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The young rebel against environmental chaos, but we need to beat corporate power first

Credit: Alexander Savin

A generation is rebelling. Across the world, young people are protesting the destruction of their futures. New movements like Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future (made famous by Greta Thunberg) join existing ones in the coalition fighting to save the future of our world.

If you’re like me, you’ll welcome the anger we’re seeing from a generation that has too often been underestimated and caricatured as politically apathetic.

But aimless anger is not going to be enough to win our planet back. We need to be clear what is fueling the problem. And, broadly speaking, the answer is clear. It’s overwhelmingly unrestrained corporate power.

It is for profit that the Arctic is being raided by oil companies for new oil & gas. It is for profit that vast tracts of the Amazon get destroyed every year. It is for profit that the planet is on the verge of catastrophe.

Faced with this, instead of reining in the power of corporations, we see more and more privileges going to them.

The ISDS system of obscure corporate courts is being used to challenge environmental regulations and, in a grotesque inversion of the “polluter pays” principle, force ordinary people to pay polluters compensation for daring to insist upon higher environmental standards. The most famous example is when Swedish energy giant Vattenfall sued Germany for introducing stronger environmental safeguards on a coal power station in Hamburg. But there are many others – including Lone Pine Resources suing Canada for Quebec’s moratorium on fracking and Abengoa winning $40 million from Mexico when it wasn’t allowed to build a toxic waste dump near the Sierra Gorda environmental reserve.

If we are serious about stopping climate change, environmental devastation and mass extinction, we need to get serious about fighting ISDS.

We also need to get serious about building a positive alternative to corporate power. For that we need new global mechanisms to hold corporations that commit ecocide to account. This is why campaigners are also pushing for a UN Binding Treaty that will stop multinationals avoiding justice through their complicated global structures and supply chains.

It’s time to get real. We will not end the climate chaos, halt mass extinction or win the battle for human rights or fair trade unless we reduce the scope of corporate power over our global economic system. Trade campaigners fighting ISDS, human rights campaigners fighting for a UN Binding Treaty, climate campaigners and anti-extinction activists need to come together as one movement.

It’s time to get out of our campaign silos and into action. So let’s do it!