In this blog-post I explain why — in our efforts to create climate safety — I believe we must focus less on our politicians and more on the public, the popular and the personal. In particular the youth movements and divestment movements which currently are gaining momentum.
I will also give you some examples why writing petitions and appeals to politicians is fine for publicity purposes for an advocacy group, but they have no effect whatsoever in the political world.
Instead, we must put energy and time into cultivating our grassroots and the youth movements, because only when there is action and consciousness among people in local communities, among students, workers, families, consumers as well as stock-holders, only then will the national and world leaders begin to get their act together and do what they really should have done five-ten years ago or more: stop the carbon pollution by slashing fossil fuel subsidies and increasing carbon taxes, while making new laws that favourise renewable energy and technology.
On 17-18 June 2013, the governments of eight of the world’s wealthiest countries and EU will meet in Northern Ireland. Germany and France had wanted to make the issue of climate change one of the meeting’s key talking points, but their suggestions have been rebuffed by the UK officials who are planning the meeting, reported The Guardian. UK Prime Minister’s Adviser Ivan Rogers has insisted that trade, transparency and tax should form the core of discussions at the G8 meeting.
Given the urgency of the matter, and the alarming news with horrifying warnings from scientists that have come out during the last four-six months, and given the grand failure of the global talks in Doha in December 2012, it may appear weird, you could even say outrageous, scandalous or shocking, if it really turns out that these eight world leaders and the head of the European Union should not be wanting to discuss the issues of global warming, climate change and reduction of carbon emissions when they meet.
Weird because we have been told from scientists over and over again that “existing government pledges are not enough to stop dangerous climate change. In fact they are falling further short than ever,” as Simon Anderson from the International Institute for Environment and Development told New Scientist in November 2012: “By delaying emissions cuts, the world is simply deciding to pay more for them later,” he explained.
And how responsible is that: pushing the bill on to our children? some of us are asking.
It may seem even weirder why the British newspaper The Guardian apparently is the only English-speaking newspaper in the whole world which keeps its eyes on these matters and actually reports about the inadequacies of UK officials such as Ivan Rogers, not to mention our world’s top politicians, when it comes to act and make real progress on climate change.
Just as an example, if anybody can remember, the G8 members were expected to play a major role in backing the nascent Green Climate Fund, which was established at COP 16, the United Nations Climate Change Conference which was held in Mexico in 2010, and which is scheduled to open for business next year — but which currently has no adequate source of finance. It would have seemed a logical step to put that problem on the agenda in June. Just one example.
There are numerous other similar topics the G8 leaders could make up their minds about. Carbon tax, for instance. Not finding “low carbon energy pathways”, as they have previously discussed, but finding the ultimate and urgent zero carbon energy pathway. Not “phasing out fossil fuel subsidies”, as they talked about at their previous meeting, but actually making the necessary decision to block public fossil fues subsidies instantly. Why wait? There are many questions concerning co-ordination of policies, strategies and activities. There are a long list of important decisions which could be made at that meeting, if only the EU and the eight richest countries in the world had the political will to do so.
Nick Molho, head of climate and energy policy at World Wildlife Fund UK, told The Guardian that he found it “astounding”. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to lead the greenest UK government ever, “so it is astounding that his aides now appear to be actively blocking the inclusion of climate change on the agenda at a G8 summit that Mr Cameron is hosting,” he was quoted as saying.
“If the world is to reach agreement in 2015 on binding carbon targets, as our leaders claim is their ambition, then rich countries must get their act together. An agenda for development focused on ‘trade, transparency and tax’ is to be supported but if we don’t tackle climate change, all other efforts will be in vain,” commented Will Straw, Associate Director for Climate Change, Energy and Transport of Institute for Public Policy Research, UK’s leading progressive thinktank.
And that pretty much frames it: We are all wasting our time making our millions of plans for the future, which keep every one of us so busy, unless we manage to put a stop to those carbon emissions now.
Poor countries: lead by example
While the leaders of the world’s richest countries won’t even put climate change on the agenda, the world’s poorest countries have declared that they are no longer waiting for others to act.
The current chair of the 49-strong group of Least Developed Countries, LDC, representing 12 percent of the world’s people in the climate negotiations, allegedly has a new mantra: ‘Follow us’: That means the 49 LDCs under his leadership are set to act in the process as a very pro-active group. They will lead by example — by doing.
“Major emitters need to scale up their efforts. They also need to do more to stabilise the global temperature well below 2°C, a widely accepted global threshold for dangerous climate change,” Quamrul Chowdury, a lead climate negotiator of the LDC group, was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
Germany and France – speak up!
So who will convince the UK officials and the Prime Minister’s Adviser about this? Why should he think it is important, when the population in his country doesn’t?
Germany and France, maybe? They are currently positioning themselves as world leaders in the field of renewable energy, and instead of just suggesting politely to the G8 meeting planners that climate change could be a topic to discuss, they could put their foot down and insist. They could speak up about this.
Then again, should we even bother? Let’s face it — the G8 leaders, with all that power and influence they possess, are not going to help us here. Even if we sent them an appeal signed by one hundred Nobel laurates and a thousand scientists, they will not listen. And yelling at them, as demonstrators at G8 meetings have done so often, certainly won’t help anything either.
I should be the first to admit I would gladly join a choir screaming out, “This is simply not good enough, dear planners of that G8 meeting! Don’t any of you people have children yourself who will have to live in that ‘4-6 degrees world’ of major wild weather, water rising and other climate catastrophes which scientists are describing vividly for us and which is basically are created by your hesitation and lack of action?!”
