Banks won’t stop funneling billions of dollars into the fossil fuel industry

Bank financing for companies that are planning new coal, oil, and gas extraction increased 40% from 2018 to 2019, despite warnings that we need to stop burning these fuels.

[Source Image: Nerthuz/iStock]

new report from a group of environmental nonprofits details how 35 international banks have not only been sustaining but expanding the fossil fuel sector with investments that total more than $2.7 trillion over the four years since the Paris Climate Agreement. Bank financing for 100 companies that are aggressively planning new coal, oil, and gas extraction and infrastructure increased 40% from 2018 to 2019, per the report.

Though banks across the world are guilty of financial fossil fuels, “The U.S. banks are the worst of the worst,” says Lucie Pinson, executive director of Reclaim Finance, a France-based research and advocacy organization that pressures financial institutions to support climate initiatives and one of the groups that coauthored the report. JPMorgan Chase was the worst offender, having invested $269 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America together account for 30% of all fossil fuel financing from 35 global banks since 2015.

“It’s very clear that banks as a whole are all miserably failing when it comes to responding to the urgency of the climate crisis,” Pinson says. Even when these banks have policies that seem environmentally friendly—French bank BNP Paribas, for example, announced a policy in 2017 that it would no longer do business with companies who primarily produce and distribute oil and gas from shale or tar sands—it’s not enough to counter their overall monetary support of fossil fuels.

“This policy is on paper the best worldwide, and it’s actually led BNP to drastically reduce its financing to shale oil and gas sectors,” Pinson says of that 2017 decision. “However, what the report can show is that BNP increased by 72% its financing to the overall fossil fuel sector in 2019 compared to 2018.” Despite giving up those narrow parts of the fossil fuel world, BNP Paribas was still the biggest fossil fuel funder in Europe in 2019.

These banks have been “picking and choosing” which environmental steps to take, Pinson says, but “a lot of the policies that are being adopted right now are really pure green washing.” Efforts to reduce investments in specific sectors like coal are also baby steps, she adds, compared to what is needed to truly stem the tide of climate change.

For consumers who don’t want their money in banks that then funnel those funds into fossil fuels, she suggests turning to community and local banks and making sure your money is not going to support “disastrous activities.” If banks are not willing to align with the Paris Agreement, she adds, they need to be penalized. In the current economic crisis, where banks are now demanding regulators delay rules on climate change (and capital, and accounting, and more) because of the coronavirus pandemic—UK banks are specifically asking to delay climate change stress tests—Pinson says it’s even more important to focus on the overarching crisis of climate change, which is here to stay. SOURCE

Plant trees, but remember: nature is more than a carbon sink

Pledges to plant billions of trees are great for climate change, but biodiversity and other benefits of nature also have a value worth calculating.

Photo: Shutterstock, by Pat Lauzon.

The federal government pledge to plant 2 billion trees over 10 years has garnered considerable attention from Canadians eager to find solutions to the climate crisis. Planting trees is intuitively attractive: if trees soak up carbon, why not plant more? But ensuring best value for money turns out to be complicated.

In February, US President Donald Trump elevated attention around tree planting by committing to join the global “Trillion Tree Initiative” in his 2020 State of the Union address. Republican lawmakers proposed legislation soon afterwards, setting a goal for the United States to plant a trillion trees by 2050 as a “fossil fuel-friendly climate fix.”

These tree-planting pledges have come on the heels of a key report by world scientists pointing to the importance of forests and lands in regulating climate. Governments, it argued, should do a better job of leveraging nature as part of the solution to climate change.

But as we move to harness nature’s ability to help fight climate change, we need to be mindful of the other crucial services that nature provides, including biodiversity. Building these values into decision-making frameworks such as cost-benefit analyses is not straightforward.

This is because the “value” we get for our funding dollars extends beyond carbon sequestration, and includes habitat for plants and animals, protection for species at risk, flood and heat-wave protection, and cleaning water and air, among others. There are also recreational values and income for local communities to consider. Ignoring these other values in climate-change policy would be a bad idea.

It’s not that governments don’t respect these other values (the government has doubled down on international targets and now aims to protect 30 percent of Canada’s land by 2030) but there is generally no price on nature or explicit market value.

And so, choosing the right projects becomes an issue when we don’t assign explicit values within our conservation, biodiversity or resilience-related goals. This means that projects could be ruled out because of high carbon costs even when they have high values in other areas. For example, wetland restoration would do little to ease climate change but could improve biodiversity and stormwater management, reducing the risk of flooding.

Likewise, policies that aim to give harvested wood products a boost will be highly effective at sequestering carbon and help develop local resources, but could ignore biodiversity outcomes.

Adverse impacts are also possible without strong safeguards in place. Obviously, planting trees on natural grasslands or harvesting old-growth forests to plant faster-growing trees could be good for climate but would devastate existing ecosystems.

