Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 1st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Kurt Vonnegut’s 1988 Letter to the Future More Relevant Today Than Ever Before
By Kick Kennedy, EcoWatch
31 July 16
n 1988, my then Hyannis Port neighbor the late Kurt Vonnegut wrote a prescient letter to the Earth’s planetary citizens of 2088 for Volkswagen’s TIME magazine ad campaign. His seven points of advice are perhaps more relevant today than at any time in human history. We should keep this advice in mind this election year and adopt Vonnegut’s recommendations while we still can.
Here’s his letter:
Ladies & Gentlemen of A.D. 2088:
It has been suggested that you might welcome words of wisdom from the past, and that several of us in the twentieth century should send you some. Do you know this advice from Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true’? Or what about these instructions from St. John the Divine: ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment has come’? The best advice from my own era for you or for just about anybody anytime, I guess, is a prayer first used by alcoholics who hoped to never take a drink again: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’
Our century hasn’t been as free with words of wisdom as some others, I think, because we were the first to get reliable information about the human situation: how many of us there were, how much food we could raise or gather, how fast we were reproducing, what made us sick, what made us die, how much damage we were doing to the air and water and topsoil on which most life forms depended, how violent and heartless nature can be, and on and on. Who could wax wise with so much bad news pouring in?
For me, the most paralyzing news was that Nature was no conservationist. It needed no help from us in taking the planet apart and putting it back together some different way, not necessarily improving it from the viewpoint of living things. It set fire to forests with lightning bolts. It paved vast tracts of arable land with lava, which could no more support life than big-city parking lots. It had in the past sent glaciers down from the North Pole to grind up major portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Nor was there any reason to think that it wouldn’t do that again someday. At this very moment it is turning African farms to deserts, and can be expected to heave up tidal waves or shower down white-hot boulders from outer space at any time. It has not only exterminated exquisitely evolved species in a twinkling, but drained oceans and drowned continents as well. If people think Nature is their friend, then they sure don’t need an enemy.
Yes, and as you people a hundred years from now must know full well, and as your grandchildren will know even better: Nature is ruthless when it comes to matching the quantity of life in any given place at any given time to the quantity of nourishment available. So what have you and Nature done about overpopulation? Back here in 1988, we were seeing ourselves as a new sort of glacier, warm-blooded and clever, unstoppable, about to gobble up everything and then make love—and then double in size again.
On second thought, I am not sure I could bear to hear what you and Nature may have done about too many people for too small a food supply.
And here is a crazy idea I would like to try on you: Is it possible that we aimed rockets with hydrogen bomb warheads at each other, all set to go, in order to take our minds off the deeper problem—how cruelly Nature can be expected to treat us, Nature being Nature, in the by-and-by?
Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on—during the past seven million years or so. In my time they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.
The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appears to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms:
Reduce and stabilize your population.
Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.
And so on. Or else.
Am I too pessimistic about life a hundred years from now? Maybe I have spent too much time with scientists and not enough time with speechwriters for politicians. For all I know, even bag ladies and bag gentlemen will have their own personal helicopters or rocket belts in A.D. 2088. Nobody will have to leave home to go to work or school, or even stop watching television. Everybody will sit around all day punching the keys of computer terminals connected to everything there is, and sip orange drink through straws like the astronauts.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 22nd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
2016 Hannover Messe: US is Partner Country
United States is Partner Country at the 2016 Hannover Messe
Chancellor Merkel to Welcome President Obama in Hannover
Chancellor Merkel and President Obama will take part in the opening event of the trade fair on Sunday, April 24. Afterwards, the Chancellor will host a dinner in honor of President Obama with business representatives from both countries.
Obama to Visit Hannover Messe Panel Discussion
With less than a month to go before the Hannover Messe, the German Embassy in cooperation with Siemens USA and The US Department of Commerce hosted an event entitled, “On the Road to Hannover Messe.”
HANNOVER MESSE – US Named Partner Country for Hannover Messe 2016
The US will be the partner country of the Hannover Messe in 2016. “Hannover Messe is of exceptional importance to the development of our transatlantic trade relations,” Ambassador Wittig said on the news.
President Obama Will Open Hannover Messe with Chancellor Merkel
US President Barack Obama announced that he will make his fifth trip to Germany in April of this year. President Obama will join Chancellor Angela Merkel in opening the annual Hannover Messe, one of the world’s largest industrial trade fairs.
Doing Business in Germany and the US
German Foreign Chamber of Commerce (c) ahk
Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT)
RGIT is the liaison office of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) in Washington. RGIT represents the interests of the German business community vis-à-vis both the U.S. administration and the international organizations based in D.C. They report regularly on economically significant developments as well as legislative activities in the U.S. and provide their partners in the United States with information on German business.
Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT) – German American Chambers of Commerce
With a network of six offices and 2,500 member companies throughout the United States and Germany, the German American Chambers of Commerce offer a broad spectrum of activities and services.
SelectUSA, a subsidiary of the US Commerce Department, is in charge of the US presence at the 2016 Hannover Messe. Information on taking part in the trade fair and on the US businesses attending can be found on their website.
in the United States
Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT)
RGIT is the liaison office of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) in Washington. RGIT represents the interests of the German business community vis-à-vis both the U.S. administration and the international organizations based in D.C. They report regularly on economically significant developments as well as legislative activities in the U.S. and provide their partners in the United States with information on German business.
Representative of German Industry and Trade (RGIT)
Flags of the European Union and the United States -Tapping Potential with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
With TTIP, the EU and the U.S. will strive to negotiate the most comprehensive and largest bilateral trade and investment agreement ever.
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
President Obama meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in September 2015 at the Oval Office. On January 1, Saudi Arabia executed 4 individuals who engaged in non-violent protest for democracy and human rights in the Kingdom. Behind the president and King Salman sits a bust of the champion of non-violent protest, Martin Luther King Jr. (photo: AP)
(under the photo by AP heading the original article)
US Ties to Saudi Kingdom Are Beheading Democracy: An Interview With the Son of an Executed Political Prisoner.
By Paul Gottinger, Reader Supported News
26 February 2016
Saudi Arabia opened 2016 with a tragic, yet increasingly common event for the Kingdom, a mass execution.
In the words of Amnesty International, “Saudi Arabia’s authorities demonstrated their utter disregard for human rights and life by executing 47 people in a single day.”
According to the British rights organization Reprieve, Saudi Arabia has had one of the world’s highest rates of execution for over ten years. Many of these executions occur after unfair trails and may be carried out by the barbaric means of beheading, public crucifixion, stoning, or firing squad.
All 47 individuals executed on January 1 were accused of being terrorists. However, four of those executed were involved in Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring protests. These four remained strictly nonviolent in their calls for greater democracy and rights in the Kingdom.
Despite being a major US ally, Saudi Arabia has an atrocious human rights record. The Kingdom is intolerant of any dissent and harshly represses any critics. The Kingdom has also banned all public gatherings and demonstrations since the Arab Spring erupted in 2011.
One of these four political prisoners executed was the well-known Shia cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr. Al-Nimr was a powerful and articulate critic of the Saudi government and royal family.
Amnesty International stated that Sheik al-Nimr’s execution showed that Saudi officials were “using the death penalty in the name of counter-terror to settle scores and crush dissidents.”
Reader Supported News spoke with Sheik al-Nimr’s son, Mohammed al-Nimr, just a few weeks after his father’s execution.
Mohammed described his father as someone who believed in the same values as Americans and who wanted all people to have basic things like democracy, freedom, justice, dignity, and human rights.“He was a peaceful man who demanded change in my country because he wouldn’t tolerate any tyranny. He always spoke for the oppressed against the oppressors.”
Mohammed said his father guided Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring protesters in the way of nonviolence. “He demanded peaceful change in the form of democratic elections and he also demanded basic human rights.”
Despite the Saudi government labeling him a terrorist, Mohammed said, “My father was always a strong supporter for peaceful change. He always asked people to be peaceful and not to fall into violence. I never saw my father with a weapon. He once told a protestor, you are right to demand your rights, but don’t engage in even the smallest forms of violence like throwing rocks at riot police.”
Mohammed’s father was first arrested in 2012. A security vehicle rammed into his car, security personnel dragged him out of the car, then finally opened fire on him, striking him 4 times.
When Sheik al-Nimr woke up in the hospital his upper chin was broken and two teeth were missing. “My father underwent an operation to remove the bullets, but the hospital intentionally left one bullet in his thigh to cause him pain.”
Due to his injuries, Sheik al-Nimr suffered an enormous amount of pain, which prevented him from sleeping properly for an entire year. Sheik al-Nimr was also held in solitary confinement for almost four years, the entire time he was imprisoned.
I asked whether the US reached out to help free his father, who believed in democracy, nonviolence, and justice, the very values America claims to stand for. But Mohammed said the US never reached out to him. “They know about the case, but they didn’t do enough to stop the execution.”
In the days after Sheik Nimr’s execution, the White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the White House had “raised concerns” with the Saudi government that executing Sheik Nimr al-Nimr could heighten sectarian tensions.
Mohammed said this is the US government’s way of saying they did their part. “But that’s not enough. You don’t just warn them. He was a peaceful man. The US should have demanded his release and done all they could to stop the execution from happening.”
When asked if he had a message for the American people, Mohammed said, “Your security is in danger. As long as your government supports the Saudi regime, which has a lot of money to support terrorism all over the world, your security is in danger.”
“This Saudi regime supported the Taliban, and the result was al Qaeda. Then the Saudi regime supported the rebels in Syria, and the result was ISIS.”
“Where does the money for all these terror groups come from? It’s the Saudi government’s oil money. The Saudi government pretends to fight terrorist ideology, but their ideology is the root of terrorist ideology. For example, 15 of 19 September 11th hijackers were Saudi. Why is that? Because that’s what they teach people in school.”
“So my message for American citizens is look out for your safety. You don’t want more 9/11 attacks, you don’t want more Paris attacks. That’s what this regime supports, even if the regime shows another face.”
When asked what his father would think of the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran that followed his father’s execution, he said, “I believe if my father was here he would not agree to the attack in Tehran. As I said, he was a peaceful man and would never encourage violence.”
Mohammed said his father’s execution left an enormous impact on him. “My father was really a friend to me. He was a great father and I will have a deep sadness for the rest of my life due to his loss. I know he’s in a better place right now, but the painful thing is that I’m never going to see him, or hear his voice with new words about freedom, justice, dignity and humanity.”
When asked how he planned to attain justice for his father, Mohammed said, “I will make the whole world hear his voice. Make the whole world know what he stood for and what he demanded and not the picture the Saudi government is trying to paint of my father.”
“He was not a violent man. He was just someone who wouldn’t tolerate any tyranny and any oppression against anyone. He would stand up for anyone who is oppressed.”
Paul Gottinger is a staff reporter at RSN whose work focuses on the Middle East and the arms industry. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or via email.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The Slow Violence of Climate Change.
By Sara Nelson, Jacobin
19 February 16
at READERS WRITE - readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…
The spectacle of international climate negotiations shows that climate justice won’t come through existing institutions.
he Paris Agreement, achieved December 12 at the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP21), has been heralded as a “turning point for humanity” and “a new type of international cooperation.” In his remarks to the General Assembly following the close of COP21, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it “a triumph for people, the planet, and multilateralism.”
More critical voices have pointed to the “wrinkles” that mar the agreement, while influential climate scientist James Hanson has dismissed it as “just worthless words.” Most commentary falls in a middle ground, viewing the agreement as an important, if faltering, step in the right direction: even if we’re not entirely happy with what has been achieved, that something was achieved at all signals a “political will” for change.
But the drama and significance of the COP as an event isn’t primarily about the emergence of an agreement. The history of international climate negotiations — with the exception of the spectacular failure at Copenhagen — boasts a long line of Outcomes, Accords, and even Protocols. Throughout, emissions have continued not only unabated, but at an accelerated pace.
Bolivian president Evo Morales remarked on this uncomfortable truth at last year’s COP20 in Lima, when he admonished delegates for having little to show for over two decades of climate change negotiations other than “a heavy load of hypocrisy and neocolonialism.”
The COP as an event, then, does not simply represent the failure to contend with the ongoing catastrophe of climate change. Its very process perpetrates what Rob Nixon calls the “slow violence” of climate change.
Nixon uses this term to describe how contemporary imperialism transfers its toxic byproducts to peoples and ecosystems at the peripheries of the global economy, challenging us to recognize imperial violence in the cumulative, attritional, and mundane forms of death and disease that do not resolve into moments of spectacular destruction.
Climate change, for Nixon, is the ultimate expression of slow violence, a “temporal and geographical outsourcing” of environmental devastation to the most vulnerable populations and to future generations, a “discounting” of lives and livelihoods that cannot prove their worth in economic terms.
But if climate change is “slow violence” in terms of its cumulative effects, it is equally slow in its execution — and nothing illustrates this quite so effectively as the trudging pace of international negotiations.
Geopolitical power operates here in decidedly non-spectacular ways, through the procedural minutiae of negotiations over subtleties of wording. The drama of urgency around the production of an outcome distracts from the reality of negotiations as a long process of strategic refusal, whereby wealthy countries deny their historical responsibility for global emissions and thereby lock in catastrophic climate trajectories.
Rather than heralding the success of an agreement or rejecting it outright as a failure, we should attend to the COP as an instance of slow violence in action.
Unlike previous efforts, the substance of the Paris agreement is based on individual countries’ voluntary emissions targets, which each nation was encouraged to submit in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs.
The voluntary nature of these targets is the result of, among other things, the fact that a binding treaty including quantified emissions targets would need to be ratified by the US Congress.