But the indifference among some of our state leaders — however incomprehensible and outrageous it may seem — is only a reflection of how the majority of their voters think. The politicians don’t feel they have a mandate to make radical changes, as long as the majority of citizens in their respective nations remain indifferent, uninterested. Recent research and surveys have shown that the perceived seriousness of climate change has fallen particularly sharply since the unsuccessful UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December 2009.
Appeal for sustainability and Scientific Ecology
There has alredy been numerous appeals from climate organisations and scientists. For instance, does anyone remember the ‘Heidelberg Appeal’? It was addressed to the chiefs of state and governments, published on 1 June 1992 in the Wall Street Journal over the signatures of 46 prominent scientists and other intellectuals. Subsequently it has been endorsed by around 4,000 scientists, including 72 Nobel Prize winners. It reads:
Heidelberg Appeal to Heads of States and Governments
“We want to make our full contribution to the preservation of our common heritage, the Earth.
We are, however, worried at the dawn of the twenty-first century, at the emergence of an irrational ideology which is opposed to scientific and industrial progress and impedes economic and social development.
We contend that a Natural State, sometimes idealized by movements with a tendency to look towards the past, does not exist and has probably never existed since man’s first appearance in the biosphere, insofar as humanity has always progressed by increasingly harnessing Nature to its needs and not the reverse.
We fully subscribe to the objectives of a scientific ecology for a universe whose resources must be taken stock of, monitored and preserved. But we herewith demand that this stock-taking, monitoring and preservation be founded on scientific criteria and not on irrational pre-conceptions.
We stress that many essential human activities are carried out either by manipulating hazardous substances or in their proximity, and that progress and development have always involved increasing control over hostile forces, to the benefit of mankind. We therefore consider that scientific ecology is no more than an extension of this continual progress toward the improved life of future generations. We intend to assert science’s responsibility and duty towards society as a whole. We do however forewarn the authorities in charge of our planet’s destiny against decisions which are supported by pseudo-scientific arguments or false and non-relevant data.
We draw everybody’s attention to the absolute necessity of helping poor countries attain a level of sustainable development which matches that of the rest of the planet, protecting them from troubles and dangers stemming from developed nations, and avoiding their entanglement in a web of unrealistic obligations which would compromise both their independence and their dignity.
The greatest evils which stalk our Earth are ignorance and oppression, and not Science, Technology and Industry whose instruments, when adequately managed, are indispensable tools of a future shaped by Humanity, by itself and for itself, overcoming major problems like overpopulation, starvation and worldwide diseases.”
Heidelberg, April 14, 1992 (third revision)
4,000 scientists, 72 Nobel Prize winners…
Now, over 20 years later, it would appropiate to ask: did this appeal change anything?
Scientific ecology, sustainable development… Did anybody listen? Did we see the transformation happen?
Would it help to sign it one more time now and re-send it?
No, it wouldn’t.
While there has been no shortage of appeals, calling for common sense and action, from climate organisations and scientists, scholars and ‘Climate Doomsday Preachers’, and we have been seeing growing interest in campaigns like Earth Hour and Earth Day, there is still very little to be heard from “the people”, the large majority of the populations. On the contrary, denial (“its a scam”), or apathy (“we are fucked”), appears to be the two general reactions to the topic. Surveys confirm this.
The scientific fact that over 93 percent of the global warming takes place in the oceans, while only two percent in the atmosphere, and the consequences of this fact, is rarely mentioned, or understood by people in general.
Attempts to mobilise people, for instance through online petitions, so far have only attracted comparatively low numbers of signatories. Facebook campaign pages are being ‘liked’ in thousands, not even in hundreds of thousands, let alone millions.
When activists in the US were trying to create the largest climate rally in American history in Washington D.C., only around 35,000 people bothered to show up, as compared to the million people who showed up on the same spot when President Barack Obama was inaugurated.
The politicians are well aware of this situation.
Here is another reminder of this. This video is five years old now. It was produced for the European ‘Big Ask’ campaign:
“We need strong leadership on climate change. Too many politicians are happy to speak about the issue, but their promises have often turned out to be just a load more hot air.”
The Big Ask, as far as one can tell on their website, thebigask.eu, gave up and stopped asking a couple of years ago.
Speaking of Obama… I can’t help thinking that the Nobel Peace Prize which US President Barack Obama received in 2009 may lose its shine if, as we have been warned, the future which he and the G8 group had a big say in creating for our planet, ends up in those kind of ‘water wars’ and violence which the United Nations’ secretary-general Ban Ki-moon talked about when he, in a speech in March 2013, warned that by 2030 nearly half the world’s population could be facing a scarcity of water — with demand outstripping supply by 40 percent.”
(Washington Post, 22 March 2013: UN chief warns that nearly half the world could face a scarcity of water by 2030)
“President Obama made strong statements about the importance of climate change when he first ran for president. Then, in his first term, he abandoned the issue, just as every other American leader has done since global warming first entered the national conversation. Now he is promising to do what every previous administration could have done by using executive powers to actually lead on the issue. Presidents are said to care about their legacy. Climate change is a civilization killer, and if we continue down the climate rapids, future generations probably will not be thinking about any presidential legacy of our era — except to assign blame.”
Eugene Linden, in The Daily Beast on 30 March 2013: Climate Change is Here, Ready or Not. So What Now?
