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[l] at 9/30/22 3:32pm
Dr. Melissa Lem was shocked when she saw an advertisement from a major Canadian fossil fuel lobby group showing young parents and their two children happily cooking a meal over a brand new gas stove.  The Vancouver-based physician said that ad is “terrible and misleading” because dozens of scientific studies suggest that children who grow up breathing the fumes from gas stoves have a heightened risk of asthma — a potentially 42 percent increased risk, according to one meta-analysis.    “What would be more accurate is showing a kid with an inhaler or coughing in front of a gas stove,” Lem told DeSmog.  Lem is now one of the applicants in a recent false advertising complaint against the Canadian Gas Association, which has been running ads in the Globe & Mail and on Facebook describing natural gas as “clean-burning” and a “smart choice” for people’s homes. (Read more about the campaign in this DeSmog story). A Fuelling Canada ad claims Canada produces the cleanest natural gas in the world. Source: Fuelling Canada Facebook page Lem and other health workers behind the complaint are asking Competition Bureau Canada to make a ruling forcing the Canadian Gas Association to “issue a public retraction” for allegedly false claims in its ad campaign and a pay a $10 million fine, which would then fund efforts to educate the public about the health impacts of fossil fuel use and climate change.  “We have received no information from the Competition Bureau, so are not in a position to comment at this time,” a spokesperson for the Canadian Gas Association wrote in an email to DeSmog.  Lem is president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, an advocacy and research organization which helped organize doctors, nurses and public health advocates to make the advertising complaint.  She says there is precedent for regulatory bodies to crack down on false claims from the oil and gas industry, pointing to a Dutch advertising watchdog that in 2017 censured Shell and Exxon for running an ad saying that natural gas was “the cleanest of all fossil fuels.”  The companies changed an online version of the ad to read “the least polluting fossil fuel.” These types of phrases from fossil fuel companies mirror the tobacco industry’s earlier use of the word “light” to describe its products, Lem said, which came as cigarette makers began to face scrutiny about cancer and other health risks linked to smoking.  “But all cigarettes are bad for your health,” she said. “And all fossil fuels are bad.” There is plenty of scientific literature on the health risks of gas stoves in people’s homes, according to the false advertising complaint. It references the meta-analysis stating there is “quantitative evidence that, in children, gas cooking increases the risk of asthma.” There is no mention of this in the Fuelling Canada advertising campaign, which claims that “natural gas produces fewer emissions and air pollutants than any other fuel” and is a “sustainable energy choice for the future.” The campaign was created by the Canadian Gas Association whose members include gas companies like Enbridge and FortisBC, as well as TC Energy, builder of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Enbridge and FortisBC are reportedly fighting against municipal efforts to phase out natural gas in homes and replace it with electric ranges.  Lem’s complaint also takes aim at the Canadian Gas Association’s claim that natural gas is “low-emission energy,” citing a study from a Toronto research group called The Atmospheric Fund which explained that due to methane leakage “there is little difference between the climate impacts of natural gas and coal in the short term.” More Facebook ads included in the complaint. Source: CAPE The complaint contests the claim that gas is particularly “affordable” to Canadians, referencing a 2022 Natural Resources Canada report which found low-carbon heat pumps are modestly cheaper for people to have in their homes than natural gas furnaces.   A family seeing ads from Fuelling Canada could be convinced “to install a gas-powered energy system because they believe it to be ‘clean’ and ‘affordable’ but be stuck living with a harmful polluter and paying volatile, rising gas prices for the 25-year life of the system. Low-income households will be the worst impacted,” according to a press release about the complaint.  As a physician Lem is deeply aware of the health risks of natural gas. “The images of a happy family and children over a gas stove and using the word ‘clean,’ that in particular is very inaccurate,” she said.  The post Doctors File False Advertising Complaint Over Hidden Health Risks of Gas appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy, doctors, health, natural gas]

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[l] at 9/30/22 8:41am
LIVERPOOL, UK Heathrow was a major presence at the Labour Party’s annual conference, held this week in Liverpool, where the theme was “A Fairer, Greener Britain”. The airport paid an unknown sum to host a “Heathrow Lounge” at the event.  Heathrow has been called the second most-polluting airport in the world. The airport is pushing ahead with plans for a third runway, even though experts warn that the expansion may lead to the release of several million additional tonnes of carbon emissions into  the atmosphere.  Nonetheless, the venue featured messages about Heathrow becoming “a more sustainable airport” that is “playing our part” in cutting emissions. Sponsoring such lounges is  “prohibitively expensive for all but the largest of businesses,” and “affords unlimited access to MPs and other party members behind closed doors for the duration of the conference”, said Tim Johnson, the director of Aviation Environment Federation, a green transportation group. “This ability to influence the discussion, and deny any alternative point of view, is completely inappropriate at a time when the aviation sector is looking for political support for airport expansion, and finance for alternative fuels,” he added. A Heathrow spokesperson defended the airport’s presence at the conference. “It is absolutely right that Heathrow, alongside others in the sector, engages with political stakeholders to build knowledge, facilitate discussion and ultimately promote development of the policies that will cut aviation emissions”, the spokesperson told DeSmog. Pointing to the UK aviation sector’s target of net zero by 2050, the spokesperson said that Heathrow believes new technology, including sustainable aviation fuels, are “part of a pathway to a future where the societal benefits of aviation can be secured without the carbon cost”.  Environmentally Damaging Robert Barnstone, an activist with the group Stop Heathrow Expansion, criticised Labor for accepting the sponsorship. “I thought it was a little odd how the party takes such large sums of money from Heathrow given its theme this year in particular,” Barnstone told DeSmog. “I know it doesn’t sit right with party members and some MPs that the party is so willing to take the money” given Heathrow’s “environmentally damaging” expansion plans, he added.   The Labour Party did not respond when contacted for comment.  The Heathrow spokesperson also defended the plans for a third runway, saying: “We believe that expanding Heathrow is critical for the UK’s future economic success. We have always been clear that it will only be delivered within strict environmental limits, and the Airports National Policy Statement which governs the project is also clear that the project cannot go ahead if these targets are not met.” According to an AEF analysis seen by DeSmog, the increase in air traffic that would result from expansion would boost Heathrow’s annual carbon dioxide emissions from around 19.5 million tonnes pre-pandemic to more than 20 million tonnes by 2050,  The group says the Department for Transport estimates that without expansion, Heathrow’s yearly CO2 emissions would fall to 15.9 million tonnes in 2050, due to caps on the number of flights and more efficient planes.  The UK government’s independent climate advisory body, the Climate Change Committee, has said no “net increase” in airport expansion should be allowed unless the industry “sufficiently outperforms” its current emission projections. Heathrow will be sponsoring lounges at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Birmingham in early October, and at the Scottish National Party’s conference soon after. DeSmog recently reported that the Conservative Party received £651,000 from the aviation industry between April and June this year. The post Heathrow-Sponsored ‘Lounge’ at Labour Conference Draws Criticism appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/29/22 11:46am
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) pulled the plug on his permitting reform bill on Tuesday, ending what would have been a major overhaul of bedrock environmental laws that date back to the 1970s. The demise of Manchin’s bill also means that a long-distance fracked gas pipeline named in the proposed reform is once again facing long odds of moving forward. Framed by Democratic leadership as a companion piece to the Inflation Reduction Act, and as a “dirty side deal” by activists, Senator Manchin’s permitting reform legislation sought to streamline the regulatory and legal process in order to speed up the construction of a variety of energy, minerals, and electric transmission infrastructure projects, both clean and dirty. It would have placed time limits on environmental reviews, shortened the window for legal challenges, curtailed the ability of states to use the Clean Water Act to reject projects, and created a list of vital energy projects in the national interest that would be prioritized. One of the more controversial elements of Manchin’s package was the explicit greenlighting of the Mountain Valley pipeline (MVP), a long-distance pipeline that would carry fracked Marcellus shale gas from West Virginia through Virginia, with a possible extension into North Carolina. The legislation attracted strange bedfellows. The American Clean Power Association, a lobbying group for renewable energy companies, supported it, arguing that it would speed up the deployment of solar and wind because it would lead to the construction of more long-distance transmission lines, clearing the way to connect more solar and wind to the electric grid. The bill also had the early backing of the American Petroleum Institute (API), and a draft of the bill from two months ago was stamped with API’s watermark, suggesting the oil industry’s heavy influence over the text. But the effort to rewrite environmental laws was also fiercely opposed by a broad coalition of progressive Democrats and climate justice organizations. The bill “would represent the most significant loss of protections under the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in the modern history of America,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) wrote in a letter to his colleagues on September 23. Activists rallied in Washington, D.C., just hours before Manchin decided to pull his bill, which was tacked on to a stopgap funding bill to keep the federal government operating past September 30. Mountain Valley Pipeline Approval Would Set a “Horrible Precedent” The Mountain Valley pipeline has been bogged down in legal problems, delays, and ballooning costs for several years. Even though the pipeline had not cleared all the regulatory and legal hurdles, it began construction anyway. It was originally expected to be completed by 2018, but has been repeatedly pushed back by federal court decisions. In the course of construction, the project has racked up more than 500 violations of permit conditions, environmental laws, and regulations, according to a recent report from Appalachian Voices, a regional group opposed to the project. The original price tag was $3.7 billion, but that has since exploded to at least $6.6 billion. “The Mountain Valley Pipeline project is a financial debacle, and forcing through permits for the project will not change that basic fact,” Suzanne Mattei, an energy policy analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), told DeSmog in an email. The company claims that it is over 90 percent completed, but local activists say that figure overstates the progress of the project. The most technically complex sections of construction remain, and Appalachian Voices estimates that the project is only 55 percent complete. As DeSmog reported last year, the pipeline needs to be constructed up and down steep slopes, and across hundreds of streams and rivers. In July 2021, a regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that covers Virginia and West Virginia said that the project should not receive a key water permit because of “substantial concerns” about negative impacts on waterways from construction. Little has changed since then, except that the project has been hit with several more legal setbacks, delaying it another year or more. Manchin has cited the protracted time it takes to build energy infrastructure as evidence of outdated environmental rules and need for the reforms he proposed. In a highly unusual move, Manchin’s permitting reform went to great lengths to sidestep legal challenges to the pipeline and authorize the project. The bill would have required federal agencies to issue “all approval and permits necessary” for the construction of the project. It would have also shifted legal questions out of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit — where MVP has repeatedly run into a brick wall — and into the D.C. Circuit Court, where it might receive more favorable treatment.   “We’ve had the same three judges from the Fourth Circuit 10 times ruling against,” Manchin said in mid-September, referring to MVPs legal setbacks, according to Bloomberg. “All we are asking for is a good shot at this.” But critics say that the inability for the pipeline company to obtain permits is an indictment of the project, not state and federal environmental laws. “The fact that legal and regulatory challenges are a barrier to project completion is not the fault of the environmental laws that protect people’s water and land, but rather the fault of MVP, LLC, who appears either unwilling or unable to comply with the regulations,” Appalachian Voices wrote in their recent report. When producing the final text, Sen. Manchin’s staff consulted with Equitrans Midstream, one of the owners of the Mountain Valley pipeline, according to the Washington Post. Equitrans reportedly supported changing language to the Clean Water Act, although the Post said it was not clear who initially proposed the tweak. The aggressive effort on behalf of Manchin to ram through the pipeline project ultimately alienated his Senate colleagues. In a big blow to Manchin’s efforts, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who is closer to the center of the political spectrum, came out forcefully against the legislation, citing the special treatment granted to MVP. “The proposal is an effort by an energy consortium to rewrite rules of administrative and judicial process just for MVP because it is unhappy with the rulings of a single court,” Kaine said. “Allowing them to fundamentally change federal law to achieve their goal would surely encourage other wealthy people and companies to try the same. I won’t participate in opening that door to abuse and even corruption.” Lacking enough votes, Manchin decided to throw in the towel, announcing on Tuesday that he asked Democratic leadership to withdraw the bill. “Sen. Manchin’s legislation would have set a horrible precedent by circumventing normal process on behalf of a project that has repeatedly failed to meet longstanding environmental standards,” Appalachian Voices Executive Director Tom Cormons said in a statement. Fate of MVP Uncertain The demise of permitting reform puts MVP right back to where it was prior to this recent legislative push — a troubled project that is over budget and whose chances of completion are questionable. Equitrans Midstream saw its stock price plunge by more than 8 percent in early trading on September 28, the morning after news broke that Manchin caved. “This proposal was a desperate Hail Mary pass by the pipeline’s developers, who know how many obstacles remain in their path,” Cormons said. “We will not stop fighting until this harmful project is stopped.” In a securities filing from early this year, NextEra Energy, a partner in the Mountain Valley pipeline, wrote down the value of its stake in the project by $800 million, stating that it determined the project had a “very low probability” of ever being completed.   Equitrans Midstream did not respond to a request for comment from DeSmog. More broadly, the era of massive long-distance gas pipelines could be coming to an end.  “The outlook for construction of new pipelines in the region is limited. Design and construction take years, and the period required for payoff of those costs may be 20 years or more,” Mattei said. “Given the fast-moving renewable energy sectors competitiveness, such projects are looking less and less attractive.” But that may not be the end of the story just yet. Manchin’s decision to scrap his permitting reform bill may be a tactical retreat rather than an admission of defeat. There are two year-end pieces of legislation generally thought of as “must-pass” bills — the National Defense Authorization Act and the omnibus government spending bill. Permitting reform could hitch a ride on those legislative vehicles, and Manchin and others have already hinted at that possibility. Still, Manchin faces the same problem of cobbling together enough support. If he tweaks the bill in a more industry-friendly way, he will lose more Democratic backing. If he scraps some of the fossil fuel perks and focuses on clean energy, he will be unable to attract Republicans. An analysis from Oil Change International estimates that the fossil fuel projects that could spring to life because of Manchin’s permitting reform could top 665 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, five times more than the potential emissions savings that would result from more renewable energy projects that would have also benefited from the bill. Appalachian communities celebrated the failure of Manchin’s legislation, but remain on guard. “Let the downfall of this bill be a lesson to Senator Manchin, his fossil fuel cronies, and allied politicians: we will no longer be sacrificed for your corrupt interests,” Russell Chisholm, an organizer with Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR), a coalition of Virginia and West Virginia activists, said in a statement. “We are united against all fossil fuel projects and we will ensure the livable and just future that we deserve. Join us or step aside.” The post With Manchins Permitting Reform on Ice, Mountain Valley Pipeline Again Faces Uncertain Future appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/28/22 7:33am
LIVERPOOL, UK Gas companies and hydrogen lobbyists are using the Labour Party’s annual conference to push “false solutions to the climate crisis”, according to green campaigners.  Labour has made climate and energy its central policy agenda, and its conference in Liverpool this week has touted the slogan “A Fairer, Greener Future”. However, the hydrogen industry has had an outsized presence at the event compared to cleaner alternatives. Gas company Cadent and industry groups Hydrogen UK and the Hydrogen All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) have sponsored several conference panels with shadow ministers, along with a giant “hydrogen zone” pavillion featuring a green double-decker hydrogen-powered bus.  Industry figures used the panels, attended by DeSmog, to promote hydrogen as a catch-all solution to the UK’s low-carbon transition. But climate and clean energy campaigners worry that hydrogen is an expensive and inefficient solution to energy needs such as home heating when compared to green alternatives like wind, solar and heat pumps. They contend that gas companies, which have lobbied hard for hydrogen, are prioritizing their profits over cutting greenhouse gas pollution. “The hydrogen industry is the fossil gas industry in sheep’s clothing, offering false solutions to the climate crisis while trying to keep gas flowing into people’s homes,” said Dominic Eagleton, senior gas campaigner at Global Witness. “It’s a worrying sign that they are targeting politicians who should be setting an ambitious green agenda, and who it is vital do not fall for industry greenwash.” The Labour Party’s climate and energy policy proposals, released this week, feature expansion of hydrogen as a replacement for methane gas, alongside nuclear and tidal energy. The party is also calling for huge capacity increases in solar as well as onshore and offshore wind, though these industries had a much smaller presence at the conference.  Labour’s embrace of hydrogen comes as a study released this week by energy analysts Cornwall Insight estimated that hydrogen could increase energy bills by around 70 percent. A separate review of 32 hydrogen studies, published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Joule, concludes that “hydrogen use for domestic heating is less economic, less efficient, more resource intensive” than several low- and no-carbon alternatives, and “associated with larger environmental impacts.” Hydrogen Zone Visitors to the conference’s hydrogen pavillion – one of the largest in the exhibition hall – were greeted by a huge lit-up sign with a quote from shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves that reads: “I’m a massive fan of hydrogen”. A leaflet features supportive quotes from other Labour politicians. A Worcester Bosch hydrogen ready boiler at the hydrogen zone at Labour conference. Credit: DeSmog British Gas owner Centrica has a display in the zone, which also includes a “hydrogen ready boiler” manufactured by Worcester Bosch. Earlier this month, DeSmog reported on concerns that hydrogen ready boilers are little more than “greenwashed” gas boilers, as they are likely to run on natural gas for their lifetime.  “Amidst the glossy brochures and expensive stalls at conference, we hope politicians are asking who all this really benefits,” said Juliet Phillips, a senior policy advisor at think tank E3G. Green Gas At a Monday panel titled “Green gas? Making the hydrogen economy a reality”, Dr Tony Ballance, Cadent’s director of strategy and regulation, advocated for hydrogen over green power sources as key to a stable low-carbon energy supply. The UK would need “gas-fired capacity” to back up batteries, he said, “in those periods when you don’t have the solar and you don’t have the wind”.  The panel was sponsored by Cadent and right-leaning Labour group Bright Blue. Dr Ballance, who described himself as “a passionate environmentalist”, also cast doubt on heat pumps, citing a study by trade association the Energy Utilities Alliance which he claimed “shows that heat pumps are unlikely to work in properties of around 37 to 50 percent, so a good chunk of properties”, adding that “heat pumps have very high up front costs”.  Dr Ballance also described “blue hydrogen” – which is made using natural gas in a process that involves capturing the methane’s carbon dioxide emissions – would be “hugely important for decarbonisation” as power generators made the long term switch  to “green hydrogen”, which is made using solar and wind.  However, when asked by DeSmog, he was unable to say when Cadent’s grid would be wholly powered by green hydrogen, adding: “It’s really difficult to give you a date”.  Blue Hydrogen and Blended Boilers Speaking on a panel titled “What do we need to do to make hydrogen a reality?”, Hydrogen UK CEO Clare Jackson  called for speedy investment in hydrogen, urging industry and government not to “take our foot off the gas”.  The panel was hosted by the industry-funded Hydrogen APPG. When DeSmog asked Ms Jackson why investment in fossil-fuel produced blue hydrogen made sense given the urgent need to slash carbon pollution, her answer was that “it’s not really about the production, I think it’s purely about emissions”. The government’s low carbon hydrogen standard means “only hydrogen that meets that emissions standards and is done well will be able to play a part in our low carbon economy”, she said. “I think that’s probably the best technology agnostic way of ensuring that the hydrogen that we’re using is genuinely low carbon”.  Panelist Melanie Taylor, head of stakeholder relations at Northern Gas Networks, praised trials of “hydrogen blend” boilers, because the technology “doesn’t require anybody to make any changes in the home”. Gas companies are keen to promote hydrogen for heating homes because it can be combined with gas and flows through existing gas infrastructure. Hydrogen blend boilers can operate on a fuel mixture of 20 percent hydrogen and 80 percent methane.  When DeSmog pointed out that replacing just a fifth of the fuel’s methane with hydrogen would do little to reduce carbon emissions, she agreed: “Blending isn’t an end point, you’re right. You wouldn’t blend and then say, ‘That’s it, problem solved’.” Not Viable for Home Heating Labour shadow minister for Green New Deal and Energy Alan Whitehead, who chaired the panel,  followed up Jackson and Taylor’s comments by emphasizing the party’s commitment to clean energy: “I want to make very clear that whether we are on a trajectory which requires some blue to come in – and it has to be blue and not grey – then it’s very much a transition [to an] overwhelmingly green hydrogen process”  Grey hydrogen is made using natural gas and does not aim to capture and bury its carbon emissions.  David Cowdrey, director of external affairs at the independent renewable energy charity MCS Charitable Foundation, which commissioned the Cornwall Insight study, told DeSmog: “The evidence from independent researchers and industry experts clearly shows that while there will be a role for green hydrogen in industry and transport, it is not effective or viable for home heating. “Heat pumps are the most efficient form of home heating, and unlike hydrogen are zero-carbon at the point of use,” he said.“Politicians must not listen to the false claims that hydrogen is a silver bullet for heating our homes.The hydrogen hype cannot be allowed to distract from the immediate and urgent task of insulating the UK’s leaky houses and electrifying our heating [using heat pumps].” “Hydrogen will have a role to play in reaching net zero,” said E3G’s Juliet Phillips, “but we hope that decision makers are listening to the science and economics rather than the lobbyists regarding where it makes sense, and where it doesn’t.”  The post Hydrogen Lobby Targeting Labour Conference with ‘False Solutions’, Say Campaigners appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/27/22 11:00pm
Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who played a key role in brokering the Paris Agreement, was renowned for using every conceivable ruse to charm, chivvy, and cajole world leaders to act. But this week she will address a theme, rarely mentioned in U.N. negotiations, that she sees as the hidden culprit behind 30 years of missed chances to confront the climate crisis: the legacy of collective trauma.  It’s well established that individuals can suffer lasting consequences from traumatic experiences, whether they be a child who survived abuse or a soldier returning from combat. But there is now a growing movement of practitioners working to unravel how communal experiences of war, slavery, racism, genocide, colonialism, gender violence and other forms of oppression can cause shared trauma on a collective scale. Leaders in this emerging field argue that the impact of events that took place decades or even centuries ago, can cascade through generations, silently shaping the destiny of communities, cultures, and nations — and perhaps the planet itself. In the case of climate change, the sheer insanity of allowing carbon emissions to balloon to the point where the resulting heating threatens all life on Earth has prompted a search for deeper explanations. What lies underneath the perennial deadlocks at climate conferences, or the enduring grip of the fossil fuel lobby on the way we order our lives?   “Why is this happening? Yes, its because of concentrations of greenhouse gases. Fine. What else is there? What else? What is the human factor that has allowed us to this situation without having addressed climate change for decades?” Figueres will ask the online Collective Trauma Summit 2022, which begins September 28, according to a pre-recording of her interview seen by DeSmog. That a climate figure as prominent as Figueres is participating in the event alongside psychiatrists, indigenous leaders, activists, and authors such as Terry Tempest Williams and Bayo Akomolafe, shows how campaigners are increasingly breaking traditional silos to reckon with the inner dimensions of the crisis. Figueres is among those who argue that the industrialized world’s failure to mount a meaningful response to climate change is itself a symptom of collective trauma, rooted in patterns of exploitation handed down over generations. Others liken the way people who suffered early adversity often resort to self-medicating their pain to society’s pursuit of endless, fossil fuel-powered economic growth. Could this apparently suicidal addiction represent an attempt to push away some deeper, long-forgotten collective wound? And could politicians’ apparent paralysis in response to the threat mirror the way individuals with significant trauma may go emotionally numb, or avoid potential triggers, rather than acknowledge their deepest hurt? Christiana Figueres briefs the press at COP21 in Paris, 2015. Credit: UNclimatechange (CC BY 2.0) Over the past few years, I’ve come to see collective trauma as a powerful — if mostly neglected — explanatory lens to better understand our many crises. Whether documenting the struggles of British military veterans and their families in my book, Aftershock, or covering the climate crisis, I’ve begun to notice unexpected connections between the kind of symptoms trauma can cause at the individual, cultural, and global level. Seeking to deepen my understanding of this hidden-in-plain-sight phenomenon, I’m participating in a two-year training program with Thomas Hübl, the Austrian teacher and facilitator who created the annual summit, in which I’m serving as a co-host this year.  From this vantage point, I see the collective trauma healing and climate movements as natural allies. Indeed, it is hard to see how either could succeed alone. If the analysis offered by Xiye Bastida, a 20-year-old activist from the Otomí community in Mexico, is correct, then climate campaigners need new tools to change the thought patterns that drive the crisis — rather than forever placating their symptoms.  “The climate crisis is the consequence of a mindset: The mindset that people can be oppressed, that you can go to new territories, loot them, appropriate them, and get rich from them,” Bastida says in remarks prepared for the nine-day summit. “The mindset that created this crisis cannot be the same mindset that we use to solve it.” Hidden Legacy Psychologists have long noted that trauma can be passed down a family line, as parents inadvertently recreate the abusive or neglectful atmospheres in which they themselves were raised. But an equivalent mechanism seems to affect entire generations, Hübl writes in his 2020 book, Healing Collective Trauma, driving repetitive cycles of violence, prejudice, and dysfunction. Whether our ancestors were victims or perpetrators, or a mixture of both, the past shapes our perceptions of what should pass for “normal” behavior in insidious ways, coloring the environment into which we’re born. In terms of global heating, the manifestations of collective trauma can be seen at every scale. Wealthy countries, who did the most to cause the crisis, deny any responsibility for reparations — known in climate jargon as “loss and damage” — perpetuating traumatic colonial and imperialist patterns of exploitation. Fossil fuel executives press ahead with plans to exploit new oil and gas reserves, rationalizing the harm such projects will cause with the self-serving logic settler classes once used to subjugate Indigenous tribes.  The kind of grandiosity, manipulation, and blame-shifting that can emerge as defenses against childhood trauma are so often evident among leaders in politics, business, and finance that the mostly passive acceptance of this state of affairs could itself be seen as a symptom of mass numbing caused by collective trauma. Perhaps the most glaring symptom of all is simply denial: Not only the active misinformation campaigns financed for years by Big Oil to undermine climate science, but the widespread failure at almost every level of society to acknowledge the urgency of the crisis. Then there is the tendency of governments and right-wing media to attack the activists who are doing the most to raise the alarm.  Such problems can seem too entrenched to contemplate. Nevertheless, just as I’ve known soldiers who managed to escape nightmarish trauma symptoms with the right support, so can repetitive historical cycles be broken, when people come together intentionally in community.  “The mindset that created this crisis cannot be the same mindset that we use to solve it.” Xiye Bastida Blending insights from neurobiology and ancient wisdom traditions, Hübl represents a growing cohort of practitioners who work with groups of hundreds, even thousands, of people at a time to address collective wounds, from the Holocaust to racism and gender violence. Typically, collective trauma healing takes place over a period of days. Facilitators work to establish safety and trust, before leading groups into ever-deepening encounters with material from the past. The process can be rocky: Long-buried ancestral pain erupts to the surface, to finally be felt fully and released. As the frozen layers of this psychological “permafrost” thaw, stagnant emotion liquefies into a deeper capacity for the insight and empathy needed to build a better future.  In his 2019 paper Climate Trauma: Toward a New Taxonomy of Trauma, ecopsychologist Zhiwa Woodbury argues that mainstream psychology has faltered in its response to climate change by focusing mostly on how hurricanes, droughts, or other disasters affect victims’ mental health. “Are we conflating symptoms and disease here?” Woodbury writes. “What if, rather than thinking of trauma as being a potential symptom of episodic events associated with climate change…climate change itself were to be considered as a new, superordinate form of trauma?” The concept of “Climate Trauma” thus recognizes that the climate crisis is not an event but a continually occurring reality unfolding in real time, bringing life as we’ve always known it crashing down, and simultaneously shaping a new, foreign future. The scale of the destruction man-made warming is causing, and will cause, isn’t only affecting every culture — it’s changing the very definition of what it means to be human. It follows that if we’re going to reckon with our climate trauma, we need to draw on collective healing practices to come together to acknowledge the feelings of helplessness, shame, fear, and grief we’re holding — and tap into the wisdom that lies on the other side.  “How can we come to recognize the dark as part of ourselves so we may integrate its lessons and through them be transformed?” Hübl writes in Healing Collective Trauma. “And how would such healing, on a collective scale, advance the care of the planet that is our home?”  The Power of Communities Summit guests Skeena Rathor and Gail Bradbrook of civil disobedience movement Extinction Rebellion are working to offer a living answer to that question with their new project, XR Being the Change.  Following the work of the psychiatrist and philosopher Iain McGilchrist, neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor, and others, Rathor and Bradbrook argue that humans are capable of two broad modes of thought: An intuitive, holistic way of seeing that appreciates the interconnected web of life; and a self-centered, calculating sensibility that shades more easily into domination and control.  That more egocentric style of thinking — which can be sparked by existential crises or trauma — leads to the increasingly violent extraction of resources from our neighbors and nature, in turn generating mutually-reinforcing waves of collective trauma. The result: Today’s globalized economy that extracts, exploits, and excretes pollution, constantly shapeshifting to resist change, while seducing or pressing whole populations into its service. “Some call it the power-over paradigm, the war and domination paradigm. Some call it patriarchy, some call it whiteness. And theyre all slightly different and part of something that feels like a disease, a mass disease, and a degeneration of our humanity,” Rathor, a veteran political activist who has trained in multiple trauma healing techniques, said in a summit interview.  Extinction Rebellion at Oxford Circus in London. Credit: Lola Perrin XR Being the Change aims to learn from communities and cultures around the world that have managed to resist this paradigm, while organizing acts of repair and resistance that connect local to global struggles.  “Youll have frontline communities that are in resistance and literally fighting with their bodies, willing to put their lives on the line,” Bradbrook said in dialogue with Rathor. “How are we supporting that frontline resistance? How are we working with employees within institutions that are complicit that dont want to be?” Hailing from the Bhutia community indigenous to the Tibetan plateau, Dekila Chungyalpa told the summit that she has also experienced the transformative power of community, thanks to her Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. “One of the reasons why I push people so much towards community action is because we know it works on so many levels. It heals us, first of all, from eco-anxiety,” said Chungyalpa, who now runs the Loka Initiative, a faith-led environmental action platform at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “And it heals what the planet is going through, right? We know that collectively were just much, much stronger than we are as individuals.” Some argue that systemic change’s best hope may be to build a sufficient critical mass of these kinds of small- and large-group processes to catalyze the kind of sudden shift that few saw coming — the collapse of the Berlin Wall or the Arab Spring, for example. In her book You Matter More Than You Think, Karen O’Brien, a former Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change social scientist, makes a similar case, drawing on insights from quantum social change to argue that positive tipping points can arrive much faster than many might assume.   A Journey Best Shared In my experience, the kind of collective trauma healing resources and competencies that Hübl and other practitioners teach are precisely the skills we need to build communities, teams, and social movements capable of driving the rapid transformation demanded by the climate crisis.  It starts with leaders learning to be trauma-informed and bringing these skills into their organizations. By supporting each individual to develop the capacity to slow down, communicate more precisely, and attune to those around them, it becomes much easier to address the subtle influence of unacknowledged trauma that might otherwise derail a project. Even simple practices can help build more collaborative cultures. For example, teams might start meetings with brief personal check-ins, and then integrate more advanced, multi-day processes, all of which can help build trust, improve morale, and align members with a clear mission. When groups build greater coherence in this way, a mysterious X-factor — Hübl calls it “collective intelligence” — kicks in and transformation can often unfold in delightfully surprising ways. Finally, these tools can be applied at high-stakes moments. Collective trauma facilitators are skilled at holding groups together even as individuals grapple with intense feelings of fear, shame, anger, and grief. Such capacities could be readily adapted to support make-or-break negotiations — such as U.N. climate talks. The basic principles of trauma-informed leadership could equally be adapted to overcome the frictions that inevitably arise in movement building.  We are standing in front of a portal that we are beginning to walk through, and that is going to take us to understand, and experience, a much higher version of ourselves. Christiana Figueres Some will say that focusing on trauma is at best marginal, and at worst a distraction from the urgent task of challenging the economic and political structures driving climate breakdown. Others will argue that without also confronting the legacy of collective trauma, it would be pointless to even try. For Figueres, a former U.N. climate chief, the crisis is not just the greatest threat humanity has faced — it’s also its biggest opportunity. “I very deeply sense that we are not standing at the precipice of the doom of the human species,” Figueres said. “But rather that we are standing in front of a portal that we are beginning to walk through, and that is going to take us to understand, and experience, a much higher version of ourselves.” For that rebirth to happen, we will first need to explore the depths of the darkness we carry within. It is a journey best shared.  Matthew Green is the global investigations editor at DeSmog. He is also a co-host of the Collective Trauma Summit 2022 and a student on Thomas Hübl’s two-year Timeless Wisdom Training program. He writes the Resonant World newsletter on healing collective trauma. To watch summit interviews, register at the website. Interviews can be watched for free for up to 48 hours after they are first shown.  The post What the Climate Movement Can Learn From Collective Trauma Healing appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/27/22 4:04pm
Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C., dozens of activists rallied in two separate but related protests against what they see as climate science denial — first, controversial comments from the World Bank’s leader, and second, Senate plans to force through a gas pipeline and ease other energy project permitting.* Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, who spoke at both rallies, told DeSmog, “The thing we desperately need to do, according to every scientist, is use less fossil fuel. Why we would make it easier to build more fossil fuel projects, it’s just craziness. Theres no logical argument for it. Their only argument for it is ‘Ive got enough money and political power to push it through.’ But thats not an argument, thats just power.” Bill McKibben, environmental activist and founder of Third Act, which organizes people over age 60 for action on climate and justice, speaks to a small rally in front of the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. on September 27. Credit: Zach Roberts The protests were planned by two coalitions of environmental and progressive groups, including Third Act, American Blue Ridge Alliance, Our Revolution, Friends of the Earth US, Glasgow Actions Team, The Climate Reality Project, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Our Future WV, For All, and WV Coalition to End the Filibuster. Bill McKibben on Sen. Manchins legislative efforts to bypass environmental review of the Mountain Valley pipeline and the uphill battle to overcome it. Credit: Zach Roberts At first activists rallied at the World Bank headquarters to speak out against recent comments from the Trump-appointed World Bank head David Malpass. When asked during a public event last week if he believed in the connection between fossil fuels and climate change, Malpass responded, “I dont even know. Im not a scientist.” Climate activists are calling for Malpass’s resignation from the powerful global bank, which is tasked with reducing poverty by giving favorable loans to low-income nations and has not yet ended fossil fuel financing. The White House has since condemned the comments.  Activists hold signs calling for the resignation of the World Bank head David Malpass. Credit: Zach Roberts Next, protesters assembled at the east side of the U.S. Capitol, where they rallied to draw attention to Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-W.VA) efforts to push through the Mountain Valley pipeline. The fight against this fossil gas pipeline has been going on for years, with activists blocking work on it and protesting in Washington, D.C. The more than $6 billion pipeline, which has long been plagued by legal and regulatory hurdles, would run over 300 miles between West Virginia and Virginia, and in January, a court threw out the federal government’s approval of the pipeline’s route through a national forest.  Pipeline opponents are saying that they’ve been thrown under the gas-guzzling bus by a side deal made with Sen. Manchin during the negotiations for the Inflation Recovery Act, which this summer passed billions of dollars to fight climate change. Peter Allen Johnson, center, tied the taking of Appalachians’ land for the Mountain Valley pipeline to the larger issue at hand, saying, “The corporations are taking the land through eminent domain. They even want to take over the climate and ruin the climate.” Credit: Zach Roberts Peter Allen Johnson of the American Blue Ridge Alliance and Christians for the Mountains compared the fight against the pipeline to a biblical story. Johnson recalled the story of Naboth the Jezreelite, who owned an ancestral vineyard which a king demanded he turn over but Naboth refused. The king’s wife Queen Jezebel — whom Johnson compared to Senator Joe Manchin — then successfully conspired to obtain the vineyard from Naboth through illegitimate means.  Manchin’s deal, which would be tacked onto a continuing resolution to fund the federal government, has been shepherded by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and would allow accelerated timelines for environmental review of projects like the Mountain Valley pipeline. A statement on the legislation released from Manchin’s office specifically calls for the “Authorization of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.” It also “requires the President to designate and prioritize reviews for a list of [25] strategically important energy and mineral projects…” essentially forcing the hand of the President to allow continued large-scale fossil fuel projects. The bill would allow expedited environmental review for renewable projects as well. In Washington, D.C., opposition has been unfolding for weeks against Senator Manchins fossil fuel-friendly proposal. Credit: Zach Roberts The proposal also goes after the Clean Water Act’s power to object to federal authorization of major projects, such as oil and gas infrastructure, according to Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity. In a statement Hartl said, “We don’t need to gut the Clean Water Act and other bedrock environmental laws to build out wind and solar energy.”  Both West Virginia Senators have received at least $10,000 in donations from the PAC of the company that will eventually run the pipeline, Equitrans Midstream, according to OpenSecrets. In addition, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) has thousands of dollars of investments in NextEra Energy Inc., one of the companies building the pipeline. Both Sens. Manchin and Schumer have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from fossil gas companies, including more than $280,000 going to Schumer and nearly $60,000 to Manchin from NextEra during this election cycle.   From the Frontlines of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Battle Theresa “Red” Terry did a tree sit-in for weeks on her land trying to prevent the Mountain Valley pipeline construction. Credit: Zach Roberts Theresa “Red” Terry used to have red hair but she says due to the stress of the last eight years she has spent fighting against this pipeline, her hair has lost its original color. She lives on a Roanoke County, Virginia farm that’s been in her husband’s family for seven generations; it was reportedly granted to them by the king of England before the United States even existed. But that land is slated to have the Mountain Valley pipeline pass through it, and Terry spent weeks in a tree on this land in protest in 2018. She explained that this project meant that a “42 inch fracked gas pipeline [is] going to be 1400 pounds of pressure going through my backyard up hills.” Mountain Valley pipeline opponent Red Terry describes safety and environmental concerns about the fossil gas pipelines path through steep hills and challenging topography in Appalachia. Credit: Zach Roberts At today’s protest over the pipeline at the U.S. Capitol, Terry told DeSmog of terror campaigns that the pipeline companies allegedly have been committing against residents along the project’s path: shooting guns in the sky at night and setting off dynamite charges when none were supposed to occur. She’s most worried about the water in this section of Appalachia. “If they blow up the water here, that interrupts the flow of the water and sends it somewhere else. So youre affecting peoples farms, their wells, the wildlife.”  Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) told Politico last week that he wasn’t part of the conversation on the pipeline that would pass through his state (known as MVP). “All I have said is, I am deeply opposed to the MVP provision, and frankly I think it would open a door that we do not want to open.” While voicing concern, Sen. Kaine did not seem prepared for a fight that could blow up the federal spending bill that’s close to passing. “I’m not a threat-style person,” he said. “Let me tell you where I am. Let me tell you what I think about this. Can we solve it?” However, Red Terry says she is hoping that her senator will stand up for her interests in the pipeline battle. If he doesn’t, she warns, he’ll hear from her. *Update 9/27/2022 4:19 p.m. Pacific: Sen. Manchin today withdrew his energy proposal from the government spending bill after bipartisan opposition, including from Sen. Kaine, scuttled its chances of passing. I stand ready to work with my colleagues to move forward on this critical legislation to meet the challenges of delivering affordable reliable energy Americans desperately need,” Manchin wrote. “Inaction is not a strategy for energy independence and security.” My statement on the decision to remove the comprehensive permitting reform language from the Continuing Resolution: pic.twitter.com/M0lARzHp8x— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) September 27, 2022 According to The New York Times, Sen. Schumer said he would continue to work toward passage of the energy plan before the end of the year. Climate advocates welcomed the news of the proposals demise. Over the last few weeks, frontline leaders with a mass movement behind them have made clear the incredible dangers and deceptive political maneuvering around Manchin’s fossil fuel fast tracking bill, May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org, said in a statement. We have more work to do but today we breathe a sigh of relief.” The post DC Protests Highlight US Climate Opposition to Manchin Deal, World Bank Head appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/23/22 10:39am
