350 Updates

Climate Activists Pressuring Negotiators at UN Climate Talks

Yesterday during the opening plenary of the UN Climate Negotiations in Warsaw, Yeb Saño, lead negotiator for the Philippines, gave a moving speech urging negotiators to move past talk and commit to deep emission cuts and financing for mitigation and adaptation efforts.

He also praised climate activists:

These last two days, there are moments when I feel that I should rally behind the climate advocates who peacefully confront those historically responsible for the current state of our climate. These selfless people who fight coal, expose themselves to freezing temperatures, or block oil pipelines. In fact, we are seeing increasing frustration and, thus, more increased civil disobedience. The next two weeks, these people, and many around the world who serve as our conscience will again remind us of our enormous responsibility.

Boy, is he right – Super Typhoon Haiyan reminded all of us that climate change is here and now and that the consequences are dire – over 10,000 people are believed to be dead and the lives of over 9 million people have been adversely affected.

In response, climate activists immediately began carrying out actions to pressure the world governments to take climate change seriously and show their solidarity with the people of the Philippines. Here are just a few of the actions that happened in the past twenty four hours:

 

Push for Fossil Fuel Divestment Grows at UN Climate Talks

The Polish government’s decision to put the coal industry front and center at this year’s UN climate negotiations has sparked a backlash from young people and civil society groups who are determined to challenge the social license of coal companies and the broader fossil fuel industry. 
 
“It’s time to start treating the fossil fuel industry like Big Tobacco,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, an international climate campaign. “When it comes to the UN Climate Talks, the fossil fuel companies aren’t just looking for a seat at the table, they’re looking to burn the table down. Until we can challenge their political power, we won’t see real climate progress.”
 
At the Climate Action Network press conference in Warsaw today, a representative from YOUNGO, the youth constituency at the talks, will speak about the growing divestment movement that is going after the social license of the fossil fuel industry. 
 
 
“The fossil fuel industry’s business model is fundamentally opposed to the survival of people across the world and a decent life for my generation,” said Louisa Casson, communications officer with the UK Youth Climate Coalition. “The industry is making a desperate attempt for relevancy here at COP19, but their time is up, they have no future. These talks must be about the future of my generation and generations to come.”
 
YOUNGO are planning a variety of actions here in Warsaw to target the fossil fuel industry and stand in solidarity with the millions of people in the Philippines and around the world who are feeling the impacts of climate change. YOUNGO will also be hosting a side-event focused on the divestment movement. 
 
The  growing fossil fuel divestment campaign has spread to over 500 universities, cities and religious institutions across Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Nearly 50 institutions have already divested, including the UK Quakers, the United Church of Christ in the United States, major cities like Seattle and San Francisco, and a growing number of universities. Large pension funds, such as Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, are considering divestment from fossil fuels like coal. 
 
Activists are already labeling the Warsaw negotiations the “Coal COP” (Council of the Parties) and pushing the U.N. Secretariat and progressive countries to take a stronger stand against the industry.
 
In the weeks leading up the negotiations, the Polish government has doubled down on its embrace of the coal industry, making it clear they have no plans to seriously address consumption or emissions. The government is partnering with the World Coal Association to hold a major coal summit during the second week of the climate talks. Coal fired power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emission in the world, making coal the number one threat to the climate. 
 
“Hosting a coal and climate summit side-by-side is like throwing a cigarette expo next to a meeting of cancer experts,” said 350.org’s executive director, May Boeve. 
 
All of the emphasis on coal, however, has only served to cast more of a spotlight on the fragile state of the industry.
 
In the United States, coal demand has fallen by about 20% over the last five years, while environmental regulations in Europe will force the closure of many coal fired power plants over the next decade. The drop in demand has resulted in a similar drop in share price for many coal companies, sometimes by as much as 75%.
 
The situation for the industry will only get worse. According to a slew of recent reports by institutions like the World Bank, HSBC, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 60-80% of current fossil fuel reserves must stay underground in order to limit global warming to below 2°C.
 
Coal, and other high-carbon, unconventional fuels such as tar sands, are likely to be the hardest hit by the tightening carbon budget. The threat of these reserves turning into stranded assets has led many investors to start shedding their coal industry stocks, and fueled fears of a carbon bubble resulting from the overvaluation of fossil fuel companies. The prices of some coal mining companies have plummeted 75%, while many others have gone out of business.
 
