Last week, something exciting happened. Chinese President Xi Jinping stood before the United Nations with a surprise declaration: “China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.”

This is big. China is the largest funder of coal projects in developing countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh, and the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. A hasty estimate showed it may halt up to 47 coal plants — resulting in a reduction of up to 200 million tonnes a year in greenhouse gases.

Honestly, we were caught a little by surprise about this decision, and that leaves lots of details to discern: What does this mean to current projects? How much is “green” vs “low-carbon” energy, which may include oil and gas? When will China halt coal production domestically?

We congratulate China on its wise decision to stop external coal investment — it’s one of the dirtiest energy sources.

Now, let’s take this moment to chart this as a movement victory — because if the climate movement doesn’t declare our role in this success, nobody else ever will.


A win of this scale happens only because of many, many, many, many people. A New York Times article noted one source: “Chinese coal projects have faced considerable resistance in countries like Bangladesh, Kenya and Vietnam, mainly by civil society groups.” We know and have supported some of these civil society groups.

Like Save Lamu in Kenya, who fought against the country’s first mainland coal-fired power plant, it was a tiring, multi-year fight to stop a Chinese-funded coal plant. It took a deluge of protests, letters, anxious nights, and connecting neighbour-by-neighbour. The campaign was successful in forcing the plans for the coal plant to be scrapped.

350’s Africa Field Organizer Rukiya Kamis made it clear that local organizing has been replicated country after country, and it works:

Each action taken against the rogue fossil fuel industry is a seed planted in the ground. At moments like this, we can see the harvest.

And there have been so many seeds. We’ve been launching finance campaigns around the globe for this reason. We believe a weakness to the fossil fuel industry is the financing by banks and government-owned financial institutions. Some of those leading groups have been focused on China, like the Go Clean ICBC global coalition.

China made an important step. We hope a virtuous cycle grows. Other wealthy countries should step up and get their financial institutions to do better. That’s why we are now pressuring the US Federal Reserve, the European Investment Bank and others. And we hope that sparks even bigger steps. Every mind changed, every win obtained, every person acting for a better planet — it all adds upFor now, we take a breath and celebrate. Because our next step remains the same: keep the pressure up.

If we’re going to believe in more than a grim future, then we have to believe in change — so when it happens, we need to hold on and let people know. Tell our friends we played a small role in a big win. Show people that the globe has a choice to make — and movements can change the course of the times.

The fossil fuel companies hope we won’t do any of this. It hopes we won’t feel the power of this moment or see the web of connections that binds us in this win. So we take the moment to savor, and then gear up for the next fight.

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