By Nicole Leonard
To close out 2019, we wanted to do something special. It's not just the end of the year — it's the end of an incredible decade of climate activism and a transition to the next. The challenge ahead is enormous, but if this year has taught us anything, it's that more of us than ever before are ready to rise.
So enjoy the top 10 people-powered moments of 2019 from around the world. And for highlights from the last 10 years, be sure to checkout the 350.org 10-year timeline.
We'll be back in 2020 with more Fossil Free News updates from around the world. From everyone at 350.org, we wish you a healthy, happy new decade – with climate justice for all.
1. Brazilian States Ban Fracking
In a historic victory after years of campaigning, the state of Paraná in Brazil passed a law in July to permanently ban fracking – and Santa Catarina state followed weeks later. It means Latin America's largest shale reserves will go untapped, with 18 million people safe from the direct impacts of fracking. The wins energized a national debate to ban fracking across the whole country; municipal bans have already passed in hundreds of cities and towns across Brazil. Read more.
2. Divestment Milestone
In September, the amount investors committed to divest from oil, coal, and gas companies reached more than $11 trillion USD, blowing past the goal set last year of $10 trillion divested by the end of 2020. And since September, we've already hit $12 trillion! Follow the cities, companies, and institutions divesting with our divestment commitment tracker.
3. Promise to Protect
Indigenous leaders and allies held a March-May training tour for 1,160 people in nine U.S. cities. They were answering the call to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and protect water and ancestral lands. Construction continues to be debated and delayed – but people across the U.S. are prepared for creative resistance in case it resumes. Watch the wrap-up video from the tour.
4. Lamu, Saved
After years of resistance, in June a Kenya tribunal cancelled a developer's license to build a new coal plant at Lamu, a stunning coastal UNESCO world heritage site. It was a huge victory, made even sweeter by the fact that the court recognized the lack of public participation and risks to people and the environment. See the celebration.
5. Williams Pipeline Moratorium
Activists pushed New York's Governor to halt the Williams Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline, which would bring fracked gas to New York City. The company has re-applied for construction permits, but people are demanding a permanent ban and a Green New Deal to make sure it never gets built. Watch the recap.
6. Afrika Vuka Launch
A new platform to unite grassroots campaigns across Africa is bringing together learnings and resources from groups working to halt fossil fuel infrastructure and promote a transition to renewable energy. Thanks to local campaigning, in April South Africa's Nedbank became the first African bank to stop project financing for coal, after they decided not to fund Thabametsi and Khanyisa coal plants.
7. Fossil Free EIB
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the world's biggest international public bank and the €555 billion lending arm of the European Union. Thousands of people pressured the bank to axe fossil fuels from its lending policy, and last month it permanently ended support for most fossil fuel projects! Read more.
8. Asian Banks Dump Coal
The world's fifth largest bank, Japan's MUFG, tightened its lending policy in May, when it announced an end to new project finance for coal power. Campaigners continue to target the Asian banks financing coal, especially in Japan. And we're chipping away: Singapore's big three banks also announced ending financing to new coal plants earlier this year.
9. Europe’s Gas Does Not Pass
Three iconic fights against gas won big victories in Europe this year. The MidCat pipeline between Spain and France, and Gothenburg terminal in Sweden were both cancelled, while fracking was banned in the UK. Read more.
10. Millions Strike for the Climate
September's climate strikes were groundbreaking, with 7.6 million people in 185 countries taking part. Together, we snatched front pages of news outlets around the globe and put the fossil fuel industry on notice, setting the tone for what's to come. Read more.
A Decade of Climate Action
Back in 2009, at the end of the last decade, the climate movement was small and scrappy. Together, we've grown into a diverse, powerful movement ready to take on the fossil fuel industry into the 2020s: a mission-critical decade for averting the worst of climate crisis.
Take a look at 350.org's path through the past decade and the people-powered wins we've celebrated along the way.
That's all for now. See you in the new year!
Yes, yes—it can feel daunting. The climate crisis is more urgent than it's ever been. Some days we feel like we're making good progress, when we hear of countries powered by 100 percent renewable energy or a big commitment to take on fossil fuel corporations from a city like New York. But other days, it's a heavy burden knowing there's so much more that needs to be done to unseat the fossil fuel industry and move to a just, Fossil Free, renewably-powered world.
Last weekend, we saw how national and international leadership keeps failing to meaningfully address the problem. While the Paris agreement rightly acknowledged how much damage we'll see in a 2-degree warmer world, it's not clear that process is going to be enough to stop it from happening.
