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Submitted by tim on Monday, June 12, 2006 - 14:31

Time is Short – an Effective Plan to Cut Emissions

If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act.   Howard Zinn 


Research shows that we have only a few years to cut emissions enough to keep temperature rise below 2°C. While our movement can generate strong opposition to new pipelines and other fossil fuel expansion, we also need to achieve early cuts of existing emissions. Currently the coverage of climate change, often perceived as repetitive and dreary, causes many people to avert their attention. We must urgently arouse hope that we can restrain climate change, before feedbacks become more prominent and spread defeatism. We need tactics which will inspire the involvement of many more people, encouraging them that we are likely to succeed in time.

Even in the USA, the nation most influenced by sceptic propaganda, two-thirds of people want emissions reduced. Researchers calculated that if just 27 specific large companies achieved the median carbon intensity in their industries, they could cut annual emissions by nearly as much as Japan emits in a year. Remarkable advances in renewables are superseding fossil fuels, with 72% of companies surveyed by PwC actively procuring renewable energy. Therefore the economics makes it feasible for us to shame and push selected susceptible companies to cut their emissions soon, through a global campaign whose audacity could inspire the thousands of potential, or under-involved, activists. Many huge companies would make substantial emissions cuts or stop investing in dirty energy if we threaten their reputation and market share. Business can change soon when required, as it needs to compete for profits and investor confidence. Governments rarely face such urgent pressure, partly as they evoke much greater cynicism than hope. However the campaign would also complement our pressure on governments, publicising and strengthening it.

Our Strength Can Win


As climate activists feel disheartened after the Trump/Republican victory, it is vital that we show very soon that our movement remains strong. Otherwise demoralisation could become severe and entrenched, as shown by Avaaz’s exaggerated statement that Trump could "destroy everything we worked for". In fact, since the US election many green groups have had a huge surge in membership and donations, from people determined to restrain Trump. We should be inspired by the warning to Trump from one of America’s foremost columnists, Thomas Friedman, that if "you walk America away from the Paris accord ... you will trigger a ferocious reaction by young people in America and across Europe". Moreover, if we analyse the sources of the power to cut emissions, most of the key decisions are taken by those who finance energy producers and deforestation. As Michael Brune said recently, Trump "can’t change the fact that clean energy sources are outcompeting dirty fuels … all over the country." The WEF’s senior director on investment described renewables as "an outright compelling investment opportunity". India’s "absolutely transformational" upsurge in renewables is based largely on private sector investment. Business will not take opportunities Trump may provide to drill on federal land if, as appears probable, supply of fossil fuels would then exceed demand, making the likely profits too low.


Clean Energy Advances


Even before Trump’s election, analysis of governments’ actions, and polls, suggested that business is more susceptible than governments to pressure to cut emissions soon. For years governments have not considered public opinion strong enough for them to give climate change due priority. Former British Energy and Climate Change Secretary of State Ed Davey recently said "Markets and technologies are also going far faster than governments and international agreements". Rapid advances in electricity storage are facilitating the growth of renewables. The head of the International Energy Agency recently said "We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables".


Many companies could improve their energy efficiency substantially within their existing business model. This would cut demand for, and investment in, fossil fuels. On 16 November 365 companies, including many massive household names such as Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss, and L’Oreal wrote to Trump and other world leaders, saying "We want the U.S. economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy". This shows that we can put pressure on the laggards, who would not want to lose market share by being less green than competitors such as those mentioned. The strong use of renewable energy by companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple shows that we can push others to emulate them. The proposed campaign aims for a comprehensive impact, showing all large companies that we have enough supporters worldwide to deflate the profits of any company we select. Targeting a few companies initially in each nation would show the targets’ competitors that they could be targeted next, but that instead they could gain a competitive advantage by becoming greener themselves. Focus groups would be used in each nation to help target selection. By influencing business, the campaign would also positively influence governments, showing them that many concerned citizens want them to exceed their Paris commitments.


Globally, Greenpeace has nearly three million members, and Friends of the Earth two million. Many of these would enthusiastically take to the streets and social media to promote such a campaign, if it gained backing from one or more respected NGOs. For example, in just two mornings recently, my local FoE group got 388 people to sign FoE’s letter urging Barclays to end its support for fracking. As Unilever boss Paul Polman famously said, social media activists have the potential to "bring down" a company "in nanoseconds."


