• Sun. Sep 24th, 2023

“Fighting the Beast”: the young people suing the government over climate change

ByMolly Reynolds

Apr 11, 2021
The three young people suing the UK government:Adetola Stephanie Onamade (23), Marina Tricks (20) and Jerry Amokwandoh (22)

Three young people are suing the UK government for failures to act on climate change.

“We refuse to witness the violations by this UK government, and refuse to be complicit in the deaths of our human family,” the campaign Global Majority Vs UK Government stated in an Instagram video recorded during the first national lockdown, and which has since been viewed by thousands of people.

The group is maintaining that the UK government knowingly contributes to a 4°C rise in global temperatures, leading to genocide, ecocide and the mass displacement of families that will greatly threaten communities globally. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution” amounts to £12 billion in funding for a ‘green recovery’, in comparison to £27billion of new investment in the road network and £4 billion climate condition-free loans for fossil-fuel based companies and airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Wizz Air.

The video features the three young British citizens, all from different diasporic backgrounds, who will file legal action this Spring against the UK government due to its violations of human rights. 

The co-claimants, Adetola Stephanie Onamade (23), Marina Tricks (20) and Jerry Amokwandoh (22) are all students who aim to hold the government accountable through the case, for its ongoing financing of the climate crisis. 

At a talk hosted by Sussex University last Wednesday, Onamade emphasized the importance of the fact that the team is BIPOC, intersectional and youth-led. 

The group uses the term “global majority” in order to emphasise these values, but also to show that they are standing in solidarity with those across the world whose lives are threatened due to the actions of the UK and other governments in the global North.

In a press release, the group outlined the details of the case and the aims of the campaign, suggesting, “from the farmers in India currently protesting against commercial reforms that will kill their livelihoods to members of Gen Z taking action against HS2, this campaign seeks to bring together people railing against racial and environmental injustice.” 

The Student sat down virtually with Martha Stringer, a University of Edinburgh student who is involved in the campaign, to discuss her role in this groundbreaking action. 

Stringer’s journey in the world of environmental activism began in Extinction Rebellion, a global environmental movement, which was responsible for the October 2019 disruptions on London tube lines, which angered commuters and exposed divisions within Extinction Rebellion circles. 

Extinction Rebellion and similar groups have been criticised for their focus on white middle class activism and their failure to amplify marginalised voices. This is something which the Global Majority Vs group is aiming to counteract. 

The campaign is supported by Plan B, a charity that supports legal action against climate change on an international and long-term scale. The co-claimants are working with Tim Crosland, an ex-Barrister who has a history of working on climate justice legal cases. 

Stop the Maangamizi, a campaign that focuses on spreading awareness of the Maangamizi – referring to the chattel, colonial and neo-colonial enslavement of Afrikan peoples and how its effects endure today – are supporting the group.

Both Plan B and Stop The Maangamizi have enabled the Global Majority Vs group to connect with activists and people affected by huge environmental disasters caused by climate change across the globe. Stringer sees the case and these connections as “an exciting opportunity for privileged people in the global North to use their privilege to act in solidarity with the global majority.” 

The campaign is building its legal argument on the Human Rights Act of 1998, which sets out the ‘right to life’ and ‘right to family life’ provisions of particular significance for young people, who are being locked into a carbon-intensive future by the UK government and diaspora, who’s families across the globe are increasingly threatened by the actions of a small elite in the global North.  

The global events that have occurred over the past year have had a clear influence in not only the original formation of this campaign, but also in its subsequent actions. Marina Tricks stated that, “Over the last year, I have seen my global siblings’ communities be devastated by crisis upon crisis in the Philippines, in the Sarayaku community, in Peru, Colombia, and Ghana. We want to live full dignified lives.” 

Stringer tells us, however, that it is for this reason that the campaign is so much more than just this legal action, because although taking the UK government to court over this is a fundamentally exposing and powerful action, “the legal case is not the end point.” 

What is more exciting and important for members of the group is “the potential this case has for creating global solidarity and global connections between really diverse groups of people who are fighting the same beast from really different terrains.” 

As students, the ways we can “fight the beast” are numerous and far-reaching, but can also be very personal. The Global Majority Vs team are asking young people and members of the ‘global majority’ to record witness statements detailing personal stories from victims of the UK government’s violations of human rights. More information is available on the campaign’s instagram account, @GlobalMajorityVs.

The focus on diasporic and grassroots organisations, as well as its international scope, is what makes this court case so unique. The planned launch of the case, which will be a virtual  international rally, will contain speakers from across the globe who are involved in climate activism. 

As Stringer told The Student, this case is significant particularly for students, because it can “capture the power there could be if young people adopted a new ideology of acting in global solidarity with your global generation.”

Image: Global Majority vs UK Government