With global air travel at a near standstill, the airline industry is looking to rewrite the rules it agreed to tackle global emissions. The Guardian reports that the airline is billing it as a matter of survival, while environmental activists are accusing the industry of trying to dodge their obligations.
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Two years after internal documents surfaced showing that Royal Dutch Shell, like ExxonMobil, knew about climate dangers decades ago, the oil giant released its latest annual report outlining its business strategy and approach to addressing climate change. Despite clear warnings from scientists, global health experts and even central banks of impending climate-driven crises, Shell's report largely sends a message that everything is fine and the company's "business strategy is sound."
Shell’s Strategy<p>According to the report, there are three parts to Shell's overall strategy going forward: to thrive in the energy transition, to provide a world-class investment case, and to sustain a strong societal license to operate. That may sound good on paper, but in reality significant challenges are mounting for each of these pillars.</p><p>In terms of the energy transition, Shell appears to be paying lip service to it more than actually revamping its portfolio or overhauling its business model. Its core business remains oil and gas. Period.</p><p>The company may be ahead of some other oil giants like Exxon and Chevron in terms of adding alternative energies to its energy mix, but overall its commitment to clean energy is minimal.</p><p>Shell notes in its report that it spends "$1-2 billion a year until 2020 in different services and products from a range of cleaner sources," and "investments in power could grow to $2-3 billion a year on average" from 2021 to 2025. The vast majority of the company's capital expenditure ($24bn to $29bn in 2020) goes into oil and gas, and failure to replace proved reserves could have a "material adverse effect." Instead of aligning with the energy transition, Shell's business model is based on continual hydrocarbon exploitation.</p>
Shell Claims to Support Paris Agreement, Plans for Gradual Energy Transition<p>In its report, Shell says it fully supports the Paris agreement goal to limit warming well below 2 degrees C, and supports "the vision of a transition towards a net-zero emissions energy system." But, in <a href="https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/news-and-insights/press-releases/bernard-looney-announces-new-ambition-for-bp.html" target="_blank">contrast to fellow European oil major BP</a>, Shell is not committing its own business to net zero emissions.</p><p>Shell says it has "no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio over our investment horizon of 10-20 years." Instead, Shell's Net Carbon Footprint "ambition" is to reduce emissions (including its customers' and suppliers' emissions) of its energy production and products by 20 percent by 2035 and by 50 percent by 2050. This is not aligned with climate science guidelines that say complete decarbonization or "net zero" is necessary by 2050 at the latest.</p><p>Shell's own business is therefore not aligned with the goal of the Paris agreement, and the company is <a href="https://www.climateliabilitynews.org/2019/04/05/shell-sued-in-the-netherlands-for-insufficient-action-on-climate-change/" target="_blank">facing a lawsuit</a> over this in its home country of the Netherlands. Current emissions reduction plans or "Nationally Determined Contributions" (NDCs) submitted by countries under the Paris agreement are also inadequate. As Shell notes in its report, current NDCs amount to about 3 degrees C of warming. "In coming decades, we expect countries to tighten these NDCs to meet the goals of the Paris agreement," the report states. Shell's view appears to be that the world has decades to get its act together.</p><p>In that view, Shell says it is fully on board with the energy transition and plans to transform its own business "over time." The report includes statements like "Shell aims to become an integrated power player and grow, over time, a material new business", and, "for us, protecting the environment also means working to transform our product mix over time, for example, by expanding the choice of lower-carbon products we offer customers."</p>
