Climate change and conflict: questioning climate justice

A few weeks ago Trier’s Peace Committee (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Frieden) and Trier’s Climate Network (Klimanetz Trier) hosted Manuel Kreutle from the University of Hamburg’s Science and Peace Centre to talk about existing and potential climate conflicts and the resistance movements fighting against climate change.

It’s high time that resistance is rising in both the industrial countries of the northern hemisphere, that have provenly cast the majority of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and pre-industrial countries in the south where people suffer the consequences in the form of floods, heatwaves and crop failures. The results of climate change entail enormous potential increase in the amount of global conflicts around limited resources that damage not only the climate but cause mass migration. Extracting raw materials, beginning and carrying out infrastructure projects and the destruction of forests render the 1.5 C Paris Agreement goal useless.  In light of the dark realisations around the state of our planet, climate activists are rising up around the world to oppose the thirst for oil, the hunger for coal and the obscured vision of security that are deleting our plans of a future. They all share the common goal of rethinking and remodelling climate justice and trade systems, whilst calling for us to “Change the system, not the climate”!

We talk about security but for who and with which means? When we secure our borders from people fleeing wars and uninhabitable conditions, how can that be called security when it insecures those trapped on the other side? Kreutle suggested that security can and should only be spoken about in the realm of ecosystems that concern all people, animals and land.

Most of us know that we should cycle instead of driving and use as little plastic and produce as little waste as possible but what else does it mean to be a climate activist? It’s not just how each individual eats, travels and lives that counts but what movements can we move along side?

Ende Gelände (a play on words: figuratively means “that’s it!/ we’ve had enough” and literally “end of land”) is an alliance of anti-nuclear, anti-coal activists who use civil disobedience to fight climate change. Last weekend over 4,000 people protested in the coal fields of the Rheinland, Europe’s biggest source of CO2. The EG alliance demands the immediate end of coal. “We will definitely not wait until 2038 to phase out coal, we are acting now” (Nike Malhaus, EG spokesperson). Last October 6,000 activists came together to block the coal tracks of a mine near Hambach forest. The nearly 12,000 year old forest has been uprooted from about 4000 hectares down to 500 hectares. The forest has been occupied by activists since 2012. 

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Picture: Ende Gelände
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Picture: Ende Gelände
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Dismantling of tree house built by activists in the Hambach forest. Picture: Welt.de

Extinction Rebellion Trier is quite new but well underway. Tomorrow they will meet at the CDU office (Christian Democratic Union, one of the leading political parties in Germany) since “the government is dawdling around the decision to do something against the destruction of the climate”.

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This is an emergency: take the climate crisis seriously!!! Picture: Extinction Rebellion Trier

In Colombia, the Cerrejón mine is the biggest opencast mine in Latin America and the largest exporter of coal for power stations in Europe. Over 60 thousand people were expelled from their homes during its construction and expansion. 

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Activists from the Wayuu community blocking a railway track that transports coal from El Cerrejón. Picture: rancheria river

The Dakota Access Pipeline carries oil roughly 1,100 miles from North Dakota to Illinois. Not only is the pipeline an environmental disaster but it violates the Fort Laramie Treaty that promises “undisturbed use and occupation” of the reservation lands.

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Picture: The Progressive


The Pacific Climate Warriors come from a group of pacific islands and refuse to be victims to climate change but rather actively campaign against it.

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Fridays for Future uses the illegality of children defying their school obligation to put pressure on governments and councils to act. Those least responsible for climate change will suffer the most consequences. The most recent FFF demonstration was in Aachen last Friday where 40 thousand people demonstrated for climate justice.

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Picture: FAZ

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