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[l] at 3/2/24 7:00am
This story originally was published on Gas Outlook. (Cameron, Louisiana) — Phillip Dyson has been a commercial fisherman in Cameron, Louisiana for 49 years. His father fished before him, and his son and grandson also fish, shrimp, and oyster in the brackish waters where the Calcasieu River empties out into the Gulf of Mexico. Even his great-grandson is getting into the family trade. “Always in Cameron,” Dyson said. Even in a state famous for its seafood, Cameron once stood out. A few decades ago, Cameron was the largest producer of seafood in the entire country, hauling in hundreds of millions of pounds of fish, shrimp, and oysters each year. But those days are long gone. Cameron Parish is still home to a dwindling number of commercial fishermen. Two decades ago, there were around 250 commercial fishing vessels in Cameron. “We’re down to about 16 now,” Dyson said. “The hurricanes hurt us. It wiped the place out. But we always come back and rebuild,” Dyson said. “But, as the ships are getting bigger, every year the [fish catch] is lower, lower, and lower.” By ships, Dyson is referring to the massive tankers carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG). In just a few short years, the U.S. has emerged as the largest exporter of LNG in the world. Many LNG terminals were built with the aim of shipping the tidal wave of cheap American shale gas overseas, a trend that was supercharged after Russia’s war in Ukraine, which sent global LNG prices skyrocketing. The U.S. now has eight LNG terminals in operation, another seven under construction, and more than a dozen in various stages of the permitting process. With just a few exceptions, the LNG building boom is concentrated almost entirely in Texas and Louisiana. But the border region between the two states is arguably the most heavily impacted of all — a roughly 60-mile stretch from Port Arthur, Texas to Cameron, Louisiana and then north to Hackberry along Calcasieu Lake. Commercial fishermen in southwest Louisiana say that the growth of LNG is putting them out of business. They are particularly outraged at Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass LNG facility, which sits at the mouth of the Calcasieu River on the Gulf of Mexico. The facility has been flaring on and off for the better part of two years, hobbled by persistent equipment malfunctions. Noise and air pollution have made life difficult for nearby residents. Phillip Dyson, who has been a commercial fisherman in Cameron for nearly 50 years. Credit: Nick Cunningham/Gas Outlook “My wife has been sick for three months,” Dyson said. He too started having respiratory problems, and began using an inhaler. “I get up in the morning, I can’t breathe. Go to bed at night and I can’t breathe.” He doesn’t smoke or drink, and is convinced the pollution from the LNG plant is the cause of his family’s declining health. The commercial fishing industry in southwest Louisiana is in freefall. While there is a combination of factors, including impacts from hurricanes and competition from cheap seafood imports, Cameron’s fishermen also say that they are being forced out by LNG companies. “They want you gone. They’re just making it harder and harder, trying to push you out,” Dyson said. When asked what Cameron would look like in five years, Dyson was quick to respond. “LNG,” he said. Shrinking Access The Calcasieu River is more of a ship channel than a natural river, engineered in a straight line to move industrial products to and from the large petrochemical complexes 50 miles north in Lake Charles. Cameron sits at the end of that river, the gateway to the Gulf. That means that it sees a tremendous amount of ship traffic — not only from Calcasieu Pass LNG, but also from Sempra Infrastructure’s Cameron LNG, located about 20 miles upriver, plus ships servicing the sprawling chemical facilities further north. The LNG tankers are bigger and more disruptive than anything that came before them. They displace so much water, that when they pass by, the water level suddenly drops back down several feet, dragging down dirt and trees along the river banks. “Sometimes when they pass, the trees fall in and they wash all over the place,” Dyson said. The erosion and the silt buildup make it difficult for shrimp larvae, fish eggs and oysters to grow. “Nothing can grow in there. And every year it gets worse.” Those impacts are compounded by dredging. In order to keep the ship channel deep enough and wide enough to accommodate gigantic LNG tankers, dredging ships routinely scour the river bed and dump the sludge elsewhere, which is also contributing to the decline in fish populations, fishermen say. Studies show that dredging can be lethal to fish and shrimp eggs and larvae. “There is good evidence to show that dredging can impact eggs and larvae, with larvae being especially sensitive to increased suspended sediment from both dredging and increased erosion,” Amelia Wenger, a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia, who has studied the impacts of dredging on fish, told Gas Outlook. “Sediment can attach to eggs and larvae and weigh them down, smother them, and for larvae, clog gills.” A view of Calcasieu River in Louisiana. Credit: Nick Cunningham/Gas Outlook But it isn’t just the environmental impacts. LNG operations are preventing fishermen from doing their work. Fishing boats are not allowed to get near LNG tankers, and must keep their distance. That’s a problem when LNG tankers are passing through the ship channel on a daily basis, severely curtailing the time that fishers and shrimpers can be out on the water. “As more and more barges are coming and going, it’s just going to be untenable for them to even access the water,” Zachary Norris, a senior attorney at the Niskanen Center, a legal nonprofit based in Washington DC that represents a group of fishermen opposing Venture Global’s CP2 LNG project, told Gas Outlook. “And we’re talking about folks who have been there for generations.” Perhaps the biggest grievance the fishing community has is that Venture Global has gobbled up and shut down nearly all the boat launches in Cameron. The remaining shrimp boats are confined to one dock at the edge of the ship channel. Fishermen have showed up to local government meetings to complain. Venture Global built a replacement boat launch, but it was too small to handle most commercial fishing boats. “We used to have boats tied up all along here, all along where the LNG is at. Now we’re all right here,” Travis Dardar told Gas Outlook during an interview on his boat, referring to the multiple boat launches along the Calcasieu River that are now shutdown. Travis Dardar, a local fisherman and opponent of Louisiana LNG expansion, on his boat. Credit: Nick Cunningham/Gas Outlook He said they can only lease space at the dock for one year at a time, down from the typical three-year lease. He thinks that is another sign that their days of commercial fishing in Cameron are numbered. Several more LNG projects are on the drawing board, which will likely mean gas companies buying up even more space on the water. The squeeze on the fishing community from Venture Global’s operations couldn’t come at a worse time. Louisiana fishers and shrimpers are reeling from a flood of cheap imports, which is suppressing prices, they say. The price of shrimp is down to 50 cents per pound, whereas it used to between $3 and $4. “You ain’t buying nothing for 50 cents,” Dyson said. “It takes three dollars to buy a bottle of tea to drink. That’s six pounds of shrimp.” Dyson said his nephew recently quit commercial fishing because “he couldn’t take the bullshit anymore.” Some fishermen are taking their boats further east to Vermillion Bay because fishing in Cameron is no longer viable. “Fishermen are down, brother. More down than I’ve ever fucking seen,” Dardar said. “I seen it bad, but I ain’t never seen it this bad.” Fishermen Organize Against Louisiana LNG Dardar has become something of a minor celebrity in Cameron, waging a campaign along with other fishermen against Venture Global, a fight that has ballooned into a national movement. A coalition of national environmental groups, teaming up with local communities and Gulf Coast fishermen, forced the LNG issue into the spotlight. They have made Venture Global’s proposed CP2 — which would add another 24 million tonnes of LNG per year, essentially tripling the size of the existing Calcasieu Pass LNG facility — the face of the campaign. Dardar has been a kind of unofficial spokesman for the remaining commercial fishermen in southwest Louisiana, warning that LNG is making life untenable. An LNG tanker docked at Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass LNG. Credit: Nick Cunningham/Gas Outlook “That CP2 that they’re trying to build, that’s the nail in the coffin right there,” he said. He set up a non-profit called Fishermen Involved in Sustaining our Heritage (FISH), with the mission of fighting the Louisiana LNG expansion and also providing mutual aid to struggling fishermen. As Gas Outlook spoke with him on his shrimp boat on a foggy late January day, there was a knock at the door. A man said he needed some money for a boat repair, and heard that FISH was offering help. “Just go to my website, it’s really easy,” Dardar told him. Dardar’s phone kept ringing. Other media outlets were trying to get a hold of him. A day earlier he had spoken to a group of farmers in another part of the state. A few days before that he appeared at an anti-LNG rally in New Orleans, where fishermen brought their boats to a convention centre and disrupted an oil and gas conference. He met Jane Fonda, who has taken up the fight against LNG. She gave him words of encouragement. At the time, there were rumours swirling that the White House was about to make an announcement. National environmental groups had planned a protest in front of the Department of Energy in Washington DC, scheduled for early February. Dardar had been afraid of flying, but suddenly found himself on planes to spread the word. And he was determined to go to DC and get arrested if need be. That turned out not to be necessary. A few days later, the Biden administration issued a pause on permit approvals for new LNG projects, a major win for the campaign against LNG. The pause will delay the permit application for Venture Global’s CP2 project for at least a year, maybe longer. More than a dozen other projects were also impacted by the decision. Dardar ended up going to DC anyway, but instead of protesting, he appeared at a victory rally headlined by several U.S. Senators. While many in the room celebrated, the decision arguably came too late for fishermen like Dardar. “I thank you all for this pause, but at the same time, Calcasieu Pass 1 LNG is still taking docks, destroying estuaries, and killing shrimp and oysters,” he said at the event. “We’ve paid a hell of a price, with our lives. I think that’s enough.” “The fishing has dropped about 50 percent since this thing’s been going,” he told Gas Outlook, referring to Calcasieu Pass LNG. “They need to compensate every fisherman, not for CP2 and not for what they want to do, but for the damages that they’ve done. Because the damage is done.” A photograph of Cameron, signposted “Louisiana’s fishing paradise,” from cerca 1970, decades before the birth of the Louisiana LNG industry. Credit: Nick Cunningham/Gas Outlook Precise data on fish catches in Cameron is difficult to access. Gas Outlook requested data from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which provided data on oyster populations. That showed a precipitous drop in oyster stocks in Calcasieu Lake over the past 15 years, although the decline began before Venture Global’s plant started operations. Data on shrimp and crab stocks was not available at a local level. Numbers on the volume of shrimp and oysters that was actually harvested is considered confidential and is not publicly available, a spokesman for the department told Gas Outlook. But the Niskanen Center says that the Louisiana LNG industry is pushing commercial fishing in the southwest of the state to the brink of extinction. “The expectation of the fisher folks on the ground is that with this second facility [CP2], that they’re just done. Between the access issues and the impact to the fish stocks and the distribution of shrimp and oysters in the area, it’ll just put them completely out of business,” Norris said. “This has been a fishing and shrimping based economy. As recently as a generation ago, Cameron Parish was one of the biggest fishing and shrimping markets in the world,” he added. “And now we’re looking at the complete annihilation of an industry.” Housing in the once-vibrant fishing community of Cameron Parish, Louisiana. LNG now threatens the fishing industry. Credit: Nick Cunningham/Gas Outlook It is precisely against this bleak backdrop that Venture Global and its backers say Louisiana LNG is needed. The existing Calcasieu Pass facility and its sequel, CP2, will bring jobs and investment in a place that lacks both. And given the region’s concentration of heavy industry, to some, the LNG buildout is consistent with its economic history. At public hearings, there is certainly some support in Cameron Parish for more LNG. But the economic benefits may be overstated, not least because the state of Louisiana is handing out enormous tax exemptions. Venture Global received tax exemptions for Calcasieu Pass valued at more than $184 million, a figure that only accounts for its first year of operations. As the Louisiana Illuminator noted, the state board that approved the tax break did so “without much discussion.” The company is also building a separate LNG facility in southeast Louisiana, called Plaquemines LNG. For that project, Venture Global is receiving $834 million in tax exemptions, according to The Lens. The tax benefits offered by Louisiana come even as Venture Global is posting enormous profits. Between the start of operations at Calcasieu Pass in early 2022 through the end of 2024, gas shipments will have earned the company around $17.5 billion. Like many oil and gas facilities, Calcasieu Pass is heavy on capital, but light on employment. The plant only created 240 permanent jobs. CP2 is expected to create 260 jobs. Many workers drive from in Lake Charles or Port Arthur, and don’t live in Cameron. In its final environmental impact statement for CP2, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) noted the increased jobs to conclude that the project was economically beneficial, but did not assess the lost jobs in commercial fishing. Likewise, FERC acknowledged the environmental harms to shrimp and fish populations, but said those impacts would not be significant. That process is organized to benefit the industry, says James Hiatt, a former oil refinery worker and founder of For a Better Bayou, a Louisiana-based NGO that is campaigning against LNG and speaking up for commercial fishermen. “If all we do is checking boxes — well, they checked all the boxes,” Hiatt said. “But people are not boxes.” “Fishing is hard work. And that’s what they want to do. This is what they love,” he said. “And it used to be sustainable. You used to be able to make a living and have a life.” James Hiatt, a former oil refinery worker and founder of For a Better Bayou, a local NGO. Credit: Nick Cunningham/Gas Outlook Venture Global did not respond to email and phone inquiries from Gas Outlook. Cameron Parish Police Juror Magnus “Sonny” McGee, who represents the district that hosts Calcasieu Pass LNG, also did not respond to questions. Displaced Again Living in the shadow of Calcasieu Pass, Dardar and his wife began having health problems. Constant flaring at the LNG site made life in Cameron unbearable. It “seemed like at times you’d wake up gasping for air over here,” he said. Last year, Dardar moved his family two hours away to the town of Kaplan. “You wouldn’t believe the difference in the way we breathe,” he said. He still makes the drive down to Cameron to fish, and he sleeps on his boat for several days at a time before returning home. He is still trying to keep his fishing business afloat in Cameron, but doesn’t know how much longer he can hold on. Still, he is motivated by fighting to protect the livelihoods of fishermen and “standing in the fire with them,” as he put it. It was not the first time Dardar was forced to move away. He is originally from an Indigenous community in Isle de Jean Charles, in southeast Louisiana. “When I was growing up a kid it was a paradise. Beautiful place. If you wanted something to eat, you just walk out your front door,” he said. But Isle de Jean Charles is rapidly eroding into the Gulf of Mexico, battered by hurricanes and rising sea levels. In 2016, the U.S. government provided federal funding to relocate residents because of sea level rise, which made it the first case of organized climate migration. Dardar was raised by his grandparents, but after they died, he decided it was time to move. “I watched that place disappear,” he said. He brought his oyster boat to Cameron about eight years ago and the fishing was excellent. “Back then, by 8:30 in the morning, our day was made. We were waiting for the bank to open,” he said. A view of Holly Beach in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. Credit: Nick Cunningham/Gas Outlook But after Calcasieu Pass LNG began operations, things started to decline pretty quickly. He said LNG and fishing are completely incompatible. “They sacrificed one industry for another. They sacrificed our commercial fishing industry for the petrochemical industry. And that’s bullshit,” he said. “We didn’t want this LNG to start with. We was just fine without it.” The post Louisiana LNG Could Be Nail in the Coffin for Local Fishermen appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 3/1/24 4:05pm
As Albertas moratorium on renewable energy development comes to an end, Premier Danielle Smith has announced a new set of regulations critics argue will handicap the province’s economy. The province has outlined 13 new regulations limiting wind and solar projects near agriculture land and other proposed “protected” areas. These include the creation of 35-kilometre buffer zones intended to protect what the province has termed “pristine viewscapes” from wind power development. The new rules followed a seven month moratorium that halted development of more than 100 wind and solar projects in the province, worth an estimated $33 billion. Smith’s new regulations have been widely condemned for creating unnecessary uncertainty, and undermining a fast-growing, multi-billion dollar renewable energy sector that provided direct financial stimulus to rural communities. According to the CBC, 92 percent of all new renewable energy generation and capacity built in Canada in 2023 took place in Alberta. Jorden Dye, director of Business Renewables Centre Canada, called Smith’s new announcement a “soft moratorium” that has already harmed the industry. BRC-Canada has estimated that between 2019 and the end of 2023, renewable energy projects in Alberta created more than 6,000 jobs, involved a capital investment of $6.3 billion, and produced enough energy to power 1.7 million homes. “By introducing three new regulatory frameworks without details, investors and developers are left wondering what this actually means for their projects,” Dye said in a statement. “Investors required certainty, and the government offered confusion.”  Nagwan Al-Guneid, Alberta NDP’s energy and climate critic, released a statement immediately following Smith’s announcement calling the moratorium and new rules anti-business. Al-Guneid called on the premier to release documents revealing how the government developed its renewable energy policies. Why the moratorium was instituted in the first place remains unclear. As previously reported in The Narwhal, though the Smith government insisted they were responding to concerns from landowners, municipalities, the grid operator and the provincial regulator, heavily redacted documents obtained through a freedom of information request indicate that Smith was already discussing a planned moratorium within a month of the spring 2023 provincial election, well before the time she previously indicated receiving letters of concern. To date, there is no clear explanation for why the government instituted the moratorium. DeSmog recently reported that an anti-renewable energy group called Wind Concerns — which has denied climate change and calls carbon dioxide the “gas of life” — had a private meeting with premier Smith. Wind Concerns blames wind turbines for the deaths of birds and bats, has called the renewable energy source “grotesque,” and claims the global scientific consensus on the cause of climate change is misinformation.  Stephen Legault, Senior Manager, Alberta Energy Transition with Environmental Defence, decried what he called the premier’s ideological opposition to renewable power.  In a prepared statement, Legault said the premier’s announcement “demonstrates a profound lack of foresight” and that Smith has failed to recognize that “global market forces have already shifted to favour clean, inexpensive renewable energy.”  “Placing restrictions on solar, wind, and geothermal power that don’t apply to climate change causing oil and gas development will put Alberta’s burgeoning renewable energy industry at risk, and cost Albertans more for their energy,” said Legault. Prior to the imposition of Smith’s moratorium on renewables last August, Alberta led Canada in solar and wind power investment. Alberta is consistently ranked as one of the sunniest places in Canada, as well as having conditions favorable to profitable wind  energy development. Through land taxes, these renewable energy projects proved profitable to rural communities: dozens received $28 million from wind and solar projects in 2022. According to BRC-Canada, this would rise to $227 million annually by 2028 if all currently planned projects are completed. Not only are the new regulations expected to sap investment in what had been a rapidly growing sector and deny important new revenue streams to rural citizens and municipalities, by discouraging renewable investment, Danielle Smith has interfered with the free market. This will likely keep electricity costs artificially higher than what might otherwise be accomplished. According to Environmental Defence, wind and solar are the least expensive sources of energy available in Canada. Solar power costs have contracted by 90 percent in the last decade; wind power by 70 percent.  The new regulations propose to ban solar and wind projects on prime agricultural land, though BRC-Canada estimates the vast majority of solar and wind projects in the province are only built on low-grade agricultural land. Applicants will now have to prove solar or wind projects can coexist with livestock or crops, though this has in fact been known for some time. Unlike fossil fuel energy production — which tends to make the land around it unsuitable for any other purposes — renewable energy systems help decarbonize agriculture, provide an additional revenue stream for farmers and ranchers, and further help decarbonize electrical grids. BRC-Canada’s Dye is also concerned about the vagueness of the viewscapes requirement. “Taken at face value, an unprecedented 35-kilometre buffer zone around all protected areas would eliminate 76 percent of southern Alberta and would create a backdoor land ban. Any project that’s even close to a protected area, or what might be considered a protected area, can’t move forward until there’s certainty from the provincial government.” The bulk of Alberta’s population lives in its southern half, which is also where the majority of new solar and wind power investment has occurred in recent years. Smith’s new regulations are unique to the renewable energy sector — placing restrictions that do not apply to other industries or land uses. Landowners in Alberta legally cannot refuse oil and gas companies from exploring on their land, but according to the new regulations, could be prevented from developing solar or wind power systems. It’s a situation Jason Wang, senior analyst at the Pembina Institute, calls patently unfair. “Landowners in affected areas can no longer invite a renewable energy project on their land, maximizing their potential revenue, if their land falls under these new land restrictions,” said Wang in a statement. “These restrictions will lead to fewer projects, slow the growth of clean and inexpensive electricity, and curtail an otherwise reliable and growing source of municipal tax revenue.”According to Environmental Defence, the Alberta government’s moratorium and new regulations will likely make it impossible for Alberta — and Canada — to achieve Paris Agreement targets for carbon dioxide emissions reductions. The post Alberta’s Wind and Solar Regulations Put More Than 6,000 Jobs at Risk, Critics Say appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 3/1/24 11:14am