 

The situation in the Philippines.

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Friends,

Last week, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines -- and left a path of destruction and tragedy in its wake. More than 10,000 people are feared dead.

Lines of communication are in still in chaos, but we managed to get in touch with Zeph, our amazing 350 Southeast Asia Coordinator in the Philippines. Here’s what she just emailed to our team:

“This lends urgency to our work. I think we need to be twice as strong as Typhoon Haiyan.”

If we need to be twice as strong, let's do two things immediately:

1) Raise some money for direct relief to those in need.

These are our brothers and sisters in this movement. Below this email are some pictures from 350 actions across the islands over the years. This storm is a blow to a place already reeling from the effects of climate change. Metro Manila has seen repeated flooding from milder storms; there's been a severe outbreak of dengue fever this year in the Philippines. 

Among the pictures below you'll see a group of volunteer 350 activists from Tacloban, one of the cities most ravaged by Haiyan. We don't know the fate of all of our friends there, but we do know they need serious help now -- so please do send what you can through direct relief organizations by clicking here.

2) Raise some hell.

Governments are meeting in Warsaw the next two weeks for the annual UN climate negotiations. This ritual has dragged on for years without conclusion, largely because the great powers have done so little. On days like these, their inaction amounts to mockery. So we’ve setup a page where you can add your name to a petition that our staff will hand-deliver to negotiators at the UN climate summit. In short, we need to let world leaders know that their inaction is wrecking the world, and the time is long past for mere talk -- we need action, and we need it now.

Today at the UN climate summit, Mr. Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator of the Philippines, urged his fellow negotiators to take a bold stance. During the opening session of the summit, he committed to fast throughout the two weeks of the talks until countries make real commitments around climate finance and reducing emissions.

Sano said, “let Poland, let Warsaw, be remembered as the place where we truly cared to stop this madness. Can humanity rise to this occasion? I still believe we can.”

I still believe we can too. Please sign on and donate whatever you can to the relief effort.

Many thanks,

Bill McKibben for 350.org  

 

Youth Video Shifts the Debate about Coal at Warsaw Climate Talks

On the first day of the U.N. Climate Meetings in Warsaw, young people from around the world joined with the newly formed Polish Youth Climate Network to release a climate video mocking the coal industry and promoting a clean energy future.

The title of the video, “Race for Energy Independence,” is a play on the Race for Independence, a running race that takes place on November 11 in Warsaw every year to commemorate Polish independence. 
 
In the video, young people compete in a race for the future against the coal industry, who trip up the athletes, make them cough with pollution, and fight amongst themselves. In contrast, the young people work together to move forward, even extending a helping hand to their coal industry counterparts. 
 
The yearly UN climate negotiations are known as the Conference of the Parties—this is COP19—and young people and activists have already labeled this year’s meetings the “Coal COP” because of the Polish government’s decision to co-host with the World Coal Association a major international coal summit alongside the climate conference. 
 
Last weekend, youth sent a letter to UN Climate Secretary Christiana Figueres requesting her to cancel her keynote address at the international coal summit. Secretary Figueres declined the youth request, but committed to confront the coal industry about their carbon emissions. 
 
Coal fired power stations are the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling the climate crisis. Recent reports have concluded that 60-80% of fossil fuel reserves, including coal, must stay underground if governments are going to meet their target of limiting global warming below 2°C. 
 
Over the next 24 hours, and throughout the coming week, young people will be sharing the “Race for Energy Independence” video online, and tweeting it directly at participants in the UN Climate Talks and key climate figures. 

 

 

Philippines Negotiator Will Fast for Climate Action at UN Talks

Diplomats, negotiators, and civil society representatives from around the world held their breath this afternoon at the UN climate talks in Warsaw this afternoon as Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator for the Philippines, began to address the opening of the conference. 
 
More than 10,000 people are feared dead in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed into the Philippines this weekend, causing apocalyptic devastation across a number of islands. 
 
While scientists are careful not to connect any single weather event to climate change, it’s clear that global warming is loading the dice for devastating events like Typhoon Haiyan. Rising seas, warmer waters, and a warmer and wetter atmosphere, all contribute to supercharge storms like Haiyan and Hurricane Sandy. Scientists have warned that extreme weather events will only increase in intensity and frequency if climate change is left unchecked. 
 
