Yesterday a group of climate activists from several small island nations in the Pacific, delivered their pleas to Pope Francis during the Papal Audience.
“We have come from the Pacific Islands to celebrate the leadership of Pope Francis on climate change, and to pray for the islands and the leaders that will decide our fate at COP21 in Paris,” said Koreti Tiumalu, 350.org’s Pacific Coordinator.
“We brought mats from the islands made specifically for this journey which we used to pray on over the last three days in St. Peter’s Square. We wanted to offer these mats from the Pacific as a symbol of our gratitude for the Pope’s leadership and his encyclical – Laudato Si,” she added.
The Papal Audience allows pilgrims and visitors the chance to ‘see the Pope’ and receive the Apostolic Blessing from the Head of the Catholic Church. The blessing also extends to loved ones that are suffering. In the case of the twelve Pacific Islanders present at the Papal Audience, the blessing extends to their loved ones at the front lines of climate impacts in the Pacific.
In his encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis has warned of an ‘unprecedented destruction of ecosystems’ and ‘serious consequences for all of us’ if humanity fails to act on climate change. The encyclical served to reinforce the ethical and economic shift we urgently need in order to prevent catastrophic climate change and tackle growing inequality. In doing so it gave further momentum and moral weight to the fast growing fossil fuel divestment movement. With the ear of 1.2 billion Catholics and the respect of Christians and non-Christians alike, Pope Francis is uniquely positioned to add both his voice and the unique moral power of his office to the divestment movement by divesting the Vatican.
“The opportunity to hand over the fine woven mat from Tonga, the traditionally made headpiece from Tokelau and the handwritten message from the Pacific Climate Warriors was a moment I will always treasure,” stated Siliveseteli Loloa from Tonga. “The first three guards refused to accept the gift, but by the fourth guard, the Pope signaled to him that it was OK – I will never forget that moment, it proves that anything can be possible,” he added.
The Pacific Climate Warriors, already in Europe to send a message to those investing in the climate crisis and raise the reality of climate impacts on their lives, have been at the Vatican for three days holding a prayer vigil for the Pacific region and leaders heading into the COP21 climate talks later this year in Paris.
“We prayed, fasted, shared stories, shed tears, laughed, sung songs and met so many wonderful people on this journey always keeping our island homes, families and this climate crisis we face at the center. We prayed for leaders around the world who will attend COP21 to go to Paris with the commitments needed to keep our islands above water,” concluded Tiumalu.
350.org is working around the world in the lead up to the Paris climate talks to build momentum towards a fossil free world. Just last month, 350.org and the Divest-Invest coalition announced that institutions representing over $2.6 trillion in capital have now made some form of commitment to divest from fossil fuels. This November and December, 350.org will be working with allies to organise major mobilizations in Paris and across the planet to demand bold action to address the climate crisis.
If there’s anything that I learned from my two-thirds of a master’s degree in theology, it is that: faith, hope and love is manifested in action. This was the thought that occupied my mind as I joined one of the four contingents that merged at the Quezon Memorial Circle, in Metro Manila for an uncanny celebration of the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi – by marching to demand climate justice to amplify the voice of vulnerable countries like the Philippines in the upcoming climate talks in Paris later this year.
It gathers more than 3,000 people ranging from members of clergy from various faiths present; to different indigenous peoples from various parts of the Philippines who are currently leading resistance to mining, mega dams and displacement from their ancestral domains; to social justice activists, to environmental advocates, to the youth whose generation has the most to gain or lose should we all fail to give decisive action on climate change.
The crowd was a convergence of delegations of groups that assembled on different points in the city where they organized according to advocacies related to the 4 elements: earth (land rights, agriculture, deforestation), water (water access, pollution, fisheries and dams), air (transport, incineration), fire (energy, climate change).
Following the path of Francis of Assisi
The march was organized by the Ecological Justice Interfaith Movement (ECOJIM), formed by the collective desire of various interfaith groups to preserve and protect the integrity of creation and human rights, embolden people of all faiths and beliefs to follow the example of genuine concern for the environment and welfare of all creatures that St. Francis lived out, as a response to the worsening global ecological crisis that is slowly defining our times.
According to ECOJIM, the beauty and the lesson that was the life of St. Francis of Assisi continues to be a fountain of inspiration and wisdom that humanity today can glean valuable insights from. In the face of waning care and concern for all creatures, as we continuously disparage and destroy natural ecosystems for the sake of profit and instant gratification, we can look at the example of one man who valued all and cared for all as a response to the extravagant love showered upon him by his creator.
Living within limits
“The natural environment is a collective good… If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others,” writes Pope Francis in Laudato Si.
It cannot be denied that great inequality and poverty exists today. Only 17% of the world’s population consumes 80% of the world’s resources, leaving almost 5 billion people to compete for the remaining 20%. This scarcity of resources for the world’s poorest deprives the majority of their basic human rights and makes them more vulnerable to further exploitation and abuse.
A development paradigm anchored on this system only further widens the gap between the rich and the poor while slowly destroying the resources and the environment that we need in order to survive. We must be hopeful that there is a way to satisfy the basic needs of all without exploiting the earth beyond its limits.
The environment is not merely a tool that we use for short-term self-gain and self-interest. Similar to the way that St. Francis addressed all creatures as brothers and sisters, we must also be mindful of the inherent goodness possessed by all creatures. Allowing ecosystems, species, and cultures to go extinct due to our neglect is one of the many things that we need to repent of while we still have the time and opportunity to turn things around.
Any harm done to the environment is harm done to humanity. This statement made by Pope Francis during his recent trip to the United States encapsulates the essence of why we should fight for our environment. The destructive impacts of environmental degradation and climate change choose no one; economic lines separating the poor from the rich are blurred during disasters and will sooner or later be eradicated as these impacts worsen over time. While there are those more prepared and, in effect, recover faster from these impacts, compassion for the less privileged means that we acknowledge that their lives matter as much as anyone’s. We must save their lives if we are to save our own.
Our common cause: climate action
The march also stands in solidarity with the climate pilgrims who will walk from Rome to Paris to call attention to climate change and bring the message of Laudato Si to the climate negotiations later this year. The people of Palawan who has recently taken their struggle to the national government to keep coal from their pristine environment and to the Pacific Climate Warriors are beginning their 3-day prayer vigil or Fa’anoanoa at the Vatican.
As our call reaches more ears and more hearts, may this be a source of strength and hope that we will still be able to see better days for our planet. Climate change transgresses boundaries, of both natural and human-defined separations, of communities, of nation-states, of lands, of waters, of near and distant neighbors, of rich and poor, of different cultures, of the past and the future. Many of its effects know no boundaries. Climate change reminds us that we are all in this together.
As humanity rightly becomes accountable for the damage and destruction it has inflicted upon our home, it must also be acknowledged that only humanity can save it. With the collective awakening, conversion, and action of all, a bright and secure future will still be achieved for all.
Over the weekend the Pacific Climate Warriors, traveling from several small island nations in the Pacific, joined the People’s Pilgrimage in order to highlight the impacts of climate change in the islands.
The People’s Pilgrimage has brought together a group of pilgrims walking from Rome to the Paris climate talks taking place later this year.The Pacific Climate Warriors, already in Europe to send a message to those investing in the climate crisis and raise the reality of climate impacts on their lives, joined the pilgrimage walking a little under 20 kilometers from Foligno to Assisi, a small part of the 1500 km pilgrimage led by Yeb Saño, former international climate negotiator from the Philippines.
“Joining this pilgrimage was a historic moment for us,” said Koreti Tiumalu 350.org’s Pacific Coordinator, “I was so proud to see all these young Pacific Islanders walk side by side with Yeb Saño and the other pilgrims, to highlight the urgency of the climate crisis, and at the same time challenge the moral license of the fossil fuel industry,” she added.
