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We’ve just celebrated our first anniversary since our re-launch in late 2012!

Since we first met at Friends of the Earth’s annual conference in 2012, a vibrant network has emerged. Their first annual review celebrates a year which has included:

  • Going undercover in a computer store to draw attention to how Apple sources its components
  • Calling on Cuadrilla chair Lord Browne to resign, including organising a protest outside his investment company
  • Cycling to the New Forest to raise money as part of the Big Green Bike Ride
  • Joining Young Friends of the Earth Norway to successfully halt plans for fossil fuel extraction in the Lofoten national park
  • Being part of the youth delegation to the climate talks in Poland
  • Contributing to events such as People and Planet Conference, Balcombe ‘Reclaim the Power’ camp, and BASECAMP

This year, we’ll be continuing our involvement in the movement against Dirty Energy as well as a project calling people to go Meat Free for May.

If you’re interested in being part of these sub-groups, please email us.

We’re working to include more young people in the environmental movement. If you are under the age of 30 and are involved, or want to be involved in environmental campaigning, please fill in this survey.

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By Adam, Young FoE Steering Group

I’m not a fan of Lord Browne.

For me, it started when the Browne Review (recommending tuition fee increases) came out in 2010 – I was the Vice President of my Students’ Union at the time – thousands of us took to the streets chanting ‘Down With Browne’ – then I learnt about BP, greenwashing, the Deepwater Horizon disaster that many hold him culpable for, and to top it all off, my university gave him an honorary degree.  Great.

Over 120 arrests at Balcombe later, fracking is rightfully a national controversy. So when it turned out that he was doing a public lecture at the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute last week, I knew I had to be there. And I wasn’t the only one, either.

Appallingly, the LSE collaborated in portraying him as some sort of climate hero – ‘in 1997, Lord Browne broke ranks with the rest of the oil industry and acknowledged the risk posed by climate change,’ the lecture synopsis puffed. Browne was going to be allowed to style himself as someone concerned for the environment. You don’t get prizes for simply recognising the biggest threat the human family has ever faced.

Lord Browne has spent most of his life working for and running a company that has been responsible for some of the worst environmental and humanitarian disasters the world has ever seen, and is locking us into a climate changed future. He’s is the chairman of Balcombe frackers Cuadrilla Resources, and a lobbyist for his own business interests within government. He’s current advising the owners of a Russian oil and gas fund. Clearly, he’s no environmental hero. For LSE to put him up as a speaker, unopposed, is disgraceful.

As he took to the stage of the night, there was more security than usual for a public lecture at LSE. It only became clear just how many people were in the audience to oppose Browne until he mentioned how there were no examples of fracking contaminating water, and suddenly the whole audience was overcome with a coughing fit:

From then on, it was obvious what was going to happen when it was time for questions. Browne looked flustered as he was barracked by audience members about his role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, his links with government, his claims that fracking doesn’t cause earthquakes or water contamination, and how all this squares with his apparent concern for the environment. His claims of fracking not causing groundwater contamination (well over 1,000 separate reports in the US alone) was rubbished by the vast majority of the audience.

The only drop of truth seemed to come when Browne contradicted the government’s apparent rationale for fracking – that it would cut bills.

For nearly two hours, Browne was assailed by hostile questions. Only around two or three questions during that time were not direct challenges. The nearest Browne got to anything complimentary was ‘I think you’re pretty brave for coming here.’

But that’s how it should be. If he wants to stand up and spout the myth that fracking is safe and just what we need, he should need to be brave. The crowd at the LSE made sure he wouldn’t get a free platform – like he does at the Cabinet Office – to spout propaganda. He needs to be opposed and challenged wherever he goes.

That’s why Young FoE have started a ‘Dirty Energy Group’ opposing dirty energy in the UK and across Europe. If you’d like to join, get in touch.