So how can we make sure that our climate change policies are also good for nature?

For one, we need to see beyond the trees. There are other landscapes good at sequestering carbon that offer considerable co-benefits, including wetlands, grasslands, agriculture lands and coastal ecosystems. Coastal ecosystems, for example, sequester and store significant amounts of carbon but also offer a slew of other natural benefits including providing diverse habitats, protecting coastal communities from flooding and storm surge events, and preventing coastal erosion. Grasslands provide important habitat for many of Canada’s species at risk.

Second, most academic research on carbon stocks and fluxes shows that it is much better to keep what you already have than to give it up – through economic activities – and then try to restore it through tree planting or land regeneration. Lands and forests can also be a large source of greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbated by forest fires, pest infestations and human activity such as resource extraction and exploration.

When policies are designed to protect what we already have, we immediately avoid the greenhouse gas emissions that would have otherwise been produced. For example, 35,000 hectares of Canada’s peatlands have already been drained, releasing significant emissions. (Peat is used in horticulture, among other things.) Conservation tactics would offer immediate benefits. Restoring what we once had (in this case, rewetting peatlands) needs to be carefully coupled with protecting what we already have.

But this still doesn’t directly address how to determine value for money. What benefits should we be trying to measure, and how do we measure them? How can we compare all of the value in two parcels of land?

Economics offers ways to get around this, including valuation techniques that put a dollar figure on particular species or services by measuring human preferences. A simpler tactic would be to decide on criteria that would give projects extra points when they demonstrate more than one kind of benefit.

Regardless of the technique, a certain amount of subjective decision-making accompanies project selection. Are we more interested in protecting species at risk or areas with an abundance of plants or animals? There’s no avoiding criteria selection to figure out what we’re looking to improve.

It’s not that tree planting is without merits. It was only recently that the Smart Prosperity Institute calculated that 2 billion trees could sequester around 1.8 to 4.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030, and double that amount by 2050.

So there is no question that nature is a fundamental piece of the puzzle for fighting climate change. However, policies with a sole focus on climate could miss a bigger opportunity to protect and enhance all of the benefits that nature provides. SOURCE

Q&A: A Harvard Expert on Environment and Health Discusses Possible Ties Between COVID and Climate

Air pollution makes people more vulnerable to respiratory infections; climate change brings people in closer contact with animals that can spread disease.

Dr. Aaron Bernstein has witnessed firsthand how climate change and public health are intertwined. Credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard University

Doctors and public health researchers are getting an increasingly accurate and nuanced picture of the many ways climate change damages human health.

Now, questions have arisen about whether climate change contributed to the outbreak of COVID-19, whose spread the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on Wednesday. For example, did habitat loss, driven in part by climate change, make it easier for pathogens to spread among wildlife and for the virus to jump to humans? Does air pollution, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, make some people more vulnerable to contracting the illness?

We spoke to Dr. Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician and Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard C-CHANGE), who has seen firsthand how climate change can harm children, mostly through the burning of fossil fuels. We asked him about the ways that climate change might have played a role in the emergence of COVID-19, about any parallels between “virus denial” and climate denial and about how to prepare for the inevitable next pandemic. A lightly-edited version of our conversation follows.

A connection between COVID-19 and climate change doesn’t seem obvious at first glance, at least to lay people, so could you explain the links that you see?

I think the strongest links I see are actually related, first of all, to air pollution, and fossil fuels as a source of air pollution, and fossil fuels, of course, are the major cause of climate change. The other connections I see are that the way we think about the environment as it pertains to health has gotten us into a rut with the emergence of infections like COVID and climate change.

Let me explain a little bit more of what I mean by that. You look at climate change, we have transformed the nature of the Earth. We have fundamentally changed the composition of the atmosphere, and as such, we shouldn’t be surprised that that affects our health. We have, as a species, grown up in partnership with the planet and life we live with. So, when we change the rules of the game, we shouldn’t expect that it wouldn’t affect our health, for better or worse. That’s true of the climate. And the same principle holds for the emergence of infections.

If you look at the emerging infectious diseases that have moved into people from animals or other sources over the last several decades, the vast majority of those are coming from animals. And the majority of those are coming from wild animals. We have transformed life on Earth. We are having a massive effect on how the relationships between all life on Earth operate and also with ourselves. We shouldn’t be surprised that these emerging diseases pop up.

The principle is that we’re really changing how we relate to other species on Earth and that matters to our risk for infections.

I’d like to drill down into the two points that you made. So let’s start with species and climate change. There are a lot of things that lead to habitat loss for species and bring them into closer proximity to human communities. Bulldozing a jungle can do that. But how does climate change play a role in decreasing the distance between wildlife and people?

To be clear, we don’t know with COVID, what role if any the climate effects that we’re already seeing in species around the world may have had on the risk of this disease emerging. We know clearly that it had to do with a market in which animals were commingled, the bats and, potentially, pangolins. But it’s not clear, for instance, whether bat migration patterns, which have been influenced by climate, have played a role.

