Global LNG terminal survey casts doubt on industry as ‘safe bet’

A view of the LNG Canada facility in Kitimat, B.C., looking south on March 8, 2020. LNG Canada photo

A new report is raising questions about the long-term viability of the liquefied natural gas export industry around the world as the Trudeau government continues to signal support for one such project in British Columbia.

The natural gas industry is facing multiple headwinds, from a collapse in demand due to COVID-19 disruptions, to competition from renewable energy sources, and protests against fossil fuel expansion such as those in support of Wet’suwet’en against the Coastal GasLink pipeline through B.C.

A global survey of LNG terminals released Monday by the San Francisco-based Global Energy Monitor research network outlines the central risk facing the hundreds of billions of dollars in sunk investments in LNG infrastructure: That some of these structures could become underused, or stranded, long before the end of their useful lives.

“LNG was once considered a safe bet for investors,” said research analyst Greig Aitken, one of the report’s five authors. “Suddenly, the industry is beset with problems.”

Énergie Saguenay ‘change of heart’ started in B.C., says survey

The survey points out that Warren Buffett’s investment company, Berkshire Hathaway, yanked a $4-billion investment this March in a key LNG plant in Quebec called Énergie Saguenay.

In media reports, the company backing the project, GNL Québec, cited the “current Canadian political context,” including “instability” from the rail blockades set up in support of Wet’suwet’en, as an explanation.

“The story of Berkshire Hathaway’s change of heart on LNG begins in British Columbia,” reads the survey, titled “Gas Bubble 2020.”

The survey also refers to several other LNG terminal projects in Canada that have either been abandoned or are seeing delays, investment pullouts or no obvious progress in years.

This includes the cancellations of the proposed Aurora LNG plant and the Pacific NorthWest LNG plant near Prince Rupert, and the Malahat LNG project in the Saanich Inlet in 2017, as well as the Grassy Point LNG project on the North Coast of B.C. in 2018.

LNG Canada says the commitment by its joint venture participants to the $40-billion facility on B.C.’s coast “has not wavered,” after a survey of LNG terminals found the industry is facing multiple headwinds and may no longer be a “safe bet.”

Another five projects have seen “no progress” in years, while three more are either delayed or have seen a work stoppage, the survey found. Globally, it said some projects that haven’t yet broke ground for construction are now experiencing a “widespread pullback” in enthusiasm.

The Trudeau government has supported the construction of LNG Canada, a $40-billion LNG facility being built in Kitimat, B.C., to be fed by fracked gas delivered by Coastal GasLink. The project, which would liquefy the gas and then load it on ships to be exported to Asia, received $275 million in federal contributions.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan has described that money as a “generational investment” that will help “create the future.” In Parliament, O’Regan said the project would create “hundreds of millions of dollars in construction contracts for Indigenous businesses,” while “helping to reduce coal plant emissions in Asian markets.”

In March, National Observer reported that this claim — that shipping the product to China to displace coal-fired electricity generation there would reduce carbon pollution by “60 to 90 million tonnes annually” — stemmed from a “theoretical” calculation made by an adviser hired by LNG Canada, and that didn’t take real-world factors into account.

A report released last month by sustainable development consulting firm Horizon Advisors argued that a Canadian Crown corporation’s support for the Coastal GasLink pipeline was undermining the country’s own climate goals of cutting carbon pollution 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and reaching “net-zero” pollution by 2050.

A spokesperson for LNG Canada said its joint venture participants “took a long-term view when they made the decision to proceed with LNG Canada understanding very well long-term LNG demand growth to support decarbonization from coal fired electricity, industrial and residential heating and to provide baseload power for renewable power.”

The commitment to the project by the joint venture participants, which are British-Dutch firm Shell, Malaysia’s Petronas, Japan’s Mitsubishi, PetroChina and the Korea Gas Corporation, “has not wavered” said the spokesperson.

National Observer asked O’Regan’s office whether the survey’s results changed the minister’s stance on the industry in Canada. The office could not offer a response before publication.