So people are trying something new. The We Are Still In coalition in the U.S. unites local governments, businesses, civil society and non-state actors to work together and overcome limited national means. In the international C40 Cities network, mayors of iconic cities around the globe are pushing for fossil fuel divestment. Gov. Jerry Brown of California is hosting a summit in San Francisco in September to bypass the national and "take ambition to the next level." And of course, grassroots movements, from Kenya to the Philippines to Brazil, are securing important wins.
All these local efforts—and so many others of varying form and size across the globe—give us hope. People power is keeping us in the game. By speaking truth to power and working tirelessly in our communities and with local governments, we can create the change we want to see. We're not falling for empty words. We know the solutions are simple: ambitious and just renewable commitments, "no" to all new fossil fuel projects, and an end to finance for the fossil fuel industry.
So, don't get discouraged. Here's what you can do right now for an injection of hope:
1. Start or Join a Fossil Free Group Near You
Often, we only catch the headlines—but behind the scenes, groups of people are learning together how to effect real change in their communities with targeted, local campaigns. Start here—and check out some of the amazing tools and the network of groups already out there to help you get started.
2. Join or Organize a Local Rise for Climate Action Where You Live on September 8
Ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, the climate movement is gearing up for a huge day of action. With 3 months still to go, 100 actions around the world are already organized—but we know we can scale it to more than 1,000. This is a chance to get creative and come together with friends and your community: All you need to know is here.
3. Spread the Word About #RiseforClimate on Social Media
Don't underestimate the power of keeping the conversation going, sharing personal stories and amplifying other inspiring voices from around the world. Find sample graphics, video, text and lots more to help you spread the word here. And if you're in California, join the in-person mass mobilization.
When you think of states that have made a heavy investment in solar energy, Virginia may not be at the top of your list. Yet in recent years, Virginians have made a massive amount of progress; in 2019, the state was ranked No. 19 in the country for solar installation, and in 2020 it jumped to No. 4.
But what are the top cities for solar in Virginia? We've done some digging and come up with a comprehensive list.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Virginia
When narrowing down the top cities for solar in Virginia, EcoWatch took into consideration solar power generation data from the Energy Information Institute, maps on solar irradiance and potential from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, local government websites and Environment America's latest Shining Cities report.
Based on this information, the top cities for solar in Virginia are as follows:
- Virginia Beach
- Newport News
Virginia's capital city ranks first in the state and 49th in the nation for total solar PV installations. According to the Shining Cities report, there are over 22 watts of solar installed per person in Richmond.
2. Virginia Beach
Although Virginia Beach is better-known for its large offshore wind energy farm, the popular tourist destination ranks second in Virginia and 61st in the nation for total solar PV installations. There are currently over five watts installed per person, per the Shining Cities report.
Alexandria earned a SolSmart Gold designation in July 2020, which is the highest designation given by the program. The city also boasts an impressive portfolio of new and promising renewable energy programs, solar feasibility studies and more.
NREL's Solar for All maps show that Norfolk boasts one of the highest potentials for solar energy generation and roof-mount capacity. Major corporations have already adopted solar in the area — the IKEA store in Norfolk even features a 180,000-square-foot solar array.
In 2012, Roanoke participated in the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Challenge with the goal of curbing energy use by 20% across 1 million square feet of building space by 2022. In 2018, Roanoke achieved that goal with a 23% energy reduction. The city remains committed to clean energy, as evidenced by its impressive Solarize Roanoke project.
Fairfax has also been designated a SolSmart Gold city and has its own Solarize Fairfax County initiative. This project, which gives residents access to free solar assessments, bulk-purchasing discounts, discounted solar batteries and more, has concluded for the 2021 season but may well return in 2022.
In addition to a city-specific solar tax credit and a Solarize Charlottesville program, the city has started putting solar panels on government buildings. Among the solarized buildings are Charlottesville High School, the City Facilities Maintenance Building and the ecoREMOD Energy House.
8. Newport News
This coastal city receives a lot of sunshine… some 215 days a year, in fact. It's no surprise, then, that NREL maps show a high capacity for rooftop solar and an above-average number of buildings suitable for solar.
According to NREL data, Danville has a high potential for rooftop solar capacity and generation, and the city is doing its part to help residents make the switch to clean energy. It has developed its own net metering program for residential solar installations up to 10 kW, as well as invested in two solar farms that are producing about 10 MW of energy to be used by Danville Utilities customers.
