Break Free: Largest Civil Disobedience In Environmental Movement History

Note: Break Free is an unprecedented global mobilisation from May 4-15, 2016 – a movement and a global call for action – to leave fossil fuels in the ground. A global wave of peaceful direct actions will take place across six continents targeting the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects, in order to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground. The aim is to demonstrate the global resolve to break free from the shackles of polluting fuels to build a new kind of economy that works for people and the planet, and accelerate the just transition to 100% renewable energy.

A Global Wave of Actions to Break Free from Fossil Fuels Begins

WORLDWIDE — Starting today, a global wave of peaceful direct actions lasting for 12 days will take place across six continents targeting the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects, under the banner of Break Free.

“By backing campaigns and mass actions aimed at stopping the world’s most dangerous fossil-fuel projects – from coal plants in Turkey and the Philippines, to mines in Germany and Australia, to fracking in Brazil and oil wells in Nigeria – Break Free hopes to eliminate the power and pollution of the fossil-fuel industry, and propel the world toward a sustainable future,” May Boeve, Executive Director 350.org.

“There’s never been a bigger, more concerted wave of actions against the plans of the fossil fuel industry to overheat our earth–and for the just, fair, and sustainable world we can now envision. In the hottest year on record, we’re determined to turn up the political heat on the planet’s worst polluters,” Bill McKibben, co-founder 350.org.

2015 was the hottest year ever recorded and the impacts of climate change are already hitting communities around the world. From rising sea levels to extreme storms, the need to act on climate change has never been more urgent. Added to that, the fossil fuel industry faces an unprecedented crisis — from collapsing prices, massive divestments, a new global climate deal, and an ever-growing movement calling for change. The time has never been better for a just transition to a clean energy system.

To harness the moment, activists and concerned citizens committed to addressing climate change – from international groups to local communities to individual citizens – will unite to ensure that strong pressure is maintained to force energy providers, as well as local and national governments, to implement the policies and additional investments needed to completely break free from fossil fuels.

“Communities on the front lines of climate change aren’t waiting for governments to act. They are taking bold action, and the world needs to listen. The Paris agreement was only possible because millions of people spent years fighting for climate justice. Now that governments have committed to action, we must make sure they follow the science and deliver on their words. The only way to survive climate change is through a rapid just transition to 100% renewable energy, keeping oil, coal and gas in the ground,” Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

“Communities all over the Philippines  are demanding that the government cancel all plans, permits and construction efforts for new coal power plants and coal mines in the Philippines, and to take decisive steps towards the phase out of existing ones. We need to take major steps in order to break free from fossil fuels and all harmful sources energy. A complete transition to renewable energy is not only possible, but urgent,” Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of the Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) and Co-Coordinator of the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice.

People worldwide are providing the much needed leadership by intensifying actions through peaceful civil disobedience on a global scale as so much remains to be done in order to lessen the effects of the climate crisis. This includes demanding governments move past the commitments made as part of the Paris agreement signed last month.

“People power in our cities, in our villages and on the frontlines of climate change have brought us to a point where we have a global climate deal – but we do not stop now, we need more action and faster. Civil society is set to rise up again, to fight for our societies to break free from fossil fuels, to propel them even faster towards a just future powered by 100% renewable energy,” Wael Hmaidan, Director of Climate Action Network.

“No government has a workable plan to protect a stable climate. Nature won’t wait, and mass disobedience is the only tool proven to bring about rapid social change. Breaking free from fossil fuels and ensuring a just transition is going to be hard, but not doing so would have unthinkable consequences,” Ahmed Gaya, Rising Tide Seattle, Break Free Pacific Northwest Action.

In order to address the current climate crisis and keep global warming below 1.5C, fossil fuel projects need to be shelved and existing infrastructure needs to be replaced now that renewable energy is more affordable and widespread than ever before. The only way to achieve this is by keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground and accelerating the just transition to 100% renewable energy. During Break Free people worldwide are rising up to make sure this is the case.