Climate Litigation Risk<p>Shell, like other fossil fuel companies, has long been concerned about governments imposing climate policies or regulations that would affect its business. Shell and its industry peers are already facing climate lawsuits, and Shell is explicitly identifying climate litigation as part of a broader risk factor associated with "rising climate change concern."</p><p>In its report, Shell acknowledged the lawsuits could negatively impact its financial condition: "In some countries, governments, regulators, organisations and individuals have filed lawsuits seeking to hold fossil fuel companies liable for costs associated with climate change. While we believe these lawsuits to be without merit, losing any of these lawsuits could have a material adverse effect on our earnings, cash flows and financial condition."</p><p>Shell actually foresaw climate-related lawsuits as a possibility more than 20 years ago. One of the internal documents that a Dutch news organization first uncovered (and published on the site Climate Files) is a <a href="http://www.climatefiles.com/shell/1998-shell-internal-tina-group-scenarios-1998-2020-report/" target="_blank">1998 document of Shell planning scenarios</a> where the company hypothetically envisions a series of violent storms battering the eastern U.S., which then spur environmental <span style="background-color: initial;">NGO</span>s to bring "a class-action suit against the <span style="background-color: initial;">US</span> government and fossil-fuel companies on the grounds of neglecting what scientists (including their own) have been saying for years: that something must be done."</p>
Shell Knew<p>One statement from Shell's annual report rings particularly true: "Shell has long recognised that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the use of fossil fuels are contributing to the warming of the climate system." </p><p>Indeed, Shell has <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/04/04/here-what-shellknew-about-climate-change-way-back-1980s" target="_blank">long known</a> that fossil fuels are warming the planet and that the consequences would be of a huge magnitude.</p><p>One internal Shell document from 1988 called "The Greenhouse Effect" warned that GHG emissions would lead to warming over the next century, likely ranging from 1.5 C to 3.5 C. According to that document, "The changes may be the greatest in recorded history." Some parts of the planet may become uninhabitable, and there may be "significant changes in sea level, ocean currents, precipitation patterns, regional temperature and weather," it says. Impacts could be severe and "could have major social, economic, and political consequences."</p><p>What did Shell do with that knowledge? It started introducing doubt and giving weight to a 'significant minority' of 'alternative viewpoints' as the <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/05/17/shell-knew-charting-thirty-years-corporate-climate-denialism" target="_blank">full implications for the company's business model</a> became clear.</p><p>Shell was a member of the <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/global-climate-coalition" target="_blank">Global Climate Coalition</a>, a fossil fuel industry-funded group that worked to undermine climate science and block climate policy internationally. The group formed in 1988 and Shell was a member throughout much of the 1990s.</p><p>During that time Shell was <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/08/20/exclusive-company-docs-show-shell-secretly-studied-climate-risks-10-years-warning-investors" target="_blank">not exactly upfront with its own shareholders</a> about potential risks climate change posed to its business. The first time Shell even mentioned climate change was in a 1991 annual report. But it wasn't until 2004 that Shell made a clear warning in its annual report about financial risk associated with fossil fuel investment.</p><p>Critics have for many years accused Shell's <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/04/11/how-shell-greenwashed-its-image-internal-documents-warned-fossil-fuels-contribution-climate-change" target="_blank">of greenwashing</a> — acknowledging the climate threat and touting its "commitment" to being part of the solution, despite continuing to spend heavily on oil and gas with only minimal investment in alternative energy. Shell's latest annual report suggests the company isn't deviating far from that strategy.<span></span></p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
This April 22, Earth Day turns 50.
The world's largest secular holiday approaches its golden anniversary in the shadow of two global crises. This year's day is dedicated to climate action, and the celebration has moved online in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But Earth Day has a history of uniting people around the world to solve the major problems facing our planet. Here's a look back on some of the most important Earth Days in the celebration's 50-year history and what they helped accomplish.
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By Courtney Lindwall
President Trump says fulfilling the country's commitment to the Paris climate agreement would be bad news for the U.S. economy, but the growing tally of business leaders pledging to take action anyway suggests otherwise. These businesspeople understand that while climate action costs money, climate change costs far more.
