Violence against Indigenous women during COVID-19 sparks calls for MMIWG plan

Survey of more than 250 Indigenous women found 1 in 5 were victims of violence over past 3 months

The preliminary results of a new survey reveal a deeply concerning spike in the number of Indigenous women who say they are facing more violent incidents since the pandemic began, often by an intimate partner. (Shutterstock)

With reports of a sharp rise in violence against Indigenous women as COVID-19 restrictions keep families stuck in their homes, concerns are being raised about whether the pandemic could delay the promised June delivery of a national action plan on missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada has been conducting a series of nation-wide, grassroots consultations with their local member offices and with Indigenous women to determine how COVID-19 has been affecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis women in Canada.

The preliminary results reveal a deeply concerning spike in the number of Indigenous women who say they are facing more violent incidents since the pandemic began, often by an intimate partner.

A survey of more than 250 Indigenous women found one in five reporting they’ve been a victim of physical or psychological violence over the past three months.

Also, the preliminary results of this survey and two additional consultations suggest more of these women are concerned about domestic violence in the midst of this pandemic than they are about the virus.

Native Women’s Association president Lorraine Whitman says she finds the numbers “shocking” and is deeply concerned about the safety of Indigenous women in Canada, as public health officials continue to ask people to remain in their homes.

“We know in a perfect world staying at home is a safe place, but it isn’t a perfect world and it isn’t a safe place for some of our women and families,” Whitman said.

“With the social distancing and self-isolation, women have had to stay in a home in a confined area with their abuser or perpetrator and they cannot escape. There’s nowhere where they can go.”

Lorraine Whitman, president of the Native Women’s Association, is concerned about the safety of Indigenous women in Canada, as public health officials continue to ask people to remain in their homes. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

 

The federal government did commit $40 million in funding to Women and Gender Equality Canada, with up to $30 million earmarked for the “immediate needs” of shelters and sexual assault centres. Another $10 million was provided to Indigenous Services Canada’s existing network of 46 emergency shelters on reserve and in Yukon to support Indigenous women and children fleeing violence.

But Whitman says many shelters and sexual assault centres in the country are not run for or by Indigenous people, which is why many First Nations, Inuit and Metis women won’t access them, even if they’re in trouble.

“They don’t have that comfort zone there and they’re not culturally influenced or inclusive of the Indigenous values that we have and our traditions and ceremonies.”

Even before the pandemic began, Indigenous women in Canada were facing higher levels of violence and abuse — a stark reality laid bare in the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The situation has been made worse by the arrival of COVID-19 in Canada, Whitman said.

That’s why, earlier this week, the Native Women’s Association held a virtual roundtable with Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and International Development Minister Karina Gould urging the federal government to implement a national plan for meeting the inquiry’s 231 calls for justice.

‘Tired of talk’

The urgency has been heightened by the global pandemic crisis, Whitman said.

“We need to have some action. The families of the missing and murdered women and girls and two-spirited [individuals], we’re tired of talk. If you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walk. And I’m not seeing that.”

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said in December the federal government would release its national action plan to respond to the inquiry’s findings in June of this year, which would mark the one-year anniversary of the release of the calls for justice.

In Ottawa on Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said work on this national response to the inquiry’s work has been ongoing and that this work is “more important than it has ever been.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this national response to the inquiry’s work is a priority that continues and is intensified because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

 

“This government has worked from the beginning to give more support to shelters and organizations and networks that are supporting victims of family violence or gender-based violence. We will continue to do that work,” he said.

“We will continue to work very hard on that national action plan coming from the missing and murdered inquiry. This is a priority that continues and is even intensified because of this crisis.”

Michele Audette, who worked as a commissioner on the MMIWG inquiry, says she believes work on the national action plan — which she says must also include commitments from the provinces and territories — has been delayed by several events over the last year, including the election.

However, she believes even if an action plan had already been in place before the pandemic began, she’s not convinced it would have changed the sad realities now being faced by Indigenous women experiencing increased incidents of violence.

Michele Audette, one of the commissioners of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, said she believes work on the national action plan has been delayed by several events over the last year, including the election. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

 

“I don’t know if we would see a change right away because it’s rooted so deeply in the culture, the colonial system,” Audette said.

“Because we are facing the impact of colonialism, we are not a top priority and we can see it with COVID right now.”

She stressed the need for all levels of government — federal, provincial, municipal and Indigenous — to ensure shelters, social workers and first responders who serve Indigenous populations are well supported so they can respond to issues of violence against women.

NDP MP Leah Gazan says the Liberal government has failed to adequately respond to the MMIWG inquiry’s work.

“With the increasing rate of violence, which has occurred during COVID, we are now in an even worse crisis,” she said.

“We need to move swiftly. This is a life and death situation.” SOURCE

Bill McKibben: What Will It Take to Cool the Planet?

