A year in the climate movement: 2013 highlights

Courtesy of: Avaaz, 2013
Courtesy of: Avaaz, 2013

Reposted from tcktcktck.org

As the year draws to a close, we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on a year in the climate movement – the impacts, the activism and the action.

Looking back on 2013, we hope to better understand the complex landscape in which we are trying to build a safe and sustainable future, and where the climate movement stands as we move into a new year.

Yesterday we brought you some of the worst stories from 2013. Today, we bring you some of the best.

1) The debate is over: IPCC releases comprehensive report

The September Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group report was the most exhaustive and comprehensive climate study ever, and showed with extreme certainty (95%) that climate change is real, caused by human activity and requires urgent action – prompting civil society to pronounce the debate over. Global sea levels are rising, precipitation patterns are changing, sea ice is declining and oceans are acidifying it concluded.

“Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and change in all components of the climate system,” said IPCC scientists Thomas Stocker. “Limiting climate change will require substantial reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

2) Fossil fuel divestment goes global

As groups, such as the Carbon Tracker initiative, work to shine light on the dangers of continued investment in fossil fuels, 2013 saw some of the world’s largest public financial institutions move to halt coal investment. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund announced new policies limiting what fossil fuel projects can be funded. The European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the US Ex-Im followed suit.

host of private sector firms are also moving their investment away from dirty energy, while governments, including in the USthe UK, China and the Nordic countries, are re-assessing the support they will provide coal in the future.

These announcements have run in parallel with a burgeoning divestment movement that started strong in the US and has now moved across Australia and Europe. The movement calls on educational and religious institutions, along with city and state governments to lead the way in divestment and has already seen successes including Providence City CouncilSan Francisco State University, the United Church of Christ and the Quakers of Britain.

“Not only is fossil fuels a rogue industry, it’s also a bad bet,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, the organisation leading the divestment campaign. “Those carbon numbers make it clear that the industry sits on a ‘Carbon Bubble’, with €13 trillion worth of fuel it can’t sell if the planet takes even minimal action against climate change.”

3) Government action on climate change increasing

While some governments are falling behind on their climate targets, they are increasingly becoming the laggards of the international community as increasing numbers of countries take action.

Even in Canada, where national action is lacking, the government of Ontario became North America’s first jurisdiction to eradicate coal as a source of electricity this year, while countries in the Pacific showed they aimed to become a leader, using this year’s Pacific Islands Forum to come together and launch the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership.


GCCA’s Kelly Rigg talks to Tony DeBrum to discuss the Majuro Declaration

Action on climate is also being seen in the world’s most polluting nations. 2013 saw China roll out pilot carbon markets; announce plans for a potential carbon tax; announce a 2016 cap on emissions; and over take the US in clean energy investment. Meanwhile in the US, President Obama made the fight against climate change a priority for his second term, outlining the first comprehensive US Climate Action Plan. 2014 now must be the year to put these pledges into action.

Other countries from Thailand to Mexico and Indonesia to Saudi Arabia have all also taken steps in the right direction this year, to phase out fossil fuels and invest in clean energy.

4) “Mother of all risks”: Business wakes up to climate threat

In the wake of the IPCC’s latest report, businesses around the world appear to be waking up to the threats of climate change and the opportunities of tackling it. Business leaders PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) urged governments to do much more to tackle the problem, describing it as the “mother of all risks”, while nearly 700 companies signed onto the ‘Climate Declaration’ saying tackling climate change offers “one of America’s greatest economic opportunities.”

Investors are waking up to the problem too. While the majority have a long way to go in understanding climate risk, one survey of asset owners and managers, responsible for $14 trillion, showed that climate risk analysis is an increasing factor in investment decisions, while investors worth $87 trillion – that’s one third of the World’s invested capital – have called on public companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions and climate change plans.

Even some of the world’s direst companies have begun pricing carbon into their own long-term planning process, according to a recent report from CDP. That includes the likes of ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillipes, Chevron, BP, Shell and Delta Air Lines.

5) A strengthening climate movement

Over 500 impressive activists around the world participated in a Global Power Shift training over the summer in Turkey, and have since returned home with the aim to training climate activists to organise regional and national campaigns. Events have so far taken place in the US, Australia, Canada, Central and Eastern Europe, Thailand, Malaysia, and India.

Power Shift is just one example from 2013 of a more joined up and collaborative climate movement. Summer Heat linked a series of actions in North America in June, and is doing the same now in Australia. Reclaim Power also brought actions together around the world this fall, including the Global Frackdown, a Global Day of Action on Coal and a whole host of regional events.

a year in the climate movement - global frackdown

And, the year ends with a symbolic global fast that will continue throughout 2014. Spurred by the disastrous Typhoon Haiyan, Filipino climate commissioner Yeb Sano took up a solidarity fast for climate action at the UN climate talks in Warsaw. He inspired hundreds, both at the conference and around the world, to join in for the two weeks, while hundreds more – including members of youth groups, Climate Action Network, the World Council of Churches, Avaaz, 350.org, Friends of the Earth and the Climate Justice Network – have vowed to continue the fast into next year.

While we have seen some great wins for the environmental movement this year, and a host of positive shifts that show climate change is beginning to resonate in the consciousness of individuals, organisations and governments around the world, this year has also provided a sobering reminder of the imminent threat of climate change, what is at stake and the urgency needed to tackle the problem.

 

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