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Beyond Coal: Scaling Up Clean Energy to Fight Global Poverty

By lmi Granoff, et. al. - Overseas Development Institute, 2016

Eradicating global poverty is within reach, but under threat from a changing climate. Left unchecked, climate change will put at risk our ability to lift people out of extreme poverty permanently by 2030, the first target of the Sustainable Development Goals. Coal is the world’s number one source of CO2 emissions. Most historic emissions came from the coal industry in the developed world in the last century, with China joining the biggest emitters at the beginning of this one. It is widely accepted that a rapid and just response to climate change will require the urgent replacement of coal with low-carbon energy sources in rich economies.

Now the coal industry claims that expanding coal use is critical to fighting extreme poverty and improving energy access for billions of people in developing countries. In fact, the opposite is true. The global commitment to eradicate extreme poverty and energy poverty by 2030 does not require such an expansion and it is incompatible with stabilising the earth’s climate. The evidence is clear: a lasting solution to poverty requires the world’s wealthiest economies to renounce coal, and we can and must end extreme poverty without the precipitous expansion of new coal power in developing ones.

This paper explores the role of energy in fighting poverty, arguing that:

  • More coal will not end energy poverty
  • Coal is given too much credit for the reduction of extreme poverty
  • Better energy options exist to lift people out of income poverty
  • More coal will entrench poverty.

Read the report (EN PDF) | (JA PDF) | (ZH PDF).

We Are Mother Earth’s Red Line: Frontline Communities Lead the Climate Justice Fight Beyond the Paris Agreement

By staff - It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm - January 2016

The Paris Climate Agreement of December 2015 is a dangerous distraction that threatens all of us. Marked by the heavy influence of the fossil fuel industry, the deal reached at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) never mentions the need to curb extractive energy, and sets goals far below those needed to avert a global catastrophe. The agreement signed by 196 countries does acknowledge the global urgency of the climate crisis, and reflects the strength of the climate movement. But the accord ignores the roots of the crisis, and the very people who have the experience and determination to solve it.

Around the world, negotiators use the term “red line” to signify a figurative point of no return or a limit past which safety can no longer be guaranteed. Our communities, whose very survival is most directly impacted by climate change, have become a living red line. We have been facing the reality of the climate crisis for decades. Our air and water are being poisoned by fossil fuel extraction, our livelihoods are threatened by floods and drought, our communities are the hardest hit and the least protected in extreme weather events—and our demands for our survival and for the rights of future generations are pushing local, national, and global leaders towards real solutions to the climate crisis.

We brought these demands to the UNFCCC 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) as members of the delegation called “It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm.” Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ), the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), and the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) organized the delegation, which included leaders and organizers from more than 100 US and Canadian grassroots and Indigenous groups. We helped to mobilize the thousands of people who took to the streets of Paris during the COP21, despite a ban on public protest—and amplified the pressure that Indigenous Peoples, civil society, and grassroots movements have built throughout the 21 years of UN climate talks.

The Paris Agreement coming out of the COP21 allows emissions from fossil fuels to continue at levels that endanger life on the planet, demonstrating just how strongly world leaders are tied to the fossil fuel industry and policies of economic globalization. The emphasis within the UNFCCC process on the strategies of carbon markets consisting of offsets and pollution trading created an atmosphere within the COP21 of business more than regulation. The result is a Paris Agreement that lets developed countries continue to emit dangerously high levels of greenhouse gasses; relies on imaginary technofixes and pollution cap-and-trade schemes that allow big polluters to continue polluting at the source, and results in land grabs and violations of human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our analysis of the Paris Agreement echoes critiques from social movements around the world, led by those most impacted by both climate disruption and the false promises that governments and corporate interests promote in its wake.

“Frontline communities” are the peoples living directly alongside fossil-fuel pollution and extraction—overwhelmingly Indigenous Peoples, Black, Latino, Asian and Pacific Islander peoples in working class, poor, and peasant communities in the US and around the world. In climate disruption and extreme weather events, we are hit first and worst.

We are Mother Earth’s red line. We don’t have the luxury of settling for industry or politicians’ hype or half measures. We know it takes roots to weather the storm and that’s why we are building a people’s climate movement rooted in our communities. We are the frontlines of the solution: keeping fossil fuels in the ground and transforming the economy with innovative, community-led solutions.

