Goldman Sachs Is First U.S. Big Bank to Divest From Arctic Oil and Gas
Citing the importance of the Arctic's fragile ecosystem and its importance to indigenous populations, the investing giant said it will decline investing in any oil exploration in the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
"Oil development in the Arctic Circle is prone to harsh operating conditions, sea ice, permafrost coverage, and potential impacts to critical natural habitats for endangered species," Goldman Sachs said in its Environmental Policy Framework. "The unique and fragile ecosystems of the Arctic region also support the subsistence livelihoods of indigenous peoples groups that have populated certain areas in the region for centuries."
Goldman Sachs also said in its policy framework that it would not finance any new thermal coal mines or any mountaintop removal projects. It added that where it has already invested, it would work with companies to diversify their strategies and reduce their carbon emissions.
"Companies' diversification strategy and carbon emissions reduction initiatives will be a key consideration in our evaluation of future financings with the goal of helping their transition strategy," the Environmental Policy Framework says. "We will phase out our financing of thermal coal mining companies that do not have a diversification strategy within a reasonable timeframe."
Goldman Sachs follows a dozen global banks, based largely in Europe and Australia, that pledged not to finance Arctic oil and gas development in the arctic. Several of the policies mention Arctic National Wildlife Refuge specifically, as NPR reported. Goldman is the first U.S. headquartered bank to make the same promise, as CNN reported.
"Goldman Sachs's updated policy shows that US banks can draw red lines on oil and gas, and now other major US banks, especially JPMorgan Chase – the world's worst banker of fossil fuels by a wide margin – must improve on what Goldman has done," said Jason Opeña Disterhoft, a climate and energy campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, which helped to lobby for the change, as The Guardian reported.
The move did win praise from environmental activists, including the Sierra Club, though it did not extend to fracking, which environmentalists had campaigned for. Nevertheless, the Sierra Club, which had lobbied Goldman Sachs to stop funding Arctic exploration, praised the bank's pledge.
"The Trump administration may not care about ignoring the will of the American people or trampling Indigenous rights, but a growing number of major financial institutions are making it clear that they do," said Ben Cushing, a Sierra Club campaign representative, as The Guardian reported. "We hope other American banks will follow their lead."
BREAKING: @GoldmanSachs just became the first major American bank to prohibit financing for new Arctic oil, thermal coal mining, and coal power projects worldwide! 👏👏 #DefundClimateChange https://t.co/y023bKh2Gr— Ben Cushing (@bmcushing) December 15, 2019
The divestment movement scored another large victory last week when insurance giant Liberty Mutual announced new policies that will see the company move away from protecting the coal industry. Liberty Mutual became the 18th global insurance company to put tighter restrictions on underwriting coal, according to the trade publication Property Casualty 360.
Liberty Mutual said it will no longer underwrite risk for companies where more than a quarter of their risk comes from coal, nor will it invest in the stock of companies that have more than 25 percent of their portfolio in coal, and it will phase out its coverage and its investments in any country that does not meet that threshold, according to a company statement.
"We are committed to being a responsible global corporate citizen with a focus on environmental sustainability, supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy and investing in companies that show proven progress in this evolution," said Francis Hyatt, the company's newly appointed Chief Sustainability Officer, in the statement. "We understand the shift from coal to clean energy is a journey and we recognize the role the insurance industry plays in supporting that evolution for our customers.
Activists welcomed the commitment from Liberty Mutual, but worried about the loopholes it created for itself.
"While Liberty Mutual's new policy sets out strong restrictions on insuring coal companies, it apparently does not rule out covering new coal-fired power plants or coal mines from companies with less than a 25 per cent stake in coal," said Elana Sulkshana, Rainforest Action Network's energy finance campaigner, in a statement, as Business Green reported. "This is a major loophole because, to keep warming below 1.5C, the science is clear that the climate cannot withstand any new coal projects."
"Liberty Mutual must strengthen its policy to clearly rule out insuring any new coal mines or power plants, fully phase out coal across all insurance and investment activities in line with 1.5 C, and stop insuring the destructive tar sands sector," she added.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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