This time last year we were reflecting on a remarkable level of momentum in the climate movement and the work of 350.org.
At the start of 2016 we reached many milestones that had originally seemed far off, such as the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the UN climate agreement in Paris, and $3.4 trillion in managed assets divested from fossil fuels. We were looking towards the future with a sense that the global consensus on climate action was nearing a positive tipping point.
The succession of Brexit, Donald Trump’s election, and the increasingly restrictive conditions almost everywhere we have staff members has placed our work in a new context. Our longtime ally and supporter, Rebecca Solnit, has written beautifully of the kind of hope that comes in moments like this:
“Optimism assumes all will go well without our effort; pessimism assumes it’s all irredeemable; both let us do nothing…that results are either immediate or they’re nonexistent. That if you don’t succeed straight away, you failed. Such a framework makes many give up and go back home when the momentum is building and victories are within reach.”
While we are more grounded in our expectations, there is a sense among our team that what we are seeing unfold around the world is a last gasp of a worldview that is on its way out; one that exploits people and planet; one that is cruel in the face of human need; one that puts profit above all other goals. This way of acting is antithetical to climate action, which requires placing the needs of the future above present gain; confronting an industry that has newfound political power; and cooperation on a massive global scale.
Many seeds were planted in 2016 that are already blossoming. There were a number of new divestment victories on college campuses in the US thanks to our Spring Escalations; four coal plants in Turkey have had their licenses revoked, which is remarkable given how restrictive the regime is; the whole world is being exposed to the corruption and lies related to #ExxonKnew. These all help us dismantle social license and forge a new path away from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energy.
We reflect on 2016 with all of this in mind. We’re learning which campaigns are attracting new and more diverse participation; why certain coal plants get canceled and not others; why certain institutions choose divestment and others not; and using it all as a springboard for a much more focused body of work in 2017.
Our window for action just got narrower. This work requires new clarity of purpose, new speed and scale in our commitment to our mission, and a wider set of alliances.
Like many organizations, we have been very blessed by our donors and supporters who have made it clear that they intend to help us do this; to stand with us during this time. As you read this report, you’ll see what your investments in our work have achieved thus far, and you can see glimpses of where we head next.
With deep gratitude and resolve,
May Boeve, Executive Director
May 3–15, 2016: On six continents, thousands of people took bold action to halt major fossil fuel projects around the world.
Break Free was a crucial part of our strategy for COP21, because we knew we would need a means to pressure politicians to stick to their commitments after the agreement was signed.
We organized around the values of freedom from fossil fuel projects, peaceful direct action, escalation, mass participation, and global action.
We worked in a coalition with dozens of groups engaged in fossil fuel work at the global level such as Greenpeace, Oil Watch, Asian Peoples Movement for Debt and Development, and Friends of the Earth. The Break Free actions created a strong global narrative about fossil fuel resistance and provided a boost to campaign momentum for ongoing fights around the world. From Wales, the Philippines, Australia, to California, people used mass action, and in some cases civil disobedience, to draw attention to fossil fuel projects and the need for renewable energy.
The actions were so effective that it garnered over 1,400 media hits across 60 countries, and helped transformed the phrase “Keep it in the Ground” from an obscure catchphrase to an international rallying cry for environmentalists, policy makers, and climate activists. In total, we mobilized 20 actions with over 30,000 participants on six continents to fight extreme energy projects.
Divestment commitments went from $50 billion in 2014 to $5 trillion in managed assets in fall of 2016!
Last year, 124 institutions committed to divestment, including: University of Massachusetts, Yale University, Washington, DC’s pension fund, and the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.
In the US, we continued to build a strong partnership with the Divestment Student Network. In the spring of 2016, we supported over 30 escalated campus actions on major campus targets, with over 2,000 students and faculty participating. These escalations prompted the University of Massachusetts to fully divest from fossil fuels to the tune of $770 million. These escalations are a result of a program we launched two years ago called the escalation core, that focused on deep relationship-building, organizing training, and sophisticated strategy work.
The first Fossil Free campaigns in Europe kicked off in autumn 2013. Since then, over 250 campaigns are underway in the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and other countries. As of 2016, the capital cities of France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Denmark have all pledged publicly to stop investing in fossil fuels. Over a quarter of universities in the UK have committed to divest. There are over 160 divestment commitments from Europe so far.
Photo: Saskia Uppenkamp
Photo: 350 Japan
We launched new divestment campaigns in South Africa and Japan. In South Africa, our campaign is making progress and the Anglican Church of Africa committed to divestment. The team in South Africa joined Earthlife Africa and Friends Of The Earth to call on the French company Engie (former GDF-Suez) and the French government to divest from coal, starting with a proposed 1200MW coal plant in South Africa. In Japan, the My Bank My Future divestment campaign calls on people to divest their finances and switch to banks that support sustainable investment policies.
