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[l] at 10/25/21 11:36am
In roughly two weeks, leaders from around the world will converge on Glasgow for COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change summit and U.S. President Joe Biden will be among them — setting the stage to further reclaim the United States’ position as an international climate leader and a willing participant in the global discourse about how to save the planet. Since officially taking over the White House in January, which formally marked the end of the Trump presidency, the Biden administration has been bold in its promise to usher in a new era where tackling climate change head-on would be put at the center of U.S. foreign policy and national security. On Inauguration Day, Biden hit the ground running and in the following days signed a flurry of executive orders aimed at doing just that. The U.S. rejoined the Paris climate agreement, new federal oil and gas leases were paused, fossil fuel subsidies were to be eliminated, a new governmental working group devoted to advancing projects that reduce emissions and greenhouse gases was formed, and pledges to achieve a “carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035” and put the U.S. on the path to a “net-zero economy by 2050” were made and celebrated. In the nine months since, Biden and his cabinet of experts have gone to great lengths to review or restore so many of the environmental rules rolled back by the Trump administration. Since January, 45 Trump-era rules or decisions have been rescinded, 71 have been targeted, and 26 new ones implemented — and the impact has been real. The administration has funneled millions toward ‘clean energy’ initiatives, including signing off on an 800-megawatt offshore wind project in Massachusetts in March and reaching agreements with California Governor Gavin Newsom to expand offshore wind development in the Pacific Ocean in May.     And a 13-year battle over the Keystone XL pipeline project, which spanned three different presidential administrations and would have carried oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada some 1,210 miles to the U.S. Gulf Coast, finally died in June after TC Energy announced it would permanently terminate the controversial project following Biden’s revocation of its federal permit six months earlier. And yet, despite all of Biden’s promises to put in place a climate plan wherein everybody (hopefully) wins — the environment, the economy, the human race — the administration is still pandering to the industry that’s most responsible for the climate change that has charred the western U.S. all year, that’s hurled deadly floods and storms through the South and up the East Coast, and that literally set the ocean on fire in July: the fossil fuel industry. In fact, the administration is doing more than just pandering — they’re promoting its interests as their own and attempting to secure international gas lock-in for years to come. This effort is being led by Biden appointees with major influence over the administration’s energy policies: U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and two senior officials at the Departments of Energy and State tasked with overseeing the role of energy in U.S. foreign policy. Jennifer Granholm: Fossil Gas Has an Important Role to Play’ Biden’s administration was expected to be a marked departure from that of his predecessor when it came to climate change, energy, and environmental policy. Prior to her confirmation as Energy Secretary, Granholm was positioned as a fresh foil for her predecessors, who each used their position to push for the expansion of natural gas and other fossil fuels. Granholm’s track record as governor of Michigan led credence to the idea that she would push the U.S. instead toward green technologies and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. She further promoted herself as an ardent supporter of “clean energy,” a “low carbon economy,” and a “zero-carbon future” in an op-ed published by The Detroit News just two months before Biden nominated her for the top energy job in the country. But Granholm’s actions have so far failed to align with a “zero-carbon future.” During her confirmation hearings in the Senate, she made it clear that fossil gas — particularly liquefied natural gas (LNG) — should have a place in the energy transition, saying that “I believe U.S. LNG exports can have an important role to play in reducing international consumption of fuels that have greater contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.” As if natural gas, which is primarily methane — the second most abundant greenhouse gas behind carbon dioxide and a major contributor to climate change — isn’t bad for the climate. Granholm’s line that gas is cleaner ignores the fact that depending on how much methane is leaked, fossil gas can be as bad for the climate as coal. That yarn also sets the stage for preserving and expanding the global market for U.S. LNG – thus creating more long-term gas lock-in, which is really carbon lock-in, which undermines the goals of a “zero-carbon future” and gives industry what it wants: posterity. In the months since, Granholm has touted the narrative that the fossil fuel industry just needs to “decarbonize” natural gas and cut back on methane flaring in order to be considered “clean,” setting out a vision of “tak[ing] the carbon out of the fossil fuels, but still us[ing] the fossil fuels.” Clean hydrogen is an incredibly powerful tool for us to decarbonize our economy, tackle the climate crisis, and create good paying union jobs. On this #NationalHydrogenDay, check out my latest @ENERGY explainer pic.twitter.com/pPRoWL8yaV— Secretary Jennifer Granholm (@SecGranholm) October 8, 2021 She has also promoted the idea that the gas industry should jump on the opportunity to produce hydrogen. While hydrogen is seen by many as a key part of the energy transition, for example in heavy industry, it can only have zero or near-zero emissions when it’s produced from renewable electricity — i.e., green hydrogen. Granholm instead has pushed to see it produced from natural gas, a process which one study has found has a carbon footprint that not only exceeds that of the natural gas itself, but can also rival that of coal. This vision, that lies at the heart of the Biden’s administration’s energy policy, relies on unproven and eye-wateringly expensive future technologies saving the climate, while ignoring the overwhelming evidence that the only reliable way to tackle the climate crisis is to phase out the use of fossil fuels. Andrew Light: Ensuring U.S. Gas Fills Markets Around the World Granholm isn’t the only Biden official on this soapbox, either. Andrew Light, the Department of Energy’s new Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, told Congress during his confirmation hearings in June that his job in that role is to “make sure that U.S. gas is competitive around the world.” He suggested that it would be his duty to out-do Russia in offering cleaner sources of fossil gas in order to ensure that U.S. gas fills “those markets around the world.” His comments sound more like those of a gas lobbyist for gas exporters than an official tasked, in part, with tackling the climate crisis. His support for expanding U.S. LNG exports stands in contrast with his backing of the Paris climate agreement as one of its chief U.S. negotiators, and is instead a continuation of Obama-era energy policies that, among other things, pitted efforts to increase renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions against encouragement for increased fossil fuel production that led to increased carbon emissions — an “all-of-the-above” energy policy that’s now discredited. Amos Hochstein: Fossil Gas Executive Turned Government Gas Promoter? Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s newly appointed Senior Advisor for Energy Security and another Obama-era advisor, has also waved the U.S. fossil gas banner as a solution to climate change. He has made a career of wielding the revolving door between government and industry — most recently serving as executive vice president at Tellurian, the Texas-based gas and LNG company. There, he apparently led a global team to secure an $8 billion investment in U.S. LNG projects while also marketing the company’s LNG to consumers in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and South America for a hefty $620,000 annual salary. Hochstein told an interviewer at last year’s International Energy Forum that “natural gas is going to play a far greater role in the [energy] transition,” as well as for “growing economies that are moving away from coal.” Up until October of last year, Hochstein also served on the supervisory board of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s largest and state-owned producer of natural gas. Now tasked with promoting energy security for the U.S., he’s been sounding the alarm over European reliance on Russian gas and the risk of a gas crunch in Europe — all of which are arguments which would support the case for expansion of U.S. LNG exports to Europe.  For an administration that so boldly proclaimed it was going to tackle the climate crisis and “undo the damage Trump has done,” the party line sounds a lot more like perpetuating the fossil fuel legacy it was supposed to be ending. And for all the good that Biden and his administration have done in shifting U.S. policies and environmental protections in the face of growing climate change, those efforts will be nullified if the administration continues its pursuit of more fossil gas production and exportation in the name of tackling climate change. Biden’s administration still has a chance to fulfill its promises and the goals of the Paris agreement, though. While these officials are backing fossil gas, others — like the administration’s climate envoy John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken — have heeded what climate science says and made it clear that gas is “not … a long-term solution” and that current economic circumstances “reinforce the need for a transition to new forms of energy, particularly sustainable energy.” It’s not too late for Hochstein, Light, and Granholm to follow suit. Sal Christ is senior investigator at Global Witness, an advocacy group that works to hold companies and governments to account for their destruction of the environment, their disregard for the planet and their failure to protect human rights. The post Ahead of COP26, Top Biden Appointees Pushing Natural Gas Are Undermining His Climate Credibility appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/22/21 2:31pm
Many of the largest U.S. companies, including Walmart, Amazon, and Microsoft, employ lobbyists that also do work for the oil and gas industry, according to new research into state lobbying data. The connections with oil and gas lobbyists, the researchers say, undercut the highly public positions the companies have taken on addressing climate change. The research, conducted by the non-profit Global Energy Monitor and shared with DeSmog, found thousands of cases in which high-profile corporations engage in lobbying in state capitols, hiring the same lobbyists that do work for powerful fossil fuel companies. “Tech companies are especially vocal about achieving net zero emissions in their operations. Yet many of these tech companies employ lobbyists who are promoting further dependence on fossil fuels” by simultaneously lobbying on behalf of oil and gas companies, James Browning, communications director for Global Energy Monitor, told DeSmog. The database compiled by Global Energy Monitor documents thousands of cases from a long line of prominent American businesses working with the same lobbyists – often the same firms, and in many cases, the same individuals – as the oil and gas industry. The behavior is rampant across the insurance, health care, retail, and tech industries. Even if the lobbyists are working on separate issues for each company that they work with, employing oil and gas lobbyists is “radically at odds” with fighting climate change, Browning said. “It doesn’t matter if that lobbyist’s oil and gas agenda is separate from your company’s agenda. There is no ‘separate’ when the climate crisis will affect almost every issue before a state legislature — health care, infrastructure, taxes, and the whole economy,” he said. While the lobbying goes beneath the radar, many companies position themselves as leaders on climate change. For example, top executives from Amazon, Microsoft, and Walmart appeared at a virtual summit with U.S. international climate envoy John Kerry on October 15, where they took turns championing their companies’ efforts fighting climate change. Kerry also lavished praise on them for their climate leadership. “Why are we all working on climate action through business? This is the decisive decade. The actions we need to take to avoid the most extreme impacts of climate change need to happen now,” Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart executive vice president and chief sustainability officer said at the summit. “I think for business, there’s an opportunity that we can help rewire the systems that people rely on for a much more regenerative future. A future that does have humanity living in harmony with nature.” She promoted Walmart’s goal of achieving 100 percent renewable energy for its operations by 2030, and zero emissions by 2040. But at the same time, Walmart engages in lobbying in various state capitols using the same lobbyists as the oil and gas industry. For instance, Walmart employs lobbyists to work on legislative issues in the Pennsylvania legislature who also do work for Anadarko Petroleum. In Oklahoma, Walmart shares the same lobbyists with Koch Companies, and the retail giant works with the same lobbyists in Washington State as Shell Oil. Walmart store front. Credit: Mike Mozart. (CC BY 2.0) Microsoft also positions itself as a climate champion, publicly vowing to reach 100 percent renewable energy for its operations by 2025 and to become a “carbon negative” company by 2030. But the tech company also works with the same lobbyists that push a fossil fuel agenda. In New York, Microsoft works with Park Strategies, a lobbying and PR firm that also counts ExxonMobil as one of its clients. Several of the Park Strategies’ individual lobbyists specifically worked on behalf of both clients, according to state ethics data. Amazon is another corporate behemoth that talks quite a bit about its climate action. In 2019, Amazon announced a “Climate Pledge,” stating that it will reach net-zero emissions by 2040, and 100 percent renewable energy for its operations by 2025. It has also sought to enlist other companies to take on the pledge. But Amazon shares more than two dozen individual lobbyists with ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, Chesapeake Energy, and Chief Oil & Gas LLC across several states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. In Alabama, both Amazon and Microsoft have hired lobbying firm Fine Geddie & Associates, which also works on behalf of the powerful industry trade group the American Petroleum Institute in the state capitol. Neither Park Strategies nor Fine Geddie responded to a request for comment. Of course, powerful companies of all stripes seek out influential lobbyists in state capitols, so it may come as no surprise that a tech giant and an oil company are hiring the same people. But those lobbyists are promoting fossil fuel policies that undercut the climate commitments of many of its other clients.  “The priority of fossil fuel companies in their lobbying and public relations efforts is to obstruct climate action,” Duncan Meisel, director of Clean Creatives, told DeSmog in an email. Clean Creatives is an initiative to pressure PR firms to stop taking on oil and gas clients. “Amazon has made bringing other companies into the Climate Pledge a core part of their brand, and these [separate fossil fuel] lobbying efforts are designed to undermine the effectiveness, and profitability, of the policies in that pledge. Its a clear conflict of interest that brands can address with policies about what kind of agencies they will and wont work with,” he added. Browning noted that a “turning point” in the fight against Big Tobacco came when tobacco lobbyists were ostracized in state capitols. “Legislators refused to work with these lobbyists because their product was perceived to be harmful,” Browning said. “They were working for ‘blood money’.” But oil and gas lobbyists have thus far escaped such scrutiny, he added. “Compared to tobacco companies — whose product doesn’t contribute to natural disasters — fossil fuel lobbyists continue to enjoy a ‘mainstream’ image in many states, in part because they have big mainstream clients like Amazon and Microsoft.” He added that for retail and tech companies, “the possibility of a consumer boycott is real, and whatever benefits these companies get from working with these lobbyists may not be worth the negative publicity.” Blocking Climate Action Meanwhile, companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Walmart are also prominent members in the most powerful national business lobby groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. Both of those lobbying outfits are spending millions of dollars on lobbying and advertising to sink the Build Back Better infrastructure and social safety net agenda currently under negotiation in Congress, which may potentially include the most sweeping climate change policies ever passed into law, including hundreds of billions of dollars in clean energy funding and a national program to clean up the electricity sector. Over the years, there has been pressure for corporations to leave these sorts of trade groups due to their controversial lobbying efforts. In 2009, for example, Apple and Nike and a handful of utilities quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the lobbying group’s opposition to climate action. The Chamber has long obstructed climate change efforts, and continues to promote a fossil fuel agenda.  While Amazon, Microsoft, and Walmart talk up their climate leadership, they are dues-paying members of national lobby groups that are trying to kill climate action. And when it comes to the Build Back Better agenda, the Business Roundtable disputed this characterization in a statement to DeSmog, stating that while its members support climate action, they oppose paying higher taxes, and thus, want to block the entire bill. “All of our members support action on climate change, but Business Roundtable’s position on a reconciliation package will be based on the totality of what’s in the bill. Congress has unnecessarily tied climate action with $1 trillion in tax increases on job creators, which we strongly oppose, and trillions in non-climate related spending,” Business Roundtable President & CEO Joshua Bolten, said in a statement. “There is no policy reason to link strong action to address climate change with unrelated, harmful tax policy. The proposed tax increases, which would be one of the largest corporate tax increases in history, would make it harder for companies to invest, including in technologies needed to address climate change.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment. Amazon and Walmart also did not respond. Microsoft did not answer specific questions related to its state-level lobbying, but cited a blog post the company published in support of the legislation currently under consideration in Congress. “Microsoft has been working with other stakeholders and conveying to members of Congress our support for strong climate and clean energy-related investments in both the infrastructure and reconciliation packages,” Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer wrote in early October. But company-level support is arguably negated by the trade groups actively lobbying against the climate policy on offer. “The takeaway is that most corporations are still not walking their talk,” Christine Arena, a former VP at Edelman, who has sought to expose the greenwashing done by the PR industry on behalf of its fossil fuel clients, said in a statement to DeSmog. She noted the contradiction of making lofty climate pledges while remaining within powerful business lobbies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable. “In light of this, what do corporate climate pledges mean? Possibly zero,” Arena said. “Decarbonizing the supply chain is a worthy goal, but related efforts can be quickly canceled out without a comprehensive approach that aligns lobbying, advocacy, and sustainability.” The post Corporate Giants Promote Climate Action, But Work With Oil Lobbyists in State Capitols appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/21/21 3:44pm