In March of 2014, Blacksburg became the first community in Virginia to launch a Solarize campaign, and NREL maps show it has a high potential for solar generation. This SolSmart Silver city offers many solar-focused resources for residents, including a solar panel installation checklist, information for those interested in solar jobs and guidance on solar access within the state.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
While there are many solar-smart cities in Virginia, some are better suited than others for PV installation. The best cities for solar include those that have:
- Decent sun exposure: Cities that get consistent year-round sunlight tend to be good places to invest in solar, hence the coastal communities we've included on our list.
- High local utility costs: Solar power tends to be more valuable in cities that have high electrical costs. More on that in a moment.
- Local rebates and incentives: Some cities make solar investment more attractive by implementing local net metering programs, tax rebates or other financial incentives.
Average Virginia Electricity Costs
As mentioned, residents in places with higher electricity costs stand to benefit more from installing solar panels. In Virginia, the average monthly electrical consumption is 1,122 kWh, which is roughly on par with nearby states such as South Carolina and West Virginia, though a bit higher than in Maryland or Washington, D.C. The average monthly electric bill is $135.46, which is on the high side compared to most neighboring states.
Virginia Solar Tax Incentives
Homeowners in Virginia can take advantage of a few solar tax exemptions and incentives to help offset the cost of solar panels. For example, there is a property tax exemption, which means that although solar panels will increase the value of a home, they will not increase your property taxes. Virginia also has a state-wide net metering program, which means that any surplus energy generated by solar panels can be fed back into the electric grid in exchange for credits from your utility company.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
Homeowners in Virginia (and anywhere else in the country) can also claim a residential federal tax credit worth 26% of their total solar installation cost. This can offset the initial investment expenditure considerably, but keep in mind that this credit may be phased out by 2023 unless Congress acts swiftly to renew it.
Virginia Solar Regulations
There are a few laws that impact solar adoption in Virginia. Some notable examples include:
- The Solar Rights law protects the rights of homeowners to install solar panels, without being obstructed by their homeowners association or other community association. HOAs do have some leeway to regulate the aesthetics of solar installations, however.
- Virginia's Zero Carbon Bill will create more than 30,000 solar jobs by the year 2030.
- The Virginia Clean Economy Act is set to create a number of new incentives for homeowners to go solar. It also creates robust clean energy standards for utility companies and fines providers unable to meet those standards.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in Virginia
Solar energy presents a valuable opportunity for homeowners to lower electric bills, reduce their impact on the environment and become less dependent on traditional utilities. However, in Virginia, some cities are more solar-forward than others. If you didn't see your city on this list (and even if you did), there are plenty of ways individuals can push for more solar power in their areas. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Install solar panels on your home
- Educate your neighbors about the benefits of solar energy
- Reach out to your elected officials and urge them to set strict renewable energy goals
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.
- New Zealand Bans New Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration ›
- Seattle County Files 11th U.S. Climate Liability Lawsuit Against Big Oil ›
By May Boeve
With Trump and fossil fuel executives in the White House, any shot of powerful and lasting protections for our climate and communities will come from our cities and states. That's why it's so troubling that in California, one of the most progressive places in the U.S., current state Attorney General Xavier Becerra is failing to stand up to ExxonMobil and its ilk.
Executives at companies like Exxon knew everything there was to know about climate change as far back as the 1970s, but chose to spend the last half a century sowing doubt and confusion. Exxon's own Rex Tillerson is now U.S. secretary of state, even following revelations that he used the secret alias "Wayne Tracker" to cover up all things climate change while serving as the corporation's CEO. And while the rich get richer, it's our communities—especially low-income communities and communities of color—who bear the impacts of this dangerous deception.
2017 was a year of unprecedented federal regression and climate devastation: from Trump backing out of the Paris agreement and hellscape wildfires engulfing California, to Hurricane Maria ripping through Puerto Rico, shedding light on existing inequities previously swept under the rug. It was also a year of resistance and uprising, as it became clearer than ever that these weren't isolated events, but rather perpetuated and worsened by fossil-fueled greed.
Now, people are rising up to hold corporate executives to account for the climate destruction they've caused. The attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts are showing tremendous leadership in their unyielding investigations into what could be the worst case of corporate fraud in history. Is California going to really sit back and force New York and Massachusetts to take on Exxon alone?
As Becerra and elected officials meet and discuss strategies to tackle climate change, launching an investigation into all that Exxon knew is Xavier Becerra's opportunity to prove he's a real climate champion.
