Norway’s Largest Private Asset Manager Divests in Chevron, Exxon for Lobbying Against Climate Action
A Norwegian hedge fund worth more than $90 billion has become the first major financial institution to divest from companies that lobby against action on the climate crisis, The Guardian reported Monday.
Storebrand, as the fund is called, is the largest private asset manager in Norway, according to Reuters. As part of its new policy, it dumped its shares in major U.S. oil companies ExxonMobil and Chevron, as well as in mining giant Rio Tinto and German chemical company BASF.
"The Exxons and Chevrons of the world are holding us back," Storebrand chief executive Jan Erik Saugestad told The Guardian.
Storebrand announced the divestments as part of a wider set of new climate policies Monday.
– We are not only vulnerable to the systemic disruptions that #climatechange will unleash on ecosystems, societies… https://t.co/PgDrZl1hAb— Storebrand (@Storebrand)1598523456.0
In addition to divesting from companies that lobby against the Paris climate agreement and climate change regulations, the fund will also:
- Make investment decisions in line with scientific consensus and the goals of the Paris agreement
- Divest from companies that make more than 5 percent of their revenues from coal or oil sands
- Make decisions that maintain nature's ability to store carbon dioxide, with a special focus on stopping deforestation
- Increase investments in low-carbon companies
- Connect with energy companies with a view towards encouraging them to transition towards renewable sources
- Provide regular progress reports
- Inform clients about low-carbon, sustainable investment funds
"We aim to maintain our position as a leading provider of sustainable solutions," Saugestad said in a statement. "With this policy we will excel and improve our work on climate and greening the financial system. We will use all the tools at our disposal, including divestment, investing more in solutions and engaging with companies in order to achieve substantial change."
The divestment, completed this year, represented a small share of the fund's assets, Bloomberg News reported. The fund divested a total of $47 million, almost half of it from Exxon and Chevron.
In response, both oil companies said they supported the goals of the Paris agreement and are investing in low-emission technologies.
"[Exxon] is focused on the dual challenge of meeting the growing demand for energy and minimizing environmental impacts and the risks of climate change," spokesman Casey Norton told Bloomberg News in an email.
Chevron, meanwhile, said it was considering a shareholder vote that would encourage transparency around climate lobbying.
UK nonprofit InfluenceMap has reported that Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total spend around $200 million a year working to delay or block climate policies, according to The Guardian. While the fund did not divest from major European oil companies like BP or Norway's own Equinor, they are not off the hook.
"This initial move does not mean that BP, Shell, Equinor and other oil and gas majors can rest easy and continue with business as usual, even though they are performing relatively better than US oil majors," Saugestad told The Guardian.
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By Martin Kuebler
More than 700 climate lawsuits have been filed around the world since 2015, according to the Climate Change Litigation Databases. That's a huge increase, considering there have only been about 1,700 of these types of cases since the late 1980s, most of them in the U.S.
In a recent long-running case, the Dutch Supreme Court — citing the European Convention on Human Rights — ruled in favor of environmental group the Urgenda Foundation and 900 citizens and ordered the Dutch government to reduce its greenhouse emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020. A few months later, the government announced €3 billion ($3.5 billion) in measures to drastically cut coal use and fund renewable energy projects.
Urgenda director Marjan Minnesma called it "an enormous win," telling The Guardian that the move would show "it is possible to use the law as a strategic instrument for change."
Here's an overview of this tactic, and others, that environmentalists are using to force climate action.
1. Defending Human Rights
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet believes the Urgenda case will set a precedent. "This landmark ruling provides a clear path forward for concerned individuals in Europe — and around the world — to undertake climate litigation in order to protect human rights," she said after the decision. The International Bar Association even released a model statute for such cases challenging government failure to act on climate change in early 2020.
Citizen groups have filed similar human rights cases in several EU countries over the past five years, including in France, Belgium and Ireland — the latter decided in the activists' favor in July 2020.
In February 2020, a group of nine young Germans led by Fridays for Future activist Luisa Neubauer filed a human rights challenge to Germany's Federal Climate Protection Act (KSG). They're arguing that these targets — which aim to reduce emissions by 55% over the next decade — don't go far enough.
And in September 2020, six young Portuguese activists between the ages of 8 and 21 launched an unprecedented climate case at the European Court of Human Rights against the 27 EU member states, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Backed by the Global Legal Action Network, their aim is to force the nations to respect the 2015 Paris climate agreement and cut their emissions at home and abroad, where their multinational companies operate.
With many of the cases still ongoing, it's too soon for activists to know whether their strategy will prove successful in the long run. But they say wins in Ireland and the Netherlands have given them hope.
2. Standing up for Indigenous Rights
Another strategy focuses on the violation of Indigenous rights and racial discrimination, arguing that climate change exacerbates these contentious issues.
In November 2020, a group of political parties backed by NGOs filed a complaint against the Brazilian government for alleged failures to curb deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, a major contributor to climate change. They argue that government inaction has "violated the fundamental rights of Indigenous peoples" present and future. The case was in part inspired by a 2018 ruling by Colombia's highest court, which found that the Colombian rainforest was entitled to "protection, conservation, maintenance and restoration."
Earlier in 2020, representatives of the Wet'suwet'en Indigenous group in British Columbia filed a legal challenge against the Canadian government for failing to meet its commitments under several climate accords since the late 1980s.
"None of Canada's international commitments […] even if met, would have or will enable it to make its equitable contribution to reducing global warming to non-catastrophic levels," they said, arguing that this failure had breached their constitutional and human rights.
Legal challenges by Indigenous groups have met with less success over the years, especially in North America. But as the effects of climate change become more apparent, that could change.
3. Holding Major Polluters to Account
Activists and municipalities, especially in the U.S., are increasingly targeting major oil and gas companies directly, aiming in some cases to use awarded fines to fund climate mitigation plans.
In early 2018, New York City took five of the world's largest oil companies — BP, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC — to court for billions of dollars in compensation for the effects of climate change. Referencing devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was seeking damages to fund climate-resilient infrastructure and heat mitigation measures.
"The city is standing up and saying we will take our own action to protect our people," he told reporters. A federal judge threw out the lawsuit later that year, though the city has launched an appeal.
Local cases like these have also gone international. In 2015, Peruvian farmer Saul Luciano Lliuya filed a claim against German electricity producer RWE, alleging it had "willingly and knowingly" contributed to climate change and was responsible for increased flooding caused by glacial melt near his mountain home. He has asked the court to order RWE to reimburse him for 0.47% of the costs he is expected to incur for flood protection — RWE's estimated share in global total emissions from 1751 to 2010.
"Fossil fuel companies, like tobacco companies before them, have allowed governments to pay for the harms caused by their products," Korey Silverman-Roati, a climate law fellow at the Sabin Center, told Bloomberg in a recent interview. "As climate harms and costs continue to rise, more jurisdictions are likely to attempt to recoup their costs in court, and the pressure on courts to apportion those costs in a just way will only grow."
4. Protecting Livelihoods
Chevron, Exxon Mobil and other fossil fuel companies are tied up in another climate case on the U.S. West Coast, where a fishing industry trade group took them to court in late 2018 for damaging their "productive livelihood and way of life."
The fishers allege the oil giants have contributed to increased ocean temperatures which have led to prolonged closures of the Dungeness crab fisheries, "the most lucrative and reliable fisheries on the West Coast."
Also in 2018, a group of families from across the EU, Kenya and Fiji filed a lawsuit against the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union for failing to protect citizens from the impacts of climate change and the threat to their livelihood.
Among the plaintiffs are lavender farmers from France, beekeepers in Portugal, an Italian family who works in the Alpine winter tourism industry and a group of Indigenous Sami youth from Sweden, who fear their reindeer herding culture is at risk. The group claims the EU's existing climate targets don't protect fundamental "rights to life, health, occupation and property."
