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10 Carbon Market Trends to Watch in 2016

Climate

The Climate Trust, a mission-driven nonprofit that specializes in mobilizing conservation finance for environmental benefit, announced its third annual prediction list of 10 carbon market trends to watch in 2016.

The trends, which range from climate change playing a larger role in federal decision-making to increased carbon market linkage and momentum in conservation finance, were identified by The Climate Trust based on interactions with their diverse group of working partners—government, utilities, project developers and large businesses.

“The trust pays close attention to market signals throughout the year, identifying areas where we can have the greatest impact,” Sean Penrith, executive director for The Climate Trust, said. “Each year, we look forward to putting together our team’s collective knowledge and sharing our industry insights.”

1. Carbon pricing will play a key role for many jurisdictions worldwide as they plan to meet their emission reduction targets from the Paris negotiations.

Roughly one-quarter of the world’s emissions now fall under some form of carbon pricing system. In the aftermath of the Paris negotiations, this percentage is only expected to grow, as countries will be examining low-cost, high-impact options to comply with the nationally-determined emission reduction goals that they have submitted to the UN. Several jurisdictions worldwide have expressed interest in cross-border emissions trading, to lessen the potential economic risks from acting unilaterally. The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, launched on the first day of COP21 in Paris, brings together key governments along with nearly 90 global businesses and NGOs to strengthen and expand carbon pricing worldwide. We expect to hear many more announcements of national carbon pricing initiatives in the coming year, as well as announcements of interest in linkages to and among existing systems. In addition, countries are confronting—for the first time—how setting and keeping emission reduction goals can be made easier by coordinating all their domestic climate policies in service of these goals; therefore, we expect to see more academics, industry groups and government coalitions weighing in on these opportunities for “complementary” policy.

2. In Oregon, policies related to clean energy will take center stage in 2016.

Importers of transportation fuels will be under obligation to comply with the state’s Clean Fuels Program in 2016. This program is designed to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels 10 percent by 2025, by integrating more low-carbon fuels (like ethanol and biogas) into the fuel supply. In addition, the 2016 ballot is very likely to contain initiatives that would increase Oregon’s acceleration of a clean energy transition, including phasing out the use of coal-fired electricity and increasing the state’s renewable portfolio standard. Finally, carbon pricing will remain a topic of discussion during the 2016 legislative short session, as bills advance which could add enforceability to our state’s emission reduction targets by capping emissions from various economic sectors. We predict passage of at least one clean energy-related ballot measure this year. Carbon pricing in Oregon is still at least a year away, as even if a legislative bill were to pass in 2016, the state would need time to design and implement its optimal strategy.

3. Climate risk will get real for private industry.

Beginning with the groundswell at Climate Week in New York City in September 2015 and becoming more strident at the Paris climate summit, it is clear that the era of managing and disclosing a corporation’s exposure to climate risk has arrived. Nothing could have sent a clearer signal to the business community—Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, announced the establishment of the new Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures at COP21 in Paris. Their chief aim will be to evaluate how well the financial markets disclose their exposure to climate risk. Carney commented that this effort was in response to the current “market failure” of providing appropriate information to investors, insurers and lenders. Corporate leaders are realizing with stark clarity that a changing climate will have profound effects on business. Companies will continue to act with increasing velocity in 2016 to not only manage for risk but to monitor for opportunity.

4. Addressing climate change will play a larger role in federal decision-making and political platforms in 2016.

With the energy created by the COP21 gathering in Paris still buzzing around us, a presidential campaign well underway and a little more than a year left for members of the Obama Administration to leave their full mark on history, it seems clear that 2016 will be a year of climate action. Obama’s Clean Power Plan and his recent rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline paint a clear picture of how the 44th president wants to be remembered with respect to climate change. In June 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will take additional steps to integrate climate change adaptation into its programs and operations. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has a little over a year left to make good on this promise. The Democratic candidates for president have also clearly indicated that climate change is an important part of their respective campaigns. On a state level, California is working to extend the Global Warming Solutions Act beyond the current 2020 deadline with major decisions expected in 2016. Legislators in Oregon are hoping to implement a similar cap-and-trade program. In the Northeast, states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are also seeing success—A Duke University led study suggests that emissions would have been 24 percent higher without the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and an article published by the Energy Collective claims that early adoption of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative puts northeastern states ahead of the curve with respect to Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