This is far from the first time AG Becerra has been urged to investigate Exxon. Local organizers and national groups delivered more than 70,000 petition signatures calling for an investigation last April. In January, more than 30 national and local organizations from labor unions to environmental organizations signed a letter to Becerra ramping up the call. Even the Los Angeles Times editorial board has urged him to move on an Exxon probe.
Years of research on greenhouse gas emissions revealed that just 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of major greenhouse gas pollution. Even more staggering, just eight companies are responsible for 20 percent of global carbon emissions since the Industrial Revolution.
This, as head of the Center for International Environmental Law Carroll Muffett explained, "for the first time identifies a discrete class of defendants" in the fight against climate change. This blows away any legitimacy of the falsification that if everyone is responsible, no one is. We know who is responsible: fossil fuel executives and their bought-and-paid-for political allies.
Climate litigation is emerging as a major strategy to recover costs from the fossil fuel billionaires who caused the climate crisis. As cities and counties across California step up in holding Exxon accountable, Xavier Becerra drags his feet.
The growing list of climate lawsuits includes San Francisco and Oakland suing Exxon, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips; and San Mateo and Marin counties and the city of Imperial Beach suing 37 companies. Beyond California, New York City; Paris, France; Boulder, Colorado, and more are joining the fight around lawsuits against major oil companies.
Make no mistake, executives at companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron are trying every trick to fight these lawsuits, going so far as to point fingers and sue other fossil fuel companies. That's like Philip Morris executives claiming it doesn't matter that they lied about the dangers of smoking because they weren't the only ones to do so.
In failing to take on Exxon's climate deception, Xavier Becerra stands to undercut California's vaunted leadership in global efforts to combat climate change. To build the fossil free world that works for all of us, we must use all of our tools to hold accountable those who have profited most from this destruction, in our legal system and in the court of public opinion.
With September's Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco on the horizon, AG Becerra must stand with the people he's meant to represent and hold the likes of Exxon accountable.
ExxonMobil’s Climate Disinformation Campaign Is Still Alive and Well https://t.co/mYHneWhVIx @Public_Citizen @DeSmogBlog— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1518473710.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate 350.org.
By Rachel Hubbard
Tuesday, the city of Paris has said it will explore the possibilities of suing the fossil fuel industry. In response to the city's recent climate damage including massive recent floods, Paris is considering taking this action following in the footsteps of New York and other U.S. cities.
Paris made the commitment to divest three years ago in the run-up to COP21 where the Paris agreement was signed. The city council also aims to use its influence, as well as the mandate of president Anne Hidalgo within the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group to convince other big cities to divest.
This month, Paris suffered once again major floods, which, according to Anne Hidalgo, poses "clearly a question of adaptation of the city to climate change." Following the floods that swamped Paris in May 2016, studies have shown that climate change has increased the chances of floods by almost twice as much.
But Tuesday's announcement shows that cities in the path of climate impacts are ready to take action.
Clémence Dubois, of 350.org France said:
"It's fantastic news that cities like New York and Paris are mobilizing to protect their citizens and hold multinational fossil fuel companies accountable for the damage they cause. This is a major breakthrough for the divestment movement and the thousands of people around the world who have pushed cities to take a stand against polluters who are destroying our climate and the planet.
Fossil fuel companies like Total, Shell, BP and Exxon are causing floods and heat waves that are intensifying in Paris, and severe floods, droughts, forest fires, rising sea levels strike in France and around the world. This wish is a crucial step towards a future free of fossils. "
On Jan. 10, the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, announced that the city would disinvest its pension funds of $191 billion in fuel fossil investments and sued BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.
With Tuesday's statement, the city of Paris affirms its solidarity with the City of New York's bold move. Major cities such as Sydney and Cape Town, as well as many European capitals such as Berlin, Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm have already committed to divest fossil fuels.
Could this be a start of a wave of cities divesting and institutions suing fossil fuel companies for damages?
In France, 33 other local authorities, such as Bordeaux Lille La Rochelle, Dijon have adopted divestment motions.
Clémence Dubois said:
"We will mobilize locally to ask other cities to follow: communities have more power than is believed in resistance to the fossil industry, including through their links with the 'Caisse des Depots et Consignation' who manages the pensions of their employees, officials and contractors. We will ask that this crucial public financial institution listens to this momentum that is happening throughout the country, and divests from fossil fuels."