Given political realities in the US, seeking legally binding emissions targets would have effectively excluded at least one of the world’s largest emitters. (During COP21, presidential hopeful Ted Cruz convened a congressional hearing on climate change entitled “Data or Dogma?”, in which he claimed that “for the past eighteen years . . . there has been no significant warming whatsoever” and that CO2 is “good for plant life.”)
The fact that quantified emissions targets were off the negotiating table in Paris sat in tension with growing pressure to establish a global limit for temperature rise. Whereas the 2-degree Celsius threshold identified at Copenhagen has long been the marker separating “acceptable” levels of warming from catastrophic ones, a new limit was asserted by a coalition of vulnerable countries and civil society groups in a mantra that reverberated through the COP halls: “1.5 to stay alive.”
If 2C was a political compromise more suited to northern latitudes, the 1.5 threshold aimed to move vulnerable nations from the peripheral vision of the international system to its focal point. As Tuvalu’s environmental minister proclaimed in his national statement, “If we save Tuvalu, we save the world.”
But things don’t look good for Tuvalu. According to a recent United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report, the current national commitments, if realized, would add up to a 2.7 degree increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels — well beyond the “acceptable” range for any part of the globe. Moreover, the large majority of developing countries’ national commitments are at least partially conditional upon international climate finance.
The substantive political problems of the COP therefore concerned whether and how developing countries will be provided with the financial support to respond to climate change; whether the most vulnerable countries will be entitled to compensation for loss and damage suffered as a result of climate impacts; and how the international community will contend with climate-induced displacement.
All these issues hinge on the crucial notion of “differentiation.” This principle, put forth in Article 3 of the UNFCCC, establishes the differential responsibilities of developed and developing nations regarding climate change, based on industrialized countries’ historical responsibility for causing global warming as well as their far-greater capacity to respond to it.
Based on this historical responsibility, developed countries have a legal obligation under Article 4.3 of the UNFCCC to provide developing countries with the resources necessary to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.
But while it is the cornerstone of the Convention, the notion of differentiation is something that developing nations cannot take for granted. The US and other wealthy countries have pushed for a reinterpretation of differentiation based on current emissions rather than historical ones, a move that would shift a large part of the burden to BRIC countries.
At the COP, all these problems of responsibility and obligation play out through the nuances of the text. Through all manner of minor turns of phrase and strategic omissions, rich countries continually seek to delink decisions from the provision.
Meanwhile developing countries are continually reinserting textual references to the Articles of the convention where this principle is enshrined. Up until the penultimate draft, the problem of whether the agreement would “be implemented on the basis of . . . common but differentiated responsibility” or would merely “reflect” this principle remained unresolved, although the US had been forced to back off its proposal to delete the relevant article altogether.
Should and Shall
The COP is a massive logistical and infrastructural endeavor that requires transportation, catering, security, and information services for 22,000 registered participants, where everything from lighting to menu design is a diplomatic affair.
Because the very process of negotiation is itself subject to negotiation, trying to keep up with the COP can be a disorienting experience. There is an established schedule of side events, press conferences, and “High-Level Segments,” but the time, location, and details of access to the negotiations themselves are in constant flux.
The confusion of the schedule is not just annoying for observers — it also bears geopolitical weight. During the second week of the COP, many developing nations with fewer delegates complained that they struggled to locate the “informal” discussions and “bilaterals” that COP President Laurent Fabius has convened in order to sort out particularly sticky political problems in the text, undermining their participation in the agreement.
Although Fabius has been praised for avoiding the backroom process that undermined the Copenhagen agreement, the problem of transparency is consistently raised by developing countries through debate over when, where, and how meetings should be conducted.
Inside the meeting rooms, the pace of events is markedly slower. The working documents are the product of years of negotiations, inaugurated by the Durban Platform in 2011, all of which have led up to the promise of a global agreement for the post-2020 period and an agenda for pre-2020 action in Paris. Lack of consensus is depicted by a succession of nested brackets, resulting in grammatically tortured constructions like this:
[[Developed country Parties [and other developed country Parties included in Annex II to the Convention][and Parties in a position to do so] [should take the lead and]][All Parties in a position to do so] [shall][should][other] provide [support][[new and additional] financial resources] to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation [as well as addressing loss and damage] [and others in a position to do so should complement such efforts].]
The weight of global futures that bears on each nuanced shift in language is more, apparently, than the text can withstand. Developing countries strongly favor that climate finance be “provided” by developed countries through public funds, whereas developed countries push for such resources to be “mobilized,” opening the door for private capital to fulfill the bulk of climate finance obligations.
In the final moments leading up to the agreement, the US threatened to back out altogether when a “should” was replaced with a more-legally-binding “shall,” a change that was quickly chalked up to a technical error.
Similarly, the seemingly innocuous afterthought urging “others in a position to do so” to “complement such efforts” carries particular import, as it would include rapidly industrializing nations such as China and India among those responsible for financing the mitigation and adaptation efforts of the rest of the developing world — a proposition that for these countries disavows the West’s historical responsibility for squandering the global “emissions budget.”
Much of the substance of differentiation comes down to the question of “climate finance,” or who will pay for climate change mitigation and adaptation. For many countries, the answer to this has been emissions markets. Through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), developed countries with binding emissions reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol can “offset” their emissions by purchasing credits from offsetting projects in developing countries, where the cost of mitigation is cheaper.
Criticisms of the CDM for its failure to actually deliver on mitigation are nothing new, whether due to outright fraud or to the inherent flaws in emissions accounting. Equally ubiquitous are documented cases of the land- and resource-grabbing that often accompanies offsetting projects, especially those involving forest offsets. The CDM, as many have argued, is essentially a big loophole designed to enable developed countries to meet their emissions targets on paper without actually investing in infrastructural changes back home.
But since the market essentially collapsed from lack of demand in 2012, arguments in favor of the program have become even less tenable. Offset prices of one to three dollars per metric ton of CO2 undermine the whole economic logic of carbon markets, which is to “internalize” the cost of emissions and thereby provide a disincentive to emit (managing director of the IMF Christine Lagarde recently suggested that an economically efficient price for carbon would be far higher, around $30 per ton).
It was clear in Paris that the emissions trading industry had high hopes that the carbon markets might be revived in a new agreement. At a business-focused side event, Jeff Swartz, Director of Policy for the industry group International Emissions Trading Association, described the group’s lobbying efforts leading up to COP21, which included proposing specific wording for the agreement to delegates in 90 countries.
Whereas the current geography of carbon trading is a fragmented patchwork of regional and national markets, each with their own accounting and verification procedures, the Paris agreement could open the door for new international standards that would enable carbon to circulate seamlessly in globally-integrated markets. “Business wants rules,” Swartz said; it is up to governments, he argued, to create the necessary conditions that will expand foreign investment in climate finance and enable carbon to become a truly “fungible” commodity.
With Brazil and India among those pushing hardest for an expansion of emissions trading, the issue hardly marks a binary division between “developing” and “developed” countries; Patrick Bond recently wrote that “with regard to both world financial markets and climate policy, the BRICs are not anti-imperialist but instead subimperialist.” Nonetheless, the expansion of market-based climate finance such as carbon trading serves developed countries by shifting the burden of climate finance off of their public coffers and onto private markets.
At a COP side event on climate finance, a speaker from the Kenyan government demonstrated the extent to which some developing countries are overhauling their policy infrastructure in order to attract much-needed climate finance in all forms. Outlining Kenya’s “Elaborate Climate Finance Readiness Strategy (ECFRS),” he argued that developing countries need to establish legal, institutional, financial, and reporting frameworks that will make them as “attractive” as possible to the private capital flowing into climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The state’s role, the Kenyan speaker argued, is to provide the accounting frameworks, institutional support, and regulatory environment necessary to “liberate” the private capital flowing through a tangled network of financial channels.
This mandate that the developing state contort itself to the demands of private climate finance was countered by the speaker’s colleagues on the panel. The climate justice activist Mithika Mwenda pointed out that the whole point of climate finance is to support those necessary activities that don’t produce a return on investment.
Likewise, Mariama Williams of the South Centre, a consulting group that assists developing nations in international negotiations, was clear that “Climate finance arises out of one fact: historical responsibility.” This alone distinguishes it from voluntary development assistance.
In practice, however, this distinction is not so simple. According to the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative, with some monies going through public budgets, some through national climate funds, some through designated international funds, and some through private markets, tracing the flows of climate finance — and where they ultimately end up — is near impossible.
As Williams pointed out, the very confusion of climate finance flows is a strategy on the part of developed countries to overrepresent their contributions to developing countries. Moreover, as Mwenda described, developed countries tend to direct funds to institutions that they dominate, such as the World Bank, rather than the more democratic funds that serve the Convention.
In this light, the $248 million pledges heralded at COP21 for the Least Developed Countries Fund are not so much a boon as a belated acknowledgement that while billions are reportedly flowing into climate finance, the funds dedicated to making these resources available to the most vulnerable countries remain empty.
This is why developing countries pushed so hard for the qualifier “new and additional” to be added to the text on climate finance — it’s an attempt to ensure that climate finance means more than just a redirection of existing development assistance.
As the environmental minister of Tonga — one of the planet’s most climate-vulnerable nations — explained in his address to the COP, the country is already spending 30 percent of its overseas development assistance on climate change adaptation. Unless the climate finance promised for developing countries comes on top of existing development assistance, it effectively means that these countries will be sacrificing long-term development goals to the demands of basic survival.
Loss and Damage
Across town at Paris’s Grand Palais, the corporate perspective on climate finance was represented at the COP21 Solutions exhibit. Dubbed “The Climate Experience,” the exhibition by major energy, transportation, and beverage corporations sparked a protest in which activists were forcibly removed for calling out the environmental and human rights violations of companies participating in the event.
Inside the Grand Palais’s art nouveau pavilion, a display by the transnational energy, water, and waste management corporation Veolia invited the visitor to “Voyage to the land of +2C” through a set of white curtains. Inside, rather than submerged coastal cities and devastating droughts, the land of +2C was a “circular economy” powered by methane, in which the currency was the “price of carbon.”
Across the pavilion, on a stairway constructed in a form of a glacier, visitors donned goggles to embark on a virtual reality tour of Evian’s sustainability solutions while chickens pecked in the grass of a tiny barnyard maintained by the French oilseed industry group Avril.
Of course “The Climate Experience” for much of the world’s population bears little resemblance to corporate techno-futures of biofuels and cradle-to-cradle plastics. For most, that future is better articulated through the Paris agreement’s language of “loss and damage.” Loss and damage recognizes the limits of adaptation, beyond which affected countries and populations should be subject to some kind of redress for the loss.
But how and by whom this redress should take place is not easy to answer. Climate change is a “threat multiplier” that compounds existing stressors, making the “climate-induced” elements of loss and damage difficult to extricate from the social and political ones.
An average of 26 million people have been displaced annually by natural disasters since 2008, compounding the existing refugee crisis that promises to become still more dire. What exactly counts as “loss and damage” in this instance is hard to pin down, given the tendency for the slow violence of climate change to flip into the fast violence of conflict. In his address to the COP, for example, Al Gore drew a narrative line from drought-induced grain shortages in Russia to the food riots and self-immolation that helped to catalyze the Arab Spring in Tunis.
Yet the language of loss and damage has been crucial for developing countries and activists hoping to pry open a space for the possibility of compensation from high-emitting countries for the impacts of climate change — what some have referred to as climate reparations. Loss and damage compensation would transform the general acknowledgement of historical responsibility into a principle of liability.
However, the complexities of climate change as a form of slow violence make meeting the narrow demands of liability in most legal contexts extremely difficult. Nevertheless Friends of the Earth has argued that existing principles of international law barring states from causing environmental harms outside of their borders could provide a basis for loss and damage liability.
In Paris, loss and damage was a red line issue for both vulnerable countries and high-emitters. Vulnerable countries insisted that loss and damage from both “slow onset” and “extreme” events be acknowledged as an issue distinct from adaptation, and pushed for the establishment of a “climate change induced displacement facility” to coordinate migration and planned relocation. Meanwhile the US threatened to back out altogether if the text allowed for liability, and insisted that a waiver be added that explicitly barred this possibility.
As negotiations stretched on in midnight-to-5 AM meetings, there was a general sense of drama around the possibility of collapse. In the final hours of negotiations, COP President Laurent Fabius warned that Paris must not become “Copenhagen with more police.”
But US brinksmanship notwithstanding, there was always going to be an agreement. As Fabius made clear in his plea to delegates in the final hours, a failure to come out with something would have compromised “the very credibility of multilateralism and the international community as an entity able to respond to global challenges.” The reality is that the COP’s function as a performance of international consensus is probably too important at this juncture for even the least-cooperative nations to let it fail entirely.
What, then, was accomplished in Paris?
The final agreement is a stripped-down compromise text that has lost much substantive detail, but in which some crucial provisions remain. Language on human rights, gender equality, the rights of indigenous peoples, and the need for a just transition — the product of years of work on the part of civil society groups and indigenous movements — have been relegated to the preamble of the text, weakening their legal import.
The temperature goal also falls in a middle ground, with a commitment to staying “well below 2C above preindustrial levels” and a promise to “pursue efforts” to keep it below 1.5. The legal structure of the agreement itself — based on non-enforceable voluntary emissions reductions — makes these targets purely rhetorical.
Differentiation is less strict than in some previous agreements (like the Kyoto Protocol), but it cuts through the entire text. Article 2, in a somewhat awkward compromise, asserts that “The Agreement will be implemented to reflect [my emphasis] equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.” This overarching statement — which the US wanted to delete entirely — is an important gain for developing countries.
The section on finance, now in Article 9, clearly states that “Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.”
