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Handbook for climate activists

Guides for environmental protest movements
15 min read
Last update: Nov 18, 2023

All over the globe people are taking action for climate justice. In this article, we have put together a collection of resources for environmental protest movements.

As the world faces an unprecedented climate crisis, people are taking to the streets to demand change. From the Extinction Rebellion protests in the UK, to the Youth Climate Strike in the US, to the Greta Thunberg-inspired school strikes happening all over the world, people are rising up to demand action on climate change.

If you are reading this, you are probably already aware of the many ways in which climate change is affecting our planet. Perhaps you have read about the melting glaciers, the billions of tons of plastic in our oceans, or the drastic decline in the populations of many species of animals. Or maybe you have experienced the effects of climate change firsthand, in the form of more extreme weather conditions or changes in your local ecosystem.

Whatever your reason for wanting to take action on climate change, this guide is for you. Here, you will find information on some of the most effective ways to make a difference. Whether you want to lobby your government for change, or join a climate protest, you will find the resources you need here. So let’s get started!

Guides for climate activists

If you're looking for resources to help you get involved in a climate protest movement, you've come to the right place. In this article, we've gathered a collection of articles, guides, and tools to help you get started.

We've compiled tips on how to organise a protest, how to campaign for climate justice, and how to stay safe while protesting. We've also gathered information on the legal rights of protesters, and ways to mobilise and do outreach to grow your movement.

Finally, we've collected a list of training organisations to support your movement.

Action ideas

Are you looking for inspiration for your next climate action? Here are some suggestions:

Host a mock trial: This could be a public event where a group of activists "try" a corporation or government agency for their role in causing or perpetuating climate change. The trial could include witnesses, evidence, and a jury of participants, and could be used to educate people about the issue and build support for your campaign.

Organize a "die-in": This is a common tactic used by activists to simulate the consequences of a particular issue, in this case the potential loss of life due to climate change. To do this, activists would lie down in a public place and remain still for a set period of time, creating a powerful visual that can be used to draw media attention and engage with the public.

Create a "guerrilla garden": This is a tactic where activists covertly plant flowers, trees, or other plants in a public space without permission, in order to beautify the area and make a statement about the importance of nature and the environment. This can be a fun and creative way to engage with the public and promote your campaign message.

Hold a "funeral" for the planet: This action would involve activists hosting a mock funeral to symbolize the loss of the planet due to climate change. This could include a casket, mourners dressed in black, and a procession or procession through a public space. This can be a powerful and emotional way to draw attention to your cause.

Organize a "clean-up" event: This is a tactic where activists organize a public event to clean up litter, trash, or other debris from a particular location. This can be a great way to engage with the public and promote your campaign message, and can also serve as a tangible example of the work you are doing to protect the environment.

Nature is defending itself: A frog is reading Activist Handbook - Generated using OpenAI


Make sure to convey a sense of urgency. Do not say “climate change”, use phrases like this instead:

  1. The earth is on the brink of a climate catastrophe.

  2. Time is running out to act on the climate crisis.

  3. The climate crisis is an unprecedented threat to humanity.

  4. The ocean's ecosystems are collapsing, putting countless species in danger.

  5. We must take action now before it's too late and our planet is irrevocably damaged.

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Climate activist groups





Does climate activism work?

Climate activism can be effective in raising awareness and pressuring governments and businesses to take action on climate change. There are many different forms of activism, and some are more effective than others. Make sure to read our chapter on strategy to learn more about making effective plans.

How do I get involved with climate activism?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to become a climate activist may vary depending on your individual skills, interests, and experiences. However, some tips on how to become a climate activist include:

  1. Get informed about the issue of climate change and the science behind it. This will help you to understand the urgency of the issue and the actions that need to be taken to address it.

  2. Connect with others who are also concerned about climate change. This can be done online or in person, and will help you to feel supported as you take action.

  3. Get involved in local and national campaigns on climate change. This could involve writing to your elected representatives, attending protests or rallies, or speaking out about the issue in your community.

  4. Use your skills and talents to support the climate change movement. This could include using your art or writing to raise awareness, using your social media platforms to amplify the message, or using your technical skills to develop new tools or platforms for activism.

  5. Be persistent and don’t give up. It is important to remember that change takes time, and even small actions can have a big impact when done collectively.

How do I organise a climate protest?

