Month: August 2018

Scientists Warn the UN of Capitalism’s Imminent Demise #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #EndCoal #Divest #ClimateChange #ClimateCrisis @aistbuzz #Neoliberalism is a Ponzi scheme

A climate change-fueled switch away from fossil fuels means the worldwide economy will fundamentally need to change.

Image: Shutterstock

Capitalism as we know it is over.

So suggests a new report commissioned by a group of scientists appointed by the UN Secretary-General.

The main reason?

We’re transitioning rapidly to a radically different global economy, due to our increasingly unsustainable exploitation of the planet’s environmental resources.

Climate change and species extinctions are accelerating even as societies are experiencing rising inequality, unemployment, slow economic growth, rising debt levels, and impotent governments. Contrary to the way policymakers usually think about these problems, the new report says that these are not really separate crises at all.

Rather, these crises are part of the same fundamental transition to a new era characterized by inefficient fossil fuel production and the escalating costs of climate change.

Conventional capitalist economic thinking can no longer explain, predict, or solve the workings of the global economy in this new age, the paper says.

Energy shift

Those are the stark implications of a new scientific background paper prepared by a team of Finnish biophysicists.

The team from the BIOS Research Unit in Finland were asked to provide research that would feed into the drafting of the UN Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), which will be released in 2019.

For the “first time in human history,” the paper says, capitalist economies are “shifting to energy sources that are less energy efficient.” This applies to all forms of energy. Producing usable energy (“exergy”) to keep powering “both basic and non-basic human activities” in industrial civilisation “will require more, not less, effort.”

“Economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle the waste generated by energy and material use”

The amount of energy we can extract, compared to the energy we are using to extract it, is decreasing “across the spectrum—unconventional oils, nuclear and renewables return less energy in generation than conventional oils, whose production has peaked—and societies need to abandon fossil fuels because of their impact on the climate,” the paper states.

The shift to renewables might help solve the climate challenge, but for the foreseeable future will not generate the same levels of energy as cheap, conventional oil.

In the meantime, our hunger for energy is driving what the paper refers to as “sink costs.” The greater our energy and material use, the more waste we generate, and so the greater the environmental costs. Though they can be ignored for a while, eventually those environmental costs translate directly into economic costs as it becomes more difficult to ignore their impacts on our societies.

And the biggest “sink cost,” of course, is climate change:

“Sink costs are also rising; economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle the waste generated by energy and material use. Climate change is the most pronounced sink cost,” the paper states.

The paper’s lead author, Dr. Paavo Järvensivu, is a “biophysical economist”—an emerging type of economist exploring the role of energy and materials in fuelling economic activity.

The BIOS paper suggests that much of the political and economic volatility we have seen in recent years has a root cause in ecological crisis. As the ecological and economic costs of industrial overconsumption continue to rise, the constant economic growth we have become accustomed to is now in jeopardy. That, in turn, has exerted massive strain on our politics.

But the underlying issues are still unacknowledged and unrecognised by most policymakers.

“We live in an era of turmoil and profound change in the energetic and material underpinnings of economies. The era of cheap energy is coming to an end,” the paper says.

Conventional economic models, the Finnish scientists note, “almost completely disregard the energetic and material dimensions of the economy.”

“More expensive energy doesn’t necessarily lead to economic collapse,” Järvensivu told me. “Of course, people won’t have the same consumption opportunities, there’s not enough cheap energy available for that, but they are not automatically led to unemployment and misery either.”

The scientists refer to the pioneering work of systems ecologist Professor Charles Hall of the State University of New York with economist Professor Kent Klitgaard from Wells College. Earlier this year, Hall and Klitgaard released an updated edition of their seminal book, Energy and the Wealth of Nations: An Introduction to BioPhysical Economics.

Hall and Klitgaard are highly critical of mainstream capitalist economic theory, which they say has become divorced from some of the most fundamental principles of science. They refer to the concept of ‘Energy Return on Investment’ (EROI) as a key indicator of the shift into a new age of difficult energy. EROI is a simple ratio that measures how much energy we use to extract more energy.

“For the last century, all we had to do was to pump more and more oil out of the ground,” say Hall and Klitgaard. Decades ago, fossil fuels had very high EROI values—a little bit of energy allowed us to extract large amounts of oil, gas and coal.

But as I’ve previously reported for Motherboard, this is no longer the case. Now we’re using more and more energy to extract smaller quantities of fossil fuels. Which means higher production costs to produce what we need to keep the economy rolling. The stuff is still there in the ground—billions of barrels worth to be sure, easily enough to fry the climate several times over.

But it’s harder and more expensive to get out. And the environmental costs of doing so are rising dramatically, as we’ve caught a glimpse of with this summer’s global heatwave.

These costs are not recognised by capitalist markets. They literally cannot be seen by prevailing economic models.

“We face a form of capitalism that has hardened its focus to short-term profit maximization with little or no apparent interest in social good.”

Earlier in August, billionaire investor Jeremy Grantham—who has a track record of consistently calling financial bubbles—released an update to his April 2013 analysis, ‘The Race of Our Lives.’

The new paper, ‘The Race of Our Lives Revisited,’ provides a bruising indictment of contemporary capitalism’s complicity in the ecological crisis. Grantham’s verdict is that “capitalism and mainstream economics simply cannot deal with these problems,” namely, the systematic depletion of planetary ecosystems and environmental resources:

“The replacement cost of the copper, phosphate, oil, and soil—and so on—that we use is not even considered. If it were, it’s likely that the last 10 or 20 years (for the developed world, anyway) has seen no true profit at all, no increase in income, but the reverse,” he wrote.

Efforts to account for these so-called ‘externalities’ by calculating their actual costs have been well-meaning, but have had negligible impact on the actual operation of capitalist markets.

In short, according to Grantham, “we face a form of capitalism that has hardened its focus to short-term profit maximization with little or no apparent interest in social good.”

