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Our oceans, our responsibility

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 12:00:00 +0100

For some people the oceans may seem vast - to me they are my garden and my home. For the last three decades I have spent most of my life as a sailor and a captain. So you can imagine I feel a special tie to our blue planet. The many years at sea also mean I have witnessed how things have increasingly gone wrong for our oceans.Year by year, more and more fishing boats are out there, and they are getting bigger and bigger as well. There is so much over-fishing going on, so much poor management of fisheries and so much illegal fishing.Having sailed with Greenpeace for a long time now, I have been up-close and dirty with industrial fishing boats. I have witnessed bulging nets so large they could not be brought on board but had to be sucked up through a pipe lowered into the sea. I hear in the news, and I see on the ocean, that fish stocks are getting smaller and smaller.And yes, I am becoming increasingly impatient, and to some extent even angry; angry that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, while at the same time our oceans are suffering gravely for the short-term interests of the few at the expense of the many.For the sake of our oceans and for generations to come, we've got to slam the brakes on destructive fishing.For the next two and a half months I am the Captain onboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza. With my crew and a team of marine experts I will sail the waters of West Africa to bear witness to the growing consequences of overfishing taking place in these once plentiful seas. Together with you, we’ll witness the threat to food security and everyday life for local fishermen and communities who depend on fish for a living.Captain Mike Fincken on the bridge of the Arctic SunriseThis is my fourth time in West Africa on board a Greenpeace vessel to put overfishing in the spotlight. I have chased a pirate vessel to Freetown in Sierra Leone. I have witnessed countless infractions by the Chinese fleet off Guinea and Guinea Bissau. In the port of Conakry I assisted with the arrest of a vessel fishing illegally - and as the arrest was made and men lounged about on the docks with machine guns slung loosely over their shoulders, there was a total eclipse of the sun. It was a dark moment in every way.My crew and I have branded a refrigeration ship 'STOLEN FISH' with graffiti and chased it all the way from Guinea to Las Palmas. We caught it doing illegal transshipping. I have seen the rusty pirate boats, also known as the 'graveyard boats', where Chinese crew serve years, without passport or pay, on boats so decayed that there are holes in their sides. One of the boats sank while I was there.European vessels are here too and have been for decades. For instance, huge Russian fishing vessels, with their hulking trawlers, hanging around Senegal and leaking oil. But what angered me most were the destructive Monster boats off Nouadhibou; up to 140 meters in length, about eight of them going back and forth and pulling in enormous nets full of fish. I wonder if they are still there.The situation in West African waters calls for immediate action and the setup of strong, regional fisheries management with measures to ensure sustainable fishing and an end to overexploitation. It’s not too late - not at all, but the time is now. src="" width="600" height="338">That is why we are back in West Africa, and we are bringing a message of hope and support for the people as well as for those decision makers wanting to restore the once rich waters.What better platform for all this, than the ship of hope - the Esperanza!  Mike Fincken is currently the Captain of the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza[...]

Greenpeace supports Indigenous Peoples' Rights: Here's why

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:48:00 +0100

Indigenous communities the world over are on the front lines of environmental destruction. Many have been fighting for centuries to protect land, water and air from threats like overfishing, deforestation and industrial development.Water Protector at Dakota Access Pipeline Red Warrior Camp, 8 Sep, 2016. Today, Indigenous Peoples continue to put their lives on the line to fight for justice and for the rights to their traditional territories: resisting logging in Guatemala and fighting oil drilling in Russia, demanding recognition of their rights in Sweden and Honduras, mobilising against industry encroachment in Canada, Brazil and the United States. Their leadership and resistance sends ripples across the world, awakening more and more people to the unjust system that both puts a destructive economy before the environment and sidelines Indigenous communities’ voices, rights and livelihoods.Non-Indigenous allies must continue to join these battles, sending a signal to governments and corporations that Indigenous rights are supported by a broad cross-section of our societies.Reindeer Nomads in Komi Republic, Russia, 30 Aug, 2015.To demonstrate our respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and communities and our intention to improve and strengthen the way our organisation works with Indigenous Peoples, Greenpeace International has recently adopted a Policy on Indigenous Peoples Rights.This flows from our organization’s and our supporters’ understanding of the inherent link between ecological health and human well-being to our shared environmental future — as well as the fact that the natural world is essential to the cultures, ways of life and identities of many Indigenous Peoples.Portrait of Cacique Tiago Ikõ Munduruku in the Amazon, 22 Jun, 2016. The urgent progress we need to make on climate change and environmental protection cannot be accomplished without dismantling these inequitable power systems that privilege the wants of a greedy few over the needs of the world’s many, diverse communities. Amplifying Indigenous voices, respecting their inviolable rights, and learning from their traditional environmental stewardship is critical for our common fight for a green, just and peaceful future.An important part of implementing this policy is reflecting on Greenpeace’s past. There are times we as an organisation have created respectful alliances with Indigenous Peoples and have succeeded together, and also times we have gotten it wrong -- when our inadequate consultations have hurt Indigenous Peoples. With this policy, we move forward with a genuine desire to learn from our history.Greenpeace voyagers visit the Kwakiutl indigenous villagers, 26 Oct, 1971. Our goal in adopting and sharing this policy is to make our allyship to Indigenous communities better, our resistance stronger and our movement more conscious.You can read Greenpeace International’s policy in full here. To learn more about some of the work Greenpeace is doing in partnership with Indigenous communities, check out this blog.Jennifer Morgan and Bunny McDiarmid are the Executive Directors of Greenpeace International. [...]