“This Pilgrimage actually started in Vanuatu when we went to visit those impacted by Cyclone Pam. It means a lot us that the Pacific Climate Warriors have joined us and we hope to amplify their message”
“We want to ask our Leaders to have the courage, imagination and generosity to work through difficulties and bring the world to a meaningful climate agreement that makes our future safe for our children, and is powered by 100% clean energy,” stated Saño.
Litia Maiava, the Pacific Climate Warrior from Tokelau, a low-lying atoll island that gets 100% of its electricity needs from solar energy, said that the world needs to move towards renewable energy to keep our Islands above water.
“This pilgrimage is a representation of the coalition of climate justice activists calling for world leaders going into COP21 to act on climate change and move away from fossil fuels.”
“We are on this journey for the future of our island homes, our future generations, and to show our support for Pacific Island leaders that will represent the plight the Pacific in negotiation halls during COP21 in Paris,” concluded Tiumalu.
The People’s Pilgrimage will continue on to the UN climate talks taking place in Paris, while the Pacific Climate Warriors will head to the Vatican for three days of fasting and praying for their islands, their island leaders and the future of this planet.
Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE) equipped with more than six thousand (6,000) signatures urging DENR Secretary Ramon Jesus Paje to deny DMCI an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for a proposed coal power plant in the Philippines’ last ecological frontier – Palawan. The ECC is to ensure that projects will not have negative impacts to the environment.
“These signatures will not be a waste. This is strong evidence that people are against the coal project in Palawan. DMCI must prove to us that the environmental reasons behind these signatures are invalid before they can get the ECC,” says USec Ignacio.
Cynthia Sumagaysay del Rosario said , “DENR told us that DMCI has not submitted any EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) that is necessary to have an ECC. We will not let our guards down and we will remain vigilant.”
The ECC is the final step before project implementation. Previously, the Provincial Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) chair Provincial Governor Jose C. Alvarez had approved the project on the provincial level.
Palawan Getting Rid of DMCI
PACE and other anti-coal groups continue to stand against the project. DMCI has been turned away from Barangay Panacan in the Municipality of Narra, and also in Barangay San Juan, Aborlan. About four months ago, the City Government of Puerto Princesa issued a resolution which vehemently opposed the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Palawan. More recently, the Barangay Council of Irawan issued a similar resolution against coal mining. These milestones of organized resistance only prove that the people continue to reap victories against the coal project.
“Our livelihood largely depends on fishing and farming. DMCI may be able to pay the penalties to any environmental damages if this project will push though– but its impacts to our lives and livelihood will be irreversible.” Manong Teofilo, a farmer from Barangay Calatigas stated.
November this year, the UN Conference on Climate Change or COP21 will gather in Paris. If participating governments fail to come up with legally binding agreements to keep global warming below 2ºC, it will be the less developed countries, who contribute very little to the worsening climate, which will be deeply affected. To achieve this goal, 80% of the known coal reserves should be kept in the ground. This burden falls greatly on the shoulders of the biggest polluter economies in the world.
For Manong Teofilo and the communities at the frontline whose lives and livelihood are at stake, finding solutions is very real and urgent. There is no place for coal in the country’s last ecological frontier, national pride and heritage. To all who supported, the fight is not yet over! We’ve delivered our voices resisting coal in Palawan—our persistence in unified action will determine the fate of DMCI’s coal power project.
By Emily Gayfer, RMIT student
This week the Times Higher Education (THE) World Academic Summit has drawn hundreds of leading academics and professionals from across the global higher education sector to the University of Melbourne, Australia.
There are currently over 400 divestment campaigns at campuses worldwide. 40 educational institutions have already chosen to move their endowments away from coal, oil and gas companies because they recognise fossil fuels carry ethical and financial risks. As more universities see the writing on the wall for fossil fuels, this number is only set to grow. Yet, this week, World Academic Summit organisers left the issue off the agenda.
So instead, students organised their own, alternative Fossil Free Summit to show that divestment is a critical issue for the higher education sector and to send a clear message that our universities need to get a wriggle on with divesting if they want a livable future and a credible reputation.
As Summit attendees arrived on Wednesday evening, they were met with divestment campaigners offering ‘fossil free’ cupcakes and flyers inviting them to the Fossil Free Summit. Some lively conversations were had while other attendees brushed off students as they made a bee-line for the champagne.
The drinks reception had originally been planned for the stunning University of Melbourne Quadrangle but was re-located at the last minute in an attempt to avoid fossil free campaigners, who had chalked “Get with the times, divest” among other slogans on the long pathway to the Quadrangle. Organisers didn’t go as a far as to get the trusty hose out and spray down the messages- choosing to rush attendees through the area poste haste instead.
The next morning, students marched to the site of the World Academic Summit bearing a giant clock with the slogan “Get with the times, divest”. Aside from making their way noisily through the venue of the World Academic Summit, students announced their own Australian Fossil Free University Rankings to parallel the release of the World University Rankings in the THE Summit.
First place went to ANU for their commitment to partial divestment in October 2014, and worst to UNSW for their staunch, public refusal to divest. A student acting on behalf of ANU was awarded with a polar bear trophy, while UNSW was given a giant cheque from ‘polluters’.
The rankings showed that whilst some institutions are making progress, none have gone all the way and fully committed to fossil fuel
divestment. Clearly, universities are not acting fast enough to break their ties with the dirty fossil fuel industry which is driving dangerous climate change.
Divestment is an incredible opportunity for institutions to show thought leadership and drive the transition away from polluting fossil fuels. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and we need to take serious action to ensure dangerous warming does not occur. Students have shown that they want their universities to stand up and tackle climate change head on, and it’s time they respond by taking their money out of the dirty fossil fuel sector and move it to the clean, renewable energy industries of the future.
Emily Gayfer is a passionate environmentalist and activist. She is currently studying a double degree of Environmental Science and Social Science (Environment) at RMIT. She is also involved with Friends of the Earth’s Yes2Renewables campaign.
12 Pacific Climate Warriors representing 350.org Pacific will be joining Yeb Saño and his team of Pilgrims walking from Foligno into Assisi, Rome this weekend.
Yeb Saño, the former Filipino climate ambassador, and inspiration for Fast for the Climate is leading the People’s Pilgrimage.
Throughout this year, Yeb has been travelling to places at the heart of the climate crisis- across India and Asia and is now embarking on a 1500 KM walk from Rome to Paris.
The Pacific Climate Warriors, hot off their time at the Alternatiba in Paris, are joining Yeb and a group of pilgrims for three days, walking and carrying with them their people from the Pacific, and the hopes and prayers for their island homes.
On the 2nd of October, the Peoples Pilgrimage received its blessing from the Pope in the Vatican. In a blog written about that moment, Yeb stated that he was in utter disbelief.
“I was going to tell him so many things about thanking him for his courage and leadership on the climate issue and that our group of pilgrims would be carrying the encyclical to Paris. But no words came out of my mouth. Instead, I reciprocated his grip on my hand and tears welled in my eyes.”
On the opportunity to be part of the Pilgrimage, Koreti Tiumalu, Pacific Coordinator for 350.org said that this was the opportune moment to show solidarity before world leaders met for COP in Paris.
“We are marching with the Pilgrims to show the interconnectedness of the climate crisis and the stand in solidarity with people all over the world hoping for a fair, just, legally binding agreement out of COP21 that will ensure the survival of the small island states.”
“We are excited to be part of this moment because we have a deep respect for the Peoples Pilgrimage and, it is a great opportunity for us to call on world leaders to move away from fossil fuels and commit to a just transition towards renewable energy.”
The People’s Pilgrimage will end in December 2015 during the UN COP21 climate talks in Paris.
WORLDWIDE – On Sunday, October 4, activists and opponents of fracking from 28 countries including Portugal, England and Spain will demonstrate outside Brazilian Embassies and consulates, as well as in front the headquarters of fossil fuel companies involved in a new auction of fracking exploration rights organized by the Brazilian government. In Brazil, actions in different cities will take place across the states of Paraná, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso, Acre and the Federal District.