The goal of court cases like this isn't always to win — in fact, the plaintiffs in the EU case aren't seeking compensation. Stefan Küper, press spokesperson for the NGO Germanwatch, told DW that such cases "draw attention to the issue and show other people suffering from the negative impacts of climate change that they are not alone."
5. Influencing Climate Investments
But financial incentives are still a proven path to success, as seen most recently in a landmark case in Australia where a $41 billion pension fund was sued by a fund member for investing in fossil fuels, an increasingly risky venture. The case was settled in early November 2020, with the pension fund pledging to achieve a "net zero carbon footprint for the fund by 2050."
Analysts expect the case to spur similar litigation around the world. "If investors are legally required to apply a climate risk lens to their portfolios, this could, for example, result in a significant reduction in investments in fossil fuels, many of which are already being viewed as stranded assets in a low-carbon future," said David Barnden, of the law firm that argued the case.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. Learn about the importance of organic hemp oil, why it's better for the environment, and which CBD companies actually make trustworthy products with sustainable farming processes. Use our curated list to find the best organic CBD oil that's better for you and the environment.
What is Organic CBD Oil?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, and it's one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found within cannabis sativa plants. This plant compound is believed to have many potential health and wellness benefits, including support for anxiety, stress, sleep, and chronic pain.
Since CBD is extracted from industrial hemp, it contains only trace amounts of THC (the psychoactive component in cannabis plants). Instead, the effects of CBD are much more subtle and promote a general sense of calm and relaxation in most users.
The most important (and prominent) certification for organic products comes from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). What exactly does this certification entail? Essentially, a label indicating that a product is "USDA Organic" or "Certified Organic" means that at least 95% of the ingredients are obtained from organic sources.
For hemp to be considered organic by the USDA, it must be grown without the use of industrial solvents, irradiation, genetic engineering (GMOs), synthetic pesticides, or chemical fertilizer. Instead, farmers rely on natural substances and mechanical, physical, or biologically based farming techniques to cultivate healthy and organic crops.
Choosing an organic CBD oil without additives is important because it indicates that a product is both safe to use and better for the environment. CBD extracted from an organic hemp plant is more likely to be free from pesticides, heavy metals, and other harmful toxins. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of the plant extract without worrying about any additional and unwanted compounds. Organic CBD is also a better choice for the environment, as it is grown using more sustainable farming practices that help preserve and protect land and water resources.
Our Top Organic CBD Oils
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall Organic - Spruce Lab Grade CBD Oil
- Best Organic Full Spectrum - Charlotte's Web Original Formula
- Best USDA Organic - Cornbread Hemp Whole Flower CBD Oil
- Best Organic Flavor - R+R Medicinals Fresh Mint CBD Tincture
- Best Organic Broad Spectrum - Joy Organics CBD Oil
- Best Organic CBD for Stress - Plant People Drops+ Mind + Body
- Best Organic CBD for Sleep - NuLeaf Naturals CBD Oil
- Best Organic Satisfaction Guarantee - CBDistillery Relief + Relax
How We Chose the Best Organic CBD Oils
To create our list of the best organic CBD oil, we compared brands and products on a number of different criteria. These included:
- Hemp Source - We chose brands that use organic hemp grown in the U.S. and that follow natural and organic farming practices.
- Natural Ingredients - Each of the products on our list were examined to see if they used organic and natural ingredients for things like flavoring and carrier oils.
- Strengths - We looked for organic CBD oils that provide different concentrations of CBD to choose from, depending on your needs.
- Lab Testing - All of the CBD products we recommend must undergo independent third-party lab testing and provide access to those results.
- Certifications - In addition to USDA organic certification, we also looked for seals from the U.S. Hemp Authority, U.S. Hemp Roundtable, B-Corp, and other industry standards.
A note about USDA organic certification: before the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, no hemp-derived products could be dubbed as "certified organic" as the hemp plant and its extracts were still categorized as a Schedule I Controlled Substance.
Due to the fact that industrial hemp has only recently become an agricultural crop, very few CBD oils are USDA certified organic. Many CBD products contain hemp extracts from plants that were grown organically, but may not be federally certified yet. Where necessary, we researched each brand's growing and harvesting practices to determine if they follow organic and natural cultivation methods, even if they are not fully certified by the USDA.
8 Best Organic CBD Oils of 2021
Spruce CBD is well-known for its potent full spectrum CBD oils that provide many of the additional beneficial phytocannabinoids found in hemp. This brand works with two family-owned, sustainably focused farms in the USA (one located in Kentucky and one in North Carolina) to create its organic, small product batches. This tincture contains 750mg of CBD, but they also offer a max potency Spruce CBD oil that contains 2400mg of full-spectrum CBD extract.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 25 mg CBD per serving
- Source - North Carolina and Kentucky
One of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for years. The company is currently in the process of achieving USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 50 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Why buy: Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavors like chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist. We love Charlotte's Web Original Original Formula because it is made with U.S. Hemp Authority Certified CBD and organic extra virgin olive oil.
Cornbread Hemp Whole Flower CBD Oil uses USDA organic hemp grown on Kentucky farms and USDA organic MCT coconut oil. What makes Cornbread Hemp unique is that they only use hemp flower to create their CBD extract, resulting in a cleaner, purer product. Vegan and non-GMO, this organic CBD oil provides all of the secondary cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids of hemp without any preservatives, flavorings, seeds, or stems.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 50 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Kentucky
Why buy: We love Cornbread Hemp Whole Flower CBD oil because it is made using USDA certified organic hemp flowers to create a top-notch CBD oil packed with beneficial plant compounds. Use this oil in the evening to relax and to help you fall asleep.
R+R Medicinals Organic Full Spectrum Hemp Extract comes in a great introductory strength for new CBD users and a delicious fresh mint flavor. Made with organic full spectrum hemp extract, organic MCT coconut oil, and organic mint flavoring, this CBD oil is USDA certified organic for a product you can trust. It also contains over 2 mg of the secondary cannabinoids, like CBC, CBG, THC, CBN, and CBDv, that can help provide the fullest effect.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 16.67 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
For those concerned about THC, Joy Organics CBD oil makes a great option. This formula is USDA certified organic and is made with organic broad spectrum hemp extract and organic olive oil for a natural, THC-free product. It's also certified by the U.S. Hemp Roundtable and third-party lab tested for purity. If you prefer, you can also find Joy Organics CBD Oil in several additional flavors, including Tranquil Mint, Summer Lemon, and Orange Bliss.
- CBD - Broad Spectrum
- Strength - 30 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Plant People Drops+ Mind + Body CBD oil offers an organic, natural supplement that could help support your body's response to stress and inflammation. USDA certified organic, non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free, this CBD oil is also doctor-formulated using 100% organic hemp grown in Colorado. It can provide 21 mg of cannabinoids like CBD, CBL, and CBG per serving. Plus, Plant People is a certified B-corp and certified Climate Neutral as they plant a tree for every sale.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 21 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Why buy: We love Plant People Drops+ Mind + Body formula because it provides a doctor-formulated and USDA organic way to help you manage stress and inflammation while promoting overall wellness. We especially like that the brand is Climate Neutral certified, making this organic CBD oil good for you and the earth.
NuLeaf Naturals sources its CBD extract from organic hemp plants grown on licensed farms in Colorado. Their CBD oils contain only two ingredients: USDA certified organic hemp seed oil and full spectrum hemp extract. NuLeaf Naturals uses the same proprietary CBD oil formula for all of its products, so you get the same CBD potency in every tincture (30 mg per mL), but can purchase different bottle sizes depending on your needs.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 30 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Why buy: We love NuLeaf Naturals CBD oil because of its simplicity. With only two ingredients and one consistent strength, this oil makes it easy to know exactly what is in it and how much CBD you will get with each serving. Take NuLeaf Naturals CBD oil in the evenings to relax and enjoy a full night's sleep.
