May Boeve is emphatically not your typical non-profit Executive Director. Which is to say: her life isn’t swanky cocktail parties in local halls of power, nor barking out orders to a cadre of aides, nor making fly-by-night phone calls to powerful political operatives, nor technocratic budgeting on Excel.
No — 350’s Executive Director should really be called Activist-in-Chief, because that’s what May’s life truly is. She’s been arrested outside the White House in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline, she’s called out sexism in public conversations with prominent media outlets, and of course, she played an absolutely crucial role in last year’s historic People’s Climate March, which brought 400,000 protesters to the streets of New York demanding action on climate change.
May Boeve has clearly always been an activist at heart, driven by a vision of the world as it should be and committed to working around the clock to make it more real. Or as Allyse Heartwell from our Digital team puts it: “May is the best kind of leader: clear-eyed in her vision for the world we’re building and the work we’re doing, yet also deeply committed to real collaboration with her colleagues and comrades. Her smarts, savvy, and formidable competence are rooted in a remarkable capacity for empathy.”
Most people who know May Boeve would agree with that, not just in a professional, on-the-record, “yes, ma’am” kind of way — but truly, and deeply and personally. Which is why it was so deeply gratifying to many of us here at 350 to wake up today, and see May become the first person in the United States to be profiled by TIME Magazine as part of its annual series on Next Generation Leaders.
As 350.org’s U.S. Communications Manager, I’m always pushing May to do more of this stuff. It’s a little tricky, because unlike people I’ve worked for in the past, May is someone who doesn’t seek the spotlight — and kind of needs to be nudged there.
Honestly, she’d probably prefer I didn’t write this piece at all, but it’s worth writing because this matters! We need Activists-in-Chief to take on increasingly public roles in our movement, and we need them to not all be white dudes. Pieces like this one go a long way towards achieving that, and shifting the way people in mainstream culture think about “environmentalists.”
Anyway, the piece is gorgeous, and highlights May’s work as a bridge-builder forging alliances with other organizations, groups and causes. “Climate change connects every issue,” May told TIME. “What I like to do is figure out, based on what another organization does, how does it connect to climate change and how does our work connect to what they do?”
It’s worth checking out in full here: http://time.com/3896409/ngl-may-boeve/.
This post was written by University of Toronto Divestment Organizer & Toronto350 member Jody Chan.
Canada’s ready for a new kind of climate movement. On July 5th, we’re marching for climate and economic justice in Toronto, Canada. RSVP for the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate at http://jobsjusticeclimate.ca
If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage. The divestment movement is based on the idea that we cannot continue to invest in companies that undermine our future. My name is Jody Chan. I am a part of the University of Toronto’s fossil fuel divestment campaign and part of the growing student divestment movement.
There are now fossil fuel divestment campaigns at over 300 schools across North America. We are growing fast, we’re learning fast, and we’re winning. Our victories include the New School, Syracuse University, the University of Glasgow, and Hampshire College. Just a few days ago, Oxford University decided to rule out all future investment in coal and tar sands.
If we want to avoid climate disaster, we need a drastic shift in both economic and political power. The fossil fuel industry has in its reserves five times more carbon than we can afford to burn if we want to stay under 2 degrees warming, the limit before we see catastrophic and irreversible climate change. Divestment is one way to challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry. Universities can shift billions of dollars from fossil fuel extraction and exploration to growing a fair and clean economy. As extremely influential public institutions, they can also make a powerful statement about the kind of future the world should be moving toward.
So, on July 5th, at the March for Jobs, Justice & the Climate, students are going to be marching for a new economy that respects our future. We’re marching for an equal and just economy that takes power from socially irresponsible corporations and gives it to the people. We’re marching in solidarity to demand a system that honours indigenous people’s rights to their lands, and to clean air and water. We’re marching for a safe climate for coming generations. We’re marching because there is no Planet B. And part of what we’re marching for, part of the vision I have for our future, is for our universities to not only be places for intellectual and academic growth, but also to represent the kind of ethically and morally just society that we need to live in.
Part of an organization that wants to join the organizing committee? Fill out this form and join us.
Want to join the Youth/Student Organizing Hub for the March? Fill out this form.
It’s set to be the largest divestment from fossil fuels ever made. Just hours after a coalition of groups delivered nearly 50,000 signatures and a worldwide Twitterstorm to #DivestNorway, the Norwegian parliament last night issued a unanimous recommendation to divest its country’s sovereign wealth fund from the coal industry.
— 350 dot org (@350) May 27, 2015
The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global is not only the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund; it is also one of the top ten investors in the global coal industry. This recommendation asks the government to exclude companies deriving more than 30% of their revenues or their power production from coal. With all parties endorsing the recommendation, it’s widely expected to be formally adopted by parliamentary vote on June 5.
Norway’s coal exclusion criteria go further than French Insurer Axa‘s divestment commitment last week and set a new standard for investors worldwide that signals another death knell for the coal industry. Bill McKibben’s tweet as the news broke last night underscores the true significance of this move:
Norway’s $900bn fund, that just divested from coal, is in fact the world’s largest fund. Like, in the world. The whole planet. Earth.
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) May 27, 2015
“We expect that billions of euros will be withdrawn from the coal industry, when this happens. This is a huge win for the divestment movement and a real sign of hope that investment patterns can be changed” Truls Gulowsen from Greenpeace Norway.
