For anyone hoping for some optimism about our dying planet, the recent Cop26 climate summit left much to be desired. Developing countries were severely underrepresented at the conference, and only a third of the usual number of delegates from those countries was able to attend, due to Covid restrictions, a lack of affordable accommodation and accessibility issues.
As the race to save the planet continues, much of climate action rhetoric these days remains split between personal calls to action – such as recycling or cutting down on individual consumption – and calls for governments, corporations and international organizations to wind down fossil fuel production, switch to renewable energy on a mass scale and protect key ecosystems that can help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis.
The scale of the crisis can make us feel powerless as individuals – and individual action may seem like a drop in the bucket where climate change is concerned. But there are ways to use the affiliations we already have to boost our collective voice for change.
Here are a few ideas:
If you’re employed by a big corporation:
Major corporations have thousands of employees. Staff at these companies can plan walkouts or join strike actions to push their companies to make serious commitments to climate action such as reducing their consumption and switching to clean energy alternatives.
When the staffs of tech companies like Google and Amazon took to the streets of Silicon Valley to join the global climate strike in September 2019, their employers responded swiftly: Amazon agreed to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans and committed to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement 10 years early, while Google made the largest purchase of renewable energy in corporate history.
Employees can also push their employers to divest their pension and retirement savings plans from fossil fuel companies.
Many of these companies are situated on vast corporate campuses and consume significant amounts of energy. Staff can lobby their employers to build green spaces and take up green initiatives.
If you’re a member of a labor union:
Labor unions are a great way to organize around climate action. Thanks to unions’ sheer size, members can make a difference by forming climate change campaigns or sub-groups within larger campaigns.
Some unions have also successfully collaborated with academics and environmental groups on research to identify and develop effective strategies for climate action. Some of these collaborations have led to the passing of legislation that protects workers in light of the climate crisis.
Unions can also draft environmental policies that call on the government and international organizations to take serious climate action, form workplace environment committees to help develop their environmental strategy, and make their own seat at the climate action table by having trade union delegates at the global climate change conferences.
If you’re a student or member of faculty at a university:
Universities are essential hubs of research and advocacy on climate change – and, like other large organizations, they produce significant emissions.
Students can push for their universities to divest from fossil fuels, generate power on-campus, and commit to being carbon-neutral in other ways, like increasing bike parking across campus and retrofitting old buildings.
These institutions can also join in collective action with other colleges and universities across the globe which are addressing climate change, and incorporate climate change education into their curricula.
If you belong to a religious organization:
In recent years, religious institutions have become leading voices against the climate crisis. Members of these organizations can push for community initiatives that help the environment, like building green infrastructure.
Religious denominations also have a lot of sway with governments. Members can ask their religious leaders to support bills and other political actions that address climate change, or press Congress directly to take climate action.
Members of religious organizations can also advocate for putting their money where their mouth is by divesting from high-emitting companies. The Church of England recently threatened to divest from fossil fuel companies that haven’t aligned their businesses with Paris agreement goals. Twelve companies made changes to ensure they weren’t dropped by the church.