Australia's love affair with fossil fuels has it setting new records for carbon emissions, year after year, and seeing a decline in renewable energy sources, according to new research from Ndevr Environmental, an emissions-tracking organization, as the Guardian reported.
Once again, Australia set a new record for its greenhouse gas emissions, which was fueled by electricity generation. The increasingly hot summers in Australia has created an insatiable appetite for power that requires electricity to run. According to Ndevr's research, there was an 8.2 percent increase in emissions from the electricity sector between the December and March quarters — largely due to air condition and cooling systems.
The research paper shows that emissions have increased for four consecutive years. Emissions for the year to March 2019 increased to 561 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, up from 554.5 million tons the previous year and 551.2 million tons in 2017, as the Guardian reported.
Fugitive emissions, the escaped gasses and vapors during manufacturing and mining, particularly from the liquid natural gas sector was another large contributor to the rise in emissions.
There is "a lot of work to be done around offsetting and reducing emissions from the liquid natural gas sector," said Matt Drum, Ndevr's managing director, as the Guardian reported. "That's offsetting particularly through land-use projects, but also energy efficiency. And whether the carbon capture and storage nut can be cracked for that sector is going to be really important."
The Ndevr report on Australia's current emissions follows a bleak analysis by Climate Analytics that found Australia is currently responsible for 5 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, but that number could rise to 17 percent by 2030, which is an extremely outsized share considering that Australia is home to only 0.3 percent of the world's population, as the New Daily reported.
"Australia is one of the highest per capita CO2 emitters in the world. On a per capita basis, Australia's carbon footprint, including exports, surpasses China by a factor of 9, the US by a factor of 4, and India by a factor of 37," Climate Analytics wrote in its research report, as Interesting Engineering reported.
Australia's current government is friendly to the fossil fuel industry, so it is reasonable to expect approval for most proposed coal developments and liquid natural gas projects in Western Australia. If those go through while other countries around the world implement policies to meet their requirements under the Paris climate agreement, then Australia will be responsible for nearly one-fifth of the world's carbon emissions.
"Australia is now the number one exporter of both coal and gas and we are scheduled to push that off the charts in the next 10 years. We are looking to become an emissions super-power," said Gavan McFadzean of the Australian Conservation Foundation, which funded the Climate Analytics study, as the Guardian reported. "We are fortunate to have many of our emissions counted elsewhere but that doesn't mean we're not responsible for them."
The trend of increasing emissions and opening up new coal mines and natural gas fields has conservationists alarmed. David Attenborough, the celebrated naturalist and host of the BBC Documentary Climate Change—The Facts, denounced the climate crisis deniers in power in Australia. "[It] is extraordinary because Australia is already facing having to deal with some of the most extreme manifestations of climate change," he said, as the Guardian reported.
Attenborough noted the bleached white sections of the Great Barrier Reef that died off due to rising sea temperatures and increased ocean acidity. He did not mention the sustained drought afflicting Australian farmers, nor the country's outbreak of wildfires, nor the record-breaking heat bearing down on Australia every summer.
"At the end of the day, participation in the emissions reduction fund is decreasing. Fewer projects, fewer contracts, less abatement," said Drum of the Australian Conservation Fund, who lamented his countries inaction to the Guardian. "Unless something happens, something significant, this government will just be presiding over quarter after quarter, year after year, of increasing emissions. It's as simple as that."
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By Mark Hertsgaard
The United Nations Secretary General says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what he calls the climate change "emergency."
"Governments always follow public opinion, everywhere in the world, sooner or later," Antonio Guterres said Tuesday in an interview with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets. Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, added, "We need to keep telling the truth to people and be confident that the political system, especially democratic political systems, will in the end deliver."
Guterres refused to comment on U.S. president Donald Trump and the Trump administration's hostility to climate action, but a CBS News poll released on September 15 found that 69 percent of Americans want the next president to take action, while 53 percent say such action is needed "right now." Guterres said that "it would be much better" if the U.S. was "strongly committed to climate action," just as it would be better if Asian countries [notably, China and Japan] stopped exporting coal plants. Until then, he said, "what I want is to have the whole society putting pressure on governments to understand they need to run faster. Because we are losing the race."
With six days remaining before the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23, the Secretary General cited the "fantastic leadership" of young activists as a leading example of how civil society can pressure governments to honor the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit temperature rise to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius and preferably to 1.5˚C. Recent election results across Europe—in which green parties gained significant public backing—also left Guterres optimistic that at next Monday's summit the European Union will announce that it promises to be "carbon neutral" by 2050, as the Paris Agreement mandates.
"Nature is angry," said Guterres, who recently returned from a visit to the Bahamas, where Hurricane Dorian unleashed what he called "total destruction." He further cited ferocious drought in Africa, melting glaciers, bleaching coral reefs, the hottest month in recorded history last July, and potential future sea level rise of 10 to 20 meters (33 to 66 feet) as evidence that, "You cannot play games with nature. Nature strikes back."