All CBDistillery products use non-GMO and pesticide-free industrial hemp that's grown using natural farming practices on Colorado farms. Their hemp oils are some of the most affordable CBD products on the market, yet they still maintain a high standard of quality. CBDistillery has a wide variety of CBD potencies across its product line. We also love that they offer a 60 day money back guarantee so that you can try their CBD oil risk free.
- CBD - Full Spectrum
- Strength - 33 mg CBD per serving
- Source - Colorado
Why buy: We recommend CBDistillery Relief + Relax CBD oil as a great way to start your day and promote a sense of calm and wellness throughout. The brand is certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, and the National Hemp Association for their natural, reliable CBD extracts.
The Research on Organic Hemp Oil
What does the science say about organic CBD oil? There is evidence that CBD can help for certain conditions, specifically things like anxiety, sleeplessness, and pain. In fact, CBD taken for anxiety may have fewer side effects than certain prescription anxiety medications. However, as hemp and CBD remain unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, it is vitally important to do your research and choose high-quality and safe products.
Using organic CBD oil is an easy way to help ensure that you can enjoy the health and wellness benefits of CBD while avoiding any potential toxins or synthetic chemicals.
Hemp is a unique plant, not only for its rich cannabinoid content, but because it is a bioaccumulator, and has the ability to absorb a wide variety of components in the soil. This trait means that hemp can help the environment through the remediation of green spaces, but it poses great risks when it comes to the creation of CBD products derived from hemp.
Because hemp has a high capacity for compound uptake, this means that the plants can retain harmful chemicals like pesticides, heavy metals, and other residual solvents. This is especially true when it comes to synthetic chemicals that are more toxic to humans, and difficult to remove once they have been absorbed by the hemp plant.
Organic farming practices help reduce the risk of hemp crops absorbing harsh chemicals that may later end up in CBD oil after extraction. When you're taking CBD as a wellness supplement to help alleviate your symptoms or improve your overall well-being, the last thing you want is to ingest compounds that might negatively outweigh the benefits of CBD. This is an important reason to look for third party lab test results when shopping for CBD products since these certificates of analysis can show the full cannabinoid and terpene profile of a hemp extract, as well as test results that search for the presence of any residual solvents. If you choose a non-organic CBD oil, you will need to rely even more on the independent lab test results to make sure the product is safe.
In addition to creating a better end product, organic farming practices are also better for the environment. Sustainable and organic farming methods may reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. The use of natural pest deterrents as opposed to chemical pesticides is also better for nearby animal populations and ecosystems.
How to Choose CBD Oil for You
When shopping for an organic CBD oil, you can look for certain key ingredients and certifications to find the best options. Here are some tips on how to compare and choose the right organic CBD oil.
What to Look For
Start by looking for the following pieces of information when considering any CBD product:
Make sure you know if the product uses full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate hemp extract. Full spectrum CBD contains all of the natural phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and fatty acids found in the hemp plant, including THC. This may produce a fuller result through the entourage effect. However, if you are concerned about THC, or are subject to a drug test, broad spectrum and CBD isolate products offer a great alternative.
Always check to see how much CBD the product contains. This is measured in milligrams per container and milligrams per serving. A single serving for CBD oil is typically 1 mL, and most brands offer recommendations for measuring and dosages.
The source of the hemp used to extract CBD is vitally important. We recommend choosing brands that use organic and naturally-grown hemp raised in the U.S.A. for safety standards. This is the quickest way to ensure that the CBD itself is pure and free from pesticides or other harmful compounds.
We only recommend CBD oils and products that are subject to independent third-party lab testing. This is a crucial step that verifies both the safety and purity of the oil as well as the potency of the CBD per serving. Look for brands that give you easy access to the lab test results for every product they sell.
How to Read Labels
Here are the primary things to look for when reading the label on a CBD oil or product:
- Type of CBD - The label should clearly state whether the product contains full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate hemp extract. If it is broad spectrum or isolate, look for a mark that tells you it is "THC-free."
- Certifications - Certain brands will include seals of approval to show that their product is USDA-certified organic, non-GMO, made in the U.S.A., or U.S. Hemp Authority certified.
- Other Ingredients - Check the ingredients list for anything in the product besides the CBD extract. This typically includes a carrier oil, like MCT or hemp seed oil, but can also include flavorings or botanicals. Make sure they are all-natural and that you are not allergic to any of them.
- Test Results - Most brands include a QR code on the packaging or the label of their CBD product that you can scan to view the third-party test results. This is a key way to know if a brand is trustworthy and whether their CBD is safe to use.
How to Use
Organic CBD oil is used just like any other CBD oil tincture, and is primarily ingested using a dropper to measure out the correct dose. Many brands recommend that you take the CBD oil sublingually by placing the CBD tincture under your tongue for 30 seconds or so before swallowing to aid in absorption. You can also add CBD to food and beverages, though some argue that this lessens the effect.
Some of the most common wellness advantages that people seek from organic CBD include:
- Chronic pain relief
- Anti-anxiety effects
- Better sleep
- Improvements in mood
- Internal balance and regulation
If you take organic CBD for help with sleep, take the recommended amount about an hour before bed. If you are taking it for anxiety, you can take one dose in the morning and another in the evening to help promote a sense of calm throughout the day. As with all CBD products, we recommend that you start with a lower dose and gradually increase it to achieve the desired effects rather than starting with a high dose.
Safety and Side Effects
CBD, while generally well-tolerated and safe for adults, can produce side effects in certain people. These are generally very mild, but can include things like nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and irritability. CBD may also interact with certain prescription drugs, especially blood thinners and statins. If you take a prescription medication, be sure to consult with your doctor before starting CBD.
CBD has the potential to help with a number of health and wellness concerns, especially anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. To make sure that you choose the right option, go with the best organic CBD oil without additives from a brand you trust. Use our list to help you get started and find the natural relief you need.
Melena Gurganus is the Reviews Editor at EcoWatch. She is passionate health and wellness and her writing aims to help others find products they can trust. Her work has been featured in publications such as Health, Shape, Huffington Post, Cannabis Business Times, and Bustle.
By Krissy Waite
The bank, a multinational investment company headquartered in Germany, announced Monday that it will no longer offer financial services to new projects that involve drilling for oil or gas in the Arctic. The policy also states it will not fund any tar sand projects or fracking in areas that have low water supply.
Concerns over the Arctic have risen in recent weeks as the region has been battling a prolonged heatwave and wildfires, which have been caused by human-driven climate change.
Last week, the World Meteorological Organization announced that Siberia's average temperature in June was 10°C above normal. The Arctic is warming over two times faster than the rest of the world.
Ben Cushing, Sierra Club senior campaign representative, said in a statement that it is becoming clear to banks that divesting from Arctic drilling is important. He pointed to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which spans over 19 million acres of Alaskan land.
"As the list of major banks rejecting funding for Arctic drilling continues to grow, it's clearer by the day that investing in the destruction of the Arctic Refuge would be a mistake," Cushing said. "The Trump administration may still think auctioning off the Arctic Refuge is a good idea, but it′s obvious that oil companies would be foolish to take them up on their offer."
In 2017, Congress passed a provision allowing refuge lands to be leased to oil companies. Drilling is incredibly harmful to the people and wildlife that live in the refuge because it because it divides natural habitats and interrupts migration patterns. Polar bears, caribou, and the 270 other species of wildlife — and the Gwich'in people who rely on certain animals for sustenance — would suffer.