We can Harness Public Opinion


As the momentum for clean energy is on our side, Trump’s victory should not discourage us. There is a huge global consensus behind us. A November 2015 global poll found that 54% of people consider "global warming" very serious, while a further 30% consider it somewhat serious. 88% agreed that "the climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity". A Spring 2015 international poll found that climate change was considered the most serious threat in 19 out of the 40 countries surveyed, making it the most serious perceived threat overall. Even in the USA, nearly ¾ of people think the planet is warming. 57% of Americans said they would be willing to pay a little extra for electricity to combat climate change. Over 2/3 of Americans support "fee and dividend", whereby the proceeds of a carbon tax are redistributed to households.


We can Win with Dramatic Tactics


However we need to make progress urgently, before feedbacks make our task much harder. A recent comprehensive American study of climate activism concluded that "participation hinges on beliefs that activism … can succeed, and that one’s participation will increase the likelihood of success". To rouse sufficient people to activism, we need to demonstrate this likelihood with a more inspiring, assertive and global "credible strategy that is to scale with the climate crisis". In their penetrating book This is an Uprising, Engler & Engler describe the remarkable and rapid growth of the Civil Rights Movement, the movement to defeat Milosevic in Serbia, and the struggles for access to AIDS treatment, and equal marriage. These movements all succeeded in getting powerful publicity, by dramatizing the moral issue, disrupting their targets’ business as usual, and highlighting activists’ commitment, thus inspiring more support. Engler & Engler also emphasise the need to create an escalation, so each action builds on earlier actions to increase momentum and public interest.


In November 2015 we got 700,000 people globally, in over 2,300 locations, to join the People’s Climate March. In September 2014 there were 2,646 such events. This shows the huge reservoir of potential support we can aim to inspire. This march, and other such actions probably helped get agreement in Paris, but as we know, we need to achieve much more than Paris. Majoring on repeating such demonstrations would be an example of movements’ tendency to repeat the same tactic "again and again", despite its potency being reduced. But once we use tactics which dramatically highlight climate polluters’ irresponsibility, our level of support could rise swiftly. Moreover by going beyond the reactive nature of Blockadia actions, we would encourage potential supporters that our stance was no longer just defensive. This would also deter climate polluters and their investors.


Successful actions of the type proposed include that by Rainforest Action Network which led to Citigroup undertaking not to finance logging in tropical forests, and a boycott which led to the preservation of a vast area of Canadian forest. We could disrupt activity at branches of selected banks which invest heavily in dirty energy, and encourage customers to switch to a credit union or less guilty bank. If hundreds of activists were ejected by police from such bank branches, this would get considerable publicity. Similarly we could disrupt target companies’ AGMs, building to further escalation at the annual June Mansion House chancellor’s speech, at which many leading bankers would be present. Such a campaign could severely harm target banks’ already vulnerable reputation. They would know that their ability to recruit new customers would be weakened. Investments in dirty energy could become much less attractive. A similar action by Occupy in 2011 inflicted what the American Bankers Association CEO called "a reputational kick in the chin".


Warnings to Targets


The campaign would tell targeted companies what level of emissions cut or investment switch it expected each to achieve in the next two years. Activists would get people to sign a petition to the selected companies, saying the signatory expected the company to hit the campaign’s target, but that if it did not, the signatory would take whichever action against the company the campaign recommended. This part of the campaign would bring in the many potential supporters who would not travel out of their own city for a planning hearing, or face the perceived risks to join a Blockadia direct action. Friends of the Earth’s experience with petitions is that most people who are willing to talk briefly to an activist trust the organisation, and therefore are inclined to sign. We could take the petition to various social/faith groups’ meetings, thus gaining additional supporters through the power of group norms. Presenting the petition signed by many thousands of people would be another opportunity for publicity and disruption.


