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We're mobilizing a global movement to stop dangerous climate change. Join us at 350.org, and take action at an event near you on the International Day of Climate Action, 24 October, 2009.
Updated: 54 min 30 sec ago

People Surge: to Rage and Love for Justice

Tue, 2014-11-25 01:54

It was plastered all over our nation’s news and even broke into the global reports: the inspiring strength to rise up, resurge and demand justice despite their tragic losses was displayed by the People Surge, an alliance of Super Typhoon Haiyan survivors and their supporters.

 Phil Prins

Photo Credits: Phil Prins

 

I have witnessed the increasing poverty in the most impacted areas; the thriving situation of families in evacuation sites; the children’s unfavorable situation in school tents; the stories of increasing number of trafficked women and children; the massive landlessness coupled with the No Dwelling Zone Policy imposed to fisher folks trying to rebuild their lives and livelihood in coastal areas; and the countless innocent lives lost and missing marked at the memorial mass grave sites. The sad reality  breaks me into anger, helplessness, and rage– it had been a year of injustices.

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One of the mass grave sites in Leyte.

 

But as we took part in the historic week of action at the ground zero, I witnessed resilience and heroism amidst adversity, hallmarks of the Philippines’ proud history and culture. We marched alongside 20,000 Haiyan survivors—farmers, fisher folk, students, artists, and even solidarity contingents from the international community—in the scorching heat of the Pacific climate, a perfect portrayal of the anger, but also of the love that bound us together.

The rage rang clear in the People Surge’s demands: Philippines president Noynoy Aquino must be held accountable for a full year of social, environmental, and climate injustice that Haiyan survivors faced after history’s strongest typhoon made landfall.

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Photo Credits: Phil Prins

 

They also made clear their demands to “hold accountable the world’s top polluter countries, as well as their extractive and pollutive industries, for the unabated carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industries, and their continuing plunder of the environment in colonies and neo-colonies such as the Philippines.”

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(Right) Dr. Efleda Bautista, Chairperson of People Surge holding the banner demanding accountability to the criminal negligence of the Aquino Government. Photo Credits: Phil Prins

 

I am reminded with what Filipino poet Romeo Sandoval famously wrote: “We are angry, because we love. We love, and so our arms labor on.” The People Surge’s rage is clearly a labor of love—seeking to rebuild and reclaim justice today, in order to take back from polluters a resilient and just future, especially for the generations to come.

We let them know that they are not alone in this struggle. Over 3,000 messages of solidarity poured in, and a continuing relief mobilization through the Climate Relief Fund to sustain the Haiyan survivors’ continuing reconstruction and justice efforts. Donations are still welcome through the Climate Relief Fund, or encourage others to continue writing solidarity messages through our #RememberHaiyan page.

 People Surge

One of the messages received from New Zealand. Photo Credits: People Surge

 

Alongside the weeklong activities in Tacloban was also the Climate Walk led by Climate Commissioner Naderev Sano, on their journey from Kilometer Zero to Ground Zero, a 1000km walk dedicated to the victims of Supertyphoon Haiyan and a global call for Climate Justice.

“The challenge is to put pressure for a concerted global response to climate change, while at the same time, for people in vulnerable countries like the Philippines to push for greater accountability and transparent leadership in their governments, because theirs is the burden to stir the country towards survival and resilience.” 350.org East Asia Digital Campaigner, Chuck Baclagon said in his  blog as he shares his experience during the climate walk.

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Snapshot of the Climate Walk as they crossed over San Juanico Bridge to enter Tacloban. Photo by: Chuck Baclagon

 

The rise of the Haiyan survivors is the rise of our nation. As the global movement continues to rise over the world’s big polluters, we can shift the tide towards a climate safe future. 

 People Surge

More than 3000 solidarity messages around the world were collected. Photo Credits: People Surge

 

Carbon Blind: Lessons from 350Seattle’s Struggle Against a Flawed Divestment Report

Tue, 2014-11-25 00:39

By Alex Lenferna

A growing number of divestment campaigners have had the experience of fighting against reports from investment advisers which argue against divesting from fossil fuels. Likewise, here in Seattle, where we’ve been working hard to get the Seattle City Employees Retirement System (SCERS) to consider divesting from fossil fuels, our efforts were almost derailed by a report which advised against divestment. Too many groups have had their efforts derailed by such reports, most recently American University, so I’m writing this article because I think the time for bad reports on divestment needs to end so that institutions and campaigns can have a clearer understanding of divestment and the risks they face by staying invested in fossil fuels.

Last week NEPC, one of the financial industry’s largest independent investment consulting firms, delivered a report to SCERS. Their recommendation was not to divest from fossil fuels citing uncertainty about the future as their main reason for not divesting. However, their picture of uncertainty and most of their report was arguably quite one-sided. I am not sure what drove them to write such a one-sided report, but nonetheless it is worth demonstrating some of the flaws therein so that other campaigners can recognize them if they are faced with a similar situation, and perhaps even investment advisers might even take some of this into consideration.

One of the biggest problems of the report boils down to a major assumption which allowed them to deny the existence of carbon risk for SCERS. NEPC based their analysis on a financial theory called efficient market theory, which assumes that market participants have all the necessary information about the market which they use efficiently, such that all shares are properly valued. Assuming such a hypothesis in the face of a bubble seems irresponsible, as bubbles are based on the idea that shares are erroneously over-valued and that markets are not acting in accordance with efficient market theory. Furthermore in the case of the carbon bubble efficient market theory is not empirically supported for even if markets used information efficiently, all the information regarding carbon risk just is not available. For instance, the 2013-14 Asset Owner’s Disclosure Project’s Global Climate Index Report found that just under 80% of asset-owners are failing to properly manage climate risks, making them vulnerable to the risks of the carbon bubble, which are estimated to add up to potentially $28 trillion worth of losses in just the next two decades according to analysis by Kepler Chevereux.

Perhaps NEPC felt justified in using efficient market theory because they thought that everything is hunky dory with the fossil fuel industry based on their perception that stranded assets come about primarily as a result of regulatory action to stop climate change, which they were (perhaps unwisely) asking SCERS to bet against. However, the possibility of stranded assets comes from more than just the possibility of regulatory action; the fossil fuel industry is in trouble from a range of independent and mutually reinforcing factors, such that regulatory action may just be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. In a report we sent to NEPC we outlined in detail how the fossil fuel industry is in increasing trouble thanks to a combination of factors, including the rapid decrease of alternative energy costs, increasing costs of fossil fuel extraction, increases in energy efficiency, changing social norms, increased environmental regulation, and suppressed growth of fossil fuel demand in key economies. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard just wrote a great piece on the possible decline of the fossil fuel industry.

In the face of these worrying signs of decline for the fossil fuel industry, uncertainty about the future is an argument that does not clearly point against fossil fuel divestment, but arguably in favour of it. However, instead of recognizing this NEPC cherry-picked a few reports which would suggest that fossil fuel divestment will increase risk and reduce returns to a portfolio. They conveniently chose to ignore an MSCI study which concluded that “fossil fuel divestment has the potential to reduce overall portfolio risk because of Energy Sector volatility”; or a recent Aperio report which showed that fossil fuel divestment does not have a significant effect on potential return or risk; or that the fossil free U.S. Russell 3000 index outperformed the Russell 3000 index 68% of the time between 1988 and 2013; or the fact that the fossil fuel industry has underperformed the market ever year for the past five years, representing a possible shift in the profitability of staying invested in fossil fuels.

