Breaking free from fossil fuels
A year of escalating direct action against the fossil fuel industry
To keep global warming below 2°C, at least 80% of global fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground. As governments and corporations aren’t reacting fast enough, individuals are increasingly taking matters into their own hands.
Thousands of people resisted fossil fuel projects over six continents between 3-16th May. Below we look at some highlights from the ‘Breaking free from fossil fuels’ fortnight.
The UK’s largest open cast coal mine, Fyos-y-Fran near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, was shut down for a day on May 3rd by the UK’s climate action network, Reclaim the Power.
The action was taken in solidarity with the local community who have been battling against the mine, owned by Miller Argent, for nearly a decade, and now face the threat of a new mine next door.
Lusatia, East Germany
Welzow-Süd, Europe’s largest lignite mine located in Lusatia, East Germany, was blockaded by over 3500 activists as part of a mass civil trespass organised by Ende Gelände (translates as ‘here and no further’). The action shut down operations at the lignite mine and its coal loading station for 48 hours, and cut the power plant off from all coal supplies. The power plant, owned by the Swedish energy company Vattenfall, was reported to have had its capacity reduced by 80%.
Activists blocked, via land and water, the largest coal port in the world in Newcastle, Australia.
This action was reported to have resulted in AU$20 million worth of coal shipments being halted.
Pecém, North-East Brazil
On the 14th May, over 500 people marched along a highway in Pecém, North-East Brazil, blocking traffic from delivering coal to one of Brazil’s largest thermal coal plants. The march was said to include a wide variety of people, including individuals from “20 municipalities, four Indigenous ethnic groups (Anacé, Pitaguary, Tapeba and Tremembé), fishermen and residents of the coastal zone, farmers and residents of the inner cities severely affected by drought”.
A range of actions took place across the United States including hundreds of protesters blocking train tracks in Albany NY to stop oil-filled ‘bomb trains’ from travelling through communities. In Colorado campaigners disrupted an auction selling public lands for fossil fuel extraction.
To read about other actions that took place in Turkey, Nigeria, South Africa, Canada, and the Phillipines visit the Break Free website.
BP’s corrupting cultural sponsorship
Campaign group Art Not Oil has released a report that challenges Bob Dudley’s (BP’s CEO) assurance that the company “supports the best of British arts and culture with no strings attached”. As the British Museum and National Portrait Gallery are both currently considering whether to renew their sponsorship deals with BP, the report raises timely ethical questions.
The ‘BP’s cultural sponsorship: A corrupting influence’ report draws on numerous emails and documents released under the Freedom of Information act, highlighting BP’s influence over British cultural institutions including the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate and Science Museum.
Evidence highlighted includes:
- BP hosting meetings for cultural institutions’ security staff to co-ordinate the management of anti-BP protests
- BP funding a festival of Mexican culture in order to gain access to Mexico’s ambassador in the run-up to oil lease auctions; the company using its sponsorship relationships to lobby the Culture Minister
- BP getting final approval on curatorial decisions in the British Museum’s Indigenous Australia exhibition.
The report accuses the named cultural institutions of compromising on their values and independence in order to meet BP’s demands, stating that they lack transparency, have undermined public trust and have breached ethical codes. In light of the above, the report will be formally submitted to the Museums Association to investigate whether its official Code of Ethics for Museums has been breached.
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