On Sunday 12th November, the Midlands Arts Centre hosted WE MAKE TOMORROW, Birmingham’s Climate Justice Conference. The event was sold out with 130 activists from across the West Midlands gathering. The conference was organised in anticipation of the National Day of Action scheduled for Saturday, 9 November, marking the halfway point of COP28.

Hosted by Brum Climate Justice Coalition (BCJC), a diverse alliance tackling various facets of the climate and ecological crisis, the event kicked off with inspiring talks by five speakers: Asad Rehman, Director of War on Want; Mus Dar, activist and campaigner; Kamran Shezad, Bahu Trust; Suzanne Jeffery, co-author of the Climate Jobs report; and Luke Espiritu, lawyer and campaigner. The afternoon featured engaging workshops on critical topics like transport, domestic energy, and democratic processes.

Common themes emerged as the speakers and workshop participants shared their insights: the world is in the grip of multiple crises intensified by rising global temperatures. Our national and international systems are organised around fossil fuels and maintained by people in the traditional elites, and corporations fall short of providing genuine solutions. Meanwhile, those bearing the brunt of climate change – subsistence communities, system resistors, and migrants – are unjustly demonised and blamed for political failures and systemic breakdowns.

We heard about the corruption of military regimes, while reflecting on corruption in democratic countries. We got to know that the IMF has identified 183 (out of 195) countries as in austerity – effectively weakening an economy to attract private wealth. We considered that change is inevitable, but asked the rhetorical question: “Who will pay the price?”

Asad Rehman, Director of War on Want, stated that “We are losing badly at the moment”, but he pointed to flickers of hope – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say that we can’t solve the climate crisis unless we have a contract on poverty. He encouraged people to connect with like-minded organizations globally and pinpoint transformative demands, especially to ensure the fairest utilisation of resources such as land, water, and labour.

Suggestions from the floor to counter the crisis and develop collaboration were raised in the plenary: use the arts to ridicule abusers of political and economic power; bring the perspectives and solutions of different communities into the arena, such as faith groups, workers organisations, cooperatives and climate activists. Finally, the participants agreed that it’s vital to acknowledge the strong links between deep socio-economic challenges and the climate and ecological crisis, and to tackle these issues as one.

Written by Fran, XR Birmingham