"Don't bring a speech—bring a plan," Guterres famously told heads of state and government in the months leading up to this summit, and it appears that only leaders who followed his instructions will be allowed to speak at the plenary session. To gain a slot, a country had to commit to doing one of three things, said UN officials: be carbon neutral by 2050; "significantly" increase how much it will cut emissions (or, in UN jargon, significantly strengthen its Nationally Determined Contribution); or make a "meaningful" pledge to the Green Climate Fund, a pool of money provided by wealthy countries to help developing countries leave fossil fuels behind and increase their resilience against climate disruption. UN officials expect that 60 to 70 countries will have made sufficiently solid commitments by next Monday that their leaders will be invited to outline their country's plans from the dais, with each leader granted a mere three minutes to speak.
While emphasizing that he had no desire to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Guterres spoke positively about a proposal by a leading Democratic candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, for a Green New Deal that would be global. Most of the leading Democratic presidential candidates endorse one form or another of the Green New Deal, a program in which the U.S. government would create millions of jobs by investing in solar power, energy efficiency, and other measures to reduce heat-trapping emissions. But a new report by The Nation pointed out that only Sanders's Green New Deal meets the scientific imperative of cutting global emissions by 45 percent by 2030 on the way to carbon neutrality by 2050. Sanders's Green New Deal does this by pledging not only to slash emissions in the U.S. but to help developing countries cut their emissions as well.
"The Paris Agreement was very clear," said Guterres. "There was a commitment by the developed countries to mobilize $100 billion per year, from private and public sources, to support the developing world both in mitigation [i.e., reducing emissions] and adaptation [preparing against impacts]. Obviously, it is essential that all countries, including the United States, play a role in relation to this."
Rich and poor countries have wrestled with the question of whether and how much financial assistance the rich should give the poor ever since governments first began debating the climate problem at the UN "Earth Summit" in 1992. The poorer countries argue that the rich countries' emissions are the foremost cause of global warming and climate disruption, while poor countries are the ones that suffer most from that disruption. Rich countries generally do not dispute those facts and have paid lip service to providing assistance, but actual contributions have been modest. The U.S., for example, has contributed only $1 billion, and the Trump administration blocked any additional contributions.
Guterres said in the interview Tuesday that "of course" he was aware of the global dimensions of Sanders' Green New Deal, and he added that, "Any attitude from a country like United States to increase… finance to the developing world would be of course welcome." As required by UN protocol, the Secretary General was careful to add, "That doesn't mean that we want to interfere in the American election."
As a former elected official himself, Guterres also emphasized the need for governments to show the public that climate protection need not mean economic hardship. The Secretary General advocates in particular for climate-smart tax reform: reducing taxes on people's incomes while increasing taxes on heat-trapping emissions. "If I [as a politician] take money from you with an increased carbon tax but I give you nothing in return, people will be against [it]," said Guterres. Although rarely described this way, corporate subsidies for production of fossil fuels are also a form of tax. "Let's be clear: Subsidies are paid with taxpayers' money," he said, adding with a smile, "I really do not like to see my money as a taxpayer going to bleach corals and melt glaciers."
Guterres disputed a common criticism of a Green New Deal—that it will cost too much—by turning the question around. "What is the cost of the consequences of taking no action?" he asked. Depending on what governments do at the Climate Action Summit next Monday, and are pressured to do by civil society in the weeks and years to come, the world may learn the answer to that question soon enough.
This story originally appeared in The Nation. 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.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
The government agency that manages Australia's Great Barrier Reef on Friday downgraded its outlook for the condition of the coral system from "poor" to "very poor."
"Significant global action to address climate change is critical to slowing the deterioration of the reef's ecosystem and heritage values and supporting recovery," said the five-year review of the world's largest coral reef system.
Bleaching and other factors
But the agency added that the threats to the 2,300-kilometer (1,400-mile) reef were "multiple, cumulative and increasing."
Agricultural runoff, coastal land clearing and coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish were also to blame for its woes, the report said.
GBRMPA's Chief Scientist David Wachenfeld told reporters in Sydney that despite the threat, "with the right mix of local actions to improve the resilience of the system and global actions to tackle climate change ... we can turn that around."
Located off the northeast Australian coast, the Great Barrier Reef is home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusks.
Scientists have been concerned about the health of the coral network for decades. In 2012, a study found the reef has lost more than half its coral cover since 1985.
A 2017 study published in the journal Nature found that 91 percent of the reef had been bleached at least once during three bleaching events of the past two decades.
A fourth significant bleaching struck later in 2017 after the report was published.
Australia: Mining prioritized
Australia's conservative government has faced criticism for favoring an expansion of its massive coal mining, the country's biggest export, over action to curb climate change.
New government data released this week showed that Australia's emissions of greenhouse gases, blamed for climate change, continued a four-year rising trend during the first half of 2019.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said she was not surprised by the downgrade given the damage done by recent cyclones and latest bleaching events.
But she insisted that the Great Barrier reef "is the best-managed reef in the world."
The Canberra government earlier this year announced a $380 million (€312 million) program to breed more resilient coral.
However, the downgrade has boosted calls for UNESCO to revoke the reef's status as a World Heritage site, which would be an embarrassment for the government.
The reef is estimated to be worth at least $4 billion a year to Australia's economy.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DW.
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By Jake Johnson
Calling the global climate crisis both the greatest threat facing the U.S. and the greatest opportunity for transformative change, Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled today a comprehensive Green New Deal proposal that would transition the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million well-paying union jobs over a decade.