Eviction of Mobile Home Park for Fracking Water

By Alex Lotorto - Energy Justice Network, September 2, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Riverdale Mobile Home Park was located on the Susquehanna River in Piatt Township, Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. Residents were ordered to leave the park in March 2012 by Aqua PVR LLC, a project of Aqua America, a private water utility, and Penn Virginia Resources, a natural gas pipeline company.

The property was purchased in order to build a water withdrawal pump station and water line that would withdraw three million gallons per day for use in hydraulic fracturing by Range Resources, a Texas-based Marcellus shale drilling company. Each shale gas well requires five to nine million gallons of water to force open the rock, allowing the gas to flow out.

Aqua America's facility takes 6,000 water truck trips off the road each day, according to Aqua America, which displaced truck drivers, parts suppliers, fuel deliverers, mechanics, and service employees from their jobs in Lycoming County. The Marcellus shale industry hasn't proposed any relief, solution, or alternative to this loss of employment opportunities for Pennsylvania residents.

The facility's two permits were approved by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, a federal commission made up of Governors Corbett (R-PA), Cuomo (D-NY), O'Malley (D-MD), and President Obama.

The capacity of the park was 37 units and in March 2012, 32 families lived there. The initial offer from Aqua America included $2,500 for residents to move by April 1 and $1,200 for residents to move by May 1.

Immediately after the tragic story of Riverdale hit the press with the help of volunteers, Aqua America extended the deadline for $2,500 in compensation until June 1st.

A series of town halls, vigils, and picnics were organized by residents with some help from volunteers from around northeast and central Pennsylvania in opposition to the project. Residents and allies even held protests at Aqua America's headquarters in Bryn Mawr, at their shareholder meeting, and in front of Aqua's CEO Nick DeBenedictis' mansion in Ardmore.

Unfortunately, many residents felt forced to leave the park for reasons including fear of losing the $2,500 offer, uncertainty of what Aqua would do on June 1, and termination of their leases.

Fracking Frenzy: How the Fracking Industry is Threatening the Planet

By Robert Galbraith, Gin Armstrong, and Kevin Connor - Public Accountability Initiative, February 2015

The global development of ‘unconventional’ fossil fuels (UFF) such as shale gas has provoked much debate involving scientists,industry, political decision-makers, environmental groups and civil society. More than a decade of large- scale development in North America has left a legacy of environmental damage, primarily resulting from the use of high- volume horizontal hydraulic-fracturing (also known as ‘fracking’) to extract the unconventional oil and gas. Despite the controversy surrounding this technique, the numerous unknowns and uncertainties concerning its impacts and the growing number of questions about the economic benefits of this industry, oil and gas operators are eager to identify new opportunities and so are engaged in a battle to make frackingpublicly and socially acceptable worldwide.

Read the report (PDF).

Uranium Mining: Unveiling the impacts of the nuclear industry

By Bruno Chareyron, et. al. - Ejolt, November 15, 2014

Uranium mining and milling comprise the first phase of the nuclear fuel cycle, and is one of the most polluting ones. The aim of this report is to give workers and communities basic information about radioprotection. The document deals with the radiological characteristics of materials and waste from the mines, principles of radiation protection, and methods of dose evaluation.

The report draws from on-site studies performed in Bulgaria, Brazil, Namibia and Malawi in the course of the EJOLT project and from previous studies performed by CRIIRAD in France and Africa over the last twenty years. It gives examples of the various impacts of uranium mining and milling activities on the environment (air, soil, water) and provides recommendations for limiting these impacts.

This report aims to contribute towards the development of the critical capacities of communities, so that they might have more information with which to face conflicts with states or companies in relation to uranium mining projects.

Read the report (PDF).

Remembering the Deadly Donora Smog

By Kari Lydersen - In These Times, October 27, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

DONORA, PA — Forty-six years ago this week, a thick noxious cloud enveloped Donora, a steel mill town on a lush hillside above the Monongahela River 37 miles south of Pittsburgh. Residents were used to pollution from the town’s cluster of industries that formed the bedrock of the region’s economy making steel, wire and nails.

They were used to plumes of smoke billowing into the sky and seeing everything covered in red dust from the iron ore used to make steel, as Charles Stacey, a long-time resident, teacher and local historian, told In These Times on a visit in June.  

Stacey grew up by the river across from the Donora Zinc Works, where no vegetation grew because of the fumes.

