The Equation Campaign supports strategies and initiatives that disrupt the power of the oil and gas industry and build the power of movements and people on the frontlines. We do this using the very levers that have given the industry its unprecedented influence: finance, media, law and politics.
Financial Power: Shifting Risks, Benefits, and the Bottom Line
Many parts of the financial sector are still funding, insuring and investing in the oil and gas industry. In effect, they are financing and profiting from the future warming of the planet. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry is also the recipient of a disproportionate number of subsidies, tax breaks, and bailouts, particularly in the context of the COVID crisis.
To undercut this support, the Equation Campaign was one of the early investors in the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign, pressuring institutions to stop financing and underwriting the expansion of oil and gas in the US and beyond. We have also funded Mazaska Talks and Giniw Collective, the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE) and the Hip Hop Caucus – all BIPOC-led groups that play leadership roles in these campaigns. Through our finance-focused grantmaking and associated media investments, we elevate the actual and perceived risks, including to brand and reputation, of funding fossil fuels.
In addition to supporting efforts to target the biggest national banks, investors and underwriters like JP Morgan Chase, Blackrock and Liberty Mutual, our grants aim to expose the links between specific projects and their financiers. For example, the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe’s advocacy is targeting the three banks supporting the Brownsville LNG terminals: BNP Paribas (successfully withdrawn), Societe Generale, and Macquarie Capital.
And finally, in the wake of the historic mobilization around the Movement for Black Lives, we also made a series of grants to investigate, analyze and expose the links between some of the largest fossil fuel corporations, financiers and insurers—Chevron, JP Morgan Chase, and Blackrock—and their funding of powerful police groups in major US cities. These grants aim not only to follow the money and connect the dots between climate and racial injustice, but to build collective power and solidarity between the climate movement and the Movement for Black lives around shared targets and a common adversary.
Media Power: Rewriting the Narrative
The media is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe in the United States and we are increasingly living in dangerously distinct ecosystems on the right and the left. The oil and gas industry orchestrated decades of deliberate misinformation about climate change, challenging the very assertion that humans burning carbon was the cause of global warming. These companies and their legal, marketing, and financial enablers, need to be understood to be as toxic as their products, akin to the tobacco and opioid industries whose playbooks they have shared.
To counter this trend, we helped launch Fossil Free Media, a nonprofit communications lab countering the lies of the oil and gas industry’s multi billion-dollar public relations machine and providing free media support and capacity to frontline fights and to the supply side movement to end fossil fuel expansion. We have also supported Season 4 of Drilled and Inequality Media’s explainer video on The Solutions to the Climate Crisis No One is Talking About to educate and activate new audiences that care about economic inequality, corporate power and racial justice, but don’t yet see the climate links to “their” issues.
Upcoming grants will feature communications strategies that elevate stories from the frontlines. Our grantees will center the lived experience of people most directly impacted by oil and gas expansion, particularly BIPOC, poor and marginalized communities living where pipelines and refineries are being planned, built or expanded. And they will highlight youth voices decrying the injustice of climate change which they did not cause but will suffer from for generations to come. Our communications portfolio aims to amplify a new climate story, shifting the narrative from framing around “parts per million,” “metric tonnes” and other (critical) scientific and policy information, to narratives of real people fighting for the health and safety of the children, communities and homelands that they love. Ultimately, our grantee partners will speak their truths to power, countering industry disinformation regarding “meeting consumer demand” with potent, personal, and moving stories about asthma, pollution, desecration of ancestral lands, wildfires, and the destruction of our children’s future.
Legal Power: Changing the Rules
Oil and gas companies have had the law on their side for too long. They already have undue influence as a result of their political contributions and access, with hundreds of lobbyists advocating for the most lucrative and permissive environment possible for continued expansion. Since 2017, industry executives and former lobbyists have taken over the EPA and dramatically rolled back dozens of industry regulations aimed at protecting air, water and the climate. They are also increasingly weaponizing law and litigation, drafting and advocating for so-called “Critical Infrastructure” laws that criminalize protest, or filing crippling “SLAPP Suits” (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) against individuals and organizations that threaten them.
