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Paris Climate Agreement

Talk, but no firm climate plans from G7 meetings in U.K.

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, June 14, 2021

The issue of global climate finance was seen as crucial to the success of the meetings of G7 leaders in the U.K. on June 11-13, as outlined in “As leaders gather for G-7, a key question: Will rich countries help poor ones grapple with climate change?” in The Washington Post (June 7). In the meeting aftermath, reaction is muted and disappointed: according to The Guardian headline, “G7 reaffirmed goals but failed to provide funds needed to reach them, experts say”. Guardian reporter Fiona Harvey quotes the executive director of Greenpeace, who says: “The G7 have failed to set us up for a successful Cop26, as trust is sorely lacking between rich and developing countries.” Common Dreams assembles the harshest reactions of all, in “On Climate and Covid-19 Emergencies, G7 Judged a ‘Colossal Failure’ for All the World to See” – which quotes the representative from Oxfam, who states that the leaders of the richest nations “have completely failed to meet the challenges of our times. Never in the history of the G7 has there been a bigger gap between their actions and the needs of the world. In the face of these challenges the G7 have chosen to cook the books on vaccines and continue to cook the planet.”

What did the G7 actually say? The G7 Leaders Communique covered a wide range of topics, with statements about health, economic recovery and jobs, free and fair trade, future frontiers, gender equality, global responsibility and international action – and Climate and the Environment. As well as the Communique, the G7 leaders approved the Build Back Better World (B3W) partnership, designed to mobilize private sector capital in four areas—climate, health and health security, digital technology, and gender equity and equality . The B3W statement explicitly states: “The investments will be made in a manner consistent with achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.” And in recognition of the importance of biodiversity and conservation in the climate fight, the 2030 G7 Nature Compact pledges new global targets to conserve or protect at least 30% of global land and ocean.

What’s Missing from the New IEA Report on Mining and the Renewable Energy Transition?

By Raquel Dominguez - Earthworks, June 14, 2021

The International Energy Agency sends a mixed message in its recent reports, urging that we leave fossil fuels in the ground while simultaneously calling for more extraction of metals used in low-carbon technologies. This extractivist push is both problematic and unnecessary: the world can achieve a clean energy transition without the kind of human rights catastrophes and environmental devastation that the mining industry currently considers acceptable. 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released two important reports in the past month. The first, Net Zero by 2050, notes that “there is no need for new investment in fossil fuel supply,” a conclusion that many in the climate movement, including Earthworks, have applauded. The second, The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions, undermines the “keep it in the ground” message of the first report by calling for more extraction in the form of metals mining. 

With the ever-increasing damage and injustices exacerbated by the climate crisis, the renewable energy transition is more urgent than ever. Demand for the “transition” minerals used in renewable energy technologies is in turn projected to increase sharply: according to the IEA, to meet the Paris Agreement goals, demand will rise (over the next 20 years) by more than 40% for copper and rare earth elements (REEs), 60-70% for nickel and cobalt, and more than 89% for lithium. Lithium-ion batteries need lithium, nickel, and cobalt (among other elements), wind turbines use REEs, and copper is used in all electricity-based technologies, due to its high rate of conductivity. 

These aren’t new projections: our own 2019 publication on this issue based on research by the University of Technology, Sydney, pointed to similar trendlines. This steep upward trajectory in minerals demand could be devastating for communities and ecosystems in the regions where these minerals are extracted. Hardrock mining has a long, terrible history as a tool of colonization and imperialism; in the United States alone, mining has accompanied and driven western settlement, which killed untold numbers of Indigenous peoples, breaking multiple treaties with Indigenous peoples, contaminating more than 40% of western watersheds’ headwaters, and directly causing the deaths of many members of mining-affected communities from cancer. Mining is the country’s leading industrial toxic polluter, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions, according to the UN Environment Programme.

But the social and environmental harm brought on by mining is not a thing of the past: in the Olaroz salt flat in Argentina, Indigenous peoples “that own the land struggle to pay for sewage systems, drinking water and heat for schools” even as Minera Exar anticipates making $250 million per year by mining lithium; in Australia, Rio Tinto blew up the Juukan Gorge, which is sacred to the Puutu Kunti Kuurama and Pinikura peoples and which had evidence of continuous habitation for more than 46,000 years, in pursuit of iron ore. There are hundreds of stories just like these, some of them which are detailed in our recent report, Recharge Responsibly, happening all over the world—and this environmental injustice will continue apace if recycling and reuse, alongside other demand reduction strategies and more responsible primary sourcing, are not prioritized as part of a clean energy transition.

It doesn’t have to be this way...