Of course, in any good bad report on fossil fuel divestment, fiduciary duty will be used as a tool against fossil fuel divestment proponents. In response, as always, I turn to former SEC Commissioner Bevis Longstreth who has convincingly argued that “betting against the stranding risk [of the carbon bubble] materializing is arguably an irresponsible, hard-to-defend, position for a fiduciary, who will have to demonstrate a sound basis for doing so, something that seems hard to do”. Similarly, a report by Mercer concluded that “given the risks and opportunities presented by climate change and the rapid introduction of carbon pricing regimes across multiple jurisdictions, trustees have a clear duty to consider climate change risks and relevant laws and policies in making investment decisions”.

As researchers from Oxford University’s Stranded Assets Programme point out, “the lack of a mandate for companies to integrate ESG factors in decision-making, undertake materiality assessments or disclose environment-related risks hinders both consistent understanding of the issues and the ability to mitigate risks… The interpretation of fiduciary duty has evolved significantly over time and must continue to evolve to adjust to changing social and economic realities”. Recognizing this there are a growing number of pension funds and other institutions that have divested from fossil fuels in some way or form illustrating clearly that fiduciary duty has evolved and is consistent with fossil fuel divestment.

350Seattle has always been clear that we’re concerned about the financial future of the pension fund first and with addressing climate change as a large co-benefit. We’re not out to hurt the financial performance of the fund in order to make a political point. If the figures come out saying we’ll harm a pension fund, we’ll step back, but when divestment is at risk because of one-sided research, then we will speak out.

We were fortunate enough to have a number of cogent responses to the NEPC report in the public comments section. We started with the head of 350 Seattle outlining her concern for pensioners given the carbon bubble might play out and discussing how the NEPC report focused on an unreasonable scenario for divestment. We then had a respected climate scientist outline the carbon budget and bubble. Next a researcher into divestment from the University of Washington (namely, the author) explained the problematic nature of the NEPC report and the real risks of the carbon bubble. We then had a city council member talk about how he was enacting policies to ensure that we had a fossil free future and how he didn’t want his policies to jeopardize the financial future of the pension fund if they stayed invested in fossil fuels. Finally we had an investment adviser talk about how fossil fuel divestment is feasible and does not necessarily present a risk to the portfolio as the one-sided NEPC report had suggested. Our comments were powerful, but perhaps most important we were fortunate to have a strong leader on the SCERS board who could guide us past such a deeply problematic report. Thanks to such a unified response divestment is still on the table and hopefully in a few months SCERS will have committed to protect their pensioners from the risks of the carbon bubble by moving forward with divestment from an industry committed to climate chaos.

For those interested in reading more, the 350Seattle report on fossil fuel divestment can be viewed here, the NEPC report here, and our responses to the NEPC report here.

Alex Lenferna is a divest-invest advocate and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Washington researching the ethics and economics of fossil fuel divestment and the ethics of climate change.
His research and articles are freely available
 here.

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Must-see speeches from a weekend protesting Kinder Morgan’s atrocious pipeline project

Mon, 2014-11-24 23:37

Simply put, these people are badasses. Since last Thursday, more than 50 have been arrested while protesting at Burnaby Mountain, where Kinder Morgan is drilling and surveying to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline. Watch the videos below to hear what these brave folks have to say.

Showing how it’s done while getting arrested:

David Suzuki, world-renowned scientist and activist:

Tamo Campos, David Suzuki’s grandson and founder of Beyond Boarding:

16-yr-old Jacqueline Lee Tam:

SFU molecular biologist Lynne Quarmby:

Videos courtesy of Vancouver Observer

How We Convinced Our City Council to Vote Unanimously to Divest, An Ashland Story

Mon, 2014-11-24 19:11

By Winston Friedman

On October 21, 2014 the city council of Ashland, OR joined over 30 cities across the US and voted unanimously in favor of a resolution urging for divestment of it’s money from fossil fuels. Not only were we able to get a unanimous vote in favor of divestment, but several of the councilors voiced concerns like “Divestment is not enough, we need to do more to address climate change locally in our community.” It was a lot of work to get our resolution passed, but now I believe that we possess the political capital necessary to begin work on, and hopefully pass, a progressive climate action plan for our city. I am one of the leaders who brought the issue of divestment forward in our community and I want to share how we did it, because I believe this to be one of the best ways to start taking meaningful  action on climate change and our divestment campaign was very successful.

For me, it all started the same way it did for many people involved in the divestment movement, I read an article that was going viral on the internet, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math. I was going into my senior year at Southern Oregon University (SOU) and decided to bring the issue to the SOU sustainability council, an advisory board to the university president, on which I held a seat. Upon raising the issue, the other members said, “We should look into it and you should chair that sub-committee.” As the chair or the sub-committee I decided to research and put together a 10-20 minute presentation on Divestment. The SOU Foundation decided not to divest its endowment after hearing my presentation, but they are currently considering creating a divested portfolio for new donors. However, the research and presentation I did there became one of the most valuable pieces of our campaign, because not only were we well informed, but we were able to communicate the issue effectively.

 I guess my first piece of advice is study up, become a divestment wonk, and then practice communicating your message. The gofossilfree.org resouces page has everything you need to know. Also, if you’re interested, I have my speech and powerpoint available for download.

When I graduated from SOU I hooked up with a local group called Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN), a very active group in the community. Having an already active climate action group to plug into was really great.  I gave my presentation again, to SOCAN this time, and we formed a divestment group within SOCAN. There were about six people who regularly participated in our divestment meetings twice a month, but when it came time for the council votes we called on the rest of the group to show up. We ended up meeting for a little over one and a half years  before the city council vote.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having a committed team effort. Without the support of the others, I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t have been able to stay the course. Having a team also allowed us to use everybody’s strengths. For example, I am a capable public speaker, so I was the main presenter, however you don’t want to look to me to take notes and keep everything organized, that was Kathy’s job.

Before we went to a city council meeting we decided to talk try and gain some allies, and went to the conservation commission meetings, an official commission of the city council. It was there that we made our first presentation and were connected with city employees who told us where the city’s money actually goes, how much it has, and how it all works. This part of the process was really confusing until we found the right person, the city recorder/treasurer. She not only helped us get clear about the city’s holdings and policies but she actually reviewed the resolution we drafted and helped us with edits. Having her help was invaluable, especially because she was willing to say that divestment would not affect our city finances. Also we were able to show the commission we were serious (about 15 people showed up to two of their meetings) and gain their support, so when we went to the council we had the full support of the conservation commission in place already.

After gaining the support of the commission, instead of charging in to the council, we set up individual meetings with every council member. We had two people from our group at each meeting, one would talk while the other would take notes. At these meetings we were able to speak at length about what is divestment, why it matters, why we care, as well as hear the councilor’s questions and concerns. If we couldn’t address what was asked at a meeting we got back them later. This dialogue with the councilors allowed us to communicate our message more fully than what would have been allowed at a council meeting, it also gave the councilors time to understand the issue better. I don’t think that we would have been able to convince the entire council to vote for divestment without those individual meetings. Also at these meetings we discovered which councilors were our champions, who would go on to vote for motions and seconds to move forward our resolution and keep us in the loop as the process moved forward.

For the short version about what worked at the actual city council meetings, one of our members Elizabeth puts it this way, “I think it was partly sheer doggedness; partly the troops that showed up for meetings (25-35 people at three meetings); partly responding competently to the questions raised by the council.  When addressing council, we were organized and substantial, and kept new faces coming. And we were respectful.”

Finally I think that we were successful because we were patient and persistent, even in the face of excruciatingly slow and boring meetings and we did not take an adversarial approach or tone in our campaign. The whole reason for divestment is grounded in the scientific facts outlined by Bill McKibben inGlobal Warming’s Terrifying New Math. We stuck to the facts; The fossil fuel companies must be stopped if we want a livable planet in the future; Divesting from fossil fuel companies does not necessarily hurt returns.