To organise a climate protest, you will need to gather a group of people who are passionate about the cause and willing to take action. You will need to choose a date, time, and location for the protest, and promote it through social media and other channels. On the day of the protest, make sure to have signs and banners to attract attention, and be prepared to chant and march.

What climate movements exist?

Here are three examples of climate movements, but there are many more:

Fridays for Future is a youth-led climate movement that began in August 2018, when Greta Thunberg, then 15 years old, started protesting in front of the Swedish parliament every Friday for action on the climate crisis. The movement has since spread to over 150 countries, with school students striking on Fridays to demand climate justice.

Extinction Rebellion is a global climate movement that uses nonviolent civil disobedience to demand action on the climate crisis. The movement was founded in the UK in May 2018 by academics Roger Hallam and Gail Bradbrook, and has since grown to include tens of thousands of people in over 80 countries.

Youth for Climate is a youth-led climate movement that was started in the Netherlands in 2019. The movement has since spread to other countries, with youth taking to the streets to demand climate action from their governments.

People cleaning up a dirty lake - Generated using open AI

External resources

Organising, Advocacy and Lobbying

For general skills around organising, campaigning, advocacy and lobbying see Commons Start Here guides: Organising, Campaign Strategy, Lobbying & Advocacy.

Direct Action

Conversations & Framing

Running Meetings

Creative Actions

Systems Thinking

Responding to Climate Impacts

Climate Justice and Intersectionality

We found that the growing use of the term ‘climate justice’ reflects increasing awareness that climate change will affect not only our environment but also the social fabric of communities and nations. – Astrid Vachette, Robyn Gulliver, Sarah Boddington

Climate Activist Health and Wellbeing

If we don’t act with love towards ourselves and others in our work, we can’t bring more love to the systems causing climate injustice. Charlie Wood

The uncertainty of the climate crisis can have a profound impact on our mental and physical health. We’ve brought together a range of resources to help you navigate climate grief, anxiety and burnout on your climate activism journey.

Have a look through our curated list of Resources to Cope With Climate Anxiety and Grief or pick out some of the resources below:

Climate Movement Case Studies

Social movements create change by building collective power to win an agenda that serves the common interest. Change lasts when it becomes embedded as social norms valued by a majority of the public, and in institutional, financial and political systems. – Kathryn McCallum


First Nations Organising

Reset 1: First Nations Resistance & Climate Justice (Karrina Nolan)
These resources were collated by Karrina Nolan for the Reset Reading Group series.

Camp Walmadan Booklet, James Price Point, Western Australia: A Guide to Country, Community and Culture (Nicola Paris, Tegan Mossop)
The Camp Walmadan booklet gives an insight into the campaign to stop a gas refinery at Walmadam (James Price Point).

James Price Point/Walmadan: A Huge Win (Nicola Paris)
This case study is provided by CounterAct from the 2014 report ‘Creating change in Australia’

Commons Conversations #2: Millie Telford and Grace Vegesana
In this episode of the Commons Conversations podcast Millie Telford, co-founder of Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, is interviewed by Grace Vegasana, the Climate & Racial Justice Director for AYCC.

The Jabiluka campaign from the 1990s is a powerful historic case study of First Nations led protection of Country. View the Jabiluka resources in the Commons Library.

Stop Adani

Australian Campaign Case Study: Stop Adani, 2012 – 2022 (Robyn Gulliver) This case study looks at Stop Adani, a directed network campaign aiming to halt the construction of a large thermal coal mine in northern Queensland.

The Fight of our Times: Stopping Adani and New Coal (John Hepburn)
The Sunrise Project Executive Director, John Hepburn, presents at Progress 2017. John breaks down what’s at stake in the ongoing Stop Adani campaign and how you can get involved.

Stop Adani and the Suffragettes Reflections on Targets and Tactics (Joel Dignam)
In this article Joel Dignam takes lessons on campaign targets and tactics from the Stop Adani campaign (2017) and the Suffragettes (1905).

Women’s Stories of Environmental Activism: Susan, Olivia, Nora, Lisa, Jenny (by Robyn Gulliver)  
This series was created from interviews undertaken with five women who stayed at Camp Binbee for one week in late 2017 to take action against the Carmichael coal mine development.

Coal Seam Gas

Enabling Emergence: The Bentley Blockade and the Struggle for a Gasfield Free Northern Rivers(Aidan Ricketts, Annie Kia)
An examination of the social movement dynamics involved in Gasfield Free Northern Rivers and the Bentley Blockade by two key leaders.