An ‘increasingly difficult economic environment’ for LNG

Over the last year, the amount of LNG terminal capacity under construction around the world jumped from $82 billion US to $196 billion US, according to the survey. This is due to an anticipated surge in demand for natural gas from places like China, Japan, Europe and Southeast Asia.

But the economic atmosphere that led to these massive investments is running up against “climate and economic reality,” the survey states. “Even before the twin shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and global gas price collapse, LNG projects were facing an increasingly difficult economic environment,” it said.

Gas markets were becoming oversupplied, prices were falling, and renewables, bolstered by better battery technology, were becoming more competitive. With the added drop in demand and worksite restrictions from COVID-19 this year, not to mention public opposition, some companies have reconsidered investment decisions.

Worldwide, the failure rate for proposed LNG export terminal projects between 2014 and 2020 is 61 per cent, the survey calculated.

Last month LNG Canada and other energy firms launched the Canadian LNG Alliance, to “reflect the critical role LNG has to play in Canada’s COVID-19 economic recovery,” as well as “economic reconciliation” with Indigenous peoples and Canada’s “clean energy transition.“

The group argued that LNG projects in British Columbia would produce “among the world’s lowest-emissions intensity LNG“ as they would be partly powered by hydro-electric power.

But the survey suggests that the reputation of LNG as an “environmentally benign” fuel that is less dirty than coal has been debunked by scientific studies highlighting the serious impact of methane on global warming.

Methane, a greenhouse gas that is the main component of natural gas, is 86 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 20-year period. Scientific studies have connected a rise in global methane levels with the fracking boom, and say this rise in atmospheric methane is undercutting efforts to hold the global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels.

A 2017 peer-reviewed study in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found that methane leaks from B.C.’s oil and gas industry were at least two and a half times higher than provincial estimates.


Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

Buffet decision shows LNG projects on shaky political, economic ground: report

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, speaks during a game of bridge following the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha, Neb., Sunday, May 5, 2019. A new report is holding up legendary investor Buffett's decision to walk away from a proposed liquefied natural gas project in Quebec in March as one sign that the LNG sector in Canada and elsewhere is on shaky ground. THE CANADIAN PRESS/

OTTAWA – Legendary investor Warren Buffett’s decision to walk away from a proposed export terminal for liquefied natural gas in Quebec is being held up in a new report as a sign that the LNG sector in Canada and elsewhere is on shaky ground.

The Global Energy Monitor report released Monday says Buffett’s move in March underscores the growing political and economic uncertainty that LNG projects are facing even as governments around the world tout liquefied natural gas as a clean alternative to coal power.

Canada has emerged as a major proponent of expanding liquefied natural gas as a way to fight climate change abroad and create jobs and revenue at home, with numerous multibillion-dollar projects to facilitate LNG exports to Asia and elsewhere in the works.

Yet Global Energy Monitor suggested Buffett’s decision to withdraw investment firm Berkshire Hathaway’s planned $4-billion investment in an LNG export terminal in Saguenay, Que., is a sign of things to come.

Neither Buffett nor Berkshire Hathaway explained their reasons for the move, but the company behind the terminal project blamed “the current Canadian context” — an apparent reference to nationwide rail blockades and protests against the Coastal GasLink pipeline in B.C. at the time.

“While many projects face opposition from local communities, the case of the Energie Saguenay LNG Terminal in Quebec shows the potential for a local protest to galvanize a national movement,” said the Global Energy Monitor report.

Global Energy Monitor is an international non-governmental organization that catalogues fossil-fuel infrastructure around the world and advocates for more investments in renewable energy.

Monday’s report goes on to suggest that political opposition is only one of many new challenges to the LNG sector, with another being a dramatic drop in the price of gas due to an oversupply at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has sent demand plummeting.

The result: plans to build pipelines, terminals and other infrastructure in Canada and around the world have been put on hold — or dropped entirely.

