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How European industry lobbyists are misaligned with science-based pathways to net-zero
by EU Observer, agencies
People around the world need a “global green deal” to tackle the climate crisis and restore the natural world as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, a group of politicians from the U.S, U.K, Europe and developing countries underline.
The Global Alliance for a Green New Deal is inviting politicians from legislatures in all countries to work together on policies that would deliver a just transition to a green economy ahead of Cop26 UN climate talks in Glasgow this November.
The alliance includes members of parliaments, representatives from Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Malaysia and the US among other countries.
Ilhan Omar, a US congresswoman for Minnesota, said the recent extreme weather in the US and around the world should serve as a warning. “Climate change is here and it is an existential threat to humanity. We have already seen the horrifying repercussions of failing to act – wildfires raging across the west coast [of the US], extreme hurricanes, heatwaves in Australia, massive flooding around the world. Natural disasters like these will only get worse unless we act as a global community to counteract this devastation.”
The alliance wants governments to put measures in place to boost the green economy as well as collaborating on global vaccine access for Covid and debt restructuring for the world’s poorest nations. They will seek to share knowledge around the world of successful initiatives, such as the decarbonisation plan recently put forward in Costa Rica.
Many government leaders have promised to “build back better” from the pandemic but few countries are investing in the new infrastructure needed. Recent research by Vivid Economics found that only about a tenth of the $17tn being spent globally on rescuing stricken economies was going on projects that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions or restore nature.
However, more than $3tn was being poured into measures and industries that actively harmed the environment, such as coal and other fossil fuels.
Manon Aubry, a French MEP, said governments must focus on social justice and the climate. “As the consequences of the climate crisis become more and more alarming, inequalities are growing and the poorest are hit hardest by the impacts of a changing climate. If we want fair, systematic and effective climate policies, we need a radical shift away from free-market ideology.”
The alliance currently has 21 members from 19 countries. Joenia Wapichana, the first indigenous woman ever to be elected federal representative in Brazil, said: “I understand how important it is that we all take responsibility for a green new deal. That’s why I am joining this alliance – to join forces so my work in parliament can contribute to the strengthening of the legislative process in defence of collective rights, the environment and in defence of indigenous peoples.”
Paola Vega, Costa Rican congresswoman and president of the special permanent commission for the environment of the legislative assembly of the Republic of Costa Rica, said a green deal would require a transformation of the way governments treat ecological problems, and in the way people live.
“Unless our countries, and the diverse alliances and range of powers that govern them, create enough pressure for collective action that changes the rules of the game, we will fall short of the urgent measures that we need to be able to address the massive challenges that we face today,” she said.
“It’s important that we are clear that this means an absolute change of paradigm: a change in the way we live, the way we consume and produce.” http://bit.ly/3kKuHdN
How European industry lobbyists are misaligned with science-based pathways to net-zero. (EU Observer)
Key industry groups in Europe have been actively lobbying against some of the upcoming proposals under the 'Fit for 55' package, to weaken short-term climate action, a new report published by the think-tank InfluenceMap revealed on Monday (12 July).
The so-called fit-for-55 package, expected to be presented by the European Commission on Wednesday, includes a range of policies, from increasing renewables targets and introducing new CO2 limits for cars and vans, to establishing a carbon border tax to protect EU companies.
A survey of 216 industry associations, which gave feedback to the commission on EU climate goals in 2020, revealed only 36 percent of the support the plan to cut emissions by 55-percent by 2030.
The same trend was seen among the 20 most-influential industry associations - except for the power sector, which appeared to have evolved into an advocate of higher climate ambitions.
Under the fit-for-55 package, the most-lobbied files have been the EU Emissions Trading System (EU carbon market) and the proposed carbon border tax.
But the reform of legislation on renewables and energy taxation has also sparked intense lobbying battles - with the power and renewables sectors calling for greater ambition and heavy industry and fossil fuels groups pushing back.
In their lobbying activities, groups representing transport and heavy-industry sectors were particularly resistant to policies being updated or introduced in the fit-for-55 package, despite their support for net-zero emissions goal by 2050 and climate science.
Concretely, representatives in sectors such as automotive (ACEA), cement (CEMBUREAU), chemicals (Cefic), refining (FuelsEurope) and steel (Eurofer) were identified as "powerful blockages" to regulatory proposals of the commission.
Aviation and shipping industry groups - namely, Airlines for Europe and European Community Shipowners' Associations - were in the most disagreement with the EU's attempts to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement goals.
This might be related to the fact that Brussels wants to introduce a gradual minimum tax-rate on aviation fuel, which is currently exempt, plus a specific sectoral emission reduction target for shipping.
Despite widespread support for achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, the research finds that opposition to short-term regulatory ambition on climate is often accompanied by claims that immediate action threatens the competitiveness of European business.
This message seems at odds with the commission's pledge to deliver a "modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy" via the Green Deal.
"This disconnect between top-line corporate rhetoric and the lobbying actions of industry groups puts Europe's efforts to align its climate policy agenda with the Paris Agreement's goals at risk," warned InfluenceMap analyst Venetia Roxburgh.
"The reality is that having a long-term climate target does not mean much if there is no clear pathway to make it happen," she added.
The report indicates that this misalignment is already a key concern for investors, but it is likely to also be a concern among the companies (represented by these associations) which ostensibly support the commission's ambition.
This situation "runs the risk of distorting policy development, as it presents policymakers with a position that appears to represent the full membership of an industry association, but only represents a small minority of interests," a recent report of the OEDC says.
Meanwhile, InfluenceMap also warns about the "significant disconnect" between industry lobbying practices and science-based paths to net-zero emissions, established by international bodies.
Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have advocated for short-term targets, and the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, to maintain global temperature rises close to 1.5 degrees (compared to 1990).
* InfluenceMap report: http://bit.ly/3kaMLx4
Greenwashing, just like climate delay, is not a victimless crime, by Jennifer Morgan.
Offsetting - the underbelly of net-zero goals - allows climate polluters to carry on pumping into the atmosphere while paying someone else to cut carbon emissions.
Barely a day goes by without a major government or company announcing a new net zero pledge. This may seem transformational and heart-warming, and many would be forgiven for thinking this way, but greenwashing tactics lurk while authentic climate action plans lack.
Some players are genuinely eliminating emissions at source, while making strides in transitioning from fossil fuels. But many others are trying to hoodwink the public by adopting the language of “net zero”.
Offsetting is the underbelly of current net zero commitments. An old idea, it is centred on paying for someone else to reduce or remove carbon, while you carry on pumping into the atmosphere.
It is like saying you are on a diet while gobbling cakes as someone else survives on lettuce on your behalf. Offsetting is one of the most sophisticated, cynical and pervasive forms of greenwashing - and has no role in a climate emergency.
Around eight out of 10 offsetting projects rich countries relied on to meet their climate targets under the Kyoto Protocol were deemed unlikely to have delivered any climate benefit, according to a report from the Institute for Applied Ecology.
Fast forward to the 2015 Paris Agreement, where nearly 200 governments agreed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5˚C degrees above pre-industrial times. While many cities and some businesses have matched and surpassed this goal, national governments and the worst polluters are another story.
With the clock ticking, offsetting is being supercharged by those not committed to climate action. Turbo tree-planting and monocropping projects are two examples that do little for the environment and cause huge harm to land defenders and Indigenous peoples.
In political realms, senior figures advising the UK government ahead of COP26 are working with major polluters to entrench this greenwashing as acceptable climate action.
The Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets, sponsored by COP26 advisor Mark Carney and set for a big push this July, has an ambition to “make the case for offsets ‘rebrand’ in a way never done before”, alongside a host of recommendations. With one of the taskforce originators being BP, it is busy talking up the need to boost industry-led offsetting markets to the tune of $100 billion a year.
For climate and development hawks, this is a familiar sum, for it is the same amount the Global North promised to deliver on climate finance. That $100 billion-a-year promise has not been met. While governments fail to put money into nature protection, dire biodiversity warnings increase. These alarm bells are met with political interest in “nature-based solutions”.
Decarbonising the global economy and protecting nature must go hand in hand to prevent planetary catastrophe. Only decarbonising to avoid climate breakdown, while continuing to cause irreversible damage to nature, would gravely impact global temperatures and cause great harm to people and the planet.
We’ve seen promises to properly fund climate action fudged, voluntarily set corporate deadlines to end deforestation roll by while forests are torched and chopped, and targets to protect nature resoundingly missed.
It’s the business of actually going fossil-free and getting in harmony with nature that keeps the environmental and social movements busy - and with false solutions like offsetting ramping up, we’re ready to call out any so-called climate leader who’s falling short.
To get the ball rolling, Carney’s Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets looks set to become a safe haven for greenwashers unless climate and nature are put at the heart of all its decision-making and there are effective systems in place to scrutinise its process.
Now is the moment to call time on the major emitters who are greenwashing while trying to give themselves a pass for reducing their own emissions. This is a test of who is really serious about respecting the 1.5˚C limit - and a safe living environment for people and planet - and who deserves no social licence to operate in 2021 onwards.
* Jennifer Morgan is executive director of Greenpeace International.
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2021 Doomsday Clock Statement - 100 seconds to midnight
by Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
To: Leaders and citizens of the world
Re: This is your COVID wake-up call: It is 100 seconds to midnight.
Humanity continues to suffer as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world. In 2020 alone, this novel disease killed 1.7 million people and sickened at least 70 million more. The pandemic revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries and the international system are to handle global emergencies properly.
In this time of genuine crisis, governments too often abdicated responsibility, ignored scientific advice, did not cooperate or communicate effectively, and consequently failed to protect the health and welfare of their citizens.
As a result, many hundreds of thousands of human beings died needlessly.
Though lethal on a massive scale, this particular pandemic is not an existential threat. Its consequences are grave and will be lasting. But COVID-19 will not obliterate civilization, and we expect the disease to recede eventually.
Still, the pandemic serves as a historic wake-up call, a vivid illustration that national governments and international organizations are unprepared to manage nuclear weapons and climate change, which currently pose existential threats to humanity, or the other dangers—including more virulent pandemics and next-generation warfare—that could threaten civilization in the near future.
Accelerating nuclear programs in multiple countries moved the world into less stable and manageable territory last year. Development of hypersonic glide vehicles, ballistic missile defenses, and weapons-delivery systems that can flexibly use conventional or nuclear warheads may raise the probability of miscalculation in times of tension.
Events like the deadly assault earlier this month on the US Capitol renewed legitimate concerns about national leaders who have sole control of the use of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear nations, however, have ignored or undermined practical and available diplomatic and security tools for managing nuclear risks. By our estimation, the potential for the world to stumble into nuclear war—an ever-present danger over the last 75 years—increased in 2020.
An extremely dangerous global failure to address existential threats—what we called “the new abnormal” in 2019—tightened its grip in the nuclear realm in the past year, increasing the likelihood of catastrophe.
Governments have also failed to sufficiently address climate change. A pandemic-related economic slowdown temporarily reduced the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming. But over the coming decade fossil fuel use needs to decline precipitously if the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided.
Instead, fossil fuel development and production are projected to increase. Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations hit a record high in 2020, one of the two warmest years on record.
The massive wildfires and catastrophic cyclones of 2020 are illustrations of the major devastation that will only increase if governments do not significantly and quickly amplify their efforts to bring greenhouse gas emissions essentially to zero.
As we noted in our last Doomsday Clock statement, the existential threats of nuclear weapons and climate change have intensified in recent years because of a threat multiplier: the continuing corruption of the information ecosphere on which democracy and public decision-making depend.
Here, again, the COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call. False and misleading information disseminated over the internet—including misrepresentation of COVID-19’s seriousness, promotion of false cures, and politicization of low-cost protective measures such as face masks—created social chaos in many countries and led to unnecessary death.
This wanton disregard for science and the large-scale embrace of conspiratorial nonsense—often driven by political figures and partisan media—undermined the ability of responsible national and global leaders to protect the security of their citizens.
False conspiracy theories about a “stolen” presidential election led to rioting that resulted in the death of five people and the first hostile occupation of the US Capitol since 1814. In 2020, online lying literally killed.
Considered by themselves, these negative events in the nuclear, climate change, and disinformation arenas might justify moving the clock closer to midnight. But amid the gloom, we see some positive developments.
The election of a US president who acknowledges climate change as a profound threat and supports international cooperation and science-based policy puts the world on a better footing to address global problems.
For example, the United States has already announced it is rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Biden administration has offered to extend the New START arms control agreement with Russia for five years.
In the context of a post-pandemic return to relative stability, more such demonstrations of renewed interest in and respect for science and multilateral cooperation could create the basis for a safer and saner world.
Because these developments have not yet yielded substantive progress toward a safer world, they are not sufficient to move the Clock away from midnight. But they are positive and do weigh against the profound dangers of institutional decay, science denialism, aggressive nuclear postures, and disinformation campaigns discussed in our 2020 statement.
The members of the Science and Security Board therefore set the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been to civilization-ending apocalypse and the same time we set in 2020.
It is deeply unfortunate that the global response to the pandemic over the past year has explicitly validated many of the concerns we have voiced for decades.
We continue to believe that human beings can manage the dangers posed by modern technology, even in times of crisis. But if humanity is to avoid an existential catastrophe—one that would dwarf anything it has yet seen—national leaders must do a far better job of countering disinformation, heeding science, and cooperating to diminish global risks.
Citizens around the world can and should organize and demand—through public protests, at ballot boxes, and in other creative ways—that their governments reorder their priorities and cooperate domestically and internationally to reduce the risk of nuclear war, climate change, and other global disasters, including pandemic disease.
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