Climate Jobs in Portugal

lisbon protest against unemployment 2010
Protest against unemployment, Lisbon, 2010

SINAN EDEN on the reasons for a new campaign in Portugal. Austerity has pulverized people’s lives, and climate jobs give them something to fight for, a way to say not only NO, but also YES. 

Climáximo is a recent collective in Portugal working on climate activism. The initial motivation for the formation of the group was the lack of grassroots activism in Portugal on climate change – activism that would put the struggle to the streets, with a strong emphasis on system change. In our less than one year of presence, our activities have ranged from youth outreach to university presentations, trainings, public debates, protests and direct actions.

Our activities so far have been aligned with the calendar decided upon by the international movement, meaning that we organized our events to feed the global days action in May and September 2015, and during COP-21. We also tried to make national and international contacts on various issues related to climate justice. Meanwhile, we had the chance to attend a presentation of the One Million Climate Jobs campaign in the UK, and observed some of the meetings of the global campaign.

After some months, once we felt we had a grasp of the social and political landscape of climate activism in Portugal, we started working on a middle to long term strategy, based on a “beyond COP-21” perspective. We decided that the climate jobs campaign is one of the most relevant proposals for the Portuguese context. 

Firstly, austerity measures imposed by Troika (IMF, European Central Bank and the European Commission) together with the right-wing government transformed the financial crisis of the banks to a social crisis involving unprecedented levels of unemployment and precarious employment, massive emigration and collapse of social services like health care and education. Coupled with the urgency of climate change, a campaign fighting to solve two crises at once already has strong popular support.

Secondly, after years of massive anti-austerity movements during the crisis, social movements are having difficulty in motivating people to struggles based on a resistance perspective. While resistance movements are very valuable and effective in stopping privatizations and defending labour rights, we think that a new dimension to fight for something to happen (as opposed to fighting against something happening) can bring fresh blood to the movements. Climate jobs is the perfect opportunity for us to move from the defensive to the offensive.

Thirdly, COP-21 is bringing the climate crisis into public agenda, and even mainstream environmental NGOs are reluctant to put hopes on the summit. The discourse gap between the urgency of global climate action and the low-to-none expectations from the Paris summit can and should be filled by an approach which focuses on movement building. We think that the climate jobs campaign can translate the beyond-COP (as opposed to after COP) perspective of the climate justice movement into a concrete proposal.

Having the above reasons in mind, we recently started the preparations to launch a climate jobs campaign in Portugal. We started contacting trade unions, labour associations and environmental associations, and organized a couple of public meetings together. While we are still in the beginning, our 2016 goals include not only the formation of a running campaign but also organized participation in the 1 May rally with climate jobs banners.

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