Groups of citizens have been organizing worldwide to fight against fossil fuel industry's negative impacts on their lives. These impacts are either direct—through expropriations of land and development of infrastructure against the will of the population—or indirect—through their role in the sharp increase of climate-altering emissions threatening health and livelihoods worldwide.
These movements are often born spontaneously in response to a present challenge or threat. Through grassroot organizing, the impact of a handful of determined citizens can grow dramatically and has, in many instances, forced fossil fuel companies to abandon projects, deal with less and less private investments or defend themselves in courts.
Here are three stories from the Philippines, Brazil and the U.S. that show how small groups of determined people have taken on large corporations and shifted the local economic and political context.
The videos have been produced by 350.org as part of the Fossil Free campaign.
Since 2015, citizens of Atimonan, Quezon province, in the Philippines, have been opposing the construction of a 1,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant.
Despite the determination of government authorities at national and provincial level to move forward with the project, the citizens of Atimonan and of the whole province have organized rallies in front of one of the banks funding the project, disrupted a meeting of the provincial board and overall voiced their concern and opposition.
Father Puno, of the Our Lady of the Angels parish in Atimonan, has been one of the most vocal regarding the potentially nefarious impacts of the future power plant, organizing a prayer-vigil attended by more than 1,500 people.
While opposing coal as an energy source, local parishioners have also discovered solar power and decided to install solar panels on the roof of the church, turning their stewardship for natural resources and people's health into a message in support of a fast and just 100 percent renewable energy transition for all.
The citizens of Peruíbe, in the Southeast region of Brazil, have been actively resisting the development of a new thermoelectric power plant, which would have been one of the largest of its kind. Citizens have organized themselves, putting pressure on city councilors to approve an amendment to the municipal law that would prevent other large polluting projects from being built in the city.
After a complicated legislative process, which lasted months, the city council finally approved unanimously the amendment.
Peruíbe has clean and sustainable energy to spare and holds unquestionable tourist potential. The region is one of the last reserves of continuous Brazilian Atlantic rain forest in the world, and more than half of the city's territory is in a preservation area.
The controversial industrial project, estimated at R$ 5 billion, was proposed by Gastrading Comércio de Energia, and it would have generated up to 1.7 gigawatts of energy.
New York, New York
In January 2018 the Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio made two important announcements. The first one was that the city would divest its assets from fossil fuel companies.
The second one was that the city had filed a lawsuit in federal courts against the five fossil fuel companies identified as the most responsible for global warming: ExxonMobil, BP, Conoco Phillips, Shell and Chevron.
These announcements came after years of grassroots organizing and it was celebrated as a victory by the many citizen groups that had been mobilizing to push the city to take this decision.
The divestment movement in New York dates back years, driven among other things by the impacts that Hurricane Sandy had on New York and its citizens: more than 100 dead in New York and surrounding areas; an estimated damage of more than $40bn; 100,000 houses damaged of which 2,000 rendered uninhabitable.
The awareness that climate change had played a major role in creating the conditions for Hurricane Sandy to develop and grow in strength convinced many New Yorkers to hit the streets asking the city not to give a penny more to dirty energy.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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