But we have other examples. We see this extraordinary migration to the poles. We’re watching all kinds of life forms run away from the heat, and that has led to the spread of pathogens, because animals that carry pathogens came in contact with other animals that didn’t carry those pathogens and there was transmission. The constraints upon animal migration because of habitat loss may force animals into closer proximity. The bottom line here is that if you wanted to prevent the spread of pathogens, the emergence of pathogens, as we see not just with people and COVID, but as well with wildlife, you wouldn’t transform the climate. Because that forces species to come into contact with other species that may be vulnerable to infections. There are lots of forces, and habitat loss is a major contributor to it.

I want to go back to the original thing you said when I asked you to tease out these links to climate, and that is about air pollution from fossil fuels, and how that affects human vulnerability to a respiratory ailment like COVID-19. Could you talk a little about that?

I should be clear it’s not just fossil fuels. Burning anything, so it could be indoor pollution from cook stoves. It could be burning agricultural waste. It could be burning wood. It could be wildfire. Air pollution is strongly associated with people’s risk of getting pneumonia and getting sicker when they do get pneumonia. We don’t really have much in the way of evidence to show that connection with the COVID epidemics.

Given what we know now, it would be very surprising to find that air pollution didn’t affect the risk of people either getting the disease or getting sicker when they do get the disease.

Why is that? 

We have lots of research that shows that air pollution, particularly particulate matter air pollution, increases the risk of people getting sick with bacterial and viral pathogens that cause pneumonia, and that people who are exposed to more air pollution get sicker when they get exposed to those kinds of pathogens.

There seems to be a pushback in some quarters about the severity of the virus and its spread. And that reminds me of climate denial. I hear the echoes, and I was wondering if you hear those echoes, too, between that push back and climate denial? And what are those echoes, if you do hear them?

It’s hard to know. I’ve certainly heard officials downplay the risks of infection in the face of people who, I’d argue, have stronger scientific credentials and are raising more concerns. It’s hard to know where that lack of concern comes from. But it is certainly the case that the absence of science in discussing or trying to understand what’s going on is really unhelpful. We have scientists who’ve made their lives trying to understand what happens when you have populations that are exposed to diseases like COVID, and it would seem to me that we as a society would greatly benefit from listening to them rather than politicians.

I’d encourage anyone to pick up on the Twitter feeds of the scientists who have spent decades researching these problems, and see what they’re saying. Ask yourself, if you were really sick, would you go to a politician, or would you go see a doctor?

When there is this kind of push back or minimizing of the threat of this virus, what could the public health consequences be?

I don’t know that, given the public discourse I’ve seen. that there are many people who are blowing this off. I don’t get the impression that there is anyone in our society, with the exception of certain politicians, who is looking at this and saying this is not an “all systems go” situation.

I just saw an Op-Ed that said if we want science on demand, if we want a robust response to a pandemic, we have to have the systems in place to do that. As you look at this, what do we need in terms of research and preparation if we want a better response next time to a pandemic? Things that we don’t have now, for example?

I think that at a very high level, the amount of funding that has gone into the public health infrastructure in the United States in recent years has been wildly disproportionate to the need. And so we shouldn’t expect to be ready for problems like this if we don’t in fact support public health financially. We’re in a position of playing catch up because we’ve underfunded the public health infrastructure that would be necessary to appropriately respond to this.

How certain are you that there could be a next time, a next pandemic, and that climate change could play a role in that, to bring it all full circle?

The likelihood is high that this will happen. This has happened through human history but the data we have shows that the pace is accelerating. That’s not terribly surprising. We’re living in highly dense urban places. Air travel is much more prevalent than it used to be. And climate is a part of what is fundamentally reshaping our relationship with the natural world.

We are concerned, for instance, that the trees of New England are changing, turning over rapidly, and the new forests taking over New England may in fact be more fire-prone.  Wildfires, which destroy forests and habitat, can lead to human-animal interfaces that wouldn’t have happened. Because when animals lose their homes they’re going to go somewhere else. Climate change is a destabilizing force when it comes to the spread of infection through several potential pathways.

If you wanted to do something to prevent disease emergence, first of all we need to seriously reconsider how we do business with the biosphere. We can’t simply pretend that we can extract things and put species in assortments that they’ve never been in before, and hope that somehow doesn’t lead to disease emergence. And another good thing to do would be to prevent climate change because it changes how we relate to other species.  SOURCE

In the midst of converging crises, the Green New Deal is the answer

Image result for c d howe

During the Second World War, under the leadership of none other than “minister of everything” C.D. Howe, this country created 28 new crown corporations to manage every aspect of the war effort.

If you’re feeling a mounting sense of apocalyptic unease as you wash your hands and sing “Happy Birthday” for the eighth time this morning, you are not alone.

