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The Only Green in the House

Green European Journal - Tue, 11/28/2023 - 06:13

In 2010, Caroline Lucas became the first Green member of the UK Parliament. Since then, despite remaining the party’s only nationally elected representative, she has had a pivotal impact on both policy and public debate in the UK. At the conference of the Green Party of England and Wales, she spoke to Beatrice White about her decision not to run for re-election, the difference even a single Green in the room can make, and the battles that lie ahead.

In early October, members of the Green Party of England and Wales gathered in Brighton for the party’s autumn conference. At the event, the party set out its central objective for the next general election, scheduled to be held no later than January 2025: to see four Greens elected to the UK Parliament, known as Westminster. Although Greens have in recent years made significant gains at the local level (currently holding 745 seats spread across 168 local councils), under the “first past the post” voting system getting MPs elected is an uphill struggle. Increasing the number of seats from one to four is therefore a highly ambitious target.

It seemed fitting for the conference to take place in Brighton – the city is one of the target constituencies and also the seat of the party’s only current MP, Caroline Lucas, who announced earlier this year that she would not be seeking re-election. When Caroline Lucas took her seat as the country’s first Green MP in May 2010, she became not just a Green voice for her constituents, but the single voice representing a political movement that had hitherto been locked out of Parliament. It was, as she wrote in her 2015 book Honourable Friends? Parliament and the Fight for Change, “a moment of history: the first new political movement to enter Parliament in nearly a century”. It would also be a heavy responsibility to bear, under the weight of immense expectations and pressure.

In an interview with Lucas on the sidelines of the Green Party’s conference, I asked her what changes – if any – she had observed in the way that voice is heard and listened to in Westminster since she first stood up and spoke in parliament, 13 years ago. One key shift, she says, is that the “climate-shaped hole” that was conspicuous in every statement, speech, and piece of legislation coming out of Parliament has shrunk. But of course, this adaptation brings with it the need for a new kind of vigilance: “It has become politically difficult for other parties to pretend the environment doesn’t exist or to pretend that climate isn’t a major threat. But I think the challenge now is to try to unpack greenwash and work out what’s really meant and, in the case of Conservatives, to try to make sure that they don’t keep rolling back on pledges that they have given so far.”

She has gained recognition from across the political spectrum for her integrity – even among those who fervently oppose her politics.

Indeed, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced in September his government’s “new approach to net zero”, which involved scaling back climate change commitments and postponing key targets to phase out fossil fuels.

Post-truth politics

While Westminster is notorious for its adversarial, conflictual style of politics, Caroline Lucas has sought to model a different approach – based on alliance-building and civil, respectful communication. She has gained recognition from across the political spectrum for her integrity – even among those who fervently oppose her politics. Yet a kind of Trumpian “post-truth” politics is increasingly gaining hold in the UK – particularly among the ranks of the Conservative Party. The party’s tactics have included passionately arguing against opposition policies that do not exist and mainstreaming marginal conspiracy theories around initiatives such as 15-minute cities.

“It’s fair to say that we are still struggling to work out how to cut through such blatant lies,” says Lucas, who is acutely aware of the dangers of such claims, even if they initially appear “ludicrous”. She deplores Sunak’s rhetoric that suggests “every environmental measure was a burden for people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis” and fears the ruling party has now concluded “that their best chance of winning the next election is to move much further to the right and to weaponise things like net zero and immigration.”

This presents a dilemma, Lucas explains: “It is difficult to know how to engage because on the one hand, you feel compelled to point out the inaccuracies in their statements. On the other hand, I’m very aware that that kind of takes you down into the weeds of where they want you to be, fighting on whether climate politics is good or bad for people on low incomes instead of zooming out and seeing the bigger picture.”

Lucas is also wary of the risk that rising public mistrust in politicians may lead to people switching off from politics and disengaging. “And that’s deeply dangerous, too, because we want people to be engaged in the political process now more than ever.”

Making policy vs. Doing politics

Caroline Lucas became the Green Party’s press officer in 1987, having just finished a PhD in sixteenth-century literary romance – not an obvious qualification for the role, perhaps, but she made her case successfully. In 1993, she was elected to Oxfordshire County council.

At the 1989 European elections, Greens won a historic 15 per cent of the vote – ten times their general election score, but since European elections were also subject to “first past the post” at the time, it won them no seats. Amid the frustration, the party was able to capitalise on this breakthrough, supported by the Green group in the European Parliament who invited Jean Lambert, a prominent UK Green and later elected MEP, to join them as an “honorary member”.

But it was not just European solidarity that buoyed them. As Lucas recalled during one fringe discussion at the conference, this was a time when the environment was high on the agenda. It was to be a propitious historical moment for Greens, boosted by their status as political newcomers and outsiders which gained them sympathy among both the public and media; the wind was at their back. In the 1999 European elections, run under a proportional system, Lucas was elected to the EU Parliament, where she was to spend a decade.

Lucas recalls her time in the EU Parliament fondly – particularly the consensual approach to policy-making, and the fact that Greens were well established as a force. As an MEP, Lucas was able to pilot legislation and steer it through the institutions, around illegal logging for instance.

But there was a problem, Lucas points out. These victories, significant though they were, were not being reported in the UK. “They didn’t change the nature of the debate in Westminster and in the UK. So it did feel important to come back in order to be able to try to influence the political conversation here.”

Her decision to leave Brussels and return to the UK to stand as a parliamentary candidate was made easier by the fact that she would not be starting from scratch – party activists such as Keith Taylor had been doing vital work to prepare the ground for a Green breakthrough in Brighton Pavilion for years. Due to the turbulent nature of British politics, the last 13 years have witnessed four general elections – a period over which Lucas has built up a rock-solid majority, from a marginal win by just over 1,000 votes in 2010 to almost 20,000 in 2019.

An activist politician

In her approach to parliamentary politics, Lucas was influenced by German Green pioneer Petra Kelly, who was among those subscribing to the idea that Greens could be an “anti-party”, existing within political institutions without compromising their radical credentials.

I ask Lucas whether, according to her experience, this works in practice. In response, she recalls the mass student demonstrations that erupted in 2010 in response to the government’s plans to cut spending on education and raise tuition fees, and which were met with police repression. “It felt really important to be out there on the front line with young people protesting, and then – as people were being kettled for hours – being able to go into Parliament and put a point of order straight away.” Another enduring image of Lucas is her 2013 arrest at anti-fracking protests, which she feels showed “you can be a politician and activist. It is that combination that I think gives us a particular role in the political system.”

For Lucas, using every parliamentary process available to her as a backbench MP, but also being on the frontline, and occasionally on the wrong side of the law, are two inseparable strands of the political fight. Ultimately, both the Labour opposition and the Conservative government changed their positions on fracking – and it seems evident that Lucas’s vocal opposition (in the name of her party but also of countless environmental groups and civil society campaigns) and efforts to put the issue on the agenda were a decisive factor in bringing about the conversation that led to this shift.

The end of an era

To get a sense of the importance of Caroline Lucas as a figure to the Green Party, one merely had to observe the reception she got from party members at the conference in Brighton. The warmth and admiration towards her were evident just from the cheers elicited from a mention of her name in a speech, and from the queues to greet and be photographed with her.

Having watched Lucas at previous party conferences and in Westminster, she seemed now more relaxed, allowing a human side to shine through in an unusually personal discussion at a fringe event, during which we learned that her favourite colour is purple, and that she is partial to gin, panna cotta, and binging The West Wing. Perhaps she is already able to look towards the moment when the burden of being the sole Green representative will be lifted.

The weight of this responsibility, partly intrinsic to being an MP – with the overwhelming and relentless volume of constituency casework to wade through, and the constraints of the British system – is intensified by the challenge of representing a party with extremely limited resources. 

These difficulties, however, were not evident at the conference, where the mood among members was upbeat and enthusiastic following the announcement of the “Four for 24” objective for the next general election. Did Lucas worry her decision not to run again might send a message to the party’s activists that parliamentary politics cannot be the route to address urgent issues like the climate crisis – as the time it takes to build up a power base that can really shape policy over electoral cycles is time we simply do not have? Lucas is keen to distance herself from this suggestion: “I absolutely believe that we need Greens in every single corridor of power. And it’s vitally important that there’s a Green voice in Parliament.” She stresses again the personal nature of the decision, which is “about having worked about 80 hours a week for 13 years and just thinking, hang on a minute, I just need to take stock.”

When it comes to the difficulties of addressing the climate crisis, however, Lucas has no qualms about decrying the parliamentary process as “frustratingly, maddeningly, dangerously slow.” At the same time, she adds, “if one concluded that you therefore turn your back on democratic processes – I think that would be dangerous.” Ultimately, there is no escaping the fact that Greens need to be both in the streets and on the benches. “To me, it feels that change is most likely to happen when you’ve got that momentum and pressure coming from the outside, but you’ve also got good people on the inside, who will challenge the other parties.”

The next chapter

In a statement published on the party’s website regarding her decision not to stand again, Lucas emphasised her desire to focus more fully on “the existential challenges that drive me – the Nature and Climate emergencies.” What will be her approach in campaigning for change in these areas? For a start, amplifying Green messages that not only are there solutions, but also win-win solutions, “like rolling out a programme for home insulation, which would get people’s bills down, get climate emissions down, and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. It doesn’t always have to be this binary trade-off, which is the narrative that’s coming from the government.”

She explains that it is now about something much bigger and more ambitious than pushing for individual behavioural changes. “Right now, in the middle of the cost-of-living crisis, at a time when we’ve just seen that 16 per cent of species in the UK are facing extinction, when scientists are running out of language to describe what they’re seeing in terms of the heating of the planet, it feels like we need system change.”

Lucas is more driven than ever to bring about change, but also to convince others of their own agency and power.

The route to this broader change, it seems, comes back to building bridges and alliances. Lucas says a key element is finding effective ways to scale up “coordination amongst the voices that are broadly in agreement, and in opposition to the direction of this government.” At present, she explains, campaign groups and organisations working on climate issues often find themselves competing with one another for resources, which discourages collaboration and ultimately undermines their messages and appeals for change. “The voice gets diluted, or there’s more of a cacophony of voices and it’s harder to hear. Thinking strategically right now needs to be about how do you fight a post-truth government.”

Beyond the everyday struggles people face, she senses something bigger is going on which she admits she doesn’t have the language for quite yet. She would like to explore “how we help people cope with what I think is just a huge amount of suppressed grief” connected to climate change, the destruction of nature, and biodiversity and species loss. She is interested in finding ways of “helping people to be in touch with that grief, but in a way that can lead to action, not to paralysis and despair.”

What is clear is that Lucas is more driven than ever to bring about change, but also to convince others of their own agency and power. Her own brand of optimism is more extraordinary than she seems to realise; despite being acutely aware of just how severe these crises have become, and how profoundly broken the political system is, “I get out of bed each day thinking I can change things.”

To summarise her outlook, she recalls the words of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” After having been the solitary Green voice for change for so long, perhaps this next stage for her will be about helping as many other people as possible to feel they can change things too.

Categories: H. Green News

The Cop28 climate summit must set us free from fossil fuels

Climate Change News - Tue, 11/28/2023 - 04:08

Cop28, marking a key stress test for the Paris Agreement, will be about facing the facts, correcting course and giving solutions a real chance.

The UAE talks cap a year that saw the world’s climate scientists lay out the unequivocal need for steep and immediate emissions cuts to limit warming to 1.5ºC and ways to get there.

A year in which the International Energy Agency set out a narrow but feasible 1.5ºC aligned pathway for the decline of fossil fuels and acceleration of renewables.

Fossil fuels are relentlessly and undeniably killing us, but renewable energy promises a better future, where no one is left behind.

Primer: The ‘inevitable’ fossil fuel fight set to dominate Cop28

Take my homeland of Denmark as an example. For more than 80 years Denmark has allowed exploration for hydrocarbons and since 1972, oil – and later gas – has been produced in the Danish offshore waters of the North Sea.

In 2019 alone, Denmark produced a total of 3.2 billion cubic meters of fossil gas. So we’ve certainly done our part in causing this crisis.

Wind is winning

Yet, now we’re proving the impossible possible. Wind energy, which was long seen as a nice-to-have but not good for energy security, is already delivering over half of all Denmark’s power needs, largely thanks to community commitment and political ambition.

Furthermore, the Danish Parliament announced in 2020 that it would cancel all future licensing rounds for new oil and gas exploration and production permits in the Danish part of the North Sea and end existing production by 2050.

In numbers: The state of the climate ahead of Cop28

The Nordic nation hasn’t stopped there as it initiated the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, an international alliance of governments and stakeholders working together to facilitate the managed phase-out of oil and gas production.

Launched at Cop26 and led by the governments of Denmark and Costa Rica, the alliance aims to elevate the issue of oil and gas production phase-out in international climate dialogues, such as those we will shortly see in Dubai.

Denmark doesn’t have it all sorted out though as oil and gas production is projected to increase over the coming years before peaking in 2028 and 2026 respectively and will start declining hereafter.

Make polluters pay

Rising emissions and planned expansion of fossil fuel production, wherever in the world, are wildly out of sync with the direction of progress needed on the international stage, while financial support to reduce emissions in poorer countries, along with finance to address escalating climate impacts, remains completely inadequate.

Meet the Italian fugitive advising Emirati start-up Blue Carbon

The last thing the world needs is new fossil fuel developments. At Cop28, governments must do their utmost to agree to end expansion and instead rapidly phase out coal, oil and gas, and accelerate the renewable energy transition.

It doesn’t end there. Citizens, like me, of wealthy countries, like Denmark, with historical responsibility for the climate crisis, need to make sure our governments take accountability for finding and channeling money from where it sits to where it’s needed – from polluters to those least responsible and most in need as they transition to renewable energy and build climate resilience.

We need a credible finance package that includes the launch of a new Loss and Damage Fund, and steps to start making polluters pay for the destruction and harm they have caused.

The climate crisis is not in some far-off future. It is here right now and the planet is not coping despite the credible solutions on offer.

A world free of fossil fuels is possible as much as climate resilient frontline communities, but it won’t feel that way until it is done. It’s time for governments to get it done and stop the climate emergency. Dubai awaits.

Mads Flarup Christensen is the executive director of Greenpeace International

The post The Cop28 climate summit must set us free from fossil fuels appeared first on Climate Home News.

Categories: H. Green News

Why some experts say COPs are ‘distracting’ and need fixing

Grist - Tue, 11/28/2023 - 01:30

Diplomats, academics, and activists from around the globe will gather yet again this week to try to find common ground on a plan for combating climate change. This year’s COP, as the event is known, marks the 28th annual meeting of the conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. More than 70,000 people are expected to descend on Dubai for the occasion. 

In addition to marathon negotiations and heated discussions, the fortnight-long assembly will see all manner of marches, rallies, speakers, advocacy, and lobbying. But, aside from fanfare, it remains unclear how much COP28 will, or can, achieve. While there have been signs that the United States and China could deepen their decarbonization commitments, countries have struggled to decide how to compensate developing countries for climate-related losses. Meanwhile, global emissions and temperatures continue climbing at an alarming rate. 

That has left some to wonder: Have these annual gatherings outlived their usefulness?

To some, the yearly get-togethers continue to be a critical centerpiece for international climate action, and any tweaks they might need lie mostly around the edges. “They aren’t perfect,” said Tom Evans, a policy analyst for the nonprofit climate change think tank E3G. “[But] they are still important and useful.” While he sees room for improvements — such as greater continuity between COP summits and ensuring ministerial meetings are more substantive — he supports the overall format. “We need to try and find a way to kind of invigorate and revitalize without distracting from the negotiations, which are key.”

Others say the summits no longer sufficiently meet the moment. “The job in hand has changed over the years,” said Rachel Kyte, a climate diplomacy expert and dean emerita of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She is among those who believe the annual COP needs to evolve. “Form should follow function,” she said. “And we are using an old form.” 

Durwood Zaelke, co-founder and former president of the Center for International Environmental Law, was more blunt. “You can’t say that an agreement that lets a problem grow into an emergency is doing a good job,” he said. “It’s not.”

Established in 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international treaty that aims to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst effects of climate change. Some 198 countries have ratified the Convention, which has seen some significant wins. 

Get caught up on COP28

What is COP28? Every year, climate negotiators from around the world gather under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to assess countries’ progress toward reducing carbon emissions and limiting global temperature rise. 

The 28th Conference of Parties, or COP28, is taking place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, between November 30 and December 12 this year.

What happens at COP? Part trade show, part high-stakes negotiations, COPs are annual convenings where world leaders attempt to move the needle on climate change. While activists up the ante with disruptive protests and industry leaders hash out deals on the sidelines, the most consequential outcomes of the conference will largely be negotiated behind closed doors. Over two weeks, delegates will pore over language describing countries’ commitments to reduce carbon emissions, jostling over the precise wording that all 194 countries can agree to.

What are the key issues at COP28 this year?

Global stocktake: The 2016 landmark Paris Agreement marked the first time countries united behind a goal to limit global temperature increase. The international treaty consists of 29 articles with numerous targets, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing financial flows to developing countries, and setting up a carbon market. For the first time since then, countries will conduct a “global stocktake” to measure how much progress they’ve made toward those goals at COP28 and where they’re lagging.

Fossil fuel phase-out or phase-down: Countries have agreed to reduce carbon emissions at previous COPs, but have not explicitly acknowledged the role of fossil fuels in causing the climate crisis until recently. This year, negotiators will be haggling over the exact phrasing that signals that the world needs to transition away from fossil fuels. They may decide that countries need to phase-down or phase-out fossil fuels or come up with entirely new wording that conveys the need to ramp down fossil fuel use. 

Read more: How fossil fuel phrasing played out at COP27

Loss and damage: Last year, countries agreed to set up a historic fund to help developing nations deal with the so-called loss and damage that they are currently facing as a result of climate change. At COP28, countries will agree on a number of nitty-gritty details about the fund’s operations, including which country will host the fund, who will pay into it and withdraw from it, as well as the makeup of the fund’s board. 