But while this news will send shockwaves through the financial world and investment community, it’s also a huge victory for all the communities worldwide impacted daily by the activities of coal companies.
— 350 East Asia (@350EastAsia) May 28, 2015
We expect that Norway’s Pension Fund investments in companies like Germany’s RWE, China’s Shenhua, Duke Energy from the Unites States, Australia’s AGL Energy, Reliance Power from India, Japan’s Electric Power Development Corporation, Semirara Mining from the Philippines and Poland’s PGE will, for example, all be shed.
“Norwegian NGOs will not be alone, when they celebrate. There are broad popular resistance movements against the coal industry in all of these countries, and they are going to say: Thank you for divesting, Norway!” Heffa Schücking, from German environmental group urgewald.
Indeed! Join us in thanking Norway by sharing this news widely.
Today in Oslo – 44,000 petition signatures were delivered urging Norwegian politicians to divest their Global Pension Fund from fossil fuels, starting with companies mining and burning coal. Coal investments make up only 1.2% of the fund’s US$867bn investment portfolio, yet this is enough to make the fund one of the ten largest coal investors in the world.
This is about more than Norway though. This is about all the communities impacted by coal. The fund’s investments are not just numbers on a spreadsheet. Today during the petition delivery, messages from people around the world were projected onto screens.
Hopefully Norway will listen and choose a renewable future — for everyone.[View the story “Divest Norway Stories” on Storify]
Today, TransCanada — builders and promoters of both Keystone XL and the Energy East tar sands pipelines — had this to say about their commitment to protect the environment:
Then the internet took over. The response… was not kind. But it was kind of funny!
Bill McKibben had this to say:
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) May 25, 2015
Others wondered if it could have been a joke?
— Jane Fleming Kleeb (@janekleeb) May 25, 2015
But no, it was real.
This is from an actual Twitter-verified account: https://t.co/TLuQ5bTfVi
— Drew Gilmore (@dotsandlines) May 25, 2015
Other excellent snark followed:
— Joe Bailey (@joebailey7) May 25, 2015
Hard to imagine a dumber thing to say. About anything. Ever….Still trying…Nope. Nothing dumber. Ever. https://t.co/dnr7hj3kW3
— Michael Gaston (@Gastonacts) May 25, 2015
I… I don't think that's it… " class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" />" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" /> https://t.co/AoCZOzqSGu
— molly katchpole (@mollykatch) May 25, 2015
@TransCanada Yeah, that's a great place for them. What could *possibly* go wrong with oil pipelines running under rivers?
— Brian (@bridoc) May 25, 2015
Just like BP protects the Gulf of Mexico by drilling beneath it? https://t.co/ydROmUMGDv
— David Turnbull (@david_turnbull) May 25, 2015
Big Oil knows best!
— Karthik Ganapathy (@kartpath) May 25, 2015
That’s how you clean things, right?
@TransCanada That's just like how I clean my house by sweeping all the dirt under the carpet.
— James McLaren (@JamesHMcLaren) May 25, 2015
Perhaps if we communicate with them via hockey, they’ll understand…
.@TransCanada try protecting the net by pulling your goaltender at the start of the first period.
— Mike Sandmel (@mikeysandmel) May 25, 2015
This friendly tweeter was looking for more environmental tips:
@TransCanada Thanks for the inspiration! Can I also protect children by adding mercury & arsenic to their food? Pls send more helpful tips.
— Alex Lenferna (@al_lenferna) May 25, 2015
Burying your head in the sand is probably safer than burying TransCanada’s pipelines… but it won’t help the climate either:
@TransCanada And burying your heads in the sand too, apparently.
— Twyla (@Indigenia) May 25, 2015
They clearly didn’t see it coming, either:
Who could have predicted this tweet would not go over well https://t.co/UQvlBfwVWM
— Lauren Strapagiel (@laurenstrapa) May 25, 2015
The real message here is clear: TransCanada is in denial — about their impact on the climate, and about the feasibility of their absurd pipeline plans. Let’s stop Keystone XL and Energy East — with tweets and whatever other tools we need:
— Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema) May 25, 2015
Yesterday Gerry Arances, the national coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, a broad coalition of grassroots organizations working with vulnerable sectors and communities to campaign for climate justice in the Philippines, addressed the Norwegian Parliament to divest the Norwegian sovereign fund from fossil-fuels as it comes under review in the Norwegian Parliament.
Below is a transcript of the speech he delivered at the Norwegian Parliament:
This year will be a historic year.
We are at a crucial moment where at the end of the year in Paris, humanity will be given another opportunity again to address the climate crisis: to either right the wrongs of the past and the present, or to again only conclude with empty promises and mere pledges.
We have seen this for the past two decades: words which amount to nothing and old, destructive practices continuing to prosper. Actions which further condemn the Filipino nation and all climate-vulnerable communities and peoples of the world to death and destruction.
We in the Philippines can no longer endure another Haiyan, or worse, twice the destruction if the practice of business-as-usual continues and leads us beyond 2-degrees global temperature.
Norway, its government and its people, are given an opportunity to do what is right for the people of the world before the Paris COP in December: to stop the madness of coal and fossil addiction, profiteering and the devastation that it brings; and to really make a big difference for the climate and the peoples of the world.
