‘What will you tell your children?’: Greta Thunberg blasts climate inaction at Davos


Greta Thunberg told a World Economic Forum panel on climate that activists were demanding an end to all investment in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, calling for a drastic reduction of emissions to zero. She dismissed some of the measures mooted by governments and companies, such as planting billions of trees to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Her comments came after Donald Trump announced the US joined the global 1 trillion tree initiative Davos 2020: Greta Thunberg says ‘world is on fire’ and blasts leaders’ climate inaction. SOURCE

 

 

Unifor president Jerry Dias arrested at Regina’s Co-op Refinery

Union head among 7 taken into custody on picket line, police confirm

 

Unifor president Jerry Dias, left, and the union’s lead negotiator Scott Doherty. Dias was taken into custody by police on Monday amid a labour dispute at the Co-op Refinery in Regina. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Unifor national president Jerry Dias was arrested along with six other members of the union on Monday afternoon amid rising tensions in a dispute with the Co-op Refinery in Regina.

The arrests came after union members set up blockades outside the refinery, contrary to a recent court order.

“Unifor members had completely blocked the entrances/exits to the Co-op Refinery Complex, not allowing vehicles to enter or exit the property,” the Regina Police Service said in a statement.

Dias had said at a media conference that morning that the blockades were set up by members of other Unifor locals. He argued that they therefore did not violate the injunction, which bars members of Local 594 — which represents workers at the refinery — from blocking access to the facility.

“We’ll deal with that in court because our argument today is that we are not violating any injunction at all,” Dias said.

Jerry Dias@JerryPDias

We need thousands more members to come to Regina because @reginapolice have decided to side with @CoopFCL https://twitter.com/UniforTheUnion/status/1219393969974579200 

Unifor@UniforTheUnion

Once again the Regina Police are siding with greedy @CoopFCL #skpoli #canlab #cdnpoli #BoycottCoop #SupportUnifor594

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Police did not confirm who else was arrested or if any charges were laid.

Monday marked 46 days since Unifor members were locked out.

The blockades were taken down Monday evening.

The dispute mainly comes down to pensions. A previous deal included a defined benefit pension for workers. Now the refinery is moving toward a defined contribution plan.

The union says this amounts to taking away workers’ pensions. The refinery says it is trying to remain competitive.

“We are going to guarantee you that not one fuel truck is going to leave this facility. From now on we’re not going anywhere,” Scott Doherty, Unifor’s lead negotiator and executive assistant to the president, said.

The refinery said in a statement that the blockades were illegal and that it is exploring legal options.

“Unifor continues to use illegal blockades as a bullying tactic and has brought in extra people to help them to it,” the statement said. “Today’s actions by Unifor represent yet another violation of the court injunction.”

Regina police said they were monitoring the situation. In a statement, police said they were communicating with both sides to keep the peace and advising motorists to avoid the area of Ninth Avenue N., MacDonald Street and Fleet Street.

Police took Unifor members into custody after the union constructed blockades at the refinery. (Unifor/Twitter)

Before his arrest, Dias estimated that about 500 people were brought in from across Canada to Regina and said more are expected. Dias said the union also plans to increase the boycott of Co-ops across Western Canada if a deal isn’t made.

“Clearly the only place that this dispute will be resolved will be at the bargaining table,” Dias said.

The refinery previously said Unifor hasn’t returned to the bargaining table since September 2019.  MORE

Big Oil has a do-or-die decade ahead because of climate change

The 2020s are poised to be to energy firms what the 2010s were to utilities—disruptive

As revolutionary slogans go, it hardly had the resonance of ¡No pasarán! But when Repsol, a Spanish oil company, said in December it would reduce the net carbon footprint of everything it produces to zero within 30 years, it marked the most powerful pledge so far by a big oil firm to cast off some of the vestiges of a fossil past in favour of a windy and sunny future.

Many will scoff. Oil companies are, after all, widely regarded as the villains of the climate crisis. Repsol is a relatively puny producer; its vow may simply be a gambit to woo investors keen on “sustainability”. Yet it deserves a pat on the back. Without the oil industry’s balance-sheets and project-management skills, it is hard to imagine the world building anything like enough wind farms, solar parks and other forms of clean energy to stop catastrophic global warming. The question is no longer “whether” Big Oil has a big role to play in averting the climate crisis. It is “when”.