I hope these words are helpful to you in your campaigns for divestment and I wish you success in this great work.unnamed

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Cultivating Climate Justice: From the Frontlines of the Crisis

Mon, 2014-11-24 01:00

By the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Other Worlds.

 

“To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change…. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian Ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned… And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.” – Philippines lead negotiator Yeb Sano addressing the opening session of the UN climate summit in Warsaw, following Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013

 Joemeth Robles/Flickr

Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Photo credit: Joemeth Robles/Flickr

It’s been a year since Super Typhoon Yolanda (often called Typhoon Haiyan in other countries) swept through the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people and destroying the homes of many more. As UN negotiator for the Philippines Yeb Sano explained in his address to the United Nations: for many people, this is what climate change looks like.

Following the typhoon, survivors in impacted communities in the Philippines came together in a deep expression of solidarity to help each other rebuild their homes and lives. Using only reclaimed materials—remains of their homes and other disaster debris—residents of the municipalities of Bantayan and Madridejos worked together to reconstruct their neighbourhoods, one house at a time. Salvacion Fulmenar, a resident of Bantayan Island, explained that fifty of her neighbours built her house with her.

 

 

The residents also worked together to increase resiliency against future disasters, particularly around the issue of waste management. Shalimar Vitan, Asia-Pacific Coordinator for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) explained the connection. “Yolanda made us realise how much waste, more than anything else, is relevant to disasters, because the aftermath of a disaster is garbage and waste, equivalent to a year’s supply. A sustainable treatment of waste builds our preparedness for disasters and it builds the resiliency of communities.” Residents worked with local and international non-profit organisations to conduct waste audits and seminars in the impacted communities.

A sustainable treatment of waste does more than build preparedness for disasters—it also helps to combat climate change. Waste disposal through dumping or burning is a major contributor to climate change.  On the flip side, waste reduction and recycling significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Given that climate change is causing increasing extreme weather, better waste management actually helps to prevent events like Super Typhoon Yolanda.

But reducing waste in the Philippines is not enough to stop climate change or to protect vulnerable communities living there. What’s needed is for the issues of waste and climate crises to be solved collaboratively across borders. And in an inspiring Asia Pacific grassroots partnership, that is exactly what’s happening.

Solidarity for clean air, good jobs, and justice

One of the greatest injustices of climate change is that those who have done the least to cause it—like the residents of the Philippines hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda—feel the impacts first and worst through rising sea levels and extreme weather. Meanwhile, areas that are responsible for the largest greenhouse gas emissions often feel little pressure to reduce their emissions. They tend to be wealthier with more powerful governments, thus they are less susceptible to international pressure and often have infrastructure that is  better able to withstand extreme weather. For example, while Super Typhoon Yolanda was ripping through the Philippines, just across the sea, Prime Minister Abott of Australia continued to deny the existence of climate change.

Yet underneath the political divides of the Asia Pacific region, at the level of the citizenry, strong international bonds have formed. Grassroots communities of the Philippines and Australia have been supporting each other in a common fight against incineration.

In addition to being a major contributor to climate change, incineration releases cancer-causing toxins, kills jobs, and violates the principles of environmental justice. The Philippines stands out as the only country to have banned incineration, setting this important precedent 15 years ago. However, this ban is currently under attack by companies, elected officials, and government agencies. Meanwhile, Western Australia is facing an unprecedented onslaught of incinerator proposals from polluting corporations trying to pass the dirty practice of waste burning as “green.”

People from both countries have been meeting to share information about incinerators, reports, and strategies. Just after Super Typhoon Yolanda  struck, Australian toxics expert Lee Bell traveled to the Philippines to visit with communities threatened with incinerators. Lee spoke to members of Congress, the media, and the general public.  He also conducted small meetings and workshops to update the local network on trends in the incineration industry, and shared a community handbook on questions to ask your government about an incinerator proposal. Shortly after, residents of the Philippines mobilised support and gathered signatures for an Australian petition against the export of hazardous waste.

These are just a couple examples of what is a rich an ongoing partnership. Jane Bremmer, a resident of Western Australia who works with the Alliance for a Clean Environment and the National Toxics Network explained, “The connection between the Philippines and Australia is really important. Our massive contribution to air pollution and climate change directly affects the Philippines and contributes to natural disasters. Collaborating with them has also strengthened our own work fighting incinerators, teaching us how to work more effectively and communicate across different cultures.”

Froilan Grate, president of the Mother Earth Foundation in the Philippines, explained, “The number one argument for incineration in the Philippines is that it’s being done successfully in First World countries, and that it’s modern and high tech. So we need a lot of foreign groups giving their voice and opposition to shatter this lie.”

The governments of the world are not working effectively together on the connections between climate change and waste, issues that affect us all. They may spend years passing the buck, avoiding blame and responsibility for rising sea levels and extreme weather. But as the cross-border collaboration between Australia and the Philippines demonstrates, what governments are failing to do, people are already doing. Across political differences, geographic divides, and cultural differences, global citizens are joining together in a unified fight that is cultivating a new world of climate justice.

This is part 2 of a four-part article series “Cultivating Climate Justice” which tells the stories of community groups on the front-lines of the pollution, waste and climate crises, working together for systems change. United across six continents, these grassroots groups are defending community rights to clean air, clean water, zero waste, environmental justice, and good jobs. They are all members of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a network of over 800 organisations from 90+ countries. 

 

 

From Burnaby Mountain to Energy East, a Climate Reality Check

Fri, 2014-11-21 22:39

Something big is happening right now. 

Today the governments of Quebec and Ontario announced that they had aligned on seven conditions for the approval of the Energy East pipeline – including a legislated climate test. At the same time, fierce community resistance on Burnaby Mountain has been mountain for two days, with over 30 arrests and a growing presence on the mountain stopping Kinder Morgan’s work on the TransMountain tar sands pipeline. These two things may be happening on different sides of the country, but could not be more connected. In this age of climate change building new fossil fuel infrastructure, especially without considering the climate impact of that infrastructure is morally wrong and moving in the wrong direction from where we need to be. 

The Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline review has be criticized time and time again for failing to consider the climate impacts of the project. In fact, a whole suite of lawsuits from the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, as well as some of the brave folks arrested on Burnaby Mountain, are challenging that omission. Referencing climate change, and it’s exclusion from the Kinder Morgan review, the lawyer for one of the groups sued by Kinder Morgan  cited the “life-and-death struggle for continued existence” was crucial in the context of the drama that heightened on the mountainside”. 

With over 50,000 messages already been sent to the National Energy Board demanding a climate review of Energy East and the events on Burnaby Mountain a clear statement about what happens when pipelines are forced through without it, the question now is what will Canada’s only federal regulatory body responsible for pipelines do? 

The new head of the National Energy Board, Peter Watson, has even acknowledged the lack of public faith in the NEB, and that the agency has lost the ability to grant fossil fuel projects social license. Without a mandate to review fossil fuel projects on their climate impacts the board has no legitimacy. Quebec and Ontario have both acknowledged this in mandating their own climate tests for Energy East, ending a bad week for TransCanada with a body blow to their own plan to end-run around the Keystone XL. 

Tar sands pipelines have massive carbon footprints, Energy East alone being the equivalent of adding 7 million cars to Canada’s roads, and the truth is that neither will pass a climate test. With one now mandated in Ontario and Quebec, it’s time to force one nationally. With Stephen Harper clearly in the pocket of big oil, it remains to be seen if opposition politicians like Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau will step up and demand one, but even if they don’t, what’s happening on Burnaby Mountain is a clear message that the people will.

