2017 has seen a succession of devastating hurricanes, flooding in Asia, wildfires raging around the world, including in Greenland, an anthrax outbreak in Siberia, and ice shelf collapses. This is a planetary emergency. The Paris agreement as it stands, allows for at least three to four degrees of warming. Yet the devastating natural disasters of 2017 are happening with only one degree. Fossil fuels are the primary cause of global warming. Many other sources of energy are equally dirty, on account of the cost to people and the environment. Some calculations suggest we have less than three years to make cuts to prevent a temperature rise over 1.5 degrees. It is not hard to join the dots. The fossil fuel industry’s time is up. We need to usher in a new people- led and just energy system and put an end to dirty energy and false solutions and tackle climate change. And do all this fairly. Communities around the world are winning battles and the solutions do exist. We can win this fight if we act together. To this end Friends of the Earth International mobilized with friends, groups and allies around the world in October 2017.
Although it is pushing both an outdated source of energy and an outdated, centralised model of energy, the fossil fuel industry is still powerful. Over 1600 new coal plants are planned or under development in 62 countries. Some countries are looking to expand into coal for the first time, which is unthinkable in this day and age. Coal should be dead. Clean community energy alternatives exist and are coming down in cost. Coal fuels energy poverty, increasing exports, heavy industry, human rights abuses, social and environmental degradation and corporate profits. Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest coal exporters, is just one country plagued by the detrimental effects of coal.
The devastation wreaked by oil, gas, fracking, tar sands and unconventional coal technologies is no better. There is a danger of a tar sands frontier opening up in Nigeria, a country already devastated by oil companies who continue to abuse the people and environment with little sign of cleaning up. Fracking is a reality or threatened in Argentina, Colombia, in South Africa and the UK. The quantity of new conventional gas infrastructure Europe is planning is staggering: a 58% increase in EU gas import capacity. Togo is now threatened with exploitation of offshore oil, which would have dire impacts.
Non-fossil fuel forms of energy are not the solution many herald them to be. Many are as dirty as fossil fuels, given their impacts on people and the environment and their centralisation in the hands of corporations. Let us remember Chernobyl and Fukushima. Nuclear is dangerous. The nuclear process is too slow to slow climate change and hugely expensive. Hinkley C is now £1.5 billion over budget and 15 months behind schedule. Offshore wind in the UK is now, officially, cheaper than new nuclear. And its clean and safe.
Large scale hydro projects also falls under the dirty energy band. They frequently result in land grabbing, diverted rivers, and the undermining of water and food sovereignty. The impact of hydroelectric dams on climate change has also been underestimated. For example, rotting vegetation in dam waters emit around a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases every year. In 2015, 57,000 large dams choked more than half the world’s major rivers. These projects also cost lives. In 2016 Berta Caceres was murdered for opposing the Agua Zarca dam in Honduras. In 2017 Berta Zúñiga was attacked for continuing her mother’s work. Madre Tierra/Friends of the Earth Honduras works alongside communities to resist large scale hydro projects.
Ultimately we need to act to now and from the grassroots to tackle dirty energy and climate change. Governments and corporations are not acting and will not act. The Paris Agreement commitments add up to three or four degrees warming. Following Trump’s ignominious exit, the agreement could be weakened further. We need to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. Paris is a deal that lacks legal enforcement, fair science-based emissions cuts and solutions for finance. It’s a dangerous deal because it lulls the public into the false belief that world leaders have solved climate change. They have not.
We need to act now with justice to ensure that developed countries are held to account. 10% of the world’s population are responsible for 50% emissions, whilst the poorest 50% are responsible for only 10%. The rich must make the deepest emission cuts rapidly, and pay for emissions reductions and sustainable development in the global South.
We, the people must oppose dirty energy, case by case, battle by battle using all the tools and tactics at our disposal. We need to find innovative ways to defeat dirty energy. We need to connect the dots for a comprehensive fight, connect the fossil fuel headquarters with their operations and their financial backers. People power is a powerful tool. This has been proved time and time again; in fracking bans in Victoria state, Australia, New York state, states across America, Ireland, France, Scotland, Bulgaria and provinces in Canada.
We need to act globally to support and protect people whose resistance is met with repression. We must usher in an energy revolution; just, sustainable, climate-safe energy for all. This transition must happen fairly. No country can be excluded or disadvantaged because they have not exploited their fossil fuels. As we stop dirty energy in its tracks we must fight for the only viable future, where decentralized, people-centred community energy, agroecology and community forest management are a reality. Examples of community power projects can be found around the world; Scotland, Denmark, Palestine, Ireland to name just a few from around the federation.
All over the world, the fight against #DirtyEnergy is growing, and calls for an energy transformation are getting louder. In an explosion of spectacular mobilizations and a frenzy of social media during October 2017, Friends of the Earth groups across six continents demonstrated the power of the people. Join us. Together we can fight the climate emergency.