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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: 4 min 21 sec ago

Watch President Obama’s science advisor answer a 7th grader’s question about climate change

Sat, 2014-12-20 01:15

Dr. John Holdren staged his own kind of AMA (“ask me anything”) via social media last month by inviting people to ask him anything at all about climate change. Now, Dr. Holdren has released a video with his answers. Check out what he had to say to Brandon, a 7th grader who wanted to know, “will climate change affect me during my lifetime?”

Then, see Dr. Holdren answer more people’s questions here.


Courtesy of The White House

The plans we’re making on Keystone XL:

Fri, 2014-12-19 22:41

Friends,

On Thursday, hundreds of us tuned in to talk about the action plan to stop Keystone XL in the next few months. If you missed the call, you can watch a recording here — we covered all you need to know to get more involved with the fight.

We just stopped a last-ditch push in Congress to approve the pipeline led by a powerful Senator who put her entire career on the line to approve Keystone XL. Meanwhile, President Obama is talking more and more like someone who wants to stop the pipeline. But the climate denying, pipeline happy Congress will try to interfere with new bills and amendments to major legislation.

We have come so far. We are strong. And now, we just need to close the deal.

Closing the deal means getting the President to reject Keystone XL as soon as possible, and stopping back-door attempts to push the pipeline through Congress. The tools we’re going to use are:

  1. Nationwide, rapid-response mobilizations that show the breadth of our opposition to the pipeline.
  2. High-energy, high-impact actions in DC that show the depth of our commitment to stop Keystone XL,
  3. Movement wide, coordinated online actions that allow us to speak out in numbers and reach the President and Congress at key moments.

Here are some of the plans that were announced last night, and how you can get involved:

When Congress Tries to Pass Keystone XL: Mitch McConnell says Keystone XL will be his first priority in the new Congress (which is pretty crazy, when you think of it). With so many new deniers in Congress, it’s likely a bill will pass, which means we need to jump into action by (a) mobilizing to get President Obama to veto the pipeline and (b) turning swing votes against the pipeline into strong “no Keystone XL” votes to sustain his veto. That will mean actions in a few key states ahead of the vote — Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Pennslyvania, we’re looking at you — and a nationwide push to show President Obama we demand a veto.

Stop Keystone XL Now Team: We’re creating a team that we’ll be in more regular contact with in order to better coordinate and pull together rapid response actions. Folks on this team will receive more regular emails about the Keystone campaign, in addition to being the ‘first responders’ that lead the way on organizing actions when important news breaks. Click here to join the Stop Keystone XL Now Team: act.350.org/survey/stop-kxl-now-team/

Reject Keystone XL Now Simple Explainer: I know people are likely taking the next couple weeks to spend time with our families and enjoy the holidays. If you have the chance, I hope that you’ll also take this time to bring more people into the movement. We put together a simple, direct explanation of Keystone XL, the tar sands, and why President Obama needs to stop the pipeline now — and how to get more involved — to share with friends and family. Click here to see the slideshow and get instructions on how to use it.

Responding to a Nebraska Supreme Court Decision: Any day now, the Nebraska Supreme Court could decide on whether the Keystone pipeline’s route through the state is legal. It’s a lose-lose: either TransCanada’s route is thrown out, and the process starts again, or it’s allowed to happen, and they’re stuck with a risky route that makes it simple for Pres. Obama to reject. Our friends at Bold Nebraska are standing ready for action, and we’ll support them with a massive online and offline push as soon as the decision is handed down.

Supporting our friends on the front lines in South Dakota: No KXL Dakota is a growing alliance of landowners and tribal leaders in South Dakota fighting the re-approval of Keystone XL’s expired permit in the state and defending tribal sovereignty to stop the pipeline. In the spring, we’ll need to be ready to jump in to support them in the permit process, and in the steps that follow. Click here to find out more about their work and how to support them.

Like Sara said before, this is a tough, but navigable road ahead to stop the pipeline. We can get this done if we work together.

It feels weird to be excited about times like these, but considering all that we’ve accomplished so far, I am actually looking forward to being in this with you.

Thank you so much (and enjoy the holidays and New Year).

Duncan

We must be on the right track

Fri, 2014-12-19 16:08

Another year draws to a close and I’m reminded of the words of Mahatma Gandhi when I think of the progress our fossil fuel divestment movement has achieved in 2014.

It’s true, many investors and fossil fuel industry insiders do continue to laugh at or ignore the “existential threat” we pose to them, as former BP boss Lord Browne put it recently.  But 2014 was the year that everyone from the oil-rich Rockefeller family to the World Council of Churches (representing 500 million Christians worldwide) saw the writing on the wall and chose to get out of fossil fuels.  Divestment is firmly on the global agenda for 2015.

These days it’s rare that a week goes by without news of another major divestment commitment or encouraging developments and endorsements. This week was no exception. We saw the first Marshall Islands university divest from the companies raising the sea level that threatens their nation’s security. And so many more encouraging stories that we have compiled a Global Divestment Digest.

We must be on the right track, because the industry is also starting to fight back. That means we need to shift up another gear in 2015 and we will.  We’ve grown to be a truly global movement, with divestment campaigns now spread across 5 continents. On Global Divestment Day, we’ll need to amplify and coordinate our efforts even better if we are to permanently remove the fossil fuel industry’s social license to wreck the climate.

So, on February 13 and 14, let’s work together to truly make fossil fuels history. Find a Global Divestment Day event near you (or make a plan for one with friends & family).

Many of us will take a festive break with family and friends as the year ends.  Let’s use that time to celebrate and reflect on everything we’ve achieved together as a climate movement; and to make plans for taking Fossil Free to the next level in 2015.

