Biden support for US cleantech innovation ‘will raise the bar’ internationally

The US presidential contender has pledged to invest in research and development to tackle the climate crisis if elected, in a plan welcomed by experts

Democratic candidate Joe Biden on the campaign trail in Des Moines, Iowa, in January 2020. (Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr

US presidential candidate Joe Biden’s plan to spur innovation in clean technology will ripple beyond America’s borders, experts say.

The Democratic nominee in this year’s US presidential election pledged to pursue “historic” investments in energy innovation and accelerate research and development on clean technologies  “on a scale well beyond the Apollo programme” – which took the first men to the moon in 1969.

Cliona Howie, head of circular economy at EIT Climate-KIC, a European project that supports clean technology innovation, told Climate Home News the plan, while focused on developing American technologies, could have global benefits.

“[The climate crisis] is not about intellectual property or burning out the competition, this is all hands on deck and we need all actors to take up the challenge,” she said.

Biden’s promise to support innovation with finance “will stimulate innovation, collaborations and technology transfers” globally, she added: “It will raise the bar, which is what is needed.”

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Biden announced a climate plan to spend $2 trillion over four years to reboot the US economy and create jobs while addressing the climate crisis.

Biden hopes to put the US on course to make the power sector emissions-free by 2035 and reach net zero emissions across the economy before 2050. This is an accelerated timeline, with more money behind it than his initial plan released last year.

It includes driving “large scale innovation” to achieve cost reductions in battery storage, carbon capture, renewable hydrogen and the next generation of nuclear power and drive the rapid commercialisation of American-made clean technologies.

Biden committed to increase federal procurement by $400 billion to support the deployment of technologies like batteries and electric vehicles. He promised research funding and tax incentives for technology that captures and stores carbon and to establish an Advanced Research Projects Agency on Climate to scale up technologies that can help the US meet its goal.

Accelerating the deployment of clean technologies has become critical if the world is to avoid dangerous levels of global warming and achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century. Only 25% of emissions reductions needed to close the gap between current policies and a path that limits global warming to 2C can be delivered by technologies that are mature today, according to a report by the International Energy Agency published this month.

Martin Siegert, co-director of the UK-based Grantham Institute for Climate Change & Environment, which is creating a Centre for Climate Change Innovation, said opportunities for boosting innovation at this time were “enormous”.

The US has historically played a key role, Siegert told CHN. For example, the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) across the world originated with private investments in the US. “Now every single motor company around the world has a plan to build EVs, which happened as a consequence of American innovation and investments.”

But over the past four years, Biden said Donald Trump allowed China to “race ahead in the competition to lead the auto industry of the future”. Under his plan, he aims to make the US a leader on producing EVs with an investment policy he says will create a million jobs in the automobile sector.

While much innovation is funded by the private sector, government support “can make it easier [for private actors] to contemplate innovation and bring investments,” Siegert said. This could take the form of public-private partnerships and leveraging American universities’ innovative strength into viable and scalable solutions.

“Under Joe Biden, there is an opportunity to really help the transition. By making clean technologies a priority and putting the US’ amazing resources and talent behind it, it could have ripples around the world,” he added.

While Biden’s plan is largely focused on encouraging and developing new technologies at home, knowledge and technology transfers to vulnerable communities and developing countries are urgently needed, Howie told CHN.

In India, Manoj Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Social Alpha, a technology and business incubator which support clean energy innovation, welcomed Biden’s commitment to clean technologies and innovation.

“Climate change is a global crisis. Sharing knowledge and technology is not a choice,” he said.

Kumar said the US should be looking to create more global partnerships, including in India. “No business in cleantech can ignore the global marketplace. The US needs to realise that investments in climate change need to get to the grassroots, to the poorest and most marginalised that are the biggest victims of climate change.”




Army Corps of Engineers pushes Pebble Mine forward with deeply flawed EIS

The proposed site for Alaska’s Pebble mine, at the headwaters of the rivers that empty into Bristol Bay. Credit: jsear | Flickr

ANCHORAGE – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has cleared the way for the Pebble Mine project to move forward after releasing a rushed and inadequate Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the proposed mine today.

Verner Wilson III, senior oceans campaigner for Friends of the Earth and a member of Curyung Tribal Council in Bristol Bay, Alaska issued the following statement in response:

Pebble Mine will harm Bristol Bay’s environment and devastate the indigenous communities that rely on the area’s rich natural resources. The wild sockeye salmon population could be destroyed and local economies ruined, while corporate polluters rake in millions in profit.

Instead of listening to the people and to scientific experts, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Trump Administration are barreling forward with this climate and community-destroying project. We urge Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and their colleagues in the House to hold the Army Corps of Engineers accountable for failing to protect Bristol Bay’s people and environment over greedy corporate interests.


Contact: Erin Jensen, (202) 222-0722,


Gold vs. Salmon: An Alaskan Mine Project Just Got a Boost

Black Lives Matter Chicago Sues to Prevent Occupation by Trump’s Paramilitaries

Federal officers deploy tear gas and less-lethal munitions while dispersing a crowd of about 1,000 protesters in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 24, 2020, in Portland, Oregon. NATHAN HOWARD / GETTY IMAGES

aking a page from Hitler’s Brownshirts, Donald Trump is sending his secret paramilitary forces into U.S. cities to terrorize the population. Ostensibly designed to “restore order” in the wake of massive uprisings against white supremacy and police brutality, this move appears to have a more cynical purpose lurking behind it: Trump’s desire to tar Democrat-led cities with a false narrative to boost his sagging poll numbers. But protesters are taking to the courts to rein in an out-of-control executive.

In light of the brutal federal occupation of Portland, Oregon, Black Lives Matter (BLM) Chicago and other organizations filed a lawsuit on July 23 to prevent a Portland-style federal domination of their city. They allege that Trump is dispatching agents to Chicago in order to “intimidate and falsely arrest civilians who are exercising their constitutional right to speak and to assemble.” The groups seek an injunction to prohibit federal agents from “interfering in or otherwise policing lawful and peaceful assemblies and protests” in Chicago or arresting people without probable cause.