‘Always look up’: Connecting Community for a Win against Gas (Millie Rooney)
Millie Rooney speaks to Cam Walker of Friends of the Earth Australia about their role in winning a constitutional ban on fracking in Victoria.

Lock the Gate – Coal Seam Gas: The Ongoing Battle (Nicola Paris)
This case study is provided by CounterAct from the report ‘Creating change in Australia’.

Other Campaigns and Reflections

Power and Agency: Lessons from Ten years of Climate Campaigning (Kathryn McCallum)
Kathryn McCallum, an Australian Climate Campaigner, shares her lessons from ten years of climate campaigning in her talk, Power and Agency: Lessons from Ten years of Climate Campaigning, given in 2023.

Frontline Action on Coal FLAC: Ten Years on the Climate Frontline (Andy Paine)
In this retrospective of Frontline Action on Coal, Andy Paine details the network’s history, its methods and what has been learnt along the way

Australian Campaign Case Study: Divestment Campaign 2013 – 2021 (Robyn Gulliver)
This case study follows the Divestment campaign, introduced to Australia by in around 2013.

Blockades that changed Australia (Iain McIntyre)
In this article Iain McIntyre goes through 13 different blockades in Australian activism history.

30 years of Creative Resistance: Friends of the Earth Australia (Cam Walker)
‘30 years of Creative Resistance’ is a compilation of writing and art celebrating the work of Friends of the Earth Australia over the last thirty years.

International Case Studies

Sunrise Movement (USA)

Reflections on Sunrise Movement’s Strike Circle Program (Luis Marchese, PowerLabs, Randall Smith)
This webinar details how Sunrise Movement’s Strike Circle program helped them to launch 600 small groups, plan local climate activism strikes, and convert 300 of the groups to ongoing Sunrise chapters.

Behind the Scenes of Sunrise’s Volunteer-led Phone Bank Program (PowerLabs, Randall Smith, Sophia Zaia)
How the Sunrise Movement (USA) created the volunteer team structure that powered 6.2 million phone calls for electoral impact.

Lessons Learned from Campaigning to Win the Green New Deal (Dyanna Jaye, PowerLabs)
This PowerLabs webinar with Dyanna Jaye covers the Sunrise Movement’s campaign to win the Green New Deal.

Why a Coaching Approach is Better than Command and Control (PowerLabs, Sophia Zaia)
Sophia Zaia, a consultant for Powerlabs, shares her key takeaways about using a coaching approach when working with volunteers for the Sunrise Movement’s distributed voter contact program.

A collection of Organising Stories and Lessons from across the globe, collated and presented by

Ende Gelände (
In this case study shares valuable lessons on climate activism and organising civil disobedience from Ende Gelände.

How France Fought to Keep it in the Ground: Lessons from 350 Campaigns (, Clémence Dubois, Nicolas Haeringer)
Lessons learned and shared by France about their offshore drilling and fossil fuel campaigns in France.

How to Recruit more People: Lessons from Rukiya in 350 Kenya (
Rukiya, a organiser in Kenya, shares stories of how they recruited people for the African DeCOALinise Campaign.

Movement Support Teams: Examples of Volunteers Supporting Each Other in the Movement( shares three examples and lessons learned of different ways peer-to-peer Movement Support Teams can work.

Climate Impacts: 350 Organising Lessons from Australia, US, Pacific Islands, and UK (, Daniel Hunter)
These lessons from share four different organising responses from different countries to climate impacts.

How to Influence a Political “Frenemy”: Lessons from 350 Canada’s Climate Welcome ( Canada’s “Climate Welcome” protest pressured Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take bold climate action despite uncertainties, shifting the public narrative and creating government pressure.

Creating Bold Safe Actions Despite Repression: Lessons from Brazil (
Here are some lessons learned and tips from about making escalated actions bold and safe.

Other Campaigns & Reflections

Auckland Transport Decarbonisation Campaign (Robyn Gulliver)
This case study looks at ‘All Aboard Aotearoa’, a 2020 coalition that campaigned for the decarbonisation of road transport in Auckland by 2030.

“You can’t eat money”: An Interview with Extinction Rebellion Activist Jo Flanagan (Holly Hammond, Iain McIntyre)
Interview with UK Extinction Rebellion activist, Jo Flanagan, about a protest against BlackRock in 2019.

