Cape Town Mayor, Patricia De Lille, has committed to divest from fossil fuels!
“I am taking this a step further and I have informed our Finance Directorate that we are going to divest from fossil fuel assets and companies in favour of greener and cleaner investments which are in line with our vision of a sustainable future.
As an organizer for the Pacific Climate Warriors, Koreti stood boldly in her truth and lived out the words “we are not drowning, we are fighting!” in every way. As a movement leader she helped so many others speak their truth, weaving a great mat of stories and people from every part of the planet.
After weeks of suspense, a gigantic iceberg has broken off the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. The US National Ice Center has called the iceberg A-68, but 10,000 people have joined us in calling for it to be named the “ExxonKnew Iceberg”.
This iceberg is big, but bigger are (very likely) on the way.
It’s big, really big, at over a trillion tons of ice, and extending to the size of the state of Delaware, or twice the size of Samoa. Scientists have suggested that while the shearing of such an iceberg is not out of the ordinary or unnatural for Antarctica, it does reflect the “general direction of climate change”, where to put it basically, things melt and break apart.
Beyond the Larsen C ice shelf, the Antarctic continent is more widely showing signs of destabilisation, with the ice sheet losing mass at an alarming pace. If this continues, we could see many more, larger icebergs calving off the continent as the ice sheet starts to slide into the ocean.
Such a gloomy prospect is not a given – it depends on just how well we do at limiting global warming. Recent research shows that the Antarctic contribution to sea level rise is close to zero for up to 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, then jumps to at least 2 metres once we pass approximately 2 degrees Celsius. Small temperature rises make a big difference.
— Annie Kia (@AnnieKia) July 12, 2017
We still have a window of opportunity, but it has nearly been jammed shut by climate denial.
To avoid passing 2 degrees, and pulling the trigger on Antarctica, governments need to succeed at keeping all known reserves of coal, oil and gas in the ground, and replace them with 100% renewable energy, coupled with energy efficiency measures. Yet action to limit climate change has been stymied by decades of climate denial funded by fossil fuel companies – as is now well documented thanks to leaked internal memos from the oil giant Exxon.
Investigative reports revealed Exxon’s own scientists warned about the dangers of fossil fuel use as far back at the 1970s. Instead of heeding the warnings, executives embarked on a decades-long and ongoing campaign to spread misinformation amongst the public, bankroll climate-denying politicians and front-groups, and block climate action at every level. Exxon is currently under investigation by two state attorneys general in the US, and is under intense public scrutiny for its continued role in knowingly perpetuating the climate crisis.
The world’s largest economies contribute $72 billion per year in public finance for fossil fuels – roughly 4 times what they give to clean energy. Fossil fuel companies have ridden the gravy train, now it’s time to hold them to account.
Naming is important.
In 2008, a British school boy won a competition to name an iceberg that had broken off Antarctica, calling it “Floating Bob”, in place of “C-19” the name it was given by the US National Ice Center. Ever since then and before then, icebergs of significant size have simply been given a name consisting of a letter and number.
Frankly, calling this iceberg A-68 doesn’t cut it, neither would calling it “Floating Bob or Judy”. People deserve to understand the deep cost of Exxon’s decades of climate deception. That’s why more than 10,000 people have petitioned the US National Ice Center to name the iceberg the ExxonKnew Iceberg.
Help make the name #ExxonKnew Iceberg stick by posting about the #ExxonKnew Iceberg on social media.
— Aaron Packard (@AaronPackard) July 12, 2017
Last week the U.S. congress approved a measure to the Defense Authorization Act that calls climate change a “direct threat to the national security” of the U.S. and orders up a Pentagon study. History shows that when the United States incorporates any issue into its defense strategy the usual response is to put unlimited resources towards waging failing wars instead of dealing with the root causes of the issue. We don’t have to look too far to see the negative results of a militarized response to any issue. From the failed war on drugs to the increased criminalization of the poor, these types of strategies tend to implement violent responses to issues that require social and economic solutions. Climate change is no different. Preparing for and waging war won’t help us deal with with its impacts.