HSBC promises to cut ties with forest-trashing palm oil companies

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 06:55:00 +0100

There's been a major breakthrough in protecting Indonesia's forests: HSBC has committed to breaking its links to palm oil companies destroying forests and peatlands. This is a fantastic result for everyone who has been campaigning over the last few weeks, although the hard work doesn’t stop there. The real test now is how those words will be put into practice.HSBC’s new policy - released today - says they will no longer provide funding to companies involved in any kind of deforestation or peatland clearance, both of which were missing from previous versions. Another big step forward is insisting that all HSBC's customers must publish their own forest protection policies by the end of June.Excavators clear intact peatland forests and build drainage canals in an oil palm concession by PT Andalan Sukses Makmur, a subsidiary of Bumitama Agri Ltd. The concession is next to Tanjung Puting National Park in Central KalimantanThis has come about because the pressure on HSBC has been phenomenal. Over 200,000 people around world signed a petition, which was delivered to the head offices in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. Tens of thousands wrote emails directly to the CEO, and volunteers campaigned outside high street branches in Australia, France, and the UK. It wasn't just public pressure - CEO Stuart Gulliver was grilled about our campaign in front of world leaders and other company bosses at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Now he said he agrees with everyone who's joined the campaign that forests need to be protected.HSBC needs to put these promises into action right now, because recent satellite images suggest that one of its customers is preparing to destroy a massive area of forest in Papua. One of HSBC's customers - South Korean conglomerate POSCO Daewoo - has a palm oil subsidiary that controls a large area of land in Papua, and has already cleared huge areas of forest. Images taken in mid-January show a new network of roads cut into the remaining forest, which were not there in images taken just three weeks earlier. This is a clear sign that the company is preparing to clear everything between the roads and it's a huge area - just under 4,000 hectares, which is about the same size as Luton or Cambridge. HSBC provides services to other parts of POSCO Daewoo, not directly to the palm oil company, but if it's serious about stopping deforestation, it needs to put pressure on the parent company straight away and use its influence to get the bulldozers called off.This will be the first of many tests for HSBC, and the real victory will come when it can show it's doing everything it can to end deforestation. And if other global banks also follow HSBC's lead, the cash flow for palm oil companies that continue to tear down forests will finally start to dry up.Annisa Rahmawati, Senior Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia[...]