Bottom Lines<p>Trump often says that the Paris Agreement "<a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-trump-paris-climate-accord/" target="_blank">punishes</a>" the U.S., particularly its businesses, but he outright ignores the far more destructive economic force of climate change. According to a <a href="https://www.nber.org/papers/w26167" target="_blank">recent study</a> from the National Bureau of Economic Research, a business-as-usual high-emissions scenario (like the one Trump touts) could result in a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/08/19/climate-change-could-cost-us-up-percent-its-gdp-by-study-finds/" target="_blank">7.2 percent drop in GDP</a> per capita worldwide by the end of the century. Disruptions to global supply chains are <a href="https://epsnews.com/2018/02/01/resilinc-supply-chain-disruptions-nearly-doubled-2017/" target="_blank">already upon us</a>, and as carbon pollution continues to collect in our atmosphere, more will come. <a href="https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2019/06/20/climate-change-economy-impacts/" target="_blank">Experts predict</a> far-reaching impacts to the infrastructure that supports nearly all businesses, such as extreme weather affecting the transportation of raw goods and rising sea levels swamping the fiber-optic cables essential to the internet.</p><p>Of course, climate change will also jeopardize specific industries, such as winter sports (see: <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/year-without-snow" target="_blank">decreases in snowfall</a>), and products, like your morning cup of coffee. In fact, it's little wonder that Starbucks has also <a href="https://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/news/2017/06/05/trump-paris-climate-amazon-microsoft-starbucks.html" target="_blank">signed on</a> to We Are Still In. Climate change may bring increasingly irregular growing seasons (and skyrocketing prices) for <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/17012019/coffee-climate-change-risk-wild-arabica-endanagered-kew-study" target="_blank">coffee beans</a> on top of increased sick days for field workers exposed to <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/too-hot-handle" target="_blank">extreme heat</a>. Such concerns would apply to almost any business dependent on either agriculture or a global workforce, or both. According to a <a href="http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/booklets/warming_world_final.pdf" target="_blank">2011 National Academy of Sciences</a> report, for every additional degree Celsius that the planet warms, we can expect a 5 to 15 percent reduction in total crop yield.</p>
Big Penance<p>While many corporations have spewed more than their fair share of carbon pollution, several are now taking the opportunity to have a supersize impact on emissions reductions. Look at the world's two biggest retailers: Amazon and Walmart. Amazon says it will go carbon neutral by 2040, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/19/technology/amazon-carbon-neutral.html" target="_blank">10 years ahead</a> of the Paris goals, and recently made moves to start transitioning its <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/story-normal-car-factory-abandoned-gas-guzzlers-soon-be-buzzing-electric-vehicles" target="_blank">fleet of delivery trucks</a> to electric vehicles. Soon after Trump took office, Walmart announced its <a href="https://www.walmartsustainabilityhub.com/project-gigaton" target="_blank">Project Gigaton</a> initiative, which set the ambitious goal of lowering the company's global carbon emissions — by pressing for action on the part of its suppliers — by one billion metric tons before 2030. Walmart has since reported that it's <a href="https://www.greenbiz.com/article/walmart-inches-toward-audacious-project-gigaton-goal" target="_blank">on track to meet</a> its goal, which is no small feat: the entire U.S. emitted <a href="https://www.c2es.org/content/u-s-emissions/" target="_blank">6.5 billion metric tons</a> of carbon in 2017.</p>
Market Trends<p>Climate action is <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-false-choice-between-economic-growth-and-combatting-climate-change" target="_blank">no longer seen as the enemy</a> of economic progress. While the <a href="https://www.e2.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/E2_CleanEnergyJobs_National.pdf" target="_blank">clean energy industry</a> has known this for a while, the notion is (finally) catching on in other corners of the economy — and most excitingly it's creating opportunities for market-disrupting innovation.