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The Unannounced Death of the Green New Deal: Part 1 – What Happened to the People’s Plan?

Wrong Kind of Green

September 11, 2020

By Michael Swifte

 

 

Is this a people’s plan or is this a process to get elected officials a policy in a timeline that will allow them to promote it around the 2020 election?

 

— John Washington speaking on behalf of Climate Justice Alliance to New Consensus and networks on 18 March 2019 [Source]

 

False Solutions continue to poison, displace, and imprison communities

 

Nuclear, fracking, “clean coal”, incineration and even prisons are offered as economic transition solutions to the climate crisis, but only continue to harm the health of people and the planet. The path of extracting, transporting, processing, and consuming these technologies is paved with communities riddled with cancer, reproductive and respiratory disease, among other devastating health impacts. These false solutions turn low-income communities, communities of color and indigenous communities into sacrifice zones. These do not move us toward a just transition.

 

Climate Justice Alliance, Just Transition Principles, 21 April 2017 [Source]

 

You could say that the Green New Deal died when the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force recommendations came through, or perhaps that was the moment we knew that the Jemez Principles  and the principles of a Just Transition had been abandoned more than a year before? Perhaps they were abandoned shortly after John Washington’s straight forward, perfectly articulated warning to New Consensus? Or perhaps they were abandoned as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey prepared the Green New Deal resolution with it’s “clean” and “net zero” language replacing the language of fossil fuel phase outs and 100% Renewables? Perhaps the Sunrise Movement, New Consensus, Justice Democrats and Data for Progress all fell in line with the net zero language of ruling class carbon accounts while paying lip service to fighting fossil fuels and pushing the advocates for First Nations and frontline communities further from the negotiating table?

I’ve looked and I’ve watched and I may be wrong, but it seems like the concerns of the Climate Justice Alliance fell off the map in March 2019 after they presented their position on the importance of observing the Jemez principles in the development of the Green New Deal to New Consensus and its connected networks. At some point between the first promises of a fossil fuel phase out and no new nuclear energy that were part of the notional Green New Deal endorsed by 350 dot org and 600+ of their NGO friends in January 2019, and the release of the Unity Task Force recommendations, any notion of actually centering-frontline-communities in the development of a Green New Deal were, it seems, abandoned. Not long after the Green New Deal Resolution was introduced on 7 February 2019, 350 dot org’s Julian Brave Noisecat took up a key position at Data for Progress whose September 2018 report on the Green New Deal more completely resembles the net zero language of “clean energy” rather than the phase out language of “100% Renewables”. The exact phrase Bria Viniate used in reference to the Ocasio-Cortez/Sunrise version of the Green New Deal in Vogue shortly before the November 2018 midterms is “100% Renewables”. The new phrase at the center of the Green New Deal after the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution is “100% clean, renewable and zero emissions”.

 

Key Documents

Jemez Principles: https://www.ejnet.org/ej/jemez.pdf

Just Transition Principles: https://climatejusticealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CJA_JustTransition_Principles_final_hi-rez.pdf

People of Color Environmental Justice: “Principles of Working Together” http://www.ejnet.org/ej/workingtogether.pdf

Green New Deal Resolution: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hres109/text

Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations: https://joebiden.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UNITY-TASK-FORCE-RECOMMENDATIONS.pdf

Data for Progress – Green New Deal Report: https://www.dataforprogress.org/green-new-deal/

Fake it until you make new plans?

19 November 2018 – January 10 2019

When First Nations groups like the Lakota Law Project celebrated the creation of a Green New Deal in November 2018 they did so after hearing Ocasio-Cortez tell of her experiences at Standing Rock and saying “we have to get to 100 percent renewable energy in 10 years”.

Now, we find ourselves in this struggle together. Every aspect of the Green New Deal must be implemented now.

