For 73 nights, young people from Ferguson and St. Louis have led nightly protests demanding justice for the killing of Mike Brown. A local tragedy had re-ignited the movement to fight systemic racism, and as the world was watching Ferguson, Hands Up United, Organization for Black Struggle, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Millennial Activists United, Lost Voices and many local groups invited people to join them in St. Louis for a “Weekend of Resistance”.
I went to Ferguson as part of a contingent of climate activists. I’m convinced that if we’re going to create the kind of change we want to see in the world, the climate movement needs to be firmly and outspokenly anti-racist.
The story of Mike Brown, a black teenager shot and killed by a police officer, is not unique. The experiences of police violence and racial profiling have led to countless deaths of Black and Brown people, and racism is systematically reinforced through incarceration.
As an Asian American and daughter of immigrants, fighting institutional racism and white supremacy is necessary for my own liberation. As a climate activist, first inspired to organize because of urban environmental health issues, the connection between racism and climate injustice is obvious.
On August 14th, a few days after Mike Brown’s death, cities around the country held vigils to remember the victims of police violence. I joined thousands of New Yorkers at Union Square and marched through the streets with our arms raised chanting “hands up, don’t shoot”. I was hesitant to raise my arms and the first moment I did, I was challenged to realize that I never had to fear the police for my or my family’s safety based on the color our skin. If I were Mike Brown, it’s unlikely that Darren Wilson would’ve shot me.
My decision to go to St Louis for #FergusonOctober was easy; I felt compelled to go. Ferguson October was powerful, emotional and inspiring. I felt grateful to listen to stories of local organizers, meet others who travelled to participate in the weekend of action and to support the climate contingent.
It became clear to me that the climate movement has a long way to go. Yet, with the People’s Climate March in our recent memory and increasing intentionality throughout the movement to elevate voices of frontline communities, I think we’re headed in the right direction.
I felt a lot of hope on Sunday night, starting at the Mass Meeting where more than a dozen faith leaders (plus Cornel West) were scheduled to speak. Everyone talked about the courage of the young people who’ve been putting their bodies on the line every night for over 60 days. Every night, they are met by riot police and have been tear gassed, hit with rubber bullets and arrested. However, there wasn’t space for them to speak for themselves. Eventually the hundreds of people in the crowd began chanting, “let them speak!”
The invited speakers sat silently, people in the crowd were having side conversations and the MCs temporarily left the stand to meet with local organizers. It definitely did not go ‘according to plan.’ A small group took the stage and movement elders welcomed them by giving up their seats. We chanted, “This is what democracy looks like.” There was a lot of tension and frustration in the room, but there was also accountability. When others in the audience interrupted with irrelevant and offensive comments, the crowd checked each other and escorted those individuals out. It was beautiful.
The power of that meeting was realized when later that night, one of the largest evening acts of civil disobedience related to Mike Brown and Vonderrick Myers took place. The same energy being carried into the next morning where hundreds of people stood in solidarity in cold, drenching rain with faith leaders and others who were risking arrest at the Ferguson police department and other locations throughout the city.
Tensions will exist not only within, but amongst movements. Solidarity organizing is hard. We must wrestle with and confront privilege, (continue to) provide political education to our base and share resources. But, if we are willing to listen, trust each other and admit when we’re wrong, our individual campaign work will become stronger and we’ll build more power necessary to fight the same systems of oppression.
We know the time for action on climate is now. 2014 has broken records for the warmest May, August, and September ever. With rising sea levels, severe droughts, superstorms, food shortages, extinction of species, large-scale health problems, and more — fighting the climate crisis is urgent. And that can only be done by going to the roots of the problem.
The most marginalized communities in our society — poor communities, communities of color, immigrants, queer and trans people, and the global south — are the most impacted by environmental destruction and the most vulnerable to climate chaos. Yet the most impacted are the least responsible. So, if we ask what the roots of the problem are, the answers are clear to me. Climate chaos will continue and exaggerate the oppression of the same people already forced to fight racism, classism, the patriarchy, xenophobia, and imperialism.
If the climate movement is truly a movement for justice, then standing with Ferguson and embracing anti-racism as a guiding principle in our local campaigns is not a choice, but a necessity for the climate movement to live our truth and build the future we want.
October 22nd is the next national day of action against police brutality. Talk to your friends and organize to see what you can do to support actions and campaigns in your area. Then, share stories and build the relationships needed to do the long-term movement-building work. We know it’s the ongoing campaign-work and solidarity-organizing that drives and directs our movement.
