Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Action Factory DC - Towards a Strong Global Climate Treaty


Hey all,

We've moved to

Please update your links, or whatever it is that you do. Don't worry, all our posts and info has been moved over there, as well as our website info. Its a 1-stop-shop for DC climate action.


The Ac Fac

Friday, August 21, 2009

Action Factory DC - Towards a Strong Global Climate Treaty

Update: Sate Dept Response to our Letter on Oil Sands

Many of you saw the letter the Action Factory wrote yesterday in response to the State Dept approval of the Clipper Pipeline border crossing.

Today we met with two officials with the Oceans, Environment and Science department, one of the departments that worked on the Clipper pipeline project. While the officials avoided giving us their names or positions, we imagine that one works in PR while the other is more policy focused. They thanked us for our wonderful visual skits and the over 10,000 phone calls and emails generated. They emphasized that we should have gotten involved earlier, during the public comment part of the two year process, where over 6000 stakeholders submitted their opinions.

The PR guy emphasized that the US plan to reduce oil emissions centers around CAFE standards and what a great improvement we've had in that area. He said that we should bring the Tar Sands Monster skit to an Escalade factory if we really want to make a difference. The woman, who was sorry to have missed the skit, said that the next pipeline project has already started the approval process, and they expect the public comment period to be open in December or January. They both also pointed out that their role was more approving the crossing of the U.S. border, but that there were various other regulatory agencies that needed to sign off on the pipeline as well.

Our biggest question: What kind of a signal do you send the world, as we near the Copenhagen climate negotiations, when we approve a major expansion in international dirty energy infrastructure? Answer: We need to make decision in the 'here and now' and not for their symbolic power. They added that because of the close cooperation on this project and the negotiating that went on, Canada will be under more pressure to come to Copenhagen ready to negotiate.

Their biggest message to us: the work of Avaaz and the Action Factory with our skit, our phone calls and letters, as well as those of the Sierra Club and NRDC, had a big impact on this process. That pressure forced them to more fully consider the climate impacts of the project and to include climate change in the statements issued both within the US and to Canada now that the pipeline is approved.

For more information on the next major pipeline project, the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, see the State Department website here:

Also see NRDC's letter here

Putting in place a climate policy that will truly fight global warming needs to happen at all levels - from the negotiations in Copenhagen to the debate in the House and Senate and even to the level of consideration of a pipeline permit. If we allow individual projects to move forward without sufficient analysis of how they link to the goal of building a clean energy future - we undermine our own policy commitments and priorities.

It is not in our national interest to invest in pipelines and refineries that will lock us into the high levels of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil production, transportation and upgrading. Instead of pipelines for tar sands oil, we need to be building the infrastructure for our clean energy economy so that in the future, we will not depend on oil - and especially not on the even dirtier tar sands oil.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Action Factory DC - Towards a Strong Global Climate Treaty

Breaking news: State Department Issues Permit for Alberta Clipper Pipeline

450,000 Barrels/day of Dirty, Climate Destroying Oil to Flow Into US

The decision sat on Clinton's desk for months, and with a stroke of the pen, she could have denied this expansion of dirty energy infrastructure. But today, the State Department issued the permit, committing the US to more CO2 emissions from oil, and committing Canada to more destruction of indigenous lands and Boreal forest. We brought the Tar Sands Monster to Clinton's doorstep, generated thousands of phone calls and emails, but Clinton failed to make the right decision.

From the State Department:

After considerable review and evaluation, on August 20, 2009, the Department issued a Presidential Permit to Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership for the Alberta Clipper pipeline.

Yet they insist that the US and Canada are committed to finding climate solutions:

The State Department will continue to work to ensure that both the United States and Canada take ambitious action to address climate change, and will cooperate with the Canadian government through the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue, the pursuit of comprehensive climate legislation, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other processes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Avaaz Action Factory will deliver this letter to the state department tomorrow. Please help us by sending them an email using this as a starting point.