The report lists 13 LNG projects in Canada alone that have been cancelled or suspended in recent years. That includes a $10-billion LNG export facility in Nova Scotia, which is now in limbo as the company behind the project tries to decide whether to move ahead or not.

One of those apparently not affected is LNG Canada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline, which was the target of this year’s protests and blockades over a route that crosses traditional Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia. The company said last month that it plans to have 2,500 people working on the 670-kilometre pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat by September.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2020.

Curb climate change, protect environment to prevent future pandemics, countries told

UN experts say damage to ecosystems driving force behind zoonotic diseases

‘The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead,’ said UN Environment Program executive director Inger Andersen. (CBC)

Land degradation, wildlife exploitation, intensive farming and climate change are driving the rise in diseases that, like the novel coronavirus, are passed from animals to humans, United Nations experts said on Monday.

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) and International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) released the report in which they jointly identified seven trends responsible for such diseases, known as zoonotic, calling on governments to take steps to stop future pandemics.

These are: rising demand for animal protein, extraction of natural resources and urbanization, intensive and unsustainable farming, exploitation of wildlife, increased travel and transportation, food supply changes and climate change, the report said.

“The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

“Pandemics are devastating to our lives and our economies, and as we have seen over the past months, it is the poorest and the most vulnerable who suffer the most.

“To prevent future outbreaks, we must become much more deliberate about protecting our natural environment.”

Human interaction a driving force for transfer

About 60 per cent of known infectious diseases in humans and 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, she said, largely due to the increased interaction between humans, animals and the environment.

The novel coronavirus, which is most likely to have originated in bats, has infected more than 11 million people and killed over half a million people globally, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But it is just one in a growing number of diseases — including Ebola, MERS, West Nile fever, Zika, SARS and Rift Valley fever — that have jumped from animal hosts into the human population in recent years, said the report.

Zoonotic diseases blamed for 2M deaths annually

Around two million people, mostly in developing nations, die from neglected zoonotic diseases every year.

These outbreaks not only cause severe illness and deaths, but also result in major economic losses for some of the world’s poorest.

In the last two decades alone, zoonotic diseases have caused economic losses of more than $100 billion US.

This does not include the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is expected to reach $9 trillion US over the next few years, said the report.

An infection control worker adjusts a face shield designed for health-care providers treating patients with the Ebola virus during a training simulation in Ottawa in this photo from Oct. 31, 2014. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)


Most efforts to control zoonotic diseases have been reactive rather than proactive, say experts.

They want governments to invest in public health, farm sustainability, end over-exploitation of wildlife and reduce climate change.

Africa — home to a large portion of the world’s remaining intact rainforests as well as fast-growing human population — is at high risk of the intensifying existing zoonotic diseases and increasing the emergence of new ones, but it could also provide solutions, said ILRI director general Jimmy Smith.

“With their experiences with Ebola and other emerging diseases, African countries are demonstrating proactive ways to manage disease outbreaks.”

Identifying outbreaks in animals first

Smith said some African nations had adopted a “One Health” approach — uniting public health, veterinary and environmental expertise that can help to identify and treat outbreaks in animals before they pass to humans.

The experts urged governments to provide incentives for sustainable land use and animal husbandry and to develop strategies for producing food that do not rely on the destruction of habitats and biodiversity.

Monday is World Zoonoses Day, which commemorates the work of French biologist Louis Pasteur, who successfully administered the first vaccine against rabies, a zoonotic disease, on July 6 1885.


Reporting by Nita Bhalla for the Thomson Reuters Foundation

Ottawa, AFN pen agreement to map out funding for First Nations child welfare overhaul

More Indigenous children in care now than at the height of the residential school era

Funding was not tied to federal legislation passed last year to recognize Indigenous control over child welfare. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The federal government signed an agreement with the Assembly of First Nations Tuesday to outline how it will fund an overhaul of the First Nations child welfare system — a detail that was left out of recent legislation.

The Trudeau government last year passed Bill C-92 — officially known as An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families — to reduce the number of youth in care, and allow communities to create their own child welfare systems to bring and keep their youth home.