Last weekend, I met Auriel, who was born and raised in St. Louis and currently lives in Wichita. After work every weekend, she drives 6 hours to join the protests. At the end of our conversation she said, “I’m ready to do more.”
Auriel, So am I.
Indigenous peoples were at the frontlines of crisis, so they sounded the alarm. And wow, was it powerful.
One month ago, 400,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan to demand action on climate, and among them were communities that will be first and most impacted. Not only are these people at the frontlines of crisis; they’re also at the forefront of change. Watch these powerful videos to get a glimpse of indigenous communities sounding the alarm and leading the change at the People’s Climate March.
Thanks to our friends at Idle No More!
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For those of us lucky enough to be in Manhattan exactly one month ago today, perhaps the greatest moment of a great day was the surge of sound that followed our moment of silence.
The “People’s Climate Roar” began on Central Park West and then pulsed down Sixth Avenue and crashed through Times Square. That wave of sound symbolized two things:
1) We are sounding the alarm on climate change, the greatest problem the world has ever faced.
2) We are demonstrating the tide of anger, joy, and resolve that is going to do something about it.
And it wasn’t just us who thought it was so important. Here’s what other folks had to say:
- “Taking a Call for Climate Change to the Streets”, the front page New York Times story
- “Into the Streets”, a gorgeous 9-minute video about the march from our friends at Meerkat Media
- “Inside the ginormous, huge-tastic climate march”, a 24-minute radio program from Ben Wikler at The Good Fight
- “The Wisdom of the Crowd”, by Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker
- “Why you should be hopeful about the climate movement” by Todd Gitlin on Grist
- “People’s Climate March”, a short audio story by Bianca Giaever and friends on Cowbird
In the 30 days since the march:
- We’ve seen the greatest fossil fuel fortune on earth commit to divest from coal, oil, and gas — the Rockefellers, with their action, laid down a profound challenge to everyone else on the planet. If the family that built Exxon thinks it’s unwise and immoral to invest in fossil fuels, what excuse does anyone else have?
- We’ve watched divestment spread around the world: from Glasgow University to Australia’s National University, this movement has new beachheads — and new pushback from a scared and peevish fossil fuel industry. (If you ever wondered if divestment mattered, read this, right to the last sentence.)
- We’ve witnessed a rising pitch of action against the dirtiest fossil fuel projects on earth. In Canada they’re battling the Energy East pipeline with wit and savvy. And at the largest coal port on earth in Newcastle Australia, our friends from 12 low-lying Pacific nations used their traditional canoes to block massive coal ships. Check out this incredible picture of the action.
That picture from Australia joins the one from Sixth Avenue among the classic images of this explosive movement. But there are plenty of others, and we’re pretty sure some of them are on your phones and computers. This is a chance to share some of the great pictures from the People’s Climate March before you forget about them.
We all need the inspiration, because this fight is for real. September was the hottest September ever recorded; it looks like 2014 may be the hottest year in history.
The only way to fight that is to make 2015 hotter still — for the politicians and the corporations that will wreck our world if we let them.
Thanks to you, and to the 400,000 in the streets of New York: game on!
Bill McKibben for the team at 350.org
P.S. The basic energy for movements come from people’s hearts and souls and feet — but they run on money too, so if you want to kick in, here’s the place.
GÖTEBORG, Sweden- The international divestment movement and the Swedish fair pension campaign #schysstapensioner campaign are celebrating a major win today as the Second AP Fund – one of several Swedish national pension funds – announced it would begin divesting from fossil fuels.
In a move designed to reduce the financial risks of its investments in fossil fuel-based energy, the Second AP Fund announced today it will no longer have investments in 12 coal and 8 oil-and-gas production companies. This represents a divestment of holdings with a total market value of about SEK 840 million (€91 million or $116 million).
Following a comprehensive risk analysis of all Second AP Fund holdings in fossil-fuel based energy companies, based on climate impact, the Fund has decided that divestment was the prudent option.
“Our starting point for this analysis has been to determine the financial risks associated with the energy sector. By not investing in a number of companies, we are reducing our exposure to risk constituted by fossil-fuel based energy. This decision will help to protect the Fund’s long-term return on investment,” says Eva Halvarsson, CEO of the Second AP Fund.
The majority of the turnover generated by the coal-production companies identified in the Fund’s analysis derives from the sale of thermal coal. These companies face considerable climate-related financial risk, due to the negative environmental and health impacts of coal, which affect demand. Furthermore, coal-powered electricity production is subject to competition from gas and renewable energy.