 

Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota People’s Law Project lead counsel [SOURCE]

In December 2018 Climate Justice Alliance issued a statement that made it clear that it’s primary demand was that Green New Deal builders go to the grass roots and take direction from there.

The proposal for the GND was made public at the grasstops level. When we consulted with many of our own communities, they were neither aware of, nor had they been consulted about the launch of the GND.

 

Climate Justice Alliance [SOURCE]

In January of 2019 Climate Justice Alliance and Indigenous Environment Network made very clear the commitments that would need to be upheld to keep a Green New Deal functioning.

What we want to do is strengthen and center the Green New Deal in environmental justice communities that have both experience and lived history of confronting the struggle against fossil fuel industries,

 

Angela Adrar [SOURCE]

 

The way that the plan was developed and shared is one of its greatest weaknesses,

 

Angela Adrar [SOURCE]

One of the most significant statements, attributable to Angela Adrar, is hard to date. The comment appears in the Green New Deal section of the CJA website but I could not find it in any published documents. It contains a dire warning about “Net Zero” and the burden that will be felt by frontline communities.

 

Allowing for neoliberal constructs such as Net Zero emissions, which equate carbon emission offsets and technology investments with real emissions reductions at source, would only exacerbate existing pollution burdens on frontline communities.

 

Angela Adrar [SOURCE]

On the eve of the release of the letter to congress from 626 environmental groups including 350 dot org Tom Goldtooth from Indigenous Environment Network reaffirmed the need for Green New Deal proponents to engage under the appropriate principles.

We’re asking that leadership of the Green New Deal meet with us and have a discussion how we can strengthen this campaign with the participation of the communities most impacted.

 

Tom Goldtooth [SOURCE]

Speaking upon the release of the letter of 626 groups and in reference to the input from IEN and CJA, Goldtooth indicated that commitment to “real solutions” were hard won. It’s important to note that at the time of the release of this letter Ocasio-Cortez was on record supporting “100% Renewables” having tweeted a call for a “wartime-level” mobilization in a January 2, 2019 tweet. [LINK]

Of course, we really had to assert ourselves on different issues that are very dear to us on seeking real solutions to mitigate climate change.

 

Tom Goldtooth

 

Goldtooth goes on to make it very clear that “real solutions” do not include carbon capture utilization and storage.

The techno fixes are very critical as well. In our analysis, it’s part of the false solutions. Carbon capture and storage, for an example, the technology is still being tested out there, concerns around leakage, and a lot of the private sector, the polluters, will benefit now, only to find out that there’s complications, and really justifying the offset regimes that happen in this scenario to where carbon capture and storage just isn’t working. Carbon capture use and storage and these other areas are very critical concerns with us. We have formed solidarity with other entities that have been addressing this issue as well. And so, we’re very thankful to all the other green groups, the six hundred and twenty some signatures, that they stand with us in looking for real solutions. [SOURCE]

Below is a key passage from the strongly aspirational letter of the 626 groups, January 10, 2019. The claims within have been rendered into empty promises since the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution. More than a dozen bipartisan bills aimed at expanding fossil fuel extraction are making their way through congress. Bills designed; to expand the refining and use of fossil fuels through 45Q tax credits & modifications to the tax code; develop pipeline corridors; provide support and funding for R&D; and enable the use of financial instruments like private activity bonds. Scarce little has been done by Green New Deal Resolution cosponsors, proponent NGOs or climate justice and progressive NGOs to fight against the bipartisan 45Q bills or indeed in support of the solitary bill designed to eliminate the 45Q tax credit, the End Polluter Welfare Act 2020.

Further, we will vigorously oppose any legislation that: (1) rolls back existing environmental, health, and other protections, (2) protects fossil fuel and other dirty energy polluters from liability, or (3) promotes corporate schemes that place profits over community burdens and benefits, including market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage,nuclear power, waste-to-energy and biomass energy. [Source]

The resolution and the handover to Democrat apparatchiks

4 February 2019 – 18 March 2019

Julian Brave Noisecat was able to see and respond to the language of the Green New Deal resolution before it was introduced. On February 4, 2019 Noisecat made comments published in Politico that show him attempting to bridge the contradiction between fighting for a fossil fuel phase out and fighting for net-zero.