With this announcement, the global pressure on the fossil fuel industry ramps up some more. To date, more than 800 institutions, including universities, religious and medical groups, have joined the divestment movement. To build on these victories, the Fossil Free movement is preparing to launch a new wave of local actions around the world to keep fossil fuels in the ground and accelerate the shift to community-run renewable energy.
Be a part of it—find out how you can take action wherever you are.
- New York Takes Giant Step to Divest From Fossil Fuels ›
- World's Biggest Investment Fund Considers Divesting From Fossil ... ›
Naomi Klein: 'New York City Is Taking a Game-Changing First Step in Turning the World Right Side Up'
The following is a speech given by Naomi Klein in New York City on Jan. 10.
I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for this historic announcement that New York is divesting from fossil fuels and suing five oil majors.
What's happening here is not only about changing the economics of energy, speeding the transition from dirty to clean. It's also about justice.
And it represents a collective victory for the amazing climate justice movement around the world and in this city.
Groups like Uprose, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and New York Renews, some of which are here today, as well as global groups like 350.org, which helped kick off the fossil fuel divestment movement about five years ago.
For a very long time, our movements have been insisting that principles of justice need to be at the center of the response to the climate crisis—a crisis that plays out in the most perversely unjust ways right now.
Justice means that people who did the least to create this crisis but are bearing the heaviest risks and most toxic burdens need to be first to benefit from green economic development and job creation.
Justice also means that workers in polluting industries are not sacrificed or left behind. And justice means something else too, something most politicians are loath to talk about because the wealth and power of fossil fuel companies is so vast.
It means that the corporate interests that did the most to get us into this mess—with their pollution and with their campaigns of willful misinformation—are going to have to pay their true share of the tremendous costs of climate disruption, and of delayed transition. Because right now we have it upside down and backwards.
As it stands, the costs of sea level rise and ferocious and unprecedented weather events are offloaded on to the public, with taxpayers stiffed with the ballooning bills. And as governments absorb these costs, there is less money for schools, for affordable transit and housing, for health care. And, in yet another bitter irony, this hurts the people who are already impacted by climate change the most.
This city saw all this in dramatic fashion during Sandy, when it was the people in public housing who were left for weeks in the cold and dark.
Meanwhile, the extravagant profits from destabilizing our planet's life support system, earned from ignoring and suppressing the scientific consensus—well, those are systematically privatized.
In short, the status quo means the poor are paying again and again for the polluters to get even richer. It's a world upside down. But that starts to change today.
By suing these five oil majors who knowingly deepened the climate crisis, and simultaneously beginning the process of divesting $5-billion from fossil fuel companies, New York City is taking a game changing first step in turning the world right side up. And not to overstate the case, but I actually think this could change the world.
There have been lawsuits before that have tried to sue the fossil fuel giants for climate damages. The tiny Arctic community of Kivalina, population 383, which attempted to recover the costs of having to relocate. Some citizens of the low-lying Pacific Island of Vanuatu—population 300,000—that began a similar suit. A lone Peruvian farmer, suing a German coal giant for the risks to his home. A small group of Gulf Coast Mississippi homeowners, with the help of a scrappy lawyer, who tried to sue the fossil fuel companies after Hurricane Katrina.
These have been valiant attempts, but in every case, the industry has relied on the relative weakness and poverty of its accusers, sometime managing to quash suits before they were filed.
And that is why today's news is so historic. Because bullying isn't going to work here the way it has in the past. This lawsuit is coming from the largest city in the most powerful country on the planet, a city which also happens to be the financial capital of world.
And now that New York City has thrown down in such a big way—on divestment, on polluter pays—it's going to embolden all kinds of other actors to step up as well. Other cities around the world. Universities. Foundations. Other states. Even entire nation states.
As of today, everyone needs to up their ambition. Be bolder. Move faster. It's what our planet requires. And it's what justice demands. No politician on the planet is doing enough. But there can be no doubt that the bar for what it takes to call yourself a climate leader has just been dramatically raised.
A few years ago, an Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay $19-billion in damages for an oil disaster known as the "Rainforest Chernobyl." A spokesperson for the company responded by pledging that it would "fight this until hell freezes over. And then we'll fight it on the ice."
Well, New Yorkers know how to fight. They even know how to fight on the ice, as the New York Rangers occasionally show. I want to thank all the fighters in this room for reminding us of that.
Community and grassroots leaders from the U.S. on Tuesday announced their platform at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23). The "U.S. People's Delegation" is attending to counter the Trump administration's fossil fuel agenda and to hold U.S. states, cities, businesses and the public accountable to climate action commitments.