Send a message to demand a climate review of Energy East. 

November Divest Digest: Look Out! Divestment Is Spreading Far and Wide

Fri, 2014-11-21 21:47

As the month of November comes to a close, the divestment movement expands their reach far and wide. New divestment campaigns are launching across the world, campuses who have received “no” from their administrations one time too many are taking their cases to court, and students in larger numbers than ever are showing up and pressuring everyone – from administrations to city councils – to divest, divest, divest!

Whether in the Marshall Islands or the city of Boston, the student and community escalation is sending one clear message:  the divestment campaign is growing fast. And country borders, rejections, and changing political landscapes aren’t about to stop a movement whose time has come.

FIVE GLOBAL CAMPUSES EXPANDING THEIR REACH

1. The College of the Marshall Islands Takes Steps to Divest

This past month, the College of Marshall Islands (CMI) in the Republic of Marshall Islands began taking the first steps to commit to divest the college’s endowment from fossil fuels. Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Marshallese poet, writer, performance artist, and journalist participated in a campus divestment training and in collaboration with student groups and community groups called upon the Marshallese community and President Carl Hacker to rise as a community leader and divest.

In Mr. Hacker’s own words:

We need all of our friends and our colleagues in the Pacific Region and around the world to take note, spread the word and become leaders in this movement to divest from fossil fuels.  It is critical that our voices and our actions are taken into account as we move forward in discussions concerning climate change and the formulation of policies that will preserve our islands, our histories, our cultures and our ways of life.  The Pacific Region has to be a leading voice in raising this awareness and do whatever we can in our own home islands to walk the talk of divestment of fossil fuels and climate change.

Check this out the article in Marshall Islands Journal, explaining the CMI’s plan to divest, and Kathy’s reflections on

2.  Humboldt University Became the First State University to Move Towards Full Fossil Fuel Divestment

On November 20th, Humboldt University took the steps to commit to full fossil fuel divestment, becoming the first state university to do so. Although the Humboldt State Foundation has never included direct investments in major fossil fuel investments, to move towards full divestment, they have decided to direct 10 percent of their portfolio to be shifted to green funds, reaffirmed that they want no direct investments in fossil fuels, committed to a new fund invested entirely fossil fuel free, and reinvested 10 percent of the portfolio into green funds with every new $500,000 donated.

They state in their press release:

“We’re a small school with a relatively small endowment, but we have a long history of leading in social responsibility, in particular, advancing change in environmental stewardship,” said Heather Bernikoff-Raboy, an HSU alumna who recently became Chair of the University’s Advancement Foundation, which oversees the endowment. “We heard the students, we agree with them, and we are proud to have worked with them to get to this point.”

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3. American University Stages Largest On-Campus Student Divestment Action  

American University staged one of the largest on campus student actions on November 19, 2014 telling the Board of Trustees that “American University students will rise before the seas do,” in a strategic build-up strategy to presenting a proposal to their board to divest from fossil fuels  on November 21, 2014.

Their words tell it best:

Here is a student account on their two year long journey to get here.

The students have JUST heard a cryptic no from their board and are planning a massive counter action. More to come, don’t miss this story. The students are rising and we as a community are here to support them in their protest.

4. Harvard University Faces Lawsuit Over Refusing to Divest

 On November 19, 2014, under the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition, Harvard students sued Harvard University for refusing to divest from fossil fuels, with their campaign and approach making it into the New York Times. Follow their story on facebook and their website, and check out their petition calling on Harvard to divest. 10553494_310427685826009_4324878890399685725_n

5. Cambridge Associates Announces They will Support University Divestment, Finally 

This week we announced something huge on our website, that “the biggest endowment consultant in the U.S. announced that they would support universities and other institutions interested in divesting from fossil fuels. The announcement from Cambridge Associates has already been covered by publications on the Swarthmore and American University campuses.”

Here is the specific language from Cambridge Associates:

“Climate change is on the minds of many institutional investors, including endowments. Fortunately, there are a number of avenues institutions can elect to pursue to act on their concerns, from a focus on alternative energy and fossil-free investment managers, to various degrees of divestment within a portfolio. Cambridge Associates stands ready to help institutions pursue any of these paths.”
– Cambridge Associates, an institutional investment advisor that serves endowments.

FIVE GLOBAL COMMUNITIES EXPANDING THEIR REACH

1. Norway’s Largest Pension Fund Manager Divests

This month, Norway’s largest manager of pension funds KPL,which manages the pension funds for the majority of Norway’s public sector employees,  has decided to sell off all its investments in coal companies and REINVEST  half-a-billion kroner (around USD 75 million) in renewable energy ventures.

As we wrote on gofossilfree.org, “With its total assets of nearly NOK 500 billion ($84bn/€67bn) its clout in the investment world ranks second only to the Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund, known as the oil fund.  Today’s decision sets an important precedent for the Oil Fund which is due to announce a decision on its investments in fossil fuels later this month!

Today KLP’s CEO Sverre Thornes announced that: “We are divesting our interests in coal companies in order to highlight the necessity of switching from fossil fuel to renewable energy.”   KLP has decided to invest NOK 500 million more in increased renewable energy capacity.”

2. City of Boston Hearing for the State of Massachusett Votes Yes!

On November 17, the Boston City Council voted “yes!” urging the state of Massachusetts to divest from fossil fuel companies. How they got there, was a high school student lead hearing that rallied front-line communities and youth from throughout the area to gather in the Boston City Court House. In front of legislators, the community told their stories living with climate change – and what they want to do about it. The resolution passed with an astounding 11-1 vote.

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3. Diocese of Oxford Became First from the Church of England to Divest

On November 15, 2014, the Diocese of Oxford voted to disinvest from fossil fuel companies at its Diocesan Synod, and they took their divestment decision one step further. In addition to their own landmark decision as the first in the Church of England to do so, they also called upon the rest of Church of England to follow in step.

Revd Darrell Hannah, Rector of All Saints Church in Ascot Heath explained, “Oxford Diocese, true to its history, is challenging the Church of England as a whole to take seriously the threat of climate change and what we as Christians do about it.”

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4. Pacific Island Launches Divestment Campaign

From the gofossilfree.org Pacific site:

On November 20, 350 Pacific volunteers across the region, known as the ‘Pacific Climate Warriors’, delivered letters to ANZ (The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group), asking them to divest from the fossil fuel industry as part of a new ‘divestment’ campaign launched in the Pacific Islands.

“We launched this campaign to call on businesses operating in the Pacific to remove all forms of support to the industry – the fossil fuel industry – that will destroy us,” said campaign spokesperson, Ms. Kathy Jetnil Kiljne, who recently addressed world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit in September.

Earlier this year, the Anglican Church of New Zealand and Polynesia became the first in the worldwide Anglican Communion, to pledge to divest from fossil fuel companies later followed by Anglican Church in Australia. Currently the College of the Marshall Islands, are trying to get their campus to divest their endowment from fossil fuels. If they succeed, they would be the first College in the Pacific region to divest from fossil fuels.

PacificDivestment

5. Fossil Free Launches in South Africa 

On November12, 2014 the Fossil Free South Africa campaign had their initial  series of launches, gathering 80 guests talk about the anti-apartheid divestment campaign. A special guest was Mpho Tutu, director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation who outlined the profound injustice of climate change – that those least responsible for creating the problem are and will be most affected.

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NEW PETITIONS TO CHECK OUT

 

Case Study Seattle: What is the Consultant Role on a Divestment Decision?