Deutsche stated it will not be terminating any current financial backing of Arctic drilling projects, but that it will be evaluating all ongoing oil and gas business ventures by the end of 2020 and end any business in coal mining by or before 2025.
Urgewald, a Germany-based environment and human rights NGO that focuses on divesting from destructive projects, tweeted in response to the news that while Deutsche Bank's policy is needed, it's too little and too late.
@DeutscheBankAG 's new policies are much-needed movement, but too little and too late. As long as companies like… https://t.co/DcqP5pE8S9— urgewald (@urgewald)1595852876.0
Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, celebrated the news by congratulating Indigenous groups on their organizing.
Add @DeutscheBank to the growing list of banks that won't touch Arctic or tarsands projects. Such great organizing,… https://t.co/EIZt732RpT— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1595857366.0
Tara Houska, founder of Giniw Collective and co-founder of Not Your Mascots, welcomed the bank's decision and called for others to follow suit. "If DeutschBank can stop, any of the banks can," she said. "Who's next?"
Visited this bank in 2017, it had intense security. Felt the most removed, unconcerned about the human rights of th… https://t.co/wpEy2E7HOy— tara houska ᔖᐳᐌᑴ (@tara houska ᔖᐳᐌᑴ)1595858954.0
Deutsche Bank joins Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley — five of the biggest American banks — in banning Arctic drilling from its company. Bank of America is currently the last of the largest banks in the U.S. to issue an anti-Arctic drilling policy or statement. Globally, about two dozen banks have adopted these policies.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Andrea Germanos
A group of Indigenous women and their allies on Monday urged the heads of major global financial institutions to stop propping up the tar sands industry and sever all ties with the sector's "climate-wrecking pipelines, as well as the massively destructive extraction projects that feed them."
The demand to the CEOs comes in an open letter signed by more than 40 Indigenous leaders including Rebecca Adamson, Cherokee and founder of First Nations and First Peoples Worldwide; Tara Houska, Couchiching First Nation and founder of the Giniw Collective; and Winona LaDuke, White Earth Nation and executive director of Honor the Earth.
Supporting the call is a diverse group of over 150 organizations such as Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative, Global Exchange, and Indigenous Environmental Network.
"It's time to move on. The most destructive and expensive oil in the world needs to stay in the ground," LaDuke said in a statement.
Beyond the tar sands sector's "grave threats to Indigenous rights, cultural survival, local waterways and environments, the global climate, and public health," the open letter says continued financing and insuring of tar sands projects just makes bad economic sense, noting that "no subsector has had a worse financial prognosis than tar sands oil."
⚡ BREAKING ⚡ Indigenous women leaders sent an open letter to 70 major financial institutions calling on them to res… https://t.co/tYtnEomm9L— WECAN, International (@WECAN, International)1603113477.0
"The current economic crisis has sent oil and gas prices, and particularly tar sands oil, plunging," the letter notes.
"Tar sands is one of the most carbon-intensive, expensive extraction processes in the industry, and these pipelines are likely to be stranded assets soon after they are built," the women wrote, referring to a scenario in which fossil fuels will have to stay in the ground.
The letter zeroes in on three specific pipelines as pivotal to future tar sands extraction — TC Energy's Keystone XL pipeline, Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, and the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain pipeline — each of which has faced sustained opposition. The economic impact of such opposition can't be denied, with the letter pointing to the "$25 billion in mining assets lost due to operations being tied up or shut down by community protests" in 2018.
What's more, the Indigenous leaders wrote, the "risk portfolio for extractive and land-based companies show[s] that 73% of company risk and delays are non-technical. Non-technical means community protests and boycotts that result in operational delays or shutdowns."
Should the CEOs fail to heed the demands laid out in the letter, further delays ought to be expected. "We will continue to resist the remaining proposed projects and hold the financial backers of these companies accountable," the letter states.
While the ecological harm of tar sands extraction and infrastructure has been repeatedly noted by fossil fuel critics, the letter points to new threats brought by the coronavirus crisis. The signatories point to the multiple work sites in Alberta that have seen outbreaks of COVID-19 as extremely bad news for Indigenous communities who "are uniquely vulnerable to the virus' spread due to historically underfunded healthcare programs and significant health disparities."
In addition, an influx of project workers and so-called "man camps" brings particularly acute harm to Indigenous women:
Indigenous women in these rural areas are in peril. There is growing evidence that the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) is directly linked to fossil fuel production. Workers relocate to construction sites to build pipelines, creating temporary housing communities known as "man camps" near the pipeline route, which is oftentimes on or next to tribal nation lands. Studies, reports, and Congressional hearings have found that man camps lead to increased rates of sexual violence and sexual trafficking.
"We need a just transition to renewable, sustainable energy, not expansion of fossil fuel extraction," the signatories declare. "We demand respect for our rights and sovereignty as Indigenous Peoples so that we can control our own lands, futures, and job opportunities."
The letter lays out a way forward for the financial institutions.
"Rather than exploit the tar sands sector for its last drops of profit in the face of climate crisis and disregard the health and safety of communities along pipeline routes, your company can accelerate a just transition for Indigenous nations, communities, and workers that depend on the industry for their livelihoods by publicly ruling out involvement in these tar sands projects and redirecting your insurance underwriting to communities and renewable, clean energy," the women wrote.
According to Joye Braun, Cheyenne River Sioux, organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network, the tar sands industry has been "nothing more than evil incarnate."
"We must put a stop to them," said Braun. "We must stand and say enough is enough. Join us in saving our future. Join us putting the proverbial nail in the coffin of these dying, unneeded industries."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Ajit Niranjan
When private equity giant Blackstone invested in alternative milk maker Oatly this summer, furious customers pledged to boycott the dairy-free drink.
"Blackstone investments have been linked with deforestation activities in Brazil," wrote British local produce shop Buth Bharraigh in a tweet announcing they would stop selling Oatly products.
"I don't want my money going to the destruction of the planet ... just so that I can have a creamy coffee in the morning!" wrote sustainability influencer Laura Young in Instagram and Twitter posts that were shared thousands of times.
They criticized Oatly for enabling Blackstone — an investment firm managing $564 billion (€478 billion) in assets — to greenwash climate-damaging investments. "Learn how we're backing sustainable, plant-based alternatives to dairy with our investment in @oatly," Blackstone wrote on its Instagram page.
The social media spat between a corporate giant, a "woke" food brand and disenchanted customers is part of a wider debate about the role of capital in fighting climate change. It has grown more significant in the food sector as investors start to divest from the highly polluting meat and dairy industries, and consumers look for sustainable alternatives.
Divesting From Deforestation
Meat production is the biggest driver of tropical deforestation. Driven by demand for foods like burgers and milk, rainforests are burned to create land for cattle ranches, and to grow soy that is then mostly fed to livestock.
Blackstone, which has invested billions of dollars in the fossil fuel sector, partly owns Hidrovias do Brasil, a Brazilian logistics company that was linked to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by U.S. news organization The Intercept last year. A spokesperson for Blackstone told DW the deforestation claims were "completely false and wholly fabricated."
Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman is a major donor to U.S. President Donald Trump, a climate-science denier who has rolled back environmental regulations and brought the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
Pressured by customers, campaigners and policymakers, some food companies are starting to assess their own ecological footprints.
In 2018, McDonald's pledged to clean its supply chains and cut its emissions. In July, Brazilian food processing giant Marfrig said it would remove deforestation from its production chain by the end of the decade.
Then, in September, JBS, the world's biggest meat-processing company, said it would monitor its entire supply chain to cut out deforestation by 2025. Its announcement came two months after investor Nordea Asset Management said it would divest holdings of about €40 million in the company because of a lack of engagement on environmental issues.