5. U.S. carbon market linkage will increase as states prepare for the Clean Power Plan.

The final draft of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan was released in 2015, with 24 states filing a lawsuit against the plan questioning EPA’s authority. The lawsuit is unlikely to succeed. In fact, many of the states involved in the lawsuit are still drafting compliance plans. 24 other states launched a countersuit in support of the plan and George Bush’s EPA chief reminds the states that EPA’s authority has been upheld by the Supreme Court twice before. The plan allows states to choose a mass or rate based approach to compliance. Many states will likely elect a mass based approach, because it allows for interstate trading, making compliance efforts more efficient. New York Gov. Cuomo announced October 2015 that the state would explore the possibility of linking the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—a cap and trade program comprised of nine Northeastern states—and the California/Quebec program, as these programs will likely be leveraged to comply with the Clean Power Plan. New Jersey is seeking to re-enter RGGI after Christie elected to remove the state from the initiative. We anticipate that in 2016, the opposition to the plan will fail, states will seek a mass based approach to compliance and the use of carbon markets across the U.S. will grow as a result.

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6. Conservation finance will be spurred by divest/invest movement.

There has been a marked amount of movement in the finance arena. 2016 will see this turn to a flood coming out of the climate summit talks in Paris. The International Energy Agency has estimated that we need investment flows of $53 trillion by 2035 to mitigate the projected catastrophe of runaway climate change. The divest/invest effort has brought urgency to the need and we saw many major institutions, such as the World Council of Churches, California’s Public Employees Retirement System and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation all rise to the commitment to divest from fossil fuel as part of the transition to a clean energy future. DiCaprio’s divestment from his fossil fuel holdings has led to increased investment in renewable energy companies. To date, 430 institutions across 43 countries and representing $2.6 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies. Ahead of the Paris climate talks, we witnessed a fifty-fold increase in the combined assets of those entities pledging to divest from fossil fuels. The Climate Trust predicts that this momentum will gain significantly in 2016. The divestment movement is providing a vital market signal to support the needed flows of conservation finance. These divestment dollars will continue to seek out a home investing in a low carbon economy that includes renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart agriculture, clean transportation and forestry.

7. New legislation in 2016 will extend California’s cap-and-trade system to 2030 or beyond.

California’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets currently end in 2020. Existing legislation gives the California Air Resources Board the authority to continue to enforce the 2020 emissions target (a return to 1990 emissions), even after 2020. However, without new legislation ARB cannot require deeper cuts beyond this 2020 target. California is working now to create new, more stringent emission reductions targets for 2030 and 2050. In April 2015, Gov. Brown issued Executive Order B-30-15, which solidified this commitment by calling for a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 levels by 2030. With the cap-and-trade system as the backbone of California’s strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the continuation of their successful system will be essential to meeting these goals. As mandated by this executive order, the California Air Resources Board is currently developing a scoping plan to meet these 2030 emission reduction goals. New legislation is needed to give the board the statutory authority to solidify the 2030 and 2050 emission reduction requirements in an extended cap-and-trade system. Senate Bill 32, authored by Sen. Pavley, proposed to give the California Air Resources Board this authority. It codified 2030, 2040 and 2050 emission reduction targets. On Sept. 13, 2015, the bill failed to pass the Senate floor after being read for a third time and Sen. Pavley announced she would present the bill again in 2016. We predict that 2016 is the year in which these new targets will be captured in legislation and any uncertainty about the future of California’s cap and trade system will be significantly reduced. Stacy Swann of Climate Finance Advisors, LLC, said:

“There really is a transformation afoot. Not only is there momentum around the issue of divestment out of fossil based energy and a surge in renewable investment, but there is also a growing recognition that finance must incorporate climate risk considerations. This means that all investments—from buildings to roads to hospitals and schools–need to build-in resilience. This is a huge opportunity for orienting the entire financial system to become more sustainable and climate-friendly in both the short and long-term.”