Fri, 2014-11-21 05:55

By Brett Fleishman

Last Friday, the brilliant campaigners working to divest the city of Seattle’s pension fund, SCERS, received a report from the pensions’ consultant, NEPC, recommending against divestment. Investment consultants have presented a significant barrier for divestment campaigns both on and off campuses with statements about high transaction costs, loss of returns, and limited fossil free options. Pomona College received one of these reports in the summer of 2013, Vermont’s pension received one in 2012, and countless other reports have gone under the radar.

In general, trustees count on the blessing of their consultants to make big shifts in their divestment strategy. Investment consultants provide a shield which institutional investors can use to defend their manager selection decisions – fiduciary cover. Here is a great research paper about the true value a consultant adds to a portfolio.

When a consultant lands a report on the desks of trustees with a recommendation against divestment (no matter how off their assumptions or misleading their empirical backing) those trustees lose their shield for a “yes” vote. It is a showstopper, and it doesn’t seem to matter what’s in the report.

For example, NEPC’s recent report for SCERS says “There are currently no fossil fuel-free real estate benchmarks available in the marketplace.” And goes on to say the fund, by divesting from fossil fuels, would no longer be able to invest in real estate. A bizarre assumption. Obviously, divestment is less attractive if you define it as knocking out an entire asset class. It doesn’t matter what they say, if their recommendation is “no,” the trustee is stuck.

But wait! there is some good news. The largest consultant for university endowments, Cambridge Associates has recently committed to digging into their extensive list of investment managers to expand the catalogue of firms who are willing to work with an institutional investor on going fossil free. Cambridge Associates has also committed to encouraging their manager list to “create more environmentally sensitive products.”

These commitments will blast open the investable universe for institutions taking on a fossil free strategy. These commitments will essentially unfreeze what the investment community calls “the chicken or the egg” problem – a market paralysis where supply is waiting for demand and demand is waiting for supply. Now, institutions, like American University, can look at a much larger pool of managers and put their fiduciary concerns to rest. But most importantly, these commitments reestablish the fiduciary shield for institutional trustees.

View here for more information about the role of a consultant.

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Hip hop artists just dropped the awesomest soundtrack for the climate movement

Thu, 2014-11-20 21:23

“Music is a very powerful tool that’s known to heal, inspire, encourage, empower.” – Common

HOME, aka Heal Our Mother Earth, is the baddest album to hit iTunes in a while — and by “bad,” I mean “good.” HOME is a project of Hip Hop Caucus and features tracks by the Grammy-winning rapper Common, Ne-Yo, Elle Varner, Choklate, Aaron Fresh, and more — and for the next several days the EP is free.

We’re pretty psyched about it, and we hope you are too. Check out the 50-second video about HOME below.


Learn more about HOME and Peoples Climate Music here

The Great Barrier Reef vs India’s Largest Bank

Thu, 2014-11-20 08:54

“SBI, don’t fund coal, fund solar”, read one of the placards outside India’s largest public sector bank where activists gathered this morning for a protest. The State Bank of India or SBI, in a baffling move signed a Memorandum of Understanding with India’s power giant Adani, potentially opening up a line of credit of up to 1 Billion USD. The loan would be used to develop the Galilee Basin, Australia’s largest coal endowed site. The move is being criticised and scrutinised by many people across civil society and even the financial sector.

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Major global banks around the world (RBS, Deutsche, HSBC etc) have already declined funding for the project which when developed could export 60million tonnes of coal a year and ship it through the ecologically fragile Great Barrier Reef. Declining a loan seems obvious when we look at the fact that Adani can no way run a profitable business without dramatically increasing the electricity tariffs for end consumers in India, wrecking the great barrier reef, putting an incredible amount of carbon in the air, destroying peoples health and violating every major environmental norm in the book. Unfortunately, both the Abott Government in Australia and the Modi Government in India are keen to turn a blind eye to this.

The loan exposes the crony capitalism that is hurting India’s markets. The company chairman Gautam Adani is known to have very good ties with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and one cannot escape the coincidence that this loan came fast on the heels of the G20 summit in Brisbane.

While different agencies (political, regulatory and otherwise) scrutinise the loan agreement, it is important for us to pile on the heat on SBI and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to revoke this dangerous loan and show the exit door to Adani from the Galilee basin.

Click here to urge SBI to get out now and join the growing movement of financiers saying no to new coal.

 

Why the College of the Marshall Islands is divesting from fossil fuels – and why your institution should too

Wed, 2014-11-19 20:38

With 350 Pacific launching their campaign on Divestment in the Pacific region today, our Divestment Campaign spokesperson, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner blogs about why the College of the Marshall Islands is divesting from fossil fuels, and why your institution should too. You can read her blog here and below.

A few weeks ago I was called into the office of my boss, the President of the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) Carl Hacker, to discuss his big announcement: that he would be pushing for CMI to divest from fossil fuels. All we need next is approval from the Board of Regents, which could possibly happen within a few weeks. “It only makes sense,” he said simply. “If we don’t – who will?”

This was the same question I asked when I conducted training on divestment for student leaders from the Student Body Association (SBA), Peer to Peer, and the Environmental Club here at CMI, just a week after my conversation with the President. The training was led by me and the Vice President of the College, William Reiher, who gave a presentation on renewable energy and the different ways in which we as an institution have been leading in that field as well.

As I told our students, we know that as a small college, we might not have as much of a financial impact when we divest – but this is one way we can contribute to raising awareness on the issue.

Everyone likes to say the Pacific is small – but it’s not. Our ocean that connects us is as vast as our people and our histories. While the landmass of our islands themselves may seem small, businesses for the banks here is profitable and growing. It’s a moral imperative that as banks continue to grow in the region they must side with the people, not the polluters. About 28 trillion dollars are invested in the fossil fuel industry – and it’s this money that is going towards buying out politicians and funding climate deniers. What so many people don’t realize, is that a lot of that money is our own money. Granted, it’s probably not CMI’s money, but it’s definitely the money of the people. And we the people have the right to change who and what we invest in.

So during my divestment training, I stood in front of student leaders here at CMI, and I told them what I’ve recently realized. That our college must join this movement – we have to, for the sake of our islands. The recent IPCC report says that by 2050 global electricity needs to be low-carbon, or else, and that to get right on track, the world would have to cut fossil fuel investments annually between now and 2029, and use that money for renewable energy.

With all this looming on the horizon, CMI is in the perfect position to take that step to divest. CMI is the only college of the nation – we are teaching and shaping the next leaders of our country. Leaders who will have to deal with either a harsher climate reality than the one that exists now, or a future of transition and change from fossil fuels to greener energy. They are the ones who will inherit the future of these islands – they need to understand the fine print on the warning label.

And this move could potentially have a ripple effect. After all, we’re hoping it won’t just be our college divesting. This move is triggering and connected to the launch of the pacific divestment campaign more widely, being supported by the Pacific Climate Warriors of the 350 Pacific network (350pacific.org). Universities, colleges, organizations, and financial institutions, such as ANZ management, must align their money with their morals. They need to make socially responsible investments because it’s completely unacceptable for them to make profit off the destruction of our islands. It’s especially imperative now, more than ever, that students around the world come together to demand that their colleges divest. Students in the Pacific especially need to come together – it is students who have always led and taken part in our greatest revolutions throughout history. And I believe this climate change movement is one of the most important movements for our generation – and it must be directed and led by our Pacific students.

After the divestment training, the SBA announced that they will be hosting a “Divestment Spirit Week” this coming week. I am so proud of these students for taking this initiative on their own to raise awareness amongst their fellow students. Among the activities will be classroom presentations on what divestment means, an essay and poster contest, a painting of a mural, and activities for each day of the week. “This is a really important and critical step not just for our college, but our country as well, in trying to protest against some of the major contributing factors to climate change,” they wrote in an email to the student body. They are taking the next step – and hopefully our Board of Regents will listen.