"This is a pivotal moment in the history of America—and really, in the history of humanity," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement.
"When we are in the White House," said the Vermont senator, "we will launch the decade of the Green New Deal, a 10-year mobilization to avert climate catastrophe during which climate change, justice, and equity will be factored into virtually every area of policy, from immigration to trade to foreign policy and beyond."
The climate crisis is the greatest challenge facing humanity. It's also our single greatest opportunity to build a… https://t.co/VZzLl4an67— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1566471600.0
Sanders' plan for an aggressive 10-year mobilization to combat the climate emergency comes amid warnings from the international scientific community that global greenhouse gas emissions must be slashed in half by 2030 to avert planetary catastrophe.
Across the world, Sanders noted on his website, there is an overwhelming abundance of evidence testifying to the severity of the climate crisis and the urgent need for bold action.
"The Amazon rainforest is burning, Greenland's ice shelf is melting, and the Arctic is on fire," Sanders wrote. "People across the country and the world are already experiencing the deadly consequences of our climate crisis, as extreme weather events like heat waves, wildfires, droughts, floods, and hurricanes upend entire communities, ecosystems, economies, and ways of life, as well as endanger millions of lives."
To confront the emergency, Sanders' Green New Deal plan would:
- Reach "100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization by at least 2050"
- Invest $16.3 trillion in creating 20 million jobs, developing sustainable infrastructure and supporting vulnerable frontline communities
- Assist international efforts to reduce carbon emissions by providing $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund and rejoining the Paris climate accord
- Ban fracking, mountaintop removal coal mining and imports and exports of fossil fuels
- "Prosecute and sue the fossil fuel industry for the damage it has caused"
- Ensure a fair and just transition for workers currently employed by the fossil fuel industry.
According to the Sanders campaign, the senator's plan would "pay for itself over 15 years" by forcing the fossil fuel industry to "pay for their pollution," eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, slashing military spending that is dedicated to "maintaining global oil dependence," raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and more.
Read the full text of the campaign's Green New Deal plan here.
We need a president who will face down the greed of fossil fuel executives and the billionaire class who stand in t… https://t.co/j6zuxMxzto— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1566472454.0
"Bernie promises to go further than any other presidential candidate in history to end the fossil fuel industry's greed, including by making the industry pay for its pollution and prosecuting it for the damage it has caused," says the campaign's website.
"And most importantly," the website continues, "we must build an unprecedented grassroots movement that is powerful enough to take them on, and win. Young people, advocates, tribes, cities and states all over this country have already begun this important work, and we will continue to follow their lead."
Jack Shapiro, senior climate campaigner with Greenpeace USA, said, "If fossil fuel executives and lobbyists reading Sanders' plan are scared, they should be."
"Sanders has talked the talk on climate change from day one of his campaign. This plan shows he's ready to walk the walk, as well," Shapiro said in a statement. "At this point in the race, speeches and half-measures don't cut it."
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Action, applauded Sanders' proposal as a "game-changer."
"With this aggressive and inspired plan, Senator Sanders has set a clear benchmark for meaningful climate and energy policy in the presidential race and beyond," said Hauter. "This plan includes the bold action and rapid timelines required to adequately address the magnitude of the climate crisis we face."
"Most importantly," Hauter added, "this plan would ban fracking, the toxic, polluting drilling method responsible for almost all oil and gas production in America today. Any serious plan to address climate chaos must start with a ban on fracking and a halt to all new fossil fuel development. Senator Sanders understands this, and he has set the bar for worthwhile climate policy discussion, here and abroad."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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The desert of Australia's Northern Territory has the iconic Ayers Rock, but not much else. Soon, it may be known as home to the world's largest solar farm, according to the Guardian.
The massive project outside Tennant Creek will cost about $20 billion and offer a construction boon to solar power developers while also changing the face of Australia's energy industry.
The current plans for the project, known as Sun Cable, call for a 10-gigawatt-capacity array of solar panels that will spread across 37,000 acres. It will be backed up by battery storage to make sure it can supply power 24-hours a day. Electrical lines will then send the electricity to Darwin, powering the small city at the top of Australia. Yet, the vast majority of the energy will travel through an undersea cable that snakes through Indonesia to Singapore, as the Guardian reported.
The group behind Sun Cable says the solar farm will capture "one of the best solar radiance reserves on the planet" and provide 20 percent of Singapore's electricity, replacing its gas-fired power.
"It is extraordinary technology that is going to change the flow of energy between countries. It is going to have profound implications and the extent of those implications hasn't been widely identified," said David Griffin, managing director of Singaporean developer Sun Cable, as PV Magazine Australia reported. "If you have the transmission of electricity over very large distances between countries, then the flow of energy changes from liquid fuels — oil and liquid natural gas — to electrons. Ultimately, that's a vastly more efficient way to transport energy. The incumbents just won't be able to compete."
Assuming the project passes muster after an environmental review, Sun Cable will start construction in 2023 with commercial operations to start in 2027. The project will employ Australian businesses and personnel and could create thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs in the sparsely populated Northern Territory.
So far, the project has been embraced by the local government and enticed investors, including software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who is considering involvement through his Grok Ventures private investment firm, according to the Guardian.