Thanks to pressure from the Gwich’in First Nation, five of the six biggest U.S. banks have agreed not to finance drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.Photograph by Christopher Miller / NYT / Redux

This week’s newsletter is a little different, in that I mainly want to encourage you to watch a video and then play with a Web site. Both come from the remarkable people at Climate Interactive, a project that grew out of M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management. I’ve admired the group’s co-directors, Elizabeth Sawin and Andrew Jones, for many years, and watched their En-roads simulator grow from fairly crude beginnings into a truly sophisticated and useful model. It allows you to change different variables to see what it would take to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions enough to get us off our current impossible track (screeching toward a world something like four degrees Celsius hotter) and onto the merely miserable heading of 1.5 to two degrees Celsius envisioned in the Paris climate accords.

I pointed out last week that the covid-19 pandemic has taught us something interesting: even locking down most of the planet didn’t cut emissions as much as we might have thought. (By early April, daily carbon-dioxide emissions decreased by seventeen per cent.) This suggests that a great percentage of the trouble is hardwired into our systems, and not solely a function of our habits and choices. Indeed, the simulator shows that, if you reduce the growth of both populations and economies to the lowest level the programmers considered possible, the planet still warms almost 3.5 degrees Celsius.

But now reset the variables and go into the submenus for coal, gas, and oil, and perform a little experiment: stop building any new infrastructure for these fossil fuels beginning in 2025 and, all of a sudden, you’re at a world that warms only 2.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. That’s why it is such good news, for instance, that New York State last week quashed plans for the Williams natural-gas pipeline across the New York City harbor: if you keep building stuff like this now, it locks in emissions for decades to come, busting our carbon budget. It’s why the climate movement has fought so hard against pipelines and fracking wells and L.N.G. terminals: with ever-cheaper renewable power, when you manage to stop such projects, sun and wind have a chance at filling the vacuum.

And, once you’ve made this basic course change, you can go back to work on other steps that the simulator can model. Stipulate an all-out effort at making buildings and transport more efficient, and cut way back on deforestation—and now you’re at about 2.5 degrees. Figure out some ways to “highly reduce” methane emissions from oil and gas wells, cows, and other sources, and suddenly you’re nearing the two-degree mark.

None of these things are easy, of course. In fact, all of them are very hard. But stopping new infrastructure is possible—it’s basically a battle with the fossil-fuel industry, which, as I’ve been pointing out, is losing financial muscle with each passing week. Last week, according to the Financial Times, in a fascinating interview with Bernard Looney, the C.E.O. of BP, “Looney noted that as crude prices have plunged, renewable energy projects had been able to attract funding, suggesting the pandemic has weakened the investment case for oil. ‘It’s the model that is increasingly respected and admired by investors as being resilient and having a different risk profile,’ he said.”

Passing the Mic

Bernadette Demientieff is the executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, which has been coördinating that First Nation’s fight against plans for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She’s spent much of the past few years visiting with representatives of major banks and asking them not to finance the project, because it would damage the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd and, as a consequence, her community’s way of life. And she’s been successful: among the six biggest American banks, only Bank of America has not agreed to the Gwich’ins’ request.

Could you tell us what the Arctic Refuge is like this time of year—has spring begun to reach the far north?

I would be honored to share the true beauty of the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. This place right now would be melting and summer on the rise. Animals coming out and appearing all over. Creeks and lakes starting to form beautifully. It’s like nature slowly waking up.

Bank after bank has agreed not to fund drilling in the Arctic these past months. Do you think that will make a difference?

We have been visiting these banks for the past two years, and it was really heartfelt to see that many of them made a commitment to withdraw from going into the Arctic Refuge. Our human rights are being violated, and we will not sit by quietly and allow this to happen.

What do you think people don’t understand about this fight—what message would you most like to get across?

Many people are not aware that this is not just about protecting our polar bears but this is about the indigenous voices being ignored, this is about a whole identity, about a people’s entire way of life being destroyed for profit. We have a spiritual and cultural connection to the Porcupine caribou herd, and we will stand strong in unity for the protection of their calving grounds and the Gwich’in way of life. We are rich in our culture, we are rich in our way of life. Look out across this country and understand this is a prime example of why we continue to fight for protection of these places. These lands, these waters, these animals are our survival.

Many of us will be O.K., because we are survivors, but we don’t only think about ourselves or our people. We think about our human race and all the many American people who deserve a chance at survival. We stand up for our future generations, the ones that do not have a voice yet, and we carry on “in a good way” the love, kindness, and strength of our ancestors.

Climate School

The climate campaigner Jamie Henn—an old colleague—wrote a provocative piece for Common Dreams last week arguing that environmentalists need to do a better job of describing the future world they’d like to build. If Fox News says that the Green New Deal is all about taking away hamburgers, Green New Dealers should respond with a vision of a “cleaner, healthier, freer, fun-er new world. A world where we aren’t choking on smog and exhaust. Where you don’t have to worry about gas leaks or expensive water bills. Where there’s no oil to change, no gaskets to replace, maybe even no car to worry about, because you’ve got a sexy electric bike and free, all-electric transit is just a block or two away.”