The same day the BLM Chicago suit was filed, a federal judge in Portland issued a 14-day temporary restraining order that bars federal agents from threatening or attacking journalists and legal observers. Significantly, the judge wrote that any “willful violation” of his order will violate “a clearly established constitutional right” and thus the officer will not be able to claim the qualified immunity defense.

Portland has seen unidentified federal officials in unmarked vehicles snatch peaceful protesters off the streets, transport them to unknown locations, without informing them of why they’re being arrested, and later release them with no record of their arrest. The troops are lobbing chemical weapons and dangerous projectiles at protesters, journalists and legal observers. These actions violate the First Amendment’s free speech and press guarantees, the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Fifth Amendment’s right to due process of law.

Moreover, the Tenth Amendment provides that powers not delegated to the feds are reserved to the states. The abductions took place outside the jurisdiction of federal authorities, the people abducted were not attacking federal personnel or property, and those abducted were not on federal property when they were abducted, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court by a public benefit corporation, a church and two Oregon state representatives.

Portland is the bellwether to test Trump’s plan to assert unbridled federal power in cities led by Democrats.

Furthermore, Trump’s troops are present over the objection of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who says federal troops “are sharply escalating the situation … actually leading to more violence and more vandalism.” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown tweeted, “I told Acting [Department of Homeland Security] Secretary Wolf that the federal government should remove all federal officers from our streets. His response showed me he is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes.”

Federal forces are supposedly there to protect federal property, which is a miniscule area of Portland. “The idea that there’s a threat to a federal courthouse and the federal authorities are going to swoop in and do whatever they want to do without any cooperation and coordination with state and local authorities is extraordinary outside the context of a civil war,” said Cornell law professor Michael Dorf.

Incognito arrests and crowd control are beyond the authority and training of Trump’s troops. Yet agents from Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Protective Service have been patrolling non-federal areas of Portland, brutalizing and illegally arresting law-abiding people. The only uniforms they wear are military fatigues with patches that say “POLICE.” They have no other identifying information.

Oregon Department of Justice Sues Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals

“Ordinarily, a person exercising his right to walk through the streets of Portland who is confronted by anonymous men in military-type fatigues and ordered into an unmarked van can reasonably assume that he is being kidnapped and is the victim of a crime,” the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) states in its lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Protective Service, filed on July 17. Kidnapping by “militia or other malfeasants dressed in paramilitary gear” would trigger the lawful right of self-defense.

The Oregon DOJ’s lawsuit accuses the federal forces of violating “the state’s sovereign interests in enforcing its laws and in protecting people within its borders from kidnap and false arrest.” It alleges violations of Portlanders’ First Amendment rights to peacefully gather and express themselves. The purpose is to discourage lawful protest, “an illegal prior restraint” on the right “to peacefully protest racial inequality.”

In addition, the lawsuit alleges that defendants violated the Fourth Amendment by seizing protesters without a warrant or lawful exception to the warrant requirement. And it charges defendants with violating the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against “depriving a person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

Perhaps most alarming are reports that Trump is consulting Bush administration torture lawyer John Yoo to justify his dictatorial agenda.

On July 15, plaintiff Mark Pettibone was accosted by armed men dressed in camouflage, removed from the street, forced into a van and driven through downtown to a building believed to be the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse. Pettibone was placed in a cell and read his Miranda rights, but was never told why he was arrested. He was not given a lawyer and was later released with no citation, paperwork or record of his arrest.

The Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon DOJ and the Multnomah County district attorney have launched an investigation in the case of Donavan LaBella, who was shot in the head with an impact munition on July 11, as he was holding a speaker above his head. The federal agents fractured LaBella’s skull and shattered his facial bones.

In a July 21 interview on Fox News, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf made an astounding claim. He said that federal law enforcement officers in Portland are “proactively” arresting protesters. Wolf should know this violates the Fourth Amendment, which requires an arrest to be supported by probable cause that a crime has been committed.

Portland Is Trump’s Bellwether

When she announced the filing of the DOJ’s lawsuit, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement, “The federal administration has chosen Portland to use their scare tactics to stop our residents from protesting police brutality and from supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Every American should be repulsed when they see this happening. If this can happen here in Portland, it can happen anywhere.”

Portland is the bellwether to test Trump’s plan to assert unbridled federal power in cities led by Democrats. He intends to send about 200 troops to Chicago this week. After initially opposing the presence of federal agents in her city, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has now conditionally agreed.

Trump, apparently signaling where he intends to order federal troops, told reporters in the Oval Office, “I’m going to do something — that, I can tell you. Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.” Trump is trying to paint a picture of violent anarchy if Joe Biden is elected.

On July 21, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the Insurrection Act which would require that the president consult with Congress before deploying federal troops to U.S. cities. It compels the administration to certify to Congress with “demonstrable evidence” that local authorities are unable or unwilling to quell the violence and would forbid federal troops from conducting searches, seizures, arrests or “other similar activity” unless “otherwise expressly authorized by law.” But it is unlikely the GOP-controlled Senate will agree to such an amendment.

The House chairs of the Judiciary, Oversight and Reform, and Homeland Security Committees wrote to the Inspectors General of the U.S. Department of Justice and Homeland Security on July 19, asking them to investigate the use of federal law enforcement agencies “to suppress First Amendment protected activities,” and they agreed to launch such an inquiry. The congressional leaders noted, “The Administration’s insistence on deploying these forces over the objections of state and local authorities suggest that these tactics have little to do with public safety, but more to do with political gamesmanship.” This is part of Trump’s reelection strategy.

Indeed, Juan Cole wrote at Informed Consent, “It now appears clear that part of that strategy is to send Federal agents dressed like Iraq War troops to Democratic-run cities, on the pretext of protecting Federal property, and then for them to attack and provoke Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police protesters, causing violence to escalate and using it … to scare the [white] suburbs” into voting for Trump.