It is perfectly possible that before 2020 is half over, we will be in a global recession exacerbated by a pandemic and an oil price crash. And it is all playing out against the backdrop of a climate emergency that is proceeding at terrifying speed whether it is on the front pages or not.

But while stock markets veer between fear and greed, some of us find ourselves ricocheting from fear to hope. (And back again.)

Beyond this week’s initial economic package, it is entirely possible that the Trudeau government will soon have to step up with a massive economic stimulus, perhaps one even bigger than a decade ago.

And while U.S. President Donald Trump seizes this crisis moment to bail out his billionaire friends in unsustainable industries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – preparing a budget and searching for a unifying second-term mission – could and should bail out people and the planet instead.

In fact, the response to this period of converging crises is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the federal government to initiate a reset of our economy and society, putting Canada on a path toward zero emissions, and bringing immediate material benefits and enhanced, 21st century universal public services to everyone – prioritizing Indigenous, racialized and working class communities – that is, the people who need them most.

In other words, this is the ideal moment for Canada to launch the decade of the Green New Deal, a sweeping vision launched nationally last spring by more than 150 climate and social justice organizations, building on momentum south of the border from U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise climate movement. Essentially, it recommends an unprecedented public investment in a justice-based transition that creates a vast number of well-paying (preferably unionized) jobs, solves our crises in housing, crumbling infrastructure, health and education, inadequate transit, and deep inequality. This kind of public investment would vastly expand the tax base and stabilize the economy at the same time.

We know this can be done in Canada. During the Second World War, under the leadership of none other than “minister of everything” C.D. Howe, this country created 28 new crown corporations to manage every aspect of the war effort. That’s the level of commitment we need for a rapid shift to a climate-safe and more equal economy.

And we certainly have the resources to do it.

As a Globe and Mail editorial said recently, Canada “can deploy fiscal stimulus worth tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars, if necessary. And it can borrow at the lowest interest rates in human history, which it can lock in for decades.”

In the midst of all these terrifying and converging disasters, this is perhaps the greatest opportunity – to shatter the shackles of austerity thinking and see the potential for government to do big things, like actually lead a democratic and inclusive response to the climate emergency at the speed and scale that science and justice require.

In a crisis (like a pandemic, an economic meltdown, a climate breakdown, or all of the above at once) people across the ideological spectrum want and expect government to ride to the rescue. While it does so, there is a historic opportunity to heal all kinds of wounds across the land.

Imagine, just for one example, if on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government started painting Alberta in publicly-owned solar panels, creating tens of thousands of jobs that paid prevailing energy industry wages, while enforcing the law of polluter pays to spark a reclamation boom cleaning up a century of oil and gas wells and infrastructure.

The job creation per federal dollar would be exponentially higher than the purchase of a white elephant pipeline. And speaking of which, once we’re all hard at work building the future together – it’ll be a lot less painful to wash our hands of the relics of the past. SOURCE

Avi Lewis is a filmmaker and strategic director of The Leap

Coronavirus work-from-home policies give climate plans a boost

(Shutterstock)

Google has asked all of its North American employees to work from home until at least April 10 to stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s the most drastic in a spate of similar recommendations from Facebook, Twitter, Apple and many other big tech companies.

These companies employ hundreds of thousands of people. Given the scale, it could have a big impact on the climate.

Transportation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in North America, and a lot of that comes from commuting.

For example, if the four-million-plus people in Canada whose jobs could be done from home did so twice a week, it could remove the equivalent of 385,231 cars from the road and cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by 1.9 million tonnes, according to a 2011 report from the Telework Research Network commissioned by the City of Calgary.

“There’s no quicker, easier, cheaper way to reduce your carbon footprint than not drive,” said Kate Lister, lead author of that report and president of Global Workplace Analytics, a U.S.-based firm that helps companies plan for the future of work.

In the longer term, emissions savings can be even greater, as telework policies allow companies to reduce the amount of office space they must heat, power and equip. That also saves money.

That’s why many cities, including CalgaryVancouverSaskatoon and even smaller communities like Halton Hills, Ont., include telecommuting as one of their plans to reduce climate change.

But the climate benefits go beyond mitigation. Telecommuting infrastructure also instils resilience against the extreme weather that’s increasing with climate change. And it’s part of the climate change adaptation plans for some cities, such as Waterloo, Ont.

A decade ago, the federal government invested $800,000 in WORKshift, a program to support telework throughout the Calgary region. When the city was hit with a massive flood in 2013 that forced a lot of people to work from home, many were already equipped to do so.

“It played a big role in the continuation of government in that flooding situation,” Lister said. “Employers already had the experience, and that’s really key.”

She noted that enabling telework isn’t necessarily simple. It means buying and configuring equipment like laptops, enabling secure file and resource access in the cloud and, importantly, training. “The biggest thing is training managers to manage by results rather than butts in seats,” she said.