The dust has barely settled on the Conservative Party leadership race and the new UK government has already begun confirming many climate campaigners’ worst fears about the direction Liz Truss intends to take the country in. Her energy secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg this week announced that the UK’s zombie fracking industry would be resurrected, despite a much-awaited report saying that there was still “limited” understanding of the UKs shale gas reserves and the impacts of extracting them, with earthquake forecasting remaining a “scientific challenge”. There are also rumours Truss could break a campaign promise not to press ahead with drilling projects without local community consent. Add to that a huge round of new licences for North Sea oil and gas extraction – and no further windfall taxes on energy companies making bumper profits – and it’s clear the former Shell manager has few qualms about going all-out for fossil fuels. Temporarily putting her small-state philosophy to one side, the former foreign secretary has said she’ll splurge tens of billions to shelter billpayers from sky-high energy prices – providing welcome relief for households but reducing the incentive for people to cut back consumption, thereby making the UK’s energy supply more vulnerable. That’s not to say there aren’t some green glimmers to be found, though. Truss’s campaign promise to scrap environmental levies on bills turned out to be more bark than bite. The government will now simply be covering them through general taxation – a fairer approach, many would argue. The “mini-budget” also surprised many, with the effective ban on onshore wind lifted and further funding for insulation announced (though well below what experts say is needed). Even the fracking push may end up a damp squib, curtailed by technical problems, environmental damage, and opposition from both local communities and Tory MPs (including some ministers). She’s also announced a “net zero review” to find the most cost-effective ways to reach the UK’s 2050 target, led by one of the greenest Tories there is – Chris Skidmore. What action that actually leads to, only time will tell. Judging by Truss’s ties to climate science denial, the team of advisors she’s surrounded herself with, and the money that flowed into her leadership campaign, climate advocates have reason to be more than a little concerned. But what about her new cabinet? Who will be trying to push the government in a greener direction? And who definitely won’t? The Obstructors Jacob Rees-Mogg – Business and Energy Secretary The North East Somerset MP has such a long record of opposing action to cut emissions that he’s got his own profile in DeSmog’s Climate Disinformation Database.  Back in 2014, Rees-Mogg said: “I would like my constituents to have cheap energy rather more than I would like them to have windmills.” Insisting on calling wind turbines “windmills” isn’t the only thing he has in common with former U.S. President Donald Trump. In the same interview, he falsely claimed the UN’s expert climate body, the IPCC, had said cutting emissions “would have no effect for hundreds or possibly a thousand years”.  Rees-Mogg was also the first cabinet minister to endorse the campaign to reverse the UK’s ban on fracking, spearheaded by the backbench Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG), the parliamentary wing of the UK’s principal climate science denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).  In April, he warned of the “huge regulatory cost” of the UK’s net zero target, and the same month said that the UK needs to be “thinking about extracting every last cubic inch of gas from the North Sea”. There are question marks over whether he stands to gain financially from any of these policies. Rees-Mogg was previously referred to the parliamentary standards watchdog for failing to declare in debates that his investment firm, Somerset Capital Management, held shares worth around £3 million in mining firms, £2.4 million in oil and gas producers, and £23 million in tobacco companies, according to the Independent. Suella Braverman – Home Secretary Former Attorney General Suella Braverman was probably the most vocal in her opposition to climate action during the Tory leadership race, vowing to “suspend the all-consuming desire to achieve Net Zero by 2050”. That’s despite her own website stating that “climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and the world faces”. Her campaign was run by the leading opponent of green policies in parliament, Steve Baker, who last week stepped down from his position as trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) to become a junior Northern Ireland minister. And she has a more direct tie to the GWPF, too: her leadership bid was partly funded by a £10,000 donation from a company owned by Terence Mordaunt, who chaired the charity between 2019 and 2021. Braverman’s Head of Communications David Scullion is deputy political editor of The Critic magazine, which regularly publishes articles attacking climate action by Craig Mackinlay, a Conservative backbencher who runs the NZSG with Baker. The Critic, which has received funding from Tory donor Jeremy Hosking, a financier who has millions invested in fossil fuels and has backed various climate science-denying politicians, produced a podcast last year criticising net zero, featuring Baker and Scullion.  Kemi Badenoch – Trade Secretary The former equalities minister was another outspoken critic of UK climate action in the leadership contest, calling the country’s net zero target “unilateral economic disarmament”.  She maintains that “it was wrong of us to set a target without having a clear plan of the cost and knowing what it would entail”. Badenoch has insisted she does “believe in climate change”, but said “there is a better way of going about these things.” She managed to perform a double U-turn on her climate views on the same day during the contest, which is quite a feat. Last year, she went along to a Conservative Party fundraiser with a ticket generously covered by Australian hedge fund manager Michael Hintze, who happens to be one of the few known donors to the UK’s principal climate science denial group, the GWPF – and has been rumoured to be in the running for a Conservative peerage. Nadhim Zahawi Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster The UK’s short-lived finance minister, who has now become a different kind of chancellor – running the royal Duchy of Lancaster and being second-in-command to the prime minister in the Cabinet Office – has been about as embedded within the oil industry as you can get. Zahawi earned £1.3 million from a Kurdish oil company while serving as an MP, has advised fossil fuel companies operating in Nigeria and Canada, and recently defended “struggling” producers in the North Sea. Zahawi’s connections have come under media scrutiny in recent years as several of the companies he has advised have faced various fraud and corruption allegations, one leading to a jail sentence. None overlapped with Zahawi’s time with the firms, though, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing. At the start of the year, Zahawi defended North Sea oil and gas companies and rejected Labour’s call for a windfall tax, later adopted by the government in a more industry-friendly form.  Going further back, a North Sea oil boss gave him a donation in 2017 to help with his general election campaign. And going further back than that, he was among the Tory rebels who pushed for the government to stop backing onshore wind in 2012. The main green initiative Zahawi appears to have been praised for was his launch of a “Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy” to make schools greener, including a new Natural History GCSE exam, earlier this year while he was education secretary.  Chris Heaton-Harris Northern Ireland Secretary Heaton-Harris, while Europe minister earlier this year, said in an official video that the world needed to “go further and faster if we are to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change”. In the message, addressed to the advisory council of the Southern Gas Corridor initiative, which brings gas into Europe from Asia, he said the “cleanest fossil fuel” had “served us well” but would “not serve the interests or wellbeing of our children or our grandchildren”. But the former Brexit minister and chair of the hardline European Research Group of Tory MPs can rightly claim to have done more than any other backbencher to block further onshore wind developments in the UK. During the coalition government, he orchestrated opposition to government planning policy friendly to wind farm projects, co-leading a campaign called Together Against Wind. According to the Guardian, he wrote a manual that was a “step by step guide on opposing a windfarm in your area”. An undercover investigation by Greenpeace in 2012 caught him boasting that he was working to write opposition to wind energy “into the DNA of the Tory Party” and campaign against the UK’s climate goals. He also said he’d suggested that James Delingpole, a former Telegraph columnist and longtime climate science denier, stand against him in a by-election in order to push the issue of wind energy onto the political agenda. The same week, video footage emerged showing Heaton-Harris arguing that wind turbines were harmful to birds, using evidence he admitted he hadn’t actually read. In an article for the Conservative Home website, he wrote that “more and more countries” were understanding that there is a “simple choice between subsidising expensive renewable energy sources, like onshore wind or economic growth. They are all choosing growth. So should we.” In 2015, he tweeted that he was “v pleased” that the government was making it virtually impossible for wind farms to be built, calling the technology “intermittent, expensive and constantly backed up by gas turbines”. The Middlers Kwasi Kwarteng Chancellor Kwarteng has backed the government’s net zero target and said climate change should be tackled with a “sense of urgency”. His time as business and energy secretary was marked by his support for an “all of the above” strategy, backing renewables, fossil fuels and nuclear. Previously an avowed free marketeer, having written the controversial “Britannia Unchained” book with Liz Truss and others, colleagues say he “underwent a conversion at BEIS, becoming convinced of the need for intervention and the potential for clean energy”, according to the Guardian. He has been critical of fracking, downplaying its potential in the Mail on Sunday. He argued it would “take up to a decade to extract sufficient volumes”, “come at a high cost for communities and our precious countryside” and would not be enough to “lower the European price any time soon”. In the run-up to COP26 last year, he said people wouldn’t have to pay more to go green and reportedly pushed for an expansion of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme to pay for home energy efficiency improvements for the poorest households, blocked by then Chancellor Rishi Sunak, according to the Telegraph. However, he also has thrown his full support behind further oil and gas extraction in the North Sea and faced criticism for disproportionate meetings with fossil fuel producers during his time in office. In May, the Independent reported that Kwarteng wanted gas to be classified as “green” to entice investors and drew the ire of campaigners when he misleadingly claimed they wanted to shut down domestic fossil fuel production. Anne-Marie Trevelyan Transport Secretary When Trevelyan was promoted to trade secretary last year, tweets she sent between 2010 and 2012 expressing climate science denial came to light. Labour criticised her for claiming that “the ice caps aren’t melting after all” and that “global warming isn’t actually happening”. Other tweets reveal her views at the time on renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. In 2013, she criticised solar farms and both offshore and onshore wind energy, claiming that developments were “blighting” her rural constituency. She also falsely claimed wind energy doesn’t reduce carbon emissions and approvingly shared an article by James Delingpole explaining why wind farm supporters were “deluded, criminal or insane”. In 2015, she said fracking was “good for UK economy, self sufficient energy needs & environment”. Nevertheless, by 2020, Trevelyan appeared to have warmed to the green agenda. When she was appointed Boris Johnson’s climate adaptation and resilience champion, she said the UK was meeting its net zero target “head on” with a “drive to renewables which takes us out of coal”. Last year, she said net zero was a “shared endeavour”. “If we approach our next challenges with the same zeal that we tackled the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK will continue to lead the way forwards towards a sustainable future across the globe.” She has also spoken favourably about electric vehicles and said in May that recent months had “highlighted the need to accelerate our journey as a global community away from hydrocarbons” and “decisively turn our backs on the era of dependence on polluting fuels”. However, Trevelyan’s time as BEIS minister in 2021 was praised by Oil & Gas UK, the industry body, whose CEO Deirdre Michie said Trevelyan had been “working with us so closely and effectively, especially in relation to the North Sea Transition Deal”. The deal allows for new offshore oil and gas developments and its “climate compatibility” test, announced this week, only relates to production emissions, not those created by burning the fuels. Simon Clarke Levelling Up/Housing Secretary Clarke has a reputation as being on the environmental wing of the Conservative Party, having been named “Britain’s Greenest MP” at The Climate Coalition’s Green Heart Hero Awards in March 2019. He has strongly supported the government’s net zero target. In February 2022, the Independent quoted Clarke’s argument that “it would be positively irrational for us to resile from our net-zero commitments” in response to pressure from the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of anti-green MPs. He added: “There is no benefit either environmentally or economically to going backwards.” In response to a tweet by Julia Hartley-Brewer which claimed that “‘climate catastrophe’ lunatics have forced their insane Net Zero policies on the rest of us”, Clarke hit back tweeting: “This is totally wrong. Delivering Net Zero is hugely important to prevent the devastating impact of climate change on drought and flood risk, migration flows and food security. It’s also the right thing for our economy and national security: good jobs and energy independence.” In June 2022, Clarke delivered a speech during a House of Commons debate saying that a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was “really devastating”, noting the threats of sea level rise and biodiversity loss if global temperatures aren’t limited. However, just a few months before, ahead of the release of the government’s energy strategy, Clarke supported increasing North Sea oil production saying: “We are determined to unlock more production in the North Sea. I cant commit to specific fields, but certainly it is our intention to unlock more production capacity in the North Sea.” In September 2022, he rejected calls for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies’ profits, arguing: “We need to go much, much further in getting new fields on line. That is why we need these companies to be ploughing that investment into the North Sea.” In the same month, he refused to oppose lifting the ban on fracking, instead saying that fracking should be done “in the most sensitive way possible” by obtaining “community consent”. Ranil Jayawardena Environment Secretary Jayawardena’s green credentials remain relatively unknown, despite being given the environment brief. In his previous role as trade minister, Jayawardena called the UK a “global leader” in the pursuit of net zero. He has tweeted repeatedly about meeting with other countries to strike trade deals and support clean energy and climate goals, including Morocco, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Kenya. In 2020, he praised then Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “green industrial revolution” policy and plans to eradicate illegal deforestation. He also pushed for a ban on trophy hunting imports, having founded a parliamentary group on endangered species. In May this year, he expressed support for efforts to boost green industries as a way to “improve our energy security and help with the cost of living” by making the UK “less dependent on foreign oil and gas”. “Tackling climate change and tackling the cost of living are linked more clearly than ever,” he said. Nevertheless, climate campaigners will look at some of Jayawardena’s words and actions with concern. He opposes windfall taxes on energy companies making big profits and appears to back both green and blue hydrogen, having given a keynote speech at a gas industry-run hydrogen conference in Canada earlier this year. Farmers are also reportedly alarmed by his record of cutting trade deals that campaigners say prioritised cheap imports over animal welfare and food quality.  Jayawardena has also celebrated exports of British chicken to KFC in Mongolia, despite concerns about welfare standards at their supplier farms.  He also wrote in the Times in July claiming that Truss had made significant efforts to make COP26 a success – a claim contradicted by Politico reporting. And then there’s his suggestion in August that there had been “some scaremongering” about energy bill rises, a statement that has aged like milk. Chris Philp Chief Secretary to the Treasury The South Croydon MP has a fairly mixed stance on climate action – not particularly green, but particularly anti-green either.  A July interview with TalkTV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer illustrates it well. In it, he defends the UK’s net zero ambitions, and when the radio host said it wasn’t possible to meet the target without damaging the economy and living standards, he said he wasn’t as “pessimistic as you on that” and that there was time to make sure the green transition was “not a painful one”. However, he then went on to claim developing domestic sources of gas could help the UK reach net zero. Earlier in the interview, Philp also said the UK needed to be “pumping more gas”, whether from the North Sea or by “looking again at fracking”. The country could not be “reliant on importing gas which leaves us at the mercy of global markets”, he argued, despite declining reserves in the North Sea and prices being set by those same global markets. He made the same point in August. Philp is also a big believer in nuclear energy, telling Hartley-Brewer that the UK should be “massively turbocharging the rollout” of new power stations “as a matter of urgency”. Nuclear is seen as a potentially crucial source of low-carbon energy in the medium- to long-term but has nothing to offer in the immediate future. Brandon Lewis Justice Secretary Like Chris Philp, the former Northern Ireland secretary has nominally supported climate action while opposing some policies that would help the UK meet its targets. In the run-up to COP26 last year, he tweeted that the UN climate talks were “our last, best chance to reach global agreement on the ambitious action we need to take on climate change”. At the time, he also touted plans to increase renewable energy across the UK, pointing to the offshore wind industry in his constituency of Great Yarmouth. In December, he praised the launch of a government-backed “Zero Carbon Cooperative” at Queen’s University Belfast and called the potential for geothermal energy “exciting”. However, like Chris Heaton-Harris, he pushed for the government to cut subsidies for the UK’s fledgling wind industry in 2012, leaving the country more reliant on eye-wateringly expensive gas today. And in May this year, he opposed a windfall tax on oil and gas industry profits, saying the policy – which his government later adopted – “doesn’t really work”. That said, he’s not completely enamoured with fossil fuels, saying in 2016 that communities should have the right to reject shale gas developments in their local area. Penny Mordaunt Leader of the Commons The former leadership contender appears to have a fairly ambivalent approach to climate change. On the one hand, she has multiple ties to climate science deniers. Between 2019 and 2021, she received £20,000 from First Corporate Consultants, a management consultancy founded by Terence Mordaunt, then chair of the UK’s principal climate denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation and a relative of hers. Ahead of the 2019 election, she received a £3,000 donation from GWPF donor Michael Hintze. During the Conservative leadership contest, Mordaunt welcomed the endorsement of motoring lobbyist and climate science denier Howard Cox, tweeting that she was “glad to have the backing” of his Fair Fuel UK campaign, and pledging an “immediate” 50 percent cut in VAT on fuel. Cox said in his endorsement that he had known Mordaunt for 12 years and called her a “kindred spirit”. In her role as trade minister, Mordaunt was involved in a controversial trade deal with Australia which saw the UK government eliminate key language about climate policy, the environment, and concerns about deforestation and pesticide use. In spite of these links, Mordaunt emerged as one of the greener candidates in the leadership race, speaking in support of green energy investment and the creation of “millions of jobs” in the net zero transition. “Investing in the domestic renewable energy sector reduces the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels like gas, which are exposed to volatile global prices,” she noted. Mordaunt also pledged to reform European Union-era land subsidies “to encourage and support those who actively take steps to leave a cleaner, greener environment for the next generation”. “Sustainable farming for the longer term is an absolutely crucial part of how we, together, can protect our natural world.” Jake Berry Minister Without Portfolio “Red Wall” MP and chair of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, Berry has expressed concerns about the cost of reaching net zero, arguing that communities such as the ones he represents “are least able to afford these changes that we are making”. He has said “you can’t put a heat pump on a back-to-back terraced house” – something that appears to contradict guidance from the Energy Saving Trust. Nevertheless, he rejected calls earlier this year for a referendum on the UK’s 2050 net zero target and insisted there is widespread support for the ambition among his colleagues. Michael Ellis Attorney General Ellis has indicated his support for climate action in a number of entries on his personal blog. In 2019, he wrote that the UK “can be proud” of its “leading role in tackling climate change” and praised the “growing share of UK electricity produced by renewables”. He added that there was“much more still to do” and that the government “fully recognises the scale and urgency of this issue and is working hard to tackle climate change”. Elsewhere on his blog, Ellis has also praised the growing share of UK electricity produced by renewables. He tweeted recently of the need to “break our dependence on fossil fuels” and “protect consumers from high prices”. Climate advocates may be concerned about his apparent enthusiasm for environmentally dubious biofuels and point to his failure to provide evidence in July on the country’s preparedness for extreme weather like the heatwave the UK was experiencing at the time. James Cleverly Foreign Secretary Cleverly, a former education secretary and chair of the Conservative Party, has made a number of comments in support of climate action. In 2019, he praised the UK for bringing in its 2050 net zero target and cutting emissions – the “fastest decline of any developed country”. In 2020, he tweeted the country would “lead the world into a Green Industrial Revolution” and last year lauded Saudi Arabia’s 2060 net zero pledge as a “hugely significant step”. He won’t be popular with environmental protesters, however, having taken shots at them on several occasions.  In 2019, he called Extinction Rebellion activists “stupid” for spraying red paint on the Treasury, arguing that the action “totally undermine[s] the debate”, and another time slammed them for targeting public transport. He also mocked young “climate strikers” for taking days off school to protest about climate change. Michelle Donelan Culture Secretary Donelan was elected as the MP for Chippenham in 2015, when she supported climate campaigners at a rally in London. A relative newcomer to government, she took on her first ministerial post within the education department just over two years ago. In March, she told MPs the department was committed to making schools more environmentally friendly, by “increasing insulation, better air tightness, green roofs and energy-generating solar panels, flood-resistant drainage systems and low carbon emissions”. According to her website, she is committed to climate action, and mentions her support for green energy and electric cars, as well as her campaigning against plastic waste. She has also previously raised numerous questions about fracking in questions to ministers, and asked about the impacts of fracking-related traffic on historic market towns like Bradford upon Avon. However, she has also opposed certain renewable energy projects, arguing in 2014 that a local village had had its “fair share” of solar. She also supported the Conservatives’ decision to bring in an effective ban on onshore wind farms in 2015, tweeting ahead of the general election that the party would “give local residents powers to block new onshore wind farms”. Allister Jack Scotland Secretary Jack, who remains as Scotland Secretary, has been a steadfast supporter of North Sea oil and gas expansion, telling the Scottish Conservative party conference in March that it was “astonishing” for the devolved government to be opposing drilling. He said it was “fortunate” that the matter was reserved to Westminster and said the invasion of Ukraine had made the case for drilling “unanswerable”. On the first day of the COP26 climate talks last year, he said the controversial Cambo oilfield should “100% open”. And in December, he said North Sea gas was needed to produce “blue hydrogen” – a fuel touted as low-carbon despite methane leakage from the gas extraction process and doubts about the carbon capture technology involved. Speaking to MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee, he clarified he was “not a hard right extremist”. Despite his support for the industry, Jack has made positive comments about the need for action on climate change. Last year, he called it “one of the most pressing emergencies to face us”, with “catastrophic events” causing trillions of dollars worth of damage. “We owe it to our children, our grandchildren and their descendants to act. The future of our planet is at stake,” he wrote in The Scotsman. On his website, Jack has praised the government’s 2050 net zero target as “feasible and consistent with avoiding most damaging climate change”, arguing an earlier 2030 goal is “almost certainly impossible, hugely disruptive and risks undermining consensus”. He has also written of the “crucial role” electric vehicles will play in reaching net zero, though in the same letter to constituents celebrated the UK’s decade-long freeze on fuel duty, criticised by environmental groups. Robert Buckland Wales Secretary The former justice secretary has been fairly lukewarm in his calls for climate action. On his website, Buckland describes protecting “our cherished environment” as a key focus, welcoming a £640 million “Nature for Climate” government fund, enabling the planting of 30,000 more trees every year, and a £500 million “Blue Planet Fund” to protect oceans as a means of reaching net zero. However, he has also warned that the government’s net zero ambitions could backfire without a clear plan to deliver them. More concerningly for climate advocates, Buckland is a keen supporter of hydrogen, which experts say should only be used in a limited number of applications, with electrification being the preferred option. In 2020, he said Swindon was “helping to develop cars of the future, which are powered by hydrogen fuel cells”, aided by chemicals giant Johnson Matthey, one of whose executives was recently appointed the government’s “hydrogen champion”, leading to criticism from green campaigners.  Wendy Morton Chief Whip During COP26 last year, Morton – then Europe minister – tweeted about how “good” it was to join leaders “to elevate the voices of those most impacted by climate change”. She also wrote that climate change was a “huge health challenge” and it was important to improve the “climate resilience” of health systems as well as cut emissions from the sector. Her record is somewhat marred by a leaked memo, prepared for Morton in her previous role, that revealed plans to slash funding for overseas water and sanitation projects – considered vital in helping countries deal with climate impacts – by more than 80 percent. The Greens Alok Sharma COP26 President Alok Sharma ran the COP26 UN climate talks held in Glasgow last year and is generally seen to have done his best to make the summit a success, despite the challenges he faced. In September 2019, before he was appointed as COP26 President, Sharma tweeted that the summit was “an important moment to turbo charge ambition to tackle climate change”. He welled up with emotion as the Glasgow Climate Pact agreed by delegates was watered down at the eleventh hour.  