Read more: The difficult negotiations over a loss and damage fund

Dive deeper:
The decade-old broken climate promise that looms over COP28

The world is careening toward 3 degrees of warming, UN says ahead of climate conference

Developing countries need at least $215 billion a year for climate adaptation

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol marked the first major breakthrough, and helped propel international action toward reducing emissions — though only some of the commitments are binding, and the United States is notably absent from the list signatories. The 2015 Paris Agreement laid out an even more robust roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with a target of holding global temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, and “pursuing efforts” to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F). 

Although the path to that future is narrowing, it is still within reach, according to the International Energy Agency. But, some experts say, relying primarily on once-a-year COP meetings to get there may no longer be the best approach.

“Multilateral engagement is not the issue anymore,” Christiana Figueres said at a conference earlier this year. She was the executive secretary of the Convention when the Paris agreement was reached, and said that while important issues that need to be ironed out on the international level — especially for developing countries — the hardest work must now be done domestically. 

“We have to redesign the COPs…. Multilateral attention, frankly, is distracting governments from doing their homework at home,” she said. At another conference a month later, she added, “Honestly, I would prefer 90,000 people stay at home and do their job.”

Kyte agrees and thinks it’s time to take at least a step back from festival-like gatherings and toward more focused, year-round, work on the crisis at hand. “The UN has to find a way to break us into working groups to get things done,” she said. “And then work us back together into less of a jamboree and more of a somber working event.”

Read Next The world is careening toward 3 degrees of warming, UN says ahead of climate conference

The list of potential topics for working groups to tackle is long, from ensuring a just transition to reigning in the use of coal. But one area that Zaelke points to as a possible exemplar for a sectoral approach is reducing emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere.

“Methane is the blow torch that’s pushing us from global warming to global boiling,” he said. “It’s the single biggest and fastest way to turn down the heat.”

To tackle the methane problem, Zaelke points to another international agreement as a model: the Montreal Protocol. Adopted in 1987, that treaty was aimed at regulating chemicals that deplete the atmosphere’s ozone layer, and it has been a resounding success. The pollutants have been almost completely phased out and the ozone layer is on track to recover by the middle of the century. The compact was expanded in 2016 to include another class of chemicals, hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

“It’s an under-appreciated treaty, and it’s an under-appreciated model,” said Zaelke, noting that it included legally binding measures that the Paris agreement does not. “You could easily come to the conclusion we need another sectoral agreement for methane.”

Zaelke could see this tactic applying to other sectors as well, such as shipping and agriculture. Some advocates — including at least eight governments and the World Health Organisation — have also called for a “Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty”, said Harjeet Singh, the global engagement director for the initiative. Like Zaelke, Kyte, and others, he envisions such sectoral pushes as running complementary to the main Convention process — a framework that, while flawed, he believes can continue to play an important role.

“The amount of time we spend negotiating each and every paragraph, line, comma, semicolon is just unimaginable and a colossal waste of time,” he said of the annual events. But he adds the forum is still crucial, in part because every country enjoys an equal amount of voting power, no matter its size or clout.

“I don’t see any other space which is as powerful as this to deliver climate justice,” he said. “We need more tools and more processes, but we cannot lose the space.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Why some experts say COPs are ‘distracting’ and need fixing on Nov 28, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

What happened to the Great Lakes offshore wind boom?

Grist - Tue, 11/28/2023 - 01:00

This story was originally published by Inside Climate News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

At the tail end of the aughts, as it became clear that the United States would need to create much more renewable energy, fast, many believed the transition would be bolstered by the proliferation of offshore wind. But not off the coasts of states like Massachusetts and California, where it’s best positioned today. They thought the industry would emerge, and then take hold, in the Great Lakes.

Things looked promising for a while. Glimmers of an offshore wind boom arose from the depths of the Great Recession, as developers offered up proposals on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the lakes. In 2010, the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, better known as LEEDCo, announced plans to install its first 20 megawatts by 2012 and scale up to 1,000 megawatts by 2020. Two years later, the Obama administration and five states—though not Ohio—formed the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Consortium to help streamline the permitting process.

“That was really a peak of burgeoning interest in climate,” said Greg Nemet, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies energy policy. “There was also a spike in energy prices just before the global financial crisis … that also stimulated awareness and interest in energy. And at the same time, the prices of renewable energy were really starting to come down.”

The wind that blows over the Great Lakes is stronger and more consistent than what inland wind farms receive. It holds steady even in the middle of the day, when power demand is high but generation from onshore wind farms tends to slow down. Which means that, in theory, tapping into the wind resource over the lakes would allow the electric grid to rely more on renewables without being as affected by their intermittency.

Yet more than a decade on, none of those early offshore wind projects have succeeded. There are still no commercial wind turbines in any of the five Great Lakes. And as the industry debates when, if ever, it will give the region another shot, those who tried before want newcomers to avoid making the same mistakes that they did.

Read Next Michigan wants 100 percent of its electricity to be clean by 2040 Icebreaker wind

Perhaps the most famous (or most infamous) such proposal is Icebreaker Wind, the sole project of Cleveland’s LEEDCo, a public-private nonprofit launched by several lakefront counties and a local foundation in 2009. By most accounts, the six-turbine pilot project is the most successful Great Lakes offshore wind initiative of its time—even though it may never be built.

“They were really ahead of their time,” Nemet said of LEEDCo. “It’s high risk, and just because it’s high risk doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea…You can learn from success, but you can also learn from failure.”

Two key qualities set Icebreaker apart from nearly all of its counterparts: It has been permitted, and it hasn’t been canceled. It survived the labyrinth of federal reviews and state and local hearings that took out the handful of others that made it that far. And it’s being spearheaded by a developer that, despite blow after blow from local policymakers, still hasn’t given up.

These days, though, LEEDCo is struggling to overcome the resistance it’s faced from birders, anti-wind groups and fossil fuel interests.

“There was an awful lot of delay and uncertainty,” said Will Friedman, president and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority and the acting president of LEEDCo. (The nonprofit, which no longer has any full-time staff, is being held together by Friedman and a few other volunteers.)

Following years of permitting slowdowns, LEEDCo sparred with Ohio regulators in 2020 over conditions tacked onto a key state permit that it said would’ve killed the project, then slogged through an Ohio Supreme Court case—brought by area residents but partly funded by a coal company—that lasted another year and a half. It won both, but development has dragged on for so long now that some of LEEDCo’s initial work has become outdated.

“While we currently hold all the permits, we don’t know if we can build the project consistent with the original permits, so maybe we have to go back to the drawing board and do that over again,” Friedman said. With a resigned chuckle, he added, “Do we then open ourselves up to being sued again by opponents?”

Major barriers

The challenges LEEDCo has confronted are far from unique. Onshore renewable energy projects have long faced pushback from prospective neighbors and are, increasingly, being met with inhospitable new regulations designed to shut them down. The idea of offshore wind turbines being built within sight of beloved coastlines can have entire communities up in arms.

“I think a lot of policymakers are hesitant to get offshore wind attached to their name, because it’s such a controversial technology,” said Doug Bessette, an associate professor at Michigan State University whose work explores the acceptance of renewables. “I think people are afraid to push it forward.”

Most of the Great Lakes region has made little headway on enacting policies that would help offshore wind. Efforts to change state or Canadian provincial laws to facilitate or subsidize offshore wind projects have struggled to gain momentum. For pilot-sized wind farms like Icebreaker, designed to prove that the technology is safe and effective, but too small to take advantage of economies of scale, cost remains a nearly insurmountable barrier.

The progress made by offshore wind projects in the Northeast, where supportive policies have found more traction and turbines have actually made it into the water, could be a boon for the industry if it ever returns to the Great Lakes, according to David Bidwell, an associate professor in the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Marine Affairs.

There’s real data now on offshore wind farms’ socioeconomic impacts, along with evidence that overwhelming public opposition is not, in fact, inevitable. While the approval process would be different—Great Lakes states have more authority over the lakebed than East Coast states have over the ocean floor—and studies on things like bird migration routes wouldn’t translate very well, the region would no longer be starting from scratch.

But there are also infrastructure barriers specific to the Great Lakes, Bessette noted. U.S. supply chains for freshwater turbines, designed to resist annual icing and de-icing, don’t exist. The workforce hasn’t been trained. There are a limited number of ports deep enough to support offshore wind, and some of those don’t yet have the capacity. There’s no way to get a ship big enough to put up turbines through the St. Lawrence River and into the lakes, meaning that the first company to make it to the construction phase will probably need to build one.

Offshore wind turbines themselves have advanced considerably in the last decade and a half, thanks to ongoing research and their continued deployment in Europe and, more recently, on the U.S. East Coast. They’re sturdier. More efficient. Better at withstanding freshwater ice. All that technological progress will inevitably boost the odds of an offshore wind project one day succeeding in the Great Lakes.

The political climate may be working against them, however. In the early 2010s, and maybe even more recently than that, there was an appetite in the Great Lakes region for bold new clean energy projects, Bessette said. “I don’t know if we’re there right now.”

Still, as the developers that flocked to the Great Lakes region back then quickly learned, building wind turbines that are visible from shore has never been an easy sell, even in places that are supportive of the idea of creating more renewable energy.

Trillium power

In many ways, the Great Lakes offshore wind sort-of-boom started in Canada. Toronto-based Trillium Power led the charge. The company’s plan was ambitious: 80 turbines, situated on a shallow shelf about 10 miles off Ontario’s mainland, together capable of generating roughly 500 megawatts of electricity.

The concept went over well at first, according to John Kourtoff, Trillium’s CEO. Kourtoff felt like local officials were on his side until a swarm of other developers—over a half-dozen by some counts—got the same idea. Some of the projects, he said, were proposed very close to shore, well within the lake views of affluent communities. That’s what he believes turned the tide of public opinion.

Trillium almost made it to construction. “We were just ready to close the financing to do detailed engineering for two specialized barges that we were having made to erect the turbines,” Kourtoff said. 

It was Feb. 11, 2011, a Friday, when he got the call. Facing increasing public opposition to offshore wind months, and with a general election coming up that October, Ontario had imposed a moratorium on offshore wind. Ontario officials cited a lack of scientific research on the turbines’ impacts. Offshore wind’s proponents believe, however, that the moratorium was prompted by opposition from the public and from the province’s influential nuclear power industry.

Following the cancellation, Trillium sued, ultimately securing a partial victory in response to its claim that the province had destroyed relevant evidence, but failing to convince the courts of its primary argument that officials had targeted the project unfairly when they issued the moratorium.

Twelve years later, Kourtoff hasn’t given up on his flagship offshore wind project, or on the three others he wants to build in the Great Lakes. But he hasn’t been able to move forward on any of them, either. The moratorium is still in place.

Public outcry

Toronto Hydro, the city-owned electric utility, relinquished its own vision for offshore wind after the province’s moratorium went into effect. It had planned to start with an approximately 20-turbine, 100-megawatt project at a promising site about two miles offshore, said Joyce McLean, who worked as Toronto Hydro’s director of strategic issues and oversaw its clean energy programs at the time.

“We basically put the anemometer in the lakes, collected the data, and then there was nothing for us to do, because the program disappeared,” McLean said. The province, she said, “couched [the moratorium] in terms of ‘Well, we’re going to study it.’ But they never did, and it was deemed dead.”

Residents had reacted more strongly to the proposal than the utility expected. They’d packed its public meetings to ask about what would happen to their views and their property values and whether construction would stir up old industrial toxins sitting on the lakebed. One man, McLean said, yelled in her face about the harm the project would cause him. Then the moratorium came down, and the wind project went away.

“I think that we were a cautionary tale,” McLean said. 

Scandia Wind arrived in Grand Haven, Michigan, even less prepared for the backlash it would face. The prospect of somewhere between 100 to 200 turbines, some of them situated as close as a mile and a half to shore, didn’t sit well with the beachfront city. The Norwegian developer’s later decision to reduce the scale of the project by half and move it six miles offshore did little to remedy the situation. In the end, unable to win over much of the community, Scandia was all but run out of town.

“I think they came with a mindset that, ‘Well, we have crossed these thresholds in Europe, and surely the Americans, with their desire for renewable energy, would welcome similar developments in their Great Lakes,’” said Arnold Boezaart, then-director of Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center. “Well, they miscalculated.”

Some Michigan leaders believe that the fallout from Scandia ruined the chances for any offshore wind project to move forward in the area. Boezaart disagrees. “Even without Scandia,” he said, the offshore wind industry would still be figuring out how to better navigate public concerns about safety and visibility. “But certainly, there’s no question that Scandia Wind caused a big dustup during that time.”

Read Next As offshore wind stumbles, Biden moves to speed up solar and geothermal in the West Looking ahead

In 2009, the New York Power Authority put out its own call for offshore wind projects aimed at a swath of eligible sites in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Several interested developers responded, but facing higher-than-expected costs and angrier-than-expected residents, the state-owned power organization scrapped the idea in 2011.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority revisited the question of Great Lakes offshore wind two years ago. Advocates hoped the results of its feasibility study, published in December 2022, would catalyze new development across the Great Lakes region. Instead, NYSERDA found that freshwater offshore wind “currently does not offer a unique, critical, or cost-effective contribution” toward the state’s climate goals, and concluded that “now is not the right time to prioritize Great Lakes Wind projects in Lake Erie or Lake Ontario.”

Walt Musial, a principal engineer and offshore wind researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory who worked on the New York state feasibility study, isn’t sure turbines that are anchored to the ground will ever succeed, at least at scale, in the Great Lakes. He anticipates, though, that floating turbines will be a game-changer, tapping into some of the lakes’ best winds and potentially opening the door to the sort of growth that LEEDCo envisioned in the early 2010s.

“In Lake Michigan, for example, you can go 15, 20 miles out, get out of the viewshed of most people,” Musial said. “You can avoid the ice, you can avoid the birds and you can avoid the toxic sediments that people are concerned [about]. … So maybe we made a mistake not looking at that sooner, but I think that’s where the biggest opportunities will be in the Great Lakes.”

Floating wind turbines are still being tested. Floating freshwater wind turbines are even more experimental. But Musial is one of many offshore wind researchers who suspect that when the technology does mature, it’ll unleash a plentiful new source of relatively dependable renewable electricity—assuming, as many do, that the grid will still need it by then.

Yet none of offshore wind’s lingering limitations have dissuaded more than 50 Illinois state lawmakers from pushing for a 150-megawatt (or larger) pilot project to be built somewhere along the state’s coast. Ideally, they want it near the Southeast side of Chicago, where the low-carbon electricity the wind farm would generate and the local economic boost it would provide are both very much needed.

The Illinois Rust Belt to Green Belt Program Act would authorize surcharges on ratepayers’ bills once the pilot project goes into operation—guaranteeing it the sort of state-backed financial support that no Great Lakes offshore wind project has ever received (and which Icebreaker’s advocates, despite years of lobbying, couldn’t convince the Ohio General Assembly to provide). A Lake Michigan pilot, if built, would also supply the sort of unparalleled efficacy and impact data that the offshore wind industry has long hoped would come from Icebreaker.

The bill fell short in 2022 and again in 2023. Its backers plan to keep trying.

“Let’s get going,” said state Rep. Marcus Evans Jr., one of the bill’s sponsors. “What are we waiting for? I don’t want to be 185 years old when these things come to fruition. So we need a policy to make it happen. We need action. Things don’t just happen. You have to do something.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline What happened to the Great Lakes offshore wind boom? on Nov 28, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Here’s how the oil-rich UAE delivers a Cop28 ‘win’

Climate Change News - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 10:06

In just over two weeks nearly 200 governments will signal what they believe the world needs to do next to tackle the climate crisis.

The final outcome of Cop28 will – when it finally lands around 12-13 December – offer the best assessment of how far and how fast leaders are willing to go to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

That deal will not be easy for Cop28 President Dr Sultan Al-Jaber to deliver. But given revelations by the BBC that the UAE planned to use Cop to cut oil deals, he will be under intense scrutiny and pressure to deliver a high ambition outcome that charts a pathway to fossil fuel phaseout.

This meeting comes at an exceptionally difficult time globally and with the backdrop of many tensions, the war in the Middle East being the most recent addition. Yet the annual UN climate summit is no stranger to diplomatic heat.

The ‘inevitable’ fossil fuel fight set to dominate Cop28

In the near 30 years of these meetings tensions have often been high: this in itself cannot be used as an excuse for failure.

Governments are faced with a clear challenge. This year will be the hottest year on record. Global greenhouse gas emissions are at all time highs. Climate impacts are hitting home, driving up food inflation, choking the Panama canal, drying the Amazon, killing crops in Africa, burning vast swathes of North America and leaving areas of India, China underwater.

Given the scale of the crisis, the benchmarks for success at Cop28 are high. The evidence – as presented in the Global Stocktake – must inform the results and that means a high ambition outcome.

Fossil fuel phaseout

For one, Cop28 must land a collective plan for a just and equitable phaseout of coal, gas and oil – the key drivers of the climate crisis.

To keep 1.5C within reach, the energy transition needs to accelerate.

Slow or insufficient action on fossil fuels would mean more economic instability through the 2020s and 2030s.

If “abatement” technologies are applied in some sectors, they need to capture all emissions, not delay action.

Cop28 decisions can send a clear signal that “business as usual” and relying on uncertain future abatement technologies is no longer viable.

Renewables and efficiency

Second, countries are expected to commit to triple renewable energy by 2030 and double energy efficiency.

Many are on track for this already but a common – united goal – will send market signals and can strengthen the fossil fuel phase out. Setting a framework for delivering this at Cop28 with measures to track progress is essential.


Three, clean energy and measures to beef up adaptation and resilience of countries to extreme weather need finance.

That the $100 billion has now been met  is good news, but it’s far short of the $1 trillion a year that’s required to support poorer nations.

We need agreement at Cop28 from major development banks and donors that access to finance will be faster and at lower costs. No finance, no future.