She added that the longer employees work from home, the more likely it is that employers start to realize other benefits. That can include cost savings, higher productivity, fewer unscheduled absences, better employee retention and greater flexibility to scale up and scale down, because doing so doesn’t hinge on costs like office space.

Lister said support for telework often fizzles after events like floods are over. But coronavirus could be different. “It almost feels like this one could be a tipping point,” Lister said, noting that up until now, telework has been growing slowly and steadily at about 10 per cent a year.

She said she’s already hearing hints from companies such as global office real estate giant CBRE that this could “fundamentally change” the nature of workplaces and offices in Asia. And it seems to be spreading to other continents.

“I do think,” Lister said, “this coronavirus is going to leapfrog the trend.” SOURCE

Climate emergency: global action is ‘way off track’ says UN head

Deadly heatwaves, floods and rising hunger far greater threat to world than coronavirus, scientists say

Fire and rescue personal run to move their truck as a bushfire burns next to a major road and homes on the outskirts of the town of Bilpin in Sydney, Australia, December 2019. Photograph: David Gray/Getty Images

The world is “way off track” in dealing with the climate emergency and time is fast running out, the UN secretary general has said.

António Guterres sounded the alarm at the launch of the UN’s assessment of the global climate in 2019. The report concludes it was a record-breaking year for heat, and there was rising hunger, displacement and loss of life owing to extreme temperatures and floods around the world.

Scientists said the threat was greater than that from the coronavirus, and world leaders must not be diverted away from climate action.

The climate assessment is led by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), with input from the UN’s agencies for environment, food, health, disasters, migration and refugees, as well as scientific centres.

In 2019 the oceans were at the hottest on record, with at least 84% of the seas experiencing one or more marine heatwaves. Surface air temperatures around the world were the hottest ever recorded, after a natural El Niño event boosted figures in 2016.

The report says results from the World Glacier Monitoring Service indicate 2018-19 was the 32nd year in a row in which more ice was lost than gained. The melting of land ice combined with thermal expansion of water pushed sea levels up to the highest mark since records began.

The long-term decline of Arctic sea ice also continued in 2019, with the September average extent – usually the lowest of the year – the third worst on record.

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5C or 2C targets that the Paris agreement calls for,” said Guterres. 2019 ended with a global average temperature of 1.1C above pre-industrial levels. “Time is fast running out for us to avert the worst impacts of climate disruption and protect our societies.”

He added: “We need more ambition on [emission cuts], adaptation and finance in time for the climate conference, Cop26, in Glasgow, UK, in November. That is the only way to ensure a safer, more prosperous and sustainable future for all people on a healthy planet.”

Prof Brian Hoskins, of Imperial College London, said: “The report is a catalogue of weather in 2019 made more extreme by climate change, and the human misery that went with it. It points to a threat that is greater to our species than any known virus – we must not be diverted from the urgency of tackling it by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible.”

Half a century of dither and denial – a climate crisis timeline

Fossil fuel companies have been aware of their impact on the planet since at least the 1950s

The physicist Edward Teller tells the American Petroleum Institute (API) a 10% increase in CO2 will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. “I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.”

Lyndon Johnson’s President’s Science Advisory Committee states that “pollutants have altered on a global scale the carbon dioxide content of the air”, with effects that “could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings”. Summarising the findings, the head of the API warned the industry: “Time is running out.”

Shell and BP begin funding scientific research in Britain this decade to examine climate impacts from greenhouse gases.

A recently filed lawsuit claims Exxon scientists told management in 1977 there was an “overwhelming” consensus that fossil fuels were responsible for atmospheric carbon dioxide increases.

An internal Exxon memo warns “it is distinctly possible” that CO2 emissions from the company’s 50-year plan “will later produce effects which will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the Earth’s population)”.

The Nasa scientist James Hansen testifies to the US Senate that “the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now”. In the US presidential campaign, George Bush Sr says: “Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect forget about the White House effect … As president, I intend to do something about it.”

confidential report prepared for Shell’s environmental conservation committee finds CO2 could raise temperatures by 1C to 2C over the next 40 years with changes that may be “the greatest in recorded history”. It urges rapid action by the energy industry. “By the time the global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even stabilise the situation,” it states.

Exxon, Shell, BP and other fossil fuel companies establish the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a lobbying group that challenges the science on global warming and delays action to reduce emissions.

Exxon funds two researchers, Dr Fred Seitz and Dr Fred Singer, who dispute the mainstream consensus on climate science. Seitz and Singer were previously paid by the tobacco industry and questioned the hazards of smoking. Singer, who has denied being on the payroll of the tobacco or energy industry, has said his financial relationships do not influence his research.

Shell’s public information film Climate of Concern acknowledges there is a “possibility of change faster than at any time since the end of the ice age, change too fast, perhaps, for life to adapt without severe dislocation”.

