Yesterday [December 3rd, 2019] marked the start of an 11-day long global climate summit in Madrid called the COP (Conference of Parties) 25 where more than 25,000 people, including heads of state, ministers, NGOs, and CSOs will gather to discuss environmental issues, mainly centered around the Paris accords and the circular economy. The start of the COP also signifies the commencement of another great undertaking regarding the climate in Madrid; Extinction Rebellion’s latest round of radical activism. 

The COP 25 opened with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying that “the world is close to a point of no return”. At the same time, some 15 km away in a building in Universidad Complutense, groups of climate activists who would agree with that statement were banding together under the banner of XR (Extinction Rebellion) to urge action from authorities. In the weeks leading up to the COP, climate activists have been turning up the pressure on their respective governments. 

On the 19th of November, Extinction Rebellion members all over the world declared that they were on a hunger strike until their regional governments recognized that there is a climate emergency. Friday, November 29th, saw renewed protests by student-led group Fridays for Future in over 2,300 cities in the world, originating in Australia due to frustration over their government’s inaction on the climate crisis leading to massive wild bushfires. 

There were also innovative forms of protests directed towards the holiday of “Black Friday” throughout the world. In Washington DC, XR members walked around in stores with empty carts, and members of a group called Greenpeace managed to get themselves inside the windows of stores on Madrid’s Gran Via to protest consumerism as a cause of climate change.

Greenpeace activists entering the Gran Via stores on Black Friday.

This steady ramping up of global protests at this particular time is not a coincidence. Groups that have grassroots support throughout the world like the ones mentioned above have recognized the importance of the COP and have vowed to not let this opportunity to be heard pass them by. 

The culmination of this round of protests will be on the 6th of December where all the aforementioned groups will take to the streets in cities all over the world. In Madrid, a protest march has been planned to take place from Atocha all the way up to Nuevos Ministerios in the afternoon of the 6th of December. XR alongside Fridays for Future, Allianza por la Clima, 2020: Rebelion por la Clima and several other local and regional activist groups will be leading the protests with performance art and dances that the groups have been preparing for the last few weeks. 

The actions do not end there for XR in Madrid. They are also organizing a “Cumbre Social por la Clima” which is a counter-summit to the COP to take place between the 7th and the 10th of December. 

When asked why they are hosting a climate summit at the same time as the COP, an XR member who wished to remain anonymous said, “We do not believe in our government’s ability to talk about the crisis truthfully. The delegates will talk vaguely about the actions that must be taken but will never carry them out. Our summit will tell people the truth about the urgency with which objectives need to be made and how we can reach them. The idea is to boycott the COP entirely.” 

XR is expecting approximately 2000-3000 people to attend this counter-summit with people from activist groups, Civil Society Organizations as well as regular people such as you and I are invited to take part and become informed on the issues. Greta Thunberg, who has been making her way across the Atlantic on a boat to attend the COP, has also been invited to speak by Fridays for Future, the student-led group that she inspired. 

“Our summit will tell people the truth about the urgency with which objectives need to be made and how we can reach them. The idea is to boycott the COP entirely.” – XR activist on COP. 

The climate crisis will not be solved in the next two weeks, however, there is hope that the COP25 attendees can start the next decade with a comprehensive action plan to solve major environmental problems. When asked what XR wants as the main takeaway of this round of protests to be, the associate responded, “Extinction Rebellion needs to show to Madrid and to the World that this movement is global and that we are capable of having these important conversations. It is time for governments to tell the truth.”