Climate activists expect more 'concrete' actions from world leaders

Although coronavirus pandemic prevents mass climate protests on streets, activists continue their effort online.

Climate activists expect more 'concrete' actions from world leaders

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced activists to shift to "virtual activism" all around the globe, but they are still expecting world leaders to take more "concrete" steps regarding climate change.

Even though their medium of protest has changed, the activists' demand is same -- more ambitious actions.

Atlas Sarrafoglu, Licypriya Kangujam and Elijah McKenzie-Jackson, climate activists from Turkey, India and UK, respectively, spoke to Anadolu Agency about their expectations from 2021 regarding climate change and their opinions on digital activism.

"Of course, the nature of activism requires us activists to be on the street. But I think it's also very good that young people acting for the climate adapted (to the new normal). We came together on communication platforms and we were able to start online activities," said the 13-year-old activist.

Different from being on the streets, online activism, Sarrafoglu said, allows climate activists from around the world to focus on more global campaigns and prepare many projects since they have more time compared to protesting physically.

"For example, we supported the campaign against an airport project in the Thano forest on the elephant corridor in India, and I was one of the speakers at a webinar."

Yearning for actual activism on the streets, Sarrafoglu looks at the bright side of the pandemic period, and believes that "everyone knows better what they can do now, the solidarity between us globally has become much stronger."

On his expectations in fight against climate change during 2021, he said climate activists expect more ambitious decisions from world leaders in this regard.

He also recalled his demand for the Paris climate accord to be ratified in Turkish parliament, expressing more hope with the return of the US to the treaty.

"Putting an end to fossil fuel use now is still our priority ... Unfortunately, I know we will continue to experience the climate crisis. But I hope that there will be a period when we can call the crisis a crisis, and I hope to see realistic decisions taken for this crisis," Sarrafoglu concluded.

'COVID-19 pandemic weakens our movement but not our spirit'

Kangujam, for her part, said that world leaders can tackle the climate change effectively if they take it as a crisis, just as they treat the COVID-19 pandemic as an emergency crisis.

"Globally, 2020 was full of challenges in our climate movement. COVID-19 pandemic has weakened our movement but not our spirit," she said, adding that if nature is not being protected "with love and respect," more worse crises are on the way.

Kangujam recalled that she launched new initiatives during the COVID-19 lockdown like Monday for Mother Nature which enables planting of thousands of trees every week with school children by connecting online every Monday.

The pandemic has prevented climate activists from taking to the streets, however, the 9-year-old activist believes that everyone has a role to play, and when activists work together, even small actions can help overcome big challenges.

"While many schools around the world are closed, we are still making their voices heard through the #ClimateStrikeOnline, and the youth climate movement is showing solidarity with their older relatives by staying inside to help keep everyone safe," she added.

On her expectations from 2021 on efforts towards keeping climate stable and environment healthy, Licypriya said that she feels 2021 will be a more productive year with full of hope in the climate activism.

"As the COP26 is going to happen this year in Glasgow, UK, we will strengthen our movement stronger than before to demand urgent concrete climate actions from our leaders. 2021 is a very crucial year for our climate movement," she added.

'World still watching us, we are still being heard'

Even though 2020 was a quite difficult year for everyone on many counts, including climate activism, McKenzie-Jackson said that the last year provided a huge opportunity for activists to evaluate previous works and analyze global climate movement's future plans to achieve real climate justice.

"Last year highlighted the global community we had built and how important it was for all of us, it was a time I personally really needed people to talk to and rely on and luckily for me, activists throughout the world were there and had my back in the tough times," the 17-year-old activist said.

Digital activism lacks "spark or excitement" which he feels on the street, and he believes that it is quite easy to forget the impact of the online campaigns.

"However the world is still watching us and we are still being heard ... We will never let people forget about us, the youth have continued to rise and we will never sit back while the destruction of the planet continues," Jackson vowed.

With the UK hosting COP26 climate meetings this year, he said that the British government "must show" leadership on fight against climate change.

"... We were the first to industrialize so we have the greatest responsibility to decarbonize with rapid urgency so that the global south can sustainably develop fully," he concluded.