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The Climate Contradictions of Gary Smith

By Paul Atkin - Greener Jobs Alliance, September 21, 2023

In agreeing to be interviewed by the Spectator under the title the folly of Net Zero GMB General Secretary Gary Smith lets his members down; not least because remarks like these from a leading trade unionist help give Rishi Sunak encouragement to accelerate his retreat from the government’s already inadequate climate targets.

The phrase “the folly of Net Zero” makes as much sense as “the folly of getting into the lifeboats when the ship is sinking”

Difficulties in making a transition to sustainability does not mean that making it isn’t essential, and the faster we move the less damage is done. We can see that damage all around us even now. 

Gary doesn’t seem to get this, any more than Rishi Sunak does, and he latches on to some of the same lines as the PM does, albeit with a more pungent turn of phrase. To go through these point by point, quotes are either directly from Gary Smith or the Spectator.

10th Annual Anti-Chevron Day

What a World Beyond Fossil Fuels Will Mean for Workers, Families, and Communities

‘Sustainable’ pension funds accused of greenwashing over billions held in oil and gas firms

By James Tapper - The Guardian, May 14, 2023

People investing their pensions in funds that claim green credentials are being warned they may actually be backing the world’s largest oil and gas companies.

Carbon Tracker Initiative said that asset managers have invested $376bn (£295bn) in oil and gas companies, despite publicly pledging to back efforts to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C. The environmental thinktank based in London and New York found that more than 160 funds with a green label held $4.6bn in 15 companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron and TotalEnergies.

It also found that 25 members of the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative had invested in those companies and some had increased their holdings in 2022. NZAM said its international initiative started two years ago and investors needed time to change their strategies.

The warning comes as the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority prepares to publish anti-greenwashing rules that are intended to clean up how investment funds are labelled.

Destruction is at the heart of everything we do: Chevron’s junk climate action agenda and how it intensifies global harm

By Rachel Rose Jackson and Adrien Tofighi-Niaki - Corporate Accountability, May 2023

This exposé brings into question Chevron’s proclaimed climate action and ‘green’ image. Analysis of the activities associated with Chevron’s ‘net zero’ climate action plan raises significant concerns about whether its ‘climate action’ is displacing the needed emissions reductions to avoid climate catastrophe, spurring harm to communities and ecosystems, and further hindering the likelihood of meaningful climate action globally.

Key findings this research yielded:

  • More than 90% of the carbon offsets Chevron has retired through the voluntary carbon market to ‘cancel out’ its emissions seem to be worthless— presumed ‘junk’ until proven otherwise.
  • The technological ‘low carbon’ schemes appear to be failing to capture the emissions promised, in some cases missing targets by as much as 50%.
  • A major proportion of the schemes it’s investing in as part of its ‘net zero’ plan are linked to claims of local community abuse, environmental degradation, and/or may even be fueling further emissions. Almost all of the harm claimed to have been inflicted is on communities in the Global South.
  • Chevron’s ‘net zero’ pledge—even if fully implemented to the greatest effect without causing harm—overlooks 90% of the total emissions associated with its business practices.
  • Chevron is ignoring the scientifically founded need for a fossil fuel phase out, projecting emissions for 2022-2025 equivalent to that of 10 European countries during a similar period.
  • It invests millions annually to manipulate the political will for climate action, seeking to shape climate policy to its will.

It’s imperative that shareholders, policymakers, and the public see Chevron’s green claims for what they are—greenwashed destruction. As this exposé illustrates, Chevron appears to be continuing its legacy of preventing, not promoting, the legally binding regulations, the rapid deployment of real solutions and the fast track to Real Zero emissions that needs to happen to avert climate catastrophe.

Download a copy of this publication here (link).

We Must Ask: Does Fossil Fuel Divestment Work?

By Ted Franklin - Common Dreams, April 4, 2023

As it hits its 10th year, the divestment movement claims many moral victories, yet fossil fuel companies keep booming and carbon keeps rising. Divestment fails to turn off the taps.

"After a decade of action, we are making a difference in the fight against climate change,"proclaims DivestInvest, the global divestment network. Dozens of leading climate organizations from 350.org to the World Council of Churches have enlisted as core partners or endorsers of DivestInvest.

According to DivestInvest's website, 1,585 institutions have publicly committed to "at least some form" of fossil fuel divestment, representing an enormous $39.2 trillion of assets under management.

"That's as if the two biggest economies in the world, the United States and China, combined, chose to divest from fossil fuels," the site goes on.

DivestInvest's 2021 glossy prospectus intimates that, thanks to divestment, the fossil fuel industry has begun to collapse. At the very least, oil and gas moguls should be trembling with fear that divestment activists will soon force them to close their spigots and relinquish their financial and political power.

If only this were true.

The balance sheets of the fossil fuel companies say otherwise. Instead of the industry tailspin portrayed in DivestInvest's report, the fossil fuel giants are awash in record profits. In 2021, The Hillreports, "the four largest oil and gas companies made over $75 billion in profits, returned billions to their shareholders through record dividends and share buybacks, and handed out millions in compensation to their chief executive officers."

Certified Disaster: How Project Canary and Gas Certification Are Misleading Markets and Governments

By Collin Rees, Allie Rosenbluth, Valentina Stackl, et. al - Oil Change International, April 2023

This report examines the gas certification market, specifically one of the current industry leaders, Project Canary. We raise serious concerns about the integrity of gas certification and so-called “Responsibly Sourced Gas” (RSG). Our investigation, which included field observations of oil and gas wells in Colorado monitored by Project Canarya, exposed significant shortcomings in its operations and claims.