How Defeating Keystone XL Built a Bolder, Savvier Climate Movement (Nick Engelfried)
This case study, originally published on Waging Nonviolence, follows one of the longest, highest-profile campaigns in the North American climate movement: resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline.

4 Lessons for Climate Organizers from the Anti-nuclear Movement (Will Lawrence)
In this article Will Lawrence outlines four key lessons from the anti-nuclear movement.

Mining Resistance in India (Jan Paul Smit)
Community resistance has been astonishingly effective at stopping mining in India. This article draws from the book Iron Will: Global Extractivism and Mining Resistance in Brazil and India.

Mining Resistance in Brazil (Jan Paul Smit)
Community resistance has been astonishingly effective at stopping mining in Brazil. This article draws from the book Iron Will: Global Extractivism and Mining Resistance in Brazil and India.

Greenpeace pushes for global ban on CFCs 1986 – 1995 (Irina Bukharin)
Greenpeace International agitated for a ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to protect the global ozone layer from ultraviolet radiation. This case study describes the campaign.

How to Beat the ‘Fracking Frenzy: Lessons from the Campaign that ended Fracking in Ireland (Jamie Gorman)
The successful Irish anti-fracking struggle offers key insights on community power building for anti-extraction movements all over the world.

Climate Activism Research

Our data shows that the climate change movement in Australia is grassroots in nature, diverse, growing quickly, and achieving substantial success. It is using a vibrant and evolving repertoire of civil resistance tactics designed to mobilize and create change. – International Center on Nonviolent Conflict ICNC, Kelly Fielding, Robyn Gulliver, Winnifred Louis

Want to dig a little deeper? Delve into our range of research into climate activism and social change.

An Investigation into the Australian Environmental Movement’s Characteristics and Activities (Robyn Gulliver)
Research and insights conducted by Australian academic, Robyn Gulliver, on the Australian environmental movement and campaigners including their experiences, characteristics of the movement, activities, and campaigns.

The Characteristics, Activities and Goals of Australian Environmental Activist Groups (Kelly Fielding, Robyn Gulliver, Winnifred Louis)
A detailed examination of the Australian environmental movement demonstrated that in 2017 there were 497 groups undertaking environmental activism, almost half of which focused on conservation issues and worked at a local scale, while collectively running 960 different campaigns.

A Comparative Analysis of Australian Media Coverage of the 2019 Climate Protests (Robyn Gulliver)
In this report from the Activism Research Hub, Dr. Gulliver provides an analysis of Australian mainstream media coverage of climate activism and protests in 2019.

Civil Resistance Against Climate Change: What, when, who and how effective? (International Center on Nonviolent Conflict ICNC, Kelly Fielding, Robyn Gulliver, Winnifred Louis)
Using a large dataset of 497 Australian environmental groups and over 35,000 environmental actions, this monograph considers what climate activism – specifically climate change civil resistance – looks like, how it is changing, and what it is achieving.

Social Movements and the (Mis)use of Research: Extinction Rebellion and the 3.5% rule (Kyle R Matthews)
In this article, which originally appeared in Interface Journal, Kyle R Matthews analyses how applicable research into social movements seeking regime change is for protest movements in liberal democracies.

Making Change: What works? (Harry Quilter-Pinner, Laurie Laybourn-Langton, Nicolas Treloar)
This report analyses what worked and didn’t work for four movements from recent decades, exploring some of their strengths and weaknesses.

How Emotions Mobilise and Sustain the Anti-Coal Seam Gas Movement (Robyn Gulliver)
In this study of the anti-coal seam gas movement in regional Australia the authors found that the combination of anger with the joy of connecting with the community helped sustain the movement over time.

What Helps Motivate People to Take Action? (Kelly Fielding, Robyn Gulliver, Winnifred Louis)
What helps motivate people to take action? Learn from this research from the University of Queensland that analysed the website communication of almost 500 Australian environmental groups.

Global Atlas of Environmental Justice: Environmental Conflicts in Australia (Environmental Justice Atlas)
The environmental justice atlas documents and catalogues social conflict around environmental issues.

Movement Monitor (Commons Library)
This research project will develop a comprehensive movement measurement methodology and apply it to the Australian climate movement. Sign up for updates.

Climate Book Reviews, Podcasts and Media

Many ordinary people became accidental and reluctant activists who cannot unsee the injustice and maladministration of our supposed ‘democratic’ process. – Julie Lyford


Podcasts and Webinars


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