The demonstrations in support of the Coalizão Não Fracking Brasil (No-Fracking Brazil Coalition) aims to send a clear message to the Brazilian government from a global movement united against fracking in the face of the upcoming auction to sell new blocks for fracking exploration on areas which overlap with the territories of indigenous peoples, key aquifers and ecological sanctuaries.
“The Brazilian government claims that there is no opposition to fracking in other countries. This coming weekend, with anti-fracking actions planned across continents, we are sending one message to Brazil’s government: fracking is not welcome anywhere,” said Nicole Figueiredo de Oliveira, 350.org Brazil Team Leader and part of the Coalizão Não Fracking Brasil.
Fracktivists are determined to pressure the Brazilian government to withdraw the permits for the use of this technology that is threatening the territorial rights of indigenous and un-contacted peoples, as well as the air, soil, and surface and groundwater sources for rural and urban population, and would leave a permanent and irreversible destruction trail.
The anti-fracking movement has had several successful milestones worldwide and also in Brazil. as we can see from the examples of the United Kingdom, France and the United States, opposition to fracking is growing around the world. “In Brazil we achieved important victories in 2014, mobilizing more than one hundred thousand people against fracking in two cities of Paraná. Also, a Court suspended exploration activities within the blocks traded at the previous auction made by the Brazilian government. Now, we will intensify our campaign to prevent and obtain another Court suspension for the October 7 auction,” Nicole concluded.
350.org is working around the world in the lead up to the Paris climate talks to build momentum towards a fossil free world. Just last week, 350.org and the Divest-Invest coalition announced that institutions representing over $2.6 trillion in capital have now made some form of commitment to divest from fossil fuels. This November and December, 350.org will be working with allies to organize major mobilizations in Paris and across the planet to demand bold action to address the climate crisis.
Papua New Guinea is a land of intense diversity – from the low-lying atoll islands in the far east, to the rugged and deeply remote expanse of mountain highlands of the mainland. It’s across the highlands, where 2.5 million people live, that is now living through a deadly drought.
More than 100,000 children have been turned away from schools as there’s just not enough water or food left to run them anymore. After a period of severe frosts in the highlands that killed off staple food crops, the intense, El Niño-driven drought has prevented new crops from growing. There have been reports of deaths from starvation and disease. Much of the highlands are incredibly remote, so getting food relief to these regions is troublesome, and many are worried that the government-relief won’t reach communities in time.
As 350 Papua New Guinea coordinator, Arianne Kassman explained
“This crisis shows the importance of addressing the issue of climate change as the survival of our people depends on it. Our people rely on their gardens to survive and now it is being taken away from them. Almost 70% of Papua New Guinea live in rural areas and rely on subsistence farming to survive.”
While the drought is being fuelled by a growing El Niño and has been coupled with harsh frosts, global warming is playing its hand in making this drought more severe. There’s a number of ways that global warming affects droughts, but at its most basic, as Park Williams at Columbia University explains:
Each year, the heat squeezes more moisture from soils and ecosystems. This is because, as the atmosphere warms, its demand for moisture rises. Just as a puddle evaporates more quickly on a warm day, soils dry out more quickly during warmer years, which are becoming increasingly frequent in most locations globally.
The future for Papua New Guinea is unlikely to get any easier either, where according to the Asian Development Bank, climate change is forecast to wipe 4% of PNG’s GDP every year by 2050, growing rapidly to 16% of GDP by 2100 – and that’s under a moderate warming scenario. That’s a harsh future to face for a country that ranks 171st for greenhouse gasses per capita, and has done so very little to cause this damage – and especially for this young fella.
While this situation is critical and it seems like there is little we can do as a global community, it’s important for us not to fall into a depressed slumber, and switch off to the loss and damage occurring. I think as the photo below from our good friends of 350 PNG shows, the best thing you can do is take action where you are, and do it in solidarity with this movement that is growing from strength to strength around the world.
As the scale and pace of climate change impacts increases, 350.org is exploring what more we can do to support community-led, grassroots responses to disasters and impacts. We believe we can’t underestimate the power and agency of people on the ground to know how best to respond in times of crisis. What that looks like, we don’t quite yet know, but we’re testing out ideas. We’re always glad to hear of your ideas or if you want to get involved. You can email me on aaron at 350.org if you do.
Last night, the audience for the Munk Debate on Foreign Policy was met with a surprise. As ticket holders gathered at the entrance of Roy Thompson Hall in the heart of downtown Toronto, they quickly realized they would have some trouble getting in. Preceding their arrival, migrant justice organizers had blocked the front doors of the building by unfurling a list of 40,000 people that lost their lives to displacement. As others gathered in solidarity with these displaced individuals, families and communities, a barrier arose around the list, forcing those trying to enter the hall to walk around the list.
The few seconds delay confused the attendees — many of them were disgruntled, some curiously accepted ‘Refugees Welcome’ pamphlets to try and understand the action a little bit more, and others ignored the demonstration completely, choosing to walk on top of the names of the deceased individuals in an act of entitled defiance.
Of course this re-route is nothing compared the massive displacement taking place across the planet as a result of a global climate crisis.. For the 26 million people that have lost their homes to extreme climate events, displacement has irreversibly and catastrophically altered the course of their lives. Yet their voices, along with the voices of the millions of refugees and Indigenous peoples across the world that struggle with the unjust legacies of colonialism and imperialism, have no place in debates about foreign policy.
The action last night boldly connected the dots between Canada’s foreign policy, the refugee crisis and climate justice. Unfortunately, the leaders completely fell short of doing that.
Justin Trudeau acknowledged that the Syrian refugee crisis has been exacerbated by climate change. He criticized Harper’s climate inaction but did not making any sort of a commitment to tackle the global crisis. Thomas Mulcair called out Harper and Trudeau for their failure on the Keystone Pipeline, arguing that the pipeline would export jobs to the United States instead of benefiting Canadians. However, he was silent on Energy East and the other transportation routes contributing to the expansion of the tar sands and would, in turn, condemn the climate to a catastrophic 2 degree rise.
Each of the candidates attempted to convince the audience that they would make the best representative for Canada at the international climate negotiations. Of course, none of the candidates have a plan that’s actually in line with the science of climate change.
More than that, none of the candidates made any attempt to address or even acknowledge the injustices that a large group of people was calling out right outside the debate. This is the third time in this election that the three party leaders were met with a large mobilization right outside of an electoral debate. First, they were greeted with a carbon bubble at the Calgary debate on the economy. Then, last week, hundreds of people took to the streets of Montreal outside of the French debate in a convergence demanding justice on a range of issues, including climate. Nevertheless, time and time again, the leaders took to the podiums only to regurgitate the same talking points again and again — instead of actually tailoring their positions to reflect context or public opinion.
Don’t get me wrong. People power has has an impact. Four years ago, there’s not a chance that climate change and refugee justice would have been so central to a debate on foreign policy, but it is evident that strong people’s movements changed that. Mobilizations across Canada have brought these issues to the election. It’s just that we’re still waiting to move beyond the empty rhetoric.
All the rallying, marching and demonstrating we’ve done over the last decade has had an influence. Politicians know that they can no longer ignore issues that they’ve been trying to sweep under the rug. However, the immediacy of the climate crisis means that we need to escalate our mobilizations. We need to create a plan to send a bold message to Canada’s next government, reminding them that people won’t just settle down on the backseat after the election. We are planning to hold the government accountable in its first weeks in office — and very soon, we’ll be calling on you for help.
Au débat des chefs du 24 septembre, la population s’est une fois de plus fait entendre pour s’assurer que les chefs des principaux partis
Un contingent climat a marché dans le centre-ville pour retrouver une grande manifestation à l’extérieur de Radio-Canada.
À l’extérieur de Radio-Canada, il y a avait toute une foule, avec plusieurs mouvements sociaux représentés et diverses organisations — droit au logement, solidarité internationale, droits des femmes, . Ajoutons-y un pipeline de 40 pieds qui dansait au son d’une fanfare et de chansons politiques.