Yet for all his prescience and critical insights, Grantham misses the most fundamental factor in the great unravelling in which we now find ourselves: the transition to a low EROI future in which we simply cannot extract the same levels of energy and material surplus that we did decades ago.

Many experts believe we’re moving past capitalism, but they disagree on what the ultimate outcome will be. In his book Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, British economics journalist Paul Mason theorises that information technology is paving the way for the emancipation of labour by reducing the costs of knowledge production—and potentially other kinds of production that will be transformed by AI, blockchain, and so on—to zero. Thus, he says, will emerge a utopian ‘postcapitalist’ age of mass abundance, beyond the price system and rules of capitalism.

It sounds peachy, but Mason completely ignores the colossal, exponentially increasing physical infrastructure for the ‘internet-of-things.’ His digital uprising is projected to consume evermore vast quantities of energy (as much as one-fifth of global electricity by 2025), producing 14 percent of global carbon emissions by 2040.

Toward a new economic operating system

Most observers, then, have no idea of the biophysical realities pointed out in the background paper commissioned by the UN Secretary-General’s IGS—that the driving force of the transition to postcapitalism is the decline of what made ‘endless growth capitalism’ possible in the first place: abundant, cheap energy.

The UN’s Global Sustainable Development Report is being drafted by an independent group of scientists (IGS) appointed by the UN Secretary-General. The IGS is supported by a range of UN agencies including the UN Secretariat, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the UN Environment Programme, the UN Development Programme, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the World Bank.

The paper, co-authored by Dr Järvensivu with the rest of the BIOS team, was commissioned by the UN’s IGS specifically to feed into the chapter on ‘Transformation: the Economy.’ Invited background documents are used as the basis of the GSDR, but what ends up in the final report will not be known until the final report is released next year.

“No widely applicable economic models have been developed specifically for the upcoming era”

Overall, the paper claims that we have moved into a new, unpredictable and unprecedented space in which the conventional economic toolbox has no answers. As slow economic growth simmers along, central banks have resorted to negative interest rates and buying up huge quantities of public debt to keep our economies rolling. But what happens after these measures are exhausted? Governments and bankers are running out of options.

“It can be safely said that no widely applicable economic models have been developed specifically for the upcoming era,” write the Finnish scientists.

Having identified the gap, they lay out the opportunities for transition.

In this low EROI future, we simply have to accept the hard fact that we will not be able to sustain current levels of economic growth. “Meeting current or growing levels of energy need in the next few decades with low-carbon solutions will be extremely difficult, if not impossible,” the paper finds. The economic transition must involve efforts “to lower total energy use.”

Key areas to achieve this include transport, food, and construction. City planning needs to adapt to the promotion of walking and biking, a shift toward public transport, as well as the electrification of transport. Homes and workplaces will become more connected and localised. Meanwhile, international freight transport and aviation cannot continue to grow at current rates.

As with transport, the global food system will need to be overhauled. Climate change and oil-intensive agriculture have unearthed the dangers of countries becoming dependent on food imports from a few main production areas. A shift toward food self-sufficiency across both poorer and richer countries will be essential. And ultimately, dairy and meat should make way for largely plant-based diets.

Press link for more: Motherboard

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World leaders who deny #climatechange should go to mental hospital – Samoan PM #StopAdani #EndCoal #auspol #qldpol

World leaders who deny climate change should go to mental hospital – Samoan PM

Tuilaepa Sailele berates leaders who fail to take issue seriously, singling out Australia, India, China and the US

By Kate Lyons

Climate change denial is ‘utterly stupid’, said Samoa’s PM. Photograph: chameleonseye/Getty Images

The prime minister of Samoa has called climate change an “existential threat … for all our Pacific family” and said that any world leader who denied climate change’s existence should be taken to a mental hospital.

In a searing speech delivered on Thursday night during a visit to Sydney, Tuilaepa Sailele berated leaders who fail to take climate change seriously, singling out Australia, as well as India, China and the US, which he said were the “three countries that are responsible for all this disaster”.

“Any leader of those countries who believes that there is no climate change I think he ought to be taken to mental confinement, he is utter[ly] stupid and I say the same thing for any leader here who says there is no climate change.”

Speaking at the Lowy Institute, just days before the beginning of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru, the Samoan prime minister seemed to take a swipe at Australia’s commitment to minimising the impact of climate change, which he called the “single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing peoples of the Pacific”.

“While climate change may be considered a slow onset threat by some in our region, its adverse impacts are already felt by our Pacific islands peoples and communities,” said Sailele. “Greater ambition is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade and Pacific island countries continue to urge faster action by all countries.”

Sailele said addressing climate change required “political guts” from leaders. “We all know the problem, we all know the causes, we all know the solutions. All that is left would be some political courage, some political guts to get out and tell the people of your country, ‘Do this, this, this, or there is any certainty of disaster.’

Sailele’s speech comes as leaders of Pacific nations are preparing to meet at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru next week, where Australia is expected to face questions about its emissions targets.

Australia’s new prime minister, Scott Morrison, is under pressure from some members of his party to abandon Australia’s commitment to reducing emissions under the Paris agreement.

His immediate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, was due to attend the forum, but Morrison has announced he is sending his new foreign minister, Marisa Payne, a move the opposition Labor party condemned as “an insult to our neighbours” as well as “a serious strategic mistake”.

Saliele’s speech also touched on China’s rising influence in the Pacific, saying the region had become “an increasingly contested space”. “The big powers are doggedly pursuing strategies to widen and extend their reach, inculcating a far-reaching sense of insecurity.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

Samoan PM lashes out at ‘utterly stupid’ climate change deniers #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #EndCoal I think he means you @ScottMorrison @AngusTaylorMP @Melissa4Durack #ClimateChange

Samoan PM lashes out at ‘utterly stupid’ climate change deniers

Updated 5 hours ago

Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi (Middle) Source: AAP

Samoan prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele has attacked climate change deniers as “utterly stupid”, urging Australia to cut its carbon emissions.