Empowering Caring Consumers


The petition would provide an attractive and quick opportunity for the millions of potential supporters whose commitment is below that of activists. Eminent researcher Ed Maibach stated "people who are concerned about climate change are much more likely to express their concern through their purchases as a consumer … [than] to engage politically as citizens." The Carbon Trust states that market research consistently shows that "a majority of consumers want to take action to protect the environment and are keen to buy goods that are less harmful to it." A six nation survey found that one person in seven is strongly motivated to promote sustainable consumption, with "the potential to disproportionately influence others". Three-fifths of Britons said they would choose a green ISA (tax exempt saving account) if one were available. The proposed campaign would be an attractive vehicle for such consumers’ views. The campaign would also link cutting carbon pollution to the potential of green jobs, and improving air quality. We could get children with asthma pumps, and doctors and nurses in uniform to join our actions, to highlight the harm polluted air and climate change cause to health.


In addition to selected banks, the other best initial targets could be


a) companies whose products contain palm oil which they could not show was innocent of adding to deforestation. Pepsico, Colgate-Palmolive, and Johnson & Johnson were found to be "failing" on Greenpeace’s 2016 palm oil Company Scorecard.


b) selected high-carbon products from nations which are failing to curb deforestation. This would give these nations’ inter-connected business/government elite a strong incentive to cut deforestation, circumventing the complex issue of determining if specific products come from deforested land. Despite promising efforts over many years targeting specific companies, severe deforestation continues , so a more comprehensive approach is needed.


By emphasising deforestation, the campaign would appeal to the millions of people who revere the natural world. A sixteen nation July 2010 poll asked respondents about four specific measures suggested "to help deal with climate change". Preserving or expanding forests was the most popular, backed by four people in five. Regular media coverage of the plight of endangered species helps to sustain this concern.


We also need creative slogans. Dirty Banks Back Dirty Energy could perhaps capture public imagination, or Barclays Flooded Sue’s home, with a photo of the devastated home of a flood victim.


In addition to actions at company premises, we could also get good publicity by targeting their CEOs, including at company AGMs. We might have placards saying for example Barclays’ Bosses’ Bonuses could Build Two Wind Turbines. If a CEO had any particularly expensive habits, we could attend high-profile events such as a yacht show, with placards such as Barclays Boss’s Yacht Harms our Climate. Being ejected from such events would also gain considerable publicity.


We also need to emulate other campaigns in integrating and retaining potential new activists. The successful anti-Milosevic campaign Otpor was described as "part political movement, part social club." They arranged mass training sessions, of which they informed anyone at their actions who showed an interest. This helped to harness newcomers’ interest, and give them a sense of belonging to the movement.


Climate change is the world’s biggest issue by far. Younger people in particular recognise its urgency. There are many celebrities we could recruit. An assertive global campaign can inspire support and succeed, provided we don’t delay!

Please share this proposal with others to help it gain support from a large NGO.


Tim Root   tim@timroot.net    ines@familymediation.org.uk 
Co-ordinator, Muswell Hill & Hornsey Friends of the Earth


00 44 7726 793265




Each reference is shown below after the first words of the sentence in the text which refers to it.


Research shows …: https://www.mcc-berlin.net/en/research/co2-budget.html; http://www.ecowatch.com/ticking-carbon-clock-2187554871.html


We urgently … [regarding feedbacks]: http://www.jonathonporritt.com/blog/climate-fight-night-donald-trump-v-peter-wadhams; http://www.ecowatch.com/larsen-c-ice-shelf-2182046497.html?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=1e7b8d27b7-MailChimp+Email+Blast&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-1e7b8d27b7-85955009

Even in the USA …: http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-november-2016/ Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Rosenthal, S., & Cutler, M. (2016). Politics & Global Warming, November 2016. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication


Researchers calculated …: http://www.sustainability-reports.com/global-leaders-in-carbon-reporting-have-the-potential-to-save-the-equivalent-of-japans-annual-co2-emissions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss


Remarkable advances in renewables ...: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/72-of-large-companies-are-actively-procuring-clean-energy; http://www.pwc.com/us/en/sustainability-services/publications/assets/pwc-corporate-renewable-energy-procurement-survey-insights.pdf


Governments rarely face …: Adam Corner et al (2005), How do Young People Engage with Climate Change? P. 528: http://climateoutreach.org/resources/how-do-young-people-engage-with-climate-change-the-role-of-knowledge-values-message-framing-and-trusted-communicators/; …: www.nytimes.com/2015/06/19/opinion/the-pope-and-climate-change.html?_r=0;

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/01/climate-change-nicholas-stern-paris-summit-global-warming; the full survey was in the 1/5/15 Tech Monthly section of the Observer. The online version does not contain the full poll.

