Happy holidays to all! This post is a look back at 2022, which might end up being remembered as a year that changed everything (to borrow from Naomi Klein). This is a long post, full of links and references mostly to ourselves. It’s linked to by a short-er email, so as always, if you want quick actions to take that really save the planet, join our email list. If you want to wade into details, dissect analysis and remember how we got here. Read on.
But before you do either, consider a year-end, tax-deductible donation to 198 methods. The key lesson of all the actions, failures, victories, and struggle detailed below is this: when we take action together, and use creative, non-violent, direct action combined with modern digital tools to do it, we can make incredible progress.
The war in Ukraine, President Biden and Congress’ best efforts in the Inflation Reduction Act, and their collective failure to act at the speed and scale of the crisis, even the fitful international response of the United Nations — none of it has done as much to reduce emissions and fight climate chaos as committed action from climate activists just like you. Thank you for all you do and please chip in here to keep the victories, and creative actions, coming.
Later this week we’ll also put out the annual “charts and graphs” email, which is our attempt to summarize some of the big themes here in visual format, and to cast a little light into the (shortening) winter nights ahead as we plan for 2023.
Without further adieu, here’s the year in review, organized by season:
We started a lot of new campaigns in 2022, and we won a lot of the ones we started on early before the end of the year: Including pushing the Biden administration for tougher rules on methane leaks and emissions —one of several ‘climate rules’ that were propagated this year after our advocacy and public comments.
We also launched several campaigns targeting the financiers of climate chaos – banks and hedge funds and public pensions alike. The big victory there was on on the ‘Defund Formosa” campaign, which we supported early with art and actions, and which ultimately won a pivotal court victory later in the year.
But the big story from early 2022 was the war in Ukraine. When Russia invaded, we joined a host of Ukrainian, EU and US allies in calling for an end to the war, and an end to fossil fuels — which are a major source of income for Putin and his regime, and a driver of global war and conflict. We connected the dots early between fossil fuels, climate chaos, and the rise of fascism and authoritarianism around the world, and here at hime in the US. And we began to chart a safer, more sustainable path to the future, proposing a massive, US-led, campaign for heat pumps, solar panels, and all kinds of fossil-free energy for peace and freedom.
On the domestic front, we connected the war against fossil fueled fascism to domestic politics by fighting climate disinformation on the airwaves and online (again launching a series of campaigns that would be important all year). And we fought for reforms to strengthen democracy – like the Voting Rights Act – and sustainability – like disaster responses that center clean energy and climate change. But mostly we fought to make federal agencies, from FERC to BOEM and the whole alphabet soup of the Departments of Energy, Transportation and Energy act at the speed and scale of the climate crisis, and live up to President Biden’s big promises, which, it’s always worth reminding eveyone – are to cut global warming pollution from all sectors 50% by 2030, and to ‘net zero’ by 2050.
April was when it became clear that our fight for climate legislation in Congress was being stalled by Joe Manchin (coal baron, WV). Based on a New York Times investigation, as well as a wealth of his own public statements, we re-launched our campaign to have Manchin removed as chair of the Senate Energy committee, and supported a massive direct action at the coal plant his family owns. Paired with a series of actions and legislation supporting a windfall profits tax on the oil industry, the battle lines were clearly drawn. Paired with the war in Ukraine and rising domestic energy prices, we were at a crossroads: either we commit to bold action that fights climate change and fossil fuels, or we cave to pressure from the polluters and bet the future of humanity on fossil fuel talking points like “net zero” and “carbon capture.”
We also saw FERC, which had started 2021 on a promising note with new leadership and a commitment to climate action, falter in the face of Manchin and his fossil fuel allies. That raised the stakes on executive action, and previewed a trend for the rest of the year where Executive Branch and Biden Administration officials would talk tough on climate, but fold like cheap suits under pressure from Manchin and other fossil fuel fascists in congress. Nowhere is that failure of leadership more pronounced than in the Gulf South, where time after time Biden & team show empathy and promise action, only to permit more pollution, extraction, and devesatation.
We also continued a steady string of actions targeting banks, pension funds, and the financiers of climate chaos. By the end of the year, we’d have a lot of incremental victories and temporary pauses as a result but Wall Street’s moment of Truth remains uncertain as Blackrock and others bow to the forces of fossil fueled fascism —just like FERC, Biden and other Democrats — by refusing to follow through on their prior commitments.
First of all, let’s not kid ourselves. So. Much. Stuff. happened this summer. But looking back the biggest deal (of 2022) might not be the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage in August, it might have been Biden accepting most of our demands from the Heat Pumps for Peace and Democracy campaign in June. As a reminder, this was the first time Biden agreed to use the Defense Production Act to massively scale up clean energy and fossil fuel free energy alternatives (like heat pumps, efficiency, and batteries).