Appeal to Obama from 75 olympic medalists
Warning that “winter is in trouble,” 75 Olympic medalists and other winter sports athletes — including White House “Champion of Change” awardee and pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones — have sent a letter to President Obama urging the President to take action on climate and clean energy:
“The good news is that because we know this warming is human-caused, we can do something about it and it can be done, now, from limiting carbon pollution from our nation’s dirty power plants to rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
First, it is time to tackle pollution from the biggest emitters in the United States: power plants. We’re asking for you to issue standards under the Clean Air Act that cut carbon pollution from America’s aging power plant fleet — at least 25 percent by 2020, while boosting energy efficiency and shifting to clean energy sources. Power plants are our largest source of carbon pollution. Cleaning them up will create tens of thousands of clean energy jobs, meet the pollution targets set for the country, and restore U.S. international leadership.”
You can read the letter here: protectourwinters.org
Appeal from Danish youth group
Luckily, over time, new generations enter the stage. Recently a fresh appeal came from a group of 50 young Danes who had met each other at a seminar in February 2013 where they discussed the problems with environment and climate change. They ended up writing an appeal for a “transition to a sustainable future now” which they initially had wanted to hand over to the Danish Prime Minister. But Helle Thorning-Schmidt, not very surprisingly, was too busy. She did not want to see them or receive their open letter.
Instead, they handed it over to the chairman of the Danish Parliament and had it published in the left-wing newspaper Information on 13 March 2013. It received close to a thousand ‘likes’ and within the site’s own frames, it became the most recommended article on the site for some time. A couple of weeks later, they handed over the same appeal to EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, addressed to the EU parliamentarians.
“We are 50 young people of the generation, which is to carry on the society of today and ensure a promising future for our own children. We are full of enterprise and ready to take responsibility. But we are also deeply concerned about the lack of recognition, amongst political decision makers, of the interconnected crises. They are trying to solve the problems of the present with the answers of the past,” they wrote.
“We face historic challenges that require a historic transition. With this call, we appeal to the European Commission and to the members of the European Parliament to look up, recognize the need for fundamental changes and join us pave the way for a sustainable future. The world is out of order — let’s help each other fix it.”
“The never ending hunt for more oil, gas and coal leads to the depletion of the reserves and increasing prices, but also to increasing environmental costs and disastrous climate strain. The hunt for short-term profits undermines the possibility for sustainability in the long run. The fact that we do not pay the right price for fossil fuels and other resources means that future generations will pay an unbearable price. Today environmental irresponsibility is profitable. Polluters do not pay enough.”
In their appeal, they roll out a list of ideas and suggestions — among them to create a transition council, an ‘exploratorium’, an ecological tax, a green and social GDP, green investments, discount rates for sustainable transition projects, pushing pensions funds to make sustainable investments, a society bank, a ‘national service’, recycling, work sharing, a youth fund, a transformation in agriculture, room for new green urban spaces, and a ‘national project of enlightenment’.
Actually, a bunch of constructive, good ideas. The full appeal letter is attached below for you to dig deeper into this.
Here is my comment to that. Young voices with fresh ideas are certainly to be welcomed on the ‘climate stage’ which is generally crowded with people with greyish hairs and beards. But whether they will achieve anything in real life, legislation changes within the walls of the parliaments, is unfortunately highly doubtful. Politicians may well read the appeal and have a smiling photo taken together with the young activist and their appeal letter, but again, unless the politicians feel they have a mandate from their party and from their voters to implement ideas as those suggested in the appeal, they will… sorry to say this, 50 young Danes, but they will never do it.
“You really cannot rely on the leaders”
In 2009, 25 non-governmental organisations in consultative status with the United Nations, leaders of the world’s religions, policy institutes, and members of civil society, signed an appeal directed at the world leaders who gathered at a UN Summit on Climate Change in New York. It was entitled ‘Moral and Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change: Appeal to World Leaders’. That document called on the world leaders to “consider deeply the ethical and moral questions at the root of the climate change crisis.”
Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said something very wise and central when in an interview at the time he stated: “I feel you really cannot rely on the leaders, you really cannot rely on the nation states. You really need a groundswell of grassroots action and grassroots consciousness on what needs to be done. If that is happening, then leaders will follow.”
As chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Pachauri accepted the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded jointly to the panel and former US Vice President Al Gore for their work in warning of the potential impact of global warming. Today, six years later, they are still persistently doing the same job: warning us of the potential impact of global warming.
We need to listen to Dr Pachauri. There is depth and wisdom in that statement. The Danish youth appeal, as an example, is a constructive, well formulated drop in the ocean of appeals to politicians. It will remain being a drop which will disappear in that ocean, unless many more youth groups in other countries around the world begin to follow their example, do the same in their own environment, keep at it and keep coming up with further constructive ideas and suggestions.
Only when something begins to look and feel like a movement, a transnational movement, only then will the drops begin to create a stream, and only then can we put our hopes to seeing any results and real life changes from this kind of action. It needs to come from buttom-up, and in great numbers. Like Dr Pachauri said, “If that is happening, then leaders will follow.”
In short, to spread the word about initiatives such as the Danish ‘Transition Now’ appeal is worth-while, not because of the politicians in the European Parliament, who probably won’t even bother to read it, but because it could inspire and cultivate the grassroots and the youth around the world.
What we are missing, still, is a global central on the web which can monitor and cultivate that stream of activities, appeals, petitions, and ideas. Maybe a suggestion for G8 to help finance something like that and then let the United Nations set it up?
I mean, after all, what we are talking about here is not just another campaign. We are talking about securing the foundation on which all life depends. All things considered nothing is more important than this.
