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The Green Transition Part 1: The Problem with Green Capitalism

It’s clear that we need to decarbonize our economy as quickly as possible in order to avoid the worst of climate change — but carbon isn’t the only problem we’re facing. As the world moves towards renewables and away from fossil fuels as an energy source, we can’t forget that the technology and minerals behind this green transition need to come from somewhere — and that somewhere is primarily countries in the Global South.

The supply chains which carry the lithium, copper, cobalt, and other minerals essential for renewable technology from the peripheries to the imperial cores — from places like Chile and Bolivia to places like the United States and Europe — are built upon a foundation of colonialism, imperialism, hyper-exploitation, and ecocide: all essential components of our current economic system —  capitalism.

In part one of this two-part series on the green transition, Upstream explores what happens when we simply paint capitalism green without addressing its fundamental global operating principles and processes. What is the dark side of the energy transition — particularly for the Global South and Indigenous communities?

In part two they will dive deeper into some solutions, but in this episode, Upstream starts their journey in the Atacama desert of Chile and ends all the way in the Arctic Circle, exploring the global extractive machine and the communities that exist on its frontiers.

You can listen to the full Upstream Documentary below to dive deeper into this topic.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Carbon-Reduction Plans Rely on Tech That Doesn’t Exist

Carbon-Reduction Plans Rely on Tech That Doesn’t Exist

Instead of scaling up renewable energy, researchers promote unproved ideas

Carbon-Reduction Plans Rely on Tech That Doesn't Exist

Credit: Katie Louise Thomas

At last year’s Glasgow COP26 meetings on the climate crisis, U.S. envoy and former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry stated that solutions to the climate crisis will involve “technologies that we don’t yet have” but are supposedly on the way. Kerry’s optimism comes directly from scientists. You can read about these beliefs in the influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Integrated Assessment Models, created by researchers. These models present pathways to carbon reductions that may permit us to keep climate change below two degrees Celsius. They rely heavily on technologies that don’t yet exist, such as ways to store carbon in the ground safely, permanently and affordably.

Stop and think about this for a moment. Science—that is to say, Euro-American science—has long been held as our model for rationality. Scientists frequently accuse those who reject their findings of being irrational. Yet depending on technologies that do not yet exist is irrational, a kind of magical thinking. That is a developmental stage kids are expected to outgrow. Imagine if I said I planned to build a home with materials that had not yet been invented or build a civilization on Mars without first figuring out how to get even one human being there. You’d likely consider me irrational, perhaps delusional. Yet this kind of thinking pervades plans for future decarbonization.

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To keep fossil carbon out of the air, just stop pulling it out of the Earth

To keep fossil carbon out of the air, just stop pulling it out of the Earth

Nakate chided her audience for sleepwalking toward catastrophe: “We see business leaders and investors flying into COP on private jets. We see them making fancy speeches. We hear about new pledges and promises. … I have come here to tell you that we don’t believe you.” She added, “I am here to say, prove us wrong.”

Throughout the summit, people of all ages and backgrounds had rallied in the streets outside to demand effective climate action, climate justice, an end to exploitation and other policies through which the world’s governments might prove Nakate wrong.

On Nov. 5, more than 8,000 children, teenagers, parents and teachers marched through the city, calling on the generation now in power not to ruin the future for generations who follow. The next day, a surge of more than 100,000 climate marchers demanded an end to fossil fuel investments, a global conversion to renewable energy financed by wealthy countries and reparations for Indigenous communities.

Tuntiak Katan, a member of the Shuar nation in Ecuador, reminded reporters that “Indigenous peoples already protect 950 million hectares of land worldwide.” Affluent nations, he said, must “abandon extractivism and get the oil, mining and agribusiness companies out of our territories, and apply a holistic vision, combined with the vision of the Indigenous peoples.”

The Glasgow marchers’ goals were both necessary and achievable, but they knew all too well that fossilized COP summits have failed the world 25 times since 1995, and COP26 would be no different.

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Cop-26–Caught in a Net: Agriculture, Climate Change, and the Decarbonisation Agenda

COP26 – Caught in a Net: Agriculture, Climate Change, and the Decarbonisation Agenda

 

COP26 – Caught in a Net: Agriculture, Climate Change, and the Decarbonisation Agenda

COP26 – Caught in a Net: Agriculture, Climate Change, and the Decarbonisation Agenda

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th of its kind. After a Covid-related postponement, it was held this year in Glasgow, Scotland between October 31 and November 12. Dr Chris Maughan has been in Glasgow for the first week of the event and reflects on the links between ‘corporate greenwash’ and the ‘net zero’ agenda, as well as what this means for social movements seeking just and agroecological transitions. 


COP is a notoriously difficult process to grasp – is it genuinely a space of negotiation, or just political theatre? And where does it happen? Is it in the negotiating arena of the ‘Blue Zone’, or is it somewhere else? Should we look to the ‘fringe’ events, the streets, or even Twitter to follow its tangled process?

While some impressive noises have been coming out of the Blue Zone this week – commitments to halt deforestation and reduce methane emissions by 2030, for example – or even the $100bn per year of ‘Climate Aid’ promised (but not yet delivered) to the Global South – similarly attention-grabbing noises could also be heard outside these spaces, from social movements articulating their own visions of climate justice, or those emphatically rejecting the mainstream process.

As COP26 draws to a close, this blog offers some reflections on the fraught relationship between the mainstream process and the social movements, and what this means for the fight for a just and agroecological transition.

COP26: A ‘Greenwash festival’?