</p><p>Take electric vehicles (EVs). While Trump <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/trump-trying-stand-way-electric-cars-theyre-breezing-right-past-him" target="_blank">fights the auto industry's progress</a> in manufacturing cleaner cars and trucks, countries such as China are investing in zero-emission vehicle technology at warp speed. According to a <a href="https://www.jpmorgan.com/global/research/electric-vehicles" target="_blank">recent report by JP Morgan Research</a>, China is expected to account for <a href="https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/327143" target="_blank">nearly 60 percent</a> of all global EV sales by next year, and many Chinese businesses (the ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing, for example) are eager to profit while they help the world progress. The same goes for the folks behind other innovations — like <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/30/can-a-burger-help-solve-climate-change" target="_blank">plant-based faux meats</a>, and energy-efficient fabrics <a href="https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/78m7mz/this-taiwanese-company-makes-clothes-out-of-coffee-grounds" target="_blank">made from coffee grounds</a>, and <a href="https://reset.org/blog/compostable-bottle-every-use-veganbottle-11192017" target="_blank">petroleum-free plastics</a>, and delivery vans <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/3068244/these-grocery-delivery-trucks-are-powered-by-food-waste" target="_blank">fueled by food waste</a> and ... you get the idea. A poll by the data firm Nielsen showed that <a href="https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2018/global-consumers-seek-companies-that-care-about-environmental-issues/" target="_blank">81 percent</a> of consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. The sustainability economy is booming — and <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/friday-school-out-and-climate-strike" target="_blank">climate-conscious Gen Z'ers and millennials</a> are ready to buy accordingly.</p>
Consumer Trust<p>At their best, corporate climate pledges open business practices up to public accountability and mark a first step toward real-life emissions cuts. At their worst, they provide a greenwashed shield behind which polluting companies can hide their status quo behaviors. Procter & Gamble, for one, boasts about the forest-friendly sourcing and certifications of its Charmin toilet paper (the company has no climate pledges to speak of). But in practice, P&G has been <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/shelley-vinyard/unrolling-charmins-sustainability-claims" target="_blank">clear-cutting</a> one of the world's most important carbon sinks, Canada's boreal forest, in the name of softer TP.</p><p>We are all in this climate crisis together, which is why it's crucial to make sure our leaders and retailers keep their promises. Presidents have power, but so do corporations. Corporations have power, but so do consumers.</p>
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The Great Barrier Reef, a natural wonder that once teemed with life, just experienced a major coral bleaching event, according to scientists who conducted aerial surveys over hundreds of individual reefs, as The Guardian reported.
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President Trump confirmed Wednesday that his administration will start its official pullout from the 2015 Paris agreement, a long expected move that sacrifices the country's ability to be a leader in the fight against the global climate crisis.
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By Michael Svoboda
"For the first time, environmental protection rivals the economy among the public's top policy priorities."
Pew Research Center's take on its mid-February poll results likely came as a surprise to many climate and media watchers, notwithstanding numerous indicators over recent months that concerns over climate change were gaining ground among much of the public.
An Increase in Coverage<p>Two of the guests – CBS News Meteorologist and Climate Specialist <a href="https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2019/11/a-meteorologist-bets-his-career-on-climate-change/" target="_blank">Jeff Berardelli</a> (a contributor to Yale Climate Connections) and <a href="https://time4coffee.org/107-how-to-break-into-broadcast-journalism-w-eugenia-harvey-wnet-espresso-shots/" target="_blank">Eugenia Harvey</a>, executive producer of WNET's <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wnet/peril-and-promise/" target="_blank">Peril and Promise: The Challenge of Climate Change</a> – noted and complimented the spur provided by the Covering Climate Now initiative.</p><p>When CBS corporate officially signed on to the initiative, Berardelli said, journalists from nearly every news beat across the network came forward with story ideas.</p><p>At WNET, Harvey added, the initiative prompted new partnerships and allowed producers and reporters to share their stories with wider audiences. The longer-term increase in climate coverage at WNET, however, was prompted also by special funding provided by a donor who had recently realized how climate change could affect the lives of his grandchildren.</p><p>For <a href="https://www.cnn.com/profiles/jen-christensen" target="_blank">Jen Christensen</a>, health and climate unit producer for CNN, it was the economics of climate-related disasters that persuaded CNN decision-makers to increase coverage of climate change. Economic issues were one of the reasons CNN chose to produce the seven-hour "<a href="https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/climate-crisis-town-hall-august-2019/index.html" target="_blank">Climate Crisis Town Hall</a>" with 10 of the 14 Democratic candidates vying for their party's nomination for president.</p>