Time for Europe to stand up for peace - and renewables

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:13:00 +0100

Every year, the Munich Security Conference brings together the most senior decision-makers to debate critical issues in international security.This year, I will join them. And while I am sure I will disagree with most of the participants on many things - and make it clear that Greenpeace does not support the notion of security defined by military might - I am also sure of one thing: The majority of participants will agree that climate change is a key threat to international security.For all its faults, the military and intelligence community have been vocal on the threats of climate change and one of the first to prepare for it. For over a decade now, the U.S. military in particular has recognised climate change as a major threat to security. The latest National Security Strategy elevated climate change to a top-level strategic risk, alongside terrorism, economic crises and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Senior representatives of the new US administration are expected to attend the Munich conference, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Defence James Mattis. They will be urging the European Union (EU) to take more responsibility for its own security. I agree Europe should. But not - as US President Donald Trump and his administration demand - through investing more money in the military or by erecting higher walls or stronger fences. Quite the opposite.Europe needs to respond to the American call for increased responsibility with an ambitious peace and security project that brings meaning and hope to its own citizens and people around the world.The EU remains a crucial player in the international arena. It´s time to use this position to promote peace and urgently address climate change through a clean energy economy globally. The EU must demonstrate leadership by forcing the US to live in the real world and address climate change as a major security threat. And the EU needs to become a leading example of a new type of prosperity that does not come at a cost to the environment or the world’s poor.Indeed, the EU must promote peace by addressing the root causes of conflicts. Conflicts are always complex and "resource wars" are not new. But looking at the current conflicts from Iraq, Ukraine, South Sudan, the South China Sea to Nigeria it is obvious that the access, the transport and thus the dependence on fossil fuels play a critical role.In 2003 Mattis called on Department of Defence planners to ‘unleash us from the tether of fuel.” He was right on that - and his call is now more urgent than ever. Our governments must unleash us from the tether of fossil fuels. And deliver true security. We have a long way to go. If you search for "security policy" in Google Images, the images you get are of men in uniforms, combat aircraft, fences and endless pipelines. What you don't find are wind turbines or photovoltaic systems, insulation materials or double glazed windows. But these are the "weapons" we must deploy if we want to create a safer world order.The stakes have never been higher. Donald Trump is promising to keep the US in the fossil fuel age by doubling down on oil, gas and coal production. Although he will fail to stop the global energy revolution underway, former ExxonMobil boss Tillerson as the US Secretary of State, still brings a real risk of ‘oil (friendly) diplomacy’, which could accelerate global conflict and catastrophic climate change.Europe must not allow this to happen. European leaders attending the conference - whether Chancellor Merkel, EU Council President Tusk, EU High Representative Mogherini, or Foreign Ministers Gabriel, Ayrault or Johnson - all must tell Pence and Mattis in Munich that transatlantic security discussions need to always include the fight against climate change. And they must be clear that the EU will build peace and security through a new clean energy economy.Planet Earth First Banner at G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bonn, 16 Feb, 2017.In Munich, Eu[...]

We are going to court!

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:43:00 +0100

It's time we hold governments accountable for their climate promises; we must protect the pristine Arctic - it's critical for the preservation of our planet for future generations.That’s why we’re taking Arctic oil to court.Statoil-Operated Oil Drilling Platform near Tromsø, Norway. 24 Jan 2017 Our legal case against the Norwegian government, which granted new oil drilling licenses in the Arctic ocean, finally has a court date. On November 13th we are going to court!My name is Michelle. As one of the attorneys behind this groundbreaking case I'll be updating you as it moves ahead.When I think of future generations, I think of my niece Blythe. At five months, she has every right to a full and healthy life - free from the catastrophic effects of climate change we are already seeing around the world. THIS - tackling climate change - should be the main priority of governments. It seems however, that they need a little push in guaranteeing these rights. Civil society and youth around the world are doing just that, through the courts. We can be the generation that ends oil. The People vs Arctic Oil: Historic lawsuit filed against Arctic Oil in Oslo, 18 Oct 2016.Let me take you through some legal stuff. Norway was among the first countries in the world to sign the Paris Agreement and promise to help limit global warming. But, right after they signed on, they started handing out vast areas of Norwegian seas to oil companies. New oil drilling. In the Arctic! That is madness. The Arctic is vital in regulating the earth's temperature! We will show the Court that the government must take action, not only to keep the Paris climate agreement on track, but also to uphold the Norwegian Constitution:You see, the licenses violate Norwegian’s constitutional right to a healthy environment. This is what is written in Article 112 of the Constitution: “Every person has the right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained. Natural resources shall be managed on the basis of comprehensive long-term considerations which will safeguard this right for future generations as well... The authorities of the state shall take measures for the implementation of these principles”.It is clear that drilling for more fossil fuels in the Arctic is against the rights enshrined in Article 112. We are demanding that the government upholds these constitutional guarantees. This is not just about Norway. This is about climate justice for us, our nieces and nephews, all children - every person and future generations.What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay there. Around the world, communities are already battling the effects of climate change. People have been made homeless by storms, killed by floods and suffered starvation from terrible droughts. Unless we act now, climate change will cause more dangerous and more frequent extreme weather events and sea levels will rise. Lives, livelihoods, homes, and our environment are all at risk.But this case is now part of a wave of people stepping up for climate all over the world, from Norway to the Philippines. If millions of us come together and take this battle to court, we build a movement to take back our future. So far, more than 150 000 people have joined this global movement. If you haven’t already, add your name and be part of the generation that ends oil.It is time to end the oil age. If you're a government, and you're accelerating climate change, there is a good chance we'll see you in court. Stay tuned.Michelle Jonker-Argueta is an attorney with Greenpeace International. src="" width="600" height="315">[...]