There are over 2,600 people living within three miles of Oxbow Corporation’s industrial plant in Port Arthur, Texas, a community that’s almost entirely people of color. And for 85 years, the Oxbow Calcinings 112-acre plant has been processing oil and gas products into “petroleum coke,” which is commonly used to make steel and aluminum — all the while releasing sulfur dioxide into the air of Port Arthur. From 2016 to 2019, the plant pumped an average of over 22 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, which can cause lung disease, coughing, and eye irritation, into the air each year. Oxbow’s founder and CEO is billionaire William “Bill” Koch, a member of the Koch family who has historically maintained a lower profile than his politically active brothers Charles and David, who passed away in 2019. Charles and David notoriously poured fortunes into funding organizations and projects designed to prevent fossil fuel regulation, often by obscuring the role that fossil fuels play in causing climate change. The Koch Family Foundations, which are linked primarily to Charles and David, have spent more than ExxonMobil in that effort, DeSmog’s database shows.  Over the years, most other Texas fossil fuel plants that emitted large amounts of sulfur dioxide have been required to install so-called “scrubber” equipment, which reduces that air pollution. But Oxbow Calcining appears to have escaped the same sort of attention from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), whose policies generally allow older plants to emit more than newer plants. Community advocates say that the way the TCEQ has overseen the Oxbow site has left the residents of Port Arthur at risk, raising issues of racial discrimination and injustice. This summer, the Port Arthur Community Action Network (PECAN), represented by attorneys at Lone Star Legal Aid and the Environmental Integrity Project, asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate whether Texas’s oversight of Oxbow Calcining violates federal civil rights laws, which prohibit racial discrimination in the way that the nation’s environmental laws are enforced. Last week, the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office accepted that complaint, writing in a letter that it would launch an investigation into whether the “TCEQ discriminated on the basis of race in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” “My hope is that they will thoroughly investigate their emissions and their impact on the community and draw what we believe to be an inescapable conclusion that Oxbow is an eminent danger to the life and health of people in Port Arthur and southeast Texas,” John Beard, Jr., founder and chairman of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, said in a statement after the EPA agreed to investigate their complaint. TCEQ will have 30 days to prepare a response to the complaint, according to local newspaper the Beaumont Enterprise. In an email, a representative of TCEQ said the commission had received notice of the investigation from the EPA “and is carefully reviewing the complaint.”  Advocates who filed the Oxbow complaint welcomed the EPA’s investigation when it was announced. “This decision will directly benefit the residents of Port Arthur,” Amy Dinn, managing attorney of Lone Star Legal Aid’s Environmental Justice Team, said in a statement, “and it is a first step towards appropriately regulating this facility to control its excess sulfur dioxide emissions that are so harmful to this environmental justice community’s health and well-being.” An Odor Like Burning Garbage Port Arthur, Texas, sits on the Louisiana border midway between Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana. Its Gulf Coast location puts the small city (population 54,000) in an area prone to hurricanes, which scientists say have become more intense and unpredictable with climate change.  When President Joe Biden entered the White House, he had campaigned on environmental justice issues, citing as an example his personal experiences growing up surrounded by refineries in nearby Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, along the Delaware River. But nearly a year into Biden’s time in office, environmental justice advocates have expressed frustration with the administration’s performance so far. “The administration wants the benefit of the doubt,” Erika Thi Patterson, campaign director of the grassroots organization Action Center on Race and the Economy, told Politico this summer. “The reality is they haven’t earned it yet.” John Beard, Jr. spoke about Port Arthur, climate change, and Oxbows air pollution in front of the Biden White House in October 2021. Video Credit: Julie Dermansky. In Jefferson County, where Port Arthur is located, 92 percent of the sulfur dioxide air pollution comes from Oxbow Calcining. You can smell sulfur dioxide in the air, said Colin Cox, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. Hydrogen sulfide’s smell is often compared to rotten eggs, he added — and sulfur dioxide is produced when you burn hydrogen sulfide. That means the smell of sulfur dioxide is “a little different,” than a rotten egg smell, Cox said. “Most people describe it to me as burning garbage. The people in that community have been surrounded by refineries and industry for their entire lives, breathing that stuff and smelling that stuff,” said Cox. “And they know its not healthy because theyre sick, their kids are on breathing machines. They dont have a lot of faith, and understandably, right, in the EPA or in the TCEQ and in the people that are supposed to be protecting their air and water because those organizations have historically not protected their air and water.” So theres a hope there, that if we have an EPA that says its committed to environmental justice,” Cox added, “that this is an opportunity for them to demonstrate that. The ‘Other’ Koch Brother The Koch name is indelibly linked to Koch Industries, a sprawling, privately held, fossil fuel–based corporate empire that was founded by Bill’s father Fred Koch nearly a century ago.  In the early 1980s, Bill unsuccessfully moved to wrest control of Koch Industries from his brother Charles, kicking off a legal battle that ultimately resulted in Bill selling his 21 percent stake in the family empire, according to a dossier compiled by Greenpeace. Bill used his settlement money to found Oxbow, focusing it on coal and petroleum coke. Meanwhile, various legal battles between the brothers continued for years. Today, Forbes lists Bill’s current net worth at about $2.2 billion. Oxbow refers to its operations as “recycling” refinery and natural gas byproducts, saying that the so-called “calcined petroleum coke” it produces is largely consumed by makers of aluminum and steel. Oxbow declined to comment when asked about EPA’s investigation. The company has resisted installing scrubbers on its Port Arthur plant for years, most recently deciding to forego installation in 2016, the Beaumont Enterprise previously reported. The company cited costs at the time, adding that it was in compliance with its state-issued operating permits.  It Doesn’t Have to be ‘Like it’s 1935’ Very few fossil fuel plants continue to operate in Texas without scrubbers, said Cox. Today, he said, Oxbow is an outlier not only because of the amount of sulfur dioxide it emits, but also because it’s so close to where people live. If you looked about a decade ago, Cox said, Oxbow wouldnt have even ranked in the top 10 highest sulfur dioxide emitters in Texas. Oxbow’s emissions have stayed relatively steady, he said, but the wider world has changed, as some coal plants retired and other plants installed pollution controls. And Oxbows just been slowly climbing the ranks as those facilities either install pollution controls or turn off,” Cox said. And of the state’s remaining major polluters, he said, “Oxbow is uniquely close to people. That’s because regulators have pushed industrial sites in the densely packed industrial corridor to curb their air emissions. But Oxbow kind of got looked over when regulators were making all the refineries bring their sulfur down, Cox said. And that has meant that Port Arthur residents still bear the brunt of a noxious pollutant. They dont have to be doing it like its 1935, making more sulfur dioxide than almost any facility in Texas, next to a residential community,” Cox continued. “They can afford to do it properly, they can afford to put pollution controls on, cut their sulfur dioxide by 95 percent and make a dramatic difference in the air quality in Port Arthur.” Earlier estimates for the costs to add scrubber equipment to Oxbow’s Port Arthur plant ranged from $27 million to $57 million in capital expenses. This is not the first time that TCEQ’s oversight of environmental matters in Port Arthur has sparked controversy. In 2017, after Hurricane Harvey, DeSmog reported that Port Arthur was being used as a temporary dumpsite for debris from that storm, causing concerns that residents of the predominantly Black community were being exposed to asbestos, particulate matter, and other hazardous materials. Advocates at the time argued that the dump site selection violated EPA’s regulations on environmental justice. TCEQ also previously faced controversy over how it measures the sulfur dioxide coming from Oxbow and the placement of monitoring devices in Port Arthur. “The EPA mandated that many of these monitors be placed near sources, like Oxbow Calcining’s Port Arthur plant, that emit more than 2,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide,” the Beaumont Enterprise, which previously published an investigation into the plant’s emissions and air monitoring, noted last week. “However, the plant’s operations changed after TCEQ determined where to put the monitors to catch the highest sulfur dioxide concentrations coming from Oxbow, and TCEQ took more than a year to determine whether the monitors were still accurate in their current location.” But for those on the ground, it’s usually pretty clear when and where large amounts of sulfur dioxide are being released, community members say. “When I was younger and you’d smell something and make a face, I was told, ‘son, don’t do that; that’s the smell of money,’” Beard told Port Arthur News last week. “No, that’s the smell of death.” The post Fossil Fuel Plant Run by William Koch at Heart of EPA Investigation into Racism in Texas’s Environmental Oversight appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/21/21 12:58pm
Belarus is to have its rights and privileges under a major international treaty suspended for persecuting environmental defenders and shutting down green NGOs. A high-level summit of parties to Aarhus Convention on environmental rights on October 21, chastised the state for liquidating one of its oldest green NGOs and suppressing many other domestic environmental organisations. The Aarhus Convention, established under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, gives citizens of signatory nations the right to access environmental information, participate in environmental decision-making, and access justice in environmental matters. Since it came into force in 2001, the treaty has been ratified by 47 parties including the UK, Norway, Kazakhstan, Belarus, all members of the European Union, and the EU itself. But this is the first time any member will have had its rights and privileges suspended. It’s unclear, however, what this means in practice. The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee has long expressed concern with Belarus’ treatment of people and organisations involved in defending the environment, but the suspension was focused on the treatment of a particular NGO called Ecohome. Founded in 1996 to promote environmentally friendly lifestyles and sustainable development, Ecohome was one of the oldest non-profit environmental organisations in Belarus.  Over the summer, the Belarus ministry of justice accused Ecohome of interacting with unregistered organisations and not operating from a legally registered address. It had also sought but was denied information on the names and addresses of all Ecohome members. During the same period, the home of Ecohome director Marina Dubina was searched.  Members of the NGO approached the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, which then warned Belarus to reconsider its treatment of the organisation and its staff. But Ecohome was formally liquidated by a court in August on the grounds that it had broken the law.  In an October 2021 report, the compliance committee said there had been an “egregious” lack of due process and the liquidation was “neither reasonable nor proportional”.  It concluded that the treatment of Ecohome “constitutes a further incident of persecution, penalization and harassment” under the treaty and the “silencing by the party concerned of a communicant actively engaged in the committee’s follow-up procedure is a particularly flagrant case of non-compliance”. Persecution of environmental defenders is a growing problem around the world. Belarus, where there has been a widespread crackdown on civil society since Alexander Lukashenko declared himself the winner of last year’s presidential election, is no exception.  According to Belarussian law organisation Lawtrend and the OECD, 259 civil society organisations in Belarus are currently in the process of forced liquidation. The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee warned that the situation for people exercising their environmental rights in Belarus was now “rapidly deteriorating”. Unable to come to a consensus at the summit, parties to the Aarhus Convention took the unusual step of voting for a suspension, one of the toughest sanctions the treaty can apply. Just four member states opposed the idea — Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus — while Moldova abstained. It will take effect from February, unless Belarus cancels the liquidation of Ecohome and reinstates its registration as a public association.  Speaking at the summit, Belarussian environment minister Andrei Khudyk decried the decision as “unfounded and politically motivated”, and condemned the parties’ “discriminatory” approach to Belarus. Sergio Magonov of Ecohome told Desmog the convention’s response was “adequate” given Belarus’ “systematic violations” of its provisions. “Thats not just about activists’ persecution and NGO Ecohomes forced liquidation — there are many other troubles in access to information, public participation and access to justice. Surely, persecution and harassment of activists are a crucial moment for such decisions?” But he said the suspension does not guarantee restitution of the rights of Ecohome members, some of whom have been forced to leave the country while others fear arrest. “It would be much better if Belarus would recognise its noncompliance and take steps to getting the situation better.” That would include reinstating Ecohome and other similar organisations. Francesca Carlsson, senior legal officer for the European Environmental Bureau, regretted that no consensus could be found but said any other outcome would have been a “slap in the face” for Ecohome, environmental defenders, and all those protected under the Aarhus Convention.  At the summit, the parties also agreed a new rapid response mechanism to be able to address abuses of environmental defenders in a more timely fashion, which the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) plans to collaborate with. The post Belarus Chastised for Persecuting Environmental Defenders appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/20/21 12:47pm
