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As UN Report Warns of Looming Climate Catastrophe, 13 Stories From Front Lines of Fight for Fossil-Free Future

The collection "shows readers why we should all care more for this existential fight, and how each one of us can make the difference, not only through personal choices, but joining others, building grassroot movements from the ground up."

report

The group 350.org on Monday released a compilation of stories from 13 communities "fighting against fossil fuel projects and for a fast and just transition to 100 percent renewable energy." (Photo: The People's Dossier on 1.5°C/screenshot)

As the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Monday put out a report that warns, "If the current warming rate continues, the world would reach human-induced global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F) around 2040," 350.org released a compilation of stories from 13 communities "fighting against fossil fuel projects and for a fast and just transition to 100 percent renewable energy."

"With a planet barely 1°C warmer than pre-industrial times, we are witnessing a chain of catastrophic climate-related extremes all over the globe. If we want to avoid even more dramatic impacts, we have to stay under a 1.5°C increase in global mean temperatures," 350.org program director Payal Parekh writes in The People's Dossier on 1.5°C (pdf).

After outlining why "scientists say we must stop global warming now," the dossier details a collection of stories that, as Parekh explains, "shows readers why we should all care more for this existential fight, and how each one of us can make the difference, not only through personal choices, but joining others, building grassroot movements from the ground up."

The Arctic

As the Arctic warms more quickly than the rest of the world, the Saami people inhabiting regions of Finland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden face a variety of issues with herding reindeer, which they use for transportation and food. While melting ice sheets and deforestation pose threats, the report also points out that large energy projects do as well—such as hydropower dams and wind farms on reindeer grazing land, providing "a stark reminder that clean energy solutions need to be implemented taking into account the needs of the ecosystem and of the local communities."

Brazil

Ceará, a state in northeastern Brazil, has been enduring its longest drought in recorded history since 2010, and water scarcity has devastated local agriculture and fishery. "With the reservoirs of the hydroelectric plants—the country's main source of electricity—empty and for lack of investments in other renewable energy sources, the government has to activate the fossil fuel-fired thermoelectric plants." These dirty energy plants also require water, and extraction from supposedly protected areas have led to conflicts with indigenous groups in the region.

Canada

Faced with mounting opposition from indigenous communities and environmental groups, fossil fuel giant Kinder Morgan sought to bail on the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline—and much to the frustration of local opponents, sold it off to the Canadian government. "Despite increasingly dangerous climate impacts and strong public opposition, the government of Canada continues to promote and expand tar sands expansion—Canada's fastest growing source of emissions and a fossil fuel reserve that, if fully exploited, could burn up nearly a quarter of the entire world's remaining carbon budget for the 1.5°C threshold," the report warns.

Italy

Residents of Salento, a southern region of Italy, are fighting against the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which, as the report notes, "would come onshore in the beautiful seaside town of San Foca, Puglia." Facing off against the Italian government and European Commission, locals are organizing peaceful protest of TAP, which they fear will "damage and pollute the local landscape, coastline, and clear blue waters." The project would also contribute to planet-warming emissions, which force up global temperatures that are already endangering "olive groves and grapes that have shaped the Salento region over thousands of years."

Japan

In the historic city of Kobe—designated one of the most susceptible in the world to sea level rise—activists are working to quash plans to build two large-scale coal power plants. The steel manufacturer trying to construct the plants, the report points out, "has a notorious history when it comes to air pollution." Critics of the plants have turned to the courts, citing concerns about air pollution and climate change, in an efforts to stop them.

Kenya

Residents of Lamu Old Town—which "is one of the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa, and was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001—are working to prevent the construction of a giant coal plant that they fear would harm the region's most vital industries, fishing and tourism, and displace some 120,000 people. Community members have pursued a court battle, arguing that the economic, environmental, and health impacts weren't adequately considered when the government approved plans for the plant.

Oceana

Pacific Islander and Australian activist have teamed up to take on the the Carmichael coal mine project, a proposal by the Indian fossil fuel company Adani that would entail shipping millions of ton of coal through the Great Barrier Reef, which is already significantly impacted by rising ocean temperatures. "To build and run its proposed Carmichael coal mine," the report notes, "Adani also wants to extract a billion liters of water per year from a river in drought-stricken central Queensland for decades to come." 