Last year, after fires devastated the Amazon rainforest, a group of 251 investors called for a reduction in deforestation, identifying its environmental impacts as "systemic risks" to their portfolios.
Biodiversity and climate change matter to agricultural markets at risk of extreme weather and environmentally conscious consumers, said Matt McLuckie, research director at Planet Tracker, a UK-based nonprofit that aims to redirect capital toward sustainable development. "The trends are not looking positive for these agricultural producers, particularly in the beef sector."
Alternative Sources of Protein
The IPCC, the gold-standard on climate science, has said climate change could in part be slowed by switching to plant-based diets, particularly in richer countries. This is where oat milk comes in.
Oatly, the biggest player in the alternative milk industry, is valued at $2 billion, and is considering an initial public offering that could push that up to $5 billion, Bloomberg News reported in September. For a business whose core product is made by mixing two cheap and readily available ingredients — oats and water — the Swedish food company founded in the 1990s has seen incredible growth since entering the U.S. market four years ago.
While campaigners have spent years pressuring the financial world to take their money out of dirty investments like fossil fuel companies, little attention has been paid to finance in the agriculture sector, which is responsible for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.
Shareholders are also typically the ones pressuring companies they own to improve their environmental record, and not the other way around.
The backlash against Oatly's partnership with Blackstone is fascinating because it's "looking through the other end of the telescope," said Daniel Firger, managing director at climate finance consultancy Great Circle Capital Advisors. "The target of so many people's anger here is Blackstone, a private equity group. And private equity, as compared to other parts of the financial markets, has not really had as much scrutiny."
Diverting Capital to Climate Change
By accepting a $200 million investment from a group led by Blackstone and including U.S. talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, musician Jay-Z and actor Natalie Portman, Oatly said it was diverting capital to sustainable causes. The returns Blackstone makes from the investment could inspire other private equity firms to green their portfolios, it said in a statement justifying its decision.
"We have to have a fundamental shift in basically everything we do: the way we eat, the way we move, the way we live," Ashley Allen, chief sustainability officer at Oatly, told DW. "The only way to do that, in my mind, is to incentivize finance toward those solutions and disincentivize finance toward high-carbon, high-risk, high-polluting entities."
Asked whether Oatly would set red lines on who could invest in it — for instance, fossil fuel companies — Allen said she wasn't sure. "I haven't been part of any discussions on that."
Oatly is not the first ethical food brand to anger customers by accepting money from an investor with a poor environmental record. U.S. ice cream producer Ben and Jerry's — which champions its commitment to social justice — was bought out in 2000 by Unilever, a global conglomerate that has come under fire from campaigners for deforestation and plastic pollution.
In recent years Unilever has begun to engage more with critics on environmental issues, threatening to sell off brands that do not contribute positively to society. But is still a major contributor to plastic pollution, for instance, responsible for more than 70,000 tons of plastic pollution a year, according to a report published in March by NGO Tearfund.
While it's important for activists to draw attention to inconsistencies in investments, said Firger, the scale of the climate emergency means hundreds more companies like Oatly need to grow as fast as they possibly can. "I'm not one for purity tests. I feel like we don't have time to waste."
Reposted with permission from DW.
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Thirty of the world's largest investors, who together control $5 trillion in assets, have pledged to cut the greenhouse gas emissions of their portfolios by as much as 29 percent in five years.
The investors, who include Allianz, the Church of England and the California Public Employees' Retirement System, are all part of the UN convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance. The group formed in 2019 with the goal of reducing the emissions of their investment portfolios to net zero by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. On the road to that goal, the group announced their 2025 Target Setting Protocol Tuesday, which includes the goal to reduce emissions across members' portfolios by 16 to 29 percent of 2019 levels by 2025.
"According to the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, every year of postponed emissions peak means that deeper and faster cuts will be required," UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative leader Eric Usher said in a press release. "The Target-Setting Protocol represents world-leading progress on the required emissions reductions from some of the biggest investors in the world."
To reach their goal, the investors will pinpoint the 20 companies most responsible for their portfolios' emissions, The Guardian explained. They will also set specific targets for highly emitting sectors like oil and gas, transport and utilities.
Some financial institutions have acted on the climate crisis by divesting entirely from certain companies or refusing to fund certain ventures. For example, Norway's largest private asset manager divested in August from companies that lobby against climate action or make more than five percent of their revenue from coal or oil sands. The Net-Zero Asset Owners Alliance, however, takes a different approach, seeking instead to engage with the companies it invests in in order to push the overall economy towards a just transition to renewable energy.
"Although decarbonization of portfolios could be easily achieved by selling carbon intensive investments, it is highly questionable if such actions alone would have a positive impact on the real economy," the group explained in the press release. "Additionally, it might undermine Alliance members ability to engage with these [companies] to effect reductions in the real economy."
Part of that engagement means encouraging companies to share regular reports on their climate actions and to craft plans to green their business, according to The Guardian. The alliance itself will also release yearly reports, and plans to grow its membership to 200 or the assets under its control to $25 trillion.
"Alliance members start out by changing themselves and then reach out to various companies to work on the change of their businesses," Alliance Chair Günther Thallinger, who serves on the board of management for Allianz SE, said in the press release. "Reaching net-zero is not simply reducing emissions and carrying on with the business models of today. There are profound changes and opportunities that will come from the net-zero economy, we see new business opportunities and strong wins for those who are ready to lead."
The alliance is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC's) broader Race to Zero campaign, in which cities, companies and investors work to increase the number of entities that have committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, Business Green reported. The plan is to have as many as possible commit before the next major UN climate summit, the delayed COP26.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Norway's largest hedge fund divested from companies that lobby against climate action. The article has been updated to identify the fund as Norway's largest private asset manager.
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The chief executive officer and two senior executives are being forced out of the mining giant Rio Tinto several months after investors started to revolt over the company's destruction of an ancient aboriginal rock shelter, according to CNN.
CEO Jean-Sebastian Jacques will leave in March 2021, while two senior executives, Chris Salisbury, iron ore chief executive, and Simone Nieven, head of corporate relations who had the responsibility of handling relations with Indigenous communities, will leave at the end of 2020, according to Forbes.
The 48-year-old chief executive is being forced out after investors listened to a continuing outcry from the Indigenous people of Australia who were horrified that Rio Tinto would trounce upon their sacred ground and blast away the ancient Juukan Gorge rock shelters, two culturally significant rock shelters in Western Australia's Pilbara region. Despite knowing the importance of the grounds to the the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, Rio Tinto blasted the site in order to mine a better quality of iron ore, according to The Guardian.
The company's board responded to the move by cutting executive pay and stripping the three executives of $7 million in bonuses, but investors lined up to denounce that penalty as inadequate.
"There were certainly some shareholders who felt strongly that the accountability was inappropriate and that this was an issue that needed to be addressed to rebuild trust," said Rio Tinto Chairman Simon Thompson to The Sydney Morning Herald.
"While there is general recognition of the transparency of the board review and support for the changes recommended, significant stakeholders have expressed concerns about executive accountability for the failings identified," the company said in a statement, as The Guardian reported.
The wanton destruction of the site has shed light on the remarkable power the mining industry has over sacred, traditional lands. It has shown the need for greater legal guarantees to make sure heritage sites are protected.
A spokesperson for the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people told The Sydney Morning Herald, "Our focus continues to rest heavily on preserving Aboriginal heritage and advocating for wide-ranging changes to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again. We cannot and will not allow this type of devastation to occur ever again."