In the case of oil-and-gas companies, the Fund had “identified a number of companies featuring substantial exposure in high-cost projects, such as oil-extraction from oil sands. The Fund believes these companies face serious climate-related financial risks and that it is highly likely that these projects may either be stranded or unprofitable”.
The Fund’s holdings in the 20 companies that have been identified amount to a total market value of about SEK 840 million.
“Today’s announcement shows the writing is on the wall for the fossil fuel industry. The Second AP fund has taken an important first step in recognising that it’s financially irresponsible to invest money that is meant to provide for people’s futures in the very companies fuelling the climate crisis that threatens this future. All AP Funds need to follow their lead now by phasing out investments in fossil fuels and supporting a just transition to a livable future instead.” Olivia Linander, Fossil Free Sweden campaign coordinator
There are some days that leave you changed for a lifetime. Friday was one of those.
The 350 Pacific Climate Warriors paddled out into the Port of Newcastle, followed by hundreds of Australians and came head to head with gigantic coal ships. It truly was David versus Goliath. Here’s how it looked:
The courage of the Pacific Warriors was on full display as they came face to face with the fossil fuel industry which is threatening their homes.
Using hand carved canoes the Warriors, along with dozens of Australians in kayaks, were able to prevent 10 scheduled ships from passing through the Newcastle coal port. But most importantly, the Warriors stood tall and their message was heard loud and clear: they are not drowning, they are fighting.
The action continues this week, and you can hear the story first hand from the Pacific Warriors this week - at one of the speaking events: in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.
For the hundreds of people who joined the Warriors, we thank you. As the Warriors continue their journey, help us tell their courageous story - share the Warrior’s story with your friends and ask them to stand with the Warriors. The Warriors will continue to fight, but they can not do it alone.
Watch these powerful speeches from the night before Pacific Warriors came face to face with the biggest threat to their homes
These Pacific Warriors did something incredibly brave and inspiring in their fight to defend their homes and ways of life. Hear what they had to say the night before they faced off against the world’s largest coal port, then show the world you stand with them.
Via Mark Doyle
Seia Mikaele Maiava has always known that his place was in Tokelau, not only serving his people, but also serving his people to the best of his abilities. For Mika, this sense of service meant taking leadership roles in working with indigenous peoples rights, as well as mobilising people in the climate movement across the Pacific region and the world.
He was born and raised in Nukunonu, Tokelau and is of mixed heritage with roots tracing back to Samoa. He is a very spiritual man grounded in his sense of purpose and leadership.
Mika is also one of the 30 Climate Warriors from across the Pacific who will be using 5 traditional canoes to paddle into the oncoming path of coal ships in an effort to shut down the world’s largest coal port, for a day.
“These canoes represent our elders, our people and our land. This is such an emotional time knowing that with these canoes, the work of our elders will be used to make a stand and send our message on climate change to the world, saying we are not drowning, we are fighting.”
“Climate change is threatening our food security, our culture, our land and our identity. The fossil fuel industry and Australia’s continued commitment to its expansion, is directly increasing that threat.”
He decided to be part of this flotilla because it was a chance for him to protect his home.
“I am inspired to know that standing up for the Pacific, will give a chance for our future generations to call Tokelau, home.”
He has witnessed the impacts of climate change firsthand. Food security for him and his family is threatened because of sea level rise and the increased frequency of droughts on the atoll island.
Mika knows that his involvement with the climate movement, is his calling. This is what he needs to do protect his home, his family, his culture and traditions, his land and his identity.
For a lot of Pacific Islanders, the land to which they belong is everything, and the threat climate change poses on what is rightfully theirs, drives him to do what he can for the islands- and for now, that means stopping coal ships with canoes.
My name is Milañ Loeak, I’m from the Marshall Islands, and I bring you a message on behalf of my Climate Warrior brothers and sisters from across Oceania.
You’ve probably heard it all before — that the climate is changing, that the ocean is rising, that my home in the islands will be the first to go. But the people of the Pacific are not drowning, we are fighting. And the biggest threat to our homes is the fossil fuel industry.
So here’s how we’re fighting back: there’s a coal port in Newcastle, Australia and it’s the largest in the world, shipping approximately 560,000 tonnes of coal every single day. If the port were a country, it would be the 9th highest emitting country in the world.
That’s why I have travelled to Australia to shut it down for a day. Using traditional canoes, I and 30 other Pacific Climate Warriors are going to paddle into the oncoming path of coal ships. Behind us will be hundreds of Australians in kayaks, on surfboards and whatever else they can find, united with us as we stand up to the fossil fuel industry.
