2021 has been another powerful year for the climate movement: we united, overcame adversity and rose up against the fossil fuel industry to fight for climate justice.  Thousands of us have been campaigning across the world, spearheaded by those on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

From big wins against the fossil fuel industry to civil society showing who the real climate leaders are at COP26, we’ve rounded up ten people-powered moments from this year that set the stage for everything we can accomplish in 2022!

We pushed ABP to divest from fossil fuels

After 7 years of tireless campaigning, Europe’s largest pension fund ABP finally committed to divesting from fossil fuels in October. People from all walks of life took action online and offline to force the pension giant to stop investing in coal, oil and gas.

Two of the fossil fuel giants that ABP will now stop investing in are Total Energies and Shell — both of whom have been outed for knowing about the link between fossil fuels and the climate crisis for over 50 years, and both of whom will continue to face massive pressure in 2022 as we work to cut off their financial flows for good.

 We helped protect Akbelen Forest from coal mining

In May, İkizköy, one of the villages under threat of coal mining expansion in Turkey’s Muğla region, took action to protect the Akbelen Forest, a carbon sink of rich biodiversity. The community — made up of villagers, their friends and their supporters — resisted by linking arms and putting their bodies on the line to protect their forest from being destroyed for coal expansion. The villagers and their supporters demand a discontinuation of clearance operations in 740 decares of Akbelen, and will continue to protect their forests from harm.

We pressured BNDES to divest from coal 

After pressure from Brazilian civil society, NGOs and impacted communities, the Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social — National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) — announced that it will no longer grant credit for coal-fired power plants,  and the sector was formally put on the bank’s exclusion list.

In 2020, civil society, including activists and artisanal fishermen, ramped up the pressure and denounced the absurd investment of more than 92 billion reais in fossil fuels in front of the BNDES headquarters:

Activists outside BNDES headquarters in Brazil

Activists send a powerful message outside BNDES headquarters in Brazil.

One year later, BNDES announced they are on the path to divesting their finance flow away from the fossil fuels that contribute to climate change and harm local communities. July saw a great victory for climate policy in Brazil!

We pushed Europe Central Bank in a fossil-free direction 

We launched the People Not Polluters campaign against Europe’s central bank (ECB), and pushed them to set foot on a path towards a fossil-free future. ECB’s new strategy centers the climate crisis, with concrete plans and timelines to address climate risks.

The European Central Bank is at the very heart of Europe’s financial system. Where it goes, other central, public and private banks in some of the world’s richest countries must follow. An end to the Bank’s support to the dirtiest industries is finally in sight and we will continue to keep the pressure on to ensure an end to the fossil fuel era. 

350 Pacific’s Brianna Fruean spoke to world leaders at COP26

At the UN Climate Summit COP26 in Glasgow, Brianna Fruean from the 350 Pacific Climate Warriors stood up in front of global leaders and gave a powerful speech, sharing an important message with world leaders from frontline communities in the Pacific:

Brianna Fruean stands by the water with a quote: "We are not drowning, we are fighting."

Brianna Fruean sends a powerful message of resilience.

Whilst so many of us were left disappointed by the final text, the powerful global solidarity both inside and outside the official talks was undeniable.  We came together and held a united front calling for climate justice and standing up against the fossil fuel industry and global leaders who refuse to take bold climate action.  

We hosted the Global Just Recovery Gathering & the Asia Solidarity Lab

This year we hosted two incredible multi-day events bringing together thousands of registrants including leaders, activists and people-powered movements from across the globe: the Global Just Recovery Gathering in April and the Asia Solidarity Lab in August.

This was an incredible year for movement building. The panels, learning and strategy sessions and cultural performances at both events ignited thoughtful dialogue and built new alliances and solidarity across climate, gender, health, youth, and human rights movements around the world — solidarity we’ll need to build a cleaner, more just world for all.

We paused the Cambo Oil Fields project

Through a campaign spearheaded by Stop Cambo and Green New Deal Rising, we paused the Cambo Oil Fields project. First we pushed Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Prime Minister, to oppose the Cambo Oil Field, a new offshore oil extraction site in Scotland. Then, after huge resistance from campaigners, oil giant Shell and Siccar Point Energy pulled their investment from the project.

Whilst the fight is not over yet, this is a massive blow to the fossil fuel project, and shows the unstoppable strength of people power! 

We took oil giant Shell to court and won

We rose up against oil giant Shell, and an incredible thing happened! In May, a Dutch District Court ruled that Shell is driving dangerous climate change and must make immediate and radical changes to the way it operates. This was a huge win for people power and civil society organisations.

This case against the climate destruction being perpetrated by Shell was initiated in April 2018 by Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) together with six NGOs, and gained the support of over 17,000 people. The court recognised that Shell is responsible for expanding fossil fuel production around the world and increasing global emissions, despite commitments to limit global heating to 1.5°C under the Paris Agreement. 

We held Total to account over 50 years of climate lies

We mobilised around the world against French oil and gas company Total (now Total Energies) after shocking new research revealed that the oil giant knew about the climate-changing effect of burning fossil fuels for over 50 years. Not only have they continued their fossil fuel projects regardless, they have also covered up the truth, funded misinformation, and lied to their shareholders and the public.

We took action against Total and the banks that fund them, demanding they halt colonial climate projects such as the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and keep fossil fuels in the ground, and we’ll ramp up our efforts in 2022. It’s time to make Total pay!

Activists stand outside a Total gas station in Nairobi with a sign that says "#TotalKnew, it's time to #MakeThemPay."

Activists from Nairobi join the #TotalKnew actions outside a Total station.

The US rejoined the Paris agreement and cancelled the Keystone XL Pipeline

In January, on his very first day in office, President Joe Biden announced the US would rejoin the Paris climate agreement. On the same day he also cancelled the permit for the highly contested Keystone XL pipeline. This was an incredible win! An unprecedented movement led by Indigenous communities, farmers and ranchers, young folks, climate activists, and supporters, won a decade-long fight against one of the most disastrous pipeline projects in North America.

Campaigners are continuing to put on the pressure for Biden to ensure bold, justice-led action. In September, groups delivered over 40,000 petition signatures demanding Biden nominate a Federal Reserve Chair who will account for climate risk he did not, but we’re not giving up. In 2022, we’ll keep demanding that world leaders like Biden address the inequities of the crisis by supporting legislation that prioritises Black, Indigenous, working class, and communities of color most impacted.

As we begin the new year, let’s continue to reflect on our wins and learnings from 2021 and use this to rise up, strong and united for climate justice, against the fossil fuels industry and the financial institutions that support it. Onward!

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