We in Climáximo defend climate justice and understand that the climate crisis is caused, maintained and enforced by capitalism. We have a theory of change based on strategic escalation and momentum-driven organizing.
We exist since 2015; we had some victories but we are aware that the emissions are rising. Therefore, our overall understanding is that sticking with our habits (on strategy and organization) cannot be justified. In 2019 we declared a state of climate emergency within the collective, and since then we overthrow our organization and our strategy every six months. We have always been very flexible and open to exploration, but in 2019 we wrote it into our DNA.
People think of “tactical diversity” as different groups tolerating each other’s strategies and priorities. We think of tactical diversity as an organizational framework. At a given moment in a given context, we do whatever seems to work for our theory of change. Sometimes it’s “just another demonstration” that the movement needs in order to show its strength and welcome the moderate flank into the movement; so we invest in organizing a demonstration. Sometimes we need a controversial action to shift the Overton window, and that’s what we do. Sometimes the movement needs radical policy proposals to counter the mainstream narratives, so we write reports and organize debates. (Most of the time, the movement needs most of these things simultaneously, so an outsider has a difficulty reducing our image into a simple “brand.”) We also organize movement-level coordination, nationally and internationally.
Here are a few examples of our organizational flexibility in the past.
- On 10 March 2020, in our weekly meeting, we understood that the COVID-19 pandemic would change our lives. On 12 March, the government declared the highest level of alert in Portugal. By 13 March, we had already launched our communication campaign Quarentena Climática. This campaign lasted until end of June, and produced 26 episodes consisting of 90 videos as well as tens of articles. We managed to set the campaign concept and the campaign team in less than a week. Note that the first COVID-19 death in Portugal took place on 16 March and state of emergency was declared on 18 March. But we were already in a state of emergency in Climáximo, so we responded swiftly to the changing reality. There were zero meetings that were skipped as we immediately dove into online tools.
- The second example is the We Are the Anti-bodies action on 5 October 2020. Still within the pandemic context, our analysis was to insist on disruptive mobilization while adjusting the demands. A hundred activists blocked the main roundabout in Lisbon, demanding (1) carbon neutrality by 2030; (2) unconditional basic services; and (3) an income tax scale that would effectively establish a “maximum income” threshold.
- More recently, we have been to the most polluting infrastructure in Portugal: the oil refinery of Galp in Sines. We went there first in November 2021 as part of the international Collapse Total actions and blocked the entrance for one day. Then, we went back on July 2022, but with a completely renewed framework. The Climate Jobs campaign spent months preparing a case study of how a just transition could be achieved in the Sines region. We built an action camp nearby, Acampamento 1.5, which ended by two actions: one was a blockade action that took hundreds of the case study reports into the refinery, and the other one was a demonstration in the city center of Sines talking to the local population.
Some of our international work
We are embedded in the international climate justice movement. We are part of various international platforms and campaigns, and our core organizers dedicate almost half of their organizing efforts to international networking. (We were involved in the By 2020 We Rise Up campaign, we were one of the main organizers of the Glasgow Agreement and we hosted the last two editions of the International Ecosocialist Encounters in Lisbon, in 2018 and in 2022, just to give three examples.)
This attitude gives us two advantages. Firstly, we are always paying attention. We are watching to what other groups are experimenting, we read their strategy papers and then go and talk to them. We are asking ourselves: should we be doing this instead of doing what we have been doing? How could we test the waters? How could we adapt it into our context? Secondly, we can observe the big picture. We can identify underlying connections between an action of a group in one country and a campaign of another group in another country. We see, discuss and speculate about where the international climate justice movement is heading, and we talk to other groups about it.
In the last months, we have been holding the Handbrake to Stop Climate Collapse sessions as part of our contribution to movement-level discussions.
What we are doing at the moment
Our gas campaign identifies fossil fuel dependence as the cause of the cost of living crisis that the country is going through. A renewable and accessible energy system is the only way out of the fossil economy that is having record profits at the cost of ordinary people’s livelihoods. The campaign launched an action platform Parar o Gás and is calling for a mass action at the LNG terminal in the port of Sines, on 13 May 2023.
Our anti-aviation work is now focused on the horrendous and growing inequalities globally as well as within each country, between the ultra-rich and ordinary people. A recent action by the Abolir os Jatos Privados campaign joined the global day of action Make Them Pay in February 2023 and is now preparing next steps.
The Climate Jobs campaign is proposing to be the people’s just transition plan out of the multiple crises we are going though. The campaign was restructured this year to allow autonomous working groups on specific topics. Currently there are three active working groups: Public Energy, Transport and Mobility, and Just Transition in Sines.
All of these three campaigns are autonomous from Climáximo and we are building them with other organizations and activists.
This is just a snapshot of where we are at.
We don’t see ourselves as a successful organization. We are, however, a serious organization. We are learning. We are failing forwards.
Endnote for English-speaking folks in Lisbon: Our meetings are in Portuguese but most of us speak English. If you are okay with participating in a Portuguese-speaking environment (where you would express yourself in English or in Portuguese, whichever is better for you), send us an email. Same applies to the campaigns and actions.