The fossil fuel industry will try to dismiss us. They will launch their PR machine to say that we are just a small group acting alone and that we do not speak for others. But we know that we are not acting alone. We are standing with front line communities around the world when we say it is time to end our addiction to fossil fuels before it destroys our homes, our communities and our culture.
As the Pacific Climate Warriors paddle into the water on October 17th, show that you stand with us – click here to find out how!
Stopping one day of coal exports alone won’t keep our homes above water, but it marks the rise of the Pacific Climate Warriors, and the beginning of our defence of the Pacific Islands.
I ask you to join us in this fight – because we cannot save the Pacific Islands on our own.
“When did it become acceptable to move people away from their birth place, away from the land of their forefathers, away from the birth of their traditions and cultures, and away from the land that forms the basis of their identity?”
These are questions that 24 year old Climate Warrior from Papua New Guinea (PNG) Arianne Kassman, are asking Australia, and the larger fossil fuel industry, that continuously exports destruction onto her part of the Pacific.
Arianne, and 29 other Pacific Climate Warriors, have organised a flotilla of traditionally made canoes that will peacefully be used to stop coal ships coming out of the port of Newcastle, on the 17th of October.
Earlier this year, Arianne successfully set up a 350.org volunteer group in PNG. She did this in order to organize and mobilize more young people around the country to fight to keep their islands above water.
“The effects of climate change are all too real for PNG. Rising sea levels, inland flooding and landslides are occurring all over the country affecting the lives of the people.”
In an interview on Australia’s Prime 7 News, Arianne spoke about the impacts of climate change in PNG and what it meant for their cultures and traditions.
She fully believes in the role of young people in protecting their island homes. The group of climate warriors are standing up for the Pacific and demanding that the fossil fuel industry stop its dangerous plans for expansion.
“We are in Newcastle to highlight the impacts of climate change in the islands and also point out that Australia’s continued commitment to the expansion of the coal industry and increasing coal exports is worsening the impacts of climate change, not only in PNG, but across the Pacific region.”
These images look like they’re from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but they were actually taken this year
These photographs look like they came straight out of the Great Depression, but they’re actually from this year. This harrowing video shows a bleak, drought-stricken future for California farmers and the United States’ breadbasket unless we taken serious action (including putting a stop to fracking, and we should probably stop watering lawns and golf courses while we’re at it).
I’m not kidding – it’s so dry that farmers are running out of tumbleweed to feed their livestock. That means we’re talking *really* dry, folks.
Courtesy of The New Yorker
Photos by Matt Black and Ed Kashi
This is a guest post by Matheson Russell. Matheson is a member of the Anglican church in Auckland, New Zealand and coordinated the successful call for the Anglican Diocese of Auckland to become the first organisation in New Zealand to vote to divest from fossil fuels. He is also a 350 Aotearoa Board member. (Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand.)
The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand voted to divest its funds from coal, oil and gas companies at its biennial General Assembly in Auckland, and encouraged its church members to do the same with their personal investments.
Rev. Bruce Hamill who introduced the motion to the floor of the Presbyterian General Assembly explained: “The Church has previously committed itself to act to help reduce the threat of climate change. There is clear scientific consensus that climate change, driven by human activity, is increasing. To avoid a catastrophe we need to limit global warming to 2C, which will require that up to 80 per cent of known fuel reserves stay in the ground.”
The Presbyterian Church becomes the second major denomination in New Zealand to go fossil free, following the decision of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to divest in May. Last month the New Zealand Quakers also endorsed the divestment movement.Faith communities taking the lead in Australia & New Zealand
Just as faith communities in New Zealand have led the charge on divestment, across the Tasman Sea in Australia churches are also at the forefront of the movement.
The Uniting Church in NSW & ACT—an amalgamation of the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches—became one of the first institutions worldwide to embrace the step of divesting when it opted out of fossil fuel investments in April 2013. Since then the Uniting Church investment body, UCA Funds Management, announced in February it would pull out of thermal coal and unconventional oil investments, and in July this year the church’s national body, the Uniting Church in Australia, agreed to divest.
Uniting Church President Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney celebrated the steps taken by his church: “With national governments reluctant to take difficult decisions, it falls to us as members of the body of Christ to show leadership in taking action to reduce damaging pollution. … Our partner churches in the small island states have been calling on Australia to take seriously the threat to their futures. We simply must act. This is a matter of social, environmental, and intergenerational justice.”