The Sun Cable projects follows an equally ambitious project in a dry, dusty part of Western Australia, where developers want to build a hybrid wind and solar plant to power local industries.
"To our knowledge, it's the largest wind-solar hybrid in the world," said Andrew Dickson, project developer, at the proposed Asian Renewable Energy Hub, as the Guardian reported.
Furthermore, Indonesia-based Terregra Renewables has successfully commissioned its first Australian based solar farm in Southern Australia, according to Renew Economy.
"This will be the channel through which production of energy in Australia will greatly reduce emissions in the rest of the world. It will also be a foundation for a new era of economic expansion and prosperity," said Ross Garnaut, chairman of the Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, who champions Australia's potential as a clean energy leader, as the Guardian reported.
The push toward exporting renewables could help Australia meet its commitment to the Paris climate agreement, which is at risk if it continues its unfettered oil and natural gas exploration, as EcoWatch reported last week. Australia is the currently the world's biggest exporter of coal and rivals Qatar as the leader in selling liquefied natural gas.
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Kevin Frayer / Stringer / Getty Images
By Jessica Corbett
Even after the world's largest economies adopted the landmark Paris agreement to tackle the climate crisis in late 2015, governments continued to pour $77 billion a year in public finance into propping up the fossil fuel industry, according to a report released Wednesday.
The new report, from Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth (FOE) U.S., focuses on financing for oil, gas, and coal projects from members of the Group of 20 (G20), which comprises governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union.
Although U.S. President Donald Trump began the one-year withdrawal process for ditching the Paris accord in November 2019 after years of threats, other G20 nations remain committed to the agreement, which aims to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C (35.6 F) and further limit it to 1.5°C (34.7 F) by 2100.
Despite their public commitments to the Paris agreement, "G20 countries continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry even as it makes bad business decisions that hurt people and the planet," FOE U.S. senior international policy analyst Kate DeAngelis said in a statement.
"Our planet is hurtling towards climate catastrophe and these countries are pouring gasoline on the fire to the tune of billions," she said. "We must hold G20 governments accountable for their promises to move countries toward clean energy. They have an opportunity to reflect and change their financing so that it supports clean energy solutions that will not exacerbate bad health outcomes and put workers at greater risk."
⚡⚡Just Released: Our new report w/ @FoE_US reveals G20 countries provided at least $77 billion a year in public fin… https://t.co/wizlSeXnRT— Oil Change International (@Oil Change International)1590534546.0
The new report—Still Digging: G20 Governments Continue to Finance the Climate Crisis (pdf)—warns that "with the health and livelihoods of billions at immediate risk from Covid-19, governments around the world are preparing public spending packages of a magnitude they previously deemed unthinkable."
In normal times, development finance institutions (DFIs), export credit agencies (ECAs), and multilateral development banks (MDBs) already had an outsized impact on the overall energy landscape and more capacity than their private sector peers to act on the climate crisis. In the current moment, their potential influence has multiplied, and it is imperative that they change course. The fossil fuel sector was showing long-term signs of systemic decline before Covid-19 and has been quick to seize on this crisis with requests for massive subsidies and bailouts. We cannot afford for the wave of public finance that is being prepared for relief and recovery efforts to prop up the fossil fuel industry as it has in the past. Business as usual would exacerbate the next crisis—the climate crisis—that is already on our doorstep.
As Oil Change International research analyst Bronwen Tucker put it: "Fossil fuel corporations know their days are numbered. Their lobbyists are using the Covid-19 crisis as cover to try to secure the massive new government handouts they need to survive."
Echoing recent calls from climate campaigners, advocacy groups, progressive policymakers, and healthcare professionals, the report urges G20 governments and multilateral development banks to support a global, just recovery to the coronavirus pandemic.
"Government money must instead support a just transition from fossil fuels that protects workers, communities, and the climate—both at home and beyond their borders," said Tucker. "Instead of bankrolling another major crisis—climate change—our governments should invest in a resilient future."
Based on information from Oil Change International's Shift the Subsidies database, the report details financing from public institutions controlled by G20 governments—DFIs, ECAs, and MDBs. Key findings include that support for the fossil fuel industry has "stayed steady" since the Paris agreement and ECAs are "the worst public finance actors."
"Most of this fossil fuel finance flowed to wealthier countries," the report says, noting that China, Canada, Japan, and Korea provided the most public finance for dirty energy projects from 2016 to 2018.
New research from @PriceofOil & @foe_us shows Canada has the 2nd highest public finance for fossil fuels in the G20… https://t.co/CC21WVmLhZ— EnvironmentalDefence (@EnvironmentalDefence)1590583080.0
Still Digging examines just one way these nations support planet-wrecking oil, gas, and coal projects, acknowledging that "unlike the 2017 version of this report, Talk is Cheap, it does not include public finance directly from G20 government departments due to a gross lack of transparency."
The report also doesn't cover "majority government-owned banks without a clear policy mandate, sovereign wealth funds, or public finance institutions with subnational governance," or "subsidies to fossil fuel production at the national level in G20 state budgets, which previous analysis has indicated may provide an additional $80 billion per year in support to fossil fuel production."
However, Still Digging suggests that G20 public finance institutions—as entities owned by governments party to the Paris accord—could be catalysts for more climate-friendly financing decisions "due to their economic and political power."