In behalf of the resisting and struggling coal and climate affected communities of the Philippines, we enjoin Norway, its government and its people to divest from coal and fossil fuels.
Stop funding the destruction, displacement and increased vulnerability of communities.
Stop funding coal plants and coal mining in our country.
Stop funding dirty energy.
Moving out of coal would be a small step for Norway (2 out of 3 Norwegians are in favour of it), but a big message to the international community. Join us in making that happen.
This spring, we’ve seen incredible momentum in students launching a wave of escalated action, urging universities to divest from the companies driving the climate crisis and reinvest in just solutions.
They drew a line between the fossil fuel industry and the fossil fuel resistance — led by young people, indigenous people, and people breathing the impossible air in frontline communities. They asked their universities: Whose side are you on?
This spring, we’ve seen incredible momentum in students launching a wave of escalated action, urging universities to divest from the companies driving the climate crisis and reinvest in just solutions.
They drew a line between the fossil fuel industry and the fossil fuel resistance — led by young people, indigenous people, and people breathing the impossible air in frontline communities. They asked their universities: Whose side are you on?
In the past week communities across Australia and the planet held powerful actions at over 60 CommBank branches and raised the heat on CommBank and laid the foundations for a movement that won’t stop until the Bank rules out financing for the Galilee Basin mega coal mines. Among those that participated are the youth volunteers from 350.org Vietnam, below is an update from Nhu Ho, regarding their activity.
What a day! On May 17, 2015, 350.org Vietnam had their big action towards CommonBank in Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi, to send a strong message calling the bank to stop funding the Galilee Basin coal mines in Australia and say YES to climate and reef protection.
The action attracted a lot of volunteers who had been inspired and amazed by 350 activities. Action pictures were taken in front of CommonBank offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi with messages “CommonBank can do better – Say no to Reef and Climate Destruction”, “Global banks say no to Galilee Basin – Why won’t CommonBank?” “We love our nature. We love the Great Barrier Reef”. As the action took place at a central location of the busy District 1, the effervescent spirit of the volunteers quickly spread out to the youth groups nearby as well as many local people and tourists.
Short but engaging talks on 350.org’s campaigns and messages were delivered by Nhu Ho, Vy Le, and Nhi Thoi, the core members of 350 Vietnam’s Coordinating Team, to the crowd which kept growing up in size, as more and more people came and joined the group. Being inspired by the excitement and passion of this group, other groups who were gathering nearby, like the Dap xe xuyen Viet (Cycling through Vietnam) group, merrily joined with the photo session, to contribute their voice to demand action to save the world’s largest coral reef from fossil fuels impacts.
The most exciting part of the action was a street music party run by the action participants, and members of Ukulele’s House Group. Banners and signages of the CommonBank campaign were waved during the singing and music performances, which helped to attract many more local people and tourists to join the circle. Little children were particularly excited to join the dances, the music, enjoyed the colorful pictures of the reef’s creatures, and were eager to pose with the message posters for pictures.
Mai Nguyen, one of the volunteers said “ This is a fantastic day. I love the way we use music to attract people’s attention, especially on new issues like divestment from fossil fuels. 350 Vietnam should have more days like this so we can have an opportunity to not only do something to save the nature but also to have great fun and connect with like-minded friends!”
350.org Vietnam message to Raise The Heat on CommonBank did not only reach out to over 100 people who joined the music circle in the park on that day, but also to thousands of people through their creative digital campaign “For the Beauty of the Great Barrier Reef” on their Facebook page. Nearly 350 Vietnamese people have sent their “reef-themed” photos to show their love to the Great Barrier Reef and demand the bank to make a critical decision to save the reef. It became a wonderful start for this huge action rising with 100+ events planned globally on May 19-23. The team will launch the complete photo collection this weekend to contribute a powerful message to the bank, in solidarity with 350.org Australia.
Nhu Ho, 350.org Vietnam team member
To the ShellNo! activists and community members of the Pacific Northwest,The Pacific Climate Warriors want to send a statement of gratitude and support for your upcoming rallies and actions on May 16-18th opposing Shell’s attempts to drill for oil in the Arctic. Last year, 30 of our Pacific Climate Warriors from 12 different Pacific Island countries paddled our traditional hand-carved canoes into the Port of Newcastle in Australia to blockade one of the largest coal shipping terminals in the world. We were supported by hundreds of Australians in kayaks, and from thousands of people on land as we declared that we wouldn’t allow the fossil fuel industry to destroy our cultures and lands. We Are Not Drowning – We Are Fighting! This action marked a turning point for us, in realizing that we cannot merely hope that the governments of our small countries will save our communities from the climate crisis. Rather, our focus must be on building large social movements that can work across cultures and differences – creating the political power necessary to challenge the world’s largest corporations. Science tell us that we must keep carbon in the ground and end the age of fossil fuels, but companies like Shell and their relentless pursuit of drilling in the Arctic set us on a path of catastrophe. Just as our tiny canoes stared down giant coal ships, your kayaks will stare down Shell’s massive oil drilling rigs – a modern day battle of David vs. Goliath. A battle that together, we will win. Thank you for your hard work and organizing. The climate crisis is a global one, and it demands that we build movements that are global as well. As you are confronting Shell’s massive Arctic drilling rig in Seattle just as we confronted massive coal barges in Newcastle – we stand together in solidarity so that neither of our communities are destroyed by the reckless drive of the fossil fuel industry. With love and solidarity, The Pacific Climate Warriors
There are lots of walls in the world of journalism. There are walls to protect sensitive sources, walls that separate the business side of news outlets from their editorial side, and walls that separate the work of hard-news journalists from that of opinion-making editorial writers. What that last category ends up meaning a lot of the time, is that when a major news event happens, one set of reporters is responsible for covering and reporting the facts, and another set of opinion writers is responsible for wading through them to publish the newspaper’s official editorial position on it. That’s generally a good thing, so the factual reporting can remain neutral, but there are times we need to question how far that should go — and this week was just such an example, for The New York Times.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management conditionally approved Shell’s request to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Conditional approval, in this context, means that Shell still has some state and federal bureaucratic hoops to jump through — but that the Obama administration has essentially signed off on the plan, major hurdle cleared.