The groundbreaking legislation came into effect this year but did not include any funding tied to the law.

Today’s agreement, signed by Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde, establishes a “joint fiscal table” on First Nations child and family services — a forum where Ottawa and First Nations can negotiate funding agreements to support communities who want to assume the responsibility of caring for children.

Watch: Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde on Indigenous child welfare

Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde have signed an agreement to move child welfare to First Nations to administer and run. 1:01

The agreement signed today has no dollar figure attached. Miller said “complex” discussions are underway now to settle on just how much money is needed. The AFN has pegged the cost of a new First Nations-led child welfare system at $3.5 billion.

Miller said some communities are ready to take up this work now, but the pandemic has slowed progress. He said it will take “many years” of discussions to establish a First Nations system separate from the current model.

Bellegarde said the agreement is about devolving power from the provincial care systems — where Indigenous children are vastly over-represented — to individual First Nations, so that more children can remain in their home communities.

“This is really about making a difference for children in care. First Nations law should be paramount,” Bellegarde said.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called for the protocol in the fall. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)


He said there are 40,000 First Nations kids in the child welfare system now. “We know it’s not acceptable; we know it’s not right. We need to start focusing on prevention,” he said, referring to a system that is less reliant on apprehension of children.

Some provinces have been more willing than others to hand over this authority to First Nations, Bellegarde said. Quebec has launched a constitutional challenge to the law, saying these social services are the exclusive responsibility of the provinces. Bellegarde said Quebec Premier François Legault shouldn’t waste taxpayer dollars on a legal fight and instead commit money to supporting First Nations care for their children.

“I’d prefer to be in a discussion about who is doing the best job by Indigenous children, and not who has the right to be doing a miserable job — which is what we’ve been doing up to now,” Miller said of the provincial squabbling.

Beyond a promise to create this fiscal table, Ottawa and the AFN committed Tuesday to holding regular bilateral meetings to ensure C-92 is fully implemented.

During these meetings, the two parties will develop a “national distinctions-based policy” to ensure standards of care are uniform. They will also co-develop “tools and mechanisms” to help First Nations implement this program.

Ottawa has not yet been asked by the Métis or the Inuit national organizations to sign an agreement like the one penned today by First Nations, Miller said.

Effectiveness questioned

Longtime Indigenous child advocate Cindy Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, has seen the draft protocol, which is not legally binding.

“It’s really unclear to me what this actually is going to mean on the ground, and how it’s going to be different from the countless other memorandums of understanding and other documents the federal government has signed over the years,” Blackstock said.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, is concerned the agreement won’t lead to changes for youth. (Simon Gohier/CBC)


Blackstock said it’s difficult for communities to establish and operate their own systems under the law without any attached funding.

“This becomes kind of like a paper tiger,” Blackstock said. “That’s why the funding element is so critical to really making this bill a real game-changer for kids.”

Bill C-92 also created national standards on how Indigenous children are to be treated. For example, when looking to place kids in foster care, authorities are to prioritize extended family and home communities.

Indigenous children make up seven per cent of Canada’s population, but they represent more than half of youth in care, according to the 2016 census.

There are more Indigenous children in care now than at the height of the residential school era.

Blackstock said Ottawa always had money to address the inequalities within the Indigenous child welfare system, as shown from the billions of dollars being spent on COVID-19 relief.

“They simply chose not to do it,” Blackstock said.

“They may be wanting to use this as political cover, but hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully, it actually is something that’s going to be meaningful change.”


Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC’s Parliamentary Bureau based in Ottawa. She previously worked in Toronto, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter at @CBCOlivia. Story tips welcome:

Researchers detail huge hack-for-hire campaigns against environmentalists

Dark Basin’ is said to have targeted nonprofit groups battling Exxon Mobil

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Hackers for hire have targeted thousands of individuals as part of campaigns against environmental advocacy groups, journalists, and others, according to a report produced by Citizen Lab, the University of Toronto’s cybersecurity watchdog group. Citizen Lab dubbed the group behind the campaigns “Dark Basin,” noting that it specifically targeted climate-change organizations who were campaigning against Exxon Mobil.