Ask oil executives about timing, though, and most hum and haw. They face a dilemma. Though the world needs them to throw their weight behind clean energy, their oil-and-gas businesses have traditionally generated higher returns. Yet forecasting returns is complex—and becoming more so. As well as project risk, it involves assessing the attitude of investors, governments and consumers towards climate uncertainties. To cynics, all the climate-friendly noises amount to little in practice, since few people are ready to make carbon-cutting sacrifices that would force oil firms’ hand. But noises are sometimes followed by action. Should they be this time, the 2020s may be do-or-die for the oil industry.

In energy, a lot can happen in ten years. The 2010s saw oil markets transformed by American shale. In Europe renewable energy prompted something almost as wrenching for a different sort of energy firm—utilities. Faced with an existential threat from wind and solar, fossil-fuel power producers such as Germany’s e.on and rwe tore themselves apart, redesigned their businesses, and emerged cleaner and stronger. Southern European firms like Spain’s Iberdrola and Italy’s Enel took renewables worldwide. Last year total shareholder returns from the reinvigorated European utilities left the oil-and-gas industry in the dust.

Big Oil looks like the European utilities of a decade ago: potentially in for a seismic shock, and in denial. Some giants, like ExxonMobil and Chevron in America, continue to bet most heavily on oil, believing demand for petrol will remain strong for the foreseeable future. Others, among them Europe’s supermajors, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and bp, increasingly favour natural gas, and see low-carbon (though not necessarily zero-carbon) power generation as a way to prop up their business model as more cars and other things begin to run on electricity.

A few dabble in renewable energy, especially in Europe. But of a whopping $80bn or so of capital expenditure by Europe’s seven biggest listed energy firms last year, only 7.4%—less than $1bn each on average—went to clean energy. In order to meet the goals of the Paris agreement to keep global warming below 2°C, the ratio of dirty energy to the clean sort will need to be turned upside down. On January 14th ubs, a bank, calculated that capital spending on renewable energy, power grids and batteries will need to rise globally to $1.2trn a year on average from now until 2050, more than double the $500bn spent each year on oil and gas. To help fund that, it reckons that oil-and-gas companies will need to divert $10trn of investments away from fossil fuels over the same period.

That sounds unthinkable. For now, oil executives show no appetite for such a radical change of direction. If anything, they are working their oil-and-gas assets harder, to skim the profits and hand them to shareholders while they still can. Oil, they say, generates double-digit returns on capital employed. Clean energy, mere single digits.

They may be overstating the case. First, as the Boston Consulting Group points out, no big industry performed worse for shareholders in the second half of the 2010s than oil and gas. Second, the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (oies), a think-tank, says climate-concerned investors are already pushing up oil companies’ cost of capital for long-term projects, crimping returns. Third, with their vast balance-sheets, and skill in building and managing complex endeavours over decades, they could dramatically scale up offshore wind and similar businesses, bolstering profitability.

Furthermore, Big Oil has ways to make other high-risk, high-reward bets on clean energy. One is through venture capital. The oies calculates that of 200 recent investments by the oil majors, 70 have been in clean-energy ventures, such as electric-vehicle charging networks. They have generally been small for now. But bp reportedly plans to build five $1bn-plus “unicorns” over the next five years with an aim of providing more energy with lower emissions. Another way is to back research and development in potentially groundbreaking technologies such as high-altitude wind energy, whose generating efficiency promises equally lofty profits.

BlackRock and the black stuff

Even as the majors diversify, supplying oil and gas will be the bedrock of their business for decades. Larry Fink, boss of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, acknowledged this in a letter to global chief executives on January 14th, even as he predicted that climate change would cause a significant shift in capital toward sustainable investing (see article).

Yet excuses for prevarication are growing thinner. As Peter Parry of Bain, a consultancy, puts it, it has become “something of a myth” that oil is a high-return industry. As national climate commitments grow more stringent, governments may go on the warpath. ubs argues that it may be necessary for governments to “ban” the $10trn of oil-and-gas investments to reach net zero emissions by 2050. It is not only Repsol that feels which way the breeze is blowing. It need not be an ill wind.

 

Mega-Fires Almost Doubled Chile’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Fires in 2017 were worst on record, burning 570,000 hectares
  •  Chile’s wildfires have worsened because of decade-long drought

Firefighters work to put out a wildfire at a forest in the town of San Ramon in Constitucion, Chile on Jan. 26, 2017.

Firefighters work to put out a wildfire at a forest in the town of San Ramon in Constitucion, Chile on Jan. 26, 2017. Photographer: Cristobal Olivares/Bloomberg

The mega-fires that ravaged Chile in 2017 emitted the equivalent of 90% of the country’s annual greenhouse-gas emissions, Chilean researchers estimated.The South American nation’s worst wildfires on record burnt more than 570,000 hectares and cost $350 million to combat, according to a report by Universidad de Chile’s Center for Climate and Resilience released last week. The previous record was 130,000 hectares in 2015.