The defense bill’s measure on climate change instructs the military service branches to identify their 10 military installations that are most likely to be impacted by climate change over the next two decades. Military commanders have also been instructed to factor climate change into their strategic battle plans. While this measure may seem at odds with Trump’s climate denying stance, it is completely compatible with his promise to make the “U.S military the biggest and strongest”. At a time when the risk of inaction on climate change is growing, fed by influential climate skeptics in the Trump administration, it is critical that the climate justice movement reject a militarized and violent response to climate change.
Certainly, there is power in the Department of Defense’s acknowledgement of climate change as a reality we must contend with. But their understanding is tied to utilizing the issue as a way to militarize and weaponize the response to increasing climate disasters, migration and control of natural resources. If we as a justice movement are giving their assertion credibility because we think it might sway this administration’s climate denying ways we should understand that we we will be giving credence to an agency that is seen around the world as a purveyor of war, displacement, violence and death. The resistance to Trump requires all of us, in this and other movements, to think more broadly and carefully about how these issues intersect and how they affect us here and abroad.
The climate measure in the defense bill is not the only sign that this administration is intent on fueling the fires of war. Trump’s proposed budget shifts the focus from human needs and development to the military and places militarism as the top priority, pitting it against every other priority Americans care about, including climate change. The administration’s current budget drains resources for some of our most potent tools to mitigate the impacts of climate change. It includes cuts of up to 30% for foreign aid, diplomacy, the environmental protection agency, the labor department and the department of education while it shifts $54 billion to the Pentagon and military. If military spending alone could defeat climate change or solve any other social or economic issue, then a U.S. military budget that is the largest in the world ($700 billion in total) should have already solved these problems.
Climate change and climate disasters have and will continue to exacerbate existing inequalities within countries, including in the United States, and between countries. Addressing inequalities requires that we steer clear of military solutions. For example, walls will not prevent millions of climate refugees from fleeing disasters, just as the Mediterranean sea has not stopped thousands from searching for safety. We, as a movement, need to continue to advocate for national and international mechanisms that mitigate the impacts of climate change and climate disasters, including those that would enable the mass movement of people to take place peacefully. Mitigating the impacts of climate change requires cooperation and moving forward with solutions to keep fossil fuels in the ground, shift our economy to one that relies on renewable energy, and provide highly skilled jobs to those most impacted and least protected from climate change.
Climate change affects everyone, but it affects some more than others. The frontlines of climate impacts are everywhere, including on our own continent, here in Europe, right now. The indigenous Saami, living in the Arctic regions of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia, are one of those frontlines – one that we need to listen to and learn from, to guide the work we do in this movement.
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. Since 1900 average temperatures have increased by 3.5°C, and Saami livelihoods and ways of life are being hit hard by the warmer and more unpredictable weather. The exploitation of nature, racism and rules imposed by profit-driven, colonialist power structures also inflict great harm on Saami communities.
And yet whilst Saami people are so affected by climate change and exploitation of nature, they have done least to cause it. The rest of the world can look up to their way of life — deeply connected with the natural world — for solutions to these crises.
“We, the Saami, are a native people. We have lived with nature, not against it. We don’t try to exchange nature for money.”
– Mio Negga
These inspiring stories remind us all that the most powerful movements in history have been the ones led by those that are most impacted.
“Taking part in this collective action restored some hope in each of us.” — Mathieu Munsch on taking part in Break Free 2016.
There are few better ways to build hope than taking action together. Following hot on the heels of 280 amazing actions as part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation, take a look at this packed calendar of climate camps and collective actions coming up this summer.
It’s going to be creative, courageous, and beautiful — and it’s already begun with camps and actions in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany and Poland.
With the Global Divestment Mobilisation, we showed that it’s unacceptable for our institutions to invest in fossil fuels. And this summer, the climate movement is organising to challenge major fossil fuel projects directly. These are our red lines in action. In Paris, the climate movement committed to organise to keep fossil fuels in the ground, even if our governments would not — and it’s happening.