8. The tight spread between California carbon allowances and California carbon offsets will continue.

The California Carbon market took a surprising turn in 2015. California carbon offsets, which have historically been valued at a 25 to 30 percent discount to California carbon allowances, shot up in the latter half of the year to a discounted value of 10 to 15 percent. A big reason behind the reduced spread was the Nov. 2, 2015 deadline for compliance companies to surrender offsets and allowances to demonstrate compliance with the first compliance period reduction target. The big question going into 2016 is whether this tight spread will continue or dissipate, as the second compliance period surrender deadline isn’t until late 2018. Despite the availability of allowances, offsets will show some staying power in 2016, as compliance buyers continue to search for lower cost compliance options. With offset supply forecasted to remain below the 8 percent limit, offsets that are issued and tradable in 2016 should expect to obtain prices that have a discount in the mid-teens range relative to allowances.

“One of the main factors contributing to this tight spread is the longer than expected lead time to verify and receive issued offsets through the Air Resources Board process,” Chandan Kumar of Californiacarbon.info, said. “Therefore, this trend is expected to continue until the volume of projects increases, while the lead time for verification and issuance falls.”

9. California will lead the way in using shorter-term global warming potential (GWP) values.

As the effects of climate change are increasingly felt and action is demanded, there is an increased focus on “short lived climate pollutants” like methane. To compare methane to the heat-trapping ability of carbon dioxide, it is assigned a global warming potential (GWP) or equivalency value for the amount of warming compared to carbon dioxide. Because methane has a short lifetime in the atmosphere and carbon dioxide has a very long one, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishes different GWPs for different time periods. Recent data shows that over a 100-year period, methane causes 28 times as much warming as carbon dioxide. Compared over 20 years, however, methane is 84 times as potent. It is up to regulators and policy-makers to decide which time period is the most appropriate to use for comparison. This is a subjective judgement, trading off how to weigh the impact of warming in the short term versus warming in the future. The 100-year GWPs are by far the most commonly used—in California’s cap-and-trade offset protocols, in the inventory for reporting the U.S.’ GHG emissions and throughout the Kyoto Protocol and other emerging international agreements. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change writes, “there is no scientific argument for selecting 100 years compared with other choices” and California is intelligently beginning to question this paradigm. The Climate Trust predicts that in 2016 policy makers and regulators become increasingly aware of this nuance and begin to use GWPs with shorter time periods. A shift to 20 year GWPs could have a massive impact on the trust’s ability to invest in projects. Offset protocols currently use the outdated 1995 100-year global warming potential for methane: 21. Updating protocols to use the current 20-year GWP, 84, would immediately quadruple the number of offset credits livestock digesters generate every year. Even with these outdated GWPs on the conservative 100-year time frame, carbon credits for the avoided methane emissions of digesters currently make up 20 percent of the revenue of projects. By quadrupling this revenue, many more of the potential digesters in this country could be quickly built.

10. The volume of forestry carbon offsets will continue to significantly increase in the California cap-and-trade program.

Forest project offsets were the most rapidly growing project type in the California compliance market in 2015. As of December 2015, ozone depleting substances, livestock and mine methane capture consist of 12,957,201 (aout 38 percent) of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) offset credits issued. U.S. forests constitute 20,933,016 (or 62 percent) of the issued offsets, approximately double that of all other project types combined. The Climate Trust expects this trend to continue in 2016. There are still several Early Action Eligible Projects in the queue to be reviewed and potentially approved by ARB staff. These projects, which have been approved by voluntary registries for greenhouse gas reductions that occurred between January 2005 and December 2014, will add a significant number of offsets to the market in 2016. The cap-and-trade regulation requires that early action projects be reviewed and approved by ARB by August 2016. In addition, ARB adopted new Common Practice Values for all U.S. Assessment Areas on Nov. 2, 2015. More than 65 new forestry projects were listed as potential ARB compliance projects before this date in order to make use of the older Common Practice Values, which in many instances are lower and thus more favorable for many projects. This includes more than 35 projects with Climate Action Reserve and more than 30 with American Carbon Registry. Not all of these projects will move forward, but it will be an option if the landowner decides the economic benefit is worthwhile. These newly listed projects will increase the offset volume from forestry projects in 2016 as well. In late October 2015, ARB staff held a public workshop to present a white paper on the possibility of including international sector-based offsets in California’s cap-and-trade program. While ARB has not yet approved these offsets for use to meet compliance obligations under AB 32, ARB staff have presented a compelling argument for why Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) offsets should be allowed for the third compliance period starting in 2017. Despite the challenge of ensuring that these offsets meet the same standards as CCOs, the trust expects that ARB staff will establish the framework by which REDD offsets can be approved for compliance in the state’s cap-and-trade program in 2016.