The Anglicans in Australia are not far behind the Uniting Church. The Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn and the Perth Diocese of the Anglican Church have passed divestment motions at their annual Synods in the past few weeks, taking up the encouragement of the national church’s Public Affairs Commission.Industrial kickback to the “new morality”
The coal industry is hitting back against the divestment movement in Australia, attacking institutional investors and universities moving towards divestment and even hitting out at the churches. After the steps taken by the Uniting Church in NSW & ACT last year, the then CEO of the Australian Coal Association, Nikki Williams, labelled divestment campaigners “anti-development activists attempting to bludgeon society” with “a new morality of industrial sabotage.”
But churches see things differently. From their perspective the industrialized world’s love affair with fossil fuels is sabotaging God’s creation and rapidly diminishing its capacity to sustain life. Church leaders have heard the message of the scientific community and they understand that climate change threatens to devastate communities in the least advantaged corners of the globe.
As Rev. Hamill told the Presbyterian assembly: “Global climate change will disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable – not least in the islands of the Pacific where sea level rise poses a grave threat – and is one of the most serious challenges to global health and social justice in human history.”Faith communities at the vanguard
Catholic leaders, including the Pope, have made supportive noises in the struggle for climate justice. But until the Vatican throws its weight behind the divestment campaign, it is unlikely that Catholic churches around the globe will add significantly to the wave of faith-based institutional support being led thus far by Protestant denominations.
But whether the Catholic church moves sooner or later, faith communities around the world will continue to be at the vanguard of the fossil fuel divestment movement. That’s because faith groups pride themselves on placing moral convictions at the core of their decision making, and they have a long history of innovation in ethical investment. These two factors mean that faith groups are ideally placed to set the pace in the rapidly growing movement.
But what form will the next wave of faith-based action take once the divestment debates have been won?
In Australia and New Zealand the momentum from faith-based groups may swing behind other divestment campaigns targeting banks, superannuation funds, and other sources of finance for the fossil fuel industry. But it is likely we will also see an escalation of climate activism in other forms.
Australian church leaders have recently begun to embrace direct action as a strategy in the Love Makes A Way campaign aimed at convincing the Australian Government to release asylum seekers from mandatory detention. Could we see faith leaders Down Under raise the stakes over climate action in the same way?
Faith-based activism will not convert the fossil fuel industry, but it can help win the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens. When faith communities are engaged, a moral force is released that is hard to resist. Cranky Christians powered by the Holy Spirit and egg sandwiches cut into quarters are a formidable foe. Working together with the global community of climate activists, we have the power to defeat the fossil fuel lobby and protect God’s precious gift, our beautiful home.
30 Pacific Climate Warriors made their way to the Leard State Forest to stop climate change where it starts. The Warriors stood in solidarity with the campaign to stop the construction of Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek Coal Mine and the ongoing operation and expansion of Idemitsu’s Boggabri Coal.
The Climate Warriors witnessed firsthand the mass destruction of Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek Project and Idemitsu’s Boggabri Coal mines. Both projects have resulted in the clearing of the Leard State Forest to make way for open cut coal mines.
The Climate Warriors joined community members, supported by the Leard Forest Alliance, including 350.org and Front Line Action on Coal, who have been campaigning against the operation of these mines for over two years. They have journeyed to Australia to stand up to the fossil fuel industry, fighting for the protection of their land, oceans, cultures and way of life.
“We have to find ways to keep coal and gas in the ground. People all around the world are recognising this and taking action to challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry. For us Pacific Islanders, there is nothing more urgent or necessary.” said Mikaele Maiava, climate warrior from Tokelau.
Combined the Whitehaven and Idemitsu projects plan to extract over 22 million tonnes of coal, creating a greenhouse gas impact greater than that of 165 individual nations. Those emissions will lead to sea level rises, and more intense storms and floods, which are already hurting Pacific communities.
The thirty Pacific Climate Warriors have planned to peacefully blockade the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle on the 17th of October and will call on Australia to stop its destructive expansion of fossil fuels causing climate change. Take solidarity actions and follow the warriors on 350.org/warriors
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This infographic shows us why we really need to reduce the risks of hurricane destruction in the first place
The last 10 years brought us 15 of the worst hurricanes ever recorded in the United States. They claimed more than 2,000 lives, destroyed millions of homes, and cost $310 billion in damages. These losses show us why the cost of not acting on climate change, which is likely to increase the number and intensity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, is just too great.
And if anyone *still* needs convincing, this infographic says it all.
Courtesy of the UNC School of Government’s Online Master of Public Administration Program
Share image via Scott Olson/Getty Images
The European Union is attempting to throw open its doors to dirty tar sands oil, by abandoning its plan to label tar sands oil as highly polluting. After years of frustrating delays for climate campaigners, the EU appears to be caving in to intense lobbying efforts by oil giants and the Canadian government to ensure a European market for tar sands from Alberta.
The move represents a shocking U-turn against the European Unions’ own proposals for Fuel Quality standards which would have differentiated between fuels based on their carbon-intensity in an attempt to reduce Europe’s transport emissions by 6% by 2020. Their own experts and investigations had already concluded in 2011 that fuel from tar sands oil contained at least 21% more carbon than other forms of transport fuel.
Despite a five year battle by environmental groups in Canada and Europe to correctly label oil from the Alberta tar sands as more polluting than conventional crude, today’s proposal from the EU Commission shows this wording has been removed from the bloc’s Fuel Quality Directive. Instead the proposal only requires refiners to report an average of the feedstock used in fuels.
This move represents one more nail in the coffin of crucial EU climate legislation and exposes the power of the fossil fuel industry to halt progress on climate change. For years campaigners across Europe have argued that closing off European markets to tar sands oil was crucial in halting the expansion of the Albertan tar sands industry, which former NASA Director James Hansen has dubbed ‘game over for the climate’.
Now the door seems wide open and in fact, just days ahead of the announcement, Exxon announced it would begin work to upgrade an Antwerp refinery, hoping to increase production of hydrocarbon fluids by nearly 10%. Some tar sands oil has already started arriving into Europe this year through ports in Spain.
The Commission’s revised proposal still has to be debated by member states through a fast-track procedure meant to take less than two months and it also needs a sign off from the European Parliament.
The University of Glasgow has become the first university in Europe to divest from the fossil fuel industry. After a year of student campaigning the University Court has voted today to begin divesting its entire £129 million endowment from fossil fuels. This is a major victory for the UK and Europe’s rapidly growing fossil fuel divestment movement.
“We are delighted that the University of Glasgow has decided to take a committed stance against climate change and cut its financial ties with the fossil fuel industry. This is huge step for the Fossil Free campaign in the UK and we hope that our university will serve as a role model for other universities,” Sophie Baumert, Glasgow University Climate Action Society.
The University of Glasgow joins thirteen US universities including Stanford, who have already committed to divest from the fossil fuel industry. As of September 19th 2014, 181 institutions and 656 individuals, representing over $50 billion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels. These institutions and individuals come from a diverse range of sectors and backgrounds, including universities, faith-based organizations, philanthropies, health-care providers, local governments, and NGOs.
“Divestment now has a firm foothold in the UK. Student and academic pressure to get out of fossil fuels is building across the sector. It’s time to stop profiting from wrecking the climate, whether you’re an institution with lots of money like Oxford or Edinburgh, or a world leader in climate research such as the University of East Anglia. Glasgow has helped make the moral case crystal clear and we expect more universities to very soon put their money where their research is.” Andrew Taylor, People & Planet
Glasgow University’s decision to divest comes after a campaign led by Glasgow Climate Action Society involving over 1,300 Glasgow students and staff which started with Freedom of Information requests, and quickly led to banner drops, fake oil spills, flash mobs, and rallies.
June of this year saw the university of Glasgow’s Investment Advisement Committee – a subcommittee of University Court who were instructed to consider the financial implications of divestment and whether it is in line with the university’s values – recommend full divestment of fossil fuel, as well as re-investment in green industries where possible.
‘Among students the argument about whether climate change exists is not really happening – people have read the academic papers and are not in any doubt. We started out as a small group, but the campaign quickly gained traction.’ Callum Shaw, Glasgow Climate Action Society
In the week leading up to the decision the University received hundreds of messages from students and the public urging them to divest including author and social activist Naomi Klein and the leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett.
“Congratulations to the successful student lead campaign which will see the University of Glasgow divest 18 million pounds from fossil fuels – the first university in Europe to take this step.
Glasgow University is joining the fast growing global divestment movement providing much needed hope to the prospect of climate action.” Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything and No Logo.
The campaign at the University of Glasgow 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.
In the past twelve months the People & Planet network have launched over 50 Fossil Free campaigns across the UK involving over 15,000 students. During the summer the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) become the first UK university to take any action; freezing new investments in the fossil fuel industry. SOAS is expected to make a decision on divestment in the next month.