Coming up/happening now: Rolling resistance in Lancashire, UK, July 1-30
Works have started to prepare the first commercial fracking site in the UK at Preston New Road in Lancashire. This summer, Reclaim the Power are mobilising and supporting people to join the incredible local resistance efforts in a ‘Rolling Resistance’ for the whole month of July. Join a mass demo, build your own blockade or help making the tea – everyone is welcome.Climate Camp Sweden, August 3-7
The climate movement in Sweden is joining forces against new fossil fuel development, to help Sweden reach its ambition of becoming a fossil free country. This August 3-7, Fossil Free Sweden, Friends of the Earth, Nature and Youth Sweden and the local campaign group Fossilgasfällan are organising a climate action camp near Gothenburg, the site for a new proposed gas terminal.
There will be workshops and discussions exploring the issue of fossil fuel infrastructure in Sweden and the Baltics, trainings to skill up for an exciting collective action during the camp, and planning of future organising to build solutions to the climate crisis.
— Fossil Free Sweden (@FossilFreeSWE) July 7, 2017Climate camp in France, August 4-15
After the success of last summer’s camp, a coalition by Alternatiba, Les Amis de la Terre, and Action non-violente COP21 plan for the next climate camp in Maury, France.Ende Gelande & climate camp, Rhineland, Germany, August 18 – 29
Right on the edge of some of the nastiest coal mines in Europe, near Cologne, there will be another climate camp this year, as well as a mass action of civil disobedience (Ende Gelände) to block the mine infrastructure. There will be a red line action around the Hambach Forest, too. And lots more!
The camp, August 18 – 29, will be a space for networking, education, arts and actions, and trying out tomorrow’s society right now – social, ecological and based on grassroots democracy. There will be cycle tours to the camp from Vienna (leaving in July), from the UK and the Netherlands (leaving in August) and from the Climate Camp in Sweden (leaving in August).
What’s already happened:
Lausitzcamp on Tour, Lusatia coalfields, Germany/Poland, May 21-28
The big Ende Gelände actions are in the Rhineland coalfields this year, but resistance has been taking place in Lusatia, too. A cycle ride happened May 21-28, through the mining region in Germany and Poland, camping and visiting local anti-coal initiatives on the way, connecting the dots and growing the movement. See the news from the ride.
Schöner Tour-Auftakt. Wir freuen uns auf ereignisreiche Tage. pic.twitter.com/XHjYIfOaTL
— Lausitzcamp (@lausitzcamp) May 22, 2017Klimacamp, Enzersdorf an der Fischa (near Vienna), Austria, May 24-28
In February, the Austrian courts decided that the third runway at the airport Vienna must not be built, because it is in direct opposition to emission reduction goals. However, many Austrian politicians are still in favour of the airport expansion.
At the camp, there were workshops, talks, discussions, and a creative action on May 27 against the expansion of the airport, as well as a diverse evening program, with live music, theatre, and partying!
300 people took part in a powerful civil disobedience action to shut down the western harbour of Amsterdam, the world’s largest gasoline harbour and Europe’s second largest coal port — and many more joined a solidarity action outside the port.
Here’s one of the participants talking about the experience:
And some video highlights from the action itself:Climate Camp near Most, Czech Republic, June 21-25
Limity jsme my movement (We are the limits) organised the very first climate camp in the Czech Republic. 150 people gathered to learn in the North-bohemian mining region to share experiences, have fun protesting and to non-violently disrupt the operation of one of the nearby mines or power-plants.
All of these diverse, creative camps and actions share a common goal: to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
If we keep organising like this, a historic shift in our energy system is in sight. I hope you can be a part of it.
PS. Do you have info or actions to add to this list? Get in touch
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. Since 1900 average temperatures have increased by 3.5℃.Last winter, temperature records led scientist to speak of ‘Arctic heatwaves’.