They’ve been exploited by their government and oil companies for decades — now it’s time for justice

Thu, 2014-12-18 21:51

Since March 2013, four major river basins in the Peruvian Amazon have been declared environmental and humanitarian crisis zones. And after decades of oil exploitation, Peruvian communities are still fighting back — several are raising their voices to demand that Petroperú clean up its act before the company tries to renew its license for oil extraction in August 2015.

Watch the short film Pastaza below, then learn more here.

Pastaza – short edit from Handcrafted Films on Vimeo.

Europe fails to close doors to dirty tar sands oil

Thu, 2014-12-18 17:29

Members of the European Parliament yesterday narrowly failed to reject new fuel quality rules — the EU’s crucial climate legislation aimed at reducing emissions from transport fuels — paving the way for more tar sands oil in Europe.

A proposal to adopt a stronger Fuel Quality Directive, submitted by the European Commission to the European Parliament, would have discouraged oil companies from using and investing in some of the world’s dirtiest sources of fuel, including Alberta’s tar sands oil and coal-to-liquid. The proposal would have labelled tar sands oil “dirty” in Europe, but was “narrowly” rejected by the parliament.

Canada’s oil lobby is among the culprits accused of strong-arming MEPs over the past eight years to ease regulations and encourage a freer flow of tar sands oil  into European markets. Canada’s highly destructive tar sands are the country’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The EU needs to stick by its principles and show clearly that it is a leader on climate action as proclaimed during the UN negotiations in Lima last week. As Socialist MEP Kathleen Van Brempt said:

A week after the climate talks in Lima and a year ahead of the UN climate summit in Paris it would be cynical to lower European standards and it would undermine the EU’s credibility. There is too much at stake and the EU must persuade other countries to move forward.

If the EU is serious about tackling climate change, this latest move is far from a step in the right direction. During last week’s climate negotiations in Peru, the EU made clear its frustration at the speed of the talks, but back at home the European institutions seem unclear about Europe’s role as a supposed climate action leader.

Earlier this week, the European Commission opted, for the time being at least, to scrap two pieces of legislation that would have cut emissions, and now MEPs have narrowly failed to reject measures that weaken the ability of its fuel quality directive to keep dirty tar sands oil out of Europe.

Read more

 

7 Climate Action Videos from 2014 You Have to Watch

Wed, 2014-12-17 17:56

You probably remember watching these videos – and then grabbed  your friends, grandma, and random acquaintance and made them also watch. These are the videos that inspired us the most this year – films of incredible people and communities standing up for the climate.

 

1. The People’s Climate March

It’s hard to capture just how powerful, diverse, and momentous the People’s Climate March was — but this wrap-up video still gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.

Also to watch:

Into the Streets by Meerkat Media Collective

We  can’t forget the incredible full length film Disruption that clearly laid out why the People’s Climate March was so necessary.

And want to see the strength of the indigenous communities at the march? Watch Idle No More at the  Peoples Climate March in New York.

 

2. Canoes Vs Coal

Pacific Islanders having a showdown with the world’s largest coal port in Australia – this was undoubtedly one of the most powerful actions this year. This video captures it well.

 

 3. Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner at the UN Climate Summit

“Dear Matafele Peinem” made us all cry – everyone from the toughest world leader to the youngest climate activist.  The poem she wrote for her young son at the UN in September. Her poem hit at the intense reality of climate impacts that are happening right NOW in the Pacific. This is one of the most powerful examples of a mother fighting tool and nail to build a better world for her son. 

You can also watch the footage of her delivering this at the UN

 

4. Reject and Protect

On April 22nd, 2014, the Cowboy Indian Alliance rode into Washington, DC, set up eight tipis on the National Mall, blessed the encampment, and settled in for a week of resistance and protest against the Keystone XL pipeline.

 

5. Healing Walk 2014

Over the last 5 years, hundreds of people from around the world have gathered with First Nations leadership to walk, pray and heal in the traditional territories most devastated by the Alberta Oilsands production.

Also to watch: “From Kitimat to Kanehsatake, We Will Defend Our Sacred Water”

 

 6. Divestment Flashmob in Sweden

One of the most beautiful divestment actions. A cold Saturday evening, the Saturday before Advent, environmentalists gathered at Sergels Torg in Stockholm, Sweden. The dancers carried white umbrellas – whilst dancing they fluttered round & round, up & down, back & forward like a clear waterfall in the dark.From all sides the crowd closed in upon the dancers with black umbrellas, closed in around them like a dark sea. Until there was no white light left to be seen… Until the white umbrellas dove out from below and aimed their spotlights toward our demand: DIVESTERA

There was a lot of creativity from Europe’s divestment movement this year – check out Oxford University Fossil Free carbon bubble video.

And this great video from Fossil Free Netherlands

 

 7. Climate Walk Philippines

40 days. 1,000 kilometers. 40 cities and municipalities. A year after super typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, people marched through the country demanding climate justice.

 

Other Awesome Videos from 2014:

 

 

Coal in Ukrainian energy sector: too much dirt to hide under the carpet

Wed, 2014-12-17 14:38

Oleg Savistky, climate and energy activist from Ukraine on why Europeans’ call for divestment should include divesting from state-subsidized Ukrainian energy, in a guest post. “What is needed now is external pressure from European public, calling for seizure of electricity imports from Ukraine and halting investments into Ukrainian coal industry”.

Let’s suppose you have a problem – you have some dirt in your room (which scientists consider toxic) and you need to clean it. You don’t really care about science, but mom tells you to do so, or otherwise you’ll be punished. And at the moment you don’t have a high-tech vacuum cleaner, only an ordinary broom.

Getting the dirt out from the floor to the trash bin requires a considerable effort, and this often drives to an easy way to handle this situation. With precise maneuvers you gather the dirt in one place near the carpet, and then you lift the margin of the carpet and push the dirt underneath the carpet. Now the room looks clean, but it isn’t. The dirt is still in the room, so does its toxic effect.