Among the prominent shareholders to express their misgivings were several large Australian investment funds and a group of 81 British pension funds. Also, the National Native Title Council in Australia said the board was divorced from reality in thinking that the pay cuts were somehow just punishment for destroying a 46,000-year-old site, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
"There is more work to be done," said Jamie Lowe, chief executive for the National Native Title Council, as The Guardian reported. "The law needs to be strengthened. We can't rely on the goodwill of mining companies, we need the law strengthened. We can't rely on their word that things will get better."
"What happened at Juukan was wrong," Thompson said Friday to The Sydney Morning Herald. "We are determined to ensure the destruction of a heritage site of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again at a Rio Tinto operation."
Ian Silk, the chief executive of Australia's biggest superannuation fund, AustralianSuper, said that he was "satisfied that appropriate responsibility has now been taken by executives at Rio Tinto," according to The Guardian,
"Rio can now work with traditional owners to guarantee that its processes are appropriate for the protection of culturally important sites and that it has the right internal accountabilities," he added, as The Guardian reported.
Additionally, the Australian Center for Corporate Responsibility applauded Friday's announcement as an end to the "dishonest malaise of Rio Tinto's board and senior management," according to The Guardian.
While the news of the executives departing is welcome, the institutional investors who have the clout to spur action within the company said the company would have to take steps to repair its relationship with Australia's Indigenous people.
"Rio Tinto now has the opportunity to address the necessary remediation, cultural heritage and risk processes with fresh eyes," said Louise Davidson, chief executive of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which advises 38 large super funds on governance issues, to The Guardian.
"Rio Tinto must prioritise working with traditional owners the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people to rebuild their relationship. It is critical that this is not delayed," she added.
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The University of California pulled all $84 billion in its pension and endowment funds from gas, coal and oil in the fall. Sustained pressure from Georgetown University Fossil Free successfully persuaded the school to divest from fossil fuels and boost its investments in renewable energy earlier this year.
The latest school to commit to a fossil-free future is the renowned British institution the University of Oxford, which also asked its fund managers to show evidence of net-zero business plans, as the BBC reported. The school, which has more than $3.7 billion in its endowment fund, made the announcement on Monday.
The Oxford Climate Justice Campaign (OCJC) said the resolution was of "historic importance," as the BBC reported.
Vice-chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said it would make the university a "world leader in reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change before it is too late."
However, the University of Oxford is late to the party. In 2015, the university said it would stop investing in the worst polluting fuels, but it stopped short of a total divestment, according to the BBC.
Since 2012, student campaigns have sought to marginalize companies like Shell and BP, which profit from actions that contribute to the climate crisis. As of January, the National Union of Students, People & Planet and Students Organizing for Sustainability UK had successfully lobbied 77 universities in the UK to end their investments in fossil fuels, as The Guardian reported.
In a press release, Oxford announced that it would follow the guidelines set forth in the Oxford Martin Principles for Climate-Conscious Investment. That framework helps connect climate-conscious investors with companies around the world working to create a sustainable future. It also helps assess whether an investment will foster the goals of the Paris agreement.
"Their work is just part of the sector-leading environmental research across Oxford in such areas as climate economics, biodiversity, resource security, transition in energy use and climate change modeling," the press release said.
Professor Cameron Hepburn, director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, added: "This is not mere divestment; this is a commitment to divestment plus engagement, according to the Oxford Martin Principles, to help accelerate progress towards net zero emissions. It is right that Oxford's leadership on the science, economics and finance of the transition to net zero emissions should be consistent with how we invest our endowment."
Of course, while the goals of a net zero future are admirable, the reasoning behind the divestment is not necessarily altruistic. Coal has been a losing investment for years and the energy sector has not produced favorable returns for institutional investors.
Writing in The Los Angeles Times when the University of California divested from fossil fuels, investors said, "We believe hanging on to fossil fuel assets is a financial risk." They went on to say that renewable energy sector is a growth opportunity.
"We have been looking years, decades and centuries ahead as we place our bets that clean energy will fuel the world's future. That means we believe there is money to be made. We have chosen to invest for a better planet, and reap the financial rewards for UC, rather than simply divest for a headline."
Activists have looked to spur similar action at some of the most prestigious schools in the U.S. They have lobbied to get Yale, with over $30 billion in its endowment, and Harvard, with over $40 billion in its fund, to end its investments in fossil fuels.
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By Richard Wilk and Beatriz Barros
Tesla's Elon Musk and Amazon's Jeff Bezos have been vying for the world's richest person ranking all year after the former's wealth soared a staggering US$160 billion in 2020, putting him briefly in the top spot.
Musk isn't alone in seeing a significant increase in wealth during a year of pandemic, recession and death. Altogether, the world's billionaires saw their wealth surge over $1.9 trillion in 2020, according to Forbes.
Those are astronomical numbers, and it's hard to get one's head around them without some context. As anthropologists who study energy and consumer culture, we wanted to examine how all that wealth translated into consumption and the resulting carbon footprint.
Walking in a Billionaire's Shoes
We found that billionaires have carbon footprints that can be thousands of times higher than those of average Americans.
The wealthy own yachts, planes and multiple mansions, all of which contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. For example, a superyacht with a permanent crew, helicopter pad, submarines and pools emits about 7,020 tons of CO2 a year, according to our calculations, making it by the far worst asset to own from an environmental standpoint. Transportation and real estate make up the lion's share of most people's carbon footprint, so we focused on calculating those categories for each billionaire.
To pick a sample of billionaires, we started with the 2020 Forbes List of 2,095 billionaires. A random or representative sample of billionaire carbon footprints is impossible because most wealthy people shy away from publicity, so we had to focus on those whose consumption is public knowledge. This excluded most of the superrich in Asia and the Middle East.
We combed 82 databases of public records to document billionaires' houses, vehicles, aircraft and yachts. After an exhaustive search, we started with 20 well-known billionaires whose possessions we were able to ascertain, while trying to include some diversity in gender and geography. We have submitted our paper for peer review but plan to continue adding to our list.
We then used a wide range of sources, such as the U.S. Energy Information Administration and Carbon Footprint, to estimate the annual CO2 emissions of each house, aircraft, vehicle and yacht. In some cases we had to estimate the size of houses from satellite images or photos and the use of private aircraft and yachts by searching the popular press and drawing on other studies. Our results are based on analyzing typical use of each asset given its size and everything else we could learn.
We did not try to calculate each asset's "embodied carbon" emissions – that is, how much CO2 is burned throughout the supply chain in making the product – or the emissions produced by their family, household employees or entourage. We also didn't include the emissions of companies of which they own part or all, because that would have added another significant degree of complexity. For example, we didn't calculate the emissions of Tesla or Amazon when calculating Musk's or Bezos' footprints.
In other words, these are all likely conservative estimates of how much they emit.
Your Carbon Footprint
To get a sense of perspective, let's start with the carbon footprint of the average person.
Residents of the U.S., including billionaires, emitted about 15 tons of CO2 per person in 2018. The global average footprint is smaller, at just about 5 tons per person.
In contrast, the 20 people in our sample contributed an average of about 8,190 tons of CO2 in 2018. But some produced far more greenhouse gases than others.
Some of the biggest polluters have relatively little wealth, while the two richest – Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos – have relatively small carbon footprints. Yachts make up most of the emissions of those who have one. Mansions and other dwellings make up a very minor share of their carbon footprints. Values are in terms of tons of CO2 equivalent.
The Jet-Setting Billionaire
Roman Abramovich, who made most of his $19 billion fortune trading oil and gas, was the biggest polluter on our list. Outside of Russia, he is probably best known as the headline-grabbing owner of London's Chelsea Football Club.