Mr Sailele, speaking during a visit to the Lowy Institute, a foreign policy think-tank in Sydney, said climate change was a “disaster” threatening Pacific Island nations.

“We all know the problem, we all know the solutions, and all that is left would be some political courage, some political guts, to tell people of your country there is a certainty of disaster,” Mr Sailele told the crowd.

“So any leader of any country who believes that there is no climate change, I think he ought to be taken to mental confinement. he is utterly stupid. And I say the same thing to any leader here.”

His speech comes as conservative MPs up the pressure on new Australian prime minister Scott Morrison to increase investment in coal and gas and drop the commitment to Paris targets to reduce emissions.

Mr Morrison has also been criticised for skipping next week’s Pacific Islands Forum leader’s meeting in Nauru.

Criticism of China loans ‘patronising’

Samoa’s prime minister also took aim at countries for patronising Pacific Island nations with their concern about debt problems and criticism of China’s surging lending in the region.

China has spent $1.3 billion on concessionary loans and gifts since 2011 to become the Pacific’s second-largest donor after Australia, stoking concern in the West that several tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt to China.

He said China was not to blame.

“We should not accuse the lender itself,” Malielegaoi told Reuters in an interview when asked about the region’s growing debt to China.

“It’s up to the country itself to ensure that it sets down guidelines to borrow,” he said. “The only reason why countries have not been able to pay is because they did not have proper financial strategies.”

China has said it is supporting development in a region where it is needed.

But the debt issue has become a prominent concern since China took possession of a Sri Lankan port as Colombo struggled to pay its dues.

Australia in particular, which has long viewed the Pacific as its backyard, has been critical of some Chinese aid projects, and a former foreign minister has warned that the lending could undermine the long-term sovereignty of recipients.

Malielegaoi said unidentified “traditional” partners had “left the neighbourhood, even if momentarily” and returned to find the region more hotly contested.

“Our partners have fallen short of acknowledging the integrity of Pacific leadership and the responsibility they carry for every decision made in order to garner support for sustainable development in their nations,” he said.

“Some might say there is a patronising nuance in believing Pacific nations did not know what they were doing.”

A Reuters’ analysis of the financial books of 11 South Pacific island nations shows China is the region’s biggest bilateral lender, with loans jumping from almost zero to more than $1.3 billion outstanding in a decade.

Samoa is one of eight island nations in the South Pacific, carrying significant debt to China, but Malielegaoi said the terms were “soft” and repayments “never any problem”.

Press link for more: SBS

Why Morrison should swap his lump of coal for a solar panel

Australia’s wholesale electricity prices are forecast to almost halve in the next four years – not because lower energy costs are on top of the new Morrison government’s agenda, and not because of the promise of coal, but thanks to the growing supply from cheap, renewable energy in the national mix.

Data from the latest Renewable Energy Index compiled by Green Energy Markets, and published on Thursday, reveals a direct link between investment in large-scale renewable projects, Australia’s rooftop solar boom, and falling energy prices.

The report shows energy prices started rising across the National Electricity Market in mid-2016, in the wake of the renewable energy drought that took hold in the Abbott years of the Coalition government.

Even rooftop solar PV installations – currently enjoying record breaking growth – were actually in decline in the period preceding the spike in power prices.

This, says Green Energy Markets, led to an insufficient amount of new renewable supply coming online ahead of the closure of the Hazelwood coal-fired power plant in Victoria, which also saw power prices spike upwards.

But by mid-2017, as a massive pipeline of renewable energy supply was starting to build, at costs vastly lower than previously thought, wholesale power prices have been steadily falling.

According to the GEM report, a massive 7,200MW of new solar and wind has been committed to construction since October 2016.

Added to that growth came a new boom in rooftop solar uptake, as Australian households and businesses took their soaring power costs into their own hands.

As the economic analysis prepared for the Energy Security Board found, it is this extra supply from all that new renewable capacity that will result in wholesale power prices almost halving between 2018 and 2022.

But of course, it is unlikely that narrative will be shared by the federal Coalition, who just lost yet another leader over the unholy trinity of energy, climate and renewables.

Indeed, just hours before the NEG had received its late rites, and before Turnbull was turfed, former energy minister Josh Frydenberg sought to credit the policy for falling future electricity prices. As GEM’s Tristan Edis writes here, that was a great big lie.

GetUp Campaigns Director Miriam Lyons says the data should be a wake-up call to Prime Minister Morrison and new energy minister Angus Taylor, that if they want to continue to bring energy prices down, scrapping climate or renewables policies would be a unwise – not to mention a disaster for the planet.

“What this data shows is that if Scott Morrison is serious about bringing down power prices he should be walking around Parliament with a solar panel not a lump of coal.”

“The evidence is clear, slashing renewables drives power prices up, when there is investment in renewables, prices start to fall.”

“In July alone rooftop solar installation created enough electricity to save Australian consumers $241 million in bill savings and power 39,565 homes, all forms of renewable energy generated enough energy to power 11.1 million homes.”

“To prove he genuinely cares about household power bills, Energy Minister Angus Taylor should immediately rule out scrapping the SRES scheme, which helps households take back control of their bills from the big power companies and encourages rooftop solar.”

Press link for more: Renew Economy

The Climate Fight’s Next Turning Point | UNFCCC #RiseForClimate #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani #EndCoal

This opinion piece was first posted August 28, 2018 on Project Syndicate.

It is by UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa and Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris and Chair of C40 Cities.

Scientists agree that global carbon dioxide emissions must reach a turning point in 2020 if we are to achieve carbon neutrality (emissions low enough to be safely absorbed by forests, soils, and other natural systems) by mid-century. But while nearly 50 countries have or may have reached their emissions peaks, progress must be accelerated.