Such behavioral pattern is typical for humans in many contexts, when people pretend to solve a problem by addressing the wrong issue. Debate is over and scientists urge us to fix carbon pollution as fast as possible. But we don’t have a mom who could show some good parenting and not punish us too hard for creating the mess and not cleaning it. Instead we have atmospheric physics and laws of nature, and we shouldn’t expect mercy from them.

8MPJJ

We had more than 20 years to start cleaning up. Actually some countries did a little effort on that, but on a global scale we are still adding much more mess to the atmosphere than we are capable to “hide under the carpet”, and we don’t have a “vacuum cleaner” too. We cannot count on CCS neither as a “broom”, nor as a real solution, because the problem of carbon pollution can’t be fixed systematically by just pushing it underground. With fossil fuels (which are vast, but still limited resources) and CCS we still will have an open loop system, which is incompatible with long-term environmental sustainability. Moreover, locking in the capital in fossil fuel technologies (including CCS) can add to a serious economic threat: stranded assets and “carbon bubble”.

It is estimated that multinational energy companies hold $7 trillion in carbon assets on their books. This problem was clearly stated by Al Gore last year: “The valuation of those companies and their assets is now based on the assumption that all of those carbon assets will be sold and burned,” he says. “They are not going to be burned. They cannot be burned and will not be burned. No more than one-third can ever possibly be burned without destroying the future”.

While in the past two decades energy systems in the EU have significantly evolved to high efficiency and utilization of renewable sources of energy, Ukraine’s electric energy sector is still stuck in the Soviet era with an extensive fleet of obsolete coal power plants, which have minor pollution control, and a dozen ageing nuclear reactors. The structure of the energy sector in Ukraine saw no changes for the last 25 years. There was little to no effort made to modernize the energy sector, as economy was in deep decline and there was no political motive to strategically develop alternative sources of energy. In 2013, just a year before the conflict with Russia, Ukraine’s coal power plants provided more than 45% of electricity generation. And now Ukraine is paying a very high price for wastefulness of energy sector, reliance on fossil fuels and highly centralized infrastructure.

Over the past year, the situation changed dramatically and Ukraine is now facing an energy crisis.  Currently a number of thermal power plants are facing serious problems with anthracite supplies because Ukraine lost a significant part of the coal mining sector, mostly anthracite mines, due to the military conflict in the Donbas region. After the rapid breakup of part of the mining industry, utilities were forced to import coal from South Africa and Russia. Apart from coal, Ukraine is still getting gas and nuclear fuel from a militant neighbor, which creates a critical threat to the national security of Ukraine and a strong leverage for political and economic pressure from Russia. Due to fuel shortages at thermal power plants some regions are already facing scheduled blackouts, and there is apparently a harsh winter ahead.

Paradoxically, a country faced with extreme energy shortages is still exporting electricity to Europe. In western Ukraine, the coal power plants Dobrotvir and Burshtyn are connected to the European grid and export approximately 55 per cent of their electricity to Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Poland. These power plants would not be allowed to operate in the EU because of their emissions levels, or they would face a strict deadline for closure.

Yet in the meanwhile, there is an ongoing discussion in Ukraine about fitting coal plants with CCS. Most of our coal fleet is obsolete and incompatible with environmental standards of EU (which are now obligatory for Ukraine) and fitting it with CCS will not change this reality. Levels of hazardous emissions at Ukrainian coal-fired plants exceed the EU standards up to 40 times. Most of them have levels of emissions of particulate matter (in terms of PM2.5 and PM10) which are 20-34 times higher than EU standards.

But coal industry is still interested in continuing to squeeze the last bits of profit out of decrepit and extremely polluting power plants which drives energy companies in Ukraine to support this empty debate. Focusing on CCS drives attention away from the really important challenges within Ukraine’s energy sector: the monopolization of the energy sector, illegal mining and widespread corruption in the coal supply chains. CCS debate has little chance to cover up all these issues; there is just too much dirt to hide under the carpet.

IMG_0118_a

Given the current dire economic situation of our country, there is only one economically feasible way to meet the EU requirements: stopping exports of fossil-fuel based electricity to Europe itself and reducing coal-based generation on the whole, starting with the decommissioning of the most polluting and outdated plants. Right now, the Ukrainian state is still subsidizing a coal industry from which Europe, importing coal-based electricity from Ukraine at prices 25-50 percent below domestic ones, benefits. Meanwhile, all the financial, health and environmental costs stay with Ukrainians. Now it’s time systematically address pollution issues and start scaling down extensive fleet of obsolete coal power plants.

Coal industry is not interested to advocate for this, and government is too short sighted and has too much vested interests to implement energy reforms aimed at decarbonization. That’s why the only thing that can drive real solutions is public pressure both internal and external. Domestically it is on a rise and environmental NGO’s and activists are already pushing hard for reforms and policy changes.

Economic situation in Ukraine was always complicated since 1991, but not due to lack of investments, but due to corruption and flawed policymaking. And actually now, even with ongoing war, economic situation now is not that bad. Energy situation is really bad, but investments in extraction projects or centralized utilities (which are owned or controlled by oligarchs) will not fix it.  Energy sector of Ukraine needs not more of fossil fuels, but improved efficiency of energy consumption, decentralization of infrastructure and increased reliability of energy services. The first and the most important step in this direction is to break monopolies in energy sector. Currently DTEK, a private corporation owned by Rinat Akhmetov, holds monopoly on electricity exports from Ukraine and all of it comes from coal.

What is needed now is external pressure from European public, calling for seizure of electricity imports from Ukraine. What is even more important we need to add momentum to divestment movement in Europe. In last 8 years European banks invested more than 1 billion EURO in Ukrainian coal industry. Commercial banks all over Europe are still loaded with dirty assets in coal, and many of them have investments in Ukraine’s filthy coal industry.

So the best thing you can do to help Ukraine is to divest. Want to act?Join Global Divestment Day campaign and let’s make a real clean up together!

