Strike told Socialist Worker, “Cop26 is a burden and an opportunity but I wouldn’t want it to happen anywhere else.

“Cop25 didn’t deliver anything anyone was looking for, so there’s a lot of pressure.

“The Cop26 outcomes are ­hanging on what the British government does, but it’s quite behind—it doesn’t even have a president.”

Capitalism—a system rigged for oil
Capitalism—a system rigged for oil
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School climate strikes set for Friday of this week mark a year since school and college students first walked out to demand urgent action.

It’s been 12 months of inspiring activism that has reinvigorated the climate justice movement on the streets.

Megan said strikes are planned in March, April and May—with action planned as far as September. Activists plan a strike to mark the anniversary of the global 20 September action.

One focus of the Glasgow strike is to encourage trade unionists to march alongside students this Friday.

“It always lifts everyone’s spirits,” said Megan. “Workers bringing banners is an easy way to show cross generational support—and the trade unions have a long history in going on strike and showing solidarity.”

Megan helped to organise the first strike in Glasgow that drew around 150 students a year ago.

That movement grew massively—she also led the 15,000-strong march through the city in September.

She said strikers are “changing public opinion—now we’re got to change the leaders”.

“They are listening and we’ve definitely made progress,” she said.

“I’ve been to the Scottish parliament and we’ve seen some change in policies. We’re making a difference, now we need to ramp it up a little bit more.”

An epic protest—campaigners occupy the British Museum
An epic protest—campaigners occupy the British Museum (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Activists make BP sponsorship British Museum’s Achilles’ heel

Activists occupied the British Museum with a 13-foot Trojan horse over three days last week. The action was called by the BP or not BP campaign group.

During the 51-hour occupation, activists held a number of different actions to call on the museum to cut ties with BP.

The multinational oil and gas company sponsors the museum’s Troy—Myth and Reality exhibition.

Victor, one of the organisers of the protest, told Socialist Worker, “The British Museum is an institute of learning.

“Climate complicity and harassing indigenous people has no place here.”

Despite the climate crisis BP plans to spend £56 billion over the next ten years drilling for even more oil and gas.

Protest organisers said their Trojan horse symbolised BP’s attempts to use art and culture sponsorship to mask its climate crimes.

BP has signed a number of sponsorship deals with cultural institutions including The National Portrait Gallery and The Royal Opera House.

But its attempts to present itself as an ethical company will not erase its bloody history.

Protests have already forced The Royal Shakespeare Company to end its partnership with BP.

Ann, a divestment activist from Lewes in Sussex, said, “We need to make BP socially unacceptable.”

Solidarity with indigenous people was also part the protest.

Campaigners from Senegal and West Papua—a region of New Guinea, north of Australia—spoke of the crimes BP had committed in their countries.

In West Papua BP is collaborating with the Indonesian military. It is complicit in the murder and torture of activists in order to secure gas reserves found in the region.

Raki Ap, an activist originally from West Papua, told Socialist Worker, “The rights of indigenous people to self-determination go hand in hand with the climate movement.

“We have to work together to stop corporate interests destroying our planet.”

Sophie Squire

Some 30,000 people joined a march called by Extinction Rebellion last October
Some 30,000 people joined a march called by Extinction Rebellion last October (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Extinction Rebellion demo could be crucial next step

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is organising a national demonstration through the streets of London on Saturday of next week.

XR has called on people to take to the streets against police clampdowns, attempts to label activists as extremists, government failures and devastating climate catastrophe.

The march has the potential to be massive, with a real, radical edge.

A “grief march” last October brought central London to a standstill as at least 30,000 rebels wound their way from Hyde Park to Russell Square.

And the protest—organised at short notice with little publicity—far outstripped the numbers on the streets during the rest of the October Rebellion fortnight of action.

It’s a hugely welcome development that XR is looking for ways to show its collective strength.

Smaller scale direct action stunts play an important role in training activists, causing disruption and building awareness about the climate emergency.

But large scale protests are vitally important in building the kind of mass movement needed to take on climate delayers and deniers at the top of society.

Actions of ordinary people have an impact. It was only after the hugely successful April rebellion that parliament declared a climate emergency.

But we have to push further—and that means more people taking to the streets.

“When parliament declared a climate and environment emergency, the very same day the government agreed to the Heathrow airport expansion,” said rebel Sam.

“The only thing that will halt this emergency is every person coming together and demanding systemic change. Together we are strong.”

XR’s method of organising civil disobedience has convinced huge numbers of ordinary people into being “rebels for life”.

We need more strikes, protests and occupations demanding climate justice.

And this month’s climate strike and XR mobilisation is the best place to start.

Join the XR demo, Sat 22 February, 1pm in ­Central London. For updates go to Enough Is Enough: Together We March on Facebook

Tories choo-choose HS2

HS2 is going ahead—at least for now.

The government announced this week that plans to construct the bloated high speed railway were still on track.

Chancellor Sajid Javid said it had “weighed up the pros and cons” of the project, which is expected to cost at least £100 billion.

He called for “better connectivity between the great cities of the north”.

HS2 is due to run from London to Birmingham, from where two branches will go to Leeds and Manchester. It is projected for completion by 2040.

But it is already years delayed and the estimated cost is over double the initial sum.

To defer attention from high speed railway chaos the government also announced £5 billion investment on new buses and cycling routes.

But that’s far less than is needed, and the real issue is to take them back into public ownership.

HS2 is hugely environmentally destructive and will pour money into private firms—it should be scrapped entirely.

Destruction in Blackpool in the wake of storm Ciara
Destruction in Blackpool in the wake of storm Ciara (Pic: Neil Terry)

Left at mercy of the storm

“Storm of the century” Ciara battered Britain last weekend, causing devastating floods and gales of up to 97 miles per hour.

Around half a million homes suffered flooding and electricity cuts, with 20,000 households spending Sunday night without power.

A month and a half of rainfall fell in 24 hours in some areas, and hundreds of flood warnings were in place.

Many areas hit were still recovering from previous floods.

The authorities have failed to act to protect against future flooding. People were bracing for blizzards and dangerous levels of snow and ice as Socialist Worker went to press.

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