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climate justice

The Fight to Stop the Inflation Reduction Act’s Fossil Fuel Giveaway

By Yessenia Funes - Atmos, August 10, 2022

Depending on whom you ask, the United States is on the verge of passing one of its most beneficial climate bills—or one of its most harmful. The Inflation Reduction Act is historic, hands down, but it’s also imperfect in the way it continues to prop up the fossil fuel industry at a time when we need to urgently invest in new energy sources. 

The Senate voted to pass the bill Sunday (which all Republicans opposed), and it’s now in the hands of the House of Representatives, which is slated to vote on it later this week. For the first time in my lifetime at least, the U.S. government is on course to pass a climate policy that can actually reduce emissions on a national scale—but at what cost?

Welcome to The Frontline, where we’re still awaiting climate justice. I’m Yessenia Funes, climate director of Atmos. President Joe Biden promised us sweeping climate action, and he finally delivered. However, the Inflation Reduction Act is not built on the foundations of climate and environmental justice. It continues the traumatic legacy of sacrificing Black and Brown communities—of handing over their lives to the fossil fuel sector. Leaders on the frontlines are preparing to fight back.

TSSA calls for public transport fares to be slashed; let’s all do the same!

By Paul Atkin - Greener Jobs Alliance, August 4, 2022

TSSA calls for public transport fares to be slashed – let’s all do the same!

In a sharply worded blog on the TSSA web site, General Secretary Manuel Cortes notes that we have to deal with

two crises running in parallel – the climate … heating up at an unprecedented rate leading to increased extreme weather disasters and …an ever-deepening Tory cost of living crisis, inflation and costs are up, but wages are stagnant

and calls for a sharp cut in public transport fares to reduce costs, fossil fuel use and pollution. 

Blockade Australia: Our Perspective

By staff - Black Flag Sidney, July 27, 2022

Blockade Australia (BA) is a climate activist group whose primary strategy is to shut down activity at fossil fuel sites and disrupt the economy as a form of protest. So far, they have coordinated two major blockades in NSW: in November 2021, they disrupted $60 million worth of coal exports for eleven days in the Port of Newcastle; in March 2022, activists blockaded terminals for five days at Port Botany; at the end of June, they attempted a six-day blockade of Sydney’s economic centre.

Their activism has been met with alarming state violence. Earlier this month, around one hundred police raided a BA camp of activists and made several arrests. The Port Botany blockade earlier this year triggered the bipartisan enactment of new laws in NSW Parliament, increasing the penalty for protesting without police or state approval to up to $22,000 in fines and/or two years’ imprisonment. These laws will affect all protests which are unapproved by police, and should be fiercely opposed.

BA doesn’t formally adhere to a specific political ideology, although their social media activity suggests anti-capitalist and anti-electoral leanings. They aim to create a “consistent and strategic” disruption “that cannot be ignored,” to temporarily shut down the fossil fuel industry’s operation and force a “political response,” though BA does not define what this would look like concretely.

Overall, BA’s strategy relies on small affinity groups rather than a political organisation to coordinate individual non-violent disruptive stunts, a strategy which places them outside of the mass movement for working class liberation. It’s important to note here that we condemn in the strongest terms the state violence against BA activists. We express our solidarity to activists who, like us, are interested in building “power… opposing the colonial and extractive systems of Australia.” We argue, though, that BA cannot build this power with isolated actions and sporadic disruption alone.

It’s Time for Public Power. New York State Could Lead the Way

By Ashley Dawson - Truthout, July 20, 2022

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in West Virginia v. EPA dismantles one of the last regulatory tools remaining to cut carbon emissions on a federal scale in the U.S. With the failure of the Democrats to pass significant legislation and the specter of looming defeats in midterm elections, it’s now up to progressive cities and states to take the lead in fighting the climate crisis.

We got close to breaking ground on such an alternative state-level strategy this year in New York. In May, the State Senate passed the Build Public Renewables Act. The bill mandates the state’s New Deal-era public power provider — the New York Power Authority (NYPA) — to generate all of its electricity from clean energy by 2030. It also sets up a process that would allow the New York Power Authority to build and own renewables while shutting down polluting infrastructure. Although it is the largest publicly owned utility in the country, with a track record of providing the most affordable energy in the state, the New York Power Authority cannot legally own or build new utility-scale renewable generation projects at present because the state limits the public power utility to owning only six large utility-scale projects of 25 megawatts or more. This is because renewable energy developers wanted to limit competition from the New York Power Authority. The Build Public Renewables Act would remove this restriction and unleash the New York Power Authority’s game-changing power.