"Private and public financial investors alike will need to shift rapidly," the report says, "but the role of public institutions is unique because of both their outsized influence on energy finance and their capacity and mandate to lead on climate action."
📖New Report📖: As #G20 governments spend historic levels of public finance on #COVID19 stimulus, our new report w/… https://t.co/bw8awZru86— Oil Change International (@Oil Change International)1590593856.0
More than 30 groups from across the globe endorsed the report—including Justica Ambiental, or FOE Mozambique, which has worked to raise alarm about international public finance supporting the expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in southern African country.
"It is unacceptable that such a high investment, which will provide billions of profits for foreign companies like Total, is contributing to the impoverishment and oppression of already vulnerable local communities," said Justica Ambiental director Anabela Lemos.
"Peasant and fishing families have lost their livelihoods for a lifetime," Lemos added. "The discovery of gas has stolen their identity and failed to provide them with the conditions stipulated in the so-called community consultation processes."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Germany's target for renewable energy sources to deliver 65% of its consumed electricity by 2030 seemed on track Wednesday, with 52% of electricity coming from renewables in 2020's first quarter. Renewable energy advocates, however, warned the trend is imperiled by slowdowns in building new wind and solar plants.
The federal BDEW energy and water federation and Baden-Württemberg state's ZSW solar and hydro research center observed a 7% percent renewables jump from 44.4% in the same period last year, in comparison to fossil fuel consumption.
Wind, especially offshore wind turbines, solar panels and other sources generated 77 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) compared to 67 kWh in the first quarter of 2019.
The 7% jump in renewables came despite conventional plant closures and pandemic impacts on industry, officials said, while also noting "special effects" such as record winds in February and plentiful sun in March that benefited turbines and voltaic panels.
That trend could, however, not be extrapolated for the whole of 2020, warned the BDEW and ZSW, pointing to local objectors and current investor indecision.
Some residents, arguing on health and scenic grounds, resist the building of more wind turbines and the laying of extra arterial power lines to transmit electricity captured at North Sea wind farms to Germany's industrial south.
The record figures stand in contrast to investment deterrents, which if not quickly removed would make Germany's target of 65% self-sufficiency unreachable, said BDEW head Kerstin Andreae.
Germany's pandemic-induced economic woes compounded the situation, Andreae added.
Given the current downturn, ZSW executive board member Frithjof Staiss contended that investors would turn to renewable energy projects that were less fraught with risk than the current "volatile share market."
The renewables record, noted the BDEW and ZSW, was achieved despite the shutdown of Germany's Philippsburg 2 nuclear power plant at the end of 2019 and the placing of brown coal power plants on standby to cover emergencies.
Using another measure, gross electricity produced, the two groups calculated that with exported electricity included in their calculation, renewable sources made up 49% of Germany's gross electricity production in the first quarter of the year.
Reposted with permission from DW.
Financial companies are increasingly being recognized — by their clients, shareholders, regulators, and the general public — as climate actors, with a responsibility to mitigate their climate impact. For the banks highlighted in this report, the last year has brought a groundswell of activism demanding banks cut their fossil fuel financing, at the same time that increasingly extreme weather events have further underscored the urgency of the climate crisis. Nevertheless, the report reveals that the business practices of the world's major private-sector banks continue to drive us toward climate disaster.
Adding up lending and underwriting from 35 private-sector banks to the fossil fuel industry, this report finds that Canadian, Chinese, European, Japanese, and U.S. banks have financed fossil fuels with $2.7 trillion since the Paris agreement was adopted (2016-2019), with financing on the rise each year. The report finds that fossil fuel financing continues to be dominated by the big U.S. banks — JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America — together, these four banks account for a staggering 30 percent of all fossil fuel financing from the 35 major global banks since the Paris agreement was adopted.
Also examined are the banks' support for 100 top fossil fuel companies that are expanding fossil fuels, given that there is no room for new fossil fuels in the world's carbon budget. Banks continued to support these companies with $975 billion in the last four years. Despite the urgent need to immediately halt all fossil fuel expansion, financing for these top 100 expanders skyrocketed 40 percent from 2018 to 2019.
The report card also assesses bank policy and practice around financing in certain key fossil fuel subsectors, with league tables and policy grades on:
- Tar Sands Oil: The biggest bankers of tar sands — the Canadian banks, led by TD and RBC, plus JPMorgan Chase and Barclays — all lack policies restricting their financing to this subsector.
- Arctic Oil and Gas: 2019 saw a slew of bank policies restricting financing primarily for project financing in the Arctic. But overall, bank financing to top Arctic oil and gas companies has gone up every year since Paris
- Offshore Oil and Gas: This year's report looks not just at ultra-deepwater oil and gas, but rather all offshore oil and gas, where the biggest bankers since Paris are JPMorgan Chase, Citi, and BNP Paribas.
- Fracked Oil and Gas: Fracking financing is dominated by the U.S. banks: JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Citi. Only a handful of banks, all European, have begun to place significant restrictions on financing for fracked oil and gas.
- Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)?: Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase are the world's biggest bankers since Paris of top companies building LNG import and export terminals, but Mizuho was biggest in 2019.
- Coal Mining: China Construction Bank and Bank of China are the biggest bankers of coal mining, while French banks Credit Mutuel and Credit Agricole have the strongest policy scores.