International and local human rights and environmental organisations speaking for thousands of people in East Africa have submitted a complaint to the World Bank criticising it and its subsidiary, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), of supporting major fossil fuel projects without properly considering the environmental and human impacts: the controversial East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and related infrastructure under development in Uganda and Tanzania. Led by human rights group Inclusive Development International, the organisations in a letter dated October 13 addressed to Janine Ferretti, vice president compliance advisor ombudsman at the World Bank, accuse the bank of indirectly investing in EACOP, which they describe as “one of the world’s largest and riskiest oil developments”. They say that British insurer Britam Holdings, in which the IFC holds shares valued at US$35 million, is set to provide insurance underwriting services to the pipeline and associated oil fields and oil refinery infrastructure located on the shores of Lake Albert in western Uganda. The projects, the letter contends, risk harming the environment and impacting the livelihoods of over 120,000 people.  The pipeline forms one part of the Uganda Oil Development Project, which also includes Uganda’s first planned oil refinery, and two oil fields — Tilenga and Kingfisher — which are being developed by French giant TotalEnergies and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). As the letter states, the EACOP is “the export pipeline required to transport the oil out of landlocked Uganda to international markets, developed by TotalEnergies, alongside CNOOC and the national oil companies of Uganda and Tanzania.” The complainants — whose names are redacted from the letter for fear of their safety — are seeking a compliance review of IFC’s investment in Britam and its indirect support of the three interrelated oil projects. “We are representing Ugandan complainants whose lives, livelihoods, and environment have been adversely impacted or stand to be impacted by the EACOP, an oil refinery and the Tilenga and Kingfisher oil fields,” the complaint states. “These large-scale projects require insurance coverage to proceed, and information available to the Complainants indicates that insurance is being provided by IFC’s equity client, Britam, as part of a consortium of local insurers.” The letter notes that the projects pose immense environmental risks and impacts to biodiversity in Uganda. The organisations express concern over impacts from oil drilling on the country’s most visited game reserve, the Murchison Falls National Park; 130 oil wells are planned for inside this wildlife-rich nature reserve along the Nile River.  The EACOP conduit is then expected to transport the oil from these wells to the Tanga port in Tanzania, along the Indian Ocean. It will be the world’s longest heated oil pipeline, stretching 1443 kilometres and cutting through multiple protected ecosystems home to different species of endangered flora and fauna.  The opposing organisations, for instance, highlight that the pipeline will pass through and endanger critical water resources, including several wetlands designated as internationally important, not just for the region they’re located but “for humanity as a whole.” In addition, there’s the risk that an oil spill could impact Lake Victoria, a cross-border lake that is the source of the Nile River and which the pipeline passes near. If this happened, it would jeopardise the health and livelihoods of over 40 million people who rely upon the lake as their main source of freshwater. The complainants argue that the cumulative impacts of the oil projects and pipeline — ranging from failing to protect water supplies to “a failure to consider and account for communities way of life in the design of resettlement sites” — have impacted “the communities’ right to land, right to an adequate standard of living, the children’s right to education, and threatened their socio-economic stability of the communities.”  Both the anticipated and so far experienced risks, they argue, go against the IFC’s Performance Standard 6 on protection and conservation of biodiversity, preserving ecosystem services, and sustainably managing natural resources as part of promoting sustainable development. A spokesperson for the IFC told DeSmog: “In line with its commitment to sustainable development, IFC ceased directly financing new upstream oil and gas projects in 2019. Without commenting on the particulars of Britam’s portfolio, financial intermediary clients of IFC are not prohibited from supporting these projects as long as the clients adhere to applicable national social and environmental laws and to IFC’s Performance Standards, which define IFC clients responsibilities for managing their environmental and social risks.”  Emily Horgan, spokesperson for the World Bank’s independent accountability office for the IFC, which addresses complaints regarding the social and environmental impacts of IFC projects, told DeSmog it “will make a determination regarding the eligibility of this complaint within fifteen (15) working days of receipt. In some instances, [the office] may need to extend its complaint eligibility determination by a further twenty (20) working days.” Updates and reports regarding this complaint will be available on its website. The post Human Rights and Environmental Organisations Demand The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation Reconsider Supporting ‘Risky’ Major East Africa Oil Project appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/20/21 10:16am
French oil giant Total knew that its fossil fuel extraction could contribute to global warming as early as 1971 but stayed silent about it until 1988, according to a new study.  Research published today in the journal Global Environmental Change, based on internal company documents and interviews with former staff, found that personnel “received warnings of the potential for catastrophic global warming from its products by 1971”.  Total which this year rebranded as TotalEnergies “became more fully informed” about climate change in the 1980s and “began promoting doubt regarding the scientific basis for global warming by the late 1980s”. The company publicly accepted climate science in the 1990s but promoted “policy delay or policies peripheral to fossil fuel control”, the authors found. The research which has sparked the hashtag #Totalknew on social media follows similar revelations about ExxonMobil and Shell in recent years which exposed how companies were aware of the impact of their emissions on the climate as early as the 1980s.  Today’s study also finds that ExxonMobil “coordinated an international campaign to dispute climate science and weaken international climate policy, beginning in the 1980s” through the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA).  “These revelations provide proof that TotalEnergies and the other oil and gas majors have stolen the precious time of a generation to stem the climate crisis”, climate justice campaign groups 350.org and Notre Affaire à Tous said in a joint statement. They added: “The dire consequences of climate change we are now experiencing could have been avoided if Total executives fifty years ago had decided that the future of the planet is more important than their profits.” ‘Fifty Years Ago’ Emissions from fossil fuels are the primary cause of global warming, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In 2018, 89 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions came from fossil fuels and industry. A 2017 study found Total was the 19th highest producer of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions between 1988 and 2015. While Total rebranded as broad-based energy company TotalEnergies earlier this year, it plans to continue producing fossil fuels, aiming to expand its portfolio of European gas and power customers from nine to 13 million by 2025. Today’s study highlights a 1971 special edition of Total’s magazine, Total Information, which includes an article called “Atmospheric pollution and climate” by scientist François Durand Dastès.  In the article, the author notes that “CO2 concentration has already increased by 15 percent in 150 years and could reach 400 ppm [parts per million] by 2010 which could increase global average temperature by 1 to 1.5°C with “important effects”. This was close to the real figure of 388.71 ppm that was measured in 2010. In the same issue an editorial by then CEO René Granier de Lilliac said: “Total is fully aware of the fact that each of its activities can generate pollution that may affect the equilibrium of nature.” He goes on to note that “constraint” on Total’s operations that can “protect the environment” would “carry a hefty cost”, adding: “It is probably best to make these sacrifices immediately rather than to have to remedy, tomorrow, a much more critical situation that would endanger certain economic equilibriums.” In a statement, a Total spokesperson said that “knowledge of climate risk since the 1970s has been no different from that published in scientific journals at the time, which the scientific paper published today fully confirms”. He continued: “It is therefore wrong to claim that the climate risk was concealed by Total or Elf, either in the 1970s or since. TotalEnergies notes that the paper itself states that Elf and Total already accepted the findings of climate science, publicly and openly, as long as 25 years ago. “TotalEnergies regrets that it was never approached or consulted by the authors of the paper, which TotalEnergies will study in detail. TotalEnergies deplores the process of pointing up at a situation from fifty years ago, without highlighting the efforts, changes, progress and investments made since then.”  The post French Oil Company Total ‘Knew About Global Warming Impact in 1971’, Study Finds appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/19/21 4:47am
A coal mining conglomerate is to fund a new Science Museum gallery on the “energy revolution” in the latest sponsorship controversy to hit the institution. The new gallery at the 164-year-old central London museum will be sponsored by the wind and solar arm of the Adani Group, a controversial coal giant led by Indian billionaire Gautum Adani, it was announced today. Writing on Twitter, Adani said the gallery would explore how we can power the future through low carbon technologies and be a reminder of the power of the sun and the wind in our daily lives.” It comes after board member, Chris Rapley, resigned over the museum’s “willingness to accept oil and gas company sponsorship”. The museum has seen protests over oil giant Shell sponsoring a climate exhibition, with a “gagging clause” where the museum agreed not to criticise its corporate sponsor. The museum also has “corporate partnerships” with Equinor and BP.  Jess Worth, co-director at Culture Unstained, a campaign group aiming to end fossil fuel sponsorship of culture, said: “Scientists, young people and even their own advisors were already walking away from the Science Museum over oil sponsorship. But astonishingly, the museum’s management has doubled down and signed up Adani – a coal conglomerate – to sponsor a gallery about the energy transition. “Their enthusiasm for fossil fuel partnerships has turned controversy into a crisis of credibility, and they must be held to account for their reckless decisions. As COP26 approaches, the world needs climate leadership from the UK, not the unseemly sight of our once-renowned Science Museum jumping into bed with Big Coal.”  ‘Energy Revolution’ The new interactive gallery is due to open in 2023 and will replace the current Atmosphere exhibit, which has welcomed more than six million visitors since it opened a decade ago and counted the Met Office among its chief contributors. In a press release, Dame Mary Archer, chair of the Science Museum Group, said the institution was hugely grateful to Adani Green Energy for the significant financial support they are providing for this gallery. According to the briefing, the gallery will “explore the latest climate science and the energy revolution needed to cut global dependence on fossil fuels and achieve the Paris targets to limit global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”. The Adani Group has faced opposition in India for its coal extraction and pollution, and protests over its Carmichael coal mine in Australia. President of the upcoming COP26 summit, Alok Sharma, has said he wanted to use the summit to “consign coal to history”. While pledging to be carbon neutral and embracing renewable energy, the Adani Group is expanding its coal production by doubling its coal-fired power capacity to 24GW, according to analysis by the campaign group Market Forces of the Group’s own website and public statements.  Mia Watanabe, UK campaigner at Market Forces, said: Its shameful that the Science Museum is actively endorsing Adani, a company thats massively expanding its fossil fuel projects. This is greenwash plain and simple. Ali Rowe, a campaigner from Extinction Rebellion added: It is unconscionable that the Science Museum is taking money from Adani without balancing the impact Adani’s current investments have on the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Following the debacle with Shell sponsorship which resulted in vast public backlash, to partner with Adani feels as though the Science Museum has taken to trolling the public rather than being in service to it. Their action demonstrates a lack of moral conscience. It won’t be forgotten by young people. Adani is also expected to be among investors attending the government’s global investment summit” at the museum today. Earlier this week DeSmog reported that the banks represented at the summit have financed over £700 billion in fossil fuels since the 2015 Paris Agreement, including £2.8 billion in the coal industry. The Science Museum and the Adani Group have been contacted for further comment.  The post Coal Mining Giant to Sponsor ‘Green Energy’ Gallery at UK Science Museum appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/18/21 4:54pm
As environmental advocates from across the United States converged in Washington, D.C. last week to take part in the five day People vs. Fossil Fuels” action, President Bidens infrastructure package remained stalled, in part, by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s push to cut its largest climate measure. The series of fossil fuel protests were organized by a coalition of over 25 environmental groups known as Build Back Fossil Free, a poke at Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda. Indigenous leadership in the fight against fossil fuels was forefront at the rallies. Capitol police in the process of arresting climate activists including Indigenous youth that led the final day of the ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels protest in Washington D.C. on October 15, 2021. Credit: Julie Dermansky Climate activist being carried away by the Capitol police on October 15, the final day of the ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels’ protest. Credit: Julie Dermansky The week of protest included acts of civil disobedience leading to over 650 arrests. Most of the arrests took place in front of the White House, where sit-ins were held for four consecutive days. Others were arrested at the Department of Interior building, home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), after holding a sit in inside on October 14. Guards inside the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. standing behind custom police tape marked “Climate Emergency that activist put across the entrances of buildings October 14 while dozens of Indigenous activists protested inside. Credit: Julie Dermansky Indigenous youth leading a march from Freedom Plaza to the Capitol on the five day of the ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels protest. Credit: Julie Dermansky And on the last day of the protest, October 15, further arrests were made when a group of Indigenous youth and their supporters participated in a sit-in at an intersection near the Capitol, blocking traffic and refusing to disperse when ordered to do so by the Capitol Police At all of the actions last week, activists expressed their rage that Biden has not delivered on climate-related campaign promises, adding that the administration’s plans do not go far enough to protect the planet from the rapidly intensifying climate crisis.  Sonny Urgent speaking about how climate change has affected her community in Northern Alaska in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool on the last day of the ‘People vs. Fossilfuels’ protest, October 15, 2021. The Arctic, she said, is warming at nearly three times the rate of the rest of the world, and her community in Utqiagvik is on the front lines. Credit: Julie Dermansky Zanagee Artis, the co-executive director of Zero Hour, speaking by the Capitol Reflecting Pool on the last day of the ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels’ protest. Credit: Julie Dermansky “We need climate action now. We are out of time to address this issue,” said Zanagee Artis, the co-executive director of Zero Hour, a youth-led climate justice organization, during a rally near the U.S. Capitol on October 15. “I campaigned for Biden. I called voters in Philadelphia. Black and brown people voted in droves, young people voted in record numbers for a president who promised action on climate change. Now he has the power to revoke the permits for Line 3 [pipeline] and he has not. He has the power to stop DAPL and he has not. He has the power to revoke fossil fuel leases and he has not.”   A reporter at a White House briefing on October 14 pointed out that hundreds of climate protesters were in front of the White House demanding Biden stop approving fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. The reporter then asked if the administration is considering or listening to their demands.  White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that they are listening. I would encourage anyone out there, or not, to look at what the President is proposing, what he’s trying to push across the finish line at this point, which is an enormous investment and commitment to addressing the climate crisis,” she said.  However, the Indigenous Environmental Network, one of the leading groups behind the five-day protest, has come out against both major pieces of legislation, as previously reported by DeSmog. The network contends that each bill includes some form of fossil fuel subsidies — and that there is no time for a middle-of-the-road approach. As Biden readies himself to leave for the COP26 United Nations climate summit next month, the planet is on track to warm more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. If greenhouse gas emissions aren’t rapidly reduced, scientists warn this level of global warming will likely cause irreversible warming of the planet, leading to increased catastrophic disasters including fires, heat and cold waves, flooding, and the intensifying of hurricanes. Demonstrators making their way to the Capitol on the last day of the ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels protest in October 2021. Credit: Julie Dermansky Goldman Prize winner Sharon Lavigne of Louisiana marching from Freedom Plaza to the Capitol on the final day of the ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels protest with a couple hundred others. Credit: Julie Dermansky Climate advocates during the D.C. protests warned that time is almost up to implement meaningful change. Sharon Lavigne, founder of community group RISE St. James from Louisiana, shared her firsthand account of what living with worsening climate impacts is like. Hurricane Ida destroyed her roof, which led to flooding inside her home, leaving it uninhabitable. Many of the speakers during the five days of action highlighted the Biden administrations failure to reject projects they say he has the power to stop right now, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Line 3 pipeline, and Formosa’s multi-billion-dollar plastics complex in Louisiana, among others.  An activist holding an anti Mountain Valley Pipeline sign while marching from Freedom Plaza to the White House on the final day of the ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels protest, October 15, 2021. Credit: Julie Dermansky Climate activist being led away by the Capitol police on October 15, the final day of the ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels’ protest. Credit: Julie Dermansky By refusing to stop major fossil fuel projects, President Biden has broken his promises to protect Indigenous rights, prioritize environmental justice, and fully address the climate crisis,” said an October 15 release from the organizers of the People vs. Fossil Fuels protests. As the press release states, “new analysis from Oil Change International shows that if the Biden Administration moves ahead with 21 major fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are currently under federal review, it would be the emissions equivalent of adding 316 new coal-fired power plants — more than are currently operating in the United States. The total emissions from just these projects would represent 17% of total US greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.”  Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and part of the Indigenous Environmental Network, sitting with Indigenous youth risking arrest on the last day of the ‘People vs. Fossil Fuels’ protest. Credit: Julie Dermansky Biologist and anti-fracking activist Sandra Steingraber urging President Biden to act according to science on day four of the People vs. Fossil Fuels protests. Credit: Julie Dermansky Advocates also warned about false solutions that the Biden administration and other Democratic Party centrists are embracing, such as carbon capture and hydrogen fuel made from natural gas, neither of which are commercially viable technologies. There is no time for parlor games like blue hydrogen or wolves in sheeps’ clothing like fracking,” Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and author who highlighted the health impacts of living near fracking industry sites, said before she was arrested in front of the White House on October 14. “Or unworkable, fanciful Rube Goldberg–contraptions like carbon capture and storage.”  That same day, on October 14, Louisiana’s Gov. John Bell Edwards welcomed a proposed $4.5 billion blue hydrogen clean energy complex.  The organizers of the D.C. protests have yet to announce their next moves following the five-day action, but the Indigenous activists who were in the streets vowed to do whatever it takes to protect the planet for the next seven generations. Climate activists taunting the capitol police on October 15, 2021 the final day of the ‘People vs. Fossil fuels’ protest after 90 people were arrested for blocking an intersection near the Capitol. Credit: Julie Dermansky The post Over 650 People Arrested in D.C. During Week of Indigenous-led Climate Action Calling on Biden to be the Climate Leader he Promised to be appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/18/21 11:16am