  • Project Canary monitors consistently fail to detect pollution events: Earthworks’ trained oil and gas thermographers captured alarming evidence of Project Canary monitors failing to detect emissions in the field. The seven-month survey found that Continuous Emissions Monitors (CEMs)b failed to capture every significant pollution event detected with Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) cameras. Our observations suggest that the company is misrepresenting the capabilities of its technology – a concern echoed in the testimony we gathered from several industry experts – and the underlying data behind certified gas.
  • Greenwashing: Project Canary’s marketing aggressively positions its certification services as a conduit to a ‘net zero’ emissions world. Its CEO has openly discussed fixing the gas industry’s “brand problem.” In doing so, the company appears to be aligning itself with gas industry lobbyists and pushing the concept of ‘net zero’ to new levels of incredulity, which risks sabotaging rather than serving global climate goals. The company is pushing a false narrative that methane gas is an energy source compatible with climate goals as long as it is certified as being produced below a certain methane threshold.
  • Lack of Transparency: Despite claims of ‘radical transparency’ and third-party verification, there is limited access for regulators, academics, or the public to the data generated by the certification process. Given the evidence that monitoring may not be reliable, there is clear justification for greater scrutiny from regulators, scientists, and concerned citizens.
  • Conflicts of Interest: Evidence suggests that a key Project Canary DIrector and Advisory Board Members have direct financial interests in the same gas companies it certifies.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

The Willow Project: Which Side Should Labor Be On?

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, April 1, 2023

American unions increasingly recognize the threat of climate change to workers and their communities. Yet some unions continue to promote programs like Alaska’s Willow Project that violate the basic requirement of climate safety: that fossil fuel extraction and burning must be subject to a rapid, managed decline. Fortunately, they are not the only voices in the labor movement.

On March 21 retired members from over 30 international unions rallied, marched, and demonstrated for climate protection. They stated, “Science tells us we have to stop burning fossil fuels and cut emissions by 50% in the next seven years or face climate disasters far worse than we are already experiencing.” They called for a stop to “all new investment in fossil fuel expansion, including production, infrastructure, and exploration,” and for funds to be redirected to “projects that will build renewable energy infrastructure and meet the other needs of our communities, especially workers and their families who are negatively impacted either directly or indirectly by the transition away from fossil fuels.”[1] These union veterans may be aging, but if the labor movement is to have a future it had better listen to what they have to say.

Just days before, the Biden administration had announced approval of ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project, the largest fossil fuel extraction project on federal lands in history. It is expected to produce five hundred and seventy-five million barrels of oil over the next thirty years. Burning that oil will result in the emission of about ten million tons of carbon dioxide per year, or some three hundred million tons over the life of the project.[2] The project will wipe out the emissions cuts provided by all renewable energy developments over the next decade, adding the equivalent of two million new gasoline cars to the roads.[3]

When the union climate protectors said to stop “all new investment in fossil fuel expansion,” there’s nothing that could have applied to more clearly than the Willow Project. And yet, other parts of the labor movement have been presenting labor as that project’s enthusiastic advocate.

Promise Breakers: Assessing the impact of compliance with the Glasgow Statement commitment to end international public finance for fossil fuels

By staff - Oil Change International, March 2023

This report, Promise Breakers: Assessing the impact of compliance with the Glasgow Statement commitment to end international public finance for fossil fuels, reveals that the Glasgow Statement, a joint commitment forged at the 2021 UN climate summit (COP26), is already shifting an estimated USD 5.7 billion per year out of fossil fuels and into clean energy, with the potential of a further 13.7 billion per year if all Glasgow Statement signatories fulfill their commitments.

The report’s key findings include that out of sixteen high-income signatories that provide significant levels of international public finance:

  • Eight have adopted policies that broadly meet the promise they made in Glasgow (Canada, the European Investment Bank, the United Kingdom, France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and New Zealand), shifting an estimated USD 5.7 billion per year out of fossil fuels and showing that the Glasgow Statement is having a real-world impact;
  • Four signatories (Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Spain) have new policies that further restrict fossil fuel support but leave major loopholes and/or do not meet the end of 2022 deadline; 
  • Four signatories (Germany, Italy, Portugal, and the United States) have yet to publish new or updated policies. The United States has reportedly adopted a policy, but is refusing to publish it. Ongoing policy debates in Germany and Italy suggest that these countries are likely to introduce loopholes in any forthcoming policies that allow continued fossil fuel financing;
  • Just days after this report was finalized, it appears Canada’s export credit agency, Export Development Canada is already in breach of their policy by approving four international oil and gas transactions totaling at least USD 5.5 million already in 2023.

The report contains a detailed report card on each signatories’ policies, with recommendations for improvement. It highlights key opportunities for signatories to increase their clean energy finance levels, work together to reiterate and strengthen their commitment to end international finance for fossil fuels at the Japan-led G7 in May and negotiate oil and gas export finance restrictions at the OECD.

Read the entire statement (PDF).

‘Megathreat Mountain’: challenges for 2023

By Willy De Backer - European Trade Union Institute, February 20, 2023

The year 2023 promises to be at least as challenging as the previous one, with war still raging between Russia, Ukraine and the West. The climate emergency turning into a real climate collapse also for countries in the Global North which had been spared some of the deadly and devastating effects which some countries in the Global South had already experienced for years.

At the beginning of the year, many ‘expert’ commentators and think tanks published their forecasts for the next 12 months. All of them agree that the new year looks challenging, if not to say scary. In an excellent comment on Project Syndicate, Nouriel Roubini refers to Thomas Mann’s great novel ‘The Magic Mountain’ comparing the current ‘age of mega threats to the tragic period between 1914 and 1945 and stating that we are ‘sleepwalking on mega threat mountain’.

Let us have a quick look at some of the chief challenges for Europe in 2023 but mostly in the form of questions (with further reading links) instead of predictions.

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