SAFE (Stand Against Fossil Fuel Expansion) is a growing movement of neighbors, local groups, and elected officials taking concrete, meaningful action to protect communities, accelerate a clean energy future, and address the climate crisis.

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 liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility.

The SAFE movement wants to end all that by blocking fossil fuel infrastructure projects before they’re even proposed while championing an all-electric future – it's time to stop playing defense, and go on offense.

Fossil fuel expansion refers to the buildout of any infrastructure that allows for more fossil fuels to be extracted, shipped, refined, and distributed. This includes – but isn't limited to – oil and gas wells, coal mines, pipelines, oil train routes, terminals, refineries, and storage facilities. It also includes end use facilities like gas stations, buildings, and transit vehicles.

The fossil fuel industry wants to build and expand these facilities, even though our climate can’t handle any new fossil fuel projects and vulnerable communities are already being unfairly burdened by pollution. We can’t let that happen.

Right now, many homes and businesses still burn gas for heating and cooking. Unfortunately, burning gas in our buildings is extremely unhealthy – gas poisons our indoor air and poses huge health risks to our communities. And these health risks are even worse in smaller homes and apartments making lower-income communities and communities of color more vulnerable to the toxic indoor air that comes from burning gas indoors.

Burning gas in buildings is also a huge contributor to climate change. About 40% of greenhouse gas emissions globally come from our buildings. A huge part of this comes from using fossil gas, since it releases large amounts of methane – a very potent greenhouse gas.

Building electrification is the alternative. Rather than hooking up fossil fuels to our homes, restaurants, and office buildings, we can run everything on electricity. Electric buildings have far less indoor air pollution, have no risk of gas explosions, and are ready for the clean energy future.

This is why we’re inspired to see more and more local governments passing policies to speed up the transition to all-electric buildings. From giving developers incentives to build all-electric developments to banning fossil gas hookups, policies to get gas out of new neighborhoods are gaining steam.

And now new conversations are bubbling up about how to transition existing buildings from gas to electricity – and do it in a fair way. Advocates for equity and racial justice (including us at SAFE Cities!) will be watching closely to make sure that this next wave of building electrification policies mandates retrofits to existing buildings in an equitable manner, making sure that the costs of this much-needed transition aren’t borne by low-income or vulnerable residents.

By putting in place local government policies to block new fossil fuel developments before proposals are even drafted, or to mandate all-electric buildings or transportation.

In many nations around the world – including the US – local governments have the power to use zoning and land use laws (yes, those policies that say what can be built and what kind of activities can happen where) to protect local health and public safety. That’s because it’s part of their job to make sure their communities can breathe clean air, drink clean water, and avoid risking explosions near homes and schools.

Unfortunately, local governments often face pressure from the oil and gas lobby, and they need to know that community members will have their backs if they stand up to big oil. By showing support for good zoning and land use laws (and let’s be honest, sometimes applying a little pressure of your own), you can help your local council members pass SAFE policies and play a crucial leadership role in keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

Already hundreds of communities on Turtle Island (North America) and around the globe have passed groundbreaking policies to phase out fossil fuel developments and speed up electrification, and this movement has the potential to spread even further all over the world.

Jurisdictions from Los Angeles to Vancouver to New York (and plenty of places in between!) have already passed SAFE policies.

You can view a full list here.

This is a global movement – anyone anywhere in the world is invited to join the movement and work to pass SAFE policies.

To become a SAFE City, you need to pass a local government resolution affirming the need to stop fossil fuel expansion, or pass local policies that phase out fossil fuel infrastructure or mandate all-electric buildings or transportation. We can’t yet provide legal, policy or digital organizing support to groups outside the U.S. or Canada, but we can help you with organizing tips and we can share our campaigning playbook for you to translate into your own context.

We’re also partnering with local organizations who are able to advance the details where they are. If you’re a group outside the U.S. or Canada interested in partnering to pass SAFE policies in your own communities, please get in touch!

