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Campaigning in the face of a Goliath

Sue Willsher celebrates a campaign win and highlights the importance of persistence in prayer and campaigning

Tearfund | 19 May 2021

Wesminster hand in

The hand in of the petition at Westminster

Sue Willsher, Tearfund’s Senior Policy Advisor for climate and energy, reflects on a recent campaign win and the importance of prayer when campaigning.

Our campaigning is all about speaking up for change that will enable people in poverty to flourish. It keeps us going when we see progress, however small – but it can take years to achieve a ‘big win’. But recently – thanks in no small part to our tireless supporters who raised their voices with us – we’ve done just that. What’s more, the campaign has received wide acclaim.

Last week, the UK Overseas Fossil Fuel Campaign, led by a small coalition including Tearfund, won the ‘David & Goliath’ prize at the prestigious Sheila McKechnie Foundation National Campaigner Awards! The judges praised the campaign for having ‘used every tool in the box’ to achieve success and being a great team effort – both within Tearfund and between all the agencies involved.

For decades, the UK provided billions in taxpayers’ money for fossil fuel projects all over the world, making climate change worse and locking developing countries into fossil fuel use instead of helping them move towards clean energy. By lobbying MPs, staging noisy protests, publishing media-friendly investigations and allying with communities affected by UK-funded projects, the campaign turned a technical issue into a simple message that resonated across the political spectrum: Stop funding fossil fuels overseas.

At last, in December 2020, the UK Government announced it would end all taxpayer support for fossil fuel energy projects overseas – and it stopped this support in March. This world-leading policy by the UK – and the campaign win – has had a domino effect, with other countries and finance institutions indicating they will follow suit.

In our team, we’ve learnt to be persistent in both advocacy and in prayer on climate change. Like David in the face of Goliath, the barriers can seem insurmountable. So to have achieved this breakthrough, and to have jointly achieved this award alongside such a dedicated bunch of campaigners, are definitely cause to celebrate and give thanks.

It reminds us that big change does happen, albeit not as often as we’d like! Of course, there is still more work to be done and the policy includes a number of exemptions that we will continue to work to tighten. But this award demonstrates that a huge part of the battle has been won. And being recognised for this work in the public arena is a great opportunity to showcase the power of campaigning to create change!

Thank you if you raised your voice with us to influence this important policy change that will help people living in poverty to access clean energy. And thank you for standing with us in this pivotal year for climate action, as we call on the UK Government to crack the crises of Covid, injustice, climate change and nature loss. As the UK prepares to host both the G7 summit in June and the UN climate change conference in November, it’s vital they know the British public is holding them to account.

Visit tearfund.org/reboot to find out more about how you can speak up for change this year – including sending a message to world leaders at the G7 and COP26 by joining the Wave of Hope.

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