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COP and Climate Justice: A Story of Three Nightclubs

Food & Water Action Europe’s Philip Wheeler was present in Glasgow in his role as our Network Developer. He has attended COP meetings before this one, and here he reflects on the progress of the movement, as measured in nightclubs he witnessed around the talks.

Nightclub 1
Paris, 2015

A crowd of diplomats are out in high spirits – high on their own success. They’re mostly drunk and chanting:
‘We. Just. Saved The World. We Just Saved The World.’
Footage of this chanting on the night of the deal over the Paris Agreement exists, though they would prefer you didn’t see it.
These people are what you might call the institutional believers, those for whom the international negotiations are the means by which we will make progress towards justice. For them, the backroom deals and geopolitical maneuvers are the paths we must take. Their chanting that night in Paris speaks for itself.

Nightclub 2
Paris, 2015

A bunch of confused activists are sitting in a squat that same night. They are exhausted, and looking for reasons for hope.
There’s no chanting here.
The flipside of the Paris aftermath is not on video, but in this party venue the mood is grim: the realisation is landing that that treaty is not binding – that the destruction of our home would not only continue, but accelerate under cover of this so-called Paris deal.
This crowd of organisers knows that, as the famous saying goes, power concedes nothing without a demand. The fossil fuel industry has our society in a stranglehold. They know on this night that we will need to keep building political power until the point where the institutions cannot resist us. A step-change in climate activism is required. Conversations about those next steps are underway.

Nightclub 3
Glasgow, 2021

Civil society is crammed into one of Glasgow’s finest Friday night establishments, where questionable dj-ing meets questionable dancing.
Rude things are shouted about the authorities by most everyone present – activists and locals.
The final outcome of the Glasgow negotiations hasn’t been decided yet; the final text will be dropped on us the next day. But in this club nobody is waiting for those irrelevant words.
The seeds of resistance, some planted after the disappointment of Paris, others so many generations before then, have started to germinate. We know the odds are still heavily against us. Many are hurting. But the numbers of those standing up for climate justice are growing, and we know more of the world is recognising the massive institutional greenwashing. Empty promises won’t slow us down. We know the destruction will continue until we are strong enough to stop it. But we are getting stronger. Climate justice is on the rise.