Bill McKibben, US climate change campaigner and founder of 350.org www.350.org.nz visited New Zealand in early June. Bill brought his “do the Maths” message to Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington and was live-streamed to numerous other centres from Invercargill to Tauranga.
The Maths boils down to a few numbers.
* The world can emit only 565 more gigatonnes of carbon dioxide and stay below 2 degrees C of warming - any more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth, he says.
* But the only problem is that burning the fossil fuel that corporations now have in their reserves would result in emitting 2795 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide - five times the safe amount.
This means that 80% of fossil fuels must remain in the ground to avoid the worst effects of climate change and represent a “carbon bubble” that could plunge the world into another financial crisis if it bursts.
Divestment from fossil fuels is a campaign, led by 350.org, which has been very successful in the US. In Aotearoa 350, CANA, Generation Zero, WWF and others are now giving their attention to how divestment can work in our local context. CANA is keen to find ways to encourage people to divest from coal and to put pressure on our major institutions to do likewise.
A recent report from WWF shows how heavily our New Zealand government subsidises the fossil fuel industry through indirect financial support such as tax breaks (http://awsassets.wwfnz.panda.org/downloads/wwf_fossil_fuel_finance_nz_subsidies_report.pdf) . A further report is due from WWF shortly which will provide more detail about the extent to which ACC and Superannuation funds are invested in fossil fuels. CANA is doing research of its own into the major investors in coal, particularly Bathurst. Whilst we await the research, many local groups are getting on and developing their own ideas for local action.
In Christchurch, at a recent meeting of the local ‘fossil fuel resistance movement’ (including representatives from CANA, Canterbury Coal Action, Oil-free Otautahi, Forest and Bird, ECO, Christchurch Youth Council, Ministry of Awesome, etc.) plans were discussed on how to get more people to understand the seriousness and urgency of climate change and why it is so important to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Amongst the many ideas explored, was the suggestion of setting up a writing group for sharing templates to write fossil fuel divestment letters to Banks, Pension funds, Schools and Churches. Another idea was getting institutions to declare themselves ‘Fossil Fuel Free’; starting with schools, universities, and community boards. There were some fun ideas about how to expose the scandal that $46 million is being paid by our government as a subsidy to the fossil fuel industry. The Christchurch rebuild also offers some interesting creative possibilities for protest action on vacant lots. Watch this space!
For 350.org’s latest information on their divestment campaign throughout New Zealand see http://gofossilfree.org/nz/
For CANA’s action on transitioning to a coal free Aotearoa see http://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/
Canterbury Coal Action
Coal Action Network Aotearoa