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POLLUTERS TALK, WE WALK | Mass walk-out of corporate-captured climate talks in Poland

Warsaw, November 21 – One day before the scheduled conclusion of the international climate talks in Warsaw, hundreds of climate activists – including Young Friends of the Earth Europe– have walked out in protest at the lack of ambition at the talks, and in solidarity with people affected by climate change.

The walkout included social movements, trade unions and major environmental, development and youth groups, such as Greenpeace, Oxfam, WWF, Action Aid and the International Trade Union Confederation, as well as many others. Together they represent millions of people who demand real climate action [1]. The delegates who walked-out wore t-shirts with the slogan ‘polluters talk, we walk’ to signify the toxic influence of dirty energy corporations on the climate talks and the positions of many national governments.
Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "We are walking out in frustration and disappointment – the talks here in Poland have done nothing to cut emissions or provide real finance to tackle climate change. We also walk out in solidarity, with those communities and countries who stand to lose so much from climate change, and for whom these talks have done so little. Enough is enough."
Maruska Mileta, from Young Friends of the Earth Europe said: "At a time when the climate science is clearer than ever, young people feel increasingly let down by our governments. They are prioritising short-term economic interests over a liveable climate for all of our futures."
The Polish government’s decision to invite sponsorship from big polluters and to host a coal summit during the talks has already drawn heavy criticism from civil society organisations.
Industrialised countries’ governments are neglecting their responsibility to prevent climate catastrophe, and protect those that are losing so much as a result of climate change. Their positions at the global climate talks are increasingly driven by the narrow economic and financial interests of multinational corporations, according to Friends of the Earth, in particular Australia, Canada, Japan and the US.
Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on European politicians to push for fast and fair emission cuts in line with science, and a renewable energy-powered future that puts the interests of people at its centre. It is calling for binding EU climate and energy targets for 2030, at least 60% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and ambitious energy efficiency and renewables targets. This needs be alongside more ambitious pre-2020 action.
There needs to be international recognition that communities and countries are suffering irreversible losses due to climate breakdown, now, and governments need to put new money on the table to help developing countries compensate, adapt to the impacts of climate change and tackle urgent development needs.
 
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NOTES:
[1] The organisations include Friends of the Earth International, the International Trade Union Confederation, PanAfrican Climate Justice Alliance, Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Jubilee South (APMDD), 350.org, Greenpeace, WWF, Oxfam, ActionAid, Young Friends of the Earth Europe and others.
Updates from the talks: www.facebook.com/YoungFoEE
FoEI report, Good energy, bad energy (November 2013): http://www.foei.org/en/good-energy-bad-energy

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To: Ms. Christiana Figueres Executive Secretary UNFCCC secretariat

From: Clémence Hutin

15 November 2013

Dear Christiana,

I am Clémence, the 23 year-old young environmentalist banned from the COP19 for standing in solidarity with the Philippines. As you did not respond to our first letter I would like to express a few things I still have on my mind.

As you can imagine, I’m feeling quite frustrated at the moment, mostly because I find this situationcompletely absurd.

Yesterday during the intergenerational panel, you told my friends, “I am very grateful for the fact that you are here and I know that many of you have made incredible efforts and sacrifices to be here and I welcome you here.” I did make an effort to come here. I took a bus from Paris to avoid taking the plane. I travelled 29 hours, and took two weeks off work to be here- my time in Warsaw counts as a holiday.

I had a chance to meet you for the first time this June in Istanbul, at the Global Power Shift. You gave an emotional speech to the plenary, telling young people to get angry, to fight. To fight for our future. You told us about your daughters.

These words now sound very hollow to me. I feel some grave inconsistencies in your discourse. You tell me to get angry, to fight, to push leaders… and you kick me out on the first day for standing in solidarity with the Philippines.

Christiana, did you really mean what you said in Istanbul? Actions speak louder than words. From what I’m seeing here, major dirty corporations are more welcome here than the youth.