Perhaps most alarming are reports that Trump is consulting Bush administration torture lawyer John Yoo to justify his dictatorial agenda.

The Berkeley law professor subscribes to the marginal “unitary executive” theory that places unfettered executive power in the hands of the president. On June 22, Yoo wrote in the National Review that Trump “could declare that he would not enforce federal firearms laws, and that a new ‘Trump permit’ would free any holder of state and local gun-control restrictions.” Yoo opined, “Even if Trump knew that his scheme lacked legal authority, he could get away with it for the length of his presidency. And, moreover, even if courts declared the permit illegal, his successor would have to keep enforcing the program for another year or two.” Now Yoo is advising White House officials that Trump can issue executive orders about whether to apply existing laws. “I talked to them a fair amount about cities, because of the disorder,” he told the Guardian.

The ramifications of Yoo’s scenario are frightening: Trump continues to send his federal goons to Democratic cities to foment chaos and frighten people into thinking a strong leader is required to achieve order. If he is not reelected, Trump illegally declares martial law and marshals his federal forces to suspend civil liberties. When asked by Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” whether he will accept the results of the election, Trump demurred, saying, “I have to see.”

Be very afraid. But as the legendary labor leader Joe Hill said, “Don’t mourn, organize!”



Giving Police Departments Money to Buy Body Cameras Will Never End Brutality

For body cameras to serve the public, footage would have to be readily available, say advocates. But many police departments refuse to release camera footage even when evidence of misconduct is captured on cell phone cameras.

Smiling police officers with open eye body cameras, officer reaching for gun with closed eye

Their ongoing refusal underscores what organizers believe is a major flaw with the emphasis on body camera footage: Police control the footage, and they selectively choose not to release it.

On January 5, Roberts was at home in his apartment in Milford with his pregnant fiancée, Erica Jones, and their 1-year-old son. At around 6:20 p.m., Roberts, who was on medication for bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, started acting frantic.

What happened next is still a point of contention between Jones and the Milford Police Department. According to the police, two officers arrived on the scene and found Roberts with a knife in his hand. They say he started “advancing” toward them, and both officers fired. Roberts was killed.

Jones maintains that her late fiancé, while upset, posed no threat to her, their child or the officers. She also says Roberts, a Black man, told police he was having a mental breakdown while the dispatcher was still on the line. Then, when the officers arrived, Roberts opened the door.

He did not lunge at them. He didn’t even have a chance to raise his hand. It was less than three seconds,” Jones told Delaware reporters. “I couldn’t believe they shot him and all he did was open the door.”

Both officers were wearing body cameras, and the footage could conceivably end the debate about what happened on January 5. That is, after all, what body-worn cameras are intended to do: increase transparency by providing a clear record of events.

Yet Jones is still searching for answers that the police department appears unwilling to give. Police departments’ ability to withhold footage is a key reason why many activists say the increased calls for body cameras will not bring about actual police reform.

For these cameras to serve the public, anti-brutality activists argue, the apparatus of how they are used and who reviews the footage must be completely overhauled.

“When you think about body cameras without the proper context, they sound great,” says Lex Steppling, an organizer with the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Dignity and Power Now. “But cameras are part of a continuum that gives police more power and more funding from the state. They’re not used for justice, and they’re definitely not used to benefit victims and their families.”

Body-worn cameras first emerged as a popular source of reform after the 2014 killing of Michael Brown. Then-President Barack Obama requested $75 million in federal funding for body cameras, and made plans to distribute around 50,000 cameras (which then cost between $800 and $1,000 each) to police departments across the country.

Police departments’ ability to withhold footage is a key reason why many activists say the increased calls for body cameras will not bring about actual police reform.

At the time, the nascent research available indicated that body cameras might not be the answer activists sought. A 2014 research analysis by Arizona State University criminology professor Michael D. White noted a reduction in citizen complaints across several studies, but also found that the impact cameras had on police conduct was inconclusive. Since then, researchers have learned more about body cameras, but few studies point to them preventing violence perpetrated by police. In 2017, the largest research study to date found that Washington, D.C., officers with cameras used force as much as officers without cameras.

Daniel Lawrence, a researcher at the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, has spent five years studying body-worn cameras, with much of that research happening in cooperation with police departments. Some of his research concludes that camera usage can indeed lead to a “small to moderate” reduction in use of force. However, these studies also found that camera effectiveness is tied to their level of usage.

Some departments mandate that officers turn on cameras during an encounter; other departments give officers wider discretion. The Urban Institute found that use of force decreased within departments with stricter body camera policies, while increasing in departments where rules were more lax.

Lawrence has also found that officers review footage sparingly, if at all.

“There’s no way for first-line sergeants to quickly examine data and figure out when officers are activating their cameras when they should be,” he says. “The effort has been made to equip officers with the technology, but reviewing the data has been more complex.”

In most cases, police departments do not have the technical capabilities needed to parse out untold hours of footage and then conduct an in-depth analysis of the available data. Independent reviewers, like the one who works with the New Orleans police department, can bring a valuable, unbiased perspective to the footage, but most departments do not have the means or access to an independent review.

Lawrence says companies like the controversial Taser International, which has cornered the body camera market, could easily create an algorithm to make footage review accessible and manageable for police departments, but they have yet to do so.

“I see body-worn cameras as data,” he says. “There are millions of millions of hours of footage, and the footage is a gold mine. ‘Are officers aggressive? Are they yelling at people?’ These types of questions can create metrics that can be fed back into reports for sergeants, who can then use that data to hold their officers accountable.”

As the outcries for police reform continue across the nation, body cameras have once again emerged as a popular source of possible change. From New Mexico to Kentucky to Wisconsin, sheriff’s offices and police departments are seeking and receiving massive sums of money for body-worn cameras.

“I am all for body cameras,” says Rockford, Illinois, Police Chief Dan O’Shea. “Across the country, body cameras and in-car camera videos overwhelmingly, and the vast majority of the time, actually work in the police officer’s favor to verify or clear them or identify training needs.”

“Body cams are not controlled by any civic entity or independent body with oversight.”

In Los Angeles County, the board of supervisors recently allotted $35 million for body cameras as the sheriff’s office plans to implement the tech for the first time. Their colleagues in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) started using body cameras in 2015, but the jury is still out as to whether it has made a difference. Officer-involved shootings are on the decline, but are still happening more than they do in other large U.S. cities. Furthermore, other uses of officer force are on the rise, including the use of supposed “non-lethal ammunition.” Meanwhile, analysis shows that the LAPD continues to harass Black and Latinx people at a higher rate than white people. That consistent pattern of harassment is a key reason Steppling is not optimistic that more body cameras will lead to less police brutality in Los Angeles.

“Body cams are not controlled by any civic entity or independent body with oversight,” he says. “In order for [cameras] to potentially start to be a good thing, law enforcement should have to pay for them out of their already existing budget, and the control should not lie with police. Everyone should have access to that footage to create more public accountability.”

The research that has taken place since 2014 shows that body cameras are consistently effective at reducing at least one thing: complaints. In the Urban Institute’s Milwaukee study, for instance, Lawrence and his colleagues found that when civilians contact the police department to file a complaint, they are handed a pamphlet that says that they could be charged with a crime if their complaint is false. A study of the Phoenix Police Department found that body cameras led to a higher number of complaints resolved in the officers’ favor.

“That law was in place before [body-worn cameras] existed,” Lawrence says, “but now, with cameras, sergeants will say ‘Give us the name and the date,’ and they can go check out the footage right there. We haven’t directly studied this, but the fact that there is video footage may be making community members more reluctant. What that comes down to is a notion of trust: Can you trust the police?”

Additionally, in a series of studies analyzed by the National Institute of Justice, researchers discovered that body cameras may lead to more “efficiency,” but not for the public.

“The studies found that the use of body-worn cameras led to increases in [civilian] arrests, prosecutions, and guilty pleas,” the analysis reads.

For cameras to serve the public, advocates say the footage would have to be readily available. In many states, they’re not. North Carolina has rigid laws in place adding roadblocks to footage access, and elsewhere, many departments refuse to release body camera footage even after a cell phone camera captures evidence of misconduct.

In Brandon Roberts’s home state of Delaware, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki is pushing for body camera funding despite claims by the city’s police chief that the cameras are too expensive. But Roberts’s fiancée is still waiting to see the footage of his death.

Erica Jones told local reporters that she had to struggle through her second pregnancy without Roberts. There were times when she wanted to give up, and she was often overwhelmed by the loss of her fiancé and the father of her children. Yet Jones has persevered. Even as the two officers involved have returned to the line of duty, she has kept calling for the police department to release the video and show the world what happened that night in January.

“They were afraid of him because of the color of his skin,” Jones says. “They know what they did was wrong and they’re trying to cover it up.”


Greta Thunberg says EU recovery plan fails to tackle climate crisis

Exclusive: Activist says €750bn fund shows leaders not treating global heating as emergency

Greta Thunberg: ‘As long as the climate crisis is not being treated as a crisis, the changes that are necessary will not happen.’ Photograph: Johanna Geron/Reuters

Greta Thunberg has accused EU politicians of failing to acknowledge the scale of the climate crisis and said its €750bn Covid-19 recovery plan does not do enough to tackle the issue.

The climate campaigner said the package of measures agreed by EU leaders proved that politicians were still not treating climate change as an emergency.

“They are still denying the fact and ignoring the fact that we are facing a climate emergency, and the climate crisis has still not once been treated as a crisis,” Thunberg told the Guardian. “As long as the climate crisis is not being treated as a crisis, the changes that are necessary will not happen.”

EU leaders reached agreement on the recovery fund in the early hours of Tuesday and pledged that 30% of the package would go towards climate policies, but few details were given.

Thunberg, 17, and other leaders of the school strikes movement across Europe said the package was inadequate.

“We are asking our leaders to take care of the most fundamental thing: the safety of us, the safety of people around the world, the safety of our futures,” Neubauer said. “It is worrying on a democratic level when you ask for such substantial things, which seem so obvious, and yet you see how leaders are widely ignoring it, or not considering it to be as important as other things.”

Another prominent school striker, Adélaïde Charlier, 19, from Belgium, said politicians who adopted the language of climate action without following up with urgent policy measures were worse than climate deniers.

“When leaders minimise the climate crisis, I feel it is more dangerous than leaders that outright deny it … because then we actually feel we can rely on them and we are actually on the right path and that is dangerous and wrong.”

The group has written an open letter to EU leaders demanding they act immediately to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis.

Greta Thunberg calls for EU action on climate ‘existential crisis’ in letter – video

The letter, signed by 80,000 people including some of the world’s leading scientists, argues that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that most leaders are able to act swiftly and decisively when they deem it necessary, but that the same urgency has been missing in the response to climate change.

“It is now clearer than ever that the climate crisis has never once been treated as a crisis, neither from the politicians, media, business nor finance. And the longer we keep pretending that we are on a reliable path to lower emissions and that the actions required to avoid a climate disaster are available within today’s system … the more precious time we will lose,” it says.

The letter argues that the climate and ecological emergency can only be addressed by tackling the underlying “social and racial injustices and oppression that have laid the foundations of our modern world”.

Earlier this year the EU unveiled its green new deal proposals, which it said aimed to transform the bloc from a high- to a low-carbon economy without reducing prosperity and while improving people’s quality of life. The climate strikers dismissed the EU’s target of net zero emissions by 2050 as dangerously unambitious.

Thunberg, who this week was awarded Portugal’s Gulbenkian prize for humanity and pledged the €1m ($1.15m) award to groups working to protect the environment and halt climate change, said it was up to ordinary people to stand up and demand that politicians rise to the challenge.

