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A New Normal

April 23, 2020
April 2020. Richmond, Virginia grocery shopping. (CC BY-NC 2.0) Ronnie Pitman
April 2020. Richmond, Virginia grocery shopping. (CC BY-NC 2.0) Ronnie Pitman, image cropped and resized.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposes an economic system unable to meet the needs of people and planet. Our only solution to address this global crisis, occurring amid a devastating climate crisis, is to join together and build a more just, resilient, and sustainable world. As members and allies of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice we are making an initial set of demands of governments as they respond to the pandemic.

The word apocalypse comes from the word for revelation. The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing what the global majority has known all along: that the dominant economic system prioritises profits over people and planet.

”As with the climate crisis, the COVID-19 crisis loads the heaviest burdens on those most vulnerable.“

With each new day of infections, deaths and destroyed livelihoods, the pandemic is exposing the gross injustices of our existing systems. Years of neoliberalism, ‘structural adjustment’ and austerity have dismantled the social welfare state, specifically underfunding and hollowing out health systems across the globe. We are left with deficits of life-saving equipment, and surpluses of polluting industries.

The dimensions of the collective suffering and individual trauma unfolding are too vast to contemplate. Families confronting loss or lockdown in abusive relationships; bodies facing devastating illness; communities facing hunger and isolation.

But the pandemic has also shown our enormous collective strength, and the possibilities that emerge when a crisis is taken seriously, and people join together.

For those of us in the global climate justice movement, the unravelling of the pandemic comes as no surprise. For decades, as movements we have denounced the violent impacts of an unequal global economic system, the devastation of an accelerating climate crisis, and the shockingly cruel ways in which those least responsible bear its heaviest burdens. For decades, we have demanded an end to a status quo that was and continues to be a death sentence for the world’s poorest. The coronavirus crisis is a stark reminder of a prolonged past, and our response to it a dress rehearsal for the present and future.

As with the climate crisis, the COVID-19 crisis loads the heaviest burdens on those most vulnerable. The poorest are affected first and worst. It inflames the disparities carved by wealth, gender, class, race, (dis)ability and other intersectional factors. The highest costs are being borne by those least able to pay them, who were always condemned to bear such costs.

Most clearly, those most at risk of infection are those least able to isolate themselves.

A lockdown means confinement in our homes. But some of us are entirely without a home, or live with multiple family members and relatives in one house. Some of us are internally displaced people’s or refugee camps, or in detention centres, or go without access to running water and sanitation. For some of us, home is the site of violence and abuse, and staying home means an end to public activity we rely on for our day-to-day subsistence. Some of us can’t stay home because we are working in the most crucial and life-sustaining sectors, such as agriculture, without protection, including many of the subsistence and family farmers who feed over two-thirds of the world.

Women and girls bear the brunt of care work in our current system, in the home, in our communities and also in the economy, as they are the majority of health care workers. This pandemic has shown us the importance of care work, the work needed to raise families, to cook and clean and take care of the sick and elderly. It has shown us the profound impact of the lack of public services and social institutions for care work . We must use this moment to understand the importance of care work, share it among all peoples and build a society and economy that takes on care work based on feminist, care-affirming principles.

In many countries, health, food and basic services sectors are supported by migrant labour, many of whom do not have a voice, recourse to public funds and most often serving with the least protection. Migrant voices are also most often ignored in climate discussions. In times of crises, whether health or natural calamities, they are one of the most vulnerable, discriminated against, and ignored.

Those most affected by the climate crisis - people in the Global South who have faced the violence of environmental degradation, extended drought, and forced displacement - have now become one of most vulnerable populations to contagion and its effects. In areas where the health of communities has been debilitated by polluting industries, leading to an array of respiratory and immunological conditions, people are particularly at risk to COVID-19.