Actions taking place between 3-15 May include:

  • US: Across the U.S. activists will target six key areas of fossil fuel development between 12-15 May. Including the new tar sands pipelines in the Midwest with an action near Chicago; fracking in the Mountain West with an event outside Denver; ‘bomb trains’ carrying fracked oil and gas to a port in Albany, NY; Shell’s devastating refinery pollution north of Seattle; action around offshore drilling in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts taking place in Washington, DC; and dangerous oil and gas drilling in Los Angeles. These diverse actions will all escalate critical local campaigns that target the unjust practices of the fossil fuel industry. More detail on the individual actions can be found below.

o    12 May & 14 May in Colorado (Denver):
Description: On May 12th, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) intends to hold a fossil fuel auction, and hundreds of people will be there to tell them to keep it in the ground. Activists will be mobilizing first at the BLM auction and then a few days later onMay 14th in a community working to defend itself from fracking near Denver.

o    13-15 May in the Pacific Northwest (Anacortes, WA):
Description: The Shell and Tesoro refineries just north of Seattle are the largest unaddressed source of carbon pollution in the Pacific Northwest and refine nearly half of all the gas and diesel consumed in the region; this system must change—within years, not decades. Thousands of people will converge upon the March Point refineries in Anacortes, WA. Hundreds of people will risk arrest by engaging in peaceful civil disobedience on land and sea on May 13th, 14th and 15th as part of a mass action to Break Free from Big Oil and hasten the just transition to 100% renewable energy.

o    14 May in the Northeast (Albany, NY):
Description: Crude oil “bomb” trains roll through Albany, polluting the air in surrounding communities and contributing to the climate crisis. On May 14th, activists will gather for a massive action to stop these dangerous trains in their tracks. Joining others all around the world, they will put their bodies in the way of fossil fuels to show the collective power of this movement.

o    14 May in California (Los Angeles):
Description: 2016 is a critical year in the fight to move California away from dangerous fossil fuels and toward the renewable energy future we need. From the neighborhoods in Richmond alongside a toxic, explosive oil refinery to residents living only feet away from neighborhood drilling in South L.A., frontline communities across the state are living with the insidious threats of fossil fuels. That’s why thousands of Californians will be marching in Los Angeles on May 14 to demand a ban on urban drilling and all new fossil fuel infrastructure. As the home of the largest urban oil field, and the largest city in California, Los Angeles is the clear target for this action. Change can begin in L.A. to move the whole state off fossil fuels and toward 100% renewable energy.

o    15 May in Washington, DC:
Description: On May 15, a coalition of organizations and frontline activists will rally at the White House and then march to one of the bodies of water in DC. Frontline activists from the Gulf, Arctic, and Atlantic will come together in DC backed by national organizations to say, “Stop Drilling everywhere. No sacrifice zones.” Expanding offshore drilling or cutting it out entirely is the biggest climate decision that Obama will make before the end of his presidency, and this action will show that there is a mass movement calling on him to #keepitintheground.

o    15 May in the Midwest (Whiting, IN, near Chicago):
Description: The Midwest has a long history with the fossil fuel industry, and this May communities in the region are taking action to Break Free from athen industry that’s driving the climate crisis. The fossil fuel industry threads the Great Lakes region with pipelines, putting local communities at risk with refining impacts and petcoke piles. Communities are breaking free from business as usual and taking on Enbridge’s tar sands proposed expansion plans. On Sunday, May 15 at noon, hundreds of Midwesterners will assemble for a rally in the Whiting Lakefront Park near the BP Whiting Refinery and near the 2014 oil spill into the waters of Lake Michigan.