“I see the hope in democracy and in people,” she said. “If people become aware of what is happening then we can accomplish anything, we can put pressure on people in power … if we just decide we have had enough then that will change everything.”


To save the EU, its leaders must first focus on saving the planet

European countries are spending big to revive their economies, but they will have no legitimacy with young people if they ignore the climate

 Lufthansa employees call for a government rescue package at Frankfurt airport, Germany, 24 June 2020. Photograph: Daniel Roland/AFP/Getty Images

The future of Europe depends on climate action. This is the resounding message that young Europeans have delivered to their leaders over the past two years. To be sure, the wave of young climate activists across the continent, from Fridays for Future to Extinction Rebellion, is part of a global response to the climate crisis. But for the EU in particular, it is also a warning from a new generation of Europeans to their leaders: our European identity hinges on your climate policies.

For our parents’ generation, the European Union defined itself as a protector of peace, a fortress against fascism and a society of (relative) social security. For our generation – we are in our mid-20s – this narrative does not resonate. We came of age in a Europe of crises: a financial collapse, a panic over migration, a surge of populism. These formative moments gave the lie to the notion of a united European identity. To many of us, the EU appeared less a project of democracy, diversity or solidarity than one of bureaucracy, xenophobia and fracture. What is more, Europe’s responses to these crises were hardly material for a new common narrative. Just the opposite: the responses were the crises.

EU leaders, mired in years of failed top-down projects to find “a new narrative for Europe”, have finally taken note. In December 2019, Ursula von der Leyen’s European commission made headlines with its European Green Deal, which aims to turn Europe into the world’s first carbon neutral continent by 2050. While finally bringing its fossil-fuel exit underway, Germany declared climate change one of the key policy priorities for its current council presidency. And European leaders have just negotiated the conditions of a recovery plan, earmarking 30% of both the EU budget and the new recovery fund for climate protection.

Yet so far, Europe has failed to match deeds to words. Negotiations about target dates for carbon neutrality across the continent have been sluggish. Worse, “carbon neutrality” has itself come to serve as a cover for outsourcing emissions to developing countries and investing in “alternative” fuels, such as biomass, that sound green but are really anything but. And despite all the talk, from the outset, the commission’s recovery strategy was set to prop up high-carbon industries once again. Consider one particularly egregious example: airline bailouts. Rescue packages for Lufthansa, Air France and their fellow crisis-hit airlines, amounting to €34.4bn, all came without binding environmental conditions. In the latest budget deal, the safeguards used to guarantee that funds go to green technologies instead of polluting industries remain unclear. In this light, the EU’s grand declarations of climate action could still amount to greenwashing, pure and simple – a narrative without substance.

Hollow narratives cannot endure; they undermine themselves. If EU leaders and national governments continue to soft-pedal and greenwash, they will forfeit the already fragile faith of our generation.

This loss of faith has already begun: our generation has not failed to notice the discrepancy between EU leaders’ exemplary commitment to climate action on paper and their delays and obfuscations in practice. Our polling for Europe’s Stories suggests that just over half of young Europeans think authoritarian states are better equipped to tackle the climate crisis than democracies – a worrisome but perhaps unsurprising trend that speaks to how urgently young Europeans want climate action, and to the failure of European democracies to meet the moment.

There is a better way forward. And, with governments opening their coffers to save their economies, it’s now or never. Here are a few specific proposals. Instead of asking for minimal (or no) climate commitments from failing airlines and auto manufacturers, the EU could institute a ban on short-haul flights – a policy that 62% of Europeans support – and accelerate the switch to electric vehicles. Instead of bowing to polluting industries on the sly, the EU could exclude emissions-intensive industries and practices, such as the fossil-fuel industry, chemical manufacturers or motorway expansions, from receiving recovery funds – no exceptions – and channel that money into a green public works programme. Instead of sticking with the loophole-ridden target of “carbon neutrality” by 2050, the EU could set a more appropriately ambitious target that includes strict trade regulations that pressure other emissions giants – such as China and the US – to speed up their own energy transitions. Oh, and stop cosying up to fossil-fuel lobbyists.

These measures would set Europe on a path to a just transition: from the third-largest polluter in the world to a genuine climate leader. They would also help to craft a new and durable European identity for a new generation of Europeans. It is up to Europe’s leaders to recognise, before it is too late, that the latter cannot succeed without the former. To save Europe, they will have to save the planet.


Daniel Judt, Reja Wyss and Antonia Zimmermann are graduate students and members of the Europe’s Stories project team at Oxford University


Greta Thunberg says EU recovery plan fails to tackle climate crisis

EU approves biggest green stimulus in history with US$572B plan

European governments approved the most ambitious climate change plan to date, agreeing to pour more than €500 billion into everything from electric cars to renewable energy and agriculture.

At a marathon five-day summit in Brussels, heads of government reached a deal on an unprecedented economic rescue plan and seven-year budget for the region worth €1.8 billion (US$2 billion). Almost a third of that is earmarked for climate action, offering the bloc’s 27 nations a chance to develop clean energy resources, stimulate the market for emissions-free cars, invest in budding technologies, and promote energy efficiency.

“There is no doubt this is the world’s greenest stimulus plan,” said Simone Tagliapietra, researcher at Bruegel, a Brussels-based economic think tank. “Member states should now put forward sensible green national recovery plans, prioritizing those policies that have a triple dividend: economic growth, greening, equity.”

The bid to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent puts Europe ahead of other major emitters such as the U.S., China, and India in the fight against global warming. The extensive recovery package was constructed in sync with the EU’s ambitious Green Deal strategy to zero-out greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century, a project that will require hundreds of billion of euros of annual investment.

The environmental clean-up is already under way. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is considering raising the bloc’s 2030 emissions-reduction target to as much as 55 per cent from its current 40 per cent, a move that would affect every sector of the economy from energy to agriculture and trade. Under the deal struck early Tuesday morning, the objective will be revised by the end of this year.

