The Fossil Free Europe tour came to Amsterdam on Tuesday night to officially launch a new fossil fuel divestment campaign in the Netherlands—and instantly picked up it’s first Dutch victory, with the town of Boxtel announcing it would divest from fossil fuels.
The tour stop featured 350.org founder Bill McKibben and Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo speaking before a packed audience at Vrije University in Amsterdam. The evening’s event also included a screening of the Academy Award-winning documentary Chasing Ice and concluding remarks by Maurits Groen of MGMC. The event was made possible because of the support by partners including the Dutch environmental group, Urgenda, SRVU, the university’s student union, and Greenpeace International.
At the end of the show, two aldermen from Boxtel, Netherlands came to the stage and announced that their town would be divesting from the 200 fossil fuel companies that hold the largest coal, oil and gas reserves, as identified by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. Boxtel is the first municipality in Europe to make a commitment to divest from fossil fuels, joining over 20 cities in the United States.
Boxtel was also the first town in the Netherlands to ban fracking, an initiative that eventually spread to over 100 cities and towns across the country. Later this December, Boxtel will be holding a conference for these 100 municipalities and will urge them all to also “go fossil free” and dump their coal, oil and gas holdings.
The Dutch Fossil Free divestment campaign has already spread to four different universities in anticipation of tonight’s official launch.
During his speech, McKibben rallied the crowd to join the growing international fossil fuel divestment campaign saying, “It’s crazy to think about making money by breaking the one planet that we have.”
Greenpeace’s Kumi Naidoo spoke about his experience as a young man fighting apartheid in South Africa and reflected on how the anti-apartheid divestment campaign in the 1980s provided important support and solidarity for the movement within South Africa.
He also drew a parallel to the current movement for climate justice saying, “I have no doubt that those of us standing up for climate justice will be vilified now, but history will absolve us.”
Thirty Greenpeace activists, the Arctic 30, are currently being held in detention by Russia after a peaceful protest at a Gazprom rig in international waters. Naidoo encouraged the crowd of Dutch activists to protest Shell oil, who is partnering with Gazprom to drill in the Arctic, saying, “You all here in the Netherlands have the best target in the world to go after.”
McKibben showed his support for the Arctic 30, saying, “It is absolutely mandatory that the entire environmental and human rights community come together” to help secure their freedom.
Within minutes of the show’s closing, McKibben and the 350.org team were back on the Fossil Free Europe tour bus to make the 20-hr drive up to Edinburgh for the first of three shows across the United Kingdom. The tour stops will feature McKibben and representatives from People & Planet and Operation Noah, who are helping coordinate the divestment campaign across the UK.