“If rhetoric cut emissions, we’d be carbon free already. But only action does.”
Joe Romm, 13 April 2013
“Demand divestment from fossil fuel stock”
Meanwhile, in the US, something really interesting is happening in these months: “Campuses are suddenly a front line in the climate fight — a place to stand up to a status quo that is wrecking the planet. The campaign to demand divestment from fossil fuel stock emerged from nowhere in late fall to suddenly become the largest student movement in decades. Already it’s drawing widespread media attention; already churches and city governments are joining students in the fight. It’s where the action all of a sudden is,” wrote the American climate activist and author Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone, published on 22 February 2013.
Now, could this turn out to be that prelude to a youth rebellion of climate security which the world — or rather: some of us in this world — have been hoping and asking for?
The college students simply want their universities to ‘divest’ from fossil fuel: to sell off their stock in Exxon and Shell and the rest in an effort to combat global warming. Those universities, and their boards, have deep ties to that one percent of the US population which owns approximately 40 percent of the nation’s wealth: combined, the universities’ endowments are worth 400 billion US dollars. So there is a potential there.
Could this be the birth of an international campaign to get pension funds, cities, universities and other investors to sell their shares in the fossil industry? The Danish appeal letter speaks of similar ideas. Because of the climate risks, the huge fossil reserves should remain in the ground, and when this all of a sudden is realised by the stock market, a ‘fossil equity bubble’ can be expected to burst. The movement has taken off in the first universities and cities in the United States right now: they are actually selling their shares.
I have feeling that this is a powerful idea which has the potential to spread to the rest of the world — and if so, it could create some real change in the way politicians think about fossil fuels, including those scandalous subsidies, taxpayers money, which they keep handing over to the climate wrecking fossil fuel industry.
Letter from civil society to World Bank: Stop funding fossil fuels
Over 55 civil society groups from more than 20 countries have sent a demanding that the Wold Bank end support for all fossil fuel projects. World Bank President Jim Kim has made strong statements about the threat of climate change to development and poverty alleviation, but the World Bank has still not put a stop to funding climate-changing fossil fuel projects.
According to an article in the Huffington Post on 3 April 2013,
Time for the World Bank to Stop Funding Climate Change, the World Bank Group has invested over six billion US dollars in coal projects, such as a three billion US dollar loan for a massive coal-fired power plant in South Africa and a 740 million dollar coal-fired power plant in Chile to support a copper mining operation. At the same time, the World Bank Group has invested in over two billion dollars worth of oil projects (with an additional three billion dollars in financing that supports combined oil and gas projects).
“We are running out of time. While our public policy makers equivocate and avoid the topic of climate change, the window of opportunity for salvaging a livable planet for our children and grandchildren is rapidly closing. The way forward is clear, though for many confrontation-averse academics the path seems impassable. It requires action that is unnatural to the scientifically initiated: to fight to regain the territory illegitimately occupied by the climate change deniers. (…)
Higher education is positioned to determine the future by training a generation of problem solvers. As educators, we have an obligation to do so. Unlike any time in the history of higher education, we must now produce leading-edge professionals who are able to integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines, and understand social, economic, and resource tradeoffs among possible solutions. Imagine being a college president and looking in the mirror twenty years from now. What would you see? Would you be looking at a professional who did his or her best to avert catastrophe? For me, the alternative is unacceptable.
Those within higher education must now do something they have largely avoided at all costs: confront the policy makers who refuse to accept scientific reality. We must be willing to lead by example. Like the colleges and universities of the 1980s that disinvested from apartheid South African interests — and successfully pressured the South African government to dismantle the apartheid system — we must be willing to exclude fossil fuels from our investment portfolios. We must divest.”
Stephen Mulkey, Unity College President
Read Stephen Mulkey’s full letter here
“While science can provide the building blocks for understanding the impact and likelihood of climate change, it is important for citizens’ groups and individuals to provide the motivation for action.”
Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Calling for bold climate action
Parallel to this, the organisation 350.org is stepping up its ambitions with the youth campaign Global Power Shift to catalyze powerful national movements calling for bold climate action. They intend to “spark an unprecedented wave of events and mobilizations for climate action.” Here is a letter from campaigns director Will Bates:
Let’s Shift the Power
It’s time to try something new.
The last few weeks have seen some remarkable movement activity — the US Do the Math tour, India Beyond Coal, and the Arab Youth Climate Movement. These efforts have been game-changing and are mobilizing tens of thousands of people worldwide.
While we’ve made inspiring progress, nothing we’ve done so far as a movement has been quite large enough. That’s the hard truth. To take on this planetary climate crisis, we need to create truly transformative change.
Global Power Shift (GPS) will be a multi-pronged project to scale up our movement and establish a new course, like never before. The basic plan is this:
• In June of 2013, 500 of us will gather in Turkey — from leaders to engaged community members
• We’ll train in grassroots and digital organizing, share our stories, and chart a strategy for the coming year
• Attendees will then return to their home countries in teams to organize mobilizations
• These national or regional events will be launchpads for new, highly-coordinated campaigns targeting political and corporate levers of power
• Together, we will truly shift the power and spark the kind of visionary transformation we need to fight the climate crisis
In other words, 2013 is going to be our biggest year yet: www.globalpowershift.org.
Not everyone will be able to attend the gathering in Istanbul, so we’re asking interested individuals to apply. This will ensure that a great diversity of folks are able to attend and see through the full GPS vision — from Turkey to national mobilizations worldwide. Even if we can’t meet you in Turkey, we’ll need all hands on deck to be part of the massive organizing work that will take place throughout 2013. So get ready!