“In 2015, a number of our predictions came to fruition, including increased public sentiment and political will around the impacts of climate change, the extension of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program and approval of a new compliance offset protocol for rice cultivation projects,” Sheldon Zakreski, director of risk management for The Climate Trust, said. In late 2015, the trust was awarded a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to build an innovative conservation investment fund for biogas, forestry and grassland conservation projects; offering a tremendous opportunity to cost-effectively mitigate and sequester carbon emissions.

For a full accounting for how The Climate Trust measured up to our 2015 predictions, take a look at our hindsight assessment from Executive Director Sean Penrith.

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Brazilians living in The Netherlands organized a demonstration in solidarity with rainforest protectors and against the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro on Sept. 1 in The Hague, Netherlands. Romy Arroyo Fernandez / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Tara Smith

Fires in the Brazilian Amazon have jumped 84 percent during President Jair Bolsonaro's first year in office and in July 2019 alone, an area of rainforest the size of Manhattan was lost every day. The Amazon fires may seem beyond human control, but they're not beyond human culpability.

Bolsonaro ran for president promising to "integrate the Amazon into the Brazilian economy". Once elected, he slashed the Brazilian environmental protection agency budget by 95 percent and relaxed safeguards for mining projects on indigenous lands. Farmers cited their support for Bolsonaro's approach as they set fires to clear rainforest for cattle grazing.

Bolsonaro's vandalism will be most painful for the indigenous people who call the Amazon home. But destruction of the world's largest rainforest may accelerate climate change and so cause further suffering worldwide. For that reason, Brazil's former environment minister, Marina Silva, called the Amazon fires a crime against humanity.

From a legal perspective, this might be a helpful way of prosecuting environmental destruction. Crimes against humanity are international crimes, like genocide and war crimes, which are considered to harm both the immediate victims and humanity as a whole. As such, all of humankind has an interest in their punishment and deterrence.

Historical Precedent

Crimes against humanity were first classified as an international crime during the Nuremberg trials that followed World War II. Two German Generals, Alfred Jodl and Lothar Rendulic, were charged with war crimes for implementing scorched earth policies in Finland and Norway. No one was charged with crimes against humanity for causing the unprecedented environmental damage that scarred the post-war landscapes though.

Our understanding of the Earth's ecology has matured since then, yet so has our capacity to pollute and destroy. It's now clear that the consequences of environmental destruction don't stop at national borders. All humanity is placed in jeopardy when burning rainforests flood the atmosphere with CO₂ and exacerbate climate change.

Holding someone like Bolsonaro to account for this by charging him with crimes against humanity would be a world first. If successful, it could set a precedent which might stimulate more aggressive legal action against environmental crimes. But do the Amazon fires fit the criteria?

Prosecuting crimes against humanity requires proof of widespread and systematic attacks against a civilian population. If a specific part of the global population is persecuted, this is an affront to the global conscience. In the same way, domestic crimes are an affront to the population of the state in which they occur.

When prosecuting prominent Nazis in Nuremberg, the US chief prosecutor, Robert Jackson, argued that crimes against humanity are committed by individuals, not abstract entities. Only by holding individuals accountable for their actions can widespread atrocities be deterred in future.

The International Criminal Court's Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has promised to apply the approach first developed in Nuremberg to prosecute individuals for international crimes that result in significant environmental damage. Her recommendations don't create new environmental crimes, such as "ecocide", which would punish severe environmental damage as a crime in itself. They do signal, however, a growing appreciation of the role that environmental damage plays in causing harm and suffering to people.

The International Criminal Court was asked in 2014 to open an investigation into allegations of land-grabbing by the Cambodian government. In Cambodia, large corporations and investment firms were being given prime agricultural land by the government, displacing up to 770,000 Cambodians from 4m hectares of land. Prosecuting these actions as crimes against humanity would be a positive first step towards holding individuals like Bolsonaro accountable.

But given the global consequences of the Amazon fires, could environmental destruction of this nature be legally considered a crime against all humanity? Defining it as such would be unprecedented. The same charge could apply to many politicians and business people. It's been argued that oil and gas executives who've funded disinformation about climate change for decades should be chief among them.