The Build Public Renewables Act had enough votes to pass in the Assembly and move to the governor’s desk to be signed, but Speaker Carl Heastie refused to bring the bill to a vote. Stung by criticism of this undemocratic move and over the tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations he has taken from fossil fuel interests, Speaker Heastie has called a special hearing on the Build Public Renewables Act for late July. The Public Power NY campaign is calling for Heastie and Gov. Kathy Hochul to call a special session so that the Build Public Renewables Act can be passed.

Three years ago, when the Public Power NY campaign began work, things looked a lot more hopeful on the federal level. Presidential hopefuls like Jay Inslee centered his plan for a clean energy economy on community-owned and community-led renewables while Bernie Sanders’s climate plan called for 100 percent public power. Sanders wanted to reach this goal quickly and efficiently by using public funding and infrastructure rather than leaving the transition up to corporate investors, who have failed the public miserably.

Workers, Look Out: Here Comes California’s Phony Green New Deal

By Ted Franklin - Let's Own Chevron, July 14, 2022

California politicians never tire of touting the state’s leadership on climate issues. But how much of it is bullshit, to borrow the Anglo-Saxon technical term recently popularized by former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr?

Some East Bay and SF DSAers got very interested when we learned that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) was holding a one-day hearing on a 228-page draft plan for California’s transition to a green future. The 2022 Scoping Plan Update, to be adopted later this year, aims to be the state’s key reference document to guide legislators and administrations in remaking the California economy over the next two decades. We turned on our bullshit detectors and prepared for the worst. CARB did not disappoint.

The state is currently committed to two major climate goals: (1) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and (2) to achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2045. These are hardly adequate goals in the eyes of science-based climate activists, but California officialdom is taking them seriously, at least seriously enough to commission a state agency to map out a master plan to reach them.

And there’s the rub. Charged with the outsized responsibility of devising a roadmap to a Green California, CARB’s staff came up with a technocratic vision that caters to the powerful, seems designed to fail, and pays virtually no attention to workers whose world will be turned upside down by “rapid, far- reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” required to limit global overheating to 1.5ºC. Despite copious lip service to environmental justice, CARB’s draft also ignores the critiques and questions put forward by CARB’s own Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (EJAC), assembled to give CARB input and feedback as the state’s master plan takes shape.

“The state’s 20-year climate policy blueprint is a huge step backward for California,” commented Martha Dina Arguello, EJAC’s co-chair and executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. “The plan on the table is grossly out of touch with the lived reality of communities that experience suffocating pollution and doubles down on fossil fuels at a time when California needs real climate solutions.” 

The idea that an air quality regulatory agency like CARB could come up with a viable plan for a societal transformation on the scale of the Industrial Revolution is absurd on its face. To do this without extensive involvement of labor would seem to doom the project entirely. Yet CARB plowed ahead without any significant input from labor. Result: the only union mentioned in CARB’s draft plan is the European Union.

We searched the draft plan in vain to see if it addressed any of the key questions from labor’s point of view:

What is the green future for California’s workers? How shall we provide for workers and communities that depend on the fossil fuel economy as major industries are phased out? What would a green economy look like, what are green jobs, how can we create enough good green jobs to meet demand, and what public investments will be required?

Instead of answering questions like these, CARB’s draft plan promotes a bevy of false solutions to reach California’s already inadequate targets. CARB’s depends on the state’s problematic cap-and-trade carbon trading scheme as well as carbon capture and storage (the favored scam of the oil industry) and hydrogen (the favored scam of the gas industry). The draft gives the nod to 33 new large or 100 new peaker gas-fired power plants. Missing: cutting petroleum refining, oil extraction, and fracking; banning new fossil fuel infrastructure; degrowing military and police budgets; and committing more resources to education, mass transit, healthcare, and housing. Instead of proposing an economy of care and repair to replace the old fossil fuel economy, CARB offers electric cars and more pipelines.

Far from providing a roadmap to a green future, CARB has come up with California capitalism’s most ambitious response yet to the radical ecosocialist Green New Deal that the world needs and we are fighting for.