Live long and protest: the power of mass action is alive in Romania

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 16:40:00 +0100

At the beginning of this month, the biggest mass protest in Romania since the fall of communism in 1989 unfolded across the country. Hundreds of thousands of people in the capital, Bucharest, and every major city in Romania took to the streets against a decree that would have decriminalised abuses of public office. After a week of peaceful protests, the government withdrew the controversial law.Huge crowds assembled in BucharestYou don’t see mobilisation like this every day, but it happens when the stakes are high - and it can be extremely powerful. Previous mass demonstrations highlighted cyanide open-pit mining in Rosia Montana (2013), forest protection (2015) and again corruption, after a horrible fire in a nightclub that could have been prevented if the people responsible had applied the law (Colectiv, autumn 2015).Greenpeace Romania joins protests against changes in the Romanian Forest Code in 2015.Greenpeace Romania joined protesters because we believe the consequences of the emergency ordinance decree would have affected our work to protect the environment. It would have indirectly allowed companies to choose less costly and environmentally-damaging alternatives for their projects without fear of legal repercussions. The recently-passed executive order also threatened the already limited checks and balances against environmental crimes.The reasons that hundreds of thousands of people so vocally rejected this decree may vary in tone from one to the next, but we knew the country needed to stand together against corruption: in a country that decriminalises corruption, there is no protection against environmental crimes.Non-violence, creativity and solidarity – keywords of the unprecedented protests in RomaniaCrowds all over Romania braved a bitter winter chill to protest. With creativity and humour on the banners displayed they inspired many more to join in and add their own - or even fly in from other countries where they now live - to show solidarity. Because of the pressure exerted by the large number of people that took to the streets to protect democracy, the Government repealed the ordinance.'Bear with us'It is the beginning of a victory for democracy Each time people demonstrate for something is a reminder that we must act together to protect our fundamental rights and that we have the power to change unjust actions. We are experiencing challenging times and the clock is ticking on the health of the planet. Now, more than ever, we need to unite in the fight to protect our planet from the threats posed by climate change.Protests are going on, all over the world. If you are reading this and you feel that all might be lost, remember that someone, somewhere is just now realising that it’s time to act and is not giving up hope. There’s simply too much to lose now. We resist and insist on the fact that holding political office does not give anyone the right to exploit it to legitimise environmental, or any other kind of abuse. We are used to hard fights and improbable victories. We are stronger together. Take action now and get involved in a local active group to make your voice heard. src="" width="600" height="338">Irina Bandrabur is a press officer in Greenpeace CEE’s Romania office[...]

I've seen the forest fires HSBC is helping to fund

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 05:48:00 +0100

The elderly gentleman approached me as our morning protest yesterday unfolded in front of HSBC’s Indonesian head office in Jakarta’s World Trade Centre building. Refusing the campaign postcard that I offered, his brow furrowed, he berated me for the action and bombarded me with questions. The gist was: Why on earth are you complaining about HSBC, and what does a bank have to do with forests? It wasn’t hard for me to explain. I’ve been living in Pontianak, Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) for 22 years, and for these past ten years I’ve lived through annual forest fires and smoke haze. The crisis culminated in 2015. My city, along with dozens of others across Kalimantan and Sumatra, were blanketed in thick smoke. Anyone going outside was forced to inhale the toxic fumes, and in fact most people were exposed even in their own homes, made as they are with breezy open construction. We lived and worked under darkened skies for weeks.So why was I in Jakarta on a weekday morning, standing in front of the HSBC building? Sharing postcards telling the story about these fires and the damaged forest and peat landscapes that they feed on?It’s quite simple: because HSBC has been funding palm oil companies that cause deforestation and fuel forest fires. The bank, Europe’s largest, has opened its coffers to some of the worst palm oil companies who rely on draining peat swamps and clearing forests, creating the flammable landscape which every year catches ablaze and chokes our lungs. The fires are eating up the last precious habitat for orangutans and Sumatran tigers, and in 2015 are calculated to have caused a hundred thousand premature deaths from smoke illness across South-East Asia.I explained all this to the gentleman who demanded to know what I was doing on HSBC’s doorstep. I told him of my concern for the future of Indonesia’s forests in the future. And that more than two hundred thousand other people worldwide – people like you –  had signed a petition to HSBC showing they shared my concern. For me, they are not just names on a page, they are my family in Kalimantan, my friends in Sumatra, and thousands more from Hong Kong, France, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Czech Republic and Great Britain. All of us hope that HSBC will take a leadership role, implement its policy and stop funding the relentless destruction of Indonesia’s forests. Our action that morning was eventually shut down by police and security guards, and together with my fellow activists I was pushed out of the HSBC office precinct. Before I stepped out, I turned back to make sure that our petition package would be given to HSBC’s management. I looked up at the windows of the tower where I imagined the staff were peering down at the commotion, hesitant to meet us. I hope they will read the names on the petition and understand it’s not a meaningless list. That it is an important message for HSBC and other banks to stop funding the companies which are destroying our remaining forests. Here’s hoping our message will be understood. Adi Prabowo is a trainee firefighter with Greenpeace IndonesiaWant to tell HSBC to stop funding deforestation? Click here.[...]