The pandemic is already opening the door to a major economic crisis, with an upcoming recession that will render the vast majority of the global population - who live day-to-day with precarious livelihoods - in a condition of even more chronic poverty. The risk of famine and deep disruptions to food sovereignty is significant. Southern countries are burdened with illegitimate and unsustainable debt - accumulated through decades of exploitative and predatory lending by Northern governments, international financial institutions and big banks in collaboration with southern elites and those Southern governments with authoritarian and corrupt practices. The prioritization of payments of these debts have taken a heavy toll on public services and continue to take up a huge part of public spending that should be allocated instead to public health responses to the pandemic.

A Crossroads

We are at a crossroads. For years, we have demanded ‘system change not climate change’. System change now seems more necessary than ever, and more possible. The rules of the game are changing swiftly. Upheaval is unavoidable.

The question is: what kind of change is unfolding? What kind of system is emerging? What direction will change take?

“Our movements know the way forward, the type of world we need to build. Across the world, people are realising that our dominant economic system does not meet peoples’ needs.”

The powerful are taking advantage of the crisis to advance disaster capitalism and a new authoritarianism, handing themselves expanding police and military powers, and rushing through extractive projects. Many governments are seizing the chance to push through draconian measures, police the population, undermine workers’ rights, repress the rights of Indigenous peoples, restrict public participation in decision-making, restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services, and institute widespread surveillance. In the worst situations, repressive actors are using the moment of political instability to violently quash dissent, legitimise racism, religious fundamentalism and advance predatory mining frontiers, and execute land defenders.

But the crisis they are making use of, also offers an opportunity for our movements to shape the emergent future. Our movements know the way forward, the type of world we need to build. Across the world, people are realising that our dominant economic system does not meet peoples’ needs. They are clearly seeing that corporations and the market will not save us. They are noticing that when a crisis is taken seriously, governments are capable of taking bold action and mobilise enormous resources to confront it. The limits of the possible can be radically shaken and rewritten. Within weeks, policy proposals long-campaigned for in many contexts (an end to evictions, liberating prisoners, bold economic redistribution to name but a few) have become common-sense and mainstream responses.

We are living through a convulsive but very fertile political moment. Our world has been forced into solidarity by a virus which ignores all borders; our deep interdependence has never been more undeniable.

In such a crisis rethinking and reimagining our economic model is inescapable. Resilient and justice-based solutions are not only possible, but the only real solution.

It is clear now that we need a response of solidarity, equity and care, with massive public investment that puts people and planet first, not polluting industries and profiteers. Just recoveries, and global and national new deals to build a regenerative, distributive and resilient economy is both necessary, and increasingly politically feasible.

The Fight for A New Normal

We will not return to a normal in which the suffering of the many underwrote the luxuries of the few. While politicians will push for a rapid resumption of the status quo, we can’t go back to normal, as social movements have affirmed, when that normal was killing people and the planet.

Our climate justice movements are in both a perilous and promising situation. The urgency of climate breakdown has dropped under the radar, even as climate violence is relentless, expressed most recently in devastating storms across the Pacific, forest fires in China, and torrential rains in Colombia. Unless we take this political moment, climate action will be on the backburner, and economies in the rich North will be turbocharged and revived with dirty investments that deepen the climate crisis. We must be vigilant and persevering to ensure that addressing the climate crisis must be front and center of bailouts, and programmes to ensure the resilience of society and all peoples.

Our movements have an expertise which is invaluable at this time. While COVID-19 and the climate crisis may have different direct causes, their root causes are the same: a reliance on the market, a failure of the state to address long-term threats, the absence of social protection, and an overarching economic model that protects investments over lives and the planet. The same extractivist system that extracts, burns and destroys ecosystems, is the same system which enables dangerous pathogens to spread. The solutions to the COVID-19 and climate crises are the same: solidarity, redistribution, collaboration, equity, and social protection. It is our opportunity and responsibility to join the dots, and use this political moment to confront corporate power, and build a more just and sustainable society.