Bank bosses due to attend a green investment summit tomorrow head institutions which have provided over £700 billion of financing for the fossil fuel industry since the 2015 Paris Agreement, including £129 billion in 2020 alone.  Campaigners have criticised the expected presence of the “world’s biggest financiers” of fossil fuels at the UK government event, which drew protests by Extinction Rebellion and Biofuelwatch activists on Sunday. The global investment summit is being held at the Science Museum in London and at Windsor Castle to “galvanise foreign investment in the UK’s green industries of the future” ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, according to the Department for International Trade.  Senior executives at Citi, JPMorgan, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, NatWest and Lloyds Banking Group are among over 200 investors expected to attend. Banks are increasingly committing to long-term targets of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, but have been criticised for failing to make more concrete cuts by 2030. Analysis of data from campaign group BankTrack finds that eight of the banks represented at the summit have continued to finance highly polluting coal, oil and gas through commercial and investment banking in the five years since the Paris Agreement was reached to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5C. “Inviting these banks to a Green Investment Summit is like having Marlboro at a cancer summit,” Adam McGibbon, UK campaign lead at Market Forces, told DeSmog. “Banks like Barclays, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs are out of excuses. The bare minimum that a bank should commit to now is to no longer finance the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, and these banks wont even commit to that.” ‘Concrete Commitments Needed’ DeSmogs analysis of BankTrack data revealed the eight banks financed a total of £703.2 billion in coal, oil and gas between 2016-2020. JPMorgan financed £230 billion in fossil fuels between 2016 and 2020. Citi funded £172 billion of fossil fuels in the same period, while Barclays financed £105 billion. JPMorgan and Barclays CEOs Jamie Dimon and Jes Staley are attending the summit, as is Citi’s head of Europe, David Livingstone. Morgan Stanley financed £80 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement, Goldman Sachs £73 billion, and Santander £24.8 billion, the data suggested. Morgan Stanley’s European lead Clare Woodman is attending the summit, along with Goldman Sachs chief executive David Solomon and Santander chair Ana Botín. Natwest, whose chief executive Alison Rose is due to attend, has financed £9.7 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement, including £284 million in coal mining, while Lloyds Bank represented at the summit by chief executive Charlie Nunn has financed £8.7 billion in fossil fuels since the international climate treaty, including £1.7 billion in 2020. Analysis of the BankTrack data reveals that in 2020 alone, the eight banks funded £129 billion in fossil fuels, including £37 billion from JP Morgan, £35 billion from Citi, and £20 billion from Barclays. The amounts include high levels of funding in coal, the most polluting fossil fuel. In 2020 the banks supported the coal industry to the tune of £2.8 billion, with billions worth of financing both in coal power and in coal mining.  The findings come after a DeSmog investigation found that the majority of directors at the worlds biggest banks had affiliations to polluting companies and organisations, at a time when the international financial sector is under increasing pressure to stop funding fossil fuels. Maaike Beenes, coordinator of BankTrack’s bank, climate and energy team, said: “The banks and investors being invited to this summit are among the worlds biggest financiers of the fossil fuel industry.  “Most of them are even financing companies and projects that expand fossil fuels, like the Cambo Oil Field in the North Sea.  “For COP26 we need to see banks come with concrete commitments to immediately stop financing new fossil fuel projects and the companies planning them. Promises that fall short of this or delay action until 2030 and 2050 are just window-dressing.” ‘Proud to Take Part’ A spokesperson for the Department for International Trade said: The UK’s climate change and environment policies are some of the most ambitious in the world. We are the first major economy to pass new laws for net zero emissions by 2050. “Our Global Investment Summit will show how we can invest in new technologies to create a more prosperous, green future and we must engage with partners from different sectors in order to make this transition.” A spokesperson for NatWest Group said the company was “proud” to be taking part in the green investment summit. The group was “determined” to play a major role in the transition to a zero carbon economy, the spokesperson said, referring to its recent pledge to create a £100 billion climate and sustainable fund for its customers by the end of 2025. “We have also committed to stop lending and underwriting to major oil and gas producers unless they have a credible transition plan in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement by the end of 2021, and to stop financing coal by 2030,” they said, adding that the group had reduced lending to the oil and gas sector by £0.7 billion to £3.5 billion in the first half of 2021. Morgan Stanley declined to comment. Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Barclays, Citi, Santander, and Lloyds Banking Group have been contacted for comment, as has the Science Museum. Additional research by Michaela Hermann. The post Banks Due At UK’s Green Investment Summit Financed £700 Billion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Agreement appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/15/21 5:05am
An influential think tank with close ties to MPs has hired a head of policy who called the government’s climate policies “socialist” and likened proposed green legislation to a “Soviet Five Year Plan”.  Matthew Lesh, who was head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, this week confirmed he would be taking up a new role at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a free market think tank with a history of criticising green government policies.  The appointment comes after IEA director general Mark Littlewood co-hosted an “in-depth conversation” with chancellor Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party conference last week, during which Littlewood quizzed Sunak on the government’s climate policies. It was one of at least ten IEA events at the party conference.  In a statement posted by the IEA on Twitter, Lesh said he was “extremely excited” to be joining the think tank, adding: “The IEA kept the flame of liberty and classical economics alive against the stagnant post-war consensus. ‘Five Year Plan’ The IEA has a record of opposing the government’s approach to climate change, which IEA director Mark Littlewood has described as too expensive and ineffective. Andy Mayer, IEA chief operating officer, on Saturday argued that the current energy crisis proves that the 2019 UK moratorium on fracking was an “extremely bad decision”.A 2018 Greenpeace investigation revealed that the IEA had taken funding from British oil company BP since 1967.  IEA director Mark Littlewood recently told Politico the IEA is planning “boot camps” with MPs “to present to them the way we see problems in the world today.” He said there has “never been greater urgency to re-inculcate free-market thinking inside the Conservative Party. Weeks before his appointment, Lesh wrote a column for the Telegraph criticising “top-down” government policies to tackle climate change, including bans on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 and phasing out gas boilers, which he called “tools from the old socialist handbook”.  He also wrote that the Environment Bill currently going through parliament has “a delightful Soviet Five Year Plan feel to it”.  Lesh has argued that the private sector can solve the climate crisis, writing in 2019 that “climate change is a serious problem” but that “broadly speaking, the market system is perfectly capable of responding to these issues”.   The same year, Lesh called environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion a “doomsday cult, devoid of any association with reality”. In his Telegraph column last month he said that while climate activists “are finally losing the war on the streets, their ideas have never been more influential in the halls of power”.  Political Affiliations The IEA played a significant role in advocating for a “hard” Brexit and was named by whistleblower Shahmir Sanni as one of nine organisations based in and around Westminster’s 55 Tufton Street that coordinated a campaign for a “hard” exit from the EU. DeSmog has previously mapped the extensive crossover between some prominent campaigners for Brexit and opposition to action on climate change.  Liz Truss, who recently became foreign secretary, met with the IEA twice last year when she was international trade secretary, and later tried to remove the meetings from the public record.  In 2019 the IEA claimed 14 members of Boris Johnson’s then-cabinet were involved in the group’s activities.  The IEA also hosted a number of events featuring Tory MPs at this year’s Conservative Party conference. In one, Steve Baker, a leading opponent of the government’s net zero policies and a trustee of the climate science denying Global Warming Policy Foundation, claimed that much climate science is “contestable” and “sometimes propagandised”. Molly Scott Cato, Green Party spokesperson on economy and finance, said: “While the IEA sound like a neutral, academic research institute they are in fact a shadowy organisation exercising a great deal of power and usually against the public interest.  “We need to see the end of spokespeople from these secretly funded organisations offered access to top politicians and media platforms, to act as mouthpieces for the wealthy and for those who would hold back climate action.” She added: “Its clear that an urgent and just energy transition will require widespread government intervention. Attempts to prevent this by market ideologues will guarantee greater climate chaos and a dystopian future for us all.” The IEA and Matthew Lesh have been contacted for comment, as has the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The post Tory Climate Policies are Socialist Says New Head of Policy at Influential Westminster Think Tank appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/14/21 8:21pm
This week, environmental advocates addressed intensifying fossil fuel pollution, climate injustices, and the Biden administration’s failure to take the lead on climate change solutions during the People vs. Fossil Fuels protests in Washington, D.C. Their goal remains to increase the pressure on the President to declare a climate emergency. The Indigenous-led actions are supported by dozens of environmental and social justice groups from around the country and have resulted in 585 arrests so far. They began on Indigenous People’s Day, October 11, and will continue through October 15.  Thursday morning, October 14, 130 people were arrested in front of the White House. For four days, activists have marched each morning  from Freedom Plaza to the White House. Some protest on the sidewalk in front of the fence and are arrested after defying orders to  disperse,  while others cheer them on from across the street. They say they are doing this to bring their message to Biden’s doorstop ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland next month. Protesters in front of the White House on October 14, taking part in the People vs. Fossil Fuels demonstration. They were later arrested. Credit: Julie Dermansky The focus of the day’s protests was climate change solutions. Environmental advocates pressing for a faster transition to renewable energy were among those arrested on Thursday. That included a few scientists, such as Sandra Steingraber, a biologist and author famous for bringing to light the health impacts of living near fracking industry sites.  “U.S scientists are done speaking calmly in the face of inaction,” Steingraber said in front of the White House on Thursday, before making a plea for President Biden “to act on the science.” Biologist and anti-fracking activist Sandra Steingraber raising her first before being arrested on day four of the People vs. Fossil Fuels protests. Credit: Julie Dermansky In the afternoon at another protest, two dozen Indigenous climate activists and their allies locked themselves inside the Department of Interior building, home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), in echoes of the first Indigenous occupation of a BIA building in Colorado in 1970, which was spurred by discriminatory hiring practices and misuse of federal funds. Today’s activists blocked the building’s exits and strung custom-made police tape, replacing the words “Police line do not cross” with ‘“Climate Emergency.” Activists sit blocking an entrance to the Department of Interior building, home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, while Indigenous activists occupied the building for hours on October 14. Credit: Julie Dermansky Climate activists in front of the Department of the Interior. Credit: Julie Dermansky Roughly a hundred more activists gathered outside the BIA. The roughly four-hour-long occupation prompted a large law enforcement response from numerous agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security. Law enforcement arrested 55 Indigenous leaders. Police in riot gear on bikes lined one of the exits to an underground garage in the building, where vans departed with some of those who were arrested inside. Activists in one of the vans pounded on its side as it drove away.  Some of the officers used tasers and batons on multiple people who tried to enter the Interior building to join the original group of activists who were occupying it inside.  Federal law enforcement officers place a climate activist inside a police van in a parking garage under the Department of the Interior. Credit: Julie Dermansky I walked to the top of the stairs where security guards and officers blocked the entrance to the building. There, I stood next to Rema Loeb, a great-grandmother who is part of the Lakota Tribe. Despite needing a walker, Loeb managed to get to the front of a group of people trying to get into the building. She pleaded with the guards to let her in.  I stepped aside before other activists pushed through the line of security guards and officers. Loeb managed to get inside and was helped out of the way by those violently pushing their way in. But instead of exiting as directed, she and about 20 others managed to slip inside with the original group already occupying the building.  After about three hours, Loeb and some of the others left on their own volition using various exits from the building. An officer escorted her out, along with another activist. I asked Loeb how she first managed to get by the guards. She told me that she “slithered in” after the guards moved her aside. She says that for her, the act of civil disobedience was worth the risk of bodily harm and arrest. “The time is growing short that we have to change our ways,” she told me. “The most important thing is the children and all life on Earth and we don’t have the right to destroy the planet for them.”  