“I didn’t see grass until I was 50,” he says. “Air pollution was a way of life in Donora. You put your hand out and you couldn’t see the tip of your fingers. You could trip off a curb because you couldn’t see. But usually by lunchtime, the wind would blow it away.”

On October 26, 1948, a Tuesday, the cloud did not move by lunchtime or by evening. The cloud didn’t lift the next day, or the next. The annual Halloween parade was held on Friday as usual, but you couldn’t see across the street. People struggled to breathe during the high school football game on Saturday.

Stacey, who was 16 at the time, described valiant firefighters going house to house checking on residents, carrying oxygen tanks, crawling and feeling their way along the streets they had grown up on because walking made it too difficult to see and breathe.

Investigations would later confirm that a temperature inversion, a layer of warm air hovering above the valley, was preventing the dissipation of air pollution from the mills—specifically from Donora Zinc Works, which produced a toxic blend of sulfuric acid, nitrogen dioxide, fluoride and other compounds.

Officials at U.S. Steel Corp., owner of the mills and the zinc works, maintained that the situation was not caused by their operations. For several days, the company refused to shut down despite public pleas to do so. The zinc works finally halted operations on Sunday. After a rain fell soon afterwards, the air began to clear.

At least 20 deaths were attributed to the pollution, and up to 7,000 people fell ill or were hospitalized. The total death toll could be pegged at more than 70, according to some reports, by comparing normal mortality rates with rates in the month following. The incident became known as the Donora Smog.

Read the entire article, here.

Corporate Conquistadors the Many Ways Multinationals Both Drive and Profit from Climate Destruction

By Philippa de Boissière, et. al. - The Democracy Center, November 2014

Multinational corporations are relentlessly expanding their operations into ever more vulnerable and remote regions of the planet. As they do so they both drive the climate crisis and exacerbate its impacts. They bear responsibility for a global crisis which affects us all, and they bring social and environmental destruction to the local communities where they operate. A further legacy of their oil drilling, industrial mining and mega hydroelectric projects is the erosion of those communities’ resilience just as the impacts of climate change begin to take effect. These same multinationals are also the biggest barrier to meaningful action on climate change, blocking urgently needed regulations and genuine transformational solutions.

Despite this, corporations are gaining increasing access to climate policy-making spaces, both at national and international level, allowing them to put forward their own so-called ‘solutions’. But their market-based techno-fixes are not aimed at tack-ling the crisis at all. Rather, they allow the biggest polluters to line their pockets with public money while continuing with business as usual. Denouncing the connections between corporations and our decision makers, and delegitimising their seat at the table, is crucial if we are to chart a different course.

At the UN climate talks (the UNFCCC), twenty years of negotiating have failed to solve the crisis. This is due, in large part, to the corporate capture of national- level government policy and of the UN process itself. In 2014 negotiators will meet in Peru at the heart of one of the world’s regions most vulnerable to climate change and already one of the hardest hit. In the Amazon and the Andes forests are being destroyed, glaciers are melting and climate patterns are changing at an alarming pace. Communities living in these regions are seeing their natural support systems and means of survival irreversibly damaged.

Read the report (PDF).

Billionaires' Carbon Bomb: The Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL Pipeline

By staff - International Forum on Globalization, November 2014

THE INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON GLOBALIZATION’S earlier report, Faces Behind a Global Crisis: U.S. Carbon Billionaires and the U.N. Climate Deadlock followed the flow of fossil fuels industry funds to find that Charles and David Koch are, in fact, the single largest financiers of efforts to stop the phase out of fossil fuels. This report reveals one reason for their spending: the Kochs’ enormous investments in tar sands could become “stranded assets” if Keystone XL, the Alberta Clipper, and other important infrastructure for tar sands expansion is not approved.

With more money (a combined net worth of $100B) than the world’s wealthiest man, Bill Gates ($86B) the Kochs outspent all other oil companies, even Exxon, in campaign contributions, lobbying expenses, denialist science, and myriad other activities since 1999 to stop solutions to today’s quickening global climate crisis.1 Unprecedented financial wealth combined with the Kochs’ fanatical belief in what they call “economic freedom” made them top spenders in the 2012 and 2014 U.S. elections. The Kochs have spent well over $22 million on traceable campaign donations since 1990, and almost four times that amount—about $76 million—on their lobbying expenditures since 1998 alone. This number does not include the vast sums of dark money moved through their web of influence, as mapped by IFG’s Kochtopus, and monitored by KochProblem.org, online tools to follow the Koch Cash moving through their influence network.