— Aurore Fauret (@uneaurore) September 24, 2015
— Lindsay Hughes (@lindsay_mtl) September 24, 2015
Voir le court reportage de Clayton Thomas-Muller ci-dessous qui met en contexte la mobilisation devant le débat avec un mouvement partout au Canada sur les sables bitumineux.
The Climate Alternatiba Tour arrived in Paris on the 26th of September 2015. The Pacific Climate Warriors were part of the sixty thousand people that came to celebrate the end of the tour in the République in Paris, over the weekend.
The Alternatiba started with less than ten people. They cycled around France, stopping in 187 cities to show that ecological and social alternatives were available. Three of the Pacific Climate Warriors, Niten Anni from the Marshall Islands, Litiana Kalsrap from Vanuatu, and Litia Maiava from Tokelau cycled with them when they arrived at Ile Saint-Denis to show the power of solidarity.
“We are here to share our stories and highlight the interconnectedness in the climate crisis and how it is being addressed,” stated Litia Maiava.
The Pacific Climate Warriors were part of the Alternatiba for two reasons;
- To stand in solidarity with the thousands of people in Paris mobilizing around COP21 and Beyond, and
- To call on institutions, individuals, and governments to show climate leadership and align their investments with their values by divesting from fossil fuels ahead of the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris
This was also an opportunity for the Pacific Climate Warriors to share their stories and highlight the impacts of climate change in the islands.
“The developed world needs to commit to moving away from the fossil fuel industry that is resulting in very real climate-related impacts in Kiribati. The Pacific Climate Warriors do not stand alone. Thousands of concerned people in Paris are standing with us to demand a moratorium on any new fossil fuel projects or expansions, and there be a just transition towards renewable energy. For Kiribati and other low-lying atoll islands, divestment is about survival,” said Toani Benson, Climate Warrior from Kiribati.
In his speech to those that attended the event at Republique, Pacific Climate Warrior from the Fiji islands, George Nacewa stated that more needs to be done by world leaders to ensure the survival of the Pacific.
“I encourage you to keep speaking truth to power and demand that world leaders stop investing in this climate crisis, move away from fossil fuels and commit to a just transition towards renewable energy.”
The Pacific Climate Warriors are in Europe to share their stories of climate impacts in the Islands and let world leaders meeting for COP21 know that people all around the world are recognizing the need to keep oil and gas in the ground and taking action to challenge the power and the moral license of the fossil fuel industry.
“For us Pacific Islanders, there is nothing more urgent or necessary” concluded Nacewa.
After their time in Paris, the Climate Warriors will travel to Rome where they will join Yeb Sano and the Peoples Pilgrimage, before heading to the Vatican to carry out a traditional Pacific prayer vigil praying for their island homes, their Pacific Island leaders heading to COP21, as well as for world leaders to make stronger legally binding commitments to ensuring the survival of the Pacific and its people.
Back in 2007, we organized a day of creative events across the United States with a simple, and at the time, completely “radical” message: “Step it Up, Congress: Cut Carbon 80% by 2050.” We’d gotten the numbers from a paper by NASA’s Dr. James Hansen and picked it for a simple reason: that’s what the science at the time said was necessary.
Yesterday, as part of Climate Week here in New York, regional leaders and mayors representing 313 million people and more than $8.7 trillion in gross domestic product committed to the 80% by 2050 goal. That radical demand has become utterly and thoroughly mainstream.
The commitments are just words on paper. It will take constant pressure, and deep organizing, to make sure these politicians keep moving in the right direction. We also know now that 80% by 2050 isn’t nearly enough: we need to cut faster and further, and think much more deeply about how we don’t just reduce emissions, but address the root causes of the climate crisis.
But damn if it still doesn’t feel amazing to watch a demand go from placards to policy. It’s a reminder to trust ourselves as we put forward today’s “radical” asks to keep fossil fuels in the ground and move to 100% renewable energy. The revolutionary can become the status quo before you know it.
2007 to 2015. Those eight years seem like both a long and short amount of time. Short in the long arc of history; too long for the short time left we have to prevent catastrophe. Our work is far from over, but it’s hopeful to see some of the seeds we’ve planted starting to sprout.
Once again, the oil industry is doing its best to spin the data and hide the whole picture to further its agenda. This time, they are working to build the case that investors will lose money if they divest from fossil fuels. Spoiler alert: we think this is disingenuous, to say the least.
In August, the petroleum industry commissioned a study that found significant loss for university endowments that had (hypothetically) divested 20 years ago. Today, the fossil fuel industry published a U.K.-focused report displaying “underperformance” by a fossil fuel divested market between 2002 and 2014.
There are three important things divestment campaigners — and, more importantly, investors — should know when reading these reports (other than the fact these reports are produced by the oil industry):
1) The political, market, and social equation is very different today than it was 10 years ago.
Past performance is not a predictor of future results. In this case, it may be inappropriate to look too far back. Carbon focused restrictive legislation and national/ international carbon cutting goals have ramped up over the last few years, and are on track to dramatically restructure the industry.
Demand is also shifting in a big way. With energy efficiency integration and the trajectory of competitive alternatives, fossil fuels have a bleak future on the demand side. The supply side isn’t any better. The industry steadily shifted from high-return, low-cost conventional projects (your classic oil well), to high-cost, capital-intensive, complex projects — like LNG, tar sands, and Arctic drilling.
These recent political and market shifts are all being driven forward by a dramatic social shift. Climate change is now a primary social concern. Divestment is an expression of that social concern, creating industry stigmatization — a material risk for fossil fuel companies.
Perhaps an appropriate “backtest” would be one that begins on the date when the divestment movement started calling for smart, diligent, and strategic divestment.
2) It’s easy to cherry pick timelines.
Fossil fuel companies may have been “good performers” from 2002 until 2010, largely because of rising oil prices during that period. But over 1, 3, 5 and 10 year periods, the fossil fuels (the energy sector) has underperformed the world markets, as the chart below shows. When the oil industry wants to show the strength of fossil fuel stocks, it just needs to pick the right time periods. If you go back 22 years, a divested portfolio wins; 20 years a un-divested portfolio. Both are true — and both are irrelevant to the future.
Source: The MSCI World Energy Index fact sheet.
The other way to look at this, as the oil industry papers do, is how hypothetical divested portfolios would have performed over time (as opposed to looking at the returns of fossil fuel stocks). The story is the same, it all depends on the time period you examine. In the chart below you’ll see the Fossil Free S&P 500 (produced by Fossil Free Indexes) compared to the S&P 500.
Note: This chart shows historical data of the S&P 500 (the top 500 companies in the US) over the last 3 months to the last 10 years. This is compared to FFIUS, which is the S&P 500 without to top 200 fossil fuel companies. Source: Fossil Free Indexes [.com]
In short, both sides of the debate could go back and forth with different timeline backtests all day. Eventually, we need to start asking the question: What does the future look like?
3) While the oil industry is saying you’ll lose money if you divest, investors are actually losing money because of their oil investments.
Over the past year, oil stocks have underperformed to general market by over 30 percent, and over the past three years they’ve underperformed by over 20 percent. This percentages translate into real dollars.
From the day the Fossil Free California campaign began, California’s two huge pension funds have lost $5.1 billion on their fossil fuel holdings. Massachusetts’ state pension lost $521 million on oil, coal and gas holdings between June of 2014 and June of 2015.
Speculate all you want; since the call for divestment began, fossil fuels are costing investors REAL returns.
The #DébatDesChefs was the third debate in this election. At this point, we’re not hearing anyone presenting a novel perspective or raising a compelling idea, especially not when it comes to climate change. We’re just hearing the Prime Minister candidates repeat the same exact things that they’ve been saying for the last two months — and a lot of the time, they’re trying to convince us of things that simply are not true.