 The language I read was clean, renewable, zero emissions — which is that ‘keep the door open’ approach,” said Julian NoiseCat, policy director with the climate group 350.org, adding that his organization pressed Ocasio-Cortez to include a statement requiring the phase-out of fossil fuels. [SOURCE]

 Noisecat made his comment while he was still employed by 350 dot org. Within a couple of months he would become the Director of Green New Deal Strategy with Data for Progress. While 350 dot org, in theory, still support a fossil fuel phase out, Data for Progress have always used the language as it appeared in the GND resolution. There is nothing that Data for Progress are doing or have done that is strategically supporting a fossil fuel phase out. As reported on January 18, 2019 a few weeks before the GND resolution was published, Greg Carlock, a key author of the Data for Progress – Green New Deal Report published in September 2018, thinks carbon capture utilization and storage is inevitable.

There is no scenario produced by the IPCC or the UN where we hit mid-century decarbonization without some kind of carbon capture.

Carlock also works for the World Resources Institute (WRI) as Manager for Climate Action and Data. WRI have never been committed to phasing out fossil fuels or building 100% renewables.

 

It is firmly understood that going 100 percent renewable in 10 years is technically impossible—like, physically and engineering-wise, it is impossible, [SOURCE] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/01/first-fight-about-democrats-climate-green-new-deal/580543/

In testimony to the House Resources Committee on February 6, 2019, at a hearing titled: ‘Climate Change: The Impacts and the Need to Act’, Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of Uprose and steering committee co-chair of Climate Justice Alliance reiterated the need for a just transition.

VIDEO: The House Committee on Natural Resources hosted the hearing “Climate Change: The Impacts and the Need to Act”:

 

To effectively tackle climate change, we must invest in a Just Transition toward specifically local, living economies of scale.

 

Just Transition is a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy – not just for workers but for whole communities. This means approaching production and consumption cycles holistically and waste-free.

 

This transition away from fossil fuels itself must be just and equitable, redressing past harms and creating new relationships of power for the future through reparations, living wage jobs and economic and social development that aims to address historical harm and discrimination. If the process of transition is not just, the outcome will never be. [Source]

An FAQ document that was apparently released in error on February 7, 2019 in advance of the introduction of the Green New Deal Resolution shows that the team formulating the resolution were cognisant of the implications of the change in language from “100% Renewables” to “100% clean and renewable” or “clean, renewable and zero-emission energy” which became the specific language in the resolution.

 

 Why 100% clean and renewable and not just 100% renewable? Are you saying we won’t transition off fossil fuels?

 

Yes, we are calling for a full transition off fossil fuels and zero greenhouse gases. Anyone who has read the resolution sees that we spell this out through a plan that calls for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from every sector of the economy. [SOURCE: Green New Deal FAQ Fact Sheet, February 7, 2019]

 

On February 7, 2019 Indigenous Environment Network released their ‘talking points’ on the Green New Deal resolution offering an instant rejection of the “net-zero” language.

The primary goal of the AOC-Markey Green New Deal (GND) Resolution is to “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions”. We reject net-zero emissions language (as well as carbon neutral and zero-carbon) because it implies the use of carbon accounting that includes various types of carbon pricing systems, offsets and/or Payments for Ecological Services (PES).

 

We can no longer leave any options for the fossil fuel industry to determine the economic and energy future of this country. And until the Green New Deal can be explicit in this demand as well as closing the loop on harmful incentives, we cannot fully endorse the resolution. [SOURCE]

In response to the release of the Green New Deal resolution the Indigenous Environment Network released a statement on February 8, 2019. In it they make very clear their position on nuclear energy and their concerns stemming from the door being left open for nuclear in the resolution language.