The 2017 fires put about 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere, close to the 111.6 million tonnes emitted by all of Chile the year before. It would take cars in Santiago, home to about 7 million people, to run for 23 years to equal the emissions from the worst mega-fires.

There are no magic solutions to these fires,” said researcher Mauro Gonzalez at the report’s presentation in Santiago last week. “We have a great challenge ahead because we can’t manage climate change or meteorological conditions, so we need to focus on prevention.“

Hidden Emissions

Chile emissions from forest fires in 2017 almost equaled 2016 emissions

Last year saw the least rainfall on record in much of Chile, marking the completion of country’s driest ever decade, a phenomenon linked to climate change that scientists have named a mega-drought. As global temperatures rise, extreme heat and lack of rain have worsened forest-fire episodes in other parts of the world such as California, Australia and the Amazon.

Australia has lost 10 million hectares to the flames this session.

MORE

For the first time, our failing environment is seen as the biggest business risk at Davos

No bridge over troubled waters.

It wasn’t long ago that captains of industry fretted most about oil prices, asset bubbles, and unemployment. But since 2007, those participating in the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland have seen these worries replaced by an even more urgent threat: environmental change.

More than a thousand WEF participants were surveyed this year (pdf) about the biggest global risks facing the world. For the first time, climate change or climate-related issues occupied the top five spots as the most likely global risks. Weapons of mass destruction were the only non-environment related risk to be on the list of threats likely to have the biggest impact. It’s the first time since the poll began that environmental risk has ranked so highly, up from zero in 2010. 1

“Climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than many expected,” states the WEF (pdf). The world is now on track to warm by more than 3°C, blowing past what scientists say is a level required to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences. There’s no sign GHG emissions are peaking, states the United Nations (pdf), and every year of delay makes future reductions more difficult and drastic with potential damages measured in the trillions of dollars. The top factors ranked by 1,047 participants from business (38%), academia (21%), and government (15%) surveyed this year are below: MORE

USA: Three-Quarters of New US Generating Capacity in 2020 Will Be Renewable, EIA Says

2020 will be a record year for U.S. renewables construction as 6 gigawatts of coal capacity goes offline, according to new government figures.

The U.S. wind market is teed up for more than 15GW of installations this year, analysts forecast.

The U.S. wind market is teed up for more than 15GW of installations this year, analysts forecast.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has confirmed what it and industry watchers predicted a year ago — that wind and solar power will expand on their already-large share of new U.S. generation capacity in 2020.

According to EIA data released Tuesday, wind and solar will make up 32 of the 42 gigawatts of new capacity additions expected to start commercial operation in 2020, respectively, dwarfing the 9.3 gigawatts of natural-gas-fired plants to come online this year.

EIA’s numbers also break records for both wind and solar in terms of annual capacity additions. The 18.5 gigawatts of wind power capacity set to come online in 2020 surpasses 2012’s record of 13.2 gigawatts and pushes total U.S. production well past the 100-gigawatt milestone set in the third quarter of 2019.

Wood Mackenzie is expecting 15.2 gigawatts of new wind this year, with some projects delayed into 2021 amid a historic wind construction boom.

MORE

 

New German Coal Plant Could Threaten Merkel’s Final Climate Push

The Uniper power plant Datteln 4.

The Uniper power plant Datteln 4. Photographer:Marcel Kusch/picture alliance via Getty Images

One of Germany’s biggest utilities plans to open a new coal plant even though the nation is lagging behind countries from U.K. to Spain in phasing out the fuel.

Protesters are already preparing to disrupt the opening of Uniper SE’s Datteln-4 plant in June and could turn the utility into the latest flash point in Germany’s increasingly fractious debate about the fossil fuel that still generates about a third of the country’s electricity. The conflict could threaten Chancellor Angela Merkel’s climate legacy as German emission targets lag following a decade of record renewable energy investments.

Merkel is trying to build consensus this week over a 2038 exit date for coal and heal widening rifts between industry and environmentalists. Government officials and company executives will meet for another round of talks Jan. 15 in Berlin, where they’ll discuss compensation for abandoning coal. Uniper is keen for its plant to become one of the nation’s last operating coal facilities.

“It’ll be an own goal for Uniper to open it,” said Dirk Jansen, an official at the environmental group BUND Friends of the Earth Germany.

The 1.5-billion euro ($1.7 billion) Datteln-4 plant, outside Dortmund in western Germany’s industrial heartland, is already nine years late and over budget because of defects that delayed its connection to the grid.

Climate activists aren’t buying the utility’s arguments that the new facility burns cleaner than older models it plans to retire and wants the plant shuttered before it ever operates. MORE

Juliana v. US: Hardly Child’s Play

Image result for resilience: Juliana v. US: Hardly Child’s Play

Lead photo courtesy of Our Children’s Trust/#YOUTHGOV#YOUTHVGOV

More than four years ago, 21 youthful plaintiffs asked a federal court to rule a habitable environment a protected right under the US Constitution. On January 17, 2020, a divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told them they didn’t have standing to pursue their case and that there was nothing the court could do to redress the legitimate harms they had suffered:

Reluctantly, we conclude that such relief is beyond our constitutional power. Rather, the plaintiffs’ impressive case for redress must be presented to the political branches of government.

Early on, Juliana was often reported with a wink and a nod giving the impression that it was a feel-good human-interest story about kids. As it survived one legal challenge after another, the case came to be recognized for what it could be—the most important environmental case of all time equal in stature to Brown v. Board of Education (school desegregation), Roe v. Wade (a woman’s right to an abortion), and Obergefell v. Hodges (the right of men and women to marry those they love even if of the same sex).

The environmental trial of the century now looks as if it is not meant to be. The young plaintiffs and their attorneys have announced their intention to petition for an en banc hearing by the full court of appeals to review the panel’s decision. Their only other option is to petition the US Supreme Court yet one more time. In a previous appeal, the high court noted that:

…the “breadth of respondents’ claims is striking… .and the justiciability of those claims presents substantial grounds for difference of opinion. (emphasis added)

Judicial opinions now seem to be lining up against the plaintiffs.

Two out of three is not enough

It is critical for climate activists to understand why a case succeeds or fails in the courtroom for two underlying reasons. The first is to carry the knowledge and experience forward when choosing the next case to pursue; the proposition is true whether the case just decided won or lost.

Legal decisions of constitutional consequence are rarely made within the confines of a single case. The outcome of most major suits depends on cumulative precedence and practices—known in law as the doctrine of stare decisis. What went before influences what comes after. As the dissenting judge noted in her opinion, however, constitutional vindication is often a slow churn.

The second reason an appreciation of the procedural and substantive aspects of a case is critical is to assay its potential value in a different court—that of public opinion. A procedural loss doesn’t mean the plaintiff wasn’t harmed or won’t continue to be. It means only that the defendant isn’t legally liable.

No liability is the cry of the Trump administration in Juliana. It is also the defense put forward by major oil companies in nuisance/tort suits like State of Rhode Island v Chevron et al.

Before a plaintiff is allowed to pursue a remedy in federal court, they must first establish they have the right, i.e., standing, to seek the court’s assistance. Standing is granted based on the answers to three questions:

  • Has the plaintiff suffered a concrete harm?
  • Is the harm the direct result of a defendant’s action?
  • Does the court have the power to redress the harm in some substantive manner?

Based on copious expert evidence the three-judge panel stated there could be little doubt that climate change is occurring or that it is harmful both to the planet and her people in ways ranging from rising sea levels and forest fires to more frequent and intense climate-related weather emergencies, e.g., hurricanes and droughts, all the while increasing rates of morbidity and mortality.

The panel–based on the evidence— further concluded that climate change is the consequence of fossil fuel production, extraction, and combustion and that the federal government has long understood the economic, health, and security risks associated with increasing greenhouse gas emissions like CO2.

In the matter of standing, meeting two out of three of the requirements is not enough to win the day in federal court. All must be answered in the affirmative and, in this instance, a majority of the panel believed the court was powerless to redress the injuries.

The burden is on the plaintiffs to show that the relief they seek is both (1) substantially likely to redress their injuries; and (2) within an Article III court’s power to award. Redress need not be guaranteed, but it must be more than “merely speculative.” (emphasis added) The Article III reference is to the US Constitution. Article I enumerates legislative powers, while Article II those of the executive branch.

The Juliana plaintiffs are asking the court to order the government to cease permitting, authorizing, and subsidizing fossil fuel use, AND prepare a plan subject to judicial approval to draw down harmful emissions. These are not simple requests. The sheer magnitude of what would be required to grant the requested relief was not lost on the court.

Expert witnesses for the plaintiffs’ made plain that reducing the global consequences of climate change demands much more than cessation of the government’s promotion of fossil fuels. Rather, these experts opine that such a result calls for no less than a fundamental transformation of this country’s energy system, if not that of the industrialized world. (emphasis added)

In an admittedly ironic turn, the truthfulness of Juliana’s expert witnesses convinced the majority of the panel that it was just too big a job for the judiciary.

The majority opinion concludes by expressing the court’s certainty of climate science, the damage knowingly being done the planet by the government’s continued support of fossil fuels, and the moral responsibility of the legislative and executive branches to do something about it. The judges even concede that the broad judicial relief the plaintiffs seek could well goad the political branches into action.

Notwithstanding all of that, the majority judges conclude that courts cannot step in to remediate a problem caused by the abdication of responsibility of the two political branches of government.

Union is much older than the Constitution

Judge Josephine L. Staton writes in her dissenting opinion that the government accepts as fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response—yet presses ahead toward calamity.

Staton sees climate change as a threat to the nation’s existencephrasing the government’s arguments in the starkest of terms:

Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation. (emphasis added)

Judge Staton sees the seriousness of climate change, as testified to by the plaintiffs’ experts in depositions and written submissions, on par with the secession of southern states from the Union—placing this issue on an entirely different legal and moral plane.

While secession manifested the existential threat most apparently contemplated by the Founders—political dissolution of the Union—the underlying principle applies equally to its physical destruction. (emphasis added)

Staton is accusing her colleagues of hiding behind a technicality. She faults them for accepting the seriousness of the threat but throw[ing] up their hands, concluding that this case presents nothing fit for the Judiciary.

Staton recognizes that there are times when the judicial branch has the constitutional obligation to intervene where the political branches run afoul of our foundational principlesOne of these principles is preserving the union against threats of clearly irreversible consequences—whether political or physical.

A second principle involves the nature of the right to be protected. Staton quotes the Supreme Court’s opinion in Obergefell:

…the Due Process Clause, enshrined in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, also safeguards certain “interests of the person so fundamental that the [government] must accord them its respect.” (emphasis added)

Here, Staton defines respect as answering the standing requirements of an actual harm suffered at the hands of the defendant.

As to the matter of the court’s ability to redress the harms done to the plaintiffs, Staton references the doctrine of judicial review that compels federal courts to fashion relief to right legal wrongs. Unlike her colleagues, Staton does not consider the court’s incapacity to afford the plaintiffs a total remedy as a reason not to fashion some sort of meaningful relief.

Plaintiffs have asked the court to order the administration to prepare a plan for drawing down greenhouse gases to within safe levels as determined by science. The federal government has the resources in place to produce an emissions reduction plan.

Much of this work has already been done and at the direction of the political branches. The Fourth National Climate Assessment documents vulnerabilities, risks, and impacts associated with natural climate variability and human-caused climate change across the United States and provides examples of response actions underway in many communities. 

The Assessment is mandated by Congress. It is the work of 300 federal and non-federal experts—including individuals from federal, state, and local governments, tribes and Indigenous communities, national laboratories, universities, and the private sector. That Congress and the president have chosen to ignore the findings and recommendations of its scientists only supports the case for judicial intervention.

A court’s ordering a national government to urgently and significantly reduce emissions in line with its human rights obligations is not without precedent. The Dutch Supreme Court ordered its government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent by the end of 2020. (Urgenda v. Netherlands)

Staton recognizes that the political branches must ultimately act—either on their own or at the direction of the judiciary—for the nation to have any chance of avoiding the worst consequences of Earth’s warming. Her interpretation of the Constitution and case law would allow the courts to goad recalcitrant lawmakers to action.

As eloquent as Judge Staton’s dissenting opinion is, her interpretation of the Constitution and case law is not shared by many others on the federal bench. Notwithstanding the benefit of a favorable ruling in Juliana, the fact is that the courts are ill-suited to the task of bringing about the fundamental transformation of the nation’s energy system.

Courts are slow to rule, and when they do, it remains the responsibility of the political branches to implement their orders. Juliana was first filed in 2015. The Urgender plaintiffs started their efforts in 2012.

A government in denial will continue to drag its feet and challenge any orders and rulings on procedural grounds, knowing that the science is not on their side. Time, as the majority in this most recent Juliana decision admits, is of the essence.

Whether or not Juliana is allowed to go forward, the evidentiary record it has created validates mainstream climate science and is proof that the Trump administration is fully cognizant of the causes and consequences of Earth’s warming but continues to deregulate the environment—going so far as wiping all references to climate change from the web pages of federal agencies.

Even before Greta Thunberg, there were the Juliana plaintiffs. Now with Thunberg and the millions more young climate champions who have been inspired by them, the fundamental right of all people to a habitable environment is being debated in the court of public opinion where moral responsibility will be harder to rule out of order. SOURCE

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