We know, one fact for sure: none of the major leaders has a plan that’s in line with the science of climate change. Here are some other facts that it’s about time we straightened out.
FACT CHECK #1: The Conservatives have not been reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
You might have noticed that Stephen Harper keeps repeating this one. The fact is, emissions declined in only one year since Harper became Prime Minister and it was not as a result of any sort of climate leadership on his part.
GHGs declined from 2008 – 2009 when the economy slowed down as a result of a global recession. Once the economy made a comeback, GHG emissions did too and they’ve been on a rise ever since.
One thing Harper likes to omit is that they would actually have been increasing even more sharply if it hadn’t been for provincial leadership on climate change such as Ontario’s initiative to shut down provincial coal plants and introduce the Green Energy Act. Here’s data published by the government itself showing GHG emissions:
In the grand scheme of things, a 2% decline in GHG emissions is an insult to the millions of people that are already facing the impacts of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has confirmed that the world must drastically depart from Business as Usual if there is any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
Also, let’s not forget, these numbers are only accounting for in-country GHGs. They’re not taking into consideration all of the emissions that have been exported from Canada in the form of tar sands, fracked natural gas and coal — the industries that have become the foundation of our economy.
FACT CHECK #2: Canada’s one of the worst countries in the world for refugee settlement.
Harper has been determined to convince Canadians that his government has been welcoming refugees, when, in fact, it’s been much of the opposite. The Conservative government has been annually settling 10,000 refugees (about 0.001% of the 60 million refugees across the world). Other countries have far surpassed that number. Germany, for example settles 80 times that number.
They haven’t only shut down borders. The Harper government’s also been axing healthcare services for refugees, and making it easier to incarcerate and deport members of these communities. When we hear on national television that they’re “generous and reasonable” we can’t help but cringe.
And let’s also remember that any recent change the government has introduced has come after massive outrage across the country at Harper’s immigration policies in the wake of Alan Kurdi.FACT CHECK #3: Trains or Pipelines is an empty debate.
Last night, the potential Prime Ministers were asked about their preferred mode of transporting tar sands oil, and none of the major leaders really acknowledged the reality. It doesn’t matter how we transport it, ultimately, it’s unburnable oil if we want to live in a safe climate and keep global warming under 2C. We know that 85% of Canada’s tar sands simply need to stay in the ground and once again, none of the leaders addressed this scientific reality.
FACT CHECK #4: Climate Change is not just a provincial responsibility.
Justin Trudeau keeps discussing his plan to encourage provincial leadership on climate change. It’s true that in Canada, some provinces have taken impressive strides towards reducing emissions and accelerating the transition to green energy.
However, a global crisis of this magnitude demands ambitious national measures. Expecting provinces to be the only ones taking leadership on this issue is pretty much equivalent to shirking the responsibilities of a national leader.
Let’s not forget too that the provinces have been working on a Canadian Energy Strategy that isn’t focused on phasing out fossil fuels, but, to the contrary, is rather weak on climate commitments and affirms support for pipelines.
FACT CHECK #5: Pipelines are not assessed through a scientific evaluation.
Stephen Harper dropped this fib in the middle of the train versus pipeline debate. Let’s be clear: the National Energy Board review is far from a comprehensive, scientific evaluation. For starters, climate scientists have been banned from participating and the process has been excluding the climate question. Calls to suspend the Energy East project review have multiplied because of the NEB’s broken process.
Coupled with the gutting of Canada’s environmental regulations and muzzling of public service scientists, this doesn’t give us very much of a framework to scientifically evaluate pipelines. What we need is an overhaul of Canada’s regulatory system, and a new system that thoroughly accounts for climate impacts.
FACT CHECK #6: Real political change is more than talking points — it’s about people power which is only getting stronger.
For all the discussions in the debate touching on democratic reform, abolishing the Senate and rights-violating Bill C-51 — and the dire absence of a conversation on First Nations and Treaty rights — it’s important to remember that just outside the debate, a crowd of several hundred people were reminding Prime Minister contenders that it’s the people that elect them. And that it’s people power that moves policies towards a more just economy and a safe planet that operates in accordance with principles of environmental and social justice.
This week we were deeply saddened to hear the news that Ben Winston, a photographer and filmmaker from the UK, passed away over the weekend. Many from our team met Ben at Ende Gelände this year, and though we knew him only briefly his passion, energy and thoughtfulness left a strong impression on us all. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Ende Gelände was Ben’s first time taking part in an act of civil disobedience, but his determination to do all that he could in the face of the climate crisis inspired everyone. In many ways he embodied what we are trying to do in our work: supporting people in their journey to take collective action, opening up space for their talent, wisdom and growing power. He immersed himself in all of that with grace, commitment, brightness, humour, curiosity and an incredible passion. His writing after the action helped many people process their own feelings about the experience of Ende Gelände.
Below is an edited version of an article he wrote about Ende Gelände. You can read the unedited three part version on his blog at benwinstonphoto.wordpress.com.
I’m running and I’m running and I’m just one, just one amongst hundreds of people running to escape the batons and the pepper spray, running to break through the police line and run on and on across the field to the mine. But as my legs are pumping and the adrenaline’s thumping I turn and see something that makes my blood turn cold and time stand still. I see a man made massive with body armour and a helmet and a baton throw his shoulder back and smash the full brutal weight of his aggression into the face of an oncoming woman. She crumples but I don’t even see her hit the floor because I’m running and I’m thinking that this isn’t what I signed up for and I don’t want to be here and christ I’m just so scared. Because I am not an activist. This isn’t what I do. I’m a relatively normal, middle aged chap who does clicktivism when he can find the time. Direct action is not my thing. I’m not cut out to be here, running with hundreds of people across the fields of the Rhineland to try and close for one day a sodding great lignite mine.
And yet, oddly, here I am.
I am running because I don’t know what else to do. I am running because I know too much to stand still. I am running because climate change has already begun and because I’m scared of heatwaves and droughts and mass extinctions and flooding. I’m running because I need to act – we all need to act – and we need to act right now.
So I’m acting as fast as I can; running from the police, running from my disempowerment, running from my apathy and fatalism. I’m running and dodging batons and pepper spray and I’m more primevally, viscerally terrified than I have ever, ever been.
After breaking through the police line we begin to pull back together. Those of us who can see lead those blinded by pepper spray. We keep walking, quickly re-coalescing back into the protective mass that two hundred determined people can be, but I’m feeling very shaken. This is so unlike anything I’ve experienced. I wonder how I could have been so naïve. What was I expecting when I signed up to gatecrash Europe’s biggest source of CO2 emissions? A welcoming beer and a hug? I want to escape this absurd situation but then I realise that beyond the fearful chatter of my thinking, I’m committed. We all are. Others will be feeling all of this, but we have nothing but our resolve and our numbers. I want no part in eroding what is our only strength.
Incredibly, we soon make it to the edge of the mine. The scale is barely comprehensible. It stretches a full 20km into the distance. It’s 12 long kilometres wide. I find it hard to believe that we, as a collection of small, frail human beings, can really shut down a problem of this scale. In truth, we don’t know yet if we can. But we’re going to try. Over a thousand individuals are marching in four groups towards the mine; four fingers of resistance snaking across the Rhineland. We must look incredible from the police helicopters in the air.
But what the police helicopters won’t see is how many of us are doing something like this for the first time. People like me who have never experienced police brutality or the terrifying experience of breaking through police lines. And why are there so many of us here? What is it that compels us normal, law abiding citizens to put our liberty and safety at risk?
I think the answer lies in the urgency of the climate challenge and the feeling that action of some kind has become a moral imperative. We feel we are not acting simply for ourselves, but for our planet and our children. We feel the anger, sadness and incomprehension of those future generations who will look back at us with incredulity. “What a beautiful world”, they will think. “What kind of madness made our parents trash it?”