The Green New Deal (GND) resolutio[n], as it is written right now, with no exclusion of nuclear energy to be considered clean energy, would open the door for Yucca Mountain to be reconsidered for dumping the nuclear energy waste. It would create the largest nuclear waste transportation campaign in history, possibly endangering residents in 44 states, thousands of towns and cities, and our Indigenous territories. [SOURCE]

It’s clear from Ed Markey’s dismissive statements at a press conference on February 11, 2019 unveiling the Green New Deal Resolution that there was a clear break in language of and the responsibility for the Green New Deal. His responses suppose that moderate Democrats should be kept happy. At the same moment First Nations and frontline advocates were clearly unhappy.

We’ve drafted it in a way that can get the support of progressives and moderates inside our caucus.

 

Ed Markey

 

That’s what you should focus on. Focus on the resolution.

 

Ed Markey [SOURCES]

The language of the resolution itself calls for the exercise of the same values enshrined in the Jemez principles.

in transparent and inclusive consultation, collaboration, and partnership with frontline and vulnerable communities, labor unions, worker cooperatives, civil society groups, academia, and businesses. [SOURCE]

In her February 13, 2019 piece for The Intercept following the introduction of the GND resolution Naomi Klein did not mention the disappearance of a fossil fuel phase out or note the change in language.  If 350 had pressed Ocasio-Cortez on a phase out like Noisecat says, you would think it ought to be mentioned by 350’s leading light? Klein instead called for vigilance and ensuring responsiveness to pressure from frontline communities.

The Green New Deal will need to be subject to constant vigilance and pressure from experts who understand exactly what it will take to lower our emissions as rapidly as science demands, and from social movements that have decades of experience bearing the brunt of false climate solutions, whether nuclear power, the chimera of carbon capture and storage, or carbon offsets. [SOURCE]

By mid March 2019 the Climate Justice Alliance were pushed to the point where they felt they had to ask some questions about the values held by New Consensus: Who funds it? and, To whom is it accountable?

To this end, in order for us to continue in this process, we have four clear demands:

 

  1. Include both the Jemez Principles and the Environmental Justice Principles of Working Together in all work stemming from this gathering and forthcoming;

 

  1. Disclose and maintain transparency in funding sources, current and emerging, and commit that funding directly to those most impacted, including frontline and base-building organizing groups, alliances and networks for the development of policy priorities and language;

 

  1. Clearly outline who New Consensus is accountable to and who it works for; and why is there redundancy, going into communities where work is already being done when the country is vast and there are so many other places where there isn’t yet consensus;

 

  1. Commit to New Consensus’ participation in a strategy meeting with CJA and allied frontline partners in order to move our collective conversation and possible relationship forward, we would ask that a MOA be entered into between New Consensus and CJA frontlines.[SOURCE]

John Washington presented his strident arguments to new Consensus and GND partners on March 18, 2019 following the reading of the CJA statement by Miya Yoshitani. Robinson Meyer reported in The Atlantic in June 2019 that “difficulties came to a head” that day, but he did not specify which 2 activists raised issues.

The meeting was bumpy from the first hour, when two environmental-justice activists interrupted proceedings to protest the absence of the Climate Justice Alliance, a national network of urban, rural, and indigenous groups. The alliance had been asked to endorse the Green New Deal, but it had not been asked to help write it, the activists charged.

 

But one of the major demands the environmental-justice activists raised at the meeting has gone publicly unanswered. They asked a simple question: Who’s funding New Consensus? [SOURCE]

The Series

In Part 2 of this series I will look more closely at the negative impacts of marginalizing First Nations, frontline and grass roots voices, and how the fuzzy “clean” language of the Green New Deal Resolution left room for all the Democratic presidential hopefuls to capitalise on climate and justice issues, even when their real commitments would put them at odds with a fossil fuel phase out or 100% renewables.