Oleg Savitsky, Climate and Energy Campaignerat National Environmental Center of Ukraine

The Most Insane Coal Project in the World?

Wed, 2014-12-17 06:09

Insane isn’t a word I use lightly, but this is one of those times where it’s just the right word. That’s because coal companies want to do something insane: they want to unlock nine mega coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin in Australia and export its coal through the Great Barrier Reef. This will be the largest new coal project in the world. It trumps them all on size, spend and stupidity factors. There’s hundreds of kilometres of new railway lines to be built, a new 150 MW coal fired power plant just to power the mines, and gigantic expansion of coal ports at Abbot Point and elsewhere. It’s extraction at the biggest scale, and at any cost. In response, a growing movement of people is standing up to oppose these insane plans. Here’s why:

1. It will cook the climate –so vast are the carbon reserves stored in the Galilee that this one Basin alone would contribute to releasing six percent of the world’s carbon budget. This project will put the planet into massive carbon budget overshoot, taking us well  past a two degree temperature rise, the red line set by the world’s governments. It’s an investment in climate destruction.

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 3.34.18 pm

That’s where the Galilee Basin is.

 

2. They’re their own worst enemy — In early 2011 and 2013, widespread flooding in Queensland caused such extensive damage that it shut down coal mines across the state, and cost millions in damages. Burning the Galilee coal will cause global warming. A warmer climate means more moisture gets sucked  into the atmosphere, and that extra moisture gets dumped down in more intense storms and flooding. Those floods will continue to shut down coal mines. Ridiculous isn’t it.

3. It’s obscenely expensive and subsidised — The Queensland Government has offered to pay $300 million to build coal mine infrastructure in the Galilee Basin.This is in a state where things are so corporatised that even the police are sponsored by a coal seam gas company. So while the Queensland Government has slashed funding for important social services and police have to get sponsorship, they’re so desperate to press ahead with the mines they are going to subsidise them. The mind boggles.  Estimates for the cost of building the first mine alone sit at AUD$16 billion; although apparently the Indian coal giant Adani reckon they can do it for $7.2billion. They have yet to raise most of that money. That’s just for the first mine.

Santos Police

Santos is developing contested Coal Seam Gas projects across Queensland, whilst sponsoring the police. Source: mypolice.qld.gov.au

 

4. Financial analysts know it’s a fizzer - analysts from Goldman Sachs to Oxford University say that investing in these mega new coal projects makes no economic sense. As the world’s largest economy – China – moves to cap its emissions and the coal price continues to stagnate, the world’s best financial minds say Adani’s maths just don’t add up. Which is why…

5. Big Banks won’t touch it - already 9 major international Banks have said NO to the project. We’re talking about folks like Deutsche, Citi, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland – not your typical greenie types in other words. They see the huge risks associated with investing in a dying sector and a project that will cook the climate and wreck the Reef.

These banks ruled out funding

Source: marketforces.org.au

 

6. It won’t solve energy poverty – the Galilee’s backers say it will deliver cheap energy to the world’s poor. But analysis shows that Galilee coal would cost more than local renewables. Increasingly, local communities in the developing world are standing up to dirty energy companies like Adani, whose activities are destroying their livelihoods and locking them into greater climate vulnerability.

India Coal survey

7. It will wreck parts of the Great Barrier Reef — most people agree the Great Barrier Reef is a pretty special place. With over 1600 species of fish and 1400 different types of Coral, the Reef is somewhere we’d love our kids to enjoy for generations to come, right? But unlocking the Galilee would see 3 million cubic metres of Reef sea floor dug up and a constant fleet of coal ships traipsing across it every day, for decades to come.

Reef photo

8. Dugongs, Turtles and Birds all hate it apparently – exporting the Galilee Basin’s coal means building the world’s largest coal port at Abbot Point. The port expansion will destroy seagrass habitat for dugongs and turtles, creating a toxic muddy plume, reaching many kilometers, which could irreparably damage the Reef and its glorious coral.Meanwhile, the sea floor dredged from the Barrier Reef would be dumped into the internationally significant Caley Valley Wetlands, home to 40,000 different types of seabirds including rare and threatened species like this guy – the Painted Snipe.

Snipe

9. It’s backed by a very dodgy company - Indian mining giant Adani owns the largest proposed mine in the Basin. They also own the rail and the port as part of their own vertically integrated monster mine empire. Adani has been accused of bribery, illegal construction, corruption and destroying protected environments. A first rate corporate citizen, huh?

10.The People don’t like it  - the majority of Australians think that investing in new coal and gas makes no sense. Over the past 12 months, thousands of Australians have moved hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money out of fossil fuels. And when it comes to coal projects near the Reef, nine in 10 Australians say this is a major no go.

If these aren’t reason enough to stop the Galilee Basin monster mines, then we don’t know what is. Click here to join the movement of people everywhere standing up to this insane project.

This is What An Invitation Looks Like

Wed, 2014-12-17 02:03
This is an invitation.

Five years ago, I was a high school junior sequestered away from global politics and carbon anxiety on Maine’s ragged coastline.  News from the Copenhagen Climate Summit, however, navigated its way through jutting peninsulas and shoddy internet to my farm-school in Wiscasset.  Normally tasked with scrubbing toilets or feeding dew-soaked sheep, for the week of the summit, I reported on climate talks to salt-of-the-earth Mainers.

On the final day, I stood up at breakfast, pushed in my chair, and announced that the negotiations had fallen apart without a binding treaty.  The United States would not lead the rest of the world in reducing carbon emissions.  As sixty disappointed students, teachers, and farmers turned back to their eggs, I tried to finish my glass of milk, fresh that morning from Adeline the cow.  It tasted bitter.  My future, it seemed, was in my own hands for saving.

This is an invitation to dig deep.