For Future Tense (a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University), David Zipper argues persuasively that cities have a short window—perhaps measured in weeks—to break the reflexive habit of driving cars. The nightmare is that subway-leery commuters will soon be driving. “A recent Vanderbilt study found that Bay Area residents could soon spend an additional 20 to 80 minutes per day stuck in congestion due to a shift away from mass transit. Evidence from China, which is attempting to return to life as usual following extended coronavirus lockdowns, is ominous: In early April, cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou already had higher levels of rush hour congestion than a year ago.” The dream looks like—well, like these survey results from the U.K., which found that six out of ten Brits want their government to prioritize health and well-being over economic growth even after the pandemic subsides. Doubtless that’s why London continues to amaze with its plans to turn the city center into a zone for bikes, buses, scooters, and pedestrians. In a sign of the times, the staid Financial Times offers a guide for first-time bike buyers.

Obviously not important in the long run, but a fascinating glimpse into the vagaries of short-term climate forecasting: nasa’s climate chief, Gavin Schmidt, said last month that there is a sixty-per-cent chance that 2020 will be the hottest year on record. Last week, his predecessor, the legendary climate scientist James Hansen, said, “Don’t bet on it.” He forecasts a La Niña chilling of the Pacific, which might keep temperatures below record levels until 2022. Hansen’s excellent Web site also contains chapters from his forthcoming book, “Sophie’s Planet.”

The clean-energy advocate and investor Ramez Naam has been making forecasts of the price of solar power since 2011. Though he was more bullish than almost anyone else about the decline in costs, he now says that he wasn’t bullish enough. “Solar has plunged in price faster than anyone—including me—predicted. And modeling of that price decline leads me to forecast that solar will continue to drop in price faster than I’ve previously expected, and will ultimately reach prices lower than virtually anyone expects. Prices that are, by any stretch of the measure, insanely, world-changingly cheap.” In fact, he predicts that, per kilowatt-hour, “average prices in sunny parts of the world” will be “down to a penny or two by 2030 or 2035.” This would mean that “building new solar would routinely be cheaper than operating already built fossil fuel plants, even in the world of ultra-cheap natural gas we live in now.”

Scoreboard

An own goal: writing last week about the threat of a union leader to violate social-distancing rules in an effort to stop anti-gas ordinances, I managed to omit the link to the story in the Los Angeles Times that first detailed the nastiness. I’m kind of glad for the omission, though, because it allows me to point out the fine work of the reporter in question, Sammy Roth. You can read more of his thinking regularly in the L.A. Times newsletter “Boiling Point”; it’s especially valuable for keeping track of California, which has the world’s fifth-largest economy and is en route to being among its cleanest.

Following the lead of Canada, state authorities in North Dakota said last week that they would use some of their covid-19 relief money to employ oil workers to plug abandoned oil wells. That’s good and bad: good that these people will get to do this necessary work; bad that the taxpayers are footing the bill, instead of the energy companies that made big profits doing the original damage.

The tiny Pacific island of Niue has been designated the world’s first “dark sky” country by astronomers. Niue’s willingness to replace outdoor lighting with low-glow L.E.D.s won’t just preserve the splendor of the Milky Way; it will also make life a lot easier for wildlife. “In areas brightly lit at night, turtles can’t find the ocean, birds become disoriented while flying, and clownfish don’t hatch,” an Australian researcher told the Web site Mongabay. “It can also affect the mass-spawning event of many reef-building corals.”

In a potentially huge breakthrough for energy storage, a Minnesota utility supplier has signed a contract for a pilot project with a Bill Gates-backed battery manufacturer, Form Energy, which says that its product can provide a hundred and fifty hours of full-power-capacity backup, a big improvement on the current standard of about four hours.

The University of California finished the job of divesting its hundred-and-twenty-six- billion-dollar portfolio from fossil fuels. As the L.A. Times reported, the chief investment officer said that “his team is convinced that investments in fossil fuels pose an ‘unacceptable financial risk,’ particularly with ‘geopolitical tensions and likely, a bumpy and slow global financial recovery in a post-pandemic world.’ ”

And at the JPMorgan Chase annual shareholder’s meeting, campaigners came breathtakingly close—49.6 per cent of the vote—to forcing the company, according to Reuters, to report on “whether and how it will align its business lending” with the temperature targets set in the Paris climate accords. As Reuters noted, “traditionally shareholder measures that receive more than 30% of support usually push companies to make at least some changes to assuage investor concerns.” Certainly the heat is on: two members of the Rockefeller family, which has historic ties to the bank, joined New York City comptroller Scott Stringer in writing an op-ed in the Daily News on the day of the vote, saying that the company “needs to move away from financing the dirty fossil fuels of the past and toward the big, strategic clean energy investments of the future.”

Warming Up

Blake Mills is a virtuoso guitarist and a producer who’s worked with, among others, Alabama Shakes. His new single, “Summer All Over,” was released in time for Earth Day. It’s a reminder that a “summer song” on an overheating planet doesn’t necessarily mean a good-times anthem.