Currently, SAFE Cities expertise is mainly in policies in the U.S. in Canada. For resources on passing policies to restrict fossil fuels in other countries we recommend you check out this toolkit put together by our sister campaign, the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, or our partner organization, Fossil Free Zones.

Reach out to us at SAFE@stand.earth and we will look into adding your community to the map.

We love us some good policies to ban fracking! So much good work has been done to track and map fracking policies by our good friends at Fractracker, that we rely on their mapping to keep track of fracking policies. However, if you really want to see your fracking policy on the SAFE map, reach out to us at SAFE@stand.earth and we will look into adding your community to the map.

Indigenous people, people of color, and low income communities and neighborhoods are most harmed by the fossil fuel industry and are most likely to face threats of dangerous projects. By ending fossil fuel expansion, SAFE policies help protect all community members – especially people living near proposed refineries, liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, oil storage facilities or other dangerous fossil fuel projects.

We recognize that local fights against fossil fuels have at times resulted in wealthy communities pushing fossil fuel infrastructure into poorer communities and communities of color. This is unacceptable.

SAFE policies must be just and equitable. This means that the policies passed by our local governments need to protect us all – and especially prioritize the wellbeing of communities that have historically been most harmed by fossil fuels.

Right now, local governments are deeply – and rightly – concerned with managing the twin public health and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, passing policies that phase out fossil fuels and create jobs in renewable energy can tackle both of these crises, while addressing environmental racism and injustice.

The toxic air pollution from burning fossil fuels is deadly, and people living in neighbourhoods with polluted air are more vulnerable to poor health outcomes from COVID. Fossil fuels are responsible for nearly 40% of all global deaths from air pollution. Ten thousand people die per day, or 3.6 million per year, from fossil fuel pollution. This is unacceptable.

And now, emerging research is showing a strong relationship between exposure to air pollution and mortality from COVID-19. This isn’t just a public health issue, but also a racial justice issue, since Black and Latino people are especially vulnerable to COVID, and are more likely to live in communities with higher air pollution.

And when it comes to fossil fuels in our homes, shifting to all-electric heating and appliances has huge health benefits too. Gas appliances for heating and cooking lead to toxic indoor air, especially in smaller households with poor ventilation (like small apartments), disproportionately harming low-income people.

There are more details (and references) on all of this in our briefing note for elected officials on how phasing out fossil fuels at the local level can improve health and create jobs.

SAFE can work hand in hand with other efforts to protect communities and move us off fossil fuels. There are three important ways that SAFE is different from other efforts:

  1. It’s all about local action. In an era where federal protections are being deliberately dismantled, actions by local people and elected officials using local laws are incredibly important.

  2. It offers local and global protection. People who use the SAFE strategy are creating long term protections for their communities and for people around the world, and justice for those most impacted by the fossil fuel industry. Their SAFE work says no to more local danger from pollution and accidents, and no to more climate chaos around the world.

  3. It’s permanent. SAFE gives people the strategy and resources to block projects before the companies behind them even apply for permits. No more “whack-a-mole” where communities stop one project but there are more waiting.

Every community will be different, but change is possible in any community that is determined enough.

You don’t need to be an expert in government, zoning, or activism to convince your local council to pass SAFE policies, but you do have to have passion and commitment to stick with the campaign for as long as it takes (since government policy-making can take time!). You also have to be willing to work with people in your community to build a movement that can get the job done (which we're here to help with – you won't have to do this alone). More on support and resources in the next section.

SAFE Cities and the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty are sister campaigns that both began within Stand.earth. Oftentimes the first SAFE policy a community will pass is an endorsement of a global Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. This can then be used as a springboard to spur further action to pass tangible policies that actually restrict the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and accelerate a just energy transition within the community.

You can learn more about the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty here.

For organizers

Fill out our organizing survey to gain access to our toolkit and set up a one-on-one meeting with one of our SAFE team members. No prior experience or group affiliation necessary!