Warmer and increasingly unpredictable conditions threaten the livelihoods of Saami communities.
I want to share something very special with you today.
The “Raise a Paddle” film documents the journey of Pacific Islanders to the Canadian tar sands last month. It tells the beautiful, heartbreaking stories of the Pacific Climate Warriors who stand to lose everything as a result of catastrophic climate change – but remain committed to the fight for a livable planet.
I hope you’ll take 10 minutes to watch the film, then share it with your friends so that more people can learn about destruction from the tar sands, and get involved with the movement working hard to stop it.
Building new tar sands pipelines like Keystone XL means exporting climate destruction to some of the most vulnerable parts of the world – a risk that’s simply unacceptable. The film is a grounding reminder of the destruction that climate change threatens to unleash if we don’t do everything in our power to stop the expansion of the tar sands and fossil fuels everywhere.
The journey became even more precious to me this week in light of the passing of my dear friend and colleague Koreti Tiumalu – one of the Pacific Climate Warriors who was part of the journey and the film. It’s one of the many gifts that Koreti left for us at 350.org, and I feel honored to share it with you today.
With hope and resolve,
Two years ago people power stopped the Keystone XL pipeline. Now Trump is trying to bring back this disastrous fossil fuel project.
Starting in Nebraska, we’ll work with our partners to build solar arrays in the path of the pipeline, and fight to protect them by resisting TransCanada’s attempt to gain construction permits in the state (which they need before project construction can begin).
Nebraska is the last state where TransCanada doesn’t have a permit to build Keystone XL. The Nebraska Public Service Commission can stop this pipeline after they hold hearings next month. We’ve got to show them that Keystone is a threat to our communities and our climate.
Here’s the plan:
- Build solar panels in the route of the pipeline as a symbol of our resistance to fossil fuels and the job-creating clean energy future we need.
- Fight to keep the solar panels in operation by urging Nebraska’s Public Service Commission to reject the state permit for the pipeline. Thank you for already submitting your comment to the Commission.
We can’t afford any new polluting fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, which is why it’s up to us to fight for and build the future we need.
Solar XL will help power the homes of Nebraskan farmers and homeowners who would be forced to allow the pipeline to run through their backyards. It’ll also send a strong message to TransCanada and Trump that we’ll never give up fighting for a renewable energy future.
We know this fight is bigger than one pipeline, and we’re in it for the long haul. Communities across the country and around the world are fighting fossil fuel infrastructure, putting their bodies on the line, and developing solutions at the same time.
Let’s build the future we need, together.
We are launching the Stepping Up podcast. These are stories of climate advocates who are stepping up their game in unexpected ways. Grannies and kids, evangelicals and clowns, they will amuse you and inspire you, as they figure out new ways to act – and act out – about the biggest crisis of our times.
A wise woman once told me: “If you want to be a climate activist, you need to do three things: create community, touch nature and… well… get active!” My activism takes the form of storytelling. I give voice to people whose stories can spark the interest of others, suggest a path forward and inspire them to action. In the process, I run into some remarkable people. And I have a blast.
My new podcast, Stepping Up, has introduced me to some folks I never would have encountered otherwise. I’d like you to meet them too.
The first episode is called The Loudest Smallest Voices. It brings you into the world of a group of 12-year-olds: Elliot, Charlie, Dakota, Anna and Kiran. Still short in stature, their voices are resonating from rooftops. Their mission is nothing less than to save the oceans from the ravages of climate change. Adults are listening. And other kids are joining them. I tell you, these 5 kids amazed me. Their understanding and articulation of complex concepts was remarkable. The chemistry behind ocean acidification. The inter-relationship between kelp and coral and sea otters. In fact, they taught me a thing or two about climate science. At the same time, they are as playful as puppies; cute, silly, irreverent. They were a lot of fun to hang out with. I invite you to step into their world. Stepping up is not your ordinary interview show. Instead, each of these 10 episodes is a highly produced audio documentary filled with stories, scenes and sounds.