SOURCE


 

Eco-Fascism Is On The Rise, Here’s How You Can Fight Against It

Since the pandemic struck, a slew of stories pointing to what appears to be the positive impact of coronavirus on the environment have been circulating on social media. While it is indeed true that carbon emissions have significantly decreased due to a nosedive in air travel, road traffic and industrial activity, experts and activists are warning that the rise in such rhetoric can distract attention away from real climate policy solutions and lead to dangerous eco-fascist ideas.

What is eco-facism? 

Eco-fascism is a subset of a far-right political ideology. While far-right conservatives tend to be associated with climate denial, some younger generations of conservatives are more likely to perceive the climate threat and are adopting racist and xenophobic eco-fascist ideas about the drivers of ecological degradation.

Fascism itself is associated with white supremacy and violence against marginalised and minority groups, such as immigrants and non-white populations. Proponents of eco-fascism argue that humans are overburdening the planet, and blame the demise of the environment on certain populations, who they believe are causing more damage to the environment than others. The solution to the climate crisis, according to this ideology, is the creation of “racially pure” nations to restore a sustainable system.

Last summer, the young man who is accused of murdering 22 people in a shooting in El Paso, Texas, revealed his targeting of Mexican immigrants was rooted in eco-fascist ideas in his manifesto.

Indeed it is true that anthropogenic consumption has damaged the environment. But eco-fascists place unwarranted blame exclusively and solely on groups they deem “inferior”, who tend to be marginalised minorities in society. These claims are unsubstantiated.

Some eco-fascists, for example, incorrectly blame people of colour for using disposable products that contribute to plastic pollution, without highlighting the enormous environmental damage that fossil fuel firms are responsible for, or how developing countries are historically accountable for the least emissions.

Why are people talking about it now?

More people are now talking about pernicious eco-fascist ideas as the world battles the coronavirus pandemic. An increasing number of online chatter in a number of forums have suggested that the virus is a “cure” to humans, pointing to the significant decline in carbon emissions and air pollution due to reduced industrial activity as a justification of the devastating human cost of the pandemic.

It is worth noting that not all eco-fascist posts are coming from right-wing commentators. Some of the myths that have appeared due to the pandemic, for instance, may not be exclusively conservative, but the messaging may suggest eco-fascist undertones. Take viral videos of wild animals in nature, such as edited videos of dolphins swimming in Venetian canals, which insinuate the idea that “humans are the virus”.

Speaking to Teen Vogue about the topic, climate activist and author Naomi Klein said: “This is the time to be really vigilant about any idea that this pandemic is weeding out people who needed to be weeded out anyway. These are facist logistics.”

The statistics show that ethnic minorities, who tend to be poorer, marginalised, and engaged in low-paid essential non-medical work in many societies, and people in developing countries are especially vulnerable to the virus. But it is absolutely xenophobic, racist and incorrect to suggest that they are responsible for more environmental damage than other populations or that the pandemic is a form of climate-positive “population control”.

How can we combat eco-fascism?

We can each do our bit to combat eco-fascism and eco-fascist ideas. Here are some of the things we can do.

    • Be more aware and careful about our discussions and conversations about the climate crisis during the pandemic, and be alert to climate solution suggestions that may support racist ideologies.
    • Look out for the “who” – some eco-fascist posts advocate for the weaponisation of environmental protection measures against certain populations, regions or areas who are deemed to be the “source” of the ecological damage in question. Does it characterise a certain group as the cause of the environmental harm?
    • Stay informed, engaged and principled by fact-checking and referring to the scientific evidence when reading about the climate crisis.
    • Discuss practical and effective climate solutions that include all communities – divesting from fossil fuel consumption, eating a plant-based diet, supporting circular economy models.

SOURCE


Lead image courtesy of European Space Agency (ESA).

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The end of plastic? New plant-based bottles will degrade in a year

Carlsberg and Coca-Cola back pioneering project to make ‘all-plant’ drinks bottles

 A mound of plastic bottles at a recycling plant near Bangkok in Thailand. Around 300 million tonnes of plastic is made every year and most of it is not recycled. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

Beer and soft drinks could soon be sipped from “all-plant” bottles under new plans to turn sustainably grown crops into plastic in partnership with major beverage makers.

A biochemicals company in the Netherlands hopes to kickstart investment in a pioneering project that hopes to make plastics from plant sugars rather than fossil fuels.

The plans, devised by renewable chemicals company Avantium, have already won the support of beer-maker Carlsberg, which hopes to sell its pilsner in a cardboard bottle lined with an inner layer of plant plastic.

Avantium’s chief executive, Tom van Aken, says he hopes to greenlight a major investment in the world-leading bioplastics plant in the Netherlands by the end of the year. The project, which remains on track despite the coronavirus lockdown, is set to reveal partnerships with other food and drink companies later in the summer.

 Sugars extracted from wheat, along with corn and beets, will be used to produce the plant plastic. Photograph: Images of Kent/Alamy

 

The project has the backing of Coca-Cola and Danone, which hope to secure the future of their bottled products by tackling the environmental damage caused by plastic pollution and a reliance on fossil fuels.

Globally around 300 million tonnes of plastic is made from fossil fuels every year, which is a major contributor to the climate crisis. Most of this is not recycled and contributes to the scourge of microplastics in the world’s oceans. Microplastics can take hundreds of years to decompose completely.

“This plastic has very attractive sustainability credentials because it uses no fossil fuels, and can be recycled – but would also degrade in nature much faster than normal plastics do,” says Van Aken.

Avantium’s plant plastic is designed to be resilient enough to contain carbonate drinks. Trials have shown that the plant plastic would decompose in one year using a composter, and a few years longer if left in normal outdoor conditions. But ideally, it should be recycled, said Van Aken.

The bio-refinery plans to break down sustainable plant sugars into simple chemical structures that can then be rearranged to form a new plant-based plastic – which could appear on supermarket shelves by 2023.

The path-finder project will initially make a modest 5,000 tonnes of plastic every year using sugars from corn, wheat or beets. However, Avantium expects its production to grow as demand for renewable plastics climbs.

In time, Avantium plans to use plant sugars from sustainable sourced biowaste so that the rise of plant plastic does not affect the global food supply chain. SOURCE

Saudi Arabia is buying shares of Alberta’s oil sands companies. The ‘ethical oil’ argument is dead.

Max Fawcett: If Canadian oil and gas companies are going to accept Saudi Arabia’s money, it’s probably time for their proxies to retire arguments about the immorality of their oil

When Norway’s massive pension fund announced that it had sold its positions in major Canadian energy companies like Suncor and Canadian Natural Resources, Alberta’s premier came out swinging. “To be blunt,” Kenney told reporters last week, “I find that incredibly hypocritical.” After all, he said, Norway continues to develop its own oil and gas resources, including the 2.7 billion barrels that are contained in the new Johan Sverdrup field that is already producing 430,000 barrels of oil per day.

For those of a less pugilistic orientation, Norway’s decision might be seen as a prudent act of financial diversification; one that Alberta could easily emulate if it wanted to. If Norway is already producing oil and benefitting from the tax revenue and jobs it creates, there’s no need for them to double down by also investing their one-trillion-dollar nest egg in companies that also depend on the price of oil. This isn’t a philosophy that’s particularly popular in Alberta, mind you, given Alberta Investment Management Corporation’s well-documented history of being more heavily exposed to the energy sector than other pension funds.

But while Kenney was quick to call out Norway’s alleged hypocrisy in selling their shares of oil sands companies, he has so far remained silent about the news that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was busy buying them. As Bloomberg reported last week, it now owns 2.6 per cent of Canadian Natural Resources, and two per cent of Suncor, which makes it the eighth and 14th largest shareholder in the two companies respectively. Ironically, it also added to its position in Equinor, the Norwegian company that’s developing the Johan Sverdrup field.

MORE: Jason Kenney in conversation with Paul Wells: Maclean’s Live Replay

As Premier, Kenney has been at the forefront of recent efforts to paint Canadian oil and gas as more “ethical” and therefore more worthy of investment. This narrative, which was first advanced by Ezra Levant, has been deployed most visibly in the conversation about the Energy East pipeline and the decision by New Brunswick’s Irving Refinery to buy its oil from Saudi Arabia rather than Canada. But Kenney’s affiliation with it goes back much further than that. It was his former director of communications and parliamentary affairs, Alykhan Velshi, who created the “Ethical Oil Institute” in July 2011, and his former executive assistant, Jamie Ellerton, served as its executive director between January 2012 and April 2013.

Kenney is hardly alone in his fondness for Levant’s narrative, though. Its core tenets—namely, that Canada’s legal, environmental and regulatory standards make our oil more inherently virtuous—are practically articles of faith in the oil and gas industry. In an interview with the Calgary Herald, Nancy Southern, the CEO of Atco and a founding member of the Business Council of Alberta, was quick to invoke it: “I think it is time for people to stand up and demonstrate true moral leadership about the fact that the world is better because of petroleum products,” she said.

But if Saudi Arabia’s oil is a conduit for its anti-democratic and values, as ethical oilers like to argue, then what about its money? That money comes from the sale of its own ethically-challenged oil. Suncor and Canadian Natural Resources can’t prevent Mohammed bin Salman or the Saudi Public Investment Fund from buying their shares, but those who have been more than happy to bang the drum about Saudi Arabia’s moral and ethical failings could speak up here.

MORE: Coronavirus won’t hit Alberta as hard as others. But its economic wallop will be brutal.

So far, though, they’ve been conspicuously silent. Take Eric Nuttall, a fund manager with Ninepoint Investments and a frequent purveyor of the ethical oil narrative. In a recent tweet, he sounded positively delighted by the development, and made no mention of the ethical dimensions of Saudi Arabia’s money. “So much for Canadian oil companies not being attractive to foreign investors!” He wrote. “We are 100 per cent invested in Canada given highly attractive valuations and improving takeaway capacity and it’s interesting that Saudi Arabia agrees with us.”

In fairness to the industry, it’s hardly alone in speaking out of both sides of its mouth about Saudi Arabia. The federal government recently renegotiated a $14 billion deal that will allow the sale of Canadian-made light-armoured vehicles to the kingdom (a deal that was originally struck by the Harper government back in 2014). And MBS hasn’t been shy about using Saudi Arabia’s wealth to buy its way into companies and communities throughout the west, including a recent bid to buy the English Premier League’s Newcastle United football club.

But if Saudi Arabia’s money is going to be used to buy and hold the shares of Canadian oil and gas companies, it’s probably time for their proxies to retire arguments about the immorality of their oil. After all, as Jason Kenney will tell you, nobody likes a hypocrite.

SOURCE

Global Mining Industry Profiting from COVID-19 Pandemic: Trends, impacts and responses

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Dangerous rise in civil unrest threatens global mining industry

The mining industry is one of the most polluting, deadly, and destructive industries in the world. Yet to date, mining company responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have received little scrutiny compared to other industries seeking to profit from this crisis.

Using a hydraulic hammer, miners mine roof slate in an underground pit (Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images)

 We, the undersigned organizations, condemn and reject the ways that the mining industry and numerous governments are taking advantage of the pandemic to manufacture new mining opportunities and establish a positive public image, now and for the future.

 These actions pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of communities and organizations that have been struggling to defend public health and their environments against the destruction and devastation of mining extractivism for decades, as well as to the safety of workers in the mining sector.

Based on a collective analysis emerging from conversations with affected communities,  workers, and civil society organizations, we have identified the following trends that exemplify this threat. A review of over 500 media sources, press releases, and reports on mining in the context of COVID-19 further informs these findings. 

One: Mining companies are ignoring the real threats of the pandemic and continuing to operate, using any means available.

Mining companies and many governments have pushed to categorise mining as an essential service, enabling operations to continue despite substantial risk. In doing so, they have become key vectors for the spread of the virus and are putting communities, rural and urban populations, and their workforces, at great risk. In many cases, Indigenous and rural communities already face acute risk from the virus, especially communities whose health has been impacted by contamination generated by mining extractivism. They are struggling to protect themselves from potential outbreaks. 

Two: Governments around the world are taking extraordinary measures to shut down legitimate protests and promote the mining sector.

Free of public oversight and scrutiny, governments have imposed restrictions on people’s freedom of association and movement to protect public health. But these severe and even militarized measures compromise people’s ability to defend their territories and their lives. Land defenders face greater risk of targeted violence and some remain unjustly imprisoned, posing additional risks of infection. Governments have also deployed state forces (military and police) to repress legitimate, safe protests, especially in instances where there is long standing opposition to a company’s activities. In some instances, this has included the implementation of regulations or obstacles to access the justice system which entrench impunity, as well as heightened military and police presence in these territories. Meanwhile, mining companies are permitted to continue operating in these same territories or do so, despite restrictions. These and other actions cynically and unjustly benefit the extractivist mining sector. 

Three: Mining companies are using the pandemic as an opportunity to whitewash their dirty track records and present themselves as public-minded saviours

At a time when entire countries are struggling to get the bare minimum of test kits necessary, companies have boasted about the millions of privately sourced test kits they have provided to affected communities and workers. This is poor cover for the long-term health impacts that regularly result from mining activities and the often underhanded ways in which these same firms operate. It also represents an affront to the greater public good and the collective efforts of many states and communities to secure public access to tests, highlighting the glaring asymmetries of power between multinational corporations and states in the Global South. In some cases, companies are giving out food directly to people, creating social division and undermining peaceful resistance while people are unable to mobilize in the context of the pandemic.

Some mining companies have set up assistance funds or made sizable donations to state ministries. These direct cash ‘donations’ are not only far from commensurate with the real impacts of their activities, they also represent a corruption risk, which is already evident as we see governments willing to weaken emergency measures, fail to enforce those in place, or exclude the mining industry from them entirely. 

Four: Mining companies and governments are using the crisis to secure regulatory change that favours the industry at the expense of people and planet. 

While they frame mining as essential now and for global post-COVID-19 economic recovery, mining companies are lobbying to expedite administrative decisions and weaken the already-limited measures which do exist to address the social, cultural, environmental, and economic impacts of their activities that are almost always borne by affected communities with complete impunity. Whether explicitly, by suspending the little environmental oversight and enforcement there was, or implicitly, by making it more challenging for affected communities to get information and intervene in permitting processes, governments are making deep concessions to the mining industry – and companies are now lobbying governments to make such deregulation permanent.  

At the same time, companies are increasingly using supranational Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, embedded in thousands of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, to sue governments, especially in the Global South. They continue bringing or threatening suits in the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars for decisions made by governments, courts and even human rights bodies, undermining national sovereignty to make decisions to protect public health and attacking the self-determination of people fighting to protect their wellbeing from extractive projects.  Known pending mining claims – and where information is available – currently total US$45.5 billion dollars with the actual total potentially much higher. Further threats are feared in response to measures taken during the pandemic. 

We condemn these responses to the COVID-19 pandemic as acts of aggression that exacerbate the threats and risks that affected communities, Indigenous peoples, land defenders and mine workers face on a daily basis.