Missing the Target

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 15:55:00 +0100

The urgency to solve our climate crisis feels something like a ship heading off course: The longer you delay, the more you have to turn the wheel.  Consider these numbers: 2, 350, 1990. These were the original climate goals. In 1975, at the time of the first Greenpeace whale campaign, environmental economist William Nordhaus proposed that the danger threshold for a temperature increase above Earth’s preindustrial average would be 2°C. This goal was not considered entirely safe, but beyond this target we risked severe climate disruption and likely runaway heating.Dr James Hansen, 2016The 350 figure came from several climate scientists, including Dr James Hansen, who co-authored the first NASA global temperature analysis in 1981. Hansen proposed that to remain below the 2°C target, we would have to hold the carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere below 350 parts-per-million (ppm). In 2007, Bill McKibben adopted Hansen’s target for the name of the climate activist group, “if we want to stabilise climate”, Hansen said in 2012, “we must reduce CO2 … back to 350ppm.”To achieve this, we must reduce human carbon emissions. In 1990, the Stockholm Environment Institute confirmed the 2°C maximum and, in 1991, the first climate COP met in Berlin with the goal of returning carbon emissions to the 1990 level. Achieving the 1990 carbon emissions, about six billion tons per year, only represents a good start. Ultimately, we have to reduce human carbon emissions from our current 10 billion tons to about 2-billion tons per year. That will require an 80% reduction in the use of fossil fuels.1990Some European nations have retained the 1990 emissions targets, although none have achieved this. Most other nations have abandoned the 1990 emissions date in their recent 2015 Paris “pledges”. The US and Canada move the target forward 15 years, to 2005 and only pledge to reduce emissions 17% below those levels. Neither nation has done anything significant to achieve even this pathetic goal. Claims in North America and Europe of “reducing” carbon emissions reflect, primarily, exporting those emissions, the dirtiest industries, to nations such as China, India and Mexico. If we look at emissions-per-capita, the US and Canada still lead the pack and the European Union remains well above the world average and above a pace that would lead to 1990 emission levels.Other nations — such as Mexico, Israel and Brazil — have only pledged to hold emissions below a “business as usual” future projection, which is almost meaningless. Likewise, China will only commit to “reducing carbon intensity”, which is a similar measure of emissions versus economic growth, also meaningless in the effort to actually reduce carbon emissions. As a atmospheric scientist, Tim Garrett, said in a recent email: “The bathtub only stops filling when the tap is turned off, not when we stop cranking it open.”Since the first COP conference in 1990, carbon emissions have increased by about 67%. In any practical sense, we can consider the original 1990 emissions target abandoned by the politicians. 350By 1930, primarily from burning coal, humans had pushed Earth’s CO2 content above 300ppm for the first time in over 500,000 years: through four glaciation-warming cycles, most of the fire-making history of Homo erectus and the entire history of Homo sapiens. Jim Bohlens and Bob Cummings in Canada, 1971When Greenpeace began in 1971, atmospheric CO2 stood at 325ppm. We learned of the climate threat in the mid-70s, when a colleague of James Lovelock sent us a hand-drawn graph. By 1991, atmospheric CO2 had increased to 355 ppm. A recent January 2017 reading, after 25 years of climate conferences reached 406.47ppm, and in April 2016 a Mauna Loa reading registered over 409ppm.Serious ecologi[...]

You did it! We’re Detoxing the Great Outdoors!

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 09:25:00 +0100

When we launched the Detox Outdoor campaign in late 2015 our goal was simple: Together with you, the outdoor community and Greenpeace supporters, we wanted to eliminate hazardous PFCs (chemicals used in weatherproofing outdoor gear).

