Climate activists struggle to stay relevant during coronavirus pandemic

Climate activists struggle to stay relevant during coronavirus pandemic
Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Christopher PitchersElena Cavallone
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The environmental organisation Fridays for Future Italia told Euronews about campaigning during the pandemic and why the climate and coronavirus crises are intrinsically linked.


The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on climate activists, as they fight to stay relevant during the crisis.

For many years now, they have relied on the power of mass gatherings in order to garner attention and influence legislators.

One environmental movement, Fridays for Future Italia, has been dependent on this, organising rallies across the country through a network of activists.

But the pandemic has been a game changer - it has forced them to reinvent their strategy by moving online.

"We've managed to combine realities, with people who previously could not join us physically. Now, instead, they can join us thanks to remote connections and as a result, contribute not just from Rome," Benedetto Sensini, a Fridays for Future Italia activist told Euronews.

"This has been helpful, but it's undeniable that we are also in a difficult period where we have to manage an entire movement online that has a strong need to gather in the streets," 

The movement doesn't intend on giving up so easily, but they fear that the green shift that politics has made over the last few years will be overshadowed by the pandemic. 

Activists argue that the climate crisis should be treated as seriously as the current health crisis and that the two emergencies are linked.

“It seems to us that the political debate is not focused on this. It's all focused on the actions that need to be taken to combat the coronavirus emergency. We do not see the climate emergency being treated in the same way, even though both have been declared as global emergencies and crises by the World Health Organization," activist Marianna Panzarino explained.

Their calls come at a time when member states are preparing national plans to use European money from the post-coronavirus economic recovery, where 37 per cent of investments will have to be used for the green transition due to European Commission guidelines.

But for environmentalists, the first step should be cutting subsidies for fossil fuels.

“There are still subsidies being given for the extraction of fossil fuels. The Italian government still guarantees these subsidies to companies such as ENI," Sensini told Euronews. "So it's difficult to believe in a government that on the one hand is committed to reaching zero emissions by 2050 and on the other hand continues to give these subsidies."

Fridays for future Italia now intend to move from the streets to the seats of power. They hope parliament will listen and vow to push MPs to put the climate crisis at the centre of the political debate.

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