So this is a shoutout from CMI to the rest of the colleges, universities, and organizations around the Pacific to join us in this movement, and to take that next step to divest from fossil fuels. I mean hey – if our students can demand divestment from their institution, yours can too.

Keystone XL approval fails in the Senate. Time to reject it now.

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:29

Friends,

Congratulations: thanks to your calls, emails and actions, a bill to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline just failed to pass the Senate. Again.

Even counting the new climate-denying members who will take seats in January, Big Oil could not override a Presidential veto of Keystone XL next year.

He has the support he needs — from us, and from the facts. The only question is whether the President will hold true to his own climate test.

Last week the President struck a historic climate agreement with China. Approving Keystone XL now would be like pledging to quit smoking and then buying a new carton of cigarettes. Rejecting the pipeline would be a bold step forward to meet his new goals. Can you send a message to the President that now is the time to reject the pipeline?

Click here to tell President Obama that it’s time to reject Keystone XL.

Over the last week, we’ve flooded the Senate phone lines. Today, activists occupied the offices of two Democrats, Senator Bennet and Senator Carper, who joined with Big Oil in supporting the pipeline. The pressure worked.

Next year we will face new obstacles — incoming Majority Leader McConnell already promised today that it will be a top priority of the next Senate, but it appears he won’t have the votes to override a veto.

Now is the time for leadership. President Obama should end this debate and reject the Keystone XL pipeline. This week he said “I won’t hide my opinion about this, which is that one major determinant of whether we should approve a pipeline shipping Canadian oil to world markets, not the United States, is does it contribute to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.”

That can only point to rejection. An 830,000 barrel per day pipeline of the world’s dirtiest oil will obviously contribute to climate change.

Rejecting the pipeline would show the President’s commitment to action, and open a new chapter in the fight against climate change.

It’s time.

May

Norway’s largest pension fund divests from coal

Wed, 2014-11-19 13:52

Norway’s largest manager of pension funds, KLP, has decided to sell off all its investments in coal companies. KLP executives will instead invest half-a-billion kroner (around USD 75 million) in renewable energy ventures.

KLP manages the pension funds for the majority of Norway’s public sector employees. With its total assets of nearly NOK 500 billion ($84bn/€67bn) its clout in the investment world ranks second only to the Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund, known as the oil fund.  Today’s decision sets an important precedent for the Oil Fund which is due to announce a decision on its investments in fossil fuels later this month!

Today KLP’s CEO Sverre Thornes announced that: “We are divesting our interests in coal companies in order to highlight the necessity of switching from fossil fuel to renewable energy.”   KLP has decided to invest NOK 500 million more in increased renewable energy capacity.

After a query from one of its local municipal clients, the township of Eid in the mountainous Norwegian county of Sogn og Fjordane, KLP said it has “assessed whether it is possible to contribute to a better environment by pulling investments out of oil, gas and coal companies” without affecting future returns on its investment portfolio.

‘Convinced’

“We’re quite convinced that we will manage to deliver the same returns in the future without those from coal companies.  We want our owners and customers to feel secure about that.” KLP’s chief executive Sverre Thornes

KLP’s decision to drop coal investments will mean that around 20 to 30 companies will be dropped from its portfolio.  It currently invests in around 3,000 companies worldwide including Peabody Energy Corp, CONSOL Energy Inc, Coal India Ltd, Shougang Fushan Re and China Coal Energy Co Ltd.

Thornes also noted that KLP is a long established source of funding for Norwegian hydropower and already has “significantly larger investments in renewable energy than in oil, gas and coal companies combined,”. Now the company will earmark an additional NOK 500 million for new renewable energy production capacity in “emerging economies where the need is great and the alternative is often coal”.

‘Powerful signal’

The divestment decision comes as the result of an enquiry from the mayor of a community called Eid. He contacted KLP last March to ask whether it was possible to pull his community’s pension funds out of coal, oil and gas without risking a loss of pension value.   The answer today was clear.

“KLP’s move sends a powerful signal to other financial players both nationwide and internationally. The green shift has started, and now the transfer of capital from the fossil fuel sector to the renewable sector is beginning to roll.” Alfred Bjørlo, mayor of Eid, Norway.

Another major Norwegian insurance company, Storebrand, has already dropped 10 fossil fuel companies from its portfolio earlier this year due to their involvement in coal production.

The Norwegian government set up an expert group last spring to examine whether Norway’s sovereign wealth fund should also drop its investments in the fossil fuel industry. This would be all the more significant because the fund’s wealth comes from Norway’s revenues from its own oil industry. A decision is expected this month and would send huge shockwaves through the investment world, so stay tuned for an update soon.

Holding the Line on Keystone XL

Wed, 2014-11-19 01:42

Once again, the climate movement has demonstrated our ability to hold the line against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Today, after six hours of debate, a bill that would have approved Keystone XL failed to get the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate. The tally was incredibly close: 59-41 in favor of the pipeline. Every voted counted–and we didn’t take a single one for granted.

When we heard the news that Senator Landrieu would push for a vote on Keystone XL to try and help her struggling run-off campaign in Louisiana, our 350.org team–and the entire climate movement–sprung into action.

With our allies in DC, we ran the vote counts and started to focus our pressure on potential swings. We also made sure that Democrats, who profess to care about global warming, knew that a vote for Keystone XL was an act of climate denial.

When we heard that Senator Carper (D-MD) and Senator Bennet (D-CO) were going to be voting for Keystone XL, we sent out an email blast to our entire US email list and flooded their DC phone lines with over 6,000 phone calls. That was enough to shut down the switchboards–we heard from activists that the phones just kept ringing and ringing as staffers tried to handle the incoming complaints.

Just to make sure Senator Carper got the message, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben published an op-ed in Salon slamming the Senator for voting with Big Oil: “If you want to understand why the China-U.S. climate deal announced this week is going to be hard to meet, and if you want to understand why the Democratic Party is such an annoying institution, meet Tom Carper, Democratic senator from Delaware.” Ouch.

By Monday morning, we were taking action offline and into the streets. Bright and early at 8:30am, dozens of activists, indigenous leaders, and ranchers from Nebraska braved the freezing rain to demonstrate outside of Senator Mary Landrieu’s home on Capitol Hill with a giant inflatable pipeline. “If Senator Landrieu wants this pipeline so badly, she can have it through her front yard. If these Senators really wanted to be helpful, they could put thousands of folks to work with clean energy jobs,” said Nebraska farmer Art Tanderup. News and images of the protest made the New York Times, CNN, ABC, Politico, and more.

Later that morning, we got the news that Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Levin (D-MI) were telling press that they were still “on the fence” or “undecided” on Keystone XL, even though they’d voted with us before in the past. Ten minutes after we saw the news, an email blast was out to our supporters in both Michigan and New York asking them to call the Senators. Together, we got over 100 calls into each Senator within the hour. Lo and behold, a few hours later both Senators had revised their talking points and were clearly standing against Keystone XL.

Today, on the day of the Senate vote, the climate movement really brought the heat. Let’s set aside Twitter, where the #NoKXL tweets dominated any attempts by pipeline proponents to advocate for the project. At around 11:30am, a group of students, ranchers and farmers, and indigenous activists marched into the offices of Senators Bennet and Senator Carper (remember, they’re the two swing Democrats who decided to vote with Big Oil) and refused to leave. CNN, MSNBC, Huffington Post, and other media covered the sit-in live from the Senate offices. It probably wasn’t the publicity Bennet and Carper looking for–but it was certainly the coverage they deserved.

