Author Archives: Daphne Wysham

children drink from contaminated river

Victory: World Bank Announces It Will Stop Financing Oil and Gas in 2019

children drink from contaminated river

Children try to get a drink of clean water downstream from a World Bank-financed coal-fired power plant. The river is contaminated by fly-ash dumped in the river.

Twenty years ago, I founded the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network (SEEN) at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, to tackle the role that the World Bank and other major development banks and export credit agencies were playing in financing fossil fuels–investments that were harming, not helping the poorest, while destabilizing the global climate. Our first report, which I co-authored with Jim Vallette, at the Institute for Policy Studies, was entitled, “World Bank and G-7: Changing the Earth’s Climate for Business.” We catalogued the billions of dollars the World Bank was investing in fossil fuels, despite pledges to the global community to invest in renewables. We were sounding the alarm for two reasons: We wanted to avoid technological lock-in by countless developing countries in fossil fuel infrastructure—a lock-in that could prove catastrophic to our planet. And we knew that the World Bank had been tasked by the United Nations in 1992 to do the opposite—to invest in renewable energy and guide the world toward a sustainable development strategy for the world’s poor.

That report kicked off a firestorm. First, the World Bank denied our report’s findings. Then they decided they would do their own review of their fossil fuel investments, The Extractive Industries Review, which not only proved our findings correct, but reiterated our call to get out of fossil fuels. So the World Bank did what it does best: It said it would produce yet another report, calling for inaction. It was inaction that the World Bank Board of Directors chose in 2004.

We fumed, we protested, we condemned them in the press, we spoke at hearings, we held citizens’ tribunals, we organized marches.

Finally, in 2013, upon urging from President Obama, the World Bank blinked. They said they would get out “most forms of coal-fired power.”  While this was welcome news, why, we asked, did the oil and gas industry need ANY support from a public institution like the World Bank? So the campaign to get them out of all fossil fuels continued.

Now, today, 20 years later, we got word of a major victory: The World Bank pledged to get out of all upstream oil and gas investments.  By 2019. Why not now? Why 2019? We think, if they take the climate science seriously, and the Paris Accords to heart, they should stop funding ALL fossil fuel projects. Immediately. Not in 2018. Not in 2019. Now. We have no time to lose.

While our victory is not complete, it is a MAJOR victory nonetheless. And so we celebrate. We never could have done it without our allies all around the world. You know who you are. Thank you. The planet thanks you.

The work I started in DC in 1997, now continues under CSE–as our Climate Justice Program fights and wins battles to bring an end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure here at home. Please support our work so we can keep winning battles like these.

Portland, OR Mayor, Activists Celebrate Trailblazing Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Ban

For Immediate Release:            

Contact: Mia Reback at 310-717-7966 or; Daphne Wysham at 202-510-3541 or; or Nicky Vogt at 202-331-2389 or

December 14, 2016

Portland, Oregon – Today, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales joined community leaders and activists to celebrate the unanimous passage of a new city ordinance banning new bulk fossil fuel terminals that renews Portland’s commitment to strong climate action, lower carbon emissions, effective seismic resilience, a safer Columbia River Gorge, and a safer environment for those in and around Portland.

This first of its kind ordinance prohibits the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure that has the capability to transload fossil fuels or is larger than two million gallons in capacity and forbids existing terminals from expanding in size, preventing any further potential damage to their local environment.nffi-victory_cities-lead-copy

(L to R): Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Walla Walla Tribal Elder Cathy Sampson-Kruse and City Councilor Amanda Fritz. Photo: Rick Rappaport

The Portland City Council passed two other climate policies on Wednesday morning: home energy scoring which will require energy audits before residential home sales and an update to the city’s electric vehicle strategy. ‘

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said, “Portland has been a world leader in ‪climate action. We were the first U.S. city to adopt a climate action plan. We were the first to bring back the modern streetcar. Now we’ll be the first to deliberately transition from dirty, dangerous fuels to ‪clean, ‪renewable ‪energy with the passage of Portland’s policy that prohibits bulk fossil fuel facilities,” said Mayor Hales. “This work would not be possible without our strong grassroots organizations that have led our city’s efforts forward. Now more than ever, these local community voices are needed, because the risks of not acting on climate change are just too severe.”