Four, a flotilla of new climate plans for 2035 are due in around 15 months.

The Global Stocktake outcomes should be used to ensure 2025 sets a new standard for governments to meet.

That means tougher targets covering more sectors. It also means ensuring that adaptation is treated as a priority: scaling up plans to cope with future disasters is essential, as is the cash to support that.

Loss and damage

Five, delivery of the loss & damage fund at Cop28 will be a major milestone. Success will depend on funding.

We’ll need to see this during and after the World Leaders Summit from 1-2 December to rebuild trust and reassure poorer nations that those with the resources have their back when extreme weather hits.

A final deal without these five pillars is not credible. It would deny the realities faced by the poorest and most vulnerable countries and leave them in the lurch.

No number of assorted voluntary “pledges” or “statements” at Cop28 can make up for a concrete agreement by all countries under the UN.

Carefully worded press releases and neat spin from major PR firms will be tomorrow’s recycled paper. A “Dubai Deal” under the UN will have a legacy, and one the UAE could be proud of.

In numbers: The state of the climate ahead of Cop28

Landing these five pillars takes diplomatic leadership. It requires the EU, the UK and Canada to step up and build an alliance with small islands, low income nations and African leaders like Kenya’s William Ruto by recognising and meeting asks for support.

At a time when confidence in the “West” is low and accusations it is not supporting developing countries are rife, Brussels, London and Washington need to deliver – on more than just rhetoric.

Cop28 offers a platform for leaders in India, China and Brazil to address on the global stage the deep risks their populations face as the world warms, and recognise the profound reward they will gain from leaning into a strong outcome.

All three nations are clean energy powerhouses; all three have key resources for the clean transition; all three have an interest in deals that deliver jobs, prosperity and curb the rising cost of living.

Fearing repression in Dubai, non-binary people stay away from Cop28

Most of all success at Cop28 also depends on Dr Sultan Al-Jaber’s ability to make this summit his country’s moment to stand tall and deliver globally.

A presidency that pursues its own domestic and regional interests is one that usually fails.

Given his role as CEO of an oil giant, Al-Jaber will need to work harder than most to underline his climate credentials.

Deliver on the above and this could be the UAE’s greatest achievement.

Fail and he will blow a glorious opportunity to cement the UAE as a global player and confirm the worst fears of those who said his heart was never in it.

Alex Scott is E3G’s climate diplomacy and geopolitics programme lead, based in London

Linda Kalcher is executive director at the Strategic Perspectives think tank, based in Brussels

The post Here’s how the oil-rich UAE delivers a Cop28 ‘win’ appeared first on Climate Home News.

Categories: H. Green News

World Appears on Track to Triple Renewable Power by 2030

Yale Environment 360 - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 07:13

At the forthcoming UN climate talks, diplomats will push for a tripling of renewable power by 2030. A new analysis finds the world is likely already on track to hit this goal.

Read more on E360 →

Categories: H. Green News

Leaks reveal how McKinsey drives African climate agenda

Climate Change News - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 02:21

Weeks before African leaders travelled to Nairobi for the continent’s first climate summit in September, climate justice groups wrote to Kenyan president William Ruto accusing consultancy firm McKinsey of “undue influence” on the summit’s agenda.  

The American firm had offered Ruto support in running the summit during a meeting with him and US ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman in late May, several sources told Climate Home News. 

A few days later, in early June, McKinsey wrote the concept note, which set the summit’s structure, and later drafted a paper to frame its outcome. 

“For a few weeks, it was their way or the highway,” a source close to the summit’s organisation told Climate Home. 

At the time, the Kenyan government said civil society accusations that Mckinsey had captured the summit were “extremely far from the truth”. McKinsey said the claims were “inaccurate”. 

But the backlash publicly exposed the influence McKinsey wields on Africa’s climate agenda – a position it would prefer to keep discreet. 

Leaked documents 

Now, Climate Home has obtained leaked documents and interviewed multiple sources, who have asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue.

They show how McKinsey dominates an ecosystem pushing carbon markets in Africa and processes designed to help governments develop long-term energy plans.  

This has been facilitated by McKinsey’s deep-rooted ties with Sustainable Energy For All (SEforAll), which is responsible for delivering on a 2030 sustainable development goal for everyone to have access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy; and the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), which works to accelerate the energy transition.  

In numbers: The state of the climate ahead of Cop28

Climate Home’s investigation reveals that SEforAll staff complained of CEO Damilola Ogunbiyi’s “preferential treatment” of McKinsey in a whistleblower report in 2020.

That year, SEforAll brought in the firm to facilitate a leadership retreat and develop the organisation’s business plan. At the time, SEforAll’s top management dismissed the allegation. 

Three years on, documents show how McKinsey has turned initial pro-bono work into lucrative contracts. 

A source close to SEforAll told Climate Home that McKinsey encountered hardly any competition and enjoyed “almost unrestricted access to the highest levels of the UN and national governments”. 

An SEforAll spokesperson said: “All SEforALL processes are followed at all times in the selection and engagement of any advisory services,” adding that any idea to the contrary was “baseless”.  

“Come to take over” 

African government insiders say McKinsey’s domination is problematic because it is pushing a top-down tunnel vision and non-Afro-centric view of how to address the continent’s climate and development challenges, which, if unquestioned, could constrain its ambition. 

“The role of McKinsey is highly problematic because they don’t come in a capacity support role, they come to take over,” said one source. 

There is a role for consultants to help governments and international organisations plug skill and knowledge gaps.

In numbers: The state of the climate ahead of Cop28

But consultancies should advise “from the sidelines in a transparent way… rather than be allowed to run the show from the centre,” economist Mariana Mazzucato and researcher Rosie Collington write in their book about the consulting industry The Big Con.

Michael Marchant is head of investigations at Open Secrets, an NGO which advocates for private sector accountability and investigated McKinsey’s work in South Africa. 

He told Climate Home that despite receiving large amounts of public money, large consultancy firms like McKinsey “operate in secrecy and with almost no public accountability”.  

Heart of climate governance 

Yet, allowed in by governments, McKinsey has found a place at the heart of critical climate governance processes. France24 recently reported that McKinsey is pushing fossil fuel interests in its advisor role to the UAE, which will preside over the Cop28 climate talks in Dubai starting this week. 

The company’s client list includes some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, including Saudi Aramco, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell, according to court filings in the US, where McKinsey is being sued alongside Big Oil. McKinsey rejects the accusations.

In more recent years, McKinsey has advised polluters, including oil and gas companies, on how to use the carbon market to offset their emissions or raise revenue. A 2022 internal McKinsey document, seen by Climate Home, names Chevron and BP among clients of its carbon market business line.

Meet the Italian fugitive advising Emirati start-up Blue Carbon

In Africa, the consultancy is behind a push to significantly grow the continent’s carbon offset offering, working closely with both GEAPP and SEforAll. 

In 2021, McKinsey supported the Rockefeller Foundation to design and establish GEAPP, according to a McKinsey document seen by Climate Home. The following year, GEAPP asked SEforAll to hire McKinsey to develop the African Carbon Market Initiative for $1.5 million as part of its grant to the organisation, Climate Home understands.  

Launched at Cop27 in Egypt, the initiative aims to scale carbon markets on the continent 19-fold by 2030.

While GEAPP and SEforAll publicly sponsored the initiative, McKinsey described its role in a sustainability report as “shaping and refining the initiative’s ambition” and “developing its strategy”. McKinsey’s concept note for the Africa Climate Summit elevated carbon markets to a core theme.

President Ruto appointed Joseph Ng’ang’a, GEAPP’s vice president of Africa, CEO of the summit. 

President William Ruto has appointed Mr Joseph Ng’ang’a, Vice President of Africa at the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP, as Chief Executive Officer of the inaugural Africa Climate Summit, which will take place in Nairobi from 4- 6 September 2023.…

— Kenyan Wallstreet (@kenyanwalstreet) June 12, 2023

Climate campaigners denounced the focus on carbon markets as “a dangerous distraction” from African climate priorities and accused McKinsey of working to protect the interests of its western corporate clients. 

McKinsey has repeatedly dismissed these allegations, arguing there is no way to deliver emissions reductions without working with high-emitting industries and that it has rigorous policies to manage conflict of interests. 

A spokesperson for the company said “sustainability is a mission-critical priority for McKinsey”, which has “committed to rapidly scale this work to help clients in all industries reach net zero by 2050”. 

A GEAPP spokesperson said it was established “to unite a diverse range of partners” to rapidly facilitate a global shift towards renewable energy. In doing so, it “leverages a spectrum of… experts and consultants”. 

A close relationship  

McKinsey’s rapidly growing climate work in Africa has been facilitated by a close relationship between its African Sustainability Practice lead Adam Kendall and SEforAll’s CEO Ogunbiyi, who also serves as a UN special representative for sustainable energy. 

Before joining SEforAll, Ogunbiyi worked closely with Kendall, who led McKinsey’s natural gas practice in Lagos, Nigeria. He helped build the Nigerian vice president’s advisory power team and worked with the Rural Electrification Agency, which Ogunbiyi both headed. 

A McKinsey document describing its previous work for SEforAll said the firm “provided strategic support to Ms. Ogunbiyi during her transition” into her new CEO role, starting in January 2020.  

Weeks later, Kendall was invited to co-facilitate an SEforAll leadership retreat in London and subsequently developed the organisation’s 2021-2023 business plan, effectively for free. 

Thanks @Shell for hosting our Leadership Team meeting and @RockyMtnInst and @McKinsey for facilitating #SEforALL 3.0 strategy in making.

— Sustainable Energy for All | #SDG7BeBold (@SEforALLorg) January 24, 2020

The same year, McKinsey seconded employee Ugo Nwadiani to SEforAll. An SEforAll recruitment note shows he was directly appointed Ogunbiyi’s special assistant. 

Whistleblower report  

An anonymous complaint prepared by several SEforAll staff raised concerns about these developments.  

A source said the complaint was backed widely among employees and sent to the organisation’s whistleblowing account and to one of its major funders. 

It described “a culture of fear” at SEforAll, and accused Ogunbiyi’s leadership of being “marked by favouritism”, including towards McKinsey. 

During the business planning process, McKinsey “had direct access to SEforALL financial information and organizational systems and processes” putting the company “in a privileged position” to apply for any future tender, it said.

It raised concerns that McKinsey had been the only firm asked to comment on terms of reference for work to update Nigeria’s integrated energy plan which SEforAll was seeking to contract out. McKinsey had worked with the Nigerian government on the first version of the plan the previous year. It was eventually hired for the job. 

Slow start for Indonesia’s much-hyped carbon market

Responding to the complaint at the time, SEforAll’s management said it had strengthened procurement oversight and put in place mechanisms to help “create a climate of trust”.  

Since then, SEforAll has hired McKinsey to work on at least three of its five core initiatives in Africa: developing energy transition plans, scaling up the carbon market, and boosting renewable energy manufacturing capabilities 

Francesco Starace, chair of SEforAll’s governance board, said the board was satisfied with the outcome of a review process following the complaint. “We are confident with the integrity of the SEforALL procurement process and the leadership demonstrated by the CEO and the executive management team,” he said. 

McKinsey’s work in Nigeria  

McKinsey’s extensive work for SEforAll in the early days of Ogunbiyi’s leadership set it up for further opportunities.   

In Nigeria, McKinsey provided the modelling which underpins the country’s energy transition plan pro bono, working with SEforAll and the former government. A new government, which came into office in May, has warned that it will need a lot more investment to deliver

Chukwumerije Okereke, a Nigerian climate governance expert, said the exercise was a “cautionary tale”. The use of McKinsey-owned tools prevented robust scrutiny of the assumptions in the model, he told Climate Home. And the “closed door” process and lack of consultation may partly explain diminished political momentum to implement it, he added.  

Ghana’s flood victims blame government for overflowing dam destruction

More recently, SEforAll and Kendall’s McKinsey team have sought funding to develop energy transition plans in up to ten developing countries, according to a 2021 joint concept note for funders, obtained by Climate Home.

With support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the pair has developed a plan for Ghana, and is working to do the same in Kenya and Barbados using a joint open-source model. In Kenya, draft plans, seen by Climate Home, would increase gas power capacity in the 2040s.

SEforAll told Climate Home these plans were procured through an open and transparent process, rigorously peer reviewed and subject to civil society consultations.  

For Okereke, international consultants can bring quality and gravitas to energy planning. “But it’s about the way they do it.”  

The post Leaks reveal how McKinsey drives African climate agenda appeared first on Climate Home News.

Categories: H. Green News

The libertarian developer looming over West Maui’s water conflict

Grist - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 01:45

Just weeks after the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history ripped through the coastal town of Lāhainā, Native Hawaiian taro farmers, environmentalists, and other residents of West Maui crowded into a narrow conference room in Honolulu for a state water commission hearing. 

The chorus of criticism was emotional and persistent. For nearly 12 hours, scores of people urged commissioners to reinstate an official who had been key to strengthening water regulations and to resist corporate pressure to weaken those regulations. One after another, they calmly and deliberately delivered scathing criticism of a developer named Peter Martin, calling him “the face of evil in Lāhainā” and “public enemy number one.”

One person summed up the mood of the room when he said, “F— Peter Martin.”

More than 100 miles away on Maui, Martin followed parts of the hearing through a livestream on YouTube. Despite the deluge of criticism, he wasn’t upset. He wasn’t even surprised. After nearly 50 years as a developer on Maui, he’s used to public criticism.

“When you’re around a gang of people, a mob, the commissioners just listen to the mob, they don’t listen to reasoned voices,” Martin told Grist. “I’m not comparing these people to Hitler; I’m just saying Hitler got people involved by hating, hating the Jews.” 

Martin, who is 76, has long been controversial. He moved to Maui from California in 1971 and got his start picking pineapples, teaching high school math, and waiting tables. Before long, he began investing in real estate. His timing was perfect: Hawaiʻi had become a state just 12 years earlier, and Maui’s housing market was booming as Americans from the mainland flocked there. By 1978, local headlines were bemoaning the high price of housing, and prices only went up from there.

Developer Peter Martin West Maui Land Company displays a map during an interview with Grist reporter Anita Hofschneider. Cory Lum / Grist

Developer Peter Martin told the New Yorker that protecting water for Native Hawaiian cultural practices was “a crock of shit,” and that invasive grasses and “this stupid climate change thing” had “nothing to do with the fire.”

A bible stands on top of a stack of papers next to West Maui Land Company developer Peter Martin. Cory Lum / Grist

Martin points to a map of West Maui, indicating an area where he hopes to build homes. Next to him is his Bible, which he often quotes in conversations and emails. Cory Lum / Grist

Developer Peter Martin West Maui Land Company points to development locations on a map of west Maui during the interview. September 18, 2023. Cory Lum / Grist

Over the last five decades, Martin has made millions of dollars off this real estate boom, building a development empire on West Maui and turning hundreds of acres of plantation land into a paradise of palatial homes and swimming pools. He owns or holds interest in nearly three dozen companies that touch almost every aspect of the homebuilding process: companies that buy vacant land, companies that submit development plans to local governments, companies that build houses, and companies that sell water to residents. His real estate brokerage helps find buyers for homes built on his land, and he’s even got a company that builds swimming pools. 

Companies associated with Martin own more than 5,500 acres of land around Lāhainā, according to an analysis of county records, making him one of the area’s largest private landowners, and his web of businesses wields immense influence in West Maui, which is home to about 25,000 people. He drives his white Ford F-150 around the island with a large, black Bible on the center dashboard and peppers his conversations and emails with quotes from Scripture or libertarian economist Milton Friedman. He once served on the Maui County salary commission, where he helped determine pay for elected officials and county department heads, and he has donated $1.3 million to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a libertarian think tank that has fought Native Hawaiian sovereignty. So extensive is the reach of his land empire that the command center for the response to the August wildfires is located on land owned by a company in which he has a stake.

Grist / Clayton Aldern / Camille Fassett / Caleb Diehl

Development on Maui, where the median home price now exceeds $1 million, often sparks controversy, and Martin is far from the only builder who has inspired opposition. But his staunch ideological commitment to free market capitalism and Christianity, coupled with his companies’ persistent pushback against water regulations intended to protect Native Hawaiian rights, has evoked particularly passionate distaste among many locals. “F— the Peter Martin types,” reads one bumper sticker spotted in Lāhainā. 

And that was before the wildfire. Just two days after the outbreak of a blaze that would go on to kill 100 people, fueled in part by invasive grasses on Martin’s vacant land, an executive at one of Martin’s companies sent a letter to the state water commission. Glenn Tremble, who works for West Maui Land Company, wrote that the company’s request to fill its reservoirs on the day of the fire had been delayed by the state. He also asked the commission to loosen water regulations during the fire recovery. 

“We anxiously awaited the morning knowing that we could have made more water available to [the Maui Fire Department] if our request had been immediately approved,” he wrote.

Residents of Martin’s West Maui developments have gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean — and now many also look out on the burned remains of Lāhainā. Cory Lum / Grist

Tremble’s letter implied that a state official key to implementing local water regulations — and the first Native Hawaiian to lead the state water commission — had impeded firefighting efforts. He soon walked back the claim, but his first letter had immediate effect. The state attorney general launched an investigation into the official, the governor suspended water regulations, and the official was temporarily reassigned. Critics saw it as an attempt to capitalize on the grief of the community for profit.

It didn’t help that within weeks, when the Washington Post asked about the role the invasive grasses on Martin’s land played in the deadly wildfire, Martin said he believed the fire was the result of God’s anger over the state water restrictions. 

Most people in West Maui get water from the county’s public water system. But Martin-built developments such as Launiupoko, a community of a few hundred large homes outside of Lāhainā, draw their water from three private utility systems that he controls, siphoning underground aquifers and mountain streams to fill swimming pools and irrigate lawns. More than half of all water used in the Launiupoko subdivision, or around 1.5 million gallons a day, goes toward cosmetic landscaping on lawns, according to state estimates. Just over a quarter is used for drinking and cooking. 

