A ‘Red Deal’: Why Indigenous Communities Belong at the Center of Climate Action

Policies that aren’t rooted in Indigenous communities can cause many of the same oppressive outcomes as extraction.

End CO2lonialism
“As we look forward to a cleaner economy, the Indigenous resistance throughout the world brings hope that any climate action will include Indigenous liberation.” (Photo: Light Brigading/Flickr/cc)

“We are all related; us, plants, animals, water, air, and soil. We are all related.”

Driven by an endless hunger for power and control, colonial empires used violence to appropriate Indigenous land for mining and labor—a process that continues up to this day.

Asheninka Mino, a medicine man from the Indigenous community of Asheninka in Peru, repeated these words as we walked through the mountains of Mora, New Mexico. “To achieve peace is to achieve harmony with Pachamama (Mother Earth)—to respect it and nourish our relationship with her,” he continued.

He was teaching undocumented youth the importance of being rooted as we organize for our immigrant communities.

Every year, I have the privilege to attend the New Mexico Dream Team‘s UndocuHealing Retreat—a weekend-long retreat focused on creating space for undocumented youth to process trauma and stress through Indigenous medicine and ceremonies.

Throughout these ceremonies, the concept of treating Mother Earth and others with respect is encapsulated in two philosophical terms: Mitakuye Oyasin and In Lack’ech. These phrases, respectively from the Lakota and Mayan traditions, encapsulate ancestral wisdom. They highlight the sacred relationship we hold with Mother Earth and others.

Nick Estes, in his book Our History Is The Futurenotes that “these Indigenous ways of relating to human and other-than-human life exist in opposition to capitalism.” Instead, capitalism sees humans and the sacred as “labor and commodities to be bought and sold.”

And it is exactly this ideology that has displaced Indigenous communities for over 500 years.

Driven by an endless hunger for power and control, colonial empires used violence to appropriate Indigenous land for mining and labor—a process that continues up to this day. “Extractive projects materially dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands to secure the future of the settler colonial nation,” as Philip Son wrote recently for Society and Space.

In Brazil, for example, Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara reports that aggression by predatory agricultural companies against indigenous people there “has been getting much worse under the anti-Indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro, who normalizes, incites, and empowers violence against the environment and against us.”

It is this same extractive economics that’s causing climate change today, leaving the Global South most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Left unchecked, the phantom dream of never-ending development will mean genocide for natural ecosystems and Indigenous nations alike.

There was an old Lakota prophecy (pdf) that “a black snake will slither across the land, destroying sacred sites and poisoning the water before destroying the earth itself.” According to Dallas Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), the black snake could represent not only the pipelines constructed across Indigenous lands, but also “the sickness of capitalism” itself, which casts a “shadow upon our heart and spirit of negativity, of dysfunction, of unhealthiness.”

Global climate action is, thankfully, reaching a fever pitch. But climate policies that aren’t rooted in Indigenous communities can end up causing many of the same oppressive outcomes as extraction.

Global climate action is, thankfully, reaching a fever pitch. But climate policies that aren’t rooted in Indigenous communities can end up causing many of the same oppressive outcomes as extraction.

A great example is the United Nations REDD+ project, aimed at providing incentives to slow deforestation and to restore and conserve forests. Unfortunately, the project’s reliance on privatization has undermined these goals.

According to an informative report (pdf) by IEN, projects that privatize forests in the name of mitigating climate change, like REDD+, “have resulted in militarization, evictions, fraud, disputes, conflicts, corruption, coercion, con men, crime, plantations and 30-100 year contracts, [and] deals with oil companies and other climate criminals.”

For Indigenous groups like the autonomous Zapatista resistance movement in Mexico, Adriana Gomez Bonilla explains, the fear of climate change is not just what happens to the climate itself. It’s that climate action will become another pretext for governments to displace them from their lands in the name of conservation.

For all its other virtues, this is a weak point of the Green New Deal framework. While the plan is “anti-capitalistic in spirit” and pays “lip service to decolonization, it must go further” to ensure indigenous liberation, Nick Estes writes in a piece for Jacobin.

Earlier last month, The Red Nation published “The Red Deal“—a political framework developed by young Indigenous activists, which pushes the Green New Deal to go further.