- Coal Power: This is the area where bank policy scores are strongest overall; yet funding for top coal power producers is not dropping rapidly enough. Financing is led by ICBC and Bank of China, with Citi as the top non-Chinese banker of coal power.
In this new decade, the climate emergency is clearer than ever, with emissions cuts of almost 5 percent necessary by 2030 if we are to have a coin-flip chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. To align their policies and practices with a world that limits global warming to 1.5°C and fully respects human rights, and Indigenous rights in particular, banks must:
- Explicitly acknowledge the central role of the fossil fuel industry as the major driver of climate breakdown, as well as the banks' own role in financing this sector.
- Prohibit all financing for all fossil fuel expansion projects and companies expanding fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure (such as plants and pipelines).
- Commit to phase out all financing for fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure, on an explicit timeline that is aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
- Phase out financing for existing projects and companies active in tar sands oil, Arctic oil and gas, offshore oil and gas, fracked oil and gas, liquefied natural gas, coal mining, and coal power, with ending financing for expansion of these subsectors as an urgent first step.
- Fully respect all human rights, particularly the rights of Indigenous peoples, including their rights to their water and lands and the right to free, prior, and informed consent, as articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.156 Prohibit all financing for projects and companies that abuse human rights, including Indigenous rights.
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By Robert Reich
Both our economy and the environment are in crisis. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few while the majority of Americans struggle to get by. The climate crisis is worsening inequality, as those who are most economically vulnerable bear the brunt of flooding, fires and disruptions of supplies of food, water and power.
At the same time, environmental degradation and climate change are themselves byproducts of widening inequality. The political power of wealthy fossil fuel corporations has stymied action on climate change for decades. Focused only on maximizing their short-term interests, those corporations are becoming even richer and more powerful — while sidelining workers, limiting green innovation, preventing sustainable development and blocking direct action on our dire climate crisis.
Make no mistake: the simultaneous crisis of inequality and climate is no fluke. Both are the result of decades of deliberate choices made and policies enacted, by ultra-wealthy and powerful corporations.
We can address both crises by doing four things:
First, create green jobs. Investing in renewable energy could create millions of family sustaining, union jobs and build the infrastructure we need for marginalized communities to access clean water and air. The transition to a renewable energy-powered economy can add 550,000 jobs each year while saving the U.S. economy $78 billion through 2050. In other words, a Green New Deal could turn the climate crisis into an opportunity — one that both addresses the climate emergency and creates a fairer and more equitable society.
Second, stop dirty energy. A massive investment in renewable energy jobs isn't enough to combat the climate crisis. If we are going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must tackle the problem at its source: Stop digging up and burning more oil, gas and coal.
The potential carbon emissions from these fossil fuels in the world's currently developed fields and mines would take us well beyond the 1.5°C increased warming that Nobel Prize winning global scientists tell us the planet can afford. Given this, it's absurd to allow fossil fuel corporations to start new dirty energy projects.
Even as fossil fuel companies claim to be pivoting toward clean energy, they are planning to invest trillions of dollars in new oil and gas projects that are inconsistent with global commitments to limit climate change. And over half of the industry's expansion is projected to happen in the United States. Allowing these projects means locking ourselves into carbon emissions we can't afford now, let alone in the decades to come.
Even if the U.S. were to transition to 100 percent renewable energy today, continuing to dig fossil fuels out of the ground will lead us further into climate crisis. If the U.S. doesn't stop now, whatever we extract will simply be exported and burned overseas. We will all be affected, but the poorest and most vulnerable among us will bear the brunt of the devastating impacts of climate change.
Third, kick fossil fuel companies out of our politics. For decades, companies like Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP have been polluting our democracy by pouring billions of dollars into our politics and bankrolling elected officials to enact policies that protect their profits. The oil and gas industry spent over $103 million on the 2016 federal elections alone. And that's just what they were required to report: that number doesn't include the untold amounts of "dark money" they've been using to buy-off politicians and corrupt our democracy. The most conservative estimates still put their spending at 10 times that of environmental groups and the renewable energy industry.
As a result, American taxpayers are shelling out $20 billion a year to bankroll oil and gas projects — a huge transfer of wealth to the top. And that doesn't even include hundreds of billions of dollars of indirect subsidies that cost every U.S. citizen roughly $2,000 a year. This has to stop.
And we've got to stop giving away public lands for oil and gas drilling. In 2018, under Trump, the Interior Department made $1.1 billion selling public land leases to oil and gas companies, an all-time record — triple the previous 2008 record, totaling more than 1.5 million acres for drilling alone, threatening multiple cultural sites and countless wildlife. As recently as last September, the Trump administration opened 1.56 million acres of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, threatening Indigenous cultural heritage and hundreds of species that call it home.
That's not all. The ban on exporting crude oil should be reintroduced and extended to other fossil fuels. The ban, in place for 40 years, was lifted in 2015, just days after the signing of the Paris climate agreement. After years of campaigning by oil executives, industry heads and their army of lobbyists, the fossil fuel industry finally got its way.
We can't wait for these changes to be introduced in 5 or 10 years time — we need them now.
Fourth, require the fossil fuel companies that have profited from environmental injustice compensate the communities they've harmed.