Changes in the Style and Mode of Coverage<p>Prompted by questions from <a href="https://smpa.gwu.edu/frank-sesno" target="_blank">Frank Sesno</a>, a former CNN journalist and anchor who now directs GW's School of Media and Public Affairs, panelists also explained how the tenor of their organizations' climate coverage is changing.</p><p>In the Peril and Promise series at WNET, Harvey noted, the stories highlight issues of social justice. As Christensen's job title indicates, the health angle is critical to the stories she produces for CNN.</p><p>Berardelli added that colleagues at CBS had become more conscious of the timeframes they use in their climate stories: To be relevant to the lives of viewers, stories have to connect with problems they might encounter in human-scale time spans, like mortgage cycles. In California, "people are losing their insurance because of increasing fire risks," he noted. That's something every homeowner can understand.</p><p>Sesno also asked panelists about challenges they face in producing and placing stories about climate change. All noted that the almost limitless space afforded by digital media meant that stories that could not be fit into televised programs could still be posted online.</p><p>And rarely are they asked by their managers to "balance" their climate science stories: The scientific consensus on climate change is broadly accepted within their news organizations. Nevertheless, all three panelists acknowledged that climate change is still a divisive topic for some viewers. But by including alternative frames that appeal to conservatives (e.g. economy, personal autonomy, national security), they agreed, journalists could connect with these viewers.</p><p>Addressing climate change, Berardelli said, could result in "millions of high-paying jobs" and "could revive forgotten places in America."</p><p>And regardless of their political views, for Americans living in coastal communities that still rely on septic tanks, Christensen noted, <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/sea-level-rise" target="_blank">rising sea levels</a> could mean "you won't be able to flush your toilet."</p><p>Even religious objections to action on climate change – "God would not permit such wholesale destruction" – can be countered with context-appropriate framing. "Have you ever read the Old Testament?" Harvey exclaimed in response to questions about dealing with religious viewpoints.</p>
Finding Hope<p>As important to the evolving climate beat as surmounting skepticism, however, is countering the doom and gloom created by misleading <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/climate-change-ipcc-environment-paris-agreement-global-warming-a8573811.html" target="_blank">warnings</a> that "we have just 12 years to act on climate change."</p><p>In his classes on <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/sustainability" target="_blank">sustainability</a> reporting, Sesno said, roughly one-quarter of the women say they have decided not to have children.</p><p>Harvey acknowledged that stories of "peril" typically attract the most viewers, but emphasized the importance of "promise" for WNET's coverage of climate change.</p><p>One challenge for communicators was succinctly posed by a politically conservative member of the audience: "How do we shift from 'climate Armageddon' to solutions?"</p><p>Berardelli stressed that action on climate change could not only avoid disaster, it could improve matters.</p><p>Sesno followed up on this point by highlighting the significant progress humanity had made in solving other environmental problems.</p><p>Reducing carbon emissions may well be more difficult. Nevertheless, it is still a matter of regulating pollutants – and polluters. The list of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/10/100-fossil-fuel-companies-investors-responsible-71-global-emissions-cdp-study-climate-change" target="_blank">100 companies</a> responsible for 71 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted since 1988 includes companies that were also responsible, in decades past, for polluting Earth's air and water. Solving climate change, like cleaning the air and water, could become a positive story about human ingenuity and cooperation.</p><p>"We will need everyone's help," Berardelli concluded, "and we could make everyone's life better."</p><p>Telling that story will be one of numerous challenges in covering climate change in 2020.</p>
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The British government's plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050 conflicts with its long-standing plan to level a village to expand Heathrow Airport, one of the world's busiest airport hubs. Now an appeals court in Britain has ruled that the expansion is illegal since the government did not take into account how building a third runway would jibe with the government's commitment to fight the climate crisis, according to The Guardian.
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The United Nations released a sobering report Tuesday showing that the climate crisis is accelerating global hunger and wreaking havoc on land, sea and in the atmosphere, according to the UN's State of the Climate report.
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