In Part 3 I will look in depth at the neglected battlefields in stopping fossil fuel extraction including the bipartisan bills supporting expansion of the already misused 45Q tax credit making their way through congress, and the forces lining up to profit from the absence of any real commitment to eliminating fossil fuel subsidies from the DNC through the Progressive Caucus and onto the Green New Deal proponents.

Conclusion

Angela Adrar observed that the way the grass roots component of the Green New Deal was developed is its “greatest weakness” and that the “grasstops” announcement of the Green New Deal concept was not preceded by consultation with grass roots networks. We should keep this in mind whenever we think about the Green New Deal. We may never discover what happened after the March 2019 New Consensus meeting, but we do know there is an enormous responsibility on the shoulders of any honest brokers to redress the relationships compromised in the process of delivering policies for Democrat presidential hopefuls.

We should take as a warning and a lesson the words of Mark Charles at the Native American Presidential Forum in August 2019 as reported by Julian Brave Noisecat.

Now, if you have a house that’s built on a bad foundation, you’re going to get cracks in your walls. You’re going to get gaps in your windows. And you’re going to get a creaky floor,” he said, his oration reaching its soaring conclusion. “And you can scream and you can fight about what color to paint the walls, what kind of calking to use in your windows, and what kind of carpet to put on your floor, but until you go into the basement and examine your foundation and do something to firm those up and make those strong—you are never going to fix the problems in the house.” The audience cheered. Some women who had been cautious with their lele’s earlier really let loose.” [SOURCE]

 

[Michael Swifte is an Australian activist and a member of the Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective.]

Perfect Distractions and Fantastical Mitigation Plans

Perfect Distractions and Fantastical Mitigation Plans

October 19, 2019

By Michael Swifte

 

 

 

The recent UN Climate Action Summit in New York delivered both spectacle and much ignored signifiers of political will. I would say it was a failure in terms of any meaningful or effective action to deliver anything like a fossil fuel phase out. At the centre of the spectacle was Greta Thunberg, the perfect distraction, urging us to honour Paris targets, recognise ‘the science’ and act on climate. Greta laments inaction from world leaders like most of us do – this is a continuing theme. And like most of us, Greta sees inaction as a result of the political will failing to deliver on decades of rhetoric. Sadly though, the mitigation plans of the powerful, the key signifiers of political will for continued relentless extractivism never enter the public conversation.

Perfect distractions come with talking points and bring framing to the issue they come to embody. Like the Extinction Rebellion leaders, and Green New Deal proponents, Greta, under advice from a range of experts, leaves the fantastical assumptions in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) mitigation plans well alone. Kevin Anderson, who has given Greta advice in the past, despairs at the “technical utopias”, unfathomable quantities of biomass burning, and as-yet-not-invented air capture machines that fill three of the four IPCC mitigation ‘pathways’. I’m astonished that even the one pathway commissioned by the IPCC that could be called a ‘degrowth’ pathway is also rarely discussed.

While the IPCC present fantastical mitigation plans supposedly representing the global consensus but with little basis in reality; the statements, networking activities, and research & development investments of fossil fuel giants tell another story. Events held, messages provided, and statements released during the UN Climate Action Summit show that the oil and gas industry are getting exactly what they want. Relentless extractivism in service of the consumer economy was the big winner around which climate action plans will be built.

Political will and the UN Climate Action Summit

On September 22, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) met for a dinner at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Emily Atkin reported on this event in her ‘Heated’ newsletter providing a transcript of a message presented by the Special Adviser to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The transcript of Guterres’ message is the primary source for a significant moment. It wasn’t till the next day, the same day Greta was giving her “how dare you” speech that the substance of the OGCI mitigation plans was revealed.

Chris Lang from Redd-Monitor laid out how the summit failed saying “Obviously, none of the “action plans” involved leaving any fossil fuel in the ground.”, and noting that the OGCI also support the #NaturalClimateSolutions (NCS) campaign promoted by George Monbiot and Greta Thunberg.