While some continue to dismiss divestment, arguing it will have no discernible impact on the bottom line of fossil fuel companies, they miss the point of the campaign entirely — success hinges on the stigmatisation of fossil fuels. We must measure how well the Fossil Free campaign is doing not by the amount of money divested from this or that oil company, but by how socially acceptable it is to invest in or be publicly associated with this industry. When investors as diverse as the British Medical Association, the World Council of Churches, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the city of Paris, Stockholm University, Tate Britain museums and Allianz Insurance all turn their backs on the fossil fuel industry, you know that message is starting to get through loud and clear to a wide cross-section of society.
520,000 petition signatures
4 Attorneys General investigations
We launched the Exxon Knew campaign to draw attention to the fact that Exxon knew about climate change decades ago but chose to cover it up.
Photo: Eman Mohammed
Working with a variety of partners, we pushed state attorneys general to investigate Exxon. In October, the US Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into whether Exxon failed to account for the risk climate change and climate regulations could pose to their business model.
These actions weaken the social license of not only Exxon, but of the whole fossil fuel industry. We are moving towards outcomes analogous to the investigations and vilification of the tobacco industry. Our work is already having an impact; since launching our campaign, four Attorneys General have launched investigations into Exxon, and over 520,000 people signed our petition for an Exxon investigation.
Photo: March for Climate Justice.
To meet the targets in the Paris Agreement (to limit warming to no more than 1.5℃), countries must agree to immediately halt new coal, oil, and gas development and finance a just transition towards a 100% renewable energy future for all.
In the year since the Paris agreement, climate change has marked the lives of billions of people.
From deadly heatwaves in India, severe drought across South Africa and the Horn of Africa, unprecedented coral reef bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, to the deadly force of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and the United States. 2016 was the hottest, most extreme year on record, causing misery for hundreds of millions around the world.
350.org team members attended the CoP22 conference in Marrakesh, Morocco to hold world leaders accountable to their climate pledges. We organized 10 events around the conference, including highlighting the climate movement in Africa, hosting an artspace, facilitating workshops, and organizing the Climate Justice March with over 3,000 attendees. The march featured indigenous leaders from around the world who called on the negotiators and governments to keep their climate pledges made in Paris. At the conference, 47 countries announced they’re going to transition to 100% domestic renewable energy. Our efforts inspired a new 350 Morocco group to form and created closer partnerships with North African anti-fracking organizers.
Photo: Robert Van Waarden / Survival Media
After President Obama denied the Keystone XL pipeline permit at the end of 2015, we successfully pivoted to the broader tar sands fight throughout 2016. There have been a wave of over 28 fossil fuel project cancellations, delays or rejections since then.
We’ve supported the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline on the ground and across the country. On September 13th, we held a national day of action to stand with Standing Rock. Thousands around the world stood in solidarity with Standing Rock in over 200 actions, with 3,000 people mobilized in Washington, DC alone. On November 15th, we helped organize tens of thousands to join over 300 rallies across all 50 states to urge President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers to permanently reject the Dakota Access Pipeline. While we succeeded in halting the pipeline under President Obama, our work continues under the Trump administration.
In Canada, we campaigned against the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which Prime Minister Trudeau unfortunately approved. Nevertheless, we succeeded in continuing to build the climate movement and create grassroots resistance. Over 12,000 people signed the petition calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to reject the pipeline, 1,000 people were trained in civil disobedience practices, and 99 youths were arrested in Ottawa protesting the pipeline.
Parana, Brazil announces a 10-year ban on fracking. Photo: 350 Brasil
350 Brazil and the COESUS - No Fracking Brazil Coalition, after years of hard work, hundreds of public hearings, lectures, and intense communication and policy advocacy from indigenous allies, persuaded the state of Paraná to pass a ban on fracking. Paraná joins over 200 municipalities that have already passed prohibition laws in nine Brazilian states: Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Acre, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Tocantins, Ceará and Maranhão. The number of local governments banning fracking is up from 51 municipalities in 2015, representing a 400% increase.
Photo: Tim Wagner
In Germany, from August 13–16th 2016, our team supported a grassroots-led mass action to stop the Welzow-Süd open pit coal mine and the Schwarze Pumpe coal-fired power station from production for three days as part of Break Free. This was the second year we supported Ende Gelände, and participation in the action more than doubled in that time. Between 3,500 and 4,000 people participated in civil disobedience at Ende Gelände in 2016.
350.org Australia, an independent entity and close 350.org partner, has been leading multiple campaigns against coal. They participated in Break Free 2016 by blockading Newcastle Harbor, the world’s largest coal shipping terminals. Over 2,000 people took part in the action, which stopped an estimated 1.8 million tons of coal from being shipped out of the terminal that day. In addition, 350 Australia has been continuing its massive resistance campaign against the Galilee Basin coal development, which would be one of the largest in the entire world, if built. Building on their successes from last year, they’ve secured even more declarations from banks promising to not provide funding for the project. Of the four largest banks in Australia, only one remains in support of the mine.