That’s a horrendous call, and a step back in the fight against climate change for a number of reasons that our co-founder Bill McKibben summarizes far better than I could. In a piece that went live with The New York Times on Tuesday afternoon, Bill slammed President Obama’s decision as “climate denial of the status quo sort, where people accept the science, and indeed make long speeches about the immorality of passing on a ruined world to our children,” but then do nothing to act on the findings. He also points out that “Shell will be drilling for oil in places where there’s no hope of cleaning up the inevitable spills (remember the ineptness of BP in the balmy, accessible Gulf of Mexico, and now transpose it 40 degrees of latitude north, into some of the harshest seas on the planet),” to underscore the all-around disaster of the public policy that is green-lighting Arctic drilling. And because it bears repeating, he’s right — there’s really nothing good about this idea.
Less than twelve hours later, on Tuesday night, The New York Times editorial board weighed in. Offering a tepid endorsement of the White House decision, the board essentially argued that new government regulations will make this time safer, and what did everyone expect, anyway? They point out that “Shell acquired the lease for just over $2 billion in 2008, and, absent a very good reason, the government felt obliged to approve it.” It’s telling the board doesn’t use the words “climate change” a single time in this piece, because if it did, the writers would probably have to acknowledge that the cooking of our planet and rising sea levels actually do qualify as an aforementioned “very good reason” to deny Shell’s permit. In other words, we’re not absent a very good reason to deny the permit — it’s just not mentioned in this piece.
But let’s not dwell on the substantive holes; let’s talk about the wall. What’s really striking here is how directly the Times editorial clashes with news coverage and analysis from three of its top energy and climate journalists. Take, for instance, the board’s claim that “…Shell’s ineptitude in earlier trial runs — have led the government to devise rules that are likely to make this project safer than it would have been.” Before arguing that Shell’s past “ineptitude” is indeed a reason to give them the go-ahead this time, because we’ve all learned since then, the board might have benefited from a chat with journalists John Schwartz and Clifford Krauss, down the hall in their own hallowed newsroom.
In a separate story that went live the same night as the editorial, John and Clifford detail the exact extent of Shell’s past “ineptitude,” writing that: “Shell tried to drill in the Arctic in 2012, and the company’s multibillion-dollar drilling rig, the Kulluk, ran aground. The operator of a drill ship hired by Shell also pleaded guilty to eight felony offenses and agreed to pay $12.2 million over shoddy record-keeping that covered up hazardous conditions and jury-rigged equipment that discharged polluted water.” They also go on to quote environmentalists and oil executives alike, who say there’s simply no good way to drill in the Arctic, that it’s inherently unsafe and too risky. Simply having two rigs on scene doesn’t fix that.
Let’s take another claim — the board writes: “Shell is seeking to drill up to six exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea about 70 miles off the North Slope. These would be shallow wells, 140 feet or so, far less than 5,000-plus feet of BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico,” apparently arguing that nothing like Deepwater Horizon could happen in the Arctic because the wells are shallower.
Again, the board might have wanted to run that by Clifford and John, who rebut that in their news story: “An Arctic oil spill would have none of the conditions that helped mitigate effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, including warm water, sunlight, relatively calm weather and ready access to cleanup and rescue equipment.” John and Clifford’s reporting seems to suggest an Arctic spill not only could be every bit as bad as the BP spill, but that it might be even worse. That tracks with the reporting of yet anotherTimes journalist, Coral Davenport, who notes in yet another Tuesday night story that “environmentalists and oil industry officials say that a drilling accident among the icy waters and 50-foot waves of the Chukchi could lead to a disaster far worse than the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 and sent millions of barrels of oil spewing through the Gulf of Mexico.”
Walls are great, and opinion is great. But when it comes to something as important as a decision that helps determine the future livability of our entire planet, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to hope for our country’s paper of record to do some basic, internal fact-checking before rushing to the defense of an administration it’s supposed to regard with skepticism.
The University of Edinburgh just bowed to pressure from fossil fuel industry and refused to divest, following a 3 year campaign by its students. The University of Edinburgh has the third largest university endowment in the UK, after Oxford and Cambridge, totalling £291 million, with approximately £9 million in fossil fuel companies including BP, Shell and BHP Billiton.