Addressing the UN Climate Talks on behalf of the Phlippines, Sano didn’t hesitate to connect Typhoon Haiyan to climate change and the fossil fuel industry’s role in fueling the crisis.  
 
Yeb Sano on Democracy Now! at last year's climate talks, speaking about the impacts of Typhoon Bopha. 
 
He began by thanking the global community, and especially young people, for the support and solidarity that they have shown the people of the Philippines. 
 
“I thank the youth present here and the billions of young people around the world who stand steadfast behind my delegation and who are watching us shape their future,” said Sano. “I thank civil society, both who are working on the ground as we race against time in the hardest hit areas, and those who are here in Warsaw prodding us to have a sense of urgency and ambition. We are deeply moved by this manifestation of human solidarity. This outpouring of support proves to us that as a human race, we can unite; that as a species, we care.” 
 
Sano spoke of the terrifying devastation that Typhoon Haiyan has wrecked upon the Philippines, before connecting the dots directly to the climate crisis. 
 
“To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of you armchair,” he said. “I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce. Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.” 
 

Climate Justice for the Philippines

Not enought words could describe how Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) battered several parts of the Philippines. In Tacloban city alone, death tolls may reach 10,000. The typhoon showed unbelievable strength as it pounded Leyte, Samar, Cebu, and Palawan.
 
 
What could be more painful than the reality of increasing casualties storm after a storm? A country that has little to do with climate change is bearing the brunt of the big emitters neglected responsibility to cut emissions. We have been warned that increasing emissions reinforce stronger typhoons and other extreme weather events, but in each year’s climate negotiations, the best interest of the poor and vulnerable countries are overshadowed by the rich capitalists dominating the negotiations and applying different tactics to delay climate solutions.
 
Could this year’s COP19 make any difference after Typhoon Haiyan? Could they deliver justice to at least the 10,000 innocent lives likely lost in Tacloban? Because coming up empty is an insult to the many families in the Philippines mourning their dead. 
 
Today, another storm is seen coming. We have not recovered yet but we are up to the next. 
 
Justice delayed is justice denied. CLIMATE JUSTICE NOW!
 
 

Super Typhoon Haiyan Is a Wake-Up Call for UN Climate Summit

The timing is tragically ironic. As Super Typhoon Haiyan -- one of the strongest storms ever recorded -- smashes into the Philippines, sending millions fleeing for safety, negotiators from around the world are beginning to arrive in Warsaw, Poland for the latest installment of the United Nations Climate Talks, COP 19.

Climate change is loading the dice for extreme weather events like Haiyan. The storms strength and rapid development have been aided by unusually warm ocean waters and warm, moist air (warm air holds more water vapor than cold). Global warming also causes sea level rise, increasing the risk of flooding from storm surges, especially in low-lying areas like much of the Philippines. Carbon dioxide is the steroids that leads to grand-slam storms like Haiyan.

Haiyan should be a five-alarm wake up call for negotiators in Warsaw and the capitals that sent them here. Over the next two-weeks, despite the best attempts of the nations most vulnerable to climate change, negotiators from the largest emitting countries will bask under the fluorescent lights of yet another conference center to bicker, delay, and obfuscate. Meanwhile, millions of people in the Philippines -- and other impacted communities around the world -- will be sleeping in relief centers and bravely trying to rebuild their homes.

The United Nations tried to make this year's climate meeting a summit focused on finance, but the Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to provide $100 billion every year by 2020 for adaptation and mitigation efforts, remains empty, and there's no sign that rich countries will come to the table in Warsaw with any serious pledges.

Instead, the Polish government has turned this year's Conference of the Parties into the "Coal COP," going so far as to host a World Coal Summit next-door to the official climate negotiations. It's like throwing a tobacco industry expo next-door to a global meeting of cancer experts. It's the gun show next to a world peace summit.

Coal fired power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gas emission in the world, making coal the number one threat to the climate. If we want a future for the planet, there is no future for coal.

So far, Poland's attempts to promote the future of the coal industry at the climate summit has only cast more of a spotlight on the fragile state of the industry.

In the United States, coal demand has fallen by about 20 percent over the last five years, while environmental regulations in Europe will force the closure of many coal fired power plants over the next decade. The drop in demand has resulted in a similar drop in share price for many coal companies, sometimes by as much as 75 percent.