The platform includes youth, Indigenous peoples, frontline communities, advocates and policymakers who have come to Bonn, Germany with organizations from across the U.S. They have come together to show what climate leadership should look like.
"We are here to let the world know that most Americans support action on climate change, despite what you hear from Washington," said Ellen Anderson of Energy Transition Lab, with the Climate Generation delegation. In our state of Minnesota,we are leading the way for the Heartland of America, showing that you can cut carbon, build out renewable energy, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and save money by shifting to a clean energy economy."
With the Trump administration rolling back climate protections, expanding fossil fuel development, ramming through dirty infrastructure and withdrawing the U.S. from its commitments to the Paris climate agreement, the People's Delegation and the organizations involved are taking action to protect communities and isolate the administration by demanding a fossil free future and real climate action on the local level.
"I have seen climate change-fueled floods destroy lives and livelihoods where my family is from in India. In southern India, thousands of farmers have committed suicide because of drought," said Varshini Prakash of SustainUS and Sunrise Movement. "Within my lifetime, my home in the states could be underwater if we do nothing to stop climate change. No one should have to live in fear of losing the people that they love or the places that they come from."
Among the demands are:
- A just and equitable transition to 100 percent renewable energy in all cities and states.
- For U.S. elected officials to step up in meaningful ways to ensure bold climate action in the face of the current administration's rollback on climate protections, the persistence of ongoing climate disasters, and the impact of existing inequalities and governmental negligence on frontline and vulnerable communities.
- A halt to all new fossil fuel projects, with the understanding that the fossil fuel industry continues to perpetuate the climate crisis and sow climate denial, creating a bleak future for generations to come.
- A call for all nations to increase their ambition, not decrease it. The commitments countries put forward under the Paris agreement were already too little, too late and would lead to at least 3.5°C of warming, not the 1.5°C and 2°C goals enshrined in the agreement. We can't let the U.S. be an excuse for other countries to dial back their action—especially since with cities and states doubling down, the U.S. could be moving forward.
- A demand to stop negotiating cap-and-trade, carbon offsets, carbon pricing and other market schemes that avoid cutting pollution at the source.
"From monster hurricanes to the wildfires and deadly heatwaves in the American West, 2017 has shown that the threat of climate change is now," said Dyanna Jaye, representing ICLEI U.S. Local Governments for Sustainability and Sunrise Movement. "Yet Trump has allied with fossil fuel CEOs who are dead set on profiting from pollution, including Exxon CEO turned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. They have no right to represent the American people. Though Trump and his billionaire friends may try to pull us backwards, we, everyday Americans, will keep moving our country forward and make sure our cities, universities and states take the action we need to stop climate change and create good jobs in our communities."
The list of organizations represented in the People's Delegation includes: SustainUS, Sunrise Movement, Indigenous Environmental Network, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, and the Climate Justice Alliance as part of It Takes Roots, U.S. Human Rights Network, Climate Generation, Our Children's Trust, NextGen America and 350.org.
Among the events that the people's delegation will conduct this week that are open to the public:
U.S. People's Delegation Speak Out
Date & Time: Thursday, Nov. 9, 4 to 6 pm
Location: U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, Fiji Room, The DHL Post Tower Charles-de-Gaulle-Straße 20, 53113 Bonn Germany
U.S. People's Delegation Town Hall with Elected Officials
Date & Time: Saturday, Nov. 11, 4 to 6 pm
Location: U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, Fiji Room, The DHL Post Tower Charles-de-Gaulle-Straße 20, 53113 Bonn Germany
For more information on the U.S. People's Delegation and the organizations involved, please go to: www.350.org/uspeoplesdelegation
Reposted with permission from our media associate 350.org.
Wednesday, a coalition of 40 faith institutions on five continents have jointly just announced their divestment from fossil fuels. This is a big moment for both the global divestment movement and faith community, and we need to keep this momentum going strong.
This commitment well and truly quadruples the one announced in May, when nine Catholic organizations divested. We need to celebrate it and also seize the opportunity to build upon this moment.
In the words of Domenico Sorrentino, the bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino:
St. Francis (Pope Francis) encouraged us to live humbly, simply, and with true reverence for the Creator and Creation. Divesting from fossil fuels and making new investments in clean energy sources is our way of following St. Francis's example.
Pope Francis has prominently voiced his concerns about climate change and the fossil fuel industry. But while Vatican officials have acknowledged the call for fossil fuel divestment, the Vatican has not committed to divest its money from the industry that is destroying Creation—yet.