Power Shift was established in the US in 2007. Since then, we’ve seen similar mobilizations throughout Europe, in Russia, Australia, Canada, and several other countries.
We’ve never undertaken a project like this before, but believe now is the time to take it truly worldwide. We hope you’ll join us.
Let’s shift the power!
350.org Global Campaigns Director
Istanbul Manifesto to Fight Climate Change
“We are losing our planet. We must not accept this.”
facebook.com/GlobalPowerShift, published on Facebook (in Turkish) in March 2013
Gathering 10,000 youth leaders
And now don’t mix up ‘Global Power Shift’ with ‘We Are Power Shift’. The latter is a grassroots-driven online community in the US that “seeks to empower and serve as a hub for the youth climate movement.” The site wearepowershift.org offers activists “a forum for discussion and a platform to share resources, swap stories, strengthen relationships — to create a community which helps building political power, harness collective energy, amplify the message and advance a vision of a clean, just and sustainable future.”
‘We Are Power Shift’ is a project organised by the Energy Action Coalition — a coalition of 50 youth-led environmental and social justice groups and organisations working together to build the youth clean energy and climate movement.
“Working with hundreds of campus and youth groups, dozens of youth networks, and hundreds of thousands of young people, Energy Action Coalition and its partners have united a burgeoning movement behind winning local victories and coordinating on state, regional, and national levels in the United States and Canada,” they write.
This fall, they plan to gather over 10,000 youth leaders in Pittsburgh, the major city in Pennsylvania, “to fight for our future”:
“Together we’ll build the movement to fight fracking, divest from fossil fuels, build a clean energy future, and stop the climate crisis.”
“Gaining increasing attention”
So there is movement, no question about this. The question we still will have to wait for an answer to is whether there will be any results from these activities, campaigns, conferences and appeals. To be successful means that the fossil fuel industry needs to leave somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of current fossil fuel reserves in the ground. That is about 27 trillion US dollars worth of value that must be set aside. And this is just one challenge of many.
The timing might be just right. The global investment bank HSBC wrote recently that, “The contradiction between global carbon budgets and fossil fuel reserves is gaining increasing attention.” HSBC warned in a new report that the world is hurtling towards a “Peak Planet” scenario where the global carbon budget from 2000 to 2050 is consumed well before 2030.
“There is a growing recognition of the severity of the situation … and we believe that ambition is about to pick up again,” wrote HSBC, and earlier this year, investors worth 87 trillion US dollars actually demanded that companies now begin disclosing their “carbon risk”.
Could all this be those cracks in the ice that we’d like to see after a long carbon winter? Are we witnessing the first signs of a “Carbon Spring”?
I’ll hand you over to an author, Paul Gilding, who believes so…
“Climate movement on the verge of victory”
“That is the reality of the climate movement — it is massive, global, powerful, and on the right side of history.”
Author Paul Gilding wrote on 20 March 2013:
“There are signs the climate movement could be on the verge of a remarkable and surprising victory. (…)
it is winning the battle from within: Its core arguments and ideas are clearly right; being endorsed by the world’s top science bodies and any significant organisation that has examined them.
Far from being at society’s margins it has the support, to various degrees, of virtually all governments, and many of the world’s most powerful political leaders, including the heads of state of the USA, China and other leading economies. It counts the CEO’s of many global companies and many of the world’s wealthiest people as active supporters — who between them direct hundreds of billions of dollars of capital every year towards practical climate action. And of course, this comes on top of one of the most global, best funded, broadly based and bottom up community campaigns we have ever seen.”
Read more: paulgilding.com
“You can resist an invading army. You cannot resist an idea whose time has come.”
Victor Hugo (1802-1885), French author
The Daily Beast – 30 March 2013:
Climate Change is Here, Ready or Not. So What Now?
Welcome to a warmer, wilder world! We need to stop debating and start accepting that climate change is happening. Eugene Linden on how adaptation and market forces (hint: insurance companies) might temper the coming catastrophe. By Eugene Linden
REnew economy – 27 March 2013:
HSBC: World is hurtling towards Peak Planet
A peak in greenhouse emissions will need to be achieved as a matter or urgency, and by 2020 at the latest. “This is a tough task — but not impossible in our view. There is a growing recognition of the severity of the situation … and we believe that ambition is about to pick up again.” By Giles Parkinson
The Grist – 27 March 2013:
Giant investment bank taken over by hippie alarmists
By David Roberts
The Guardian – 26 March 2013:
Key Cameron adviser blocks climate change from G8 agenda
The UK’s lead G8 negotiator rejected moves from Germany and France to make climate change a key talking point. By Ed King for RTCC, part of the Guardian Environment Network. By Ed King
Rolling Stone – 22 february 2013:
The Case for Fossil-Fuel Divestment
On the road with the new generation of college activists fighting for the environment. By Bill McKibben
Appeal for sustainable transition now
DG Climate Action
Appeal for appeal for a transition to a sustainable future now
The world is out of order. We are experiencing not one but a series of interconnected crises that obstruct each other’s solutions. This situation is new: simultaneously the economy is troubled, the climate is threatened, nature and resources are under pressure, unemployment is rising, social stability is in danger and inequality is growing in many countries.
We are 50 young people of the generation, which is to carry on the society of today and ensure a promising future for our own children. We are full of enterprise and ready to take responsibility. But we are also deeply concerned about the lack of recognition, amongst political decision makers, of the interconnected crises. They are trying to solve the problems of the present with the answers of the past.