Rema Loeb of the Lakota Tribe and another activist are let out of the Department of Interior building, where the Bureau of Indian Affairs office is located, without being arrested after taking part in a protest inside where dozens of Indigenous activists occupied the space for a few hours. Credit: Julie Dermansky Police removing the activists “climate emergency tape after the protesters were removed from the Department of the Interior building. Credit: Julie Dermansky Indigenous leaders who took part in the occupation released a statement saying President Biden was continuing the federal government’s long tradition of broken promises for tribal sovereignty and making a number of demands calling for Indigenous and environmental justice. “Presidents will break their promises but Mother Earth has always given us what we need to thrive. We will not back down until our natural balance is restored,” the statement said. ‘Climate Chaos Is Happening Now’ These rallies and acts of civil disobedience are part of the five-day-long People vs. Fossil Fuel protests in the nation’s Capital this week, with hundreds each day calling on Biden to stop new fossil fuel projects. On Wednesday, October 13, environmental justice activists from Texas and Louisiana told President Biden that climate chaos is happening now.” Beset by worsening floods, hurricanes, and fossil fuel industry pollution, these activists say they and their communities are living in climate “sacrifice zones” and that Biden is falling down on his campaign promises to improve their situations. These activists spoke passionately of their and their communities’ experiences surviving extreme weather and living with oil and gas industry pollution. In front of the White House, they addressed the president using a megaphone and demanded that he honor his promise to be a leader on climate action. Activists marching from Freedom Plaza to the White House carrying a sign from Fenceline Watch, a grassroots environmental and social justice group from Houston, Texas. Credit: Julie Dermansky Activists marching from Freedom Plaza to the White House on the third of five days of climate protests in the nations capital. Credit: Julie Dermansky Sharon Lavigne, founder of community group RISE St. James, and Pastor Harry Joseph of the Mount Triumph Baptist Church in St. James, Louisiana, spoke of their fight against the encroaching petrochemical industry in their majority Black community, which sits in an industrial corridor along the Mississippi River known by many, including President Biden, as “Cancer Alley.” It earned that name due to the large number of petrochemical plants and refineries that emit toxic and climate-warming emissions and residents’ greatly increased risk of illness and cancer associated with those air pollutants. Lavigne and Joseph were joined by environmental justice advocates from the Houston, Texas, area, another hotspot for oil and gas refineries and petrochemical plants. John Beard, Jr. from the Port Arthur Community Action Network and Yvette Arellano, founder of the grassroots group Fenceline Watch, shared stories of what it is like to live in fenceline communities next to fossil fuel plants that release toxic air pollutants while they also endure extreme weather events that have gotten worse due to climate change. These speakers described their neighborhoods as “sacrifice zones” for the fossil fuel industry and ensuing climate change. That was a sentiment shared by Sue and Jim Franklin, who felt forced to give up their ranch near Pecos, Texas, in the Permian Basin after the fracking industry expanded all around them. Goldman Prize winner Sharon Lavigne of Louisiana delivers a message to Biden in front of the White House on the third day of the People vs. Fossil Fuels protests. Credit: Julie Dermansky During the Wednesday rally held in Lafayette Park across from the White House, Lavigne, a 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize winner whose house was severely damaged by Hurricane Ida, turned and faced the White House, megaphone in hand. “I want to tell our President Joe Biden, you campaigned on Cancer Alley. That’s where I live. People are dying rapidly. People are dying of cancer and other ailments,” she said. “President Biden, I sent you a video to tell you about our community. I’ve asked you to come to see where we live, to come and visit us and get a whiff of all the chemicals that we’re breathing. You promised that you would do something for Death Alley. We haven’t seen anything yet. We want to hold you to what you said to us in your campaign. We voted for you and this is the way you treat us? You are letting us down by not even coming to see about us.” Pastor Harry Joseph of the Mount Triumph Baptist Church in St. James, Louisiana. He is one of the leaders in the fight for climate justice in Cancer Alley who is protesting in Washington, D.C. this week. Credit: Julie Dermansky These feelings of anger and abandonment in the face of illness caused by pollution and an increased risk by extreme weather were echoed by Arellano. Houston, Texas, [is] home of the largest petrochemical complex in the entire nation with over 235 facilities dedicated to plastics,” Arellano told the crowd. She talked about infertility problems facing people with multi-generational exposure to chemical pollution and the clear need for racial justice along with environmental justice. Arellano also warned of the risk of reinforcing these historical injustices as the region sought to recover from extreme weather that often exacerbates pollution’s impacts on these fenceline communities. The toxics have trespassed the fence line, and theres no amount of fines or money that can correct that measure,” she said. So when we are asked to build back, we must be careful of false solutions. Money and capitalism will not solve our problem.”  I like to say that Port Arthur is at the nexus of climate change,” John Beard, Jr. told the crowd, pointing out that the area, roughly 90 miles east of Houston, has been impacted by five major hurricanes in the last 15 years. Port Arthur, which has large Black and Hispanic communities,  suffers from polluted air from the fossil fuel industry. The nation’s largest oil refinery, Motiva, is located there. According to Beard, those impacts are inescapable. He said that if you ask anyone in Port Arthur if they know of anybody or have a relative or a family member or friend who either has had cancer, died from cancer, or is in treatment or remission from cancer, you wont find one single person that will tell you no.’ John Beard, Jr., a climate justice activist from the Port Arthur Community Action Network, speaking in front of the White House on the third day of the People vs. Fossil Fuels protests. Credit: Julie Dermansky Casey Camp Horinek, tribal elder and environmental ambassador for Ponca Nation, marching to the White House on October 13. Credit: Julie Dermansky As another speaker made clear, the fossil fuel industry’s air pollution impacts aren’t limited to refineries; they start at the wellhead. “You need to do something about the oil industry in Texas. Ordinary people living near the ever-expanding oil patch of Texas are being driven out of their homes,” Sue Franklin, speaking from personal experience, said during the rally.  “The Permian Basin where I live in West Texas is a global climate bomb that has not improved since youve been in office, Mr. President,” she went on. “It is one of the worst sources of methane greenhouse gases in the world. Currently the Permian Basin produces nearly 5 million barrels of oil per day. That extreme amount of production does not happen without harming residents like myself. The world is watching, President Biden. Please, please do something. The people out there are dying. Sue and Jim Franklin came from Texas to D.C. to tell Biden to declare a climate emergency, among other things, on October 13 during the People vs. Fossil Fuels protests. Credit: Julie Dermansky Other activists from across the country, including Mario Atencio with Diné CARE, an organization that works to protect the environment of Navajo Nation, continued on these themes. Atencio spoke about the ways the fossil fuel industry has affected his community and called again for stronger climate action from President Biden to reverse the industry’s harms. “The lack of action to stop drilling on public lands has had serious impacts on the community health of the Navajo people who live near oil and gas wells,” Atencio said. “According to a community health impact assessment done by the local Navajo communities, the toxic chemicals released by the oil and gas wells are impacting the health of the children. This is the consequence of the inaction: the little ones are being hurt because Biden can’t fulfil something he promised. We can’t wait. Our communities are being hurt. We need the leases stopped.” Activists march toward the White House past graffiti reading Expect us on an Andrew Jackson sculpture, on the third day of the People vs. Fossil Fuels protests. Credit: Julie Dermansky Officers taking away environmental activists in front of the White House on the third day of the People vs. Fossil Fuels protests. Credit: Julie Dermansky The organizers of the week of protests sent a press release underlining how fossil fuel projects have continued to build momentum under President Biden:  Since taking office, however, the Biden Administration has approved a record number of new oil and gas leases on public lands, refused to stop major new fossil fuel projects like the Line 3 pipeline, and been slow to crack down on existing pollution.  Meanwhile, new analysis from Oil Change International shows that if the Biden Administration moves ahead with 21 major fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are currently under federal review, it would be the emissions equivalent of adding 316 new coal fired power plants — more than are currently operating in the United States. The total emissions from just these projects would represent 17 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.” President Biden, who has called the climate crisis a “code red” emergency, has not yet acknowledged the protesters or their demands. A final day of marching and protest is planned for Friday, October 15. Security on top of the White House monitoring the People vs. Fossil Fuels protest on its third day. Credit: Julie Dermansky Activists participating in an act of civil disobedience in front of the White House on the third day of protests calling for Biden to declare a U.S. climate emergency. Credit: Julie Dermansky The post Raising Pressure on Biden, Dozens of Indigenous Activists Occupy Bureau of Indian Affairs and Climate Justice Advocates Decry Gulf ‘Sacrifice Zones’ appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/14/21 1:07pm
Canada has not provided a transition pathway for its fossil fuel workers to move into other industries, and as global demand for oil and gas wanes, tens of thousands of workers could lose their jobs, say the authors of a new report. Roughly 167,000 people are directly employed in Canada’s oil and gas industry, but increased automation combined with the energy transition and climate policy mean that half of those jobs are slated to disappear by the end of the decade, according to a report published on October 13 by the Climate Action Network Canada and Blue Green Canada, which is a coalition of labor and environmental groups. The report said there is potential to transition many of these workers into cleaner industries, but action is needed by the federal and provincial governments to ease the pathway. “This current decade — the next eight years — represents the largest effort that will be required for new job creation to ensure that we have a workforce that’s well aligned with the changing energy landscape,” Teika Newton, domestic policy manager for Climate Action Network Canada, told reporters on a press call. “The good news is that nearly three in four oil and gas workers affected by the transition have direct skills to match to alternative clean industries or IT operations elsewhere.” Around 10 percent of oil and gas workers — including heavy equipment operators, power engineers, power systems operators, and instrumentation technicians — have the relevant skills to easily transition into wind and solar, if the demand for that labor exists, according to the report. In addition, geothermal, oil and gas decommissioning, and industrial energy efficiency are other viable careers for workers exiting fossil fuel production. More difficult careers to transition are the reservoir engineers, hydrologists, and dispatchers. The report says that Canada could use COVID-19 recovery funds and the Canada Infrastructure Bank to create 56,000 jobs over the next five years in wind, solar, energy efficiency, oil and gas decommissioning, and chemicals. These new jobs would offset the losses expected in oil and gas. Albertas oil sands. Credit: Dru Oja Jay (CC BY 2.0) “But in order to make this happen, federal and provincial governments must give employers and workers, including those in Indigenous communities, certainty on the likely future constraints on production by planning for a 1.5-degree-aligned oil and gas output pathway,” Newton said, referring to the 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degree Fahrenheit) limit to global warming that an international panel of scientists says is required to avoid catastrophic climate change. The report says that Canada needs to manage the decline of oil and gas production to offer clarity on what is coming, while also establishing a “Just Transition” policy that includes energy and labor organizations in the planning process. Public investments should be tied to employers meeting conditions on job quality, pay, and access to training. The concept of a “Just Transition” can be defined in different ways, but typically encompasses principles that assert that workers have a right to dignity, work, a good standard of living, and a say in their future. In the context of the climate crisis, this means that fossil fuel workers need the support of government and society to help them transition into new lines of work. “We do not deny that there needs to be change. But what we demand is a process that is led by government to show us and finance those changes. Otherwise, we are going to find ourselves in a historic problem,” said Ken Bondy, national representative for health and safety at Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union. He pointed to the ongoing controversy around the Line 5 pipeline, which runs through Ontario and across the border into Michigan. The state of Michigan is seeking to shut down the aging pipeline over concerns about spill risk. Bondy said that the risk of shutdown has been known for years, but no politician or corporation has planned for such a scenario, which would put hundreds of jobs in the petrochemical hub of Sarnia, Ontario, at risk. “That is not acceptable to workers. It is not acceptable to unions. And it shouldn’t be acceptable to politicians,” he said. Bondy said that the federal and provincial governments need to plan for the disruption and dislocation that will come from the elimination of jobs in fossil fuel sectors to ensure workers are not left stranded. Meg Gingrich, President of Blue Green Canada and assistant to the national director of the United Steelworkers of Canada, said that workers need to be involved from the start when new investments are made. She pointed to the July announcement by Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to convert one of its coal-fired furnaces at its steel plant to an “electric-arc” technology, which would slash the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 70 percent. Gingrich said that workers were not informed or involved in the process, and as a result, many did not support the move, fearing job losses. Gingrich said it did not have to be this way. Retrofitting a steel plant may result in the elimination of some jobs, but if the union was involved from the outset, the workers wouldn’t have been caught off guard and could have worked with the company to ensure positions were added elsewhere. The retrofit may also mean that the steel plant stays online for a longer period of time, but because there was no planning with the union, the unexpected announcement ruined a lot of goodwill with workers. “I can’t emphasize enough that workers need to be involved and need to be front and centered,” Gingrich said. “And it can’t just be a politician touting the need to involve workers for the sake of political expediency. It needs to be genuine and we need concrete policies in order to ensure that workers, not only that they are involved, but are not materially harmed” in order to make the transition fair and just, she added. But industry groups assert that oil and gas is not going anywhere. Credible forecasts of global energy use show natural gas and oil supply will need to grow for decades to come to meet the worlds demand, Jay Averill, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), told DeSmog in a statement. CAPP intends to be actively engaged with the Federal Government as they develop their plans to ensure the talent and expertise of our skilled natural gas and oil industry workers are recognized as essential to meeting Canadas environmental ambitions and building the future prosperity of Canadians. Canada is not alone in this task of tackling a Just Transition for fossil fuel workers. The United States has also seen thousands of workers shed from the oil and gas sector, with very few programs in place to help them transition to other careers. Before oil and gas, the coal industry saw thousands of workers forced out of work, with very little public policy to support them. Moreover, automation continues to kill employment in extractive industries. Even leaving aside climate policy, automation and robotics alone could eliminate 20 percent of oil and gas drilling, support, and maintenance jobs over the next decade, according to a March 2021 study from Rystad Energy. In the U.S., several Democratic U.S. Senators introduced legislation on October 7 to smooth the transition for fossil fuel workers by offering wage supplements, health care benefits, education and training, and benefits for the children of laid-off workers. The legislation would apply to workers who lost their jobs from shuttered coal mines, power plants, and oil refineries. “For decades, America relied on fossil fuels to power our nation,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), one of the bill’s sponsors said. “As we transition to a clean energy future, we cannot leave workers in these industries behind. Along with Sen. Baldwin and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). It is also endorsed by an array of labor groups, such as the United Mine Workers of America International and United Steelworkers (USW) International, among others. It remains to be seen if the legislation will be able to hitch a ride on the broader budget reconciliation package currently being negotiated in Congress. Labor groups also eagerly watch potential developments in Canada. In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a Just Transition fund to help fossil fuel workers during the transition. But he has yet to implement it. Now, having won a recent snap election, he’s being pressed by unions to follow through. “The main point here is that the next eight years — the time between now and 2030 — is the crucial part. All the numbers point to that,” Jamie Kirkpatrick, program manager at Blue Green Canada, said on a press call. “We can’t start our efforts to decarbonize our sector in 2049. We need to start yesterday if we want to have this to be a transition that brings workers along, that provides them with plans in advance.” The post Environmental and Labor Groups Urge Canada to Support Just Transition appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 10/13/21 5:45am