The scale of this water usage is stunning: According to state data, Launiupoko Irrigation Company and Launiupoko Water Company deliver a combined average of 5,750 gallons of water daily to each residential customer in Launiupoko, or almost 20 times as much as the average American home. The development has just a few hundred residents, but it uses almost half as much water as the public water system in Lāhainā, which serves 18,000 customers. 

Grist / Clayton Aldern / Camille Fassett / Caleb Diehl

Martin says he didn’t set out to make Launiupoko a luxury development, but that its value spiked after Maui County imposed rules that limited large-scale residential development on agricultural land. Martin’s development was grandfathered in under those restrictions, and demand for large homes drove up prices in the area. He says criticism of swimming pools and landscaped driveways is rooted in envy. 

“People come over and make their land beautiful by using water,” he said.

Martin also maintains that there’s more than enough water for everyone, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Annual precipitation around Lāhainā declined by about 10 percent between 1990 and 2009, drying out the streams near Launiupoko, and now Martin sometimes can’t provide water to all his customers during dry periods. The underground aquifer in the area is also oversubscribed, according to state data, with Martin’s companies and other users pumping out 10 percent more groundwater than flows in each year on average. Climate change could exacerbate this shortage by worsening droughts along Maui’s coast: Projections from 2014 show that annual rainfall could decline by around 15 percent over the coming century under even a moderate scenario for global warming. 

In response, the state water commission has intervened to stop Martin and other developers from overtapping West Maui’s water, setting strict limits on water diversion and fining his companies for violating those rules. Last year, the state took full control of the region’s water, potentially jeopardizing the future of Martin’s luxury subdivisions and making it harder for him to build more in the area. 

Now, though, Martin is poised to play a key role as West Maui recovers from the Lāhainā wildfire, which destroyed 2,200 structures, including six housing units Martin had developed. Nine of his employees lost their homes. As of early November, more than 6,800 displaced people on Maui remained in hotels or other temporary lodging. Millions of dollars in federal funds are expected to flow into the state for reconstruction. Martin, with his dozens of development companies and thousands of acres of vacant land, is perfectly positioned to build new homes. And his concerns about water regulations slowing development may find a more sympathetic audience as local officials seek to address a post-fire housing crisis.  

Moreover, he is itching to build. Before the fire, county and state officials were shooting down most of his new building proposals amid a concern about overdevelopment, even the ones that Martin pitched as affordable workforce housing. Martin thinks he can mitigate West Maui’s fire risk and its housing crisis by getting rid of the barriers that prevent developers like himself from building more houses with irrigated farms and green lawns. 

“What I just want is the water to be able to be used on the land, which God intended it to,” he said.

Daniel Kuʻuleialoha Palakiko doesn’t know what deity Martin is referring to. 

Ke Akua is a God of love and restoration and abundant life,” he told the water commission during September’s hearing, using the Hawaiian word for God. Palakiko had flown to Honolulu with many other Maui residents to urge the state officials to uphold their responsibility to protect water.

Daniel Kuʻuleialoha Palakiko kneels next to a taro plant on his family farm. The starch is a traditional part of the Native Hawaiian diet and is also spiritually important: Indigenous histories describe Hawaiians as being descended from the plant, known as kalo. Cory Lum / Grist

Palakiko doesn’t take his land, or water, for granted. He was a teenager in Lāhainā in the 1980s when his family started getting priced out by rising rents. That’s when his dad remembered that his own father had once shown him the family’s ancestral land in nearby Kauʻula Valley. According to Palakiko’s grandfather, the family had been forced out by the Pioneer Mill sugar plantation, which had diverted the Palakikos’ water to irrigate crops. Palakiko’s family still owned the title to the land, and his father was determined to find a way to reclaim it.

First they cleared brush by cutting firebreaks and burning the overgrowth, controlling the flames with five-gallon buckets of water hauled from a nearby river. Once they had opened enough land to build a house, the Palakikos worked out a deal with Pioneer Mill to restore free water access to their property, connecting their home to the plantation’s water system with a series of 1½-inch plastic pipes. 

Access to that water meant that the Palakikos could live on their ancestral land for the first time in generations. Back then, Palakiko says, their property felt isolated from Lāhainā, accessible only by old cane field roads that could take 45 minutes to reach town. But the family didn’t mind. It was enough to be able to stay on Maui when so many other Native Hawaiians were forced by economic necessity to leave. 

That isolation didn’t last. In 1999, Pioneer Mill harvested its last sugar crop, ending 138 years of cultivation in Lāhainā. The abandoned fields turned brown and Palakiko heard that the company was selling off thousands of acres. Where once the Palakikos had seen Filipino plantation workers tending to crops, they noticed fair-skinned strangers and surveyors exploring the fallow grounds. 

The Palakikos soon realized that the land was now in the hands of Peter Martin, who had joined other local investors to buy everything he could of the old plantation land. These new owners soon subdivided the land and sold parcels at ever higher prices as demand for the area known as Launiupoko kept increasing. It didn’t matter that the area was zoned for agriculture: Like many other developers, Martin took advantage of a legal provision that allowed homeowners to build luxurious estates on such land as long as they did some token farming of crops like fruit or flowers, no matter how perfunctory it might be.

Daniel Kuʻuleialoha Palakiko walks walks through his family’s land in West Maui, which they’ve owned since before the U.S. overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Their farm relies on water from Kauaʻula Stream, from which Martin also pulls water. Cory Lum / Grist

By the time Martin finished the development, which included around 400 homes on around 1,000 acres, he was diverting almost 4 million gallons from the stream every day, according to state data, almost as much as the 4.8 million gallons Pioneer Mill had diverted each day before it shut down.

Some days the Palakiko family would wake up to find no water running through the pipes. By the afternoon, puddles along the stream would evaporate and fish would flop on the hot rocks, suffocating. It wasn’t just the Palakikos who were suffering, but the whole river system: As Martin diverted water from the mountains, the waterway dried up farther downstream, threatening the native fish and shrimp that lived in it. Palakiko appealed to Martin’s new water utility, Launiupoko Irrigation Company, but he said the company was hostile. First it tried to shut off the water the family had been receiving through plastic pipes, then asked the family to pay for water they’d always drawn for free, only relenting after the Palakikos fought back.

In addition to diverting water away from Native Hawaiian families, Martin has tried to force some from their land. In 2002, his Makila Land Company filed a so-called “quiet title” case against the Kapus, another farming family whose land borders the Palakikos, seeking to claim a portion of the family’s ancestral land as its own. This legal strategy, which allows landowners to take control of properties that may have multiple ownership claims, later gained notoriety when Mark Zuckerberg used it to consolidate his holdings on Kauai.

Water gushes behind Daniel Kuʻuleialoha Palakiko on its way to his family’s taro patch, known as a loʻi. Farther behind him is a stretch of dry, invasive grass, similar to the grass that fueled the Lāhainā fire. Cory Lum / Grist

When the Kapus fought back, the company kept them in court for almost two decades, appealing over and over to gain the rights to a 3.4-acre parcel. The situation between Martin and the Kapu family became so tense that in 2020, Martin sought a restraining order against one member of the family, Keeaumoku Kapu, accusing him of “verbally attack[ing] me with an expletive-laced tirade” and blocking Martin’s access to the disputed land. The court imposed a mutual injunction against Martin and Kapu later that year; two years later, Kapu finally prevailed in court and secured the title to his property.

Martin’s companies filed multiple quiet-title lawsuits over the years as Martin sought to consolidate control of the land around Launiupoko. Just after it began litigation against the Kapus, Makila Land Company made a similar claim against a neighboring taro farmer named John Aquino, seeking to seize a portion of the land belonging to Aquino’s family. The company won the slice of land in an appellate court in 2013, but the Aquino family stayed put. Police arrested Aquino in 2020 after two of Martin’s employees drove a semi onto the land; Aquino had smashed the truck’s windows with a baseball bat. Makila later filed a trespassing lawsuit in 2021 against Brandon and Tiara Ueki, who also live near the Kapus. The parties agreed to dismiss the case the following year after an apparent settlement. More recently, Martin has fanned even more frustration by selling properties with contested titles, prompting at least one ongoing legal battle.

The offices of West Maui Land Company, the firm at the center of Peter Martin’s development enterprise. The company has been the subject of multiple lawsuits in the wake of the August wildfire.
Cory Lum / Grist

Meanwhile, Martin and his fellow investors sought to expand to other parts of West Maui with several large-scale developments in areas along the coastline. In one instance, he and another pair of developers named Bill Frampton and Dave Ward proposed building 1,500 homes, including both single and multifamily housing units, in the small beachfront town of Olowalu, even though water access in the area is minimal and rainfall is declining. The developers later scrapped the project following protests from environmental activists, but in the meantime, Martin sold off a few dozen more lots in Olowalu, where he has a home. He also created another utility, Olowalu Water Company, to supply homes in the area with stream water.

Hawaiʻi, like most of the Western United States, allocates water using a “rights” system: A person or company can own the right to draw from a given water source, often on land they own, but they can’t own the water source itself. In states like Oregon and Arizona, this system has led to conflicts between settlers and tribal nations, but in Hawaiʻi the law provides explicit protection for Native Hawaiian users. State law stipulates that traditional and cultural uses, such as taro farming, “shall not be abridged or denied.” In times of shortage, Native users have the highest priority.

In 2018, the state water commission imposed so-called “flow standards” on several West Maui streams, capping the amount of water that Launiupoko Irrigation Company and Olowalu Water Company could divert at any given time. Palakiko had mixed feelings about this: He didn’t want to cede more control over the water that his family had used for generations, but it felt necessary in order to ensure someone could hold the companies accountable.

Even after these rules took effect, though, Martin’s water utility companies violated them dozens of times. When the state threatened to fine the companies, Launiupoko Irrigation Company stopped taking water from its stream completely. Residents of the lush Launiupoko subdivision soon had to ration irrigation water, and the Palakikos lost their access altogether. Their pipes stayed dry for more than a week until a judge ordered Martin’s company to turn on the tap back on.

As the state cracked down on stream diversions, Martin sought to secure more water by tapping an aquifer beneath Lāhainā. Here again, he was accused of infringing on Native Hawaian cultural resources: When his West Maui Construction Company started digging a ditch for a water line in 2020, it excavated an area that contained Native Hawaiian burial remains, triggering protests. Five Native Hawaiian women activists climbed into the company’s ditch to stop the construction project and were arrested. A judge later found the company broke the law by starting construction on the water line without all the requisite permits.

West Maui Land Company has been struggling in recent years to secure approval for new developments. The wildfire could now spur a surge in housing construction on Maui. Cory Lum / Grist

The new restrictions started to hamper Martin’s development activities. Last year, his Launiupoko Water Company applied to the state’s utility regulator for permission to deliver water to a new area near Lāhainā. The company said it had agreed to supply a nearby landowner with potable water for 11 new homes, and told the state it needed to increase its groundwater pumping by at least 65,000 gallons per day. The regulator rejected the expansion plan, saying the company had omitted “basic information” about where it would get this new water. The landowner that would have received the water was another company in which Martin has an ownership stake.

Even as his companies’ plans faced headwinds, Martin continued to benefit. He loaned Launiupoko Irrigation Company a total of $9 million in recent years as the company tried to expand its Lāhainā well system, charging 8 percent interest. The company tried in 2021 to secure a bank loan for the project, but three banks turned it down, with one noting that the company’s “interest payments to Pete” were “substantial.”

Glenn Tremble, a top executive at West Maui Land Company, the company at the center of Martin’s development empire, said in response to a list of questions that Grist’s statements were “generally false and often libelous.” Tremble noted that Martin has built affordable housing units on West Maui and donated to churches. He said that Martin is “well positioned to assist with recovery and efforts to rebuild.” 

If Martin’s track record with water and land made him infamous in Lāhainā, it also invigorated local support for even stricter water controls. Palakiko’s long campaign for more attention to the region’s water problems finally bore fruit last year when the state designated West Maui as a “water management area.” Instead of just setting limits on how much water Martin’s companies could take from West Maui streams at any given time, the state water commission announced that it would revamp the area’s entire water system, giving highest priority to Indigenous cultural uses like taro farming. That may mean limiting access for Martin’s luxury developments, though Tremble disputes this.

“We’ve heard a lot from the community about the development of West Maui Land’s holdings in Launiupoko,” said Dean Uyeno, the interim chair of the state water commission, about the decision. “To continue building in these types of ways is going to keep taxing the resource.” The question, Uyeno said, is whether developers “can … find a way to [be] building more responsible development that balances the resources we have.”

A worker checks on a water well that serves one of Martin’s housing developments in West Maui. Cory Lum / Grist

Martin thinks the argument that water is a scarce resource is a “red herring.” He argues that the market is calling for more housing, not more water for native fish that rely on the streams.

“All the people [who] ever come to me say, ‘Peter, can you get me a house? I want a place to live,’” he said. “They don’t go, ‘Oh, I wish I had [shrimp] for dinner.’ That’s not what people tell me. They say, ‘Can’t you give me some house, some land?’ I go, ‘I’d love to but the government won’t let me.’”

In the days before the wildfire, Martin’s executives worked long hours in his West Maui Land Company office filling out 30 state applications justifying their current water usage and seeking more, in accordance with the state’s revamp of the area’s water system. They submitted the applications just days before the state’s August 7 deadline. The day after the deadline, Lāhainā burned. 

To Martin, this is not a coincidence. He believes the state water commission’s efforts to more strictly regulate water enabled the fire by preventing more construction of homes with irrigated lawns — in other words, more development would have made West Maui more resilient to fire. The day before the water commissioners met in September, he wondered if the commissioners would acknowledge their responsibility for the wildfire deaths and regretted not pushing harder against their restrictions.

“I feel I actually have blood on my hands because I didn’t fight hard enough,” he said.

Developer Peter Martin told Grist that concern about invasive grass fueling wildfires is a “red herring,” and asked, “How could this stuff that’s 8 inches, or 10 or 12 inches, or very low on the ground be the culprit?” Cory Lum / Grist

There’s no evidence that the state management rules, which are still in the process of going into effect, had any bearing on the fire. When Grist relayed this argument to the interim leader of the state’s water commission, he was stunned.

“That actually leaves me speechless,” said Uyeno. “I don’t know how to respond to that.”

Palakiko and his family spent the day of the fire watching the smoke rising from the coastline, watering the grass on their property and praying the winds wouldn’t shift, sending the flames their way. Five years earlier, another fire fueled by a passing hurricane had burned down two homes on their land. 

That day, their prayers were answered. But when Palakiko’s son, a firefighter, came home shaken from his shift fighting the blaze, the family realized that the West Maui they had known their whole lives was gone. 

Two days later, Palakiko received another shock when he read Tremble’s letter accusing Kaleo Manuel, the deputy director of the water commission, of delaying the release of firefighting water. The letter argued that Manuel had waited to release water to West Maui Land Company’s reservoir until he had checked with the owners of a downstream taro farm. That farm belongs to the Palakikos. 

The company’s allegations were explosive. The state attorney general launched an investigation and requested that the commission reassign Manuel, who had been instrumental in establishing the Lāhainā water management area and was the only Native Hawaiian to ever hold that position. Governor Josh Green temporarily suspended the rules that limit how much water Martin’s companies and other water users can draw from West Maui streams. The state later reinstated Manuel and restored the rules. In a statement to Grist, Tremble said he respects Manuel’s “commitment and his integrity” and said that “the problem is the process, or lack thereof, to provide water to Maui Fire Department and to the community.”

A reservoir owned by one of Peter Martin’s water utilities in the hills outside Lāhainā. The reservoir delivers water to a subdivision built by another of Martin’s companies. Cory Lum / Grist

While there was no evidence that filling the reservoir would have stopped the fire from destroying Lāhainā, and firefighting helicopters wouldn’t have been able to access the reservoir due to high winds on the day in question, there’s a growing consensus among scientists in Hawaiʻi that one factor in its rapid spread was the proliferation of nonnative grasses on former plantation lands — including lands that Peter Martin owns. 

Before the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893, before the dominance of the sugar industry allowed plantations to divert West Maui’s streams, Hawaiian royalty lived on a sandbar in the midst of a large fishpond within a 14-acre wetland in Lāhainā, which was known as the Venice of the Pacific.

After plantation owners diverted streams for their crops, the royal fishpond became a stagnant marsh, and later was filled with coral rubble and paved over. Now, Palakiko imagines what it would be like if the streams were allowed to resume their original paths: what trees would grow, what native grass could flourish, what fires might be stopped. He doesn’t think this vision is at odds with the need to address Maui’s housing crisis.

For Palakiko, the fight over the future of water in Lāhainā is about more than just who controls the streams in this section of Maui. It’s also in some ways a referendum on what future Hawaiʻi will choose: one that reflects the worldview of people like Palakiko, who see water as a sacred resource to be preserved, or that of people like Martin, who sees it as a tool to be used for profit.

To Martin, such a shift is unsettling.

“I mean, for a hundred years, you could take all the water, and all of a sudden these guys come in, and say, ‘Oh, you can’t take any water,'” Martin said. “And they made it sound like I’m this terrible person.”

This story has been corrected to reflect the updated death toll provided by Maui County.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline The libertarian developer looming over West Maui’s water conflict on Nov 27, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

The Lower Sioux in Minnesota need homes — so they are building them from hemp

Grist - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 01:30

For now, it’s only a gaping hole in the ground, 100-by-100 feet, surrounded by farm machinery and bales of hemp on a sandy patch of earth on the Lower Sioux Indian Reservation in southwestern Minnesota. 

But when construction is complete next April, the Lower Sioux — also known as part of the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota — will have a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing campus that will allow them to pioneer a green experiment, the first of its kind in the United States. 

They will have an integrated vertical operation to grow hemp, process it into insulation called hempcrete, and then build healthy homes with it. Right now, no one in the U.S. does all three.