Dear Secretary Clinton,

We are very upset about your decision, announced today, to approve the Clipper pipeline that will carry dirty tar sands oil from Alberta into the US. If you and the president are truly committed to "reducing overall emissions and leading the global transition to a low-carbon economy," as mentioned in today's release, then this decision is entirely hypocritical. The use of tar sands for energy in the US will certainly increase, not reduce, our overall carbon emissions.

A few weeks ago, we let you know about the problems associated with the construction of the Alberta Clipper Pipeline. We urged you not to approve the destruction of indigenous lands and increased carbon emissions that this pipeline will bring. Hopeful that you would make the right choice, we acted out a skit in front of your office at the State Department, where you rescued Canada, America and the rest of the world from the filthy, evil Tar Sands Monster. We filled up your voicemail box numerous times with phone calls from across the country, and we sent you over 10,000 emails urging you to deny this permit.

Today's statement asserts that this permit approval sends a "positive economic signal." We can't afford to send any more positive economic signals to dirty energy corporations; instead we must only send positive signals to those who are creating green economic prosperity. We have been encouraged by the administration's rhetoric that economic growth and fighting climate change are not in fact mutually exclusive, but this decision does not reflect that perspective.

This oil pipeline will only extend the US’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels for decades to come instead of reversing global warming and putting the US on a low-carbon track towards green economic prosperity. We're watching your decisions. We are aware of the contradictions between your words and actions, and we are disappointed.


Avaaz Action Factory

Update: Reuters says its OK because the state department took greenhouse gasses into account:

The State Department said it took greenhouse gas emissions into account when deciding to issue the permit, saying that the issue is best addressed through the domestic policies of the United States and Canada and through international agreements.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Action Factory DC - Towards a Strong Global Climate Treaty

A Different Tone for Action Factory at Climate Refugee Camp

Despite the diversity of actions we’ve carried out this summer, the Action Factory has developed a unique ‘Action Factory’ style that rings through nearly all of our actions. Our style is usually comedic and gimmicky, and our message always positive. Rather than highlighting the often dismal political and scientific realities of today’s world, our actions are instead suggestive of the change we desire and the future we envision. At their core, almost all our actions affirm the now-famous clichĂ©, “yes we can”:
Climate change is complex and it’s difficult to talk about complexity in today’s news media, so we at the Action Factory have stayed away from communicating much about the complexities of climate change in our actions. Instead we’ve dumbed things way down for the sake of getting attention and keeping an up-beat tone. This has been very effective and I’m glad that through our actions, we’ve gained a reputation for being optimistic and hopeful -- because we are.

And yet, it is important to step back every once and a while and remember another dimension of this battle. Our tone of optimism about fighting climate change often includes a mouthful of intangible jargon while leaving out an explanation for why we need a fair, ambitious, and binding global climate treaty so urgently. Climate change is not only a great opportunity to create jobs and new prosperity. It is also an urgent crisis that is already impacting many individual human lives and perpetuating current injustices.

This week the Action Factory struck a new tone by setting up a refugee camp outside the state department. With our makeshift tents, blue tarps, and a reasonable ration of food packed in cardboard boxes, we put ourselves in the shoes of people displaced by climate change for over 24 hours.

Our action gave us a brief taste of what it must have felt like to be Katrina climate refugees forced to leave their flooded homes. It allowed us to empathize ever so slightly with Sudanese refugees who have no choice but to flee from the violent Darfur conflict, which has it's roots in drought caused by climate change. We attempted to put ourselves in the shoes of Alaskan villagers forced to relocate as the permafrost that used to support their houses thaws, and try to understand the plight of Carteret islanders who have no choice but to leave their homes because growing crops has become nearly impossible with increased storm surges attributed to climate change.

It was hot, exhausting, and uncomfortable. I lay on my back awake on the pavement at 4:00 am and longed for my bed at home or even a light blanket to protect me from the early morning chill. And yet, of course, I had it easy, relatively speaking. I was a ‘refugee’ for a mere 24 hours, and within walking distance of air-conditioned shops where I was able to take time-outs for cold water, coffee, snacks, and other amenities.