It also “encourages” other Parties to do so voluntarily, to the apparent satisfaction of India and China who had strongly resisted being subject to the obligations of the major historic emitters in the West.
But the $100 billion promised in the decision text accompanying the agreement is actually a figure that was already negotiated eight years ago in Cancun; its presence in this text is simply testament to the unceasing work of activists and developing country parties to prevent the US and other rich countries from backsliding on this promise. It is also a number that pales in comparison to the $500 billion spent annually on fossil fuel subsidies, which receive scant mention in the agreement.
Moreover, the crucial details surrounding the $100 billion figure — primarily the provision that these monies be “new and additional,” that they be grant-based, and that they come primarily from public coffers — have evaporated, and the Article encourages the “mobilization” of resources “from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels.” Giving substance to this, Article 6 establishes a new mechanism for cooperation on “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” — newspeak for emissions trading.
The agreement gives loss and damage its own section separate from adaptation, makes permanent the Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage (established in 2013 and previously set to expire in 2016), and establishes a task force to address climate displacement.
In place of liability or compensation, however, the text prioritizes insurance-based solutions for vulnerable populations. As a final nail to the issue of reparations, the US has succeeded in gaining a general waiver that “Article 8 of the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”
Thus what has really been accomplished at the COP is the slow, careful work by which rich countries refuse to substantively accept their historical responsibility (and that of the corporations whose agendas they support) for the environmental devastation that threatens lives and livelihoods, and the very existence of many nations, around the globe.
Each strategic delay, each subtle weakening of language, each return to the passive voice reduces our capacity for collective action, helping to lock in irreversible climate change that condemns many nations to wholesale extinction. This is the banal, bureaucratic work of slow violence.
But this is work that is far from complete. Developing countries have fought successfully and made significant gains in this process; indeed, since the 1972 Stockholm Convention on the Environment that helped to inaugurate the Third World Forum, international environmental politics has been an important arena in which formerly Third World countries have asserted national sovereignty.
In regard to climate change, however, the uneven geography of vulnerability intersects with that of geopolitical power, such that it is the most vulnerable countries who can least afford the hardline negotiating strategies that might undermine an agreement.
On the other hand, “non-outcomes suit the powerful,” by substituting the “performance of care” for substantive policy. Speaking for the Caribbean community, Barbados admonished delegates that the failure to acknowledge these uneven capacities and vulnerabilities constituted a “benign neglect” that would condemn island nations to “certain extinction.” In this context, climate change is not simply an unintended byproduct of colonial history, but an ongoing act of imperial violence.
Looking at the COP as a process of slow violence raises questions about the meaning of climate justice in the context of the UN system. In her coverage of Israel’s 1962 prosecution of Nazi SS commander Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt reflected on the basic juridical problem at the heart of the trial: to what extent could criminal law provide justice for the kind of “administrative massacre” perpetrated by the German state bureaucracy?
In the final paragraphs of her postscript to the trial report, Arendt distinguished between the notion of individual guilt and the fact of political responsibility, which “every government assumes . . . for the deeds and misdeeds of its predecessor and every nation for the deeds and misdeeds of its past.”
“It is quite conceivable,” she argued, “that certain political responsibilities among nations might some day be adjudicated in an international court; what is inconceivable is that such a court would be a criminal tribunal which pronounces on the guilt or innocence of individuals.”
Based on the process in Paris, such an institution would not be the UNFCCC, either. Through the principle of differentiation based on historical emissions, the UNFCCC establishes this notion of political responsibility as the basis for an international legal framework for contending with climate change. Nevertheless, the reality of international negotiations means that it falls far short of holding Parties accountable to this in practice.
If justice requires the capacity to judge, to allocate responsibility for wrongdoing, how is climate justice to be achieved in an institution that requires the consent of those who bear the lion’s share of that responsibility? What does the promise of a “just transition,” relegated now to the non-operative preamble of the text, mean without the ability to enforce that justice?
The lesson from COP21, as a political process and spectacle, is not only that our international institutions remain woefully inadequate for facing the structural violence that underpins modern life. Arendt highlights how the performance of justice, by failing to confront its own limitations, risks perpetuating the atrocities it seeks to address. The COP21 was nothing if not such a performance, in which the language of “climate justice” was invoked by heads of state and delegates from rich countries and poor alike.
The ongoing violence of climate change demands that, rather than seeking justice in an institution fundamentally incapable of delivering it, we confront the question inspired by Nixon. How do we create institutions that hold actors responsible for “a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all”?
The Paris Agreement is not an outcome to be celebrated or rejected, but a series of foot- and handholds along a path that remains a steep climb.
The presence of loss and damage, the up-front acknowledgement of differentiation, the mandated reporting and updating of national contributions every five years, and the mention of a 1.5 Celsius temperature limit all provide imperfect tools with which to demand state policy that would make the targets meaningful.
All of these tools, as Kate Aronoff has noted, are the results of years of struggle, and all of them will continue to be grasped by activists at the forefront of that struggle. As Carroll Muffett, president and CEO of the Center for International Environmental law, put it:
It’s simply easier [if the mention of human rights is] in the operative text; but I can tell you, lawyers like me, and lawyers around the world, will be taking those existing rights, they’ll be taking this preamble, and they’ll be taking every word of this text against any party who tries to block human rights.
Because it’s international in scope, the agreement can provide a common point of gravity among a diversity of local movements on the front lines of the struggle to keep fossil fuels in the ground, to address climate-related displacement, and to prevent land grabbing under the guise of sustainable development.
Much of this will have to happen at the national or sub-national level, as it is in domestic law where the goals articulated in the INDCs will or will not take legal form. With the recognition that “the legalities standing in the way of justice” demand that environmental activists, labor unions, indigenous movements, and coalitions of climate-vulnerable peoples continue to take climate justice into their own hands, the Paris agreement may provide a framework for strengthening existing solidarities and forming new ones.
[ THE CONCLUSION OF THIS ARTICLE IS IN OUR OPINION: }
There is a danger, however, that the COP process itself, in its attritional slowness, will drain vital energy and resources from efforts to build more effective climate justice institutions. Without rejecting the international process as simply dysfunctional, we should be wary of how its particular functions can absorb and redirect activist energy that might be better spent elsewhere.
As Sarah Bracking and M. K. Dorsey caution, “having an inflated and not very well proved faith in the ability for supranational structures to change our future . . . detracts from efforts to build it ourselves in the everyday now.” In these efforts, the Paris Agreement might be one more tool in the shed, but only if it is taken up with the understanding that the institutions capable of delivering on climate justice are yet to be built.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 16th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The late Justice Antonin Scalia – invoking the renowned conservative justice’s legal philosophy, Obama said he would follow the words and “original intent” of the Constitution by choosing a well-qualified nominee, despite Republican calls that he leave the decision until after the presidential election so that his successor can fill the seat.
Rich writes: “As the president pointed out Tuesday, it’s laughable that conservatives who claim to be strict constitutionalists in the Scalia vein want to defy the Constitution by declaring that a president has no right to fill a Supreme Court vacancy during his final year in office.” Mr. President – this is not comedy – this is SEDITION.!!
In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws. Seditious words in writing are seditious libel. A seditionist is one who engages in or promotes the interests of sedition.
Typically, sedition is considered a subversive act, and the overt acts that may be prosecutable under sedition laws vary from one legal code to another. Where the history of these legal codes has been traced, there is also a record of the change in the definition of the elements constituting sedition at certain points in history. This overview has served to develop a sociological definition of sedition as well, within the study of state persecution.
The term sedition in its modern meaning first appeared in the Elizabethan Era (c. 1590) as the “notion of inciting by words or writings disaffection towards the state or constituted authority”.
We are amazed that the word SEDITION was not mentioned yet in Washington. Is this a sign of White House weakness?
The Constitution obligates a sitting President to submit to the Senate’s Consent the name of his choice for te US Supreme Court of Justice, and the Senate is obligated by the Constitution to pick up and discuss this appointee. This is crystal clear in the Constitution.
The call by a Senator saying that the Senate should not pick up and discuss the sitting President’s submission is tantamount to the non-recognition of the Presidential powers and as such an act of SEDITION that calls for the jailing of such a Senator – even if he plays at competing in his party’s presidential primaries; his non recognition of the Constitutional obligations of the Presidency disqualify him for the job anyway.
As such, we find too nice – and even weak – the following report from Washington:
President Barack Obama vowed on Tuesday to name an “indisputably” qualified Supreme Court nominee and lashed out at Republicans who he said demand a strict interpretation of the Constitution — except regarding his right to propose a new justice.
“The Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now,” Obama said during his first press conference since Scalia’s passing over the weekend.
“I am amused when I hear people who claim to be strict interpreters of the Constitution suddenly reading into it a whole series of provisions that are not there,” he said. “I am going to present somebody who indisputably is qualified for the seat and any fair minded person, even somebody who disagreed with my politics would say would serve with honor and integrity on the court.”
He added: “Your job doesn’t stop until you are voted out or until your term expires.”
The Supreme Court nomination battle is putting control of the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court on the line this November. Democrats hope that voters will consider the GOP’s refusal to undertake that process as a sign of obstruction and overreach that could cause a backlash against Republicans and help Democrats take back the Senate.
We doubt his considering that half of the country is Republican, uninformed, and given to this Republican high talk.
In his news conference, the President bemoaned what he styled as the wider sweep of Republican obstructionism in the Senate which he said threatened the proper functioning of nation’s political institutions.
“This is the Supreme Court and it’s going to get some attention. We have to ask ourselves as a society, a fundamental question, are we able to still make this democracy work the way it’s supposed to, the way our founders envisioned it?” Obama asked.
He challenged anyone who adheres to a strict reading of the Constitution to come up with a reason why his nominee did not at least deserve a hearing.
YES – mentioning here SEDITION could perhaps help focus Americans’ attention is what we think could get people to think. Jailing a Senator or two would really enhance the debate going into this year’s elections – at least clean up the Senate’s floor.
A few hours later:
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, the 82-year-old Iowa Republican who heads the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that he may be open to holding hearings on Obama’s nominee.
“I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions…. In other words, take it a step at a time,” he told radio reporters in Iowa.
Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina warned that if fellow Republicans rejected an Obama nominee “sight unseen,” they would “fall into the trap of being obstructionists.”
Three days earlier, Grassley had insisted the “standard practice” was to not confirm new Supreme Court justices in an election year. “It only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president” in November, he said.
Legal experts, however, cite more than half a dozen examples since 1900 of justices being confirmed during a presidential election year.
Grassley was among the 97 senators who voted unanimously to confirm Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in February 1988, the final year of President Reagan’s term. He filled a vacancy that arose in June 1987 when Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. retired. Reagan chose Kennedy in late November after Judge Robert Bork was defeated in the Senate.
Obama said there is nothing in the Constitution to suggest the president’s nominee should not be considered and voted on in his last year in the White House. “Historically, this has not been viewed as a question,” he said.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate’s tradition was to approve qualified “mainstream candidates.”
“Every single senator has a right to vote no on any given nominee,” he said in a statement. “But the wisdom of the Founding Fathers dictates that we should go through the full vetting and confirmation process so that we and the nation can determine whether those candidates are out of the mainstream in this ideological era.”
White House aides say the president and his team have just begun to consider nominees for the high court, and they do not expect an announcement for at least several weeks.
The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that Scalia’s body would lie in repose in the Great Hall of the court Friday. His funeral Mass will be held Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
Above produced ONE DECENT REPUBLICAN SENATOR – Sen. THOM TILLIS of North Carolina who warned that if fellow Republicans rejected an Obama nominee “sight unseen,” they would “fall into the trap of being obstructionists.”
On the top of the rejectionist heap are the two Senators that take part in the competition to become next US President – Rubio & Cruz.
The first talking already in terms of being the next President that will replace also the other octogenarians on the Supreme Court Bench, and the other one who clearly has a personal interest in picking his Supreme Court Justice of his choice – because his running for President is in open question – as he was born in Canada, though of a US citizen mother. In case he wins the Presidency because his extreme right-wing views on everything – his right to enter the White House will be thrown before the US Supreme Court of Justice called to interpret the Constitution and conventional US law in the matter of foreign birth. A process that will take most of his first year and will depend on the composition of the court.
ed that if fellow Republicans rejected an Obama nominee “sight unseen,” they would “fall into the trap of being obstructionists.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 17th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Investing Guide – CNNMONEY
Is it time to bail out the U.S. oil industry?
by Matt Egan @mattmegan5 January 14, 2016: 1:37 PM ET
America’s once-booming oil industry is suddenly in deep financial trouble.
The epic crash in oil prices has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs, caused dozens of bankruptcies and spooked global financial markets.
The fallout is already being felt in oil-rich states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, where home foreclosure rates are spiking and economic growth is slowing.
Now there are calls in at least some corners for the federal government to come to the rescue.
“It is time to send out an S.O.S., before it’s too late,” John Kilduff, founding partner of energy hedge fund Again Capital, wrote in a recent CNBC column. In the Kilduff dictionary, by the way, S.O.S. stands for “Save Our Shale” industry.
Related: Half of oil junk bonds could default
Kilduff fears Saudi Arabia’s strategy of flooding the world with oil to put pressure on high-cost producers in the U.S. will kill America’s shale business.
“While we are laughing our way to the gasoline pump now, we are heading back down the road to dependence on OPEC and foreign oil,” he wrote.
Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments, thinks an oil bailout could become the next big issue in Congress.
“If Washington can bail out big banks and the auto industry, why not a bailout for oil companies?” Valliere wrote in a client note on Thursday.
Sheila Hollis, an energy practice partner at the law firm Duane Morris, has also heard murmurings about an oil bailout. However, she doubts there’s the political will in Washington for one.