Other green provisions of the EU stimulus deal include:

      • The rescue fund and the 2021-2027 budget must comply with the EU goal of climate neutrality and contribute to the new 2030 emissions target
      • The European Investment Bank will become the EU’s climate bank; its board will review a capital increase by the end of this year
      • In order to make farming more sustainable, 40 per cent of the EU’s agriculture budget will be dedicated to climate
      • The Commission will develop a methodology for monitoring climate spending to detect and prevent greenwashing, and will report annually on green expenditure

The deal didn’t come easy, and talks came close to collapse at several points because of clashing national interests. In a final compromise, the €750 billion (US$858 billion) rescue fund contained fewer grants and more low-interest loans. That impacted the size of some investment programs in areas such as health and climate, triggering criticism from some lawmakers and green activists.

One loss was the Just Transition Fund, a tool to help the most affected regions bear the costs of transitioning toward eliminating emissions. Its value was slashed to €17.5 billion from €40 billion (US$46 billion). The aid can be used to retrain workers or put small and medium-sized companies on a more sustainable track.

“This agreement is at the expense of the climate,” said Michael Bloss, a German member of the Greens group in the European Parliament.


A Danish Energy Giant Has Switched to Wind Farms. Its Stock Is Blowing Higher.

Enormous overhaul will have to defeat opposition from fossil-fuel lobbyists and residents unhappy with nearby turbines

Courtesy of Orsted

Danish energy giant Ørsted is shifting from oil and gas to become the world’s biggest developer of wind farms.

The power firm, which is listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen and develops, builds, owns, and operates wind farms, has seen its shares rise from 252 Danish kroner ($38) in 2016 to DKK915. The stock is up about 32% in 2020.

The stock (ticker: ORSTED.Denmark) could blow higher on the back of coronavirus as countries rebuild their economies in more environmentally focused ways. The European Union’s 750 billion euro rescue deal agreed on July 21 includes some requirements to expand the green economy.

Ørsted is also partway through a $30 billion investment plan to move away from fossil fuels to become one of the few future renewables majors. The Danish state holds a 50.1% stake in the company.

The Covid-19 crisis could boost Ørsted as its more challenged and leveraged rivals pull out of bids for renewables projects, wrote John Musk, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, in a report this month.

Subsidies introduced by different countries that encourage a shift to green energy could also boost the firm, with Japan and Poland likely to announce details of their subsidy regimes later this year.

Tom Erik Kristiansen, an analyst at Norwegian investment bank Pareto Securities, rates the stock a Buy.

“The world’s most sustainable company will continue to deliver profitable growth ahead of its own guidance and market expectations,” he wrote in a July note.

“We see upside risk to our current win-rate and profitability assumptions, which if realized could lift the share price to above DKK1,000/share over the next couple of years,” he wrote.

The business, which employs 6,600 workers and is valued at DKK321 billion ($48 billion), fetches 46.6 times this year’s expected earnings and is valued at a 10% discount to its peers.

In January, it posted an annual pretax profit of DKK8.8 billion in 2019, down from DKK23 billion in 2018, when it benefited from a one-off gain in selling a United Kingdom wind farm. Sales for 2019 were DKK67.8 billion.

CEO Henrik Poulsen, who announced plans to step down, said in a statement, “Ørsted maintains a leading position in the global high-growth market for green energy.” He added, “We are well on track to deliver on our financial targets of 20% average growth in profits from operating renewable assets for the period 2017-23.”

Dansk Olie og Naturgas was founded in 1972 and generated 85% of its energy from coal and oil, and 15% from renewables. In 2009, it committed to switching this over a 30-year period. In 2017, it divested its oil and gas assets and changed its name to Ørsted—after Hans Christian Ørsted, one of Denmark’s best-known scientists and innovators. Last year, the company announced that it had achieved its switching goal 20 years early. It now has a 30% market share and producing assets in five countries, with six onshore wind farms in the U.S. and 12 in the U.K.

It has a strong balance sheet, with liquidity of DKK30 billion, and it benefits from a raft of future contracts that have already secured 80% of the estimated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, or Ebitda, from 2020 to 2040. These earnings are protected by fixed-price contracts with governments in developed markets or large corporations, according to Kristiansen.

Substantial cost reductions have made offshore wind more cost competitive, and gave governments the incentive to increase capacity ambitions, he said.

If Ørsted continues to deliver under new leadership, its shares could have the wind at its back.


By Steven Silva

Biden plots $2tn green revolution but faces wind and solar backlash

Enormous overhaul will have to defeat opposition from fossil-fuel lobbyists and residents unhappy with nearby turbines

Wind turbines near where protesters are fighting against the construction of eight other taller turbines in Kahuku, Hawaii. Photograph: Jennifer Sinco Kelleher/AP

Joe Biden’s $2tn plan to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from the US electricity grid within 15 years has been applauded by climate campaigners, but the enormous overhaul will have to pick its way through a minefield of community as well as lobbyist opposition.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has touted millions of new jobs in a clean energy economy where electric vehicles, retrofitted buildings and renewable power generation help phase out emissions from fossil fuels. A Biden presidency would aim to spur tens of thousands of new wind turbines and millions of new solar panels across the US to rapidly scale up zero-carbon energy.

Should Biden defeat Donald Trump in the November’s presidential election, however, the sheer scale of the energy transformation risks a backlash from communities unhappy with the nearby placement of new solar and wind infrastructure.

“We must decarbonize, but that’s not the only metric. We need to care about other environmental and social impacts too,” said David Keith, a climate and energy expert at Harvard.

In 2018, Keith co-authored research that found America’s transition to solar and wind would require up to 20 times more land area than previously thought. Land development was particularly significant for wind, which has an average power density – measured in watts per meter squared – that is 10 times less than solar.

