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For a Transnational Fall of Struggle: Strike the Climate Crisis!

By TSS PLATFORM - Transnational Strike, September 5, 2022

Six months have passed since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the war’s social effects haven’t stopped at the Ukrainian border and are now affecting millions of people throughout Europe and beyond. In recent days, the price of gas skyrocketed to new record heights, granting huge profits to the fossil fuel majors, and condemning millions to a reality of growing poverty, inflation, and unemployment. Governments’ attempts to secure energy supplies for the winter (such as the European Save Gas for a Safe Winter plan) ensure those market sectors that cannot work without gas, while dumping these choices’ costs on people’s consumption and individual responsibility and sacrifices. This is part of the Third world war scenario we all live in and struggle against. In fact, as energy and ‘green’ policies are now deeply embedded into the war, the struggles against their material effects of impoverishment are part of our transnational politics of peace. In the last few days, the #DontPayUK campaign has been confronting both governments and the big companies that want to discharge the price of their profits and power on people’s shoulders. Committing to strike on energy bills, thousands of people are already refusing the deadly choice between “eating” or “heating,” between racking up debts or facing fuel poverty and freezing winter. We are confronted with the necessity to articulate our transnational politics of peace inside this growing international competition by fighting in the conflict between those who pay the price of the war and those who profit from it.

The third world war and specifically the energy crisis have led to a return to fossil fuels, postponing the conversion from coal to alternative energy sources. However, even before the war, we saw the European green transition neither as a way to solve the climate crisis, nor to deliver a better environment, but as an attempt to open new opportunities for capital accumulation through the exploitation, reproduction, and widening of differences and hierarchies within the European space and beyond. Now the war unmasks the European transition policies’ actual scope. Promoting new Partnership Agreements with its member states, the European Commission is fostering its “just” – digital and green – transition to face the upcoming freezing winter struggling to coordinate industrial and energy policies for years to come at the European level. This is not the climate justice that was powerfully reclaimed by the global environmental movement in the last years. As States are engaged in a run to grab as many resources as possible, gas, nuclear, and coal sectors will keep exploiting the work of thousands of people in some places, while in other countries the closure of coal-powered plants in the name of the green transition results in the loss of many jobs. In Bulgaria, such a national decision recently found the response of hundreds of workers striking not to be caught in the middle between the government’s green policies and the bosses’ profits. Their struggle is a practical contestation of the green transition in wartimes, which is part of our attempt to turn the green transition into a transnational terrain of struggle.

As workers, activists, migrants, women, and men, we refuse to suffer either the consequences of climate change, the consequences of Putin’s war, or the unsustainable costs of the capitalist green transition. Strikes and movements such as those in Bulgaria and the UK are making clear the need to foster transnational political connections that aim to overcome the artificially fabricated distinction between workers’ and climate activists’ interests. On September 23 a new climate strike is announced, which aims to reactivate the global movement for climate justice by radically opposing the logics of profit and exploitation, and the overall relations of domination, which affects our ecological, social and political environment. The meeting in Sofia organized by the TSS Platform and LevFem on 8th-11th September will be the occasion to tackle and develop these issues. Transforming the green transition into a terrain of struggle is an essential part of our effort to escape the blackmail of the climate, social, and war catastrophe that reproduces violence, exploitation, and environmental degradation. The climate, energy, and social crises won’t wait until winter comes: they are already hitting, and we need to turn this fall into a season of collective struggles.

Stop EACOP Trade Union briefing July 2022

Ecuadorian Indigenous Movement Secures Economic and Climate Justice Victories, Ending National Strike

By Sofía Jarrín Hidalgo - Global Ecosocialist Network, July 5, 2022

Reprinted from Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres courtesy of Marc Bonhomme.

On June 13, 2022, a National Strike was launched by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the National Confederation of Peasant, Indigenous, and Black Organizations (FENOCIN), the Council of Indigenous Evangelical Peoples and Organizations (FEINE), alongside social and environmental organizations aligned with the Indigenous Movement.

Although many minimized the mobilizations to be solely about the rising cost of fuel, the protests kept their momentum due to the rising cost of living, which was one of the root causes of the movement. The people of Ecuador have faced immense poverty and unemployment for many months. For 18 days, the national protest sought to generate government action to address the deep systemic crisis that Ecuador is going through, marked by the lack of economic, political, and cultural rights. Today, the Indigenous movement was victorious in securing commitments from the president to address their economic and environmental reality.

In their demands, Indigenous communities sought the implementation of policies to protect the planet and secure a just and ecological transition. One of their key requests was the repeal of Decrees 95 and 151, which were intended to advance extractivism in Amazonian Indigenous territories. In August 2021, the Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador (CONFENIAE) had already spoken out against implementing these decrees; however, President Lasso decided not to heed this call. Among their main arguments was that the government failed to guarantee protection and respect for their right to free, prior, and informed consultation, much less the internationally respected standards of consent.

Earlier this week, Indigenous leaders and the government entered into dialogue and negotiations. They have since reached a signed agreement including an end to the National Strike and the “state of emergency” declared by the government. There will be a repeal of Executive Decree 95 promoting oil and gas expansion and a reform of Executive Decree 151 affecting the mining sector. Both decrees authorized the government to expand the extractive frontier into Indigenous territories and important conservation and forest areas. The reform of the mining decree is particularly notable because it states that activities cannot happen in protected areas or Indigenous territories, in designated “no-go” zones, archaeological zones, or water protection areas in accordance with the law, and it guarantees the right to free, prior, and informed consultation (not consent) as set forth in the standards dictated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Ecuador’s highest court. Fuel prices will also be reduced to a fixed rate, an economic justice victory acknowledging the cost of living crisis. They will use the next 90 days to address the remaining demands through a technical working committee.

The agreements and future discussions are rooted in the Indigenous movement’s ten points. Their agenda aims to generate solutions to combat the sustained deterioration of living conditions, the crisis in the education and health system, the high costs of food and essential services, the expansion of the extractive frontier, and the violation of the collective rights of Indigenous peoples, among other demands.

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.

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. 

California Assemblyman Kills Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill

By Nick Cunningham - DeSmog, June 28, 2022

The California legislature was close to passing a bill that would require the state’s two massive pension funds to divest from fossil fuels, but on June 21 the legislation was killed by one Democratic assemblyman who has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the energy industry.

Senate Bill 1173 would have required the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the two largest public pension funds in the country, to divest from fossil fuels. CalPERS and CalSTRS, which manage pensions for state employees and teachers, together hold more than $9 billion in fossil fuel investments.

The global divestment movement now claims that more than 1,500 institutions have divested from fossil fuels, representing more than $40 trillion in value. New York and Maine have also committed to phasing out fossil fuel investments from their public pensions.

But because of the size of the two California pension funds, their divestment from fossil fuels would be a significant achievement for the global movement. The call comes as the state continues to suffer from long-term drought and catastrophic wildfires that are worsening with climate change. Activists say that the state cannot claim to be a leader on climate action while maintaining billions of dollars’ worth of investments in the fossil fuel industry.

Senate Bill 1173 would have required the pension funds to divest by 2027, and the legislation had the support of the California Faculty Association, the California Federation of Teachers, associations representing higher education faculty, and roughly 150 environmental and activist organizations. 

However, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-backed front group with ties to the oil industry, opposed the bill, warning that divesting from fossil fuels would put public sector pensions in financial jeopardy.

The bill already passed the state senate, and still needed to pass in the state assembly, where Democrats command a large majority. But the bill needed to move through the Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, where Democrat Jim Cooper (Sacramento) is Chairman. 

On June 21, Cooper decided to let the bill die in committee, refusing to even bring it up for a hearing. Environmental groups denounced the “one-man veto.” Cooper has accepted more than $36,000 from the oil industry and other polluters over the past two years, including donations from Chevron and ExxonMobil, according to data compiled by Sierra Club, which called him a “Democratic favorite of the oil and gas industry.” 

“Jim Cooper just decided to continue investing public money in the unequal suffering of my community,” said Lizbeth Ibarra, an activist with Youth vs. Apocalypse, a California-based climate justice organization.

Why Climate campaigners should support the rail unions

By Paul Atkin and Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, June 23, 2022

What is the link between climate action and stopping the decline of public transport?

From the RMT: “We want a transport system that operates for the interests of the people, for the needs of society, and our environment – not for private profit”.

This government is failing on the climate crisis. It has no integrated transport plan, is not realising the need to address aviation and motoring and to prioritise public transport. It favours private companies which make vast profits rather than making transport affordable and our air breathable.

Why are our railways being subjected to a ‘managed decline’ just when we need them the most?

From the TUC “Network Rail plans to cut annual expenditure by £100 million, mainly through the loss of 2,500 rail maintenance jobs. RMT analysis of Network Rail data finds that this will lead to 670,000 fewer hours of maintenance work annually. Network Rail responsibilities include track maintenance – essential to avoiding fatal accidents like Hatfield, which was the result of the metal tracks fatiguing”. 