Charging individuals for environmental crimes against humanity could be an effective deterrent. But whether the law will develop in time to prosecute people like Bolsonaro is, as yet, uncertain. Until the International Criminal Court prosecutes individuals for crimes against humanity based on their environmental damage, holding individuals criminally accountable for climate change remains unlikely.

This story originally appeared in The Conversation. It is republished here as part of EcoWatch's partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Author, social activist and filmmaker Naomi Klein speaking on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20, 2018. Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Natalie Hanman

Why are you publishing this book now?

I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face. A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans. These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.

The book collects essays from the last decade, have you changed your mind about anything?

When I look back, I don't think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left. It's more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, that's always looking to split the difference. But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.

What's stopping the left doing this?

In a North American context, it's the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits. You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal – they are coming after your hamburgers! It cuts to the heart of the American dream – every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours. When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, we've got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage what's left, we've got to share equitably – it is a psychic attack. And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, we're not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits. And there aregoing to be benefits: we'll have more livable cities, we'll have less polluted air, we'll spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways. But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.

Do you feel encouraged by talk of the Green New Deal?

I feel a tremendous excitement and a sense of relief, that we are finally talking about solutions on the scale of the crisis we face. That we're not talking about a little carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme as a silver bullet. We're talking about transforming our economy. This system is failing the majority of people anyway, which is why we're in this period of such profound political destabilisation – that is giving us the Trumps and the Brexits, and all of these strongman leaders – so why don't we figure out how to change everything from bottom to top, and do it in a way that addresses all of these other crises at the same time? There is every chance we will miss the mark, but every fraction of a degree warming that we are able to hold off is a victory and every policy that we are able to win that makes our societies more humane, the more we will weather the inevitable shocks and storms to come without slipping into barbarism. Because what really terrifies me is what we are seeing at our borders in Europe and North America and Australia – I don't think it's coincidental that the settler colonial states and the countries that are the engines of that colonialism are at the forefront of this. We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism. We saw it in Christchurch, we saw it in El Paso, where you have this marrying of white supremacist violence with vicious anti-immigrant racism.

That is one of the most chilling sections of your book: I think that's a link a lot of people haven't made.

This pattern has been clear for a while. White supremacy emerged not just because people felt like thinking up ideas that were going to get a lot of people killed but because it was useful to protect barbaric but highly profitable actions. The age of scientific racism begins alongside the transatlantic slave trade, it is a rationale for that brutality. If we are going to respond to climate change by fortressing our borders, then of course the theories that would justify that, that create these hierarchies of humanity, will come surging back. There have been signs of that for years, but it is getting harder to deny because you have killers who are screaming it from the rooftops.

One criticism you hear about the environment movement is that it is dominated by white people. How do you address that?

When you have a movement that is overwhelmingly representative of the most privileged sector of society then the approach is going to be much more fearful of change, because people who have a lot to lose tend to be more fearful of change, whereas people who have a lot to gain will tend to fight harder for it. That's the big benefit of having an approach to climate change that links it to those so called bread and butter issues: how are we going to get better paid jobs, affordable housing, a way for people to take care of their families?

I have had many conversations with environmentalists over the years where they seem really to believe that by linking fighting climate change with fighting poverty, or fighting for racial justice, it's going to make the fight harder. We have to get out of this "my crisis is bigger than your crisis: first we save the planet and then we fight poverty and racism, and violence against women". That doesn't work. That alienates the people who would fight hardest for change.

This debate has shifted a huge amount in the U.S. because of the leadership of the climate justice movement and because it is congresswomen of colour who are championing the Green New Deal. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaibcome from communities that have gotten such a raw deal under the years of neoliberalism and longer, and are determined to represent, truly represent, the interests of those communities. They're not afraid of deep change because their communities desperately need it.

In the book, you write: "The hard truth is that the answer to the question 'What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?' is: nothing." Do you still believe that?

In terms of the carbon, the individual decisions that we make are not going to add up to anything like the kind of scale of change that we need. And I do believe that the fact that for so many people it's so much more comfortable to talk about our own personal consumption, than to talk about systemic change, is a product of neoliberalism, that we have been trained to see ourselves as consumers first. To me that's the benefit of bringing up these historical analogies, like the New Deal or the Marshall Plan – it brings our minds back to a time when we were able to think of change on that scale. Because we've been trained to think very small. It is incredibly significant that Greta Thunberg has turned her life into a living emergency.