As if buying-off our democracy wasn't enough, these corporations have also deliberately misled the public for years on the amount of damage their products have been causing.
For instance, as early as 1977, Exxon's own scientists were warning managers that fossil fuel use would warm the planet and cause irreparable damage. In the 1980s, Exxon shut down its internal climate research program and shifted to funding a network of advocacy groups, lobbying arms and think tanks whose sole purpose was to cloud public discourse and block action on the climate crisis. The five largest oil companies now spend about $197 million a year on ad campaigns claiming they care about the climate — all the while massively increasing their spending on oil and gas extraction.
Meanwhile, millions of Americans, especially poor, Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, already have to fight to drink clean water and breathe clean air as their communities are devastated by climate-fueled hurricanes, floods and fires. As of 2015, nearly 21 million people relied on community water systems that violated health-based quality standards.
Going by population, that's essentially 200 Flint, Michigans, happening all at once. If we continue on our current path, many more communities run the risk of becoming "sacrifice zones," where citizens are left to survive the toxic aftermath of industrial activity with little, if any, help from the entities responsible for creating it.
Climate denial and rampant pollution are not victimless crimes. Fossil fuel corporations must be held accountable and be forced to pay for the damage they've wrought.
If these solutions sound drastic to you, it's because they are. They have to be if we have any hope of keeping our planet habitable. The climate crisis is not a far-off apocalyptic nightmare — it is our present day.
Australia's bushfires wiped out a billion animals, California's fire season wreaks more havoc every year, and record-setting storms are tearing through our communities like never before.
Scientists tell us we have 10 years left to dramatically reduce emissions. We have no room for meek half-measures wrapped up inside giant handouts to the fossil fuel industry.
We deserve a world without fossil fuels. A world in which workers and communities thrive and our shared climate comes before industry profits. Working together, I know we can make it happen. We have no time to waste.
Robert Reich, is the Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the the twentieth century. The author of many books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By John R. Platt
Both eyes open. Look for potential threats coming from all sides. Be prepared to change course at a moment's notice.
That's quickly become a life strategy at the dawn of this pandemic — which still seems like an alternate reality — as we carefully, nervously navigate our neighborhood sidewalks, lonely roads and outdoor trails.
It needs to be our larger strategy, too.
As we self-isolate, seeing our passing neighbors and even ourselves as potential disease vectors in the community, new threats have continued to emerge around us.
While many of us have been panic-watching the news for updates on the worldwide COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — already defanged by the Trump administration — quietly stopped enforcing antipollution laws, a dereliction of duty that came at the behest of the American Petroleum Institute and other industry leaders.
Meanwhile, also mostly hidden from public view, the Trump administration has moved forward on several oil, gas and mining lease auctions, approved construction of the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export terminal, hired a trophy-hunting advocate to run the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's international program, proposed allowing GMO crops in wildlife refuges, continued its move to reduce automotive fuel-efficiency standards, and weakened a host of other environmental regulations, including one on toxic coal ash.
Looking beyond the federal level, Kentucky, West Virginia and South Dakota all passed laws intended to criminalize protests against pipelines and other fossil-fuel infrastructure.
And then there are the disaster capitalists, who seek to take advantage of the chaos to make greater profits. The most obvious examples affecting consumers so far include price-gouging on N95 masks and toilet paper, but the bigger picture continues to emerge every day. To name but a few: the coal industry asking to be relieved of its responsibility to support miners with black-lung disease; the plastics industry looking to suspend bans on single-use bags; and corporations galore lining up for handouts through the federal coronavirus stimulus package.
There will be more. Probably, a lot more.
To protect ourselves — both from the virus and the corporate forces that want to use this pandemic as an opportunity to take control — we need take our modern survival strategy to the next level.
Both eyes open. Look for potential threats coming from all sides. Be prepared to change course at a moment's notice.
And when you see these novel injustices and threats emerge, shine a light on them and raise hell.
That means paying attention, safely engaging in every opportunity for participatory government, supporting nonprofit watchdogs and vital local and national journalism (which needs our help more than ever), and using social media and online tools to call out injustice and mobilize activism.
And keep an eye out for your neighbors, friends, family and colleagues. We need to step up to safely help people and systems in need every chance we get — and we shouldn't be afraid to ask for help if we need it.
It's easy to let fear overwhelm us and rule our lives. It's far, far harder to pay attention to the big picture while many of us are struggling, getting sick and even dying. But this pandemic isn't the only fight going on right now, and if we're not careful, we'll lose a lot more before it's over. Experts warn that fascists and other political strongmen have used pandemics to seize or consolidate power — something that's already happening in Hungary and several other nations. Many countries have already launched efforts to hobble freedom of the press — as has, apparently, the governor of the state of Florida.
Corporations and anti-government extremists are sure to take or advocate for similar actions.
If we're not careful through all of this, we'll undoubtedly lose many more lives, careers, protections, habitats and species.
But that can only happen if we fail to keep both eyes open, even in these troubling times.
John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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On average, around half of all early deaths from poor air quality in the U.S. are associated with pollution produced out-of-state, a new study has found.