The Horizons We Can Claim

The pandemic has changed the game. We have the resources to build an economic model that doesn’t trash the planet and provides for all. We have the momentum to recover from this crisis in a way that builds our resilience and fortifies our dignity as societies. Now is our time to claim it.

As members of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, we demand a bold response to the COVID-19 pandemic that simultaneously helps address the wider climate crisis, and transform the unequal economic system that has led to both.

We demand that governments:

  1. Prioritise the health and wellbeing of people. People must always be valued over profit, for an economy is worthless without its people. No one is disposable. Fully fund and resource health services and systems, ensuring care for all, without exception. Governments must also prioritise robust investment in other essential public services, such as safe shelter, water, food and sanitation. These services are not only essential in stemming the spread of disease in the long-term, but are core to governments' obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights for all. Therefore, they must not be privatised and instead be managed in an equitable, publicly-accountable manner.

  2. Guarantee the protection of marginalised populations. Provide aid, social protection, and relief to rural populations and the families that compose them, who are at the forefront of feeding our world. Special protection must also be guaranteed for the social and human rights of all peoples put in vulnerable and precarious circumstances, such as those in situations of homelessness, people in prison, refugees and migrants, elders in home care, orphans, and especially environmental defenders who are now being murdered with even greater frequency under the cover of the COVID-19 emergency.

  3. Issue immediate economic and social measures to provide relief and security to all, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in our societies. Protect labour rights and guarantee protections for all workers, from the formal to the informal economy, and guarantee a universal basic income. Recognise, visibilise and value all care work, the real labour that is sustaining us during this crisis.

  4. Governments must stop subsidies for fossil fuels and reorient public funds away from the military-industrial complex, and private corporations, and use them instead to ensure access to clean energy, water, and important utilities and public services for the well-being of communities.

  5. We call for an immediate cancelation of debt payments by Southern countries due in 2020 and 2021 with no accrual of interest nor penalties, so that funds can be used for health services to combat COVID19 and for economic assistance for communities and people who are facing greater hardships in the face of the pandemic and responses to it. A mere suspension of payments is not enough, and will simply delay the pain of debt servicing. We also demand an immediate start to an independent international process to address illegitimate and unsustainable debt and debt crises to pave the way for unconditional debt cancelation for all Southern countries.

  6. Governments must also transform tax systems, abolishing fiscal holidays for multinational corporations which undermine revenues, and abolish value-added tax and goods and services taxes for basic goods. Take immediate steps towards stopping illicit financial flows and shutting down tax havens.

  7. Support a long-term just transition and recovery out of this crisis, and take the crisis as an opportunity to shift to equitable, socially just, climate-resilient and zero-carbon economies. We cannot afford bailouts that simply fill corporate pockets or rescue polluting industries incompatible with a living planet. Rather, we need an economic recovery that builds resilience, dissolves injustices, restores our ecosystems, and leads a managed decline of fossil fuels and a justice-oriented transition towards a fair & sustainable economy. Governments should pursue economic programmes including just trade relations that prioritize domestic needs, dignified and decent jobs across the entire economy, including in the care economy, ecological restoration and agro-ecology, essential services and decentralised renewable energy — all necessary for an equitable and climate-just world.

  8. Reject efforts to push so-called “structural reforms” that only serve to deepen oppression, inequality and impoverishment , including by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, who may use the pandemic to push schemes in the Global South under the guise of "shortening the time to recovery." The neoliberal pillars of austerity, deregulation, and privatisation — especially of essential services such as water, health, education etc — have devastated people across the world and are incompatible with a just recovery.

  9. Bolster international cooperation and people to people solidarity. Global problems that respect no borders, whether they be the climate or COVID-19 crisis, can only have cooperative and equitable solutions. In a deeply unequal world, transferring technology and finance from the richest to the poorest countries is crucial. Governments should facilitate instead of hindering the efforts of people’s movements, citizens groups, Indigenous peoples and civil society organizations to link up across borders and countries for mutual support. We also call on governments to honor their historical responsibility and stop using tactics that dismiss that responsibility and delay a strong international response, such as withholding funding from the WHO and other institutions in a time of crisis.