The International Energy Agency’s Clean Energy Ministerial made public an embargoed media release from the OGCI at 12.01am on September 23 announcing their “Kickstarter” initiative in partnership with the OGCI to “unlock large scale investment” in CCUS with an emphasis on “low carbon industrial hubs” for CO2 export. [SOURCE]

Oil and Gas Climate Initiative

Oil and Gas Climate Initiative

 

On September 19, just in time for the summit George Monbiot and Greta Thunberg became spokesfaces for #NaturalClimateSolutions on the Guardian News, YouTube channel.

Stephen Corry from Survival International responded to the new video in worthy style pointing to the corporate relationships and big philanthropy behind the hashtag. In a September 20 Twitter thread, Corry takes Monbiot to task pointing to corporations that partner with the Big Conservation NGOs behind the NCS campaign.

On September 21, International Day of Struggle Against Monoculture Tree Plantations, Gary Graham Hughes from Biofuelwatch and Souparna Lahiri from Global Forest Coalition sounded a warning to Greta and those who would meet under the banner of #NatureBasedSolutions at the summit. They made their position, a challenge to Greta and summit attendees very clear saying “Acres of monoculture plantations, bioenergy, and offsets are false solutions – bad for climate, undermining real solutions and bad for humanity.”

On September 26, Cory Morningstar published her detailed write up of the the extensive networks behind #NaturalClimateSolutions. The networks explicated demonstrate the deep connections between the corporate world, big conservation, environmental NGOs, media, governments and the global consensus apparatus of the United Nations.

Any well resourced emissions wonk at the summit would have known what the fossil fools want to do. Our global corporate energy leaders reveal certain details of their plans and they have to spruik their plans to particular people in particular ways. I suspect they’re grateful for the lack of scrutiny from the mainstream media and the NGO aligned press who routinely fail to report or unpack the political will.

When the Atlantic Council hosted the 2019 Global Energy Forum in January, it was made very plain that CCS was necessary for any future energy plans. A panel discussion included representatives of the International Energy Agency, OGCI, Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, The Institute of Energy Economics-Japan, and Saudi Aramco. Saudi Aramco’s Chief Technology Officer, Ahmad Al Khowaiter, made a statement at this panel discussion that really stuck out for me. “CO2 is a valuable feedstock, we should not forget that”. It’s a statement that acknowledges a barely understood reality: the oil industry has retained latent demand for liquefied CO2 for decades. [SOURCE]

It stands to reason that the oil industry would fight to access liquefied CO2 as the best means to do enhanced oil recovery to get the last remaining drops of oil from depleted oil fields and get paid a subsidy to sequester CO2 in the process. The global consumer market demands throughput of oil for the full range of products derived from oil, not merely the transport fuel products.

National Defense Authorization Act

On April 10, I watched the C-SPAN live stream of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) as it met to discuss and vote on the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies Act (USE IT Act). The USE IT Act is crucial to the expansion of the 45Q tax credit which is an effective subsidy for CO2 enhanced oil recovery and the full gamut of carbon capture and storage projects including ‘clean coal’ and ‘clean hydrogen’.

The meeting began with chair John Barrasso outlining the purpose of the meeting before offering an opportunity for members to comment on the bills before the committee. Ranking member Tom Carper spoke to the bills before John Barrasso called a recess so that Democrat members could make quorum at which point Tom Carper said “I’ve asked my staff to reach out far and wide to get as many  Democrats here as quickly as we can so thank you for your patience.”