His record isn’t all green, however. In 2015, Sharma received a £15,000 donation from Offshore Group Newcastle, a company that manufactures steel for oil platforms run by Ukrainian businessman and major Tory donor Alexander Temerko.  Sharma originally opposed the expansion of Heathrow Airport, but has supported the project since becoming an MP for nearby Reading West. While running for election in 2009, he spoke of the damage it would cause saying: “It is time for the government to abandon its plans for a third runway and, if a Conservative Government is elected, we will certainly stop this environmental disaster.” His opposition had faltered by 2013 when he voiced his support for the development in a Conservative Home article. In 2014, the Reading Chronicle reported that Sharma welcomed a “vital multi-billion pound plan” to expand Heathrow and, in June 2018, he voted with his party in favour of the third runway. Graham Stuart Climate Minister Graham Stuart has been the MP for Beverley and Holderness since 2005 and is regarded as a green Conservative who has consistently advocated for climate action. In September 2019, he tweeted: “Net Zero will make the UK a world leader in climate science, innovation and exports” and has also described climate change as “one of the greatest challenges we will face in this lifetime”. Ahead of the 2019 election, he tweeted: “One of the most important messages of this election. If you care about the environment and believe the UK can provide global leadership then #VoteBlueGoGreen.” While serving as Minister of Exports from Feb 2020 Sept 2021, Stuart  met the Serbian Prime Minister to discuss “green growth & climate ambitions” as priorities, as well as “trade and climate collaboration” in Vietnam. Stuart has also “taken a keen interest in renewables developments”, with visits to Humber Gateway offshore wind farm , according to BusinessLive. This is in line with his stated aim of helping to make Yorkshire and the Humber “a global leader for green innovation”. However, campaigners say that Stuart’s green credentials are undermined by his support for wood-pellet burning at Drax power station in Selby, located around 30 miles from his Yorkshire constituency of Beverley and Holderness.  A blog post on Stuart’s website describes Drax as providing “the most renewable power of any single location in the UK”, and “vital for ensuring the UK’s energy security”.  Though Drax receives over £800m in subsidies based on the strongly contested notion that wood-pellet burning is renewable, Drax Power Station is in fact the single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the country. Lord True Leader of the Lords Nicholas True is certainly one of the greener cabinet ministers.  In July, he told parliament the government had “been in the lead on appreciating the impacts of climate change”, pointing to the Conservatives’ introduction of the net zero target and how party leaders had “spoken passionately” about the need to keep alive the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. “We must continue to drive forward the initiatives that help us curb the impacts of climate change and at the same time build systems that help us withstand extreme events as they arise,” he said. As the former leader of Richmond Council, he strongly opposed the expansion of Heathrow Airport, writing in the run-up to the approval of the third runway in 2016 about the “hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are already blighted by the noise, air pollution, traffic and environmental degradation that is Heathrow”. One recent comment in a parliamentary debate would cause concern for climate advocates, however. In July, True seemed to suggest he wasn’t opposed to a new coal mine in the UK, given the need to “balance the issues across the energy sector and the global economy caused by the illegal invasion of Ukraine”. Kit Malthouse Education Secretary Malthouse has recognised the impacts of climate change and the need to adapt as well as cut emissions. While Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, amid this summer’s heatwave, he told MPs that the UK needed to “learn to live with extreme events such as these”.  “The government has been at the forefront of international efforts to reach net zero, but the impacts of climate change are with us now,” he said. He added that Britain would continue to face “acute events driven by climate change”, announcing the upcoming launch of a new national resilience strategy by the new government. Malthouse has strongly criticised green activists, however, tweeting last year that Insulate Britain protests were an “abject lesson in how to kill enthusiasm for action against climate change”. And in July, Malthouse was accused of misrepresenting the government’s record on climate adaptation by the leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas. Edward Argar Paymaster General Argar has been the MP for Charnwood since 2015. Before he joined Parliament, Argar was the head of UK and Europe public affairs at Serco, an outsourcing company for government services. After leaving university he worked as a political advisor to the then shadow foreign secretary Lord Ancram, focusing on Middle East policy. He has previously held ministerial positions at the justice and health departments. As health minister, Argar supported the “Greener NHS Strategy”. Responding to a written question in June last year, he said the NHS was “committed to achieving net zero for both direct and indirect emissions” and explained that the 2020 strategy “sets out how more sustainable models of care can not only improve patient outcomes, patient experience and care quality but also reduce carbon emissions”. Vicky Ford Minister for Development The MP for Chelmsford since 2017, Ford is generally regarded as a green Conservative, having previously served on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change and been a member of the Conservative Environment Network’s parliamentary caucus – stepping down to become a minister. In an undated blog post on the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s website, Ford wrote: “We have to tackle climate change, we do not have a choice. We have to cap the global temperature rise at 1.5% [sic]. The UK is leading the world in fighting climate change. We should be proud of what has been achieved.”  Ford also praised the UK’s development of renewables and electric vehicles, as well as the country’s net zero commitment –  though her claim that the UK was the “first country to commit to net-zero in our law” wasn’t quite right (it was in fact the first major economy). Her enthusiasm for carbon capture and storage (CCS) may rankle with climate advocates, given major concerns over its viability. Minister for the Armed Forces and Veterans James Heappey Good-ish Heappey is a self-described “enthusiastic green” and once sat on the advisory board of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), an influential think tank that advocates for green policies. However, he also appears to have leapt enthusiastically onto the hydrogen bandwagon, backing it for both heavy industry – generally considered uncontroversial – and other uses, such as heating. Ben Wallace Defence Secretary Wallace supports the government’s net zero plans, tweeting during COP26 that “Climate change has far reaching consequences for global peace and security”. He launched the Ministry of Defence’s climate change strategy in March 2021, writing in The Sun that the plan was a way of both helping the military to “win in ever more hostile environments”, as well as helping to “slash” emissions. He added that the UK would in future become “more innovative as we aim to become cleaner and greener” and would continue to “rollout our electric vehicle fleet”. In July 2022, Wallace encouraged people to consider implementing energy-saving measures to reduce our gas consumption in the midst of rising energy costs. He said: “Countries in Europe are already doing energy-saving measures. What steps can we all take at home to try and reduce our energy?” Wallace did raise some concerns over fracking in his local area in 2014, but ultimately did not seem to oppose it at the time, commenting: “Should the fracking continue, I am very keen for my constituents and the local community to have proper tangible benefits from the exploration.” Therese Coffey Health Secretary In an October 2021 speech as Work and Pensions Secretary, Coffey said that net zero was “a race that the whole world has to win together”. The speech celebrated the government’s achievements and advocated for pension schemes as a mechanism for supporting net zero targets. Coffey praised the UK’s coal phaseout and growth of its offshore wind sector. In March, Coffey said: “High emitters – like fossil fuel companies – should be supported in their transition to Net Zero – and we need them to invest in green technologies.” Coffey also voiced support for COP26 where “we kept the aim of a 1.5 degree rise in temperatures within reach – mobilising global climate finance to help power our greener future and committing to make the UK the world’s first Net Zero financial centre.” Chloe Smith Work/Pensions Secretary The former health minister has said little about climate policy over the years. In a blog post last year, Smith expressed her support for the UK’s 2050 net zero target, writing: “The UK was the first G7 economy to legislate to achieve net zero emissions. I’ve supported for some time the plan to achieve this.” In the post, she celebrated offshore wind energy, suggesting that through a “green industrial revolution”, the UK will produce enough of it to “power every home, quadrupling how much we currently produce to 40GW by 2030, which will support up to 60,000 jobs”. Smith also backed efforts to create and support “highly-skilled green jobs across the UK”, to cement London as “the global centre of green finance”, and to develop the UK’s support for electric vehicles and associated infrastructure. In the same post, however, Smith praised plans “to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade,” despite major concerns about its viability. She also said she wanted the UK to be a “world leader” in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which many climate campaigners and experts view with caution. Tom Tugendhat Security Minister Tugendhat wrote in January 2020 that “climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face and I fully appreciate the urgency in our need to combat it”.  However, at a July 2022 hustings event during the Conservative party leadership race, Tugendhat reportedly said he would push the 2050 net zero target back – before telling reporters the next day that he sees net zero as a “benefit”, not just a “cost”. During the race, the former British army officer also announced that he would slash fuel duty “by 10p a litre” – widely seen as a regressive measure environmentally when nearly a quarter of all the UK’s emissions come from transport.  Tugendhat has generally defended the UK’s net zero commitment on the grounds of energy security.  “Net zero isn’t just about climate change anymore, but shielding ourselves from Russia’s weaponisation of its position in energy markets,” Tugendhat told the Telegraph in July, adding that a “sluggish” approach to decarbonising would “hand the economic and technological advances of the future to our competitors, and compromise growth industries in the UK’s industrial heartlands”. Tugendhat is a former member of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) and is also on the advisory board of Onward, a Tory think tank that supports net zero and decarbonising the economy. In April, the organisation published research that found ditching net zero would cost the Tories 1.3 million votes. Additional research by Phoebe Cooke and Adam Barnett. The post How Climate-Friendly is Liz Trusss Cabinet? appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/22/22 7:22am
The world’s largest certifier of carbon offsets has criticised an initiative to improve governance in the notoriously opaque sector, saying draft reforms are so stringent they would choke off investment to combat climate change.  Verra, which runs a carbon crediting standard used by hundreds of companies to offset their carbon dioxide emissions, said the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (IC-VCM), a new governance body, needed a “course correction” to deliver workable proposals.  “Our support for the IC-VCM has been shaken,” Verra said in a statement. “That said, we plan to continue engaging in this process to ensure that carbon finance can drive increasing amounts of investment for real climate action.” Verra’s intervention came as the Integrity Council nears the end of a two-month public consultation on its draft proposals – known as Core Carbon Principles. The 124-page document was drawn up by a panel of experts aiming to address widespread concerns that carbon offsetting often fails to deliver promised climate benefits, and that badly-run projects can harm local communities.  Integrity Council Chair Annette Nazareth welcomed Verra’s comments, saying input from a wide range of stakeholders would help ensure the final proposals struck the right balance between “ambition” to set higher standards and “pragmatism.”  “That is going to be critical to strengthen trust in the voluntary carbon market and unlock urgently-needed investment,” Nazareth, a former commissioner with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said in a statement to DeSmog. Verra’s criticisms underscored the fundamental tension involved in reconciling polluting companies’ demands to rapidly scale up the carbon offset market with the need to introduce tougher standards to guarantee project quality.   Major emitters such as banks, airlines and oil companies are flocking to what are known as “voluntary carbon markets” to help meet net-zero targets by financing projects that tackle emissions elsewhere. Each carbon credit represents a tonne of carbon dioxide that has either been reduced at source or removed from the atmosphere – often through schemes to protect tropical forests or other ecosystems.  Credit: Phoebe Cooke and Michaela Herrmann Advocates say that rapidly scaling up carbon markets could mobilise billions of dollars to protect nature in developing countries, and finance the adoption of cleaner technologies. But climate campaigners have long documented how projects often fail to deliver on their promises. There are also concerns that much of the money companies spend on carbon credits ends up in the hands of “carbon brokers”, rather than Indigenous communities stewarding project sites. Campaigners accused the Integrity Council’s predecessor, the Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets, of effectively handing polluting companies a “get out of jail free card” by focusing on growing carbon markets as rapidly as possible. The Integrity Council, which replaced the Taskforce in September, has sought to address that criticism by emphasising the importance of screening out offset schemes that may not deliver promised benefits, or could harm local communities by enabling land-grabbing or other human rights violations.  Pedro Barata, the co-chair of the Integrity Council’s 12-strong panel of experts that drew up the draft Core Carbon Principles, told DeSmog in July that his colleagues had laid out robust environmental and social safeguards for projects, and had “put the bar high”. Campaigners have warned that existing market players would attempt to push back on higher standards since tougher rules could undermine their existing business models. Verra said its initial analysis suggested the principles were so exacting that few, if any, credits would pass the test – which might satisfy “purists” but do nothing to scale investment in climate solutions.   The company, which runs its own widely-used Verified Carbon Standard, also raised concerns that the “principles-based review of programs” had been “supplanted with a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach that seeks to directly set the scope and rules of the market”. Verra called for an “alternative approach” which did not “usurp” the work of existing crediting programs. “In short, the proposed approach will not only fail to create a workable pathway to achieve the IC-VCM’s goals, but significantly harm the voluntary carbon market by enshrining a process that sets impossible requirements, is impervious to input from a range of stakeholders, and is unworkable from an administrative standpoint,” Verra said.The Integrity Councils public consultation closes on September 27.Editing by Matthew Green. The post <strong>Renewed Tensions Hit Drive to Reform Opaque Trade in Carbon Offsets</strong> appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/21/22 11:01pm
This story is part of a DeSmog series on the influence wielded by the gas lobby in Europe and was developed with the support of Journalismfund.eu Italy’s gas lobby should be entering early retirement. Instead, it’s rarely been riding so high. The energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the prospect that far-right politician Giorgia Meloni will win snap elections on Sunday, have all but eclipsed growing calls from a younger generation for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.   In fact, Italy seems to be moving in the opposite direction. An emergency decision to approve two new gas import terminals, and the virtual absence of discussion of climate policy on the campaign trail, have raised the risk that energy companies will leave Italy hooked on planet-warming fossil gas for decades to come, campaigners say.   “Fears of winter have been stoked, and families are terrified of being in the cold,” said Elena Gerebizza, energy and infrastructure campaigner at ReCommon, an advocacy group. “In this scenario, it’s getting harder to explain why we don’t need new gas infrastructure, or why we have to reduce consumption and dependence on gas.” With the European Union pledging to slash carbon emissions by 55 percent by the end of the decade, compared with 1990 levels, Italian oil and gas company Eni and pipeline operator Snam have adopted net zero targets. But both companies remain wedded to fossil fuel-dominated business models, according to analysis by Oil Change International and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, even as climate impacts intensify.  Italy was hit by its worst drought in 70 years this summer, and less than 10 days before voting day, the eastern region of Marche was drenched with 400 millimetres of rain – an amount that would usually fall over six months. At least 10 people were killed in resulting flash floods, with four missing, including a boy who was swept from his mother’s arms, according to reports. Even as the country experiences extreme weather first-hand, politicians referenced the climate crisis in less than 0.5 percent of their statements on Italian talk shows, online and on their Facebook accounts, according to a study by Greenpeace Italy and Osservatorio di Pavia, a media research institute.  With the exception of the leftist coalition Green Leftist Alliance and the populist Five Star Movement, which are trailing in the polls, all major parties want to double down on new gas infrastructure, according to a review of manifesto commitments by Ecco, a think tank.  If Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, wins the election and forms a coalition with other right-wing parties, as polls project, then the gas lobby, which has long enjoyed a close relationship with the Italian state, may find it even easier to sidestep scrutiny, campaigners say. “The Italian ultranationalist right will rely even more on turnkey ‘Italian champions’, from Eni to Snam to solve the energy crisis, fueling their billion-dollar business abroad, and subsidising new drilling in Italy,” said Antonio Tricarico, programmes manager at ReCommon.   Greater influence for the gas lobby could have implications far beyond Italy, which produces 11 percent of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Eni and Snam are key members of Italian chamber of commerce Confindustria, which research group InfluenceMap says has been lobbying the EU to back new fossil gas projects, while opposing policies to limit demand.  “The European Union is at a historical turning point for its energy mix. Yet despite scientific guidance, the Italian industry association Confindustria is opposing the shift away from gas,” said Will Aitchison, InfluenceMap’s EU strategy manager. Confindustria, Eni and Snam did not respond to requests for comment. Lock-In Even before the snap election was called in July, when prime minister Mario Draghi resigned following the collapse of his national unity government, Italy’s gas industry had won important concessions in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. As Italy joined the scramble to secure alternatives to Russian gas, Draghi’s government authorised Snam to spend more than 700 million euros on two new terminals to receive cargoes of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) –  fracked gas supercooled into liquid form for transport on tankers. Known as “regasification” terminals, the projects will be used to convert imported LNG back into gaseous form so that it can be fed into Italy’s pipelines. Underscoring the sense of urgency, the government decreed that all such infrastructure should be considered “strategic”, “non deferrable” and “urgent”.  Critics fear the projects will lock Italy into long-term dependence on fossil gas, pointing out that Snam has asked for a 20-year concession on a floating LNG terminal it plans to install at Piombino, Tuscany. Similarly, the other planned terminal, in Sardinia, could tie the island to gas for years, campaigners say.  “All the new gas infrastructure, including LNG terminals that Italy is mandating Snam to buy, has an impact in the long term,” ReCommon’s Gerebizza said. “This means that Italy is preparing to maintain this dependence on gas in the long term too.”  Italy says it has slashed the proportion of gas it imports from Russia to 25 percent from 40 percent last year, when it was the second biggest importer of Russian gas after Germany. Nevertheless, with the cost of wind and solar plummeting, think tank Ecco questions whether large and opaque investments in publicly-subsidised gas infrastructure could leave Italy saddled with stranded assets – at the taxpayer’s expense.  “I see this as a huge dead end, but one that’s incredibly profitable for the gas industry,” said Pascoe Sabido, researcher and campaigner with the Brussels-based research group Corporate Europe Observatory.  Nevertheless, leading candidates have rushed to back the projects. “LNG terminals must happen…because we must free ourselves from dependence on Russian gas,” Meloni told a television show broadcast in late August. At a rally in Mestre, in the northeastern region of Veneto, on September 11, Meloni gave a speech voicing her support for new gas drilling and, in a media interview, declared that Italy could become “a gas hub for Europe.”  ‘Italian Gas’ Although Meloni and other candidates have mentioned renewables during the campaign, the emphasis of right-wing parties, especially, has been on fossil fuels, from reopening coal plants to new gas infrastructure and drilling for “Italian gas” in the Adriatic.  “Abandoning fossil fuels overnight is unthinkable,” Nicola Procaccini, a Member of the European Parliament who serves as the Brothers of Italy party’s environment spokesman, told a delegation from climate movement Fridays for the Future this month, according to a video of the meeting published by Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.  On August 25, Matteo Salvini, former deputy prime minister and a leading figure in the right-wing Lega party, told a talk show: “Unblock all energy facilities that to date are blocked by bureaucracy, extract gas, for example, in the Adriatic, because otherwise the Croatians will steal it from us,” according to the Greenpeace study. Politicians closer to the centre of the political spectrum, such as Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister and leader of the Italy Viva party, and Carlo Calenda, leader of the Action party, have also voiced support for the new gas terminals and increasing Italian production.  Experts say fresh drilling in the Adriatic would generate only marginal benefits relative to Italy’s overall energy needs. Nonetheless, the calls are reassuring for the sector. “Certainly, it is no mystery that a gas pipeline, or oil and gas, company would prefer a government that says yes to new pipelines, regasifiers and more drilling in the Mediterranean,” said Luca Iacoboni, Head of National Programs at Ecco.  In the year to June 2021, companies including Eni and Snam met more than 100 times with Italian ministers, including Roberto Cingolani, minister of the ecological transition, according to a report by ReCommon. The companies wanted to ensure that Italy’s COVID-19 recovery funds would be used to “tie us to gas for the next decades,” the report states.  ‘Conflict of Interest’ In a move that appeared emblematic of the close ties between the gas lobby and the Italian state, Claudio Descalzi, chief executive of Eni, joined foreign minister Luigi Di Maio on a trip to Algeria in February, and then to Angola and Republic of Congo in March, in a push to diversify sources of gas away from Russia.  Confindustria has also provided an important vehicle for Eni and Snam to promote their interests, with Descalzi serving on the group’s General Council and Advisory Board, and Snam represented on working groups on issues including energy efficiency and industrial emissions.  “During the past year, Confindustria…has mounted a two-pronged strategy against the energy transition: supporting new fossil gas infrastructure and expansion of national production, while at the same time advocating against policies at EU level that would limit fossil gas demand,” said InfluenceMap’s Aitchison.  In 2021, Snam spent nearly 300,000 euros on lobbying European institutions, LobbyFacts reported. According to the InfluenceMap findings, Snam advocated for “preferential treatment for fossil gas and LNG” in its November 2021 consultation response on an EU framework for taxing energy products.  Snam is also active in a network of interlocking European lobby groups seeking to present fossil gas as part of the solution to the climate crisis. The Milan-based company is a member of Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE), a Brussels-based group representing the LNG terminal industry. GIE is in turn a member of Gas Naturally, a group arguing that “natural gas helps make a clean future real”. Snam also belongs to Gas for Climate, another group promoting “renewable gas,” an attempt to “paint the gas industry green,” according to Corporate Europe Observatory.   Snam is also part of ENTSOG, a pipeline operators’ association, which Sabido described as “a gas lobby group within the European Commission structures which is given the responsibility of projecting the next 10 years of gas use.”  “So, there’s a huge conflict of interest where you have these companies providing the Commission on how much gas we need,” Sabido said. Young Activists Fight Back  While octogenarian Italian politicians set up TikTok accounts in a bid to reach the younger generation, party manifestos generally lack comprehensive commitments on climate change – despite polling showing the crisis is a priority issue for voters aged 18-24.  With electricity bills projected to double after October, youth activists say the gas lobby is crowding out discussion of policies that could ease the energy and cost-of-living crisis and, at the same time, speed a transition to cleaner energy: from energy efficiency and windfall taxes to cushion the impact of soaring bills, to simplifying the long authorisation processes delaying the roll-out of renewables. The Ministry of Ecological Transition’s decision to sponsor a four-day gas industry conference – Gastech – in Milan earlier this month became a flashpoint for such criticism.  “It’s terrifying that people who should be thinking about the good of their citizens, have sponsored this [event],” said Sara, a twenty-three-year-old activist with Extinction Rebellion Italy, who asked to be identified by her first name. “There is basically this idea that gas can be the only solution to all our energy problems.” Filippo Sotgiu, 21, a spokesperson for Fridays for a Future Italy, which proposed its own science-based climate agenda, urged Italians to join a global climate strike on Friday – and cast their votes carefully. “Voting for those who succeed better than others in putting the climate at the center can be a very important tool,” he said. “We want to make sure that politics gives answers to those who do not feel heard, but it’s also the parties’ responsibility to make sure this happens.”  The post Italy’s Lurch to the Right Raises Risk of Fossil Gas Lock-In appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/21/22 11:01pm