The report concludes that the campaigns represent “a clear danger to democracy” and could allow powerful organizations to target their opponents. “The extensive targeting of American nonprofits exercising their first amendment rights is exceptionally troubling,” Citizen Lab’s report says. The group has provided its information to federal prosecutors who are investigating the hackers and who hired them, The New York Times reports.

Environmental groups campaigning against Exxon Mobil appear to have been a frequent target of the hackers, with individuals associated with these groups receiving numerous phishing emails attempting to steal their credentials. These include the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Climate Investigations Center, and Greenpeace. The timing of phishing emails coincided with key events in the campaign, and their contents appear to reference Exxon Mobil. One screenshot shared by Citizen Lab shows a phishing message alleging to be a Dropbox link to a file called “ExxonMobile(confidential).docx,” and in other cases campaigners received fake Google News updates about Exxon Mobil.

Exxon Mobil has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and Citizen Lab does not attribute the campaign to any specific sponsor. In a statement, Exxon Mobil told The Verge that the company “has no knowledge of, or involvement in, the hacking activities outlined in Citizen Lab’s report.” It said that any suggestion of wrongdoing by Exxon Mobil in the report is not supported by any evidence.

Citizen Lab began investigating the hackers for hire after a journalist was hit by phishing attempts in 2017. Investigating the specific URL shortener, which the researchers say is “rarely seen,” revealed a huge phishing network that appeared to be targeting individuals and organizations around the globe. As well as nonprofits and journalists, targets also included lawyers, government officials, and energy sector executives, the report says.

Citizen Lab believes that the campaign has been carried out by an Indian-based company which previously advertised “ethical hacking” services via its website. It notes that similar operations have previously been hired via intermediaries like law firms and private investigators, which distances their work from their clients.

The New York Times reports that one individual, who ran an Israeli-based, private investigations company, has already been arrested as a result of the federal investigation. He has pleaded not guilty and plans to fight the charges.


Bicycles Are Pushing Aside Cars on Europe’s City Streets

  • Green consumer trend dovetails with contagion concerns

  •  Pandemic has spurred 930 miles of new bike lanes in Europe

A cyclist passes a newly-marked cycle lane in Milan. Photographer: Camilla Cerea/Bloomberg

Bikes are increasingly muscling aside cars on Europe’s city streets, as the coronavirus accelerates a shift toward pedal power.

Even before the pandemic, bicycles were enjoying an uptick in demand from environmentally conscious consumers, but the risk of contagion on buses and subways have increased the appeal. The emergence of e-bikes, which boost power with an electric motor, has removed some of the sweat factor, making biking a viable option for more consumers after lockdowns lifted.

Governments are fueling the trend, offering buying incentives ranging from 100 euros ($113) to as much as 1,500 euros for heavy business users of e-bikes. Cities from Berlin to Lisbon are also opening up more space, with almost 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) of new lanes promised as a result of the public-health crisis, according to the European Cyclists’ Federation.

“People want self-supporting and sustainable mobility, that is a transformation in society,” said Susanne Puello, an industry veteran who helps run Pierer Mobility AG’s e-bike business, including the Husqvarna and R Raymon brands. “Corona is a phenomenal push in that direction.”

Urban Transport

European cities are betting on bikes to fight congestion and contagion

Source: European Cyclists’ Federation

Swelling demand has also propelled new services like Swapfiets. The Amsterdam-based company that offers bike subscriptions on Thursday announced plans to expand to London, Milan and Paris before the end of the year, after surging demand during the pandemic lifted its customer base to more than 200,000.

relates to Bicycles Are Pushing Aside Cars on Europe’s City Streets

A Swapfiets Power 7 bicycle. Source: Swapfiets

The company — majority owned by Pon Holdings BV, the maker of Gazelle and Kalkhoff bikes — plans to add more electric-powered bicycles and scooters to its range. Swapfiets offers long-term rentals and differs from ad-hoc services like Uber Technologies Inc.’s Jump, which was folded into Lime in the midst of the spread of the disease.