The current supply chain of biomass giant Drax “makes the impacts of climate change worse”, a new study has claimed. Analysis by US environmental advocacy group, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), studied the emissions from wood pellets transported from pine plantations in the southeastern United States to be used in a bioenergy, carbon capture and storage (BECCS) operation by Drax in Yorkshire. Currently bioenergy is classified as a renewable energy source by the UK government, under the premise that it uses trees which can be replanted to recapture carbon and is therefore considered carbon neutral. Advocates of BECCS say the technology can even make the process carbon negative, by removing the carbon emissions from burning biomass and storing them underground. Drax, which has piloted the BECCS technology since 2018, is hoping to deliver its first fully operational plant by 2027 as part of plans to become a “carbon negative company” by 2030 removing more carbon than it produces. However Sasha Stashwick, senior advocate at NRDC and campaigner with Cut Carbon Not Forests, said Drax’s claims of becoming “carbon negative” were “wildly exaggerated”.  “Drax’s biomass supply chain is so highly emissive, that with or without CCS (carbon capture and storage), it makes climate change worse,” she said. “This report makes clear that any UK government climate plan that relies on BECCS at Drax is extremely high-risk.  “When you’re in a hole, you stop digging – and the government must stop ploughing money into dirty biomass subsidies. Instead, these funds should be redirected to wind and solar energy, which is not only low-cost and low-risk, but actually helps fight the climate crisis.”  ‘Uncapturable’ The new report notes that BECCS is explicitly included in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s mitigation pathways to stay “well below” 2C of global warming since the pre-industrial era, but claims this does not track the full carbon footprint of bioenergy or the process of carbon capture itself. Biomass involves a long energy-intensive process of cutting down and transporting the trees, drying the wood, converting them into pellets, and then transporting them before they can be burned in the power plant, the report says. The report’s authors also claim that old trees store more carbon than young growth, meaning that harvesting woods leads to “foregone sequestration”. Furthermore Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology requires power to operate, and cannot capture all emissions at the source, the analysis claims. Tracking the journey of loblolly pine plantations in the US was “representative of the most common supply chain for biomass to electricity”, the authors said. Drax sources around 60 percent of its wood from the southeastern states, and operates three company-owned pellet mills in Louisiana and Mississippi. According to the analysis, the “uncapturable” emissions on this biomass supply chain equals 558kg of carbon dioxide equivalent, which rise further when factoring in carbon capture and storage to 779kg/CO2e. Drax has disputed these figures. Subsidies The new report comes less than a week after climate think tank Ember released research claiming Drax’s plant in North Yorkshire is among the biggest sources of carbon dioxide and PM10 air pollution of all EU power stations, and the greatest single source of CO2 in the UK. Drax, which produces around six percent of the UKs electricity daily, emitted a total of 19.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020, of which 13.2 million tonnes were from burning biomass. In the same year, the company was estimated to have received £832 million in government renewables subsidies for its biomass energy. These subsidies are set to end in 2027. The BECCS plant due to be in place that year has been estimated to cost £31.7 billion in subsidy, according to Ember, though Drax is yet to reveal the amount it is requesting from the government.  Responding to the latest analysis, Phil MacDonald, chief operating officer of Ember, said the report was “exactly the kind of research that the UK government should be doing before it makes a decision on funding BECCS”.  “Before we know whether BECCS can work, we have to understand the emissions not just at the power station, but all the way back through the global supply chain and in the forest where the wood is harvested,” he said. A Drax spokesperson disputed the reports findings, saying it “relies on a long list of false assumptions, is incorrect and ill-informed, and is not aligned with latest climate science or policies on bioenergy”. They said the companys supply chain emissions were “five times lower than NRDC’s ‘estimates’”, and that “sustainable biomass delivers carbon savings of 85 percent compared to coal”, referencing its conversion of power stations from use of coal to predominantly biomass.  The spokesperson added that the report’s assumption that forests are harvested only to provide wood for biomass was “completely incorrect”, and that the creation of BECCS plants would deliver tens of thousands of jobs across the North. The post Drax’s ‘Carbon Negative’ Bioenergy Claims ‘Wildly Exaggerated’, Study Argues appeared first on DeSmog.
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[l] at 10/12/21 11:06pm
On the second day of People vs. Fossil Fuels demonstrations in Washington, D.C., hundreds marched to the White House, again calling on President Biden to recognize  the world is in a climate emergency and to halt approvals of new fossil fuel projects. More than 150 people were arrested for refusing to clear the sidewalk in front of the White House, just a day after similar arrests of 136 people. After the U.S. Park Police escorted the last protesters away, a second rally was held in front of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters. There, over a hundred environmental activists showed their ongoing resistance to the recently completed construction of Enbridge’s expanded Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Hundred of environmental activists march to the White House from Freedom Plaza in Washington DC.  Protesters in front of the White House. Pipeline opponents have been battling against the Line 3 project in northern Minnesota since it was first proposed in 2014. Enbridge, the project owner, described the pipeline as a replacement of an older, corroding pipe built in the 1960s, but opponents dismiss the company’s claim. They argue it is a new pipeline rather than a replacement, saying Line 3 is larger and has portions that traverse a different area than the older pipeline, including traditional Anishinaabe lands. The new pipeline allows for nearly double the capacity of heavy crude, almost a million barrels per day, to pass from the Canadian tar sands fields in Hardisty, Alberta to the end point over a thousand miles away in Superior, Wisconsin. Ojibwe tribes have been at the forefront of Line 3 opposition, along with other Indigenous and environmental groups. On October 12, Indigenous leaders and supporters delivered one million petitions to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters, asking the Biden administration to stop the project and conduct a full environmental review. Jamie Pinkham, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, came out with assistants and took the boxes with the petitions. Jamie Pinkham, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works taking some of the boxes holding petitions.  Park Police removing a protest banner from a faith group that participated in the second day of protests in front of the White House, before arresting them. Protesters being taken away by Park Police from in front of the White House. The last Indigenous pipeline activist to be arrested in front of the White House on the second day of a five day protest. The event was hosted by Honor The Earth, an Indigenous-led environmental justice organization based in northern Minnesota, with support from Seventh Generation, Womens Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN), and the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition. And the petitions were collected by community and environmental justice groups, including Braided Justice Collective, Friends of the Earth, Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate,, and 350.org, among others. During a press conference the group held a ceremony with Anishinaabe drummers in front of the building where they presented the Army Corps with the petitions. Press Conference led by Indigenous leaders in front of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HQ.  Numerous speakers described damage that they say the Line 3 pipeline is already causing and that environmental regulators are ignoring. Demonstrators displayed photos as evidence of environmental  damage to waterways along the pipeline construction route. According to the organizers, the pipeline will produce carbon emissions equivalent of 50 coal-powered plants and crossing more than 227 lakes and rivers, Line 3 threatens the drinking water of 18 million people and the health and wellness of many more. Two activists climbed poles in front of the Army Corps building. One took down the American flag and the U.S. Army Corps flag, replacing them with a Free Informed and Prior Consent flag that read “Consultation is not Consent.” Activist taking down flags at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HQ.  Activists in front of the  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HQ protesting against Line 3 on Oct. 12, 2021. As DeSmog has previously reported: “Fossil fuel projects on Native lands often violate the principles of Free, Prior, and Informed consent, a concept that not only necessitates consultation with Indigenous peoples regarding projects on their territory, but requires their consent. That principle lies at the heart of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), a global resolution adopted by 144 nations in 2007.” The United States initially opposed the declaration, only reversing its stance years later. Security guards for the Army Corps headquarters retreated inside. A few Indigenous pipeline opponents used bandanas and zip ties to lock the doors from the outside. After about 15 minutes, officers outside the buildings cut them open in order to escort someone into the building. The protest broke up without any arrests. Activist putting a zip tie on a door at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HQ. Download Officers open the doors that were closed with bandanas and zip-ties at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HQ. Over the course of the next three days, hundreds more climate activists are expected to bring the message to Biden’s doorstep that he must take more aggressive action against the climate crisis, and many demonstrators are expected to participate in additional acts of civil disobedience. The timing of the protests aims to highlight their message to the President before next month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Those arrested today were released without being fined. Tomorrow the action continues: activists will return to the White House in the morning, with a goal of making sure Biden hears them. Protesters in front of the White House on Oct. 12, 2021. Protester in front of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HQ. The post Indigenous Leaders Deliver Petitions to Army Corps DC Headquarters, After 155 Activists Arrested at The White House appeared first on DeSmog.
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[l] at 10/12/21 2:28pm
For the first time in nearly three years, I woke up a few months ago without felony charges hanging over my head.  I’m an investigative journalist and I’d been arrested twice in 2018, both times for allegedly trespassing on what’s known as “critical infrastructure,” a felony under a then-new Louisiana law that — at the urging of the oil and gas industry — redefined pipelines and their construction sites as critical infrastructure. (In the U.S., that term historically referred to systems necessary for society to function, such as power plants and communication lines.)  In Louisiana, prosecutors have four years to decide whether they will press charges. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, a Louisiana district attorney confirmed in July that he will not prosecute me or the nearly two dozen pipeline opponents, known as “water protectors,” who were also arrested. To be clear, it could have been worse. As a straight, older, white woman, I’m far less likely to be targeted at the various stages of the “justice” system than my colleagues and friends who are LGBTQ and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).  Along with two water protectors, I filed a lawsuit shortly after my arrest, questioning the constitutionality of Louisiana’s law. The prosecutor wasn’t likely to press charges against any of us until that legal challenge was resolved — or at least that’s what I tried to convince myself whenever I slid from my usual optimism into full-blown panic over the combined 10 years in prison, with hard labor, and hefty fines I was facing if convicted. As it turns out, the district attorney announced he was rejecting all charges shortly after a federal court denied his motion to dismiss our suit in May.  Even if he’d pursued them, there’s no way the prosecutor could have won. I had written permission from landowners to be on their property, which lies deep in the Atchafalaya Basin,  and to report on resistance to construction of Energy Transfer’s Bayou Bridge pipeline. Water protectors had permission to be there too. In fact, it was the landowners who had requested their help after all other efforts to stop construction of the pipeline through their property, which is accessible only by boat, had failed. The 163-mile pipeline project to carry North Dakota oil through southern Louisiana, had drawn fierce opposition from the moment it was proposed. There were contentious public hearings, passionate rallies, marches and calls for state legislators to put a stop to the project — all covered  for DeSmog by Julie Dermansky, whose photos captured the passionate events and raw emotions. But in Louisiana, the fossil fuel industry has a history of getting its way.  Work on the pipeline began in January of 2018, and during that summer, as construction moved into the Atchafalaya Basin, so did the resistance. The Basin is the largest river swamp in North America, teeming with birds, fish, and wildlife. I’d reported on almost all of the pipeline resistance, from banner drops to non-violent actions, where seemingly fearless water protectors put their bodies on the line to stop construction. Most of the time, especially in the swamp, I was the only reporter or photographer on the scene. I felt lucky to be able to report on such an important story from such an amazingly beautiful place (and still do). While I made sure I had the landowners’ permission to be on the property where I was arrested, Energy Transfer did not.   The pipeline company knew it didn’t have permission to rip down centuries-old cypress trees and literally grind them into a pulp. It knew it didn’t have permission to carve a deep, water-logged trench through the pristine land, and it knew it didn’t have permission to pull an oil pipeline through the swampy soil in that trench.  But for Energy Transfer, the consequences for knowingly breaking the law were minuscule compared to the money that could be made by completing the project. So construction continued.  Months later — long after the pipeline was finished — a Louisiana judge would rule that Energy Transfer was indeed trespassing on a privately owned section of land in the basin. He ordered the company to pay the three landowners a whopping $75 each. Last year, an appellate court judge later bumped that up to $10,000 each, along with attorneys’ fees, writing that Energy Transfer had not only “trampled” the landowners’ rights, but “eviscerated the constitutional protections laid out to specifically protect those property rights.” My next story on the #BayouBridge pipeline will be out soon here’s what it looked like out there a few days ago.#ETP does not have legal permission to cut trees, dig a trench or run pipeline through this piece of land. #SwampReporting#louisiana#AtchafalayaBasin pic.twitter.com/ZnSlFKEcBR— Karen Savage (@mathsavage) August 27, 2018 Yet back on that sultry August day in 2018, none of that mattered. Nor did it matter that on that day none of us were arrested on the purported pipeline easement, the only part of the property that could — albeit with a stretch of the legal imagination — be considered “critical infrastructure” and therefore subject to the Louisiana law. Deputies from St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office, who were being paid to moonlight for the pipeline company at the time, arrested me anyway, along with three water protectors. If not for the district attorney’s decision not to prosecute me or any of the water protectors who would be arrested in the months that followed, it might have been a slam dunk for the fossil fuel industry. Inspired by model legislation created by the corporate-friendly American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the oil and gas industry wrote — and then lobbied state legislators in Louisiana and other states to pass — the felony trespass bill that eventually became law.  Through a security contractor, the pipeline company paid local sheriffs deputies to serve as its private mercenaries. Taking direction from pipeline construction workers, the deputies tackled, choked, pepper-sprayed, tased, and arrested water protectors, all under the pretext of enforcing the new felony law.  Designed to Chill Protest — and Reporting When the law was passed in 2018, Louisiana — like most states — already had trespassing laws. By raising those existing laws from misdemeanors to felonies with harsh penalties, Louisiana and dozens of states are censoring protestors’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights.  They’re also preventing journalists from reporting on those protests without fear of retribution.  In my mind, it’s no coincidence that my first arrest, in August, came the day after I’d interviewed with a state official, who I’d caught in a blatant lie. My second arrest, exactly one month later, was at a boat ramp miles from the nearest pipeline construction site. In fact, Louisiana’s law is so vague that most of the people who have been arrested for felony trespassing weren’t on an easement at the time of the arrest. Initially, the boat ramp arrest seemed completely random, until from the back of the police car I heard deputies over the radio discussing plans to arrest dozens of water protectors. Again, at a boat ramp miles from the nearest construction site. By then I’d already published a story and video showing law enforcement violently arresting water protectors in kayaks while working for the pipeline company. I would have similarly documented whatever the sheriff’s deputies and Energy Transfer  had planned that day — had I not been handcuffed in the back of a deputy’s squad car. I don’t know why the arrests deputies were planning that day never happened. I can only speculate that the presence of another photographer there that day may have played a role. I do know the felony charges against me — and fear of what would happen if I was arrested while on bail for two felonies — prevented me from covering some of the most important events of the past three years, including protests after the police murder of George Floyd. Election night I stayed home. I watched the January 6 insurrection on TV.   I wasn’t arrested because I was trespassing, but because of my willingness to report fairly and truthfully on a viewpoint — that pipeline construction harms the environment and exacerbates climate change — that oil companies, their trade groups, and fossil fuel–funded legislators in Louisiana, one of the most oil and gas-friendly states in the nation, don’t like. And when reporters are no longer allowed to report the truth, we all lose. The post I Was Targeted Under Louisiana’s Felony Trespassing Law for Reporting on Police Working for a Pipeline Company appeared first on DeSmog.