Listen to the episode on our website
Climate activists from 350.org Pilipinas pay tribute to slain anti-coal activist Gloria Capitan of Bataan, who was gunned down exactly a year ago (July 1, 2016), the same day President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office. Her two assassins remain unidentified until today. Read more
After people power stopped the Keystone XL pipeline two years ago, Trump is trying to bring back this disastrous fossil fuel project.
This pipeline, proposed by TransCanada, would carry some of the dirtiest oil from Alberta’s Tar Sands region in Canada, down through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, cutting through farms, Indigenous lands, and vital drinking water sources. Not only would it put the land and water at risk from a spill, it is incredibly harmful to the health of communities at the source of extraction and continuing digging up tar sands means game over for the climate.
I recently spent six days along the route of the pipeline, meeting with people who’d be directly impacted and various leaders — many of whom have been working to stop this project for several years.
It was an incredible visit where I became more familiar with the land, the people, the ways communities have been fighting the pipeline over the years, and how they’ll continue to fight moving forward.Here’s the top three reflections I came away with from my visit:
1. Indigenous communities and tribes along the route are already leading the transition to renewable energy
From the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation about an hour outside of Rapid City to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in southern South Dakota, solar and wind energy is being generated everywhere. Indigenous-owned businesses are training workers, installing solar panels and solar heaters, and helping facilitate large projects such as as several panel project that’s powering the hospital on the Rosebud Reservation.
Right now, several Indigenous tribes in South Dakota are looking at huge industrial size wind projects. And on a smaller scale, the streetlights in the Rosebud community are already being powered by solar, and as you drive through the plains on Pine Ridge, the vast, beautiful landscape is spotted with solar panels and solar heaters. Even the farmers in Nebraska along the Keystone route have solar powered farms. Red Cloud Renewable Center, Pine Ridge Reservation. Photo Credit: Juliana Clifford.
And it’s not just along the Keystone XL route that people are transitioning. In Cannonball, North Dakota, where thousands of people camped on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, they are planning to build renewable projects just a couple miles away from the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Even though these communities have endured hundreds of years of colonialism and extreme oppression from the US government, they are leading the transition to renewables. They have protected mother earth for generations and are serving as the example to the rest of the country of the future that we want to build towards.
2. Water is at the center of the Keystone XL fight just like it was for Dakota Access
Indigenous peoples and farmers are heavily connected to the land and water that sustains them. The biggest concern that folks talked to us about is the contamination of water that would happen when the pipeline leaks. Communities in Cheyenne River who are downstream from where the pipeline would cross the White River are concerned with the contamination of the river that provides their livelihood..The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is concerned about the risks the pipeline poses to the Ogallala Aquifer, and farmers in Nebraska are also concerned about the contamination of their groundwater, drinking water, and the Ogallala Aquifer. Everyone I met, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, understands the sacredness of the water and will go to great lengths to protect it.
3. A shared commitment to the water, land, climate, and each other is what will help us win
Many people we spoke to talked about the relationships they’ve made with the different constituents involved in this fight and how they are some of the most valuable and rewarding parts of this work. Many people spoke about the alliances between various groups and how this fight has helped empower, educate, and build connections that weren’t there previously.
Some of my colleagues and I have been working on the Keystone fight for the last 6 years, and this was the first time we had the opportunity to visit the route. While we’d met some of the organizers on the ground before at events in New York or DC, spending time together on the land, eating, drinking coffee, driving, visiting, and praying together creates a deeper connection that will allow us to work better together now for years after this fight is over.
We’ll be fighting the fossil fuel industry for many years to come, and building deep relationships and connections are some of the most important ways we can be sustaining ourselves, and building towards a future that protects us all.
We know it’s a privilege to be able to travel, and we are very grateful to have been supported to learn and grow from these communities up close.
Click here to see a photo essay of our journey.
What’s Next for Keystone?
Thousands of people, and hundreds of communities across North America have been fighting this project for several years, and they won’t stop now.