We also supported the five year-long popular resistance movement opposing the construction of the Rampal power plant in Bangladesh. The plant would be built in the Sundarbans forest, the world’s largest single tract of mangrove forest and home of many endangered species. In March, over 800 people took part in the 93 mile “Long March” from Dhaka to the Sundarbans protesting the plant. In November, 10,000 people marched in Bangladesh to protest the coal plant.
Photo: 350 Pacific
With the growth in local groups, we’ve been busy organizing around the world and training the climate movement with the help of our new trainings website.
After the U.S. election in November 2016, over 6,000 people signed-up to learn more about joining a 350 local group in their community. 30 new local groups have applied to be affiliated, bringing the total number of US 350 local groups to over 140.
To increase the skills and capacity of local activists and enhance the capabilities of the global climate movement, we launched our trainings website, trainings.350.org. The website has more than 70 unique trainings in seven different languages, including lessons on media, facilitation, base-building, actions, strategy, team-building, and training theory. We also feature our eight “story-telling-labs” where we share the internal learnings from our organizing to aid the strategies of colleagues, partners, and allies. Since the launch of the website, these resources have been viewed over 70,000 times, with more content being added each day.
One region where we scaled up our organizing a lot was East Asia and the Pacific. To build up skills in the movement, we started our organizing with a series of webinars with topics ranging from divestment, storytelling tools, and how to stop foreign financing of fossil fuel projects. We then held an in-person strategy meeting called East Asia Climate Leadership Camp with 29 participants from 19 partner organizations in nine countries. From these meetings we created the Divest East Asia Network, which is comprised of 24 members from 16 different organizations in the region. The network is acting against the fossil fuel industry and amplifying the climate struggle through people-oriented action.
To expand the climate movement in the Pacific, we organized Pray for the Pacific, a special service on climate change for people in the Pacific and around the world to gather their faith communities together for climate action. In total, there were 123 events organized in 23 countries, with 9,905 people participating. We’ll be using this expanded base of support to work against fossil fuel projects and pressure governments for more renewable energy in the region.
In the Philippines, as in many places, 350.org cannot do its crucial work to fight climate change without partners and volunteers.
We work closely with our partners on the ground, and support their work to maximize their impact for progress. Here is just one example:
Denise Fontanilla is the Climate Policy Coordinator for the Institute for Climate & Sustainable Cities and an environment correspondent for GMA News Online, a top online news portal, in the Philippines.
As new coal developments threaten the natural environment and health of millions of Filipinos, she is fighting back as a volunteer with 350 Pilipinas.
Denise used her skills in communications to build relationships with the media to advance the anti-coal campaigns of 350.org and 350 Pilipinas. She became involved with 350's campaigns in 2015, where she worked with 350.org by co-leading the Global Climate March communications working group in the lead up to COP21. In the working group, she created and deployed media strategies that amplified the work of local Filipino organizations to global audiences. She was able to secure the support of artists, celebrities and the Archbishop of Manila to encourage people to march. As a result, over 15,000 people joined the Global Climate March in Manila, Philippines on November 28, 2015, which was the biggest climate march to-date in the country. The march sent a strong message to the delegation in Paris to strengthen their climate pledge in tandem with developing countries and push for a 1.5℃ target.
In 2016, Denise worked with 350.org and 350 Pilipinas to organize Break Free in Batangas City, Philippines where there was growing opposition to a proposed coal power plant. She facilitated the filming of 350.org’s film Disobedience and was part of the team that trained 300 high school and college students from the province of Batangas. These youth were instrumental in mobilizing 10,000 people to take part in the Break Free rally on May 4, 2016 to demand the cancellation of the coal plant in Batangas and all 27 proposed coal plants in the Philippines. This rally and sustained pressure across the country have pushed the government to launch a comprehensive energy policy review, which is expected to recommend less coal and more renewable energy sources. Chuck Baclagon, 350.org's East Asia Regional Digital Campaigner, notes that the team is “fortunate to work with Denise. She is an invaluable ally in our work for a just, prosperous, and equitable world.”
Denise continues to work with 350.org and recently joined the Divest East Asia Network to push for a fossil free future in the region. Her efforts, in partnership with volunteers and allies in the Philippine climate movement, helped us achieve our goals during a crucial time. Her knowledge, enthusiasm, and connections with communities in her region are crucial.
Denise is a rock star climate organizer, and she is not alone. We have amazing volunteers all over the world that participate in 350.org’s trainings and then coordinate efforts with our staff to educate, organize, and mobilize their communities. The fossil fuel industry is powerful, but the global climate movement is making progress, thanks to our networks of volunteers. Our heartfelt thanks goes out to Denise Fontanilla and all our volunteer activists, partners, and supporters all around the world!
Campaigns — $9,129,553
Management and General Operations — $1,180,945
Foundations — $7,314,000
Individuals — $6,383,000
Other Sources — $112,000
In addition to individual donations, 350.org’s work in Fiscal Year 2016 was supported by the following foundations:
Under United States Federal law, 350.org must conduct an annual independent audit of our finances. You can view these reports by clicking below: