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Metrics as a Proxy for Social Change: The Climate Cartel, Impact Funding, and the Abandonment of Struggle

Wrong Kind of Green Op-Ed

November 30, 2015

by Michael Swifte

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Metrics as a proxy for social change. That’s what the climate cartel trades in. What do metrics mean to the cartel? Funding. Impact philanthropy demands short time frames for outcomes and metrics to show what has happened in the messaging sphere. It’s an economy of attention aimed at behaviour change, false consciousness, and the enfeeblement of intellect. Money speaks most loudly in the messaging sphere. The struggle for peace, for an end to imperialism and the patriarchy, for true protection of the earth? These struggles, none of which can be abandoned, don’t optimise metrics or please the funder’s networks.

Yes. The climate cartel trades in metrics and messaging, and in the business of attention metrics amplification is the driver of innovation. But it is innovation within the constraints, party lines, omissions, and debilitating conflated logics passed down from the funders and their networks. The ambitious and self censoring go-getter devotes their intuition, their deeper senses to navigating their way to success, a success defined by the satisfaction of amplification lust. They give themselves to an horrendous discipline honed at the behest of the funders, their networks, and their many projects.

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The Non Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC) incubates a constantly expanding web of think tanks, institutes, NGOs, public thinkers, B corporations and media organs that serve to buttress the climate cartel’s messaging. They do much of this with silence, lines of inquiry best left alone, language that need not be unpacked lest some pointed questions get asked in the wrong places. They are blessed with amplification, access to the messaging sphere, and the certainty of support from allies within the NPIC including the liberal media.

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“Goldman Sachs to Invest $150B in Clean Energy by 2025” | Image credit: Goldman Sachs [Source]

Clean energy? This term is a euphemism happily embraced by the climate cartel and the liberal media. It’s used to mask the fact that ‘clean energy’ is an all-of-the-above strategy as long as some abatement/offsetting is involved.

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100% renewable energy.? While this is a popular catch cry promoted by the climate cartel and their associated social movements, it comes with limited articulation of the obstacles that need to be surpassed to achieve it. The climate cartel maintain a firm silence on the greatest threat to achieving 100% renewable energy, the embedding of carbon capture and storage as a mitigation strategy within the modelling and assumptions on which our carbon budgets are based. This is a particularly diabolical manipulation that has everyone including governments and fossil fuel corporations working towards a massive explosion in new industrial and energy generating fossil fuel plants supplying CO2 for industry and undersea storage.

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The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Stranded Assets Project, Carbon Tracker Initiative, and the Grantham Institute have all done their part to create a picture of a coal industry in structural decline, at risk of collapsing , and incapable of existing within our carbon budgets. Through their messaging they intimate that political will should see governments rejecting coal fired energy generation, but the reality is that they’ve done more than anyone to help develop a future for fossil fuels. The Grantham Institute is particularly important as it has developed and quietly disseminated plans for carbon capture and storage in the UK and Europe with their ‘Bridging the Gap’ report. While, the climate cartel lauded Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute for their ‘Unburnable Carbon’ report which established the idea of carbon budgets embraced by UN climate negotiators and fossil fuel industry leaders alike, they’ve stayed silent about the Grantham Institute’s material support for the ambitions of Shell and their plans for new gas plants and North Sea CO2 storage.

Unabated coal? There is a clear party line which is understood by the mainstream and liberal media along with the think tanks and NGO mouthpieces. It is aimed at masking the energy directions embedded in the modelling assumptions behind our carbon budgets – never unpack the political will for carbon capture and storage. UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd’s recent speech on a “new direction” for UK energy policy specified a commitment to phasing out “unabated coal”, yet the media interpreted this as a commitment to a complete coal phase out. My questions to key pundits and mouth pieces about why the word “unabated” was excluded from headlines and escaped examination were left unanswered. Some perfectly valid questions. Why did Amber Rudd specify unabated coal? Why did Chancellor George Osborne, just a week later, drop funding for carbon capture and storage in favour of nuclear power? The answer to both questions is that pushing hard with objectionable nuclear power helps manufacture consent for the negative emissions technologies that will keep fossil fuel interests happy. The classic neo-liberal push. Calling for ‘clean coal’ suddenly looks a lot more reasonable.