Indigenous communities at the source of extraction in Alberta are continuing to fight tar sands expansion, and calling for all new mines to be stopped. They want a transition that supports the workers and the communities that have suffered the worst health consequences from the dirty extraction of tar sands.
Communities along the route, supported by national organizations are also resisting this project in all ways they can. There is an ongoing lawsuit against Trump to challenge whether his reversal of President Obama’s decision to reject the pipeline is legal.
In the meantime, the pipeline doesn’t have a legal route through Nebraska and the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) has to decide whether this pipeline is in the public interest of Nebraskans in order to receive their permits. You can submit a comment to the PSC here.
If Nebraska does approve the final permit, which we are hopeful they won’t do, Indigenous communities in South Dakota – including the ones we visited – and communities all along the pipeline route and at the source of extraction will be fighting like we’ve never fought before.
Renewable energy is the future we want to see. If they try to build this pipeline, we will be back in Nebraska, or South Dakota, or wherever we need to be, to defend the renewable vision of the future, and put our bodies on the line.
We’re at one of those moments in the climate fight when things could go either way. In DC, of course, it’s going badly: Trump and his crew are wrecking every federal effort to help reduce emissions – heck, they’re even making sure we have no satellites to monitor the destruction.
But to every action, a reaction – and states and cities are beginning to step up to fill the void. This trend will increase: politicians read poll numbers, and those show that most Americans hate what’s happening to the environment.
So politicians are speaking out. But at this point we need more than nice rhetoric, more than empty pledges to “live up to the Paris accords.”
3 telltale signs: is your politician serious about global warming, or just blowing smoke? (I’ve managed a listicle!) https://t.co/JSVthM0zje
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) June 26, 2017
- Stop new fossil fuel infrastructure. If you’re serious about Paris, that means realizing we’re already overshooting the temperature targets we set there – there’s literally no more room in the carbon budget for more pipelines, more frack fields, more coal ports. If France’s new president can put an end to exploration for oil and gas, so can our leaders.
- Commit to 100% renewables. Not to “more solar panels,” but to powering our cities and states with sun and wind, and soon. Already cities from Atlanta to Salt Lake to San Diego have made the pledge; California’s state senate has already passed such a bill. 100% is the most important number we’ve got.
- Recognize that natural gas is as bad an enemy as coal or oil. This has been America’s greatest climate mistake in recent years: we’ve driven down our carbon emissions by driving up the methane that natural gas production pours into the atmosphere, meaning we’re making no progress. And all that cheap fracked gas is holding back the conversion to actual clean energy. It’s got to stop.
We’ll be working hard on all these battles in the months ahead – making noise in town halls during August’s congressional recess, continuing resistance in the pipeline routes, and launching an ambitious new grassroots campaign this Fall. We’re 100% in on 100%. Resources would help as we gear up for more campaigning – if you can, please donate here.
Most of all, though, we need you spreading the word. Precisely because this is a desperate moment, we don’t have the luxury of despair. It’s time to fight.
P.S. Here’s another piece of mine from this week, this one much more hopeful: it’s about the small miracles that solar power is working in Africa. It’s a reminder of just how much promise even this hard moment holds.
The impacts of climate change are being felt through disruptive drought conditions, inconsistent rains, severe storms and wildfires that have hit the Western Cape displacing many families. Addressing the accelerating risks of climate change is a moral imperative for our cities and communities. That is why 350.org calls on Cape Town to demonstrate local leadership, and divest from fossil fuel stocks, bonds and investments.
Guest Blog By Will Driscoll, Arlington 350
School board members can be persuaded to vote “yes” for solar on schools, based on the experience of Arlington 350, in Virginia. Other local 350 groups may also find success with a solar-on-schools campaign, helped by low prices for installed commercial solar. (For Arlington 350, which launched early this year, this was our first campaign.)