Today, we are sooooo happy to announce that the PFC revolution in the outdoor sector has begun!

Gore Fabrics, the maker of GORE-TEX® products and a major supplier of membranes and coatings to outdoor brands like The North Face and Mammut, has committed to eliminate hazardous PFCs from their product lines!


Gore Fabrics will eliminate hazardous PFCs from its general outdoor weatherproofing laminates by end of 2020 and from its specialised weatherproofing laminates by end of 2023.

This campaign victory belongs to YOU.

(image) Volunteers and outdoor enthusiasts in Stockholm take it all off to protect the outdoors.

Hundreds of thousands of you took action online, questioned which of the major brands are using PFCs and voted for which of your favorite products should be tested.

Hikers, runners, campers, climbers, and skiers co-created activities for the Detox Outdoor week of action! The brands were really feeling the pressure, and some early industry leaders emerged as Paramo, Rotauf and Vaude signed Detox commitments to go PFC free!

(image) The PD Lisca Mountaineering Society in Slovenia joined Greenpeace volunteers to call for a PFC-free outdoors.

You then organised over 150 amazing activities around the world to demand that The North Face, Mammut, Hagläff, Black Yak, and other major brands eliminate hazardous PFCs too.

And many of these brands pressured Gore Fabrics, their main supplier for membranes, to remove hazardous PFCs from their products.

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You are AMAZING! When we come together as outdoor lovers, Greenpeace supporters, donors, and volunteers, we can accomplish anything.

Thank you for all your efforts and support, this campaign victory belongs to you!

Edyta Sitko is the engagement lead for the Detox Outdoor Project with Greenpeace East Asia.

Stefan Durrenberger is the online mobilisation lead for the Detox Outdoor Project with Greenpeace Switzerland.


Why Trump’s Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipeline plans don’t add up

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 00:12:00 +0100

Last week, Donald Trump signed a set of presidential memoranda aimed at boosting the United States’ most infamous and flailing oil pipeline projects: the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL).Trump wants to speed the approval and construction of the oil pipelines by canceling environmental reviews — a blatant attempt to circumvent US law to benefit fossil fuel companies.But the pipelines have already been stalled by Indigenous water protectors and a massive global resistance ignited by the threat these projects pose to sacred sites, drinking water and the climate. That resistance isn’t going anywhere. Trump’s actions do not make the pipelines inevitable.In the United States, presidential memorandum — like Executive Orders — carry the weight of law and guide the actions of the government. However, the orders can’t overturn existing laws. From a legal perspective, no one really knows how effective these orders will be. They appear to have been written without consulting the agencies they affect.Both the DAPL and KXL memos attempt to skip environmental review processes mandated by federal law in the United States.The KXL memo invited TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, to reapply for a crucial permit that was denied by the Obama administration. TransCanada accepted that invite last week. Called the “Presidential Permit” – it is actually granted by the Secretary of State. The permit is needed because KXL crosses the border between Canada and the US.In an interesting twist, this may not go the way Trump’s team hopes. The likely Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil. As a condition of his appointment, Tillerson has promised to recuse himself from any decision involving Exxon for one year. Keystone XL, which would bring tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Exxon has massive tar sands holdings and it is entirely possible Exxon’s tar sands would flow through the KXL pipeline. If that is the case, Tillerson may have to recuse himself from the KXL decision, leaving no clear process for approving the permit. Environmental organisation NRDC points out that the Keystone XL faces a slew of other legal, economic and permit hurdles.Tar sand oil is expensive to mine and exploit, making the pipeline much less financially attractive than it was when it was proposed.The company behind the pipe still needs Clean Water Act permits.The state of Nebraska still needs to approve a route and permit for the pipeline. And the state has seen very wide ranging and well organised opposition.The pipeline’s permit in the state of South Dakota is also being challenged. Trump’s orders are equal part brazen crony capitalism and a confusing morass of legal conflicts.Trump also has significant financial ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline, whose CEO contributed hundreds of thousands of US dollars to Trump’s campaign for president. Trump might also be personally invested in two major companies building DAPL: Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66. Trump spokespeople have claimed he sold these shares but have provided no evidence.The DAPL memo orders the Secretary of the Army (a Trump political appointee named Robert Speer) to ignore the National Environmental Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act “to the extent permitted by law.” The document also attempts to cancel a review of the environmental and social impacts of the pipeline’s proposed route, called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), currently underway. But legal experts believe that the law will not permit Trump to skip environmental reviews completely.And ironically, Trump has ordered a hiring and funding freeze at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has the crucial role of [...]