PARIS – Next month, the Global Climate Action Summit – one of the largest international gatherings on climate change the world has seen – will be held in San Francisco.

The event, whose theme is “Take Ambition to the Next Level,” aims to serve as a launchpad for accelerated action that will enable the world to meet the goals set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

It is a golden opportunity to make progress in the effort to combat global warming, but it can be seized only with the involvement of all stakeholders.

With the Paris climate agreement, the international community agreed to limit the rise in average global temperature to 2° Celsius – and ideally 1.5°C – above pre-industrial levels.

To that end, national governments were tasked with developing their own climate-action plans, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

But national governments cannot do it alone.

Everyone – including those at all levels of government, as well as business leaders, investors, and civil society – must contribute.

This calls for a new form of inclusive multilateralism – one that can also be applied to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which complement the Paris agreement’s commitments.

It is a tall order, but there is plenty of reason for optimism.

There is unprecedented global momentum to build a low-carbon, climate-secure future, characterized by a dynamic green economy, a thriving society, and a healthy environment.

Globally, renewable power accounted for 70% of net additions to power-generating capacity in 2017, according to the Renewables 2018 Global Status Report.

Moreover, as part of the Under2 Coalition, over 200 states, regions, and local authorities have committed to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Urban centers are also proving their capacity for climate innovation and leadership. New York City has mandated the retrofitting of 14,500 of the city’s most polluting buildings.

Shenzhen has become the first city in the world with a fully electric bus fleet.

Shenzhen in China has 16,359 electric buses, more than America’s biggest cities’s conventional bus fleet — Quartz

Curitiba, Brazil, has introduced a new model of urban food production. And Oslo has created a climate budget to guide financial decision-making.

At the business level, more than 700 companies with a total market capitalization of over $16 trillion have made far-reaching climate commitments, according to the We Mean Business Coalition. And 289 investors, holding nearly $30 trillion in assets, have signed on to Climate 100+, a five-year initiative to engage with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse-gas emitters to improve governance on climate change, curb emissions, and strengthen climate-related financial disclosures.

As a result, global green bond issuance could reach $300 billion this year.

Yet we are far from being in the clear.

Scientists agree that global carbon dioxide emissions must reach a turning point in 2020 if we are to achieve carbon neutrality (with emissions low enough to be safely absorbed by forests, soils, and other natural systems) by mid-century.

So far, nearly 50 countries have or may have reached their emissions peaks, and more may soon join their ranks.

This is progress, but it is not enough.

In fact, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are still accumulating at a rate that will soon take us well above the 1.5°C threshold, beyond which some of the worst effects of climate change cannot be staved off.

Extreme weather already is becoming more common, as exemplified by record-high temperatures worldwide this year.

On current trends, average global temperatures could well rise by 3°C, imperiling vital natural systems like coral reefs, rainforests, and the polar regions.

All relevant stakeholders need to strengthen their climate commitments. To kick-start that process, the Global Climate Action Summit and its partners have issued a wide array of new challenges, including zero-waste goals in cities, a target of 500 companies adopting science-based targets, and initiatives to accelerate uptake of zero-emission vehicles.

Such efforts would not just protect our environment; they would also boost our economies. A recent report by the New Climate Economy suggests that, in transportation alone, a low-carbon transition would create 23 million jobs worldwide annually.

Perhaps more important, a show of climate-action ambition from leaders across sectors would likely inspire national governments to increase their own NDCs ahead of this December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland, where governments will finalize the implementation guidelines of the Paris agreement.

Acting alone can be difficult. Acting in concert can inspire and enable all participants to do more. And if we are to leave a healthy planet to future generations, more is what we need.

See the opinion on Project Syndicate here

Large-scale solar capacity soars under threatened Renewable Energy Target (RET) #auspol #qldpol #nswpol

July saw the biggest leap in large-scale solar accreditation since the Renewable Energy Target (RET) began in 2001.

Clean energy capacity of 514 megawatts (MW) was accredited in July, according to figures released by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER). Solar power stations make up 395 MW of the total.

This is the most solar capacity accredited in a single month since the RET started.

The scheme offers financial incentives for investors to install renewable energy power stations like wind and solar farms.

Utility-scale renewables surge despite energy uncertainty

The boom in large-scale renewables shows no sign of ending.

Angus Taylor

This is despite the appointment of anti-RET campaigner Angus Taylor as Energy Minister.

Large-scale solar is helping Australia meet its emissions and renewable targets. Image: Pixabay

If Taylor brings the Small-Scale Renewable Scheme, or SRES to an early close, as recommended by the ACCC, the current federal government rebate on solar installations could be threatened.

Since this would affect residential installations too, it makes a significant case to get solar quotes for installation now.

Research by Green Energy Markets also shows we’re on track to exceed the original RET target of 41,000 GWh by 2020.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott reduced this to 33,000 GWh. Australia should hit 41,381 GWh by 2020 data shows.

RET financial incentives boost renewables sector

CER figures show 29 renewable power stations accredited in July.

This includes five utility-scale projects greater than 1 MW.

Three new solar projects totalling 207 MW also reached financial close.

The largest is the 105 MW Nevertire Solar Farm in north-west NSW.

The biggest accredited project is the 138 MW Darling Downs Solar Farm in Queensland.

Large-scale solar energy storage also on the agenda

Also in July, Environment Victoria claimed Victoria’s large-scale renewable pipeline could supply the state’s households for a year.

Supply could even exceed this mark as industry and businesses pursue energy independence through renewables.

EV data shows Victoria’s renewables supply 11,394 GWh of energy each year.

Utility-scale wind and solar farm projects could power up to 2.5 million homes.

It’s a similar story for large-scale solar energy storage. Partners Group and CWP Renewables will also deliver around 1,300 MW of wind, solar energy and battery storage projects over the next four years.