This story is part of a DeSmog series on the influence wielded by the gas lobby in Europe and was developed with the support of Journalismfund.eu Italy’s gas lobby should be entering early retirement. Instead, it’s rarely been riding so high. The energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the prospect that far-right politician Giorgia Meloni will win snap elections on Sunday, have all but eclipsed growing calls from a younger generation for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.   In fact, Italy seems to be moving in the opposite direction. An emergency decision to approve two new gas import terminals, and the virtual absence of discussion of climate policy on the campaign trail, have raised the risk that energy companies will leave Italy hooked on planet-warming fossil gas for decades to come, campaigners say.   “Fears of winter have been stoked, and families are terrified of being in the cold,” said Elena Gerebizza, energy and infrastructure campaigner at ReCommon, an advocacy group. “In this scenario, it’s getting harder to explain why we don’t need new gas infrastructure, or why we have to reduce consumption and dependence on gas.” With the European Union pledging to slash carbon emissions by 55 percent by the end of the decade, compared with 1990 levels, Italian oil and gas company Eni and pipeline operator Snam have adopted net zero targets. But both companies remain wedded to fossil fuel-dominated business models, according to analysis by Oil Change International and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, even as climate impacts intensify.  Italy was hit by its worst drought in 70 years this summer, and less than 10 days before voting day, the eastern region of Marche was drenched with 400 millimetres of rain – an amount that would usually fall over six months. At least 10 people were killed in resulting flash floods, with four missing, including a boy who was swept from his mother’s arms, according to reports. Even as the country experiences extreme weather first-hand, politicians referenced the climate crisis in less than 0.5 percent of their statements on Italian talk shows, online and on their Facebook accounts, according to a study by Greenpeace Italy and Osservatorio di Pavia, a media research institute.  With the exception of the leftist coalition Green Leftist Alliance and the populist Five Star Movement, which are trailing in the polls, all major parties want to double down on new gas infrastructure, according to a review of manifesto commitments by Ecco, a think tank.  If Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, wins the election and forms a coalition with other right-wing parties, as polls project, then the gas lobby, which has long enjoyed a close relationship with the Italian state, may find it even easier to sidestep scrutiny, campaigners say. “The Italian ultranationalist right will rely even more on turnkey ‘Italian champions’, from Eni to Snam to solve the energy crisis, fueling their billion-dollar business abroad, and subsidising new drilling in Italy,” said Antonio Tricarico, programmes manager at ReCommon.   Greater influence for the gas lobby could have implications far beyond Italy, which produces 11 percent of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Eni and Snam are key members of Italian chamber of commerce Confindustria, which research group InfluenceMap says has been lobbying the EU to back new fossil gas projects, while opposing policies to limit demand.  “The European Union is at a historical turning point for its energy mix. Yet despite scientific guidance, the Italian industry association Confindustria is opposing the shift away from gas,” said Will Aitchison, InfluenceMap’s EU strategy manager. Confindustria, Eni and Snam did not respond to requests for comment. Lock-in Even before the snap election was called in July, when prime minister Matteo Draghi resigned following the collapse of his national unity government, Italy’s gas industry had won important concessions in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. As Italy joined the scramble to secure alternatives to Russian gas, Draghi’s government authorised Snam to spend more than 700 million euros on two new terminals to receive cargoes of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) –  fracked gas supercooled into liquid form for transport on tankers. Known as “regasification” terminals, the projects will be used to convert imported LNG back into gaseous form so that it can be fed into Italy’s pipelines. Underscoring the sense of urgency, the government decreed that all such infrastructure should be considered “strategic”, “non deferrable” and “urgent”.  Critics fear the projects will lock Italy into long-term dependence on fossil gas, pointing out that Snam has asked for a 20-year concession on a floating LNG terminal it plans to install at Piombino, Tuscany. Similarly, the other planned terminal, in Sardinia, could tie the island to gas for years, campaigners say.  “All the new gas infrastructure, including LNG terminals that Italy is mandating Snam to buy, has an impact in the long term,” ReCommon’s Gerebizza said. “This means that Italy is preparing to maintain this dependence on gas in the long term too.”  Italy says it has slashed the proportion of gas it imports from Russia to 25 percent from 40 percent last year, when it was the second biggest importer of Russian gas after Germany. Nevertheless, with the cost of wind and solar plummeting, think tank Ecco questions whether large and opaque investments in publicly-subsidised gas infrastructure could leave Italy saddled with stranded assets – at the taxpayer’s expense.  “I see this as a huge dead end, but one that’s incredibly profitable for the gas industry,” said Pascoe Sabido, researcher and campaigner with the Brussels-based research group Corporate Europe Observatory.  Nevertheless, leading candidates have rushed to back the projects. “LNG terminals must happen…because we must free ourselves from dependence on Russian gas,” Meloni told a television show broadcast in late August. At a rally in Mestre, in the northeastern region of Veneto, on September 11, Meloni gave a speech voicing her support for new gas drilling and, in a media interview, declared that Italy could become “a gas hub for Europe.”  ‘Italian gas’ Although Meloni and other candidates have mentioned renewables during the campaign, the emphasis of right-wing parties, especially, has been on fossil fuels, from reopening coal plants to new gas infrastructure and drilling for “Italian gas” in the Adriatic.  “Abandoning fossil fuels overnight is unthinkable,” Nicola Procaccini, a Member of the European Parliament who serves as the Brothers of Italy party’s environment spokesman, told a delegation from climate movement Fridays for the Future this month, according to a video of the meeting published by Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.  On August 25, Matteo Salvini, former deputy prime minister and a leading figure in the right-wing Lega party, told a talk show: “Unblock all energy facilities that to date are blocked by bureaucracy, extract gas, for example, in the Adriatic, because otherwise the Croatians will steal it from us,” according to the Greenpeace study. Politicians closer to the centre of the political spectrum, such as Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister and leader of the Italy Viva party, and Carlo Calenda, leader of the Action party, have also voiced support for the new gas terminals and increasing Italian production.  Experts say fresh drilling in the Adriatic would generate only marginal benefits relative to Italy’s overall energy needs. Nonetheless, the calls are reassuring for the sector. “Certainly, it is no mystery that a gas pipeline, or oil and gas, company would prefer a government that says yes to new pipelines, regasifiers and more drilling in the Mediterranean,” said Luca Iacoboni, Head of National Programs at Ecco.  In the year to June 2021, companies including Eni and Snam met more than 100 times with Italian ministers, including Roberto Cingolani, minister of the ecological transition, according to a report by ReCommon. The companies wanted to ensure that Italy’s COVID-19 recovery funds would be used to “tie us to gas for the next decades,” the report states.  ‘Conflict of interest’ In a move that appeared emblematic of the close ties between the gas lobby and the Italian state, Claudio Descalzi, chief executive of Eni, joined foreign minister Luigi Di Maio on a trip to Algeria in February, and then to Angola and Republic of Congo in March, in a push to diversify sources of gas away from Russia.  Confindustria has also provided an important vehicle for Eni and Snam to promote their interests, with Descalzi serving on the group’s General Council and Advisory Board, and Snam represented on working groups on issues including energy efficiency and industrial emissions.  “During the past year, Confindustria…has mounted a two-pronged strategy against the energy transition: supporting new fossil gas infrastructure and expansion of national production, while at the same time advocating against policies at EU level that would limit fossil gas demand,” said InfluenceMap’s Aitchison.  In 2021, Snam spent nearly 300,000 euros on lobbying European institutions, LobbyFacts reported. According to the InfluenceMap findings, Snam advocated for “preferential treatment for fossil gas and LNG” in its November 2021 consultation response on an EU framework for taxing energy products.  Snam is also active in a network of interlocking European lobby groups seeking to present fossil gas as part of the solution to the climate crisis. The Milan-based company is a member of Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE), a Brussels-based group representing the LNG terminal industry.  GIE  is in turn a member of Gas Naturally, a group arguing that “natural gas helps make a clean future real”. Snam also belongs to Gas for Climate, another group promoting “renewable gas,” an attempt to “paint the gas industry green,” according to Corporate Europe Observatory.   Snam is also part of ENTSOG, a pipeline operators’ association, which Sabido described as “a gas lobby group within the European Commission structures which is given the responsibility of projecting the next 10 years of gas use.”  “So, there’s a huge conflict of interest where you have these companies providing the Commission on how much gas we need,” Sabido said. Young activists fight back  While octogenarian Italian politicians set up TikTok accounts in a bid to reach the younger generation, party manifestos generally lack comprehensive commitments on climate change – despite polling showing the crisis is a priority issue for voters aged 18-24.  With electricity bills projected to double after October, youth activists say the gas lobby is crowding out discussion of policies that could ease the energy and cost-of-living crisis and, at the same time, speed a transition to cleaner energy: from energy efficiency and windfall taxes to cushion the impact of soaring bills, to simplifying the long authorisation processes delaying the roll-out of renewables. The Ministry of Ecological Transition’s decision to sponsor a four-day gas industry conference – Gastech – in Milan earlier this month became a flashpoint for such criticism.  “It’s terrifying that people who should be thinking about the good of their citizens, have sponsored this [event],” said Sara, a twenty-three-year-old activist with Extinction Rebellion Italy, who asked to be identified by her first name. “There is basically this idea that gas can be the only solution to all our energy problems.” Filippo Sotgiu, 21, a spokesperson for Fridays for a Future Italy, which proposed its own science-based climate agenda, urged Italians to join a global climate strike on Friday – and cast their votes carefully. “Voting for those who succeed better than others in putting the climate at the center can be a very important tool,” he said. “We want to make sure that politics gives answers to those who do not feel heard, but it’s also the parties’ responsibility to make sure this happens.”  The post Italy’s Lurch to the Right Raises Risk of Fossil Gas Lock-in appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/21/22 7:45am
Campaigners are threatening legal action over the UK governments decision to award funding to a North London council that plans to use low-carbon heat produced by a major waste incinerator in the area. The law firm Leigh Day has written to the government and Haringey Council seeking information on whether recently appointed Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng may have ignored official climate-related guidance when he approved the project as business secretary. The move could lead to further action targeting other similar projects that have sprung up across the country in recent years. Advocates argue that energy from waste (EfW) plants, which generate electricity from burning domestic waste, can be a significant source of environmentally friendly heat, produced as a byproduct of the process. But opponents say residents will be locked into long-term contracts that will prevent them from switching to genuinely climate-friendly heating options, such as heat pumps. Incinerators may also have declining sources of waste at their disposal if government targets to reduce non-recyclable waste are met. Leigh Day is determining the scope of a potential judicial review into the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)’s July decision to give the London Borough of Haringey £27.8 million in subsidies for “low-carbon” district heat networks (DHNs). The networks would heat about 10,000 homes using energy generated by the waste incineration facility at the “Edmonton EcoPark” in nearby Enfield.  Campaigners from the Stop the Edmonton Incinerator Now coalition say that it’s misleading to label heat from incineration as low-carbon, given the significant emissions produced by burning waste, which are increased by the amount of plastic that end up in rubbish.  “The scheme that the funding comes from is supposed to deliver carbon savings,” said Rowan Smith, associate solicitor at Leigh Day. “So the simple point is that a heat network receiving energy from waste won’t deliver carbon savings. Particularly compared to renewables. So we say that the funding doesn’t achieve what it’s set out to.” Leigh Day has asked BEIS and Haringey Council to disclose details of the decision to assess whether Kwarteng did not take into account an obligation to consider guidance from the government’s Climate Change Committee on the need to address rising emissions from EfW plants.  According to a government advisory panel, the plants account for about a quarter of total emissions from the UK’s waste sector. BEIS did not respond to a request for comment. If the lawyers find grounds to pursue a judicial review, they will challenge the legality of both BEIS’s decision to award the money and Haringey Council’s decision to accept it, Smith said. Haringey Council plans to use the money from the Heat Networks Investment Project, BEIS’s nationwide push to encourage the development of DHNs, to build two networks, which it touts as a “low-carbon energy investment”: the Wood Green District Heating Network and the Tottenham Hale and Broadwater Farm District Heating Network.  ‘Not Sustainable’ Critics of the plan call it greenwashing. “This is not green energy, this is not a sustainable way of creating heat in peoples homes,” said Sheila Risk, Haringey resident and claimant on behalf of the campaign. According to the Edmonton plant’s owner, the North London Waste Authority (NLWA)– comprised of seven North London councils including Enfield and Haringey – the incinerator is expected to produce up to 356g of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilowatt hour (p/kWh) of energy generated. This is a higher rate than emissions from gas, at 340g of CO2 p/kWh, and many times higher than those from renewable energy. The NLWA was approached for comment. Residents near the Edmonton EcoPark also have concerns about other smokestack emissions, which can include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, heavy metals, nitrogen oxides, highly carcinogenic dioxins, and furans in various combinations depending on what is burned. Public Health England’s position is that “modern, well run and regulated” incinerators are “not a significant risk to public health” but it is “not possible to rule out adverse health effects from these incinerators completely”. Campaigners argue that there will be diminishing feedstock for incinerators across the UK in the coming decades after the government announced last year that it plans to halve the volume of non-recyclable household rubbish by 2042, calling into question the future reliability of any heat network fed by energy from waste.  The incinerator is expected to have a lifetime of 40-50 years, with residents likely locked into long-term contracts. Experts point to more efficient, truly low-carbon technologies such as heat pumps powered by renewable energy which can supply individual homes or DHNs, and recommend that new housing like the two Haringey estates be fitted with the technology. “As is normal practice, the council will keep the project under review and is working towards considering the Full Business Case in the latter part of 2023,” a Haringey Council spokesperson told DeSmog.  “The points made in the letter from Leigh Day Solicitors will be considered and responded to as soon as possible. As this matter may result in legal proceedings, it would not be appropriate for the council to comment further at this time.” Significant Public Funding According to the government, there were more than 100 BEIS-supported heat network projects in some stage of development in the UK as of the first quarter of 2022, 28 of which will be sourced from waste incineration.  BEIS’s July decision alone awarded £54 million to councils and energy companies around England to build or update DHNs supplied by EfW plants or gas, highlighting a tension in the government’s net zero goals.  Central government subsidies account for only a portion of funding allotted to DHN projects. Municipalities also contribute taxpayer money.  In May, Southwark Council announced a £16 million grant to Veolia, its commercial partner that operates EfW-sourced heat networks in the borough. In 2020, the Mayor of London awarded £1.2 million to the Borough of Enfield to build a local network from the Edmonton incinerator that was also expected to export heat to Hackney and Haringey. Experience in other boroughs, such as the New Mill Quarter estate DHN in Sutton, offers a cautionary tale, say campaigners. “Originally, we were meant to be connected to the Beddington incinerator [for heating],” said Councillor Sheldon Vestey, Leader of the Sutton Labour council group, and a resident of the estate. “Now, half a decade in, that still hasnt happened for whatever reason, thats not been made clear whether its financial or technological.” Instead, he said, the estate still primarily runs on a system of gas boilers, which are typically installed as backups in DHN housing that relies on heat from incinerators. A “landfill gas engine”, run on gas produced from landfill waste, powers a portion of it and the system has been plagued by malfunctions.  “We had 30 outages within the span of two years … Ive got two children [and] some of those outages were in winter.” Leigh Day has asked BEIS and Haringey Council to respond to their enquiry by 26 September. The post Climate Lawyers Take Aim at Green Heating Scheme Fed by Incinerator appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/20/22 1:24pm
A new database cataloging the world’s oil and gas reserves reveals extensive data on the global fossil fuel industry for the first time.   The Global Registry of Fossil Fuels, launched by Carbon Tracker and Global Energy Monitor, is the first public and free-to-use database of fossil fuel production, reserves, and emissions. The registry contains more than 50,000 fields across 89 countries, and it covers 75 percent of global production. The database is not only a high-level look at figures for a whole country, but it also includes data that drills down to the individual project level.   “The Global Registry will make governments and companies more accountable for their development of fossil fuels by enabling civil society to link production decisions with national climate policies,” Mark Campanale, founder of Carbon Tracker and Chair of the Registry Steering Committee, said in a statement. “Equally, it will enable banks and investors to more accurately assess the risk of particular assets becoming stranded.”  Data included in the registry suggests that simply burning through existing oil, gas, and coal reserves, would unleash more than 3.5 trillion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to more than seven times the remaining carbon budget that would keep the world beneath the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming target. In fact, the U.S. and Russia alone have enough remaining fossil fuel reserves still in the ground that, if burned, would result in the world blowing past climate targets even if all other countries halted production. The data stands in sharp contrast to calls from global climate scientists to wind down the extraction and production of dirty assets. Fossil fuel production must “start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5°C,” the UN warned in its 2021 Production Gap report.   But the buildout of fossil fuel infrastructure continues. In the U.S., for example, three large liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects are under construction, which will expand U.S. LNG export capacity by roughly a third by the mid-2020s. Natural gas production is at record levels, and crude oil production, while short of a pre-pandemic peak, continues to edge up. There is no national plan or policy to manage the necessary decline in output over time. Few countries, if any, have mapped out how to unwind their fossil fuel industries.  Other conclusions from the database launch jump out. An estimated 21 multinational companies each have projects in the works that amount to more than a billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) associated with them. Qatar Energy leads the pack with 7.4 billion tons of CO2e, followed by Gazprom with 6.3 billion CO2e. The western oil majors are also in the top 10, with ExxonMobil at 3.13 billion CO2e and TotalEnergies at 2.5 billion CO2e. In addition, the registry found that global methane emissions are having a greater impact on the global carbon math than is often thought. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, more than 80 times more powerful than CO2 over a 20-year period. However, many climate models consider methane’s impact over a 100-year period, which yields a smaller impact. The registry uses the 20-year measurement, and when that is factored into the long list of fossil fuel projects contained in the database, it leads to the conclusion that the world is burning through its carbon budget much faster than anticipated. Global leaders are calling for dramatic change. “The fossil fuel industry is feasting on hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and windfall profits while household budgets shrink and our planet burns,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said at the UN General Assembly on September 20. “Our world is addicted to fossil fuels. It’s time for an intervention. We need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account.” Publication of the registry could inform policymakers around the world, shedding light on how individual oil, gas, and coal projects interact with the global carbon budget. The COP27 climate talks are scheduled to be held in November in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.   “We now possess a tool that can assist in effectively ending coal, oil, and gas production. The Global Registry will help governments, companies, and investors make decisions to align their fossil fuel production with the 1.5 temperature limit and, thus, concretely prevent the demise of our island homes, as well as all countries throughout our global community,” Simon Kofe, Minister of Justice, Communications & Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, said in a statement. The post A Global Database on Fossil Fuel Projects Goes Live appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/20/22 4:00am