“The Red Deal is not a counter program of the GND,” they write. “It’s a call for action beyond the scope of the U.S. colonial state. It’s a program for Indigenous liberation, life, and land.” It pushes current climate policy work to expand, to include the demilitarization of the U.S. border, the abolishment of ICE, and decolonization of stolen land.

It also brings hope and a galvanizing energy to aim for Indigenous liberation.

As we look forward to a cleaner economy, the Indigenous resistance throughout the world brings hope that any climate action will include Indigenous liberation—an action that would re-establish our relationship with Mother Earth. It brings to light that Indigenous liberation is climate justice. SOURCE

Inside Copenhagen’s race to be the first carbon-neutral city

Green growth and ‘hedonistic sustainability’ have helped keep the public on board as the Danish capital seeks to reach its goal by 2025 – and so far it’s all going according to plan


The ski slope on the roof of Copenhagen’s Amager Resource Centre. Photograph: Ritzau Scanpix Denmark/Reuters

“We call it hedonistic sustainability,” says Jacob Simonsen of the decision to put an artificial ski slope on the roof of the £485m Amager Resource Centre (Arc), Copenhagen’s cutting-edge new waste-to-energy power plant. “It’s not just good for the environment, it’s good for life.”

Skiing is just one of the activities that Simonsen, Arc’s chief executive, and Bjarke Ingels, its lead architect, hope will enhance the latest jewel in Copenhagen’s sustainability crown. The incinerator building also incorporates hiking and running trails, a street fitness gym and the world’s highest outdoor climbing wall, an 85-metre “natural mountain” complete with overhangs that rises the full height of the main structure. 

It’s all part of Copenhagen’s plan to be net carbon-neutral by 2025. Even now, after a summer that saw wildfires ravage the Arctic Circle and ice sheets in Greenland suffer near-record levels of melt, the goal seems ambitious. In 2009, when the project was formulated, it was positively revolutionary.

“A green, smart, carbon-neutral city,” declared the cover of the climate action plan, before detailing the scale of the challenge: 100 new wind turbines; a 20% reduction in both heat and commercial electricity consumption; 75% of all journeys to be by bike, on foot, or by public transport; the biogas-ification of all organic waste; 60,000 sq metres of new solar panels; and 100% of the city’s heating requirements to be met by renewables.


People cycle in central Copenhagen. Photograph: Dag Sundberg/Getty Images

Radical and far-reaching, the scheme dared to rethink the very infrastructure underpinning the city. There’s still not a climate project anywhere else in the world that comes close.

And, so far, it’s working. CO2 emissions have been reduced by 42% since 2005, and while challenges around mobility and energy consumption remain (new technologies such as better batteries and carbon capture are being implemented), the city says it is on track to achieve its ultimate goal.

The sentiment that lies behind Arc’s conception as a multi-use public good – “hedonistic sustainability” – is echoed by Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, former mayor of Copenhagen for the environment and the man originally tasked, back in 2010, with making the plan a reality.

The Amager Resource Centre. Photograph: Gonzales Photo/Alamy

“We combined life quality with sustainability and called it ‘liveability’,” says Kjeldgaard, now CEO of his own climate adaptation company, Greenovation. “We succeeded in building a good narrative around this, one that everybody could believe in.”

The idea was first floated in the late 1990s, when the newly elected Kjeldgaard had a vision of Copenhagen as the environmental capital of Europe. His enthusiasm ran into political intransigence, however, and despite some success, a lack of budget meant most of his work became “just another branding exercise – it was greenwashing”.

But after stints as mayor of family and the labour market, and children and young people, he ended up back at environment in 2010 with renewed determination and, crucially, a broader mandate from the city council. “I said: ‘This time, we have to do it right,’” he recalls, “so we made detailed, concrete plans for every area, set the carbon target, and demanded the money and the manpower to make it a reality.”

He brought on board more than 200 stakeholders, from businesses to academia to citizen representatives, and helped them develop 22 specific business plans and 65 separate projects. So far the plan appears on track: there has been a 15% reduction in heat consumption, 66% of all trips in the city are now by bike, on foot or public transport, and 51% of heat and power comes from renewables.

The onus placed on ordinary Copenhageners to walk and cycle more, pay higher taxes (especially on cars) and put up with the inconvenience of infrastructure construction has generally been met with understanding and good grace. And while some people remain critical of the fact that Copenhagen airport is not factored into the CO2 calculations – it lies beyond the city’s boundaries – and grumble about precise definitions and formulae, dissent has been rare. MORE

 

The climate crisis in 2050: what happens if cities act but nations don’t?


