ExxonMobil Lobbyist Tried to Water Down European Green Deal
The European commission's effort to transition the 27-country economic bloc from a high-carbon to a low-carbon emitter in a few decades received input from the fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil in the weeks prior to its passage, according to a watchdog that monitors lobbying activity, as The Guardian reported.
As Common Dreams reported, a report released last week by InfluenceMap revealed that Exxon lobbyists met with commission officials in November to request an extension of the Green Deal's carbon pricing policy, known as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), to tailpipe emissions.
The report revealed that just ahead of the December announcement of the Green Deal, Exxon lobbyists met with Frans Timmermans, a member of the commission's cabinet, after the company avoided penalties for failing to attend a hearing on climate denial, as the EU Observer reported.
"In the meeting, the lobbyist for ExxonMobil tried to stall an overhaul of the transportation sector. ExxonMobil representatives pushed for the EU Commission to change its approach to climate regulation in the transport sector, including removing the EU's strict CO2 vehicle tailpipe standards, in what appears to have been an effort to stall a push towards electric vehicles. A direct extract from the meeting notes indicate the un-named ExxonMobil officials argued that the EU should: 'Give serious consideration to extending ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) beyond stationary sources. Tail pipe emission legislation should be substituted with power plant to wheel emission regulation.'"
According to The Guardian, the maneuver aimed to tamp down knowledge about the carbon footprint of driving a combustion engine running on fossil fuels. And the lobbying effort seems to have worked, since the European Commission did not include plans to phase out combustion engines. It also did not include cars running on fossil fuels in its carbon-pricing plan.
Furthermore, the move aims to create unrest that would be politically unfeasible. The only way for a carbon-pricing plan for tailpipe emissions to be influential is for it to make greenhouse gas emissions very expensive. Yet, that type of action that transfers costs to consumers has been the bedrock of protests like the Yellow Vests protests in France, which stemmed from a proposed tax on diesel and gasoline, as the EU Observer reported.
Edward Collins, a director at InfluenceMap, said the document "represents yet another evidence piece" of ExxonMobil's efforts to protect its profits by thwarting meaningful regulatory action and shifting the focus to long-term technical solutions, as The Guardian reported.
The lack of decisive and meaningful regulatory actions that would change the transportation sector and the energy infrastructure of Europe in the immediate future drew the ire of climate activists, as EcoWatch reported. The Green Deal requires that European countries reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which many scientists say is too late to stop the climate crisis.
"Net zero emissions by 2050' for the EU equals surrender. It means giving up," Greta Thunberg and 33 other youth climate activists wrote in an open letter published Tuesday and reported by Reuters. "We don't just need goals for just 2030 or 2050. We, above all, need them for 2020 and every following month and year to come."
As Common Dreams pointed out:
"Exxon's attempt to further weaken the European Green Deal represents 'a shift from the propagation of climate science denial towards a range of more subtle tactics and narratives to distract policymakers and the public away from an urgent and robust policy intervention on climate on the scale recommended by the IPCC's 2018 special report on 1.5 [degrees Celsius] warming,' said InfluenceMap."
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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