I’d like to point out a second inconsistency in your words. During the panel yesterday, in response to my friends’ question about whether or not we could come back in, you told them: “I cannot let you know whether we will let them back in and if we do, when. Because that is a conversation for UN security, for them then to advise me on what their best judgement is.”

I completely agree with you on this. However, the chief of security made it clear we could come back the very next day. What we heard, however, is that you made this decision personally as the Executive Secretary.

I think there are more important things to be done presently. We only have two weeks a year to negotiate a climate deal, and you often stress how short of a timespan this is. You also often say, “I have a COP to run.” I’m with you Christiana. Please, run the COP. By all means, lead negotiatiors towards an ambitious, just, binding, deal.

You must know by now that sadly, people are losing faith in the UNFCCC process. At times, I myself doubt my faith in the political system. However, I do think that the UNFCCC has a pivotal role in pushing governments to avoid catastrophic climate change, and I don’t want it to let the UNFCCC to be discredited or weakened in any way, nor let the civil society to disengage from the process.

To avoid this, I believe the UNFCCC must now send a clear message: that the UN Climate talks are a democratic space, where civil society is welcome, and dirty corporations, whose business model is incompatible with any kind of ambitious action on climate change, are not.

I hope this message resonates with you.

Sincerely, Clémence Hutin.

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By Greg, Young FoE steering group

In 2012, Young FoE were given a stall at People & Planet’s student conference, Shared Planet. This year, Friends of the Earth approached us and asked if we wanted a shared stall at this year’s conference. So on the 1st and 2nd November, a group of Young FoE campaigners made their way to London. This was particularly exciting for us as we were also asked to help with delivering some training sessions alongside Friends of the Earth. These sessions focused on media training and how to give a good interview. By being able to help out with these, not only did we gain facilitation and training skills, but we also learnt some excellent media skills too.

On the stall we had the Bee Cause campaign petitions for students to sign, whilst also telling people about our Lord Browne stunt, and signing the petition on change.org (which by the way we’re now over 500 signatures!!). There was also an opportunity for students to sign up to the campaign organisers programme and Young FoE. And by the end of the weekend, 21 people signed up to our mailing list.

We’ve not long ago had our steering group meeting where we have been laying out plans for the coming year. I really hope that these new campaigns and ideas will provide people signed up to our mailing list the opportunity to get involved with Young FoE.

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Headline- Coalition of European youth protest the corporate capture of UN climate summit 

A Europe-wide coalition of youth environmental organizations dumped coal outside Polish Embassies across Europe today in protest against the Polish Government’s decision to give unprecedented access to dirty energy corporations at the upcoming COP 19 climate summit in Warsaw.

 Some of the dirtiest corporations including steel giant ArcelorMittal, power company Alstom and Poland’s biggest energy company, PGE, have been made official partners of COP 19.

 The International Coal Summit, which will be opened by Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the economy Janusz Piechociński and held at the ministry of the economy, will push for clean coal as part of the solution to climate change.

 Richard Sagar from Young Friends of the Earth UK commented

“With COP19 looking to be the most corporate COP yet, young people need to send a message to the dirty energy corporations who continue to prevent the effective action we need to tackle climate change”

 Paul Cohen, from the Young Greens of England and Wales said

“At a time when the world should be promoting clean, community owned, renewable energy, the Polish Government is helping big corporations continue to push false solutions like clean coal.”

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Notes for editors

1. The action will be performed as part of ‘Reclaim Power’ Dirty Energy Month. A global month of action on energy which brings together groups fighting dirty energy and promoting renewable alternatives. For more information- http://pusheurope.org/reclaimpower/

2. The coalition includes national Young Friends of the Earth groups, members of the Federation of Young European Greens and Push Europe.

For further information please contact:

Young Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Richard Sagar, 07730231009, richardsagar1@gmail.com

Young Greens of England and Wales

Paul Cohen, 07709208975, paul@younggreens.org.uk

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Guest Blog by Martin Porter

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John Browne, former CEO of BP, was a hero of the Green movement.

Well, sort of.