“It makes sense in theory, but they’d need some pretty impenetrable body armor to take this on,” she said.
Related: Falling oil means rising foreclosures in these states
To be sure, it’s early days for the idea of a federal rescue. A spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute told CNNMoney he hadn’t heard of the idea before.
There don’t appear to be any imminent legislative proposals in Congress for a full-scale bailout. However, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Fred Upton plan to meet to discuss an energy package that could include modest proposals such as expediting the process for exporting natural gas and loosening environmental regulations, according to The Hill.
Kilduff, the hedge fund manager, is proposing bolder ideas that include:
-Paying oil producers to shut down production, thereby reducing some of the supply glut
-Financial assistance to preserve wells for when prices rebound
-Loan guarantees to keep the industry afloat
-Revamp the bankruptcy code to help struggling oil companies restructure
-Enable the federal government to buy land with drilled-but-uncompleted wells
Does the oil industry even want a bailout?
Buddy Clark, a 33-year veteran in the energy finance space, doubts these ideas would be game changers.
“The problem with most of these companies is they are overlevered. Adding federal money doesn’t help the equation,” said Clark, a partner at the Houston law firm Haynes and Boone.
He also doubts whether fiercely independent producers in places like Texas would even accept federal aid.
“No one really wants to get in bed with the federal government,” said Clark.
The Independent Petroleum Association of America, which represents thousands of independent producers, told CNNMoney it’s not interested in a bailout from Washington.
Related: $10 oil: Crazy idea or the real floor beneath the oil crash?
Federal aid would face backlash; Many Americans would staunchly oppose any federal aid for the oil industry.
“The Democrats would turn it into a bailout of ExxonMobil (XOM). It would be a political disaster,” said Joe McMonigle, former chief of staff of the Energy Department who is now a senior energy analyst at Potomac Research Group.
THEN ALSO ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS WOULD BE ENRAGED: Can President Obama would help oil producers he just referred to as “dirty energy” in his State of the Union address?
“It’s an outrageous proposal. We would oppose it, obviously,” said Athan Manuel, an official from the Sierra Club.
Related: Solar energy jobs double in 5 years
Job losses keep mounting
One idea that Kilduff proposed may generate more sympathy: give oil workers enhanced unemployment benefits or temporary government jobs as caretakers of the oilfields.
A stunning 130,000 energy jobs disappeared in 2015 as oil and natural gas companies slashed spending.
The pink slips will continue to fly as pain in the oil patch builds. Last year, 42 North American oil companies filed for bankruptcy, according to a list compiled by Haynes and Boone.
“The workers are going to suffer the most. Anything that can be done on their behalf would be great,” said Clark.
CNNMoney (New York) First published January 14, 2016: 1:37 PM ET
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
In a letter to all IISD readers of the Clean Energy List, Ms. Victoria Healey, the Project Leader at US NREL writes:
A representative from the Clean Energy Solutions Center (Solutions Center), Ms. Victoria Healey, will attend the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) General Assembly and the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, from January 16-21, 2016. Under the joint IRENA and Solutions Center Renewable Energy Policy Advice Network (REPAN), Ms. Healey will be available to meet individually with government representatives, government affiliated practitioners, and policymakers seeking clean energy policy, program, regulation, and finance technical assistance. The REPAN was established to help developing countries to design and adopt clean energy policies and programs that support the deployment of clean energy technologies, and to identify design, and implement finance instruments that mobilize private and public sector capital, and formulate clean energy investment strategies. This support is provided free of charge. To schedule an appointment, please contact Victoria Healey at ” title=”mailto:Victoria.email@example.com.“>Victoria.healey at cleanenergysolutions.org/expert/…
The Clean Energy Finance Solutions Center of NREL assists governments and practitioners with identifying appropriate finance mechanisms and designing and implementing policies to reduce risk and encourage private sector investment; helping to achieve the transition to clean energy at the speed and scale necessary to meet local development needs and address global challenges. The CEFSC is an expanded and dedicated resource that is part of the Clean Energy Solutions Center, a Clean Energy Ministerial initiative that helps governments design and adopt policies and programs that support deployment of clean energy technologies.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Project Leader for the Clean Energy Solutions Center
To learn more about how these initiatives can assist in meeting countries’ clean energy objectives, please visit cleanenergysolutions.org and finance.cleanenergysolutions.org…, and follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/CleanEnergySolu… and Twitter twitter.com/Clean_Energy_SC
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
We wrote our own assessment of the so called Paris Agreement – this after we first submitted it to the OUTREACH MAGAZINE for their final issue of the conference – the evaluation and summary issue.
The material appears here at www.SustainabiliTank.info as – “PARIS2015 or COP21 ENDED IN FIRST SUCCESS IN MATTERS OF CLIMATE CHANGE BECAUSE PRESIDENT OBAMA DID LEARN FROM AL GORE’s MISTAKES.” (December 20th, 2015)
The problem with most assessments that find shortcomings with that agreement comes from the fact that they are authored by peple that were involved in the UN and its conferences that produced absolute nothing and wasted us 20 years. THey were chasing some elusive and impossible dream to get all the cats and dogs to find a meaningful way by consensus on how to handle the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
We pick here the assessment we got from Mr. Gleckman now fron Maine and Chappaqua, New York.
He was involved – as he says – via the UNFCCC as Former, Senior Advisor to UNFCCC at the Copenhagen COP15; and was
Former, Chief of the Environment Unit, UN Centre on Transnational Corporations. Both positions that were not positive from my seat at the meetings. Big business was threaded then through the Paris based International Chambers of Commerce chaired by Mobil oil with clear interest to sto;; the whole thing – something the UNFCCC did quite well. Now Mr. Gleckman finds fault with us – those that refuse to continue to hit the UN walls with their head.
The approach he represents is the one that asks for that elusive legal binding agreement that we know we cannot get. So President Obama settled to stay with the voluntary promises by governments – even he knew they will not add up to what is needed. But he also banks correctly on Civil Society to come out from the UN basement and in full daylight demand governments’ honesty and the increase of the voluntary promises to the true needed levels. The first swallow of this kind was the Patrick Sciarratta led rebellion of Civil Society, backed by six UN Member States, against the negatively oriented UN DPI. Patrick succeeded and others will as well. I pot here the Gleckman letter and hope our readers will fill in the voids.
Seven questions about the ‘successful’ Paris COP
asked by Mr. Harris Gleckman of the US.
A good number of commentators on the Paris COP have shared views that could be summarized as “COP was a success-but.” Others have appraised the COP as a complete ‘success’ or a fraud .
The ‘success but’ message depends heavily what criteria one has for judging a successful outcome of an international negotiation.
Clearly some countries, UN-system, and some media commentators, have domestic and international rationales for declaring a ‘success’ in Paris – even it is just the act of concluding an agreement irrespective of the contents of the agreement, or whether it actually changes in the world for the better.
The following questions look at the definition of success but in different ways. They are intended to challenge a number of the presumptions behind the assessment of ‘success but’ advocates.
1. Goals and reality: a profound gap – The COP formally adopted a below 2 degree goal and de facto approved a 3.7 degree package of intended nationally determined contributions.
Why is so much post-COP attention on the goal and not on the planet instability of what Governments accepted? Or put in another way should the outcome of the meeting be called the Paris 1.5 degree COP or the Paris 3.7 degree COP ?
2. Free riders galore : – The intended nationally determined contributions are only promises about the future.
Based on the COP outcome, what arguments could be made to a Government that its best short-term economic and political interest is not to cut its emissions and quietly expand its existing industrial system and let everyone else make the GHG cuts ?
3. Five year fictions : Each year that mitigation cuts are postponed means that a higher and sharper level of cuts are needed to bring the carbon budget down to a less than 2.0 degree goal.
If governments in 2015 could formally adopt a below 2 degrees goal with the knowledge that the aggregate impact of the declared nationally determined contributions come to 3.7 degrees, what evidence is there that they would they have even greater political willingness for sharply increased mitigation cuts at five year stocktakings ?
4. A fantastic non-enforcement system : Under most bilateral investment treaties, MNCs can file complaints before a binding arbitration panel that an action taken by a specific Government reduced their expected level of profitability and that the foreign investor should be compensated by that Governments for damages.
As the Paris Agreement invites voluntary national contributions, what arguments can a Government use to defend itself before a binding arbitration panel from a MNC which seeks compensation for loss expected income ?
Climate change does not exist in a vacuum – In the Paris negotiations a good number of important policy areas were deleted by the chairs and host government from the final text of the Paris Agreement.
Why did the Paris COP disconnect climate change from the management of oceans, human rights, gender, workers, mountains, health effects, oil and gas subsidies, international transport emission, climate migrants, carbon black, carbon budget, historical responsibility, the trade regime, agricultural destabilization, etc ?
6. Financial support – now you see it and now you don’t – One outcome of the Copenhagen process five years ago was a commitment to have $100 billion available for developing countries by 2020. Since Copenhagen Governments have recognized that annual costs from 2020 are likely to be 3-5 times larger than the $100 billion ‘commitment’
Is there a greater commitment to have money available for developing countries to reduce GHG emission or prepared for the impacts of climate change in the Paris Agreement than in the ‘failed’ Copenhagen Accord ?
7. Voluntarism, voluntarism – where is the rule of law -
Under the Paris Agreement (and under the Copenhagen Accord) Governments were authorized to submit their voluntary national goal posts and GHG reducing plans to the UNFCCC. Under the Paris Agreement Governments agreed to have a 5 year stocktaking of these plans without any process to adapt these plans to meet the less than 2 degree goal.
Does the practice of voluntary national implementation included in the Paris Agreement enhance or undermine the future development of international rule of law in other environmental, social, human rights and economic regimes?
Comment and Replies can be sent to
Director, Benchmark Environmental Consulting (Maine & New York)
Former, Senior Advisor to UNFCCC at the Copenhagen COP; and
Former, Chief of the Environment Unit, UN Centre on Transnational Corporations
Benchmark Environmental Consulting
5 Kipp St,
Chappaqua, NY 10514
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 20th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
President Obama succeeded in what he set out to do because he learned from Al Gore’s mistakes.
Pincas Jawetz, SustainabiliTank.info Media.
The following was submitted by us to the main Civil Society outlet at the UN, and published as part of their conference final issue – December 18, 2015. So, this is not an original anymore, thanks to the fact that our material was published first by someone else.
The Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in December 1997 as a legally binding agreement under which industrialized countries were to reduce their collective emissions by 5.2 per cent compared to 1990 emissions (it is worth noting that this represented a 29 per cent emission cut by 2010 compared to an unmanaged emission scenario). This was achieved without putting any onus on those that claimed the right to pollute because they were at an industrializing stage of development. Vice President Al Gore came to Kyoto to help push the participants to accept this deal. But on July 25, 1997, by the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, the U.S. Senate led by Southern Republican Strom Thurmond, shot down the budding Protocol by an unprecedented 95-0 vote.
Al Gore’s heart was in the right place but his political know-how questionable and his leadership caused harm to his cause. Later on, in his run for the Presidency, Al Gore found himself squeezed between his own decision not to let Clinton help him – and the Green ‘Naderites’ that found him lacking in part because of the failure to find support for the Kyoto Protocol. President Obama was well familiar with the two great mistakes of Al Gore: 1) The fact that he did not understand that the Senators will never allow for a U.S. unilateral decrease in emissions if the growth of China and other countries will not bear a proportion of the responsibility. 2) That you must not speak of a legally binding international agreement because you really do not want to risk a vote in the Senate.
Looking back at the history of sustainable development and climate change, one has to start at the Rio Summit of 1992 with its high point in Agenda 21 and then go to COP1 of the UNFCCC in Berlin (1995) and jump to Kyoto (1997), followed by the empty years of the G.W. Bush/Cheney administration – until we reach the Copenhagen COP15 of 2009. That is when newly elected President Obama made his first move by going to Beijing on his way to the Conference in an attempt to make inroads with China. The Chinese agreed for the first time that they have grown to the point that they ought to worry about the effect of their emissions on the global environment and climate – but they were not ready to take the plunge without sharing this with the other BASIC countries – Brazil, India and South Africa. It took six more years for that first effort by President Obama to bear the fruits of the Paris COP21. Now the subject has opened up with nearly all countries having made voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and agreed to report their achievements on a cyclical basis. It is obvious the present commitments are only a first step in the right direction; it is anticipated that negotiations will now be possible between participating countries to further increase their efforts to decrease emissions. But one must start somewhere and Obama led to this starting position. The Senate cannot undo this.
The fact that in the meantime we saw the evolution of a sizable middle class in China that demands clean air has induced President Xi to be cooperative, but he still must keep an image of a developing country in his relationships with the old industrialized world and the lesser developed states. He is therefore slow in accepting outside monitoring of his forthcoming efforts – something that relates extremely well with another lesson President Obama has learned from Al Gore’s mistakes. President Obama does not want a strict legally binding agreement in his fight to move the world onto a path of slowing the effects of climate change. Why should he be interested in being undone by a Republican Senate obstructionist rejection?
