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.
When we began in 1996, in a series of path breaking reports, SEEN’s work was focused on shifting international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, and export credit agencies, such as U.S. Export-Import Bank, away from support for fossil fuels and toward investments in clean, renewable energy, with a focus on meeting the energy needs of the poorest. We understood the urgency of the climate crisis and that most international financial institutions, despite their mandates to do so, were not meeting the energy needs of the poorest. We also understood that continued investments in fossil fuels would harm those least responsible for consuming fossil fuels the most. We launched SEEN understanding that there was a narrow window of time in which investments in fossil fuel infrastructure in the global South could be shifted from dirty to clean energy resources, after which there would be technological lock-in, committing those countries to fossil fuel infrastructure and debt repayment for decades to come.
After 17 years of activism by our members, staff, and partners, we began to see some major breakthroughs when former 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.
As of 2015, the following countries have agreed to end their public financial support for coal-fired power: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. (President Donald Trump has tried to protect the coal industry, but the plummeting costs of renewable energy’s made that challenging.) 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, and the U.S. Export-Import Bank. There is much work remaining in holding these countries and banks to these commitments and pushing them further–to get out of subsidized fossil fuel finance entirely–and many groups continue to carry that work forward.
Beginning in 2011, SEEN began to shift our focus from holding global financial institutions accountable for the human rights and environmental impacts of their fossil fuel investments to holding local, state and national government officials accountable for U.S. and Canadian fossil fuel exports. Specifically, we turned our attention to the massive quantity of fossil fuels–oil, gas and coal– being exported from North America largely to Asian markets. The Pacific Northwest lies in the crosshairs between massive deposits of oil, gas, coal and tar sands to its east and north and Asian markets. As Sightline Institute has calculated, “coal, oil and gas shipments from the Pacific Northwest would carry as much carbon content annually as five Keystone XL pipelines.” Given the climate imperative–that we keep at least 80 percent of proven fossil fuel deposits in the ground in order to avoid dangerous and possibly runaway climate change–residents of the Pacific Northwest have begun to mobilize in bold and successful resistance to these fossil fuel exports. A key component in this resistance is upholding the treaties of First Nations and Native Americans throughout North America.
In 2013, SEEN moved our offices to the Pacific Northwest and, as a project of CSE, is working in alliance with peoples’ movements, grassroots groups, and citizens throughout the country in ensuring the U.S. and Canadian governments live up to their moral obligations of preserving a stable climate for generations to come. We are now building a strong network of activists committed to ending all new fossil fuel export infrastructure, with the goal of upholding the scientific call to keep over 80 percent of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground, and working in partnership with clean energy groups regionally and globally in ushering in the era of abundant, safe, clean renewable energy to power a truly sustainable economy.
To learn more about our work with elected officials and activists around an initiative demanding an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure in the U.S. and Canada and a just transition, visit our website here.