Press link for more: Energy Matters

ASIC on #climatechange risks @aistbuzz #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #Drought #Bushfire #Heatwave are killers #StopAdani Ignoring science is criminal negligence. #Divest #Superannuation

ASIC speaks up on climate change risks

Kerry Hicks

Senior Policy Adviser, Australian Institute of Company Directors

26 June 2018

With fellow regulators, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Reserve Bank of Australia, showing their support in the audience, ASIC highlighted the increasing market interest in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues, and then specifically the focus on climate risk.

Governance of climate risk

Commissioner Price squarely put the leadership of the issue on the shoulders of directors and senior management, indicating that this is a risk issue and should be considered like any other risk issue by applying the core fundamentals of corporate governance – integrity, transparency, accountability and acting for a proper purpose.

He asked directors to carefully consider the 2016 memorandum of opinion by Noel Hutley QC and Sebastian Hartford-Davis on climate change and directors’ duties. He added that in ASIC’s view the Hutley opinion appears “legally sound and reflective of our understanding of the position under prevailing case law in Australia in so far as directors’ duties are concerned”. He stressed that the Hutley opinion highlights and reinforces the need for directors to adopt a “probative and proactive” approach in order to inform their decision making and carefully consider the general information needs of investors.

AICD reported on the Hutley opinion in November and December 2016.

The Hutley opinion states that:

• ‘Climate change risks’ represent, or are capable of representing, risks of harm to the interests of, and opportunities for, Australian companies and their business models, which would be regarded by a court as being foreseeable at the present time;

• Such risks are relevant to a director’s duty of due care and diligence, and directors can, and in many cases should, be considering the impacts on their business;

• Conversely, the law does not prohibit directors from taking climate change and related economic, environmental and social sustainability risks into accounting where those risks are, or may be, material to the company’s interests; and critically

• It is conceivable that directors who fail to consider the impacts of climate change risk for their business now could be found liable for breaching their statutory duty of due care and diligence going forwards.

Disclosure of climate risk

Commissioner Price then highlighted that ASIC is strongly focused on ensuring that, where the law requires it, companies disclose material climate change risks. He referred to various guidance documents that already exist and cover climate change risks – Regulatory Guide 247 and Regulatory Guide 228 – and the existing laws relating to continuous disclosure.

ASIC indicated that it had commenced a review of their relevant regulatory guidance to ensure it remains appropriate, with the work expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Commissioner Price also noted that the voluntary framework developed by the Financial Stability Board’s Taskforce of Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) may assist companies and advisers in considering what types of information to disclose.

Significantly, Commissioner Price made clear that ASIC does not consider that director liability concerns around forward-looking statements should be major impediments to reporting under the TCFD recommendations, provided that the modelling adopts reasonable assumptions and inputs and discloses them in full.

ASIC is also engaged with climate change risk issues through a number of other avenues including:

• Discussions with IOSCO (the global forum of corporate regulators) and international peers on international developments;

• Focus on asset values and impairment testing as part of their surveillance of financial reports, in cases where climate change may affect asset values;

• Review of climate change-related disclosures across the ASX 300 to better understand current market practices with findings published later this year; and

• Participation in a climate risk working group with APRA, RBA and Treasury to help ensure a coordinated response to climate risk and the impact on financial systems and markets.

In concluding remarks, and noting that for some company stakeholders the social and environmental impact of corporate activity is an “increasingly acute criterion” used to decide which company to invest in or transact with, Commissioner Price suggested that boards should be asking, “how do we identify the risks and opportunities presented by this new environment and respond in a manner that is both consistent with the social contract under which we operate and nurturing of long-term business success?”

Implications for Directors

Regulator interest in climate change issues is clearly increasing, with both APRA and ASIC publicly speaking on climate change considerations and related disclosures over the last eighteen months. The proposed fourth edition of the ‘ASX Corporate Governance Council Principles and Recommendations’ also includes specific reference to climate change being a source of environmental risk. This reference sits within the commentary on the revised Recommendation 7.4: “A listed entity should disclose whether it has a material exposure to environmental or social risks and, if it does, how it manages or intends to manage those risks.” It encourages those entities that have a material exposure to climate change risk to consider implementation of the TCFD recommendations, while stating that “entities that believe they do not have any material exposure to environmental or social risks should consider carefully their basis for that belief and benchmark their disclosures in this regard against those made by their peers”.

Therefore, it is clear that there are growing expectations for boards to consider the exposure of their organisation to climate change risk. Material risks should be adequately disclosed to the market, and guidance has been provided internationally, through the TCFD recommendations, to help entities do this. It will be interesting to observe to what degree, and how quickly, TCFD reporting practice is picked up in the Australian market.

Webinar: The Impact of Climate Change on Board Decisions on Risk and Strategy

Are you aware of your liability as a director in not addressing the foreseeable risks of climate change? Are your companies and organisations ahead of the game or lagging behind? This webinar will help you understand your liability and the board’s role in communicating to stakeholders.

Press link for more: Australian Institute of Company Directors

Learning From the Past to Bring the Paris Agreement Climate Goals Closer Within Reach #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange

By Mark Roelfsema

The Talanoa Dialogue in the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] negotiations extends a broad invitation to share low-carbon stories on how to move from ‘where do want to go?’ to ‘how do we get there?’.

The aim is to ratchet up ambition in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to bring them in line with the Paris Agreement (PA) climate goals.

One way of doing so is to look back at past low-carbon successes.

Although the required transformations of the energy and agriculture systems are challenging, governments and other actors have successfully started in various sectors.

What if other countries could learn from this and implement similar policies?

What if the success stories could be scaled up and replicated around the world?

Would that result in the necessary greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions?

Source: Quartz

In our article ‘Reducing global GHG emissions by replicating successful sector examples – the good practice policies scenario’, we show that replicating a selection of successful sector policies could halve the global emission reductions by 2030 that are required if we are to keep global temperature rise below 2 °C.

These sectoral policies cover about 65% of global emissions. By 2030, a scale-up of such policies would reduce emissions by around 10 GtCO2e, compared to currently implemented policies.