Five years later, the fossil fuel divestment movement is growing up.  From the coal mines of Australia to the slopes of Burnaby Mountain to the streets of New York, students have demonstrated that if our politicians will not lead, then we will.  And we have proven that when we stand united for an end to the era of fossil fuels, we get results.

This is an invitation to link up.

And we have the world’s attention.  As global leaders meet for a fourth time to discuss what they will do about climate change since creating this organizer five years ago, divestment has put the solution in the spotlight: fossil fuels must remain in the ground.  Students seem to be leaving their mark.

This is an invitation to take non-violent direct action.

On February 13th, 2015, after years of being told “no,” students will come together to say that the status quo is not good enough.  We expect better from our schools–better leadership, better investments.  Students from across the nation will join citizens internationally in the Global Divestment Day of Action.

Here’s the plan: over the next few months, we’ll gather our allies and craft action plans for strategic escalation–intentionally ramping our efforts up to block business as usual and demand climate justice. On February 13th, we will hold rallies, vigils, and press conferences announcing our intention to escalate in late March and April.  While our administrations might be afraid to take bold action on climate, we won’t be.

If you pledge to escalate through nonviolent direct action over the course of the spring, add your name to this form. The next step is to get everyone on your campus to sign the pledge. We will add you to our mailing list to follow-up.

This is an invitation to change everything.

 

Are you in?

 Ian Holloway

Photo Credit: Ian Holloway

Diary of an Activist

Wed, 2014-12-17 01:10

For anyone who’s ever felt powerless in the face of climate change: do yourself a favor and watch this lovely & wise autobiographical video by NYU Divest activist Costanza Maio. Really, it’s great:

What Happened at the Kanehsatà:ke Gathering to Stop Energy East

Tue, 2014-12-16 21:12

Nearly five years ago was my first time visiting the community of Kanehsatà:ke. It was the 20th anniversary of the events in 1990 that became known as the “Oka Crisis” and a march against plans to build a Niobium mine in the community. Much of my understanding of solidarity changed during that experience, hearing first hand from the community members who had stood on the blockades in 1990. Earlier this month I was lucky and honoured to return to Kanien’kéha:ka territory in early December for a gathering to support opposition to the Energy East tar sands pipeline. 

 Ben Powless

Photo Credit: Ben Powless

 Ben Powless

Photo Credit: Ben Powless

 Ben Powless

Photo Credit: Ben Powless

The gathering, was co-chaired by Clayton Thomas-Mueller Indigenous rights advocate, Ellen Gabriel. It brought together community members, allies and Indigenous leaders in the fight to stop the tar sands from both the United States and Canada.

Here are some highlights:

Video by Clifton Nicholas

The gathering ended with a declaration from the Kanien’kehà:ka on Kanehsatà:ke Territory. Read the declaration here.

Want to help stand with communities resisting tar sands expansion?

Join the Energy East Action Network.

First College in the Pacific Islands Divests from Fossil Fuels

Tue, 2014-12-16 12:17

marshall islands college divestsAs another set of uninspiring UN climate negotiations has come to a close in Lima, the first university in the Pacific Islands, the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI), has just voted unanimously to divest from fossil fuel companies.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands comprises over 1,000 small, low-lying islands that are home to almost 70,000 people. With rising tides and floods already submerging their homelands, the Marshallese people have a great deal to teach the world about what will happen if we do not take serious action on climate change.

“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.  CMI President Carl Hacker.

As world governments dither over serious action to reduce emissions, those living on the frontline of climate impacts are taking the leadership that the world needs. Despite overwhelming evidence of the damage caused by the fossil fuel industry and despite sustained pressure from student campaigners, many universities in industrialised countries still invest in fossil fuels.

Yet here is a university in one of the most climate change exposed countries in the world, that has contributed the least to the problem, showing real climate leadership by divesting from the industry driving the climate crisis.

We must commend the CMI and make sure it encourages other universities to follow in their footsteps on Global Divestment Day next February, when a wide range of institutions are expected to announce their divestment decisions.

CMI’s decision makes it one of the first colleges in the Pacific Region to divest, following New Zealand’s Victoria University, which committed to divest from fossil fuels in early November, and the Australian National University, which divested from two fossil companies in early October.   You can see a list of all global divestment commitments here too.

5 Things You Need to Know From the UN Climate Agreement

Mon, 2014-12-15 23:29

After two additional days of overtime negotiations, negotiators were finally able to reach an agreement. Going into COP20 in Lima, Peru there was a lot of global hope that had built up – a lot of being from the massive momentum since events like the People’s Climate March in September. However, the Lima talks ending up being a disappointment and showing how world leaders are out of touch with the climate reality.

Read 350′s statement: UN climate talks reflect disconnect with global momentum

This headline sums up the talks well: Climate Change Talks End With Watered-Down Deal That Kicks Can Down the Road

There’s a lot of political details that are wrapped up in the climate talks, so we’ve laid out 5 key things to know about the UN Climate Agreement.

1. The new agreement does not reflect the urgency of the climate crisis.

Filipino activist Lidy Nacpil (and 350.org board member) said one of the “fundamental flaws” of the negotiations is “the lack of a clear global goal for limiting global warming based on science.” The world’s scientists in the latest IPCC report made it clear that we have to get off fossil fuels and take urgent measures if we want to keep warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

However – this new agreement won’t get us there.

“We are on a path to three or four degrees with this outcome”
Tasneem Essop, international climate strategist for WWF.

It also doesn’t address the urgency that communities around the world face.

“No national leader in the history of humanity has ever faced this question: ‘Will we survive or will we disappear under the sea?’” – Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said at the talks.