The agriculture sector has spent millions of dollars on discrediting plant-based diets, a new report has claimed.  The report, published by the consumer advocacy organisation Freedom Food Alliance on Thursday (29 February), found that multinational meat companies and lobby groups were using industry-funded research, public ad campaigns and educational materials to sway public opinion on meat and dairy. The Disinformation Report: Harvesting Denial, Distractions & Deception suggests that the industry is sidestepping accountability for its role in greenhouse emissions. By denying, derailing, delaying, and deflecting meaningful discussions around the sector’s key issues, the agriculture industry is using the same tactics as the tobacco and fossil fuel lobbies.  The report outlines coordinated social media attacks on nutritional science, and the portrayal of the industry as targets of anti-meat militancy. Livestock accounts for more than 14 percent of all global emissions, with meat making up nearly 60 percent of all greenhouse gases from food production. Experts say that major cuts to meat and dairy consumption – particularly in wealthy nations – are essential to meet international climate goals.  “Animal agriculture giants are waging a disinformation war, threatening public health and the planet,” said Nicholas Carter, the report’s lead researcher.  “We call for robust legislation, an end to greenwashing, and strict accountability for these major polluters.” Misleading Ads The report pointed to widespread advertising campaigns that downplay the impacts of the animal agriculture industry. JBS, the world’s largest meat conglomerate, widely advertised its pledge to reach net zero by 2040 including in full screen online commercials in the Washington Post. A report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a nonprofit advocacy organisation, claimed the Brazilian company’s targets omit around 90 percent of all their emissions, including those from deforestation to create pastures and feed for livestock. (In a response, JBS said that the report used “flawed methodology and grossly extrapolated data to make misleading claims”.) The livestock industry is also making an effort to target young people, researchers said.  In the U.S. and Canada, companies are providing free educational materials and support to schools, while in low-dairy consuming countries in Southeast Asia the #UndeniablyDairy campaign is partnering with influencers on TikTok.  In January, DeSmog revealed that a meat-funded government body in the UK – the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board – launched an ad campaign targeting Gen Z during Veganuary, which was expected to reach 9 out of 10 adults in the country. Experts said the promotion was misleading and ignored the global warming impact of UK diets. Such marketing has not only focused on making meat seem climate-friendly but has also worked to demonise plant-based alternatives, the report found. Meat and dairy groups have funded adverts to make vegan products seem unhealthy, unnatural and ultra processed. One example is a $5 million commercial from 2020 in the U.S., in which a child competing in a spelling bee contest has to spell “methylcellulose.”  “Fake bacon and burgers can have dozens of chemical ingredients. If you can’t spell it or pronounce it, maybe you shouldn’t be eating it,” a voiceover in the ad says. Methylcellulose is made from plant-based fibres and is also an ingredient in products like bread and chocolate. The advert was produced by CleanFoodFacts.com, a site run by the Center for Organization Research and Education (CORE) – a network established by veteran industry lobbyist Richard Berman. Funding Experts The report finds that the industry’s funding of experts and academic institutions helps to greenwash meat and dairy products, thereby blocking the take-up of plant-based alternatives. A separate academic paper, published in Climatic Change this week, analysed the role of industry-funded academia in obstructing “unfavorable policies” and influencing climate change policy and discourse. Both reports point to the Clarity and Leadership for Environmental Awareness and Research (CLEAR) Center at University California Davis in the U.S., which was funded by a $2.9 million grant from IFeeder, the non-profit arm of a livestock industry group. U.S. members of IFeeder include meat giants Cargill and Tyson, as well as a subsidiary of JBS. Frank Mitloehner, the centre’s director, has previously pushed the widely-contested idea that meat and dairy can be “climate neutral” and defended the industry in multiple public forums.  Between 2002 and 2021 Mitloehner and the CLEAR Center received close to $12.5 million in funding from industry groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Board. The report states that the CLEAR Center has not only conducted research supporting current animal agriculture practices; it has also actively undermined research presenting unfavourable findings to the industry.  In 2019, the institute coordinated efforts to discredit the Eat-Lancet report – a landmark study from 37 nutrition, environmental and farming experts, which recommended halving meat and dairy production.  The CLEAR Centre led the #yes2meat social media campaign, which according to The Lancet, “resulted in the wide distribution of critical (and at times defamatory) articles on alternative media platforms”. Influencing Opinion Pro-meat and dairy PR campaigns appear to be working. Last year, a survey revealed that over 40 percent of the U.S. public believe that beef is better for the environment than plant-based alternatives, while only 34 percent believe the opposite is true.  In reality, plant-based substitutes have on average around half the climate impacts of meat options.  Freedom Food Alliance advocates for “a multi-pronged approach” to tackle misinformation campaigns that obstruct efforts to reduce emissions from animal agriculture. Major changes in law, education and academic institutions could strengthen media and scientific literacy and promote transparency around emissions.  More specifically, the report calls for academic institutions to divest from animal agriculture research money and to disclose conflicts of interest. Governments must also explore new legislation to tackle greenwashing, the report advises, such as banning misleading “climate neutral” claims. Technology can also help develop systems for identifying and flagging disinformation, and to amplify credible peer-reviewed research. “We must engage in a collective effort to demand transparency, regulation, and transformational, yet just, changes away from the animal agriculture industry,” Carter concludes.  “It is crucial that we take action to address this misinformation and its potentially devastating consequences on our environment, health, and food security.” The post Meat Industry Using ‘Misinformation’ to Block Dietary Change, Report Finds appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/29/24 5:25pm
Canada’s major pension funds are dragging their heels on climate change, according to a new report from Shift Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health.  Shift Action is a charitable initiative that seeks to protect pensions and the climate by tracking pension fund investments and comparing them with climate policies. The second edition of their Canadian Pension Climate Report Card notes that while some pensions made very modest improvements over the previous year, on the whole, Canadian pensions continue to act as if the climate crisis isn’t happening, and as though their considerable investments in the fossil fuel sector weren’t exacerbating the crisis. The report notes that even though 2023 was the hottest year on record, Canadian pension managers have not responded appropriately. By not aligning investments with “safe emissions pathways and implementing credible climate plans,” pensions are failing at their fiduciary duties to protect their plan members, especially the youngest cohort of contributors.  “The risks of a warming world are considerable,” Adam Scott, Shift Action’s executive director, said in an interview with DeSmog. “Failing to have a credible and ambitious climate plan is a recipe for underperformance in the years to come.” The report found Canadian pension funds are lagging far behind their international peers, and pension executives are ignoring the considerable risk posed by stranded assets. “For the majority of Canadian pensions, there is a mismatch between the incremental pace of climate progress and the need for urgent action to prevent irreversible climate breakdown,” said Laura McGrath, pension engagement manager with Shift Action.  The report card is an independent analysis of the climate policies for 11 of Canada’s largest pension managers. The report assesses the credibility, depth, and quality of the pensions’ climate policies, and is intended to raise awareness of the crucial role pension funds play in addressing interrelated environmental and economic issues.  Of the 11 pension funds investigated, Shift Action found that four still do not have emissions reductions targets, either for 2030 or 2050. Three of the pensions have no commitment to net-zero emissions, including one of Canada’s largest (the Public Sector Pension Investment Board), and the provincial institutional investors for the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. Alberta’s institutional investor, AIMCo, still hasn’t come up with a climate plan meeting Shift Action’s criteria.  Shift Action argues this is unacceptable, and that action is urgently needed, not only for the benefit of the pension plans, but to protect the economy at large from the adverse effects of climate change. How Canadian pension funds compare. Credit: Shift Action report card “Canadian pensions are huge, and them choosing to transition their investments away from fossil fuels and towards renewables could be massively impactful,” said Julie Segal, senior manager of climate finance with Environmental Defence, in an interview with DeSmog. “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy — the investment decisions of Canada’s major pension funds today define what our economy and infrastructure will look like tomorrow.” Segal said there are three distinct areas of concern related to Canadian pension funds and the climate crisis: one for the funds, one for pension members, and one for the government. “Canadian pensions hold significant amounts of money, but they’re not building an economy that’s resilient to climate change, and this creates more risk,” said Segal. “On the other hand, people don’t want to worry about their pensions, and they shouldnt have to worry about whether their pensions are invested in fossil fuels or whether they’ll get paid when they retire.”  Segal points to a similar disinterest on the part of the federal government when it comes to steering pension funds towards clean and green investments. “There are rules to guide finance, but when it comes to finance and climate the Government of Canada is lagging. New rules for climate-aligned finance are important, because it is the governments responsibility to keep pensions and the planet safe.” Segal told DeSmog that, according to surveys conducted by Environmental Defence, roughly two-thirds of Canadians support new sustainable finance regulations in general, a figure that rises to more than three quarters when it’s specifically framed as countering industry-led greenwashing efforts. Shift Action’s report also notes that getting a clear picture of just how risky Canada’s pension plan fossil fuel investments truly are is difficult, given pension funds’ lack of transparency. In addition, some funds were found to obfuscate green assets and transition assets, and are susceptible to greenwashing. The report further notes that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) — the crown corporation that oversees and manages the Canada Pension Plan — continues to make questionable investments in fossil fuels. Shift Action found a considerable disconnect between statements made by CPPIB executives about the urgency to act on climate change, and the fund’s continued support of the fossil fuel sector. The CPPIB has also repeated industry talking points, such as “Canada has a reputation for responsibly-produced energy” despite considerable evidence to the contrary. Close relationships between pension fund managers and the fossil fuel sector are also a cause for concern.“We see directors of pensions also sitting on the boards of fossil fuel companies, creating an unacceptable risk for conflicts of interest,” said Scott.  Institutional momentum may also be a problem contributing to the lethargy of Canadian pension funds when it comes to addressing their role in the climate crisis. Scott argues newer funds have been quicker to react to climate change than their larger legacy peers, but across the financial sector a general lack of climate literacy is a considerable barrier drafting and executing effective climate plans. How far Canadian pensions are lagging behind both their international peers and the apparent goals of various governments in Canada is considerable. Only three of the 11 pension funds studied by Shift Action have joined credible and reputable international investor groups aligned to Paris Agreement targets, meaning most pension funds are lacking in international accountability. None of the pension funds explicitly include scope 3 emissions in their net zero commitments, except for the CPPIB. However, the latter has indicated that only 6-7 percent of their reported scope 3 emissions are being reported directly by portfolio companies. Additionally, none of the pension funds have adopted portfolio-wide absolute emissions reduction targets. This lagging response goes hand in hand with a general disinterest in committing the incredible capital held by Canadian pension funds to accelerating the energy transition, said Scott. “Canadas slow renewable energy deployment has, to date, largely been a result of regulatory failures and lack of market access, not a lack of capital,” he said. “In recent years, the pace and scale of investment in climate solutions has increased exponentially globally, but not in Canada. We have thankfully seen significant investment from Canadian pensions in renewable energy in recent years, but largely outside the country.”  Scott said shifting “tens of billions” of capital into renewables will help Canada meet climate and investment targets. “The full-scale electrification of our economy — through investments in heat pumps, energy storage, electric transportation of all types, energy efficiency upgrades, and decarbonizing industry — is a massive opportunity for low-risk economic growth that will support pension obligations in the long-term.” The post Canadian Pension Funds Haven’t Kept Up with Financial Risks of Climate Change, Report Finds appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/29/24 10:11am
As the Ford Motor Company cuts production of its electrically-powered F-150 Lightning pickup trucks, recent research demonstrates that the Lightning outperforms conventional and alternative-fuel-powered F-150 models. Stanford University researcher Mark Z. Jacobson’s analysis of alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles also found that a proposed plan to capture carbon emissions from three dozen plants producing ethanol-based automotive “flex fuels” would lead to more pollution than an all-electric approach.  Transitioning to battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) charged by wind power would save drivers billions in fuel costs, according to Jacobson’s study, which was published in October in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology. To compare the two approaches, Jacobson, the director of the Atmosphere/Energy program at the Stanford School of Engineering, created dueling scenarios involving current fuel- and battery-powered models of the Ford F-150 pickup truck, and then estimated the carbon dioxide emissions that each approach would create.  In the ethanol scenario, Jacobson evaluated a recent real-world proposal by Summit Carbon Solutions to add carbon capture technology to its 34 ethanol plants in five states — Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota — as well as a 2,000-mile pipeline system that would transport the captured CO2 for underground sequestration.  The Sierra Club of Iowa, which sponsored Jacobson’s study, has been protesting the Summit Carbon carbon capture project. The ethanol from these refineries is blended with gasoline to form a flex fuel for vehicles such as the F-150. A flex fuel vehicle has a combustion engine designed to work using gasoline, ethanol, or a fuel blending both together. The Summit project — named Midwest Carbon Express — was initially budgeted at $5.6 billion and supposed to be operational in 2024, but has faced considerable opposition from environmental groups and local landowners. The company now plans to make the project operational by 2026. 2022 protest against the Midwest Carbon Express carbon capture and storage project in Butler County, Iowa. Credit: Courtesy of Oakland Institute Jacobson selected the F-150 models for the study “not only because they are built by the same manufacturer and are roughly equivalent in capabilities, but also because they are common vehicle types used in these states,” he wrote. The Ford F-150 pickup has been the best-selling American light truck for the past 47 years.  According to Jacobson’s findings, a wind-plus-electric F-150 scenario that cost the same $5.6 billion to develop would produce 2.4 to 4 times less CO2 emissions than the Summit project’s ethanol and carbon capture approach. This is because the electric F-150 scenario eliminated all of the CO2 emissions created during ethanol production — including growing and fertilizing the corn used as a feedstock for ethanol — as well as 100 percent of the tailpipe emissions produced by fuel-powered F-150s.  These findings factored in CO2 emissions generated by building the wind turbines and vehicle batteries.Jacobson also estimated that the wind and BEV approach would save drivers in the five states $40 66 billion in fuel costs over three decades, even after accounting for the higher up front price of an electric F-150 — which currently costs over $21,000 more than its gasoline-powered equivalent.  Moreover, Jacobson found that the BEV’s power efficiency was considerably better than its flex fuel equivalent. To compare their energy consumption, Jacobson converted both fuel used per hour and battery power used per hour into an energy unit called a “gigajoule.” He found that while the fuel-powered F-150 got 157 miles per gigajoule, the battery-electric F-150 got 579 miles per gigajoule — roughly the equivalent of 52 miles per gallon.  While Jacobson’s study deals primarily with climate impacts, he also notes the growing body of research regarding other benefits of fully transitioning off fuel-powered vehicles such as lowering deaths from air pollution. Wind farms also take up only a very small fraction — about 1/400,000th — of the land needed to mine oil, grow corn for ethanol, and site refineries and carbon capture pipelines. Using wind energy to provide the power for carbon capture would not substantially lower emissions from producing and burning flex fuels, Jacobson states. “The reason is that all carbon capture requires energy and never reduces air pollution, mining or infrastructure. Even using renewable energy to power carbon capture prevents the renewable energy from replacing a fossil or bioenergy source of combustion, thereby preventing the renewables from reducing more CO2 in addition to reducing air pollution, mining and infrastructure, which carbon capture never does.” The U.S. ethanol industry has a long history of federal subsidies. Most recently, the Biden administration announced that it would adjust a federal greenhouse gas emissions model to allow aviation fuel made from ethanol to be eligible for considerable additional subsidies. The U.S. and Canada are world leaders in public funding for carbon capture projects, and two of the Biden administration’s signature legislative wins, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, both provide considerable tax breaks and financial support for carbon capture projects. There are also the underlying safety concerns. The carbon capture industry has been downplaying or dismissing public concerns over the safety of carbon capture and sequestration infrastructure in the wake of the 2020 mass carbon dioxide poisoning event in Satartia, Mississippi. After significantly expanding  its EV production capability in 2023, Ford announced in January that it would cut production of the F-150 Lightning EV by about half. The company said the move was prompted by lower consumer demand for the vehicles. Ford also announced plans to increase production of gasoline-powered light trucks, such as the Bronco SUV and the Ranger pickup.  In a press release, CEO Jim Farley said Ford still has faith in the F-150 Lightning, calling it “America’s best selling EV pickup.”  “Im sure if demand increases, they will increase production,” Jacobson told DeSmog.  “Most people dont realize they will make up for the higher up-front cost,” he said, “and then start saving lots of money within a few years after purchasing the vehicle.”  The post Electric F-150 Pickups Beat Ethanol-Fueled Models for Environment, Save Drivers Money: Study  appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy, Transport, carbon capture, electric vehicles, false solutions, tailpipe pollution]

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[l] at 2/28/24 2:41pm
