350 Updates

Ordinary people taking extraordinary action

We live in extraordinary times. The world of nearly 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere is an increasingly dangerous place. And yet, the fossil fuel industry are doing their utmost to seek out and pump ever more carbon into our economies – putting everyone at risk just to increase their record-breaking profits. Floods, droughts, heatwaves, fires, super-storms – that is what the rest of us are being left to cope with.

Thankfully, there are ever-growing numbers of ordinary people who are taking extraordinary action, and often taking extraordinary risks, because they believe there is still hope: activists against megadams in South America, the front line actions of Idle No More against tar-sand expansion, the jailed founder of Friends of the Earth Korea, Mr. Yul Choi; and recently the Arctic 30 group of Greenpeace activists, jailed for acting peacefully and selflessly against Arctic oil drilling.

On November 10 (just a few days away!) we're joining the Reclaim Power day of action. Together with communities around the world, we'll celebrate the stories of people taking extraordinary action past and present. And we'd like to invite you to join us.

Do you know a story of an ordinary person who has taken extraordinary action in your village, city, or country? Would you share it with us? Environmental defenders, like the Arctic 30 or someone you might know, are ordinary people who have been doing extraordinary things in the fight against dirty fuels. We want to link these stories, to #FreetheArctic30, and to celebrate those among us ready for extraordinary action. 

Please share your story here, and let's show the world that people power cannot be silenced --despite the attempts to silence the people who are devoted to protect our future, no one can stop all the ordinary people from doing extraordinary things. Not all of us can be on ships defending the arctic, but all of us, everywhere, have our own extraordinary potential. 

November 10 is about heroes both well known and unheralded. It is for you. It is for everyone who has struggled and sacrificed to protect our shared world and all of us living on it. 


Four Reasons why Drilling for Oil in Yasuni National Park Needs to be Prevented

If you ever wondered where the world's most biodiverse piece of land is, you might have guessed somewhere in the Amazon Rainforest. Well, there is a particular piece of the ever- dwindling-Amazon that takes the trophy for being the worlds richest place for animal and plant diversity: Yasuní National Park, inland Ecuador. However, in this incredible place it is located the largest reserve of heavy oil of this country.



Experts within Ecuador had proposed an alternative development package, the “Yasuni ITT Initiative”, which would have protected the rainforest, promoting the sustainable uses of biodiversity bases on ecotourism, agroforestry, biodiversity protection and climate change mitigation and the respect of human rights of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation . And switched Ecuador’s development path from extractivism-dependence to economic diversification and renewable energies.


The Yasuni ITT Initiative was a proposal launched by Ecuadorian Government to keep indefinitely the oil underground in an special and unique place of  the Yasuni National Park, in exchange for half of the value of the reserves, or $3.6 billion over 13 years from the international community.


The Government pledged its support to the initiative, and $336 millions of dollars of foreign aid commitments were pledged from countries like Germany, Spain and Italy and also from private sector and individual contributions.


But on August 15th, the President, Rafael Correa suddenly announced that Ecuador will abandon The Yasuni ITT Initiative, due the lack of international support. This call was made despite the international support it had gained and despite there still remained a significant window of time for further investment. It’s obvious that President Correa gave up on the project and got swayed by the attraction of the money from the oil. Finally, The National Assembly passed a vote (108 in favour, 25 against) to start drilling for oil in this rainforest.


This is really bad news for a large number of reasons, but here are the four key reasons:


Reason number one: Yasuni National Park is mega-diverse. Millions of years of evolution lead to this remarkable piece of rainforest becoming a refuge to an almost unbelievable richness of plants, insects, animals and trees. In fact, It is the most biologically diverse hotspot in the western, there is a similar diversity of species in one hectare of Yasuni National Park to the total of species in Canada and United States joined.


Reason number two: Drilling for more oil and burning it = climate change! Once burnt, the oil from this drilling project will produce 407 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, more than the annual emissions from France or Brazil; and cause a further 800 million metric tons of CO2 from the deforestation caused by the drilling.


Reason number three: There are two groups of indigenous peoples that are living in voluntary isolation - still in harmony with the rainforest like they have for hundreds of years; the Tagaeri and Taromenane, which belong to the Wuaorani Nationality, and who have been affected by oil drilling for decades.