Exxon figured out a solution that could have helped achieve “stabilization” of the climate emergency back in the early 1990s, and then came up with a communication strategy to make sure that solution wouldn’t happen.  That’s according to a newly reviewed 1993 document labeled “proprietary” that was written by the company’s Canadian subsidiary Imperial Oil, one of the top producers in a heavily polluting oil deposit known as the Alberta tar sands. The document directed leaders at the company to stress the “many uncertainties” of implementing a national tax on greenhouse gas emissions when talking with journalists and politicians, even though Imperial Oil had privately studied the policy and learned that it could cause national emissions to plateau and then shrink without doing significant damage to the economy.  If Exxon had back then used its vast political and financial power to aggressively push for a national carbon tax to be adopted in major economies around the world, global emissions might have already peaked by now. “We’d be headed down the backside,” environmental writer and 350.org founder Bill McKibben argues in my new book entitled The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy To Cover Up Climate Change.   Crop of image of Esso holding tanks attached to an Imperial Oil refinery. Credit: TheKurgan, CC BY–SA 3.0 Enrique Rosero, a scientist who spent 10 years working for Exxon before being pushed out for questioning its opposition to climate solutions, agrees his former employer could have made a huge early impact in the climate fight by pushing for a carbon tax. “That would have significantly changed incentives for everything,” he says in The Petroleum Papers. “It would have been so much easier to address the crisis if we’d started then.”    The main problem with a carbon tax from Imperial Oil’s perspective was that it would drastically harm the company’s sizable investments in Canada’s massive oil patch. “Imposition of increased taxes to dampen demand and influence supply mix could increase the relative supply costs of energy intensive/higher carbon content fossil fuels such as oil sands,” the 1993 document says.  This could potentially “result in a 12% reduction in downstream revenue” for Imperial Oil, the document warned, equivalent to losses of $940 million.  For that reason the company came up with a list of talking points targeted to “government, thought leaders and media” that would make carbon taxes look economically reckless. This “Basic Strategy/Action Plan” also was apparently shared with leaders at “Exxon’s Environment and Safety and Corporate Planning networks.”  Step one in the plan was to warn people in power that climate policies such as a carbon tax would hurt a “precarious economy and international competitiveness” while achieving only “uncertainty in environmental benefits.”  Leaders at Imperial Oil and Exxon should argue publicly that it “makes little sense to act unilaterally to respond to a global issue” and that responding to global warming “doesn’t warrant drastic steps at this time,” according to Imperial Oil’s communication plan.  This position was a misrepresentation of Imperial’s own research on climate solutions, which was contained in a 1991 report presented to the oil and gas company by an economics consulting firm known as DRI/McGraw-Hill.   Read a Q&A with Geoff Dembicki, author of the book The Petroleum Papers That report showed that if a major greenhouse gas emitter like Canada forced polluters to pay a tax of $55 for each ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, it would result in policymakers and executives closing down oil refineries and coal power plants, building renewable energy sources, phasing out diesel locomotives, making car engines less polluting, and reducing emissions from buildings.  All this would have the potential to stop the climate emergency in its tracks, resulting in “approximate stabilization of Canada’s CO2 emissions,” the 1991 report read. This is exactly what would be needed in order for a global economic power like Canada to do its part to halt climate change.  Imperial calculated there would be up-front costs associated with this policy shift. But those costs would be primarily felt by the fossil fuel industry. “The Canadian oil and gas industry, which is heavily concentrated in Alberta, would be harshly penalized,” the report warned.  Overall the country’s economy would be fine, however. The reason for that is “government would have enormous amounts of additional revenue once carbon taxes are imposed,” the report explains, potentially allowing for a massive green build-out effort. “The surge in capital spending mitigates the impact on the economy after the year 2000,” Imperial learned.  Dive into a DeSmog special series, The Imperial Oil Files: How a Canadian Oil Giant Followed Exxon into Climate Denial. Armed with this knowledge, Imperial then created a “well developed and broadly communicated position aimed at limiting non market-driven response steps” to climate change. That is the strategy laid out in the “proprietary” 1993 document.  Thus, at a crucial early moment when the world could have gotten the climate emergency under control, Exxon and its Canadian subsidiary chose to sabotage what they knew to be the most effective solution, McKibben argues.  “I think that’s the part that’s sometimes hard for people to understand,” he said. During the early 1990s when this research was being conducted, “we had a variety of options that were fairly modest.” But with each wasted year since then, he explains, the climate emergency, and the solutions at hand to fix it, have become more and more dire.    Editor’s note: Learn more about these issues by checking out Dembicki’s book and diving into the Imperial Oil Files. The post Exxon Could Have Helped Stop Climate Change 30 Years Ago, ‘Proprietary’ Docs Show appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/20/22 4:00am
Imperial Oil might not be a household name in the United States, but the company, which is mostly owned by ExxonMobil, is a big name in Canada. There, it’s one of the major players in Canada’s oil sands — the name for the vast fields containing a tarry mixture of sand, water, and the thick, heavy oil called bitumen — that were first mined in 1967. These oil sands, sometimes called “tar sands,” which lie in northern Alberta, are one of the largest oil reserves in the world. But the oil that comes from them is distinctive in several ways. Oil sands’ unique texture means it takes more money and energy to refine than traditional crude. In addition, its oil is some of the most carbon-heavy in the world, with up to 20 percent higher emissions, and that has drawn the attention of climate advocates. Because of these factors, as Geoff Dembicki explains in his new book The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change (Greystone Books, September 20), oil sands producers and refiners, like Imperial Oil or Koch Industries, are particularly vulnerable to any efforts to mitigate climate change that would increase the already higher costs of extracting and refining bitumen. Dembicki’s book illuminates for the first time how these industry players profited from Canada’s oil sands and then spun those profits into international networks of climate denial that would help extend the oil sands’ lifetime. “Bitumen from Alberta bankrolled the assault on truth led by companies such as Koch Industries and Exxon,” he writes. Dembicki drew heavily on the Imperial Oil Files we published in 2019, relying on internal company documents that demonstrated not only that Imperial Oil knew about climate change by the late 1970s but also that it studied climate solutions — so that it could try to shut them down. As he explains in the book, “Canada could slow down climate change, or it could tap one of the world’s largest oil reserves — but it couldn’t do both.” It chose the oil sands.  Those oil sands–fueled efforts to spread climate denial and delay action aren’t just a thing of the past. As Dembicki demonstrates, “the machinery of Big Oil’s climate crisis denial” continues its work influencing U.S. and Canadian politics even today. We spoke with Dembicki ahead of the release of The Petroleum Papers. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Lindsey J. Smith I want to start with a really simple question: Why write about the oil sands? Geoff Dembicki For me, its kind of personal because I was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. Thats only a few hours’ drive south of the oil sands and, literally, my childhood home was just down the road from a huge oil refinery, and friends and family worked in the oil and gas industry. As I got older, I just wanted to have a better understanding of the industry. And then, of course, once I learned about the massive climate impacts it was creating, and how some of the companies involved with that industry had covered up those impacts and lied to the public that just got me more and more curious. SMITH Do you think that other people, even people who are informed about climate change, are aware of the oil sands and of their climate impact? DEMBICKI There is a bit of awareness of that, especially in Canada. But part of the reason I wanted to do this book was to really educate readers in the U.S., and in Canada, and all over the world, just about the massive climate impacts that this gigantic oil industry has created. I think when a lot of Americans imagine foreign oil, theyre thinking about like Saudi Arabia, or something, but a huge part of the oil that Americans use every day, and that Canada sends to the U.S., comes directly from the oil sands. And its not just like the physical properties of oil that affect whats happening with climate change. As I explain in the book, theres a long history of sort of very powerful conservative forces — like Koch Industries, or even going back to Howard Pew in the 1950s and ’60s, and these are people who had a very sort of reactionary, far-right view on the world — and Canadas oil was important to those types of business people and really funded and made possible this torrent of a very conservative politics, which has had a massive impact on our ability to deal with the climate emergency. SMITH A great example of that in the book is the Pine Bend refinery owned by Koch Industries. DEMBICKI Yeah. I had known that Koch Industries owned and operated this refinery in Minnesota for a while, but I dont think I knew how central it was to their company and to their history until I started doing more research for this book. Because it [is] placed so closely to the Canadian border, they could import all of this oil from Canada, which other U.S. refiners didnt usually take because it was lower quality and required specialized equipment. And so the Kochs were able to do that in their Minnesota refinery and then they can sell the processed oil as gasoline and whatever else at extremely high margins. This created so much money for Koch Industries in the early days that it really allowed the company to become the massive industrial behemoth that it is now. And then, of course, everyone knows the political impact of the Koch brothers becoming so wealthy, which is like an absolute restructuring of our entire political system along free market, anti-government, climate denying lines. So I was just amazed at the central role that oil from Canada played in all of that.  Canadian oil sands giant Suncor Energys plant. Credit: Suncor Energy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) SMITH I think thats something that will surprise a lot of readers. Beyond Koch Industries, Im wondering if you could briefly summarize the web of denial connected to the oil sands? DEMBICKI Part of the reason we named the book “The Petroleum Papers” is because I was drawing heavily on this large archive of documents that DeSmog and some others obtained, called the Imperial files, which is a record going back decades of what this company discussed internally in terms of the environment and climate change. Imperial Oil was doing all of this research on climate change, going back to like the 1960s even, and then sharing a lot of that research with Exxon executives. The documents are quite, quite amazing and kind of because they show how scientists inside Imperial and Exxon not only studied climate change internally long before the public knew about it, but they also anticipated that climate change would become a major public policy issue. They were really worried that there would be government regulations that would make their oil sands operations no longer profitable. And so before this issue was even clearly defined for the public, Imperial Oil was already figuring out ways to not only discredit the science of climate change, but also to discredit solutions that could fix the climate emergency too.  SMITH What solutions were they studying? DEMBICKI Theres a document from 1993 that was one of the most alarming that I saw in the entire course of doing research for this. Basically, in the early ’90s, climate change was just starting to become a publicly known issue, but it was very ill-defined so people didnt really know what to think of it. So Imperial Oil decided to model a bunch of different potential solutions for climate change internally so it would know how to respond. Imperial studied a bunch of different solutions… [and] determined that if there was this price on carbon emissions across the whole economy, this could actually have a really big positive impact on fighting climate change. And then, this part, which was not known before and it was just included in a few footnotes in Imperials research, was that in the early days of bringing in such a policy, there would be an economic hit mostly through oil refineries and stuff being closed down. But Imperial actually determined that all of the tax revenue from a carbon price would create this huge amount of money that governments could then spend on green infrastructure and other forms of climate stimulus. And this would actually have a positive impact on the economy. I was just floored by that because its like, decades and decades ago, Imperial basically acknowledges that you could do a big part in fixing climate change, and it actually wouldnt hurt the economy at all, it would probably be good for it. It would just be bad for Imperial Oil, and the oil sands. In this document in 1993, Imperial Oil came up with a confidential plan to misrepresent its own research to policymakers and government and media. There were all of these talking points emphasizing the uncertainty of climate solutions, how it would be bad for the economy, it would hurt international competitiveness. At this very early stage, when we could have made a big impact in fighting the climate emergency, Imperial had already planted these seeds of sabotage and denial. Read: Exxon Could Have Helped Stop Climate Change 30 Years Ago, ‘Proprietary’ Docs Show SMITH Wow, that’s infuriating. A lot of the latter half of the book focuses on these climate lawsuits that have come up in the last few years, including some led by a lawyer named Steve Berman, who managed to finally get a ruling in the courts against Big Tobacco. He and others are now trying to prove a similar thing with Big Oil: that these companies knew that their products were harmful, and they misled the public about that. So far, these climate lawsuits havent succeeded, but Im wondering if you have any thoughts on what it might take for one to succeed? DEMBICKI I mean, its definitely a long game. With tobacco, it took decades to get any sort of ruling against the industry. That said, theres been climate lawsuits against Big Oil, I believe, filed by more than 20 jurisdictions in the U.S. Those lawsuits havent resulted in any big rulings against the industry yet, but the fact that theyre still all sort of moving forward and clearing procedural hurdles is a big deal. To me, though, the most significant thing that these lawsuits do is really change the narrative around climate change. For so long, weve had this idea that no one specifically can be held responsible for climate change because its something that we all contribute to. But the climate change lawsuits flip all of that on its head, and they point directly at the oil and gas industry. And its not just for the emissions that that industry releases, even though theyre significant. Its the fact that we had all these really good opportunities to bring in meaningful legislation and to clean up the economy, and the oil and gas industry has played a really bad faith role in sabotaging those solutions, spreading denial about them, confusing the public, flooding politics with their money. These lawsuits are pointing blame at specific companies, specific executives, specific industry groups, and I think that were still in the early days, but thats really going to profoundly change how people see the climate emergency.  Suncors primary extraction plants separate raw bitumen from the sand in giant separation cells. Credit: Suncor Energy (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) SMITH One of the lawsuits in particular in the book that caught your attention is a case in Colorado against an oil refinery operated by Suncor, a Canadian oil sands company, in the greater Denver area. The lawsuit names both Suncor and Exxon and calls out the oil sands as a major contributing factor to the pollution locals are dealing with. Why is that lawsuit significant? DEMBICKI That one was interesting to me because it specifically named Suncor and Exxon. When I heard about that, I was like, “Oh, this is a lawsuit against the oil sands.” Suncor is the company that grew out of Sun Oil, which created the first commercial oil sands operation back in the ’60s. And the second big commercial oil sands operation was started by Imperial Oil, the Exxon subsidiary. Essentially, its litigation against the entire Canadian oil sands industry.  SMITH Another thing that stood out to me in the book was that some of the U.S.’s early support for developing Canada’s oil sands had to do with wanting to have a friendly source of oil in the face of communism. I feel like were in a very similar moment right now, where oil and gas companies are capitalizing on a global political crisis to expand production. What can we take away from that past push to develop the oil sands that also applies to this moment were in? DEMBICKI I think there are two big takeaways for me, or almost like general principles of disinformation that I have observed taking place over many decades. One of them, as you pointed out, is that the oil and gas industry always, always loves to use a global political crisis for its own favor. Of course, the oil and gas industry isnt in the business of trying to provide good faith solutions to geopolitical problems. Theyre looking out for their profits, and thats always been the case. So I think we can always expect oil and gas companies to try to turn any large global crisis in [their] favor. The second big pattern I noticed was at the moments of greatest possibility in fixing the climate emergency, thats when the disinformation and the torrent of denial will be at its loudest. When governments are close to bringing in huge structural changes to the economy to fight climate change, when that poses the biggest economic threat to oil and gas companies, thats when their denial machine really just cranks up as loud as possible. Learn more about these issues by checking out Dembicki’s book and diving into the Imperial Oil Files. The post How Canada’s Oil Sands ‘Bankrolled the Assault on Truth’ appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/16/22 4:15pm
New documents released by a congressional committee show that major oil companies, under pressure from the worsening climate crisis, have carefully crafted public messages to convey an effort of transitioning to cleaner technologies, but that the campaigns appear aimed at obscuring the fact that they remain “devoted to a long-term fossil fuel future,” the committee report states. The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a memo on September 14 that detailed documents and internal communications from oil companies including BP, Shell, and ExxonMobil, which show efforts to heavily promote their investments in promising technologies to address climate change, such as algae biofuels and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), while internally expressing doubt about the viability and immediacy of those investments. “Today, our Committee is releasing new documents from our investigation that shed light on how the fossil fuel industry misled the public about their climate goals, their actions, and their investments,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said at the Committee’s hearing on September 15. “The documents show that both Exxon and Chevron fought hard to avoid making any real commitments to advocate for the policies they claim to support.” Technologies That Are “Still Decades Away” The oil majors routinely spend heavily on advertising climate solutions that many scientists, environmental groups, and other experts have long questioned. As DeSmog has reported over the years, many industry climate claims have been criticized as exercises in greenwashing, covering up for business as usual. But the congressional documents also point to skepticism from within the oil companies themselves, highlighting the gap between their public and private statements. be cagey about project specificsShell official advising a colleague on carbon capture talking points in 2019 ExxonMobil has spent $68 million in advertising on its algae-based liquid fuels. In a September 2018 draft presentation for investors, ExxonMobil struck an optimistic tone on its algae fuels, but notes accompanying the presentation, obtained by the House committee, state that the technology is “still decades away from the scale we need.” In addition, in preparation of an advertising campaign on algae, a public affairs manager at ExxonMobil expressed concern in an April 2016 email about the phrase “abundant algae,” cautioning that “even though they are abundant, it will take a ton of them to make biofuels so that might create some angst with the research folks who knows that.” Last year, the Wall Street Journal looked at ExxonMobil’s claims on algae, and found doubts from external scientists that the technology is viable. From production to combustion, here are a few reasons algae biofuel could be such a promising energy resource. pic.twitter.com/cjtFJygZh8— ExxonMobil (@exxonmobil) September 27, 2019 One of ExxonMobils ads featuring algae-based biofuels. Another tranche of documents show that the oil industry privately harbors doubt about carbon capture and sequestration even as it positions the technology as a key climate solution. For example, draft advertisements prepared by PR firm BBDO for ExxonMobil to use in New Jersey describe “carbon capture at mass scale” as one of “the technologies being developed right here in Jersey at ExxonMobil’s Research and Engineering facilities.” But private communications from BBDO show that after meeting with Exxon staff to discuss the ad, BBDO noted that it would “replace any lines that imply the technology is live today.”    In another example from October 2019, in advance of an event held in Washington, D.C., one Shell official advised another to “be cagey about project specifics” related to carbon capture. Many carbon capture projects to date trap very little carbon pollution and are riddled with technical and economic obstacles. A September 2022 report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis found that many carbon capture projects have failed, and the successful ones typically funnel captured CO2 back into oil and gas projects to boost production. To the extent that carbon capture works, oil companies view the technology as a way to continue producing more oil and gas well into an increasingly climate-constrained future. An internal document from BP, obtained by the congressional investigation, states that carbon capture is a way to “enable the full use of fossil fuels across the energy transition and beyond.” “What these documents are is an insight into how these technologies are viewed inside the companies,” Kathy Mulvey, accountability campaign director for climate and energy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told DeSmog. She pointed to the internal tension at ExxonMobil about its algae messaging, which she said shows that they are “aware of potential liabilities with these claims.” Net Zero Scenario Has “Nothing to Do with Our Business Plans” The documents also suggest there is little movement among the oil majors to actually transition away from fossil fuels. The oil majors have played a double game with the Paris Climate Agreement. For example, in July 2021, ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods stated: “We understand the tremendous challenge represented by climate change and have fully supported the Paris Agreement since its inception.” A home near the Exxon SABIC Gulf Coast Growth Ventures petrochemical plant in Portland, Texas. Credit: ©Julie Dermansky But documents also show that ExxonMobil and Chevron attempted to water down messaging related to the international accord. In a memo to Woods from 2019, Exxon’s Manager of Environmental Policy & Planning Peter Trelenberg raised concerns about the messaging for a document to be put out by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a voluntary industry-led group that promotes climate solutions, of which Exxon and Chevron are members. Trelenberg wrote: “Need to remove reference to Paris Agreement as support for the Paris Agreement goals and member company advocacy are separate concepts and not directly related. Creating a tie between our advocacy/engagements and the Paris Agreement could create a potential commitment to advocate on the Paris Agreement goals.” In other words, Exxon stated clearly in public that it supported the Paris climate agreement “since its inception,” but also sought to avoid having the agreement tie its hands. Shell’s target is to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, in step with society.It covers emissions from our own operations and from the end use of all energy products we sell. Read more: https://t.co/kvdr1tleZi #PoweringProgress #netzero— Shell (@Shell) February 11, 2021 Shell executives also have parsed language carefully to avoid getting pinned down. Internal communications from October 2019 show Shell managers discussing how to talk publicly about the company’s “Sky scenario,” a scenario that mapped out how the world could reach “net zero” emissions and that received in-depth media attention when revealed in 2018. One Shell manager reminded her colleague that the company’s net-zero scenario is “not a Shell business plan, but a technically possible, although challenging scenario for how global society might meet the goals of the Paris agreement.” In 2018, Shell did print a disclaimer noting that the Sky scenario was not its business plan, but a flurry of emails obtained by the House committee show employees repeatedly reminding each other that the net zero plan is not for the company to pursue. “What was interesting to me was how careful they had to be in prepping their own executives and spokespeople on that. Because one could easily read those scenarios as being a business scenario,” Mulvey said, referring to Shell’s communications. “Its almost like the people inside the company themselves could make the same mistake that they want all of us to make when we hear these claims.” The other pattern to notice is where we DO own high GHG intensive things, it’s in areas where they aren’t that politically sensitive about such matters: China, Singapore, Malaysia, Louisiana….Steve Lesher, Shell’s U.S. West Coast Manager of Government Relations Meanwhile, Shell’s communications also show that the company aims to shed carbon-intensive assets in jurisdictions where it is feeling public pressure or new climate policies, but it has little plans to change its ways in what it views as more permissive states or countries. “No one in the company has said this, mind you, but the pattern is pretty clear: If you’re a major greenhouse gas emitter, and particularly if you operate in a GHG-sensitive area like CA, WA, or CAN, your days in the Shell Family are probably numbered,” Steve Lesher, Shell’s U.S. West Coast Manager of Government Relations, wrote in an email in May 2021 to lobbying firm McHugh Koepke & Associates. “The other pattern to notice is where we DO own high GHG intensive things, it’s in areas where they aren’t that politically sensitive about such matters: China, Singapore, Malaysia, Louisiana….,” he wrote. Activists in Louisiana took exception with those statements. “If industry doesn’t see the efforts of frontline fighters in these communities it’s because they don’t want to. It’s because they are in the pockets of our elected officials and they don’t care about the communities they invade,” Roishetta Ozane, organizing director for Healthy Gulf, a New Orleans-based climate justice organization, told DeSmog in an email. Ozane testified at the congressional hearing on September 15. Shells Norco refinery in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. Credit: ©Julie Dermansky “They don’t care that folks are dying and that we are continuously impacted by devastating natural disasters caused by climate change of which they contribute to when they constantly extract fossil fuels,” she said. “Enough is enough and if industry wants to see push back tell them to come to Southwest Louisiana and find me fighting on the frontlines.” Indeed, communities opposing polluting industries along the Gulf Coast scored a major victory on the same day as the congressional hearing. The massive Formosa petrochemical facility slated for St. James Parish was shot down by a district court, after years of opposition from local communities. “Stopping Formosa Plastics has been a fight for our lives, and today David has toppled Goliath,” Sharon Lavigne, founder and president of RISE St. James, said in a statement. Oil Industry “Continuing to Mislead the Public”   The documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee show that the oil industry’s attempts to mislead the public did not end with overt climate science denial several years ago. “The recency of it definitely underlines that although this is a decades-long concerted campaign to deceive the public and to block action, it continues. And it continues to evolve,” Mulvey said. In addition, the documents still don’t tell the entire story. The committee said that the oil companies refused to testify, failed to meet a subpoena deadline, and “continued to withhold documents at the heart of this investigation.” They also turned over hundreds of thousands of pages of “news clippings and other ancillary materials” in an apparent attempt to drown congressional staff in piles of unrelated documents to stymy the investigation.   