Together we flow over the top of the mine and down towards the diggers. We are singing and buzzing with a mixture of disbelief and hope. Non-violent and unstoppable, giddy with elation and adrenaline. The fear begins to recede and my attention widens to appreciate this incredible place. To our right an endless cliff winds around the rim, an artwork of sandy pigments gouged with the striations of digger teeth. To the left, the mine drops down into the distance in a series of terraces, each leading deeper into the earth that gets darker and darker, then turns to black. Across the pit roam the diggers, unimaginable beasts with bucket teeth and vast steel throats, gouging and disgorging the coal onto conveyor belts 16km long.
Time goes weird and space gets warped inside the mine. I only dimly recognise the distant mine jeeps of coal company RWE as a threat. As the jeeps pull closer and clamour to a halt in a cloud of orange dust, as the doors open and black figures jump out, it dawns on me slowly, thickly, stupidly, that the violence is about to start again. We form a dense crowd, holding arms, still walking quickly towards the police who are putting on their helmets, drawing their batons and unholstering those burning cans of pepper spray. As their faces disappear behind visors, they lose the last vestiges of their humanity. We are marching towards a squadron of machines.
Self-organising and intuitive, our finger spreads across the length of the terrace, arm in arm and hand in hand. Suddenly it is the police who are trapped. We are, literally, a long white line in the sand. Today this mine has become a place where every moment is symbolic. State police travel in corporate pick-ups. Black uniforms beat white boilersuits. Songs and chants meet batons and pepper spray while diggers gouge the earth and wind turbines salute the sky. Together we stand against the vested interests and distorted economics of the coal mine; living testimony to the power of what’s possible when collection and conviction combine. It’s hard to overstate the importance of our conviction that our action is moral and just. It’s the base from which we act. It binds us to each other and connects us with the millions of unseen supporters around the world.
But for the police and for RWE, we are obstructing a legal corporate entity from going about its business and we have to be stopped. When we see a crowd of RWE jeeps in the distance, we break our line and huddle once again into our protective mass. The jeeps behind join those in front and police break over us in a crazy, frantic, violent melee. I’m running but my legs are shredded by the terrain and the heavy rucksack. Then I’m face down in the sand. I don’t know what’s happened. I look up and see wave after wave of people flow past; all trying to go on, all trying to avoid stamping on me. There is nothing more but to close my eyes and huddle into a shameless foetal ball. My face is burning. My left eye and my hands are on fire. Pepper spray hangs suspended in the air.
As soon as I’m able, I look up through my one good eye and see people nearby crying out in pain. The police are busy wrenching arms behind backs and strapping them tight with cable ties. The air is full of fear and adrenaline and fury: “SIT DOWN!” “STAY THERE!” “DON’T MOVE!”. So I lie there.
Unfathomable time passes and eventually the situation calms. The police have us kettled. My pepper wounds are limited, I’m one of the few who is uncuffed and mobile so I’m able to help tend to people and replace the relentless fear and terror of the past few hours with something so much warmer and nourishing.
As we go about helping each other, the police remove their helmets and one policeman hands me a bottle of water to help rinse someone’s eyes. They have become human again. We are no longer a defiant, running protest, and the police are no longer brutal enforcement machines. We are instead a mutually frazzled group of people in the bottom of a vast, multi-hued hole in the ground, our human scale dwarfed by the enormity of the mine. We find out that many of the men and women encircling us agree in principle with our protest. It’s a pretty odd thing to hear that in spite of the brutal reality of the past hour, we are all just playing our parts in a much wider political game.
At some point we learn the mine has been completely shut down. A cheer echoes up from the pit. We’ve just put a halt to one of Europe’s biggest sources of CO2 emissions. The machines which normally carve brown coal from the earth 24 hours a day have gone silent and RWE, the EU’s most carbon-intensive energy conglomerate, is losing phenomenal amounts of money. The rush of victory fades into the passing hours of the day. The police begin to process us, someone juggles rocks, someone starts hands-bound-behind-back yoga, some read, others invent revolutionary quizzes. The atmosphere is peacefully resistant. I feel surrounded by amazing, inspiring people.
Eventually, we are taken out of the mine in prison vans and are transferred into municipal buses to join hundreds of others. Sharing stories, our collective exhaustion is cut with moments of connection that will stay with many of us for life. Our destination turns out to be a police station 50 kilometres away in the city of Aachen where we are set to waiting in the busses. The hours drag endlessly into the night before all of a sudden, the news comes that we’re being taken to the train station and set free. The police are not even going to try and identify us. The bus erupts in ecstatic jubilation, cheering and singing; the exhaustion and fear and apprehension is banished as in a dream and replaced with heady, giddy victory. It’s hard to believe.
For the past 24 hours I have been a vagrant from my regular life, experimenting with a role both unfamiliar and terrifying, never quite knowing if what I was doing was worthwhile. But on the streets of Aachen and across the media, Ende Gelände is met with approval and respect: Thousands of everyday people share our concerns. If every one of those people feels inspired to get involved in even some small way, I would rush back into the pepper spray and batons ten thousand times over.
This action for me is proof of how inconceivably powerful we become when we begin to act from our collective self. I hope that we are entering a period which will be remembered as a time when normal people got together and did extraordinary things. And so I sit on the midnight train surrounded by revelry, sharing a beer and an intense philosophical conversation with someone I’ve just met, and wildly, madly, foolishly, I get to thinking that perhaps there’s hope for this crazy species of ours.
Originally published in three parts:
The following letter was written collaboratively by students forming a Jesuit network for fossil fuel divestment.
Most Holy Father,
We write to you as young people, as constituents of Jesuit institutions, other Catholic, Christian, and religious institutions, and non-religious institutions as people of goodwill, on behalf of an entire generation. We are standing on the precipice of climate catastrophe. Since the release of your encyclical “Laudato Si” in June, we have been inspired by your call for climate justice and the awakening of the Catholic and global community to the systemic causes of the climate crisis.
We have resonated with your criticism of the lack of response from our politicians and leaders in addressing climate change. St. Ignatius of Loyola urged us to see God in all things. Regrettably, many of our leaders are overlooking this important lesson. It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The message that we are getting out to the world through our fossil fuel divestment work echoes your observation that “The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.” We wholeheartedly agree with your analysis, Holy Father, and we see divestment as a means to strip fossil fuel special interests of their political power, which thus far has helped in blocking meaningful climate legislation to come to fruition. As you have taught, highly polluting fossil fuels must be replaced without delay, and that cannot happen while these interests have control of our political processes.
Additionally, fossil fuel divestment proclaims, as you did at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, that “there is an invisible thread joining every one of [the many forms of exclusion and injustice].” You asked: “Can we recognize it? These are not isolated issues. I wonder whether we can see that these destructive realities are part of a system which has become global. Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?”
We answer yes. All around us, we see the frightening consequences of an extractive capitalist economy, colonialism, systemic racism, and other forms of injustice. Divestment as a tactic is pivotal to the climate justice movement in that it forces us to think of issues with intersectionality on a global scale. One can not truly address the climate crisis and environmental injustice issues without dismantling the larger system which allows these things to continue. By calling on our institutions to divest their endowments from fossil fuel companies, and reinvest those funds into renewable technology and into those communities which have been marginalized, we force dialogue on climate change in terms of a global system urgently in need of an overhaul.
Despite the colossal challenges that face our young generation, we have hope in the future and are fighting to secure a world for ourselves in which a just and stable future is possible. We have been inspired and invigorated by your witness to the Gospel, and your calls for real, structural change. We highly anticipate your September visit to the United States and the furthering of the conversation surrounding the changes that we urgently need. During your visit, we ask that you call on our universities, along with other institutions, to divest from fossil fuels. Some of America’s largest Catholic organizations still have millions of dollars invested in heavily polluting fossil fuel companies. Within a few years, this remarkably fast-growing movement has reached some incredible milestones, but unfortunately many of our own educational institutions, which cite Christian values, are ignoring your call for climate justice by refusing to divest.