He certainly said the right things. In 1997 he acknowledged that Climate Change “cannot be discounted”, which was actually quite something at the time. He was on the telly, he was on the radio, he wrote articles for worthy magazines and in 2000 he gave a Reith Lecture on Respect For The Earth, He was the poster boy for the sustainable corporation.

imageMost obviously he changed the name of BP to Beyond Petroleum and adopted a big green sunflower as their logo, thus helping to create the appearance of being a post-oil corporation. 

But appearances, especially in the oil industry, can be deceptive. BP’s performance on sustainability was unfortunately just as bad as the other energy companies that went ‘Green’ at the same time, Enron and Shell. Basically, they went for the low hanging fruit. They put a bit of money in wind or solar, cleaned up their act in numerous little ways and got the staff to recycle their syrofoam cups.

imageAs a BP share holder (i.e. I owned one share. And still do) I was a regular at their AGMs as we usually had something to gripe about, mainly oil drilling on Alaska’s North Slope. I thoroughly recommend the catering. One year there was a bit of a Spinal Tap moment when a banner, that had been ordered as five feet by seven feet, arrived measuring five meters by seven meters and required something resembling the rigging of a sailing ship to keep in up.

I don’t recall ever chatting to Browne myself, but at least one of their board would normally say hello. One even told me he could reduce the cost of solar panels six fold.

Well, that never happened. Indeed, neither did any of the other things Browne promised. To move any further would have required BP to actually turn down the chance to make money out of drilling for new oil, and that they would not do. Their renewable side line, which always cost them less than the board paid themselves in bonuses, was sold off and business as usual was soon restored.

Or rather something less than business as usual.

imageThe first inkling that all was not well came in March 2005 when an explosion destroyed a refinery in Texas, killing fifteen people. A subsequent investigation revealed the company had cut the maintenance budget by 25% the previous year.

Almost exactly a year later an explosion destroyed an oil transit pipeline at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska causing exactly the sort of oil spill that we’d been campaigning to prevent. Once again cost cutting was a major factor.

All of which leads rather inevitably to the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, by which time BP had the worst safety record of any company operating in the USA. John Browne wasn’t in charge by then, having had to retire rather earlier than he planned after lying in court about his relationship, his only regret being he didn’t push harder for tar sands, the dirtiest of dirty fuels. However the Deepwater Horizon was very much his true legacy.

Having been lucky to escape perjury charegs you’d think an anonymous retirement would be on the cards but, no. Once you’ve reached the dizzy heights of the 1% you’re stuck there unless you actually murder someone.  (And maybe even not then, especially if you’re Russian.)

And so, as well as his lucrative pension, and the proceeds of his self serving autobiography, Browne also got to enjoy a job in the government as Non-Executive Director in the Cabinet Office.

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It also seems he hasn’t yet kicked his addiction to hydrocarbons. He has a 30% stake in Cuadrilla, who you may have heard of as their fracking operations in Lancashire, the one that cause the earthquake, and West Sussex, the one where Caroline Lucas got arrested.

Needless to say Cuadrilla stands to make a packet out of fracking, and the only thing standing in their way is the pesky Environment Agency who are reluctant to license fracking if it’s not safe - which it isn’t.

imageSo it must be damn convenient for them to have one of their top dudes sat round the Cabinet table.

Young Friends of the Earth now have a petition to get rid of him.

Please sign it.

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By James, YFoE Comms group member

Global Frackdown! A few days ago I helped play a tiny role in the international protest that was Global Frackdown, a worldwide demonstration against the dangers and damages of fracking for oil and gas.

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While other members of YFoE went to London to directly protest against Lord Browne and his vested interests in fracking (photos here), I stayed home in the warmth and helped coordinate social media. This involved sharing photos of the event via Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Flickr, as well as sending the YFoE Global Frackdown press release to the national and local press. Information is power!