Mia Reback, Lead Organizer for 350 PDX,  stated, “Portland is taking bold steps to protect our city from the immediate risks of fossil fuels while sending a powerful message to other cities across the nation and the world that the grassroots movement will not let national politics deter cities from taking the lead on climate action. City by city we can, and will, ensure the steps are taken to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, protecting the very essence of life on planet earth.”

Micah Meskel, Conservation Field Coordinator at Audubon Society of Portland said,“Today we saw the power of the grassroots prevail. This vote solidifies a historic climate action by the City, one that can be replicated in cities throughout the Northwest, and will spark additional community led initiatives here in Portland to severe our City’s reliance to dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Regna Merritt, Healthy Climate Program Director of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility stated, “Low-income populations and communities of color experience the worst impacts of fossil fuels and climate disruption. As we celebrate a huge victory for the health and safety of our community, we urge other communities to take similarly bold actions.”

Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, Senior Organizer at Columbia Riverkeeper said, “At a time when people around the world are grappling with how to protect clean water and accelerate a transition away from fossil fuels, Portland is setting a globally significant example and using this geographic and economic opportunity to make a bold statement. “

Steve McCoy, Staff Attorney for the Friends of the Columbia Gorge said, “The explosive train wreck in the Columbia River Gorge last June is direct evidence of the dangers of shipping fossil fuels by rail. Portland’s action not only safeguards our children from the immediate dangers of more explosive oil trains passing through our communities, but also makes a strong stand for our children’s children by blocking an avenue for increasing the use of greenhouse gas intensive fossil fuels abroad.”

Daphne Wysham, climate program director at the Center for Sustainable Economy, and a member of the Climate Action Coalition said: “With this grassroots-led victory, Portland is showing where the future lies: Not in the boom and bust fossil fuel economy, but in a more equitable low- to zero-carbon economy. Portland’s low-carbon economy now provides about 47,000 middle-wage jobs, representing over $10 billion in goods and services annually, with an average 5 percent annual growth rate–a far more sustainable economy than fossil fuel exports would provide.”

This victory is the result of over two years of organizing from local activists and community members committed to the betterment of Portland’s environment and the protection of our neighbors’ health and safety. The ordinance is an important step forward for Portland and should serve as a model for other municipalities and states.  

This policy was worked on by 350PDX, Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Riverkeeper, Climate Action Coalition, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Center for Sustainable Economy, the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club, and more.


Portland, OR Climate Action Coalition Sends Medical “Bunk Bus” To Protect Standing Rock, ND “Water Protectors”


For more information, for interviews, or professional photographs, call:
Bonnie McKinlay: 503-705-1943; Rick Rappaport (photographer): 503-730-5554

(Portland, OR)  Following a recent trip to Standing Rock Indian Reservation to deliver wood stoves, clothing, food and other supplies in support of the “water protectors” from the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, members of the Portland-area Climate Action Coalition (CAC)  decided they needed to do more. With a potentially brutal winter coming on, CAC members decided the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters needed a sturdy form of shelter that could be made available for injured, sick, or hypothermic water protectors. So they raised sufficient funds–with small donations given by individuals– to buy and retrofit a school bus, turning it into what they call the “bunk bus,” which will be equipped for use by medics. The outside of the bus has been painted with murals with the assistance of well-known Native American artists–including a Standing Rock Sioux painter–and others from Portland’s Native American Youth and Family Center, while carpenters and other crafts-people have donated their labor.

The water protectors and their supporters have set up a nonviolent encampment in protest against plans by Energy Transfer Partners to build the Dakota Access Pipeline through territory they claim includes sacred burial grounds, while posing a grave risk to their water supply should it traverse the nearby Missouri River. Their nonviolent protests have been met with heavily armed police, private contractors and National Guard troops firing rubber bullets, spraying tear gas and using attack dogs on the protestors. The nearest hospital is many miles away.

Members of the Portland area CAC, who have done their own forms of nonviolent civil disobedience–including blockading Shell’s icebreaker, the Fennica, when it came to Portland in July 2015, and risking arrest blockading oil trains–wanted to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. Members of CAC are available for interviews; professional quality photos are available in advance of the departure of the medical bus to North Dakota. The bus is expected to depart on November 11, 2016.