“Wind turbines are wonderfully efficient and we shouldn’t abandon them, but we should take their footprint seriously,” Keith said. “You should tilt the energy system towards low land footprints, which means focusing on solar, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, with wind at the margins.”

An incoming Biden administration would not only have to help navigate concerns over the placement of clean energy infrastructure, but also a massive new network of transmission lines required to bring solar and wind energy from remote areas to power homes and businesses.

“If there’s a seriousness about a Green New Deal and deep cuts in emissions there will need to be federal legislation that states’ rights people won’t like where decisions are made quickly,” said Keith. “It will need leadership to admit there will be tradeoffs for a shared national goal. Biden will need to be clear there will be local decisions people won’t like. We can’t pretend this is going to be easy.”

The fiercest opposition to energy construction has until now centered on pipelines for fossil fuels such as oil and gas, with the Trump administration suffering recent court setbacks to its hopes of pushing through a number of projects that climate campaigners say will help push the world closer to catastrophe through disastrous global heating.

But protests have also started to flare around some clean energy projects, such as a Virginia community opposed to a huge solar farm 60 miles south of Washington DC, or demonstrations in the Hawaiian island of Oahu over new wind turbines that led to more than 100 arrests late last year.

“It’s not fair that AES [the company behind the wind project] can just build these monsters in our backyards, rake in all the money from them and leave us to live with the eyesore and all the side-effects,” said Kryssa Stevenson, one of the Oahu protesters, in December.

Objections to wind and solar projects range from complaints they are an eyesore and harmful to property values, to largely debunked claims they are dangerous to public health. Trump has attacked “windmills” for causing a “bird graveyard” for flying animals.

There are also broader environmental concerns over the land consumed for solar arrays or wind turbines. For example, conservationists have raised objections to the development of solar energy in the Mojave desert due to the threat posed to the desert tortoise, a creature that can live up to 80 years.

Biden’s $2tn plan would eliminate all greenhouse gases from the electricity grid within 15 years. Photograph: Matt Slocum/AP

The US has repeatedly seen renewable energy infrastructure “sited and constructed in places that have led to a significant loss of biodiversity”, said Rebecca Hernandez, co-author of a recent University of California, Davis study that found the development of the Mojave imperils cacti and other desert plants. “We need land for energy, food and conservation – how will we make sure we allocate enough for each on an increasingly hot and full Earth? We make prudent decisions about where we put our renewable energy.”

Ultimately, however, the impacts of a surge in renewable energy construction may have to be weighed against an alternative where emissions are not cut and the US is roiled by unbearable heatwaves, failed crops and increasingly powerful storms.

“It’s important that the Biden plan is technology neutral, so communities can pick their path to zero emissions,” said Melissa Lott, senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “A portion of the country will oppose this but that’s the case for anything that is built. On balance, are these impacts better than a carbon-intensive grid that will cut thousands of lives short? The answer is an unequivocal yes.

“Getting to zero carbon for the power sector by 2035 is ambitious, it’s difficult, but it’s achievable with policy support. Every year we wait will make it harder to do. We have a narrow window in the next nine or 10 years to get everything running, and fast.”


Saskatchewan pilots hydrogen to fuel the future

Jacky Wang, Dr. Ian Gates, Grant Strem, and Setayesh Afshordi during a 2020 hydrogen demo in Saskatchewan. Photograph courtesy of Proton Technologies

A hydrogen production pilot project in Saskatchewan could be the start of a new resource economy in Canada, industry insiders say.

“We plan to supply 10 per cent of the world’s energy needs in the form of exported hydrogen by 2040,” Proton Technologies CEO Grant Strem told Canada’s National Observer.

First of its kind in the world, Strem’s method can extract hydrogen from orphaned oil wells and repurpose oilfields to produce close to zero-emissions fuel.

The new extraction method is being tested near Kerrobert, Sask., and could change the way we power our economy.

Grant Strem, Jacky Wang, and Ian Gates during a 2020 hydrogen demo in Saskatchewan. Strem said the steam in the background was thawing some test-setup lines that had frozen in the -35 degree weather in February. Photograph courtesy of Proton Technologies.

“Our province looks forward to being the home of the world’s first zero-emission hydrogen oil reservoir extraction technology,” Kindersley MLA Ken Francis said.

“This project already employs 14 people in the Kerrobert area and has the potential to employ up to 30 people by the end of the year, and lead to further economic diversification and growth, despite these challenging times.”


The hydrogen market is expanding globally, with increasing use in power generation, transportation fuel and feedstock in the chemical industry.

“As a chemical feedstock, oil will always be necessary, but as an energy product, I think it will be priced out of the market in the next five to 10 years,” Strem said.

Strem said that Proton’s technology is a combination of existing technologies that are currently used in oil extraction, but refurbished to extract hydrogen, in a near zero-emissions process.

“If this technology is proven effective in the pilot stage, it could lead to the large-scale development of hydrogen from oil and gas reservoirs in Saskatchewan,” Saskatchewan Energy and Resources spokesperson Robin Speer 

His company developed a way of getting at the hydrogen byproduct of oil extraction, which until recently has been ignored by industry in Canada.

A compressor during a hydrogen separation demo which built up pressure to simulate reservoir pressure upstream of the H2 filter. This demonstration showed that the H2 filters could survive H2S and other gases. Photograph courtesy of Proton Technologies.

One of the techniques that has been used in the oil industry is to inject oxygen into an oilfield. Historically that’s been done to warm up the oil so that it flows more easily. Every project produces hydrogen as a byproduct.

Proton’s technology is unique because it extracts the gas directly from underground water, using bitumen to free hydrogen from water before the hydrogen is extracted in its pure form, leaving associated pollutants such as CO2 underground.

Strem said Canada, because of its vast underground energy reserves, is uniquely positioned to become a global leader in clean energy production through the new extraction process.

“We already have the systems in place to make the switch,” he said.