Examples of successful sectoral policies are the German feed-in tariff for renewable energy, the carbon tax in Norway to reduce flaring and venting, and the Action Plan for Deforestation in Brazil.

If the impact of such policies were to be achieved in all countries, global emissions by 2030 would be reduced by around 4 GtCO2e in the electricity sector, 1 GtCO2e in the oil and natural gas production sector, and 0.7 GtCO2e in the forestry sector, relative to the emission level expected to result from current policies (see Figure).

Figure 1: GHG emission levels (including LULUCF) as a result of implementing the selected nine good practice policies together. The emission levels are compared to global emissions resulting from the full implementation of the NDCs and a 2 C pathway.

A natural follow-up question(s) is that of whether and how countries could learn from each other and implement similar policies. On the one hand, country contexts matter. Culture, customs, institutions, policy settings and economic circumstances differ between countries. On the other hand, there are examples of policy learning and replication, such as the Chinese Emissions Trading System (ETS), which was set up after studying the implementation of the European Union (EU) trading system.

Literature on policy learning tells us that it is important to embrace the complexity of the policy landscape by a learning process of sufficient background information on policy context, success factors and differences between countries, as well as by experimentation. Again, the Chinese ETS is a good example, as it first experimented with provincial ETS, with slightly differing features, to see what would work best. Also, the currently developed Chinese ETS design proposes an output-based allowance allocation, mirroring the nature of China’s national policy targets.

What does this tell us about the ‘how do we get there?’ question of the Talanoa dialogue? In an atmosphere of trust, countries should be able to tell their stories of successful policy implementation, transparently share insights about sources of success and causes of failure, compare policy environments, and learn from each other. The resulting library of policies, contexts and success factors can be combined with the results from the UNFCCC technical expert meetings to ratchet up NDCs.

Such a process could be effectively supported by both social science insights into translating policies for various contexts, and quantitative modelling on policy impacts on greenhouse gas emission reductions. Further research could include more policies addressing other sectors, sub-sectors or sector activities, providing more opportunities for further reductions. At the same time, more research will also be needed to further improve realistic emission pathways, by addressing country-specific circumstances, accounting for implementation barriers and identifying important factors for policy learning.

Our main conclusion is that learning from other countries’ policies and implementing the related findings may bring the PA climate goals closer within reach.

The Talanoa Dialogue would be the perfect platform to make this happen.l

Mark Roelfsema is a Researcher in International Climate Policy at PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

Additional authors to the CPJ article: Hanna Fekete, Niklas Höhne,  Michel den Elzen, Nicklas Forsell, Takeshi Kuramochi, Heleen de Coninck, Detlef P. van Vuuren

Press link for more: Climate Strategies

How to organise a #RiseForClimate event. #StopAdani #EndCoal #FLAC #ClimateChange now #ClimateCrisis

How to organise a Rise for Climate event in 2 weeks or less

Maybe you just found out about Rise for Climate, or you’ve been thinking about organising an event, but haven’t made a start yet. There’s now less than 2 weeks until the day – can you make it happen?

Maybe you just found out about Rise for Climate, or you’ve been thinking about organising an event, but haven’t made a start yet. There’s now less than 2 weeks until Rise for Climate – can you make it happen?

Yes you can! Your efforts do and can make a difference – with extreme weather and climate impacts taking a huge toll on millions of people around the world, it’s time for all of us to rise for climate action.

Whether you want to see your local leaders turning your town, city, church or university to renewable energy and divesting funds from fossil fuel companies; or your local council banning fossil fuel projects; or perhaps this is the first time you are organising an event calling for action on climate change and so want to start with something small, 1 – 2 weeks is enough time to organise a Rise for Climate action. Hop to it!

If you haven’t already, check the Rise for Climate map to see if other events are happening near you (You could join them! Or make sure you’re not clashing with them.)

Here’s 4 tips of how to approach your rapid event organising, followed by a list of the key steps and resources to get you up and started right away.

1. At this point, small is beautiful

A Rise for Climate event can be done with as few as 5 friends or work mates. If you think you can turn out more, go for it! But at this point it’s probably too late to be organising a rally or large gathering of people.

But by registering your event on the Rise for Climate event map, others will also be able to find you, and get in touch to join your event.

2. Keep it simple and go deep

One of the ways to make impact is to lean into your cultural and social heritage.

“The most effective quick, small actions I’ve seen draw on an aspect of personal identity that made them meaningful. Like when 15 Latino teens wore Quinceañera dresses on the steps of the Texas Capitol building to protest an immigration law. It didn’t take a lot of people, but it took heart and smarts. It was powerful because it challenged stereotypes and showed us the beauty and strength of these young women who would be targeted by the law. Their action made headlines around the world.” – 350.org’s Mobilisation Strategist Bridget Burrows

It’s not just cultural identity that you can draw upon – for example, it might be that your identity is being a woman, concerned about how climate change will affect your community. You might be a grandparent – a classic example is the Knitting Nannas who take their knitting to protests.

Or perhaps you have an existing relationship with an unusual or interesting ally that you could ask to join for your event?

Over to you, but remember to always be respectful and don’t claim culture that isn’t yours to claim.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

The Grafton Knitting Nannas Against Gas & Greed in action.

3.Choose a recognisable or symbolic location for your action

Whether it be a building, the ocean, a desert, or a public park, by choosing a recognisable or symbolic location you can draw on the power of association, show that diverse and iconic places are onboard with climate action, and bring interest to your action and photos of it. Some locations are sacred to local peoples, so be sure that any location you choose will be culturally appropriate.

There is a rich history of taking 350 photos at iconic locations – here are some examples:

The Great Barrier Reef, Cairns Australia

Yosemite, USA

Cappadocia, Turkey

4. Identify your demand

It’s up to you to decide on what the appropriate demand of your local leaders is – it could be in the form of a petition, or  letter, or it could be a message you make visually. Here’s the overall Rise for Climate Demand to help guide you:

The bar for real climate leadership is simple: public, actionable commitments to a fast and fair transition to a fossil free world, powered by 100% renewable energy for all.