With different backgrounds, a large variety of skills and strong commitment we gathered on the 23rd of February to put into words our anxiety and our generation’s vision of sustainable development.
We face historic challenges that require a historic transition. With this call we appeal to the European Commission and to the members of the European Parliament to look up, recognize the need for fundamental changes and join us pave the way for a sustainable future. The world is out of order — let’s help each other fix it.
The global economic system is cracking. A growing world population and the growth of material wealth has brought us to a place where the global economy exceeds the planetary boundaries. Rather than living off what nature supplies every year, we are eating of its stocks — as eating the seed when the granary is empty.
This has undermined the possibilities for perpetual growth, which has been a prerequisite for wealth for the last two hundred years. Instead we are now experiencing economic stagnation, unemployment, inequality and political instability in our part of the world. It is as if the endeavours to create economic progress by traditional means are obstructing that same progress. We are caught in a vicious circle.
This is especially evident in the way we treat resources and the eco-systems. The never ending hunt for more oil, gas and coal leads to the depletion of the reserves and increasing prices, but also to increasing environmental costs and disastrous climate strain. The hunt for short-term profits undermines the possibility for sustainability in the long run. The fact that we do not pay the right price for fossil fuels and other resources means that future generations will pay an unbearable price.
Today environmental irresponsibility is profitable. Polluters do not pay enough.
For a long period of continued growth the global economy has not succeeded in reducing inequality between people, and following the recession, inequality has increased. Together with growing unemployment this erodes social cohesion and weakens the trust in the political system and decision makers. This distrust becomes a barrier for innovation and visionary reforms that can bring us on a path to sustainability.
Instead we act on a short-term basis. Exemplified by firms producing goods with low durability or planned obsolescence, by politicians avoiding necessary environmental regulation in order to insure their own position, by the encouragement of consumers to increase consumption, well knowing that growing consumption undermines our livelihood in the long run. Frightened by crisis, under pressure from competition, threatened by unemployment and rankled by inequality we are forced to act against our deeper convictions.
It is as if we cannot see what is good for us. We use an abstract measure and convince ourselves that it tells us all about thriving and wellbeing. To measure wealth in GDP is equivalent to measuring the flow of water in a river — but the amount of gallons, passing by, tell us nothing about whether the water is clean or poisoned or whether it contains fish or pollution.
To bring environmental sustainability, real wellbeing and human happiness back in the centre of politics and development requires rethinking of the measure for progress, a reform of the GDP-measure.
But it is not all that can be measured, sense of community and social cohesion for example.
The modern human being is often dissociated from nature and under the illusion of independence from it. ’The scarce goods of nature can be substituted, and technology can secure the continued value adding’, sounds the comforting rationale of economists. And since what we do to the environment does not imply immediate consequences for us — as when CO2-emissions in Europe result in drought in Africa with a ten year delay — it is tempting to tell ourselves that it has nothing to do with us. What we do and what we know deep down is not coherent.
This also counts for the relationship between people. In a society permeated by competition and under the pressure from crisis individual progress and material status are central criteria for success. Individuals, sections of populations and countries fight against each other for opportunities, jobs, resources and the remaining space. Social cohesion and sense of community disintegrate.
If we are to overcome the system crisis, we must all be part of the transition. The challenge must be articulated in all its complexity — not as single isolated problems. Politicians must find courage to express visions and show leadership — not be chased around the ring by short-term agendas, changing polls and scandalizing media. Firms must commit to societal responsibility and make good examples — not protect status quo and narrow vested interest. The people must be involved as active and responsible citizens — not just addressed from above as consumers, wage earners or recipients of public benefit.
The transition begins in our hearts and our minds.
The challenges are many and profound. We are far from knowing all the answers. But we have the will and the power to become part of the transition. We are confident that a sustainable course is possible. We even have the impression that it will be reviving, exiting and fun.
We believe in EU as a frontrunner — a laboratory where we inspire each other.
Here are some of our suggestions for solutions and new initiatives:
The transition council is a multidisciplinary council of specialists, authorised to advice politicians and qualify the necessary decisions to initiate and continue a sustainable transition of the society. The council must regularly articulate holistic transition visions in close cooperation with the civil society and give recommendations and guidelines for sustainable societal development.
The exploratorium is a project contributing to the development and testing of new technologies and creative solutions in coherence with local needs on citizen’s initiatives. The project is financed by the state and provides credit and consultancy for entrepreneurs with new ideas for social and environmental sustainable production.
An ecological tax reform consists of increasing the taxes on environmental damage and decreasing the taxes on work. Higher taxes on pollution and resource consumption will increase the incentives for resource efficiency, innovation and technological development, while lower tax on work will increase employment.
A green and social GDP will incorporate natural capital and social aspects in the yearly statement of the total national wealth. This new measure is a reform of the existing GDP-measure, where depletion of nature and negative social effects are set against the total national income.
Green investments are vital, if the transition is to gain momentum. In this regard we have three proposals:
• Lower the discount rate for sustainable transition projects: Such projects are often fundamentally different from conventional construction projects, because of higher investment costs, lower operation costs, avoided environmental costs and long lasting benefits. A significantly lower discount rate for such projects will make many more of these cost-effective.
• Create incentives for the pensions funds to make sustainable investments: Pension funds possess huge assets, which should be invested in long-term projects within sustainable energy, collective transportation and sustainable construction. By changing the focus from short-term profits to long-term investments, the pension assets can be invested in sustainable projects.
