Ever since “An Inconvenient Truth” it has been something of a cliché to talk about light bulbs and climate change. Installing more efficient LED bulbs was never going to be an adequate response to the planetary emergency we are facing. But the cliché overlooks a more challenging fact: over a billion people in the world don’t even have a light bulb to switch out. 

Access to electricity—to energy—is vital to the realization of peoples’ rights, social justice and sustainable economic development. But the dominant energy systems fail to meet the needs of more than 2 billion people worldwide. Worse, the way the dominant system produces and distributes energy actually has destructive impacts on the health, livelihoods and environment of many communities—from the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Niger Delta, and from the Belo Monte Megadam to the Lujiashan incinerator. This is before we even consider climate change, to which the energy sector is the leading contributor. 

Initiatives such as this May’s Break Free from Fossil Fuels have directed the anger and hope of many people who want to take action on climate change towards high-profile interventions at symbolic sites of fossil fuel infrastructure. Governments may have applauded themselves in Paris at last year’s climate summit, but they have since reverted to type, and to their dirty energy addiction. Similarly, the global divestment movement has rapidly and successfully pressured the financiers of dirty energy to redirect as much as $3.4 trillion of investments. 

However, dirty and harmful energy also includes the aggressive production and promotion of large-scale agro-fuels at the expense of food and livelihoods. It includes mega-dams and hydro projects that devastate river ecosystems and cause massive environmental damage. Dangerous nuclear power, industrial wood-based bioenergy which speeds up forest destruction and land conversion to monoculture plantations, and the toxic burning of waste in incinerators and cement plants: these are all being promoted as “clean energy” solutions to climate change. They are not.

The world needs a fundamental transformation of energy systems to put people and planet before profit. If we are going to have any hope of avoiding unimaginably catastrophic climate change, we can afford no more fossil fuel projects, no more carbon infrastructure. We can afford only the solutions—people centred renewable energy. 

All over the world, people are engaged in long-standing struggles on energy, defending their rights, and proving that alternative energy systems are indeed possible. In 2013, many groups* got together to launch Reclaim Power, a global initiative aiming to organise actions in as many countries as possible, providing opportunities for people to be directly involved and raising the demand for a full transformation of energy systems. Our first global month saw 580 actions in 60 countries. 

This year, Reclaim Power aims again to inspire and mobilize people from all walks of life for a variety of actions, and continue to contribute to building a powerful global movement to address the injustices embedded in the current system. Over the course of October, we are planning to carry out the world’s largest ever coordinated actions against dirty energy and for clean community energy. There are 200 actions planned for India alone, and campaigners in London have already launched the month with a record 11-hour protest tour of dirty energy companies. Join us by taking action in your community. For more information: www.reclaimpower.net 

*Note to editors: Reclaim Power groups currently include: 350.org | Action Aid International | CAN International | Corporate Accountability International | Earth in Brackets | Food and Water Watch | Friends of the Earth International | Greenpeace International | GAIA International | Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice | Global Catholic Climate Movement | International Rivers | LDC Watch | NGO Forum on the ADB | Oil Change International | Third World Network | Women’s Environment and Development Organization | Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development | Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development | Balkans Youth Climate Movement | CEE Bankwatch Network | Food and Water Europe | Friends of the Earth Europe | Meso American Campaign for Climate Justice | No REDD in Africa Network | Pan African Climate Justice Alliance | South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication | Transnational Institute | Young Friends of the Earth Europe | Market Forces, Australia | Ende Gelende Germany | Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland | Biofuelwatch | UKYCC | Coal Action Network (UK) | SustainUS | Council of Canadians | Global Justice Now UK | This Changes Everything UK | Bolivian Platform on Climate Change | Red Nacional Ambient Juvenil, Ecuador | MOCICC Peru | TierrActiva Peru | Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) – Nigeria | Reseau sur le Changement Climatique, DR Congo | Freedom from Debt Coalition | Environics Trust India | Himalaya Niti Abhiyan India | Indian Social Action Forum | Mines Minerals and People India | National Hawkers Federation India | AKSI Indonesia | Greenpeace Indonesia | Jatam Indonesia | KRUHA Indonesia | WALHI Indonesia | Friends of the Earth Japan | Korea Federation for Environmental Movements | Campaign for Climate Justice Nepal | Digo Bikas Institute | All Nepal Women Association (ANWA) | Center for Socio-Economic Research and Development, Nepal | Civic Concern –Nepal | Jagaran Nepal | Women Welfare Society, Nepal | Youth Federation Nepal | BBC Beyond Beijing Committee Nepal | National Fiscal and Tax Justice Alliance Nepal | Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee | Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum | Center for Energy Ecology and Development (CEED) Philippines | Greenpeace Philippines | Philippine Movement for Climate