Finally, on December 1, 2015, we received e-mail from the American Security Project (ASP) stating that former Senator Chuck Hagel – originator of the Resolution that found failing the Kyoto Protocol on counts that it did not require all nations to commit to limit the emissions and that it promised to seriously do harm to the American economy – now Board Member of ASP, now recommends the Paris Agreement and tells the U.S. Senate to get involved because climate change is a multiplier to instigators of conflicts such as resource disputes, ethnic tensions, and economic discontent. It is thus a security issue. Now think how this relates to migration forced by climate change – and you start to understand how dangerous it is to obstruct clear thinking – notoriously as caused by self serving interests of business and politics.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pincas Jawetz, Editor of SustainabiliTank.info Media and former Consultant on Energy Policy.
for the complete issue of OUTREACH MAGAZINE please look at google for “OUTREACH MAGAZINE ISSUE OF December 18, 2015″
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Let us be honest – we never expected that elusive magic the UN was chasing for 20 years – a meaningful – fit for all – agreement for action backed by consensus of 195 members of UNFCCC. Now we expect it even less because the world is changed by much since the signing of the UN Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Back then the UN was divided into Developed or industrialized countries and those starting their development only and at their head China. Now many of those Developing Countries are among the richest countries in the world but still think that the divisions of 1992 ought to continue like the UN fiction of regions that still looks at eastern Europe as a unified block of Soviet led Nations.
How can you accept as a unit the new “Like Minded Group” that is led by China, India, and Saudi Arabia talking for a passe Developing block? China is in effect a most advanced country trying now to replace the coal-based energy system that it not only into a largely industrialized country with a respectable middle-class that demands it reduce pollution, an India that is slowly moving ahead to pass China and insists on his right to pollute in order to get there. and the Saudis and other Gulf States that still think that the right to sell oil is god-given. Then you have the Island States that look into the abyss and know all these others would just sacrifice them then change.
The first week in Paris was taken by the 150 Heads of State that came to make their Statements in two parallel plenaries and had their entourage look at the documents put before them – the 50 page draft hammered out in New York and Bonn – reduced it by some 20 pages and added 17 new pages. A French Presidency decision had them terminate the peruse of the document by Saturday night. The resulted 48 page text was deemed by the media as a victory – an agreed text. But what agreement? It has 900 square brackets marking disagreements on everything that matters. Civil Society was practically eliminated at Paris. At first by the strictness of the Le Bourget airport site and then reinforced by the oil money funded act of terror against modern life that also put at a stand-still the NGOs that had intended to come to Paris to demonstrate their push for the clear need to stop field fossil carbon in the atmosphere – the reason for the Global Warming/Climate Change series of events that can ultimately make the planet inhospitable to life the way we got used to. Yes – we say this all the time – it is oil money from oil interests that is the root cause to our problems – it is this perception that the economy must be based on fossil carbon and the blindness to the truth that reliance on current solar energy can replace this self imposed reliance on banked solar energy.
So, now starts the second week with a slew of new people at Le Bourget. The ministers/politicians come to work on that draft that was left over from last week. Can there be an agreement among them? Can they paper over their differences by coming up with a meaningless consensus paper? To make things worse, it seems that most countries sent over now their ministers of the environment to accompany Foreign Service diplomats. But for truth sake – we had already all needed evidence from the scientists that the danger to the environment was made clear – but in these 20 years we learned as well that the handicaps stem from economic and social conditions – these other two components of the Sustainable Development tripod designed in Rio in 1992 and left on the sidelines while the oil folks were attacking the scientific evidence in an effort to undermine the true scientists evidence with the help of paid-for pseudo-scientists belonging to sects like the US Republicans and the oil-led Chambers of Commerce everywhere. We say – add to this the sponsored insurgency that is timed to take our mind away of the global disaster that starts from the melting of the ice at poles and mountain tops.
Are we pessimistic? Not at all! The diplomats and politicians will come up with some cover document to wrap the real achievement of the Paris2015 COP21. That is the collection of single country commitments that have already been deposited with the Conference French Presidency last week. We have no final number for the States that presented these commitments but we know this was not universal – neither was it transparent. Some may yet be moved to add to the pile further papers. Eventually the UNFCCC secrecy on this will be lifted. It is possible that this week there will be made an effort to decide upon the verification of progress towards these commitments. But don’t hold your breath. If the commitments are not universal – it is possible those that mean indeed to live up to their commitments will later suggest an organization and methods for measuring results. No hurry on this. Politics might be in the way – but nevertheless – this is a great achievement of this year’s conference and the parallel SDGs the true catalyst to action.
We hope to start positive reporting after this week is over. We are aware as well that Climate Change will take a back seat to the “Fight-Terrorism” aspect of what we consider to be joint topics by nature of how they were funded.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
A Department of Management Engineering at UN City in Copenhagen, Denmark is a UNEP Collaborating Centre Advisory on Energy, Climate, and Sustainable Development. They work with SE4All, WRI, and ICLEI – Local Government for Sustainability – as a global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform. They will conduct a webinar September 1, 2015.
Please join us on September 1 as the Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator platform hosts a webinar on the opportunities to use building efficiency and district energy in combination to create more sustainable cities.
This webinar of the SE4ALL Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator partnership is jointly hosted by World Resources Institute (WRI), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. Additional information on the webinar is included below and in the attached document.
Please feel free to share information about this webinar with your colleagues and partners. The primary audience for the webinar is local governments, but it is open to a general audience.
Combining Building Efficiency and District Energy for More Sustainable Cities: A Sustainable Energy for All webinar
Date: Tuesday, 1 September 2015
Times: 10:00-11:30 CEST
Location: Video conference/webinar
Marmorvej 51, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
DTU – Dept. of Management Engineering
Xiao Wang is DTU Coordinator for
Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform
Email: xwang at dtu.dk
Direct: +45 4533 5314
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Posted in Archives, Copenhagen COP15, Denmark, European Union, Finland, Future Events, Futurism, Green is Possible, Nairobi, Obama Styling, Paris, Real World's News, Scandinavia, Vienna
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Coming Clean – The blog of Executive Director Michael Brune, The Sierra Club.
July 23, 2015
Obama’s Arctic Error: A Bad Call on Shell
The Obama administration inched a little closer to disaster yesterday when it issued almost-but-not-quite final approval to Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer. Because Shell’s capping stack (a critical piece of emergency response equipment) is currently on its way to Portland, Oregon, aboard a damaged icebreaker that requires repairs, the oil company is allowed to drill only part way into the seafloor — stopping short of where the oil is. If and when the capping stack gets to the proposed drilling site, Shell could then reapply for permission to resume drilling the rest of the way.
Last week, I wrote about why letting Shell into the Arctic makes no sense. It’s a case of taking huge risks to get something we don’t need. In fact, not only do we not need that oil and gas — we can’t even afford to use it if we want to meet the urgent imperative to limit climate disruption.
So why has the administration allowed things to go this far? If this were a wedding with a reluctant bridegroom, we’d be listening to the minister clear his throat and gaze out over the congregation. I don’t know. Maybe, even though they know this is a bad idea, they just don’t have the guts to call it off.
But you know what? That’s the wrong analogy. What’s about to happen in the Chukchi Sea is more like a blind date than a shotgun wedding. Even if Shell manages to get its act together with its exploratory drilling this summer, it will still need approval for commercial drilling, and it will be even harder to make a case that such drilling can be done safely. Shell would also need to install hundreds of miles of pipeline, both on the seafloor and dry land. The process could take a decade or more, and every step along the way, we have opportunities to make the case that clean energy is better for our country and our planet. And the longer this drags on, the more obvious it will be that drilling in Arctic waters is an unnecessary invitation to disaster.
When Shell’s damaged ship arrives in Portland, we’ll be there. When Shell cuts corners or takes dangerous risks, we’ll be there. When this or any other administration flirts with selling more oil leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, we’ll be there, in the courts and on the streets. We’re in this for the long haul, along with the hundreds of thousands of Americans who’ve already joined the growing #ShellNo! movement. We’re in it for the Arctic, for the wildlife, for the Native Alaskans, and for the climate. And we’re in it to win.
We will not rest until President Obama cancels all drilling and future leases and protects the Arctic Ocean.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From THE AMERICAN IRANIAN COUNCIL
Established in New Jersey in 1997 by Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi of Rutgers University
July 1, 2015
Negotiators representing the P5+1 and Iran announced an extension to the self-imposed June 30 deadline to secure a final nuclear deal. The new date they have set for themselves is July 7. The outstanding issues are, reportedly, the timing of sanctions relief, access to military sites, and access to Iranian nuclear scientists.
The AIC throws its full support behind a fair, diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue that (1) reduces tension between the United States and Iran, (2) lifts sanctions that are contributing to that tension, and (3) further ensures the international community of Iran’s sustained commitment to restrict its nuclear program to peaceful purposes.
We maintain that it is more important that the deal be comprehensive and sustainable than rushed. An expedient deal that fails to address all technical issues will inevitably fall apart, as the parties could walk away with distinct interpretations. It is better to get full clarity now, during the negotiating phase, rather than during the implementation phase.
Despite this one-week extension, tremendous progress has been made since these negotiations began, and that momentum must be seized upon for a comprehensive deal. The framework that the parties agreed to in April 2015 required Iran to make significant concessions, well outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Additional Protocol, in order to provide verification of its nuclear program’s peaceful nature. In return, sanctions imposed by the United Nations, European Union, and United States over Iran’s nuclear program were to be removed. While the timing of sanctions removal has proven to be a sticking point, we remain optimistic that the diplomats can arrive at a negotiated timeline.
Most importantly, a fair nuclear deal would go a long way in reducing the intense mistrust and tension between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran, something for which the American Iranian Council has advocated for over 25 years. This would be a pro-peace paradigm shift in a region embroiled in instability and conflict. It is a goal for which all peace-loving people should advocate. A diplomatic resolution to the nuclear file is one step in that pro-peace direction, and for that reason we fully endorse it.
The American Iranian Council
Having just announced by USA and Cuba the reestablishment of Embassies in Washington and Havana – this fourth of July weekend is already loaded with important news passed on from the White House to the people of the Americas. The announcement about a solution on the Iranian front can wait because it will have to be scrutinized very attentively.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Politics // The New York Times
Obama Set to Strengthen Federal Role in Clean Water Regulation.
By CORAL DAVENPORT, MAY 22, 2015
The Obama administration is expected in the coming days to announce a major clean water regulation that would restore the federal government’s authority to limit pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.
Environmentalists have praised the new rule, calling it an important step that would lead to significantly cleaner natural bodies of water and healthier drinking water.
But it has attracted fierce opposition from several business interests, including farmers, property developers, fertilizer and pesticide makers, oil and gas producers and a national association of golf course owners. Opponents contend that the rule would stifle economic growth and intrude on property owners’ rights.
Republicans in Congress point to the rule as another example of what they call executive overreach by the Obama administration. Already, they are advancing legislation on Capitol Hill meant to block or delay the rule.
Gina McCarthy, above, the E.P.A. administrator, who is expected to release the final version of a new rule intended to protect the nation’s drinking water this week.
Critics Hear E.P.A.’s Voice in ‘Public Comments’ MAY 18, 2015
As head of Washington’s water department, George Hawkins, is on the scene every time a major sewer or water line breaks.
Toxic Waters: Saving U.S. Water and Sewer Systems Would Be CostlyMARCH 14, 2010
Toxic Waters: Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in SufferingSEPT. 12, 2009
The mouth of Avondale Creek in Alabama, into which a pipe maker dumped oil, lead and zinc. A court ruling made the waterway exempt from the Clean Water Act.
Toxic Waters: Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Hampering E.P.A.FEB. 28, 2010
The water system in Ramsey, N.J., has illegal concentrations of arsenic and the solvent tetrachloroethylene, both linked to cancer.
Millions in U.S. Drink Contaminated Water, Records Show, DEC. 7, 2009
The announcement of the rule could come as soon as Friday. If not, it is likely to happen next week, people with knowledge of the plans said.
Photo – Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, says a new clean water rule is intended “to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction.”
The water rule is part of a broader push by President Obama to use his executive authority to build a major environmental legacy, without requiring new legislation from the Republican-controlled Congress.
This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release a final set of rules intended to combat climate change, by limiting greenhouse gas pollution from power plants. Mr. Obama is also expected to announce in the coming year that he will put vast swaths of public land off limits to energy exploration and other development.
“Water is the lifeblood of healthy people and healthy economies,” Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A.’s administrator, wrote in an April blog post promoting the water rule. “We have a duty to protect it. That’s why E.P.A. and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are finalizing a Clean Water Rule later this spring to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction.”
But even as E.P.A. staff worked this month to finish the rule, the House passed a bill to block it. The Senate is moving forward with a bill that would require the agency to fundamentally revamp the rule.
“Under this outrageously broad new rule, Washington bureaucrats would now have a say in how farmers, and ranchers, and families use their own property,” said Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming and the chief author of the Senate bill.
“It would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate private property just based on things like whether it’s used by animals or birds, or even insects,” he said.
“This rule,” he added, “is not designed to protect the traditional waters of the United States. It is designed to expand the power of Washington bureaucrats.”
The E.P.A. and the Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed the rule, known as Waters of the U.S., last March. The agency has held more than 400 meetings about it with outside groups and read more than one million public comments as it wrote the final language.
The rule is being issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gave the federal government broad authority to limit pollution in major water bodies, like Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River and Puget Sound, as well as streams and wetlands that drain into larger waters.
But two Supreme Court decisions related to clean water protection, in 2001 and in 2006, created legal confusion about whether the federal government had the authority to regulate the smaller streams and headwaters, and about other water sources such as wetlands.
BUT E.P.A. officials are not completely satisfied by the projected draft of this new Obama directives!
E.P.A. officials say the new rule will clarify that authority, allowing the government to once again limit pollution in those smaller bodies of water — although it does not restore the full scope of regulatory authority granted by the 1972 law.
The E.P.A. also contends that the new rule will not give it the authority to regulate additional waters that had not been covered under the 1972 law. People familiar with the rule say it will apply to about 60 percent of the nation’s waters.
“Until now, major bodies of water were protected under the law,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, a spokeswoman for Environment America, an advocacy group. “But they can’t be fully protected unless the streams that flow into them are also protected.”