Reason number four: It locks Ecuador into an extractivist development path, dependent on oil exports. The Government argues it needs to drill for oil to bring people out of poverty, but there is evidence to the contrary - that becoming too dependent on one export good, like oil, causes Dutch’s disease. The high price for oil will likely drive up the Ecuadorian dollar, which has the consequence of raising the cost of living, and making it harder for manufacturing and agricultural industries to remain competitive. That’s the hard lesson the Dutch learnt in the 1960s. Coupled with that is the glaring hole in the economy when the oil production ends.


There are other reasons, but these four should be enough to convince you that drilling Yasuni National Park for oil needs to be prevented. Even though The National Assembly has passed the bill to begin drilling, there is still a slim hope we can stop it. Even though that hope is slim, we have to give it our best shot.


The last two months, the sudden cancellation of the initiative has lead to a strong reaction from Ecuadorian social and environmental movements, been featured across social and news media, and has generated mobilizations and protests. This issue is starting to reach beyond just environemtalists in Ecuador - we’re seeing more and more people stand up for Yasuni.


Now the movement within Ecuador is focusing their hopes on getting enough signatures to call a national referendum on the decision to drill for oil in Yasuni. We can support the movement of people fighting this project in Ecuador by demonstrating our international opposition to it.  Please sign this petition to proctect Yasuní - the last wonder of the Amazon.

Hundreds of Australians are Divesting from the Banks Financing Fossil Fuel Expansion

The divestment campaign in Australia has reached a new phase, where hundreds of customers are closing their accounts at the banks responsible for financing Australia's fossil fuel expansion. This weekend, over 100 customers of the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, Byron Bay and Perth lined up outside the bank and one by one closed their accounts. This is just the beginning of the bank actions - hundreds more customers are getting ready to move their accounts to banks which do not invest in the industry wreaking our climate.

Check out the press release from the actions over the weekend:

"Over one hundred Commonwealth Bank customers have publicly closed their accounts in protest of the bank’s role as a major lender to the fossil fuel industry. Activities in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth follow on from similar protests yesterday in Byron Bay and Canberra, where customers dressed in t-shirts reading “Commbank chose fossil fuels so I chose another bank” collectively closed their accounts. The activities follow a similar action in Melbourne at ANZ’s Bourke St Mall Branch last weekend. 

Hundreds of customers of the big four banks (ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac) have this year been putting their bank “on notice”, warning that unless loans to coal and gas projects stop, the customers will take their money elsewhere. Today is the largest signal to date that Commonwealth customers will be making good on their word. 

“I was horrified to learn that Commonwealth Bank was so heavily invested in activities that are damaging the Great Barrier Reef and increasing greenhouse gas emissions”, said Mark Doyle who closed his Commonwealth account today in Brisbane. “The sooner I could take my money out the better, and I can’t think of a more effective way to tell the bank that they’re not going to fund environmental destruction with my money.” 

Commonwealth Bank has loaned over $1.5 billion to coal and gas export ports along Australia’s East Coast since 2008 – many of the projects located inside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Yesterday saw the release of the Government’s Draft Strategic Assessment of the Great Barrier Reef, the same day on which a major new mine that would export 30 million tonnes of coal per year through the Reef – GVK’s “Kevin’s Corner” – was approved by Environment Minister Greg Hunt. 

Market Forces Lead Campaigner Julien Vincent said: “Fossil fuel exports in the Great Barrier Reef have it on the fast track to the World Heritage in Danger list. With political will absent when it comes to preventing the further expansion of the dirty fossil fuel industry, Australians are going to need the finance sector to step up and show some responsibility.”

“Ironically, given Commonwealth Bank’s latest “my spend” marketing campaign boasting “now you can see where you money goes” – a groundswell of Commonwealth customers is now questioning the Banks use of their money to fund community and climate devastation,” said 350.org campaigns director Charlie Wood."

For further information about this campaign, visit gofossilfree.org/aus-banks


The Biggest Lungs Ever? #Cough4Coal

There's a giant set of lungs on the loose, and who knows where they are going to turn up next!?

Created by the artists and activists from the group Tools for Action that met during Global Power Shift, the 8 meter x 4 meter set of lungs is a creative intervention, #Cough4Coal, designed to highlight the effects of coal extraction and combustion on human and planetary health. It is an artwork and protest about air, created of air, and linking the air of the world to the air inside us - beautifully captured in this powerful short video

Follow the #Cough4Coal project on Facebook - just click here and 'like' their page.