The decision has provoked a strong backlash from student campaigners against the University Court’s decision. The move goes against a recommendation made in April by the university’s Central Management Group that the university should divest from the most destructive fossil fuel companies like coal and tar sands.
Kirsty Haigh, student campaigner with Edinburgh People & Planet, said:
“Despite the overwhelming support for fossil fuel divestment in a public consultation, the University have proved they are in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry. Climate change is the most urgent threat the world is facing, and today’s announcement tells us the university is not taking it seriously enough. For the past three years every piece of evidence we’ve provided, and their own consultation, proved that students, staff and alumni want full divestment. Our University claims to be a leader in sustainability but today have clearly proved this is not the case.”
73 students and staff in the School of Engineering have already signed an open letter to the head of the school, angered by his public opposition to the fossil fuel divestment campaign. Their letter stated:
“The School of Engineering has and will continue to have a pivotal role in the university’s future. It is after all engineers who will be on the frontlines of the transition to a low carbon society. By basing its argument against divestment on engineering students’ chances of employment in one dead-end industry, the school appears to be failing to prepare its students for careers in the rapidly changing energy markets of the 21st century, whilst neglecting the faculty’s broader responsibility to the student body as a whole. As a consequence, they gamble employment against our common future.”
Information obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have revealed that the Geosciences Department has received funding from a range of fossil fuel companies over the past 10 years including BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips, including grants and gifts of money from Total and Cairn Energy. An FOI request from December 2013 revealed that 37 staff members in the Geosciences Department were in direct correspondence with fossil fuel company representatives. Andy Curtis, the school representative on the Fossil Fuel Advisory Committee which made recommendations to the University Court on fossil fuel divestment, is the ex-Total chair for mathematical geoscience.
Campaigners believe that the fear of loosing research funding was overstated at Glasgow University and that false impression was created by a handful of Glasgow academics on the effect their decision to become the first university in Europe to divest from fossil fuels in October 2014.
Luke Evens, Environmental Officer of Glasgow University Student’s Representative Council, said:
“Following Glasgow University’s decision to divest in October 2014, we have since learned that the decision has not affected any funding to the university, in particular to the Engineering Department. Despite criticism from a small number of personally invested academics, the positive response across all colleges, including science and engineering, was overwhelmingly encouraging. We are proud that the academic community at Glasgow has united to tackle the threat of climate change, and we call on Edinburgh University to do the same.”
The Fossil Free campaign at Edinburgh has gathered widespread support from across the community, with backing from over 50 university academics and the Edinburgh University Students Association. The public consultation run by the university showed overwhelming support for divestment from the university community and thousands of students have signed up to the campaign.
John Brookes, student campaigner and Masters of Nationalism Studies said:
“The university has cited academic freedom as one of its main reasons for not divesting. How can a university which is funded by private companies promote freedom of debate and expression? The close ties between the School of Engineering and the fossil fuel industry undermines all the climate and renewables research that the university is doing.”
Miriam Wilson, Fossil Free Campaign Coordinator at People & Planet, said:
“By continuing to invest in fossil fuels, the University of Edinburgh is putting short-term gains ahead of the long-term interests of its students and the wider world, and undermining its image as a forward-thinking institution which is leading in climate change research. It is untenable for a university to bankroll an industry which is driving the destruction of its students’ future.”
Fossil Free is a global movement to push universities and other public institutions to divest from the 200 fossil fuel companies that hold the vast majority of the world’s oil, coal and gas reserves. The campaign reflects a growing concern among British students about the dangers of climate change and the investment risks associated with the so-called carbon bubble which threatens to strand the £5.2 billion UK universities collectively invest in fossil fuels; an investment in fossil fuels of £2,083 for every student in the UK.
Over the past 18 months, the People & Planet student network have launched over 60 Fossil Free campaigns across the UK and gained the support of the National Union of Students and over 32,000 individual students. Decisions on fossil fuel divestment are now expected from Oxford University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Manchester University and Warwick University over the coming weeks and months.
Friends of the Earth Scotland finance campaigner Ric Lander said:
“The University has missed a clear opportunity to take a moral lead on tackling climate change and stand up for environmental justice. The University appears content to have its money invested in the world’s most polluting companies including Shell, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. These companies are oil drilling in the Arctic and mining coal in virgin rainforest. Any investment policy which continues to allow investment in such irresponsible companies is not fit for purpose.”
In the US, Syracuse University and the New School in New York are divesting from fossil fuels, whilst Stanford is divesting from coal. More than 230 institutions have now made commitments to fossil fuel divestment, including faith organisations, pension funds, philanthropic foundations and local authorities.
This week as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) meets in London, they’ll be considering a proposal from the Republic of the Marshall Islands calling for a binding global reduction target on shipping carbon emissions. After years of slow movement on reducing shipping emissions, the proposal brings new momentum, at a critical time.
The Marshall Islands is in a curious position of on the one hand being the holder of the world’s third largest shipping registry, and on the other hand being at very real risk from the unchecked emissions of shipping. Foreign Minister Tony de Brum highlighted this in a statement:
“We are an island nation and shipping is one of our lifelines. At the same time, carbon emissions, including those from shipping, pose an existential threat to our people and our country.”
Since 1990, shipping emissions have increased by approximately 70%, and in 2012, represented 2.7% of global CO2 emissions. If these emissions were reported as a country, maritime transport would rank between Japan and Germany on a table of CO2 emitters. Yet these emissions are not held accountable through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and predictions are that emissions will grow even more rapidly in coming decades if left unchecked. It has been left up to the IMO to make progress, which has been slow – as the infographic below from Transport & Environment highlights.
If the Marshall Islands proposal is adopted by the IMO this week, it would bring a crucial breakthrough for reducing shipping emissions, and beyond that, an important momentum builder as the world builds to the UN climate talks in Paris later this year. You can help put the proposal of the Marshall Islands into the spotlight by sharing this blog.
In response to a White House decision allowing Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben issued the following statement:
“Shell helped melt the Arctic and now they want to drill in the thawing waters; it beggars belief that the Obama administration is willing to abet what amounts to one of the greatest acts of corporate irresponsibility in the planet’s history.”
I am still reeling (in a good way!) from the Enbridge Tar Sands Resistance Tour, a 16 stop / 16 day whirlwind organizing tour across the Great Lakes region to spur and connect the growing movement to stop pipeline expansion and keep tar sands oil in the ground.
The tour was planned by Energy Action Coalition, MN350, MI CATS, Indigenous Environmental Network, the Sierra Club, and too many other local organizations to list. We traveled from Detroit through six states to Minneapolis along the Enbridge Lakehead system, a large pipeline network that carries most of the tar sands oil used in the United States.
Every night, our program covered the story of tar sands from global to local: beginning with stories from Alberta, tracing the Enbridge pipeline system and its climate connections into the Great Lakes region, and hearing first-hand accounts from organizers living near Enbridge’s Kalamazoo tar sands spill. We listened to diverse local speakers from each area we visited and planned for bigger, more ambitious things to come.
Here’s a photo from the Stevens Point WI stop on the tour — I think it shows some of the energy and determination of the people working to stop Enbridge.
This tour contained too much to sum up in one place. If you want to get a taste of why this movement is so special, here are some of my favorite moments from the road:
In Chicago, we heard from Ebony Parker, a union worker on strike from the BP Whiting refinery, the nation’s largest tar sands refinery. She talked about the unsafe working conditions at the refinery that present hazards for the employees and the community at large.
In the Twin Ports of Superior, WI and Duluth, MN, our Q&A session with community members turned into an action planning session and we decided to take our large tar sands banner to Enbridge offices the following morning. We ended up with a packed six-car caravan, and the impromptu rallies turned into an organizing meeting which lasted most of the afternoon.
In Harbor Springs, MI, our stop was held at the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians tribal government center, complete with a guitar band, drumming, a potluck feast, and an amazing lineup of speakers, including a wonderful look at the steps the band is taking to block Enbridge’s expansion efforts.
The tour is only the beginning — we’ll be continuing to fight back at the Tar Sands Resistance March on June 6 in Minnesota and the Remember Kalamazoo healing walk July 24 – 26th in Michigan. We know we’re stronger when we stand together as a community from across the Great Lakes region.
Now I’m sleeping in my own bed again, dreaming of the movement we’re creating together across the region, despite the odds — a movement with knowledge of the moral urgency of keeping tar sands in the ground and with the heart to keep fighting and win. The picture of the Great Lakes region reflected in this tour gives me real hope.
Together, we’re building the movement this challenge requires. I’ll see you in the streets,
In between the rising sea and the encroaching desert, the people of North Africa find themselves in a precarious situation. We went to the World Social Forum in Tunisia and talked with young activists from across the region about how they are fighting for their homes and communities.
How did the Arab Spring lead to greater climate action? Why should we think twice before covering the Sahara in solar panels? Why is Algeria the home of one of the longest-running fracking battles?
Despite huge public support for a coal phase-out, German media reported this week that Chancellor Merkel is trying to weaken proposed legislation to reduce emissions from the most polluting coal power plants, which economist and scientists warn is the bare minimum for Germany to meet its climate commitments.
Over the past few weeks, the government has struggled to come to a decision. The tug of war between those that want to keep making money digging up and burning the black stuff and those that want an end to coal is in full swing.
Much of the public debate about the proposed climate levy has focused on potential job losses. RWE who will be impacted the most by the legislation, has been accused of making appallingly exaggerated claims of jobs that will be lost if the legislation is passed.
In April, more than 6,000 people came to RWE’s Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine to create a massive human chain against coal (check out Emma’s blog from the human chain). At the same time some trade unions staged a counter-protest with coal workers from across the country, to the horror of many union members. Thousands urged their union to come out in support of a coal phase-out instead of leading workers to believe that there is a future for jobs in coal.
Even Vattenfall CEO Magnus Hall – the second company who will primarily be impacted by the legislation – does not see a future for jobs in coal. Last week, he told Spiegel Online that it was a ‘painful realisation’ but coal mining jobs in Germany would be lost ‘sooner or later’.
It is not the legislation that puts jobs at risk, it’s the outdated business model of the coal giants that is the problem. Last year, RWE slashed 5,000 jobs and already announced that it will make further cuts.