The rule will also limit pollution in groundwater and other sources of drinking water. Polluted groundwater is now chemically treated before being used as drinking water.
“We could spend a lot of money to massively treat the water that we drink, but it makes a lot more sense to protect the source,” Ms. Ouzts said.
A coalition of industry groups, led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, has waged an aggressive campaign calling on the E.P.A. to withdraw or revamp the rule.
Farmers fear that the rule could impose major new costs and burdens, requiring them to pay fees for environmental assessments and to obtain permits just to till the soil near gullies, ditches or dry streambeds where water flows only when it rains. A permit is required for any activity, like farming or construction, that creates a discharge into a body of water covered under the Clean Water Act or affects the health of it, like filling in a wetland or blocking a stream.
“It’s going to cause a nightmare for farmers,” said Don Parrish, the senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“Our members own the majority of the landscape that’s going to be impacted by this,” he said. “It’s going to make their land, the most valuable thing they possess, less valuable. It could reduce the value of some farmland by as much as 40 percent. If you want to build a home, if you want to grow food, if you want a job to go with that clean water, you have to ask E.P.A. for it.”
The lobbying fight over the rule has also generated a public-relations battle over social media.
The Deck is not a plain playing field:
In its protest of the rule, the American Farm Bureau Federation started a social media campaign, using the Twitter hashtag #DitchTheRule, to urge farmers and others to push the E.P.A. to abandon or revamp the rule. The E.P.A., in response, created a campaign with the hashtag #DitchTheMyth, urging people to speak out in favor of the rule. But some legal experts contend that campaign might have tested the limits of federal lobbying laws, which prohibit a government agency from engaging in grass-roots lobbying for proposed policies or legislation.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Juan Cole | US History of Coup-Making Overshadows Obama’s Outreach to Iran, Latin American Left
Cuban president Fidel Castro and then vice-president Richard Nixon at a press reception in Washington in 1956. (photo: Keystone/Getty Images)
from RSN – Reader Supported News | 12 April 2015
Juan Cole, Informed Comment
Cole writes: “Some observers count 51 US military or covert interventions in Latin America since 1890. Quite apart from the Cold War covert ops, the US intervened militarily in Cuba no less than four times in the late 19th and first third of the twentieth century.”
READ MORE - readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…
Cornel West on Growing Resistance: “They’re Marching and They Will Not Stop”
Michael Cabanatuan, SF Gate
Cabanatuan writes: “‘You live in a society where black lives have such a low priority that people think you can just shoot them like a dog, go home and drink tea,’ West said. ‘White supremacy is alive in the U.S. and we have to hit it head on.’”
READ MORE - readersupportednews.org/news-sect…
Another Day Another Unarmed Black Man Shot, Killed by American Police
Tom McCarthy, Guardian UK
McCarthy writes: “Police in Oklahoma said they do not intend to further investigate an incident in which a volunteer, undercover 73-year-old ‘reserve deputy’ mistook his gun for a Taser and shot and killed a suspect who was wrestling on the ground with a sheriff’s deputy.”
READ MORE - readersupportednews.org/news-sect…
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
This Country Belongs to All of Us, Not Just the Billionaire Class.
By US Senator from Vermont – Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News
06 April 2015
“We must launch a political revolution which engages millions of Americans from all walks of life in the struggle for real change.”
The good news is that the economy today is much better than it was six years ago when George W. Bush left office. The bad news is that, despite these improvements, the 40-year decline of the American middle class continues. Real unemployment is much too high, 35 million Americans continue to have no health insurance and more of our friends and neighbors are living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country.
Meanwhile, as the rich become much richer, the level of income and wealth inequality has reached obscene and unimaginable levels. In the United States, we have the most unequal level of wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth, and worse now than at any other time since the 1920s.
Today, the top one-tenth of 1 percent of our nation owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and one family owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent. In terms of income, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.
This is what a rigged economic system looks like.
At a time when millions of American workers have seen declines in their incomes and are working longer hours for lower wages, the wealth of the billionaire class is soaring in a way that few can imagine. If you can believe it, between 2013 and 2015, the 14 wealthiest individuals in the country saw their net worth increase by over $157 billion dollars. Children go hungry, veterans sleep out on the streets, senior citizens cannot afford their prescription drugs — and 14 individuals saw a $157 billion dollar increase in their wealth over a two-year period.
The grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing is not just a moral and economic issue, it is a political issue as well. As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires are now able to spend unlimited sums of money to buy the candidates they want. The Koch brothers, an extreme right-wing family, recently announced that they were prepared to spend some $900 million in the next election cycle. This is likely more money than either the Democratic or Republican parties will spend. If you think that it is an accident that the Republican Party has become a far-right party, think again. The Koch brothers’ agenda — ending Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the U.S. Postal Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and all campaign finance limitations — has become the agenda of the Republican candidates they fund.
And, by the way, if you think that the Republican Party’s refusal to acknowledge that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is a severe threat to our planet, is not related to how we finance campaigns, you would be sorely mistaken. With the Koch brothers (who make much of their money in the fossil fuel industry) and big energy companies strongly supporting Republican candidates, it should not surprise anyone that my Republican colleagues reject the views of the overwhelming majority of scientists who study climate issues.
With Republicans now controlling both houses of Congress, let me briefly touch on some of the battles that I will be helping to lead in this extreme right-wing environment. In my view, with so many of our fellow citizens demoralized about the political process, it is absolutely imperative that we establish a strong progressive agenda that Americans can rally around. It must be an agenda that reflects the real needs of the working families of our country. It must be an agenda that engages people in a political struggle that they are prepared to fight for.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: The truth is that real unemployment in our country is not the “official” and widely-reported 5.5 percent. Counting those who are under-employed and those who have given up looking for work, real unemployment is 11 percent. Even more disturbingly, youth unemployment is close to 17 percent and African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that.
If we are truly serious about reversing the decline of the middle class and putting millions of people back to work, we need a major federal jobs program. There are a number of approaches which can be taken, but the fastest way to create jobs is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure — roads, bridges, dams, levees, airports, rail, water systems and wastewater plants.
In that regard, I have introduced legislation which would invest $1 trillion over 5 years to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure. This legislation would create and maintain at least 13 million good-paying jobs. It would also make our country more productive, efficient and safe.
I will also continue my opposition to our current trade policies and vote against fast tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Simply put, our trade policies have failed. Permanent normal trade relations with China have led to the loss of more than 3.2 million American jobs. The North American Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of nearly 1 million jobs. The Korean Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of some 60,000 jobs.
We have got to fundamentally rewrite our trade rules so that American jobs are no longer our No.1 export. Corporate America must start investing in this country, not China.
As we struggle for decent-paying jobs, we must also rebuild the trade union movement. Throughout the country, millions of workers want to join unions but are meeting fierce opposition from their employers. We need legislation that makes it easier, not harder, for unions to flourish.
Raising Wages: Today, millions of Americans are working for starvation wages. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is totally inadequate. In fact, the real value of today’s minimum wage has declined by one-third since 1968. By raising the minimum wage to a living wage we can provide an increase in income for those people who need it the most. Our goal must be that no full-time worker in this country lives in poverty.
We must also bring about pay equity. There is no rational reason why women should be earning 78 cents on the dollar compared to men who perform the same work.
Further, we have got to expand overtime protections for millions of workers. It is absurd that “supervisors” who earn $25,000 a year are currently forced to work 50 or 60 hours a week with no overtime pay. Raising the income threshold to at least $56,680 from the absurdly low level of $23,660 a year for overtime will mean increased income for many millions of salaried workers.
Addressing Wealth and Income Inequality: Today the richest 400 Americans own more than $2.3 trillion in wealth, more than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings and have no idea how they will be able to retire with dignity.
We need real tax reform which makes the rich and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that in 1952 corporate income taxes provided 32 percent of federal revenue while in 2014 they provided 11 percent. It is scandalous that major profitable corporations like General Electric, Verizon, Citigroup and JP Morgan have, in a given recent year, paid nothing in federal income taxes. It is fiscally irresponsible that the U.S. Treasury loses about $100 billion a year because corporations and the rich stash their profits in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other tax havens.
Warren Buffett is honest. He has pointed out the unfairness of him, a multi-billionaire, paying a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. It is disgraceful that millionaire hedge fund managers are able to pay lower tax effective tax rates than truck drivers or nurses because they take advantage of a variety of loopholes that their lobbyists wrote.
This must end. We need a tax system which is fair and progressive. Children should not go hungry in this country while profitable corporations and the wealthy avoid their tax responsibilities.
Reversing Climate Change: The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good-paying jobs.
Health Care for All: The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care for all as a right. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, 35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance and many more are under-insured. Yet, we continue paying far more per capita for health care than any other nation. The United States must move toward a Medicare-for-All single-payer system.
Protecting Our Most Vulnerable: Today the United States has more people living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation, 35 million Americans still lack health insurance and millions of seniors and disabled people struggle to put food on the table because of insufficient Social Security benefits.
The Republican response to the economic pain of so many of our people was to make a bad situation much worse. The recently-passed Republican budget throws 27 million Americans off of health insurance, cuts Medicare, makes huge cuts to nutrition and makes it harder for working class families to afford college or put their kids in the Head Start program.
In my view, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that no American goes hungry or sleeps out on the streets. We must also make certain that seniors and people with disabilities can live in dignity. Not only must we vigorously oppose Republican attacks on the social safety net, we must expand benefits for those in need. That is why I have recently introduced legislation which would increase the solvency of Social Security until 2065, while expanding benefits for those who need them the most.
Making College Affordable for All: We live in a highly competitive global economy. If this country is to do well economically, we need to have the best-educated workforce in the world. Yet today many Americans cannot get a higher education, not because they are unqualified, but because they simply cannot afford it. Millions of others who do graduate from college or graduate school are drowning in debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the total amount of outstanding student loan debt in the United States has tripled in the last 10 years, and has now reached $1.2 trillion.
The United States must join many other countries in understanding that investing in our young people’s education is investing in the future of our nation. I will soon be introducing legislation to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lower interest rates on student loans.
And these are just SOME of the issues we are dealing with.
Let me conclude this letter by stating the obvious. This country is in serious trouble. Our economic system benefits the rich and large corporations and leaves working families behind. Our political system is dominated by billionaire campaign contributors and their lobbyists and is moving us in the direction of oligarchy. Our media system, owned by the corporate world, spends enormous time and energy diverting our attention away from the most important issues facing us. Climate change threatens the planet and we have a major political party denying its reality.
Clearly, the struggle to create a nation and world of economic and social justice and environmental sanity is not an easy one. But this I know: despair is not an option if we care about our kids and grandchildren. Giving up is not an option if we want to prevent irreparable harm to our planet.
We must stand up and fight back. We must launch a political revolution which engages millions of Americans from all walks of life in the struggle for real change. This country belongs to all of us, not just the billionaire class.
Please join the grass-roots revolution that we desperately need.
-20 # Depressionborn 2015-04-06 12:39
For sure Senator Bernie Sanders well describes the situation. But in the past his solutions have made things worse.
For example it is not unusual to find a well off person who once was in poverty. Bernie may know how they did it. It wasn’t socialism. It won’t happen with socialism. So what causes poverty?
Who is getting rich off a 0 interest rate? Profit $ once used to create jobs now go to banking and finance. What happened? More tax will not bring jobs back.
What is Bernie going to revolt us into?
+13 # Barbara K 2015-04-06 13:16
We have many in Congress now who think they are there to work for only the Billionaires and Millionaires; not all of us. I suppose it would be a surprise to them to know they are there to serve ALL Americans, that includes us. If they don’t want to serve all of us, time to kick them out of Congress. We get that chance every election, if enough get out to vote to make a difference.
0 # Nell H 2015-04-06 14:36
Congress serves their employers — the people who give $$ to their campaigns. Congress does not care about the rest of us because most Americans complain a lot, but they don’t bother to vote.
-1 # ctcarole 2015-04-06 14:47
You constantly suggest voting the “bad” guys out but it never happens. The choice is always between Republican bad guys or Democrat bad guys or people of either of those parties who have no chance of winning. When was the last time you actually had a choice for hope and change? Oh yeah. How is that one working out?
+2 # ctcarole 2015-04-06 13:48
The title of this article is wrong. The country does indeed belong to the billionaire class. What’s important now is what “The All of Us” is going to do about it. Electing more Republicrats isn’t going to do it. Bernie’s chances of becoming President are slimmer than a gnat’s ankles and even if he could be elected the Republicrats in congress will have a veto-proof majority to override anything he might want to do that would go against the billionaires. I fear I’m too old to see it but people start revolutions when they don’t have enough to eat. That time is coming and revolution is the only way failed governments change.
0 # jimallyn 2015-04-06 14:42
Quoting ctcarole: “Bernie’s chances of becoming President are slimmer than a gnat’s ankles.”
Only because people like you don’t have the good sense to vote for people who will actually represent them, and prefer to vote for lesser of two evils candidates like that Republican Hillary Clinton.
0 # Henry 2015-04-06 14:45
Bernie’s chances of becoming President are slimmer than a gnat’s ankles
Carole, I’m familiar with this thought myself. But I’m curious why you think he has no chance.
+1 # thoughtr2 2015-04-06 13:52
Hard to believe that in this long diatribe, our champion Bernard Sanders does not mention war or the military nor in his last one. That is the economic engine of our beloved America. Perhaps he needs to be informed. Is the F-35 in the back of his mind? What do you all make of this?
+1 # Henry 2015-04-06 14:41
Quoting thoughtr2: “Hard to believe that in this long diatribe, our champion Bernard Sanders does not mention war or the military nor in his last one. That is the economic engine of our beloved America. Perhaps he needs to be informed.”
