350 Updates

Joyful, unyielding.

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My wife Sue and I criss-crossed America these past few weeks -- from the Mackinac Straits of Michigan where they want to run tar sands oil through aging pipes beneath the Great Lakes, to the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California where they'd like to turn tar sands into gasoline. We saw coal plants, fracking wells and stretches of Pacific coast they'd like to turn into carbon ports.

But mostly we saw people -- the beautiful face of a movement that's growing, learning, coming together.

It's incredibly diverse, as one would expect -- people in Maine are from people in Moab, Utah are different from people in Trumbull County, Ohio. But no matter our differences, everywhere we share an adversary: a fossil fuel industry so focused on greed that they're willing to rip apart the planet and its communities.

We've put up a slideshow with photos and reportbacks from Summer Heat events -- it's a small glimpse of the power and beauty shown across the country in the past few weeks. Click here to see it: 350.org/en/about/blogs/what-happens-when-climate-movement-decides-summer-isnt-hot-enough

Everywhere I went, people also shared a spirit: firm, joyful, unyielding. I particularly liked the banner that hung from the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River: "Coal, Oil, Gas: None Shall Pass." It all has to stay under ground.

For a few weeks we took the hottest stretch of the summer and turned it politically hot as well. A lot of people felt the pinch of handcuffs -- myself included -- but they felt the embrace of the rest of the movement too. Everywhere people were embracing the power of the local climate justice movement, in all its forms.

If this was a movement of a few big organizations or a few leaders, then the industry wouldn't need to worry so much. But instead there are thousands of local leaders, and hundreds of local organizations -- and they're linked together in new, exciting ways that spell trouble for the fossil fuel barons, and hope for a troubled earth.

So many thanks to everyone who raised the heat. Let's keep going,

Bill McKibben



Phoenix tells President Obama #noKXL!

This post was written by local organizer Will Greene

On Tuesday President Obama visited Phoenix, and was greeted by 30 energized citizens putting pressure on him to reject the Keystone XL pipeline - a proposed project that would pump tar sands crude across the country from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. World-renowned climate scientist James Hansen has said approval of the pipeline would mean essentially “game over” for any hope of stabilizing global temperatures. 

In a landmark speech on climate change at Georgetown University in June, President Obama indicated that the pipeline would only be approved if the pipeline doesn’t “exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” Chants heard at the Phoenix rally included, “No heat wave, no drought – kick the tar sands out!” and “Hey, Obama, we don’t want no climate drama!”

At one point immigration reform advocates across the street with the group “Puente Arizona” and pipeline opponents shared a chant, in a beautiful moment of solidarity. Opponents of the pipeline have met Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry at every official visit across the country, keeping the pressure on for a rejection of the pipeline.


This is what happens when the climate movement decides summer isn't hot enough.

350 Vietnam presents in Saigon

This post is written by Katharina Mengede, one of our 350 Vietnam volunteers.

On Tuesday 350 Vietnam had the great pleasure to present our work and our recent efforts at an event called Green Drinks. Green Drinks is a monthly, informal session, which provides individuals, young NGOs and established organizations in the green field the occasion to share their visions and ideas. 

350 Vietnam attended with a group of volunteers who came to support speaker and 350 Vietnam Coordinator Hong Hoang. In a 60 minute talk she shared her trips to Antarctica and her passion in engaging young people to take actions against climate change. She put special attention on Vietnam Power Shift, which will take place in Ho Chi Minh City and other cities all over the country. 
"I see significant potential in Vietnam", concluded Matt Pakes, Director of Architecture for Atlas, a global provider of architectural and engineering services, in the following question answer period. Besides him about 30 eco friends and journalists from local media stations showed up. 
For 350 Vietnam, Green Drinks was a great opportunity to catch up with link-minded people and to get inspired by their annotations and ideas. 



Why 847 is an important number for India

In India, climate change is not a mainstream issue. For a vibrant democracy of 1.2 billion people, a sound scientific community and a hyper active media, one would imagine an issue that threatens the lives of a majority of Indians would be discussed, but it isn't! And we are asking public personalities in India to help change this and elevate global warming to the national discourse. Sign this petition and urge them to speak out!

