What are SAFE Cities?

SAFE Cities is a movement of neighbors, local groups, and elected officials working to keep their communities SAFE from fossil fuels. 

The fossil fuel industry’s harmful practices and reckless plans for expansion threaten the well-being of communities and people around the world. That’s why the SAFE Cities campaign is connecting local efforts to limit fossil fuels into a global call for action and supporting community leaders to adopt SAFE policies that phase out fossil fuels and fast track clean, more efficient energy solutions for all.

Fighting fossil fuel threats one at a time can feel like playing the world’s most exhausting and unfun game of whack-a-mole. One with no end in sight. If you're in a community on the frontline of the fossil fuel industry you already know this well – no sooner have you defeated a massive coal terminal proposal then a tar sands pipeline pops up. Or you’re already fighting a refinery expansion or an oil-by-rail plan when industry comes again with plans to build a giant, explosive LNG facility. The SAFE Cities movement wants to end all that by blocking fossil fuel infrastructure projects before they’re even proposed – it's time to stop playing defense, and go on the offensive.

WHAT IS A SAFE POLICY?

SAFE policies are being championed by local elected leaders who are committed to climate action and protecting public health and safety from the risks of fossil fuels. They can include opposing new fossil fuel infrastructure, affirming a commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and endorsing the complimentary Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to phase out fossil fuel production and accelerate a just energy transition, committing to energy efficiency, committing to a future of electrification and renewable energy, and/or developing financial strategies to ensure that no one’s left behind. As a first step, local governments can pass resolutions that describe their intent to pass SAFE policies, explore fair financing structures, and propose policies to help them reach their climate action goals. 

We've organized SAFE policies into four categories (and on our map, you'll notice badges for different categories of SAFE policies):

    
  • Local government resolutions – one example of this is a Climate Emergency declaration that explicitly mentions the need to end fossil fuel expansion
  • Temporary blocks on new fossil fuel infrastructure – for example, what's already been passed in Whatcom County
  • Permanent restrictions on new fossil fuel infrastructure – these policies reduce the risks of spills, explosions and other environmental hazards
  • Electrification policies – some examples include rules mandating that all new buildings be 100% electric, or plans to electrify public transportation fleets

It’s time to grow these successes into an international movement local governments all over the globe that have all taken important steps towards ending fossil fuel expansion wherever they can.

Want to make your community the next SAFE city, county or region? Check out the map or use this form to connect with an existing SAFE Cities group or this form if you're thinking about creating a brand new SAFE Cities group where you live.

SAFE POLICIES IN ACTION

Cities, counties, ports, and even whole provinces and states can join the SAFE movement. 

Already more than 30 cities and counties across the US – and one in Canada! – have passed concrete policies to keep their communities safe from fossil fuels, build renewable energy infrastructure, and create good, long-term jobs. 

Is your community already working on policies that restrict fossil fuel expansion? Or have you already passed some? If so, we want to hear from you!

Here are some of the places that have been leading the way:

Whatcom County, Washington

In the northern part of Washington State, local organizers with Stand.earth and RE Sources For Sustainable Communities worked for years to defeat a proposed coal terminal. Then they joined together with allies on the Whatcom County Council and in 2016 they passed a temporary stop, or moratorium, on all new unrefined fossil export facilities. Now, the local organizers are working with allies on the County Council to make these protections permanent.

Cherry Point county council meeting

Photo credit: Henry Stewart-Wood

South Portland, Maine

Whatcom isn't alone – in 2014, dedicated residents of South Portland, Maine mounted a winning campaign to keep tar sands out of their community. Following more than a year of effort, the South Portland, Maine City Council passed a policy to block the transport of tar sands through their community.

South Portland organizers celebrate after blocking tar sands - photo by Protect South Portland

Photo credit: Protect South Portland

Portland, Oregon

In 2016, Portland, Oregon became the first major municipality to ban bulk storage of fossil fuels, effectively stopping oil trains from running through the city. And when Big Oil and their allies sued Portland, Portland won.

Portland - cities lead on climate

Photo by Rick Rappaport

Baltimore, Maryland

And in 2017, after an oil train project was stopped in Baltimore, organizers from Clean Water Action Maryland and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network heard about the success in Portland, Oregon. They worked with champions on the Baltimore, Maryland city council to pass a land use ordinance to prevent the build out of any new oil train facilities in the city.

 Baltimore blocks fossil fuel infrastructure - Photo by Clean Water Action Photo by Clean Water Action

Photo by Clean Water Action