Burning coal releases a frightful density of toxic air pollutants, acid gas, soot and dust that penetrates deep into the lungs and the blood stream. Coupled with the dense quantities of greenhouse gasses burning coal releases, it's time to put an end to it. As the group say, "We are not willing to stand and watch while coal is used to make profits, and lobbyists are gambling with our health!" 

The network involved with the #Cough4Coal project is distributed in many parts of the world, so over the coming months, if you're walking down the street and suddenly see a giant set of lungs approaching, don't be too surprised. But even better than walking upon the giant lungs by coincidence, why not join the campaign yourself - follow them on Facebook. Those lungs are going to be turning up in some important places - starting in Warsaw, Poland in November where there might just be a conference about coal happening...watch this space!


Bill's speech at the Sophie Prize award ceremony

Here at 350.org, we were honored that the Sophie Prize Award chose our founder, Bill McKibben, as their 2013 award recipient. The Sophie Prize is one of the most prestigious environmental awards in the world. A big congratulations to Silje Lundberg, the elected leader of Norway’s largest environmental organization for youth, Nature and Youth, and Alec Loorz, founder of Kids vs. Climate Change, who both received this years Sophie Legacy Prize. We've pasted Bill's speech from the awards ceremony below. 

Bill McKibben's Speech at the Sophie Prize Awards Ceremony, Oslo, Norway

I am so grateful for this prize.
It means a great deal to me for many reasons. One, of course, is the source: Jostein Gaarder and his wonderful book about Sophie Amundsen provided great reading pleasure, and to know of his remarkable generosity makes the conclusions of the book that much more powerful.
And it doesn’t hurt that I have a daughter named Sophie. In fact, she is slightly Norwegian herself, having spent two years at the UWC Red Cross campus at Flekkefjord, and in the process acquired a Norwegian boyfriend and a pretty good command of the language. I wish she were here to translate for me; alas, she’s grown up now and in college. But it is very good to be joined by her friend Henrik’s parents, Mona and Arne Gundersen.
For myself, Norway has always been the country I love the most beyond my own. Partly that’s because my great vice has been Nordic skiing, one of this nation’s gifts to the planet. I’ve gotten to ski the Oslomarka and race the Birkebeiner, and cheer on my athletic heroes from Ulvang to Daehlie to Bjornedaelen to Northug, though always with a particular soft spot for the incomparable Marit Bjoergen. It’s a thrill to be in Oslo as the winter begins.
That said, I recognize that this honor is not really for me; it’s for the many thousands of people who have come together in recent years to form the climate movement. Let me say at the beginning that this movement should be unnecessary. A quarter century ago scientists explained that climate change was real and constituted the greatest threat that our species had yet faced. It was in those years that I wrote the first account of global warming for a general audience. If our systems of governance worked the way they should, then those calls would have been heeded, and we would have gone straight to work on the monumental but do-able task of transitioning off of fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. We wouldn’t be finished the job yet, but we’d be well begun, on the way to a sounder future.

A Guide to Personal Divestment

The fossil fuel divestment movement is sweeping the nation.  This grass roots campaign is now branching into the collective power of individual statements of personal divestment. This is your chance to speak with conviction about the world you would like to invest in by divesting your funds from fossil fuels. 

We recognize that personal divestment is both a responsibility and a privilege.  Many of us don't have retirement accounts or other investment market funds to divest.  But for those of us that do, removing our financial stake in the companies driving the climate crisis is our responsibility. 

In short: it just doesn’t make sense for individuals to hold stock in fossil fuel companies while understanding the consequence of climate change. The one thing we know the fossil fuel industry cares about is money. Collectively, we invest a lot of it. If you help to lead a personal divestment campaign focused on the stigmatization of these bad actors — weakening their political capital — we can help the momentum of climate solutions and sustainable economies. This was a key part of how the world ended the apartheid system in South Africa, and we hope it can have the same effect on the climate crisis.

Research shows that there are more fossil fuels sitting in reserves of fossil fuel companies than we can afford to burn if we are to prevent dangerous climate change. Those unburnable assets are valued as if climate change and pending regulation does not exist.  The market is sitting on a potential depression sized overvaluation bubble – making the subprime crisis seem trivial.  The “carbon bubble” is as real as the alternative – devastating climate change impacts.  