Yes, she set sail for the UN climate summit in New York on a zero carbon yacht ...

Exactly. But this isn't about what Greta is doing as an individual. It's about what Greta is broadcasting in the choices that she makes as an activist, and I absolutely respect that. I think it's magnificent. She is using the power that she has to broadcast that this is an emergency, and trying to inspire politicians to treat it as an emergency. I don't think anybody is exempt from scrutinising their own decisions and behaviours but I think it is possible to overemphasise the individual choices. I have made a choice – and this has been true since I wrote No Logo, and I started getting these "what should I buy, where should I shop, what are the ethical clothes?" questions. My answer continues to be that I am not a lifestyle adviser, I am not anyone's shopping guru, and I make these decisions in my own life but I'm under no illusion that these decisions are going to make the difference.

Some people are choosing to go on birth strikes. What do you think about that?

I'm happy these discussions are coming into the public domain as opposed to being furtive issues we're afraid to talk about. It's been very isolating for people. It certainly was for me. One of the reasons I waited as long as I did to try and get pregnant, and I would say this to my partner all the time – what, you want to have a Mad Max water warrior fighting with their friends for food and water? It wasn't until I was part of the climate justice movement and I could see a path forward that I could even imagine having a kid. But I would never tell anybody how to answer this most intimate of questions. As a feminist who knows the brutal history of forced sterilisation and the ways in which women's bodies become battle zones when policymakers decide that they are going to try and control population, I think that the idea that there are regulatory solutions when it comes to whether or not to have kids is catastrophically ahistorical. We need to be struggling with our climate grief together and our climate fears together, through whatever decision we decide to make, but the discussion we need to have is how do we build a world so that those kids can have thriving, zero-carbon lives?

Over the summer, you encouraged people to read Richard Powers's novel, The Overstory. Why?

It's been incredibly important to me and I'm happy that so many people have written to me since. What Powers is writing about trees: that trees live in communities and are in communication, and plan and react together, and we've been completely wrong in the way we conceptualise them. It's the same conversation we're having about whether we are going to solve this as individuals or whether we are going to save the collective organism. It's also rare, in good fiction, to valorise activism, to treat it with real respect, failures and all, to acknowledge the heroism of the people who put their bodies on the line. I thought Powers did that in a really extraordinary way.

What are you views on what Extinction Rebellion has achieved?

One thing they have done so well is break us out of this classic campaign model we have been in for a long time, where you tell someone something scary, you ask them to click on something to do something about it, you skip out the whole phase where we need to grieve together and feel together and process what it is that we just saw. Because what I hear a lot from people is, ok, maybe those people back in the 1930s or 40s could organise neighbourhood by neighbourhood or workplace by workplace but we can't. We believe we've been so downgraded as a species that we are incapable of that. The only thing that is going to change that belief is getting face to face, in community, having experiences, off our screens, with one another on the streets and in nature, and winning some things and feeling that power.

You talk about stamina in the book. How do you keep going? Do you feel hopeful?

I have complicated feelings about the hope question. Not a day goes by that I don't have a moment of sheer panic, raw terror, complete conviction that we are doomed, and then I do pull myself out of it. I'm renewed by this new generation that is so determined, so forceful. I'm inspired by the willingness to engage in electoral politics, because my generation, when we were in our 20s and 30s, there was so much suspicion around getting our hands dirty with electoral politics that we lost a lot of opportunities. What gives me the most hope right now is that we've finally got the vision for what we want instead, or at least the first rough draft of it. This is the first time this has happened in my lifetime. And also, I did decide to have kids. I have a seven year old who is so completely obsessed and in love with the natural world. When I think about him, after we've spent an entire summer talking about the role of salmon in feeding the forests where he was born in British Columbia, and how they are linked to the health of the trees and the soil and the bears and the orcas and this entire magnificent ecosystem, and I think about what it would be like to have to tell him that there are no more salmon, it kills me. So that motivates me. And slays me.

This story was originally published by The Guardian, and is republished here as part of the Covering Climate Now partnership to strengthen the media's focus on the climate crisis.

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