At the Rio Earth summit, countries sign up to the world’s first international agreement to stabilise greenhouse gases and prevent dangerous manmade interference with the climate system. This establishes the UN framework convention on climate change. Bush Sr says: “The US fully intends to be the pre-eminent world leader in protecting the global environment.”

Two month’s before the Kyoto climate conference, Mobil (later merged with Exxon) takes out an ad in The New York Times titled Reset the Alarm, which says: “Let’s face it: the science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil.”

The US refuses to ratify the Kyoto protocol after intense opposition from oil companies and the GCC.

The US senator Jim Inhofe, whose main donors are in the oil and gas industry, leads the “Climategate” misinformation attack on scientists on the opening day of the crucial UN climate conference in Copenhagen, which ends in disarray.

A study by Richard Heede, published in the journal Climatic Change, reveals 90 companies are responsible for producing two-thirds of the carbon that has entered the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age in the mid-18th century.

The API removes a claim on its website that the human contribution to climate change is “uncertain”, after an outcry.

Exxon, Chevron and BP each donate at least $500,000 for the inauguration of Donald Trump as president.

Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of Opec, which represents Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, Iran and several other oil states, says climate campaigners are the biggest threat to the industry and claims they are misleading the public with unscientific warnings about global warming.

Jonathan Watts

The WMO said its report provided authoritative information for policymakers on the need for climate action and showed the impacts of extreme weather.

A heatwave in Europe was made five times more likely by global heating, and the scorching summer led to 20,000 emergency hospital admissions and 1,462 premature deaths in France alone. India and Japan also sweltered and Australia started and ended the year with severe heat and had its driest year on record. Australia had “an exceptionally prolonged and severe fire season”, the WMO noted.

Floods and storms contributed most to displacing people from their homes, particularly Cyclone Idai in Mozambique and its neighbours, Cyclone Fani in south Asia, Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean, and flooding in Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia. The number of internal displacements from such disasters is estimated to have been close to 22 million people in 2019, up from 17 million in 2018.

The US saw heavy rains, with the total from July 2018 to June 2019 being the highest on record. Total economic losses in the US for the year were estimated at $20bn, the WMO said.

Unpredictable climate and extreme weather was a factor in 26 of the 33 nations that were hit by food crises in 2019, and was the main driver in 12 of the countries. “After a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again – over 820 million suffered from hunger in 2018, the latest global data available,” the report says.

The WMO said unusually heavy precipitation in late 2019 was also a factor in the severe desert locust outbreak in the Horn of Africa, which is the worst for decades and expected to spread further by June 2020 in a severe threat to food security.

Prof Dave Reay, of the University of Edinburgh, said: “This annual litany of climate change impacts and inadequate global responses makes for a gut-wrenching read. Writ large is the ‘threat multiplier’ effect that is climate change on the biggest challenges faced by humanity and the world’s ecosystems in the 21st century.” SOURCE

 

Climate adaptation estimated to cost municipalities $5.3 billion annually

TORONTO , Feb. 27, 2020 /CNW/ – The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) released a report entitled Investing in Canada’s Future: The Cost of Climate Adaptation at the Local Level. The comprehensive report offers striking new data demonstrating the urgent need for new investments in local climate adaptation and the areas where that investment is needed most. This report is the first of its kind to quantify the cost for municipalities.

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As the risk of more frequent severe weather events increases due to climate change, many areas across the country are becoming riskier to insure. Municipalities are on the front lines of climate change and require significant investment to protect the public, property and businesses from the devastating effects of climate change.

According to the report’s findings, avoiding the worst impacts of climate change at the municipal level will cost an estimated $5.3 billion per year, or equivalent to 0.26% of Canada’s GDP. Studies have shown that investments in resilient infrastructure have a return on investment of $6 in future averted losses for every $1 spent proactively. Those investments are critical to helping local communities adapt to the changing climate and to reduce risks to Canadians from extreme weather.

Given the scale and size of the long-term cost of adapting to climate change, the report suggests that future research and analysis by all levels of government must consider innovative ways in which private sector capital can be utilized to support enhanced community resilience.

The report also found that Canada’s eastern and northern regions are generally most in need of adaptation investments — with flooding, erosion and melting permafrost posing the greatest risk. Among infrastructure priorities, local buildings, dikes and roads require the most urgent upgrades.