Chicago last week brought the newest lawsuit against Big Oil companies for spreading disinformation about the climate-warming hazards of burning fossil fuels — adding the third largest city in the U.S. to the growing list of state and local governments pushing for oil and gas majors to be held accountable in court. The case charges BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and the American Petroleum Institute with conspiring together and through front groups to run “tobacco-industry-style campaigns to deceive and mislead the public about the damaging nature of their fossil fuel products.” The fallout of those campaigns, according to the complaint, was a long delay in climate action that has come at an increasingly unbearable cost to Chicago residents — particularly in its low income neighborhoods and communities of color. City officials say their legal action is necessary for the city to help shift the financial burden of adapting to climate disasters away from those communities and back onto the companies most responsible. “There is no justice without accountability,” said Mayor Brandon Johnson in a statement. “From the unprecedented poor air quality that we experienced last summer to the basement floodings that our residents on the West Side experienced, the consequences of this crisis are severe, as are the costs of surviving them. That is why we are seeking to hold these Defendants accountable.” Ted Boutrous of law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, an attorney for Chevron and chief architect of Big Oils legal arguments in these cases, said in a statement that “addressing climate change requires a coordinated international policy response, not meritless local litigation over lawful and essential energy production.” The city is charging the companies with 10 counts of failure to warn, negligence, fraud, conspiracy, and public nuisance, and it asks for compensatory damages and the disgorgement of profits made in the course of the industry’s fraud, among other remedies. The lawsuit, filed on February 20 in Cook County court, also requests a jury trial, where the companies could face more evidence of their deception gained through the discovery process. That deception, Chicago argues, includes the oil majors’ ongoing campaigns to “falsely present themselves as corporate leaders in the fight against climate change, claiming to invest substantially in low-emission technologies and zero-emission energy sources, while their business continues to be overwhelmingly focused on fossil fuel production and sales.”  As one example, the complaint cites a recent BP ad targeting Illinois Facebook users that claims “We agree the world needs fewer emissions. Thats why were working to make all forms of energy cleaner and better.” BP is simultaneously reneging on its climate pledges and increasing its production of oil and gas. “At the end of the day, the climate crisis that we’re enduring was known by fossil fuel companies — they were warned decades ago by their own scientists of the potentially severe or even catastrophic consequences of their approach,” said Chicago Alderman Matt Martin, who applauded city leaders’ decision to file suit. “These companies should no longer be allowed to shift the burden of paying for the impacts resulting from that conduct onto Chicagoans.” The Harm to Chicago From Climate Change It might be difficult to imagine what climate change looks like for a Midwestern city far from rising seas and hurricanes — but Chicago is susceptible to a spate of climate threats. Chicago’s complaint cites more frequent and intense storms, flooding, droughts, shoreline erosion, toxic algae blooms in Lake Michigan, and extreme heat events like a four-day heat wave in 1995 that killed more than 700 Chicagoans.  The 1995 heat wave was a “watershed moment,” said Daniel Horton, who leads the Climate Change Research Group at Northwestern University. “Since that time the city has done a number of things to improve community resilience, but we expect more heatwaves in the future as the world continues to warm — so we have to constantly update our policies and prepare for extreme heat,” he added.  Many victims of that heat wave were elderly, low-income, and Black, residing in apartments without air conditioning. Those groups are still most at risk from extreme heat and air pollution in Chicago, which can coincide to produce “profound public health consequences,” said Horton, like they did when wildfire smoke from Canada gave the city the worst air quality in the world in June. The same demographics were also hit hardest during a severe rain event in July, which wreaked havoc on Chicago’s West Side, and are most susceptible to the city’s more-regular flooding.  “When you’re talking about the legacy of environmental racism all across the city, too often with regard to both severe weather and other aspects of the climate crisis, the communities bearing the brunt of that devastation are lower income communities of color,” said Alderman Martin. Chicago is an “incredibly segregated city,” explained Horton, where Black and Hispanic communities are far more likely to live in places that are hotter, have poorer air quality, and are most flood-prone. The city can make decisions to ease the burden on those communities — like figuring out “where to increase our green infrastructure, building more of a green canopy and reducing the heat island effect, deciding where to build cooling centers in neighborhoods that have more vulnerable citizens or people without access to air conditioning or the ability to pay for it,” he said. The more the city invests in community adaptation, the higher the price tag — in its complaint, the city said it is already spending $188 million on climate projects in low-income communities — and that’s the kind of thing Chicago wants oil companies to help pay for. “There’s surviving, and then there’s thriving,” Horton said. “I like to think surviving isn’t the goal.”  Another Powerful Player More than 25 percent of all Americans are now represented by governments taking oil companies to court for climate deception. Chicago’s lawsuit brings “another powerful player into the game,” remarked Pat Parenteau, an environmental law professor at Vermont Law School. “There’s strength in numbers, and the more entities like Chicago and California that have the resources to do battle, the better, from the plaintiffs’ side of it,” Parenteau said.  Chicago is suing as similar cases across the country move toward trial in state court. Massachusetts consumer fraud case against Exxon is currently in the pre-trial discovery phase, and the City and County of Honolulu is in the process of agreeing what discovery will look like once it starts. Delaware is requesting that the state’s Supreme Court review a lower court’s ruling regarding which parts of its case can be heard at trial. In Italy, the trial for twelve Italian citizens’ lawsuit against oil giant Eni just kicked off. Parenteau had a long list of reasons why new communities like Chicago would choose to sue now — growing evidence of what the companies knew and how they lied, more attribution science linking specific companies’ emissions to specific damages, the state of California filing suit, plaintiffs winning the fight to keep their lawsuits in state court, and other legal successes against oil majors across the world. Or it could be simpler than all that. “These cities are beginning to realize just how much money they’re facing to deal with climate effects, and the recalcitrance of the oil companies that are sitting on piles of money and making more every year,” he said. “Maybe it’s too much for them to ignore.” The post Chicago Takes Big Oil to Court, Adding Another Heavyweight to the Fight appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy, climate accountability, climate lawsuit, litigation]

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[l] at 2/28/24 10:01am
With Alberta Premier Danielle Smith set to lift the province’s seven-month moratorium on renewable energy projects this week, wind and solar developers are urging the provincial government to refrain from introducing “punitive” and “arbitrary” regulations that impede the industry’s growth. But Smith has recently met in private with an Alberta organization called Wind Concerns that’s called wind development “grotesque” and claims that the mainstream scientific consensus on global temperature rise is “ridden with fraudulent data and outright lies.” That’s according to Mark Mallett, founder of the group, who told DeSmog that he had a face-to-face meeting with the premier in late January alongside Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA Scott Cyr. “We spent about a half an hour with her,” he said. “And we were able to lay out the various arguments against industrial wind.” Mallett, who previously told DeSmog that carbon dioxide is “the gas of life,” describes wind energy as a mass killer of birds, bats and insects and disputes whether human-caused global temperature rise is happening. “It’s time to reject the absurd and baseless climate change narrative and return to common sense,” Wind Concerns argues on its website. Mallett insisted in a phone interview that “we’re not funded by the oil industry or anything like that.” But his group has a clear preference for which electricity sources should power the province. “Alberta has an abundance of natural gas,” it argued on its website this month. “It can be burned cleanly.”  Wind Concerns is part of a growing backlash to renewables occurring across North America. Such groups, some with the backing of conservative power brokers with ties to the oil and gas industry, have in the U.S. succeeded in helping slow down the Biden Administration’s aggressive roll-out of wind and solar.      Wind Concerns previously praised Alberta’s moratorium but says it wasn’t directly involved with the decision. After Smith announced the pause last summer, the industry has been thrown into disarray. More than 100 renewables projects worth an estimated $33 billion were halted.  “Theres a certain craziness in all of this,” Don Pettit, executive director of the Peace Energy Cooperative, which was proposing a solar farm in the Peace River region, told CBC this month. “Were ready to launch as soon as the moratorium is lifted. But this delay and uncertainty have really been devastating.” During Smith’s meeting with Mallett, the premier explained “that her government is moving to force so-called ‘green’ corporations to provide a bond upfront for reclamation costs,” according to a post on Wind Concerns’ website. The Premier’s Office didn’t respond to a media request from DeSmog with specific questions about this claim and whether the meeting took place as described.  Cyr, an MLA with Smith’s United Conservative Party, last November submitted a letter to the Alberta Utilities Commission, which he shared with Wind Concerns, calling for “a policy requiring green energy projects to submit comprehensive reclamation plans, akin to those required for oil and gas initiatives.” DeSmog reached out to Cyr about the meeting described by Wind Concerns but didn’t receive a response. Energy experts point out that reclamation challenges from wind projects pale in comparison to the vast environmental impact of oil and gas. Cleaning up and remediating inactive drilling wells could cost upwards of $60 billion, according to estimates from Alberta’s auditor general. And despite that huge financial liability, the province has never paused oil and gas development or imposed onerous clean-up regulations. It continues to approve new projects.  Asked about Smith potentially moving to make renewables companies pay more upfront for remediation costs, Mallett told DeSmog that “we’re totally supportive of the idea.” But his organization wants Smith to go much further. It advocates on its site for “ending the scam of further industrial wind development” altogether.  Mallett saw encouraging signs that Smith is receptive to his message. “She was being educated on certain things we were saying to her and on other things she nodded in agreement suggesting she was well aware of what we were telling her,” he said.   The post Anti-Renewable Group Says It Met Privately with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/28/24 4:00am
Monica Weiss attended her first fossil-fuel divestment protest on a frigid February day in 2015. She joined college students, financial experts, faith leaders, and then-New York City Public Advocate Letitia James in front of the New York Stock Exchange to demand that the city’s five public pension funds factor the financial risks of climate change into their investment decisions. Over the course of her two-decade career teaching first and third grade in New York City public schools, Weiss infused nature and sustainability into her lessons. Now newly retired, Weiss had taken a look at her own pension fund — and didn’t like what she saw. “You worked for it, you earned it, its there and its the next part of the journey, and then suddenly you realize theres something really bad here,” says Weiss, who has a masters in environmental education and taught mostly immigrant students in Jamaica, Queens. “Theres something thats directly contradictory to the purpose of my entire teaching career, which was to provide the best possible future for the youngsters.”  Whenever Weiss and other activists spoke with Scott Stringer, then the city’s comptroller, he would assure them that he agreed philosophically on divesting the pension funds — the Teachers Retirement System of the City of New York (TRS), the Board of Education Retirement System (BERS), New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), and the city police and fire pension funds —  of fossil fuel investments. However, he’d say, he also had a fiduciary obligation to protect the pensions of city workers. “We understood that,” Weiss says. “Nobody in that position would just agree to divest. It wasnt arbitrary, it wasnt capricious, and it took a very long time with very, very thorough analyses.”   There were also successful precedents, says Weiss, pointing to the decisions TRS made to jettison investments in South Africa in the mid-1990s, and firearms in the 2010s. “They found a way to do this and continue funding pensions.”  In 2018, the city’s five funds began studying what divestment on climate grounds — including the imperative to move to clean energy to meet the nation’s Paris Agreement commitments — might entail. Subsequently, two independent reports suggested that the funds would “face high potential risk for economic disruption from the transition to a low carbon global economy” if they continued to invest in fossil fuel.  By the end of 2021, three of the city’s five pensions — the Employees’ Retirement System, the Teachers Retirement System, and the Board of Education Retirement System —  had divested close to three percent of their total funds from more than 150 oil and gas related companies or funds, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell, and stated that they would pace further divestment with ongoing evaluation of the risks.  Even though the police and firefighter pensions chose not to divest, Weiss says she considers it a major victory. “Five years of dedicated, strategic and relentless campaigning, unpaid, grassroots lobbying and activism, [and] we finally got Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer to agree to this.” But the move has come under attack. Last May, four former and current city employees, joined by Americans for Fair Treatment, an anti-union advocacy group, sued the pension funds. They contend that current city Comptroller Brad Lander, who was elected in January 2022,  is following his predecessor Stringer in “using that office to advance an environmental agenda at the expense of retirement security.” On February 28, the Supreme Court of the State of New York is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. “This is a meritless case, and we await the court’s decision,” said Nick Paulocci, director of public affairs and press secretary of the NYC Law Department. Trump-era labor secretary Eugene Scalia, a partner with the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, is the plaintiffs’ lead counsel, and has publicly stated that the case is aimed at discouraging other institutional investors from shedding fossil fuel holdings. As a lawyer, Scalia has an anti-union history, and has represented Chevron and the American Petroleum Institute in the past. Gibson Dunn employs nearly 90 lawyers involved in defending the oil and gas industry. Public Pensions Control Trillions in Investments According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 4500 public pension systems in the United States, with close to $5.5 trillion in cash and investments.  It’s unclear how much of that total is invested in coal, oil, or methane gas. According to the activist group Climate Safe Pensions, the California and New York State pension funds recently held as much as $20 billion in fossil fuel investments alone.  Inside Climate News has reported that New York City’s funds had about $3 billion in fossil fuel holdings prior to divesting them.  New York City’s pension funds collectively manage more than $40 trillion dollars in investments.  They are funded by tax dollars, employee contributions, and investment earnings. Investments supplied 78 percent of retirees’ checks in 2020 — nearly 10 percent more than the national average. Retirees are paid their full pension even if a given fund takes a dip.  For pension fund managers tasked with thinking far beyond the next quarter to the next decade or more, reevaluating their coal, oil, and gas holdings aligns with their fiduciary responsibilities. With a global shift off fossil fuels gathering momentum, and scientists exhorting the world to cut carbon emissions as fast as possible, the risks are growing that the fossil fuel sector may end up losing billions invested in oil and gas that it will have to leave in the ground. Economist Gregor Semieniuk and earth scientist Philip Holden have found that these “stranded assets could reach $681 billion, with investors including pension funds losing up to $164 billion. According to a 2023 analysis, six major U.S. public pensions would have been about $21 million richer if they had divested from fossil fuels 10 years earlier. According to the study, led by Olaf Weber of the University of Waterloo, if the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (which is separate from the city teachers’ fund) had shed fossil fuel investments in 2013, its value would have been about five percent higher by 2022.  Divestment Movement’s Roots The climate-focused divestment movement has picked up on past activist successes. From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, at least 155 colleges, as well as a number of pension funds, withdrew investment from securities and stock related to South Africa, in protest of the country’s policy — and brutal enforcement — of racial apartheid. Hampshire College students led the way in pressuring their administration to pull funds, which they did after students occupied the science center in 1977.  This movement is widely credited with raising public awareness of the plight of Black South Africans, as well as increasing pressure on the United States and other powerful nations to oppose the apartheid policy.  Weiss joined the fossil fuel divestment movement when it was gaining popularity across the globe. Between 2012 and 2015, 220 institutions committed to redirect some or all of their fossil fuel holdings, a number that has only risen since. Included in the list of more than 1600 institutions that have committed to divest so far are American University which sold off $350 million in holdings that had some connection to fossil fuels in 2020, and the city of Baltimore, whose mayor signed a bill obligating public pensions to divest by 2026.     Just this month, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced that the state’s Common Retirement Fund will divest about $27 million from eight oil and gas companies, including about $25 million of its shares in ExxonMobil. (Reuters reported that this is only a fraction of the fund’s $500 million in Exxon holdings, however, and the announcement got mixed reviews from campaigners. Journalist and activist Bill McKibben characterized DiNapoli’s move as “part of the slow, grinding shift away from a fossil-fueled world.”) The oil and gas industry seems to be acknowledging the movement’s potential to affect both its brand image and its bottom line. Chevron noted in a recent SEC filing, divestment has the potential to “lead to negative investor sentiment toward Chevron and to the diversion of investment to other industries, which could have a negative impact on our stock price and our access to and costs of capital.”  ‘I Hope Others Will Take Note of It’ In picking a fight over New York City’s pension divestment plans, the plaintiffs are acting locally and thinking nationally. Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas have enacted legislation blacklisting “financial entities that engage in boycotts of fossil fuel companies for divestment purposes” from getting government contracts, according to a team of attorneys from the firm Thatcher and Bartlett who compiled a list of all anti-ESG legislation. The lawsuit in New York is a cousin to these types of restrictions, and — as Scalia himself has stated — is designed to intimidate organizations considering divestment.   “I hope others will take note of it — plan trustees in other states and cities, who may be considering similar actions,” said Scalia at a Federalist Society function in September.  The plaintiffs “dont want these large pots of money being treated as a weapon,” he said at the event, “that can be deployed by city politicians, city union leaders to pursue other objectives that hold more interest for them than managing the funds.” Gibson Dunn declined to make anyone available to be interviewed for this story. Three plaintiffs in the case also declined to be interviewed or did not respond to requests for comment. In 2021, Americans for Fair Treatment received $375,000 from the Dunn Foundation and $75,000 from the Searle Freedom Trust. Both groups are known to fund “climate change counter-movement organizations,” according to a study by Brown University professor Robert Brule and his colleagues.  In 2020, AFFT received legal services from The Fairness Center, which is funded in part by the Charles Koch Institute.  AFFT is also associated with the State Policy Network, a group promoting anti-ESG legislation.  According to tax filings, the group gave AFFT a total of $110,000 in donations in 2019 and 2020. AFFT was founded “to help public interest law firms identify plaintiffs to challenge different laws, specifically in the space where unions intersect with public employees,” CEO Elizabeth Messenger said on a 2023 episode of Giving Ventures, a podcast produced by DonorsTrust, a conservative donor-advised fund. DonorsTrust gave $64,450 to AFFT in 2022. Americans for Fair Treatment did not immediately respond to DeSmogs request for comment. The suit focuses on proclamations by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2018 that divestment would help fight climate change. “Our announcement sends a message to the world that a brighter economy rests on being green,” said de Blasio at a press conference announcing the city’s intention to move toward divestment. “In presenting their plan, de Blasio and Stringer did not discuss, cite, or refer in any way to any financial analysis or study indicating that the wholesale divestment of fossil fuel holdings would be in the interest of plan participants and beneficiaries,” according to the complaint.   “The lawsuit puts the funds on notice that they can’t hijack worker savings to serve their own political purposes,” the Wall Street Journal editorial board weighed in when the lawsuit was filed last year. The suit also contends that current and former city workers’ pension funds missed out on recent oil profits related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  In its motion to dismiss the suit, the city argues that despite recent gains in the fossil energy sector, these stocks have returned just 0.58 percent when averaged over the past 10 years, much less than the market’s overall 10.5 percent gain over the same decade.  “Fossil-fuel companies are free to bet that their industry will continue to make money even in the face of expanding regulation, ever-rising temperatures, and the increasingly intense global impacts of climate change,” states the city in its filing. “But public pension funds are not required to bankroll that bet.” The divestment decision “was a long, deliberative, thoughtful process that placed fiduciary duty above all else,” says Natalie Green Giles, who was a trustee of both TRS and BERS at the time. Chloe Field, a fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, says the suit is evidence that fossil fuel companies have become worried about the divestment movement.  “What theyre seeking is for the court to say, ‘You cannot divest wholesale from fossil fuels without violating your fiduciary duty as a trustee,’” Field says. “Thats really where they see the money in this case, is to set a precedent.”  But that’s not a strong argument, she says. “One of the reasons defendants say theres not much of a case here is because theres actually no financial harm to the pensioners,” Field says, referring to New York City, because they aren’t at risk of losing any money. With this case, Scalia may be aiming less to get New York City’s pension funds to reinvest in fossil fuels, and more to stem the financial and reputation problems that the divestment movement has already created for the industry — by making other potential divestors think twice. “The financial arguments for moving on divestment are so strong and becoming stronger, almost on a daily basis,” says Richard Brooks, climate finance director at the group Stand.Earth, who regularly meets with public pension fund managers from across the country.  The suit has already had some of the desired chilling effect, according to Brooks, who campaigned alongside Monica Weiss nearly a decade ago to divest New York City’s pension funds from fossil fuels. “It has perhaps slowed down the announcement of some new divestment commitments,” he says. “But I dont think it will stop the movement.” Disclosure: Elizabeth Rosenberg formerly taught in New York City public schools for six years. When she retires, she will be eligible to receive a pension of up to $3700 per year from the Teachers’ Retirement System of the City of New York. The post NYC Pensions Are Sued for Shedding Fossil Fuels appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy, divestment, institutional investors, lawsuit, pension funds]

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[l] at 2/26/24 11:00pm
DeSmog is excited to welcome investigative reporter Ellen Ormesher and researcher Kathryn Clare to our team focused on climate accountability in the advertising and public relations industry. Ellen Ormesher Ellen joins us from The Drum, where she was a senior reporter covering sustainability in the advertising sector. Her work has also been featured in The Guardian. Ellen hit the ground running for DeSmog with this exclusive on Havas pitching for a new Shell account, following activist protests against the Havas-Shell relationship in front of the the Havas London office. Kathryn Clare Kathryn joins DeSmog to expand our climate disinformation database. She will focus on developing in-depth profiles of advertising and PR companies for use by journalists, campaigners, litigators, and employees seeking to understand more about the industrys role in greenwashing the fossil fuel industry, and driving demand for heavily polluting products, such as SUVs.  From a public health background, Kathryn’s work on livestock industry misrepresentation of the climate and health impacts of red meat consumption was published in the journal Food Policy.  “The role of the advertising and public relations industry in fuelling the climate crisis has escaped scrutiny for too long,” said DeSmog global investigations editor Matthew Green. “I’m delighted to welcome Ellen and Kathryn to our growing team dedicated to investigating the relationship between creative agencies and the fossil fuel industry.” DeSmog has reported on the role of the advertising and PR agencies since our founding in 2006 by Canadian PR executive Jim Hoggan, who was determined to expose the work many in his industry were doing to promote climate denial and delay. Our latest coverage can be found at our advertising and public relations industry series page here, and our profiles of communications agencies can be found in our database. Some of the agencies profiled in DeSmogs advertising and PR database. Our latest reporting includes: INVESTIGATIONS American PR Firm Edelman Enabled Oil Baron Al Jaber’s Ascension to Lead COP28 Climate Conference McCann to Make New Pitch for Aramco Oil and Gas Advertising Work How Shell Used a ‘Granfluencer’ to Promote its Brand Reuters, New York Times Top List of Fossil Fuel Industry’s Media Enablers Revealed: Three-quarters of Prestigious Green Advertising Awards Go To Agencies Working for Fossil Fuel Industry Havas CEO Yannick Bolloré Staked His Brand on Caring About the Climate. So Why Is His Company Working for Shell? PROFILES T Brand Studio WP Creative Group Weber Shandwick Havas Edelman VML Please follow @ellen__ormesher and @DrKathrynClare and email Ellen or Kathryn with any tips.  The post Ellen Ormesher and Kathryn Clare Join DeSmog to Investigate Advertising Industry appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 2/25/24 11:00pm
For money managers who want to prove they care about the climate, buying shares in big advertising and public relations companies might look like a safe bet. Ad giants such as WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic Group (IPG) score highly on the rankings used to gauge a company’s sustainability performance — so they’re attractive to green fund investors.  However, a DeSmog investigation has found that these scores take little or no account of multiple risks associated with the advertising and PR industry’s role in the climate crisis — from reputational damage caused by greenwashing fossil fuel clients, to threats to staff retention, and the danger of being sued for climate damages.   And DeSmog can also reveal that a growing group of ethical investors are demanding that ad and PR companies come clean about their true climate impact.  Although the communications industry has mostly sidestepped the kind of scrutiny traditionally reserved for oil and gas companies, the investors concerns show calls for climate accountability in the sector are getting louder. An outpouring of criticism of French ad giant Havas — a self-styled climate leader — for taking a global media buying contract with oil major Shell is another clear indicator of this trend. Critical commentary in the trade press after news of the deal broke five months ago — and mockery from influencers — marked a watershed moment in an industry where such deals had rarely been considered through a climate lens. Now, the investors are piling on the pressure. Led by Inyova Impact Investing, a Swiss-German fund manager, the coalition includes the US$1 billion-plus Future Super fund in Australia; Erste Asset Management, one of the largest in Austria; Boston Trust Walden, a U.S. fund manager; French managers Ecofi and Sycomore Asset Management; and a UK investment manager that has yet to go public with its support. Such investors rely on ESG — environmental, social and governance — scores created by ratings agencies to assess a company’s exposure to financial risks associated with issues from its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, to human rights violations in its supply chain, and executive pay.  High ESG scores mean that three of the global big-six ad companies — Publicis, IPG and Dentsu — are included in the feted Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI), which ranks them alongside tech giants such as Microsoft and Alphabet. That makes it easier for these companies to raise money from large pools of pensions and savings, who look for high ESG scores and inclusion in indices like the DJSI to decide which companies count as “sustainable” investments.  But Inyova and its allies say that the role advertising and PR companies play in supporting the fossil fuel industry to portray itself as greener than it actually is poses risks that could hit their bottom line. The dangers range from potential legal liability for climate harms, damage to brand credibility, growing scrutiny from regulators, and the risks that other major clients won’t want to be seen alongside polluters on the rosters of big ad firms. Importantly, fossil fuel deals could also hit employee retention in a sector where the average age of staff is 34, and hiring the best creative minds from an environmentally conscious younger generation is key to staying in business.  The investors say that none of these risks are being reflected in the advertising and PR companies’ rosy ESG scores. “There is a lot of risk of legal challenges to advertising companies these days as countries tighten up greenwashing regulations,” said Andreas von Angerer, head of impact at Inyova, which manages $284 million for about 10,000 Swiss and German retail investors.  Green Tinge The new research by DeSmog shows that big ad companies score well on environmental risks from some of the big ESG raters (see graphic) despite their ties to oil and gas.  The ESG scores of five of the world’s biggest advertising agencies, WPP (UK), Omnicom (U.S.), Publicis (France), IPG (U.S.) and Dentsu (Japan) are either relatively high, or considered low risk. Havas, the French giant, which is one of the global big-six, is not a public company, therefore does not get an ESG rating. However, its parent company, Vivendi, is reportedly considering a Havas listing. MSCI, a leading ratings company, ranks firms on ESG performance from AAA — CCC, high to low. It scores WPP, Publicis and IPG as AA.  Omnicom and Dentsu score as BBB. MSCI ranks all five as ‘ESG Leaders’ for carbon emissions. Sustainalytics, an ESG ratings firm owned by Morningstar, a funds data company, scores IPG as a negligible ESG risk, Omnicom, WPP and Publicis low risk, and Dentsu medium risk. The scores are relatively consistent across a range of ESG raters, according to DeSmog’s research. CDP, a widely used reporting platform for corporate CO2 emissions, also scores four of the big ad firms as B or above (on a scale of A to F) for environmental reporting (see chart), meaning, “they have addressed the environmental impacts of their business and are doing well on environmental management.”  The ad companies use these green investment scores to burnish their own environmental credentials in the eyes of investors, potential clients, and their staff, even as they continue to do PR, advertising, and marketing work for some of the world’s biggest polluters. DeSmog research shows WPP agencies held a combined 61 contracts with fossil fuel clients across 2022 and 2023 with oil majors including BP, Shell, Chevron, and Saudi Aramco, as well as lobbies such as the American Petroleum Institute (API). This was the most fossil fuel contracts of the five companies in DeSmog’s analysis, despite WPP’s pledge to reach net zero emissions in its operations and supply chain by 2030. Yet, it has a top ESG rating from CDP. Omnicom’s 54 fossil fuel contracts during the same period included TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil, and a $3.8 million project for an oil and gas lobby called the Canadian Energy Centre. But Sustainalytics rates it as “low-risk.” WPP and Omnicom topped the 2023 F-list of advertising and PR companies that work with fossil fuel clients, published annually by industry campaign group, Clean Creatives. According to the report, IPG and Publicis followed with 25 and 11 contracts respectively over the past two years. Along with Dentsu (five fossil fuel contracts), these five companies dominate the communications industry, owning hundreds of subsidiaries around the world and generating combined revenues of $64 billion in 2022. Ratings agencies say the ‘E’ scores in ESG are designed to evaluate a company’s exposure to environmental risks threatening their operations or supply chains — not their impact on the climate and environment.  “MSCI ESG Ratings are fundamentally designed to measure a company’s resilience to financially material environmental, societal and governance risks,” a spokesperson for MSCI ESG Research said in a statement. “They are not designed to measure a company’s impact on climate change.” Jennifer Vieno, who manages technology, media and telecommunications research at Sustainalytics, said that working for fossil fuel clients would not expose advertising and PR companies to greater near-term risks from environmental or climate shocks.  “The provision of PR services for fossil fuel companies will not increase their own direct environmental risks,” Vieno told DeSmog.  However, Vieno added that, “One potential risk is these companies may lose current clients or be unable to attract certain clients due to their provision of these services.” Another could be on the human capital front, for the same reason. “There are other potential regulatory risks.” When news broke of Shell’s deal with Havas in September, the Fossil Fuel Nonproliferation Treaty campaign immediately terminated its relationship with the agency. Protestors staged a die-in and a subsequent action at Havas headquarters in London. WPP declined to comment. Omnicom, Publicis, IPG and Dentsu did not respond to requests for comment. ‘Dictated by the Client’ All five companies in DeSmog’s analysis are members of an initiative called Ad Net Zero, founded and run by the Advertising Association, a UK-based advertising industry lobby group.  Members sign up to a five-step action plan to reduce emissions from business operations, supply chains, advertising production and placement, and events, by setting net zero targets verified by the Science-based Targets Initiative (SBTi), regarded as among the most credible monitors of corporate climate commitments. Ad Net Zero also encourages signatories to promote sustainable consumer behaviour through ads and PR campaigns.  A DeSmog investigation found that three-quarters of the awards given to agencies at the Ad Net Zero awards went to those who also work for fossil fuel clients. Credit: Campaign Ad Net Zero Highlights 2023. However, critics of the initiative say it takes little account of the wider climate impact of agencies’ work for fossil fuel clients, or their role in driving up demand for unsustainable products such as SUVs, cheap flights, throwaway plastic and fast fashion. A DeSmog investigation in January found that three-quarters of the awards given to agencies at the Ad Net Zero awards — founded to “highlight environmental sustainability in the advertising industry” — went to those who also work for fossil fuel clients. Neither does SBTi require ad and PR companies to factor in the possible climate impact of their campaigns on behalf of polluting clients into their progress towards net zero targets.  “I do think there is a big blind spot here,” one investor, who did not want to be publicly quoted while lobbying the ad companies, told DeSmog. “These ad companies have science-based targets for net zero that have been validated by SBTi, but without the inclusion of their clients’ emissions. Yet these companies have a huge influence on their clients.” SBTi did not respond to a request for comment. In their defence, the big ad companies argue that they are helping polluters transition to net zero.  When campaigners and employees expressed their dismay at Havas for winning Shell’s media buying account, CEO Yannick Bolloré sought to allay staff anger by presenting the deal as an opportunity to change the oil major from within. Top executives at other major advertising companies, such as WPP CEO Mark Read, have advanced similar arguments.  But employees involved in the day-to-day business of client relationships doubt that PR and advertising agencies can have much influence over an oil and gas company’s business model. “Agencies are helping clients on their transition journeys — as dictated by the client,” said one employee of a major advertising firm covered in DeSmog’s analysis, who asked not to be named for fear of professional repercussions. “We subscribe, promote, and defend the transition plan the client wants for the world, not for what the climate science demands.” Shield from Scrutiny Evidence that ad companies are helping to mask climate inaction by oil and gas companies has sharpened investor concerns.  The World Benchmarking Alliance, which assesses 2,000 of the most influential companies on their contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, said in June last year that, since 2021, “the oil and gas sector has made almost no progress” towards aligning with the goals of the Paris Agreement.  Nevertheless, oil and gas majors invested more than $1 billion in shareholder funds on “misleading climate-related branding and lobbying” in the first three years after the Paris Agreement was signed, according to InfluenceMap, a nonprofit that tracks corporate lobbying. InfluenceMap says these companies also spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on “a systematic strategy to portray themselves as positive and proactive on the climate change emergency”. In 2022, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterras said authorities need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account, including the public relations machine shielding the industry from scrutiny. Credit: Flicker/CC BY NC-ND 2.0 In 2022, the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pointed to the role of the communications industry in the climate crisis for the first time, finding that fossil fuel PR and marketing uses “climate-care statements” and “deflect[s] corporate responsibility to individuals” rather than governments and corporations. In light of those findings, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the UN Assembly: “We need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account. [This] includes the massive public relations machine raking in billions to shield the fossil fuel industry from scrutiny.” A survey by Comms Declare, a climate advocacy group created by ad communications professionals, found that 73 percent of employees in the industry are hesitant to work with fossil fuel clients, while 67 percent think their agencies should take a stronger stand against such companies. Meanwhile, Clean Creatives has persuaded over 900 ad agencies worldwide to pledge to not work with fossil fuel clients at all. Such disquiet could pose a significant business risk because staff costs account for 63  percent of total ad company expenditure, according to a new report on the sector by financial think tank Planet Tracker.   The report also warns that climate-related reputational risks could hit the “goodwill” that ad companies include on their balance sheet to represent intangible assets, such as brand quality, which can account for as much as 40 percent of a company’s value.  Clearer measurement and reporting by advertising agencies regarding their clients environmental footprint scores are crucial to enable investors to make more informed decisions,” said John Willis, director of research at Planet Tracker. “What matters is not just the ‘internal’ footprint of the agency, but also the ‘external’ footprint they promote, such as the widespread continued support of Big Oil, fast fashion, or plastic pollution,” Willis adds. “This raises the possibility that advertising holding companies are being included in ESG funds due to positive’ ESG scores. We are concerned that investors might be looking the wrong way’ and not taking in the whole picture.” ‘Advertised Emissions’ Increasingly, ad industry insiders and activist investors are making common cause in trying to quantify more of the advertising industry’s true climate impact through a concept known as “advertised emissions”.   The approach mirrors the now widely accepted concept of “financed emissions”, which seeks to quantify the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the loans and investments made by banks in fossil fuel and other polluting companies. Purpose Disruptors, a campaign group started by ad-industry professionals, and Magic Numbers, a London-based econometrics agency, developed the advertised emissions concept to apply a similar methodology to estimate emissions from the rise in product sales generated by advertising. Although the approach does not yet attempt to assess the impact of non-advertising services — such as branding, public relations, and lobbying for fossil fuel giants — the developers see it as a natural extension of the industry’s established practice of attempting to quantify the contribution it makes to driving sales. Using data from the Advertising Research Community, which measures advertising’s return on investment for campaigns in the UK, Purpose Disruptors says advertised emissions have risen in the UK by 11 percent between 2019 and 2022 to reach 208 million tonnes of CO2. That makes advertising partly responsible for 32 percent of the carbon footprint of every single person in the country; or the equivalent to running 56 coal-fired power plants for a year. The ad industry has pushed back. The three main UK-based industry associations wrote a joint article in Campaign magazine last year arguing that adopting the measure would lead to “a significant overstating of emissions” by ignoring advertising‘s “displacement effects” — whereby the sale of one product or service means the lost sale of another. Nevertheless, Japan’s Dentsu published an estimate of its advertised emissions in its 2023 report for the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, a global framework for reporting climate risks. Denstu found that its advertised emissions were 32 times higher than its operational emissions, which include sources such as powering offices and staff travel. Check out DeSmogs Advertising & PR Database to see which ad and PR companies protect the reputations of fossil clients. Growing Coalition  Concerned about potential hidden climate risks in advertising and PR firms, Inyova, the Swiss-German investor, initially called for other investors to sell their shares in the sector. Invoya’s Von Angerer said that tactic got push-back from big investors.  Ten of the world’s biggest money managers, including BlackRock and Vanguard, own on average 49 percent of the shares of the five listed advertising companies, according to the Planet Tracker report.  So Inyova changed tack. Last year, it lobbied Publicis, the French ad giant, to use the “advertised emissions” methodology in its carbon accounting via a campaign coordinated on the investor engagement website of the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, which represents 5,372 investors managing assets of $121.3 trillion. Publicis adopted the standard industry defence when responding at its annual general meeting of shareholders in May last year by saying that its clients — who include Shell, TotalEnergies, and Saudi Aramco — are transitioning to a low-carbon economy. After presentations at big U.S. investor coalitions, the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility and Ceres, as well as the French Responsible Investment forum, the number of campaigning shareholders has grown. The investors are now seeking meetings with the climate change heads at the big ad companies to get them to analyse the climate impact and transition plans of high-carbon clients as part of contract negotiations, and to reject those that are not aligned with the 1.5C Paris Agreement target. Von Angerer is realistic, though, about the hurdles to investor action: “One large shareholder we spoke with was concerned about the risks, but, after evaluation, said the climate data gave the ad companies a clean bill of health.” Nevertheless, a number of initiatives are seeking to develop more granular methodologies to capture the true climate impact of the advertising and PR industry, as well as other service sectors, such as accounting and management consultancy.  The Law Society of England and Wales has developed guidance for its members with a section on ‘advised emissions’.  And the United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champions initiative has backed a research project by Oxford University and the Race to Zero campaign on serviced emissions — associated with consultancy, legal and advertising firms. It advises signatory ‘champions’ to understand and reduce serviced emissions and then publish the data alongside conventional greenhouse gas reporting.  Reputational Risks ESG ratings have themselves emerged as a battleground in the U.S., where right-wing forces have sought to discredit attempts by investors to assess climate risk. Nevertheless, big ad companies look likely to face further pressure to report the advertised emissions of their clients. For now though, that information will not appear directly in their ESG scores — although it could start to generate red flags. Vieno, the Sustainalytics research manager, said that taking on fossil fuel clients could trigger what is known as ”controversy research” — which factors the damage caused by negative headlines into a company’s ESG score. “Reputational risks from allegations of greenwashing for example can be captured under certain controversy categories such as marketing practices and media ethics,” Vieno said.  “It will be interesting to see what occurs on the environmental litigation front: Will the industry experience a similar increase in climate-related probes and litigation as has been seen for banks over the past few years? That has not been the case to date but we will reassess as new developments occur.” Separately, the investor who has been engaging with advertising companies said the next step could be to build on the example set by Dentsu — the Japanese holding group that estimated its advertised emissions — by filing resolutions at annual general meetings urging its rivals to follow suit.  “I don’t think there are enough big investors to file a resolution yet,” the investor said. “But I think that in a year or two we could see a shareholder vote seeking the same kind of disclosure on advertised emissions as Dentsu have done…We believe that ad companies’ reputations in terms of their long-term commitment to the energy transition are at stake.”  Additional reporting by Ellen Ormesher. The post Investors Challenge ‘Blind Spots’ in Climate-Friendly Ratings for Ad and PR Giants appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 2/25/24 11:00pm
For money managers who want to prove they care about the climate, buying shares in big advertising and public relations companies might look like a safe bet. Ad giants such as WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic Group (IPG) score highly on the rankings used to gauge a company’s sustainability performance — so they’re attractive to green fund investors.  However, a DeSmog investigation has found that these scores take little or no account of multiple risks associated with the advertising and PR industry’s role in the climate crisis — from reputational damage caused by greenwashing fossil fuel clients, to threats to staff retention, and the danger of being sued for climate damages.   And DeSmog can also reveal that a growing group of ethical investors are demanding that ad and PR companies come clean about their true climate impact.  Although the communications industry has mostly sidestepped the kind of scrutiny traditionally reserved for oil and gas companies, the investors concerns show calls for climate accountability in the sector are getting louder. An outpouring of criticism of French ad giant Havas — a self-styled climate leader — for taking a global media buying contract with oil major Shell is another clear indicator of this trend. Critical commentary in the trade press after news of the deal broke five months ago — and mockery from influencers — marked a watershed moment in an industry where such deals had rarely been considered through a climate lens. Now, the investors are piling on the pressure. Led by Inyova Impact Investing, a Swiss-German fund manager, the coalition includes the US$1 billion-plus Future Super fund in Australia; Erste Asset Management, one of the largest in Austria; Boston Trust Walden, a U.S. fund manager; French managers Ecofi and Sycomore Asset Management; and a UK investment manager that has yet to go public with its support. Such investors rely on ESG — environmental, social and governance — scores created by ratings agencies to assess a company’s exposure to financial risks associated with issues from its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, to human rights violations in its supply chain, and executive pay.  High ESG scores mean that three of the global big-six ad companies — Publicis, IPG and Dentsu — are included in the feted Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI), which ranks them alongside tech giants such as Microsoft and Alphabet. That makes it easier for these companies to raise money from large pools of pensions and savings, who look for high ESG scores and inclusion in indices like the DJSI to decide which companies count as “sustainable” investments.  But Inyova and its allies say that the role advertising and PR companies play in supporting the fossil fuel industry to portray itself as greener than it actually is poses risks that could hit their bottom line. The dangers range from potential legal liability for climate harms, damage to brand credibility, growing scrutiny from regulators, and the risks that other major clients won’t want to be seen alongside polluters on the rosters of big ad firms. Importantly, fossil fuel deals could also hit employee retention in a sector where the average age of staff is 34, and hiring the best creative minds from an environmentally conscious younger generation is key to staying in business.  The investors say that none of these risks are being reflected in the advertising and PR companies’ rosy ESG scores. “There is a lot of risk of legal challenges to advertising companies these days as countries tighten up greenwashing regulations,” said Andreas von Angerer, head of impact at Inyova, which manages $284 million for about 10,000 Swiss and German retail investors.  Green Tinge The new research by DeSmog shows that big ad companies score well on environmental risks from some of the big ESG raters (see graphic) despite their ties to oil and gas.  The ESG scores of five of the world’s biggest advertising agencies, WPP (UK), Omnicom (U.S.), Publicis (France), IPG (U.S.) and Dentsu (Japan) are either relatively high, or considered low risk. Havas, the French giant, which is one of the global big-six, is not a public company, therefore does not get an ESG rating. However, its parent company, Vivendi, is reportedly considering a Havas listing. MSCI, a leading ratings company, ranks firms on ESG performance from AAA — CCC, high to low. It scores WPP, Publicis and IPG as AA.  Omnicom and Dentsu score as BBB. MSCI ranks all five as ‘ESG Leaders’ for carbon emissions. Sustainalytics, an ESG ratings firm owned by Morningstar, a funds data company, scores IPG as a negligible ESG risk, Omnicom, WPP and Publicis low risk, and Dentsu medium risk. The scores are relatively consistent across a range of ESG raters, according to DeSmog’s research. CDP, a widely used reporting platform for corporate CO2 emissions, also scores four of the big ad firms as B or above (on a scale of A to F) for environmental reporting (see chart), meaning, “they have addressed the environmental impacts of their business and are doing well on environmental management.”  The ad companies use these green investment scores to burnish their own environmental credentials in the eyes of investors, potential clients, and their staff, even as they continue to do PR, advertising, and marketing work for some of the world’s biggest polluters. DeSmog research shows WPP agencies held a combined 61 contracts with fossil fuel clients across 2022 and 2023 with oil majors including BP, Shell, Chevron, and Saudi Aramco, as well as lobbies such as the American Petroleum Institute (API). This was the most fossil fuel contracts of the five companies in DeSmog’s analysis, despite WPP’s pledge to reach net zero emissions in its operations and supply chain by 2030. Yet, it has a top ESG rating from CDP. Omnicom’s 54 fossil fuel contracts during the same period included TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil, and a $3.8 million project for an oil and gas lobby called the Canadian Energy Centre. But Sustainalytics rates it as “low-risk.” WPP and Omnicom topped the 2023 F-list of advertising and PR companies that work with fossil fuel clients, published annually by industry campaign group, Clean Creatives. According to the report, IPG and Publicis followed with 25 and 11 contracts respectively over the past two years. Along with Dentsu (five fossil fuel contracts), these five companies dominate the communications industry, owning hundreds of subsidiaries around the world and generating combined revenues of $64 billion in 2022. Ratings agencies say the ‘E’ scores in ESG are designed to evaluate a company’s exposure to environmental risks threatening their operations or supply chains — not their impact on the climate and environment.  “MSCI ESG Ratings are fundamentally designed to measure a company’s resilience to financially material environmental, societal and governance risks,” a spokesperson for MSCI ESG Research said in a statement. “They are not designed to measure a company’s impact on climate change.” Jennifer Vieno, who manages technology, media and telecommunications research at Sustainalytics, said that working for fossil fuel clients would not expose advertising and PR companies to greater near-term risks from environmental or climate shocks.  “The provision of PR services for fossil fuel companies will not increase their own direct environmental risks,” Vieno told DeSmog.  However, Vieno added that, “One potential risk is these companies may lose current clients or be unable to attract certain clients due to their provision of these services.” Another could be on the human capital front, for the same reason. “There are other potential regulatory risks.” When news broke of Shell’s deal with Havas in September, the Fossil Fuel Nonproliferation Treaty campaign immediately terminated its relationship with the agency. Protestors staged a die-in and a subsequent action at Havas headquarters in London. WPP declined to comment. Omnicom, Publicis, IPG and Dentsu did not respond to requests for comment. ‘Dictated by the Client’ All five companies in DeSmog’s analysis are members of an initiative called Ad Net Zero, founded and run by the Advertising Association, a UK-based advertising industry lobby group.  Members sign up to a five-step action plan to reduce emissions from business operations, supply chains, advertising production and placement, and events, by setting net zero targets verified by the Science-based Targets Initiative (SBTi), regarded as among the most credible monitors of corporate climate commitments. Ad Net Zero also encourages signatories to promote sustainable consumer behaviour through ads and PR campaigns.  A DeSmog investigation found that three-quarters of the awards given to agencies at the Ad Net Zero awards went to those who also work for fossil fuel clients. Credit: Campaign Ad Net Zero Highlights 2023. However, critics of the initiative say it takes little account of the wider climate impact of agencies’ work for fossil fuel clients, or their role in driving up demand for unsustainable products such as SUVs, cheap flights, throwaway plastic and fast fashion. A DeSmog investigation in January found that three-quarters of the awards given to agencies at the Ad Net Zero awards — founded to “highlight environmental sustainability in the advertising industry” — went to those who also work for fossil fuel clients. Neither does SBTi require ad and PR companies to factor in the possible climate impact of their campaigns on behalf of polluting clients into their progress towards net zero targets.  “I do think there is a big blind spot here,” one investor, who did not want to be publicly quoted while lobbying the ad companies, told DeSmog. “These ad companies have science-based targets for net zero that have been validated by SBTi, but without the inclusion of their clients’ emissions. Yet these companies have a huge influence on their clients.” SBTi did not respond to a request for comment. In their defence, the big ad companies argue that they are helping polluters transition to net zero.  When campaigners and employees expressed their dismay at Havas for winning Shell’s media buying account, CEO Yannick Bolloré sought to allay staff anger by presenting the deal as an opportunity to change the oil major from within. Top executives at other major advertising companies, such as WPP CEO Mark Read, have advanced similar arguments.  But employees involved in the day-to-day business of client relationships doubt that PR and advertising agencies can have much influence over an oil and gas company’s business model. “Agencies are helping clients on their transition journeys — as dictated by the client,” said one employee of a major advertising firm covered in DeSmog’s analysis, who asked not to be named for fear of professional repercussions. “We subscribe, promote, and defend the transition plan the client wants for the world, not for what the climate science demands.” Shield from Scrutiny Evidence that ad companies are helping to mask climate inaction by oil and gas companies has sharpened investor concerns.  The World Benchmarking Alliance, which assesses 2,000 of the most influential companies on their contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, said in June last year that, since 2021, “the oil and gas sector has made almost no progress” towards aligning with the goals of the Paris Agreement.  Nevertheless, oil and gas majors invested more than $1 billion in shareholder funds on “misleading climate-related branding and lobbying” in the first three years after the Paris Agreement was signed, according to InfluenceMap, a nonprofit that tracks corporate lobbying. InfluenceMap says these companies also spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on “a systematic strategy to portray themselves as positive and proactive on the climate change emergency”. In 2022, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterras said authorities need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account, including the public relations machine shielding the industry from scrutiny. Credit: Flicker/CC BY NC-ND 2.0 In 2022, the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pointed to the role of the communications industry in the climate crisis for the first time, finding that fossil fuel PR and marketing uses “climate-care statements” and “deflect[s] corporate responsibility to individuals” rather than governments and corporations. In light of those findings, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the UN Assembly: “We need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account. [This] includes the massive public relations machine raking in billions to shield the fossil fuel industry from scrutiny.” A survey by Comms Declare, a climate advocacy group created by ad communications professionals, found that 73 percent of employees in the industry are hesitant to work with fossil fuel clients, while 67 percent think their agencies should take a stronger stand against such companies. Meanwhile, Clean Creatives has persuaded over 900 ad agencies worldwide to pledge to not work with fossil fuel clients at all. Such disquiet could pose a significant business risk because staff costs account for 63  percent of total ad company expenditure, according to a new report on the sector by financial think tank Planet Tracker.   The report also warns that climate-related reputational risks could hit the “goodwill” that ad companies include on their balance sheet to represent intangible assets, such as brand quality, which can account for as much as 40 percent of a company’s value.  Clearer measurement and reporting by advertising agencies regarding their clients environmental footprint scores are crucial to enable investors to make more informed decisions,” said John Willis, director of research at Planet Tracker. “What matters is not just the ‘internal’ footprint of the agency, but also the ‘external’ footprint they promote, such as the widespread continued support of Big Oil, fast fashion, or plastic pollution,” Willis adds. “This raises the possibility that advertising holding companies are being included in ESG funds due to positive’ ESG scores. We are concerned that investors might be looking the wrong way’ and not taking in the whole picture.” ‘Advertised Emissions’ Increasingly, ad industry insiders and activist investors are making common cause in trying to quantify more of the advertising industry’s true climate impact through a concept known as “advertised emissions”.   The approach mirrors the now widely accepted concept of “financed emissions”, which seeks to quantify the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the loans and investments made by banks in fossil fuel and other polluting companies. Purpose Disruptors, a campaign group started by ad-industry professionals, and Magic Numbers, a London-based econometrics agency, developed the advertised emissions concept to apply a similar methodology to estimate emissions from the rise in product sales generated by advertising. Although the approach does not yet attempt to assess the impact of non-advertising services — such as branding, public relations, and lobbying for fossil fuel giants — the developers see it as a natural extension of the industry’s established practice of attempting to quantify the contribution it makes to driving sales. Using data from the Advertising Research Community, which measures advertising’s return on investment for campaigns in the UK, Purpose Disruptors says advertised emissions have risen in the UK by 11 percent between 2019 and 2022 to reach 208 million tonnes of CO2. That makes advertising partly responsible for 32 percent of the carbon footprint of every single person in the country; or the equivalent to running 56 coal-fired power plants for a year. The ad industry has pushed back. The three main UK-based industry associations wrote a joint article in Campaign magazine last year arguing that adopting the measure would lead to “a significant overstating of emissions” by ignoring advertising‘s “displacement effects” — whereby the sale of one product or service means the lost sale of another. Nevertheless, Japan’s Dentsu published an estimate of its advertised emissions in its 2023 report for the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, a global framework for reporting climate risks. Denstu found that its advertised emissions were 32 times higher than its operational emissions, which include sources such as powering offices and staff travel. Check out DeSmogs Advertising & PR Database to see which ad and PR companies protect the reputations of fossil clients. Growing Coalition  Concerned about potential hidden climate risks in advertising and PR firms, Inyova, the Swiss-German investor, initially called for other investors to sell their shares in the sector. Invoya’s Von Angerer said that tactic got push-back from big investors.  Ten of the world’s biggest money managers, including BlackRock and Vanguard, own on average 49 percent of the shares of the five listed advertising companies, according to the Planet Tracker report.  So Inyova changed tack. Last year, it lobbied Publicis, the French ad giant, to use the “advertised emissions” methodology in its carbon accounting via a campaign coordinated on the investor engagement website of the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, which represents 5,372 investors managing assets of $121.3 trillion. Publicis adopted the standard industry defence when responding at its annual general meeting of shareholders in May last year by saying that its clients — who include Shell, TotalEnergies, and Saudi Aramco — are transitioning to a low-carbon economy. After presentations at big U.S. investor coalitions, the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility and Ceres, as well as the French Responsible Investment forum, the number of campaigning shareholders has grown. The investors are now seeking meetings with the climate change heads at the big ad companies to get them to analyse the climate impact and transition plans of high-carbon clients as part of contract negotiations, and to reject those that are not aligned with the 1.5C Paris Agreement target. Von Angerer is realistic, though, about the hurdles to investor action: “One large shareholder we spoke with was concerned about the risks, but, after evaluation, said the climate data gave the ad companies a clean bill of health.” Nevertheless, a number of initiatives are seeking to develop more granular methodologies to capture the true climate impact of the advertising and PR industry, as well as other service sectors, such as accounting and management consultancy.  The Law Society of England and Wales has developed guidance for its members with a section on ‘advised emissions’.  And the United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champions initiative has backed a research project by Oxford University and the Race to Zero campaign on serviced emissions — associated with consultancy, legal and advertising firms. It advises signatory ‘champions’ to understand and reduce serviced emissions and then publish the data alongside conventional greenhouse gas reporting.  Reputational Risks ESG ratings have themselves emerged as a battleground in the U.S., where right-wing forces have sought to discredit attempts by investors to assess climate risk. Nevertheless, big ad companies look likely to face further pressure to report the advertised emissions of their clients. For now though, that information will not appear directly in their ESG scores — although it could start to generate red flags. Vieno, the Sustainalytics research manager, said that taking on fossil fuel clients could trigger what is known as ”controversy research” — which factors the damage caused by negative headlines into a company’s ESG score. “Reputational risks from allegations of greenwashing for example can be captured under certain controversy categories such as marketing practices and media ethics,” Vieno said.  “It will be interesting to see what occurs on the environmental litigation front: Will the industry experience a similar increase in climate-related probes and litigation as has been seen for banks over the past few years? That has not been the case to date but we will reassess as new developments occur.” Separately, the investor who has been engaging with advertising companies said the next step could be to build on the example set by Dentsu — the Japanese holding group that estimated its advertised emissions — by filing resolutions at annual general meetings urging its rivals to follow suit.  “I don’t think there are enough big investors to file a resolution yet,” the investor said. “But I think that in a year or two we could see a shareholder vote seeking the same kind of disclosure on advertised emissions as Dentsu have done…We believe that ad companies’ reputations in terms of their long-term commitment to the energy transition are at stake.”  Additional reporting by Ellen Ormesher. The post Investors Challenge ‘Blind Spots’ in Climate-Friendly Ratings for Ad and PR Giants appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/23/24 10:08am
At the eleventh hour, right-wing politicians have launched a bid to block the passing of the EU’s flagship nature protection law, which scientists have described as a “cornerstone of food security and human health”.  The pro-nature plan, which could see as much as 90 percent of damaged ecosystems repaired across the bloc, is due for final sign off in Parliament on Tuesday (27 February).Usually a formality, the vote follows six months of intense – and at times bitter – negotiation of the law between the European Commission, Parliament and EU member states that saw an agreement reached in November last year. But on Wednesday the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) party filed amendments calling for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to reject outright the so-called Nature Restoration Law – an extremely rare move so late in the decision-making process. Scientists have condemned the call, as well as six other amendments that could see the law delayed or weakened. They say the proposed policy offers a lifeline for natural habitats in the bloc where one in three bees, butterflies and hoverflies are disappearing. “In Europe we are in a critical biodiversity situation, which climate change is accelerating,” Daniel Hering, professor of aquatic ecology at the University of Duisburg-Essen, told DeSmog. “Without such an ambitious legislation, it will not be possible to bend the curve of declining biodiversity.”   A number of proposed green laws have been rolled back or delayed over the last 12 months, as opposition mounts to the EU’s Green Deal – a flagship plan to reach net zero by 2030. The eurosceptic ECR party has justified its last-minute attempt to block the law citing “great social unrest”, in apparent reference to farmer protests that have spread across the continent in recent weeks, with tractors blocking roads and motorways in the majority of EU countries. But scientists told DeSmog that derailing the law could come at significant cost to farmers, who are facing increasingly uncertain conditions due to climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.The former EU climate chief Frans Timmerman has stated that “already half of crops in the EU that depend on pollination face a deficit.” If any of the ECR’s amendments – such as deleting a target to restore 30 percent of Europe’s damaged ecosystems by 2030 – are accepted, a final decision on the law would be delayed until after the EU elections in June when right-wing parties are expected to make major gains. It is so far unclear whether the proposals will succeed in gaining a majority in the vote next week. But the choice made by the centre-right European Peoples’ Party (EPP) – the largest in the EU parliament – will be a deciding factor.  The EPP’s Christine Schnieder, chief negotiator on the nature law, told DeSmog that her party had “serious concerns” and would “determine its voting behaviour for the vote on Tuesday at the Group meeting on Monday evening”. Misinformation The law has long been portrayed as a burden to the farming industry. The EPP has repeatedly attempted to block the legislation following intense lobbying by farm union Copa-Cogeca, which represents producers and agribusinesses across the bloc. It succeeded in deleting the most ambitious agriculture clauses from the law, including targets to re-wild 10 percent of farmland. However, scientists told DeSmog that jettisoning the legislation would cause major harms to the industry – a stance backed up by some small scale producers who are calling for more environmental support.  “Our food systems are at extreme risk. Looking outside and seeing the current temperatures, we can see that the coming summer will be even worse than the last one,” said Guy Pe’er, an ecologist at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. “Farmers will soon need help maintaining production under very difficult conditions. The Nature Restoration law is a crucial part of this package.” Pe’er also told DeSmog he was concerned Tuesday’s outcome could be “based on misinformation”. He was one of more than 6,000 scientists to sign an open letter in July, warning of a “lack of scientific evidence” for arguments opposing the law, including suggestions that it would harm EU food security and take away farming jobs across the continent. Christine Schneider of the EPP told DeSmog that the EPP remained concerned that the law would lead to onerous regulations in member states with “far-reaching monitoring and reporting obligations for agriculture and forestry”.  ‘Election Strategy’ If parliament supports any amendments on 27 February, negotiations on the Nature Restoration Law will extend beyond EU elections, which are due to take place between 6-9 June later this year. Polls are currently suggesting a major ballot swing towards right-wing parties, which have  pledged to use election success to fight the Green Deal.  In France, Marine Le Pen’s far-right party National Rally is expected to claim more than 30 percent of the country’s vote. It said in January it planned to form a “blocking majority” with other parties that target environmental laws.  The EPP, which is likely to retain the largest number of seats in the EU parliament, has likewise opposed multiple environmental regulations in the run-up to the elections in recent months, including overturning plans to halve pesticide use. The ECR is so far not expected to gain many seats in the coming election.  Environmental activist Chloé Miko told DeSmog that if the law was voted down on Tuesday it would be “the final nail in the coffin for the Green Deal” – which has been seen as the lead policy package for the current Commission.  She added that the ECR was deploying a cynical “election strategy”, by linking its opposition to the law to farmer protests across the continent.  “It is not a sign of goodwill towards farmers, she said. The far-right, sometimes with the help of the Conservatives, have been on a journey to weaken, delay or even kill every remaining part of the Green deal. It is part of this process.” Jutta Paulus, the Greens’ negotiator on the law in Parliament, told DeSmog: “The ECR’s attempt to stop the legislative procedure is typical for this euro-sceptic group,” adding that the EPP’s concerns about the law had already been addressed during trialogue negotiations between parliament, the commission and the council over recent months.  “I expect the constructive, pro-European parties to take a firm position and vote in favour of the trilogue agreement,” she said. ECR did not respond to Desmogs request for comment. The post Scientists Condemn Last Minute Push to Overturn EU Nature Law appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/23/24 5:59am
Amid February’s record-breaking temperatures, climate is emerging as a battleground – and faultline – between the UK’s two biggest political parties in the run up to the next general election. In the past weeks, the Labour Party has dramatically scaled back its £28 billion green investment plans, while the Conservative government has committed to annual licensing rounds in the North Sea in a new oil and gas bill. This legislation saw former green Conservative Chris Skidmore MP resign in protest in January, triggering last week’s by-election in Kingswood, which Labour won.  Wrangling between the Tories and Labour has also opened the door for fringe political activists. Parties such as Reform UK have exploited mixed messaging over climate policy, which the UN authority on climate science, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says is essential to secure “to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.  Next Thursday (February 29), voters in the Greater Manchester seat of Rochdale will go to the polls in a by-election triggered by the death of Labour MP Tony Lloyd.  The campaign has been overshadowed by the sacking of the frontrunner candidate, Azhar Ali, who was dropped by Labour over his controversial comments about the October 7 Hamas attacks. It is too late for Labour to field another candidate, and Ali will now run as an independent.  Green Party candidate Guy Otten was also dropped over past statements on Islam and Palestinians. Otten will appear on the ballot paper, but has abstained from campaigning. The rows have given more airtime to several fringe parties fielding candidates strongly opposed to climate action.  Simon Danczuk, who is standing for Reform UK, and George Galloway, the candidate for the Workers Party of Britain, have both repeatedly attacked the UK’s legally binding net zero targets, while Galloway has spread climate misinformation and backed new fossil fuel extraction. Read on to find out all you need to know on where the candidates stand on net zero and climate policy.  Simon Danczuk – Reform UK  This month Danczuk announced he had joined Reform UK. Danczuk was the  MP for Rochdale between 2010 and 2017. He is seeking a return to the constituency following his expulsion from the Labour Party in 2015 after sending sexually explicit messages to a 17-year-old (he served as an independent until 2017).  As an MP, Danczuk voted for measures to prevent climate change, and in 2015 shared an article on Twitter criticising climate denial in the Daily Mail. However, Danczuk’s views appear to have changed.  Last June he wrote an article attacking the “eco-madness” of Labour’s (now scaled back) green investment plans and its pledge not to approve new oil and gas projects. He wrote that Labour “see implementing a green ideology as more important than jobs, security and sustaining the economy”.  The article was published in Spiked, an online “libertarian” outlet which has a record of climate science denial and fossil fuel-linked funding. Between 2015 and 2018, Spiked received $300,000  from the Charles Koch Foundation, an arm of oil giant Koch Industries and a major funder of climate denial. Danczuk repeated the “green ideology” argument in an interview with the fringe right-wing outlet Epoch Times, stating: “The idea of banning gas and oil exploration in the North Sea, before we’ve got alternatives in place, is just absolute madness.”  In September 2023, Danczuk publicly voiced support for the Conservative government’s net zero U-turns, telling TalkTV that voters “are very despondent about these targets” and that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had “called it right”. TalkTV has its own record of spreading climate denial, and until last year employed Reform leader Richard Tice as a presenter.  Reform is campaigning to “scrap all of net zero” and received £135,000 in donations from climate deniers and fossil fuel interests in 2023. Tice has said “CO2 isn’t poison, it’s plant food”, while the party’s London mayoral candidate Howard Cox has said “man is not responsible for global warming”. George Galloway – Workers Party of Britain Another ex-Labour Party MP, George Galloway, is standing for the Workers Party of Britain, a party he founded after the 2019 general election. Galloway was expelled from Labour in 2003 for “bringing the party into disrepute” after a party tribunal found he had “incited Arabs to fight British troops” and “incited British troops to defy orders”. He has since been elected to parliament twice – in 2005 for his Respect party and 2012 as an independent – each time serving one term.  The Workers Party of Britain, calls itself a socialist party that “defend[s] the achievements of the USSR, China, Cuba etc”. The party is hostile to climate policies. Its website calls for “a much clearer debate on Net Zero” and argues that “a halt must also be made to the attempt to make working people pay for subsidies for large-scale green industrialisation”.  Last July the party called for a Brexit-style referendum on net zero, a policy originally pushed by the right-wing Reform UK and led by its honorary president Nigel Farage. (Galloway and Farage have worked together in the past as part of the Aaron Banks-funded ‘Grassroots Out’ campaign for Brexit.)Galloway has attacked net zero targets, advocated for clean coal extraction and spread misinformation about climate change. In December, Galloway called for a net zero referendum in a post on the social media platform X. On his YouTube talk show in August 2022, Galloway spread the false claim that people would be forced to “eat insects” to tackle climate change, adding, “I think this net zero is one of the biggest hoaxes in modern politics.” He then took a swipe at climate activist Greta Thunberg, a regular target for climate deniers, calling net zero “a 14-year old schoolgirl leading grown men and women up the garden path.” The following month, he again dismissed climate warnings from activists like Thunberg, arguing that the main climate risk came from NATO and the “military industrial complex”. He said: “We are facing climate catastrophe; not man made the likes of Greta Thunberg talks about, but through our own governments.”    Galloway has also called for more fossil fuel extraction. In an X post in March 2022, a month after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Galloway wrote: “Britain needs to ice its [Net] Zero fantasy, step up its oil exploitation [and] invest in peaceful nuclear energy and seek to re-harvest the 1,000 years of coal under our feet employing clean-coal technology. Our Energy policy is hopelessly unbalanced.” From 2008 to 2013, Galloway worked as a presenter for Press TV, the English-language channel run by the Iranian government. From 2013 to 2015 Galloway was paid £100,000 to present a show on RT (Russia Today), Russia’s equivalent. Both countries are major oil and gas producers. The channels have since had their broadcasting licences revoked by Ofcom for breaking its rules (Galloway’s broadcasts were not referenced in the ruling).  Paul Ellison – Conservative Party Little is known about the climate views of Conservative candidate Paul Ellison, who has been dubbed “Mr Rochdale” in the local press. According to a favourable profile in Rochdale Online, Ellison has been active in the local community protecting green spaces, and is credited with winning Rochdale recognition by the Royal Horticultural Society In Bloom awards.  He does not appear to have commented publicly about climate change.  Azhar Ali – Independent (formerly Labour Party) Newly independent candidate Azhar Ali criticised the government’s U-turns on net zero in September, accusing the Prime Minister of “playing to the climate change deniers in his own party”.  He doesn’t appear to have commented publicly about Labour’s weakening of its own net zero plans. Earlier this month, the party dropped its pledge to invest £28 billion per year in green measures, cutting its spending plans by 75 percent to £23.7 billion in total. Labour says it will still  keep to its target to decarbonise the UK’s power grid by 2030. The party opposes new North Sea exploration, but supports unproven carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology on existing rigs. Earlier this month, Labour leader Keir Starmer said current pipelines would “continue for decades”.  In October 2016, Ali attacked plans to introduce fracking for shale gas in Lancashire, saying on Twitter (now X): “Conservative government gives green light to the ‘rape’ of our environment.” Iain Donaldson – Liberal Democrats Lib Dem candidate Iain Donaldson has said he wants to hold the government to account on “water companies polluting the rivers with filthy sewage”, among other issues. In a 2017 tweet he criticised the then U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.  Donaldson was one of eleven of the party’s 15 MPs who voted against the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill this week, while four abstained. The Liberal Democrats propose moving the net zero target forward five years to 2045 and support large investments in renewable energy. A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said Donaldson had opposed the oil and gas bill, which “fails to take vital steps to grow the UK renewable energy sector and reduce energy bills, and fails to form a coherent path to net zero”. “Iain wants to see the de facto moratorium on onshore wind farms lifted,” they added, “and allow the expansion of the cheapest form of energy to drive down bills in this cost of living crisis, and reduce our emissions helping to slow climate change.” Mark Coleman Independent After dropping its own candidate, the Green Party has urged its members to back Reverend Mark Coleman, who has put climate at the forefront of his campaign. Twice arrested for climate protest, Coleman was sentenced in April 2023 to five and half weeks in prison for blocking the M25 and other roads with campaign group Insulate Britain.  Just Stop Oil has also asked its supporters to back Coleman. In a statement, the climate protest group said he is “the only candidate in the Rochdale by-election worth voting for”. In a campaign blurb for local news outlet Rochdale Online, Coleman calls for “radical action on climate right now to stand any chance of a safe and stable future”.  All candidates named in this article were contacted for comment.  Additional reporting by Phoebe Cooke. The post In Rochdale By-Election, Climate Policy is Also on the Ballot appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/21/24 5:00am
Later this week, Formula Ones wildly popular documentary series, Drive to Survive, will return with a sixth season. The dramatic show, which captures the highs and lows of motorsports’ biggest stage, boasts almost seven million viewers.  The show has been pivotal for driving a whole new generation of fans to F1, a sport that now has an estimated 1.56 billion adoring devotees worldwide.  But a huge sponsorship deal with a giant oil producer is making claims that lead those fans down a dead end on climate action, putting greenwash into overdrive. Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, is one of F1’s most visible sponsors. The sport’s global popularity offers Aramco an unparalleled opportunity to promote a range of supposedly “green” technologies to a captive audience. Technologies such as so-called “mobile carbon capture”, in which vehicle emissions are captured and stored onboard, and ‘​”advanced fuels” — synthetically-manufactured fuels that Aramco believes will help decarbonise not only F1, but road transport more broadly.  The advertising campaign promoting these technologies, which has appeared across social media as well as in print through a paid advertising partnership with the Financial Times, is the basis for a series of complaints we have submitted to UK and Dutch advertising regulators. In the complaints, we say that these adverts badly mislead motorsports fans and the wider public over the role so-called “advanced” fuels will play in decarbonising road transport, and omit key information about Aramco’s vast ongoing fossil fuel production.  Basically, these technologies are not serious solutions to the mounting decarbonisation challenge. Worse still, Saudi Aramco is not serious about actually scaling up and introducing these solutions.  Saudi Aramco’s demonstration plant will, if all goes to plan, produce approximately 35 barrels per day of advanced fuels — just 0.0004 percent of its existing nine million barrels a day of crude oil production.  The fossil fuel giant is happy to co-opt F1’s association with speed, progress, and innovation to mislead, confuse, and greenwash. But for Aramco, its less “drive to survive” and more “misguide to survive”.   Despite recently announcing a halt to its expansion plans, which the Saudi energy minister said was due to the energy transition, Aramco is still deeply dependent on oil. The company produces roughly 10 percent of the oil that the world consumes every single day.  Given the eye-watering profits such demand creates for Aramco and its owners, the company is keen to protect its market share within an energy system that is beginning to tilt towards decarbonisation. In fact, a recent exposé by The Guardian showed that a little known initiative spearheaded by Aramco and other Saudi entities, called the “Oil Demand Sustainability Programme”, is planning to lock developing nations into fossil-fuelled energy and transport systems.   This is the context in which these purported solutions fit: They are “drop-in” technologies that will not require electrification or industrial conversion, reducing the necessity for new investment as well as protecting existing assets. Put simply: According to Aramco, internal-combustion-engine cars can continue to be bought, sold, and run on liquid fuels because it will be possible to capture the carbon emissions at the tailpipe or use “advanced” fuels that supposedly remove carbon emissions in the first place.  The potential of such technologies to cut carbon pollution from transportation has been disputed by some of the most reputable scientific bodies on Earth. Take synthetic fuels: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not believe that these fuels will play any meaningful role in decarbonising road transport because “the total energy efficiency [of synthetic fuels] is lower than that of electric vehicles”.  Further, producing these fuels requires immense amounts of energy — energy that has to be carbon-free if the fuels are to deliver actual decarbonisation. However, a study by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that 48 percent of this energy is lost in the conversion process, which would mean diverting renewable energy away from the grid and EVs just to produce e-fuels.  These fuels will not even deliver any improvements in air pollution, which blights the lives of billions worldwide. Lab tests have shown that fossil fuels and synthetic fuels produce similar levels of toxic pollutants These fuels will not accelerate decarbonisation in transport. They will slam on the brakes.  Aramco itself has conceded that scaling up these fuels will come at a significant cost, compared to producing biofuels or conventional fossil fuels. But to mitigate this, Aramco intends to lobby “for support policies and investments to reduce costs”. The partnership with F1 forms a vital pillar in this lobbying push, with SourceMaterial uncovering last year that in closed door meetings with top EU officials, F1 lobbied for policy support for “e-fuels”, despite their dubious contribution to decarbonising transport.  In the words of Alex Keynes of Transport & Environment, these fantasy fuels are “a Trojan horse for continued fossil fuel use”. The tie-up between Saudi Aramco and F1 goes way beyond the soft power usually associated with sport — and that’s why we have submitted complaints to the UK and Dutch advertising regulators. Aramco has co-opted the imagery and language of F1, its legacies of innovation and speed, to push false climate solutions and mislead millions of people around the world about why societies must leave the internal-combustion-engine car behind, and how it should be done.  At the same time, F1 has used its privileged access, gained by being an accelerator and disseminator of emerging transport technology, to influence governments and policy makers, ultimately shaping the path society takes to decarbonise transport.  The complaints submitted to the UK and Dutch advertising regulators are a stepping stone to a broader, and more robust, confrontation with those who want to maintain the status quo. Sport is increasingly becoming the final frontier for fossil fuel advertising and sponsorship, with these companies able to greenwash, mislead, and misinform billions of sports fans without fear of repercussions.  This cannot be allowed to go on. Preventing the worst impacts of climate breakdown means putting our collective pedal to the metal, creating a slipstream for the technologies, policies and businesses that will build a sustainable future — a future where sport can continue to be enjoyed. Stopping the likes of Saudi Aramco from promoting false solutions in the hope of insulating their future profits is the first step to bringing that future into existence.  Freddie Daley is a research associate at the Centre for Global Political Economy, University of Sussex, exploring sustainable behaviour change, supply-side mitigation policies, and energy transitions. Andrew Simms is an author, political economist, campaigner, and co-director of the New Weather Institute. The post Greenwashing Through Sport appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy, license to operate, Saudi Aramco, sport]

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[l] at 2/20/24 5:13pm
Several California municipalities are now coordinating their climate accountability litigation against major oil companies with the state’s climate accountability case. The move allows them to combine evidence-gathering and many procedural activities related to the litigation. On February 5, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Charles S. Treat approved California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s petition for coordination of the state’s lawsuit with the suits brought by the counties of Marin, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz, and the cities of Imperial Beach, Richmond, and Santa Cruz, as well as their unanimous request to assign all the cases to the Superior Court of San Francisco. The cities of Oakland and San Francisco, which recently fended off efforts by the fossil fuel defendants to move their cases from state to federal court, may join the coordination agreement as well. Legal experts say that coordinating the cases makes sense. According to Cara Horowitz, executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA Law School, the California cases raise many of the same legal questions and are based on much of the same factual evidence. “They also will require courts to make legal decisions about the culpability of fossil fuel company defendants under similar legal theories,” she told DeSmog.  The state and municipalities may still have to contend with other efforts by Big Oil to stop the cases from going to trial, including motions to dismiss the case, said Hollin Kretzmann, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Big Oil has managed to delay these trials for almost seven years and counting,” Kretzmann said. “The plaintiffs need to overcome these delay tactics and get the court to put the industry’s deceitful behavior on trial as soon as possible.”  “California has considerable legal muscle to take on this fight,” he said, referring to the state attorney general’s office. Office of the California Attorney General in Sacramento, California. Credit: J. Stephen Conn, CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED In a statement to DeSmog, the California Attorney General’s Office said, The Attorney General’s Office and local entities will all be prosecuting their cases in the coordinated proceeding,” adding that the state will be aided by outside counsel Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. Chevron and the other oil companies named in the suits did not object to the petition for coordination. “The defendants wouldn’t try to block it — it saves them time, too, and saves the clients money,” said Michael Gerrard, the faculty director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. “It also reduces the risk of inconsistent testimony in different depositions, different proceedings.” However, in a January 22 filing, Ted Boutrous, a lawyer representing Chevron, argued for the coordination proceedings to take place in Contra Costa County, claiming that it would be a more neutral venue than San Francisco. Judge Treat rejected Boutrous’s request, recommending that the proceedings be assigned to San Francisco Superior Court despite arguments against by Chevron. In his February 5 order, he wrote that he “has every confidence that the San Francisco Superior Court can be fully trusted to remain impartial and unbiased in these actions.” In the coming weeks, the judicial body overseeing the state’s coordination program will assign a trial judge to manage and rule on coordination matters in the cases. Boutrous is a partner at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which often represents the fossil fuel industry in climate cases and other litigation, such as in Chevron’s suit in Ecuador charging activists with racketeering. A traffic control point along U.S. Route 50 near South Lake Tahoe, in 2021, as the Caldor Fire encroached on the evacuated area. Credit: Staff Sgt. Crystal Housman/U.S. Air National Guard, public domain The California lawsuits, brought between 2017 and 2023, contend that decades of successful disinformation campaigns by Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and other oil companies about the main cause of climate change — burning fossil fuels — effectively delayed the energy transition and worsened the climate crisis.  Now the state, counties, and cities want the industry to help pay the skyrocketing costs of dealing with rising sea levels, extreme flooding, deadly heat and wildfires, and other unprecedented problems driven by the climate crisis. In response to DeSmog’s request for comment, Shell spokesperson Anna Arata said that the company’s position on climate change “has been a matter of public record for decades” and that Shell agrees urgent action is needed to tackle the problem. “We do not believe the courtroom is the right venue to address climate change,” she said.  Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Gibson Dunn did not respond to requests for comment.  Families evacuated from base housing on Marine Corps Camp Pendleton due to California wildfires in 2014. Credit: Cpl. Sarah Wolff/U.S. Marine Corps, public domain California is arguably the epicenter of climate litigation against the fossil fuel industry, which now includes more than three dozen cases brought by states and municipalities nationwide — including Chicago’s newly announced lawsuit. In 2017, Imperial Beach — a coastal community of roughly 26,000 residents just south of San Diego — and the Bay Area counties of San Mateo and Marin were the first municipalities in the country to sue Big Oil for climate damages under state tort law. They were joined within months by Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Richmond.  The state’s filing of its climate accountability lawsuit in 2023 was “a watershed moment,” said Kretzmann, because California is the first state with a significant oil-producing industry to sue Big Oil over climate deception, as well as the state with the largest economy. CORRECTION (2/22/24): This story has been edited to correct errors in an earlier version and add new comments. The California municipalities and state attorney general’s office are now coordinating their cases, not consolidating them. Traffic passes through flooding in Ukiah, California in January 2017, as record precipitation followed years of drought. Credit: Bob Dass, CC BY 2.0 DEED The post Judge OK’s Coordination for Multiple California Climate Cases Against Big Oil appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/20/24 5:13pm
Several California municipalities are merging their climate deception litigation with the state’s climate case, to jointly pursue a super-sized lawsuit against the fossil fuel industry, according to recent court filings. This development comes as Chicago joins the growing list of U.S. municipalities suing the fossil fuel industry. On February 5, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Charles S. Treat approved California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s petition to link the state’s climate accountability case with lawsuits brought by the counties of Marin, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz, and the cities of Imperial Beach, Richmond, and Santa Cruz.  The attorney general’s office filed its coordination petition, backed by the municipal entities, in November, noting that coordinating the lawsuits into one package would avoid any conflicting rulings in the various cases. The joint suit, called the “Fuel Industry Climate Cases,” will proceed in San Francisco Superior Court, where Bonta filed the state’s lawsuit last year.  In late November, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected an attempt by several oil companies to move Oakland and San Francisco’s climate lawsuits against them from state to federal court. Once the formal action of returning the cases to state court (called a remand) takes effect, they are expected to merge their cases into the super suit as well. Bonta’s office is expected to lead the litigation going forward, with assistance from outside counsel including San Francisco-based plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, but the attorney general’s office could not confirm by publishing time. Office of the California Attorney General in Sacramento, California. Credit: J. Stephen Conn, CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED The oil companies did not object to bundling the lawsuits. However, in a January 22 filing, Chevrons attorney Theodore Boutrous of the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher argued that the case be moved to Contra Costa County, claiming that it would be a more neutral venue than San Francisco. Judge Treat rejected Boutrous’s request, writing in his February 5 order that he “has every confidence that the San Francisco Superior Court can be fully trusted to remain impartial and unbiased in these actions.”  Gibson Dunn often represents the fossil fuel industry in climate cases and other litigation, such as in Chevron’s infamous racketeering suit in Ecuador. The California plaintiffs will still have to contend with other efforts by Big Oil to stall the super suit from going to trial, including motions to dismiss the case. “Big Oil has managed to delay these trials for almost seven years and counting,” said Hollin Kretzmann, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The plaintiffs need to overcome these delay tactics and get the court to put the industry’s deceitful behavior on trial as soon as possible.”  Damages for Disinformation Families evacuated from base housing on Marine Corps Camp Pendleton due to California wildfires in 2014. Credit: Cpl. Sarah Wolff/U.S. Marine Corps, public domain The California lawsuits, brought between 2017 and 2023, contend that decades of successful disinformation campaigns by Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and other oil companies about the main cause of climate change — burning fossil fuels — effectively delayed the energy transition and exacerbated the climate crisis and consequent damages.  Now, the state, counties, and cities want the industry to help pay the skyrocketing costs of contending with rising sea levels, extreme flooding, deadly heat and wildfires, and other unprecedented problems being driven by climate change. A traffic control point along U.S. Route 50 near South Lake Tahoe, in 2021, as the Caldor Fire encroached on the evacuated area. Credit: Staff Sgt. Crystal Housman/U.S. Air National Guard, public domain In an emailed statement, Shell spokesperson Anna Arata said that the company’s position on climate change “has been a matter of public record for decades” and that Shell agrees urgent action is needed to tackle the problem. “We do not believe the courtroom is the right venue to address climate change,” she said.  DeSmog reached out to several other oil industry defendants and Gibson Dunn for comment. Chevron,  ExxonMobil, and Gibson Dunn did not respond.  Legal experts say that merging the cases makes sense. According to Cara Horowitz, executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA Law School, the California cases raise many of the same legal questions and are based on much of the same factual evidence. “They also will require courts to make legal decisions about the culpability of fossil fuel company defendants under similar legal theories,” she told DeSmog.   Merging the lawsuits will also help the cities and counties in several ways. “Local jurisdictions with stretched budgets can now join forces with each other and with the state in mounting a strong claim,” said Horowitz. “That could be important, since one of the rationales for these suits from the very beginning has been that local jurisdictions are running low on money because of the increasing costs of responding to climate harms.”  Kretzman agreed that “California has considerable legal muscle to take on this fight,” and that will help the municipalities that have teamed up with the attorney general’s office. Leading the Charge Traffic passes through flooding in Ukiah, California in January 2017, as record precipitation followed years of drought. Credit: Bob Dass, CC BY 2.0 DEED California is arguably at the epicenter of climate litigation against the fossil fuel industry, which now includes more than three dozen cases brought by states and municipalities nationwide. In 2017, Imperial Beach – a coastal community of roughly 26,000 residents just south of San Diego – and the Bay Area counties of San Mateo and Marin were the first municipalities in the country to sue Big Oil for climate damages under state tort law. They were joined within months by Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Richmond.  The state’s filing of its climate accountability lawsuit in 2023 was “a watershed moment,” said Kretzman, because California is the largest U.S. jurisdiction, as well as the first state with a significant oil-producing industry, to sue Big Oil over climate deception. Bonta has credited those earlier cases in leading the charge by fighting preliminary procedural battles in court. “We monitored the other cases, by local entities in California and other states, and we are grateful and thankful for what they have done,” he said in remarks to the press in September, shortly after filing the state’s lawsuit.  Last April, the U.S. Supreme Court denied oil industry petitions to remove a handful of climate cases, including those brought by the California coastal communities, from state or local to federal court.  That decision, Bonta said in September, “allows us to get to where we want to go, to the merits, to hold [fossil fuel companies] accountable for their deceit.” The post Multiple California Climate Cases Against Big Oil Are Merging into One Super Suit appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/20/24 2:07pm
Barclays, one of the largest banks headquartered in the European Union, will stop funding new oil and gas projects. The shift is part of a slew of internal changes geared toward curbing emissions. But the newly adopted measures, which were announced last week, leave the London-based multinational with plenty of flexibility to continue financing fossil fuel extraction — and some critics say they don’t go far enough.  “Overall we feel progress has been made by Barclays, but there are still areas of concern,” said Kelly Shields, a campaign manager with ShareAction, a UK-based nonprofit that used investor pressure to lobby the bank to change its lending practices.  Publicly, Barclays has signaled an intent to pivot away from fossil fuels and help power the rise of green energy. In 2020, it announced it would become a net-zero-emissions bank by 2050 — a goal that also involves “aligning its financing with the goals and timelines of the Paris Agreement,” and reducing its lending to the oil and gas sector. It seems to have made some progress: On its website, Barclays says emissions related to projects it finances dropped by 32 percent between 2020 and 2022.  But activist groups focused on greening the financial sector portray Barclays as a holdout that has slow-walked its climate commitments, especially when compared to other European banks. A report from Rainforest Action Network found that Barclays was the European Union’s largest funder of oil and gas projects between 2016 and 2022. In a brief shared with DeSmog, ShareAction wrote that 17 of the EU’s 24 largest banks have already agreed to stop funding new oil and gas projects — including HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, which made the commitment in December 2022. By that standard, Barclays is late to the party.  “I think while its a positive statement of intent, particularly for a bank of Barclays size and influence, it is really kind of catching up rather than taking a leadership role,” said David Hayman, a campaign director for Make My Money Matter, a nonprofit focused on financial system reform.  The pledge to stop funding new oil and gas projects only pertains to “upstream” development, or exploration and extraction activities, as well as any related infrastructure. But that’s just one aspect of Barclays’ new commitments, which are reflected in revisions the company made to its “climate change statement” this month. The company has also placed new restrictions on funding for energy clients, as well as tightening its rules around “unconventional” forms of extraction including projects in the Amazon biome and ultra-deepwater drilling.  Still, the ambitious-sounding new standards only cover a fraction of Barclay’s overall oil and gas lending. The updated policy only rules out direct funding for new oil and gas projects, so Barclays can continue to provide more general corporate funding to oil and gas companies — who can then use that funding however they wish, including for expansion.  [Its] like Barclays saying they would never directly invest in cigarettes, but are happy to provide billions to tobacco companies.” This means the lion’s share of Barclays oil and gas lending isn’t covered under the new commitment, said Xavier Lerin, a Senior Research Manager at ShareAction. Though Europe’s largest banks collectively lend tens of billions annually to companies engaged in fossil fuel expansion, a 2022 ShareAction report found that only eight percent of that financing was project-specific between 2016 and 2021. For Barclays, the contrast was even starker: Just one percent of its oil and gas expansion financing went to dedicated projects, according to an analysis by ShareAction and the sustainability research firm Profundo. The rest was general corporate financing — and under the new commitments, that remains largely untouched.  In a statement provided to DeSmog, Make My Money Matter said this “is like Barclays saying they would never directly invest in cigarettes, but are happy to provide billions to tobacco companies.” Still, Barclays has put some broad new accountability measures in place. Starting in January 2025 it won’t provide new financing to companies that devote more than 10 percent of capital expenditures to oil and gas expansion, and will subject existing clients whose upstream operations cross that threshold to an annual audit. It will place new restrictions on lending to companies that haven’t diversified beyond oil and gas. Starting in January 2026, it also will only finance energy companies that can demonstrate alignment with net-zero targets, including reductions to methane emissions and “non-essential venting and flaring of natural gas.  But these stipulations are crafted in a way that gives Barclays plenty of latitude, with several exceptions and carve-outs. Its assessment of borrowers’ adherence to net-zero targets, for instance, doesn’t have minimum standards around “Scope 3” emissions — the kind generated from fuel sold to customers, by far the biggest part of the industry’s climate footprint. And though the bank will subject existing clients to annual audits if they perform poorly on internal sustainability benchmarks, it allows itself broad flexibility in determining “whether continued financing support is appropriate.”  “Overall, the new energy policy enables Barclays to retain significant discretion over its continued support of oil & gas expansion activities that are incompatible with 1.5C scenarios,” ShareAction wrote in a statement provided to DeSmog. “The bank will need to demonstrate its approach is effective in addressing the significant climate risks these activities pose to the bank and its investors.”   Barclays had not responded to a request for comment by press time.  Sebastian Gehricke, senior lecturer and director of the Climate and Energy Finance Group at the University of Otago in New Zealand, calls Barclays’ efforts “a move in the right direction,” despite its flaws. As long as oil and gas expanders can still find other lenders, he argued, nothing much will change — which is why each new commitment counts.  “Its a matter of having enough of these larger organizations doing this sort of thing, and probably more stringently than Barclays has done, that will lead to change,” he said. The post Critics Say Barclays’ New Restrictions on Financing Oil and Gas Projects Are Too Limited and Too Late appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/19/24 6:11am
Italy’s first climate change lawsuit brought by Greenpeace Italy and climate advocacy group ReCommon against Italian oil giant Eni opened with its first hearing  on February 16, alleging the company contributed to global warming.  The hearing comes alongside a new report by Greenpeace Italy, which describes how Eni’s technical consultants in the case have deep ties to the fossil fuel industry and climate deniers.  The lawsuit “aims to build on a similar case targeting Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell in the Netherlands to force Eni to slash its carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030,” as DeSmog has previously reported. At issue in the case is whether or not Eni  knowingly contributed to climate change and if it’s responsible for past and future damages. The case is also assessing if the oil giant violated human rights that are protected by the Italian Constitution and international agreements.  The cache of documentary evidence in the lawsuit includes two “technical reports” produced for Eni’s defense by consultants who Greenpeace Italy’s new report describes as climate deniers. Last week, the two environmental organizations pushed to have the judge hear their witnesses, which includes 12 Italian citizens who have been impacted by climate change, the groups’ lawyer Alessandro Gariglio told DeSmog. “Now it will be up to the judge to assess whether he considers the documentary evidence presented to be sufficient or, instead, whether he thinks it might be appropriate to hear witnesses and, above all, to order a court-appointed expert opinion,” Gariglio noted. He added that he and his parties are in favor of such a move, “and the counterparties [Eni included] are not.”  In a statement to DeSmog, an Eni spokesperson said the company “will prove the groundlessness of Greenpeace and ReCommon’s claims, both legally and factually, in the legal proceedings.” Documentation related to the current lawsuit is available for review on Eni’s website. Eni’s Technical Reports The technical reports are addendums to one of Eni’s statements of defense and are authored by Carlo Stagnaro, director of research and studies at the think tank Istituto Bruno Leoni (IBL), and Stefano Consonni, professor of Energy and Environmental Systems at the Department of Energy of the Politecnico University in Milan. According to Greenpeace Italy, the two consultants are “anything but independent,” and “have expressed climate denial positions” on more than one occasion.  Consonni’s resume states that since 1993 he has been “lead investigator” for research financed by multiple oil and gas companies, including Eni, ExxonMobil, BP Alternative Energy, and the U.S. Department of Energy.  Stagnaro’s technical report, Greenpeace says, includes references to Eni’s key climate delay tactics, such as “whataboutism.” to obscure the Italian oil giant’s true contribution to global warming. For example, it mentions China’s lack of responsibility in controlling emissions and also the tactic of  diverting accountability towards consumers –  a reference that is repeated 19 times throughout the text. Ties to the U.S. Climate Denial Machine According to Greenpeace’s report, the think tank IBL has denied man-made anthropogenic climate change in the past and, in the early 2000s, Stagnaro was “among the most active figures” within the institution to import U.S. climate denial theories into Italy. In 2006, for example, Stagnaro wrote a briefing called “Climate. We want to be Amerikans,” which includes delayer phrasing such as “climate alarmists.” The briefing states, “Unfortunately, the Kyoto Protocol presupposes a ‘choice of field’ in science: it rests, that is, on the assumption that humans are the root cause,” which is “an assumption that is justified neither by the uncertainty of actual scientific knowledge nor by the complexity of the atmospheric dynamics.” To support this, the briefing cites retired astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas, who is associated with many climate denier organizations, including the George C. Marshall Institute. In 2002, in a hearing in the U.S. Senate, Baliunas declared that “since no warming trend in the lower layers of the troposphere was observed, most of the surface warming in recent decades cannot be attributed to a greenhouse effect enhanced by human causes.” Stagnaro’s briefing also cites climate denier Bjorn Lomborg and was co-authored by Mario Sechi, current editor-in-chief of far-right Italian newspaper Libero, who is the former director of Eni-owned news agency, AGI, and a former spokesperson for current right-wing Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. At a summit in Rome at the end of January, Meloni unveiled the “Mattei Plan,” named after Enrico Mattei, founder of Eni. The program aims to transform Italy into “an energy hub” distributing fossil fuels extracted from Africa that creates “a bridge between Europe and Africa.” Campaigners in Italy and across Africa have criticized the plan, saying it will promote fossil fuel exploitation and “false solutions.”  Before the initiative was announced, over 50 African groups signed a letter to the Italian government calling for an “end of neo-colonial approaches” and “a more consultative approach.” “This ‘dash for gas’ in Africa is dangerous and short-sighted,” the letter states. Eni has also recently come under fire in some Italian media for sponsoring the week-long music and entertainment TV show, Sanremo, which was seen by 70 percent of Italian viewers this year during one of its broadcasts. According to Greenpeace this sponsorship is “yet another greenwashing operation.” Greenpeace’s report underscores the fact that IBL, under Stagnaro’s direction, is part of the Atlas Network, a group of more than 500 “free market” organizations in nearly 100 countries that have supported climate science denial positions and  lobbied against legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions. According to previous DeSmog reports, the Atlas Network is also behind efforts to “brand climate activists as extremists,” and “pass anti-protest legislation.” Greenpeace’s report reveals that in 2004, IBL also joined the Cooler Heads Coalition (CHC), a U.S.-based pressure group that has worked to promote climate denialism. After calling climate science a hoax for two decades, CHC played an important role in President Donald Trump’s 2017 decision to pull the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. Enis technical consultants with the Istituto Bruno Leoni (IBL) have ties to U.S. climate denial organizations like the Heartland Institute. Credit: Wikipedia According to the Climate Investigations Center, from 1997 to 2015, members of CHC received “upwards of $98 million dollars in donations from Exxon Mobil, conservative foundations, and dark money organizations.” According to another report by Italian news outlet Il Fatto Quotidiano, in 2010, Exxon contributed $30,000 to IBL and Eni gave the group 12,000 euros. In 2008, IBL also co-sponsored the event “Global Warming Is Not a Crisis” with The Heartland Institute, which has been at “the forefront” of denying scientific evidence for climate change. IBL’s position seems to have softened over the years, Greenpeace’s report mentions, with Stagnaro tweeting in November 2019 that, “The position of the @istbrunoleoni on #climate is that: 1. climate change exists and is also due to humans 2. Emissions must be reduced 3. Not all policies that aim to reduce emissions work or are efficient.” However, in 2018, IBL promoted the launch of “In Defense of Fossil Fuels,” a book by Alex Epstein who, according to investigative group Documented, “influences oil policy directly as a member of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission,” which is “a powerful quasi-regulatory body that lobbies for oil and gas interests.” “Can the report of someone who has often personally embraced and disseminated climate change denialist positions be considered reliable in the context of climate litigation?” asks Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon, who have named their campaign for the lawsuit “The Just Cause.” Can it “be considered free of judgment if that same expert has received funding from that same company in the past?” the plaintiffs ask. In response, Eni’s website reads, “There is little that is ‘just’ about this action. “The plaintiffs are in fact asking the court to declare Eni “responsible” for damages suffered and future damages resulting from climate change, to which the company has allegedly contributed with its conduct over the past decades.”  This “false narrative,” Eni continues, is based on an “obvious instrumental approach” aimed at “demonizing” the business. Greenpeace Italy and ReCommon stated that they hope the judge will “reject the numerous and specious objections made by Eni” to allow “a radical change in the company’s industrial strategies.” The post Climate Trial Against Oil Giant Eni Opens in Italy appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/15/24 11:00am
Oil and gas companies have for years marketed fracked gas from B.C. as a global climate solution, with some industry boosters even going so far as to call Canada’s supply of the fossil fuel the “cleanest in the world.” But an impending flood of liquefied natural gas exports from western Canada to Asia could make it harder for countries there to achieve their national climate targets and contribute to tens of thousands of additional deaths due to air pollution.  That’s the assessment of major environmental organizations based in South Korea and Japan, whose representatives told DeSmog that rather than increasing east and southeast Asia’s dependance on an economically volatile and planet-warming energy source it would be much better for the region to shift from coal directly into renewables.  “The argument that liquefied natural gas is helpful for climate action is way outdated,” Dongjae Oh, head of the oil and gas finance program at the Seoul-based non-profit Solutions for Our Climate, told DeSmog. “We need to think about not just stopping the expansion of LNG but how to phase it out as soon as possible.” Ayumi Fukakusa agrees. She is deputy executive director at the Tokyo-based environmental organization Friends of the Earth Japan. “I don’t believe gas is a climate solution,” she told DeSmog.  23,000 premature deaths     These Asia-based energy and climate experts point to the landmark 2021 report from the International Energy Agency which concluded that the only way to stabilize atmospheric warming at the relatively safe threshold of 1.5°C is to stop building new fossil fuel projects.  South Korea is currently the world’s third largest LNG importer and plans to expand its gas capacity 50 percent by 2036. But to reduce South Korea’s emissions in line with the 1.5°C temperature limit, the country must fully phase out gas from its electricity sector over the same time period, Solutions for Our Climate calculates.  If Canada begins shipping huge amounts of LNG to South Korea and other Asian countries, as companies including Shell and Petronas intend to do starting next year, it will impede the shift to truly clean sources of energy. That’s because current market dynamics in the country “motivate the fossil fuel generators to continuously construct new plants and delay the phaseout of those that contribute little to the power grid,” Gyuri Cho of Solutions for Our Climate said last year.   This could have dire health impacts. Because many gas plants in South Korea are located in or near densely populated urban areas, the air pollution caused by expanding LNG could result in 23,000 premature deaths across East Asia by 2064, the organization calculates.  Climate impacts downplayed Nevertheless, a $40 billion export facility called LNG Canada led by Shell (and including partners such as Malaysia’s Petronas and the Korea Gas Corporation) could begin shipping LNG from British Columbia to Asian markets including South Korea in 2025. Another west coast facility, Cedar LNG, received environmental approval from the B.C. government last year. There are six additional Canadian LNG export projects in development.  Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has claimed Canadian LNG will replace dirty coal in Asia. Credit: Jake Wright / Flickr CC The gas for these projects is projected to largely come from fracking operations in the Montney play, a gas field straddling the Alberta-B.C. border that contains as much as 449 trillion cubic feet of gas. Burning all that gas could release 13.7 billion tonnes of planet-warming emissions into the atmosphere, leading international climate researchers to deem Montney the world’s sixth-largest “carbon bomb.” Yet this is still being presented by gas advocates as global progress on climate change. “Canadian LNG can help Asia switch from coal to gas, a huge win for the climate,” declared the conservative political advocacy group Canada Action, which received $100,000 in 2019 from the gas producer ARC Resources, a report in The Narwhal revealed.  That message is echoed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, major business interests such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, conservative think tanks like the Macdonald Laurier Institute and rightwing advocacy groups including Fairness Alberta. A report commissioned in 2022 by an Alberta government organization called the Canadian Energy Centre concluded that “Canadian LNG would ultimately help to lower emissions in Asia.”  Channeling this industry marketing push, federal Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre said in a speech last September that “we will grant permits for natural gas plants to safely ship it off to replace dirty coal in Asia.” Even ostensibly progressive politicians are on board, with B.C.’s NDP premier David Eby recently defending LNG exports as being consistent with a “clean economy.” As in South Korea, however, gas expansion in other Asian countries brings only uncertain climate benefits at best, while ultimately stalling the shift towards truly low-carbon energy sources, Fukakusa argues. “If we build new LNG projects we lock in massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.  China, currently the world’s largest importer of LNG, is attempting to meet its ambitious climate goals in part by shifting from coal power plants to gas plants. Gas releases less emissions when burned than coal. But if you include in the accounting methane leaks during fracking and transportation, this “introduces uncertainties in the climate benefit comparison between gas and coal,” a team of Chinese and international researchers noted in a 2020 Nature paper. According to researchers such as Cornell University’s Robert Howarth, gas might even have a climate footprint worse than coal.  That’s why some environmental campaigners in China are wary about the fuel source, as well as recent claims by oil and gas companies such as Shell that LNG can be “carbon neutral” if paired with carbon offsets. “These companies are either walking back previous climate commitments or remain wholly uncommitted to take action on climate,” the Beijing-based Greenpeace East Asia said in a report last fall.  A shaky business case The price of wind, solar and other renewables is falling so quickly that they are now cheaper to install and maintain as electricity sources than gas and coal, meaning that it makes more sense economically for Asian countries to go straight to renewables, Oh said. “Increasing reliance on gas plants is bad economically,” he said.  Japan, the world’s second largest LNG importer, is currently planning to reduce gas in its power sector from 37 percent in 2019 to 20 percent in 2030 while expanding renewables like solar and wind, as well as nuclear power. This means that Canada will have to compete against other gas suppliers like Qatar, the United States and Australia for control of an increasingly shrinking Japanese market.  “I’m not sure it still makes economic sense,” Fukakusa says of proposals to greatly expand Canada’s gas exports.  Climate trackers worry that vast volumes of gas could end up being shipped to Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand, stalling their clean energy transitions. But with a wind-down of international fossil fuel financing and strong support for industries like solar and offshore wind, countries across the region wouldn’t require Canadian LNG at all — they could skip the fossil fuel altogether.  “There is a lot of positive potential for renewables across Southeast Asia,” Oh said, “rather than sticking to the risky business of LNG expansion.” The post Canadian LNG Will Stall Asia’s Shift to Renewables, Energy Experts in Asia Say appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/15/24 10:41am
An explosive new report finds that the plastics industry has misled the public for decades about the viability of recycling plastic, promoting reuse despite the fact that mechanical recycling was not feasible – perpetuating the plastic waste crisis the world faces today. “The plastics industry has ‘sold’ plastic recycling to the American public to sell plastic,” according to the report by the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI), a nonprofit organization that advocates for legal action to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. In a statement, CCI claims the study, called “The Fraud of Plastic Recycling: How Big Oil and the plastics industry deceived the public for decades and caused the plastic waste crisis,” includes “evidence that could provide the foundation for legal efforts to hold fossil fuel and other petrochemical companies accountable for their lies and deception.” Petrochemical companies and the plastics industry have known of the technical and economic limitations that make plastics unrecyclable for more than half a century, and “have failed to overcome them,” the report states. “Despite this knowledge, the plastics industry has continued to increase plastic production, while carrying out a well-coordinated campaign to deceive consumers, policymakers, and regulators about plastic recycling.” “This evidence shows that many of the same fossil fuel companies that knew and lied for decades about how their products cause climate change have also known and lied to the public about plastic recycling,” Richard Wiles, CCI’s president, said in a press release. “The oil industry’s lies are at the heart of the two most catastrophic pollution crises in human history.” Plastics manufacturers and industry groups, including some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, have spent more than 50 years  funding and pushing plastics recycling in order to stave off regulatory action – all while knowing that only a small fraction of plastic waste could ever be recycled. Beginning as early as the 1950s, petrochemical manufacturers began investing heavily in single-use plastics because disposability helped perpetuate demand for plastic production. Over the following decades, according to CCI, the industry began responding to public concern about plastic waste with a series of head-fakes designed to lessen public pressure while preserving profits. One of the industry’s early “solutions” to plastic waste was simply to collect it in landfills. Plastics “don’t biodegrade,” promised the head of the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), an industry group, in the 1970s. As a result, waste could “just sit there.” Problem solved. If landfills didn’t placate the public, there was always incineration: “Recycle plastic packaging? An excellent idea,” said one executive of the American Can Company in 1971. “But let’s recycle it into energy” by incinerating it. When neither landfilling nor so-called “waste-to-energy” incineration succeeded in satisfying consumers or policymakers, the industry went all in on recycling. In the early 1980s, SPI created the Plastics Recycling Foundation (PRF), an industry group whose members included Exxon Chemical, to push the narrative that petrochemical manufacturers were solving the challenge of plastic waste themselves – no need for lawmakers or regulators to intervene. Yet industry scientists had known for decades that most plastics could not be recycled and, moreover, that it was more cost effective to produce new plastic than to attempt to reuse the old. “Recycling cannot be considered a permanent solid waste solution, as it merely prolongs the time until an item is disposed of,” concluded a draft fact sheet from the Vinyl Institute, another industry group, in 1986. A few years later, the group’s founding director acknowledged at a conference that “recycling cannot go on indefinitely, and does not solve the solid waste problem.” But public policy was a far greater threat to industry profits than the fact that scientists still hadn’t figured out how to actually recycle most plastic waste. “No doubt about it, legislation is the single most important reason why we are looking at recycling,” said PRF executive director (and DuPont marketing head) Wayne Pearson in 1988. By the early 1990s, the CCI report finds, “the industry knew that mechanical recycling was not a viable solution – yet renewed concerns about plastic waste and its impact on the environment meant they needed the public to believe recycling could address their concerns.” The number of industry-backed coalitions, research entities, trade associations, and front groups grew rapidly. In 1988, the SPI introduced the now-ubiquitous labeling system, with numbers “surrounded by a triangle of ‘chasing arrows,’ the widely recognized symbol for recycling,” ostensibly to help consumers sort plastics into different groups – even though regulators and recycling bodies “did not need, and in some cases actively opposed,” this system, according to CCI. The industry’s support for legislation requiring numbering was an explicit effort “to prevent bans” on plastic use, as one trade association put it. Hiding the truth about the failure of recycling to ease pollution has created the plastic waste crisis now clogging waterways around the world. Credit: Public Domain “Big Oil and the plastics industry’s decades-long campaign to deceive the public about plastic recycling has likely violated laws designed to protect consumers and the public from corporate misconduct and pollution,” said Alyssa Johl, CCI’s vice president of legal and general counsel, in a press release. The CCI report documenting this history of obfuscation and misinformation about plastic recycling comes alongside new revelations about industry efforts to promote its narrative to a new generation of consumers. A recent Washington Post investigation, for instance, revealed a campaign by the Society of Plastics Engineers Foundation that sends industry scientists and representatives to schools to convince students that humanity depends on continued plastic production, and that the solution to plastic waste is efforts like recycling, not bans. The program’s “PlastiVan” visits more than 100 schools a year, “with its team of plastic evangelists talking up the wonders of polymers to young audiences,” according to the Post. Meanwhile, PragerU, a conservative media operation, “provides public school teachers in at least five states a classroom video that assures students they should not feel guilty about using so much plastic because plastics actually help the environment,” the Post reported. These efforts to undermine support for plastic bans and other campaigns that threaten petrochemical profits trace back to at least the mid-1990s, when industry groups like American Plastics Council (APC) distributed materials to schools to help them set up their own plastic recycling efforts, the CCI report finds. (The APC’s 1994 program for “middle level science students” was called “Hands on Plastics: A Scientific Investigation Kit.”) By this time, industry efforts to portray recycling, not regulation, as the solution to plastic waste had largely proven successful, which led some executives to conclude that they could keep talking about plastic recycling without the compulsion to do anything more about it. Irwin Levowitz, an Exxon Chemical executive, told a meeting of APC staff in 1994 that when it comes to plastic recycling, “We are committed to the activities, but not committed to the results.” Since then, industry efforts to promote the promise of recycling while doubling down on the profits of new plastic production have continued mostly uninterrupted. The CCI report suggests that it’s little coincidence that industry-led recycling campaigns have ramped up over the past decade as a response to renewed public concerns over plastic waste. Petrochemical manufacturers’ latest tactic – chemical, or “advanced,” recycling – is a process that claims to be able to “break plastics down to their chemical components,” as CCI describes it. But as DeSmog reported last year, advanced recycling is an industry concept, not a scientific one. In fact, according to CCI, “‘Advanced recycling’ is the industry’s most recent false solution intended to shield petrochemical companies from backlash associated with the plastic waste crisis they have created.” “When corporations and trade groups know that their products pose grave risks to society, and then lie to the public and policymakers about it, they must be held accountable,” said CCI’s Wiles. “Accountability means stopping the lying, telling the truth, and paying for the damage they’ve caused.” The post Report: Plastics, Oil Industry Deceived Public on Recycling Use for More Than 50 Years appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 2/15/24 9:10am
A new government advisor on the minimum wage is the head of an international network of climate crisis deniers funded by the owners of GB News, DeSmog can reveal. Philippa Stroud was appointed chair of the Low Pay Commission, a body reporting to Kemi Badenoch’s Department of Business and Trade, on 30 January. The government-appointed role pays £530 per day for three days of work per month (£19,114 per year). The Conservative peer is the CEO of the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC), a new pressure group that shares its funders with GB News and is linked to some of the world’s most prominent climate crisis deniers, including psychologist Jordan Peterson. Stroud has been described by The Telegraph as “the most powerful right-winger you’ve never heard of”. The appointment comes as senior Conservative Party figures continue to embrace anti-climate politics. On 6 February, former prime minister Liz Truss attacked “net zero zealots” at the launch of her new Popular Conservatism faction.  Last month, Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Clare Coutinho met with and praised fuel pricing lobbyist Howard Cox, a Reform UK candidate who wants to “scrap net zero” and claims that “man is not responsible for global warming”. The government is also pushing ahead with legislation that would require the awarding of annual North Sea oil and gas licences. The Climate Change Committee, the independent body that advises the government on its net zero policies, warned on 30 January that mixed messages, including new fossil fuel projects, have damaged the UK’s international climate standing. Last year was the first on record to see consistent global warming of 1.5C, according to the EUs Copernicus Climate Change Service.  DeSmog has previously revealed that the Conservative Party received £3.5 million in donations from fossil fuel interests and climate science deniers in 2022. Stroud’s appointment also cements the relationship between the Conservative Party and GB News. On Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took part in an hour-long town hall event on GB News, following the example of several Conservative MPs who are regular guests and presenters on the right-wing broadcaster.  Stroud’s ARC project is run by hedge fund manager Paul Marshall and the UAE-based Legatum Group, GB News’s principal backers. The Legatum Institute, a think tank funded by the Legatum Group, gave £50,000 to a faction of the Conservative Party in December. Before taking up her post at ARC, Stroud was CEO of the Legatum Institute.  “Anti-science climate change denialism has become the secret handshake that ushers in the faithful and bars the door to unbelievers,” Jolyon Maugham, executive director of the Good Law Project, told DeSmog. “This is an appalling betrayal of the principles of sound government – and of our children who need us to be led by science and not by the financial interests of wealthy Tory donors.” ARC, Stroud, the Legatum Group, and the Low Pay Commission were approached for comment.  ARC and Legatum Philippa Stroud was made a life peer by then prime minister David Cameron (now foreign secretary) in 2015, after failing to win a parliamentary seat in 2010.  The Legatum Group, which has employed Stroud both directly and indirectly since 2016, is one of the largest shareholders in GB News, which frequently attacks climate science and policies. A DeSmog investigation found that one in three GB News hosts spread climate denial on air in 2022.  GB News’s other major owner is British billionaire Paul Marshall, chairman and chief investment officer of the hedge fund Marshall Wace. DeSmog revealed that, as of June 2023, Marshall Wace owned shares worth $2.2 billion (£1.8 billion) in fossil fuel firms. This included a $213 million (£175.6 million) shareholding in the oil and gas supermajor Chevron, as well as stakes in Shell, Equinor, and 109 other fossil fuel companies.  In her statement announcing the launch of ARC, Stroud took aim at climate policies, writing that “we risk driving policy interventions to address environmental concerns without having an honest conversation about the trade-offs for the poor at home or in developing and emerging nations”. Poor and indigenous groups in developing countries will be hit hardest by the impacts of climate change, while those suffering from poverty at home have seen their energy bills soar as successive governments have failed to implement green reforms.  ARC is fronted by Canadian author Jordan Peterson, who regularly posts about “climate apocalypse insanity” and “eco fascists” to his millions of online followers. Peterson has promoted fringe climate crisis deniers on his YouTube channel and, as revealed by DeSmog, plans to open a new online school also featuring several climate crisis deniers.  ARC’s advisory board includes writers Bjorn Lomborg and Michael Shellenberger, both of whom have written books downplaying the threats posed by climate change, as well as Tony Abbott, the former prime minister of Australia and a director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the UK’s principal climate science denial group.  Late last year, speaking on the outskirts of ARC’s launch conference in London, Abbott claimed climate change has “nothing to do with mankind’s emissions”. ARC advisor Vivek Ramaswamy, who also spoke at the conference, has called climate change a “hoax” and has said that “real emergency isn’t climate change, it’s the man-made disaster of climate change policies that threaten US prosperity.” The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading climate science body, states it is “unequivocal” that human influence has caused “unprecedented” global warming.  Kemi Badenoch, whose department appointed Stroud to her new advisory role, also spoke at the ARC conference alongside Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. The pair were joined by a number of Conservative MPs.  Stroud’s appointment to the government’s Low Pay Commission was first trailed by The Telegraph in December. A “Whitehall source” told the paper that Stroud was selected for the three-year post to block a possible left-wing appointment by a Labour government. Carla Denyer, Green Party co-leader and its parliamentary candidate for Bristol Central said that Stroud’s appointment was “hardly the most appropriate” and that “the Conservatives seem set on placing their people across the quango world before the general election.” The post Government’s New Low Pay Advisor Heads Climate Denial Network appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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