The stonewalling, combined with the snippets of apparent deception that are contained within the documents, “makes it seem like they have a lot to hide. And theyre afraid of the truth coming out. And that theyre afraid of the public and policymakers being able to see through the PR smoke screen that they’re trying to create,” Mulvey said. “It points to ongoing justifiable scrutiny on their social license. These are companies that cant and shouldnt be trusted to reform themselves. As the oil companies themselves have revealed in their own internal communications, cultivating positive public opinion of their business practices remains a top concern. In January 2020, a Shell government relations employee sent a company slide deck intended to help those “just learning our narrative” that identified “maintaining a strong societal licence to operate” as one of the company’s three strategic ambitions. It also cautioned that its communications about the energy transition could open up the oil major to additional climate litigation: “what we are saying has the potential to either expose or insulate Shell to/from the legitimacy of further claims—from greenwashing to misleading investors.”  In a statement to DeSmog, a BP spokesperson said: “bp’s commitment to the energy transition is clear.  We have set near term targets that are consistent with our ambition to become a net zero company by 2050 or sooner, and to help the world get to net zero. We provided hundreds of thousands of pages of documents to the committee.  Some of the emails referenced contain inartful attempts at humor that do not reflect the values of bp and should not distract from our actions.” ExxonMobil, Shell, and the PR firm BBDO did not respond to questions from DeSmog. It’s not clear what happens next. If the Republicans take control of the House of Representatives after the midterm elections, they will presumably quash the investigation. But having the documents out in the public domain is nevertheless useful. “This evidence is highly relevant to ongoing litigation to hold the Big Oil companies accountable for climate damages and deception. So, whatever evidence can get into the public domain, seems to me, could inform existing and potential future litigation,” Mulvey said. Members of Congress, meanwhile, offered the industry a warning. “Let me tell these companies something. The American people are not dumb,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) said at the hearing. “They are walking a very fine line by continuing to mislead the public.” The post Internal Documents Show Big Oil PR Messages Still Mislead Public on Climate appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/16/22 1:10am
The UKs Conservative Party received £651,000 from the aviation industry between April and June this year amid doubts over the government’s commitment to cutting the sectors emissions. DeSmog analysis of official records showed the gifts included £515,000 from Christopher Harborne, the owner of a major aviation fuel company who donated millions to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in the run-up to the 2019 general election.  The boss of UK budget airline Jet2 and the owner of four English regional airports also contributed. Green MP Caroline Lucas said the findings showed the Conservatives were “in the pockets of an industry responsible for vast and increasing quantities of greenhouse gas emissions”. The data showed aviation was the third largest sector by donations, with finance contributing £1.8 million and real estate £717,000 during the same period.  Campaigners said the aviation-related donations looked like “sweeteners” from a sector that has largely escaped regulation over its climate impacts, and suggested the money would have been better invested in efforts to cut the companies’ emissions. The Conservative government supports the expansion of numerous airports around the country, despite its expert climate advisors warning that no “net” airport expansion can occur if the country’s 2050 net zero target is to be met, unless the sector is “on track to sufficiently outperform” its current trajectory. In July, the government announced its “Jet Zero Strategy’, which aims to cut UK aviation emissions to net-zero by 2050 and allow travellers to fly “guilt-free”. The policy, which backs further aviation growth, was dismissed as “pure greenwash” by environmental groups, which cast doubt on the viability of the technologies and solutions proposed. In the same month, the High Court ruled that the government’s net zero strategy did not meet its obligations under the 2008 Climate Change Act. Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak was criticised by climate campaigners last year for halving taxes on domestic flights, a move forecast to result in up to 400,000 extra journeys being made every year.  Sunak defended the tax cut, announced shortly before the UK hosted the COP26 UN climate negotiations, by saying it supported regional airports. Aviation emissions accounted for eight percent of the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions before the pandemic, according to the official figures. Donors The largest of the aviation donations, published by the Electoral Commission, came from Harborne, who donated half a million in May and then a further £15,000 the following month.  According to his LinkedIn profile, Harborne owns AML Global, an aviation fuel supplier that operates in “over 1,200 locations worldwide”. He is also the CEO of Sheriff Global Group, which trades private jets, according to Politics Home.  Harborne, who uses a different identity while working from Thailand, where he is based, has a record of supporting right-wing politicians hostile to action on climate change. In 2019, Harborne donated £9.7 million to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party – now Reform UK – and earlier this year paid for a £2,000 ticket to a Tory fundraising gala on behalf of Steve Baker, a trustee of the UK’s principal climate science denial group until his appointment last week as a Northern Ireland minister. Harborne has donated over £15 million to the Conservatives and Reform UK in total since 2001, with the majority made since 2018. Another notable aviation donor was the Rigby Group, which gave £25,000 in April, having donated £200,000 to the Conservative Party since 2017. The group owns Bournemouth, Coventry, Exeter and Norwich regional airports, and operates Solent Airport Daedalus, an aerodrome in Hampshire, on behalf of its owners. The firm was founded by entrepreneur Sir Peter Rigby, who has a combined worth, along with his two sons who also run the company, of £804 million, according to this year’s Sunday Times Rich List. Phillip Meeson, executive chairman of budget airline Jet2, gave a £5,000 cash donation and £3,900 recorded as “auction prizes”. Bridgemere, a group of companies owned by construction magnate Steve Morgan that advertises a private jet for charter on its website as part of its business, donated £62,500 in May. The Conservatives also received £33,743 from Knaresborough Aviation LLP, a Yorkshire-based airline. A donation worth £5,405 from Boeing was also recorded by Tobias Ellwood, a Tory MP who chairs parliament’s defence select committee, for a “fact finding visit to aerospace defence plants”. ‘Not a Good Look’ Lucas, the Green MP, said: “Government aviation policy in recent months has been nothing short of pie-in-the-sky greenwash, and now we know why – the Tory Party is in the pockets of an industry responsible for vast and increasing quantities of greenhouse gas emissions. “The climate emergency can’t be tackled without addressing aviation emissions. If this Government refuses to act, by adopting policies such as a frequent flyer levy so those who fly the most pay the most, it needs to make way for one which will,” she added. Cait Hewitt, deputy director at the Aviation Environment Federation, said: The aviation industry is – to put it mildly – not in a good place in terms of reaching net zero by 2050, and this hasn’t been helped by the fact that it’s managed, till now, to avoid most of the climate policies and emissions pricing strategies in place for other sectors. “Getting over the technological barriers to delivering zero carbon flying and carbon removal technologies is going to need massive private investment, as well as government action to make sure this is actually delivered,” Hewitt said. “At a time when the aviation sector is looking for government approval of airport expansion, and finance for alternative fuels, these ‘donations’ can’t help looking like sweeteners. It would be good if aviation businesses started putting their profits into decarbonisation rather than giving handouts to political parties. Matt Finch, UK policy manager at Transport & Environment, said: This is not a good look for the Tories. The Jet Zero Strategy was not a good strategy – UK aviation was happy with it, as it essentially meant business as usual for them. Whilst its hard to confirm that these donations influenced ministers decisions, the suspicion will always be there. A Conservative party spokesperson told DeSmog: “Government policy is in no way influenced by party donations – they are entirely separate. “Donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, openly published by them, and comply fully with the law.” Christopher Harborne and the Rigby Group were contacted for comment. Additional research by Michaela Herrmann. The post Conservative Party Given £651k by Aviation Industry appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/14/22 1:44pm
On September 14, a congressional committee probed the history that PR firms have played in creating and spreading climate disinformation in order to block climate policy and promote fossil fuel interests. The hearing, held by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee Oversight & Investigations, invited several firms, including Singer Associates, Story Partners, and Pac/West Communications. None of them showed up. Instead, the hearing heard from several witnesses, including experts in the PR industry. One of them was Christine Arena, a former VP at Edelman who now researches and exposes greenwashing and industry obfuscation. Arena laid out three overarching campaign strategies that PR firms use on behalf of their fossil fuel clients, citing a study from Brown University researchers Robert Brulle and Carter Werthman. Those strategies are corporate image promotion, third-party mobilization (astroturf groups), and delegitimization of the opposition. “The U.S. oil and gas sector has always pushed for policies that allow for new fossil fuel expansion, and against policies that would reduce demand,” Arena said in a prepared testimony. “But what has changed recently is the intensity of the industry’s pursuits, and the vast resources it deploys through public relations and lobbying efforts meant to crush potential regulatory obstacles in its path.” The oil industry and its hired PR hands continue to deploy these strategies. A recent example Arena cited was the oil industry’s effort to opportunistically seize on Russia’s war in Ukraine to promote long-standing policy wishes, while misleading the public by blaming climate policy for causing higher energy prices. These tactics are especially aggressive at the state and local level, where “brute financial force” is used to kill off climate initiatives, Arena added. That power imbalance was on vivid display in Colorado in 2018 when grassroots activists succeeded in getting a ballot initiative put to voters that would have imposed greater setback distances on fracking operations, limiting how close to homes and schools new oil and gas wells could be drilled. A year earlier, two deadly oil and gas infrastructure explosions had rocked Firestone, Colorado. The industry poured money into that election, outspending community and environmental groups by a factor of more than thirty to one. Noble Energy, a large fracking company (now owned by Chevron), hired DC-based PR firm Story Partners, to help defeat the measure. Story Partners created two astroturf campaigns, based on the firm’s research that showed that support for setback distances declined when voters heard about the “devastating consequences” that it would have on the state’s economy. The campaign ran ads to promote “clean” natural gas, warn of damage to Colorado’s economy, and positioned Noble Energy as a responsible partner. Story Partners still displays its campaign to defeat the ballot initiative on its website as a successful “case study” of how it protected its client’s assets. The House committee also heard from Anne Lee Foster, who held an unpaid position in 2018 for Colorado Rising, a grassroots group supporting the ballot measure to establish drilling setback distances. She spoke about the multiple instances in which people would harass her and her colleagues as they tried to gather signatures. Around that time, Colorado Public Radio reported that an internal Anadarko Petroleum document, leaked to Colorado Rising, asked employees to report the locations of signature gatherers via a phone texting system. Once the location was identified, counter-protesters appeared at a moment’s notice, shouting and harassing the signature gatherers and passersby who considered signing on to the ballot initiative effort.    According to a report produced by the House committee, oil companies including Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy, and Chevron, had set up two front groups, “Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence” (Protect Colorado), and “Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development” (CRED). Those two groups then funneled most of their proceeds to an Oregon-based PR firm called PAC/West. The two front groups offered a “buffer” between the oil drillers and the PR campaign, the committee report said. Although it was later deleted from its website, PAC/West described how it was paid by Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy to “lead a statewide education campaign” to defeat the ballot measure. Ultimately, the ballot measure was narrowly defeated at the polls in 2018. “I personally suffered from what I feel is stalking or harassment in a number of other circumstances throughout this campaign,” Anne Lee Foster told the committee on Wednesday in her prepared testimony. That was one small example of a web of influence between a handful of PR firms and the oil and gas industry. “Let me be clear: There is nothing standard or ethical about these practices. They are deceptive communications practices that mislead our citizenry and undermine our democracy,” Arena said. The work that PR firms do goes far beyond simply promoting the image of their clients, according to Melissa Aronczyk, an associate professor at Rutgers University’s School of Communications & Information, another witness at the congressional hearing.  “Public relations firms often present themselves and their work in terms of facilitating or amplifying ideas or information. In fact, public relations is not only communicating ideas and information but coming up with those ideas and creating that information,” Aronczyk said in her testimony. PR firms provide long-term strategic planning, set up front groups, manufacture the illusion of support, and monitor and target opponents. She said the work goes back many decades. PR firms also operate a broad network of influence out of public view, sharing information among multiple clients and trade groups, which allows companies to “minimize the reputational and financial risk of speaking out against climate action,” Aronczyk said. “Because this coordinated infrastructure of anti-environmental action is operating behind the scenes, members of the public and lawmakers have no way of knowing if the campaigns operating on behalf of fossil fuels are real or manufactured,” she added. But the growing pressure on the PR industry is having an effect. Clean Creatives, a climate campaign targeting the advertising industry, says that nearly 400 PR firms have signed a pledge to not work with coal, oil, and gas companies. “We’re seeing the beginning of a transformation of the PR and Advertising industry when it comes to climate,” Duncan Meisel, executive director of the Clean Creatives campaign, said in a statement. “Oil and gas companies used to be seen as prestige clients, now agencies are embarrassed to admit that they work for them. But this dirty work is still going on in the shadows, making the spotlight of this House hearing and investigation all the more important. The future of creativity is clean and it’s time for agencies to step into the light.” One PR firm was not at Wednesday’s hearing: FTI Consulting. The House committee is investigating FTI, which has refused to turn over documents requested by the congressional investigators. “We initiated the subpoena process for FTI Consulting, which has one of the worst reputations in the business. The negotiations are ongoing. The trajectory is sadly not good,” Rep. Katie Porter said in her closing comments on Wednesday. “What are they trying to hide? Is it their creation of fake grassroots groups for their clients to hide behind? Was it the creation of fake social media profiles to track plans of activist groups? Or is there something worse? The harder FTI Consulting fights, the more it appears that they have a lot to lose by having their tactics exposed through oversight.” She added: “We are just getting started.” The post House Committee Investigates the Role of PR Firms in Spreading Climate Disinformation appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/13/22 8:26am
Gas companies are misleading the British public by marketing hydrogen ready boilers as a climate-friendly alternative despite widespread doubts the technology will help curb emissions, according to a new report. Analysis published today by Global Witness finds that brands including British Gas and Worcester Bosch are portraying “hydrogen blend” boilers as a green way to heat homes. At recent trade fairs, some firms have also had “100 percent hydrogen boilers” on display. But critics say the marketing for such boilers is “deceptive” and question whether hydrogen boilers can help the UK meet its net zero targets given the enormous cost – and capacity – constraints of using hydrogen for heating.  “Heating homes with hydrogen is like making dog food out of caviar: nobody would be able to afford it, and there’s nowhere near enough of it to make it work,” said Barnaby Pace, senior gas campaigner at Global Witness, who worked on the report.  Campaigners say that it would be far cheaper, faster and more efficient for Britain to decarbonise homes by using electricity generated by solar farms or wind turbines to power heat pumps. But the gas industry would stand to lose billions of dollars in stranded assets if the UK and other countries no longer needed its pipelines, city-wide grids and other infrastructure to pipe natural gas to heat millions of homes.  “There are good, clean, options out there to heat homes such as heat pumps, but they are threatening the business model of gas suppliers,” Pace said. “So, we’re seeing a campaign from a dirty industry, desperate to keep burning gas, make customers pay for their hydrogen pipe dreams and keep profiting off energy bills.” Meanwhile, gas companies openly admit that hydrogen – whether “blended” with fossil gas or used pure – will not be widely available for at least a decade. British Gas writes on its website that a boiler bought today would probably only ever use natural gas.  Long-Term Horizon Hydrogen, which can be burned to generate heat, like natural gas, is already used in some industries. Gas companies have been lobbying the government to grant a significant role to hydrogen during the transition away from fossil fuels. They argue that adapting the existing network to run on a blend of natural gas and hydrogen – or building new hydrogen-powered grids – will help meet climate goals.  Now, Worcester Bosch and German company Vaillant, which operates in the UK, are marketing 100 percent hydrogen boilers at recent trade shows, according to photos seen by DeSmog.  Worcester Bosch has also advertised units with a large green label that reads “hydrogen blend ready”.  But these boilers would still mostly run on natural gas – even if hydrogen was available. If and when hydrogen were to be injected into existing gas grids on any large scale, ‘blended boilers’ would only run on 20 percent hydrogen, leaving them reliant on natural gas to provide 80 percent of the power to heat homes. British Gas, a leading UK supplier which also makes boilers, calls the switch to hydrogen “good news for everyone” and tells customers that “every boiler” they sell can run with 20 percent hydrogen.  The chief executive of British Gas parent company Centrica has claimed that “hydrogen boilers will help us to reach net zero”, adding that British Gas is “already installing hydrogen ready boilers”.  Yet the company’s website admits that “nobody really knows” when the transition to hydrogen will happen.  British Gas predicts “the rollout of 20 percent hydrogen isn’t expected to begin until 2028 at the very earliest” while “the switch to 100 percent hydrogen will take significantly longer”. Vaillant sets the start date even later. It concedes on its website that: “we do not expect to see a mass roll out of hydrogen boilers until the early 2030s as it is unlikely that homes, which are currently on the gas grid, will have a hydrogen supply to their doorstep much before then”.  The company adds: “For some installations there will be no tangible benefit of their wall-hung boiler being hydrogen ready as they may never see hydrogen in their lifetime.”  Dr Richard Lowes, a senior associate at the Regulatory Assistance Project, which works on the clean energy transition, told DeSmog that calling boilers “hydrogen blend ready” was deceptive. He said gas boilers sold in Europe are already required to be compatible with 20 percent hydrogen following an EU directive which came into effect in 1996, so that “adding a new ‘hydrogen blend ready’ sticker to boilers already on the market demonstrates nothing additional and will at best confuse and at worst deceive consumers”. Meanwhile, adopting hydrogen heating could also double energy costs for the average European household, according to analysis by consultancy Element Energy, commissioned by Global Witness and published last week.  “Hydrogen for heating is a fossil fuel Trojan Horse which could keep consumer bills high, while potentially doing little to reduce carbon emissions”, said Juliet Phillips, a senior policy advisor at think tank E3G.  Lobbying Efforts This week’s Global Witness report cites meeting minutes that suggest European gas companies – ONTRAS, Bayernets, Gascade and trade body Open Grid Europe – lobbied the EU Commission in September last year suggesting the cost of converting the gas grid to hydrogen should be passed onto consumers.  Other gas companies – Fluxys, Uniper, and Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE) – lobbied EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson to the same effect in February this year, Global Witness said.  The report also suggests company marketing downplays concerns about hydrogen boilers emitting nitrogen oxide, which can be dangerous if inhaled in large quantities, when companies claim hydrogen’s only by-product is water.  “Even as gas bills have gone through the roof, gas and boiler companies are trying to persuade the public and governments to buy into ‘hydrogen-ready’ boilers, when they will likely only ever run on expensive, polluting gas and if hydrogen did ever make it into gas grids it would only ramp prices up higher,” said Barnaby Pace. The government’s 2021 hydrogen strategy aims for hydrogen to cover up to 35 percent of the UK’s energy consumption by 2050. It has taken a “twin track” approach of backing both green hydrogen, which is made using wind and solar power, and blue hydrogen, which is made using natural gas combined with highly disputed carbon capture and storage technology. Gas companies are actively lobbying the UK government. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hydrogen, which has supported the government’s “twin track” approach, received around £70,000 in February from companies including Shell and Equinor through a PR company called Connect, according to the most recent register. A spokesperson for British Gas’s parent company, Centrica, rejected the claim of “greenwashing”. They told DeSmog “the boilers we sell today can take a 20 per cent blend of hydrogen and it is unknown when hydrogen will be used whilst in grid trial stages,” adding that “all of our marketing is very clear on this”. Worcester Bosch, Vailant, Baxi and Veissmann – the other companies whose marketing was criticised by Global Witness – did not respond when contacted for comment. Nor did the companies accused of lobbying the EU Commission – ONTRAS Bayernets, Gascade, Open Grid Europe, Fluxys, Uniper or Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE).  The post Gas Companies Accused of Using Hydrogen to ‘Greenwash’ Boilers appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/13/22 1:00am