Arlington Virginia’s School Board voted unanimously to create the authority to enter into solar power purchasing agreements, on April 20, 2017. From left: Tannia Talento, Barbara Kanninen, Nancy Van Doren, James Lander, and Reid Goldstein. (Photo credit: Will Driscoll)
Rooftops nationwide could accommodate 1,118 gigawatts of solar panels, which could meet 39 percent of current electricity demand, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The rooftops where solar is most economical are large commercial rooftops, like those on schools. And once a school system installs solar, the price becomes public information; given the recent dramatic price declines for solar, this price information can help influence private owners of commercial buildings to also “go solar.”
It is especially helpful to get solar installed on schools in a number of communities throughout a state. That makes it politically more difficult for the electric utility to implement high fixed fees or demand charges on utility bills, which would eat into the cost savings from solar installed anywhere in the utility’s service area. The more people who could complain about such proposed anti-solar fees, and the more distributed those people are across a state, the better.
In our campaign, we found some initial skepticism among Arlington’s five school board members, but ultimately helped win a unanimous vote for solar on schools. Specifically, the school board authorized school system staff to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for a solar power purchase agreement. The RFP is expected this October, followed by a contract award, and installation of solar panels in summer 2018.
Leading up to the school board vote, Arlington 350 supporters met individually with each school board member during their office hours (which were published on the school board website). The school board members’ comments revealed several concerns, and we developed a response for each one:
Some were concerned about the optics of paying a large sum of money for solar panels, while simultaneously cutting some educational expenses to achieve a balanced budget.
Our response: Under a power purchase agreement (PPA), the school system pays no upfront cost. Instead, a third party buys the solar panels, installs them on school rooftops, and operates and maintains them. The school system purchases the solar electricity, at a contracted cost that we expect will undercut the utility’s price for electricity—in which case the school system would save money from day one.
Some thought solar was still expensive (which it had been for decades).
Our response: Prices for installed commercial rooftop solar declined 20 percent in 2016 to $1.62 per watt. Moreover, if the school board found that the best PPA offer would not save the school system money on electricity, the school board could decline the offer.
One wanted to make sure that the school board would have the final say on any proposed solar power purchase agreement. Our response: We excerpted and highlighted language in the school system’s draft PPA resolution that guaranteed the school board the final say on any PPA agreement; emailed that information to school board members; and handed it to them as well at the school board meeting, before the vote.
In our individual meetings with school board members, we also heard positive comments—for example, regarding the educational value of rooftop solar to prime students’ interest in technology. We aimed for a unanimous vote to “go solar” because it would help persuade solar contractors to submit a PPA offer, knowing that the best offer would be highly likely to win a contract award from a supportive school board.
Allies in industry and government also played a key role. A major solar contractor had sent the school system an unsolicited proposal to install solar panels on schools, and sell the electricity to the school system at a very attractive price. (The same may be true for your school system.) The school superintendent favored solar on schools, and his staff had developed a solar-on-schools resolution ready for a school board vote. Other allies were Jay Fisette, chair of the county board (a separate entity from the school board), and the county board’s energy staff, which had identified two schools best suited for solar panels.
But even for a local 350 group that does not have such a strong set of solar-on-schools allies, the stars should still be aligned for getting solar on local schools, given the low and still-falling price of installed rooftop solar. Solar PPAs that save a school system money on the electric bill, while helping save the climate and getting students interested in technology, are a win-win-win.
For Arlington 350, we still have more work to do. The school system plans a first RFP for solar on only two of 30 schools that need it, leaving us with 28 schools to go. But first we are aiming to promote solar on schools in other Virginia school districts, to expand the political base of solar supporters, thus making it more difficult for the electric utility to impose anti-solar charges on everyone with rooftop solar.
On June 12, 350.org Japan invited world renowned spoken word poet, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, and 350.org Pacific campaigner Fenton Lutunatabua to share their experiences through storytelling in a special workshop held in Tokyo, Japan. The event sought to introduce storytelling as an effective organizing tool, ensure the voices of Pacific Islanders — living at the frontlines of climate change — are heard, and to inspire participants to step up their commitment to climate action.