We reject the central claim that mining represents an essential service either now or for the period of economic recovery. In the context of an intersecting global health, economic, ecological and climate crisis, we assert that healthy communities, Indigenous peoples, workers, and social movements – not the profits of predatory mining corporations – are essential.

We call on national governments to respect and support the autonomous organizing and self-determining processes of mining-affected communities and Indigenous peoples. Their efforts are vital to protecting community health and the environment, informed by their own knowledge and traditions, as well as to the food sovereignty of rural and urban populations through small-scale agriculture and other productive activities. Economic “reactivation” must not promote more mining, but should, instead, acknowledge and bolster community-based initiatives.

We call on international human rights bodies to pay close attention and actively condemn human rights violations committed by governments and mining corporations during the pandemic and the recovery period to follow.  

We stand in solidarity with the frontline communities, Indigenous peoples and workers most affected by the COVID-19 crisis and the mining industry’s response. We call on others to support them in their vital campaigns for collective wellbeing and justice.

Signed…

Organisations 

Earthworks, US , Institute for Policy Studies, US , London Mining Network, UK,Mining Watch Canada , Research and Degrowth (RnD) ,Terra Justa, War on Want, UK, Yes to Life No to Mining, Global

 

Ontario Capping Energy Prices for Large and Small Consumers Through the End of May

On May 6, 2020, the Government of Ontario extended an emergency measure capping time-of-use (“TOU”) electricity pricing from its initial end date of May 8, 2020 to May 31, 2020. In addition, on May 1, 2020, the Government of Ontario capped the Global Adjustment charge for Class A and Class B energy customers at $115/MWh, both retroactively for April and for the month of May.

While rate caps have been implemented for both residential and small business customers as well as large industrial clients, the Government of Ontario is taking different approaches regarding the way in which the costs of these programs will be absorbed.

Lower Energy Rates for Consumers

On March 24, 2020, the Government suspended TOU pricing for customers under the Regulated Price Plan – individuals, farms, and small businesses – with a price cap of 10.1ȼ/kWh. The measure was introduced and extended under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (the “Act”) in response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and closures.

The extension introduced on May 6, 2020, two days before the original order was set to expire, will maintain the fixed rate until the end of the month. The government maintains the ability to extend the order under the Act.

Relief on energy prices has also been extended to Class A and Class B customers, the largest industrial consumers in the Province. Class A consumers usually pay a Global Adjustment charge based on their proportion of energy use during the highest hour of the five highest peak days of the previous year. Class B consumers usually pay a Global Adjustment charge on a volumetric basis. For the months of April and May, the Global Adjustment will be fixed at $115/MWh, what was roughly what it was in February, 2020. The Government will be able to extend the order into June, 2020 if warranted.

Differences in Program Funding

The initial 45 days of capped TOU rates was estimated to reduce Government revenues by $162 million. The extension for another 24 days can be anticipated to increase that number by more than half. The Government indicated it would absorb the cost of the program.

For Class A and Class B customers, on the other hand, the Government will pay the cost, estimated at $340 million, but plans to allocate that cost to ratepayers during the 2021 calendar year.

The Bottom Line

As we wrote regarding a recent update from the IESO, the sharp drop in energy consumption in Ontario should cause energy prices to rise as the fixed costs are allocated over a smaller base of consumption. The Government of Ontario has prevented this by capping the prices paid by consumers. The gap between what the energy costs and what consumers are being charged will be paid by the Government.

The total cost of these rate caps are therefore approximately $620 million. This is on top of the budgeted cost of electricity subsidies of $5.4 billion for the 2020 fiscal year.

Looking to the future, the Government plans to recoup the costs for larger consumers from that consumer base; however, as we wrote earlier, the IESO has noted that it can take many years for consumption levels to return to pre-crisis norms. If the economy is still struggling in early 2021, these consumers may not be in a position to absorb hundreds of millions of additional costs. This could result in the need to further defer the energy costs or for new measures to support energy consumers.

More generally, successive governments in Ontario have generally found it easier to defer electricity bills than to control the underlying costs. It may be that more fundamental reform of electricity costs and rates will be necessary. There are many options to choose from and it is likely that the most recent announcements will lead to a start of that conversation, not the end of it.

SOURCE

TAKE ACTION! Stop Doug Ford’s latest attack on the environment

Everything DoFo Cut or Cancelled During His First Year as Premier

The Ford government is using the COVID-19 pandemic to further its anti-environment agenda.

In April, it broadly dismantled protections under the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) without notice. Under the new regulation, the provincial government will not have to notify Ontarians or give them the opportunity to weigh in on decisions that may have a significant effect on the environment, even if they are not related to COVID-19.

Ecojustice, on behalf of our clients former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gordon Miller and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE),  responded by urgently asking the government to review and revoke the regulation, come clean on any decisions made without public notice, and ensure that the public isn’t kept in the dark.

We need you to make sure Doug Ford and the province’s environment minister listen.

Ontarians have the right to be heard on important government decisions that impact the environment. Please send a letter today asking Premier Ford and Minister for Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek to urgently review and revoke this regulation.

