Climate activism in the time of COVID-19


The coronavirus pandemic has forced climate campaigners to reflect. With social distancing measures preventing protesters from taking to the streets, the movement is finding other ways to be heard.

IIED hosted a webinar on 14 May to discuss how the climate movement has mobilised online and whether the long-term goals of activism will change as a result of this global shock.

Last updated 14 May
A handwritten sign is help up saying "Fight today for a better tomorrow"

The September 2019 global climate strikes saw thousands of people protesting for more action on climate change (Photo: Markus Spiske via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

In 2019, we saw people mobilise to demand climate action at an unprecedented scale. The Fridays for Future movement initiated the biggest climate protest ever, when millions of people across the globe took to the streets to demand urgent action on the climate crisis.

With the world now in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic at a crucial time for the climate crisis, campaigners have been forced to change tactics and move strikes and protests to an online arena. While the ongoing public health crisis is the priority for governments, climate change is not going away – and the pandemic has proved the importance of early action.

This webinar looked at the advantages and disadvantages of moving activism to digital spaces. It addressed questions such as:

  • Can the climate movement momentum be maintained and to what degree?
  • Will the lack of street protests set us back in terms of getting a good outcome from COP26? Or could online activism nurture new strategies for engaging people, deepen alliances, and open new opportunities for the movement?
  • How will the goals and tactics of climate activism adapt to the huge global shock of the pandemic?

Event coverage

You can see a video recording of the complete event below, including the question-and-answer session with webinar participants, and on IIED's YouTube channel.


About the speakers:

Farhana Yamin is an internationally recognised climate lawyer, author, speaker and social justice activist.

Andrew Norton (chair) is director of IIED. He is an applied anthropologist working on a range of issues related to social and environmental justice.

Ineza Umuhoza Grace is the founder and chief executive officer of The Green Fighter, an impact driven youth organisation in Rwanda. She is a leader by example and involved in the climate change diplomacy with a youth voice.

Vanessa Nakate is a climate activist in Uganda and founder of the Rise Up Climate Movement 

Sam Greene is a senior researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group. His research work focuses on climate finance and climate change adaptation.

IIED events newsletter

Sign up to our mailing list for updates and invitations to events throughout the year, including webinars, critical themes and debriefs.


Juliette Tunstall ([email protected]), internal engagement and external events officer