Otherwise demoralisation …: https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/paris_protection_loc_en/?thIksab&v=500259630&cl=11138752956&_checksum=16f1a5592cc7e9dbfe7716fbd1473234ca76e93bc578febe2f52de2a9d0e93b7


In fact, since …: http://grist.org/living/environmental-organizations-see-an-outpouring-of-support-post-election; https://thinkprogress.org/9-things-you-can-do-right-now-to-fight-trumps-war-on-climate-and-democracy-21dd37a775c#.u1rl5i97l


We should be inspired ...: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/opinion/donald-trump-help-heal-the-planets-climate-change-problem.html?_r=0


As Michael Brune …: http://www.sierraclub.org/michael-brune/2016/11/trump


The WEF’s senior director ...: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/12/the-new-head-of-the-us-department-of-energy-is-a-climate-sceptic-but-this-wont-be-the-end-of-the-paris-agreement; http://www.ecowatch.com/solar-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels-2167117599.html


India’s "absolutely ...: https://thinkprogress.org/india-new-clean-energy-electricity-targets-d7773b884968#.8bbrawom9


Business will not ...: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21710807-or-without-america-self-interest-will-sustain-fight-against-global-warming-climate; http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2016/12/16/drowning-the-world-in-oil-trumps-carbon-obsessed-energy-policy-and-the-planetary-nightmare-to-come/

Former British …: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/11/trump-victory-may-embolden-other-nations-to-obstruct-paris-climate-deal


Rapid advances …: https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/POWER-2.0_Web_11-16.pdf


The head of …: https://www.ft.com/content/09a1f984-9a1d-11e6-8f9b-70e3cabccfae; see also http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/opinion/donald-trump-help-heal-the-planets-climate-change-problem.html?_r=0; http://www.wsj.com/articles/oil-companies-shift-exploration-tactics-curb-spending-1477474206?mg=id-wsj; http://www.jeremyleggett.net/2016/11/state-of-the-transition-october-2016-as-the-paris-agreement-enters-into-force-momentum-in-the-great-energy-system-change-continues-to-outpace-setbacks/?utm_source=Jeremy+Leggett&utm_campaign=1f77251fa5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_11_04&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dc1f7ae63a-1f77251fa5-122747189; http://www.jeremyleggett.net/2016/11/state-of-the-transition-october-2016-as-the-paris-agreement-enters-into-force-momentum-in-the-great-energy-system-change-continues-to-outpace-setbacks/?utm_source=Jeremy+Leggett&utm_campaign=1f77251fa5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_11_04&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dc1f7ae63a-1f77251fa5-122747189


The strong use …: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-07/facebook-doubles-renewable-energy-target-to-50-by-end-of-2018


As Unilever boss …: http://blogs.ft.com/tech-blog/2011/06/havas-chief-backs-twitter-over-facebook-for-ads/


A November 2015 …: http://ipsos-na.com/download/pr.aspx?id=15175
88% agreed …: http://ipsos-na.com/download/pr.aspx?id=15175


A Spring 2015 …: http://www.pewglobal.org/2015/07/14/climate-change-seen-as-top-global-threat/