We can’t keep powering our lives with dirty fuels from the last century. It’s time to repower our communities with clean, renewable energy from the sun, earth, wind and water.

We need every local government and institution to commit to building 100% renewable energy and stopping new dirty energy projects in their community. Anything less than that is out of line with what science and justice demand.

5. Use the Rise for Climate visuals

From Bogota, Colombia to Suva, Fiji to Paris, France we’re expecting thousands of people, hundreds of events, and more than 63 countries to Rise for Climate Action on September 8th. While many of us speak different languages, we will be speaking a common language with the symbols that unite us —

The symbol of an orange X represents what we need to put a stop to: fossil fuel infrastructure and climate impacts. A yellow Sun represents the solutions we need: solar power, wind power, resilience to climate change, people power.

Read more about the symbols of Rise for Climate here.

Ready? Your first steps:

1 Write out a short plan for your event. The Rise Safety & Risk Toolkit provides useful guidance for making a plan using What, When, Where, How & Who.

2 Register your event – click here.

3 Invite people to join you in organising the action, and assign roles between you. These are some important resources that can support your team:

1 Reporting on your event with social media, photos and video here.

2 Media & communications toolkit

4 All the best!

Press link for more: Rise for Climate

Radically remaking climate activism. #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #ClimateChange now #ClimateCrisis #StopAdani #EndCoal #RiseUp #FLAC

The 1.5 Generation

My generation is radically remaking climate activism. Will it be enough?

By Eric Holthaus on Aug 22, 2018

My generation, the millennials, will never know a time when climate change wasn’t a grave threat.

Back in 1988, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere crossed the 350 parts per million level when I was still watching Sesame Street and digging up worms in the backyard. Scientists consider that mark the maximum threshold compatible with a stable climate and suitable for human life on Earth. That same year, NASA researcher James Hansen told the U.S. Senate he was 99 percent confident global warming was already taking place. The public started taking notice, but little was done to address the accelerating crisis.

Earlier this year, scientists in Hawaii and California confirmed that our planet’s level of atmospheric CO2 had surpassed 411 ppm. It’s at the highest concentration in human history — not just over the past 100 years or so of modern recordkeeping, or since the Industrial Revolution, or since the invention of agriculture around 9000 B.C. There’s more of the planet’s main greenhouse gas in the atmosphere since before our species evolved from our distant primate cousins millions of years ago.

The average global temperature is on course to rise 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels in the coming decades, escalating the risks of irreversible and widespread sea-level rise and more frequent extreme weather — blistering heat waves, punishing hurricanes, and ravaging wildfires. So it’s no exaggeration to say that my generation is up against seemingly impossible odds.

For years, environmental activists have told us that we could make progress by tinkering with the status quo, that a big part of halting warming is buying the right car, clothes, and moisturizer; avoiding the dirty products; and reforming the way consumer goods are made. And still, the world’s emissions keep climbing.

Many climate scientists have called for radical action, writing international consensus statements and pegging paragraphs to the tail end of their articles in scientific journals intended less for their peers than to rouse the greater public. In fact, the overall tone of research has shifted toward themes that confront the inevitability of catastrophe on our current course juxtaposed with a still-possible world in which huge emissions reductions take place immediately.

For scientists, unhedged assertions like these are a protest. They’re not the only community that is up in arms. A new breed of environmental activist is risking jail time to stop an existential threat to us all. And young people are finding their voices and embracing new versions of old ideas to try to shake the world from its collective stupor.

A livable world achieved through incremental changes may have been possible in the 1980s, but it’s a fantasy now. Getting people to understand the scope of this staggering problem requires a balancing act. Too much doom, and you promote hopelessness. Too rosy, and you risk glossing over the urgency of the situation. The best approach elicits not hope but courage, says Kate Marvel, a climate scientist and fellow millennial.

“We are inevitably sending our children to live on an unfamiliar planet,” she wrote in a recent essay for the website of the On Being Project. “Courage is the resolve to do well without the assurance of a happy ending.”

In the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign, Emily Johnston traveled from her home in Seattle to northern Minnesota. There, she turned the emergency shut-off valve at the Canadian border on the Enbridge Energy tar-sands oil pipeline, one of North America’s largest. After she was arrested, she presented a novel legal defense: Johnston claimed that her turning the valve was a “necessity” in response to a climate emergency.

“I know that there are plenty of people in the world who think that what we did was crazy,” Johnston tells Grist. “When you risk jail time, there’s definitely a different way in how people respond to what you’ve done. It’s harder for people to dismiss what you’re doing.”

Steve Liptay / Climate Direct Action

When pressed, Johnston admits that she doesn’t like being labeled “a radical.” The way she sees it, her actions are like those of citizens who enlist in the military when their country is attacked. She sees it as putting her life on the line for a cause she believes in. Taking direct action like this might appear destructive on the surface. But it’s in the service of preventing a much larger threat.

“We have arrived at that place after thinking about all the other different things we could do and coming to the conclusion that this is, flat-out, simply something that has to happen given the urgency of the climate crisis,” she explains.

That same sense of pent-up urgency, that overwhelming need to act right now, is what led to the birth of modern, radical environmentalism nearly 40 years ago.

In 1980, a group of friends at the end of a backpacking trip across the Rockies formed a radical eco-movement known as Earth First! In their first statement of principals, they laid out a straightforward goal: “We do not wish to merely preserve what’s left, we want to re-create wilderness.”

The group caught the public’s attention because it wrecked things. Earth First! burned billboards advertising new subdivisions, occupied forests marked for destruction, and sabotaged ski lifts in posh mountain towns. Their peer and mentor Edward Abbey, the author and essayist, called these actions “monkeywrenching.” It was all done in the name of restoring nature.