Additionally, we ask that you continue efforts to divest your own “campus,” as The Vatican has an equal responsibility as our universities and institutions to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry. We wholeheartedly believe in the Catholic values of stewardship for the Earth and for oppressed people, and we are offering our institutions the chance to live out these values as well. We are doing all that we can, but we need your help so that together we can take part in the “globalization of hope.”
We thank you again for your love and your leadership, Holy Father.
As young people for a just world,
Climate Justice at Boston College
Boston College Alumni for Divestment
Fossil Free LMU, Loyola Marymount University
Tufts Climate Action, Tufts University
Saint Mary’s College Sustainability Committee
Swarthmore Mountain Justice
Bowdoin Climate Action
Maine Students for Climate Justice
University of New Hampshire’s Student Environmental Action Coalition
Divest Central Michigan University
Student Environmental Alliance at Central Michigan University
Take Back the Tap at Central Michigan University
Divest Chico State
Fossil Free Caltech (Teachers for a Sustainable Future)
Fossil Free UCLA at University of California, Los Angeles
Fossil Free University of Tasmania, Australia
Fossil Free Monash University, Australia
Fossil Free RMIT, Melbourne, Australia
Boston University Students for a Just and Stable Future
Fossil Free San Francisco State University
Fossil Free MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
DivestNOW! Cornell, Cornell University
Fossil Free NAU, Northern Arizona University
Fossil Free Lesley, Lesley University
Divest Carleton, Carleton College
Southwest Divestment Network, Divestment Student Network
DivestNU, Northeastern University
Fossil Free AppState, Appalachian State University
Fossil Free Reed College Alumni
People and Planet, Fossil Free UK, United Kingdom
Go Fossil Free Washington State University
Colorado College Student Divestment Committee
Go Fossil Free Ball State
Divest Barnard from Fossil Fuels
Divest Dartmouth, Dartmouth College
Fossil Free Lakehead, Lakehead University
Divest University of Washington
Fossil Free ND, University of Notre Dame
Fossil Free Warwick University, UK
Pacific University: Go Fossil Free
Fossil Free Cal, UC Berkeley
Fossil Free UC, University of California
DivestPBurgh, State University of New York at Plattsburgh
Go Fossil Free SBCC, Santa Barbara City College, California
Divest DU, University of Denver, Colorado
Green Jays at Creighton University
Fossil Free NU, Northwestern University
Columbia Divest for Climate Justice, Columbia University
Sierra Student Coalition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Fossil Free UCSC, University of California Santa Cruz
Divest Stonehill, Stonehill College
Stonehill College, Students for Environmental Action
New Progressive Alliance
University of Southern Maine: Go Fossil Free!
Fossil Free Yale
Divest VicSuper, Melbourne, Australia
Divest JC, Juniata College
Go Fossil Free, Penn State
Fossil Free University of Queensland
Divest James Cook University
Divest WNEU, Western New England University
Oxford University Fossil Free, UK
Brandeis Climate Justice
Hamilton Divests, Hamilton College
Fossil Free MU, University of Melbourne
Fossil Free WashU, Washington University in St. Louis
Fossil Free Griffith University
Fossil Free ANU, Australian National University
Climate Action 350-UW (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
350 Madison Climate Action Team
University of Iowa: Go Fossil Free
Oberlin Students for Divestment
Fossil Free Queensland University of Technology
Clarkson University Sustainable Synergy
Students United for Socioeconomic Justice, University of Texas at San Antonio
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Beyond Coal
Climate Action Society at the University of Virginia
Student Environmental Alliance at Loyola University Chicago
Divest JMU, James Madison University
A technology with a strange name is set to re-ignite in Brazil, this October, a controversy that is already inflamed in the United States and in Europe. It is about fracking. You may not know what it is, but you are against it.
“Fracking” is the short name for “hydraulic fracturing”, a technology used for the unconventional extraction of natural gas from shale rock, a sedimentary rock found in several places in the world. The presence of hydrocarbons in this type of rock has been known for several decades, but until 1990 nobody knew how to extract it. Fracking has changed that scenario and wants to give a long life to the reign of fossil fuels.
In order to extract this gas, deep drilling of the soil is needed, then pipelines are inserted to go through water tables in order to reach the rock. Between 7 and 15 million liters of water can go through these pipelines. For each operation, water, sand and more than 600 chemical substances – some highly toxic – are injected at very high pressure to fracture (“frack”) the rock, thus releasing the gas. In the US, fracking has created disputes over the use of water. In Brazil it will not be different.
However, the problems caused by fracking go far beyond water disputes. In countries where fracking takes place – China, Canada, United States and Argentina – there are reports of contamination of water tables, leakage of methane to artesian wells and, in places in the USA where this technology is used to extract oil, air pollution is also a problem. For Brazil, there is an inherent risk of contamination due to the geological layout: the main gas repositories lay in a rock layer in the Parana Basin beneath the rocks that hold the Guarani Aquifer, the largest in the world.
Some studies have also shown regular leaks of methane gas into wells. This makes the natural gas produced by fracking an aggravating factor for climate change and not the “clean” fossil fuel that its proponents insist that it is.
Fracking involves so many risks that in Lancashire, in the United Kingdom, the population has pressed the authorities, achieving the banning of exploratory testing. In the United States, the state of New York has officially prohibited fracking, and Oklahoma, after an increase in earthquakes caused by the fracturing of wells – 35 over just eight days last June – is getting ready to toughen up its legislation.
Although it is does not appear in its 10-Year Energy Plan drawn in 2013, the Brazilian government considers fracking an “alternative energy” and is committed to develop this technology in the country without first opening a proper public debate.
That is why, since 2013 Coesus – Coalizão Não Fracking Brasil (No Fracking Brazil Coalition), of which 350.org is a member and national coordinator, has been conducting a heavy campaign that has culminated in the suspension, through legal action, of the 12th Bidding Round of 240 blocks for the exploration of shale gas by the National Petroleum and Natural Gas Agency (ANP) in December 2013.
For this year, ANP has announced that it is going to auction 269 more blocks on the October 7. For the 13th bidding round there are blocks right on the Serra Geral and Guarani aquifers of Paraná and São Paulo.
To anyone with common sense, the federal government’s decision is wrongful, dangerous and one that puts the future of the country at risk. Brazil does not need fracking. The country has plenty of natural resources to ensure the generation of clean and renewable energy, the forefront of low carbon economies.
The Coalizão Não Fracking Brasil is calling International groups and fracktivists to show the Brazilian government that there is a global movement united against fracking, by protesting in front of Brazilian Embassies, Petrobras offices or any other fossil industry interested in fracking in Brazil. This International Solidarity Day will be held on October 4th, the weekend before the auction of new fracking blocks.
Learn about the actions of this campaign at the website:
You can also organize an event supporting No Fracking Brazil and publish it at:
Nicole Figueiredo de Oliveira is the director of 350.org Brazil
This article was originally published in Portuguese on: http://epoca.globo.com/colunas-e-blogs/blog-do-planeta/noticia/2015/09/voce-ainda-nao-sabe-mas-e-contra-o-fracking.html
Tradução: Eliana Furlaneto de Macedo
It has always been said that while climate change affects everyone its impacts are not evenly distributed: race, gender, economic status determines how one would be able to cope and survive the impacts of a warming climate.
A number of risk indices has consistently confirmed that less developed countries are most vulnerable and least prepared to cope with its adverse impacts. Ironically the most affected are the ones who are least responsible and have least benefitted from the massive burning of fossil fuels.
While it is true that all of us is responsible for global warming, it is also truet that there is a differentiated responsibility for global warming in terms of contributions to greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. On another level, the fossil fuel entities/corporations that get coal, oil and gas out of the ground, and burn it to fuel our present economies are responsible for the lions’ share of emissions.
The primary driver of climate change is the cumulative (historic) emissions that have been pumped out the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.