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[l] at 10/11/21 11:19pm
On October 11, Indigenous People’s Day, 136 people, including many Indigenous leaders opposing fossil fuel projects, were arrested in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., while calling on President Biden to declare a climate emergency and to stop approving fossil fuel projects. The day marked the first in a five-day-long series of protests in the nation’s capitol organized by the Build Back Fossil Free coalition, which is made up of numerous environmental and social justice advocacy groups.  Over the course of five days, thousands are expected to bring the message to Biden’s door that he must do more to protect the planet, and many demonstrators are coming prepared to participate in acts of civil disobedience, to make sure the President hears their message before next month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. These demonstrations, labeled People vs. Fossil Fuels, are being billed as a test for Biden.  Indigenous women calling for greater climate action in front of the White House. Credit: Julie Dermansky The People vs. Fossil Fuels rally in front of the White House on October 11. Credit: Julie Dermansky Pressure on Biden has been rising since he failed to acknowledge vocal, Indigenous-led protests to the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline, which went online October 1 in Minnesota. As DeSmog recently reported, Indigenous peoples in North America have helped block at least eight major fossil fuel projects, from oil pipelines to LNG export terminals, keeping enormous volumes of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. This morning, a few hundred activists marched from Freedom Square to the White House where Indigenous leaders spoke, mostly addressing President Biden, whom they called on to honor his campaign promises to protect the planet.  Casey Camp Horinek, tribal elder and environmental ambassador for Ponca Nation, marching to the White House on October 11. Credit: Julie Dermansky “We are going to put our bodies on the line there. If we have to be arrested in order to call attention to what the crisis is and that we need a climate emergency declared, we’ll do that,” said Casey Camp Horinek, long-time activist and tribal elder and environmental ambassador for Ponca Nation, located in what’s now Oklahoma. “There’s been 500 years of people coming into a territory where all things were interdependent and functioning to a time of crisis, where even Biden’s great-grandchildren won’t survive if something doesn’t change.” Casey Camp Horinek calling on President Biden to declare a climate emergency in front of the White House. Credit: Julie Dermansky “Joe Biden, you have been making false promises. You stopped Keystone XL — what about DAPL, Line 5, MVP?” Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux and a national pipeline campaign organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said following Horinek. “Biden has turned a fork tongue, and he needs to be held accountable to the promises he made to Indigenous nations when we helped elect him.” She added, “This is indigenous land. Indigenous peoples will be here for thousands of years. Biden, can you hear us now?”  Both Horinek and Braun were among those arrested during a sit-in at the White House fence. Joye Braun being led away from the front of the White House by police on October 11. Credit: Julie DermanksyCasey Camp Horinek led away by police after a sit-in as part of the People vs. Fossil Fuels rally. Credit: Julie Dermansky The rally on October 11 was the first of five days of climate protests and civil disobedience against policies favoring fossil fuels. Credit: Julie Dermansky “People are dying right now from the pollutants, the toxins, the climate catastrophes that are happening, and we have to stop the harm,” Siqiñiq Maupin, the executive director of Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic, told the crowd. She added that Biden relied on people of color, including Indigenous people, to get into office by promising to tackle climate change but that as President he is continuing to sacrifice their lives for oil and gas.  Climate protesters leave Freedom Square in Washington, D.C., on a march to the White House on October 11. Credit: Julie Dermansky Protester in front of the White House demanding that President Biden declare a climate emergency. Credit: Julie Dermansky After a few speeches while the group was singing this morning in front of the White House, the U.S. Park Police warned that everyone would be arrested if they did not disperse. Over a hundred remained in front of the White House, including Horinek, Braun, and Maupin.  Those who didn’t want to get arrested moved across the street to Lafayette Square.  Protesters in Lafayette Square. Credit: Julie Dermansky Protesters push back against unsecured barricades after Erica Jones, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe,was pulled away from the crowd in handcuffs. Credit: Julie Dermansky While the day’s event was mostly peaceful, tensions arose when Erica Jones, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, who was not among those planning to be arrested, was handcuffed by law enforcement and taken away from the group of protesters across from the White House. Protesting her arrest, some in the crowd pushed back against barricades that were not fastened together. Jones was ultimately let go, and the police were able to secure the barricades.  Law enforcement handcuffs a protester in front of the White House following a climate sit-in on October 11. Credit: Julie Dermansky Tensions grew between protesters and police when Indigenous climate activist Erica Jones of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe was handcuffed in front of the White House. Credit: Julie Dermansky While those who remained in front of the White House were being led away to be processed in tents nearby, the crowd cheered them on from Lafayette Square. Among them was a young girl who chanted, “Thank the water protectors,” over and over. She was given a megaphone and then led a “Water is life” chant, a rallying cry borne out of the Indigenous-led movement against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota.  Young girl chanting, Thank the water protectors” in front of the White House on October 11. Credit: Julie Dermansky People [were] handed a ticket and asked to pay a $50 fine,”  Jamie Henn, a media spokesperson for Build Back Fossil Free, told DeSmog, That may change tomorrow.” U.S. Park Police places a climate protesters hands in zip ties in front of the White House. Credit: Julie Dermansky Park Police carry away a climate protester after he refused to leave a sit-in next to the White House fence. Credit: Julie Dermansky Park Police put a man in zip ties during the People vs. Fossil Fuels rally in front of the White House. Credit: Julie Dermansky The post Indigenous Leaders Among the 136 Arrested at White House Fossil Fuel Protest appeared first on DeSmog.
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[l] at 10/11/21 7:08am
Nearly £2 trillion is invested in UK pension schemes which are failing to tackle climate change, campaigners have claimed. A review of major pension funds by divestment campaign group Make My Money Matter found 71 of 100 are yet to detail concrete plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The analysis, which used a list of top funds compiled by Professional Pensions, acknowledges that significant progress on divestment from fossil fuels has been made over the past 12 months – with an estimated £800 billion worth of UK pension money now in schemes working to tackle the climate crisis. However, campaigners say the majority of UK pension schemes which represent a total of £2.6 trillion continue to fall short of the Paris Agreement target to restrict global temperature rise to 1.5C. They are calling on the government to “catalyse” change by setting mandatory science-based net zero targets. “The report shows just how far we have to go,” said Richard Curtis, filmmaker and co-founder of the campaign. “With almost three quarters of leading pensions schemes not yet aligned with the goals of the Paris agreement, we have to act with urgency to make sure that the trillions in our pensions help tackle the climate crisis, not fuel the fire.”   ‘Robust’ Commitments Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell and the Bank of England were among the companies with pension schemes lacking adequate net zero plans, the research claimed. Campaigners said that progress varied among different schemes. According to the research, nearly all of the 15 largest Defined Contribution (DC) workplace pension providers where the pension is based on how much is put in have made concrete net zero commitments. In contrast, the majority of major Defined Benefit (DB) funds where both the person and employer contribute to the scheme were found to lag behind. While a number of the companies listed have made pledges to reach net zero emissions, this was not considered sufficient in the analysis. The campaign instead defines “robust commitment” to net zero as having science-based interim targets to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030.  As well as calling on pension schemes to increase net zero commitments and “avoid greenwashing”, campaigners are calling on the government to “catalyse this transition by legislating for net zero, making it mandatory for schemes (and the wider finance sector) to set and implement science-based net zero targets”. Responding to the research, Adam McGibbon, UK campaign lead at Market Forces, which coordinates groups of shareholders on climate issues, told DeSmog: “The science is crystal clear: Real climate action by pension funds means no investment in companies that are building new coal plants, coal mines or new oil and gas fields.  “This is the bare minimum that a responsible pension fund must commit to. If your pension fund isnt committed to this, you should be very worried about your money.” A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the government was opposed to the call for set targets. “We are encouraging organisations to commit to net zero in a way that works for them, and to publish a plan for doing so,” they said. “Pressure to comply with government-set mandatory targets would completely undermine trustees’ duty to invest in the best interests of their members, and would likely force immediate divestment from some stocks regardless of whether the company is showing meaningful attempts to reach net zero or not.” The post Seven in Ten Major UK Pension Funds Yet To Make Robust Net Zero Commitment, Say Campaigners appeared first on DeSmog.
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[l] at 10/11/21 5:32am
The UK’s most prominent climate science denial group has launched a new anti-net zero campaign to oppose the government’s green policies, a move experts dubbed the “latest tactic” from the “same old climate change deniers”, warning the public not to be “fooled” by the rebrand.  The “Net Zero Watch” website was unveiled today with the stated aim of discussing the “serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies”.  The site notes that it was set up and is managed by the Global Warming Policy Forum, the campaigning wing of the Foundation, which has rejected mainstream climate science and green measures for over a decade, recently calling for the upcoming COP26 UN climate summit to be cancelled.  The name of the new campaign echoes that of the “Net Zero Scrutiny Group” reportedly being set up in parliament by Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, who has said he will use GWPF research for the group. It is unclear if there is any explicit relationship between the two, however. Net Zero Watch (NZW) shares GWPF board members, including founder and former chancellor Lord Lawson and director Benny Peiser. The former GWPF URL now re-directs to the NZW site and the group’s Twitter account has been rebranded as Net Zero Watch.  The new website also hosts GWPF’s seven demands, published last month, which include calls to scrap a range of net zero emissions policies, and the removal of “fiscal and other disincentives to oil and gas exploration”, including fracking, to boost domestic production.  The campaign has been promoted on Twitter by former Brexit minister and Conservative MP Steve Baker, who recently became a GWPF trustee and last week told an event at the Conservative Party conference that much climate science is “contestable” and “sometimes propagandised”.  ‘Lukewarmer Propaganda’ The rebrand was criticised by experts and campaigners as a “ruse” to promote the GWPF’s anti-climate science agenda.  “Net Zero Watch is clearly just the latest tactic by the Global Warming Policy Foundation to promote lukewarmer propaganda”, said Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics.  “It will continue to spread false claims about the implications of reaching net zero emissions while also denying the risks of climate change. Same old climate change deniers, same old climate change denial.”  He added: “I hope nobody will be fooled and that journalists in particular quiz them about their secret sources of funding in this country and abroad.” A Greenpeace UK spokesperson said: “The people who spent the last twenty years campaigning to preserve our addiction to fossil fuels are transforming themselves into a radical new campaign to prolong our use of gas and petrol.  “Presumably in the hope that this sophisticated rebranding will fool the media into forgetting their history of being relentlessly wrong about everything climate-related.  “It’ll be interesting to see whether theres anyone out there with a memory short enough to fall for this ruse.” Richard Black, senior associate at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “Anyone who’s familiar with GWPF’s assembled body of flawed analysis won’t be surprised to see that the new organisation’s first offering is to claim to care about energy bills while promoting policy options that would increase bills for decades, namely nuclear and fracking. “Nevertheless it is encouraging to find GWPF has given up on pretty much all of its other canonical arguments – climate change won’t be that bad, adapting to impacts is better than trying to cut emissions, no other nation but Britain is decarbonising – an effective admission that it has lost on all of them.” He added: “Given the escalating cost of climate impacts and the tumbling cost of zero-carbon, plus the constant public support for climate solutions, GWPF will inevitably lose on this one, too: you can rebrand, but lipstick on a pig will always be obvious.” The Global Warming Policy Forum has been contacted for comment.  The post Climate Science Denial Group Rebrands as ‘Net Zero Watch’ appeared first on DeSmog.