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The structure and organisation of the climate cartel can be compared to a toadstool. 350.org is the cap of the fruiting body, very visible, poisonous, and laden with spores, This Changes Everything (TCE); book, social movement, and documentary form the stalk expanding and reinforcing key messages, and TckTckTck/Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA) – a coalition of 20 key international organisations including Avaaz, WWF, and Greenpeace form the mycelium stretching vast distances and connecting to other fruiting bodies and other vast networks. The soil it has grown from is the NPIC with it’s phalanx of institutes and think tanks feigning care for the earth while plotting the future for the oligarchs..

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Susan Rockefeller, Co-Executive Producer of the “This Changes Everything” documentary film and founding partner of Louverture Films, LLC. Louverture is the production company for the documentary film “This Changes Everything” (with The Message Productions, LLC / Klein Lewis Productions ). Photo: Rockefeller at her home on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, New York, on Sept. 8, 2015. Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

The title of this piece derives from a talk ‘Does art change the world? Lessons from the emerging field of ‘impact producing” given by Katie McKenna the engagement lead for TCE. Her candid acknowledgements that the “foundations” did their“due diligence” in asking for proof of “social change” when considering funding, are quite telling. I am left with three key questions. How has the imperative to achieve significant and particular metrics shaped the project? Who stands to benefit from reducing centuries of struggle down to the imperative to reduce CO2 emissions?

 

Links:

Amber Rudd’s speech on a new direction for UK energy policy

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/amber-rudds-speech-on-a-new-direction-for-uk-energy-policy

TckTckTck: The Bitch is Back

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/11/28/tcktcktck-the-bitch-is-back/

Financing “The Message” Behind Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ Project

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/10/02/financing-the-message-behind-naomi-kleins-this-changes-everything-project/

Bridging the gap: improving the economic and policy framework for carbon capture and storage in the European Union

http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publication/bridging-the-gap-improving-the-economic-and-policy-framework-for-carbon-capture-and-storage-in-the-european-union/

Unburnable Carbon

http://carbontracker.live.kiln.it/Unburnable-Carbon-2-Web-Version.pdf

We Suspect Silence. Nobody gets paid to look at this stuff: Selling Us the Poison and the Remedy

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/nobody-gets-paid-to-look-at-this-stuff-selling-us-the-poison-and-the-remedy/

UK to close all coal power plants in switch to gas and nuclear

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/18/energy-policy-shift-climate-change-amber-rudd-backburner

 

Nobody gets paid to look at this stuff: Selling Us the Poison and the Remedy

We Suspect Silence

October 15, 2015

by empathiser

As long as the environmental movement stay silent or deny the new risks being created by any advance in carbon capture and storage, the bad guys win.

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Look at that, a high-profile BigGreen spokesperson posing with captains of industry and welcoming the UK’s great hope for decarbonisation. The Teesside Collective ‘industrial cluster’ requires a pipeline leading to another pipeline owned by the oil and gas companies that own the CO2 storage locations under the North Sea.

Emma Pinchbeck from WWF-UK has managed to stay silent on the risks of storage and continued mining as did Simon Bowens from FoE UK who welcomed the announcement of the Teesside Collective citing the need to “decarbonise” industry faster. Dustin Benton from the Green Alliance defends industrial decarbonisation against any criticism including the incalculable devastation from failed CO2 storage. Chris Littlecott from E3G played dumb.

“CO2 storage =/= nightmare” Dustin Benton, Green Alliance

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In the last few months I’ve continued interrogating the messaging around carbon capture and storage, and I’ve been putting out more content of my own showing the advancing political will. I’ve had the occasional conversation with BigGreen folk of varying stripes and as you can see I’ve tried to capture those conversations with screen grabs.

A notable example is Anthony Hobley, CEO of the Carbon Tracker Initiative who couldn’t help but comment in response to my questions about their relationship with the Grantham Institute and it’s Bridging the Gap report from June 2015. His response shows that a massive commitment to carbon capture and storage is a foundational assumption underpinning our carbon budgets whose legitimacy even big oil and gas CEOs are publicly acknowledging.