  10. Collaborate on the development of and unrestricted access to vaccines and any medical breakthroughs of experimental therapy drugs, led by principles of international cooperation and free distribution. We need to ensure that any COVID-19 vaccine will reach all and that no country will be able to become a monopoly buyer, and no entity a monopoly producer.

  11. Immediately cease extractive projects, from mining to fossil fuels to industrial agriculture, including extraterritorial projects undertaken by corporations headquartered in your country, which are accelerating ecological crises, encroaching on Indigenous territories, and putting communities at risk.

  12. Reject any and all attempts to waive liability of corporations and industries. The actors that are responsible, in so many ways, for this multifaceted crisis and the broken system absolutely cannot be granted loopholes that allow them to escape responsibility for their abuses at home and across the world.

  13. Governments must not take advantage of the crisis to push through draconian measures including the expansion of police and military powers that undermine workers’ rights, repress the rights of Indigenous peoples, restrict public participation in decision-making, restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services, or institute widespread surveillance under cover of the crisis.

Initial Signatories

Global & Regional

  2. Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development
  3. Corporate Europe Observatory
  4. Econexus
  5. Friends of the Earth International
  6. Gastivists
  7. Green Climate Campaign Africa (GCCA)
  8. Indigenous Environment Network
  9. International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists
  10. International Oil Working Group
  11. Oil Change International
  13. Society for International Development (SID)
  14. Third World Network
  15. War on Want
  16. Womankind Worldwide
  17. Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)
  18. WoMin African Alliance


  1. Corporate Accountability and Public Participation (CAPPA) Nigeria
  2. Uganda National Health User's / Consumers Organisation (UNHCO)
  3. Nkumba University School of Sciences(NUSCOS)
  4. Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria
  5. Alliance for Empowering Rural Communities (AERC-Ghana)
  6. GenderCC S.A. - Women for Climate Justice
  7. African Women’s Development and Communication Network - FEMNET
  8. Parliamentary Forum on Climate Change Uganda
  9. Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) Ghana
  10. AbibiNsroma Foundation (ANF) Ghana
  11. Regional Center for International Development Cooperation (RCIDC) Uganda


  1. Agriculture and Forestry Research & Development Centre for Mountainous Regions, Vietnam
  2. Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines
  3. Asha Parivar
  4. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (Thailand)
  5. Bangladesh indigenous women’s network
  6. CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network), Bangladesh
  7. Climate Watch Thailand
  8. Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia
  9. Dibeen Association for Environmental Development (Jordan)
  10. Energy and Climate Policy Institute for Just Transition(ECPI), South Korea
  11. Friends of the Earth Malaysia
  12. Growthwatch, India
  13. Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/FoE Phil
  14. Oriang Women's Movement Philippines
  15. Philippine Movement for Climate Justice
  16. PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress), Bangladesh
  17. Roshni Tariqiyati Tanzeem (Pakistan)
  18. Sanlakas Philippines
  19. Socialist Party (India)
  20. Sukaar Welfare Organization-Pakistan
  21. Sustainable Development Foundation: Thailand
  22. The Centre for Social Research and Development (CSRD), Vietnam
  23. United Mission to Nepal
  24. We Women Lanka (Sri Lanka)
  25. Women Network for Energy and Environment (WoNEE), Nepal