If even Vattenfall admits that there is no future for jobs in coal, it’s surely time for trade unions to come to terms with the Energiewende and start demanding investments in a just transition to a low-carbon economy that supports workers and creates sustainable long-term jobs.
Jobs in coal will inevitably be lost. But there is huge potential for far more new jobs in a renewable energy economy. This transition can benefit the well-being of local communities instead of destroying their villages, health, nature and the climate. Opinion polls show that the vast majority of Germans want a coal phase-out.
Will Merkel heed this call? Or will she cave in to pressure from big polluters?
Please sign and share our petition calling on Angela Merkel to defend and strengthen legislation to slash emissions from coal.
Just outside the ghost village of Immerath, Nordrhein Westfalen, Germany at the #AntiKohleKette (Human Chain), 25th April 2015
I’m not even sure how we began talking. I think I asked him if the tractor over there was his. It was. It was pulling a trailer decorated with banners showing the boundary where people are calling for the mine to end. I had seen it earlier trumbling along with two women singing “Billa lass uns tanzen bis der Bagger kommt, solang sich unsere Füsse drehen, bleibt die Erde stehn” – about dancing on the land to keep the diggers away.
The tractor on its day out in protest, he humble in his red cap watching the crowd, me trying to protect various social media tools with my raincoat, and 5,998 or so other people trailing yellow ribbons were standing amongst fields of crops that in two to three years time, as it stands, will no longer exist. And his village – the village of Holzweiler – was a backdrop to the solemn scene. He did not know yet whether his land would too be pulled up to dig the coal from beneath it.
I heard one activist tell a crowd, “These are open cast mines. That means the coal is not extracted from digging down below the surface. Instead, you clear the surface and anything that is on it to get at the coal. That means fields, homes, hospitals, churches, forests, you name it, it goes.”
The farmer, maybe the same age as my dad, told me the worst thing was not knowing. How do you plan or deal with a situation if you don’t know if in a few years time you and your family will be relocated? Moreover, how does that actually practically happen? How can you replace someone’s field and crops? How can you replace someone’s home, history, and livelihood? He said, for him maybe it wasn’t so bad, but what about his son? What was he going to do?
If we close the mines, hundreds of jobs will be lost we are told. But here I hear stories of not just jobs being lost indirectly as a result of mine expansion, but also communities. And it’s done with dirty tactics. Herr Schmitz, the farmer, told me RWE – the utility company who owns the Rhineland coalfields – comes into communities years in advance of demolition. When villagers were offered compensation for relocation, their initial reaction was resistance, as you can imagine. “But time softens them,” said Herr Schmidt. RWE begins to cut things down in the surrounding area, already destroying what they can access, making it feel like the work is already underway. Then some people take the offer, and a few people begin to leave, and so local businesses begin to lose their local customers. How can the baker stay open as the village slowly dissipates? Once the first few go, it has a domino effect.
Our other backdrop is the village of Immerath. It has a strange atmosphere. It’s eerie because it’s boarded up and pieces of yellow ribbon line the streets tied to door handles and garden gates. Showing respect for the village. And for an afternoon the protesters bring some colour, there to resist the expansion of the coal mine because of its climate impacts, its pollution and health impacts, and its destruction of local communities.
He points to a building and tells me it used to be a hospital. Now it’s empty and boarded up. In this village a few residents remain in resistance, but there are no shops left, nor church, nor other local services.
He tells me another four villages, hundreds of years old, are due to be demolished over the next 15 years. He takes me round to the other side of his tractor to show the other banner which names those different villages and those – like his – that are under question.
Mr Schmitz took part in his first human chain here almost exactly 30 years ago. And he’s still resisting. It filled me with sadness talking to him, but maybe the seasons are changing and we are on the winning side now. RWE is in €31 billion of debt; the cost of coal is becoming increasingly expensive, not to mention when you add the external costs of transport etc; climate change concerns mean that limitations are being made on coal emissions and we’re realising to exactly what extent we can’t burn the black stuff (90% of coal reserves in Europe need to stay in the ground if we want stay below 2 degrees warming). And well there’s an ever growing movement ready to resist.
I really warmed to Mr Schmitz who left me with his address in case I ever wanted to visit his family and farm. And I waved him and his tractor off, vowing to write this blog and share his story, so people would know more about why we’re feeling the need to go to the scale of climbing into a 400m-deep coal mine this 14-16th August and stop the largest diggers on earth. If you want to hear more about the action, take a peek here.
Special thanks to Mr Schmitz for taking the time to share his story with me on that Saturday afternoon and thanks to all of you who will help share it. Mr Schmitz, I think we will meet again.
As spring warms up, people around the world have been turning up the heat on divestment. Direct action on campuses reached a boiling point in April, with divestment sit-ins, protests, and rallies sweeping across colleges and universities in the UK, Australia and the United States. We’ve also gained ground with some big names — everyone from the World Bank, HSBC, Edward Norton, and Prince Charles are hopping on the divestment train!
Our movement is steaming ahead, scrappy but gaining. Big players — from banks to the oil and gas companies themselves, from celebrities to major development agencies — are starting to see the writing on the wall. And with climate negotiations in Paris right around the corner, it’s up to us to keep the pressure on.