How Miami’s South Beach could look if global heating reaches 2C. Photograph: Nickolay Lamm/Courtesy Climate Central/sealevel.climatecentral.org

It is cities, not national governments, that are most aggressively fighting the climate crisis – and in 30 years they could look radically different

She has barely ever been in a car, and never eaten meat or flown. Now 31, she lives on the 15th floor of a city centre tower from where she can just see the ocean 500 yards away on one side and the suburbs and informal settlements sprawling as far as the eye can see on the other.

Life is OK in this megacity. She earns the exact median income and is as green as she feels she can be: she has no children yet, her carbon footprint is negligible, and her apartment, built in the early 2000s, has been retrofitted for climate change with deep insulation, its own solar air-con and heating systems.

It has a “living” wall of plants and a balcony where she grows a few vegetables. Waste is automatically sorted or composted. Outside it may be roasting, with temperatures often higher than 40C. Inside, she’s cool.

She loves where she lives, even though the water tastes slightly salty sometimes and there are often electricity outages in the summer months because of the frequent droughts affecting reservoir levels. Her windows catch the breeze, and because the mayor has adapted to climate change by banning cars across the whole city centre and no fossil fuels are burned nearby, there’s little air pollution. She feels healthy.

Food is expensive because of the massive floods and droughts that have affected the world’s main food-growing areas, but most of hers is organically grown and is delivered by drone from the nearby 20-storey “farmscraper” built 10 years ago. Most cities of this size grow as much of their own food as possible these days, as a way to reduce transport emissions.

Artist’s impression of ‘farmscrapers’, designed by architect firm Vincent Callebaut. Image: Solent News/REX/Shutterstock

To make extra money last year, she traded in her annual government carbon and meat quotas. Short-haul flights have been stopped anyway, and like everyone her age, she is allowed just one return flight a year.

But she doesn’t need to travel much now. The city authorities have thrown money at protecting infrastructure and helping people adapt to the higher temperatures and ever more frequent storms. The green spaces have been re-wilded. She can walk safely down the shady, tree-lined streets, cool off in the lido, or visit the urban forest, which the far-sighted city mayor started 20 years ago on wasteland.

But now she really worries. She may have adapted her own life as far as possible to climate change, but so much is out of her control. The world’s population has grown by 2.5 billion people since she was born in 2019, and carbon concentrations reached the 550 ppm (parts per million) milestone last year – just as the IPCC scientists had forecast they would. They were just 407 ppm when she was born.

Despite some international action on climate change, global warming passed the 1.5C mark – considered the maximum for long-term safety – in 2040 and is now heading inexorably for 3C or 3.5C, possibly within 100 years. That is really dangerous and means food and water will be scarcer, the rains will be heavier, and even more people will flood in from rural areas to the city.

Worst of all, the continuing loss of ice at the poles and in the great mountain ranges means sea levels are rising faster than most would have believed possible 30 years ago. The last great superstorm, caused by extraordinarily warm temperatures in the Arctic, flooded miles of coastal settlements and forced the permanent evacuation of dozens of expensive ocean-side apartment blocks. Waves crashed 100 metres beyond the new, higher sea walls. That’s when her water started to taste salty.

Perhaps the time has come for her to sell up and migrate to higher land, she thinks. She has been told that the underground water supplies to her tower block are beginning to be polluted with seawater and might only last 10 years, and that her tower could be deemed unsafe to live in within 20 years because of flooding. But it’s far worse in most parts of the city. There the extremely poor don’t live in strong houses, and can’t build higher walls, relocate, borrow money or adapt so easily.

A view of a flooded lower Manhattan plaza after Hurricane Sandy left most of the area without power in 2012, New York City, USA. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA

But if she left, where would she go? Every year her apartment is worth less because it is so close to the ocean; property on higher ground now attracts premium prices. Her city has grown vastly in the previous 20 years, as droughts and floods have made farming less profitable and hundreds of thousands of climate-affected people have migrated in from rural areas. Many of them live with only patchy public transport, and endure dreadful air pollution and heat.

This is the climate breakdown reality she was warned about at school, and why she skipped classes to join the great demonstrations of the 2030s. Back in October 2019, the C40 group of 94 global megacities had used IPCC and World Bank figures to forecast that 1.6 billion people living in over 970 world cities would be regularly exposed to extreme high temperatures by 2050.

It said another 800 million people living in 570 cities would be vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding, including the world’s great coastal cities. And it also said that 2.5 billion people (or nearly one in four people on Earth) would be living in the over 1,600 cities where national food supplies were threatened by the climate crisis – including supposedly richer cities such as Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul and Los Angeles. These predictions proved to be accurate.

Urban Forest Strategy and Precinct Plans by City of Melbourne, winner of an award of excellence from the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects in 2016. Photograph: City of Melbourne

Her city did its best to adapt, inspired perhaps by a report from the Coalition for Urban Transitions, backed by some of the world’s leading economists, that showed that governments that invested in low-carbon cities could not just help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis but could also massively enhance economic prosperity, attract the most talented people – and, not incidentally, make cities far better places to live.

Permanently cutting 90% of urban emissions in 2019 would have cost the world $1.8tn but would have been generating annual returns of $7tn by now, it said.

“Cities are engines of growth, innovation and prosperity,” António Guterres, then UN secretary general, had said. “It is possible and realistic to realise net-zero emissions by 2050. But to get there we will need the full engagement of city governments combined with national action and support.”

Sadly, most governments did not pay much attention. It’s easy to be wise in retrospect, but money spent then would have been the best investment ever made, she knows. Now the figures seem conservative. Now it is a race against time.

How likely is this future?

By 2050, cities will be home to over 70% of the world population. The great global challenge is to adapt them to the changing climate and reduce emissions.

That means conserving water, planting trees, banning fossil fuels, changing diets, adapting farming, improving soils, reducing air pollution which contributes to warming, and even painting buildings white to reflect heat.

Many north European cities have started to ditch diesel and petrol, ban cars and plastic and turn to renewable power, aiming to be “carbon-zero”. Seoul is planting 30m trees and expanding its green spaces vastly to create shade; Melbourne and many other Australian and British cities will benefit from ambitious street tree-planting programmes. Denmark, one of the most urban of all European countries, aims to cut emissions by 70% by 2030; its capital, Copenhagen, aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025.


Urban Forest Strategy and Precinct Plans by City of Melbourne, winner of an award of excellence from the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects in 2016. Photograph: City of Melbourne 

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Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions


Main image: Chevron’s Kern River oil field in Bakersfield, California. Photograph: Guardian Design

New data shows how fossil fuel companies have driven climate crisis despite industry knowing dangers

The Guardian today reveals the 20 fossil fuel companies whose relentless exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.

New data from world-renowned researchers reveals how this cohort of state-owned and multinational firms are driving the climate emergency that threatens the future of humanity, and details how they have continued to expand their operations despite being aware of the industry’s devastating impact on the planet.

The analysis, by Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in the US, the world’s leading authority on big oil’s role in the escalating climate emergency, evaluates what the global corporations have extracted from the ground, and the subsequent emissions these fossil fuels are responsible for since 1965 – the point at which experts say the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known by both industry leaders and politicians.

The top 20 companies on the list have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide, totalling 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) since 1965.

Those identified range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell – to state-owned companies including Saudi Aramco and Gazprom.

Chevron topped the list of the eight investor-owned corporations, followed closely by Exxon, BP and Shell. Together these four global businesses are behind more than 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965.

 Why we need political action to tackle the oil, coal and gas companies – video explainer

Twelve of the top 20 companies are state-owned and together their extractions are responsible for 20% of total emissions in the same period. The leading state-owned polluter is Saudi Aramco, which has produced 4.38% of the global total on its own.

Michael Mann, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, said the findings shone a light on the role of fossil fuel companies and called on politicians at the forthcoming climate talks in Chile in December to take urgent measures to rein in their activities.

“The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay theprice – in the form of a degraded planet – so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits. It is a great moral failing of our political system that we have allowed this to happen.”

It found that 90% of the emissions attributed to the top 20 climate culprits was from use of their products, such as petrol, jet fuel, natural gas, and thermal coal. One-tenth came from extracting, refining, and delivering the finished fuels.

The Guardian approached the 20 companies named in the polluters list. Eight of them have replied. Some argued that they were not directly responsible for how the oil, gas or coal they extracted were used by consumers. Several disputed claims that the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known as far back as the late 1950s or that the industry collectively had worked to delay action.

Most explicitly said they accepted the climate science and some claimed to support the targets set out in the Paris agreement to reduce emissions and keep global temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

All pointed out efforts they were making to invest in renewable or low carbon energy sources and said fossil fuel companies had an important role to play in addressing the climate crisis. PetroChina said it was a separate company from its predecessor, China National Petroleum, so had no influence over, or responsibility for, its historical emissions. The companies’ replies can be read in full here.

The latest study builds on previous work by Heede and his team that has looked at the historical role of fossil fuel companies in the escalating climate crisis.

The impact of emissions from coal, oil and gas produced by fossil fuel companies has been huge. According to research published in 2017 by Peter Frumhoff at the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US and colleagues, CO2 and methane emissions from the 90 biggest industrial carbon producers were responsible for almost half the rise in global temperature and close to a third of the sea level rise between 1880 and 2010. The scientists said such work furthered the “consideration of [companies’] historical responsibilities for climate change”.

Heede said: “These companies and their products are substantially responsible for the climate emergency, have collectively delayed national and global action for decades, and can no longer hide behind the smokescreen that consumers are the responsible parties.

“Oil, gas, and coal executives derail progress and offer platitudes when their vast capital, technical expertise, and moral obligation should enable rather than thwart the shift to a low-carbon future.”

Heede said 1965 was chosen as the start point for this new data because recent research had revealed that by that stage the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known by industry leaders and politicians, particularly in the US.

In November 1965, the president, Lyndon Johnson, released a report authored by the Environmental Pollution Panel of the President’s Science Advisory Committee, which set out the likely impact of continued fossil fuel production on global heating.

In the same year, the president of the American Petroleum Institute told its annual gathering: “One of the most important predictions of the [president’s report] is that carbon dioxide is being added to the Earth’s atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas at such a rate by the year 2000 the heat balance will be so modified as possibly to cause marked changes in climate beyond local or even national efforts.”

Heede added: “Leading companies and industry associations were aware of, or wilfully ignored, the threat of climate change from continued use of their products since the late 1950s.”

The research aims to hold to account those companies most responsible for carbon emissions, and shift public and political debate away from a focus just on individual responsibility. It follows a warning from the UN in 2018 that the world has just 12 years to avoid the worst consequences of runaway global heating and restrict temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

 An activist outside the Houses of Parliament in London, 2015. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Pinterest

The study shows that many of the worst offenders are investor-owned companies that are household names around the world and spend billions of pounds on lobbying governments and portraying themselves as environmentally responsible.

A study earlier this year found that the largest five stock-market-listed oil and gas companies spend nearly $200m each year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change.

Heede said the companies had a “significant moral, financial, and legal responsibility for the climate crisis, and a commensurate burden to help address the problem”.

He added: “Even though global consumers from individuals to corporations are the ultimate emitters of carbon dioxide, the Climate Accountability Institute focuses its work on the fossil fuel companies that, in our view, have their collective hand on the throttle and the tiller determining the rate of carbon emissions and the shift to non-carbon fuels.”

Revealed: Google made large contributions to climate change deniers

Firm’s public calls for climate action contrast with backing for conservative thinktanks


Google helps bankroll more than a dozen organisations that have pushed against moves to stop climate change. Illustration: Guardian Design

Google has made “substantial” contributions to some of the most notorious climate deniers in Washington despite its insistence that it supports political action on the climate crisis.

Among hundreds of groups the company has listed on its website as beneficiaries of its political giving are more than a dozen organisations that have campaigned against climate legislation, questioned the need for action, or actively sought to roll back Obama-era environmental protections.

The list includes the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative policy group that was instrumental in convincing the Trump administration to abandon the Paris agreement and has criticised the White House for not dismantling more environmental rules.

Google said it was disappointed by the US decision to abandon the global climate deal, but has continued to support CEI.

Google is also listed as a sponsor for an upcoming annual meeting of the State Policy Network (SPN), an umbrella organisation that supports conservative groups including the Heartland Institute, a radical anti-science group that has chided the teenage activist Greta Thunberg for “climate delusion hysterics”.

SPN members recently created a “climate pledge” website that falsely states “our natural environment is getting better” and “there is no climate crisis”.

Google has defended its contributions, saying that its “collaboration” with organisations such as CEI “does not mean we endorse the organisations’ entire agenda”.

It donates to such groups, people close to the company say, to try to influence conservative lawmakers, and – most importantly – to help finance the deregulatory agenda the groups espouse.

A spokesperson for Google said it sponsored organisations from across the political spectrum that advocate for “strong technology policies”.

 

CEI has opposed regulation of the internet and enforcement of antitrust rules, and has defended Google against some Republicans’ claims that the search engine has an anti-conservative bias.

But environmental activists and other critics say that, for a company that purports to support global action on climate change, such tradeoffs are not acceptable.

“You don’t get a pass on it. It ought to be disqualifying to support what is primarily a phoney climate denying front group. It ought to be unacceptable given how wicked they have been,” said Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator from Rhode Island who is one of the most vocal proponents of climate action in Congress.

“What all of corporate America should be doing is saying if you are a trade organisation or lobby group and you are interfering on climate, we are out. Period,” he added.

On its website, Google says it is committed to ensuring its political engagement is “open, transparent and clear to our users, shareholders, and the public”.

But the company declined to answer the Guardian’s questions on how much it has given to the organisations. MORE

 

 

Labor, Community and Environmental Activists Need to Find Common Ground for a Green New Deal

In Naomi Klein’s new book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, she outlines precisely how challenging it will be to respond to the climate crisis in the urgent fashion called for in the last UN IPCC report:

Pulling off this high-speed pollution phaseout, the report establishes, is not possible with singular technocratic approaches like carbon taxes, though those tools must be a part.  Rather it requires deliberately and immediately changing how our societies produce energy, how we grow our food, how we move ourselves around, and how our buildings are constructed. 

What is needed, the report’s summary states in its first sentence, is “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

In the face of this daunting task, the answer to the question “What can I do as an individual?” is, Klein tells us, “nothing.”  What is needed is not individual consumer choices or other changes of habit but rather collective action.  Hence, she argues, “We can only meet this tremendous challenge together, as part of a massive and organized global movement.”

Ironically, Klein observes, it has been the world’s least powerful people who have been the first to recognize this because their “individual powerlessness pushed them to be politically ambitious, to demand structural change.”

In wealthier countries like our own, we have been seduced by the siren call of neoliberalism to believe more in consumerist fantasies of individual choice and other market-based flights of fancy to combat climate change.  Thus, we too easily abandon fights for big structural change and think small when, at present, the pressing need is to think big.

Klein convincingly makes the case in “On Fire” that, despite the pushback it has received, the Green New Deal is the most compelling opportunity born out of the climate crisis.  She’s right both because the GND offers us a vision commensurate with the problem we face on the climate front and because its focus on climate justice seeks to marry environmental action with economic transformation.

In sum, done the right way, a Green New Deal would address the threat of climate catastrophe in a fashion that would, like the original New Deal, lift up rather than displace millions of working-class people.

Of course, such a bold course of action will require a lot of movement building.

It necessitates that labor, community, and environmental activists get out of their silos and find common ground to do the essential work of creating a just, sustainable world.  Right now there are frequent conflicts and political battles that have pitted us against each other.  To move beyond this, we need to start thinking about what a common movement to save the planet should look like locally, nationally, and globally.

The time we have is short.  Therefore the task of envisioning a broader vision of intersectional solidarity is urgent work. MORE

What INGOs Can Learn From Greta Thunberg and the Global Climate Strikes

Combining analysis, outrage and active citizenship can build and sustain large-scale public engagement.

Global Climate Strike in London on March 15 2019. (Photo: Flickr/Gary Knight. Public Domain)
Global Climate Strike in London on March 15 2019. (Photo: Flickr/Gary Knight. Public Domain)

While Greta Thunberg has mostly targeted governments and multilateral bodies for their failure to tackle the climate crisis, the global Climate Strike Movement her Friday protests have inspired may also have inadvertently exposed the shortcomings of international non-governmental organisations (INGOs). With the kind of global reach and popular mobilisation of which most INGOs can only dream, the climate strikes have succeeded in catapulting the climate crisis to the top of the political and media agendas.

In the process, this movement has exposed the lack of critical interrogation by INGOs of government and corporate inaction to reduce global warming, and shed light on the growing inertia of an INGO sector that trades in incremental change rather than systemic political and economic transformation. So what could INGOs learn from Thunberg and the climate movement’s tactics? Here are four key points.

Building large-scale popular mobilisation around the lived realities of climate change.

The most recent week of climate actions from 20-27 September 2019 saw a record 7.6 million people take to the streets in what was the biggest climate mobilisation in history, with more than 6,000 actions recorded in 185 countries. The mobilisation on 20 September was a ‘general strike’ which urged adults in all walks of life to follow the lead of young people. This resulted in over 70 trade unions, 3,000 businesses and 800 civil society organisations supporting actions in the global North and South.

Other popular mobilisations prior to September almost certainly contributed to the unexpected success of the Green parties in the European Union parliamentary elections in May 2019, suggesting that heightened awareness of climate change is beginning to influence political behaviour. Before the strikes, the world seemed locked into a state of cognitive dissonance whereby it recognised the gravity of the climate crisis but was determined to carry on with ‘business as usual.’ But the size and dynamism of the climate protests is making that untenable.

In part, that’s because the generation that is leading the climate movement is “the first for whom climate disruption on a planetary scale is not a future threat, but a lived reality,” as Naomi Klein puts it in her new book On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal. Recent research by Barnardo’s and Girlguiding shows that the climate crisis is one of the main concerns for young people and a major source of anxiety.

Research has also shown that young people’s engagement in social actions can reduce anxiety and improve their well-being. Action projects represent a profound learning experience through which people can develop key skills, capabilities, attitudes and dispositions that strengthen their engagement with the issues that affect their lives.

Speaking truth to power.

Another major factor in the global spread of climate activism is Thunberg’s direct communications style and her refusal to content herself with the ear of politicians and business leaders. She speaks with clarity, directness and truth. In her address to billionaire entrepreneurs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, for example, she said: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

Her speech to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019 was more like a rebuke to world leaders:

“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Her reference to “fairy tales of eternal economic growth” clearly alluded to the broken neoliberal economic model that precipitated the 2008 global financial crisis. Thunberg recognises the threat posed by a deregulated carbon-based economy to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recommendation to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Her speeches regularly exhort her audiences to ‘listen to the science’ and call out politicians for a lack of urgency in their responses.

Thunberg was similarly unsparing in her remarks to a United States Congressional climate crisis task force when she said “Please save your praise. We don’t want it. Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything”. In remarks meant for Congress as a whole she added: “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”

Thunberg’s reproaching of politicians and climate change deniers has resulted in scabrous abuse by internet trolls and feeble efforts to satirise her appearance, delivery and content. It’s worth re-stating that such trolls, mostly white men, are taking to the internet to attack a 16 year-old school girl who has given a voice to millions of young people across the world and inspired them to action. MORE

 

Nobel Prize Winner Says Battery Recycling Key to Meeting Electric Car Demand

Akira Yoshino holds a model of a lithium-ion battery during a press conference on Oct. 9.
Akira Yoshino holds a model of a lithium-ion battery during a press conference on Oct. 9. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

Recycling batteries is the key to securing enough raw materials to power the surge in electric vehicle demand, according to a winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

“The point is whether EV batteries can be recycled,” said Akira Yoshino, a Japanese chemist who was awarded the prize with two others for their pioneering work on modern lithium-ion batteries that are used in smartphones to cars. “The cost should pay off if all of waste car batteries in Japan are collected and processed.”

The world’s transition to battery power, including electric vehicles, is set to boost demand for commodities from copper to nickel and cobalt. But there’s also concerns that miners won’t be able to expand raw material supply fast enough, and any shortfall will offer bigger opportunities for recycling. China has already emerged as a leader in the field.

Solar, Wind

The next mission for the industry is to increase the amount of solar and wind energy that can be stored in batteries used in cars, Yoshino, 71, said in an interview on Wednesday.

After around 2025, when Yoshino predicts EVs will make up about 15% of new car sales worldwide, the auto industry will likely see electrification incorporated into car-sharing and self-driving vehicles, he said. “The ideal style for the future is people don’t own a car and a self-driving vehicle is coming whenever anyone wants to use the service.”

Read more: China is already winning the next great race in electric cars

Yoshino, of Asahi Kasei Corp. and Meijo University, was awarded the prize alongside M. Stanley Whittingham, a British-American professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton and German-born John Goodenough, professor at the University of Texas.

Whittingham, 77, first discovered in the 1970s it was possible to shuttle lithium atoms from one electrode to another at room temperature, facilitating recharge-ability. When the battery material — lithium — proved prone to catching fire, it took the work of Goodenough, 97, to make it into a usable device. Yoshino’s research on ensuring chemical stability crowned the current lithium-ion battery.

Lithium-ion batteries have “revolutionized our lives” since they first entered the market in 1991, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement on Wednesday. “They have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society, and are of the greatest benefit to humankind.” SOURCE

 

The Inconvenient Truth: Fixing Climate Requires Major Economic Change, Naomi Klein Says

Author Naomi Klein (Courtesy of Julia Prosser)

Climate change denial is not driven by rogue scientists who disagree with their peers — author Naomi Klein says — but rather free-market capitalists who want to protect the economic status quo.

Klein has an inconvenient truth for climate deniers who oppose the economic changes that scientists and activists say are necessary to reduce the risk of environmental catastrophe: A government takeover of business is necessary to combat climate change.

In her new book “On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal,” Klein writes that allegiance to capitalism is at the heart of climate denial.

Author Naomi Klein (Courtesy of Julia Prosser)

Free market think tanks like the Heartland Institute and the Heritage Foundation are weakening the fight against climate change by championing corporate deregulation and low taxes for the wealthy, she says.

“That requires massive investments in the public sphere, exactly what these free-market think tanks have been railing against for some 50 years,” she says. “It requires that we regulate corporations. It requires that we actually increase taxes on the wealthy.”

While attending a conference for the Heartland Institute in 2011, Klein heard one attendee declare climate change is “a Trojan horse designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism,” she writes. In February, eight years later, chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thomas Donohue called the Green New Deal “a Trojan horse for socialism.”

On the darker side of climate change denial — the Christchurch killer, who murdered 50 at a mosque in New Zealand, called himself an “eco-fascist.” And Anders Behring Breivik, who slaughtered 70 in Norway in 2011, called action against climate change “enviro-communism.”

Despite the prevalence of this fear of going against capitalism, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its landmark 2018 report calls for “fundamental societal and systems transitions and transformations” to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This necessary transformation includes rethinking energy, transportation and agriculture systems, Klein says.

“This is why they have been denying it all along,” she says. MORE

‘Stop Funding Ecocide’: Extinction Rebellion Protesters Target London Financial District

“The city of London is a preeminent nexus of power in the global system that is killing our world.”


Extinction Rebellion protesters block the roads outside the Bank of England on October 14, 2019 in London. (Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images)

Climate activists with the global Extinction Rebellion movement blocked roads leading to London’s financial district on Monday to call attention to the role big banks play in funding fossil fuel projects and exacerbating the planetary crisis.

Protesters also rallied outside the Bank of England to demand that it “stop funding ecocide” and “invest in the future.”

“The city of London is a preeminent nexus of power in the global system that is killing our world,” Carolina Rosa, spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion (XR), said in a statement. “It is the epicenter of ‘business as usual,’ both in the U.K. and globally. If there is to be any hope for the future it cannot continue to operate in its present form.”

Emily Grossman, an expert in molecular biology who took part in Monday’s protest, slammed financial institutions for fueling the climate crisis by pursuing “huge investments” in the fossil fuel industry as scientists warn carbon emissions must be cut immediately to avoid global catastrophe.

The Guardian reported over the weekend that BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street—the world’s largest asset managers—”have built a combined $300 billion fossil fuel investment portfolio using money from people’s private savings and pension contributions.”

“They are using our own money—in terms of pensions and investments—to drive us all towards climate catastrophe,” said Grossman. “They are threatening the lives of our children and grandchildren for the sake of their profits.”

Protesters targeted Blackrock’s London offices on Monday

The London Metropolitan Police announced early Monday that there have been more than 1,300 arrests in the city since XR’s two weeks of global nonviolent action began last week. The movement is demanding that political and corporate leaders acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis and take action to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Rabbi Jeffrey Newman, who joined dozens of others in the streets outside the Bank of England, said “if it takes an arrest to try to find ways of helping to galvanize public opinion, then it is certainly worth being arrested.”

Newman was arrested and carried away by London police moments later:

Andrew Medhurst, a former investment banker who is now a full-time climate activist, told The Guardian that the financial sector is “essentially leading us to destruction” by continuing to fund fossil fuel development.

“We have no more time left in terms of taking action,” said Medhurst. “We haven’t got 12 years. We should have started yesterday. We have to decarbonize our economies, so for the banks to be lending money to fossil fuel companies—it’s just barmy. It doesn’t make sense.” SOURCE