“in our 2013 Un-Burnable Carbon Report we take the IEAs idealised scenario for CCS. That is approximately 3800 CCS plants operating by 2050. This gives you 125GtCO2. This extends the 2ºC carbon budget by 12 to 14%. Basically buys you 14 years. It is far from a magic bullet.” Anthony Hobley, CEO Carbon Tracker Initiative

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The first CCS meme quoting a leader of any kind but not created by me appeared in August and was shared on Twitter by a range of CCS power plants, institutes/thinktanks and pundits. It confirms for me the primacy of IEA/Grantham/Potsdam Institute modeling in our carbon budgets. Third Way who created the meme were very happy with Obama’s ‘Clean Power Plan’.

No created by me.

In the memes below you can see explicit support for carbon capture and storage from the CEOs of some of the world’s most powerful fossil fuel companies.

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All three leading parties contesting the UK election in May 2015 had a commitment to carbon capture and storage in their manifestos while the Greens were mostly silent. Immediately after the election Ed Davey’s successor the new energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd was on the front foot. Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is in favour of CCS.

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Let’s get back to that Bridging the Gap report by the Grantham Institute. This is where the silence is deafening. I can find no one who will speak to it. It clearly favours gas CCS like Shell are planning at Peterhead with North Sea pipelines and storage as given.  The report says bio CCS or BECCS (imported wood pellets burned in place of coal) “should be a priority area of research”. Note: Shell has even raised the idea of a deep water port for imported CO2.

The Grantham Institute helped the Carbon Tracker Initiative develop ‘Unburnable Carbon’ back in 2013 with the help of the International Energy Agency and the Potsdam Institute. This established the language of carbon budgets and bubbles that is used by everyone from climate ‘justice’ activists to corporate CEOs. It’s a language that reflects nothing of the assumptions that underpin it.

It’s extremely disturbing that these two projects which both have a close connections to the London School of Economics have assigned the world its carbon budgets while simultaneously smoothing the path for a transformation fossil fuel use. While the elite climate campaigners worked closely with the Guardian to popularise #keepitintheground Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute were working to ensure the opposite. Those elite climate campaigners rarely, if ever, speak about CCS, BECCS, undersea storage, or pipelines accept to say CCS is unfeasible and anyway fossil fuels are on their way out.

“We will never reach negative emissions without CCS” Anonymous former IPCC Carbon Accountant

Nobody gets paid to look at this stuff. Everyone who knows their compartment knows not ask about risk or evidence or political will. Seems it’s safer to be silent….and it pays better.

The Climate Chief, the Summit, and the Silence

We Suspect Silence

May 20, 2015

by Michael Swifte

Last week Christiana Figueres spoke at the 2nd annual Australian Emissions Reduction Summit. While she did not include carbon capture and storage in the body of her speech she did take the opportunity during the Q&A section to speak to the importance of investment in fossil fuel based carbon capture and storage. Strangely her statements were in response to a question about the urgency of beginning “draw down” using “natural” methods including BioCCS.

Christiana Figueres' comments place her on record with the majority of energy secretaries, CEO's, and climate negotiation leaders as being in favour of expansion of CCS.

Given that fossil fuel based carbon capture, storage, and utilisation threatens to give fossil fools and rampant consumption a promising future, it’s worth asking who took notice of the climate chief’s comments and who met them with silence?

CO2 CRC is chaired by former Australian Resources and Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson.

Of the legions of staffers, public servants, and politicians who are traded with the mining, extraction, and energy generation industries in Australia, Martin Ferguson is clearly the highest profile. His controversial move to join the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association was followed early this year with his appointment as chair of leading carbon capture and storage research centre (which he opened as minister in 2008) CO2 CRC.

So who was silent? From what I can gather, everyone. Nothing from the BigGreen pundits, and the Guardian and Fairfax reported that the climate chief signaled an end for coal?

Here’s a link to the video of the UN chief’s address titled: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres’ address to the 2nd Australian Emissions Reduction Summit. Go to 44.50 for CCS comments.

UPDATE: Friday June 19, 2015

The Christiana Figueres CCS meme above was recently posted by @SaskPowerCCS I’m happy for them to use my meme without credit. They represent the only commercial CCS with CO2 for EOR complex in the world. Their enthusiastic support for the UNFCCC chief’s comments speaks volumes.

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To me it is clear that the UN climate chief’s comments were tailored for the people who know that the real game lies in the continuation of coal mining, and sucking oil and gas under the nebulous cloak of “clean energy”.