Since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, “Koch Cash” has bought a radical faction in Congress that has seized the power of the purse, shrunk government by 8% via the sequestration, and restricted U.S. action on climate to President Obama’s narrow administrative authorities, which the Kochs are currently countering in court. Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on Koch-introduced legal cases have involved judges too friendly with the Kochs. These rulings undermine the legitimacy of the Court, the current composition of which is slated to continue to rule in the Kochs’ favor.

Read the report (Link).

Walmart’s Dirty Energy Secret: How the Company’s Slick Greenwashing Hides its Massive Coal Consumption

By Stacy Mitchell and Walter Wuthmann - Institute for Local Self reliance, November 2014

In October 2014, at an event broadcast live from Walmart’s Arkansas headquarters, the company’s top executives took the stage to extol its environmental leadership. The announcements they made that day would be covered widely by the press, including the Boston Globe, Guardian, and New York Times.

The event opened with a video listing Walmart’s achievements over the preceding months: “We signed our largest multi-state solar power purchase agreement,” the narrator says, over a shot of workers installing new, glossy solar panels. “We were recognized by President Obama for announcing that we will double the number of on-site solar energy projects.” Then Walmart’s CEO, Doug McMillon, and its vice president of sustainability, Manuel Gomez, addressed the crowd. “You get one point for launching a goal,” said Gomez, “and nine points for execution... and what you saw in the video is exactly what we’re doing: executing against these goals.”

But off the stage and out in the real world, Walmart’s sustainability initiatives are heavy on admiration-inducing goals and astonishingly light on execution. Nearly a decade ago, the company pledged to shift to 100 percent renewable energy and acknowledged its responsibility to reduce its climate emissions as quickly as possible. Today, however, Walmart remains as deeply committed as ever to the dirtiest fuels, especially coal. It derives only 3 percent of its U.S. electricity from its renewable energy projects, down from 4 percent two years ago.

In this first-of-its-kind analysis, ILSR provides new information about Walmart’s energy mix and environmental footprint. We calculate the total electricity use, coal-fired power consumption, and resulting carbon emissions of every Walmart store and distribution center in the country in 2013. We also evaluate the company’s renewable energy projects, finding that they are too small and located in the wrong places to have much of an impact on Walmart’s coal use and climate emissions.

Our analysis finds that Walmart’s electricity consumption entails burning a staggering amount of coal: 4.2 million tons a year. That’s enough to give every kid in America a stocking filled with 126 pounds of the sooty stuff as a holiday present. Or, to measure it another way: If you dumped coal on a football field, you’d have to pile it 35 feet high, from end-zone to end-zone, just to power Walmart’s U.S. stores for one week. Walmart sources more of its electricity from coal (40 percent) than the U.S. as a whole (39 percent) — a remarkable fact for a company that has touted its environmental responsibility for years. Indeed, we find that Walmart alone consumes 0.5 percent of all the electricity produced from coal in U.S., a stunning figure given the size of the entire national economy and population.

Read the report (PDF).

The Fossil Fuel Bailout: G20 Subsidies for Oil, Gas and Coal Exploration

By Elizabeth Bast, Shakuntala Makhijani, Sam Pickard, and Shelagh Whitley - Oil Change International, November 2014

Governments across the G20 countries are estimated to be spending $88 billion every year subsidising exploration for fossil fuels. Their exploration subsidies marry bad economics with potentially disastrous consequences for climate change. In effect, governments are propping up the development of oil, gas and coal reserves that cannot be exploited if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.

This report documents, for the first time, the scale and structure of fossil fuel exploration subsidies in the G20 countries. The evidence points to a publicly financed bailout for carbon-intensive companies, and support for uneconomic investments that could drive the planet far beyond the internationally agreed target of limiting global temperature increases to no more than 2ºC.

It finds that, by providing subsidies for fossil fuel exploration, the G20 countries are creating a ‘triple-lose’ scenario. They are directing large volumes of finance into high-carbon assets that cannot be exploited without catastrophic climate effects. They are diverting investment from economic low-carbon alternatives such as solar, wind and hydro-power. And they are undermining the prospects for an ambitious climate deal in 2015.

Read the report (PDF).

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