Even before the event kicked off, activists were already preparing to highlight the inevitable wave of greenwash that would envelop COP26, warning of undue influence of the corporate sector…

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Social innovation for a just transition to sustainability

Social innovation for a just transition to sustainability

At a time of climate emergency and rapid biodiversity loss, the need for transformation to a more sustainable economy and society becomes ever more urgent. Rapid change requires social innovations of different types and at different scales, Prof Fergus Lyon writes ahead of the #ISIRC2021 conference—a just transition cannot be a top-down endeavour but needs community level initiatives and actions.

©istcok.com/Orbon Alija

How can we address the climate and ecological emergency while also maintaining and improving wellbeing? CUSP work shows how the two elements cannot be separated, but it also requires social innovation that draws together diverse evidence, breaking down the silos of knowledge that hinder the development of policy and practice.

This is a focus within the International Social Innovation Research Conference (ISIRC) with a stream on social innovation in a time of climate and biodiversity emergency currently inviting paper abstracts and ideas for panels from around the world.

Social innovation and the development of novel practices, approaches and institutions is desperately needed. This is accentuated by the pandemic and widespread calls to build back better and build back fairer. Questions remain about the best processes of encouraging the required changes.

One of the key elements of such processes is to make sure that the transition is socially and economically just: we need to ensure that certain places are not unduly disadvantaged. This requires identification of the places most at risk from negative consequences—whether it’s communities, regions or nations; we also need to be sure to work with the industries that are particularly affected. The transition to low carbon economies is an opportunity to create ‘decent work’—i.e. more stable, healthy sources of employment; and CUSP has been working on the matter in a number of projects over the past five years.

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Morgan Stanley: “Climate Will Be A Key Driver Of Asset Prices In The Months And Years Ahead”

Morgan Stanley: “Climate Will Be A Key Driver Of Asset Prices In The Months And Years Ahead”

“Sunday Start”, authored by Morgan Stanley equity strategist, Jessica Alsford

In three weeks, the world’s leaders will begin to gather in Madrid for the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference. The intensity of the global climate strikes this year suggests that the proceedings will be scrutinized as never before. But the decisions made, or not made, will also have repercussions for global markets.

We’re transitioning towards a lower carbon economy, albeit at a slower pace than needed to stay within a two degrees Celsius climate scenario (2DS). For companies that can build offshore wind installations, develop electric vehicles and manufacture renewable diesels, we see potential for material earnings growth. In Decarbonisation: The Race to Net Zero, we estimated that more than US$50 trillion of capital will need to be deployed into renewables, EVs, hydrogen, biofuels and carbon capture and storage over the next 30 years, putting US$3-10 trillion of EBIT up for grabs.

Decarbonising electricity is the largest opportunity to reduce carbon emissions, with the power sector responsible for a quarter of global emissions. Strong renewables growth should be achievable given the significant improvements we’ve seen in solar and wind economics. But costs continue to constrain many other clean technologies, including battery storage, green hydrogen, CCS and biofuels.

If governments are serious about halting climate change, some form of stimulus will be needed.

Subsidies have already been key in industries like renewables. In the US, federal subsidies have helped to drive the transition to renewable energy, which rose from 14% of total power generation capacity in 2000 to 24% in 2018.

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Guest Post: Carbon emissions will reach 37 billion tonnes in 2018, a record high

Guest Post: Carbon emissions will reach 37 billion tonnes in 2018, a record high

Pep Canadell, CSIRO; Corinne Le Quéré, University of East Anglia; Glen Peters, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo; Robbie Andrew, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo, and Rob Jackson, Stanford University
Carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from fossil fuels and industry are projected to rise more than 2% (range 1.8% to 3.7%) in 2018, taking global fossil CO₂ emissions to a new record high of 37.1 billion tonnes.

The strong growth is the second consecutive year of increasing emissions since the 2014-16 period when emissions stabilised, further slowing progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement that require a peak in greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. Strong growth in emissions from the use of coal, oil and natural gas suggests CO₂ emissions are likely to increase further in 2019.

Strong energy demand is behind the rise in emissions growth, which is outpacing the speed at which decarbonisation of the energy system is taking place. Total energy consumption around the world increased by one sixth over the past decade, the result of a growing global middle class and the need to provide electricity to hundreds of millions of people living in poverty. The challenge, then, is for all nations to decarbonise their economies while also satisfying the need for energy, particularly in developing countries where continued growth in energy supply is needed.

These analyses are part of the new annual assessment of the Global Carbon Project (GCP), published today in three separate papers. The GCP brings together scientists who use climate and industrial data from around the world to develop the most comprehensive picture of the Earth’s sources and sinks of greenhouse gases.

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Our energy challenge in 6 eye-popping charts

Our energy challenge in 6 eye-popping charts

Renewable energy is winning and coal is on the skids. Disruption of the fossil fuel industry is well under way, and the global energy system is being decarbonised. We’re right on track, right?

To avoid dramatic climate system tipping points, the world needs to decarbonise very quickly and start drawing down the level of carbon in the atmosphere, because it’s already unsafe. As one dramatic example, in past periods when greenhouse levels were similar to the current level, temperatures were 3–6°C higher and sea levels around 25–40 metres higher than in 1900.

So climate warming is now an existential risk to human civilisation, that is, an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential. It is now too late for incremental, measured steps to protect what we care about. Winning slowly is now the same as losing.

So how are we going with our energy system? It is the predominant source of the dramatic human-caused rise in the level of greenhouse gases, which over the last century has increased 70 percent, from 280 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalent (ppm CO2e) to 480 ppm CO2e.

The question is pertinent, with the Guardian reporting last week, “Rise in global carbon emissions a ‘big step backwards’, says BP” on news that global electricity emissions rose 1.6% in 2017 after flatlining for the previous three years, despite renewable power generation growing by 17% last year, because “strong economic growth led to above-average energy demand, coal use bounced back in China and efficiency gains slowed down, causing emissions to jump”.

And there was this from China:

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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