Mahomed Adow from Christian Aid lays it out clearly:

 

2. Some good agreements – but no measures to ensure implementation

The Lima Accord was different from other negotiations, because for the first time all nations agreed to cut carbon emissions. Each country will report in the coming months how they will make this happen.  However, there’s a key word switch in the Lima Accord that has massive consequences (or incidentally lack of consequences). The text was changed from “shall” to “may” – meaning it’s as if each country “will be marking their own homework ahead of the critical Paris meeting.”

It will take a lot of global pressure is year to ensure that government’s take reasonable measures.

Or as the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands says:

TonyDB

3. Least developed and vulnerable nations left out in the cold

The agreement is also a major missed opportunity for rich nations to support countries that are being most impacted by climate change. Now we have countries that have had little impact on global emissions who will likely be the ones making the most efforts to create change — and they will not be getting enough support. In short – it could very well be a travesty for climate justice.

Brandon Wu at ActionAid USA laid out the problems:

“We wanted three primary things from Lima: clear indications of how developed countries would scale up climate finance leading up to the promised $100bn per year in 2020; assurance that “loss and damage” would be a core pillar of the new climate regime to be decided in 2015; and concrete commitments to reduce emissions in the immediate short term (pre-2020). Lima delivered none of these things.

 

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4. Divestment is more important than ever (Also companies are sure scared of divestment)

What was discussed a lot at the talks was the need to finally get off of fossil fuels. Everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to the Pope were talking about the need for a global shift. And even though fossil fuel companies like to dismiss the divestment movement, “some nervous actions of late show more concern than they let on.”

We were pleased to see around 100 countries support the goal of phasing out carbon emissions by mid-century. The goal’s inclusion in the draft text is a win for the fossil fuel divestment movement and will add momentum to that growing campaign. But action must begin now, not after decades of delay. Which is why we need to get companies to divest now.

Watch 350′s Jamie Henn discuss with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman about fossil fuel divestment and the talks:

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5. Global momentum for real solutions is stronger than ever and will keep on going.

There were enormous shows of people power the past 2 weeks of how strong the global momentum for real climate solutions is.  Negotiators failed to build on the momentum coming into these talks. Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand climate action–millions more will join them in the year ahead. Politicians can either ride that wave, or be swept away by it.  It’s up to all of us to lead the way on action.

Filipino climate activist Yeb Sano said it well:

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On December 10th tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Lima — taking the People’s Climate March that started in September and making sure it was heard loud and clear. Check out more photos here:

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 Hoda Baraka

Indigenous communities at the forefront of the climate crisis led the march in Lima. Photo credit: Hoda Baraka

Here is some aerial footage of the march

At Northwestern University, baby steps are the key to divestment success

Mon, 2014-12-15 20:32

Guest post by Christina Cilento. Christina is a sophomore at Northwestern University studying sustainability and management. She’s been working with DivestNU for a year and a half, where she helps coordinate events, meets with administration and recruits new members. To find out more about DivestNU, visit their website, and “like” the Divest Northwestern page on Facebook.

As a member of Northwestern University’s coal divestment movement, I can say firsthand that making progress is harder than it seems. Since DivestNU’s beginning two years ago, it’s been all about taking baby steps towards our goal. In 2012, our campaign kicked off by passing resolutions supporting coal divestment in our student government and faculty senate.

The same year, we collected about 1,500 signatures in a petition endorsing our movement and began meeting consistently with our Chief Investment Officer. Despite this strong start, we were frustrated by consistent denials of our requests to access the key stakeholders in our campaign: the Board of Trustees.

Three weeks ago, that finally changed, and we met for the first time directly with a Trustee. DivestNU had written a letter to the Investment Subcommittee of our Board explaining the history of our movement, the importance of divestment for Northwestern’s leadership, and the dangers of climate change if action isn’t taken.

A week later, six of our members, our Chief Investment Officer, and the chair of the Investment Subcommittee sat down to talk about divestment. We had a great conversation– we talked about the human rights impacts of climate change, the shifting perception of coal, the viability of other investments, and student support for divestment and sustainability.

Perhaps naively, we hoped to walk away from that meeting with an answer. What we got instead was a thank-you for our time and an invitation to continue the conversation around divestment– definitely not a “no,” but also not a “yes.” Still, we believe that meeting was a strong first step– baby step, of course.

Following that meeting, we wanted to show the Trustees that divestment is not just an important issue for us, but for all of Northwestern’s community. Luckily for us, they were meeting on campus the next afternoon. That night, we stayed up way past our bedtimes painting a banner, contacting student groups to ask if they would sign on to it, and rallying people to show up for a demonstration to support our movement. In the morning, 35 students came to march with us to the building where the Trustees would arrive, holding our banner with large green letters that shouted our message: NU Cares About Climate Change.

Students of DivestNU outside their Board meeting

Students of Divest Northwestern outside their Board meeting

While standing outside for the hour before the meeting, we passed out informational sheets to Trustees as they entered and held some productive conversations. Not everyone was interested in what we had to say, but I think seeing a group of chanting students out in the Chicago cold on a Friday spoke to students’ passion for this movement, and put divestment on Trustees’ minds.

Our march and meeting with the Trustees were two influential steps toward coal divestment. After two years of work, we may not be in the place we had envisioned, but we’re certainly getting there. Moving forward, we hope to have consistent meetings with Board members to discuss divestment face-to-face.

We plan on reaching out to the Board again to request student presence at their next Investment Subcommittee meeting in January or February. And we will continue to give Northwestern students an outlet to tell the university that it is time to take climate change seriously. Small strides? Maybe. But if there’s anything I’ve discovered, it’s that it takes a march of baby steps to end up with big results.

Book Suggestion: Angels by the River

Mon, 2014-12-15 20:16

Gus Speth’s story, told in his new book Angels by the River, reminds us all that the work of social change requires constantly thinking anew about old problems. Gus is a member of our US Advisory Council and has been a great supporter of the work to defeat the Keystone XL pipeline and build a new economy. Gus was a critical part of some of the greatest victories the environmental movement has ever seen, and now he has turned his considerable energy and attention to the work of rebuilding a new economy because the planet, and its people–depend on it. We hope you’ll check it out! 