The movement must prepare and become more resilient to the growing backlash. The Equation Campaign has therefore established a Climate Legal Defense Fund to support a standing army of lawyers to strengthen legal efforts to stop new or expanded oil and gas projects, and to defend activists facing legal repression and retaliation from the industry. In our first year, we have provided seed funding for the new Center for Protest Law and Litigation to represent climate activists and others demanding racial, social and environmental justice, supported the Thurgood Marshall Center for Civil Rights at Howard Law School to track and analyze the nation’s critical infrastructure laws, and have several other planned investments in legal organizations which can offer both proactive and reactive legal expertise.
In the future, we will continue to support public interest lawyers who can assist local organizations and activists with legal strategies for resisting oil and gas expansion; mount affirmative challenges to laws that suppress free speech and association and deploy rapid response grants to activists and organizations on the receiving end of industry intimidation.
Because of its legal expertise and deep understanding of the climate justice movement, The Equation Campaign is uniquely positioned to quickly identify critical needs at the onset of emerging issues and initiatives. This nimble and timely support is crucial to empowering movements and frontline communities to be on forward footing in the struggle against powerful industries. The Equation Campaign has been essential in the launch of the Center for Protest Law and Litigation, providing early seed money and helping connect the Center to other donors as we work to expand urgently needed legal support to a justice movement under attack.Mara Verheyden-Hilliard
Co-Founder, Center for Protest Law and Litigation
(Equation Campaign Grantee)
Political Power: Building the Movement
All three of the above strategies which are core to our Theory of Change – financial, legal and media – rely on the momentum and power of a movement to demand and achieve rapid transformation. And growing a movement requires funding local organizations and communities hit hardest by the human rights, health and environmental abuses of the fossil fuel industry. We believe those closest to the harms are closest to the solutions, and hold as yet untapped power to achieve the results that we all need.
Two powerful new constituencies have burst onto the climate scene, and The Equation Campaign has responded with innovative programs to meet their unique needs. In our work with the parents and youth movements, we funded Polluters Out’s Fossil Free University and catalyzed a new Parents Fellowship program to train, network and fund these new leaders. Similarly, we dispatched urgent support during the COVID19 pandemic to remote indigenous and rural landowner organizations, including groups within the NDN Collective and the Promise to Protect coalition, to reinforce their opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. We helped establish the Pipeline Fighters Hub, which provides legal, technical and organizing expertise to local communities fighting oil and gas infrastructure across the country.
We support the rights and strategies of free speech and protest, citizen engagement and advocacy, and mass campaigns that raise public awareness and use the levers of law, finance and politics to counterbalance the industry’s grip on power that keeps us locked into the vicious self-interested cycle it has created.
We are working to fight the power of the oil and gas industry by exposing its deception, inspiring people and institutions to divest and demand an end to bailouts and subsidies; and by countering the might of the industry in the halls of government, in courts of law, and the court of public opinion.
Even as they are mobilizing to fight power, defenders build power and shift power away from vested corporate and political interests determined to keep on extracting fossil fuels, and towards social movements and individuals united in ending the vicious cycle that we know is threatening sensitive ecosystems and the survival of the human race.
Right from the beginning, the Equation Campaign staff spent time listening to understand what our youth movement needed, so when COVID hit, they were ready to react. We asked for training on how to challenge the corporations and banks fueling the climate crisis, and they responded with so much more than that. They helped us quickly launch an intensive online climate advocacy institute, and introduced us to world class teachers who not only gave us valuable information, but also the skills and networks we need to effectively challenge the fossil fuel industry. They understand the power of movements and are the kind of adult mentors we need more of.Ayisha Siddiqa
Co-Founder, Polluters Out
(Equation Campaign Grantee)
We aim to:
Shift paradigms in philanthropy by spending more now. We are digging into our principal and accelerating our giving, knowing that the clock is running out, so our dollars are more valuable now than they will be in 10 years.
Be a movement funder, prioritizing grantmaking that helps center the power in communities and on the frontlines in climate campaigns. We are deliberate about ensuring that frontline voices and the voices of historically marginalized BIPOC groups are getting the resources that they need. We are constantly working to expand our expertise through a network representing voices not often listened to in climate philanthropy, namely Black, indigenous, Latinx, economically distressed communities, and the youth. With our network of activists, organizers, and experts, we find out where the “dots” are and fund the connections “between the dots” to ensure that powerful coalitions and movements have what they need to confront the fossil fuel industry.
Do what it takes by providing core funding to our grantees, responding rapidly to emergency needs, and offering technical support, training, skill-sharing, networks, and resources for legal advice and defense.