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'Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy' Shows Transition to Renewable Future Totally Doable

By Andrea Germanos - Common Dreams, June 10, 2021

Ditching fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy in order to keep warming below the 1.5ºC threshold is both "necessary and technically feasible."

That's the conclusion of an analysis released Thursday entitled Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy. Produced by the University of Technology Sydney's Institute for Sustainable Futures in cooperation with the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, the report states clearly that "there is no need for more fossil fuels" because the world is overflowing with renewable energy capacity.

Such a pathway, said Sanjay Vashist, director of Climate Action Network South Asia, would avert a "criminal waste of money" that would "have devastating climate and humanitarian consequences."

A key point in the analysis is that simply stopping the industry's planned expansion of fossil fuel projects is insufficient to meet the Paris climate agreement's temperature goal and would actually "push warming well above 1.5ºC."

With this angle, the new analysis goes beyond the International Energy Agency's report last month calling for no oil and gas expansion in order to meet a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. That's because even if there were no expansion, the report's projections show, the world would produce 35% more oil and 69% more coal than is consistent with meeting the 1.5°C target.

As such, Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy lays out a dirty energy phaseout with an annual decline of 9.5% for coal, 8.5% for oil, 3.5% for gas from 2021-2030.

Get Fossil Fuels Out of Our Pension, Say Environmental Protection Workers

By Saurav Sarkar - Labor Notes, June 3, 2021

Not long ago, workers at the Environmental Protection Agency were battling the Trump Administration’s many attempts to interfere with both their agency’s mission and their rights on the job.

Under Trump, the EPA reduced union officials’ official time, restricted the ability to bring grievances, and took away office, meeting, and storage space. Now, with most of those changes undone and the Trump era behind them, EPA workers have begun to work towards a different goal: divesting their federal retirement investment program—the world’s largest defined-contribution plan—from fossil fuel stocks.

“For EPA employees, this is something that is near and dear to our hearts,” said Nicole Cantello, an EPA lawyer and president of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 704.

EPA workers issue and enforce regulations, make grants, conduct research and education, and provide technical assistance for environmental cleanup. They’re probably more aware than most workers of the urgency of the climate crisis, given that they collect greenhouse gas data, regulate vehicle emissions, and educate the public about the issue.

Even limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels—the goal of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement—will result, according to a landmark 2018 U.N. report, in heat waves, more droughts, more intense hurricanes and flooding, a rise in sea levels, harm to ecosystems, lower food crop yields, deforestation, and other damaging consequences.

An increase of 2 degrees or more will have far more devastating effects.

So it’s no wonder EPA workers aren’t happy, about, as Cantello put it, “being forced to invest in instruments that have fossil fuels and [greenhouse gas] emissions that are attached them.”

Can Carbon Capture Save Our Climate— and Our Jobs?

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, June 2021

As storms, heat waves, fires, floods, and other devastating effects of global warming have grown, more and more people have become convinced of the need to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted into the atmosphere. The Paris Agreement defined the goal of limiting global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. At the April Climate Summit President Joe Biden announced the U.S. will target reducing emissions by 50-52 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. These goals indicate what the consensus of climate scientists says is necessary to ward off the most destructive possible effects of climate change. The question remains how to realize them.

There are two well established and proven means to reduce GHG emissions. The first is to replace the burning of fossil fuels with renewable energy from solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal sources. The other is to reduce the amount of energy we need through a myriad proven means ranging from switching from gasoline to electric vehicles to insulating houses. Numerous studies and thousands of implementations lay out the scientific and economic effectiveness of protecting the climate by reducing fossil fuel emissions.

There is a third means that is being promoted: continue burning fossil fuels but capture carbon–the principal greenhouse gas–either in the smokestack or by sucking it out of the air after it has been released. Various techniques for doing this have been developed with various names–carbon capture and storage (CCS), carbon capture and utilization (CCU), bioenergy with CCS (BECCS), and direct air capture with CCS (DACCS). We will refer to them together as “carbon capture.”

There is a debate in the climate and labor movements about the use of carbon capture as a climate solution. Some maintain that carbon capture is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They argue as well that it can be a way to save the jobs of coal miners and fossil-fuel power plant workers and provide power needed for industry while still protecting the climate and that it will create large numbers of jobs. Others say that carbon capture is unproven, costly, problematic for health and the environment, more productive of jobs, and ineffective for climate protection. They argue that renewable energy and energy efficiency are superior both for climate and for workers and communities. They maintain that a transition to fossil-free energy is already underway and that organized labor and the climate movement should take the lead in ensuring that transition benefits rather than harms workers.

