After worrying about terrorism for two weeks, it’s time for us to divert our attention back to what could spell the end of us as a species on earth: good old climate change. The Paris Climate Change Conference kicks off on Monday. What’s at stake is not “the planet”, but human civilisation itself.
But wait? You, the conscientious Berliner, you ride your bike, recycle everything, take the train, eat regional, organic vegan food, use Ökostrom. Somehow to little effect. Carbon levels in the atmosphere continue to rise, ice sheets and glaciers are still melting, the sea level is rising every year and the oceans are acidifying…just a few of the signs that climate change is actually happening at a terrifying rate.
Feeling permanently guilty that you’re not doing enough isn’t going to help, says Ella Lagé, an activist with the Berlin branch of 350.org, Bill McKibben’s global climate change NGO.
Berlin is bursting with environmentalist, climate-friendly innovators and iniatives – from the proposed U1 Radbahn bike highway to waste-free shopping at Original Unverpackt to the high-tech building components of Elegant Embellishments that actually soak up carbon from the atmosphere.
But direct action is necessary and 350.org is one of the most convincing campaigns around. By focusing on divestment, they hit the primary culprits of climate change, the largest corporations in the fossil fuel industry, some of the dirtiest, richest and most powerful companies in history.
Some 84 cities around the world have comitted to divesting from fossil fuel companies. Just last week, German insurance company Allianz, the world’s largest insurer, said it would take its money out of companies that made more that 30% of their profits from coal – the most destructive of the fossil fuels. It also promised to take climate change impact into consideration with all of its investment decisions. This is a huge step. Allianz has finally recognised that the coal industry is a pariah industry.
The aim of 350.org’s Berlin campaign Fossil Free Berlin is relatively straight forward: to pressure the state of Berlin to clean up its investment portfolio. The Senat holds investments for the pension funds of state employees and an estimated €10 million of that money is parked in fossil fuel industry shares.
Earlier in the year, activists projected their message onto the Rotes Rathaus and sent a letter to the mayor Michael Müller, urging him to divest city funds. The mayor never responded. They then contacted the man who holds the purse strings: Finance Senator Dr. Matthias Kollatz-Ahnen – and finally received a promise that he’d look into the issue by the end of the year. And in November, an independent commission set up by the Berlin Parliament actually recommended divestment as part of Berlin’s climate change strategy. Small victories in a global battle.
What can you do right now?
Demand change. Send an email blast to the mayor and finance senator telling them that you demand divestment of state funds from fossil fuels. Their email addresses and suggested texts can be found here: http://fossilfreeberlin.org/mailblast/
And: Join the Berlin Global Climate March this Sunday! It begins at Washingtonplatz outside of Hauptbahnhof at 12:00.