Take Action

Now, more than ever, Canadians need strong environmental laws to protect public health and keep you safe. The COVID-19 pandemic is no time to weaken the laws that protect our air and water. We know that air pollution increases people’s susceptibility to respiratory problems and there is a growing body of evidence linking environmental pollution with those likely to suffer the worst effects of COVID-19.

It may be reasonable to make specific public consultation exemptions during the pandemic, but the Ford government’s regulation broadly removes Ontarians’ right to have their voice on issues of environmental concern.

That’s why Ecojustice is asking you to send a letter to Premier Ford and Minister Yurek, asking to urgently review and revoke this regulation. Do not let the province use a public health emergency as an excuse to put the environment – and Ontarians –  at risk.

Take Action

TAKE ACTION! Fashion must invest in a green recovery

Filthy Fashion Climate Scorecard | Stand.earth

Which brands are leading on climate and which are still wearing last season’s greenwash?

Over 77,000 lives were saved because of the drastic cut in air pollution during the lockdown in China. That’s why the fashion industry needs to transition its supply chains to cleaner power instead of burning dirty coal, which is a leading cause of toxic air pollution.

20 companies have already committed to invest in renewable energy, but have they followed through? Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to go without clothes (there’s no post-pandemic nudist period coming!) But we cannot allow the industry to keep destroying our planet with its massive emissions.

10k people have already signed, but we need more signatures to really force the companies to take notice.

Sign here to urge these companies to honor their commitments and take action to create a liveable future for their workers, customers, and the planet.

 

The fashion industry is slowly gearing up to restart – with factories reopening and workers going back to work in Asia. But the danger of COVID-19 has not dissipated. Studies have shown that there is a strong link between air pollution and coronavirus deaths. Even before the pandemic, people living in areas with high levels of air pollution had a much higher risk of contracting diseases and experiencing health problems.

As one of the biggest polluting industries in the world, the fashion industry needs to prioritize the health of its workers, customers and the planet. That’s why we are pushing fashion companies that have already made climate commitments to be a leader and invest in a green recovery. It’s time for sustainability to be more than just a buzzword – it’s time for it become the standard.

Sign the petition to make sure fashion companies with climate commitments honor their goals. Tell them they must invest in renewable energy in order to create a liveable and breatheable environment for workers and customers.

SIGN NOW

What does a green recovery for fashion look like? First and foremost, fashion must move away from coal by investing in cleaner power. Right now, the majority of the fashion industry is powered by coal, and it is causing irreparable damage to the environment and risking the lives of millions in its supply chains and beyond. Before COVID, countries like Vietnam, China, Bangladesh, and Turkey had plans to extend their coal grid by collectively building hundreds of new coal plants – increasing fashion’s reliance on coal.

But fashion companies cannot continue to veil their filthy affair with coal by greenwashing anymore. Now is the time for companies to act on their climate commitments and transition their supply chains to cleaner power. Based on our scorecard, 20 companies have made commitments to source at least 50% renewable energy in their own buildings by 2035. These companies have made the first step, but they need to commit to covering their supply chain (as most of their emissions come from there) and implementing their commitments. This is the time to transform their climate goals into actions by baking sustainability into their business model. SOURCE

 

New York turns down pipeline. Ontario should too

The local Enbridge pipeline expansion you don’t know about. Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline reversal proposal has been grabbing headlines for months – but another pipeline expansion has started in Hamilton and has slipped under the radar. (CBC)

New York State is giving Ontario a lesson in weighing the costs and benefits of new natural gas infrastructure. The State just refused to approve a new fracked gas pipeline stating “New York is not prepared to sacrifice the State’s water quality for a project that is not only environmentally harmful but also unnecessary to meet New York’s energy needs.”

The exact same statement could be made about Enbridge’s proposal to build a new fracked gas pipeline through Hamilton, Ontario. Cutting through environmentally sensitive wetland areas, this pipeline would have serious local impacts while also not being needed – Ontario can far more cost-effectively meet its needs with increased energy efficiency efforts, as New York is doing.

The New York government noted that the proposed pipeline was not compatible with the state’s climate objectives. Enbridge’s Hamilton pipeline, meanwhile, will help fuel a 400% increase in greenhouse gas pollution from Ontario gas plants, blowing away the province’s climate targets.

The good news is that due to the uncertainties created by the Covid crisis, Enbridge’s application to the Ontario Energy Board has now been suspended (at the company’s request). We are hopeful that the company will use this pause to rethink its plans and see that what we don’t need is another gas pipeline, and what we do need are deeper energy efficiency efforts.

It’s time for Ontario to take a page from the New York playbook and make it clear that a new gas supply pipeline through southern Ontario is going nowhere, permanently.

Sign our petitions to oppose the pipeline and to phase out gas plants in Ontario. Also please write to Enbridge President Al Monaco (al.monaco@enbridge.com and cc: angela@cleanairalliance.org) and encourage him to shelve the Hamilton fracked gas pipeline permanently.

Please share this message.

Angela Bischoff, Director, Ontario Clean Air Alliance

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