Workers’ rights and the fight for climate justice

By D'Arcy Briggs - Spring, July 7, 2022

Low-wage workers have been hit hardest by the pandemic, they were the first to lose their jobs and most likely to get COVID. A new survey shows that workers in the most precarious jobs, who are disproportionately racialized, are directly dealing with the impacts of the worsening climate crisis. Spring Magazine spoke with Jen Kostuchuk of Worker Solidarity Network about the links between climate justice and workers’ rights.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the Worker Solidarity Network

I’m a settler from Treaty 1 territory, currently working on Lekwungen territory. My experience as a worker in the hospitality industry motivated me to engage with and advocate alongside workers in food service. I’m currently filling the Worker Solidarity Network’s (WSN) climate and labour project coordinator position. WSN is a community-centered organization that fights for worker justice. Through organizing, mutual aid, and legal advocacy, our goal is to support workers through labour injustices and build worker power. 

Given the dual pandemics of Covid-19 and climate change, how have workers been affected?

Between being overworked and understaffed, lay-offs, and termination, workers have been affected in ways that lead to deep vulnerability. But disproportionately, COVID-19 and climate change have hurt essential, low-wage workers in highly gendered and racialized sectors. Many workers in industries like hospitality, retail, and food service, bear the brunt of stolen wages, normalized discrimination, sexual harassment, and harsh working conditions like cooks standing in front of hot grills during heatwaves. 

At the height of the pandemic, I heard from folks whose employers told them to ignore COVID protocols if a customer “wanted it a certain way.” I also heard from food and beverage servers who were asked to remove their masks before customers entered a tip. So in some cases, it’s clear that workers were risking their own health and safety to avoid jeopardizing their income. 

The pandemic fostered an environment where we saw first hand that low-wage workers were deemed essential yet not treated that way. At the same time, we know that the pandemic provided an opportunity to build momentum to expose our most broken systems through mobilizing together for racial, gender, and environmental justice. 

Portugal's Climate Justice Movement Takes on Oil and Gas Company Galp

By Leonor Canadas - Common Dreams, July 3, 2022

Amidst the threat of nuclear war posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which explicitly exposed Europe's dependence on oil and gas from Russia, one could expect that the smart solution would be to get away from fossil fuels and make massive investments in renewable infrastructure and production.

The war should have accelerated the transition to an economy moved fully by renewable energies. Yet, quite the contrary has happened. The European Commission proposes that investments in fossil, gas, and nuclear power are labeled "sustainable investments," understanding them as "transitional" energy sources.

At the same time, European countries, in order to condemn Russia, are looking for fossil fuels elsewhere, shifting dependence to other countries, where gas and oil exploitation perpetuate colonial exploitation or support authoritarian regimes. Shifting from one authoritarian regime to another is not the solution, and neither is shifting from one kind of fossil fuel to another by using gas as a "transitional" energy source, nor by going back to coal.

In Europe's westernmost country, Portugal, the government sees this war and crisis as an opportunity, claiming that it "has the unique conditions to be a supply platform for Europe," talking about how the Port in Sines could be an entry point to supply Germany with the gas it needs. Particularly, gas from the USA and Nigeria could arrive in Sines and then be transported to other places in Europe. This would require the expansion of the LNG terminal in Sines and the construction of new gas pipelines in Portugal and Spain, to overcome the Pirenees. This is obviously a megalomaniacal plan, which doesn't mean it will not get the green light.

Fossil infrastructure is exactly why we are trapped in this crisis, and why capitalism will never be able to avoid climate collapse. If we take climate science seriously, no project that leads to an emissions increase could go forward. We need to cut 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to the 2010 emissions levels. Consequently, there can be absolutely no option on the table when it comes to new fossil projects and infrastructure. On the contrary, we need plans for just and fast transitions and the shutdown of existing infrastructure. That is not the plan in Portugal, in the EU or in the richest countries in the world, by a long stretch.

Greens must back striking British Airways workers to build the coalition we need for a just transition

By Matthew Hull - Bright Green, July 3, 2022

A quiet revolution is underway. Across two weeks and through three days of industrial action by the RMT trade union, the British public may have rediscovered what it feels like to take the side of organised workers against a recalcitrant UK government.

Amid soaring bills and prices, and with the Tory government steadfastly refusing to put people’s lives before profits, it is easy to understand why sympathy for striking workers is growing.

Of course it would be easy to overstate this case. Trade unionism never left these shores, and the power of militant unions like the RMT has been built up over years of hard organising work.

Equally, it would be presumptuous in the extreme to argue that one still-ongoing dispute could undo decades of neoliberal policies designed to mute and muzzle trade unions.

Nevertheless, something is taking hold. Polls revealed that striking railway workers have the undisputed support of a majority of people in the UK, should they opt for further industrial action. What’s more, that support has grown with every media performance by the RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch, whose directness and refusal to pander to the nonsense so typical of broadcast media has proved a winning combination.