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Green Economy, Green Capitalism? The Case Against The Case for Climate Capitalism

By Nick Grover - The Bullet, May 14, 2021

Even now, with a ten-year timeframe left for action, it’s rare for the climate crisis to be treated as the emergency it is. So, credit where due to Tom Rand. In his The Case for Climate Capitalism: Economic Solutions for a Planet in Crisis (Toronto: ECW Press, 2020), Rand calls for a rapid transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewables; he blames the political and business elite for the mess and says they will have to pay the price as markets turn against oil and assets are stranded; he even advocates for expansion of public transit. Where the book gets less refreshing is Rand’s tone toward the people who have been saying these things all along: his secondary enemy, leftists fusing demands for climate action with calls for economic justice.

Rand’s Case for Climate Capitalism aims to preserve and “co-opt” the forces of capitalism to usher in a transition toward green tech. His case is presented as simple pragmatism: the emergency we face affords us no time to discuss economic reforms; we must unite and do what works instead of holding out for a perfect system. His concern is that left ideas like the Green New Deal and Leap Manifesto – which wed strong climate action with job guarantees, labour protections, taxing the rich, and expanding social programs – alienate conservatives and the business class when we need them in our coalition to save the planet.

Reducing new mining for electric vehicle battery metals: responsible sourcing through demand reduction strategies and recycling

By Elsa Dominish, Nick Florin, and Rachael Wakefield-Rann - Earthworks, April 27, 2021

This research investigates the current status and future potential of strategies to reduce demand for new mining, particularly for lithium-ion battery metals for electric vehicles. This study is focused on four metals which are important to lithium-ion batteries: cobalt, lithium, nickel and copper.

In order to meet the goals of the Paris Climate agreement and prevent the worst effects of catastrophic climate change, it will be essential for economies to swiftly transition to renewable energy and transport systems. At present, the technologies required to produce, store and utilize renewable energy require a significant amount of materials that are found predominantly in environmentally sensitive and often economically marginalized regions of the world. As demand for these materials increase, the pressures on these regions are likely to be amplified. For renewable energy to be socially and ecologically sustainable, industry and government should develop and support responsible management strategies that reduce the adverse impacts along the material and technology supply chains.

There are a range of strategies to minimize the need for new mining for lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, including extending product life through improved design and refurbishment for reuse, and recovering metals through recycling at end of life. For example, we found that recycling has the potential to reduce primary demand compared to total demand in 2040, by approximately 25% for lithium, 35% for cobalt and nickel and 55% for copper, based on projected demand. This creates an opportunity to significantly reduce the demand for new mining. However, in the context of growing demand for electric vehicles, it will also be important that other demand reduction strategies with lower overall material and energy costs are pursued in tandem with recycling, including policy to dis-incentivize private car ownership and make forms of active and public transport more accessible. While the potential for these strategies to reduce demand is currently not well understood; this report provides insights into the relative merits, viability, and implications of these demand reduction strategies, and offers recommendations for key areas of policy action.

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Governments’ failure to live up to Paris Agreement promises puts planet stability at risk

By staff - International Trade Union Confederation, April 21, 2021

In total, 136 governments were due to submit enhanced National Determined Contributions (NDCs), but only 79 have done so. The ITUC has been publishing scorecards on each plan here.

Of the 79 NDCs submitted, the ITUC analysis found that

  • 20 NDCs (25%) have ambitious climate plans;
  • 10 NDCs (8%) have Just Transition plans; and
  • 16 NDCs (13%) use social dialogue.

The ten worst countries for climate ambition and Just Transition are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia and South Korea.

Two of the biggest countries, the USA and China, could announce their latest plans this week.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “Six years since the Paris Agreement was signed and the day before Earth Day, this isn’t good enough. The richest countries of the world should be taking the lead, not dragging behind.

“Only one in four countries have ambitious climate plans, and nearly nine out of ten countries are denying working people and communities a say in their own future by not using social dialogue.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to all of us and we need NDCs from all governments now, with strong Just Transition plans and social dialogue at their centre. For workers this means climate-friendly jobs that transition from fading employment sectors to new, growing industries. Working people deserve nothing less.”

  • The countries that show the most ambitious climate plans: Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Kenya, Moldova, Rwanda and Suriname.
  • The countries with credible Just Transition plans: Argentina, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, European Union (EU), Germany, Kenya, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Suriname.
  • The countries using social dialogue: Argentina, Costa Rica, Denmark, EU, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Poland, Spain and the UK.

The EU is taking an important step with its recovery package that includes a Just Transition Fund to direct $21 billion to fossil fuel and carbon-intensive regions most impacted by the energy transition.

Kenya explicitly refers to Just Transition in its NDCs submission, and the government is consulting workers’ unions about its plans.

Costa Rica’s NDC submission includes a Just Transition plan and a commitment to tripart social dialogue between the government, working people and employers.