For me, this week's climate refugee camp was especially meaningful because of another type of climate refugees on my mind. This past weekend I took a tour of
long-wall coal mining sites in southwestern Pennsylvania with the Center for Coalfield Justice. During the tour, residents of Washington, PA spoke of contaminated water sources, damaged homes, and communities that are deteriorating. In long-wall mining, coal mining literally occurs directly underneath residents' homes and causes the land to sink down after the coal seam is removed. Many families have begun to move elsewhere as coal mining operations make life unbearable. As I sat in our refugee camp this week, I thought of the many communities impacted by coal mining throughout the US as while as of other impacted communities throughout the world. Given that climate change begins with resource extraction, it seems to me that these families who are displaced when they are pushed out by coal mining ought also to be considered a type of climate refugee. They represent yet another case of human displacement that is part of the climate change story, and I believe we stood in their shoes at our refugee camp outside the state department too. Their saddening stories make an even more compelling case for halting the use of dirty climate-changing fossil fuels immediately.

Putting myself in the shoes of those forced to leave their homes due to flooding, contamination, drought, melting ice and war was crucial in bringing my focus to the individual and community level where climate impacts are felt. More than anything, this action was a wake-up call -- a poignant reminder of my privilege and all that I take for granted. I sincerely hope our refugee camp was a wake-up call to decision-makers at the state department as well. Much is at stake in this battle. While I prefer to look forward towards the new era of prosperity, health, and justice that we can usher in by taking strong action on climate, it is important to remember that climate impacts are already causing pain and turmoil for thousands of individuals worldwide. That’s why Secretary Clinton and Todd Stern need to act with genuine urgency if we are to get a Copenhagen Treaty that has any chance of fighting climate change and creating a more just world.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Action Factory DC - Towards a Strong Global Climate Treaty

Ooh, it's hot out here! There's too much carbon in the atmosphere!

I knew it would be hot and humid during our 24-hour campout in front of the State Department, but the utter devastation of the DC summer always manages to surprise me. What keeps me going is thinking about the millions of real climate refugees out there who don’t have the luxury of taking a break to get a cup of coffee in an air-conditioned cafĂ©. Also, we’ve been received really well here, which is invigorating!

When we set up camp 50 yards from the State Department staff entrance at seven o’clock this morning, there was the usual kafuffle with the police arriving and trying to figure out what they could kick us out for. When they found nothing (except for lowering the tops of our makeshift tents to make us look less like we’re camping), they backed off and those that stayed became very friendly and have just been spending the day with us. Even later, when an employee from inside the building called the police asking them to remove us, they came over here and told us that we were doing nothing wrong and to keep up the good work!

Most employees walking by have been very receptive though, and we ran out of our 500 flyers within the first three hours because everyone was so enthusiastically taking them. We’ve gotten lots of smiles, a few peace signs, and just generally feel pretty appreciated which really helps motivate us to keep going.

When we went inside to deliver a letter with our message, a representative from the office of Todd Stern, the US leading climate negotiator for COP 15, came down to talk with us. She said that they recognized us from our previous actions (Clinton's Big Decision on Tar Sands and Todd Stern Needs High Fives) and that they’re happy we’re here. Another lady walking by let us know that she works closely with Stern’s office and that they know we’re here, they know our message, and they appreciate our work.

Even just this much would have made it feel worth it to me, but then the press started to arrive. We staged an informational interview about climate refugees for CNN, cleanskies.tvnews, and Local Channel 9, who covered our entire action with three huge cameras on tripods. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of coverage comes out of that; I really hope this issue gets some of the recognition it deserves.

Please keep following us on twitter @actionfactorydc and watching our blog for updates, because we’ll be here all night. As one passer-by advised us, we’re sticking around and not cutting them any slack!

Secretary Clinton, be a leader! Recognize and protect climate refugees at COP15.