Decisions are also imminent from a hand full of other institutions including the University of Edinburgh, who conducted a university wide student and staff consultation in which respondents overwhelmingly supported divestment. Oxford University and its colleges, with investments of £3.8 billion, have the largest endowment wealth of any UK higher education institution. The university is currently conducting a staff only consultation on divestment, after almost 2,000 Oxford students and academics joined a campaign calling for divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
The movement to divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean alternatives has gained remarkable speed; doubling in size since January 2014. Alongside students a diverse group of philanthropies, religious, health and environmental organisations, from around the globe are driving the movement. In the UK a range of non-academic institutions including the British Medical Association, Oxford City Council and the Quakers have already committed to divest.
Today, October 7th, Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrates his 83rd birthday, and he’s got an important message for you. Watch him lay it down on “the human rights challenge of our time” in the video below.
Happy birthday to one of our most incredible climate leaders!
Courtesy of Fenton Communications
Vattenfall’s plans to grow its coal mining operations in Germany’s Lausitz region were cast into doubt today. The newly-elected Swedish government, made up of Social Democrats and Greens, is calling on the state-owned energy giantVattenfall to “terminate the expansion of brown coal” – otherwise known as lignite.
The move calls into question the company’s plans to enlarge its mines in east Germany, though campaigners point out there has been no statement on what the government intends to do with the existing vast lignite mines already operated by Vattenfall, leaving the door open to their resale.
While it remains to be seen what happens to individual projects – including in Lausitz – all of Sweden’s leading political parties have previously shown support for halting expansion in the region, indicating it could be the beginning of the end for this out-dated energy source.
“The Swedish decision is a great success for the anti-coal protest and underlines that the coal age is ending. If Germany is taking its climate targets seriously, it also needs to prepare for an exit from coal.” – Greenpeace energy expert Anike Peters
The end of Vattenfall’s dirty coal expansion signals Sweden’s first step in the vital clean energy transition, as the new government moves towards 100% renewables. Lignite is the one of the dirtiest forms of energy, and each year, Vattenfall’s existing coal plants in the Lausitz region release as much CO2 as the whole of Sweden.
Proposing a halt to lignite expansion, the new Swedish government stressed Vattenfall’s “future must lie in the development of renewable energies, and not in coal and gas,” recognising the need to transition away from harmful fossil fuels and towards clean energy sources.
The government’s expressed shift to renewables shows that leaders are beginning to listen to citizens’ call for an end to dirty energy. The vast majority of Swedes oppose Vattenfall’s new mining plans, and last month thousands of people joined an 8km Human Chain stretching across the German-Polish border resisting the expansion of lignite.
If left to go ahead, the plans would decimate entire villages, ruin livelihoods, cause significant risk to public health and threaten the EU’s climate targets. This week’s announcement has been welcomed as a “great success” for the protesters, and an important signal that “the age of coal is over”.
A messsage from Sophie Baumert, a student divestment organiser from Glasgow Uni Climate Action society:
Over the last year, we have been campaigning for the university to divest its money from the main cause of climate change – fossil fuel companies. Glasgow uni holds investments in the fossil fuel industry worth about £18 million. The profits made by our uni from an industry which is leading us towards a climate crisis are unethical.
After a year of hard work the University Court will finally make its decision on divestment this Wednesday. It is the most important, far-reaching decision that it has faced in decades. They will either vote for a stable future and sustainable planet, or to profit from wrecking the climate.
We are having a demo this Tuesday (7th October) to let the student body know about what is going on and put pressure on the university.
Please flood the University of Glasgow with tweets NOW. Let the university know that everyone’s watching them and that they cannot make a decision behind closed doors.
<img class="CToWUd" src="https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=3065aa7de3&view=fimg&th=148e5c5b5e5d504c&attid=0.1&disp=emb&attbid=ANGjdJ_ksOaXSbEE8aTYpRCUXIcb8TQfoAgyefdJ-Qdkw3suR9wux5n5wEPF720DmQxUePO4SyJ3OFL1GbKztS2l9wWK8dDhOAsmjFBrT9sxMuuG2ikEYMbfts5H3f4&sz=-w1600-h1000&ats=1412604215342&rm=148e5c5b5e5d504c&zw&atsh=1" alt="Tweet: .@GlasgowUni Stop
funding climate change, divest from fossil fuels #UGfossilfree
#UofGworldchangers ” width=”15″ height=”15″ />Stop funding climate change, divest from fossil fuels
<img class="CToWUd" src="https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=3065aa7de3&view=fimg&th=148e5c5b5e5d504c&attid=0.1&disp=emb&attbid=ANGjdJ9qJ15FI64eLnb-u6EvGiG2udPRuUdqxykAr1vpkY0-ukxOv85632FrgDSlPyvheXJJeCwoGLMMqKgv6ysBfjkvlmmqTk8hTYj5Eizy4ZBSxzMa-KL_qc6yc-E&sz=-w1600-h1000&ats=1412604215342&rm=148e5c5b5e5d504c&zw&atsh=1" alt="Tweet: Over £18 million
invested in coal, oil and gas not acceptable for a “green”
institution? Divest! #UGfossilfree #UofGworldchangers ” width=”15″ height=”15″ />Over £18 million invested in coal, oil and gas not acceptable for a “green” institution?
