Manchester “Time to Act” conference connects climate and social justice campaigning

Rick Lighten reports

Photo: Ian Allinson

Photo: Ian Allinson

Over 200 people came together for a conference on tackling climate change on Saturday 10 October. The conference, titled “It’s Time to Act”, was organised by a coalition of climate groups along with trade union and radical left activists. Groups involved included Campaign Against Climate Change, Friends of the Earth, Stop TTIP, and Frack Free Greater Manchester. Sponsorship was received from two local UNISON branches, as well as a couple of food co-ops.

Although one main focus of the event was the upcoming demonstrations around the COP 21 talks in Paris in December (where governments around the world will come together to *fail* to agree to serious action on tackling climate change), this wasn’t just a mobilising meeting; activists wanted to build and organise a climate movement that can seriously challenge the politicians and energy companies.

The inspiration for the conference was the fantastic “This Changes Everything” event held in London earlier this year. The organisers were especially keen to replicate the mix of speakers and workshops, combining climate concerns with a deeper look at the economic and political systems that cause climate change or prevent action to halt it. It was heartening to see activists from a wide range of campaigns weave together various strands of the climate problem. This felt like what Naomi Klein describes in her book This Changes Everything put into action – that campaigns around climate change can “supercharge” other campaigns for social justice. Workshops on TTIP and fossil fuel divestment pointed to the subordination of state power to capital, and the lack of democracy in economics; migration was discussed in relation to inequality, both within and between countries, and how the impacts of climate change will drive further crises in poor countries.

There was a strong seam of anti-capitalism throughout the event, and a real optimism from activists in the growing sense of solidarity and connectivity between the different strands of climate and social justice campaigning, and the growing awareness of the deep structural problems of capitalism that need to be tackled. Overall, this was an enjoyable and inspiring event that could and should be replicated elsewhere.

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