Grassroots Activism

With COP21 setting the commitment to a maximum of 1.5°C global temperature rise, countries pledged varying but significant carbon emission reductions. With each day at COP23, it becomes more evident that a 1.5°C goal will only be achieved with a combination of government policy mandates, NGO action, and grassroots organization. Governments constantly change administrations often, resulting in inconsistent policies. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a more planet-friendly administration, while President Donald Trump has vowed the U.S. will leave the Paris Accords. The U.S. government present at the conference is supporting coal, oil, and gas, which is in direct conflict with the climate treaty.

The U.S. is not alone in supporting oil, coal, and gas extraction. For example, there is a pipeline under construction that will transport natural gas from West Africa all the way to Europe. Governments and politicians have shown support, yet a grassroots movement is fighting back. The Fishnet Alliance, started by Nigerian fishermen, gives voice to the thousands of residents who rely on fishing for their livelihood. The Alliance has expanded to Cameroon, Chad, and South Africa and is working to reject foreign big oil polluting their lands and waters.

Anton Jaekel and Dorothee Habermann

In the Philippines, 45% of used energy is from coal. A staggering 22 million people do not have access to electricity. The Philippine government is promising electricity to all by building more than 100 coal plants. With coal plants, more CO2 will be emitted, adding to air pollution and health issues. The Paris target of 70% reduction will not be met if residents wait for the government. So, an anti-coal, climate justice movement has risen across the islands. It is called the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice. They have stalled seven power plants using litigation and are suing the International Finance Corporation for funding 19 other plants. Labor unions have joined and there have been street protests against JPMorgan Chase, another funder. For more information visit:

Indonesia is also building coal plants and is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal. Coal is polluting the waters around their island archipelago. With the help of Friends of the Earth, Indonesia residents are litigating and winning in the international courts. The government continues to ignore the judgments, but the movement is growing.

Katia R. Aviles-Vazquez

Urban oil wells are within one mile of 5.4 million residents in California. In Los Angeles, 508,000 residents live within ¼ mile of an oil well. The Center of Biological Diversity built a coalition that successfully pressured local city leaders to examine the health effects of these wells. The impacts will be released in early 2018. See for more information.

Oil Change International, a Washington D.C. based nonprofit, is redefining climate leadership from the ground up. Their philosophy includes:

  1. Decline in gas, oil, and coal production is necessary and urgent.
  2. Managed decline is better than unmanaged decline.
  3. Just transition equity is an imperative.
  4. Build power on the frontline, creating a leadership shift toward local communities.
Michael Charles and Troy Robertson

Country after country is using local pressure to stop big oil. I heard from local leaders in Scotland who won a permanent ban on fracking. Brussels “gastovists” are working to stop gas projects throughout Europe.

The U.S. Climate Action Center funded by Michael Bloomberg held a kick-off today titled Just Recovery & Just Transition. It was a moving two hours, with the following speakers:

  • Lidy NacPil – Founder Philippines Movement for Climate Justice
  • Kiram Oomen – Our Children’s Trust
  • Daisy Guadalupe Romero – ICLEI
  • Katia R. Aviles-Vazquez – Puerto Rican activist representing agriculture and ecology
  • Kandi Mossett – Represented Indigenous Environmental Network
  • Kathy Jetnil-Kijner

    Ana & Juan Parras – Founded Tejas in 2006 Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy

  • Kathy Jetnil-Kijner – spoken word poet
  • Michael Charles and Troy Robertson – Founded SustainUS Delegation
  • Anton Jaekel and Dorothee Habermann – Protest coal and block coal mines in Germany
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