The Philippines

Led by the Our Lady of the Angels parish, residents of Atimonan, Quezon are fighting plans to construct a coal plant in a vulnerable coastal area. "While trying to block the construction of this giant coal power plant, the community has been eager to implement solutions to energy needs that offer an alternative path to energy independence for the region," the report notes, pointing out that the parish has installed rooftop solar panels "to power their church, convent, and the park outside the parish."

Senegal

"The sleepy town of Barngy, Senegal, is one of the country's most vulnerable to coastal erosion," the report explains. Its residents are also battling pollution from a nearby cement plant as well as plans for a new coal plant that would pose a local public health and environmental threat. Members of the community have organized in opposition to the plant since 2014, including a mass demonstration at COP21 in Paris. "They want to get it up and running this month, but we're gonna do everything we can to stop it," said local activist Fadel Wade.

Thailand

Women's groups, academics, community members, and environmental and civil society groups in Pattani Bay, southern Thailand have come together to oppose a proposed coal power plant that would endanger a bay and force hundreds of families to relocate. "Women play a significant role in the local fishing industry and rely on Pattani Bay for nutrient-rich foods to feed their families," the report explains. In addition to the pollution threats this plant poses to the region, Thailand at large is facing more extreme weather events that scientists have tied to the global climate crisis.

United States: California

As their state is devastated by increasingly dangerous wildfires, residents of California repeatedly have called on Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to match his lofty rhetoric on climate action with actual policy changes, and completely end all fossil fuel extraction across the state. Amid mounting pressure by residents and activists, state lawmakers passed legislation that aims to transition the energy grid to 100 renewable sources by 2045.

United States: Louisiana

While coastal communities across southern Louisiana are increasingly threatened by rising sea level, activists are fighting to block the Bayou Bridge pipeline, which could cut across vital regional wetlands. Opponents of the project created the L'eau Est La Vie and continue to peacefully protest in spite of a recent state law pushed through by right-wingers that aims to criminalize actions that interfere with "critical infrastructure" such as fossil fuel pipelines. In addition, as the report notes, "Louisiana is one of the hardest hit regions of the United States when it comes to climate impacts such as intense hurricanes, which have devastated in particular low-income communities, people of color, and other vulnerable population."

United States: Montana and the Dakotas

Advocates of clean energy continue to battle the use and development pipelines from the Alberta tar sands, including Keystone XL (KXL). The resistance to Keystone XL is being led by indigenous groups, farmers, landowners, and climate activists in the United States and Canada, and has seen creative actions such as the installation of solar arrays along the pipeline's proposed route.

"The weight of the climate crisis falls on those who have the least to do with creating and perpetuating it."
The People's Dossier on 1.5°C

Around the world, as the report notes, "the weight of the climate crisis falls on those who have the least to do with creating and perpetuating it, including indigenous communities, climate vulnerable countries, low-income communities of color, and the poorest communities bearing the brunt of fossil fuel extraction, overburdened with unsafe and unfair levels of exposure to pollution."

Thus, it asserts, "tackling the climate crisis requires building a new economy that works for all and leaves no one behind."

In addition to explaining the threat the human-caused warming poses to the planet and those who inhabit it, and highlighting 13 communities fighting for a transition to clean energy, the dossier charges that in order limit warming to 1.5°C by the end of the century—the goal of the Paris agreement—the international community must halt all new fossil fuel projects, stop investing in dirty energy companies and projects, and "dramatically accelerate the transition to 100 percent, locally distributed, renewable energy systems."

"Real climate action," according to the report, means:

  • Building decentralized renewable energy infrastructure that serves everyone's needs and doesn't just replace a big plant with another, excluding workers, citizens, farmers and wildlife;
  • Addressing energy poverty by making leapfrogging to renewable, clean energy accessible for the many in the global South, for instance through investments in off-the-grid small scale renewable energy;
  • That workers in the fossil fuel industry are given a chance to be part of the energy revolution;
  • No swapping of one fossil fuel for another; and
  • Jobs, innovation, and opportunities are possible with a low-carbon transition.

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