Shepard Flat Wind Farm

Six Critical Improvements for Oregon’s Healthy Climate Bill

Shepard Flat Wind Farm

Problem #1: The timber industry, which is the second largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the state is not counted as a source of greenhouse gas emissions to be constrained.1

Solution: The Healthy Climate Bill must fully account for ALL greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, including the timber industry.

Problem #2: In its latest amended form, carbon offsets could represent up to 50 percent of all emissions “reductions” in the HCB. In California, critics were concerned that “only 8 percent” of emissions reductions from carbon offsets could actually represent 85% of the overall emissions reductions2 . The integrity of carbon offsets are difficult, if not impossible, to verify, according to numerous studies3, and can actually result in emissions increases overall.

Solution: No carbon offsets.

Problem #3: The largest source of GHG emissions, the transportation sector, gets a 10-year delay in addressing its significant emissions, under the rationale that the Clean Fuels program will substitute for action in the transportation sector. However, the Clean Fuels Program uses a methodology for calculating its emissions that is in dispute.4 Until that methodology is fully vetted by the scientific community, it should not be assumed to result in emissions reductions over a business-as-usual scenario

Solution: Provide full, transparent greenhouse gas accounting for all fuels consumed in the state, including “clean fuels” and offer no delay in emissions reductions from the transportation sector.

Problem #4: An undisclosed percentage of the emissions credits will be given away for free to utilities. When this was done in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, this meant enormous profits for the polluting utilities, and rates going up for consumers.5

Solution: No free permits to pollute.

Problem #5: The bill includes exemptions for “trade-sensitive” industries, although there is no definition of what a “trade- sensitive” industry is. This exemption could be a giant loophole, depending on how it is defined, offering unfair favorable treatment to multinational corporations over corporations based in Oregon.

Solution: No exemptions for any industries.

Problem #6: The funds set up by this bill– the Climate Investment Fund, the Just Transition Fund — will have a critical role in dispensing funds, yet there is no specificity in who will control those funds.

Solution: Ensure the funds set up by the Healthy Climate Bill are managed transparently and with democratically elected oversight and control over their disbursal.


1 See “Clearcutting our Carbon Accounts: How State and private forest practices are subverting Oregon’s climate agenda,” by Dr. John Talberth, Center for Sustainable Economy et al.

2 See New York Times, August 8, 2011, “Offsets Could Make Up 85% of Calif.’s Cap-And-Trade Program,” by Annie Mulkern.

3 See: “Carbon Offsets are a Bridge Too Far in the Tradable Property Rights Revolution,” by Tyler McNish, Harvard Environmental Law Review, August 1, 2012; and “Options for Addressing Challenges to Carbon Offset Quality,” GAO-11-345: Publicly Released: Mar 17, 2011.

4 See “Oregon Takes Big Step on Clean Fuels Program, but Corn Ethanol Concession Needs to be Cut,” by Simon Mui, NRDC, Dec. 9, 2015.

5 See “The Effects and Side Effects of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme,” by Timothy Laing et al, April 15, 2014.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Victory: China Agrees to “Strictly Limit” Public Finance for High-Carbon Projects

For Immediate Release
September 25, 2015

For further information, contact: Daphne Wysham 202-510-3541 (c);
The Sustainable Energy and Economy Network declared a major victory on September 25, 2015, when China, one of the largest financiers of infrastructure projects worldwide, agreed to “strictly limit” the amount of public financing that it provides toward high-carbon projects. The move is in accord with a 2013 commitment by the United States Treasury Department to cease public financing for new coal-fired power plants, which followed an almost two decade-long battle by civil society groups to shift public financing away from fossil fuels.
“There is much work remaining to be done in holding these countries and public financial institutions accountable to these commitments and pushing them further–to get out of subsidized fossil fuel finance altogether,” said Daphne Wysham, director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network (SEEN). “But today, another domino falls as China joins numerous other nations and publicly financed institutions in agreeing to limit its ‘high-carbon’ financing.”

In a series of path breaking reports beginning in 1996, SEEN exposed the disproportionate investment in fossil fuels that was being made in developing countries, including China, by international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Development Bank and export credit agencies, such as U.S. Export-Import Bank. SEEN drew attention to the true beneficiaries of this investment: Not the poorest, as these institutions claimed, but, often, powerful corporations based in the richest countries. SEEN advocated for a shift by these lending institutions from support for fossil fuels and toward investments in clean, renewable energy, with a focus on meeting the energy needs of the poorest. China is now one of the leading investors, both at home and abroad, in infrastructure via the China Development Bank and via the newly formed New Development Bank.