Once the tribe makes this low-carbon material, they can begin to address a severe shortage of housing and jobs. Recapturing a slice of sovereignty would be a win for the Lower Sioux, once a largely woodland people who were subjected to some of the worst brutality against the Indigenous nations in North America. 

They lost most of their lands in the 19th century, and the territory finally allotted to them two hours south of Minneapolis consists of just 1,743 acres of poor soil. That stands in contrast to the fertile black earth of the surrounding white-owned farmlands. 

The Lower Sioux, also known as the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota, have several fields where they grow their own hemp to process into hurd for their hempcrete projects.  Aaron Nesheim / Grist

Nearly half of the 1,124 enrolled members of the tribe need homes. Some of the unhoused camp on the hard ground outside the reservation, with nowhere else to turn. Those who do have shelter live in often moldy, modular homes with flimsy walls that can’t keep out the minus-15 Fahrenheit winter cold. 

Now, they have two prototypes that are nearly done and know how to build or retrofit more. While learning how to make the houses, the construction team developed a niche eco-skill they can market off the reservation as well. 

“The idea of making homes that would last and be healthy was a no-brainer,” said Robert “Deuce” Larsen, the tribal council president. 

“We need to build capacity in the community and show that it can be an income stream.”

That one of the smallest tribes in the country, in terms of population and land in trust, is leading the national charge on an integrated hempcrete operation is no mean feat, seeing that virtually no one in the community had experience with either farming or construction before the five-person team was assembled earlier this year.

“It’s fantastic,” said Jody McGuinness, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association. “I haven’t heard of any other fully integrated project like this domestically.” 

Besides, hempcrete as a construction material is normally the domain of rich people with means to contract a green home, not marginalized communities. That’s because the sustainable material is normally imported from Europe rather than made locally. 

“It’s accessible to people with wealth, who can afford to build a bespoke house. It’s not accessible to the general public,” McGuinness said.

The project is the brainchild of Earl Pendleton, 52, a rail-thin man of quiet intensity, who until recently was the tribal council’s vice president. He grew obsessed with industrial hemp when reading about it 13 years ago. 

Earl Pendelton, a former tribal council member, is responsible for driving the investment in hemp as a source of housing and revenue to hopefully sustain the tribe in the future. Aaron Nesheim / Grist

Pendleton was intrigued to learn that the bamboo-like plant has 25,000 uses, including wood substitutes, biofuel, bioplastics, animal feed, and textiles. 

Hemp can grow in a variety of climates and, depending on the location, can yield more than one harvest a year. What’s more, hemp regenerates soil, sequesters carbon, and doesn’t require fertilizers.

“It blew my mind,” he recalled.

People often confuse hemp with its cannabis cousin, marijuana. But hemp has negligible THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component that creates a weed high. And this stalky variant is more versatile than the flowery CBD (cannabidiol) type.

Hempcrete is made by mixing mashed stalks with lime and water. The resulting oatmeal-like substance is stuffed or sprayed into the cavities of framed walls. Once it hardens, it resembles cement to the touch (thus the name) but has different properties.

The petrified substance has airtight qualities that can dramatically cut down on heating and air-conditioning needs. Unlike many commonly used building materials, it is nontoxic and resists mold, fire, and pests.

While it’s used in Europe, commercial hemp was banned in the U.S. until the 2018 Farm Bill. Since then, hempcrete has been slow to catch on, due to a chicken-and-egg conundrum. Farmers don’t want to plant without facilities nearby to process the stalks. Potential processors don’t want to buy expensive machinery without guarantees of raw material. And most American contractors don’t know anything about hempcrete.

Aside from the green value, Pendleton saw a chance to pivot from the reservation’s Jackpot Junction Casino, the tribe’s main source of income for the past 35 years. A bronze statue of a warrior spearing a buffalo stands in front.

For many years, as Pendleton managed the floor and worked blackjack, he saw gamblers lose their paychecks, and more. The Lower Sioux weren’t getting richer. The population on the reservation has expanded rapidly since 2000, which means the per capita cut that each family gets from the $30 million yearly profits has shrunk. For most families, it is the only income they receive.

“We sell misery. It’s nothing to be proud of, the money to be made here,” Pendleton said.

He added that the guaranteed money from the casinos killed many people’s ambitions to get education or training for jobs, or to seek work off the reservation.

Read Next A tribe in Maine is using hemp to remove ‘forever chemicals’ from the soil

It took a while for him to convince the tribal leadership to endorse his hemp vision. “When I would bring it up eight years ago, they’d say, ‘What? You’re going to smoke the wall?’ They associated it with weed.”

He had some learning to do, too. Pendleton knew nothing about the industry, so he binged on YouTube videos about techniques and drove around the country to meet experts. 

“It was daunting,” he said. 

Once the tribal council got on board three years ago, they cobbled together loans, government grants, and their own funds to earmark more than $6 million to build the first two prototype homes and the processing campus.

They have the potential to plant hemp on 300 acres and, at a given time, grow on between 100 and 200 acres. Test seeds came from New Genetics in Colorado and the Dun Agro Hemp Group, a Dutch company with a new processing facility in Indiana that is seeking partnerships with tribal communities.

Pendleton recruited Joey Goodthunder, a cheerful 33-year-old who had picked up farming cattle and corn from his grandfather, as agricultural processing manager. Goodthunder set to planting in a field called Cansa’yap, or “the place where they paint the trees red,” which is what the tribe used to do to mark territory.

Joey Goodthunder, whose primary job is growing the tribe’s hemp, looks over the beginnings of a foundation for a building to house the Lower Sioux’s processing equipment. Aaron Nesheim / Grist

Pendleton lured as project manager Danny Desjarlais, 38, a tattooed carpenter who had been thinking about becoming a long-haul truck driver for lack of other work.

“Earl found out and took me and my kids’ mom out to eat and told her, ‘If he drives a truck, he’s not going to be home every night. I’ll have him home for dinner every night,’” Desjarlais said.

Desjarlais entertained doubts about this bizarre product he had never heard of. Pendleton sealed the deal by taking him to a hemp building conference in Austin, Texas. “That was eye-opening,” Desjarlais said. 

Pendleton signed up three other Lower Sioux, only one of whom had experience putting up walls. And he invited two luminaries in hemp building — Jennifer Martin, a partner in HempStone, and Cameron McIntosh of Americhanvre — to teach the different application techniques. They are based, respectively, in Northampton, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Intrigued by what this project could achieve in terms of Native sovereignty, Martin traveled to Minnesota again and again to usher the crew through the project.

“What the Lower Sioux is doing is the most compelling and forward-thinking thing that’s happening in hempcrete today,” she said. “No one else is doing anything like this. And Danny is one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with; he’s like a sponge.” 

The venture has, unsurprisingly, experienced bumps. Equipment housed at another company’s warehouse nearby broke down. Replacement parts were backlogged due to pandemic supply chain issues. Since they couldn’t process hemp in the time allotted to build, the crew had to import some.

Goodthunder, meanwhile, struggled with harvesting techniques alien to conventional agriculture, such as leaving cut stalks to rot in the field for weeks so that unwanted seeds can separate from the woody inner fiber, called hurd. 

Yet they’ve made progress.

They began with a demo shed in September, 2022, placed on a field where the tribe holds powwows, an annual celebration of music and dance. The kids used it as a concession stand to sell sodas and candies. The remaining skeptics all wanted their pictures taken next to it. 

“Once they saw it, they changed their minds,” Desjarlais said. “They said, ‘Let’s build a house.’”

Danny Desjarlais, the project manager for the hempcrete initiative, stands next to a newly built duplex made with the tribe’s hempcrete. Aaron Nesheim / Grist

Build they did. In a 14-day blitz in July, the team threw together a 1,500-square-foot lime-green ranch, without any blueprints. It’ll be used as two units of temporary housing for people coming from substance abuse treatment or jail.

“Everyone said, ‘It‘s impossible.’ Even people in the hemp world thought it was impossible,” Desjarlais said proudly. His muscled arm, tattooed with the words “Love Life,” pointed at the hempcrete blocks wedged securely into the 12-inch-thick walls. A pleasant, haylike smell wafted through the house. 

Another four-room prototype is already framed and being filled with hempcrete. It will be rented out to community members when done.

The processing campus where they hope to manufacture blocks or panels of hempcrete has a solar greenhouse to store bags of lime and hemp, as well as equipment such as a combine harvester and a decorticator that separates the hurd from the softer fibers that can be used for textiles.

Read Next New US climate report says land theft and colonization amplify the climate crisis for Indigenous peoples

The project could serve as an example for the 573 other federally recognized tribes, many of which face similar critical shortages of jobs and housing. Native Americans retain 25 percent of U.S. land tenure in federal trust, and self-governing communities don’t have to wait for permits from other authorities.

Larsen, the tribal president, thinks hemp could provide a lucrative income stream for tribes that have the land to grow it and a trained crew that can offer its skills off the reservation.

“Native American tribes have an advantage, because they can build with materials that are new, without having to get them certified by a national agency,” said McGuinness. “They don’t have the bureaucracy holding them down.” 

What’s more, he’s hearing about non-tribal companies, Dun Agro among them, that are viewing tribal communities as development partners.

Architect Bob Escher, who has four residential designs in the works involving hemp, sees demand for skilled hemp professionals increasing as green building takes off. So far, there are only a handful of these experts in the U.S.

“Who knew five years ago that a hempcrete consultant would be sitting at the same table with structural engineers, electrical contractors, HVAC installers, and interior designers to help me and the client develop the design program,” he said. “This is the pure definition of job creation.”

For now, the Lower Sioux undertaking has caught the eye of four other reservations in Minnesota, as well as Dallas Goldtooth, who plays the Spirit in the hit show Reservation Dogs on Hulu. Desjarlais said the actor was interested in a hempcrete build for his mother, who lives in the community.

Farther north, the Gitxsan First Nation in Canada invited Desjarlais to show them in August how to build. They’ve grown enough hemp for three prototype homes on their Sik-E-Dakh reserve 16 hours north of Vancouver and are seeking $5.5 million (Canadian) to get a similar integrated project off the ground.

Desjarlais left them inspired, said Velma Sutherland, a band administrator. “This could be the start of something big.”

*Correction: This story originally misidentified the organization where Joe McGuinness is executive director.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline The Lower Sioux in Minnesota need homes — so they are building them from hemp on Nov 27, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

How the New Mexico whiptail became a gay icon

High Country News - Mon, 11/27/2023 - 01:00
All members of the lizard species are female and reproduce asexually through a process called parthenogenesis.
Categories: H. Green News

Climate action at work made easy

Ecologist - Sun, 11/26/2023 - 23:00
Climate action at work made easy Channel News brendan 27th November 2023 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

Portugal just ran on 100 percent renewables for 6 days in a row

Grist - Sun, 11/26/2023 - 06:00

This story was originally published by Canary Media.

One recent autumn afternoon, I watched the Atlantic gusts collide with the cliffs that rise above Nazaré, Portugal. Rain pelted down, and the world-renowned swells rose into walls of water that even the most death-defying surfers reach only via Jet Ski. For me, this looked like a rained-out, late-season beach getaway, but for the sliver of Iberia that is Portugal, it looked like a bright future. That weekend, the nation of 10 million ran on nothing but wind, solar, and hydropower.

As it turned out, those rainy, blustery days were just a warmup. Portugal produced more than enough renewable power to serve all its customers for six straight days, from October 31 to November 6.

“The gas plants were there, waiting to dispatch energy, should it be needed. It was not, because the wind was blowing; it was raining a lot,” said Hugo Costa, who oversees Portugal for EDP Renewables, the renewables arm of the state utility, which was privatized in 2012. ​“And we were producing with a positive impact to the consumers because the prices have dropped dramatically, almost to zero.”

To hit Paris Agreement climate goals by 2050, nations need to run their grids without carbon emissions not just for three or six days, but year-round. A handful of countries already do this, thanks to generous endowments of hydropower, largely developed well before the climate crisis drove investment decisions for power plants. Others score highly on carbon-free power thanks to big fleets of nuclear plants.

Portugal falls into a different, more relatable bucket: It started its decarbonization journey with some legacy hydropower, but no nuclear capacity nor plans to build any. That meant it had to figure out how to cut fossil fuel use by maximizing new renewables.

How did Portugal make this happen? It committed to building renewables early and often, pledging a 2050 deadline for net-zero carbon emissions in 2016, several years before the European Union as a whole found the conviction to take that step. Portugal’s last coal plants shut down in 2022, leaving (imported) fossil gas as the backstop for on-demand power.

“The key conclusion, in my opinion, is that it shows that the Portuguese grid is prepared for very high shares of renewable electricity and for its expected variation: We were able to manage both the sharp increase of hydro and wind production, and also the return to a lower share of renewables, when natural-gas power plants were requested again to supply some of the country’s demand,” said Miguel Prado, who covers Portugal’s energy sector for Expresso newspaper.

Read Next Where could millions of EV batteries retire? Solar farms.

The task ahead for Portugal’s grid decarbonization is to reduce and ultimately eliminate the number of hours when the country needs to burn gas to keep the lights on. Leaders want gas generation, which made up 21 percent of electricity consumption from January through October, to end completely by 2040.

To reach its climate goals, Portugal has focused on diversification of renewable resources; instead of depending primarily on wind, water, or sun, it blends each into the portfolio and finds ways to make them more complementary. The country’s power companies are now chasing major additional offshore wind opportunities, expanding solar installations and repowering older onshore wind projects to get more out of the best locations.

Anatomy of a six-day clean energy streak

After the overthrow of the authoritarian Estado Novo dictatorship in 1974, the newly formed state utility Energias de Portugal constructed a series of hydroelectric dams on the once-wild rivers that rushed from the eastern mountains to the western coast. The company built its first onshore wind projects in the 1990s, when solar simply couldn’t compete economically, and solar installations have only recently started to catch up.

That’s why the gray skies didn’t hurt overall renewable production during the country’s recent record-setting stretch, as they would have in, say, California or Hawaiʻi. The wind and hydro were cranking, and that’s what mattered.

Any milestone in the rapidly evolving clean energy sector should come with specific parameters. So what exactly did the Portuguese grid accomplish earlier this month?

The six-day record refers to the 149 consecutive hours in which ​“energy from renewable sources exceeded the industrial and household consumption needs across the country.” The country’s previous record for that metric was 131 hours (a little over five days), achieved in 2019. That doesn’t mean that fossil fuel plants weren’t operating — just that the overall renewable generation more than met customer needs.

But Portugal also just set a national record for meeting the entire electricity system’s needs ​“without resorting to conventional thermal power generation.” This gas-free stretch started Halloween night and ran for 131 consecutive hours, about 5 days, nearly tripling Portugal’s previous record of 56 hours straight in 2021. And for 95 of those consecutive hours, Portugal exported clean electricity to Spain, because it consistently had more than it needed — again without burning gas.

That trend line is the thing to watch. Renewables-friendly weather will come and go, and shoulder months are ripe for renewables to outpace consumer demand because heating or cooling needs are lower than in the summer and winter. But the last time Portugal had ideal conditions for a renewables record, it only lasted one-third as long without burning gas. As more wind and solar capacity comes online, Portugal expands its arsenal for running entirely on renewables.

This particular week stood out, but it exemplifies a historic shift in energy sources. Natural gas use for Portugal’s electricity production fell 39 percent year-over-year for the period from January to October, according to REN. That brought overall gas use to its lowest level since 2006.

Portugal has made grid decarbonization perfectly tangible for itself. To reach its climate goals, it needs to take the playbook from this one week in November and run it for longer periods of time, until eventually it doesn’t even need gas on standby. And it has to do so even in the parts of the year when the winds and the rain don’t lash the off-season traveler who’d heard so much about a climate reminiscent of Southern California.

Next steps for grid decarbonization

Portugal’s clean energy accomplishments today build on several decisions made in the past: The country chose to invest in new hydropower capacity, and 18 years ago, it ran a large-scale wind auction, Prado noted.

“It was also important that the country didn’t go to a massive investment in solar capacity when the technology was still expensive,” he explained. ​“Now, Portugal is facing a huge demand of developers to build new PV utility-scale plants, as well as a big demand for decentralized solar projects, taking advantage of a low-cost technology to increase the share of renewable energy in the years to come.”

The country still has a steep task ahead to hit its national target of 85 percent renewables by 2030, Prado added. Major challenges include slow permitting processes and the complexities of balancing ecological impacts with the need for cleaner power.

One way to mitigate delays in permitting new plants is to refurbish old ones.

Portugal has limited landmass to work with, and the best onshore wind sites are already taken, Costa said. But early projects still run 500-kilowatt turbines, while new turbines can produce 6.2 megawatts. Thus, swapping an old turbine for a new one could unlock 12 times the existing capacity. EDP Renewables is doing this strategically to increase production at times when projects aren’t hitting their full export levels; such upgrades produce more clean power throughout the year without necessitating grid investment to handle surges of power.

EDP Renewables is also investigating hybrid power plants, which combine wind and solar at the same location.

“If we combine wind and solar, what we see is that there is a big complementarity,” Costa said. ​“Typically, when we have wind blowing, we don’t have sun. And when we have sun, typically we don’t have that much wind.”

Grouping developments like that dilutes the fixed costs of construction, making them ​“more rational, economics-wise,” Costa said. In other words, developers can save money compared to building the same resources in separate locations.

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Portugal currently has no large stand-alone battery storage plants, though some batteries sit alongside solar or wind projects. The storage built into the hydropower networks has sufficed until now to balance swings in other forms of generation. But as renewables push ever higher in their share of electricity production, the need to rapidly store and discharge power will call for more batteries, Costa said.

The most ambitious part of Portugal’s clean energy expansion isn’t even happening within Portugal’s terrestrial borders. Having tapped the choicest onshore locations, the power sector will grow wind installations by looking offshore, in waters so deep they demand floating turbines. A few pathbreaking projects globally have proved this is possible, but it remains far less mature than the offshore turbines mounted to shallower sea bottoms.