We are calling on you to be leaders in your community in the personal divestment movement.  Make a statement that you will not contribute to and profit from the growing climate crisis. 

To help you in your personal divestment, Green Century Funds, Trillium Asset Management, and 350.org have published a report, "Extracting Fossil Fuels from your Portfolio: A Guide to Personal Divestment and Reinvestment."  

You can also report your divestment at gofossilfree.org/mymoney and watch the movement grow.  


March Across Country For Climate Action

Zach Heffernen works with the Great March for Climate Action and he wrote this blog to let us know about their big plans.

Beginning on March 1, 2014, a determined group of people will begin an 8-month, 3000-mile trek across the nation. The goal is to create the largest coast-to-coast march in American history to motivate society to act now to address the climate crisis. Individuals who have signed-up to march so far range in age from 9-82, come from all over North America, and include college students, business professionals, activists, retirees and everything in between.

The March will start in Los Angeles on March 1, 2014, and pass through Phoenix, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, & Pittsburgh and conclude in Washington, DC on November 1. Marchers will walk 14-15 miles per day and camp nearly every night. Educational activities will be conducted along the March to inspire climate action within local communities.

Bill McKibben endorsed the March, saying, “350.org was born in a march of a thousand people across Vermont; it always does our hearts good to see others on the move!”

“Given the early interest, we are confident there are well over 1,000 people ready to make the commitment to march across America for this cause,” says Ed Fallon, the founder and director of the march. “Not only will we march side by side for eight months, but we’ll learn how to live together, work together, and communicate the urgency of our message to the people we meet as we travel across the country.

Want to march with us or learn more? Check out climatemarch.org.


What does the Carbon Bubble mean for Canada and the tar sands?

It’s hard to know when a once radical idea goes mainstream, but we’re probably at that point with the carbon bubble. If you’re unfamiliar with the term here’s a quick definition. Basically, the carbon bubble is the idea that fossil fuel companies are overvalued because if and when the world ever gets serious about dealing with the climate crisis, the fossil fuel companies won’t be able to burn their carbon reserves, from which they derive their value. 

Bill McKibben wrote about this idea last year in Rolling Stone, in an article that went strangely viral. In fact, the article got more hits than the Justin Bieber profile that appeared in the same edition of the magazine. Clearly this idea is hitting a nerve.

It’s not just environmentalists that are pushing this idea. The World Bank, London School of Economics and the International Energy Agency--all not exactly hippie outfits-- have put out warnings about a carbon budget, the upper limit of how much carbon we can burn and have a reasonable chance of not raising global temperatures more than 2 degrees C, a target that every country, including Canada, has agreed is the red line that we shouldn’t cross. 

The carbon budget creates the carbon bubble. The idea of carbon budget received a boost a few weeks back when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounded the alarm for immediate action on climate change and the necessity for keeping much of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. The IPCC is made up of 2,000 of the top climate scientists in the world. If they say there is a budget, we ought to listen.

The budget is about 565 gigatons of CO2 (A gigaton is a billion tons). That sounds like a lot, and it is. The problem is we are blowing through about 31GtCO2 a year, meaning we will spend our budget in about 15-25 years. 

Here’s where Canada and the tar sands come in. Calculations performed by 350.org, using industry filings and commonly accepted carbon accounting, show that the tar sands industry’s 170 billion barrels of economically viable proven reserves are estimated to take up about 17 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget, or about 1/6 of what we have left to burn.

When you stop to think about it, that’s a big, big problem for Canada, the financial markets, and the world’s climate system. For Canada, it means that an over-reliance on the tar sands as an economic drive is a huge risk if the world ever regulates greenhouse gas emissions. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to build your economy around a product that can’t be sold or used.

For the markets, it means that companies that are heavily invested in the tar sands could be hugely over-valued, and therefor an existential threat to the economy. Suncor, TransCanada, and Shell are all betting big, along with Harper, that the world will never deal with the climate crisis. That’a a bad bet if you care about the stability of the markets. 

And for the world, there must be a reckoning between physics and business as usual. Physics, who is undefeated to date, is telling us that we can only burn so much carbon and stay below our safe limit. Business as usual, championed by global conglomerates like Exxon and Chevron, are banking on us not getting serious about saving the planet. 

Who will win just might determine the fate of the climate--and our economy.