In the wake of this announcement, people from all over the world are uniting during the Season of Creation and urging the World Bank to stop financing fossil fuels and support for renewable energy instead. Please join and add your voice to the global call.
Now more than ever we need institutions to stand together on the right side of history against an immoral industry whose climate impacts we see and experience daily.
As we celebrate this inspiring show of moral leadership, let's make sure the World Bank puts its mouth where its money is and stops funding the fossil fuel industry and climate disasters.
A full list of all the institutions which have divested as part of this commitment can be found here.
The Northland College Board of Trustees voted Friday to fully divest Northland College's endowment funds from fossil fuels in the next five years.
Approximately 2.9 percent of the college's $28 million endowment—about $823,000—is currently invested in fossil fuels, according to the Carbon Underground 200, an annually updated global listing of the top 100 public coal, and the top 100 natural gas and oil companies. These investments will be replaced with more socially responsible investments with no new endowment funds invested in fossil fuel companies.
"To truly embrace our environmental mission, it is incumbent upon us to mindfully remove fossil fuel companies from our endowment portfolio," said trustee Mike Fiorio, a Northland College alumnus, a 32-year veteran of the financial services industry and a partner of Fiorio Wealth Advisors. "I'm proud to say that the Northland College Board of Trustees has embraced this initiative."
Based on data from the last 25 years looking at portfolios that incorporate fossil fuels and those that don't, Fiorio, who sits on the college's investment committee, concluded that there would be little-to-no long-term impact on returns.
According to 350.org, an international organization tracking and advocating for divestment, 746 institutions—including churches, cities, corporations, individuals and higher education institutions—representing more than $5.2 trillion in assets have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment. Northland College is now the 747th.
Institutions Representing $5 Trillion Pledge to Divest From Fossil Fuels https://t.co/Zlvmweb8xo @350 @FossilFreeCAN— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481580027.0
The student campaign for divestment at Northland College began in 2012 and was revived in 2014, according to Emily Donaldson, a 2017 graduate, who spoke before the board of trustees. Donaldson is a research assistant at the Northland College Center for Rural Communities and as a student directed the Environmental Council, the student organization that pushed for the change.
"This is one small step toward a more sustainable future that combats climate change and those culpable in perpetuating it—and one that is attainable and fitting for us as an environmental liberal arts college," said Donaldson. "However, as we join other institutions in this global movement of environmental and social justice, we will step into larger strides, until we're leaping toward carbon neutrality."
Northland College is one of 361 environmentally responsible colleges according to The Princeton Review and a member of EcoLeague, a consortium of six colleges and universities that share a mission based on environmental responsibility. Northland College will be joining three of these institutions—Green Mountain, College of the Atlantic and Prescott College—in divestment from fossil fuels.
"This is campus activism at its best," said Northland College President Michael A. Miller. "Educational institutions have a unique responsibility to divest from fossil fuels and help usher in the transition to a renewable energy economy that works for all, especially the young people for whom they exist."
By Jamie Henn
New documents from the New York State Attorney General show that while now Sec. of State Rex Tillerson was CEO of ExxonMobil, the company actively misled shareholders about climate risk and deleted "untold numbers" of documents related to climate change, including many of Tillerson's own personal emails he sent under his "Wayne Tracker" alias.
The new revelations were a "bombshell" and highlighted the need for more Attorneys General to get involved in the case, especially California AG Xavier Becerra, whose office could bring serious resources to the effort.
He also said that the case also called into question Tillerson's leadership at the State Department, especially in regards to climate and energy policy.
These new revelations are another bombshell in the ever growing scandal over at ExxonMobil. If these allegations are true, and there's every reason to believe they are, this is the largest case of corporate fraud in history. Exxon knew about climate change decades ago, but instead of taking action, they lied to the public, lied to their shareholders and lied to federal regulators.
Because of Exxon's decades of lies and bankrolling of climate denying politicians, the U.S. is now a pariah nation on climate change, having dropped the Paris climate agreement and gutting our nation's environmental protections. Exxon's last minute rhetoric about staying in Paris is nothing more than a cynical effort to cover up their decades of deception and a bid to profit from a weakened deal.
22 Awesome Responses to Trump's Announcement on Paris Agreement https://t.co/WXl6FSx18D— Josh Fox (@Josh Fox)1496354854.0
We need more Attorneys General, especially the well-resourced office of the California AG, to get involved in this case and help hold Exxon accountable. The public deserves the truth about what Exxon Knew and compensation for the damage this company has caused by blocking solutions to the climate crisis.