In June, the northern state of Uttarakhand experienced one of its worst floods in recent history. A state that nestles within it, piligrimage sites that attract millions of people from around the globe. The image below is poignant and scary in which we see the idol of Lord Shiva (the bringer of destruction) drowning in the flood waters.

Unrestricted contruction of buildings on river basins, unchecked tourism, reckless growth of dams and poor policy lead to devastating impacts on human and animal life and the economic costs of dealing with the floods is billed at $ 1.2 billion. Whilst the above reasons made the floods worse, the fact remains that the state received 847% excess rainfall between 13-19th June 2013. The melting Himalayas added to the intensity of the floods which is now dubbed as a "Himalayan Tsunami".

We are asking everyone to sign this petition and urge public personalities in India to raise the profile of the issue. As simple as a tweet from some of them (who have millions of online followers) can spark off a much needed discussion on global warming in India. Help create the new discource on climate change in India!



This West Sussex community has spoken: thou shalt not frack

I often ask myself: how much longer can the rogue forces of the fossil fuel industry continue wrecking our planet with impunity? Today I was reminded of our movement’s recurring answer to that question: not for long, if we can help it.

In the early hours of the morning, anti-fracking activists and community members in Balcombe, Sussex, UK, successfully halted the first day of explorations for a new shale oil development by famed (infamous, rather) fracking company Cuadrilla. Over 250 people united in a powerful, peaceful, joyful blockade --  that eventually convinced the trucks containing the initial fracking equipment to abandon the site.

Photo credit: Frack Off

This is community power at its best. Campaigners in Balcombe, just like those in frontline communities around the world (in the US, Indonesia, Argentina, and elsewhere) had been calling attention to the dangers of fracking for over a year. This week, when Cuadrilla’s license for exploration and development was approved, activists quickly mobilized to organize a Great Gas Gala, inviting people in Sussex and neighboring areas to converge on Balcombe and oppose Cuadrilla’s efforts.

Today’s protests are set in the context of a recent announcement by the UK government proposing a 50% tax cut for companies involved in shale gas extraction, the most generous tax regime for fracking in the whole world. The proposal is very much in line with the dreaded “dash for gas” that the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced at last year’s unveiling of the budget.

It is in opposition to these efforts that groups like Frack Off, No Dash for Gas, and many of our partners and allies around the country, are mobilizing public awareness and opposition, in a genuine effort to shift the power in our energy systems and put our communities and their people back in charge. The Global Power Shift UK team will be working in the upcoming months on helping build that large, inclusive movement -- one that represents community interests, leverages our diversity, and builds on our shared vision of a people-powered future that solves the climate crisis once and for all.

The fight in Balcombe is not over yet. Today’s exploratory fracking attempt (make sure to check out the amazing pictures) was the closest to London to date, where a lot of the finance for these operations comes from and where the tangled webs of power and influence are carefully threaded between consenting politicians and short-term profit oriented fossil fuel corporate executives. Impunity for them and their climate-wrecking efforts? No longer. Real resistance is brewing in their backyard.


UPDATE: The situation is in continuous development. For latest news, follow Frack Off and the Great Gas Gala websites.

CORRECTION: The post initially referred to shale gas -- the Balcombe fracking site is believed to contain shale oil instead.


Europe’s largest lenders take small steps away from fossil fuels

...but while these steps might be in line with policy, they’re far from the realities of science and justice.

Photo: The EBRD is based near Liverpool St, London. Not surprisingly, London is also home to one of the world’s biggest stock exchanges, most heavily invested in fossil fuels.

There has been a lot of talk over the last few weeks of big public financial institutions altering their lending policies, looking to phase out support for fossil fuels. These mainly positive developments have been cautiously welcomed by climate campaigners. Although they show increasing alignment with EU policy designed to mitigate climate change, they are far from what science and justice demand.

Recently, the World Bank amended its lending policies for new coal-fired power projects, restricting financial support to countries that have "no feasible alternatives" to coal. Arguing that funding coal-fired power plants is sometimes necessary to bring energy to the world's poorest nations and help eradicate poverty, they fail to explain why this goal couldn’t be equally achieved with clean, renewable energy infrastructure.