For now, read on for a few of April’s biggest victories from across the global divestment movement!GLOBAL CAMPUS UPDATES
Australia: A nation-wide day of action
On April 22nd, Aussies at 15 university campuses took action to call on their schools to stop investing in fossil fuels as part of the National Day of Campus Divestment Action. Down under, folks got creative with events including everything from petition blitzes, supporter scavenger hunts, fossil free festivals, marches, rallies, human signs — and there was even a security lock-down at one university’s administration building. Students, staff and alumni are calling loudly for change — and university decision-makers are really starting to feel the pressure. Read more here and check out the best photos from the day here.
USA:“Everywhere you look, divestment sit-ins, protests, and rallies are sweeping across campuses.” (Jamie Henn)
Young people at schools across the United States continued the wave of escalated, nonviolent direct action that kicked off last month — and wow, was it incredible! The climate crisis leaves no room for neutrality. So, they told their administrators it’s time to pick a side: the people or the polluters.
During Harvard Heat Week, over 1,600 people came together in Cambridge to call on Harvard University to divest, and the crew shut down an administration building for the whole week. Check out some of the highlights on the wrap-up page.
Swarthmore College ended their 32-day sit-in, and the Board finally agreed to discuss divestment. Although they voted to continue investing in fossil fuels, the fight for Swarthmore’s divestment (where this movement was born) is far from over. Read this statement from Swarthmore Mountain Justice for more info.
Students’ brave action also led to some arrests. On April 9th, 48 students launched a sit in at Yale University to demand their administration divest from fossil fuels, and 19 were arrested for refusing to leave the building. Then, at the University of Mary Washington where folks had been sitting in for 21 days, police evicted 30 people and arrested three of them — click here to watch the video recap.
But the action didn’t end there! 70 students sat in at Tulane, 270 at Whitman, 33 at Tufts, 37 at Wesleyan, and 28 at Bowdoin. At CU Boulder, students held a 3-day occupation. Students at UC Berkeley slept outside of an administration building and held a community rally. UMass Amherst joined the action too, and so did lots of other noble people across the country!
Check out a few of the best photos from the action here.
UK: SOAS, University of London divests
On April 24th, SOAS announced that it will divest from fossil fuels within the next three years to show leadership in the fight against climate change. It’s the first university in London to divest and the first to extend an exclusion on fossil fuel companies to its donations policy. This big win comes after an 18-month campaign, with the support of over 1,000 students and staff. Read more here.
South Africa: Nedbank takes a baby step and Fossil Free Africa campaign claims its first win!
Fossil fuel divestment campaigners are celebrating the news that Nedbank intends to divest from the coal-fired Kelvin Power Station near Johannesburg. The bank has been the target of the Fossil Free Africa campaign, calling on South African banks to disclose their fossil fuel investments and ultimately stop investing in future coal and oil projects. Nedbank’s decision is a baby step, but it’s an important one. Now, it’s time for the rest of South Africa’s banks to wake up! Read more here.
Norway: Taking on the world’s largest national fund
This month saw the launch of the #DivestNorway campaign, asking Norway’s Global Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels, starting with companies mining and burning coal. Here’s why it’s such a big deal: if Norway divested even the 1.3% that its Global Pension Fund it has invested in coal, it would be the biggest divestment EVER. There’s a real chance they might.
So let’s put some international pressure on Norway to lead the way! People have been sending in personal messages from numerous frontline communities affected by Norway’s coal investments all around the world. Take action and read more here.
UK: Church of England divests from the dirtiest of the dirty
The Church of England announced that it will divest its £9bn fund of £12m in thermal coal and tar sands company holdings because of a “moral responsibility to speak and act on both environmental stewardship and justice for the world’s poor who are most vulnerable to climate change”.
This is a great first step in the right direction and a big win for the UK divestment campaign spearheaded by Operation Noah – a big shout out to all UK faith campaigners!
Bill McKibben put it well: “This is the first great turnaround in the divestment fight, an institution which initially refused to move and then, in good Christian fashion, saw the light”. Read more here.
New Zealand: Dunedin City Council divests!
On April 27th, the Dunedin City Council voted to divest its $82.5 million Waipori fund from fossil fuels. This is a huge win for New Zealand and sends a strong message to the industry that fossil fuels on their way out. Read more here.
BONUS: A brand new Fossil Free Japan campaign in the works…
Japan has an energy problem. 43 new coal plants are on the drawing board as power companies try to hold on to their centralized monopoly on power generation and distribution, while nuclear plants are moth-balled for re-start. Amidst the absurdity, people are standing up against coal and nuclear by pushing for a mass scale-up of renewable energy and launching a Fossil Free Japan campaign in Tokyo in the lead up to Paris. They’ll call on pension funds, public investment funds, universities, banks, and the Tokyo Olympics to divest from fossil fuels. This will be no small order but they’re hiring a Communications Specialist and Researcher to help mobilize for the campaign. Stay tuned for updates from Tokyo! Read more about Japan’s energy problem here.
That’s a wrap, folks! Until next time…
Today, a little over 6 months on from the canoe blockade, we are launching this new video to remind you of that strength, and of the Pacific Climate Warriors.In this new video, you hear from a few Climate Warriors who share with us, what that moment in Newcastle meant for them. Climate Warrior from Papua New Guinea, Arianne Kassman, shared her story, and boldly spoke truth to power by declaring, we are not drowning, we are fighting!