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[l] at 10/8/21 1:41pm
On October 5, the Pennsylvania Attorney General unveiled criminal charges against the Mariner East 2 pipeline, a long-distance natural gas pipeline that traverses the state. Stemming from a grand jury investigation, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced 46 environmental crimes, plus an additional two charges that were referred to his office by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “There is a duty to protect our air and water, and when companies harm these vital resources through negligence — it is a crime,” Shapiro said in a statement. “By charging them, we can both seek to hold them criminally accountable and send a clear message to others about how seriously we take protecting the environment and public health.” A Pipeline Plagued by Problems The Mariner East 2 pipeline route traverses 17 counties, running more than 300 miles across the entire length of the state, and it is intended to carry natural gas liquids such as ethane and propane from the Marcellus Shale. But its construction has been plagued with problems for years. According to the grand jury report, Sunoco — which was eventually taken over by Dakota Access builder Energy Transfer — presided over problems from the very beginning of construction in 2017. The campaign to horizontally drill beneath streams, rivers, and waterways has caused a seemingly endless series of problems. The geology across much of Pennsylvania is prone to subsidence, which means the ground tends to collapse, sink, or shift. During construction that can result in large spills of drilling fluids, which can contaminate waterways. But the problems were compounded by Sunoco/Energy Transfer’s own missteps. Construction was rushed, and they had trouble finding contractors that could do the horizontal drilling jobs. They hired subcontractors from around the country who “were unfamiliar with Pennsylvania geology and water features,” the grand jury report stated. A former Sunoco employee said that the people hired to do the work were young and inexperienced. “Leaks and spills of drilling fluid began to occur almost immediately,” the report stated. While the Mariner East 2 Pipeline was being constructed, thousands of gallons of fluid was allowed to escape and sometimes surfaced in fields, lakes, and wetlands. There’s a duty to protect our air and water, and when companies harm these vital resources — it’s a crime. pic.twitter.com/eqs41588cs— AG Josh Shapiro (@PAAttorneyGen) October 6, 2021 Attorney General Shapiro said that Energy Transfer dramatically underreported the extent of its spills. The grand jury report notes that when an independent engineering firm named ARM Group analyzed the drilling logs for just a small portion of the pipeline’s construction, it found nearly 400 spills. Energy Transfer reported fewer than 100. In one instance, a subcontractor named Laney Directional Drilling was drilling underneath Raystown Lake in central Pennsylvania in 2017. Drilling fluid and its additives escaped outside of the drilling path eight separate times, resulting in the loss of 780,000 gallons of fluids, and none of the instances were reported to state regulators.  State data also shows that Mariner East 2 has received well over a hundred “notices of violations” from state environmental regulators, resulting in millions of dollars in fines. In 2020, independent watchdog FracTracker Alliance analyzed many of the problems with the Mariner East 2 construction, documenting more than 300 spills of drilling muds. FracTracker even mapped the spills, which depict problems along the entire route. “Its ruined peoples drinking water, its damaged popular waterways. Its had sinkholes. Its been shut down a number of times. Theres been whistleblowers. Now theres this new Attorney Generals report,” Erica Jackson, manager of community outreach at FracTracker, told DeSmog. “Its kind of like a test of how terrible a pipeline can be constructed without being completely shut down and having its permits revoked.” As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, internal documents from Energy Transfer show that more than 180 people have reported problems with their water after construction arrived. Attorney General Shapiro says the number is likely higher because Energy Transfer has inked nondisclosure agreements with many more people. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announces criminal charges against Mariner East 2 at a press conference on October 5, 2021. Blowing the Whistle In 2020, a geologist-turned-whistleblower who previously worked on the pipeline said that Sunoco/Energy Transfer prevented him and other geologists from inspecting the dangers of subsidence, prevented him from speaking to drillers, and blocked access to drill sites, as reported by State Impact. He said that Sunoco/Energy Transfer told him to change the name of subsidence to “earth feature” in official reports. He alleges that he was fired after he reported a sinkhole to Chester County in eastern Pennsylvania. “Sunoco is so scared of what its scientists will find in investigating its pipeline construction that it’s muzzled them and doctored their reports,” Joseph Minott, executive director and chief counsel of Clean Air Council, which sued Sunoco/Energy Transfer on the whistleblower’s behalf, said at the time. The technical challenges of drilling through terrain vulnerable to subsidence, sinkholes, and other geological obstacles is potentially insurmountable, according to Dan Zegart, a senior investigator at the Climate Investigations Center, a watchdog group. “The fact of the matter is the pipeline is not buildable. Its not achievable. The company doesnt know what its doing,” he told DeSmog. He noted that construction has occurred dangerously close to some dense neighborhoods in Chester and Delaware Counties in eastern Pennsylvania, not too far from Philadelphia. The construction has occurred around-the-clock for years, but the company is still struggling to make progress. “The fact that theyve been in some of these neighborhoods since 2017 tells me that they cant do it,” Zegart said. Energy Transfer is “a company that has a track record of irresponsible building, harassing homeowners through eminent domain, ignoring environmental impediments,” Zegart said. “It is first among equals in an industry that really doesnt give a damn about the environment and just plows ahead.” Energy Transfer did not respond to a request for comment. What’s Next The environmental crimes announced by Attorney General Shapiro may result only in fines, even if they are successfully prosecuted. No individuals will be personally charged, a shortcoming that Shapiro readily admitted. “Under our state laws, if convicted, this company will be sentenced to fines and restitution. There is no jail time for these environmental crimes, and fines are not enough,” Shapiro said. “That’s why we are, once again, calling for stronger laws to hold these companies accountable and protect Pennsylvanians’ health, and demanding DEP toughen up the independent oversight we need them to provide for the industries they regulate.” Six Pennsylvania representatives and three state senators cosigned a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf, calling on him to halt construction of Mariner East 2 and revoke its permits. “This report confirms that the Mariner East project should never have been approved in the first place and remains an ongoing threat to communities across our state,” they wrote. Environmental groups also called on Gov. Wolf to halt construction. Today, I joined House and Senate colleagues in sending a letter to @GovernorTomWolf, @PennsylvaniaDEP Secretary McDonnell, and @PA_PUC Chairperson Dutrieuille urging them to take immediate action: pic.twitter.com/xK1ILICHct— Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (@RepDanielle) October 6, 2021 It is not clear if Gov. Wolf will act. “This was a pipeline that from the beginning was forced through the regulatory process by sheer dint of political power,” Zegart said. He pointed to previous reporting from The Guardian in 2019 that suggests that the office of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf leaned on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to “cut short their environmental review.” A few weeks later, DEP approved the pipeline. Gov. Wolf took in around $1.5 million in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry during his 2014 election campaign. The governor has repeatedly called on the General Assembly to strengthen existing laws on permitting processes to hold permittees to the highest level of accountability, Rachel Kostelac, deputy press secretary for Gov. Wolf, said in a statement to DeSmog. The administration appreciates the diligence of the Office of Attorney General through the course of the investigation and will review the charges and determine if any additional actions are appropriate at this time. But critics say that Gov. Wolf has a poor track record of taking on the gas industry. “The fact of the matter is the Wolf administration, while talking tough, has done nothing to rein in this pipeline. Absolutely nothing,” Zegart said. “The Department of Environmental Protection hasnt done anything either.” In Pennsylvania, “fracking is king,” he said. The post Mariner East 2 Pipeline Charged with 48 Environmental Crimes in Pennsylvania appeared first on DeSmog.
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[l] at 10/8/21 8:21am
The eating of wild meat in tropical forests could generate carbon credits through avoided emissions, a new paper has claimed but other academics have said the study shows the limitations of a “carbon-only” approach. The research, published in science journal Nature on Thursday, analysed studies conducted between 1972 and 2019 on the diets of around 150,000 residents from 49 tropical forest sites, including in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. Authors from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Brazil’s Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul found that communities consuming wild meat may “spare” the equivalent of 71 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year compared with a scenario where wild meat was replaced with beef, or three metric tonnes of CO2 per year if replaced with poultry. The paper also claims that supporting continued sustainable wild meat consumption by these communities could help generate up to $3 million (£2.2 million) in carbon credit revenues, and incentivise forest conservation. ‘Unsound’ Co-author Professor Carlos Peres said the results “clearly illustrate the potential value and importance of considering sustainable game hunting within the REDD+ political process at both national and international scales”.  The term REDD+ refers to the United Nations framework to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the conservation and sustainable management of forests and forest carbon stocks.  Under the United Nations emissions carbon trading scheme, developed countries are theoretically able to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by paying for carbon “credits”, with each one representing one tonne of carbon dioxide that has been “avoided” elsewhere. However, critics have raised concerns over the environmental integrity of chosen projects, the difficulties of measuring carbon storage or assessing whether projects would have gone ahead without the schemes, and the low price of carbon credits. Authors of this study claim that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has so far failed to recognise and incorporate subsistence hunting and the role of wild meat in forest governance. But the paper’s suggestion of applying carbon credits to bushmeat consumption has attracted fierce criticism from a number of academics. Jennifer Jacquet, associate professor of environmental studies at New York University, described the study as “absurd”. “The premise here is that we should pay people for eating wild animals, on the grounds that if they were not eating wild animals they would be eating cows. In addition to being silly, this is a very unsound empirical claim,” she told DeSmog. “It’s disappointing to see any conversation about the food system so exclusively focused on carbon and carbon markets,” she added. “We have to consider a much broader range of issues about any food system’s impacts — whether it’s the impacts on farmed animals or wild animals, broader ecological effects, or, of course, the issue of distribution.”  ‘Carbon-Only Approach’ The authors briefly address potential concerns from promoting sustainable bushmeat hunting, such as the risk of illegal hunting and the spread of disease. The paper suggests that rather than a “blanket ban” on subsistence hunting and wild meat trading, hunters could be trained to monitor animal health and game populations. But a number of researchers say the potential transmission of zoonotic diseases was virtually “ignored” by the paper, despite the probable origins of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in animal markets, which have led to calls for a total ban on the wild meat trade. Matthew Hayek, assistant professor of environmental studies at NYU, criticised the study for “embodying the absurdity of a carbon-only approach”. “The authors want to subsidize bushmeat consumption because it spares deforestation/GHGs?!,” he wrote on Twitter. “Pandemic zoonotic diseases from bushmeat are an existential risk on par with climate change.” Jan Dutkiewicz, a policy fellow at Harvard Law School researching large-scale conventional meat production, said the “very poor and myopic framing” of the study had “ignored the zoonotic disease emergence risk of bushmeat hunting” as well as seeking to commodify traditional hunting by binding it to international carbon credit markets.  “This is based on the dubious assumption of emissions savings from not making an assumed switch to conventional cattle meat, the highest possible emitting animal species,” Dutkiewicz told DeSmog. He added that the study only applied to 150,000 people, meaning the overall climate impact is “virtually meaningless”. ‘Major Opportunity’ Peres rejected the accusations raised against the study.  Responding to criticisms about the limited reference to the potential of wild meat trade for zoonotic transmission, he said the paper only attempted to deal with the “spared carbon footprint value of wild meat consumption, rather than other ecosystem services or disservices, including any possible zoonotic transmission”. He told Desmog the authors had identified a “major opportunity to implement local governance of sustainable wild meat hunting, which will otherwise continue to happen in any case, largely in low-governance tropical forest systems”. “We never say we should pay people to either eat or not eat wild meat, but this is a fact of life that will continue to happen in any case whether or not we like it,” he added.  “We are not promoting hunting as a carbon mitigation option, but only pointing out that this is widespread and targets extremely low-carbon animal protein compared to the livestock sector.” The post Wild Meat Consumption in Tropical Forests Could be Converted into Carbon Credits, Controversial Paper Suggests appeared first on DeSmog.
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[l] at 10/7/21 6:34am
George Osborne’s work for an investment bank that counts BP among its major clients presents a “glaring conflict of interest” with his new role as chair of the British Museum, campaigners have said. The former UK chancellor is currently employed as a full-time partner at “boutique” investment bank Robey Warshaw, which has worked with the oil giant in recent years, including on its £7.7 billion purchase of US shale assets from BHP Group in 2018. The choice of Osborne as chair of the museum, which he joins this week, has raised fresh concerns over the institution’s close ties to BP, one of its longest-standing corporate sponsors. Ahead of starting work at Robey Warshaw, Osborne left his job as a senior advisor at asset manager Blackrock, one of the world’s largest funders of fossil fuels, and as editor-in-chief of the London Evening Standard newspaper. “The museum’s highly controversial BP sponsorship deal is up for renewal next year, and it needs to make clear that the new chair will have no role in deciding the future of the BP partnership given this glaring conflict of interest,” said Chris Garrard, co-director at Culture Unstained, a campaign group which aims to end oil sponsorship of the arts. “BP’s oil and gas drilling plans remain on a collision course with global climate goals and, just weeks away from the COP26 climate summit, the museum must show it intends to act responsibly on climate change.” Oil Sponsorship The museum, which BP has “generously” supported since 1996, according to its website, has come under increasing pressure to end the corporate sponsorship in recent years. In May, activists targeted The British Museum to demonstrate against its financial relationship with BP. Last year protests were held over BP’s sponsorship of an event on ancient Greece at the British Museum. Several cultural institutions have now announced they are severing ties with fossil fuel companies, including the Tate, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. Protesters have also targeted the Science Museum over an exhibition on climate change sponsored by Shell. In August, Channel 4 News revealed that the museum had signed a “gagging clause” saying it would not publicly criticise its sponsor, following an investigation by Culture Unstained.  Rachel Kennerley, international climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “No sponsorship deal or empty net zero pledge is big enough to disguise the fact that BP continues to fuel climate breakdown.  “Responsible museums, galleries, and theatres, recognising this, have washed their hands of dirty money from polluters like BP. Instead of propping up Big Oil, the British Museum should be severing ties to the industry, which they’ll have the chance to do next year.  “But appointing a chair with known links to the oil giant suggests that protecting the planet remains far down the museum’s priority list.” Zack Polanski, the Green Party’s spokesperson on democracy and citizen engagement, said: “George Osborne was the Tory chancellor who wanted to apply the brakes to the UK’s efforts to tackle climate change, and offered one of the world’s most generous tax breaks for the fracking industry. “This makes him ideally qualified to work for an investment bank that advised BP on its $10.5 billion purchase of US shale oil and gas assets.  “A pro-fracking chancellor, a bank advising on the acquisition of fossil fuel assets and a giant oil company is a toxic cocktail. Small wonder staff at the British museum want to refuse BP’s dirty oil money.” A British Museum spokesperson said they had procedures in place to manage conflicts of interest, which are published on its website. When asked, the spokesperson declined to say whether the museum believes a conflict of interest exists in this case. “The museum manages these issues on a case by case basis taking into account the specific circumstances and topics being discussed by the board at each meeting,” they said. Robey Warshaw and BP did not respond to a request for comment.  The post George Osborne’s Banking Job a ‘Conflict of Interest’ With New Role at BP-Sponsored British Museum appeared first on DeSmog.

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