Abramovich cruises the Mediterranean in his superyacht, named the Eclipse, which at 162.5 meters bow to stern is the second-biggest in the world, rivaling some cruise ships. And he hops the globe on a custom-designed Boeing 767, which boasts a 30-seat dining room. He takes shorter trips in his Gulfstream G650 jet, one of his two helicopters or the submarine on his yacht.
He maintains homes in many countries, including a mansion in London's Kensington Park Gardens, a chateau in Cap D'Antibes in France and a 28-hectare estate in St. Barts that once belonged to David Rockefeller. In 2018, he left the U.K. and settled in Israel, where he became a dual citizen and bought a home in 2020 for $64.5 million.
We estimate that he was responsible for at least 33,859 metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2018 – more than two-thirds from his yacht, which is always ready to use at a moment's notice year-round.
Massive Mansions and Private Jets
Bill Gates, currently the world's fourth-richest person with $124 billion, is a "modest" polluter – by billionaire standards – and is typical of those who may not own a giant yacht but make up for it with private jets.
Co-founder of Microsoft, he retired in 2020 to manage the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest charity, with an endowment of $50 billion.
In the 1990s, Gates built Xanadu – named after the vast fictional estate in Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" – at a cost of $127 million in Medina, Washington. The giant home covers 6,131 square meters, with a 23-car garage, a 20-person cinema and 24 bathrooms. He also owns at least five other dwellings in Southern California, the San Juan Islands in Washington state, North Salem, New York, and New York City, as well as a horse farm, four private jets, a seaplane and "a collection" of helicopters.
We estimated his annual footprint at 7,493 metric tons of carbon, mostly from a lot of flying.
The Environmentally Minded Tech CEO
South African-born Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has a surprisingly low carbon footprint despite being the world's second-richest person, with $177 billion – and he seems intent on setting an example for other billionaires.
He doesn't own a superyacht and says he doesn't even take vacations.
We calculated a relatively modest carbon footprint for him in 2018, thanks to his eight houses and one private jet. This year, his carbon footprint would be even lower because in 2020 he sold all of his houses and promised to divest the rest of his worldly possessions.
While his personal carbon footprint is still hundreds of times higher than that of an average person, he demonstrates that the superrich still have choices to make and can indeed lower their environmental impact if they so choose.
His estimated footprint from the assets we looked at was 2,084 tons in 2018.
The Value of Naming and Shaming
The aim of our ongoing research is to get people to think about the environmental burden of wealth.
While plenty of research has shown that rich countries and wealthy people produce far more than their share of greenhouse gas emissions, these studies can feel abstract and academic, making it harder to change this behavior.
We believe "shaming" – for lack of a better word – superrich people for their energy-intensive spending habits can have an important impact, revealing them as models of overconsumption that people shouldn't emulate.
Newspapers, cities and local residents made an impact during the California droughts of 2014 and 2015 by "drought shaming" celebrities and others who were wasting water, seen in their continually green lawns. And the Swedes came up with a new term – "flygskam" or flying shame – to raise awareness about the climate impact of air travel.
Climate experts say that to have any hope of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, countries must cut their emissions in half by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050.
Asking average Americans to adopt less carbon-intensive lifestyles to achieve this goal can be galling and ineffective when it would take about 550 of their lifetimes to equal the carbon footprint of the average billionaire on our list.
Richard Wilk is a Distinguished Professor and Provost's Professor of Anthropology; Director of the Open Anthropology Institute, Indiana University.
Beatriz Barros is a Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology, Indiana University.
Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet is the latest must-read book by leading climate change scientist and communicator Michael Mann of Penn State University.
Published Jan. 12, 2021, The New Climate War describes how outright denial of the physical evidence of human-caused climate change simply is no longer credible. It describes in explicit detail how forces of denial and delay – fossil fuel companies, right-wing partisans, media and talking heads, and oil-funded governments – continue to profit from our dependence on fossil fuels. It explores how they have shifted to new tactics, using "an array of powerful Ds: disinformation, deceit, divisiveness, deflection, delay, despair-mongering, and doomism."
In better understanding how prospects for climate action still are threatened, readers will learn fascinating climate history and science, and will be uplifted by Mann's take on how close society may be to a tipping point on solving the climate crisis. "A clean energy revolution and climate stabilization are achievable with current technology," Mann writes. "All we require are policies to incentivize the needed shift."
The new Mann book consists of nine sections:
The first two chapters, "The Architects of Misinformation and Misdirection" and "The Climate Wars," outline the history of climate science denial over the years.
The Crying Indian' and the Birth of the Deflection Campaign details how vested interests use deflection campaigns to defeat policies they dislike. A classic example is the iconic "Crying Indian" commercial of the 1970s, which alerted viewers to accumulating glass bottle and can waste litter. The commercial was part of a successful deflection campaign by the beverage industry to blame the public rather than corporations, emphasizing individual responsibility over collective action and regulations.
It's YOUR Fault describes how fossil fuel interests, using deflection campaigns, "are actually all too happy to talk about the environment. They just want to keep the conversation around individual responsibility, not systemic change or corporate culpability." Mann also details how deflection campaigns criticize individuals for their air travel to attend conferences.
Internet bots and trolls from oil-rich Russia are also involved in deflection campaigns, Mann writes. He writes that barbs aimed at 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton "appeared to come from the environmental left, criticizing her climate policies (for example, her position on fracking). We now know that many of those attacks were actually Russian trolls and bots seeking to convince younger, greener progressives that there was no difference between the two candidates (so they might as well stay home)." Mann writes also that Russia is believed to have helped instigate the 2018 'Yellow Vest' revolts that undercut French governmental efforts to introduce a carbon tax.
Mann describes a number of "wedge" campaigns run to divide climate advocates. He points to a 2020 news story in The Guardian reporting that "the social media conversation over the climate crisis is being reshaped by an army of automated Twitter bots." That article estimated that "a quarter of all tweets about climate on an average day are produced by bots," with a goal of "distorting the online discourse to include far more climate science denialism than it would otherwise."
Put a Price on It. Or Not. This chapter begins with Mann's concerns that "the fuel industry has been granted the greatest market subsidy ever: the privilege to dump its waste products into the atmosphere at no charge." When implicit subsidies are included like the health costs and environmental pollution damage, including the damage done by climate change, Mann writes, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated subsidies of over $5 trillion were paid in the year 2015 alone. These subsidies need to end, Mann argues, preferring a price on carbon emissions to force polluters to pay for the climate damage done by their product, fossil fuels, and a tilt giving an advantage to clean and renewable energy forms.
Mann rejects flat-out concerns over a potential carbon tax. For instance, he writes that "whether a carbon tax is progressive or regressive depends on how it is designed. A fee-and-dividend method, for example, returns any revenue raised back to the people."
Mann also expresses support for supply-side measures like "blocking pipeline construction, banning fracking, stopping mountain-top-removal coal mining, divesting in fossil fuel companies, and putting a halt to most new fossil fuel infrastructure."
In Sinking the Competition, Mann backs explicit incentives for renewable energy and elimination of incentives for fossil fuels. He says fossil fuel interests and their backers have "put their thumbs on the scale by promoting programs that favor fossil fuel energy while sabotaging those that incentivize renewables, and engaging in propaganda campaigns to discredit renewable energy as a viable alternative to fossil fuels."
The Non-Solution Solution chapter details Mann's concerns that those opposing climate action promote "solutions" (natural gas, carbon capture, geo-engineering) that Mann argues aren't real solutions at all. "Part of their strategy is using soothing words and terms – 'bridge fuels,' 'clean coal,' 'adaptation,' 'resilience' – that convey the illusion of action but, in context, are empty promises," he writes. Mann's preferred "viable path forward on climate involves a combination of energy efficiency, electrification, and decarbonization of the grid through an array of complementary renewable energy sources. The problem is that fossil fuel interests lose out in that scenario, and so they have used their immense wealth and influence to stymie any efforts to move in that direction."