  1. 2degrees artivism (Portugal)
  2. Asamblea Antimilitarista de Madrid (Spain)
  3. ATTAC España
  4. Berkshire Women's Action Group
  5. BUNDjugend/Young Friends of the Earth Germany
  6. CèNTRIC gastro · El Prat de Llobregat · Barcelona
  7. CIDES (España)
  8. Climáximo (Portugal)
  9. Desarma Madrid (Spain)
  10. Eco Justice Valandovo, North Macedonia
  11. Ecologistas en Acción (Spain)
  12. Entrepueblos/Entrepobles/Entrepobos/Herriarte
  13. Extinction Rebellion Berlin-Südind Worldwide
  14. Extinction Rebellion Bizkaia
  15. Extinction Rebellion Cantabria
  16. Extinction Rebellion Gipuzkoa
  17. Extinction Rebellion Norway
  18. Extinction Rebellion Switzerland
  19. Fabricants de Futur - no flag no frontier
  20. Frack Free Sussex
  21. Frack Off London
  22. Friends of the Earth Sweden/Jordens Vänner
  23. Global Justice Now
  24. Guelaya Ecologistas en acción Melilla (Spain)
  25. Instituto De Estudios de la Tierra (España)
  26. Instituto por la Paz y la Ecologia (España)
  27. Limity jsme my (Czech Republic)
  28. Madrid Agroecológico (Spain)
  29. Mujeres de Negro contra la Guerra - Madrid (Spain)
  30. Notre Affaire à tous (France)
  31. Observatori del Deute en la Globalització (Catalunya)
  32. On est prêt (France)
  33. Ozeanien-Dialog
  34. Programa radiofónico Toma la Tierra, Madrid
  35. Rebelion contra la Extincion - Extinction Rebellion Spain
  36. Share The World’s Resources (STWR)
  37. Transition Edinburgh
  38. UK Youth Climate Coalition
  39. Weald Action Group
  40. WhatNext?
  41. WIDE - Network for Women´s Rights and Feminist Perspectives in Development (Austria)
  42. Young Friends of the Earth Macedonia, North Macedonia

North America

  1. 350 Triangle, North Carolina
  2. ActionAid USA
  3. Berks Gas Truth
  4. Better Path Coalition
  5. Center for Biological Diversity
  6. Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  7. Corporate Accountability
  8. Council of Canadians, Peterborough and Kawartha
  9. Earth Ethics, Inc.
  10. Earth in Brackets
  11. Earthworks
  12. EcoEquity
  13. EnGen Collaborative
  14. Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
  15. Extinction Rebellion Centre Wellington, Ontario
  16. Fannie Lou Hamer Institute
  17. Frack Free New Mexico
  18. Friends of the Earth Canada
  19. Friends of the Earth U.S.
  20. Fund for Democratic Communities
  21. Global Resilience
  22. Good Food Jobs
  23. Harrington Investments, Inc
  24. Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights
  25. Indigenous Environmental Network - Turtle Island
  26. Institute for Policy Studies Climate Policy Program
  27. People for a Healthy Environment, New York
  28. Peterborough Pollinators
  29. Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary NGO
  30. Resource Generation
  31. Rising Tide Chicago
  32. Sane Energy Project, New York
  33. Sisters of Charity Federation
  35. Sunflower Alliance
  36. SustainUS
  37. The Climate Mobilization
  38. The Climate Mobilization Mont Co Md.
  39. The Global Citizens’ Initiative
  40. The Leap
  41. The Oakland Institute
  42. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC UNITED)
  43. Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth
  44. United for a Fair Economy
  45. Weaving Earth, Center for Relational Education
  46. WildEarth Guardians

South America

  1. CENSAT Friends of The Earth Colombia
  2. Centro de Ciências e Tecnologia para a Soberania, Segurança alimentar alimentar e nutricional a o Direito Humano à Alimentação e Nutrição /adequadas . Nordeste. Brasil
  3. Centro Nicaragüense de Conservación Ambiental-CENICA
  4. Critical Geography Collective, Ecuador
  5. Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer, Argentina
  6. IEASIA - UFPE. Brasil
  7. ODRI Intersectional rights - Office for the Defence of Rights and Intersectionality
  8. Plataforma Boliviana frente al Cambio Climático//Bolivian Platform on Climate Change
  9. The Democracy Center
  10. Union of Peoples Affected by Texaco


  1. Friends of the Earth Australia
  2. Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights
  3. Oceania Human Rights


  1. CNS