Inspired by their leadership of those activists, we got out a blast out to our email list and sent another wave of 5,000 phone calls into Senate offices. As Senators went back and forth to join in and listen to the Keystone XL debate on the floor, their offices were getting bombarded with calls from people across the country.

This evening, when all the votes were counted, we knew that the effort had paid off. Another cynical attempt by Big Oil Senators to approve Keystone XL had gone down. “Once again, Congress tried to play games with our future–and failed,” said 350.org Executive Director, May Boeve in a statement to press.

None of this would have been possible with the support of hundreds of thousands of activists across the country, as well as the incredible partners who make up the coalition standing against Keystone XL. From our First Nations allies in the tar sands who started this fight, to the ranchers and farmers along the pipeline route, to the environmental advocates working within DC, we’ve shown the strength of this movement.

The fight against Keystone XL is by no means over. Republicans, who were swept into control of the Senate this November on a tidal wave of Big Oil money, are surely going to hold more votes on the pipeline when Congress takes session this January. President Obama can wait and veto those bills or he can act now and reject Keystone XL once and for all.

We say: act now. No more political theater, no more games. We’ve known since we sat down in front of the White House in 2011 for the first wave of sit-ins against Keystone XL that this pipeline was a climate disaster. Since then, the case against the pipeline has only grown stronger.

We’re still holding the line. It’s time for the President to join us.

 

After the murder of four Asheninka leaders in Peru, activists are still fighting to defend the forest

Tue, 2014-11-18 22:01

Edwin Chota and three other leaders died defending the forest that sustains their communities from illegal loggers trying to gut the Amazon. Through accounts from families and friends, the short film below tells the story of their battle for land titling and of the activists that are still fighting. Watch the video below, and find out more about the rise of killings of environmental and land defenders here.


Courtesy of If Not Us Then Who, a project exploring one key element of the climate crisis — the people protecting our forests.

Cultivating Climate Justice: Brazilian Workers Leading the Charge Toward Zero Waste

Tue, 2014-11-18 20:12

By the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Other Worlds.

The streets of Belo Horizonte were filled with singing, dancing, chanting, and marching. It was not a holiday or an election day or a soccer game. The chant was: “We don’t want incineration! Recycle! Recycle!”

It was September 19, 2014, and this was the launch of a national Zero Waste Alliance, Brazil style. Exuberant, celebratory, and led by recycling workers.

The recycling workers of Brazil have long been a powerful force in protecting their communities and the climate. Now they are on the forefront of a nation-wide movement for zero waste.

Zero Waste: A Just Alternative to Pollution         

To those hearing about it for the first time, “zero waste” may sound unrealistic. But in fact, zero waste alliances are forming all over the world and making great strides toward building a new kind of economy that is good for people and the planet. Zero waste encompasses the full lifecycle of our stuff, starting with reduced extraction and responsible product design, and ending with all materials being reused, recycled, or composted.

The current practice of burning or dumping waste is a major contributor to climate change. Pound for pound, burning waste is even worse for the climate than the dirty practice of burning coal. It also releases cancer-causing toxins and other air pollutants. The potential benefits of zero waste for the climate and clean air are enormous.

But at its best, zero waste is about much more than reducing pollution and greenhouse gases.

Whereas incineration and waste dumping frequently violate the principles of environmental justice, zero waste has great potential to improve the lives of people that feel the greatest impacts of our “dig, burn, dump” economy.

This is particularly true when zero waste systems are designed with worker rights at the center, as in the case of Brazil, where recycling workers are at the forefront of the zero waste alliance. And in Brazil, where the workers collaborate closely with local non-governmental organizations like Instituto Polis, the labor-environmentalist alliance is fundamental.

So how did the workers of Brazil get involved in a zero waste alliance? They started by getting organized.

A National Movement of Recycling Workers

Recyclers do the work of collecting and separating out recyclable materials from the waste stream. It’s often a dangerous and low-paying job. But in Brazil—and other Latin American countries, including Chile and Colombia—recycling workers have made great strides toward good pay and safe working conditions.

Since its formation in 1999, the Brazil-based National Movement of Recycling Workers (MNCR) has achieved major victories for the sector. Earlier this year, one of the leading members of the MNCR, Maria Monica da Silva, won a Living Legacy award for her work “…creating significant improvements in the situation and recognition of the… recyclers in…Sao Paulo, Brazil. The vast majority of these recyclers are women, and together they make an enormous environmental contribution, but the value of their work is too often unrecognized.”

What’s particularly inspiring about the recycling workers’ union in Brazil is that their ambitions for justice go far beyond their own working conditions. The recyclers understand their work as being on forefront of solving the climate, waste, and air pollution crises that impact their families, communities, and the entire world. The first line of the mission statement of the MNCR is to “contribute to building just and sustainable societies through the social and productive organization of recycling workers and their families.” Their mission also includes “improving the quality of life of all people and future generations.”

MNCR started building its power in the way that so many other groups have done: by stopping incineration. 

A Force to be Reckoned With  

When the incineration company Usina Verde rolled into Sao Paolo in 2002, it was widely expected that their incinerator proposal would move forward quickly and easily. Instead, the company was pushed out by a coalition of recycling workers, NGOs, activists, and community members.

Magdalena Donoso, Latin America Coordinator for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), explained that “The recycling workers of Brazil are a force to be reckoned with. Anytime there is a vote, public hearing, meeting, etc., the recycling workers turn up more people than the incinerator company.”

But as with anti-incinerator movements all over the world, the question was always asked in Brazil: If not incinerators, then what? For the recycling workers of that nation, the answer was built into their job description.

The transition from fighting incinerators to working toward zero waste in Brazil came naturally. Beth Grimberg from Instituto Pólis explained that, “Zero waste alliances were being formed all over the world. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to work on this. We had strong international solidarity and decades of organizing experience. On September 19th, with hundreds of people participating in person or online, we launched the Brazil Zero Waste Alliance.”

Alex Cardoso, a third generation recycler and member of the MNCR, said, “It is important that recycling workers are the primary organizers for zero waste in Brazil. We are the ones on the streets every day making it happen. Our knowledge is critical. We are the principal agents in these conversations and the defenders of the earth.”

There you have it: zero waste is clean air, good jobs, and justice. No wonder the brass band was playing and the crowd was singing down in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Action Alert! On the other side of the ocean, recycling workers of South Africa are currently fighting to protect their livelihoods and the planet against a new threat of incineration. Please take a minute to support them.

This is part 1 of a four-part article series “Cultivating Climate Justice” which tells the stories of community groups on the frontlines of the pollution, waste and climate crises, working together for systems change. United across six continents, these grassroots groups are defending community rights to clean air, clean water, zero waste, environmental justice, and good jobs. They are all members of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a network of over 800 organizations from 90+ countries. 

This series is produced by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Other Worlds.

Q & A With 350Chicago: How They’re Starting A Divestment Movement in Chicago

Tue, 2014-11-18 03:13

This past fall (2014), Larry Coble,  Melissa Brice, and a number of Chicagoans began rallying together to bring their dream of a Divest Chicago movement to life.  We took a moment to ask them three questions about how they are starting a divestment movement from the ground up and they offered some quick tips and advice.For anyone wondering how to join the movement in Chicago, here are their answers and a number of ways to get involved. For those of you wondering how to get started in your own city, we added a few “get started” links at the end for you too. Enjoy and divest on!

