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Fossil fuel divestment| Fossil fuel divestment
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Fossil fuel divestment| Fossil fuel divestment

Students protest at Harvard to demand divesting from fossil fuels.


After a year of record-breaking climate disasters and a grim prognosis from the world’s top experts who warn the planet has already sustained “irreversible” harm, a movement is gaining momentum to force change. As the UN secretary general declared in August, the urgent need to curb carbon emissions marks a “death knell” for the fossil fuel industry.

For decades, Americans were told that standing up to powerful oil and gas companies wasn’t possible. Everyday people are making an impact in the fight against carbon emissions. These grassroots victories also demonstrate that those most affected by fossil fuel extraction, such as Black and Brown communities, have already found solutions.

Here’s a roundup of their accomplishments over the last year.

The money-movers

Large institutions that held significant financial stakes in fossil fuel extraction companies sold their assets

Marquee victoryMassachusetts is seeing the rise of divestment.

Students protest at Harvard to demand divesting from fossil fuels.
Harvard students protest against fossil fuels. Photograph: Boston Globe/Getty Images

Students with Fossil fuel Divest Harvard have won a nine-year-long, contentious organizing battle. It worked! in pushing the university to divest all of its $42bn endowment – the largest in the world – from fossil fuel-related companies.

Other universities, such as Boston University (BU), and Wellesley University, also renounced fossil fuels in this year. Wellesley’s AchievementThis follows almost a decade-long student activism from campus groups such as Fossil Free Wellesley or Renew Wellesley. The university has committed to ending fossil fuel investments over the next 20 years.

This is a significant shift for BU. When the student-run group DivestBU first launched eight years ago, university president Robert Brown argued divestment wasn’t feasible. But after a “long journey,” Brown September, Recognized that activists successfully swayed the board of trustees to divest and put the university “on the right side of history.”

Meanwhile, Boston mayor Michelle Wu Signed an ordinance in late November phasing out the city’s investments in fossil fuel, tobacco, and prison industries, to be achieved by 2025.

Why it matters “It’s a really clear testament to the power of persistence and of young people organizing,” says Ilana Cohen, a junior at Harvard and organizer with Fossil Free Divest Harvard. “The way that we won divestment was by making it fundamentally unaffordable for the university to maintain its intransigent and fundamentally unfounded, as well as immoral stance on the issue.”

The community fights

Local communities formed to resist the establishment of extractive companies in their neighbourhoods

Marquee victoryA majority-Black neighborhood of Memphis, Tennessee. DefeatedThe construction of the underground Byhalia Connection pipeline, measuring 49 miles, was approved in mid-2021.

Clyde Robinson walks with his grandkids on his land in south-west Memphis. Robinson is one of the landowners being sued for property rights of their land by the Byhalia Connection pipeline project.
Clyde Robinson walks alongside his grandkids in south-west Memphis. Robinson is one of many landowners being sued by the Byhalia Connection pipeline for their property rights.Photograph by Andrea Morales/MLK50 Justice Through Journalism

Residents had petitioned local, state and federal officials to reject the permit after representatives for the pipeline company said construction through the historically Black neighborhood of Boxtown represented the “path of least resistance”. Later, the company retracted the permit. PulledIt requested a permit for the project, citing low oil production due to the pandemic.

The Delaware River Basin Commission is a multi-state environmental organization located in the north-east. Formalized a moratorium on new drilling permits, an action that local environmentalists hailed as “historic”. The new fracking ban covers the near 14,000 sq miles of the river’s basin.

In the meantime, the board for supervisors in Los Angeles county voted unanimouslyIn September, new and existing oil-and-gas drilling projects will be canceled. The new rule is expected to affect Inglewood oil field, the largest urban-oil field in the country. It is located near many majority-Black neighborhoods. A pipeline was discovered in the oilfield in April. spilled1,600 gallons are just a few steps from the nearest playground.

“There are tens of thousands of people who live in very close proximity to oil wells, 73% of whom are people of color,” Supervisor Holly J Mitchell, who authored the motion, According to the Associated PressBefore the vote. “So, for me, it really is an equity issue.”