Hey thoughtr2, you might want to watch the video of Evan Smith’s interview with Sanders, about 2/3 of the way down this page: berniesanders.com/blog/highlight… He definitely is informed about military spending (although yes, the F-35 is an elephant in the room … )
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Naomi Klein: ‘The Economic System We Have Created Also Created Global Warming.”
Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel, writes: “Can we still stop global warming?” – “Only if we radically change our capitalist system” – argues author Naomi Klein.
By Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel
28 February 2015
PIEGEL: Ms. Klein, why aren’t people able to stop climate change?
Klein: Bad luck. Bad timing. Many unfortunate coincidences.
SPIEGEL: The wrong catastrophe at the wrong moment?
Klein: The worst possible moment. The connection between greenhouse gases and global warming has been a mainstream political issue for humanity since 1988. It was precisely the time that the Berlin Wall fell and Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History,” the victory of Western capitalism. Canada and the US signed the first free-trade agreement, which became the prototype for the rest of the world.
SPIEGEL: So you’re saying that a new era of consumption and energy use began precisely at the moment when sustainability and restraint would have been more appropriate?
Klein: Exactly. And it was at precisely this moment that we were also being told that there was no longer any such thing as social responsibility and collective action, that we should leave everything to the market. We privatized our railways and the energy grid, the WTO and the IMF locked in an unregulated capitalism. Unfortunately, this led to an explosion in emissions.
SPIEGEL: You’re an activist, and you’ve blamed capitalism for all kinds of things over the years. Now you’re blaming it for climate change too?
Klein: That’s no reason for irony. The numbers tell the story. During the 1990s, emissions went up by 1 percent per year. Starting in 2000, they started to go up by an average of 3.4 percent. The American Dream was exported globally and consumer goods that we thought of as essential to meet our needs expanded rapidly. We started seeing ourselves exclusively as consumers. When shopping as a way of life is exported to every corner of the globe, that requires energy. A lot of energy.
SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to our first question: Why have people been unable to stop this development?
Klein: We have systematically given away the tools. Regulations of any kind are now scorned. Governments no longer create tough rules that limit oil companies and other corporations. This crisis fell into our laps in a disastrous way at the worst possible moment. Now we’re out of time. Where we are right now is a do-or-die moment. If we don’t act as a species, our future is in peril. We need to cut emissions radically.
SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to another question: Are you not misappropriating the issue of climate change for use in your critique of capitalism?
Klein: No. The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. I didn’t make this up. The system is broken, income inequality is too great and the lack of restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.
SPIEGEL: Your son Toma is two-and-a-half years old. What kind of world will he be living in when he graduates from high school in 2030?
Klein: That is what is being decided right now. I see signs that it could be a radically different world from the one we have today — and that change could either be quite positive or extremely negative. In any case, it’s already certain that it will at least in part be a worse world. We’re going to experience global warming and far more natural disasters, that much is certain. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic warming. We also have time to change our economic system so that it does not become more brutal and merciless as it deals with climate change.
SPIEGEL: What can be done to improve the situation?
Klein: We have to make some decisions now about what values are important to us and how we really want to live. And of course it makes a difference if temperatures only rise by 2 degrees or if they rise by 4 or 5 degrees or more. It’s still possible for us humans to make the right decisions.
SPIEGEL: Twenty-six years have passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded in 1988. We have known at least since then that CO2 emissions from the burning of oil and coal is responsible for climate change. Yet little has been done to address the problem. Haven’t we already failed?
Klein: I view the situation differently given the enormous price we will have to pay. As long as we have the slightest chance of success or to minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.
SPIEGEL: Several years ago, the international community set a target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Do you still consider that to be achievable?
Klein: Well, it’s still a physical possibility. We would have to immediately reduce global emissions by 6 percent a year. The wealthier countries would have to carry a greater burden, meaning the United States and Europe would have to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Immediately. It’s not impossible. It is just profoundly politically unrealistic under our current system.
SPIEGEL: You are saying our societies aren’t capable of doing so?
Klein: Yes. We need a dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we need to do and our current political reality. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.
SPIEGEL: Is a society focused on economic growth at all capable of fighting climate change successfully?
Klein: No. An economic model based on indiscriminate growth inevitably leads to greater consumption and to greater CO2 emissions. There can and must be growth in the future in many low carbon parts of the economy: in green technologies, in public transportation, in all the care-giving professions, in the arts and of course in education. Right now, the core of our gross domestic product is comprised of just consumption, imports and exports. We need to make cuts there. Anything else would be self-deception.
SPIEGEL: The International Monetary Fund makes the opposite claim. It says that economic growth and climate protection are not mutually exclusive.
Klein: They’re not looking at the same numbers as I am. The first problem is that at all these climate conferences, everyone acts as if we will arrive at our goal through self-commitments and voluntary obligations. No one tells the oil companies that, in the end, they are really going to have to give up. The second problem is that these oil companies are going to fight like hell to protect what they don’t want to lose.
SPIEGEL: You seriously want to eliminate the free market in order to save the climate?
Klein: I am not talking about eliminating markets, but we need much more strategy, steering and planning and a very different balance. The system in which we live is overly obsessed with growth — it’s one that sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth that are clearly not good. It’s clear to me that my position is in direct conflict with neo-liberalism. Is it true that in Germany, although you have accelerated the shift to renewables, coal consumption is actually increasing?
SPIEGEL: That was true from 2009 to 2013.
Klein: To me that is an expression of this reluctance to decide on what is necessary. Germany is not going to meet its emissions targets in the coming years either.
SPIEGEL: Is the Obama presidency the worst thing that could have happened to the climate?
Klein: In a way. Not because Obama is worse than a Republican. He’s not. But because these eight years were the biggest wasted opportunity of our lives. The right factors came together in a truly historic convergence: awareness, urgency, the mood, his political majority, the failure of the Big Three US automakers and even the possibility of addressing the failed unregulated financial world and climate change at the same time. But when he came to office, he didn’t have the courage to do it. We will not win this battle unless we are willing to talk about why Obama viewed the fact that he had control over the banks and auto companies as more of a burden than as an opportunity. He was a prisoner of the system. He didn’t want to change it.
SPIEGEL: The US and China finally agreed on an initial climate deal in 2014.
Klein: Which is, of course, a good thing. But anything in the deal that could become painful won’t come into effect until Obama is out of office. Still, what has changed is that Obama said: “Our citizens are marching. We can’t ignore that.” The mass movements are important; they are having an impact. But to push our leaders to where they need to go, they need to grow even stronger.
SPIEGEL: What should their goal be?
Klein: Over the past 20 years, the extreme right, the complete freedom of oil companies and the freedom of the super wealthy 1 percent of society have become the political standard. We need to shift America’s political center from the right fringe back to where it belongs, the real center.
SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, that’s nonsense, because it’s illusory. You’re thinking far too broadly. If you want to first eliminate capitalism before coming up with a plan to save the climate, you know yourself that this won’t happen.
Klein: Look, if you want to get depressed, there are plenty of reasons to do so. But you’re still wrong, because the fact is that focusing on supposedly achievable incremental changes light carbon trading and changing light bulbs has failed miserably. Part of that is because in most countries, the environmental movement remained elite, technocratic and supposedly politically neutral for two-and-a-half decades. We are seeing the result of this today: It has taken us in the wrong direction. Emissions are rising and climate change is here. Second, in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself. The approach that you have is too technocratic and small.
SPIEGEL: If you attempt to solve a specific problem by overturning the entire societal order, you won’t solve it. That’s a utopian fantasy.
Klein: Not if societal order is the root of the problem. Viewed from another perspective, we’re literally swimming in examples of small solutions: There are green technologies, local laws, bilateral treaties and CO2 taxation. Why don’t we have all that at a global level?
SPIEGEL: You’re saying that all the small steps — green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals — are meaningless?
Klein: No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can’t delude ourselves that it’s enough. What I’m saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don’t become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That’s the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.
SPIEGEL: You don’t appear to be counting on the collective reason of politicians and entrepreneurs.
Klein: Because the system can’t think. The system rewards short-term gain, meaning quick profits. Take Michael Bloomberg, for example …
SPIEGEL: … the businessman and former New York City mayor …
Klein: … who understood the depths of the climate crisis as a politician. As a businessman, however, he chooses to invest in a fund that specializes in oil and gas assets. If a person like Bloomberg cannot resist the temptation, then you can assume that the system’s self-preservation capacity isn’t that great.
SPIEGEL: A particularly unsettling chapter in your book is about Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group.
Klein: Yes. I wouldn’t have expected it.
SPIEGEL: Branson has sought to portray himself as a man who wants to save the climate. It all started after an encounter with Al Gore.
Klein: And in 2006, he pledged at an event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative that he would invest $3 billion in research into green technologies. At the time, I thought it was truly a sensational contribution. I didn’t think, oh, you cynical bastard.
SPIEGEL: But Branson was really just staging it and only a fraction of that money was ever spent.
Klein: He may well have been sincere at the time, but yes, only a fraction was spent.
SPIEGEL: Since 2006, Branson has added 160 new airplanes to his numerous airlines and increased his emissions by 40 percent.
SPIEGEL: What is there to learn from this story?
Klein: That we need to question the symbolism and gestures made by Hollywood stars and the super rich. We cannot confuse them with a scientifically sound plan to reduce emissions.
SPIEGEL: In America and Australia, a lot of money is spent on efforts to deny climate change. Why?
Klein: It’s different from Europe. It’s an anger that is similar to that held by those who oppose abortion and gun control. It’s not only that they are protecting a way of life they don’t want to change. It’s that they understand that climate change challenges their core anti-government, free-market belief system. So they have to deny it to protect their very identity. That’s why there’s this intensity gap: Liberals want to take a little bit of action on climate protection. But at the same time, these liberals also have a number of other issues that are higher on their agenda. But we have to understand that the hardcore conservative climate change deniers will do everything in their power to prevent action.
SPIEGEL: With pseudo-scientific studies and disinformation?
Klein: With all of that, of course.
SPIEGEL: Does that explain why you are connecting all of these issues — the environment, equity, public health and labor issues — that are popular on the left? Is it out of purely strategic considerations?
Klein: The issues are connected, and we also need to connect them in the debate. There is only one way that you can win a battle against a small group of people who stand to lose a lot: You need to start a mass movement that includes all the people who have a lot to gain. The deniers can only be defeated if you are just as passionate as them, but also when you are superior in numbers. Because the truth is that they really are very few.
SPIEGEL: Why don’t you believe that technology has the potential to save us?
Klein: There has been tremendous progress in the storage of renewable energies, for instance, and in solar efficiency. But climate change? I, in any case, don’t have enough faith to say, “We’ll come up with some invention at some point, so let’s just drop all other efforts.” That would be insane.
SPIEGEL: People like Bill Gates view things differently.
Klein: And I find their technology fetish naïve. In recent years, we’ve witnessed some really big failures where some of the smartest guys in the room screwed up on a massive scale, be it with the derivatives that triggered the financial crisis or the oil catastrophe off the coast of New Orleans. Mostly, we as people break things and we don’t know how to fix them afterwards. Right now, it’s our planet that we’re breaking.
SPIEGEL: Listening to you, one might get the impression that the climate crisis is a gender issue.
Klein: Why would you say that?
SPIEGEL: Bill Gates says we need to keep moving forward and come up with new inventions to get the problem, and ultimately our complicated Earth, under control. You on the other hand are saying: Stop, no, we have to adapt ourselves to this planet and become softer. The US oil companies are run by men. And you, as a critical woman, are described as hysterical. It’s not an absurd thought, is it?
Klein: No. The entire industrialization was about power or whether it would be man or nature that would dominate Earth. It is difficult for some men to admit that we don’t have everything under control; that we have amassed all this CO2 over the centuries and that Earth is now telling us: Well, you’re just a guest in my house.
SPIEGEL: A guest of Mother Earth?
Klein: That’s too cheesy. But you’re still right. The oil industry is a male-dominated world, a lot like high finance. It’s very macho. The American and Australian idea of “discovering” an endless country and that endless resources can be extracted is a narrative of domination, one that traditionally casts nature as a weak, prone woman. And the idea of being in a relationship of interdependence with the rest of the natural world was seen as weak. That’s why it is doubly difficult for alpha men to concede that they have been wrong.
SPIEGEL: There’s one issue in the book that you seem to steer clear of. Although you revile the companies, you never say that your readers, who are customers of these companies, are also culpable. You also remain silent about the price that individual readers will have to pay for climate protection.
Klein: Oh, I think that most people would be happy to pay for it. They know that climate protection requires reasonable behavior: less driving, less flying and less consumption. They would be happy to use renewable energies if they were offered them.
SPIEGEL: But the idea isn’t big enough, right?
Klein: (laughs) Exactly. The green movement spent decades educating people that they should compost their garbage, that they should recycle and that they should ride their bikes. But look at what has happened to the climate during these decades.
SPIEGEL: Is the lifestyle you lead climate-friendly?
Klein: Not enough. I bike, I use transit, I try to give speeches by Skype, I share a hybrid car and I cut my flying to about one-tenth of what it was before I started this project. My sin is taking taxis, and since the book came out, I’ve been flying too much. But I also don’t think that only people who are perfectly green and live CO2-free should be allowed to talk about this issue. If that were the case, then nobody would be able to say anything at all.
SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, we thank you for this interview.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From: Beyt Tikkun Synagogue shul at tikkun.org via mail.salsalabs.net - this comes from Oakland, California and shows the Jewish way of love for Planet Earth and all Creation. You do not have to be religious to see this – and we are not religious.
SEDER FOR THE EARTH & CLIMATE MARCH.