Tillerson should step down from his role at the State Department. We can't have a Secretary of State who knowingly lied to the American people about the most important challenge facing our country, the climate crisis. Sadly, corporate frauds seem to be a staple of this administration, starting with the man at the top.
We applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership in this case. With Trump pulling out of Paris, we need more public officials who are willing to stand up to Big Oil and fight for climate solutions. Our future depends on it.
By Jamie Henn
Shareholders of ExxonMobil voted by a 62.3 percent shareholder majority Wednesday instructing the oil giant to report on their impacts on climate change. The result of this vote is a sign that activist pressure on the company is working, said 350.org, a leading international climate campaign.
Along with the shareholder uprising, Exxon is also facing an investigation by multiple Attorneys General over whether it lied to the public about climate change and a divestment campaign that has helped convince more than 730 institutions representing $5.4 trillion in assets to go fossil free.
'We Are Going to Be Selling Your Exxon Shares, Sir, Because We Don't Believe in the Future That You Stand For' https://t.co/nLvvmFUrc4— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1485565218.0
Exxon's climate lies are finally catching up with them. The company is facing public protest, shareholder anxiety, multiple investigations and a growing divestment campaign. They can try and run from this issue, but they can't hide. Sooner or later, this company will be held accountable for their role in destroying our climate and putting our entire future at risk.
Any real climate risk assessment will show that Exxon's drill-baby-drill business plan is incompatible with a livable planet. Despite shareholder protests, they're still doubling down on fossil fuels when the world is moving in the opposite direction. Exxon's refusal to adapt their business model to a carbon constrained world should send investors running for the exits.
An investment in Exxon is still an investment in climate chaos. Until Exxon commits to keeping fossil fuels in the ground, investors have a moral obligation to move their money elsewhere. That includes major investors like New York State's $170 billion pension fund.
When the markets realize that Exxon won't be able to burn its remaining oil and gas reserves because doing so would put cities like New York and Shanghai underwater, the company's share price is going to plummet. That's not a matter of if, but when.
Exxon is going the way of the typewriter because they're unwilling and unable to adjust to the changing energy landscape. Our job is to make sure they don't take the rest of us down with them.
U.S. Bank has become the first major bank in the U.S. to formally exclude gas and oil pipelines from their project financing. This groundbreaking change to their Environmental Responsibility Policy was publicly announced at the annual shareholders meeting in Nashville in April.
In addition to no longer providing "project financing for the construction of oil or natural gas pipelines," the bank has stated that relationships with their clients in the oil and gas industries will be subject to "enhanced due diligence processes."
As recently as March 2017, U.S. Bank has renewed commitments with Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, and with Enbridge Energy, whose pipelines operate within Minnesota. However, advocates are hopeful that the bank's newly released policy will limit other kinds of financing relationships with these industries.
"U.S. Bank's new policy is an important step in protecting the environment and moving towards a fossil free future," said Wichahpi Otto, a volunteer with the climate justice group MN350, who travelled to Nashville for the shareholders meeting. "We applaud them for responding to the community and contributing to worldwide efforts to address climate change."
This move comes after ongoing pressure on U.S. Bank locally from MN350 and from the Minnesotans for a Fair Economy coalition, and on banks nationally from indigenous groups including Honor the Earth, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Dakota Access resistance movement.
Beginning in 2015, a regional partnership of climate, labor and indigenous rights advocates has urged that U.S. Bank divest from fossil fuels, in particular from Enbridge Energy, and move its financing into the clean energy economy. Local actions have included letter-writing, account closures and social media campaigns. In response, in May 2016 the bank made changes to their Environmental Policy restricting lending to coal.
"We applaud this progressive decision from U.S. Bank," said Tara Houska, national campaigns director of Honor the Earth. "A strong message is being sent to the fossil fuel industry: We are consumers, we have agency and the right to know how our money is being invested. Move to a green economy and a future that does not profit off the destruction of Mother Earth and our communities."
A national and international campaign pressuring banks to divest has been highly successful, pulling nearly $4.5 billion from financiers, and a newly launched coalition effort called Mazaska Talks has expanded this effort.
Organizations and community members say they are eager to see how U.S. Bank's unprecedented stance can encourage movement in financing from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy.
"Confronting the climate crisis requires boldness, urgency and innovation," said Dr. Emily Swanson, a member of MN350. "While there is more to be done, we are hopeful U.S. Bank can continue to act as an industry leader and as an ally for creating a more sustainable economy."