“Corona only contributes to the decision, but is not really the cause,” said Onno Huyghe, managing director at Swapfiets. “Most people simply recognize that the bicycle is the best means of transport” in the city.

Read more: A Bicycle Built for Many in Amsterdam Prepares to Go Global

During the shutdown, people across Germany spent twice as much time riding their bikes as before, according to Stephanie Krone, a traffic expert at German cycling association ADFC. Bike shops are currently seeing an “unprecedented boom,” but for that to continue, municipalities must improve infrastructure to accommodate all the newcomers, she said.

Demand in Europe’s largest economy is backed in part by programs like tax benefits for employers to provide leased bikes for workers, as part of Germany’s efforts to combat climate change. Puello estimates that one in four electric bikes, which typically cost more than 2,000 euros, was leased last year.

Germany is by far the largest bicycle market in Europe, with 1.36 million electric bikes sold in 2019 — more than double the number three years earlier. By comparison, 3.6 million cars were sold in the country last year, and the market has tumbled 35% in the first half of 2020.

Cycling Capitals

Scandinavian, Dutch and Asian cities have highest share of bike riders

Source: Deloitte

The lockdown prompted authorities in 32 of the European Union’s biggest cities to bring forward planned improvements, according to the European Cyclists’ Federation. Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands are pioneering fast lanes designed for commuters.

Many of the plans come at the expense of car traffic. Notoriously congested Rome, for instance, mostly just painted bike lanes on existing road ways, and Berlin and Paris set up pop-up lanes in the midst of the pandemic.

Women are one of the key drivers for increased e-bike sales. Giant created a separate female-focused brand, while Pierer’s Puello said Husqvarna had cross-gender appeal because the Swedish namesake company’s portfolio spans chain saws to sewing machines.

To a certain extent, the bike industry’s gain is carmakers’ pain. More than half of consumers see electric bikes as a suitable substitute for some car usage, and 28% see e-bikes in position to mostly replace cars for inner-city transport, according to survey by Internetstores, an online bike retailer owned by Austrian billionaire Rene Benko’s Signa Holding GmbH.

The company expects cycling trends to help it grow by about 30% annually in the coming years, a rate that could put it on course to hit 1 billion euros in revenue as early as 2023.

“People switch to bikes for their commute to improve their health and fitness, to save money, because they enjoy riding and for the sake of the environment,” said Hans Dohrmann, Internetstores’ managing director. “They want fitness without booking a boot camp.”


By With assistance by Alessandro Speciale, Joao Lima, and Tom Hall

Borders Won’t Protect Your Country From Coronavirus

Rich nations need to help poor ones now. It’s morally right — and in everyone’s self-interest.

Credit…Edgard Garrido/Reuters

The coronavirus has hit the poorest the hardest, but until recently, they have mostly been in wealthy countries. Now, even as the pandemic continues to claim lives in high-income countries — and especially the United States — it’s spreading with ferocity in lower- and middle-income countries. The virus has infected at least 1.5 million people in Brazil and claimed more than 60,000 lives there. India ended June with around 600,000 cases; it started the month with just under 200,000.

With limited health resources, widespread poverty, large debt burdens and, in some cases, political instability and conflict, developing countries are the new front line in the pandemic.

For countries like the United States and Britain, helping the developing world fight the virus and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe is a moral imperative. Those who have benefited from globalization should help pay when it ails. But it is not just cruel to ignore the rest of the world, it’s also against wealthy countries’ self-interest. No country is reliably insulated from a highly contagious virus as long as it persists anywhere.

Just as the virus can spread rapidly across borders, so can economic ills. Many emerging market countries have strong economic links to developed economies. Imagine a future of rolling outbreaks throughout the developing world. One month, factories in Mexico that supply auto parts, health equipment and other goods to the United States might have to close, as already happened this spring. The next month, South Africa might need to suspend mining operations and curtail exports of vital minerals, halting production of phones and computers. And so on through many regions and sectors.