1. Where did you get the idea to start a divestment movement in Chicago? Melissa:  “The idea to start a Divestment Campaign came from watching Bill McKibben’s Do The Math movie. ”  2. In your opinion, what are the first steps to starting a local divestment movement? Melissa: “The way 350 has gone about starting our local movement has been to identify allies in the Chicago area who are willing to work on this campaign. We have identified those people through likes on our Facebook page, people who participated in the “Draw the Line Day of Action” back in Sept 2013, and most recently, people who  visited our booth at Greenfest.  Once we have support, we want to make sure that our fellow 350 members are educated about divestment.   I would say the first steps are identifying those who want to work on the campaign and then educating each other. We have also created monthly social hours at different bars in the Chicago area that offer locally-crafted beer.  These informal, fun interactions provide a pressure-free, relaxed way to introduce yourself to the group.  We spend only about 10 min half way through the event describing our group and their work.  We have found that initiating and beginning to build personal relationships increase volunteers’ willingness to participate in other campaign-focused events.”   3. What do you think is the key to recruiting: volunteers, signers, and new members to your movement?  Larry: “We have set up a web page with occasional posts regarding our activities. We don’t post everyday, but more periodically.  Beyond the website, we tend to post more on Facebook, placing links to various articles from publishers such as Climate Progress and varying newspapers. Whenever I write a post on the 350Chicago website, I post it on our Facebook page as well, letting those who like our page to know of the activity on our groups website.  Facebook allows us to be visible on a more daily basis, allowing individuals interested in our organization to further their education regarding climate change. As for the happy  hours, the idea for these social get togethers was originated by the group Drinking Liberally. We looked at the idea and decided it could work for us. With climate change being so consequential and alarming, we believed one way to spread the message is to have a less formal means of communicating the issue to prospective allies rather than a standard meeting at a coffee house. A little fun, like humor, often makes the news more palatable. We mainly use it as a means of connecting with other folks already involved or simply interested but have not become involved prior to the event. I know our next debrief meeting will be regarding efforts to continually build our presence in the community, looking for new locations and events to table and present our group and message about divestment to folks already interested or unaware of climate change and the perils and challenges of tackling the issue.” To check out the Divest Chicago petition, click here, and to read more on their first divestment events, read here. To get started on your own divestment campaign, get started here, find more resources here, and visit the fossil free petition creation site here.  chicago

Check out the giant, inflatable pipeline in Senator Mary Landrieu’s front yard

Tue, 2014-11-18 01:54

If Senator Mary Landrieu is such a strong advocate for “building pipelines everywhere,” she shouldn’t mind the mock tar sands pipeline that 350 DC plopped on her lawn.

But, no doubt she does. If she doesn’t want it in her back yard, it shouldn’t be put in anyone else’s back yard either. Watch the visit 350 DC paid to Landrieu this morning:


Courtesy of Daniel Ruthenberg-Marshall

Energy East = Climate Change

Sun, 2014-11-16 04:00

This blog was written by Stop Energy East Halifax Organizer Robin Tress NDP MP and environment critic Megan Leslie recently sent postcards to all her constituents asking them to support the NDP’s  Climate Change Accountability Act. Today, just after NDP leader Tom Mulcair boasted his continued support for a ‘west-to-east pipeline’, a dozen organizers from Stop Energy East Halifax brought her almost 200 signed postcards with the added message: you can’t lead on climate and support Energy East.

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As we stood on Gottingen Street with our banners and bundles of postcards, people stopped to ask questions and take pictures, and drivers slowed down and honked in support as they rolled by. Ms. Leslie kindly accepted our postcards, thanked us for our work on this issue, and then replied with the party line: they are thinking about energy security (spoiler alert: Energy East will provide none), they’re in favour of giving the National Energy Board an overhaul (right now the NEB doesn’t even look at climate impacts of proposals or scrutinize intervener submissions), they want to beef up carbon pricing and royalties (which doesn’t guarantee that bitumen will stay in the ground). One thing that stood out about our meeting, and the coverage of Mulcair’s announcement Thursday, was about the impact the climate justice movement is having on Canadian politics.

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Leslie said she thinks it’s important to fight fossil fuel projects in a collective way, not a project-by-project basis. We couldn’t agree more – we need a strong, united, and ever-growing climate movement to sustain the fights against pipelines, fracking, tankers, and the fossil fuel industry’s influence on our governments and economy. More good news: we’re gaining traction.

While we’re not impressed that Mulcair and Leslie are still talking about this pipeline as a possible energy security solution and regulating away the climate impacts, we are impressed that this conversation has turned almost entirely into one about the climate. This would not be the case if not for the hard work and coordination of local groups like Stop Energy East Halifax and countless others across the country, and the organizations that support us like 350.org, The Council of Canadians, and Environmental Defense. Our movement is growing in size and in power. As a federal election looms, MPs and party leaders should pay attention – we’re looking for leaders who will help us stop Energy East. Who those leaders will be is up them.

Oxford Diocese goes fossil free and challenges Church of England to divest

Sat, 2014-11-15 14:56

10517407_10152742101291877_2531091029358634933_oToday, Oxford Diocese called on the Church of England to divest from fossil fuel companies and pledged to examine its own investments.

Oxford Diocesan Synod has passed a resolution urging the Church of England’s National Investing Bodies to divest from fossil fuel companies. The resolution was passed with a majority of 52 in favour, with 37 against and seven abstentions.

Speaking just after the resolution was passed, Revd Darrell Hannah said:

“I’m overjoyed. We had a good debate with good points on both sides. People recognise the ambiguities of the issue, the importance of the issue, the urgency of the moment, and I’m very pleased the vote went the way it did. Oxford Diocese, true to its history, is challenging the Church of England as a whole to take seriously the threat of climate change and what we as Christians do about it.”

Join Oxford Diocese in calling for the Church of England to divest from oil, coal and gas companies!

Operation Noah’s Vice-Chair, Mark Letcher, said:

“This resolution demonstrates how seriously local churches and dioceses are taking the issue of disinvestment. Following recent commitments from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a national pension fund in Sweden, and the University of Glasgow, the decision today increases the pressure on the Church of England – which still has over £60 million invested in fossil fuel companies – to disinvest.”

The resolution was a private member’s motion moved by the Revd Dr Darrell Hannah and seconded by the Revd Hugh Lee, and was based on a similar motion passed by Bracknell Deanery earlier this year. The resolution calls for disinvestment from coal and tar sands ‘at the earliest opportunity’, from oil in three years, and from natural gas in five years.

The Diocese has also expressed its commitment to reviewing its own investments. Revd Darrell Hannah said:

“It was made clear in the debate by the diocesan officers that the Diocese of Oxford could not call on the Church of England to disinvest and not do the same itself. The Diocese will thus in the coming weeks and months begin the process of deciding how best to do this.”

The Diocese of Oxford joins a growing number of fossil-free Churches and faith communities around the world, now including the World Council of Churches, the Church of Sweden, Quakers in Britain, the Uniting Church of Australia, the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand and the United Church of Christ in the US. Three Australian and five New Zealand Anglican dioceses have also disinvested, while the Anglican Church in Australia has passed a motion recommending divestment to all its member churches.

Ellie Roberts, divestment campaigner for Operation Noah said:

“We are delighted that Oxford has joined faith communities from all regions of the globe in refusing to profit from or provide finance to the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel companies continue to base their business strategies on ever greater expansion and use of fossil fuel reserves, despite the fact that the vast majority of existing reserves must remain in the ground to preserve the viability of our planet. By disinvesting, Churches are sending the clearest possible signal to fossil companies that they need to completely rethink their business strategies now. They also demonstrate their commitment to stand with the poorest and most vulnerable communities, who are already suffering the impacts of climate change.”

For more information about Operation Noah’s campaign to divest UK churches from fossil fuels, visit: brightnow.org.uk

 

Updated on 17th November

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