Heat exchanger for a small-scale H2 separation demonstration in 2018 which cooled H2 gas. Photograph courtesy of Proton Technologies.


Analysts at the Pembina Institute, a Canadian think tank that advocates for a clean energy transition, say that the technology, while promising, has not been fully tested yet.

“Technology that is capable of turning an existing high-carbon product like bitumen into zero-carbon hydrogen, while leaving the carbon dioxide byproduct stored in the ground, is exactly the kind of innovation we need for zero-carbon jobs and energy systems,” Benjamin Israel, senior fossil fuels analyst at the Pembina Institute said.

“To be validated as a zero-carbon technology, this new technology would have to go through a full life-cycle assessment of environmental and social benefits and risk,” Israel said.

Oilfields operations and orphaned wells in Saskatchewan and Alberta would be converted into hydrogen production facilities, which would allow oil workers to transfer their skills into the emerging clean energy sector. Photograph by Canadian Press.

The pilot project is the first full deployment of Proton’s technology, and the first time the project’s emissions performance can be measured in the field.

“If life-cycle assessment of this technology demonstrates it can reach its potential, then there may be more energy production in the future for orphaned wells, as well as wells reaching their end-of-life at large. Environmental concerns with the oilsands industry extend beyond orphaned wells, however.”

Israel said that “at the end of the day, carbon intensity is key,” and that they will have to demonstrate that their technology permanently sequesters emissions underground.

Transition Accelerator CEO Dan Wicklum said that shifting the narrative on renewables to a positive one is key to de-risking potential investors across the supply and demand chain. Photograph courtesy of Dan Wicklum.


But a slam-dunk on the technology side isn’t always an automatic win according to Transition Accelerator CEO Dan Wicklum.

“We have this assumption that if we get the economics right and the technology right then all of a sudden we will go through this energy transformation, but it ignores the social component,” Wicklum said.

Wicklum’s Alberta based company is focused on building up the supply and demand chain for hydrogen fuel as the world transitions to cleaner energy systems. Right now he is working on laying out a step by step pathway to a hydrogen-based economy.

Wicklum said it’s important to be able to present clean energy through a positive lens to get investors onboard.

“People have an easy time with change if they know the state that they are changing to is better than the state they are changing from,” he said.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s government said that the emerging technology will help diversify Saskatchewan’s energy sector. Photograph courtesy of Premier Scott Moe.


Saskatchewan Energy and Resources spokesperson Robin Speer said that if Proton’s technology is proven effective, repurposing oil and gas wells to support hydrogen production could help optimize the value generated from Saskatchewan’s natural resources as well as support economic growth in the province.

“Hydrogen is expected to play a significant role in the world’s future energy mix, as countries strive to achieve net-zero emissions goals by 2050, so hydrogen production, processing and exporting in Saskatchewan could lead to significant economic impacts,” Speer said.

But even if innovation makes hydrogen a more cost effective fuel source, there are barriers to commercialization that need to be addressed before hydrogen can be broadly adopted.

Existing standards for gas pipelines, furnaces and boilers would likely need to be revised before they can handle large volumes of hydrogen being blended into the natural gas stream.

“If this technology is proven effective in the pilot stage, it could lead to the large-scale development of hydrogen from oil and gas reservoirs in Saskatchewan,” Speer said.

Hydrogen could reduce the cost of power and the emissions associated with traditional power generation allowing the oil industry to “grow faster, meet their environmental management objectives and obligations, and operate more efficiently,” Speer said.

A pumpjack in the Alberta prairie. Supplied by Alberta Energy Regulator
Alberta’s inventory of orphaned wells in need of decommissioning grew to 3,406 as of January this year. File photo courtesy Alberta Energy Regulator.

Speer said if the project goes full scale, Saskatchewan residents “would be hired for facility construction and ongoing operations.”

He said that employees with experience in Saskatchewan’s oil and gas sector have many of the transferable skills needed in the hydrogen sector, especially for Proton’s subsurface technology.

He said that the application of this technology to extend or renew the life of mature oil reservoirs can reduce or delay the need for future well site closure.

That would help the oil and gas industry manage liability and risk associated with maintaining abandoned operations like orphaned wells.

“As it happens someone else’s abandonment liability is our opportunity, so that’s a natural thing. We’re not doing it just to fix an abandonment problem, we’re doing it so that we can make significant volumes of hydrogen and sell it,” Strem said.

Inside one of the production satellite buildings where gas and liquids from wells are measured separately. At Proton’s hydrogen facility near Superb Saskatchewan. Photograph courtesy of Proton Technologies.

Strem said that shifting to Proton’s method of extracting hydrogen will help Saskatchewan, and Canada, make a smooth transition to clean energy, and keep existing infrastructure in place while employing oilsands workers.

“Oilpatch skills and hydrogen patch skills are essentially the same. You need geologists, geophysicists, engineers, facilities people, pipeline guys, welders, pressure vessel people, truckers…” Strem said.

But that change doesn’t come without a lot of facility upgrading.

“Our process is very different since we’re not targeting oil production. We’re converting the oil facility to be more of a hydrogen facility,” Strem said.

Dr. Ian Gates, Jackie Wang, and Grant Strem at their expansive hydrogen facility near Smiley Saskatchewan. Photograph courtesy of Proton Technologies.

Speer said that hydrogen is an “intriguing opportunity” in part because it is an existing commodity that industry already understands how to handle. It is currently shipped by pipeline, truck, rail and ship.

“Economic development and environmental stewardship can go hand-in-hand and Saskatchewan can be a global leader in supporting the technologies that are needed to create the global energy sector of the future,” Speer said.

Speer said that the Saskatchewan Petroleum Innovation Incentive, through which Proton Technologies is operating, was designed to capture the developmental life cycle of an innovation, which may also limit the risk of competition.

“Saskatchewan is really well-positioned to maintain leadership in this industry”


By  Michael Bramadat-Willcock/Local Journalism Initiative/Canada’s National Observer


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