Even in the USA …: http://citizensclimatelobby.org/climate-change-opinion-moving-in-the-right-direction/
57% of …: https://thinkprogress.org/carbon-price-poll-497cd99e237
Over 2/3 of …: http://citizensclimatelobby.org/climate-change-opinion-moving-in-the-right-direction/
A recent comprehensive …: Connie Roser-Renouf, Edward W. Maibach, Anthony Leiserowitz and Xiaoquan Zhao (2014), ‘The Genesis of Climate Change Activism: from Key Beliefs to Political Action’, Climatic Change 125,pp. 163 – 178, p. 166, at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-014-1173-5
To rouse sufficient…: http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2013/01/having-citizen-action-match-the-scope-of-the-problem/
In their penetrating …: Mark Engler & Paul Engler (2016), This is an Uprising: how Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the 21st Century (Nation Books) http://thisisanuprising.org/reviews/
Repeating such demonstrations …: This is an Uprising, p. 73
Successful actions …: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/how-you-made-vw-see-light-20130305; http://fpif.org/green_finance_campaign_bags_citigroup/ ; http://www.ran.org/shifting-paradigm; http://www.savethegreatbear.org/news/detail/175; http://www.forestethics.org/article.php?id=1091; http://peopleandplanet.org/navid8784; "Stranded assets and the fossil fuel divestment campaign: what does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets?", Oxford University Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, 2013, p. 65, at http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/research/stranded-assets/index.html?content=publications; Michael John Bloomfield (2014), ‘Shame campaigns and environmental justice: corporate shaming as activist strategy’, Environmental Politics, 23 (2), 263-281, p. 264:http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09644016.2013.821824#.U76qT7Hb7Go; http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/boycotts/successfulboycotts.aspx 2010 section, concerning Fruit of the Loom
A similar action …: This is an Uprising, p. 162
Eminent researcher …: http://grist.org/climate-energy/how-do-you-make-conservatives-care-about-climate-change-an-expert-shares-tips/
The Carbon Trust …: http://www.carbontrust.com/news/2014/09/business-and-public-sector-fuelling-growth-of-ecolabelling-are-consumers-catching-on
A six nation survey …: http://www.globescan.com/component/edocman/?view=document&id=46&Itemid=591 pp. 38-9; see also www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/18/popes-climate-change-encyclical-calls-on-rich-nations-to-pay-social-debt
Three-fifths of Britons …: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/03/money-morality-right
In addition to selected ...:  This article shows how little people trust the banks:  http://www.prweek.com/article/1362904/winners-losers-public-trust
Companies whose products …: http://poig.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/POIG-Indicators_FINAL.pdf; www.greenpeace.de/files/publications/rspo-certifying-destruction.pdf; www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/26/app-deforestation-greenpeace-campaign; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-34571356
Pepsico, Colgate-Palmolive …: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/forests/2016/gp_IND_PalmScorecard_FINAL.pdf
Selected high-carbon products from nations which …: www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/amazon-slaughterhouses-deforestation/blog/53066/ (2/6/15); www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/deforestation-palm-oil-more-greenwash-greenpeace; http://www.vice.com/read/whats-being-done-to-stop-palm-oil-plantations-from-destroying-indonesias-rainforests; www.greenpeace.de/files/publications/rspo-certifying-destruction.pdf; www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/26/app-deforestation-greenpeace-campaign; http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/24/brazil-agriculture-katia-abreu-climate-change
This would give these nations’ …: www.odi.org/opinion/docs/3647.pdf; see also www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power_elite/interlocks_and_interactions.html; www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/illegal-logging-in-brazil-amazon/blog/53180/ (9/6/15); http://m.scidev.net/global/forestry/news/slowing-amazon-deforestation-trend.html (5/12/14)
Despite promising efforts ...: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/24/brazil-amazon-environmentalist-murder-luiz-alberto-araujo; http://www.cifor.org/blog/why-is-it-so-incredibly-hard-to-stop-deforestation/; http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/wilmars-palm-oil-promise-one-year-later/blog/51604/; http://www.ran.org/protect_tripa?recruiter_id=1224708; http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/09/brazil-and-indonesia-struggling-reduce-deforestation 3/9/15  
Preserving or expanding …: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDR2010/Resources/CC_Poll_Report_July_01_2010.pdf; see also https://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/sri-environment-global-advisor-april-2011-presentation-slidepack.pdf (p. 5)
The successful anti-Milosevic …: This is an Uprising, pp. 75-76
There are many …: Regarding the effectiveness of celebrity support in mobilizing young people, see Adam Corner et al (2005), How do Young People Engage with Climate Change? P. 529: http://climateoutreach.org/resources/how-do-young-people-engage-with-climate-change-the-role-of-knowledge-values-message-framing-and-trusted-communicators/ 

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