But most of the summer was spent fight for a deal on climate – what started out as Build Back Better, became No Climate No Deal, and eventually became the very mixed bag of the Manchin-Schumer compromise, and eventually the Inflation Reduction Act.
All of that played out against a backdrop of the January 6 committee revealing again and again how fragile our Democracy is and how close to disaster Trump and his fossil fueled fascists pushed us. And against the cross-lighting of a Judicial branch gone rogue, completely untethered from precedent and determined to usher in an era of religious minority rule, no matter the cost, as evidenced by the Dobbs decision overturning Roe V Wade and subsequent decisions rolling back the clean air act, and more.
With the Inflation Reduction Act passed, we thought we only had one more fight with Congress – to stop Manchin’s dirty deal. And stop it we did with a huge rally in DC, and a massive grassroots lobbying campaign that convinced just enough Senators to stand with us.
But instead, we ended up fighting lots of individual fossil fuel projects (that’s one of the problems with the IRA, btw) and also responding to lots of escalating climate crisis. Again and again, we asked Biden to step up and be the climate leader he claims to be, and again and again he said he would prefer not to. It’s a similar answer to what we had heard from Bank and investment mangers, so we began to change tactics – focussing on individual corporations, calling out disinformation, attacking the connections between big corporations and fossil-fascist power, and building stronger alliances with their workers and organized labor. That’s a theme we’ll look to continue in 2023.
But then, in November, the election. The Red Wave didn’t materialize, and at the state and local level (where a lot fo the IRA will be implemented) Democrats and climate hawks actually gained power. It’s a good sign and a reminder that President’s and individual bills or campaigns won’t save us, but collectively this movement can. We are the change we’ve been waiting for, and the mid-term election results and the defeat of Manchin’s dirty deal prove it.
The lame duck session of Congress proved to be a busy one – so we rallied to action one more time this year, calling for climate action at the speed and scale of the crisis, continuing to pressure the Biden Administration to just say no to fossil fuels, and standing with allies old and new in the streets, on picket lines, and in actions all over the place.
I’ll also mention in passing the CPO27 climate conference in Egypt this year, because it showed a few of the themes we’ve talked about earlier: The big victory was getting world governments, including the US, to agree that they need to phase our fossil fuels and fund what’s called “loss and damage” but is really just basic fairness between rich nations in the global north that caused most of the climate crisis, and nations in the global south that emit almost nothing, but are hit first and worst by climate change. All of that is good and necessary, and ultimately nothing more than words: what Greta Thunberg calls the “blah blah blah” of climate action.
Climate emissions continue to go up, both here in the US and around the world. Agreement to get off fossil fuels “someday” never seems to arrive at “today” or “soon”, and if you want a US example that exactly mirrors the global impasse, look no farther than FERC: FERC promised to consider climate impacts, and even the disproportionate impacts on black, brown and low income communities. But then Joe Manchin got involved, and even though he’s only one (incredibly corrupt) Senator, FERC and the White House gave in to him on everything. The result: FERC is still a rubber stamp agency, pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure are still getting built faster than ever, and the climate crisis is getting worse, and worse, and worse while everyone says “someone should do something” and all the people with power say “how about someone else?” Amid failure and cowardice, FERC chair Richard Glick took the coward’s way our and straight up resigned this month.
Every month this year, people died in climate-fueled storms, floods, fires, and, this month blizzards. But faced with the choice to say “stop” to the perpetrators of climate chaos, and say “no” to fossil fuels and the fascists they fund, climate cowards in corporate America and the Biden Administration simply can’t be bothered – they’d rather quit, take a cushy job, and pretend it’s someone else’s problem.
So, was 2022 a year that changed everything? It definitely saw big changes in the global and US energy markets. We’re embarked now on a mission to build a clean energy arsenal of freedom, and committed to deploying it justly throughout the world. At least, that’s what senior Biden Administration officials say. But we’re also still facing the rise of a domestic, and global, fossil fueled fascist movement. And big laws and policies like the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as administrative decisions by FERC, the United Nations, and the Biden Alphabet Soup agencies, don’t so much predict the victor of that conflict, as prolong the conflict itself — giving new life and power to clean energy and democracy, and fossil fuels and authoritarianism at the same time.
In the end though, I’m ending the year optimistic – and not just because we killed Manchin’s zombie deal and next we’ll kill his zombie pipeline next. After a year of campaigning, our biggest victory wasn’t a single piece of legislation passed or defeated, it was a movement big and powerful enough to force Congress to the bargaining table, compel executive action, and strike fear into some of the biggest and most powerful banks and corporations on the planet. Each time we won, it was because we took principled, non-violent direct action as part of the campaign, and because those tactics had digital support.
Happy New Year from 198 methods – you’ve done a lot this year. And next year, we’re going to do, and win, even more.