In Carbon Majors, a groundbreaking peer-reviewed study published in the scientific journal Climatic Change, scientist, Richard Heede, was able to conclude that just 90 carbon major entities – including the worlds’ largest fossil fuel companies – are responsible for an estimated 65% of all anthropogenic CO2 between 1751 and 2013. The 50 investor-owned carbon major companies contributed 315 Gt CO2e, equivalent to 21.72% of estimated global industrial emissions through 2010.
The 50 companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, are a subset of the 90 legal entities that have contributed the lion’s share of cumulative global CO2 and methane emissions in the earth’s atmosphere.
“We demand justice. Climate change has taken our homes and our loved ones. These powerful corporations must be called to account for the impact of their business activities.”
– Elma Reyes, Super Typhoon Rammasun survivor
These big corporate polluters have profited from climate change and now must be made to stop polluting the planet with their carbon emissions.
That’s why this morning typhoon survivors, Greenpeace Philippines and representatives from the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Sentro, Nuclear-Free Bataan Movement, Ecowaste Coalition, Dakila, Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development, Sanlakas, 350.org East Asia, Coal-Free Central Luzon Movement, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, Philippine Human Rights Information Center, delivered a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, calling for an investigation into the responsibility of big fossil fuel companies for fuelling catastrophic climate change that is resulting in human rights violations.
They are demanding an investigation into the top 50 investor-owned fossil fuel companies and their responsibility for climate impacts that endanger people’s lives and livelihoods, as well as that of future generations.
The complaint is an important building block in establishing the moral and legal ‘precedent’ that big polluters can be held responsible for current and threatened human rights infringements resulting from fossil fuel products. These companies have benefited financially with knowledge of the harms associated with their products. The groups submitting the complaint all agree that now is the time for the big polluters to bear responsibility for preventing climate harm.
Justice demands that these big polluters be held accountable for the sake of the many who live with the reality where too much rain, or too little, means the difference between a life fulfilled and a life blighted by hunger and poor nutrition because of climate change.
One year ago today, I was standing at the top of Sixth Avenue here in New York City with 400,000 others at the People’s Climate March. We stood with our hands raised together in the air–mothers, students, workers, doctors, climate activists–each of us there because we believed in the unifying slogan of the day: to change everything, we need everyone.
We stood in silence, until suddenly, like a wave, a roar came echoing up the city canyon. Trumpets, drums and cheers echoed from Times Square all the way to the top of Central Park. Whistles and voices echoed off the city walls. With our silence, we acknowledged the lives lost to this crisis. With our noise, we celebrated the lives dedicated to solving it.
Two days before the march, I’d told a reporter from Rolling Stone that, “Organizing a big march is like throwing a rock in a pond. The splash is exciting, but the real beauty is in the ripples. I’m confident the energy from this march will ripple out in all directions, from fossil fuel divestment fights on campus to the push for a global climate treaty in Paris.”
The splash was indeed exciting. The People’s Climate March dominated the news cycle, from huge TV coverage (including, much to my pleasure, on Fox News) to an above the fold spread in the New York Times. Along with the main event in New York, there were thousands of solidarity marches around the world, each generating loads of attention. The hashtag #PeoplesClimate had over 1 billion impressions. The day after the march, world leaders from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to President Obama talked about the march and the need to “heed the call” of people in the streets.
But the real beauty has been in the ripples–shockwaves that have traveled even farther and faster than we could have predicted at the time. Here in NYC, we’ve seen a strong year of organizing on the ground, with groups like ALIGN, UPROSE, and NYC Environmental Justice Alliance continuing to lead the way. Our temporary People’s Climate Arts space, May Day, has become a permanent addition to the community and new “Sporatoriums,” the creative meet-ups where artists plotted the amazing themes and visuals of the march, continue to take place.
Meanwhile, the divestment movement I referenced in the quote has grown in leaps and bounds. The day after the People’s Climate March, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced that they would divest from fossil fuels. At the time, around 120 institutions representing roughly $50 billion in capital had made a divestment commitment. Since then, thanks to the tireless work of divestment activists, especially on college campuses, the number of commitments has surged to over 400 institutions (we’ll be getting the full numbers on the amount of capital at a press conference on September 22). Those new commitments include huge pools of money, like the University of California System, the insurance giant AXA, and the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund.
The divestment wave has helped build momentum throughout society for the transition away from fossil fuels. As some institutions commit to divest, many are also choosing to switch to 100% renewable electricity. And as our schools, companies, and places of worship take action, politicians are beginning to follow. This June, G7 leaders committed for the first time to phase out the use of fossil fuels and the goal will now be on the table for the climate talks in Paris this December. There’s still much more work to be done–long term goals without short term commitments often amount to little more than just empty rhetoric–but there are days where it really feels like the tide is beginning to turn.
We’re not organizing another march in New York City this year. Setting aside Star Wars and the Godfather, sequels are rarely better, and successful social movements rarely use the same tactic over and over again. Instead, we’re mobilizing this year in Paris and around the world. There will be actions in the US on October 18th, huge marches around the world over the weekend of November 28-29th, escalated action on December 12th, and more major demonstrations taking on the fossil fuel industry next April.
Some years you throw one big rock, other years you throw a series of stones. Both can help rock the boats of power and create ripples that carry our movement forward. The real lesson for me from the People’s Climate March wasn’t about the last word “march” but about the first word “people.” Our work will take many forms over the coming years, from community organizing to mass mobilization, but if we can keep people at the forefront, especially those who are already dealing with the worst impacts of climate change and our pollution based economy, than I’m confident we can keep moving forward. The march continues everyday.
For over a month and half now, the campaign trail in Canada has seen action after action asking the federal leaders what their plans are to tackle the climate crisis and bridge the gap between science and politics. People are taking inspiring action outside the ballot box, defeating the claims of youth apathy and showing that across Canada, climate change is indeed an election issue. More than that, the actions have obtained answers and commitments from opposition leaders to do better on climate and tar sands policies.
Last week, it started with actions in British Columbia that followed Stephen Harper throughout the province. In Penticton, Kamloops and Burnaby, people showed that the Prime Minister can’t escape a growing movement that’s concerned with climate change, refugee rights, vibrant public services, and First Nations rights. In Kamloops on September 14, three women were kicked out of the event for wearing t-shirts referring to Alan Kurdi and for apparently not “scoring high enough” on a registration check. Our friends at Shit Harper Did have put out a call and workshops to take creative action disrupting Conservatives events during the elections.
At the end of last week, on September 17, people took their cameras to local candidates posters to ask the NDP and Liberal party what their commitments and plans were to transition Canada to 100% renewable energy. Greenpeace Canada, in collaboration with other groups, has also launched a call to action and “I Vote Climate” website last week with tools to send messages to party leaders during the elections.
With multiplying disruptions, photos and questions, we’re also seeing new creative collective action as we grow our mobilizing power. Last week on Thursday, Calgary Climate Action Network activists and a crowd of 50 people delivered a 20-feet tall message to all three federal leaders gathered in the city for the debate: if you want to avoid the carbon bubble and build a new economy that works for people and the planet, you need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Read more about this exciting action here.
And right as the leaders debate was starting, over 1,000 people sent Tweets that took over the Globe Debate hashtag to make the message heard that you can’t talk about the economy without grappling with the scientific reality of climate change. Read some of the highlights of the debate here.
As we near election day the coming four weeks, we have a chance to ramp it up — to keep asking questions at every possible chance but also to mobilize more largely around key moments. We will have to demonstrate that there are many of us who care and seize the opportunity not only to make leaders talk about climate but to push even further their policies, so we can hold them accountable to ambitious measures once they’re elected. We’ll be ready to launch a call to unprecedented action for after the elections to make sure all leaders take note.
Check out our elections website here and bird-dogging toolkit here to take action, using #climatELXN. Stay tuned for actions coming up on September 24 in Montreal and September 28 in Toronto around the next leaders debates.
Click here to get involved in a wave of mobilization by the climate movement this fall, and download the bird-dogging toolkit to organize similar actions calling out and questioning party leaders across party lines during the elections campaign!