While C-SPAN may provide livestreamed content, the archive of video, audio and transcripts available on the their website is subject to the discretion of the individual committee chairs. The EPW committee did not provide video to the C-SPAN archive preferring to post an edited video to their YouTube channel and archived webcast on their website. They did however provide audio of the complete proceedings of the April 10 meeting. [C-SPAN audio] [Archived webcast]

In April, a WKOG member called the EPW Committee office to check the attendance records for both the February 27 and April 10 meetings. They discovered that on February 27, three of the Green New Deal cosponsors were in attendance, but Bernie Sanders was absent. None of the three Green New Deal cosponsors spoke to the USE IT Act on February 27. On April 10, all four Green New Deal cosponsors were absent. This means that Bernie Sanders was absent for both meetings. Was the absence of the four Green New Deal cosponsors the cause of the recess called by John Barrasso at the April 10 meeting? Were the four Green New Deal Resolution cosponsors absent to manufacture the eventual unanimous vote for the USE IT Act?

On June 27, the USE IT Act passed the Senate 86 votes to 8 as part of S. 1790 National Defense Authorization Act 2020. The four Green New Deal cosponsors, Ed Markey, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders voted against the bill.

In an amendment to S. 1790 before it was voted up in the House of Representatives on September 17, Sec. 6001 which contained the USE IT Act provisions was removed.

[SOURCE]

On August 30, the Carbon Capture Coalition sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services asking that USE IT Act provisions be included as an amendment to HR. 2500. National Defense Authorization Act 2020.

It is time to pass this important and widely-supported climate and energy legislation, and the NDAA provides an appropriate opportunity to do so.

[SOURCE][SOURCE]

The vote on the House of Representatives NDAA will likely take place on November 20 or 21.

If the USE IT Act provisions pass then it will unleash an unstoppable wave of CCUS projects including fossil hydrogen projects and CO2 enhanced oil recovery projects. The success of the USE IT Act provisions will ensure the success of the 9+ bipartisan bills designed to deliver R&D, new pipelines and a raft of bureaucratic measures to support the implementation of 45Q tax credits. Cory Morningstar outlines most of these bills in her detailed investigation into the ‘Design to Win’ philanthropies.

Mitigation plans and technology

The truth about the mitigation plans of the powerful is masked in the public discourse by language, conflated logics and expansive silence. The political will that has been demonstrated for carbon capture and storage for fossil fuel extraction and refining should be held in contrast to the ‘pathways’ developed through the global consensus building processes of the IPCC.

Three of the four IPCC pathways rely heavily on what are called ‘negative emissions technologies’ (NETs). The ‘technology’ on which the IPCC rely most heavily is called BECCS, or biomass with CCS applied. Biomass is currently being used in Europe in place of coal, and is regarded by some as a ‘renewable energy’. Biomass is used as an offset against emissions created when it is burned in place of coal as it is regarded to have sequestered carbon when it was part of a plant. When you read articles about renewable energy beating out fossil fuel energy in the UK or Germany, you can be sure biomass offsets helped. The implementation of BECCS will require access to geological storage of CO2, the preserve of fossil fuel extraction companies like Equinor, Chevron, Woodside and Shell.

A ‘negative emissions technology’ is not a technology as such, but rather it is a collection of processes that upon the application of certain accounting can be said to have produced zero emissions. Geological storage of CO2 is a crucial process in transforming biomass burning into a negative emissions technology. If any implementation of the IPCC pathways were to take place any time soon then access to geological storage of CO2 would be absolutely necessary for BECCS to be effective.

On September 5, the Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy Kjell-Borge Freiburgh called for “international support” to amend the London Protocol to allow for under sea geological storage and export infrastructure to support the implementation of CCS. The full title of the London Protocol is the ‘London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter’. It is an international agreement to assist in making regional agreements. Amendments to the London Protocol have long been seen as the last regulatory hurdle to large scale under sea storage of CO2. [SOURCE]

The IPCC has three working groups covering three key areas: science and carbon budgets, social and ecological impacts, and mitigation. As observed by Kevin Anderson on Twitter, Greta Thunberg does not speak about the mitigation pathways presented by Working Group 3 on mitigation, rather she focusses on Working Group 1 on “physical science”. Having followed the discourse on mitigation pathways following Thelma Krug’s unheralded presentation at last year’s GHGT-14 conference in Melbourne, I can say with certainty that none of the four pathways have ever been discussed by XR leaders, Greta Thunberg or Green New Deal proponents. Indeed, the climate justice friendly media mouthpieces have rarely if ever examined the IPCC pathways.