• Establish a society bank: The society bank is a public investment bank with the goal of allocating funds for sustainable investments leading to permanent jobs. Here private actors can place their savings at state guaranteed competitive interest rates. Furthermore the pension funds are obliged to place a certain percentage of their assets in the bank.
National service must be about the obligation to take care of nature and each other. Everywhere in the municipalities there are tasks not carried out, these regard nature restoration, nature conservation and care in local communities. The existing military national service is transformed to cover environmentally and socially sustainable projects. This will make it possible to solve urgent problems not profitable on market terms.
Use again and again and again… is a break with the culture of use and toss, a transition to a circular economy, where resources are recycled in closed circuits, and products are designed to last as long as possible. Examples of ways to support this development are to rent instead of to own, a drastically expanded deposit system and increased tariffs on resources and packaging.
Employment will be increased by several of the already mentioned proposals, but furthermore we suggest:
• Experiments with work sharing: By shortening the workweek new jobs can be created on the basis of existing production. Work sharing has been criticized for weakening competitiveness. We suggest experiments with work sharing in businesses not in competition overseas. A shorter workweek can increase quality of life for the individual, the family and local communities by allowing further engagement in leisure and community activities.
• A sustainable youth fund: This fund has the objective of creating job opportunities by financing sustainable projects launched by young people. The fund is targeted at newly qualified, unemployed and untrained under the age of 35. Thus it is to contribute to a culture of flourishing and sustainable entrepreneurship.
Our agriculture must be transformed to sustainable biological principles based on circuits, where nutrients stay in the system, the application of chemicals is stopped and the fossil energy is taken out of production. Agriculture must be seen as a caretaker of nature. The monoculture of today, dominated by fodder cultivation for meat production, must give way for more divers production forms respecting the climate and focussing on national food security.
Urban nature must be given more space and freedom. Fewer cars and less asphalt will make room for new green urban spaces. Unused public spaces will be transformed to urban farming and ornamental gardens. While increased biological diversity, public transport and cycling create more friendly cities for inhabitants of many species.
Sustainability as the new normal must be promoted through a national project of enlightenment. Citizens must be engaged in the transition, qualified, motivated and informed. Therefore funds must be allocated to campaigns like the Brundtland-campaign in the 1980’s and Agenda 21 from the beginning of the 1990’s. Sustainability must become a mandatory discipline in all schools.
The names and professions of the seminar participants:
Karina Hvilsom Bækhøj Jensen – cand.soc, erhvervsøkonomi og psykologi
Mikkel Kjær – cand., internationale udviklingsstudier
Anders Gerhard Jørgensen – cand.scient.pol
Arvid Aagaard – ba historie, stud.polit.
Anna A. K. Hinrichsen – forkvinde, Aarhus Sustainability Network
Lasse Fredslund – energiteknolog
Emilie Bak – stud.scient.pol
Maja Steensberg – filosofistuderende
Tanja Bjerre – cand. soc., virksomhedsledelse
Kristine N. Kirkensgaard – cand. soc., virksomhedsledelse
Klaudia Gram – stud.merc.pol, int. politik, erhversøkonomi
Ursula Glismann – stud.cand. sc.ant.
Benjamin Bro-Jørgensen – iværksætter, gartner, sosu-hjælper
Mie Thorup – stud.scient.adm
Tobias Johan Sørensen – stud.merc.pol, int. politik, erhversøkonomi
Anders Danielsen – cand.scient.soc
Nikoline Veirum Høgsgaard – antropolog og selvstændig
Gitte Menaka Hansen – stud.cand.scient.soc.
Zenia B. B. Nørregaard – stud. cand. soc. PKL
Michael Polny – stud.mag
Andreas Pinstrup Jørgensen – stud. cand.scient.soc.
Peter Bjerregaard – cand.soc
Michael Plesner – forstander, Nordisk Folkecenter for VE
Christian Damholt – stud.scient.pol
Anna-Katrine Vingtoft-Andersen – cand.scient.pol.
Pia Axelsen – cand.udviklingsstudier
Inge-Merete Hougaard – stud., int. udvikling & management
Rasmus Skov Olesen – stud. scient., geografi og geoinformatik
Peter Ahrenfeldt Schrøder – fuldmægtig
Magnus Gottlieb – stud. scient.pol
Andreas Hastrup Clemmensen – cand.soc
Christina Judson – stud.scient.adm
Jakob Frederik O. Anthonisen – stud.merc.jur
Maja Yhde – stud.scient.adm
Aske Tybirk Kvist – ba.scient.anth
Mathias V. Vestergaard – stud.cand.techn.soc
Esben Johannesen V Pedersen – stud., business development engineer
Leon Aahave Udh – ba. scient.anth
Esben Alslund-Lanthén – stud.scient.pol
Helene Albinus Søgaard – stud.scient.pol
Salik Rosing – cand.scient.geol
Dianna Guyard – iværksætter
Mathias Borritz Milfeldt – stud.polit
Uffe Lembo – stud.scient.pol
Frederik Noltenius Busck – cand.scient.pol
Gustav Brade – stud.scient.pol
Emil Urhammer – civilingeniør
Katrine Kaspersen – stud.oecon
Rasmus Thomsen – stud.scient.pol
Rune Wingård – cand., int. udviklingsstudier
Emil Damgaard Grann – stud.scient.pol
Stefan Frank thor Straten – cand.com
Video with English subtitles where the participants explain the idea behind the appeal.
