A global group of climate change advocates came together last night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, with the goal of setting the agenda for environmentalists ahead of the UN climate talks in Paris this December. Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Rev. Lennox Yearwood and Cynthia Ong, led the two-hour event which highlighted a range of victories and a coordinated plan of attack for the next eight months.
350.org, the organization behind the event is named after the number of parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere that is safe for life on earth. 400 parts per million is the current level of carbon in the atmosphere, and the organization is pushing – among other things – to bring that number down.
The event started with a highlight reel of recent victories including putting a stop to a coal mine in Austraila and bringing solar power to first nations people in Montana. Then, it quickly moved to laying out a roadmap for how environmental advocates can set the table going into the Paris talks.
The centerpiece of that roadmap is a divestment campaign. Advocates highlighted recent fossil fuel divestment announcements from the Rockefeller Foundation, universities, and pensions. One big applause line of the night was news delivered by McKibben that the University of California endowment has divested $200 million of its coal and tar sands investment portfolio, and will continue to unwind remaining positions.
The California legislature also has a bill pending that would require the two largest public pension systems in the US – CalPERs and CalSTRs to divest from coal.
McKibben didn’t stop there however, he called on New York to divest as well, saying every elected official going to Paris should come with a divestment in hand. “We’re looking at you Mayor DeBlasio,” he said.
Activists like Thilmeeza Hussaib, a youth organizer from the Maldives brought a global perspective from the frontlines of extreme climate change. The Maldives sit barely above sea level and are immediately threatened by rising sea levels and extreme weather. “We will fight until our last breath,” she said.
The group, with the aid of a coalition of other advocacy organizations, is planning mass demonstrations leading up to the Paris talks as well. “We’ll see you in the streets,” 350.org’s Executive Director May Boeve said at the end of the event.