[SOURCE: Thelma Krug]

Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change, holding a joint chair in the School of Engineering at the University of Manchester and in Centre for Sustainability and the Environment at Uppsala University

Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change, holding a joint chair in the School of Engineering at the University of Manchester and in the Centre for Sustainability and the Environment at Uppsala University

 

One of the unexamined pathways presented by the IPCC Working Group 3 is called P.1. or Grubler et al ‘Low Energy Demand’ scenario, which is the only degrowth scenario they provide. Grubler LED is also the only scenario/pathway not reliant on BECCS. Jason Hickel writing in Real-World Economics Review outlines degrowth as a radical and positive strategy for tackling climate targets. It is highly significant that so very little has been said about the Grubler LED pathway as it is the only pathway that provides any opportunity to deliver a fossil fuel phase out, which is, at least through suggestion, a principle objective of all climate justice groups including XR leaders and Green New Deal proponents.

People should study what Kevin Anderson has to say about IPCC scenarios. He is very concerned about the abundance of negative emissions technologies. He can’t see how the three BECCS and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) ‘technologies’ can deliver enough mitigation in time. In a video entitled ‘Delivering on 2 degrees,’ he notes that the IPCC scenario data base is loaded with NETs reliant scenarios.

In his response to the UK government’s “net zero” proposal following its declaration of a ‘climate emergency,’ makes it very clear that the fantastical quantities of BECCS and reliance on undeveloped air capture machines were already damaging the possibility of decisive action.   

Already the tentative potential of NETs is being used to undermine the requirement for immediate and widespread decarbonisation, passing further unacceptable burdens and risks onto the next generation.

[SOURCE]

Shortly after announcing a ‘climate emergency’ the UK’s Committee on Climate Change indicated that they would much prefer to produce ‘clean’ hydrogen from steam reforming LNG than through renewable energy and electrolysis with water. Steam reforming is a process where fossil gas is coverted into hydrogen and other gases producing a stream of pure liquefied CO2 for enhanced oil and gas recovery, geological storage or other commercial applications. Clearly the renewable option was being discarded by the Committee on Climate Change, but this was not a concern for the XR leaders who don’t appear to be doing what it takes to keep fossil fuels in the ground.  

Our scenarios assume that hydrogen production at scale is done via gas-reforming with CCS rather than electrolysis

[SOURCE]

Here is a remarkable interview with the Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 4 (on mitigation) of the IPCC AR6 Special Report, Heleen de Coninck. It is remarkable because it reveals how the language and framing of technologies and extractive processes has shifted around carbon capture and storage over several IPCC reports. The interviewer was compelled to ask a rather absurd sounding question that highlights how IPCC reports have framed and reframed technologies and extractive processes in producing mitigation scenarios.

Ah, so you’re saying in AR3, CCS was still weird?

[SOURCE]

Rob Urie is one of the few writers to take an honest look at the technologies that the IPCC modelling requires. I think this is one of the most important pieces of writing that any informed person can read to understand where we are right now and where we are likely to be heading in the near future.

Three of the four scenarios to keep the rise in global temperatures at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius presented by the IPCC in their 2018 paper require ‘negative emissions’ technologies—methods of actively removing carbon from the atmosphere. Some of these, like reforestation, are superficially attractive to the environmentally inclined. The problems come both through the fine print and the focus on climate rather than the environment.

 

 

[Michael Swifte is an Australian activist and a member of the Wrong Kind of Green critical thinking collective.]

 

 

 

 

 

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