The findings are especially concerning for New Yorkers: ozone and fine particulate matter from emitters in other states accounted for 60 percent of air pollution-related premature deaths, The New York Times reported, leading researchers to term the Empire State the "biggest importer of air pollution deaths." In 2018, that amounted to 3,800 deaths.
On the other hand, the largest "net exporters" of premature deaths were mostly located in the northern Midwest, such as Wyoming and North Dakota, which have lower populations but higher emissions.
"This situation is a bit like secondhand smoke, but on a national scale," study co-author Steven Barrett, director of the Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CNN. The researchers said estimates show between 90,000 and 360,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are linked to air pollution.
Experts have long been aware of air pollution's ability to spread far from its source. but this new study, published in Nature, is the first to model its spread and resulting health impacts according to its source, Bloomberg reported.
The researchers developed a computer model of winds and chemical reactions in the atmosphere to track the movement of pollution created by the power generation, aviation, rail, road transportation, commercial and residential sectors, and other sectors to and from all 48 contiguous states. The model included U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports and health data to track air pollution and effects for the years 2005, 2011 and 2018.
They found that after air pollution is created in one state, winds may carry as much as half of it across the border to another state hundreds of miles away, according to MIT News. A separate study in January found that even low levels of air pollution exposure can lead to deadly health effects.
The results did show some progress over the course of the study, however.
For instance, there were 30,000 fewer early deaths caused by air pollution in 2018 than in 2015, driven by significant declines in deaths from power plant and road transportation pollution, the study found. Deaths from air pollution created in a different state also dropped from 53 percent to 41 percent.
Much of that progress was tied to EPA regulations such as the 2011 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and reduced coal use, Barrett told Science Magazine. But the Cross-State rule only applies to some states and emissions from just a few sectors, The New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, the researchers did find that deaths related to emissions from heating homes and businesses increased by nearly 40 percent since 2005, as the ammonia and nitrogen oxide byproducts are more likely to become toxic particles in the atmosphere.
"They may not have seemed so important 10 or 20 years ago, but these commercial and residential emissions now look really important, in big part because progress has been made in other sectors," Barrett told The New York Times. "Future research and future policy are going to have to bear down on these emissions and start controlling them."
An October report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that U.S. air pollution has actually become worse since President Donald Trump took office, during which time his administration has since moved to roll back a number of environmental regulations, including those related to air quality and fossil fuel extraction.
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The world is using up more and more resources and global recycling is falling. That's the grim takeaway from a new report by the Circle Economy think tank, which found that the world used up more than 110 billion tons, or 100.6 billion metric tons, of natural resources, as Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
The Dutch group's Circularity Gap Report 2020 found that the world's economies are now only 8.6 percent circular. That means, out of all the minerals, biomass, fossil fuels and metals that enter the world's economy, only 8.6 percent are reused. That number is a drop from 9.1 percent when the group first started its Circularity Gap Report in 2018, as Envirotec Magazine reported.
"No country is meeting the basic needs of its citizens while also operating within the physical boundaries of our planet," said Marc de Wit, a director at the non-profit Circle Economy and lead author of the report, as AFP reported.
In another sobering finding that points to activity headed the wrong way, the report also found that consumption has risen by more than 8 percent.
The report, which was released at the Davos World Economic Forum, showed that, on average, every single person on the planet uses more than 13 metric tons of materials. Of course, people in wealthy, industrialized nations use many more resources than the average person in a third-world or developing country. Wealthy nations, the authors note, consume 10 times more resources per person than in the developing world, and produce far more waste, as AFP reported.
A recent Oxfam report, for example, found that the average British citizen emits more greenhouse gasses in two weeks than the average citizen of seven different African nations emits in an entire year.
"We risk global disaster if we continue to treat the world's resources as if they are limitless," said Harald Friedl, the chief executive of Circle Economy, as The Guardian reported. "Governments must urgently adopt circular economy solutions if we want to achieve a high quality of life for close to 10bn people by mid-century without destabilizing critical planetary processes."
"We are still fuelling our growth in population and affluence by the extraction of virgin materials. We can't do this indefinitely – our hunger for virgin material needs to be halted," De Wit said.
The data that Circular Economy studied is actually from 2017, which is the most recent year that complete data was available. The report found that 15 percent of the raw materials used is emitted as warming greenhouse gases and nearly one-fourth becomes pollution, like plastic clogging waterways. About one-third goes to landfills and spoil-heaps, while only a very small amount, just 8.6 percent, is recycled, as The Guardian reported.
In terms of how the materials are used, half of the extracted resources were sand, clay, gravel and cement for building, along with the other minerals that produce fertilizer. Coal, oil and gas make up 15 percent and metal ores were 10 percent. Plants and trees were used for food and fuel made up the final 25 percent. Only about one-third of materials remain in use after one year, such as buildings and vehicles, as The Guardian reported.
While some countries have pledged to boost recycling and move towards a circular economy, the report sees a negative trend. It estimated that global use of natural resources will balloon to 170-184 metric tons by mid-century, as the AFP reported.
Rich countries must "take responsibility for the impact of their imports and exports," the report said, noting that much of what they consume comes from less developed nations, while much of their waste is exported, as the AFP reported.
"This report sparks an alarm for all governments," said Carolina Schmidt, Chile's environment minister, as The Guardian reported. "We need to deploy all the policies to really catalyze this transformation [to a circular economy]."
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