Why it matters Justin J Pearson, one the organizers of the Memphis pipeline campaign says their victory proves that the power and influence of the people still holds true.

“When the voices of those who’ve been most excluded and marginalized become the leading voices for change in championing the cause of environmental justice, everyone benefits,” he said. “In Memphis, we stopped a pipeline, but we really catalyzed a movement for justice and change.”

The shareholder rebellion

Activist investors used their collective power to force major oil company to change within themselves

Marquee victory Hedge fund activists claimed three of the 12 voting seats on Exxon’s board.

Darren Woods, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil.
Darren Woods, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Climate activists and dissidents investors successfully executed a Shareholder rebellion within ExxonMobil and Chevron last spring, protesting the companies’ continued inaction toward meaningfully curbing carbon emissions.

The activist hedge fund Engine No 1 staged an upset victory in electing three new directors to Exxon’s board after disgruntled investors hoped to push the oil giant toward a greener future.

Chevron was facing opposition from Follow This, the Dutch activist campaign group. This led to a shareholder revolt and voting to force the company into implementing tougher emission targets.

Why it matters Mark van Baal, who founded Follow This, said the shareholder rebellions mark a “A paradigm shift” for investors and a “victory in the fight against climate change”.

Repatriation of the land

To stop destruction to the environment, Indigenous groups have negotiated the return to their traditional stewarded and stolen lands. environment

Marquee victoryThe Passamaquoddy Tribe Reacquired150 acres of land were taken by settler-colonists in the latter part of the 19th century.

Joan Dana blesses the water and islands.
Joan Dana blesses the water, and islands.Photograph: The Guardian

The Passamaquoddy lands which are located on an isolated island in rural eastern Maine were planned for timber production and real-estate development. The funds were provided by The Nature Conservancy, a US-based global environmental organization, to the tribal government.

Minnesota is the state. Return120 acres of land were donated to the Lower Sioux Indian Community. The US had broken Mendota Treaty of 1851, shared by the Mdewakanton Wahpekute and Dakota tribes, by settling the newly returned land. The federal government was forced to honor the agreement by the tribes. This led to The Dakota War of 1862, where the US took control of the conflict. Executed 38 Dakota men – the largest mass hanging in US history.

Why it mattersThis historic move by the US government is a sign of how they acknowledge past wrongs as well as how they contribute to the current day.

“They should let the Lower Sioux have the entire site,” Lower Sioux citizen Pamela Halverson, who used to be the tribe’s historic preservation officer. “I would like to see a complete release of all the land.”

The courtroom rulings

Climate activists have used the legal system as a tool to force a reduction in carbon emissions

Marquee victoryA Dutch court ruled Shell legally obligated by law to reduce its emissions by half within the next decade.

Lawyers celebrate after a Dutch court ruled against Shell.
Lawyers celebrate after a Dutch court ruled in favor of Shell. Photograph: Remko de Waal/EPA

A Dutch court ruled in May that Royal Dutch Shell, the one-of-a-kind oil company, was legally bound. The top 10 most polluting countries in the worldTo reduce emissions by 45% before 2030. Though the court didn’t find the company had broken any laws, it said Shell had endangered human lives, violating the country’s civil codes.

The 16 young plaintiffs won another 2021 courtroom victory Held v State of Montana, A suit alleging that Montana contributed the climate crisis and violated their constitutional right to sue.

It is the first such case to be tried, and could be a model for other lawsuits seeking to hold the government responsible in the future for climate change. The case was filed by the young people, ranging in age between four and twenty-years old, in March 2020. They are asking for a plan to reduce carbon emissions.

Why it matters “At this political stage where our governments, both federally and in Montana, are determined to continue to rely on fossil fuels, we turn to our courts to protect [our] constitutional rights,” says Grace Gibson-Snyder, 18, and one of the youth plaintiffs. “We have this opportunity to present the whole story of the government causing climate change.”


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