The situation for the industry will only get worse. According to a growing number of reports by institutions like the World Bank, HSBC, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 60-80 percent of current fossil fuel reserves must stay underground in order to limit global warming to below 2°C. Coal, and other high-carbon, unconventional fuels such as tar sands, are likely to be the hardest hit by the tightening carbon budget.

The threat of these reserves turning into stranded assets has led many investors to start shedding their coal industry stocks, and fueled fears of a carbon bubble resulting from the overvaluation of fossil fuel companies. The prices of some coal mining companies have plummeted 75 percent, many others have gone out of business. Meanwhile, the growing fossil fuel divestment campaign is continuing to turn up the heat on institutions to divest from the coal industry and other major-holders of fossil fuel reserves.

Climate activists in the Philippines are already making the connection between Haiyan and the need to end the global dependence on coal. In an interview with the Sun Star, Voltaire Alferez, the national coordinator for Aksyon Klima, a climate coalition in the Philippines, called on the government to start protecting communities rather than polluters.

"We challenge the Aquino administration to be more proactive in helping local governments and communities protect themselves from storm surges, heavy rains, floods, and more," Alferez said. "Aquino and his cohorts have also repeatedly defended its coal-centric policy while underestimating the country's capacity and readiness for renewable energy. If the proposed coal-fired power plants are approved, we are signing up for more emissions and more of this kind of extreme weather."

Students in Cebu, Philippines -- one of the places hardest hit by Haiyan -- form a 350 for an international day of climate action.



The test for any would-be climate leader here at the UN Climate Talks in Poland will be whether they are willing to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that the age of coal is over, and that it's time to start investing in the future. That's especially true for UN Climate Secretary Christiana Figueres, who is keynoting World Coal Conference.

I'm straining to give Figueres the benefit of the doubt--she spoke emotionally to hundreds of young people about the need for bold climate action at the Global Power Shift summit last summer, breaking into tears at one point. If she goes to the summit and calls for an end to the coal industry, it will be a powerful moment. If instead, she plays the politician and spouts off some lies about clean coal, it will be a slap in the face to every young person who believed in her -- and the millions of people in the Philippines who will still be recovering from Haiyan.

From Haiyan to Sandy to Bopha (another major storm that hit the Philippines last year), our so-called leaders have heard alarm after alarm and continued to hit the snooze button. It's time to kick them out of bed and demand action. Warsaw could be the start.

 

Wake Up Kim!

Let me cut to the chase. This is another story of a coal fired power plant in India, one amongst hundreds that are being proposed and built regularly in the country. But the story of the TATA Mundra power plant stands out from the rest for the following reasons

a. TATA Mundra is India's first Ultra Mega Power Project (4000 MW behemoths that is part of India's larger plan to increase its energy capacity with a proposal to build around 16 such plants)

b. It is being built by India's foremost business conglomerates. The name TATA resonates with most Indians in the country. 

c. The project received a whopping 450 million $ from the World Bank's private financing arm, the IFC. The very bank which recently committed to moving away from coal investments. 

d. The Compliance Advisory Ombudsman (CAO) which is a department within the bank released a scathing report last month that damns the bank's investment into Mundra, ignoring the vast ecological and human impacts of the project. The lapses, it said, were serious and needs an immediate look into the recourse process for the impacted communities.  

The website for the plant proudly states that the project provides 2% of India's electricity and uses super critical efficienct technology but the more important reality is that the company is bleeding money every day. With losses mounting to 260 million $ every year, the project has turned into an albatross around the company's neck or in business parlance, a non perfoming asset.

So here's the problem. The CAO's report is being callously ignored by Jim Kim, the World Bank President and the IFC (the financier). They continue to justify the investment made thereby becoming complicit in the project's negative impact on the lives of fisherfolk in the region.

We need to hold the Bank accountable to its own agencies and its public statements. The reasons why this plant stands out amongst the rest are also the reasons why we need to move the bank to pull out its financing. A stranded ultra mega power project from one of India's most trusted companies is what it might take to show just how undependable coal is. If the most reliable name in Indian business can't pull it off, then you'll begin to ask the real questions about coal and the dangerous proposition of dealing with it. 

Friends involved with this issue have started this facebook community called WAKE UP KIM. Please like the page and stay abreast with the news and the different calls to action to move Kim and the World Bank to pull their money out of Mundra. You can write to Jim Kim at jkim@worldbank.org. 

write to Kim at jkim@worldbank.org