Covid-19 has dominated global news in 2020, but even the pandemic has not stymied a new generation of activists mobilizing for action on interconnected grievances of climate breakdown, economic inequality and social injustice.
Claire Burgess and Rupert Read
For this publication on environmental activism and the law, we interviewed representatives of Extinction Rebellion (XR) in the United Kingdom and Australia to explore their views on the goals, tactics and challenges for the movement. This report features interviews conducted in late 2019 with Claire Burgess (then regional coordinator XR Southern Tasmania, Australia) and Rupert Read (spokesperson for XR England and Reader in Philosophy, University of East Anglia). Both interviews, with identical questions, were conducted by Benjamin J Richardson, Professor of Environmental Law, University of Tasmania.
New Protest Movements Shaping our Future
Edited by Benjamin J. Richardson
Paul Manly, Jonathan Bartley and Chlöe Swarbrick
For this edition on environmental activism and the law, we examined how contemporary green political parties construe their role and relevance when many environmentalists including the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement are bypassing parliamentary processes by taking to the streets as well as by proposing alternate forms of political engagement such as convening national citizens’ assemblies. This report features interviews conducted in early 2020 with Paul Manly (MP, House of Commons, Green Party of Canada); Chlöe Swarbrick (MP, New Zealand Parliament, Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand); and Jonathan Bartley (Co-leader of the Green Party of England andWales, and councillor on Lambeth Council, London). Each interviewee responded to the same questions, which are detailed below. The interviews were conducted by Emma Thomas, XR Vancouver (interviewed Paul Manly); Trevor Daya-Winterbottom, FRGS, Associate Professor in Law, University of Waikato, and Deputy Chair of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law (interviewed Chlöe Swarbrick); and Benjamin J Richardson, Professor of Environmental Law, University of Tasmania (interviewed Jonathan Bartley).
This article examines the conflicting subjectivities and space-times of Indigenous and colonial law that underpin the recent shutdown of the Canadian economy as people barricaded railways and ports in solidarity with the Witsuwit'en hereditary chiefs’ blockade against the Coastal GasLink pipeline across their territory. The article argues that this conflict between Canadian and Witsuwit'en law reflects fundamental tensions between their respective foundations in relations of the commodity and the gift. Within settler capitalist society, the value of a commodity is constructed relationally through a political economy of exchange that aims to speed transactions to maximize profits. With an ongoing drive for time-space compression, there is continual pressure in settler capitalism to develop new infrastructure that can speed the circulation of commodities. In Witsuwit'en society, the gift presents a contrasting logic of place-time extension. Rather than focusing on closing transactions to increase profits, gift giving stretches reciprocal obligations into the past and future. Contrasting these distinct conceptions of the relationship between value and time, the article argues that the Witsuwit'en struggle with Coastal GasLink should be understood as conflict between colonial temporal enclosures and a radical promise to open futures different to those engendered by the colonial present.
This article examines whether large-scale grassroots activism might be a necessary condition for achieving transformational climate change action, and examines whether Extinction Rebellion (XR), which has had a remarkable impact in a very short time, might – unlike its predecessors – be capable of precipitating such change. Reviewing the evidence, the article suggests that such activism, even if necessary, is unlikely to be sufficient to bring about rapid and radical climate action. It might, however, prove to be an important change agent, through its contribution to a broader coalition of business and civil society actors or through harnessing ‘webs of influence’. How such a coalition might evolve, or web influence play out, is also explored.
China officially launched seven state pilot ETS programs starting in 2013 and initiated a national ETS in 2017 respectively. The many accumulated experiences from the pilot programs include such findings as the importance of setting realistic targets balancing the needs for carbon reductions with those of economic growth and pollution control and the need for legislation specifying the actions to be taken, provisions for disclosure, allowance allocations, offsets, infrastructure building, monitoring reporting and verification, and adoption of a compliance mechanism. Deficiencies in the pilot programs are evaluated, such as those derived from lack of a national legal basis and unified rules for the carbon market, an excess of free allocation of allowances, a lack of liquidity of the market, lenient punishment for non-compliance, and absence of a sound monitoring and regulatory mechanism. The requisites for sound market-based programs are described, with particular emphasis on the need for a comprehensive legal basis on which programs can be built. The pluses and minuses of cap and trade market-based programs versus carbon taxes are explored in depth, including the possibilities of combining the two systems. Various bottom up and top down approaches are explored and the key elements of success and failure.
Corrie Grosse and Brigid Mark
Youth activists around the world are demanding urgent climate action from elected leaders. The annual United Nations climate change negotiations, known as COPs, are key sites of global organizing and hope for a comprehensive approach to climate policy. Drawing on participant observation and in-depth interviews at COP25 in 2019, this research examines youth climate activists’ priorities, frustrations and hopes for creating just climate policy. Youth are disillusioned with the COP process and highlight a variety of ways through which the COP perpetuates colonial power structures that marginalize Indigenous peoples and others fighting for justice. This is intersectional exclusion – the character of exclusion experienced by people with multiple intersecting marginalized identities. We demonstrate that the space, policies and even the social movement organizing at COP25 are exclusive, necessitating new ways of negotiating, building relationships, and imagining climate solutions that centre Indigenous communities, and protect and return to them the lands on which they depend. As the youth climate justice movement grows, attending to Indigenous priorities will help it transform, rather than reinforce, the systems at the root of climate crisis and to challenge existing policymaking structures.