By Ariel Le Bourdonnec and Lindsay Keenan This year has already been marked by numerous extreme weather events of record intensity, with the tragic loss of life from the Pakistan floods just the latest example. We all know that climate change – driven by the continued expansion of fossil fuel production, in defiance of all scientific advice – is making these events more common and severe. Insurance companies know this better than most. After all, they provide cover not only for homes and businesses affected by climate disasters, but also for the operations of the fossil fuel companies driving the climate crisis. So you would have thought that climate would be a key focus at the annual Rendez-Vous de Septembre the largest insurance conference in the world held this week in Monte Carlo.  Not so. In fact, the public programme includes just one session mentioning climate change – which asks the assembled audience of insurance executives, “Is it time to decarbonize your balance sheet? Start with your assets for a better climate impact.” That’s right. One third of Pakistan is currently underwater. And the people insuring climate-wrecking fossil fuels are gathering in luxurious hotels on the French Riviera, asking whether it might be time to start thinking about decarbonisation. ‘Wrong Message’ The call to “start with your assets” is telling. Insurance companies’ core business is underwriting – the provision of insurance to people and businesses. As a secondary function, they invest these assets in the stock market and other financial products. Underwriting is the function most crucial to fossil fuel expansion. There are millions of investors eager to snap up corporate shares, but very few organisations with the capacity to underwrite a project as complex or risky as a new coal plant. As such, action on underwriting could be many times more powerful than “starting with your assets”. Yet the Monte Carlo agenda continues to push the opposite message to cover for an industry addicted to lucrative fossil fuel premiums. As Aviva chief executive Amanda Blanc said over 18 months ago: “The underwriting needs to catch up with the investments.” “We can’t be saying we want to take the premium but we’re not going to invest in these organisations. That would just be incoherent.” Few of the insurers gathered at the conference have resolved this incoherence. While most European insurers have adopted restrictions on coal, albeit with varying levels of ambition, only a handful have committed to restrict underwriting for new oil and gas projects. Allianz, Swiss Re and Hannover Re are among them. Many major European insurers, notably Munich Re, SCOR and Lloyds of London – despite all belonging to the so-called Net Zero Insurance Alliance – continue to support oil and gas expansion, however. This flies in the face of warnings from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has made clear that there is no room for new oil or gas in a 1.5C future.  Some insurers are even going backwards on coal commitments. Lloyd’s of London, the world’s largest insurance market, announced in December 2020 that agents would be asked to no longer provide new insurance cover for thermal coal-fired power plants, thermal coal mines, oil sands, or new Arctic energy exploration activities from 1 January 2022.” But by May 2021 it had backtracked, announcing that this was merely an “ambition” rather than a mandatory requirement. Climate science leaves no room for optional ambitions. We have less than three years to reverse the current trend of rising emissions and begin the steep decline needed to avert climate disaster far beyond what we are already experiencing. There are already sufficient reserves to wean the global economy off oil and gas. As such, the expansion of fossil fuel production must end immediately if we are to have any chance of keeping warming within liveable limits. Insurers have a uniquely decisive role to play in this. The relatively small group of executives gathered in Monte Carlo this week can decide if new coal mines, oil wells and gas pipelines will be built, or whether the companies planning them will have to redirect their business to the clean energy transition. This is an enormous responsibility, but one that the key risk managers of society are equipped to face. If insurers do not step up and take the hard decisions to forego fossil fuel premiums, the disasters we’ve seen this year will pale in comparison with the devastation to come. Today, Monte Carlo may feel a world removed from the floods in Pakistan. But on our current trajectory, not even the glamorous surroundings of the conference will be safe from the effects of climate breakdown. Where will they rendez-vous then? Ariel Le Bourdonnec is a campaigner focused on the insurance sector at Reclaim Finance, which seeks to create a more climate-friendly financial system. Lindsay Keenan is European coordinator of the Insure Our Future, a global campaign that aims to hold the insurance industry accountable for its role in the climate crisis. The post Why is Climate Change Off the Agenda at the Worlds Biggest Insurance Conference? appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/9/22 1:47pm
President Biden signed historic climate legislation into law in August, but more action will be necessary to hit climate targets. The Biden administration has a long list of tools at its disposal, spread across multiple federal agencies, that can advance climate action in America even further, argues a 99-page report from the Revolving Door Project. One of those tools includes using the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the nation’s largest public power utility, as a vehicle to accelerate the clean energy transition.  “Climate change threatens the basic foundations of society. It is the very definition of a whole-of-government problem, which means every single federal agency should apply its existing powers creatively and aggressively toward the problem,” Revolving Door Project Research Director Max Moran said in a statement. “Alone, these executive branch policies are wildly insufficient to the task of getting America to meet its climate goals. But all of these policies are necessary components of the puzzle, and represent the lowest-hanging fruit in terms of climate action.” The report analyzes actions and authorities that the Biden administration can take without the need for congressional approval, broken down agency by agency — ranging from the obvious such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) to the more inventive, including the Department of Justice and TVA. The Washington Post offered an overview of the report’s findings. A Public Clean Power Utility One often overlooked area of authority is the federal government’s ability to use the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to pursue clean energy goals. The federally-owned, public power corporation operates power plants in the U.S. Southeast, and has the sixth largest power generation fleet.  Last year, a coalition of 80 energy justice, racial justice, faith, and youth organizations called on the Biden administration to use the TVA as a “national laboratory to pioneer the country’s renewable and just energy transition,” drawing parallels with the TVA’s success at bringing cheap public power to the rural south during the New Deal era nearly a century ago.  “TVA has a proud history of serving the nation and people of the Tennessee Valley through ambitious missions around rural electrification, flood control, environmental stewardship, and job creation,” the letter stated. “TVA is well suited to repeat its earlier success as a renewable energy pioneer and by relying on DOE’s remarkable ingenuity and scientific expertise, the utility could lead the country once again towards a just renewable energy transition.” The concept of using the TVA to speed up the deployment of clean energy is not a new one. As part of his 2020 presidential campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) argued for using the TVA, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the four federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) — which generate and transmit electricity in 33 states — to build renewable energy. PMAs, like the Bonneville Power Administration in the Pacific Northwest, have their roots in large, federally-backed infrastructure projects from the 20th century and are still owned by the government.  In its report, the Revolving Door Project argued that the Biden administration has the legal authority to use these federal entities to make a faster pivot to clean energy.  As the TVA’s aging coal and gas fleet retires, they should be replaced with renewable energy and batteries, advocates say. The problem is the TVA has proposed building two new fossil gas-fired power plants to replace its aging Cumberland and Kingston coal plants, which must retire later this decade. The plan for the Cumberland site, located close to the Tennessee-Kentucky border, received an unusual rebuke this summer from the EPA, which criticized the proposal in public comments, warning that the TVA’s gas assets could become “uneconomic faster than expected” and put climate targets at risk. Next year, the TVA will begin a review of how to replace its Kingston coal plant in Tennessee, where an infamous 2008 coal ash spill occurred. It is considering building new power plants that will burn gas.  Ongoing cleanup at Kingston plant, site of 2008 coal ash spill. March, 2012. Credit: Appalachian Voices. (CC BY 2.0) The TVA disputes the notion that it is dragging its feet on decarbonization. “No decisions have been made” on replacing the two coal plants with gas, Scott Brooks, a spokesperson for the TVA, told DeSmog. They are undergoing review, he said. He also noted that the TVA has an 80 percent emissions reduction target by 2035 and argued that gas “gets us to a carbon-free future without sacrificing reliability or raising rates.” But if the TVA moves forward with replacing coal with gas, it will stifle job growth in the clean energy sector while also posing risks to water supplies, according to Pearl Walker, Civic Engagement Coordinator for Memphis Has The Power, an energy and climate justice campaign in Memphis, Tennessee. “A continued reliance on coal and gas-fired power plants, which must be operated with millions of gallons of water, will have lasting and harmful consequences for the [Tennessee] Valley’s aquifers and surface water including the Memphis Sand Aquifer,” Walker said in an email to DeSmog, adding that Memphis is the largest community in the U.S. that depends on its drinking water from an underground source. “If our aquifer is compromised it could be like Flint or Jackson,” she said. In late August, historic rainfall overwhelmed an aging water treatment facility in Jackson, Mississippi, leaving the city of 150,000 residents without drinking water.  With global methane gas prices spiking, building new gas-fired power plants would also create new economic risks. A May 2022 study from Synapse Economics, prepared for the Sierra Club, found that the TVA could save its customers $5.8 billion if it replaced shuttered coal plants with solar, wind, and battery storage. Renewables offered the “least-cost” option – cheaper than building new gas plants – while cutting emissions faster and achieving the same level of grid reliability. The TVA will issue a final decision later this year. Cumberland Fossil Plant. March, 2010. Credit: TVA. (CC BY 2.0) But the Biden administration shouldn’t just wait around, and should instead take a more assertive role by sacking the agency’s current leadership and replacing the board with new members, argues Dorothy Slater, a senior researcher at the Revolving Door Project. In a piece she wrote earlier this year, Slater noted that the president and CEO of the TVA, Jeff Lyash, is a former executive at Duke Energy, a utility responsible for a major coal ash spill in North Carolina. Lyash has a track record of supporting fossil fuels. He incorrectly blamed the widespread blackouts in Texas in 2021 on the failure of wind power. He also continues to promote the notion that methane gas can be a “bridge” fuel, a refrain that has been echoed by the oil and gas industry and its supporters for years, which critics argue is a cynical strategy to delay a transition off of fossil fuels. And in recent days, he shrugged off concerns from Memphis residents about trucking coal ash through predominantly Black neighborhoods for years to come. As Slater noted, Lyash gets paid millions of dollars in salary and is not required to publicize personal financial disclosures. “So, to recap, we have a former fossil fuel executive in an unelected, unaccountable, decision-making position at a public, federally owned utility, who is raking in nearly $10 million per year,” Slater wrote. “His decisions affect the energy costs and supply for over 10 million people and his financial interests are, at the time, a complete mystery to the public.” The TVA board has only five of nine active members, the minimum required for a quorum. All five were confirmed during the Trump administration. Two are set to see their terms finish by the end of the year. President Biden has nominated six replacements, none of which have been confirmed by the Senate.  On September 7, a Senate panel as part of the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held a hearing on three of the nominees.  “TVA should be at the forefront of ensuring fair prices for ratepayers, incentivizing energy efficiency, and promoting clean energy generation. I continue to encourage TVA to do more when it comes to supporting a swift clean energy transition, especially on the heels of enacting the historic Inflation Reduction Act. That all starts with having the right leadership,” said Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the EPW Committee. But advocates want Biden to go even further by firing the current board members as well and replacing them with an entirely new slate — and he has the power to do so. After all, President Trump fired two board members in 2020. “A new board could, then, choose to fire Lyash and hire a new CEO who might more plausibly have the best interest of the environment and TVA’s customers in mind,” Slater wrote.  Local activists calling for reforms of the TVA agree. “Moving forward, Biden must stack the TVA board with individuals who acknowledge climate change, support the President’s commitment to securing a clean and sustainable energy future, and are willing to work with municipalities and local utilities to take advantage of the tax credits resulting from the [Inflation Reduction Act],” Walker, with Memphis Has The Power, told DeSmog. “The potential is definitely there with the right board members in place who are committed to clean energy.” Getting Creative with Executive Climate Action But TVA aside, there are many other areas where the Biden administration is not using its authority to the maximum, argues the Revolving Door Project report. The President could declare a climate emergency, halt oil exports, block or curtail drilling on federal lands, and cut off financing of overseas fossil fuel projects, to name a few. Many of those areas would be highly controversial and would potentially push up energy prices, a risk the administration seems reluctant to take on. However, other executive branch actions have the potential for broader backing, such as stepping up enforcement of air and water pollution violations, plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, and deploying renewable energy. One of the big obstacles standing in the way, however, is inadequate staffing across the federal government. Staffing up agencies is not a quick and easy process, especially since former President Trump took a “sledgehammer” to the capacity at many federal agencies, Aidan Smith, a senior advisor at Data for Progress, a progressive think tank, and a coauthor of the report, told DeSmog. Building capacity is difficult because it often requires “working within the realities of Congress,” Smith said.   While Bidens nominees for the TVA board continue waiting months for confirmation from the Senate, one candidate has even dropped out and another candidate nominated in the meantime. But the TVA is not alone. Many federal agencies have had trouble building capacity and have lost key personnel in recent years. “It cannot be stressed enough how much of a disaster its been that for the last few decades even as the climate crisis has intensified, that the staff, especially technologists and scientists, at such crucial agencies – DOE, EPA – how these have remain so utterly unstaffed,” Smith said.  The post How Biden Could Use the Tennessee Valley Authority to Address the Climate Crisis appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 9/9/22 10:22am
The leadership campaign of the UK’s new prime minister was partly funded by individuals involved in influential pro-fracking think tanks and a former Brexit Party MEP who has called climate change a “myth” and a “religion”. Two days after taking office, Truss gave the green light for new fracking projects, putting her at odds with the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto pledge and in advance of a much-awaited report by the British Geological Survey on the safety of fracking. The party said it would not support the controversial technology until it is shown “categorically” that the process can be done safely, something that has yet to happen.  A total of £30,000 was given by individuals who steer an influential Tory-aligned group pushing for fracking to be restarted and which recently suggested that the UK’s climate targets could be watered down in favour of “energy security and affordability”. Support for transport costs was also provided by the trustee of an Exxon-backed think tank that has proposed fracking across Europe as a partial solution to the ongoing energy crisis. Lance Forman, a former Brexit Party politician who has repeatedly dismissed the science on climate change and has also been campaigning for a revival of fracking in the UK, donated £10,000 through his luxury smoked salmon business. The gifts are in addition to £100,000 provided by the wife of a former executive at oil giant BP, the single largest donation. A total of £424,000 was raised for the campaign. The donations were recorded in the latest edition of the register of MPs’ interests, released on Thursday. Links to Pro-Fracking Groups Jon Moynihan and Barbara Yerolemou, who both sit on the advisory council of the Free Market Forum (FMF), an “initiative” of the BP-funded Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, donated £20,000 and £10,000 to Truss’s campaign, respectively. In June, the FMF called on the government to lift its moratorium on fracking and set a more “realistic” limit on earth tremors caused by drilling projects – recommendations that were welcomed by the industry. During the Tory leadership race, the organisation suggested candidates might want to consider amending the UK’s climate legislation to “prioritise energy security and affordability over the climate target”. In the same briefing, the FMF criticised government support for green measures, including  “state-sponsored insulation [of buildings]”, arguing that “pragmatists are technology neutral”. The Forum has the support of over 60 MPs and peers, including Liz Truss and five recently appointed cabinet members, including Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey, International Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, and Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke. Another donation worth £5,127 to cover the Truss campaign’s transport costs was made by Andrew Law, a trustee at the centre-right Policy Exchange think tank, which he supports financially through a family charity. Policy Exchange has been criticised for allegedly providing the inspiration for the recent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which was brought in to allow the government to crack down more heavily on environmental protest in the UK. In May 2022, Policy Exchange suggested that “European countries might be more successful in persuading their communities” to accept fracking, as a way of reducing Europe’s dependency on Russian fossil fuels.  However, the group said fracking was unlikely to go ahead in the UK, as this would “spend huge political capital for not much gas”. Both the FMF and Policy Exchange have backed further North Sea oil and gas extraction, a call Truss has apparently heeded, with more than a hundred new drilling licences due to be issued in the near future. Both organisations have received donations from fossil fuel companies operating in the area. Policy Exchange received £25,900 in funding from US oil giant ExxonMobil in 2017 through its U.S. fundraising arm. FMF is described as an “initiative” of the Institute of Economic Affairs, an influential free-market think tank that admitted in 2018 to have received funding from oil company BP annually since 1967.  Moynihan is a former trustee of the think tank, and also chaired the Initiative for Free Trade, a pressure group set up by Brexit-backing Conservative peer, Daniel Hannan. In 2018, the group launched a “blueprint” for a free trade deal between the UK and the U.S., in partnership with the fossil-fuel funded U.S. think tank the Cato Institute, calling for the removal of environmental regulations, such as around pesticides.  Climate Science Denial Lance Forman, who represented the Brexit Party in the European Parliament in the final months of the UK’s membership of the bloc, donated £10,000 via his East London company, Smoked Salmon. Forman, who has almost 25,000 followers on Twitter, regularly uses the platform to question climate change. In 2018, Lance tweeted, “Climate change is a myth. Political Climate change is the real danger. PC will kill us all off before suntans”.  Earlier this week, Forman responded to a tweet about Truss failing to mention climate change in her first Prime Minister’s speech by saying “there is no emergency”. “The only climate emergency is the emergency in energy supply clauses [sic] by climate net zero nutters who have led us down this path to insufficient supply.” In recent weeks, Forman has also tweeted that more people die of cold than heat “so a warming planet is beneficial”. He also posted a message saying: “Sitting in the sun. Sipping wine. If this is climate change bring it on!” On another occasion, he said the Times newspaper was “p***ing [him] off” with a headline about flooding being made more likely by climate change, writing “It’s the bloody monsoon season.  It happens every year. 2010 was worse than this year. The climate always changes.” Following the 2015 Paris Agreement, Forman wrote an article in the Newham Recorder saying “climate change belief” was “no different to religion”.  “if there is to be climate change, why focus on the negative? The drying up of the Dead Sea in recent decades has led to a partnership by former enemies, Jordan and Israel, to create a joint project to rehydrate it. Climate change in this situation has been a force for peace and for good,” he added. The day of the Conservative leadership election, Forman tweeted at Liz Truss saying that she should “proceed with fracking urgently and we don’t have time to debate it in local communities.”  Forman has also worked with climate science denial groups CAR26 and Turning Point UK.  In January 2022, Forman spoke at CAR26’s first online “forum”. The group was formed ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and has been calling for a national referendum on the UK’s net zero target. Its director, Lois Perry, has called climate change a “scam”.  Earlier in the year, CAR26 launched a petition requesting that the government “end the ban on fracking”. In June, then Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng responded by saying that the government “does not agree we should lift the pause on hydraulic fracturing at this time given the lack of new, compelling evidence that shale gas extraction can be done safely”. In 2019, Forman hosted a meeting for Turning Point UK at his restaurant. The group is a spin-off of a Donald Trump-backing U.S. organisation, which has said that NASA scientists are “wrong about climate change” and been plagued by incidents of racism. Forman defended the decision to host the event stating: “I believe strongly in free speech.” In the days since Truss became prime minister, Forman celebrated her success and the appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has a long history of dismissing climate change, as business and energy secretary, highlighting Rees-Mogg’s support for fracking in particular.  Forman told DeSmog that climate change was “not a myth” because the climate was “always changing”, contradicting his earlier statement. “Net zero policy has enabled Putin’s exploitation of Europe’s lack of energy independence. I am delighted to see that European countries are now realising the error of their ways and going for a more balanced energy policy.” The current energy crisis is principally caused by the high price of gas, with renewable energy and green measures such as insulation cutting energy bills. The Conservative Party and the other donors named in this article have all been contacted for comment. The post Liz Truss Campaign Funded by Donors From Pro-Fracking Groups and Climate Denier appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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