<img class="CToWUd" src="https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=3065aa7de3&view=fimg&th=148e5c5b5e5d504c&attid=0.1&disp=emb&attbid=ANGjdJ9_k_FnFR9nSP9DevT5M9siD5I4pBzUeMiFVNqSOFFWy3MR9ekrv4RVf7LDfMOED6MSlILKYE7x82O-Kul1uTUfSxzWy1-C32_ajo-zZEp_lTiIqzj8ck7iCs4&sz=-w1600-h1000&ats=1412604215342&rm=148e5c5b5e5d504c&zw&atsh=1" alt="Tweet: .@GlasgowUni Our
endowment, our future. Stop investing in fossil fuels.
#UGfossilfree #UofGworldchangers ” width=”15″ height=”15″ />Our endowment, our future. Stop investing in fossil fuels.
Next time you hear from us it will be with good news.
More than 400,000 people took the streets of New York City on September 21 to demand climate action two days before heads of state met for a Climate Summit at the United Nations. In solidarity with this massive march, more than 2,600 events took place in 162 countries – including Brazil – to protest against international apathy toward fighting climate change.
The goal of U.N. Climate Summit, called for by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, was to give a boost to U.N. climate negotiations with hopes to cement a strong global treaty in Paris by 2015, avoiding a failure like that in Copenhagen back in 2009.
The strategy was to get commitments from the nearly 120 heads of state who participated in the summit. However, no commitment came from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
Only two days after the large-scale climate mobilisation, the Brazilian leader surprised the international community by refusing to sign a document in which countries committed to halve deforestation by 2020 and eliminate it by by 2030 – a measure that could avoid the emission of approximately 4.5 to 8.8 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
This refusal worried national institutions, which expressed their opposition to the president’s decision.
LACK OF ACTION
“It is more than clear that the greatest risk to development is the lack of action. This is a challenge for everyone, especially for the largest greenhouse gas emitters, such as Brazil. Definitely, President Dilma did not meet the expectations of society”, declared the Observatório do Clima, a network of Brazilian civil society organizations that acts on climate change and seeks to promote effective public policies.
For those who know the current political situation in Brazil, Rousseff’s decision was not a surprise. On the eve of presidential elections – with the first round scheduled for October 5 – the Brazilian leader is steering away from causing any discomfort to her supporters. Polls indicate a very close race between her and former environment minister and activist Marina Silva.
In addition, a significant portion of the president’s supporters include the so-called “rural barons”, or agribusiness representatives in Brazil. Rousseff’s support for an agreement curbing deforestation would mean alienating this influential group and a loss of votes in the upcoming elections.
Considered the largest business sector in Brazil, agribusiness is currently responsible for 23 percent of Brazil’s GDP. But it is also the main source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. According to the Observatório do Clima, the sector is responsible for 59 percent of Brazil’s emissions, in part because expansion of farming and cattle pastures often comes at the expense of forests.
Besides contributing to climate change, the rural barons are also responsible for serious social problems, such as relying on low-cost labour that amounts to slavery, making them the target of demonstrations led by social and environmental non-governmental organisations.
One such protest is the Não Vote em Ruralista (Don’t Vote for Rural Barons) campaign. Emerging on the eve of the elections, it is a campaign involving many civil society organisations aimed at raising public awareness about climate problems exacerbated by agribusiness.
“This is the right moment for society ask for a reduction of the climate impacts that agribusiness generates. The elections will happen in a few days and diminishing the power of the rural baron politicians through voting is one of the ways to have a fairer and more sustainable society” said Nicole Oliveira, the Latin America spokesperson for 350.org, one of the NGOs involved in organising the campaign.
“Brazil urgently needs to change its agriculture and cattle breeding development model and cut emissions before it is too late. These elections are a chance to put this issue at the forefront of the political discussions,” Oliveira said.
Article previously released on Thonson Reuters Foundation