Quotes

“When homes, businesses, farmland, and public infrastructure are hurt by extreme weather events, Canadians feel it in their communities first. Municipal leaders are prioritizing resiliency in their towns and cities, but there’s more we can and must do. FCM is proud to partner on the development of this crucial new data that underscores the importance of greater investment in municipal adaptation and prevention amidst the effects of a changing environment. All orders of government can work together to protect the public infrastructure that Canadians rely on in their neighbourhoods.”
–  Bill Karsten , FCM President

“Across the country, Canadians are feeling the devastating impacts of climate change as the financial and emotional costs continue to rise. Governments need to collaborate in funding the resilient infrastructure needed to protect Canadians from flooding, wind and wildfires. Given the size of the estimated investment needed at the local level, government should consider how the private sector and how private finance can help make our communities more resilient.”
–  Don Forgeron , IBC President and CEO

Links:

Oil investments are the new tobacco

The climate crisis and peak oil demand are making expensive projects like Alberta’s Teck Frontier look like bad investments.

Teck mine

Everybody in Canada is pointing fingers about Teck Resources cancelling its giant $20 billion open pit tar sands mine. Alberta’s Premier Kenney blames “urban-green-left zealots” and says it will “further weaken national unity.” Temporary leader of the opposition Andrew Scheer blames the Prime Minister, saying, “Justin Trudeau’s inaction has emboldened radical activists” and “Make no mistake: Justin Trudeau killed Teck Frontier.”

But the fact is that it made no economic sense in a world awash in cheap oil; Teck needed $95 a barrel to break even and Canadian oil is selling for $38. Permian Basin oil sells for $50. And who was going to lend Teck $20 billion, when the people who fund these projects are pulling out of the market?

Many have joined Climate Action 100+, “an investor initiative launched in 2017 to ensure the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters take necessary action on climate change.”

Larry Fink of Black Rock, controlling $7 trillion, recently wrote that “climate change will upend global finance sooner than they might think.” According to Bloomberg, “Mark Carney and Christine Lagarde are once again pushing investors to take the climate crisis seriously and ensure they’re considering the risks from emissions and higher temperatures.”

And now, JPMorgan Chase is warning that climate change is a threat to “human life as we know it.” According to Bloomberg,

“The response to climate change should be motivated not only by central estimates of outcomes but also by the likelihood of extreme events,” bank economists David Mackie and Jessica Murray wrote in a Jan. 14 report to clients. “We cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes where human life as we know it is threatened.”

This is from a company that has invested $75 billion in fracking and Arctic oil, and right now is demolishing a perfectly good, recently renovated building, with an upfront carbon load in replacing the square footage of about 63,971 tonnes of CO2. Even they are now talking climate crisis.

According to the JP Morgan report leaked to the Guardian, “The climate crisis will impact the world economy, human health, water stress, migration and the survival of other species on Earth.”

Drawing on extensive academic literature and forecasts by the International Monetary Fund and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the paper notes that global heating is on course to hit 3.5C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century… The authors say policymakers need to change direction because a business-as-usual climate policy “would likely push the earth to a place that we haven’t seen for many millions of years”, with outcomes that might be impossible to reverse.

“Although precise predictions are not possible, it is clear that the Earth is on an unsustainable trajectory. Something will have to change at some point if the human race is going to survive.”

JP Morgan is backtracking a bit, telling the BBC that the report was “wholly independent from the company as a whole, and not a commentary on it,” but it is all part of a trend.

“Fossil fuels are done!”

Take that Mad Money guy, Jim Cramer, who is saying “fossil fuels are done.”

He doesn’t mention climate change, but blames investor attitudes. Quoted by Nick Cunningham in Oilprice.com:

“We’re starting to see divestment all over the world. We’re starting to see big pension funds say, ‘listen, we’re not going to own them anymore,’” Cramer said on CNBC. “The world’s changed. There’s new managers. They don’t want to hear whether these are good or bad.”

Cunningham notes that companies are not suddenly getting concerned about sustainability, but see peak oil demand coming with the rise of electric vehicles. “It has become both a moral issue and a financial one.”

“We’re in the death knell phase. I know that’s very controversial. But we’re in the death knell phase,” Cramer warned. “The world has turned on them. It’s actually happening kind of quickly. You’re seeing divestiture by a lot of different funds. It’s going to be a parade that says, ‘Look, these are tobacco. And we’re not going to own them’… “[Oil is now] tobacco. I think they’re tobacco. We’re in a new world.”

I am sorry, but you cannot blame Justin Trudeau for that.

If Teck offered lessons, it’s not clear Alberta is learning them

Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews insists the federal government is mainly to blame for the cancellation of the Teck Resources oilsands project.

By the time the Frontier mega-mine proposal died a swift and unexpected death last week, the proposal had taken on a national significance that dwarfed even the 29,000 acres of forest and wetland it sought to take over.

To Alberta’s United Conservative government, its approval would indicate whether Prime Minster Justin Trudeau really supported the oilsands. To environmentalists, it was a scourge.

But to Teck Resources, the Vancouver-based company behind it, it was a chance to balance oilsands development with environmental rigour, in a project they believe should have satisfied both sides. But, they argued in their letter to the federal environment minister, Canadian regulations have not caught up.

Global markets are changing fast, Don Lindsay, CEO of Teck, wrote in the letter last weekend.

“Investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change,” he said.

“This does not yet exist here today.”

But if it’s true that oilsands projects are now forever tangled up in the climate change debate, observers say Alberta isn’t learning that lesson.

Mike Holden, the vice-president of policy and chief economist of the Business Council of Alberta, said he was surprised that the provincial budget had lots of plans for what they hope is a coming upswing in the oil industry, but almost nothing to say about climate change.

“I think that there was an opportunity that the province could have taken to spell out a climate strategy that could have helped with investor confidence, that could have helped with sending a message to the federal government that it was serious about working in this area, and it didn’t do that,” he said.

“That’s not to say that it might not at some point down the road, but it was fairly silent.”

The budget has one reference to the global challenge that is climate change, and notes that Alberta’s “global leadership in clean energy and (greenhouse gas reducing) technologies is also key to investment attraction.”

It also includes their TIER, or Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction, program, which places a $30 per tonne tax on large emitters. According to the budget, it will put $969 million into climate technology and emission reduction over 3 years.

Despite Teck’s lengthy letter, Alberta government officials don’t believe that the Teck cited the real reason for cancelling the project.

When asked about Teck’s decision in advance of the budget being tabled Thursday, Finance Minister Travis Toews cast the blame east.

“We have a federal government who didn’t categorically affirm its support for a project that’s gone through in every environmental hurdle put in front of them,” Toews said.

“The fact that the goal posts were seemingly, potentially to be adjusted at the last minute has a profound effect.”

In this, Toews echoed Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who has put the blame for the cancellation at the feet of rail blockade protesters across the country who have been affecting transportation for nearly three weeks, as well as federal inaction.

On Monday, Kenney said “there is absolutely no doubt” that the blame for the decision lies with the federal government and called for action from Ottawa to restore investor confidence in the province.

But Chris Severson-Baker, the Alberta regional director of the Pembina Institute, says sound climate policy is a major way to attract investors. It’s possible to pursue climate goals while still investing in oil development, he said, but there should be incentives for projects or types of development that are lower in carbon.

He said he was disappointed to see little talk of climate in the new budget, especially as the current federal government plans for Canada to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

He points to the oil industry leaders who have publicly supported a carbon tax. He says that many in the industry realize that many big oil projects now have to prove their green bonafides to get approval.

“Until this is resolved, it’s going to be a barrier to make further investments in Canada and in Alberta,” said Severson-Baker. SOURCE

Climate adaptation expected to cost Canadian municipalities $5.3 billion annually: report

Flooding preparations in the Toronto Islands in 2019. Richard Lautens/Toronto Star

Canadian municipalities will need to invest $5.3 billion annually to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, says a new report, as governments, residents and insurers brace for more frequent severe weather events.

The new study from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Insurance Bureau of Canada cautions that the “poor state of Canada’s aging infrastructure” leaves all levels of government vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events made more frequent by climate change.

READ MORE: Goodale: Flooding in Eastern Canada could be “worsening”

Bracing for the impact of floods will by far require the most significant municipal investment, the report says, while weather-proofing buildings is expected to be the largest infrastructure spending pool for local governments.

These climate change mitigation costs would be shared amongst all three orders of government, with the federal investment stream “well represented by current and future increased support to the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund,” according to the document.

“Municipalities, as the owners and operators of 60 per cent of the public infrastructure in Canada, are on the frontlines of both the impacts of climate change and the solutions to protect Canadians,” it reads.

“However, addressing climate risks by retrofitting existing infrastructure and implementing new adaptation measures poses an additional burden on the limited financial capacity of municipalities. Municipalities cannot shoulder the cost of adapting to climate change alone.”

A 2019 Government of Canada report found that the annual average temperature in Canada increased by 1.7 degrees Celsius since 1948, when nation-wide records became available. It also suggested that trends of more frequent and intense weather extremes will continue in the future, increasing flood and wildfire risks, among other impacts.

Canada has been hit hard by a flurry of extreme weather events in recent years, ranging from historic wildfires in Western Canada to frequent and damaging flooding events in the Prairies and Eastern Canada.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reported earlier this year that severe weather caused $1.3 billion in insured damage in Canada in 2019, making it the seventh costliest year on record. The IBC noted that no single event caused the high amount paid out for losses in 2019, and instead the losses were attributable to “a host of smaller severe weather events from coast to coast.”

In fact, eight of the 10 costliest years on record for the IBC came in the last decade, with 2016, the year of the Fort McMurray wildfires, the most expensive year ever for insurers.

FCM president Bill Karsten said in a statement that all orders of government “can work together to protect the public infrastructure that Canadians rely on in their neighbourhoods.”

“This crucial new data that underscores the importance of greater investment in municipal adaptation and prevention amidst the effects of a changing environment,” he added.

READ MORE: 61% of Canadians want government to take action on climate change even if economy suffers: poll