*When: Saturday, February 07 2015 @ 11:00 AM – - 12:00PM
No rain: Frank Ogawa Plaza nr. the Rotuda near the 15th & Broadway entry to the Plaza
In case of Rain: 685 14th Street (the Unitarian Church
We davven the morning service first at Rabbi Lerner’s home from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. then go to Frank Ogawa Plaza at Broadway and 15th street in Downtown Oakland to set up for a short (one hour) Tu B’shvat Seder.
If you can get there by 10:30 a.m. to help us set up, that would be sweet.
We will have a few tables and a few chairs in the alley way near the Rotunda on the other side of the plaza from City Hall, assuming it isn’t raining heavily. Please bring a chair to sit on it if you can, and something delicious to nosh, or just come–we’ll have fruit and grape juice for the seder if you tell us you are coming BEFORE Friday 10 a.m. Feb. 6th so we can buy enough!! But if you haven’t done so, come anyway, but get there by 11 a.m. (which requires that you also give yourself at least 15-20 minutes to park if you come by car–there are big parking structures down there around 11 th and 12th streets–but environmentally best to come via the BART).
Rain is predicted but we have no way of knowing whether that is going to be like the heavy rain expected for Friday, or a much lighter rain that won’t be a big deal.
If the rain in heavy, the 1st Unitarian Church of Oakland, at 685 14th street, has graciously agreed to let us hold the seder in their building in their Wendte Hall (NOT the main sanctuary, where something else is happening).
After the Seder we will march up to where the march is happening (a mere four blocks away), and meet up with our already-drenched allies for the march. Be sure to bring clothing and umbrellas just in case.
Please let us know that you plan to attend and please spread the word to your non-Jewish friends as well–The Seder for the Earth is free and a wonderful way to begin the environmental march that will begin at noon at the same place.
TIKKUN IS PART OF THE NETWORK OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESSIVES (NSP) – they like to talk of “rEVOLution” for how to EVOLVE into a a decent world. Their kind of true revolution comes about with a little “r” with large “EVOL” so there is no blood-shedding.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 4th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Sustainable Energy Revolution Grows, Says Bloomberg Report
Despite strong resistance on the part of the fossil-fuel sector and some policymakers, a new way of thinking about energy is taking hold.
by ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, Wednesday, 04 February 2015.
Article reprinted by Truthout from EcoWatch of Bloomberg
The third annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook released today documents the continuing dramatic changes in how the U.S. produces, delivers and consumes energy, and makes some projections and predictions about the direction of the energy sector in the future. The report was researched and produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and commissioned by The Business Council for Sustainable Energy.
“To single out just a few tell-tale headlines from the hundreds of statistics presented in this report: over the 2007-2014 period, U.S. carbon emissions from the energy sector dropped 9 percent, U.S. natural gas production rose 25 percent and total U.S. investment in clean energy (renewables and advanced grid, storage and electrified transport technologies) totaled $386 billion,” the report said.
The report backs up what other studies have been showing—that despite strong resistance on the part of the fossil-fuel sector and some policymakers, a new way of thinking about energy is taking hold. The factbook points to four significant trends:
– the advance in infrastructure projects and technology to accommodate new forms of energy;
– more capital flowing to projects aimed at sustainable energy development with the U.S. attracting the second highest
number of dollars after China;
– companies with high energy-related costs gravitating to the U.S.; and
– government policies that favor the development of clean energy sources.
In regard to government policies, it specifically cites President Obama’s proposed Clean Power Plan, announced in June, to retire coal-fired plants and the historic agreement struck between the U.S. and China in November in which the U.S. pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025 while China would reach peak emissions by 2030.
“The 2015 Factbook clearly shows that America is on the path to a more sustainable energy sector,” said Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. “Our energy productivity is rising along with economic growth, while energy-intensive industries are onshoring production to the United States to take advantage of low energy costs. All of this is happening as investment in clean energy continues to grow and as new natural gas infrastructure continues to come online. These are strong positive signs for America’s economy and environment.”
The U.S. is becoming more “energy productive” with its economic growth decoupled from the growth in demand for electricity, according to the report. “Between 1950 and 1990, electricity demand grew at an annual rate of just below 6%,” it says. “Between 1990 and 2007, it grew at an annual of 1.9%. Between 2007 and 2014, annualized electricity demand growth has been … zero.”
The trend toward decarbonization continues with renewable energy’s share of the total energy mix rising from 7 percent in 2007 to 13 percent in 2014. Since 2000, 93 percent of new U.S. power capacity has been natural gas, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal or other renewable projects. Investment in the clean energy sector has grown hand in hand with that, adding up to $386 billion since 2007 and increasing by 7 percent in 2014 over 2013’s level.
“Against the backdrop of a surging economy and crumbling oil prices, major trends around decarbonization and improving energy productivity continued in the United States,” said Michel Di Capua, head of Americas research for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Low-carbon energy technologies stand to benefit from key policies proposed in 2014, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulation for the power sector and an innovative new vision for the electricity market in New York State.”
The report finds that gasoline consumption in the transportation sector is down by 8 percent, due to a combination of factors including more energy-efficient vehicles, the public’s preference for those vehicles and a decline in driving, as well as the still small but growing adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles. Yet conversely the factbook says, thanks largely to fracking, U.S. oil production has grown by 41 percent since 2007 and “has returned to levels not seen since the 1980s.”
It also points to some retrenchment in clean energy growth. In what will seem like mixed news to many renewable energy advocates, the contribution of natural gas to U.S. electricity generation has declined somewhat since 2013, and thanks to a drop in energy prices, that has allowed coal to become more competitive and regain a small piece of its market share, ticking up to 39 percent in 2013 and 2014, after dropping to 37 percent in 2012 from 49 percent in 2007. But longer-term trends, especially the closing of coal-fired power plants, will probably not sustain such growth in the future. Carbon emissions have increased as well, although that trend too is likely to reverse as coal-fired plants are shut down.
The final area of backtracking the factbook points to is the uncertainty over the very government policies the report says have fueled growth in the sustainable energy sector. Regarding President Obama’s Clean Energy Plan and the U.S.-China agreement, it says, “Neither policy will come easy. Legal challenges to the EPA’s proposal are underway, and achievement of the 2025 pledge will require new policy action.”
The enactment of policies at the state level that encouraged investment in and growth of wind and solar power has not just slowed down but shows signs of reversing. In 2014, Ohio froze its renewable energy standards, which has reduced job growth and investments in solar and wind projects, while Arizona is considering a tax on rooftop solar installations, and other states are discussing such backward moves, including the Hoosier state.
“Policy actions taken by the U.S. in 2014 have set the stage for a potentially momentous global climate summit at Paris in December 2015,” says the report. “The U.S.-China pact was the most notable achievement in the global climate negotiations process in 2014. Such public pledges from China and the U.S. (the world’s first and second biggest emitters, respectively) have the potential to challenge other nations to do more as well. The summit to be held in Paris at the end of 2015 will be the most significant multilateral climate negotiations since the discussions in Copenhagen in 2009. The growth of sustainable energy is a critical part of achieving any targets that might be struck under diplomatic deals on greenhouse gas emissions.”
Some Comments on Truthout:
bobaka • 5 hours ago
You exclude the most important point your ideological blinders prevent you from seeing. The basic problem with power is that it is a source of private greed. All power must be a public utility and the 1% will no longer be able to bankroll their goons into office on a flood of profits–huge profits off the mass market that individual power users are forced into. Get the elitist beasts off our backs and we would all have solar.
SinglePayer2017 • 7 hours ago
Great. Next, we need a Green Economic Revolution to repair the devastation caused by the income-inequality fossil fuel economy over the last 40 years. Restorative justice requires the wealthy to voluntarily adopt a Maximum Income to repay their debts to society.
Here’s The Plan:
Maximum Income Tax + Guaranteed Income = Reparations, Economic Justice
This formula represents a Green New Deal to tackle structural income inequality. The Maximum Income is the only way to keep the rich from going crazy and jumping into the abyss…again. The Guaranteed Income is the only humane way to deal with the despair and homelessness caused by a militarized economy that values one lousy, outdated plane more than the lives of its own citizens.
Human Rights need to be integrated into the accounting equation. Next to the Stockholders’ Equity account, we need a Workers’ Equity account, so working people can enjoy the same dividends as the rich do now. The poorest should have a Guaranteed Income, so poverty will still have dignity, and the rich need to learn that all things have limits, including wealth.
Or, you can ignore this advice, and hope for a better deal from the angry mobs…I hear them talking about guillotines an awful lot these days.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Progressive Policies Are Popular – So Why Should Democrats Be Afraid of Them?
Saturday, 31 January 2015 13:27
By Keane Bhatt, FAIR | Op-Ed – re-posted by Truthout.
CNN’s post-speech discussion of Barack Obama’s State of the Union address included anchor Wolf Blitzer’s reaction to colleague Jake Tapper’s view that the president had outlined a liberal economic agenda. Blitzer’s analysis illustrates the logic behind corporate media’s longstanding efforts to dissuade politicians from advocating for progressive policies:
TAPPER: Of course, most of the speech, the body of the speech, was a very progressive, very liberal economic message about trying to help the middle class…. [It] was about new tax cuts, about the $3,000 per child per year, paid sick leave or paid maternity leave, raising the minimum wage, lowering the cost of community college to zero.
BLITZER: I think it’s fair to say, had he put forward all these new initiatives before the midterm elections – was afraid to do so, because he feared it could hurt Democrats who were up in a tough reelection or election season. As a result, he didn’t do any of those things before the midterms, but now after the midterms, [with] two years to go, he feels emboldened, almost liberated, ready to move on with these new very progressive or very liberal initiatives.
According to Blitzer, policy proposals such as paid sick leave and maternity leave, an increased minimum wage and free community college are all liabilities to pragmatic Democrats concerned with winning elections – which explains Obama’s reticence prior to November’s midterm elections. However, public opinion polls show widespread support for those measures, including, in many cases, from Republican voters.
A CNN poll (6/9/14) found 71 percent of the public supporting an increase in the minimum wage, including a majority of Republicans and conservatives. In November, voters in the Republican-leaning states of Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Alaska passed ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage by large margins (Huffington Post, 11/4/14).
A HuffPost/YouGov poll (6/20/13) found that 74 percent of the US public supports requiring companies to offer paid sick leave to their employees; paid maternity leave garnered 61 percent approval. In a number of recent polls, the idea of free community college received majority support (The Hill, 1/20/15)–one poll found that more Republicans favored the measure than opposed it, rather remarkable given that the idea was only recently popularized by President Obama himself.
So it’s not voters’ preferences that, in Blitzer’s words, “could hurt Democrats” facing elections. A likelier reason is election funding. Political scientists Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson observed that politicians largely depended on financing from economic elites (AlterNet, 12/18/14) in what were probably the most expensive midterms in history (Washington Post, 10/22/14)
The President and the Democratic Party are almost as dependent on big money–defined, for example, in terms of the percentage of contributions (over $500 or $1,000) from the 1 percent–as the Republicans. To expect top-down, money-driven political parties to make strong economic appeals to voters is idle.
In the context of low-turnout elections largely financed by economic elites, policies such as minimum wage increases and paid sick leave, which force financial concessions from the wealthy, do indeed “hurt Democrats.” It is in part this conflict that explains high-profile Democrats’ lack of advocacy on those measures. As The Atlantic reported (6/18/14), “Hillary Clinton isn’t against federally mandated family leave–she just doesn’t think it’s politically feasible”:
“I think, eventually, it should be [implemented],” Clinton said at CNN’s town-hall meeting Tuesday to promote her new book, Hard Choices. But she immediately qualified her position: “I don’t think, politically, we could get it now.”…
A bipartisan poll conducted on behalf of the National Partnership for Women and Families, a pro-leave group, just after the 2012 election, found that 86 percent of Americans supported leave–including 96 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans. The poll inspired new hope that President Obama might take up leave in his second term.
Instead–vindicating Clinton’s opinion that leave is politically impossible right now–the issue has all but disappeared.
Although congressional Democrats had crafted the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which provided employees with 12 weeks of paid leave, President Obama did not endorse the bill (The Week, 6/27/14). The Washington Post (6/23/14) found that “five and a half years after taking office, Obama has no proposal on the table for paid family leave.”
Now that Barack Obama faces Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, Blitzer characterizes the president as “liberated” and “emboldened” to stake out a policy agenda that is now safely off the table. Policies that promote economic justice, which are broadly popular, are considered divisive within the corporate media until they’re rendered impossible. Then media pundits can wink at one other about how politicians are shrewdly courting voters with agendas they cannot possibly fulfill.
And what does it look like when politicians heed the corporate media’s call for bipartisanship? Obama’s full-throated advocacy for the Trans-Pacific Partnership in his State of the Union is one example. The highly secretive, pro-corporate trade agreement threatens to exacerbate the very inequality that the president sought to highlight in his speech, and is opposed by leading economists and many top legislators of own party (Huffington Post, 1/20/15, 1/21/15).
In an article headlined “Poll Finds Agenda Gap Between Leaders, American People,” the Wall Street Journal (1/21/15) noted President Obama’s priority of signing the trade deal was met by a public “virtually yawning at the prospect.” Only 20 percent considered it an “urgent priority,” the paper noted.
Thomas Ferguson offered a simple commentary on this agenda gap (Real News Network, 12/27/14): “You’ve been running these sort of big money-driven elections for quite some time, and it’s policy disappointment that’s driving down the voter turnout.” A far better strategy, he suggested, would be “to do something for the population instead of the 1 percent.”
If politicians were to ignore corporate pundits and instead energized otherwise-apathetic voters with an actual commitment to popular policies, they would offer a solution to voters’ yawns.