What the Global Climate Movement can learn from Latin America

Sun, 2014-12-14 14:57

Latin America has a long history of popular movements, whether it be  in the environmental, political or economic context. Today these movements have established themselves as a major social and political force largely shaping regional realities. Below are highlights from conversations with climate activists in Latin America shedding light on the uniqueness of the climate movement in the region and what the global movement might be able to  learn from this inspiring example.

1- Adapting to changing times

Similar to other regions in the Global South, Latin America continues to undergo a process of urbanisation as populations shift from rural to urban areas in search of economic opportunities. Although urbanisation brings forth many environmental problems and rural cultures are seen to be  largely replaced by urban cultures, in the case of Latin America the rural and the urban activist groups have joined forces to confront the climate crisis. So rather than succumbing to the changing times dictated by urbanisation, they are adapting and joining forces with the emerging youth activist groups based in urban areas.

As Peruvian climate activist Majandra explains:

“I think the climate movement in Latin America is new but also quite old. Groups that are directly affected by climate change such as indigenous groups, women’s groups and rural groups have been mobilising around climate change related issues for a long time; but I also think that as a more urban and maybe a more youth led movement this is quite new to some extent. It’s a diverse and growing movement and more and more people are finding out what climate change is and how it’s affecting them and affecting others in different contexts.” Majandra Rodriguez Acha, Peruvian climate activist and one of the founder of the activist group known as TierrActiva Peru 

Listen to the below podcast where Majandra also talks about the realities of climate change in Latin America, impacted communities, the risks of being an environmental activist in the region, and more ..

 

2- United by the  struggle for sustainable livelihoods

What observers  refer to as Latin America’s  climate movement is in fact a coming together of numerous movements. Not only does this add power to the climate struggle, but it is also an accurate reflection of the cross-cutting impact of climate change since it affects, livelihoods, jobs, health and beyond .. The coming together of these forces takes the climate conversation to another level and represents a whole new level of pressure on governments (who are lagging behind on climate action) while adding real power to the multiple voices united in their call for climate action.

Climate activist Nicky, who  joined the Bolivian climate movement years ago, explains:

“Latin America has this huge movement which often doesn’t call itself the climate movement, but they are doing is completely part of the struggles against climate change. Two key elements at play: one is resistance and in Latin America there are huge resistance movements against the mega projects, fossil fuel extraction, mining, all of that which is often related more to territory issues and indigenous rights, but actually they are all connected to climate change and that’s incredibly strong right now in Latin America. And the other side of that is people building alternatives; across Latin America there are incredible experiences of building transition projects of people building communities, working with local organic agriculture building  eco houses and urban gardening, these are happening all over Latin America. I think these are incredibly powerful in terms of how if we face climate change and I think its really important for movements across the world to see what’s happening across Latin America and learn from those experiences.”Nicky Scordellis part of the Bolivian climate activist group TierrActiva Bolivia 

Listen to the below podcast where Nicky also talks about climate activists in Bolivia and how they are working to connect with other climate activist groups from across the region.

3- Driven by a powerful connection to their land

Across Latin America many indigenous spiritual traditions express ethics of respect for nonhuman life, for particular places and landscape features, and for the Earth itself. Consequently, this reverence towards  nature, is reflected in an understanding for the need to live in balance with the environment, respecting and protecting the eco-systems which make life on this planet possible.

In a world economy driven by capitalist pursuits, elsewhere many view nature as a simple  resource which should be exploited for economic gain. To confront this greed, and the destruction that ensues, many indigenous communities have stood in defence of nature, tragically too often costing them their lives.

Across Latin America, building on their indigenous roots, many are incorporating these concepts and spiritual traditions  into a larger developmental approach. The premise of this approach is doing things in a community-centric, ecologically-balanced and culturally-sensitive manner. One such well known approach is called the Buen Vivir/Well Living movement which originated in Ecuador rooted in the  worldview of the Quechua peoples of the Andes. Other social movements across South America have been inspired by this and have expanded the movement also  linking to other indigenous belief systems, such as those of the Aymara peoples of Bolivia, the Quichua of Ecuador and the Mapuche of Chile and Argentina.

For more information on Buen Vivir: The Guardian – Buen Vivir: the social philosophy inspiring movements in South America

 

 Mariusz Kluzniak (Flickr)

The Amazon. Photo credit: Mariusz Kluzniak (Flickr)

CSU Chico Commits to Full Divestment of Fossil Fuel Holdings

Fri, 2014-12-12 23:13

CA State University Chico COMMITS TO FULL DIVESTMENT OF FOSSIL FUEL HOLDINGS

CHICO, CA — On Wednesday, Chico State University showed immense leadership as one of the first public universities in the nation to commit to fully divesting from the top 200 coal, oil and gas companies within four years. The resolution, authored by members of Fossil Free California State University, was passed 8 – 4 by the CSU Chico University Foundation.

Chico State

Other colleges and universities in California have taken similar positions. Pitzer College decided to divest from fossil fuels in April 2014, and only a few weeks later Stanford committed to coal divestment. Of the 23 CSUs, CSU Chico is the third CSU to create a divestment policy, along with San Francisco State and Humboldt State. While CSU Chico has no direct investments in fossil fuel companies, approximately 1.5 percent of the foundation’s endowment is invested in mutual funds containing stock from the top 200 fossil fuel companies.

“This has been an inspiring experience working with youth leaders across the nation and state to demand, and win, fossil fuel divestment. Our campaign over the past year and a half was strongly supported by the Chico student government, who worked hard to bring this proposal to the Foundation after seeing strong student engagement. The work was catapulted by a team that built support on campus and held numerous creative actions, including a human oil spill in the administration building, and a banner drop on the tallest building,” explains Kevin Killion, a student leader at Chico State University and Operating Team Chair with the CA Student Sustainability Coalition. “This effort is only made possible through the teamwork and solidarity built among the hundreds of campaigns sharing best practices and strategies. Together we make this movement stronger. Our victory at Chico is only the beginning of the battle for California.”