The monthly Skype meeting for the Comms team was last night. We debriefed regarding Global Frackdown and now consider our next steps. It’ll be interesting to see what we do next, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with the new members who have joined the Comms team.

See you next time!

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Young Friends of the Earth* press release

Embargo:        For immediate release, Saturday 19th October 2013

Contact:           Greg Hewitt, 07582 320346, info@youngfoe.org.uk

Subject:            PRESS RELEASE: Stop fracking with Young People’s Futures in the UK

Stop fracking with Young People’s Futures in the UK

Young Friends of the Earth today called on Lord Browne of Madingley to resign from his position in the House of Lords due to his vested interests in profiting from fracking. This amounts to an enormous conflict of interest because of his influence in government.

Lord Browne was former BP oil chief and is now head of the fracking firm Cuadrilla, which started drilling in Balcombe this summer resulting in huge anti-fracking protests. 

The campaign group, made up of young people aged 18 - 30 from across the UK, protested outside of Riverstone House, an energy and power-focused private investment firm where Lord Browne is a key partner.

The action was part of Global Frackdown, a global day of action against fracking. Young Friends of the Earth are raising awareness of the dangers of ‘fracking’ for young people and for future generations and continuing the use of fossil fuels is likely to lead the world towards dangerous and irreversible climate change.

John Wilson, campaigner of Young Friends of the Earth, said:

“Young people in the UK are already facing rising debt due to unemployment and university fees.  Now they face the threat of a toxic future from climate change.”

The group spoke to dozens of concerned young people and passers-by through the course of the day.

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Greg Hewitt, another campaigner in the group, said:

‘With the price of gas continuing to increase the Government should be investing in clean affordable renewable energy, and not the dirty, expensive dash for gas.’

‘Everybody we spoke to today said that they don’t want to see fracking in the UK.’

‘Fracking produces more dirty fossil fuels that will cause more climate change and even the Government and the frackers admit is unlikely to lower our bills.’

Next year the Government’s dash for gas could quicken as it hopes to open vast swathes of the country to possible fracking with a new round of licensing. This could bring the threat of fracking to thousands more people’s doorsteps although Lord Browne and the Government have the power to prevent this.

 The Government’s plans to punch thousands of holes across the country is at odds with public opinion. Recent polling shows that 52% of people would support wind turbines being built within 10 miles of their house compared to just 18% who would support shale gas wells1.

Notes to editors

  1. Fracking is a dirty word. The Government is threatening to puncture our green and pleasant land with countless fracking wells in a headlong dash for gas, with little thought to local people. Shale gas is a dirty fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, and it poses serious local environmental risks such as water contamination and shortages. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest it won’t lower fuel bills, and it risks taking much-needed investment away from renewables and energy saving. For more information visit www.foe.co.uk/fracking.
  2. For more than 40 years we’ve seen that the wellbeing of people and planet go hand in hand – and it’s been the inspiration for our campaigns. Together with thousands of people like you we’ve secured safer food and water, defended wildlife and natural habitats, championed the move to clean energy and acted to keep our climate stable. Be a Friend of the Earth – see things differently. For further information visit www.foe.co.uk
  3. 1Opinion polling for Carbon Brief on 19 August: http://www.carbonbrief.org/media/224340/carbon-brief-shale-polling.xlsx

* Young Friends of the Earth is a grassroots network of young people and youth organisations working together on social and environmental justice issues. It works collectively on the local, national and European level, to inspire young people, organise actions and events and get attention in the media, in politics and among the general public on issues important to young people. 

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We’re now really excited about our upcoming Global Frackdown stunt in just over a week on the 19th October.

For those of you who can’t make it to London on the day, we’d like to invite you to run your own solidarity stunt.

Gather a group of young people aged 18-30 in your area, make some banners and signs that say ‘Stop fracking with young people’s futures’ and ‘solidarity with Young Friends of the Earth’ and send us the images! We’d love to see lots of action happening across the UK.

Send your images and stories to us and we’ll post them up in the next few weeks.