The Truth Is Bad Enough decries obsessive pessimism and "doomism" as unhelpful to tackling the climate crisis. "Exaggeration of the climate threat by purveyors of doom – we'll call them 'doomists' – is unhelpful at best," he writes. "Indeed, doomism today arguably poses a greater threat to climate action than outright denial. For if catastrophic warming of the planet were truly inevitable and there were no agency on our part in averting it, why should we do anything?"
Meeting the Challenge presents a summary of Dr. Mann's four-point battle plan, which he outlines in the introduction to the book:
Disregard the Doomsayers: The misguided belief that "it's too late" to act has been co-opted by fossil fuel interests and those advocating for them, Mann argues. It's just another way of legitimizing business-as-usual and a continued reliance on fossil fuels. Overt doom and gloom arguments should be ignored.
A Child Shall Lead Them: Youths are fighting to save their planet, and there is a moral authority and clarity in their message that only the most jaded can disregard. Youths are the game-changers climate advocates have been waiting for, and their actions, methods, and idealism are models for all.
Educate, Educate, Educate: Most hard-core climate-change deniers are unmovable, with an ideology impervious to facts. Don't waste time and effort trying to convince them. Instead, work with and help inform victims of climate change disinformation campaigns so they can join efforts to combat the climate challenge.
Changing the System Requires Systemic Change: Those responsible for fossil fuel disinformation engage in either-or arguments rather than address larger systemic issues and consider incentives. Policies need to incentivize shifts away from fossil fuel burning toward a clean, green global economy, and those policies warrant the support of elected leaders.
The bottom line on The New Climate War: The book could benefit from more graphics and cartoons as complements to its 267 pages of text. Overall, though, the book still is a must-read for every climate-savvy and climate-dependent. (Only air breathers need apply!)
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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The Vatican urged Catholics to closely consider where they invest their money and to take a close look at the environmental impact of the companies they may be shareholders in, as Reuters reported.
Pope Francis has frequently criticized wanton greed that has led to environmental degradation and a climate crisis that is uprooting the lives of the world's most vulnerable and impoverished people. On Earth Day, the Pope gave a speech in which he said that humans have sinned against the earth, as EcoWatch reported at the time.
To follow up on the pontiff's works, the Vatican released a 225-page manual for church leaders and workers that included the guidance to end investments in weapons manufacturing and defense systems, fossil fuels, and to closely monitor companies in the energy sector to see if their actions are causing environmental harm, according to Reuters.
The manual, called Journeying Towards Care For Our Common Home, is a follow up to the Pope's landmark encyclical on climate change called "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," which gave the official Catholic Church seal of approval to the pope's environmental concerns. The new compendium offers practical steps to follow up on the Laudato Si, which translates from Latin to Praise Be.
As Reuters reported, the manual's finance section said that shareholder action "could favor positive changes ... by excluding from their investments companies that do not satisfy certain parameters." It listed these as respect for human rights, bans on child labor, and protection of the environment.
"The Vatican's call for divestment is a breath of hope in times when faith is more needed than ever," said Bill McKibben, author and co-founder of 350.org in a statement, as Common Dreams reported. "It is also one of the handful of great moments in this decade-long campaign. It is a powerful statement that attempting to profit off the destruction of the planet is plainly and simply immoral and unethical."
The Vatican bank has insisted it does not invest in fossil fuels and many Catholic dioceses and educational institutions around the world have taken similar positions, including a move last month by more than 40 Catholic institutions globally that pledged to divest from fossil fuels, according to Reuters.
One action point in the manual called on Catholics to "shun companies that are harmful to human or social ecology, such as abortion and armaments, and to the environment, such as fossil fuels," as Reuters reported. Another section called for stringent monitoring of the mining and extraction industry to make sure they were not adding harmful contaminants to the air, land and water.
Journeying Towards Care For Our Common Home sees the climate crisis as "a profound environmental, ethical, economic, political, and social 'relevance'" which "impacts the poor above all," according to the Vatican News. It calls for a new model of development that links the fight against the climate crisis and the fight against poverty to church doctrines.
The document calls for a commitment to low-carbon, sustainable development, reforestation of the Amazon region, and humanitarian protections for climate refugees, according to the Vatican News.
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By Julia Conley
Student-led anti-fossil fuel campaigns at universities across the country pointed to Georgetown University Friday as the school's board of directors announced it would divest from fossil fuels and redouble its efforts to invest in renewable energy instead.
The university's decision came after a sustained pressure campaign from Georgetown University Fossil Free (GUFF), a student group which submitted multiple proposals to the Georgetown Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility before the panel recommended the divestment this week. The school community also voted on a referendum regarding divestment on Thursday, within more than 90 percent voting in favor.
GUFF issued a statement thanking the board of directors for its decision to divest and the school community for participating in the campaign.
"We are thrilled that our university has taken this important step in supporting climate justice, student voices, and financial accountability," GUFF wrote.
GEORGETOWN’S DIVESTING https://t.co/29Pg7iLelS— GU Fossil Free (@GU Fossil Free)1581031684.0
Similar groups at other schools called on administrators to follow suit:
Georgetown has committed to divest. Does Creighton want to be a leader in sustainability as they claim? Or will we… https://t.co/7yHiBU332h— CU Climate Movement (@CU Climate Movement)1581032245.0
Georgetown joins the global movement to divest from fossil fuels There’s no reason @UVA can’t divest too https://t.co/UuffNxFxh2— Michael Payne (@Michael Payne)1581048161.0
THIS IS HUGE: Georgetown fully divests. @CarletonCollege we're falling behind the curve! #DivestCarleton https://t.co/0jVJMw26MJ— Divest Carleton (@Divest Carleton)1581104310.0
Under Georgetown's new policy, the board of directors said, "The university will continue to make investments that target a market rate of return in renewable energy, energy efficiency and related areas while freezing new endowment investments in companies or funds whose primary business is the exploration or extraction of fossil fuels."
The school will divest from public securities in fossil fuel companies in the next five years and existing investments in those companies in the next decade.
"Divestment allows us to divert more capital to fund development of renewable energy projects that will play a vital role in the transition away from fossil fuels — part of the long-term solution required to prevent the most dangerous effects of climate change," Michael Barry, Georgetown's chief investment officer, said in a statement.
Climate action advocates including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and author Naomi Klein applauded the move.
"Something big is shifting," Klein wrote.
Holy holy holy heck! If I'm reading this right, @Georgetown Georgetown--one of the country's great universities and… https://t.co/z5u2YPb71n— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1581031440.0
Another huge divestment win. Something big is shifting, and it lines us up perfectly for a real #GreenNewDeal start… https://t.co/cjvss6mNXV— Naomi Klein (@Naomi Klein)1581082113.0
In November, hundreds of Harvard and Yale students stormed the field during the two schools' annual football game to demand the institutions divest from fossil fuels. The University of California system announced it would divest last September, and more than 1,000 other institutions around the world have committed to divestment in recent years.
As Georgetown students and faculty were celebrating the board's decision Friday, the Sunrise Movement chapter at George Washington University two miles away expressed frustration with the school's board of trustees, which announced it would form an "environmental, social, and governance responsibility" task force without naming divestment from fossil fuels as an immediate goal.
"There is absolutely no need to 'explore' whether or not GW's endowment should divest from fossil fuels," wrote the group. "The moral imperative is clear and does not need a moment's thought as to whether or not it is actively contributing to the degradation of our planet."
The Sunrise Movement chapter vowed to make sure it was "sufficiently considered in this process" and demanded the university join Georgetown in fully divesting from fossil fuels.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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