Back in 2011, EDP Renewables tested a 2-megawatt floating turbine supplied by American company Principle Power, and it valiantly survived pummeling by 17-meter waves off northern Portugal. The company followed up with three 8.4-megawatt floating turbines, and even managed to secure project financing from the European Investment Bank.

“We have a lender who is confident about the cash flows that will be generated by the project and is not relying on any kind of guarantees from the sponsor,” Costa said.

Financiers as a rule fear newer technologies they deem risky; this stamp of approval marks an important step toward normalizing floating wind as a regular part of the clean energy toolkit.

That’s exactly what Portugal aims to do: Its target is to build 10 gigawatts of offshore wind, which will have to be floating. These projects still have a lot of work to do, so Costa said not to expect them until the 2030s. But the government is set to hold an auction for 2 gigawatts of offshore development in December.

That timeline is less certain as a result of this month’s resignation of Prime Minister António Costa due to, of all things, a corruption investigation centered on green hydrogen and lithium interests.

“This government won’t be able to make relevant decisions in the coming months, until the elections in March, which would delay the launch and conclusion of the first offshore wind auction,” Prado said. Other auctions for green hydrogen, renewable fuels, and energy storage are likely going to be pushed back, too.

That unexpected interruption doesn’t change a broad political consensus around the need for more clean energy. But for now, it’ll just be the surfers and the fishing boats braving the massive Atlantic waves.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Portugal just ran on 100 percent renewables for 6 days in a row on Nov 26, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Texas board rejects many science textbooks over climate change messaging

Grist - Sat, 11/25/2023 - 06:00

This story was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.

A Republican-controlled Texas State Board of Education last week rejected seven of 12 proposed science textbooks for eighth graders that, for the first time, were required to include information on climate change.

The 15-member board largely rejected the books either because they included policy solutions for climate change or because they were produced by a company that has an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) policy. Some textbooks were also rejected because SBOE reviewers gave the books lower scores on how well they adhered to the state’s curriculum standards.

The board voted on November 17 to allow five textbooks for eighth grade science to be included on the list, published by Savvas Learning Company, McGraw-Hill School Division, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Depository, Accelerate Learning, and Summit K-12.

San Antonio Democratic board member Marisa Perez-Diaz said she was disappointed by last week’s decision to reject so many textbooks, some that included Spanish texts.

“My fear is that we will render ourselves irrelevant moving forward when it comes to what publishers want to work with us and will help us get proper materials in front of our young people, and for me that’s heartbreaking,” Perez-Diaz said during last Friday’s meeting. “I’m very disappointed that so many things were voted down based on assertions or thoughts about how things are written or thematics.”

In an almost weeklong meeting that began on November 14, the members discussed dozens of textbooks that will be placed on a list of approved materials for districts to select from next fall.

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While school districts are not required to choose only from the SBOE-curated list, many school districts choose to do so because those textbooks are guaranteed to be in compliance with the state’s curriculum standards.

A science curriculum overhaul approved two years ago threw eighth grade science textbooks, in particular, into the political fray. The new standards will require, for the first time next year, that Texas eighth graders learn about climate change — meaning that textbook manufacturers had to update their teaching materials.

Texas is one of only six states that does not use the Next Generation Science Standards to guide its K-12 science curriculum. The standards — developed by states and a committee convened by the National Research Council in 2013 — emphasize that climate change is real, severe, caused by humans, and can be mitigated with actions that reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The updated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, requires eighth graders to learn about climate change and describe how human activities “can” influence the climate. Critics have said that the standards don’t go far enough, arguing that the requirements don’t ensure students will learn how reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels could mitigate climate change.

But overall, most of the proposed eighth grade science textbooks did a good job meeting the state’s new requirements for including information about climate change, according to an analysis by educators who were asked to review the books for Texas Freedom Network, a progressive think tank focused on education.

The curriculum change was approved before many of the current board members were elected. It’s a body that’s taken a rightward turn in recent years after Republicans nationally began taking aim at how schools were teaching history, race, and gender.

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Republicans have also in recent years sought to punish companies that adopt ESG policies, which typically attempt to align companies with international climate goals, set internal emissions reductions targets, or employ investment strategies that emphasize renewable energy over fossil fuels. In 2021, Texas lawmakers prohibited state funds, such as the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, from contracting with or investing in companies that divest from oil, natural gas, and coal companies.

The SBOE’s discussions last week have reflected those trends, with board members voting against books that they said were written by companies with environmentally-friendly corporate policies or that went too far in teaching students how to advocate for climate solutions. Others wanted more emphasis on religion, or argued that scientific theories should not be taught as fact.

Evelyn Brooks, a Republican board member from Frisco who represents District 14, for example, last Tuesday questioned the scientific consensus on climate change and suggested that “creation” — a religious concept — should be taught alongside scientific theories of the origins of the universe. Brooks was first elected to the board in 2022 and said that she wanted to see more perspectives of people of faith included in the books.

“The origins of the universe is my issue — big bang, climate change — again, what evidence is being used to support the theories, and if this is a theory that is going to be taught as a fact, that’s my issue,” Brooks said while discussing one of the textbooks. “What about creation?”

Board Chair Keven Ellis, a Lufkin Republican with six years on the board, responded that he believed the board had previously pushed the textbook standards “as far as we can go on that” without the books being determined unconstitutional.

In another discussion on November 14, board member Julie Pickren, a Pearland Republican who has represented District 7 since January, complained that some of the textbooks presented a “theme” that humans are causing climate change.

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Human activity has likely caused around 100 percent of climate change since 1951, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, and the Global Change Research Program’s most recent report, published earlier this week, reiterated that finding.

“Human activities — primarily emissions of greenhouse gasses from fossil fuel use — have unequivocally caused the global warming observed over the industrial era,” the Fifth National Climate Assessment said.

Throughout the November 14 meeting, Pickren motioned to remove several textbooks from the SBOE’s list.

She successfully motioned to remove the textbooks created by Discovery Education last Tuesday, arguing that the company has an initiative that’s aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and that the initiative was a “theme replicated throughout the curriculum.” Pickren was concerned that the book might violate anti-ESG state laws.

The board also chose to remove a textbook created by publisher Green Ninja after Republican board member and secretary Patricia Hardy argued last Tuesday that it too explicitly took a position that students should warn their friends and family about extreme weather made worse by climate change.

“It’s taking a position that all of that is settled science, and that our extreme weather is caused by climate change,” said Hardy, a Fort Worth Republican who has served on the board since 2003.

Several types of extreme weather in Texas — including more intense heat, droughts, and hurricanes — have been found by scientists, including the state climatologist, to be made worse by climate change.

A handful of Texans spoke to the board in favor of adopting the textbooks during the meeting this week, including one scientist.

“It’s high time that climate change was presented in a straightforward way in Texas science textbooks, beginning in the eighth grade,” Robert Baumgardner, a retired geologist who worked for the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas, told the board last Tuesday.

Others expressed dismay that elected officials were stuck in a conversation about whether climate change is caused by humans rather than preparing students to lead the energy transition.

“I can’t believe we’re having this discussion, that we need to keep climate change in the books, and keep the religious stuff out of the books,” said Ethan Michelle Ganz, a community organizer and pipefitter from Houston. “Climate change is happening right now. It’s not a future thing. … We need to be competitive in the world market.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Texas board rejects many science textbooks over climate change messaging on Nov 25, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

We need more humanists in climate campaigning

Climate Change News - Fri, 11/24/2023 - 06:14

As Cop28 draws near, I’m preparing with different climate justice organisations and coalitions. But, as a historian, I can’t help but feel slightly out of place.

When I attend climate policy events it’s rare to meet another humanist. Most of the experts are either scientists or at the very least studied the social sciences.

This divide between the sciences and humanities must be challenged in climate advocacy spaces. We need more humanists in climate spaces because we have so much to contribute to the pursuit of a just and sustainable world. 

The lack of humanists in climate activism is because of prevailing disciplinary silos between science and the humanities.

Climate change is woven into our educational systems around the world almost entirely via science, technology, engineering, and maths (Stem) subjects. 

This is a missed opportunity to integrate climate education through a multi-disciplinary approach that fully engages all students with various strengths.

“I hug you deep inside my heart”: In memory of Khalil Abu Yahia

As a student of history and literature, my education is often seen as frivolous in climate advocacy spaces.

However, my humanities background informs my work on social issues and the climate crisis.

As I study modern human history, it’s obvious to me that we’re experiencing the climate crisis because our societies value profit over people and the planet.

France, Kenya set to launch Cop28 coalition for global taxes to fund climate action

Systems like colonialism and capitalism, that exploit workers,  extract fossil fuel at the expense of ecosystems.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change only recently acknowledged the role of colonialism in the climate crisis, a relationship some historians and Indigenous scholars have known for years.

Without proper forethought, new green technology can easily reinforce the inequality that brought us here in the first place. And in some cases it already has.

For example, carbon credits justify the dispossession of indigenous peoples’ land and devastating mining practices destroy communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo for minerals used in green technology. 

Total is disrespecting graves in East Africa as it pursues pipeline

Humanists remind us that these recent developments are part of a greater legacy of inequity.

The amazing innovations that scientists and engineries are creating in fields like green technologies and renewable resources are just one part of the equation.

We must also transform how we collectively think, eat, value and live.

For scientists to create the technology of the future we must first decide what kind of future we want this technology to be in service of.

UK aid cuts leave Malawi vulnerable to droughts and cyclones

Humanists can contribute to expanding our collective imagination to create that future.

Humanities can link science with the multidimensional nature of social challenges and culture.

This will inform green technology implementation, international policy, and campaign strategies geared towards sustainability and equity.

Some humanists have already begun this important path through the study of environmental humanities and related fields.

Scholars like Karl Jacoby, Leah Aronowsky, Elizabeth Mary DeLoughrey, and Amanda J. Baugh are doing critical work in this field.

They investigate how the environment is understood and constructed in relation to people, and how these understandings shape our actions and ideas.

Indigenous scholars, like  Emily JohnsonAnne Spice, and Robin Wall Kimmerer have a long history of linking environmental studies and cultural studies.

Colombia’s big green plans run into headwinds

They highlight pluriversal, instead of universal, approaches to just and sustainable communities.

Unfortunately, the larger field of environmental humanities is only recently emerging and is underfunded and overwhelmingly White.  

We desperately need diverse academics and centers dedicated to making these connections and sharing that scholarship with the public.

Well-resourced climate scientists and leaders must also invite environmental humanities scholars in as experts and leverage their power to create multi-disciplinary policy approaches.

Argentine rewilding debate descends into legal threats

We all come from people who have lived on this Earth for millennia, so we all have unique ecological histories, cultures, and spirituality to rediscover.

Kwolanne Felix is a climate and gender equity advocate and works at the New York University State Energy and Environmental Impact Center. 

The post We need more humanists in climate campaigning appeared first on Climate Home News.

Categories: H. Green News

Zero ambition to protect health

Ecologist - Fri, 11/24/2023 - 05:00
Zero ambition to protect health Channel News brendan 24th November 2023 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

The ‘inevitable’ fossil fuel fight set to dominate Cop28

Climate Change News - Fri, 11/24/2023 - 03:52

Phasing down fossil fuels is “inevitable” and “essential”. It is hard to imagine the CEO of an oil major saying that 10 years, five years, even one year ago.

It’s a measure of how far the discourse has moved since the Paris Agreement that Sultan Al Jaber has taken that line in the run-up to Cop28.

As president of the UN climate summit starting in Dubai on 30 November, Al Jaber could not ignore mounting calls to quit coal, oil and gas.

“We cannot address climate catastrophe without addressing its root cause: fossil fuel dependence,” said UN chief Antonio Guterres last week. “Cop28 must send a clear signal that the fossil fuel age is out of gas – that its end is inevitable.”

But Al Jaber has not quit the day job as chief of Emirati state-owned oil company Adnoc, which is increasing production. The conflict of interest is writ large.

And despite the longstanding scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main driver of the climate crisis, there was no political consensus to name them in UN climate decisions until very recently.

At the 2021 climate summit in Glasgow, UK, countries made a breakthrough agreement to phase down coal power generation. A group of around 80 countries pushed to extend that to oil and gas in Sharm-el-Sheik last year, but were stonewalled. Will Al Jaber’s rhetoric translate into an international agreement?

Phasing down or cashing in?

The science is clear: we need to substantially reduce the use of fossil fuels to stand a realistic chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said. There is no room for new oil and gas fields, the International Energy Agency agreed.

While there is money to be made, though, mining and drilling continue. Buoyant oil prices since Russia invaded Ukraine last year have spurred development.

The top 20 fossil fuel-producing nations plan to extract twice as much by 2030 as the level consistent with meeting the Paris Agreement goals, according to the UN’s 2023 Production Gap report.

The difference between governments’ fossil fuel plans and projections and levels consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C and 2°C remains wide. Credit: UN Production Gap Report

The first global stocktake of the Paris Agreement is due to conclude at Cop28 – a prime opportunity for a course correction. Two elements of the energy package under negotiation have broad support: a tripling of renewable energy capacity and a doubling of energy efficiency by 2030. But on a third plank – the fossil fuel phase-out – divisions remain stark.

“We are not going to solve the problem by scaling up renewables alone,” says Ploy Achakulwisut, a research fellow at SEI and one of the UN report’s authors. “Governments need to step up and commit to stronger language on fossil fuels now. Accepting a phase-out is the first step towards coordinating and implementing a well-managed and equitable transition.”

A fractured field

On one end of the spectrum, fifteen countries under the banner “high ambition coalition” are calling for a phase-out of fossil fuels production and use: no ifs, no buts. The group includes rich Western countries like France and Spain, African states, including Kenya and Ethiopia, and Pacific island nations.

Oil, carbon and loss: navigating Cop28 with Climate Home News

On the opposite end, Russia says nyet to any proposal of cutting the oil and gas production that makes up most of its revenues. “We oppose any provisions or outcomes that somehow discriminate or call for phase-out of any specific energy source or fossil fuel type,” the country’s recent submission to the UNFCCC said.

In between are developed countries justifying continued oil and gas development on energy security grounds and emerging economies resistant to any check on their growth.

One word is likely to dominate discussions: unabated.

Abatement fight

A universally-recognised definition of “unabated” does not exist – and that is a big part of the problem. Fossil fuel abatement generally refers to efforts to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted throughout their life cycle, chiefly by using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.

But what percentage of emissions needs to be captured and how countries ensure this is not a delaying tactic are open questions.

“Differing views on abatement are causing hostages to fortune and allowing fractures to appear that are not helpful in terms of actually achieving fossil fuel phaseout,” Camilla Fenning, a fossil fuel transition expert at E3G, told Climate Home. “A clear definition is something that would be very useful.”

Chevron’s Gorgon gas project in Australia has one of the largest carbon capture and storage plants in the world. Photo: Chevron Australia

Rich countries all call for some form of phase-out of unabated fossil fuels, in line with what was agreed at a G7 meeting in Hiroshima last May.

Their interpretation is not univocal, however.

The EU wants to designate some clear boundaries around the use of technofixes. “Exaggerated expectations from CCS should not be a pretext to delay climate action now,” an EU negotiator told Climate Home. “It will not deliver what we need before 2030. In the longer term, we will need it in hard-to-abate sectors, but we need to see what is possible.”

Meanwhile, the US is betting big on CCS and curbs on methane leakage to limit the climate damage of oil and gas operations. It is a position that brings it closer to petrostates like Saudi Arabia and Cop28 hosts UAE.

EU law pushes foreign oil and gas producers to cut methane

China’s climate envoy Xie Zhenhua has also come out in favour of CCS while calling a global fossil fuel phase-out “unrealistic”.

The country, which is expanding both coal power capacity and renewables, risks being a major blocker to an agreement. Highlighting “the significant role of fossil fuels in ensuring energy supply security”, its latest submission said the transition needs to be achieved by “establishing the new before abolishing the old”.

For Cuban Ambassador Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta, chair of the G77 group of developing countries, development needs take priority over a fossil fuel phase-out. “The most important thing for developing countries is eradicating poverty and guaranteeing a right to development within a sustainability framework,” he told Climate Home.

Equity and money questions

For many developing countries, equity concerns will need to be addressed before signing on to any deal.

Negotiators from Africa and India are planning to push rich nations to commit to phasing out fossil fuels faster than the rest of the world. Their position is based on the “common but differentiated responsibilities” principle, where the wealthy countries who are most responsible for causing climate change take the lead in tackling it.

They will highlight the contradictions between what some developed countries advocate for in climate talks and what they do at home. For example, the US is responsible for more than one-third of the expansion of global oil and gas production planned by mid-century, followed by Canada and Russia, according to Oil Change International.

Cuba’s Pedroso Cuesta called this a “severe contradiction”. “Those who are proposing these initiatives [fossil fuel phase out] should lead by example. I don’t think they are currently,” he added.

France, Kenya set to launch Cop28 coalition for global taxes to fund climate action

Another sticking point is money. A huge amount of it will be required for developing countries to wean themselves off fossil fuels while investing heavily in renewables and energy efficiency, the other elements of the COP28 energy package. “Developing countries need to be given assurances about more financial support to encourage confidence in signing up for those commitments”, says E3G’s Fenning

It is not yet clear who is going to provide finance and on what terms. Energy transition partnerships between rich countries and South Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam have stuttered over the last year. Promises of significantly higher levels of support from development banks and the private sector still need to materialize.

Activists gearing up

While country delegates refine their rhetoric, activists are also gearing up their campaigning firepower to make sure a fossil fuel phase-out remains top of the agenda in Dubai.

Demonstrations and protests are expected to be limited to the UN-designated zones, given the harsh rules clamping down on dissent in the UAE, campaigners told Climate Home. But more creativity and better coordination will ensure impact, they promise.

Campaigners are planning to target anyone blocking a deal on fossil fuels. Not only governments but also industry lobbyists expected to descend onto the petrostate in vast numbers.