The government is committed to following free market ideology, the ‘logic’ of which produces a managed decline of much-needed rail services, imposing a 10% annual cut to the running costs of the railways (and even more on the buses in London, with 20% of services threatened).

Meanwhile £27Bn is planned to be spent on roads. This can only increase car use, with negative effects on air pollution, carbon emissions, congestion, accidents, inhibition of active travel and hitting commuters hard in the pocket while boosting the profits of the fossil fuel companies.

'Moral Failure': California Dem Pulls Plug on Fossil Fuel Divestment Legislation

By Brett Wilkins - Common Dreams, June 21, 2022

"This defeat is just a temporary setback," said one campaigner. "We will organize to come back stronger to make our demand for fossil fuel divestment heard because fossil fuel companies are driving us toward unimaginable disaster."

Climate, environmental, and social justice advocates on Tuesday condemned the decision by a Democratic California lawmaker to kill proposed legislation that would require two of the state's leading pension funds to divest from the fossil fuel industry. 

"Today amidst a historic mega-drought, wildfires, and fossil-fueled public health crises, Assemblymember Jim Cooper, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, refused to allow Senate Bill 1173, California's Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, to be heard in his committee," Fossil Free California said in a statement. "This one-man veto allows the state's pensions to continue to invest billions from public funds into the fossil fuel industry, for now."

S.B. 1173 would have prohibited the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS)—the two largest public pension funds in the United States—from making or renewing investments in fossil fuel companies. The measure would also have required the pensions to liquidate their fossil fuel holdings by 2030. The two funds currently hold an estimated $9 billion in fossil fuel investments.

"This decision is a moral failure that disproportionately impacts young people, Indigenous communities, communities of color, and low-income communities," the coalition asserted. "Climate chaos has already cost California billions in damages and health costs from fossil fuel pollution and climate disasters. Jim Cooper, who has just been elected Sacramento County Sheriff, has reported $36,350 in Big Oil campaign contributions from this election season alone."

State Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-33) said in a statement that "while I am deeply disappointed that my Senate Bill 1173 was not set for a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement this week, I remain committed to the necessary and ongoing fight against the impacts of climate change on our state, and especially those communities in my district that are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of the climate crisis."

"Teachers and state employees whose retirement futures are invested by our state's pension funds have long demanded that CalPERS and CalSTRS cease investing their money in fossil fuel companies, and this demand will only grow stronger and louder," she continued.

America’s Biggest Public Pension Fund Is Slow-Walking Corporate Climate Action, Report Charges

By Sharon Kelly - DeSmog, June 16, 2022

CalPERS says it needs to hold onto billions in fossil fuel shares in order to push polluters in the right direction – but a new report details a pattern of voting against climate proposals.

Does engaging with oil and gas giants by remaining invested in them – keeping a “seat at the table” – help in the fight against climate change? 

A new report suggests not very much – at least judging by the record of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).

The report by environmental group Fossil Free California takes the public pension fund to task for its results to date, highlighting its history of pushing “the importance of corporate engagement on climate change” in public statements, while simultaneously voting against climate measures in shareholder meetings.

The report details dozens of votes against climate measures by CalPERS this year — including votes against greenhouse gas reduction targets at Royal Dutch Shell, against reporting and reducing greenhouse gas emissions at BP, and against pushing big banks to get in line with international “net zero by 2050” strategies.

In fact, CalPERS has voted against every climate resolution at major American and Canadian banks so far this year, the report claims.

The report also casts doubt on one of the biggest accomplishments of CalPERS’ engagement strategy – the election of several new members to ExxonMobil’s board of directors last year, nominated by the activist investment firm Engine No. 1. The report faults Engine No. 1’s directors for voting against two recent proposals to set greenhouse gas targets that would account for the pollution caused by the fossil fuels ExxonMobil sells, and to produce a report on low-carbon business plans.

“Despite their best efforts, CalPERS and [California’s other major pension fund] CalSTRS have failed to persuade fossil fuel companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, increase their renewable energy production, or transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” the report concludes. “By opposing climate proposals at the very companies they claim to influence, the funds’ shareholder activism is not only ineffective – it’s undermining climate action.” 

California lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would spur these pension funds, which invest retirement funds for state employees – including many, like the state’s firefighters, who are today on the front lines of the climate crisis – to drop their investments in fossil fuel producers.

The fund has an estimated $7.4 billion worth of fossil fuel investments that the bill would require them to shed. In April, its board voted to oppose that law, arguing that it would lose its “seat at the table,” only to be replaced by investors that “may not have the same interest in long-term sustainability as CalPERS”..

CalPERS declined comment on Fossil Free California’s new report.

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