SAFE Cities is run by a team experienced in stopping fossil fuel expansion and providing resources to build people power.

If you're in the US or Canada, we can help you build a local email and phone number list, we’ll get you access to powerful online campaigning tools, and we will connect you to legal analysis and support, draft policy language, and other tools you need. And wherever you're based, we can help by sharing case studies of successful SAFE campaigns, sample policies passed by local governments in other places, as well as resources for countering industry opposition. Fill out the organizing survey to get access to our organizing toolkit and set up an initial one-on-one meeting with a SAFE team member.

Yes, your group can make SAFE work part of your efforts – just make sure to note your affiliation when you fill the organizing survey so we can be sure to get you what you need.

Yes, groups can be part of the SAFE network and movement under their own names.

Yes! We have samples to draw from and experts to offer legal analysis to help create strong SAFE policies. You can find and view SAFE policies other communities have passed by using our map tool.

Every community is different, so our best advice is to start with a policy that both addresses the most pressing needs of your community and is politically possible.

For example, a great first step for your local government may be to pass a resolution setting out an intent to pass SAFE policies, exploring fair financing structures, and directing staff to suggest policies to help reach your community's climate action goals.

Or your city council may be ready to pass a solid policy right away. This could vary from banning gas hook-ups in new buildings (mandating all-electric construction) to ending the build-out of any new fossil fuel infrastructure. If your council is new to climate leadership, electrification policies might be an easier first step than fossil fuel moratoria, especially in communities that aren’t currently facing threats from new fossil fuel infrastructure (like refineries, shipping terminals or rail lines). That said, policies that phase out fossil fuel infrastructure are hugely impactful in the long run, and can be worth starting early organizing efforts around!

The SAFE approach is about stopping future projects, but through the SAFE network and Stand.earth staff you can get connected to people who can help with projects that are already online or approved. If you already have one project in or coming to your community, others are likely to follow. SAFE can help you stop those future projects.

For local government leaders

Fill out this survey to join the NEOS (Network of Elected Officials and Staff) Network and get access to our binder of resources for local governments.

Alternatively, you can find and view SAFE policies other communities have passed by using our map tool.

In addition to connecting you to people doing this work in other local jurisdictions via the NEOS (Network of Elected Officials and Staff) Network, SAFE Cities has a binder full of model policies and talking points. You access both of those resources by filling out this survey.

Additionally, we can connect you to legal analysis and support – and in some circumstances even help draft policy language specific to your community.

The NEOS (Network of Elected Officials and Staff) Network is a rapidly growing network of local government people in the U.S. and Canada who are sharing expertise, experience, and knowledge on how to pass policies in our communities as part of the SAFE Cities movement. NEOS is supported by SAFE Cities and Elected Officials to Protect America.

Fill out this this survey to get access to our virtual binder with a repository of policy options and messaging tactics, as well as access to our bi-monthly NEOS Calls, and invitations to webinars and other resources to assist you in the rapidly growing space of local climate action.

Local governments have broad authority to protect the health and safety of the community through land use regulations. Within the US the specifics are different from state to state, and globally they vary from country to country, and the details matter. We've conducted a high-level overview of the regulatory environment across all 50 states that we can share on request, and we also have sample ordinances available in the resources section of our site. In Whatcom County, Washington, local leaders hired a law firm to help understand the legal landscape and we’re using this report and other resources to strengthen the SAFE movement.

Fossil fuel companies may challenge SAFE policies in the hopes of preserving business as usual, but if they're done right, the rules can (and do!) hold up in court. Local governments have had their rules upheld in South Portland, Maine, Vancouver, British Columbia, and in Portland, Oregon.

That's great! We encourage you to fill out this survey and join the NEOS (Network of Elected Officials and Staff) Network so you can share your experiences with elected officials, staffers, and volunteers in other local jurisdictions trying to do the same work.

We can also work with you to see if there are other ways you can restrict fossil fuel expansion and accelerate the just energy transition in your community, and make sure your progress is properly represented on our map.