As the world’s attention shifted to watch influential figures walk the corridors of the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, a people-powered global campaign emerged with a message: The climate crisis is at our door. It’s devastating for us all, but particularly for the Global South. We will speak up against climate injustice.

A simple but powerful image

More than 600 people from 28 countries painted their hands to resemble oil and raised them in resistance at iconic locations worldwide. From Cameroon to Kenya, from Indonesia to Malaysia, South Korea to Croatia, Greece to Denmark, from Greenpeace ships in Uruguay, the Philippines and the eastern Pacific, and from Canada and Mexico to Brazil and Argentina, these photos symbolise the fight against the fossil fuel industry’s destructive business.

The stories behind the photographs

This united global movement advocates for urgent climate action and demands that Big Oil be held to account for the destruction and the crimes they are responsible for in their countries. People all over the world demanded that COP28 should not become an oil trade show. They called for an equitable transition to renewable energy and for global climate justice.

In the Philippines, community members and fishermen in Batangas stand outside the Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation.

Community Protest at Shell Facility in Batangas. © Basilio Sepe / Greenpeace
Community Protest at Shell Facility in Batangas, Philippines.
© Basilio Sepe / Greenpeace
Community Protest at Shell Facility in Batangas. © Basilio Sepe / Greenpeace
Community Protest at Shell Facility in Batangas, Philippines.
© Basilio Sepe / Greenpeace

In Austria, activists are pictured outside fossil fuel company OMV’s headquarters in Vienna, demanding the company stops oil and gas extraction and pays reparations to communities it has damaged.

In Austria, activists are pictured outside fossil fuel company OMV’s headquarters in Vienna, demanding the company stops oil and gas extraction and pays reparations to communities it has damaged.
Activists outside fossil fuel company OMV’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
© Mitja Kobal / Greenpeace
In Austria, activists are pictured outside fossil fuel company OMV’s headquarters in Vienna, demanding the company stops oil and gas extraction and pays reparations to communities it has damaged.
Activist outside fossil fuel company OMV’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
© Mitja Kobal / Greenpeace

In Cameroon, Greenpeace Africa volunteers organised actions across the cities of Yaounde, Douala, and Buea. In Buea, volunteers gathered on the beach to capture powerful images calling out the National Refining Company’s pollution of sea water. 

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Bienvenu Hitoko (pictured) and other Greenpeace Africa activists are pictured in front of coal storage at the Pile VENUS Port in Matadi, to raise awareness of the harm caused by coal and other fossil fuels. Volunteer coordinator Jersey Mpanzu said: “We have never ceased to denounce abuses committed by the fossil fuel industry against the Congo Basin’s forests, including the illegal exploitation of protected species and the violation of the moratorium on logging in the DRC. Fossil fuels are a major threat to the DRC’s forests, which sustain life and combat the climate crisis. The large quantities of coal in this port are burned to fuel the PPC Malanga/Kongo Central cement plant, which is a major source of pollution. We took part in the Hands of Resistance action to make the people of the DRC aware of the danger we face from coal, oil and gas extraction.”

An activist in front of coal storage at the Pile VENUS Port in Matadi, DRC.
© Mike Kumenda

In Switzerland, activists took pictures against the breathtaking backdrop of lake Klöntal in Glarus, to remind us that as fossil fuel companies keep turning up the heat on the planet, our winters start to become worryingly and unnaturally warm.

In Switzerland, activists took pictures against the breathtaking backdrop of lake Klöntal in Glarus.
© Marc Meier / Greenpeace

In Canada, Greenpeace Canada activists projected images of local forest fires onto the office of Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault in Montreal, calling to “Faites payer les pollueurs” (make polluters pay) for their climate destruction.

Projection Action "Make Polluters Pay" on Environment Minister’s Office in Montreal as COP28 Begins. © Toma Iczkovits / Greenpeace
Greenpeace Canada activists and supporters in front of Environmental Minister Steven Guilbeault’s office in Montreal.
© Toma Iczkovits / Greenpeace

In Dubai, campaigner Lisa Göldner brought a banner collage of these images to COP28 to represent the global movement of people calling for climate justice, and to express the universal harm caused all over the world by the fossil fuel industry. 

Lisa said: “This is not a drill. Ending global dependence on fossil fuels is a matter of life and death. Fossil fuel profits should not be prioritised over people’s safety. This COP28 must send a clear signal to fossil fuel companies around the world that their deadly business is over. New fossil fuel projects must be banned, and fossil fuels must be rapidly phased out.”

Fossil Free Revolution Campaigner Lisa Göldner at COP28 in Dubai.
© Marie Jacquemin / Greenpeace

It’s not too late  

Time is running out to oust fossil fuels, but it’s not too late. All over the world, people are waking up to the damage and injustice they cause. Courageous activists and frontline communities have been fighting back for decades against the fossil fuel industry’s high-paid army of lawyers and PR pros. They are working together to dismantle a global energy system built on the oppression and exploitation of people and nature, which lines the pockets of a wealthy few. 

Together we are gaining ground

While COP28 decided that the fossil fuel era is ending, governments at COP28 still need to agree to the specifics of the fossil fuel phase out that the world so desperately needs. Our growing global movement is more important than ever. Together, we can create a new age of climate justice that benefits everyone. Let’s make our planet safe, fair and healthy for people and nature. It’s time for the fossil fuel industry to stop drilling and start paying. 

Activists Arrive in Haugesund after 13-day Occupation of Shell's New Oil Platform
Fossil criminals should stop drilling and start paying

Call on leaders to stop all new fossil fuel developments, to commit to a rapid and fair phase out of fossil fuels, and to make polluters pay for their destruction and harm caused.

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Riina Kivilahti is Greenpeace’s Mobilisation coordinator for the Fossil Free Revolution campaign based in Finland.

The full list of 28 countries involved in the Hands of Resistance action is: Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, China, Croatia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Romania, Slovakia, South-Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand.