As the #ClimateCrisis Grows, a Movement Gathers to Make ‘Ecocide’ an International Crime Against the Environment – Inside Climate News #StopEcocide #StopAdani Demand #ClimateAction #SDGs #SDG13

As the Climate Crisis Grows, a Movement Gathers to Make ‘Ecocide’ an International Crime Against the Environment

International lawyers, environmentalists and a growing number of world leaders say “ecocide”—widespread destruction of the environment—

would serve as a “moral red line” for the planet.

The Fifth Crime: First in a continuing series with NBC Newsabout the campaign to make “ecocide” an international crime.

In 1948, after Nazi Germany exterminated millions of Jews and other minorities during World War II, the United Nations adopted a convention establishing a new crime so heinous it demanded collective action. Genocide, the nations declared, was “condemned by the civilized world” and justified intervention in the affairs of sovereign states. 

Now, a small but growing number of world leaders including Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron have begun citing an offense they say poses a similar threat to humanity and remains beyond the reach of existing legal conventions: ecocide, or widespread destruction of the environment.

The Pope describes ecocide as “the massive contamination of air, land and water,” or “any action capable of producing an ecological disaster,” and has proposed making it a sin for Catholics. 

The Pontiff has also endorsed a campaign by environmental activists and legal scholars to make ecocide the fifth crime before the International Criminal Court in The Hague as a legal deterrent to the kinds of far-reaching environmental damage that are driving mass extinction, ecological collapse and climate change. The monumental step, which faces a long road of global debate, would mean political leaders and corporate executives could face charges and imprisonment for “ecocidal” acts. 

To make their case, advocates point to the Amazon, where fires raged out of control in 2019, and where the rainforest may now be so degraded it is spewing more climate-warming gases than it draws in. At the poles, human activity is thawing a frozen Arctic and destabilizing the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. 

Across the globe, climate change is disrupting the reliable seasonal rhythms that have sustained human life for millenia, while hurricanes, floods and other climate-driven disasters have forced more than 10 million people from their homes in the last six months. Fossil fuel pollution has killed 9 million people annually in recent years, according to a study in Environmental Research, more than tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS combined. 

One in four mammals are threatened with extinction. For amphibians, it’s four in 10.

Damage to nature has become so extensive and widespread around the world that many environmentalists speak of ecocide to describe numerous environmentally devastated hot spots: 

  • Chernobyl, the Ukrainian nuclear plant that exploded in 1986 and left the now-deserted area dangerously radioactive;
  • The tar sands of northern Canada, where toxic waste pits and strip mines have replaced 400 square miles of boreal forest and boglands;
  • The Gulf of Mexico, site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 people, spilled at least 168 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean over 87 days and killed countless marine mammals, sea turtles, fish and migratory birds; 
  • The Amazon, where rapid deforestation encouraged by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro prompted Joe Biden, during his presidential campaign, to propose a $20 billion rescue plan and threaten the Brazilian leader with economic sanctions.

The campaign to criminalize ecocide is now moving from the fringe of advocacy into global diplomacy, pushed by a growing recognition among advocates and many political leaders that climate change and environmental causes are tied inherently to human rights and social justice.

The effort remains a long shot and is at least years from fruition, international and environmental law experts say. Advocates will have to navigate political tensions over whether national governments or the international community have ultimate control over natural resources. And they’ll likely face opposition from countries with high carbon emissions and deep ties to industrial development. 

The environmentalists must also figure out how criminal law would address climate change, which has been driven by practices like burning coal and gasoline that are not only legal, but central to the global economy.

Ecocide is making the United Nations SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs) almost impossible putting millions at risk.

The campaign for an ecocide crime, however, is about more than law. Jojo Mehta, who launched the Stop Ecocide campaign in 2017, describes it as a moral and practical issue as well. 

“We use criminal law to draw moral lines,” Mehta said. “We say something’s not accepted, your murder is not acceptable. And so, simply putting mass damage and destruction of nature below that red line actually makes a huge difference, and it will make a difference to the people that are financing what is going on.”

Scott W. Badenoch Jr., an American environmental lawyer who favors the criminalization of ecocide, used the term to describe the state, and fate, of the Earth. 

“Ecocide is now endemic all over the planet,” he said. “The structures of ecology that have held up living organisms on Earth, since time immemorial, are collapsing everywhere.” He added, “Ecocide is now, frankly, the process that we are living in on Earth.”

The Fifth Crime

The concept of ecocide was born of tragedy. Over a period of 10 years, the United States government sprayed 19 million gallons of powerful herbicides, including Agent Orange, across the countryside in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to expose enemy sanctuaries during the Vietnam War. 

The dioxin-laced chemicals defoliated verdant jungle and caused cancers, neurological disease and birth defects in people living nearby. While the number of victims is disputed, Vietnamese groups claim there are more than 3 million. In 1970, Yale biologist Arthur Galston invoked the destruction to call on the world to outlaw what he called “ecocide.” 

Agent Orange spraying Vietnam

More than 20 years later, the global community came together to form the International Criminal Court, which was formally established in 2002 under a treaty called the Rome Statute to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes when its member countries, which currently number 123, fail to do so themselves. 

Early drafts of the Rome Statute included the crime of environmental destruction, but it was removed after opposition from the United States, United Kingdom and the Netherlands, relegated instead to a wartime offense that has never been enforced.  

As a result, international criminal law includes few guardrails to prevent peacetime environmental destruction.

“There’s a big gap and something needs to fill it,” said Badenoch, a visiting attorney at the Environmental Law Institute. “We currently cannot hold big corporations or big governments accountable for ecocide. So, what do you do? We name and shame, that’s all we’ve got.”

Decades of oil extraction in Nigeria by subsidiaries of Royal Dutch Shell, for example, have contaminated the air, ground and water in parts of the country with benzene and other toxic pollutants, according to the United Nations Environment Program. Civil lawsuits have taken years to wind through European courts, and no laws were strong enough to prevent the damage from happening, though Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary was recently ordered by a Dutch court to compensate Nigerian farmers

Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman, pointed to a corporate reportthat says many of the spills have come as a result of sabotage and theft, and that the company has been working with stakeholders to clean up the pollution identified by the U.N. Environment Program.

An ecocide crime would require International Criminal Court members to enact their own national ecocide laws, and failure to enforce those laws would enable the international court to step in. 

This supranational authority helps explain why an international ecocide crime could prove so powerful, said Kate Mackintosh, executive director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights at the University of California Los Angeles.  

Mackintosh said making ecocide a crime could help in weak states, where corporate polluters are sometimes more powerful than national governments. “The likelihood of any criminal prosecution taking place in that state is pretty low,” she said. “But with an international crime, that’s actually not a bar.”

While political leaders and warlords have been the usual targets of the court, an ecocide crime could place business executives on notice, too.

“That could make a difference in corporate boardroom conversations,” Mackintosh said. Even the threat of being labeled an international criminal, she said, might deter destructive corporate behavior. “I mean, for PR, it doesn’t look good, does it?”

China, the United States, India and Russia—four of the world’s top polluters—are not members of the International Criminal Court, but if a corporation based in one of those countries were to operate within a member state, as many of them do, their executives could fall under the court’s jurisdiction.

The push to criminalize ecocide remained on the periphery until December 2019, when Vanuatu and the Maldives, two island nations threatened by rising seas and climate change-driven extreme weather, recommended that the court consider amending its statute to “criminalize acts that amount to ecocide.”

“Our legacy and our future are at stake,” Vanuatu’s ambassador to the European Union, John Licht, told the court, stressing a “common bond” that united all the world’s people. “Our lives are intertwined by the environment we live in.”

No Trees Standing

When Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu in 2015, Rosemary Willie was sheltering in her home outside the capital, Port Vila. Her house is made of concrete block, and as the wind picked up, she heard screams coming from the wood house next door, where the storm was beginning to peel off the iron roof that sheltered the four families who lived there.

She grabbed her son, only 10 years old at the time, and ran outside to usher the families into the relative safety of her home. They spent the night praying and singing, Willie said, as the storm howled and water washed under the kitchen door.

In the morning, they went outside to see what remained, and “everybody cried,” said Willie, who works on disaster resilience for the international charity Oxfam. “I was like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ There were no trees standing with leaves on. Nothing.”

Vanuatu is a remote archipelago of more than 80 islands in the South Pacific, about 1,200 miles from Brisbane, Australia. Pam hit as a category 5 storm with winds reaching 200 miles-per-hour and left nearly a quarter of the country’s population homeless. Eight in 10 homes in the areas it hit sustained damage. The financial toll was about two-thirds the nation’s gross domestic product.

In addition to cyclones, Vanuatu and other island nations face a gauntlet of climate threats no less dangerous: warming and acidifying oceans are expected to degrade or destroy the coral reefs that support fisheries, while extreme heat and heavy rains are already stressing rain-fed crops. Sea levels have risen about half a foot since 1990, and climate models project that globally they will rise at least another foot, and under worst-case scenarios perhaps as much as 8 feet, by the end of the century.

Vanuatu has led diplomatic efforts by small island nations to secure more aggressive climate action and to have wealthy nations help poorer countries pay for climate damages and adaptation. But the damage caused by Pam, paired with the growing urgency of the climate crisis and the inexorable rise in emissions, pushed the country to explore whether international law or even lawsuits against fossil fuel companies might compel action where diplomacy had not.

Willy Missack has served as part of Vanuatu’s delegation to the United Nations climate negotiations, and he said diplomats from other countries expressed shock when “little tiny Vanuatu” said it wanted to take on global powers and the fossil fuel industry through the courts. But the fact that corporations can continue to profit from activities that are threatening his country’s future, he said, makes the legal case clear.

“It is not right,” he said, “and this is where justice comes in.”

Defining Ecocide

After Vanuatu asked the International Criminal Court to consider criminalizing ecocide, Mehta’s Stop Ecocide Foundation independently convened a panel of international legal experts, including Mackintosh of UCLA, to draft a clear definition of ecocide. They plan to publish their definition in June, at which point they hope at least one of the court’s member nations will formally propose making ecocide the fifth international crime against peace.  

Mehta has said the definition would likely require “willful disregard” for environmental destruction related to practices like widespread logging, drilling, mining and deep-sea trawling.

Richard J. Rogers, a British expert in international criminal law who is a partner at Global Diligence and a member of the drafting panel, said it may be relatively straightforward to criminalize certain acts, like destruction of a forest or waterway. 

But climate change poses a greater challenge: Not only is it difficult to connect polluters to specific harms, he said, but there’s also nothing illegal about extracting or burning fossil fuels.

“The situation we’re dealing with is that the carbon system, which has fueled our economies since the Industrial Revolution, has not only been lawful, but it’s been encouraged,” Rogers said.

Another point that the drafters will have to grapple with is whether the crime of ecocide should require prosecutors to prove that humans have been harmed. Mackintosh said that while this “human harm” threshold could prove appealing politically—the court’s existing crimes all largely involve harm to humans—focusing ecocide only on the environment could make it easier for prosecutors to prove, especially when it comes to harms related to climate change, which are often incremental and indirect. 

If a nation agrees to introduce the ecocide proposal to the International Criminal Court for consideration, that is when even harder work will begin. Ratification is a multi-step process that ultimately requires support from either two-thirds or seven-eighths of the court’s members, depending on the type of amendment introduced.

While no country has committed to formally proposing that the court adopt ecocide, the campaign is gaining traction, fueled by the youth-led climate movement and radical new groups  like Extinction Rebellion.

In December, Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès asked International Criminal Court member states to examine the possibility of adopting ecocide as a crime. A member of Belgium’s Parliament has also proposed a bill to criminalize ecocide. And French lawmakers are working on legislation to make ecocide an offense punishable by fines and prison, though Stop Ecocide criticized the bill as “weak.”

At least 10 countries have national ecocide laws already, including Vietnam, which enacted the law in 1990.

Separately, French lawyers in January filed a request with the International Criminal Court on behalf of Amazonian indigenous groups asking that the court investigate Brazil’s Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity. 

The appeal alleges that deforestation encouraged by Bolsonaro’s government, along with other policies, has forced indigenous people from their homes and even led to murders in the region.

While the request relies on the court’s existing crimes, the lawyers who submitted it have said the case is an example of ecocide and that it would support the campaign to amend the Rome Statute.

The Brazilian embassy in Washington said in a statement that “the Bolsonaro administration is taking concrete action to improve the lives of Indigenous peoples and ensure the future of the Amazon.” 

An aerial view over a chemically deforested area of the Amazon jungle caused by illegal mining activities in the river basin of the Madre de Dios region in southeast Peru, on May 17, 2019. Credit: Cris Bouroncle/AFP via Getty Images

The embassy said that over 70 percent of the eligible Indigenous population has received an initial Covid-19 vaccination, and that deforestation rates in the Amazon were 21 percent lower from August 2020 to January 2021, compared to the same period a year earlier.

Badenoch said that while the hurdles to adopting a new international crime are high, they are not insurmountable.

“These things take a long time and they are complex,” he said. “But they can be done.”

Into the Mainstream

While the campaign for an ecocide law could take years—if it is successful at all—advocates say the effort could bear fruit much sooner: The ecocide campaign has thrust the concept into public discussion. 

Mehta doesn’t expect the campaign to catch fire in the United States, but after four years of President Donald Trump, she’s heartened by the arrival of John Kerry, Biden’s special climate envoy. “We don’t expect the U.S. to join the ICC any time soon, but that said, the conversation around ecocide itself, we don’t see any reason why it can’t start happening in the U.S.,” she said.  

The State Department released a statement saying that the U.S. “regularly engages with other countries” on “the importance of preventing environmental destruction during armed conflict,” but added, “We do not comment on the details of our communications with foreign governments.”

Mehta’s campaign is also part of a wider effort by activists who have been looking to the courts to force more aggressive action on climate change.

As of July 1, 2020, at least 1,550 climate change cases have been filed in 38 countries, according to a U.N. report.

In the landmark Urgenda case, a Dutch court ruled in 2015 that the government had acted negligently by failing to take aggressive enough action to limit its greenhouse gas emissions. The decision, upheld by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands in 2019, ordered the government to hit specific emissions reductions targets and sparked a series of similar lawsuits in other countries. 

In one of those lawsuits, a Paris administrative court held the French government responsible for failing to meet its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The ruling relied, in part, on France’s non-binding commitments under the Paris Agreement, taking what had been the soft pledge of politics and turning it into a legally binding commitment.

Mehta has framed an ecocide law as a counterweight to the failings of the Paris Agreement, with a recent column she co-wrote in The Guardian saying that it offers “a way to correct the shortcomings” of the global climate pact. “Whereas Paris lacks sufficient ambition, transparency and accountability, the criminalization of ecocide would be an enforceable deterrent.”

Alex Whiting, a professor at Harvard Law School and former coordinator of prosecutions at the International Criminal Court, said that making ecocide a crime before the court would have tremendous impact, even if only a few cases were actually prosecuted. 

“When a crime becomes an international crime, it has a ripple effect,” he said. “The environment is the issue of our time. Being able to do something about that seems important.” 

Climate Change Is Outrunning Vanuatu’s Ability to Adapt  

In Vanuatu, there is a sense that the pace of climate change is beginning to outrun Vanuatu’s ability to adapt. Cyclones are expected to intensify as the globe continues to warm, delivering stronger winds and heavier rainfall. Already, disasters including cyclones and earthquakes cause annual damages roughly equal to 7 percent of Vanuatu’s GDP, according to the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative, a higher percentage than all but two other countries, St. Lucia and Grenada.

Dreli Solomon, a spokesman for Vanuatu’s embassy in Brussels, said the country still supports the ecocide campaign, but that Covid-19 and other priorities have put its efforts on hold.

In a written statement, he said the path to a new international law is “long and complicated. For a small country like Vanuatu the limited resources for international diplomacy need to be used carefully.”

Missack, the Vanuatu diplomat and climate advocate, said the effects of climate change run much deeper than damage from storms. He told the story of a visit he made a couple of years ago to the island of Tanna, where his family is from and where the local culture runs deep and strong. Speaking by Zoom from Port Vila, he tugged at the pale blue polo shirt he was wearing and said, “they don’t dress in, you know, clothes. They dress in a traditional way.”

Residents’ lives, he said, are intertwined with the environment around them and the crops they grow. “They read about stars. They read about winds. They read about the movement of clouds. They read about the moon,” he said. “All of this, combining it together with the movement of the stars at night, tells them that the yam, it’s going to be harvested.”

But that year, he said, the harvest came months late, disrupting rituals that accompany it. Yam is a staple crop in Vanuatu, and it is already stressed by changes in the climate. He said many people on the island simply didn’t know how to handle the rupture between the celestial and seasonal rhythms.

“Think about the past 4,000 years, the practice of this ritual,” he said. 

Yams are only one of many crops with their associated rituals, he said, all of which will have to adapt or die off in the face of climate change and shifting weather. “One day we will talk about the stars, and this is how the ritual goes. But it will never be the same spirit, the same soul of the ritual,” he said. “And that loss, none of the money in this world can pay for it.”

— Read on insideclimatenews.org/news/07042021/climate-crisis-ecocide-vanuatu-the-fifth-crime/

The Complicity of Corporate Sustainability #ClimateCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDGs #SDG13 #GlobalGoals for a sustainable future. #TellTheTruth

Long hailed as a major piece of the climate solution, sustainable business practices have not only fallen short: They even enable the continued dominance of fossil fuel.

Getting Green Done

In the early ’90s I worked on corporate sustainability with a group of young, smart, optimistic colleagues, paid virtually nothing, working out of an office closet next to the bathroom at Rocky Mountain Institute, a sustainability think tank. Beneath towering stacks of energy reports and to-be-read copies of The New York Times, we drafted brochures and consulting papers arguing that corporations were the only entities large enough, nimble enough, and motivated (by profit) to solve the climate problem. We were surrounded, in-person and intellectually, by the originators of the movement: energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins, Ecology of Commerce author Paul Hawken, Ray Anderson—whose environmental epiphany transformed Interface, Inc.—and visionary engineers like Eng Lock Lee, who treated systems design like Chinese cooking, where you use everything, even the chicken feet.

We believed that the salvation of the world, the cure for climate change, and the end of pollution and waste, all of it, would be driven through business profits and strategic motivation. Doing good by the environment—cutting energy use with better light bulbs and boilers, reducing inefficiency through design and engineering, and adding renewable energy supply—was not only environmentally responsible, it was good for the bottom line. Win-win: green both ways.

That vision got people like me into the field, made for great TED talks, and inspired customers, employees, and investors. And corporate sustainability does have value: good design can, at no cost, accomplish great things. Take your cup of Starbucks: If you add cream second, you need a stir stick—a piece of wood harvested from forests, manufactured and transported, packaged and distributed. But if you add cream before you pour in the coffee (a design solution) you suddenly don’t need a stir stick at all. You’ve replaced a material thing with intelligence; you’ve eliminated waste through thought. What an unbelievably compelling way to view our problems! Imagine the glory of retrofitting light bulbs in a garage—as I did early in my career—so that total fixture wattage dropped from 400 to 30 watts, while providing better light with longer-lasting bulbs. You don’t have to be a quant to find that kind of thing inspiring. Imagine installing odor-free waterless urinals in skyscrapers because water pumping accounts for 8 percent of total building energy, saving water andsaving energy.

That stuff—we called it cascading benefits—actually happened. But 25 years or more in, even as the sustainable business movement grew—flourished!—climate change, the single most important barometer for the possibility of a sustainable future—marched on. And a planet on fire, deluged in flood, and disrupted by drought and famine, warfare and heat waves—where governments and citizens are preoccupied with disaster response instead of stability and thriving—is nobody’s picture of sustainability. And yet, over the course of the corporate sustainability revolution, climate change went from a concern to a certainty, with catastrophic warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius more or less baked in. The seven hottest years on record were the last seven years.

In the face of this reality, even a victory like a large corporation cutting its carbon footprint by 30 percent— the stuff of Shazam-level super-heroism and incredibly difficult to pull off—wouldn’t even dent the climate problem. There are just too many people, too many governments, and too many other businesses that just don’t care. Even radical carbon reductions, in the US at least, aren’t enough: Our society is so carbon-infused that even homeless people have unsustainably large carbon footprints.

As a result, I’ve concluded that the business case for environmental action, which remains the fundamental corporate climate strategy, has little to do with sustainability, however admirable the intent and vision of its practitioners. Even worse, the focus on sustainable practices instead of power-wielding has unwittingly empowered the fossil fuel industry’s capture of government policy and action, providing cover to allow ExxonMobil and others to maximize profit and global emissions of greenhouse gases, unmolested.

Systemic change is the only path to climate stability. But what the corporate sustainability movement has truly succeeded at is ensuring that everyone works within a narrowly defined playing field that leaves the one thing we need to upend—the fossil-fuel-based economy—intact and unthreatened.

A Well-Intentioned Distraction

The issue isn’t only that sustainable business practices don’t scale, though this is true and pertinent. The problem is that they displace meaningful action.

A business that pursues “sustainability” as conventionally understood (and all the accounting and reporting and standard-meeting, and ISO 140001 audits and Global Reporting Initiative filings, and LEED certifications and baselining and third-party certifications that move paper and display commitment but don’t cut emissions) becomes, in the media’s eye and in customer perception, a “green” company, absolved of doing anything else. Such firms don’t have to undertake the hard work of political activism that might actually drive down global emissions like political advocacy, use of public voice, testimony in Washington, noisy, uncomfortable coalition building and peer pressure, divestment, or public calling-out of bad behavior. Hell—they don’t even need to cut their emissions to be labeled a leader. They just need to aspire to it.

But this approach may actually be worse than a distraction. In practice, these actions seem expressly designed to garner the imprimatur of greenness without demanding the hard work of power-wielding and political activism (which could irritate shareholders, be uncomfortable, and possibly trigger regulation and the anger of elected officials from which managers want other favors). Indeed, in the early stages of the climate fight, businesses avoided even acknowledging climate science, because they could easily avoid that unpleasantness with what became (and remains) a common refrain: “This stuff is so profitable, we should do it regardless of what the science says!” You can see in that construction the beginnings of moral decay. Imagine: “Racism aside, we should treat people equally because it’s good for the bottom line!”

But it did matter very much that business acknowledged the science, because policy was, at the time and even today, being made on the basis of science denial. Many awkward stances are difficult because they are also moral stances. As a theologian once explained to me: “Jesus wasn’t killed because he preached loving kindness. He was crucified because he preached justice.” In a sense, changing lightbulbs and cutting carbon footprints is loving kindness—there is nothing not to like. Tackling the systemic climate problem head-on, that’s ultimately about justice. And that will get you in trouble.

Duplicity

In so many cases, the dodge becomes open duplicity: Like Penelope, corporations learned to weave the funeral shroud of their carbon credits and waste-reduction by day and undo it at night with their corporate contributions and lobbyists. “Leaders” in the corporate sustainability movement are more or less silent on policy. Meanwhile, with the vast bulk of their action and messaging focused on how they are greening their own operations, they give money to politicians like Mitch McConnell or other climate deniers like David Purdue (as Microsoft, Bank of America, and electric car leader GM did, among others). Had Purdue won, climate action in the Senate would have been impossible, undoing all the other climate aspirations those businesses may have had. Green-talking businesses, we find, may also design and sell cloud hosting services, custom artificial intelligence software, and machine learning tools that are used to better find and distribute fossil fuels while claiming to care about climate change. (I won’t name names, but, uh, Microsoft, Amazon, and until recently, Google.) In some cases, they directly lobby against their professed environmental goals, like GM has done on automobile standards under Trump, despite its membership in the corporate sustainability group CERES. As Rhode Island’s Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has pointed out, you have corporations taking big action internally and sharing that story, but unleashing their lobbyists to do the opposite.

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The duplicity often extends beyond climate into social responsibility and justice, causes that are part and parcel of the climate movement. As Osita Nwanavue has observed, many self-declared responsible corporations also fund anti-democratic practices by supporting groups like the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Redistricting Majority Project:

“Coca-Cola, for example, whose CEO declared it would be putting its ‘resources and energy toward helping end the cycle of systemic racism’ in June should probably stop putting its resources toward the reelection of Republican state legislators—including in states like Georgia where it is based and where the Republican Party has been particularly dogged in its efforts to disenfranchise African Americans.”

The next shoe to drop for Coke was that they allowed an egregiously restrictive voter suppression law to pass in Georgia, then vocally criticized it once it was in place. They got the cake of the law they wanted to protect the status quo, and then they ate it too by donning the cloak of righteous indignation, only after it has passed.

As another example, Proctor and Gamble has sustainability reports all the way back to 1999 and released an ad on racial justice in 2020. But during the 2016 election cycle, P&G donated almost twice as much to House and Senate Republicans as they did to Democrats. Knowing how the GOP plays on climate and race, how does that square?

Playing Into the Fossil Fuel Industry’s Hands

Over the years, these sorts of dismal discoveries led me to an even unhappier place: The actions businesses take under the banner of win-win, profitable, and good-for-the-planet corporate sustainability were exactly and precisely what the fossil fuel industry would want them to do. These moves ensure that businesses take responsibility for the climate problem only as their own individual emissions challenge, instead of seeing it as a systemic issue. It creates a focus on sustainability actions so lame and smallball that they could never and would never disrupt the fossil fuel industry’s hammerlock on governance. This approach is, in part, what climate scientist Michael Mann calls “the new climate war.”

Think about it. Fossil fuel companies like net-zero homes and offices. Carbon neutral companies. Carbon offsets. Talk of “the circular economy,” where things get reused and recycled. The idea of “science-based targets” where businesses determine their “fair share” of the globe’s carbon reduction burden (as if that made any sense at all—what is your fair share in putting out the forest fire threatening your neighborhood?) They like citizens and corporations to “do their part,” and talk about how “every little bit helps.” Most of all, they like to focus on themselves, not the system.

Fossil fuel companies like these things because they distract business and citizens from actions business might take that would actually hurt, actions the fossil fuel industry fears. Things like removing money from politics, or assaults on their social license to operate. Divestment. Public policy that eliminates subsidies and encourages renewable energy and electrification. Boycotts and protests against pipelines or business operations. Occupation of their main offices by activists. EPA regulation, right-sized carbon taxes, media that actually digs in on what “green” means (see: Major US banks loudly proclaiming bans on funding for Arctic drilling that’s not happening and risky and expensive anyway), and powerful CEOs who declare the need for aggressive climate policy in major media. They hate free and fair elections that empower the vast majority of Americans who care about aggressive climate action. 

How Did We Get Here?

When an arm of the fossil fuels business—the plastics industry—realized in the late sixties that pop bottles and yogurt containers were clogging highways and rivers, they knew they needed to get the blame off themselves and onto citizens. They did it masterfully, with the famous “Crying Indian” ad, in which an actor (of Sicilian heritage) played a native American shedding a tear over trash-chunking by inconsiderate Americans. It worked. Instead of coming after the plastics industry with pitchforks, Americans took responsibility for the problem on their own, even though they had no more demanded plastic bottles than they had insisted on mobility or cold beer delivered in a way that would destroy civilization.

Later, the fossil fuel industry embraced the same strategy, just as it had previously adopted Big Tobacco’s climate denial. As Mark Kaufman puts it, “BP hired the public relations professionals Ogilvy & Mather to promote the slant that climate change is not the fault of an oil giant, but that of individuals.” A result was the ingenious carbon footprint calculator: a tool for determining just how guilty we all are, neatly shifting blame from the architects of the problem to the pawns of the systems. Remember: American citizens did not create the carbon-friendly laws and infrastructure that govern our world. Industry influence did.

The Carbon Club reveals the truth behind Australia’s two decades of climate inaction. It’s the story of how a loose confederation of influential climate-science sceptics, politicians and business leaders sought to control Australia’s response to the climate crisis. They shared a fear that dealing with climate change would undermine the nation’s wealth, jobs and competitive advantage – and the power of the carbon club.

Central to their strategy was an international campaign to undermine climate science and the urgency of the climate crisis. The more the climate science was questioned, the more politicians lost the imperative to act. The sustained success of the carbon club over two decades explains why Australian governments failed to deal with the challenge of climate change. But at what cost to us and the next generation? 

One of Australia’s most respected investigative journalists, Marian Wilkinson has tracked the rise and rise of Australia’s carbon club in brilliant detail, with extraordinary access to key players on all sides. The result is a book that is both essential and disturbing listening.

The Carbon Club

Complicity

As it turns out, the great vision that business could, through its own operations, drive the solutions to climate change, played directly into the hands of the purveyors of a warming world. I would even put it more strongly: Sustainable business practices haven’t just been a distraction (bad), nor a dodge of hard, controversial work (sinister), nor even intentionally duplicitous (corrupt). The approach has been evil because it represents complicity. Complicity with the fossil fuel industry and the structure it created—its capture of government; its ownership of the economy; its buried but enduring subsidies; its support, by political proxy, for anti-democratic practices that would restrict regulation; its construction of a world in which citizens exist in a fossil economy, not of their creation but nonetheless blame themselves for it.

Corporate sustainability as currently practiced, researched, taught, and reported on remains the best way to enable the success of the fossil fuel industry in accelerating climate catastrophe. Fifty years after the Crying Indian ad, we’re still dinking around trying to figure out how our businesses can go carbon neutral, how we can work “within the system,” and through “market forces” to solve the climate problem. When some businesses make slight progress outside the policy realm, academics, the public, and the media praise them up and down. Meanwhile, the people who criticize them—well, they’re cranks, radicals, and socialists who, “just don’t understand” capitalism. George Monbiot. Amy Westervelt. Sheldon Whitehouse. Bill Moyers. Bernie Sanders. Naomi Klein. Bill McKibben. Emily Atkin.

Academia’s Role

The truth is, academics, researchers, and sustainability gurus are the ones who steered people like me in the wrong direction. Even today, at bastions of higher education, some, but not all, leading voices profess that we can reinvent business for good. Some academics push back, but they remain on the fringe. As a result, a sustainable MBA degree ensures graduates get buried in back rooms doing carbon accounting, stuck in a box made of win-win solutions and operational greening as an answer to climate change. They can’t agitate, influence company policy, get political, or even talk to the CEO. Despite their titles, they can’t affect climate change or real sustainability. Worse, pointing out the ineffectiveness of this broken strategy—because it so blatantly counters the established status quo—can peg a staffer as unstable or scarily radical. A friend and colleague in a large corporation with aggressive green aspirations struggled mightily, over years, to get the company to finally commit to “market-based carbon solutions,” the absolute lowest policy bar. (And this was just to agree that such solutions were acceptable, not to press for them.) The reality is that the labor of most corporate sustainability managers is worse than scut work: At least scut work advances toward a goal or leaves you with a clean toilet.

Sadly, most of us practitioners still haven’t worked our way out of that box. Even the businesses who understand this—take Salesforce, for example, which really is a leader in the sort of effective action I describe—still overwhelmingly emphasizes addressing its own footprint in their public materials, and almost footnotes the critical power-wielding and lobbying they do so well. The big whiff on the part of corporate America—missing the policy forest for the operational trees—may have begun with the blessing and boosterism of the fossil fuel industry, but it was bought and implemented by insiders—the gurus and sustainability leaders, the universities and businesses and think tanks.

A Future of Our Own Making

Journalism like that pursued by the truth-tellers listed above is one of the ways we can push our way out of this situation. But mainstreaming that level of integrity and inquiry is difficult in an owned world: Emily Atkin writes for MSNBC, which runs greenwashing ads about algae for which ExxonMobil is being sued. This is why academia is even more important: Even though universities themselves are heavily influenced by fossil fuel dollars, they are arguably more independent than the media and could initiate a sea change in our understanding of sustainable business by directing research and teaching curricula towards approaches that actually grapple with the climate problem, instead of pretending to. The obscure but noble Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability is teeming with apostates and insurgents who understand the points raised in this analysis, and as a result, could begin to tip research away from erudite niggling over small points of interest and focus academia’s tractor beam on real climate solutions. Those solutions, to repeat, would not revolve around resource efficiency or intricate calculations showing that doing good provides shareholder value, but around power-wielding, and revolution, the sort of study undertaken by Theda Skocpol, but through a business lens. The question isn’t the traditional query of business classes: “How can business profit from being green?” but “How can business be part of, even instigate, beneficial social and political revolution?” The irony is that we know it can be done because the fossil fuel industry has been wildly successful in doing the exact opposite. 

It’s also possible that business may wake up and finally execute on the promise of the sustainability movement. While hope is a bad strategy, there are nonetheless signs that this is happening, even though the resulting actions are too evolutionary to achieve rapid change. Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the largest money manager in the world, has been changing the conversation in corporate boardrooms, most recently with a call to businesses in his portfolio to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. True, this misses the politics of the issue, but it targets a lot of the corporate world. Meanwhile, the growing climate threat is starting to change the banking industry, first in Europe, and in pockets in the US, moving it away from financially risky and morally bankrupt fossil fuel investments. Government might wake up too, as it appears to be doing in the US, and pass regulation that values externalities and pushes corporations and wider society to do enough of the right thing that it really matters. Biden’s aggressiveness on climate is almost shocking, but he needs support—from the business community.

Last, social movements like Black Lives Matter, which are bringing to light the inadequacy of corporate action on justice—and the duplicity of progressive talk undermined by back-room politicking and anti-progressive political donations—will naturally bolster meaningful climate action, since climate is a justice issue too, after all, and since solutions like de-coupling money from politics and increasing voter access helps the climate movement as well. Business support for the Black Lives Matter movement is a piece of the difficult, moral, and seemingly risky trench work of the climate movement.

What we know we can’t survive is the status quo, because it pledges allegiance to a false deity, one that presumes that corporations, unrestrained, will save us. “That god,” Cormac McCarthy writes, “lives in silence who has scoured the following land with salt and ash.”

— Read on ssir.org/articles/entry/the_complicity_of_corporate_sustainability

Top India Bank Drags Its Feet on Billionaire Adani Coal Loan – Bloomberg #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani stop stealing our children’s future! #StopEcocide demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #SDGs

India’s largest bank hasn’t decided whether to help finance an Australian coal mine following mounting pressure from climate activists and investors, including BlackRock Inc.

By Suvashree Ghosh

Two senior State Bank of India executives, who asked not to be identified, said the bank was dragging its feet on extending part of a funding line of as much as $1 billion to Adani Enterprises Ltd., which plans to use the money for the controversial Carmichael mine. The bank’s executive committee, which will make the final decision, hasn’t had discussions about the loan this year, the officials said.

The Carmichael mine has been the focus of environmental protests since it was proposed in 2010. SBI shareholders have joined the opposition. BlackRock and Norway’s Storebrand ASA raised their objections over the past year, and Amundi SA divested its holdings of SBI’s green bonds because of the bank’s ties to the Carmichael mine.

SBI Chairman Dinesh Kumar Khara, who took charge in October, is reticent to disburse the funds to Adani given the opposition to the Australian project, bank officials said. Still, no decision has yet been made about the loan, they said.

SBI’s shares were up 0.6% in Mumbai on Friday, the third-best performer among peers in a gauge of 10 lenders that was down 0.5%. Adani Enterprises was up 2.4%.

Adani said in a statement that construction of the Carmichael Mine is “well underway and we are on track to export” coal in 2021. The company added that its mine and rail projects are fully funded.

Spokespeople for SBI haven’t responded to emails seeking comment.

Protesters in Australia demand #StopAdani #StopEcocide

Read more: Extreme Weather Puts $84 Billion of Indian Bank Debt at Risk

The Adani loan has left SBI, which is majority-owned by the Indian government, in a bind. While foreign investors are increasingly restricting support to companies involved in extracting or consuming coal, since it’s the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, 70% of India’s electricity comes from coal plants. The bank has to balance its clean-energy lending policy with the power supply needs of the country, the SBI executives said.

The Carmichael mine is located in the Galilee Basin in the northeastern Queensland province. The mine’s license was officially approved by the Queensland government in 2019 and if fully developed, the mine could contribute to an eventual doubling of Australia’s coal exports. While that may provide a fresh boon for the country’s economy, it would be detrimental to efforts to limit global warming and follows a year when Australia suffered record temperatures and widespread wildfires.

SBI drafted an in-principle agreement with Adani in 2014 for a $1 billion facility and brought in several banks from across the world to provide the funding as part of a consortium. The plan has had several iterations since then as the project became more politically controversial. The memorandum of understanding between SBI and Adani for disbursing the loan included several covenants covering environmental clearance, viability of the project and timelines.

While environmental clearance was granted by the Queensland government, the disbursal is subject to meeting other conditions including funding visibility from other lenders, the two officials said.

— Read on www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-08/india-s-biggest-bank-drags-feet-on-controversial-coal-mine-loan

Fossil Fuels Are Wildly More Expensive Than Previously Thought, Study Says #StopAdani #FundOurFutureNotGas #StopEcocide #ClimateCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #SDGs #auspol #qldpol

Overinflated fossil fuel investments might be a ‘worthless’ bubble waiting to trigger the next crash, while renewables seem more appealing than ever.

A new study finds that conventional electric power plants powered by fossil fuels and hydro are massively overvalued by the world’s leading analyst organizations. The report says they are overvalued to such a degree that the trillions of dollars of investment in these industries could amount to a “bubble” similar to the subprime mortgage housing bubble whose collapse triggered the 2008 financial crash. 

The stunning findings imply not only that renewable energies such as solar, wind and battery storage are far cheaper than believed, but that they are already outcompeting coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro power. This fact, however, has been masked by distorted calculations based on a fundamentally incorrect metric: the ‘Levelized Cost of Electricity’ (LCOE). 

The new report by independent technology think tank RethinkX, titled The Great Stranding: How Inaccurate Mainstream LCOE Estimates are Creating a Trillion-Dollar Bubble in Conventional Energy Assets is written by environmental social scientist Dr. Adam Dorr, a Research Fellow at RethinkX, and the think tank’s co-founder Tony Seba, a serial entrepreneur and Stanford University lecturer in technology disruption. 

Their new analysis, which is likely to send shockwaves across fossil fuel industries and utilities, probes into the science around a conventional power plant’s LCOE—which basically measures the average cost of generating electricity across the entire lifetime of the plant, including its building and operating costs.

Energy hype

Dorr and Seba show that mainstream LCOE assessments for conventional coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro power plants are simply false. In reality, due to the growing inefficiencies of these forms of energy, the amount of electricity conventional power plants produce falls over time, in some cases quite dramatically. So dramatically, in fact, that the divergence between real costs and the incorrect LCOE is so big that, the report concludes, mainstream analyses underestimate the per kilowatt-hour cost of coal, gas and hydro by up to 400 percent.

This is a big problem, because it means that the trillions of dollars of investment (not to mention government subsidies) being sunk into these conventional energy industries are based on vast overvaluations rooted in systematic overinflations of their actual energy generating power. These estimates, the report points out, are being upheld by the most authoritative sources of energy information in the world, including the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

For instance, while the EIA tells us that coal power plants retain a capacity factor of 80 percent for the entirety of their 40-year technical lifetime through to 2060, in reality it is far lower, according to the new study. In the US, the average capacity factor for coal power plants in 2010 was 67 percent. Ten years later it plummeted further to 40 percent—this is half as much as the official LCOE assessment. This means that the real cost of electricity produced by these plants is ridiculously high—as high as 32.4 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) when corrected, which is more than four times the EIA’s figure of 7.6 cents.

The same patterns of overinflation can be found across conventional plants. For natural gas, the official EIA estimate of an 87 percent capacity factor throughout a 20-year lifetime is contradicted by the fact that in 2020 the real figure was 58 percent. This means the cost of electricity from these gas plants is 60 percent higher than the EIA’s estimate. And for hydro power, the official estimate of 70 percent capacity flies in the face of the real figure for US hydro plants which reached just 42 percent in 2020. Which means that hydro’s real cost is three times higher than conventionally believed.

Endgame

“Our research reveals the same erroneous assumptions about the capacity factor for natural gas, hydro and nuclear power plants are showing breakeven costs for their electricity that are much lower than they actually are,” said Dr Adam Dorr. “This makes these plants appear to be better investments than they would be when considering that the actual cost of producing electricity from these plants is much higher.”

But that’s just the beginning. The report looks at what’s likely to happen to these power plants by around 2030, based on the continuing rates of decline of their capacity based on historical capacity factor data and EIA data, to produce more realistic calculations. 

It projects that the costs of electricity generation in 10 years will be nine times higher for coal, nearly five times higher for gas, nearly 14 times higher for nuclear, and nine times higher for hydro. This not only means that trillion dollar current—and future—investments in these industries are vastly overvalued, but that these energy systems are vastly more expensive than we are being told. 

This means alternative solar, wind and battery energy systems are even more attractive than conventionally believed.

Tipping point

“Coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro power are no longer competitive with the combination of SWB [solar, wind and battery], even using inaccurate mainstream LCOE calculations,” the RethinkX report observes. “Solar and wind power reached cost parity and became cheaper than coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro power several years sooner than mainstream analysts reported.”

According to report co-author Tony Seba, “The total cost of a new solar or wind power plant is already below just the operating cost of conventional generation such as gas, coal and nuclear. That means even if building a conventional power plant costs nothing, it is still more expensive—based on operating costs alone—than a solar or wind plant,” said Seba. “And yet the unrealistic but easily correctable levelized costs of electricity could continue to drive investment into conventional power. Once the divergence between erroneous LCOE and real levelized costs become impossible for incumbents to deny, the financial markets will be swift, and trillions invested by pension, retirement and endowment funds could become worthless.” 

The Dow Jones US Coal Index fell by over 99 percent from 2011 to 2020. The same fate could be in store for other fossil fuels and utility companies. 

There is a way out of this unfortunate conundrum—correcting the faulty LCOE assumptions. This could help correct market distortion and protect millions of citizens at risk of losing retirement savings that go into such investments (it won’t make fossil fuels any more sustainable, however). But if that doesn’t happen, the consequences could be devastating. 

According to former Obama administration energy advisor Jed Dorsheimer, head of global sustainability research at financial services firm Cannacord Genuity and president of the Biophysical Economics Institute, the RethinkX report “does a very good job articulating how the debt fueled economy has actually led to many bubbles in asset valuations.” But he added that this was not exclusive to fossil fuels. “Since 1974 the shift to a fiat based currency under the auspices of the neoclassical economics has created bubbles in almost all assets classes.” 

A fossil fuelled-global financial bubble could grow by several trillion dollars over the next decade as a result of the LCOE inflation according to the new RethinkX report. Meanwhile, as solar, wind and battery cost curves continue to dramatically decline as RethinkX has presciently forecast elsewhere, they will continue outcompeting conventional power plants with their declining output and rising costs. 

Bright future?

The outlook for renewables, then, could be a lot brighter than many assume—especially given the think tank’s estimate that the cost to build a 100 percent solar, wind and battery system in the US would be less than $2 trillion over the course of the 2020s (just 1 percent of GDP), due to exponentially declining cost curves which most forecasters overlook.

Dorsheimer cautioned that there is a need to account for the “embodied energy” required to produce renewable power which can still come from carbon emitting sources, and argued that the report’s criticisms of the LCOE of conventional power should not be used to wrongly inflate the value of renewables.


 Yet RethinkX has made surprisingly accurate forecasts on a number of counts in previous studies which lend credence to its new conclusions. From creating an investment portfolio that returned more than 2,500 percent over 15 years, to correctly anticipating the declining costs of solar panels and electric cars, the think tank’s researchers have been ahead of the curve across a range of technology disruptions. Its founders, Seba and technology investor James Arbib, are regularly sought out for their insights by investors with trillions in assets under management, including BlackRock, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. 


 Their latest report also dovetails with warnings that have come from other sources. Last year, Motherboard reported on the conclusions of an internal study commissioned by the Geological Survey of Finland which warned of how rapidly mounting oil production costs combined with surging debt levels across the industry would shatter the economic viability of the entire global oil market within just a few years.

 The new analysis by RethinkX now throws further fuel on the fire, suggesting that the next biggest, and potentially cataclysmic, market correction will not be in the housing markets—but in the conventional energy sector. 

https://youtu.be/xVWHuJOmaEk

— Read on www.vice.com/en/article/qjpqyw/fossil-fuels-are-wildly-more-expensive-than-previously-thought-study-says

Second protest at Bravus coal mine in Qld | The Canberra Times | #StopAdani #StopEcocide #ClimateCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #auspol #qldpol #SDGs

Work is continuing at the Carmichael coal mine and rail project after police removed protesters trying to blockade the site in central Queensland.

The protest by a group of 15 people is the second launched against mine project owned by Bravus, previous known as Adani Australia, in three days.

Bravus is building a 10 million tonne-a-year thermal coal mine in the Galilee Basin, which could eventually be expanded to six times that size.

The company is also building a rail line that will be opened to other companies if it gets the tick of approval.

Public servant Carine Visschers tried to block vehicles while holding a sign saying “Make Ecocide A Crime” at a worksite entrance near Mount Coolon on Friday morning.

Carine Visschers

“Ecocide is mass damage and destruction of ecosystems – harm to nature which is widespread, severe and systematic,” the 63-year-old said in a statement.

“Our justice system puts 10-year-old children in prison for damaging property, but enables billionaires like Adani (Bravus) to increase their fortune damaging our land and ecosystems and destroying our children’s future.

“We need to make ecocide a crime to have the hope of a liveable future.”

Ms Visschers said preventing “ecocide” and climate change depended upon individuals taking action to stop “destructive projects like Adani.”

Bravus said work at the Mount Cooton site was not affected by Friday morning’s protest.

“Police attended and the protest was finished by 9am with the road cleared for movement,” a spokesperson told AAP.

It’s the second time demonstraters have tried to blockade the Carmichael project sites this week.

A group of 20 health workers and academics tried to block vehicles entering a rail construction site off the Gregory Hwy on Wednesday morning.

Calling themselves Health On The Frontlines they said they were protesting the impacts of coal mining and climate change on human health.

Australian Associated Press

— Read on www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7202328/second-protest-at-bravus-coal-mine-in-qld/

Paris goals still ‘long way off’, says President of UN climate conference | | UN News #ClimateCrisis Demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #SDGs #TellTheTruth #auspol #qldpol #FundOurFutureNotGas

The world is “a long way off” from meeting the goals of the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the President of the crucial upcoming UN climate conference, COP26, said on Thursday.

British politician Alok Sharma was speaking during a global discussion on the ‘green’ transition in sectors such as energy, transport and food systems, held as part of the 2021 Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

“Oceans are warming, storms are intensifying, and yet we are a long way off meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement”, he told the virtual meeting.  “Unless we act now, the human, economic and environmental cost will dwarf anything that humanity has seen before.”  

John Kerry: Last chance to get serious 

COP26, which will be held this November in Glasgow, Scotland, aims to accelerate action towards the Paris treaty goals, which centre around limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels by curbing greenhouse gas emissions.   

John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, called the conference “the last best opportunity we have to get real and serious.” He particularly urged developed countries to step up efforts to reduce emissions. 

“It is essential we raise ambition; we make Glasgow the next step in defining not what we’re willing to do but what we really need to do in order to be able to get the job done.” 

Prince William: Invest in nature 

For Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, COP26 represents an opportunity to put nature at the heart of the climate fight.  He called for banks to invest in nature, noting that spending so far has been minimal.  

“We cannot recover sustainably from coronavirus, eradicate global poverty, achieve net-zero emissions, or adapt to climate change, without investing in nature”, he said. 

My letter published in the Cairns Local News this morning.

UN envoy on energy for all 

Energy access must also be part of the green transition, according to Damilola Ogunbiyi, Chief Executive Officer at Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), a UN partner.   

Globally, nearly 800 million people do not have access to electricity, while 2.8 billion lack access to clean cooking sources, she said, which is equivalent to the populations of Africa, Europe and China combined. 

To change their lives, she recommended that governments focus on policies in the areas of promoting renewable and sustainable energy, and on ease of doing business and regulations. Again, financing here is needed, together with commitment. 

“We all see that globally, when we come together, just the amazing work we can do, and the COVID vaccine is a perfect example”, said Ms. Ogunbiyi, who is also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All. 

“We literally have to have a COVID vaccine response to help a lot of developing countries because it’s not that they don’t want to transition, or they don’t want to do the right thing. It’s a fact that if you do need to transition, there is a lot of funding that is needed.

— Read on news.un.org/en/story/2021/04/1089332

Prince William: Banks must do more to protect environment – BBC News #SDGs Demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #Divest from fossil fuels #auspol #qldpol #FundOurFutureNotGas

The Duke of Cambridge says investing in nature is a cost effective way of tackling global warming.

The Duke of Cambridge has urged banks to “invest in nature” to help fight global climate change. 

Speaking at an IMF and World Bank meeting, Prince William said protecting nature continued to play only a small part in combating global warming. 

He said investing in reforestation and sustainable agriculture were “cost effective” ways of tackling the issue. 

Banks have come under increasing pressure to step up efforts to help fight climate change.

Just this week, Barclays’ London headquarters was the target of a protest staged by climate activist group Extinction Rebellion. Members held placards and broke several windows as they called on the bank to stop financing fossil fuel companies.

Recent Extinction Rebellion protests in Melbourne

Addressing central bankers and finance ministers at the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, the duke said the world’s natural habitats continue to decline at an “alarming rate”. 

“We cannot recover sustainably from coronavirus, eradicate global poverty, achieve net-zero emissions, or adapt to climate change, without investing in nature,” he said. 

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The duke said investing in nature accounted for only a “fraction of the money that is spent on the fight against climate change”. 

“We must invest in nature, through reforestation, sustainable agriculture and supporting healthy oceans… because doing so is one of the most cost effective and impactful ways of tackling climate change.

“It removes carbon from the atmosphere, helps build more resilient communities, tackles biodiversity loss and protects people’s livelihoods.” 

The spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank are taking place virtually this week bringing together central banks, policymakers and business leaders to discuss the state of the world’s economy. 

A key focus of the discussions will also centre on climate risks and building a sustainable economic recovery post Covid. 

The duke said: “All of you here at the World Bank and across each of the multilateral development banks have that crucial part to play by supporting a green, inclusive and resilient recovery from the pandemic, by valuing nature and putting it at the heart of your work, and by increasing investment in a future where the natural world can thrive.” 

The decisions taken at the next UN climate change summit in Glasgow later this year will be a “vital step” in putting nature centre stage, the duke added. 

Economics is the mother tongue of public policy. It dominates our decision-making for the future, guides multi-billion-dollar investments, and shapes our responses to climate change, inequality, and other environmental and social challenges that define our times.

Pity then, or more like disaster, that its fundamental ideas are centuries out of date yet are still taught in college courses worldwide and still used to address critical issues in government and business alike.

The duke has become a vocal campaigner on environmental issues. He launched a competition to try to inspire people to solve “some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges”. 

The Earthshot Prize will recognise ideas and technologies that can safeguard the planet offering five prizes of £1m to support environmental and conservation projects.

Barclays’ London headquarters was the target of a protest staged by Extinction Rebellion this week

The duke’s comments come amid growing pressure from shareholders on banks to take a tougher stance on climate change. 

HSBC announced last month it would stop financing coal projects across the EU by 2030, and all other markets by 2040, following pressure from a coalition of investment firms.

Shareholders at Barclays are set to table a resolution at the bank’s upcoming annual general meeting calling on the bank to phase out financing for coal, oil and gas companies. 

Meanwhile a group of central banks are reviewing ways to use monetary policy to tackle climate change. 

Options include greener asset purchases and lending schemes, according to report by the Network for Greening the Financial System.

— Read on www.bbc.com/news/business-56681050

Accountants and botanists combine forces for a sustainable future #SDGs #GlobalGoals @UniMelb #auspol #qldpol #springst #ClimateAction #SDG13

Accountants and botanists combine forces for a sustainable future.

By Tessa Shaw

In a unique collaboration, researchers from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Accounting and School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences worked with the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) to understand how best to capture, manage and report on carbon storage and sequestration, with hopes of developing a sustainable future for Australia.

SDG 15

Closing the gap

Trees make an invaluable contribution to reducing the effects of climate change by mitigating carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, trees act as a carbon sink, absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide, and storing it in solid or liquid form. This is known as ‘carbon sequestration’.

An estimated 45 per cent of the earth’s carbon is stored in forests that cover 30 per cent of the earth’s land mass.

A dendrometer, , which measures the expansion rate of tree trunks. These devices give continuous trunk expansion rates which are more accurate than periodically measuring trunk size using a tape. Trunk size is measured as DBH: diameter at breast height. It is a standardised way of measuring trunk size at 1.37 m above the ground, and is used in the biomass/carbon equations.

However, data on urban trees in Australia has been lacking. Most research into tree carbon sequestration is US-centric, and research in Australia and New Zealand has typically focused on plantations.

A few years ago, students from the Faculty of Business and Economics were given the opportunity to begin a carbon audit for the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, in order to close this gap. It quickly became clear that approaching it from a single discipline-based perspective was not going to provide a thorough exploration of the issues. As a result, a unique opportunity for collaboration between accountants and scientists was born.

In partnership with CA ANZ, researchers, Associate Professor Brad Potter and Professor Naomi Soderstrom, both from the Department of Accounting, and Professor Ian Woodrow from the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, were awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project grant to develop a process-based model of the carbon cycle of the Royal Botanic Gardens and explore the best way to report this information to decision-makers.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

A match made in heaven

Stakeholders like hard numbers and reliable information, particularly when it comes to costs, but turning information on trees and carbon sinks into dollar values is difficult.

That’s where the botanists come in. Professor Ian Woodrow brings a wealth of expertise about the differences in growth rates of various tree species in different environments and, as Associate Professor Potter refers to them, “some very expensive toys”.

According to Professor Woodrow this study is one of the world’s largest measurements of urban tree growth, and a first for Australia.

“You could pull numbers out of the air on Melbourne’s trees, but it would be drawing on data from elsewhere or data that’s roughly estimated; it’s not well-established by actual measurements.”

This interdisciplinary project helps solve the problem by allowing the researchers to create a model that is relevant for Australia. Like butter and vegemite or wine and cheese, botany and accounting are a winning combination.

“Scientists have it in their DNA to be able to measure things, but reporting isn’t something they’re as comfortable with,” says Associate Professor Potter. “Reporting is more comfortable for us, but we don’t do science.”

How does it work?

The Royal Botanic Gardens houses just about every urban tree planted elsewhere in Australia, so the data is highly transferrable.

“The gardens had the foresight to document the plant sizes, location and health 30 years ago, providing us with a solid baseline,” says Professor Woodrow. “This historic data coupled with the scope of the sampling regimes will enable fluxes to be estimated with considerable accuracy.”

With our model, you can predict, with great certainty, that the pine tree you plant, for example, in suburban Brunswick will grow at a certain rate and lock a certain amount of carbon.

Accounting for sustainability

Accountants help companies measure, understand and communicate how sustainable their activities are. They can help organisations set targets to become more sustainable. They can also provide assurance that an organisation is meeting the standards adopted by governments, regulators or investors.

A complex urban ecosystem, the Royal Botanic Gardens stretch the limits of existing approaches to carbon accounting, which have primarily focused on carbon emissions from energy use and transport.

As the climate crisis makes sustainability reporting more urgent, this research provides a model to accurately account for the quantity of carbon sequestered by a variety of tree species of different ages in Australia.

Applying insights gleaned from the model provides a more complete understanding of their greenhouse gas-related activities and inform strategic decisions.

Making better decisions

“A unique feature of this project is the opportunity to understand the nature and extent to which such enhanced information affects decisions made by users,” says Professor Soderstrom.

When information is expressed in financial terms such as revenue or cost, accounting standards tell us that the materiality of a piece of information is determined by its relative importance to the base figure. For example, an expense that is 10 per cent or more of total expenses would be deemed ‘material’. However, when information such as carbon emissions is reported in non-financial (qualitative or volumetric) terms, determining what is and is not material is more problematic.

“Adding to this complexity is the different ways that different stakeholders determine materiality,” adds Associate Professor Potter. “For example, donors to an organisation prioritise social and environmental performance ahead of financial performance. Institutional investors, on the other hand, tend to prioritise financial factors and therein we find discrepancies in perceived materiality.”

“Developing this model has been a significant achievement for us,” says Professor Soderstrom.

The successful design of these new reporting methods will enable the findings from this project to support environmental sustainability at an organisational level.

The University of Melbourne’s Dr Jason Goodger takes lake sediment samples for carbon analysis.

Vision for the future

Advancing our understanding of how non-financial information such as carbon emissions can be used in an organisational context will be vital in achieving real impact and environmental change.

Understanding the total ecosystem in terms of tonnes of carbon dioxide absorbed on a continuous basis as a basic measure, environmental economists will be able to consider valuing and monetising this impact. The usefulness of this information comes from the fact that it can be integrated with costs and other benefits on operating an entity to derive the total impact on an economy.

Because urban forest strategies will play a significant role in achieving carbon neutrality, Professor David Cantrill, Chief Botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, who has been instrumental in the project since its conception, wants to see all parklands adopt the model.

“They [councils, governments and organisations] need to understand their ‘carbon cash flow’; that is, to understand how their carbon balance sheet is working,” he says. “Generally, they have had no idea, because they’ve never needed to.”

“With our work, we enable a more precise measure of the carbon sequestered as trees grow,” says Associate Professor Potter.

Given the importance for many firms of managing their carbon footprint and that capturing carbon is a key element of that strategy, this has potential implications for not only how some firms will manage their environmental footprint in future but there are real consequences for financial position and performance for a diverse array of entities.

Thanks to this research, we now have the opportunity to determine the best way to measure carbon capture and report the results in more meaningful ways to decision-makers, contributing significantly to a sustainable future.

— Read on fbe.unimelb.edu.au/newsroom/accountants-and-botanists-combine-forces-for-a-sustainable-future

Infrastructure Victoria panel calls for end of new petrol car sales, amid slow take-up of electric vehicles – ABC News #SDG13 #ClimateCrisis join the #RaceToZero #COP26

Less than 1 per cent of cars on Australia’s roads are electric, but a community panel picked by government advisory body Infrastructure Victoria wants to see sales of new petrol-guzzling vehicles halted in a decade.

The following scenario could be difficult to imagine, when you consider 99 per cent of Australia’s cars are currently not powered by electricity.

By 2030, there would be no new petrol or diesel cars sold — they would all be electric or hydrogen-powered. It would be compulsory for all new property developments to have electric charging stations, and governments would offer generous subsidies to encourage drivers to trade in petrol-guzzling cars in favour of low or zero emission vehicles.

However, these were among the leading ideas put forward by a panel of 211 “everyday Victorians” for an Infrastructure Victoria consultation program.

The advisory body, which operates independently from the Victorian government, is looking for ways to drive emissions down so the state can meet a mandated net zero target by 2050.

Infrastructure Victoria’s deputy chief executive Jonathan Spear said most sectors had found ways to cut pollution, but transport-related emissions had increased by about 18 per cent since 1990.

“Governments around the world are thinking really hard about how to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles.

“We have given this report from the community to the Victorian government already for them to think about.”

‘Lack of policies’ holding Australia back

Electric vehicle enthusiasts like Taylors Lakes resident Chris Vanderstock hope the ideas, especially the proposed ban on new combustion engine vehicle sales, will be taken seriously.

“If we just have policymakers, politicians and governments giving us that guidance, then I think people will actually make that jump and get on board sooner,” he said.

“In Australia, due to our lack of policies and political will, shall we say, we only have literally about 10 different electric vehicles we can buy.

“So I understand that people have reservations about getting into an electric vehicle and not being able to buy their favourite one.”

Mr Vanderstock said there were myths about the technology that needed to be dispelled, such as a lack of power to pull things like trailers.

“They have this zero-to-instant torque where you put your foot down and you go. It’s very much infectious,” he said.

Other ideas include trade-in schemes, compulsory chargers

Nationwide, electric vehicles made up only 6,900 of the 916,968 new cars sold last year, according to figures from the Electric Vehicle Council and Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

A ban on the sale of new petrol cars in less than a decade would require a drastic shift in consumer behaviour and government spending for more public charging stations.

Electric vehicle prices are substantially higher than their petrol and diesel counterparts, although offer lower running and maintenance costs. The cheapest new electric car on the market costs $43,990.

Mr Spear said Infrastructure Victoria’s community panel came up with 21 recommendations after a detailed, five-week consultation process.

Other key recommendations included increasing charging stations in public hotspots, setting up schemes to cover vehicle emissions and the trade-in of combustion engine cars, and encouraging governments to use electric fleets.

Panel members were of all ages, and one in three were migrants to Australia. Sixty per cent were male, and about a quarter of participants lived in regional Victoria. At least 22 of the 211 members were electric vehicle owners.

Politically-charged issue back in spotlight

The role of electric vehicles in Australia’s future has again emerged in headlines nationwide — not that debate about the issue ever really went away.

Last week, the federal opposition pledged to make electric cars substantially cheaperthrough import tariff and tax changes.

— Read on www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-08/the-radical-idea-to-increase-victoria-s-electric-vehicles/100052474

Social housing tenants enjoy Tasmania’s first community microgrid with solar and Tesla batteries | One Step Off The Grid #ClimateAction #SDG13 #SDG1

Social housing tenants enjoy Tasmania’s first community microgrid with solar and Tesla batteries | One Step Off The Grid

By Sophie Vorath

Nubeena Residential Microgrid. Source: Tasman Peninsula Power

Tasmania’s first community microgrid, which has combined 25.6kW of solar PV and 54kWh of Tesla battery storage, is successfully powering a group of social housing tenants at the edge of the state’s grid on the Tasman Peninsula – including through two major outages.

The pilot project in central Nubeena was developed by not-for-profit community group Tasman Peninsula Power with financial backing from the state Liberal government, following an election promise back in early 2018.

Three years later, and with another state election looming, the Nubeena Residential Microgrid (NRM) has been completed, having been designed and installed on 5 two-bedroom units by Tasmanian firm Mode Electrical – the units were also financed by the state government and are managed by the Tasman Council.

The idea for the microgrid was first conceived as a way to share cheap and sustainable solar PV among the community, while also providing a reliable source of emergency, back-up power during network outages – a relatively regular occurrence in this particular neck of the Tasmanian woods.

Power to the Tasman Peninsula is vulnerable to disruption by weather events because in some locations the geography forces the two feeders to be located close together. Image: Tasman Peninsula Power

“We suffer a lot of outages,” one of TPP’s founders and its current chair, Paul Sutton, told One Step three years ago. “In the last 12 months we’ve had 15 outages. Some outages being in excess of 24 hours and in extreme cases up to 60 hours for a number of customers.

“A group of us thought, well, surely we can do something about this. And we formed Tasman Peninsula Power…. We really just want some security at the end of the feeders.”

As was noted at the time, the main culprit behind these outages was usually falling trees, and occasionally other more serious events, like the 2013 bush fires that ravaged the Tasman Peninsula, destroying – among other things – more than 400 power poles.

In the end, TPP’s plans merged with those of the local council, which was about to build a group of new residential units, and a proposal was submitted for the pilot microgrid installation and study.

Simon Dingemanse from Mode Electrical installing Tesla Powerwall 2 batteries at the site. Image: Tasman Peninsula Power

Sutton said this week that the solar and battery project had got off to “a flying start” providing social housing tenants with reliable power – including through two major network outages – at an almost 13% discount to the comparable market tariff, and with some excess solar left over for the local grid.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with our first months of operation,” said Sutton. “We both provided surplus energy into the grid, and successfully kept the lights on for tenants during two major grid outages that lasted a total of over seven hours.”

As one resident explains it, her unit has black double power points that are connected to the microgrid and that, during a blackout, continue to supply power to whatever is plugged into them.

“I can connect my airfryer so I can still cook and also the lights always stay on too, which is awesome,” the tenant said.

TPP says that tenants are charged a modified time of use tariff, similar to Aurora Energy’s tariff 93, but with lower rates. On top of this, the microgrid offers an extra low ‘solar bonus’ tariff of 7¢/kWh for six hours in the middle of every day, when solar power is usually plentiful.

In the first three months of the pilot, Sutton says tenants used an average of 307kWh/unit/month – around 35% less than a typical two-person household in the area, thanks to the energy efficient design of the units and the careful usage habits of tenants.

Tenants paid an average of $82/unit for the month (before concessions), a 12.7% saving on the same consumption on Aurora’s tariff 93, they said – despite Tasmanian electricity concessions currently only applying to customers of a nationally recognised retailer.

To make up for this, TPP is using some of the grant money to match these concessions for eligible tenants, and the state government has agreed to review the concessions arrangement for residents in embedded networks after 12 months of operation of the microgrid. All up, the pilot will run for “at least” two years.

“To really gauge the success of the project we will need to get through winter when solar generation is lower, heating needs are higher and weather events can cause more frequent outages,” said Sutton.

“But so far it has all been positive. We hope this will be the first of many local community energy projects.”

— Read on onestepoffthegrid.com.au/social-housing-tenants-enjoy-tasmanias-first-community-microgrid-with-solar-and-tesla-batteries/