“These countries show what is possible. Mentioning the words ‘Just Transition’ is not enough. Credible plans need to involve dialogue with unions and stakeholders. Our unions are ready to sit down and work together in Just Transition plans.

“Just Transition is the bridge to a fossil-free economy. If we are going to transition every industry, and we must, in line with achieving net-zero emissions, then we need to make that transition just. That requires unions to be at the table to develop an agreed plan that gives workers a secure future.

“There is no excuse for not delivering NDCs that meet our three criteria: ambitious climate plans, Just Transition plans and social dialogue. We will continue to expose governments that are not pulling their weight and push them to do better in this race against time,” added Sharan Burrow.

Beyond the Growth Imperative

By Olaf Bruns - Green European Journal, April 13, 2021

For 30 years, environmental economist Tim Jackson has been at the fore of international debates on sustainability. Over a decade since his hugely influential Prosperity Without Growth, the world is both much changed – reeling from a pandemic and with unprecedented prominence for environmental issues – and maddeningly the same, still locked in a growth-driven destructive spiral. What does Jackson’s latest contribution, Post Growth, have to say about the way out of the dilemma?

Tim Jackson’s new book, Post Growth: Life after Capitalism (Polity Press, 2021), follows his ground-breaking Prosperity without Growth (2009, updated in 2017). Whilst the previous work reflected, partly, the austerity-driven answers to the Great Recession, Post Growth falls into a different world. It is a world where the recognition of climate change as the greatest challenge facing humankind is moving towards consensus. In the United States, even the Republican Party’s younger members are looking for ways out of the corner into which the party has manoeuvred itself.

It is also a world where the Covid-19 pandemic has not only taken many lives and destroyed many livelihoods, but – via the need for state intervention – has also dealt a blow to the gung-ho neoliberalism that is one of the main culprits of financial chaos and the looming breakdown of planetary life-support systems.

US President Joe Biden’s rescue plan as well as the EU’s Next Generation pandemic recovery fund are questioning the free-market paradigm that has held sway the since the Reagan-Thatcher area, and that had trickled down into centre-left politics as well. In parallel, from the Paris Agreement to the European Commission’s European Green Deal, environmental concerns that were condescendingly smiled upon until recently have now moved centre stage. The newly discovered role for the state and the emerging environmental consciousness might not be discussed at length in Jackson’s new book, but they are the backdrop against which it is to be read.

Hoodwinked in the Hothouse (Third Edition)

Edited by Lucia Amorelli, Dylan Gibson, Tamra Gilbertson, the Indigenous Environmental Network, et. al. - Various Organizations (see below), April, 2021

Authored by grassroots, veteran organizers, movement strategists and thought leaders from across our climate and environmental justice movements, the third edition of Hoodwinked in the Hothouse is an easy-to-read, concise-yet-comprehensive compendium of the false corporate promises that continue to hoodwink elected officials and the public, leading us down risky pathways poised to waste billions of public dollars on a host of corporate snake-oil schemes and market-based mechanisms. These false solutions distract from the real solutions that serve our most urgent needs in an alarming climate justice moment of no-turning-back. By uncovering the pitfalls and risky investments being advanced by disaster capitalists to serve the needs of the biggest polluters on the planet, Hoodwinked also provides a robust framework for understanding the depth of real solutions and how they should be determined. As a pop-ed toolbox, Hoodwinked promises to be instructive for activists, impacted communities and organizers, while providing elected officials with critical lenses to examine a complex, technocratic field of climate change policy strategies, from local to national and international arenas.

The second version of Hoodwinked in the Hothouse was released in 2009 as a pop-ed zine collaboratively produced by Rising Tide North America and Carbon Trade Watch with the Indigenous Environmental Network and a number of allied environmental justice and climate action organizers leading up to the 2009 United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen (COP 15). During that mobilization and in years since, this zine has played a major role in raising awareness across climate movements around the world – both helping frontline organizers in their fights against destructive energy proposals and shifting policy positions of large non-governmental organizations.

With the proliferation of false solutions in the Paris Climate Agreement, national and subnational climate plans, the third edition of Hoodwinked in the Hothouse aims to provide a resource that dismantles the barriers to building a just transition and a livable future.

Includes contributions from the following organizations:

  • Biofuelwatch
  • Energy Justice Network
  • Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
  • ETC Group
  • Global Justice Ecology Project
  • Indigenous Climate Action
  • Indigenous Environmental Network
  • Just Transition Alliance
  • La Via Campesina
  • Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project
  • Mt. Diablo Rising Tide
  • Mutual Aid Disaster Relief
  • North American Megadam Resistance Alliance
  • Nuclear Information and Resource Service
  • Rising Tide North America
  • Shaping Change Collaborative

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