Letter from Civil Society: World Bank Stop Funding Fossil Fuels
Dr. Jim Yong Kim
The World Bank
1818 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20433 USA
April 3, 2013
Dear Dr. Kim,
In your first months as President at the World Bank, you have spoken repeatedly about the severe consequences of climate change for people in developing countries. You have been forceful in your calls for reducing poverty in those same communities to increase their resilience to climate change. We thank you for calling attention to this critical issue and for committing to make climate change a top priority of your presidency.
However, we, the undersigned representatives of development, environment, faith-based, human rights, and community groups, also believe that the World Bank cannot meaningfully address climate change unless its lending practices, and core energy portfolio, do not further exacerbate the climate crisis and its impact on vulnerable communities. It is by this measure, rather than words, that we judge the World Bank’s commitment to addressing climate change.
We call on all international financial institutions to stop using public resources to subsidize the fossil fuel industry. These subsidies overwhelmingly fail to provide energy access to the world’s poor. Instead they fuel overconsumption in wealthy countries, benefit an already highly profitable and well-established industry, and compound many of the most urgent social and environmental problems facing humanity today, not the least of which is climate change.
The World Bank Group and other development financiers have long argued that continued fossil fuel lending is important to achieving development goals for the world’s poorest, but we have seen time and again that this is simply not true. A recent examination of the World Bank’s energy lending found that none of the World Bank Group’s fossil fuel finance in 2009 or 2010 directly targeted the poor or ensured that energy benefits reach them.(1)
In most instances, the one billion people globally who lack access to electricity have not benefited from continued investments in large, centralized fossil fuel power projects, particularly coal plants; even large increases in electricity supply have yielded little increase in electrification rates in many countries. Large-scale fossil fuel extraction projects have also brought with them a myriad of health, development and environmental problems while reaping little to no financial gains for poor communities.
In stark contrast, it is now clear that off-grid installations are dramatically cheaper than energy and infrastructure mega-projects, and are more efficient and cost-effective at providing energy access to the poor. Prioritizing interventions that catalyze off-grid renewable energy deployment will therefore significantly aid in the achievement of development goals targeted at the world’s poorest. These investments also increase the resilience of these communities to climate change.
As the World Bank again enters into discussions of its approach to energy and climate-related lending, it is time for the Bank to end support for all fossil fuel projects (other than assistance with transition, such as mine closure) unless it can be clearly demonstrated that (1) the project’s sole purpose is directly increasing energy access for the poor, and (2) a full examination of all costs — including damages to public health, welfare, the environment, and the climate — of the proposed project and any new renewable and efficiency alternatives demonstrates that it is the best alternative for delivering energy services to the poor. We believe that you will find few, if any, fossil fuel-based projects that meet these criteria.
Unfortunately, the World Bank Group continues to promote interventions, such as providing subsides to the fossil fuel industry, that make trade-offs between the objectives of expanding energy access for the poor, promoting sustainable development, and averting climate catastrophe. Until the World Bank Group can show that it can more effectively align these goals in its work, we believe that it does not merit donor support as an agent in the fight against climate change.
We ask you to use your position of leadership within the World Bank Group to ensure that the Bank stops financing projects that contribute to the climate problem, and to put an end to the false rhetoric that fossil fuel projects promote energy access. We stand ready to assist you in this critical task.
11.11.11 - Coalition of the Flemish North-South movement (Belgium)
350.org Southeast Asia
Bank Information Center (USA)
BASIC South Initiative (International)
Beyond Copenhagen Collective (India)
Bretton Woods Project (UK)
CEE Bankwatch Network (Europe)
Center for Biological Diversity (USA)
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) (USA)
Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project, Durban (South Africa)
Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka
Centre national de coopération au développement, CNCD – 11.11.11 (Belgium)
CESTA/Friends of the Earth El Salvador
Christian Aid (International)
Counter Balance (Europe)
Ecologistas en Accion - Spain
Earthlife Africa Jhb (South Africa)
Energy Action Coalition (USA)
Equity and Justice Working Group (EquityBD) (Bangladesh)
Forum for Civic Intiiative (FIQ) (Kosovo)
Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Friends of the Earth Europe
Friends of the Earth US
Gender Action (USA)
groundWork (South Africa)
Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF (India)
INTACH - Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage, Udupi-Manipal Chapter (India)
Institute for Advanced Studies (GAP) (Kosovo)
Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (Philippines)
Institute for Policy Studies, Sustainable Energy & Economy Network (USA)
International Alternate Energy Trust (India)
International Forum on Globalization (USA)
International Rivers (USA)
Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (Togo)
JVE (Sierra Leone)
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives (Canada)
Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development (KOSID) (Kosovo)
Labor Network for Sustainability (USA)
Les Amis de la Terre (France)
NOAH, Friends of the Earth Denmark
National Alliance of People’s Movements, Hyderabad (India)
Natural Resources Defense Council (International)
North East Peoples Alliance (India)
Oil Change International (USA)
Opposing Coal Power (India)
Pacific Environment (USA)
Rainforest Action Network (USA)
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) / Friends of the Earth Malaysia
Sierra Club (USA)
Third World Network (International)
Vasudha Foundation (India)
Water Initiatives Odisha (India)
Waterkeeper Alliance (International)
Western Ghats Group (India)
(1) World Bank Group Energy Financing: Energy for the Poor? Oil Change International, October 2010. http://priceofoil.org/2010/10/01/world-bank-group-energy-financing-energy-for-the-poor/
My personal thoughts and contemplations over why the world desperately needs a new youth revolution