This progress is precious, and it is our responsibility as trade unionists and the broader Left to preserve and expand it.

For Greens and environmentalists, the response to the RMT strikes so far has an additional, special resonance.

In June, hundreds of environmental justice campaigners joined RMT members on picket lines, raised money for their national dispute fund, and made their public support for the strikes impossible to ignore. This included many Greens across England and Wales, led by the party’s Trade Union Group. The Greens were the only UK parliamentary party to be unambiguously supportive of the RMT’s actions.

Defending and expanding national and municipal railway networks is centrally important to winning a just transition to a zero-carbon economy. Without massively increasing our capacity to move around using collective and sustainable modes of transport, the work of the environmental justice movement is over before it has begun.

In this process, protecting jobs and improving the pay, conditions and security of workers on our railways is key. There can be no just and fair transition to a zero-carbon world without worker empowerment.

Environmental justice campaigners and Greens should take this insight and apply it to workers’ struggles across all
sectors.

Rutgers Educators Fight for Climate-Safe New Jersey

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, July 2022

The faculty and graduate worker union at Rutgers University has stepped out to oppose a plan to haul liquified fracked gas across southern New Jersey. The Star-Ledger has just published an op ed by two union leaders explaining why:

A proposal to transport liquified fracked gas on trains and in trucks through densely populated Camden, Philadelphia and southern New Jersey threatens enormous harm across the region. As Rutgers-Camden faculty, we stand with Camden residents and community groups in opposing this dangerous and potentially catastrophic proposal.

Our faculty and graduate worker union at Rutgers believes in “bargaining for the common good”; a labor strategy that builds community-union partnerships to achieve a more equitable and sustainable future. As this project demonstrates, our lives and well-being are deeply interconnected. We are stronger when we organize together with our partners against threats to our communities, our environment, and our collective future. We must work together to make our communities safer and more sustainable. Opposing the transport of LNG is one way to address these concerns, given the risks of the proposed plan and the carbon emissions associated with LNG.

The opinion piece was written by Jovanna Rosen, assistant professor of Public Policy at Rutgers-Camden and a member of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT Climate Justice Committee and Jim Brown, associate professor of English at Rutgers-Camden and president of the Camden Chapter of Rutgers-AAUP-AFT.

All Climate Politics is Global

By Paul Atkin - Greener Jobs Alliance, June 30, 2022

As revealed in this Oxfam Report, the poorest 50% and middle 40% of the global population have a minimal or declining carbon footprint. The top 10%, and even more the top 1%, already have carbon footprints that are unviable and are increasing so fast that they will have bust us through the 1.5C limit on their own by 2030.

The top 10% are people who are on more than £125,000 a year. Most of them live in the Global North, but are a minority even here. The working class in the Global North, is overwhelmingly in the middle 40%.

The strategy of the ruling class in the Global North is primarily to sustain their own wealth and power. 

  • Some of them are in denial about climate change as a result.
  • Even those that recognise reality can only envisage a green transition which prioritises their own consumption standards by keeping the bottom 50% impoverished. Carbon offsetting by keeping the global majority in their place.
  • Hence the failure to transfer investment to the Global South and the prospect that the 350 carbon bombs identified by the Guardian will be dropped; because it is profitable to do so.
  • This underlines the paradox of the debate about “stranded assets”, as assets are only stranded if there is a viable transition. If there isn’t, they stay profitable until everything collapses around us; which will always be the stronger motivation for companies operating on quarterly profit returns. The notion that Fossil Fuel capital will be more motivated by social responsibility than profits runs counter not only to the record of its counterparts in the tobacco and asbestos industries, but also its own record in covering up its own research on the climate impacts of its operations from the 1950s onwards. They knew. They covered it up. Now that we know, they greenwash instead.
  • As they recognise that climate breakdown will create social and political crises on an unimaginable scale, from waves of climate refugees to possible war in the Arctic, they are prioritising military spending over solving the problem. The US government is spending 14 times as much on its armed forces as it planned to do on domestic climate measures – and then didn’t agree to. They have committed $40 billion to stoke the war in Ukraine rather than seek a peace deal; while climate transition funding for the Global South is reluctantly dispensed through an eye dropper.

What that means is an immediate future dominated, not by win-win global cooperation to solve our problems and build a sustainable society, but by wars and crises that make doing so ever more difficult. Campaigning against these is an urgent priority for anyone committed to Just Transition. 

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