Prior to submitting the divestment resolution to the University Foundation, Fossil Free CSU Chico gained significant support on campus. Over 60 faculty members signed a petition in favor of divestment, and over 80 percent of student voters advocated for the University Foundation to divest the endowment from fossil fuel companies. Additionally, the California State Student Association passed a system-wide policy that endorsed all CSU campuses.

“The is an inspiring note to end an epic 2014 for the divestment movement, and having the first public university commit to full divestment is a huge step for a movement that just will not slow down. We’ve seen students take action at the White House on Keystone XL, gather in the hundreds at a national convergence, show up in full force at the People’s Climate March, and hold over a hundred inspiring actions that have led to more than five campus victories just this year,” reflects Silver Hannon, divestment field organizer with CA Student Sustainability Coalition.

CSU Chico has participated in many environmental resolutions in the past, including the Talloires Declaration in 2002, the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2007, and a Climate Action Plan in May 2011 in which they committed to achieving climate neutrality by the year 2030.

“The decision made in Chico today reverberates loud and clear here at the climate talks in Líma,” said 350.org Communications Director Jamie Henn, who is attending the COP20 climate talks in Líma, Peru. “The divestment movement has helped reshape the global debate on climate change, pushing countries to confront the real source of the problem: the fossil fuel industry. For the first time, the draft treaty under negotiation contains the goal of completely phasing out fossil fuels by 2050. Students have put the fossil fuel industry on notice–now, it’s time for the world to put them out of business.”

Hope looks like 15,000 people marching in the streets. Take 2 minutes to see for yourself.

Fri, 2014-12-12 22:38

The largest climate march in Latin America’s history happened this week — and wow, was it inspiring to see all the colorful images from the event.

Indigenous communities, farmers, workers, miners, youth groups, and faith groups all took part and raised their voices together. Watch what it looked like in the 2-minute video below.


Via WWF Climate and Energy

At Climate Talks, Secretary Kerry Delivers Another Blow to Keystone XL

Fri, 2014-12-12 15:33

For Keystone XL, the hits just keep on coming. Earlier this week, President Obama took to the Colbert Report and smack talked the pipeline’s inability to create many jobs or lower gas prices, while saying that the project had to be judged on its potential to contribute to “catastrophic” climate change. Boom!

Today, US Secretary of State John “I wrote a book about climate change” Kerry took the stage at the UN Climate Talks in Lima, Peru and dropped some serious rhetoric on the need to move towards a clean energy future.

“Coal and oil may be cheap ways to power an economy today, in the near term, but I urge nations around the world, the vast majority of whom are represented here at this conference, look further down the road,” said Sec. Kerry. “It’s time for countries to do some real cost accounting,” he continued. “Factor in the long term cost of carbon pollution. Factor in the cost of survival itself.”

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Whoa. The cost of survival itself? Whoever is writing Kerry’s speeches these days, hats off! (Although, got to admit, your “the solution to climate change is energy policy” line is a bit boring, you all could spice that one up).

Kerry went on to talk about how we should apply the “precautionary principle” when it comes to decisions about climate change. “What happens if the climate skeptics are wrong?” he asked. “Catastrophe.” Under that rule of thumb, you would never approve a project like Keystone XL. Even the slightest bit of precaution would send you running straight for the nearest solar panel.

The point is: without mentioning Keystone XL, Secretary Kerry is making a hell of a strong case against it. Talk about the catastrophic threat of climate change? Check. Mention the need to transition away from fossil fuels and towards a clean energy future? Yup. Lecture developing countries about how they should “look to the future” and use less dirty energy? Paternalistic, but certainly makes it seem like you aren’t looking to build a big dirty pipeline yourself.

For Kerry, Keystone XL was always inconsistent with his position on climate change. Now, an approval for the project would be absolutely hypocritical.

Kangaroos to defeat climate bomb?

Fri, 2014-12-12 15:16
By Nicolas Haeringer French bank Société Générale has announced it’s withdrawing from the Alpha Coal mega-coal mine in Australia. This “climate bomb” – an open mine in the Galilee basin (central Queensland) alone would  “produce 6% of the carbon necessary to take the planet past a 2°C temperature rise,” says Bill McKibben.

 

If the project’s implemented, its total greenhouse gas emissions will rise up to 1.8 bn tons over the next 30 years. The project also comprises the building of a dedicated railway and the extension of Abott Port, a few miles away from the Great Barrier Reef. The Alpha Coal project is thus a major threat to any ambitious political action against climate change.

For several months, Friends of the Earth, Attac France, Bizi! and several other groups have engaged in a very creative campaign against the bank’s participation in the project. Campaigners and activists have occupied Société Générale’s branches, dressed in kangaroo suits. They also dumped 1.8 tons of coal in front of one of its branches. Reaching out to the bank’s client, they called them to withdraw their money and move it to a ‘cleaner’ back. Check out some videos from the actions.

 Jean-Claude Saget, via france.attac.org

Photographer: Jean-Claude Saget, via france.attac.org

Action matters, especially when creative – it proves to be successful. This is however only the first step towards abandoning the project: Construction and development work is supposed to start as early as January 2015. Since the Australian government strongly supports the project, it is crucial to keep on putting the pressure on foreign financial partners. In fact, other financial institutions such Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank have already renounced to support the Alpha Coal mine.

 

These campaigns are also one very powerful way to express our solidarity with the domestic campaigners and activists who’ll try to block work, as well as with the Pacific Islanders who recently blocked the port in traditional canoes.

 

Our mobilisation is more important than ever.

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