“The fact that we’re closer than ever to a decision on fossil fuel phase-out in a UN space means that the industry is mobilising more strongly to oppose this,” says Collin Rees, an activist at Oil Change International. “The industry has been forced to come out and show its face. Having that fight in full public view will be very important”.

The post The ‘inevitable’ fossil fuel fight set to dominate Cop28 appeared first on Climate Home News.

Categories: H. Green News

The Po Valley: An Italian paradox 

Green European Journal - Fri, 11/24/2023 - 03:34

The Pianura Padana is home to a third of Italy’s population and generates nearly half of the national GDP. But over-exploitation, pollution, and excessive land consumption are exacerbating the effects of climate change in this politically neglected region.

Boretto, province of Reggio Emilia, northern Italy. Under the bridge at the entrance to the town, the river is almost invisible. The concrete foundations of its pillars, usually submerged, stand out. Where once flowed Italy’s longest river, the Po, there is now a large beach. Where once was a riverbed, boys and girls now venture on foot. A couple walks with a dog, throwing sticks into the distance. The animal races to retrieve them, happy to explore a territory normally off limits. 

It’s April 2023. Not a single raindrop has fallen for two-and-a-half months. The river’s flow has dropped dramatically, raising fears of a repeat of what happened in 2022, when the Po reached its lowest flow in recorded history. “The river is at an extremely low level for the season,” confirms engineer Alessio Picarelli from the Interregional Agency for the Po River (Aipo).  

The agency, headquartered in Boretto, carries out hydrographic surveys. The meatori – the workers responsible for controlling the depth of the river – set out from here and the seven other stations every day. The agency then issues a bulletin to report on navigability conditions. It is a privileged observer of the so-called magre: the periods in which the Po suffers. 

The Po is a litmus test for the increasingly marked effects of the climate crisis in Italy.

The lack of rain, combined with the absence of snow in the mountain ranges, is putting Italy’s greatest river under great strain. The snow does not fall at the same rate anymore and the Alpine glaciers, reservoirs of fossil water, are growing smaller. If on top of that it doesn’t rain, the whole system goes into crisis. This is a situation that will probably grow more and more frequent in the near future. 

“These flows are normally recorded in August”, says Picarelli. “But with an additional fact: in the summer, water is used for agriculture.” In other words, when farmers pump water for irrigation, the problem will be even greater. “For years, predictive climate models have been telling us about the possibility of the Po Valley drying up. This is happening before our eyes. This is the trend. But, of course, the current situation could change at any moment.” 

And indeed it did. In mid-May 2023, an unusual quantity of rain fell on various parts of the Po Valley, causing several rivers and streams to overflow. The Po ultimately remained within its banks, but many of its tributaries overflowed, with catastrophic impacts and a grave human toll: 16 people dead and 23,000 displaced. 

A lack of vision 

The Po is a litmus test for the increasingly marked effects of the climate crisis in Italy. At the centre of the Mediterranean area, the country is a climate hotspot, where the consequences of global warming are most pronounced. Rising temperatures, together with a succession of extreme weather events, are stressing the area. 

According to the European Severe Weather Database, Italy experienced 3192 extreme weather events in 2022; some 2766 have already been registered in the first nine months of 2023. This is an astronomical rate, considering that the number rarely exceeded 100 between 2000 and 2010. 

“In Italy and throughout the Mediterranean, global climate warming has a special effect: not only is the average temperature rising, the extremes are also increasing because the circulation of the atmosphere is changing,” explains atmospheric physicist Antonello Pasini. “Before, we were used to the high atmospheric pressure that always came from west to east, mainly with the famous Azores anticyclone. This anticyclone was a buffer of stable air, and protected us from the weather disturbances in Northern Europe, as well as from the African heat. Now anthropogenic global warming has caused the tropical equatorial circulation to expand northward. This change means African anticyclones, previously permanently present in the Sahara desert, are entering the Mediterranean and reaching Italy. When they eventually move back, cold currents enter and meet with the previous warm and humid air, creating an enormous thermal contrast. And this is how extreme weather events happen.” 

Fluctuation between alarmingly low water levels and catastrophic floods seems to be the new trend on the Po, as on several other Italian rivers. The 2022 drought was the worst in 200 years, causing agricultural yields and hydroelectric production to plummet. According to Italy’s largest agricultural association Coldiretti, water shortages caused a 10 per cent drop in Italy’s agricultural production, with farmers estimated to have lost approximately six billion euros. This year has been little better, with the succession of droughts and extreme events causing enormous damage on a similar scale. 

“We should call things by their name: we are in the midst of a climate emergency.” Born and raised in the area, Giuliano Landini is the living memory of the river. He is the captain of the Stradivari, Italy’s longest inland cruise ship. At the helm of his vessel, anchored in the port of Boretto, he is disconsolate. He looks at the river and shakes his head. 

Basinisation is not a solution shared by everyone – least of all environmentalists, who fear too radical a change in ecosystems.

For years the captain has been complaining of a lack of vision for Italy’s largest river. “The current climate scenario clearly shows us the weakness of the system. Either we weep because the Po is dry, or we live in fear of floods. The fact is that the river has been abandoned to itself. I always ask myself: why does the Seine, the Danube, the Elbe – all the great European rivers – remain navigable while the Po suffers?” 

For Landini, the solution is clear: bacinizzazione, or basinisation. This plan would consist of dams with hydroelectric power plants and navigation locks. “This would allow the river to always be navigable and would avoid wasting water when there is plenty of it. As a man of the river, like my father and grandfather, I can assure you that we will not come out of this until we manage the water once and for all through dams on the Po.” 

A previous campaign in the area called for five dams. Only one has been built, on Isola Serafini in the Piacenza province, with a basin and a hydroelectric power station. The other plans have been shelved. And it was decided to keep the river flowing freely. 

Basinisation is not a solution shared by everyone – least of all environmentalists, who fear too radical a change in ecosystems. But one part of Landini’s argument is indisputable: the Po is a forgotten territory. What was once a vibrant place, with its own culture and economy, is now on the margins, ignored by politicians and even by those who live along its banks. 

Overused and undervalued

“No one likes to talk about the Po”, continues Landini. “Yet its water is useful for everyone: for agriculture, industry, energy production and more.” It is the giant Italian paradox. A third of the country’s inhabitants live in the Pianura Padana, the Po Valley. It generates 40 per cent of the national GDP, 35 per cent of agricultural production, and 55 per cent of hydroelectric production. Yet the Po is treated as an obstacle not as a resource. Or even worse: as a reservoir from which to draw water for the valley’s many factory farms, to take gravel, or to use as a sewer for industrial wastewater. 

“The area has been overexploited. It is no secret that it is the most polluted region in Europe”, says Paolo Pileri, professor of Territorial and Environmental Planning at the Polytechnic of Milan. He explains that the flooding in Emilia-Romagna last May had such disastrous effects because the territory had been made fragile by human action. “Between 2020 and 2021, Emilia-Romagna is the region with the third highest rate of land consumption in Italy. Some 658 hectares were concreted over in just one year, equal to 10.4 per cent of the national total. In just a few years the water-resistant surface in the region has reached 8.9 per cent, compared to a national average of 7.1 per cent. We know perfectly well that water does not filter through asphalt but instead flows quickly off it, accumulating in quantity and energy, and causing damage and victims.” 

It is almost as though the Po and its tributaries, made invisible by human exploitation, are taking back the space that was stolen from them. “The Po is like a wounded giant. It swells and dries up at will. It becomes mean with water when agriculture is most thirsty. And it dispenses hardship and afflictions to those inhabitants who have turned their backs on him,” Landini says poetically. 

Faced with these erratic river trends, the numerous stakeholders who use the Po’s water are trying to envision solutions. “Data from recent years shows that drought is becoming a structural problem. The challenges of climate change impose a new reality in which we cannot blame an irrational use of the resource”, says Francesco Vincenzi, an agricultural entrepreneur and president of the National Association of Land and Irrigation Water Management. Agricultural organisations are active in proposing solutions for what to them is a vital problem. “To deal with the growing water shortage, it is necessary to launch an infrastructure plan to adapt irrigation channels and the safety of the water resource,” adds Vincenzi.  

The National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the funding instrument approved by the European Union after the Covid-19 pandemic, allocates 880 million euros precisely for the purpose of making the irrigation system more efficient and building containment basins. “These mini-reservoirs will allow water to be conserved in a multifunctional perspective, both for agriculture and for energy. Considering that today we retain just 11 per cent of water, it is urgent to carry out these works.” 

Everyone seems to agree on the need to retain a resource that is becoming scarcer every day. “But it’s also necessary to question the agricultural model that is dominant in the Po Valley,” adds Pileri. “Farmers complain about an ecosystem that has become unbalanced, but it is these same farmers who have partly made it so. To give an example: in the central part of the Po, there are enormous expanses of corn, a crop that requires a lot of water. This corn is not used for human consumption, but to feed pigs on intensive farms and to make biogas. Does it make sense to use water to produce feed and energy instead of products for human consumption?” 

According to Pileri, the only solution is to rethink the development model: that would mean stopping land consumption, changing production paradigms, and rethinking our relationship with ecosystems. But his reasoning does not attract much support. Despite the repeated disasters and the extensive damage to people and property, the fight against the climate crisis is not at the top of the Meloni government’s agenda.  

Italy is one of the few European countries that does not have a national plan for adaptation to climate change. A draft plan has been lying around at the Ministry of the Environment since 2017, awaiting an evaluation that has never come. Some members of the governing coalition have repeatedly said that global warming is an overestimated problem.  

The approach towards the Po Valley echoes that of the Italian government towards the climate emergency as a whole. Until the next drought or catastrophic event, when indifference will temporarily give way to counting the costs and bewailing an “inevitable” and “unpredictable” misfortune. 

This article is part of a series on the politics of food and water organised by the Green European Journal with the support of Eurozine, and thanks to the financial support of the European Parliament to the Green European Foundation. 

Categories: H. Green News

Ksenia Svetlova: Az izraeli baloldal október 7-e után

Green European Journal - Fri, 11/24/2023 - 01:47

Az izraeli közbeszédet ugyanazok mérgezik, akik nem tudták megakadályozni a Hamász október eleji támadását. Netanjahu kormánya a bosszú ígéretével próbálja elterelni a figyelmet kudarcairól. Interjúnkban Ksenia Svetlova politikai elemző, a Knesszet volt tagja elmondja, mit jelent október 7-e után baloldalinak lenni Izraelben, és mit kellene tenni a túszok visszahozatala és a gázai civilek megsegítése érdekében.

Green European Journal: Hogyan jellemezné a mostani politikai légkört Izraelben?

Ksenia Svetlova: Az október 7-i terrortámadást követően azt tapasztaltuk, hogy a társadalom egységesebb lett; hatalmas volt a szolidaritás, mivel a trauma nagyon új és lehengerlő volt még. Néhány hétig a „politika” mint olyan szünetelt, és a civil társadalom nagyon aktívan segített mindazoknak, akiket ez a szörnyű mészárlás érintett. Mostanra azonban úgy tűnik, hogy visszatért a régi politikai légkör, újra a társadalom szélsőséges polarizációját észleljük. Ez elsősorban Benjamin Netanjahu miniszterelnök és szélső-jobboldali Likud pártja miatt van így, hiszen a megosztottság mérgező légköre, amelyet ő és miniszterei teremtettek az elmúlt évtizedben, most visszatérőben van. Miközben a katonák a harctéren vannak, ő úgy döntött, hogy a történtekért a hírszerzőket és a hadsereget hibáztatja, felmentve magát minden felelősség alól. Ő és sokan mások, akik hátráltatták a hírszerző munkát és nem készítették fel a társadalmat a közelgő veszélyre, most mindenféle indulatos nyilatkozatokat kezdtek kiadni. Ari Dichter mezőgazdasági miniszter [aki Likud-tag] a „gázai nakba” lehetőségéről beszélt – a kifejezés minden konnotációjával [a nakba magyarul azt jelenti, „katasztrófa”; az Izrael területén élt palesztinok elűzetését értik rajta]. A nemzetbiztonsági miniszter, Itamar Ben-Gvir, a szélsőjobboldali Otzma Jehudit párt tagja, pedig a gázai zsidó telepek újjáépítéséről beszélt. Izraelben az ilyen jellegű kijelentéseket a „méreggépezet” részének tekintjük; és úgy tűnik, hogy ez ismét visszatért.

Melyek voltak a kormány kudarcai, amelyek az október 7-i mészárláshoz vezettek?

Amikor Netanjahut 2009-ben újraválasztották (miután az 1990-es években egyszer már miniszterelnök volt), azt ígérte, hogy felszámolja a Hamász rendszerét Gázában, mivel már akkor világos volt, hogy Izrael nem élhet együtt egy terrorszervezettel a határán. De aztán nem

tett semmit. A hatalmon töltött rengeteg év alatt gondoskodott arról, hogy a Hamász-rezsim fennmaradjon. Ide tartozott, hogy engedélyezte, hogy Katarból készpénz érkezzen a Hamásznak, és csak nagyon korlátozott katonai műveleteket indított, amelyek közül a leghosszabb 2014-ben volt. Akkoriban sokan megkérdezték, hogy Izrael miért nem tett semm érdemlegeset, annak ellenére, hogy mennyi mindent tudtunk a Hamászról – a rakétákról, a fegyverekről, a 400 kilométernyi földalatti alagútról és így tovább.

Ugyanakkor Netanjahu, miközben tétlen maradt a Hamásszal szemben, nagyon keményen dolgozott azon, hogy meggyengítse a mérsékeltebb palesztin struktúrát: a Palesztin Hatóságot (PA) és a ciszjordániai Fatah pártot. Természetesen a Palesztin Hatóságot lehet kritizálni a palesztin iskolákban történő gyűlöletkeltés miatt, de végső soron mindenki tudja, hogy ők Izrael partnere a terror elleni küzdelemben. A palesztin biztonsági struktúrák pedig együttműködnek a Shin Bettel (az Izraeli Biztonsági Ügynökséggel) és az Izraeli Védelmi Erőkkel (IDF) Ciszjordániában. Ennek ellenére a kormány úgy döntött, hogy befagyasztja a Ciszjordániának szánt pénzeszközöket, és még minimális gesztusokat sem tett.

Mahmúd Abbászt 2005-ben azzal az ígérettel választották meg a Palesztin Hatóság elnökévé, hogy nem fog politikai erőszakot vagy terrort alkalmazni a politikai siker elérésének eszközeként. A hangsúlyt a diplomáciára helyezte. Ez a diplomácia azonban csúfos kudarcot vallott, mert Netanjahu abban hitt, hogy a palesztinokat meg kell osztani és uralkodni kell rajtuk, miközben a Hamászt a tétlenséget alkalmanként megszakító rövid erőszakos fellépéssel kell megfékezni – de teljesen elszámította magát. Én azok közé tartoztam, akik mindvégig bírálták őt – például amikor 2015 és 2019 között a Knesszet tagja voltam [a Cionista Unióval, a Munkáspárt, a Hatnua és a Zöld Mozgalom balközép koalíciójával] –, amiért nem tett semmit a Hamász ellen, miközben megölte a palesztinok számára létező alternatívát.

Netanjahu maga is politikai hasznot húzott a Hamász uralmából – azt közvetítve, hogy a palesztinokkal nem lehet beszélni, és csak egy hozzá hasonló erős vezető képes megfékezni őket?

Nem mondanám, hogy a Hamász köré építette volna politikai személyiségét, de a kemény vezető imázsából mindenképpen profitált. Nem is feltétlenül a Hamásszal kapcsolatban próbált keménynek látszani, amelyet nem látott komoly veszélynek, hanem Iránnal szemben, amely az egyik fő témája volt.

Az elmúlt években Netanjahunak sikerült javítania Izrael kapcsolatait néhány arab állammal, például Bahreinnel vagy az Egyesült Arab Emírségekkel. Miért nem segített ez a palesztin ügyben?

Az izraeli baloldalon sokan úgy gondoltuk, de a centristák is egyetértettek benne, hogy bölcs dolog békés kapcsolatokat kialakítani a körülöttünk lévő arab országokkal, ahogyan azt az 1993-as oslói egyezmény után Egyiptommal, Jordániával és sok más országgal tettük. De azt is mondtuk, hogy hiba azt gondolni, hogy ha aláírunk megállapodásokat az emírségiekkel, bahreiniekkel, marokkóiakkal és szaúdiakkal, akkor azzal a palesztin kérdés el fog tűnni. Ez egy logikai tévedés, ugyanis nekünk nem volt semmiféle nyílt konfliktusunk ezekkel az országokkal, és a megállapodások elsősorban a kereskedelmi kapcsolataink javítását szolgálják majd. Az Emírségek képviselőinek például megvoltak a maguk bizalmi problémái a palesztin vezetéssel, ezért nem tették az Ábrahám-megállapodásokat a palesztinokkal folytatott tárgyalások folytatásától függővé.

Természetesen ez nem jelenti azt, hogy nem használhattuk volna fel ezt az új partnerséget az arab világgal arra, hogy előmozdítsuk bizonyos fokú közeledést a palesztinokkal; de a kezdeményezésnek ehhez Izraelből kellett volna kiindulnia – tekintettel arra, hogy olyan kérdésről beszélünk, amely Izraelt jobban érinti, mint a többi résztvevő országot. Marokkó például segíthetett volna, tekintettel a palesztinokkal fenntartott kiváló kapcsolataira. És valóban, Yair Lapid és Naftali Bennett rövid életű kormánya alatt, 2021-2022-ben volt némi együttműködés Marokkóval a kérdésben. Sőt, a kormány kereskedelmi engedélyeket adott ki gázai kereskedőknek, hogy árulhassanak Izraelben. De összességében senkinek sem jutott eszébe, hogy ezt a lehetőséget kihasználva hosszabb távú megoldást keressen. Senki sem vette komolyan a szaúdiakat, akik folyamatosan azt hangoztatták, hogy az Izraellel való normalizációt a palesztinok számára való megoldás megtalálásával együtt szeretnék elérni.