Developing countries are buyers of exports, sources of raw materials and manufactured components, and destinations for investment. Getting the virus under control in these countries is key to developed economies moving forward on the difficult path to recovery.

Moreover, the pandemic has the potential to create social and political disruption and instability. Governments could fall, migration could rise and ungoverned space could expand as the economic effects of the outbreak push tens of millions of people into extreme poverty, create greater competition for limited jobs and exacerbate tensions in already fragile states like Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan. The cost in aid, loans and security support down the road could far outstrip the costs of tackling the disease now.

The starting point of a smart response from wealthy countries like the United States is to support the hand-washing stations, fever testing, isolation centers and public information that are in such short supply in some developing countries. There are alarming holes in the global health infrastructure — epitomized by abysmal levels of coronavirus testing.

Though the United States isn’t in control of the disease at home and the Trump administration is breaking away from the World Health Organization, America remains the most important global player when it comes to humanitarian relief. The world desperately needs American leadership — and help.

However, while Congress has pledged $1.59 billion in international assistance for the pandemic, it is reported that, as of last month, three months into the crisis, just $11.5 million had been delivered to aid groups on the ground. And a $7.48 billion United Nations appeal to tackle the coronavirus has yielded only $1.62 billion in pledges.

At the height of the global AIDS crisis, Kofi Annan, then secretary general of the United Nations, proposed a large international fund that would buy critical drugs at a fair price, maintaining drugmakers’ incentive to invest in development, and then distribute them where needed at affordable prices. That call eventually became the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has helped save 32 million lives since its founding. That’s what the world needs now.

Even if the Trump administration is currently unlikely to support an international effort to distribute drugs, other advanced countries acting together could create the political pressure to bring the United States in.

The coronavirus pandemic is a dual emergency: an economic as well as a public health crisis. The shutdown of the global economy has left many heavily indebted developing countries facing a pressing debt crisis that could have even greater spillover effects. The major industrialized countries should lead efforts to increase debt relief for heavily indebted developing countries. The suspension of debt payments approved this spring by the Group of 20 is only a first step. Substantially more relief is likely to be needed, including from China, which is now a major creditor in emerging markets.

None of these steps would detract from domestic responses to the pandemic and the economic damage it has caused. But the upside would be significant: reducing the chance of renewed outbreaks in large developed countries, protecting globally connected economies and heading off the pandemic’s potentially disastrous geopolitical and economic consequences.

That’s why providing support to developing countries is not only morally right, but also powerfully in the self-interest of richer states.


Robert E. Rubin was the secretary of the Treasury from 1995 to 1999. David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary, is the chief executive officer of the International Rescue Committee.

Court Rules Dakota Access Pipeline Must Be Emptied For Now

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its supporters, shown here during a demonstration in 2017, have opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline for years. Alex Wong/Getty Images

A federal judge has ruled that the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline must be emptied for now while the Army Corps of Engineers produces an environmental review.

In a decision posted Monday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said that it was clear shutting down the pipeline will cause disruption. But he said that “the seriousness of the Corps’ deficiencies outweighs the negative effects of halting the oil flow” during the estimated 13 months it will take to complete the environmental impact statement.

The court vacated the Corps’ decision to grant federal approval for the project, and will require the pipeline to be emptied within 30 days.

Boasberg, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ordered the Corps in March to conduct a full environmental impact analysis. He said that the Corps had made a “highly controversial” decision in approving federal permits for the project. Among other things, he said the Corps had failed to answer major questions about the risks of oil spills.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies downstream of the pipeline, have been fighting against its construction for years. Crude oil began flowing through the pipeline in 2017. The $3.8 billion pipeline stretches more than 1,100 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, transporting 570,000 barrels of oil per day.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

“It took four long years, but today justice has been served at Standing Rock,” Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the tribe, said in a statement. “If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.”