After 17 years of activism by our members, staff, and partners, we began to see some major breakthroughs when President Barack Obama called on the World Bank to get out of coal-fired power. Shortly after Obama’s call, the President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Kim, agreed that it needed to stop financing most forms of coal-fired power; other public banks soon began to make similar pledges.

China now joins the following countries that have agreed to end their public financial support for coal-fired power: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.

The following publicly held banks have agreed to limit their investments in coal-fired power: The World Bank, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development,  the U.S. Export-Import Bank, U.K.’s ECGD, and France’s COFACE.


About SEEN:  Founded as a project of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies in 1996, and now a project of the Center for Sustainable Economy, the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network (SEEN) works in partnership with people regionally, nationally, and globally with a focus on climate justice and, specifically, on ending the fossil fuel age and ushering in the age of clean energy and a sustainable economy for generations to come.

In Battle Over Fracked Propane Gas Exports, David Beats Goliath

It was the classic David and Goliath battle: On one side, school children and “Raging Grannies.” On the other, the $6 billion Pembina Pipeline Corporation, the largest pipeline company in the Canadian tar sands, and a plan to build the largest private investment project in Portland, OR, history– a $500 million propane export terminal.Native Mary

What started out as a battle heavily skewed in favor of “Goliath”—with Portland’s Mayor Charlie Hales welcoming Pembina with open arms—10 months later, turned into a complete about-face, with the mayor shunning the corporation, and with Pembina all but high-tailing it back to Alberta. (At the time of this writing, Pembina was still holding out hope of building its propane terminal in Portland, but few others, except some members of the Port Commission, were.)

There were a number of factors that played into the hand of this surprising reversal of fortune. For starters, the battle took place in Portland—a town that doesn’t take kindly to the fossil fuel industry, much less a corporation that made its billions on the tar sands. Cities don’t get much greener than Portland, and fossil fuels don’t get much dirtier than the tar sands.

Then there was the fact that, unbeknownst to most everyone—including, apparently, Mayor Hales and Pembina—there was the need to amend an obscure environmental overlay code in order to allow Pembina’s project to proceed. It was this amendment process, which required public participation in a discussion that otherwise might have taken place behind closed doors, that was the Achilles’ heel in Pembina’s plans. Loudly and clearly, overwhelmingly and repeatedly, late into the evening, and early in the morning, Portland residents showed up and made it clear they did not want any amendment that would allow Pembina to set up shop in Portland.

But the victory included far more important factors than these two.  This was an amazing team effort. Together with more established groups like Columbia Riverkeeper and Audubon Society of Portland, the newly established Climate Action Coalition (CAC) was a major force in helping bring people out to these hearings. Coalition member, Nick Caleb with Our Children’s Trust ensured the riveting testimony of students at Sunnyside Environmental School was a part of the hearings. Another coalition member, Dr. Kelly O’Hanley, a retired physician who has taught medicine at Stanford and Harvard, and Greenpeace volunteer, provided expert testimony on the health effects of the rail transport. Rising Tide members reached out to ensure First Nations and Native American voices were heard at public hearings. 350PDX was instrumental in ensuring broad attendance at all of the rallies and hearings. The Portland Unitarian Universalists provided meeting space and critical support throughout. The Center for Sustainable Economy together with its project, the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network, helped with media, press outreach, and testimony. Together, our participation in public hearings, our outreach and our actions were as varied as our city’s population.Pembino2

Hearings included testimony from Longshoremen, people of faith, tropical disease specialists from Oregon Health and Sciences University, physicists and other scientists affiliated with the Northwest Citizen Science Initiative with expertise on thermal blasts and earthquake subduction zones—all opposed to the terminal.

Outreach included retirees working their political connections, artists who created amazing posters and likenesses of the mayor distributed around town chiding him for his support of the fossil fuel industry, or people who spent hours bicycling the “tank of doom” –a likeness of so-called “bomb trains”– to street fairs and rallies together with informational flyers.

