‘You did not act in time’: Greta Thunberg and behavioural contestation

Students at a ‘Fridays For Future’ protest march in Invalidenpark, Berlin [Mika Baumeister/unsplash]

‘Basically nothing is being done to halt—or even slow—climate and ecological breakdown, despite all the beautiful words and promises’. Greta Thunberg’s damning speech before the UK parliament last month highlights that the greatest challenge to international climate agreements is inaction by governments. The Swedish climate activist’s central message was: ‘You did not act in time’.

The norms within the Paris Agreement on climate change are challenged not just by climate change deniers and other open critics. Perhaps more dangerously, as Thunberg pointed out, they are also contested by states like the UK that pay lip-service to the agreement but fail to reach their emissions reduction targets. To capture these diverse forms of norm contestation, the special section on the ‘Dynamics of Dissent’ in the May issue of International Affairs makes a distinction between discursive and behavioural contestation.

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