Earth First! began tree sitting to protest the cutting of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. In 1995, members forced the temporary closure of a golf course and ski resort in Colorado. The FBI labeled them terrorists in 2001, and their support waned.

Earth First activists sit around the stump of an ancient tree cut down by a logging company. JOHN MABANGLO / AFP / Getty Images

Diana Liverman, a professor at the University of Arizona whose work focuses on the human impacts of climate change (and my former advisor), had a friend who, in the 1980s, inspired by Earth First!, committed acts of vandalism around Tucson to protest real estate development. She remains sympathetic for those staking out an extreme position.

“I am glad that the radical environmental activists are around as they can create change,” she says. By making the rest of us look moderate, Liverman says that they create space for compromise. “I occasionally consider more radical action myself, but I’m not sure what I would do.”

Johnston considers this “paralysis” in the face of such an enormous crisis one of the main barriers to widespread action. The way to break people out of it is by shifting the narrative.

“People feel really hopeless,” Johnston says. “One of the most important things we can possibly do is to offer an alternative narrative about what’s possible.”

Fed up activists around the world have continued the legacy of direct action, with pipeline protests and blockades. Activists in India delayed the clear-cutting of several forests that were to be turned into housing developments. And America’s tree-sitting movement lives on.

But there’s a budding realization that even these bold protests aren’t nearly up to the task. In the nine years that activists have spent opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, for instance, the oil industry invented an entirely new oil-by-rail transport industry. Meanwhile, the mainstream environmental movement continues to focus on “green” consumerism and incremental change. Got an SUV? Trade it in for an electric car. Don’t use that plastic straw, use this compostable one instead.

At best, those actions delay the widespread transformation we need by lulling us into a false sense of security. At worst, they continue a cycle of high-emission consumption. Feel bad about your cross-country flight to California? Pay to plant some trees.

Incremental change is not going to help on a planet that’s accelerating toward a carbon-fueled nightmare within our lifetimes. It’s not about “saving the planet,” as it was in the days of Earth First! It’s about saving all of us.

In recent years, young people have realized that it’s their future — and that of the generations after them — at stake. And they’ve adopted the climate cause in increasingly audacious ways, from suing the federal government to planning mass nationwide rallies. Observers are anticipating shifts in public opinion to translate into escalating action as millennials and the oldest members of Generation Z begin to exercise their growing power.

They’ve already featured prominently in international climate campaigns. Ahead of the Paris climate conference in 2015, a coalition of small island nations and other countries most at risk from climate change pushed hard to get other countries to sign up for an ambitious goal: Limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees C above preindustrial levels.

One of the most memorable voices from that campaign was Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a poet from the Marshall Islands. Jetnil-Kijiner’s stirring poem, written to her infant daughter and read at the opening of the United Nations Climate Summit in 2014, laid out the threat of climate change and promised to protect her child from the rising waters.

Seemingly through the force of persuasion, her pledge and thousands of others like hers worked.

As millennials take a larger role in the discussion around climate change, some are pushing for a new political movement that prioritizes collective action. For Sydney Ghazarian, a millennial activist in Los Angeles, that means socialism.

Ghazarian is a founding member of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Climate and Environmental Justice Working Group, with dozens of local branches around the country. She considers climate change to be part of a web of problems. “It’s not just that the oceans are acidifying,” she explains. “It’s also a crisis of racism. It’s a crisis of labor.” To her, all these result from a free market system that’s operating with few political constraints.

In the wake of the competitive presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist who caucuses with Democrats, Ghazarian is trying to do the legwork of turning enthusiasm for Sanders and his issues into real change. By looking at climate change as a symptom of a larger problem, rather than just an environmental issue, Ghazarian hopes to help inspire an overhaul of economics and politics — or as she calls it, “a new system for organizing nature.”

“It’s about appealing to people where they are,” she says. “It’s kind of hard to make time for climate change when you’re worrying about how you’re going to get your next meal. Our only hope is to reimagine a future that puts people and planet ahead of profit.”

Democratic socialists like Ghazarian believe that there’s a natural connection between distributed energy generation from wind and solar power and decentralized political power. She envisions a future of community-owned electrical generation, more walkable neighborhoods, and governments that prioritize public health.

Ghazarian applauds efforts to block pipelines and tree-sitting protests but thinks there are simply too many pipelines to fight and too many forests to protect. Her focus is on rallying people to start building a better world so that there will no longer be a need for so many targeted, isolated protests.

“That is part of a positive vision of the future, one that values the collective voice of the communities that also see their interdependence with the environment,” she says. “Pipeline resistance holds space for our future, a future for energy democracy, public banks, localized agriculture, public and democratic ownership of water and resources, and whatever else is part of our cooperative reimagining of society.”

Anushree Fadnavis / Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Imagining such a future is the easy part. Bringing it to reality? Well, that may never happen. But people like Ghazarian see the benefit in at least trying — and taking steps toward their ideals.

For me, that ideal is a world where we’ve averted the worst climate change can offer — and a fair amount of the stuff ahead of that, too. The process of thinking of the future as a direct result of present actions has been oddly liberating. When focused on the next 80 years, it’s easy to make what might seem like tough decisions to others living in my privileged, Midwestern bubble — eschewing air travel, commuting by bicycle, raising my kids to be mostly vegan, teaching them to consider the consequences of their actions.

The science on climate change is brutal and unforgiving. Returning the Earth’s atmosphere to 350 ppm of carbon dioxide, perhaps feasible with current technology, isn’t the right goal. The aim of climate activism isn’t to erase the sins of the previous generations; it’s to ensure that future generations are handed a world that isn’t at the threshold of going to hell. That won’t happen in my lifetime without a truly radical remaking of the global economy. And if it doesn’t happen in my lifetime, then it’s very likely future generations won’t get another chance.

Press link for more: Grist.org