Actions included civil disobedience at City Council meetings with CAC members momentarily taking the stage with larger than life-sized heads of City Commissioners, reminding them of their past statements on climate change, all staged respectfully and videotaped before a shocked audience for widespread distribution to the media.

We did it all with mostly volunteer labor, out of love for the city and the people we share it with, and out of love for the planet whose fever we want to cool. We did it and we won. But we have lots more work to do. Within the Portland area Climate Action Coalition, we have created a dynamic that is at least as precious as our David-like victory over Goliath-like Pembina. That dynamic includes a willingness to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, should the occasion call for it, and extends to empowering all who care about our planet and future generations to find a role within our coalition that can help us expand this movement further. As Naomi Klein writes regarding activism on climate change in her book, “This Changes Everything,” “To change everything, we need everyone.” With this kind of generosity of spirit, there’s no stopping us. Goliath or no, we will win. We must win.

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Climate Risk Bonds: An Alaska Case Study

US-CLIMATE-DEMOOn September 21st, 2014, the largest climate march in world history lit up New York’s city streets with colorful protesters. Leading the way of the 400,000-strong marchers were indigenous peoples from around the world, calling on world leaders to take action on climate change. As we argue in our new report (link below) climate risk bonds may be an important part of the solution.

Indigenous peoples were rightly on the front lines of the climate march: They are on the front lines of much of the oil, gas, coal and tar sands extraction globally. And they are suffering some of the biggest costs of climate change—cancers from poisoned waters downstream from tar sands mining, homes falling into the oceans and rivers as permafrost melts and flooding increases with a warmer climate. As subsistence-based peoples, many Native peoples are finding their ability to hunt and gather foods as they have for centuries harder as climate change accelerates, threatening their way of life.

Following the climate march, thousands of protesters “flooded Wall Street.” Two years earlier, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy on Oct 29, 2012, as the evening high tide was drawing closer, Wall Street was literally flooding, cars bobbing up from underground garages. So on September 22nd, 2014, protestors “flooded” Wall Street again to remind the world that our political and economic system continues to ignore one of the biggest crises—perhaps the biggest existential crisis of our time: climate change—while going full steam ahead with business as usual.

But in the context of a changing climate, we all know business cannot continue as usual. Among the things that must change: An economic system where oil, gas and coal companies make immense profits and control our politics while the rest of us pay the price for the destabilization of our atmosphere.

Among the demands that the indigenous-led protesters put forward in the New York climate march was the need to put a price on carbon. While a carbon tax (ideally, a fee and dividend of some sort, to avoid regressive impacts) is one approach, we propose here something that can both supplement a carbon tax or be done entirely independently: an immediate climate risk bond that all fossil fuel companies must pay, up front at the point of extraction, to ensure that the costs of climate change, now measuring in the trillions of dollars, are captured before any more mining of oil, gas and coal continues. The International Energy Agency tells us two-thirds of all proven fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if we are to avoid a rise in planetary temperatures over 2 degrees Celsius. Environmental justice demands that people who are suffering the costs of climate change, North and South, be compensated for the damages they are suffering now.

This concept of “climate risk bonds” attempts to put this price tag in place. We start with Alaska, where Native peoples are suffering enormous costs, right now, uncompensated, due to climate change. But this concept can be acted on in every jurisdiction in the country and the world, without the need for approval from a recalcitrant or corrupt national government. It is a tool we can use, right now, in our communities, to begin to level the playing field in favor of clean energy.

We are running out of time and climate risk bonds sends the correct signal of economic urgency we need to send, here and now: The costly age of fossil fuels is coming to a close. Here comes the sun!

For a copy of CSE’s climate risk bond concept paper, click here to visit our project page.

Closing the Inequality Divide in Maryland

Genuine Progress BlogBy: Daphne Wysham and John Talberth.

Most Americans didn’t see it coming.

Back at the end of 2004, our nation’s leading economic indicator, the Gross Domestic Product, was soaring along at a robust rate of over 4 percent per year. The prospects for continued prosperity, the GDP figures suggested, seemed comfortably high. In fact, that apparent prosperity did not continue long. Within four years, our U.S. economy would collapse into the Great Recession and the “Great Stagnation” that followed.

Analysts have devoted considerable attention to many of the factors that fed that sudden, Continue reading