Hogyan látja az Egyesült Államok és Európa szerepét az izraeli-palesztin konfliktus lehetséges megoldásában?

Elnöksége alatt Donald Trump az izraeli jobboldal pártjára állt, és megpróbált egy olyan megoldást népszerűsíteni, amely egyáltalán nem reális, de legalább valamilyen alkut letett az asztalra. Amikor Joe Biden lett az elnök, nagy reményeket fűztünk hozzá, de semmi sem történt. Ezt pedig széles körben a status quo folytatásának és a konfliktus mikromenedzselésének tekintették. Izrael és Palesztina kérdése egyszerűen nem volt napirenden – részben azért, mert ott volt az ukrajnai háború, a Kínával szembeni feszültségek és sok más dolog, amivel az amerikai elnökségnek foglalkoznia kellett.

Ami Európát illeti, nagyon jól emlékszem egy 10 évvel ezelőtti látogatásra, amelyen még újságíróként vettem részt – Brüsszelbe mentünk, ahol számos tisztviselővel találkoztunk. Zárt ajtók mögött néhányan közülük azt mondták, hogy már nem tudják, van-e értelme támogatni a Palesztin Hatóságot, mert úgy tűnik, hogy ez a támogatás nem fog egy palesztin állam létrehozásához vezetni. Az izraeli politikában szélsőjobboldali légkör uralkodott, az izraeliek és a palesztinok között nem folytak tárgyalások, és Európa úgy döntött, hogy inkább más kérdésekre koncentrál. Nem mintha az izraeli-palesztin konfliktus lett volna az egyetlen probléma a Közel-Keleten – ott volt az arab tavasz, az ISIS felemelkedése, háborúk és a menekültválság, hogy csak néhányat említsünk. Európa talán csak úgy gondolta, hogy jobb, ha hagyja, hogy a palesztinok és az izraeliek maguk oldják meg a kérdést – de valójában, ha van közvetítő, vagy akár egy kis nyomás kívülről, az segíthet a folyamaton.

Mostanában többfelé olvasni, hogy az izraeli baloldal úgy érzi, nyugati szövetségesei félreértették vagy elárulták. Pontosan mi ennek az oka?

Az izraeli baloldal nagyon kritikusan viszonyult az izraeli kormányokhoz és a palesztinokkal kapcsolatos politikájukhoz. Nagyon sokan voltak, akik a békés egymás mellett élés mellett szólaltak fel. Valójában azok az emberek, akiket október 7-én lemészárolt a Hamász, az egész ország legbaloldalibb közösségeiből kerültek ki. Sokan közülük önkénteskedtek palesztinokkal, betegeket vittek Gázából izraeli kórházakba, és támogatták azt a tervet, hogy a gázaiaknak újra joguk legyen Izraelben dolgozni. És akkor történt ez a szörnyű erőszakos támadás. Még mindig nem ismerjük az összes részletet, de eleget hallottunk olyan emberektől, akik túlélték és szemtanúk voltak. Megdöbbenünk, amikor olyan embereket hallunk, köztük baloldaliakat is, akik igazolják ezt a hihetetlen, szélsőségesen kegyetlen erőszakot, amely az ISIS erőszakosságával ér fel.

Amikor azt halljuk, hogy a baloldali emberek, akik közül korábban sokakkal kapcsolatban álltunk, azzal érvelnek, hogy az elnyomott embereknek joguk van bármit megtenni, és hogy ezt „önvédelemnek” kell tekinteni, jobbról és balról is támadva érezzük magunkat. Nincs olyan nemzetközi dokumentum, amely kimondaná, hogy az otthon az ágyukban alvó katonák megölése vagy kisgyerekek meggyilkolása önvédelemnek minősül. És nem tekinthető függetlenségi harcnak sem.

Nem tudom, hogyan reagáljak azokra az emberekre, akik elrabolt csecsemők, nők vagy idős emberek plakátjait tépik le. Számomra egy ilyen gesztus színtiszta gonoszságnak tűnik, és nálunk – szerintem teljesen jogosan – antiszemita cselekedetnek tekintik. Ez az oka annak, hogy a baloldal vagy a balközép támogatói manapság olyan magányosnak érzik magukat Izraelben.

Hogyan határozná meg az izraeli baloldalt, tekintve, hogy még a Knesszet nagyobb ellenzéki pártjai is a jobbközéphez állnak közelebb?

Netanjahu azt mondaná, hogy mindenki baloldali, aki nem ért vele egyet – beleértve azokat is, akik valójában a mélyjobboldalról jönnek. Természetesen én soha nem használnék ilyen érvelést. Politikailag két baloldali párt létezik: A Munkáspárt, amely jelenleg képviselve van a Knesszetben, és a Meretz, amelyet ezúttal nem választottak meg – talán legközelebb fordítva lesz. Mégis, Izraelben a lakosság egy jelentős része baloldali nézeteket vall, de más pártokra szavaz – például néhányan azok közül, akik korábban a Munkáspártra szavaztak, most Benny Gantzot [a Nemzeti Egység pártból] támogatják. Gantz megpróbálja magát jobbközépre pozícionálni, de szavazói közül sokan inkább baloldali nézeteket vallanak.

Persze nehéz megválaszolni azt a kérdést, hogy mi az izraeli baloldal. Ha megkérdeznénk az izraelieket, hogy baloldalinak tartják-e magukat, csak egy kis kisebbség mondaná, hogy igen. Ha azonban megkérdeznénk, hogyan vélekednek a palesztin konfliktus békés megoldásáról, vagy a kétállami megoldásról, akkor azt találnánk, hogy többen képviselnek valamifajta baloldali álláspontot.

Izraelben az emberek politikai identifikációja nagyban különbözik az EU-ban tapasztalhatótól, mivel a fő kritérium az izraeli-palesztin konfliktushoz való hozzáállásuk. Lehet valaki kockázatitőke-menedzser, vallhat neoliberális gazdasági nézeteket, és mégis úgy gondolhatja, hogy a kétállami megoldás a legjobb megoldás Izrael számára.

Masha Gessen orosz-amerikai újságíró a The New Yorker-ben megjelent cikkében azt írta, hogy Izraelben sok békepárti aktivista érzi magát fenyegetve, és a társadalom jobboldali része árulónak tartja őket. Ön is észleli a megfélemlítés légkörét az izraeli társadalomban?

Az izraeli jobboldal – nemcsak a szélsőjobboldal, hanem a papíron mérsékeltebb Likud is – megpróbált mindenkit elítélni, aki másként vélekedik az izraeliek és a palesztinok közötti viszonyról – még azokat is, akik a cionista balközép és a cionista baloldal felől érkeznek. Őket árulóknak bélyegzik, és legalábbis 2014 óta kampány folyik ellenük. Sajnos az izraeli közvélemény nagy részét sikerült meggyőzniük erről. Rengeteg felháborodást láthatunk a palesztin fél iránti szimpátia bármilyen megnyilvánulásán – ezt még fokozza az elmúlt hónap fájdalma és dühe. Ennek ellenére sok olyan hangot is hallunk, amely különböző politikai megoldásokat támogat, kiemelve például, hogy az állam prioritása a túszokról való gondoskodás kellene, hogy legyen.

Ön szerint milyen intézkedésekre van most szükség?

Először is, a Hamász-rezsimet már 2014-ben fel kellett volna számolni – amikor világossá vált, hogy a csoport minden infrastruktúráját katonai erejének növelésére használta fel. Tudjuk, hogy deklarált céljuk Izrael kiirtása. Ha akkor cselekedtünk volna, talán kevesebb áldozatunk lett volna. Ezt nagy szomorúsággal mondom, mert személyes barátaim vannak a Gázai övezetben. Sok éven át újságíróként dolgoztam Gázában, és még mindig tartom a kapcsolatot olyan ottani barátaimmal, akik egyáltalán nem támogatják a Hamászt – én, személy szerint, túszként tekintek rájuk.

Jelenleg sajnos nem látok más lehetőséget, mint a katonai konfrontációt. Enélkül nemcsak a Hamászt, hanem északon a Hezbollahot is csak felbátorítanánk – utóbbiak évek óta ilyen terrorista akciókra készül. A Hamász nem ok nélkül építette fel földalatti királyságát, és nem fog csak úgy elmenni.

Mégis, nem mindegy, hogyan zajlik ez a konfrontáció. A jelenlegi kormány a bosszúállás pártján van, és a politikusok olyan dolgokat mondanak, amelyek elfogadhatatlanok. A bosszúállás nem tekinthető egy államok – különösen nem egy demokratikus állam – céljának. Azokat, akik gyilkoltak, felelősségre kell vonni, hiszen ők ezt maguknak köszönhetik, de a többieknek jár a segítség, főleg, hogy egy humanitárius válság közepette vagyunk. Nem szabad számítania, hogy mit gondolnak ezek az emberek Izraelről, hogy szimpatizálnak-e velünk vagy sem. Feltétel nélküli humanitárius segélyt kellene engednünk Gázába; és még az IDF (Izraeli Védelmi Erők) repülőgépeit is be kellene vetnünk gyógyszerek, babahintőpor és más olyan dolgok szállítására – hiszen ezekre mind nagy szükség van. Sok menekült lesz, ahogy a kampány folytatódik, és úgy gondolom, hogy Izraelnek kötelessége beengedni a segélyeket és segíteni. Ugyanakkor nem Izrael felelőssége, hogy a Hamász tudatosan rejtegeti rakétavetőket és készleteket kórházakban és gyermekparkokban. Pontosan ez az oka annak, hogy Izrael a civileket evakuálásra szólította fel.

Végezetül itt van a túszok kérdése, amelynek a döntéshozók számára prioritást kellene élveznie. Ha a túszok többsége nem tér vissza biztonságban, az izraeliek kormányukba – és általában az államba – vetett bizalma komolyan meg fog inogni. Minél több idő telik el, annál kevesebb az esély arra, hogy szabadon engedik őket. Látom azokat a híreket – amelyek talán igazak, talán nem –, hogy Izrael elutasított bizonyos megállapodásokat, amelyek lehetővé tették volna, hogy a túszok egy része visszatérjen. Én nagyon nem értek egyet az ilyen jellegű intézkedésekkel. Úgy gondolom, hogy Izraelnek minden lehetőséget meg kell ragadnia arra, hogy megvédje a polgárait. Minden alkut el kell fogadnia – még akkor is, ha ez azt jelenti, hogy a Hamásznak ezzel némi haladékot ad, mielőtt felszámolná azt.

Kik lehetnek a lehetséges közvetítők, amikor a túszok Gázából való hazahozataláról van szó?

Szerintem Izraelnek el kellene fogadnia bármelyik kínálkozó közvetítő segítségét, de nem tudok arról, hogy eddig [november 12-én, az interjú készítésének időpontjában] sokan felajánlották volna a segítségüket. Csak Katarról és Egyiptomról tudok – és a Moszad ennek megfelelően már járt Dohában és Kairóban is. Sok más ország talán nem is tudja, hogyan tudna érdemi támogatást nyújtani. Nem tudom például, hogy az EU-nak van-e bármilyen eszköze egy túszügylet biztosítására. Tudomásom szerint az EU-nak nincs kapcsolata a Hamásszal, és csak azok az országok tudnak fellépni, amelyeknek van némi befolyásuk rá. Például Egyiptomnál van a rafahi határátkelő kulcsa, míg Katar volt az, aki a múltban a Hamász pénzügyi támogatásának nagy részét biztosította. Talán még Törökország is szerepet játszhatna, de jelenleg egyértelműen Izrael-ellenes álláspontot képvisel.

Categories: H. Green News

Free environmental magazines for schools

Ecologist - Thu, 11/23/2023 - 23:00
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Categories: H. Green News

Meet the Italian fugitive advising Emirati start-up Blue Carbon

Climate Change News - Thu, 11/23/2023 - 08:32

Living on a floating island off the Gulf, Samuele Landi advises a little-known company with big plans to shake up the carbon offsetting market.

Blue Carbon plans to take over forested areas the size of the United Kingdom and sell carbon credits from their conservation under a mechanism established by the UN. The UAE firm, chaired by a member of Dubai’s royal family, has been on a deal-making spree with African governments to make that happen.

The 58-year-old Italian is no forestry expert, but – he says – he was tapped by the company right after its launch a year ago because of his decades-long technology experience. In Dubai, Landi is known as the owner of a cybersecurity firm devising fully encrypted phones.

In his native country, Landi is a wanted man. He was convicted in two separate trials for a bankruptcy fraud that sank one of Italy’s largest telecommunications companies and left over 2,200 people without a job nearly 15 years ago.

Landi’s advisory role in Blue Carbon is likely to fuel concerns over the integrity of a company bidding to become a large player in a sector already plagued by environmental and social risks.

Blue Carbon did not respond to emailed questions. After Climate Home contacted the company, Landi emailed the reporter in a personal capacity and agreed to a video call. He rejected the legitimacy of the court judgments against him, alleging that Italian judges ruling over his case were corrupt.

Bankruptcy fraud

Samuele Landi was the founder and chief executive of Eutelia, an Italian company providing landline and internet services to millions of users across the country in the early 2000s.

The firm, which had ballooned in size through acquisitions, seemed set on a meteoric rise. But in 2008 cracks started to appear. Drowning in debt, Eutelia asked the government to place most of its workers in a state-funded job retention scheme while trying to restructure its activities.

But at the same time, according to court records, Samuele Landi and other senior executives illicitly moved funds worth dozens of millions of euros outside of Eutelia and into shell companies mainly based outside of Italy.

Shades of green hydrogen: EU demand set to transform Namibia

Eutelia went bankrupt. By the time Italian police moved in to arrest Landi in mid-2010, he had relocated to Dubai. At the time Italy had no extradition treaty with the UAE. Landi told Climate Home News he did not move to Dubai out of fear of being arrested but because he was looking for more freedom.

Landi never returned to Italy. Two separate trials against him and other executives went ahead in his absence. In one Samuele Landi was handed an 8-year prison sentence on bankruptcy fraud charges in 2020. In a second one, stemming from the bankruptcy of a company linked to Eutelia, the court of appeal in Rome sentenced him to 6 years and six months in prison at the end of October.

Landi said he had referred the first case to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming it was an unfair trial. He said he is going to appeal against the second sentence to the Italian Supreme Court. “There is no evidence. I did not steal one single euro”, he told Climate Home.

Liberian diplomat

While his legal troubles rumbled on in Italy, Landi started a new life in Dubai. He set up a cybersecurity company and became a diplomat, after being appointed as consul general in the UAE for the African state of Liberia.

Landi told Climate Home he “developed the diplomatic relations between the Liberian and the UAE governments”, which resulted in the construction of roads, hospitals and sports centers in the African nation over the last few years.

It is through this role that he first came in contact with people from Blue Carbon. Landi said he accompanied a delegation from Liberia to a meeting with Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, a member of the Dubai royal family and chairman of Blue Carbon. “When they formed the company a year ago they asked me to be their advisor”, Landi said. “I help them with information technology. Sometimes they call me to make evaluations on IT solutions.”

A screenshot from the Blue Carbon website

Liberia is one of the African countries that have signed a raft of memorandums of understanding with Blue Carbon in the run-up to Cop28, alongside the governments of Kenya, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. Landi said he was not directly involved in the negotiations between Blue Carbon and Liberia.

Blue Carbon’s African scramble

The deals, which are not yet definitive, could see the UAE firm gain control over more than 30 million hectares of forests across the countries. In Zimbabwe alone, it is set to secure rights over a fifth of its total landmass.

Blue Carbon plans to set up forestry protection schemes, produce carbon offsets on a never-seen-before scale and sell them to polluting governments and companies.

The firm is looking to operate under a new mechanism established by Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which is set to transform carbon markets. Blue Carbon wants to trade a specific type of credit, internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs), that can be used by governments to achieve emission reduction goals set out in their nationally determined contributions.


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A post shared by Blue Carbon LLC (@bluecarbondxb)

Blue Carbon’s foray into Africa has prompted numerous concerns.

Alexandra Benjamin, forest governance campaigner at Fern, calls Blue Carbon’s plans “a new scramble for Africa”.  “These deals, mostly struck under a veil of secrecy, aren’t just bad news for the climate, but for the lives and livelihoods of rural African communities, whose rights are threatened by them”, she added.

Civil society and indigenous groups fear communities will be forced to make way for the projects, losing control over land that constitutes their primary livelihoods. A number of forest protection offsetting projects – unrelated to Blue Carbon – have been suspended recently following allegations of abuse and forced evictions.

Exposed: carbon offsets linked to high forest loss still on sale

The second concern is that little money would actually end up in the hands of African governments and local communities, contrary to what the mechanism is set up to achieve.

Finally, there are worries that the unprecedented volume of credits created could end up greenwashing oil and gas operations without providing any meaningful emission reductions. Forestry offsetting programs have been hotly debated after a series of articles and scientific studies cast doubts over their climate integrity.

COP28 plans

Blue Carbon has said the deals will bring “vital environmental impacts” and “a transformative wave of economic opportunities” for the African countries signing on. Sheik Dalmook Al Maktoum told the Zimbabwean government the programme could bring $1.5 billion of climate finance into the country.

“Beyond the immediate goal of carbon emissions reduction, the heart of these carbon projects pulsates with the intent to bring about tangible improvements at the grassroots level,” the company added when announcing the agreement in Harare.

The company has indicated that more details about its carbon credit plans will be revealed at Cop28 in Dubai. It told CNN that it would present its deals at the climate summit as a “blueprint” for carbon trading.

Landi said he has no intention to take part in Cop28. Nearly a year ago he moved to a barge moored in the international waters off the Arabian coast with the goal to set up a so-called decentralized autonomous organisation.

“The idea is to create a place where people can stay without being subjected to the matrix,” he told Climate Home. “No one can say which kind of insects or fake meat you have to eat, which kind of injections you have to get. A libertarian state is very important.”

The post Meet the Italian fugitive advising Emirati start-up Blue Carbon appeared first on Climate Home News.

Categories: H. Green News


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