The ultimate 2022 climate to-do list

What will be the definitive climate struggles of 2022? Danny Chivers shares global activists’ to do list.

In South Africa, activists are challenging Shell’s drilling plans along the country’s eastern coastline.
MIKE HUTCHINGS/REUTERS/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

It’s likely to be another pivotal year for climate activism. Around the globe, we can expect to see energy directed in these five key areas:

1 Keeping fossil fuels in the ground

It can’t be said enough: all new fossil fuel extraction and exploration has to stop to keep global heating below 1.5°C. This year will see a ramping up of grassroots action to block extraction.

In South Africa, activists are challenging Shell’s coastal drilling plan; in Senegal, BP’s gas extraction interests are a target while in Uganda and Tanzania, people are challenging the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline.

Long-running battles continue in the Americas. In Argentina communities, including the Mapuche people, are resisting the expansion of fracking. In Canada, the indigenous Wet’suwet’en nation is opposing the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.

Australians are doing battle with Woodside’s massive gas extraction plans in Western Australia and Adani’s enormous planned coal mine in Queensland.

2 Get finance out

All of the above projects need finance. That’s why many activists are now focusing on cutting money flows. They are calling for banks – such as Citi, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Canada – to stop funding pipelines and coal mines. And groups like 350 are piling pressure on central governmental banks to change the rules, building on the pledge made at Glasgow by almost 40 countries to end direct overseas funding to fossil fuel projects by the end of 2022.

3 Real zero

As I’ve talked about here before there’s a live public debate around the idea of ‘net-zero’, which will have very real consequences for climate action. On the one hand you have those calling for slashing global emissions in half by 2030 and an immediate end to all new fossil fuels extraction, in line with the science. Then you have those pushing the far woolier and loophole-ridden target of ‘net-zero by 2050’.

Polluting industries and governments have seized on this latter target, as it allows them to claim to be taking the crisis seriously while still pushing ahead with polluting projects, by spending money on initiatives that they claim will ‘cancel out’ their surplus emissions.

One of the biggest problems – among many – with this approach is the timeframe: there’s no way that tree-planting or carbon capture can absorb the requisite amount of carbon quickly enough for our needs.

4 Cross-border work

Campaigns for a Green New Deal and a Just Transition have been highly influential in countries like the US and UK. Although not yet enacted in policy, there’s a growing consensus that governments should be crafting a transition to clean energy that benefits people and workers. Following the mass mobilizations at the Glasgow climate summit in 2021, there is renewed pressure to take this conversation a step further.

Growing numbers of activists are now calling for a global green deal that requires the historically polluting governments of the North to pay their fair share to the Global South, both to cover the costs of the clean energy transition and for the loss and damage already wrought. The international connections formed at Glasgow will, I believe, encourage climate movements to put forward more joined-up global solutions in 2022.

5 Pivotal elections

While no election result is make-or-break for the climate, there are a number of key polls this year.

In Brazil and Australia, citizens will have the opportunity to replace governments linked heavily to deforestation and fossil-fuel extraction; these general elections will also be a moment for activists to pressure opposition politicians to strengthen their climate policy.

In Colombia, the current 2022 presidential frontrunner, Gustavo Petro, has called for a new economic model with less reliance on coal and oil exports. In countries like France and the US, meanwhile, people will be organizing to defend what small climate progress has been made from the threat of far-right authoritarian forces.