This week, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the world's largest public financial institution, announced that it would be applying an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS), to all new fossil fuel projects. While this is an encouraging step in the right direction and it’s likely that an EPS of 550g CO2 per kWh will initially rule out the dirtiest forms of coal, a target of 350g CO2 per kWh, is what’s needed to show serious intent to rise to the challenge of climate change.

The EIB announcement also introduces exemptions that will leave the door open to business as usual, more coal and other extreme fossil fuel projects such as fracking – none of which are compatible with a world under 2 degrees of warming. The EIB draft policy states that when “a [coal] plant contributes to the security of supply” within the EU or when “it contributes to poverty alleviation and economic development” outside of the EU, it might well be eligible for funding.

Energy poverty is often cited as justification for building new coal plants in poor countries, however the extent to which they have an impact on energy access and security of supply is questionable. It is in countries where rural communities make up a significant proportion of the population that impacts, such as respiratory illness and loss of land and livelihoods, of fossil fuel energy projects are primarily felt.  Large scale, centralised, dirty power from coal tends to benefit industry before people. Whereas decentralised, community owned renewable energy seem to make much more sense in both terms of access and security of supply.

We know that to avoid the extreme worsening of the climate crisis we have to leave 80% of the fossil fuels we already have access to in the ground. Recently, Connie Hedeggard, EU commissioner for Climate Action, called on the EIB, World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to divest from fossil fuel projects. Combined, these institutions are responsible for $130 billion of lending, of which $37 billion has been given to coal projects over the last five years.

With the recent announcements from both the World Bank and the EIB, it’s perhaps now time to turn attention to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as it hears comments from various stakeholders on its new draft energy strategy in London today.  While a draft proposal shows criteria for lending tightened, campaigners warn there is still room for the Bank to continue lending to the “very dirty coal projects” and are calling on the EBRD to “follow the World Bank and EIB’s example, and to clean up their act too.”

Over the coming months, as the divestment campaign catches on across Europe, we’ll be looking to work closely together with our friends and allies across Europe, including Bankwatch, Counterbalance, Re:Common, Urgewald and many more to help put an end to use of public money for the development of fossil fuel projects.

Join our mailing list and keep up to date with our work and opportunities to get involved as they develop.


This is actually the Prime Minister of New Zealand

I'm from New Zealand, and I need your help.

Whenever I meet people overseas, there's usually a perception that New Zealand is one of the only places left on Earth that is clean and green. It's partly true - it's a very beautiful place. If you go hiking, or 'tramping' as we prefer to call it, you can walk for a week and not see anyone if you pick your hills right. The stunning snow covered mountains do look a bit like in the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit - mainly because that's where it was actually filmed. 

But it's time to set the record straight, because there's also the perception that the New Zealand Government is a relative saint when it comes to taking care of the environment and taking action on climate change. Rather than explain to you at length in words how this perception is dangerously wrong, all you have to do is watch this video clip of the actual New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key (and no, it's not a Flight of the Conchords parody, although I desperately wish that it was). He lays out his plans to dig up as much of New Zealand for resources as he can, and to drill deeper and deeper oil wells in our oceans - even when powerful earthquakes, like the 6.5 quake that hit Wellington this week are striking at these drill sites.



All of this comes at a time when we know that the world has already gone too far in sucking out every last bit of fossil fuels we can find, and there comes a time to say No More. So in the coming months and year, our team in New Zealand will be scaling up our efforts to show our outrage at John Key and his Government, and that we shall not stand idley by as they plunder New Zealand. The number of jobs and royalties Key quotes are hardly to be the 'game changer' he suggests them to be. It's classic 20th century politician policy - so desperately uncreative and unoriginal it's appealing to some people. There are so many other ways New Zealand can prosper and grow, without short-term greed and plunder. Yes it won't always be easy, and it will take creativity, entrepreunership and hardwork, but those qualities are at the core of the good old Kiwi, No.8 wire spirit, so I don't doubt for a minute that we could do it. 

So will you help us as we gear up to hold back the plunder of New Zealand - and share this so we can set the record straight with the rest of the world (you can tweet at him: @johnkeypm). The fight is on to keep New Zealand the way it should be.