  • AustraliaOn 8 May some 600+ people will gather at the largest coal port in the world, in Newcastle. They will demonstrate their resolve to make the climate a key issue in the coming election and show their determination to continue resisting coal no matter who is in the Prime Minister’s chair.
  • Brazil: Actions will be taking place at 3 locations across the country. Between 5-15 Maythere will be a rural fair in Maringa, which will include a big rally on 6 May, calling for a ban on fracking. On 7 May in Toledo there will be a mass anti-fracking action with thousands of people attending. And on 14 May there will be a march and mass civil disobedience targeting a coal power plant in Pecem, Ceará.
  • Canada: On 13 and 14 May hundreds of people will take action on the land and the water in Vancouver to oppose the proposed Kinder Morgan Transmountain tar sands pipeline, surrounding the Westridge Marine terminal.
  • Ecuador: An action is being organised on 14 May by Yasunidos bringing people together from around the country with a call to keep the oil in ground and protect the Yasuni National Park.
  • GermanyDuring the weekend of 13-15 May a few thousand activists are expected to come to Lusatia where they will engage in civil disobedience to stop the digging in one of Europe’s biggest open-pit lignite mines, which the Swedish company Vattenfall has put up for sale. The action will show any future buyer that all coal development will face resistance, and demonstrate the movement’s commitment against fossil fuel corporations.
  • Indonesia: There will be a mass action of thousands of people at the Presidential palace in Jakarta on 11 May. The action will include participants from many of the communities leading resistance to coal projects from around the country. The mobilisation will target President Joko Widodo demanding he revise his ambitious 35,000 Megawatt energy plan by moving away from coal and embracing renewable energy. A few days later there will be one or more actions at the site of coal infrastructure projects.
  • New Zealand: Between the 4-15 of May hundreds of people around NZ will take action to shut down the operations of one of New Zealand’s biggest investors and lenders to the fossil fuel industry, ANZ bank. There will be blockades, disruptive actions, and culture jamming from North to South.
  • Nigeria: In the Niger Delta actions will be held in three iconic locations to show what happens when the oil goes dry, and the community is left with the pollution and none of the wealth. An action at Ogoni land will demand an urgent clean-up of decades old oil spills and underscore how it is possible for citizens to resist the power of the oil corporations, and keep their oil in the ground where it belongs. Another action will be on the Atlantic coast, where Exxon’s offshore wells frequently leak, impact fisheries and harm coastline communities’ livelihoods.
  • Philippines:  On 4 May anti-coal activists from all over the Philippines will converge in a climate march that aims to mobilize 10,000 people in Batangas City, where JG Summit Holdings aims to put up a 600-Megawatt coal fired power plant that is set to occupy a 20-hectare site in Barangay Pinamucan Ibaba, Batangas City.  The people will be demanding the cancellation of the coal plant in Batangas as well as all 27 other proposed plants in the Philippines.
  • South Africa: Two actions will take place each with hundreds of people highlighting the local impacts of coal and climate change. The first on 12 May will see people gathering in Emalahleni, one of the most polluted towns in the world, to speak out on the effects of climate change. The second on 14 May is focused on the Gupta residence in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.
  • Turkey: Community leaders will head a mass action in Aliağa on 15 May at a coal waste site to call for a stop to 4 fossil fuel plant projects in the surrounding area. This action will unite several fights against individual coal plants into a unified stance against the current Turkish government’s plan to dramatically expand the use of coal in the country.
  • UK: The Reclaim the Power network will unite hundreds of people on 3 May at the UK’s largest opencast coal mine – Ffos-y-fran, near Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales. The action will take place just a few days before the Welsh Assembly elections on 5 May. The Welsh Assembly voted for a moratorium on opencast coal mining last April, but this has yet to become legally binding.

“Breaking free from fossil fuels is a vote for life and for the planet. The Paris Agreement signed by world leaders ignored the fact that burning fossil fuels is the major culprit in global warming. In these actions the peoples of the world will insist that we must come clean of the fossil fuels addiction. In Nigeria we will in addition raise our voices to demand a clean up of the extreme pollution caused by oil companies operating in the Niger Delta,” Nnimmo Bassey, Nigerian activist from the Health of Mother Earth Foundation.

“We are currently at a crossroads in humanity where we must choose either to continue down a destructive path of extracting fossil fuels or transition to sustainable ways of living. What we need is ambitious renewable energy projects, not more tar sands pipelines. These pipelines don’t have the support of local communities and the Indigenous nations they will impact. If we continue to build fossil fuel infrastructure, we are breaking our promise to do our part in Canada to stem a global climate crisis that is already being felt by communities all over the planet,” Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Lubicon Cree First Nation, Greenpeace Canada Climate & Energy Campaigner and 350.orgBoard member.

More information contact:

Lindsay Meiman, US Communications Manager 350.orglindsay@350.org+1-347-460-9082

Hoda Baraka, Global Communications Manager 350.orghoda@350.org+1-347-453-6600