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The great’ COP out #COP24 #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #LabConf18 Demand #GreenNewDeal #ClimateEmergency

The Conference of the Parties 24 – or COP24, as the branding goes – opened with an emotion-grabbing call on world leaders by Sir David Attenborough.

But at the end of the first week, the mood of optimism went into a spasm when it was clear that the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, would oppose accepting the recent report by the IPCC stating that the difference between a global average heating of 1.5°C and 2°C is the difference between two very different worlds that climate change will deliver.

Of course, whether we accept a report or not does not change its validity.

In fact, in a UK Met Office presentation at the COP, Dr. Richard Betts stated that currently, we are on track for around 3.3°C, a death knell for many of the world’s poorest people and a likely scenario of the collapse of the global economy, agriculture and general human well being.

Barefaced lying

Professor John Schellnhuber, a German climate scientist speaking at the same session as Betts, started his talk with the following: “If you thought this conference can deliver on [the less safe] 2°C then you have been fooled!”

All this brings us back to that tawdry slogan smeared like cream across the British Pavilion. Green may indeed be great but to imply in any way that we are honouring our Paris Agreement commitments is a barefaced lie.

This lie was made very explicit to me by British climate scientist, Professor Kevin Anderson.

He passed the stand and said: “Why don’t you go and ask them about the new Clair Ridge oil platform coming online, that the Energy and Clean Growth Minister, Claire Perry, has been celebrating?

“That is something like 50,000 tonnes of CO2 every single day from that one platform in the North Sea. They expect it to have 640 million barrels of recoverable oil for the duration of its life, equal to a quarter of a billion tonnes [of CO2 pollution].”

This is the same government who continues in its efforts to pursue shale gas from fracking, while at the same time refusing to back renewable energy projects such as the tidal energy project in Swansea, and placing a moratorium on onshore wind power, despite record growth.

It is not only the low-carbon energy potential that they have thrown out of the window, but it is also the lead position we have held in these industries that attract investments, leading to more jobs and a brighter future.

In this context, it is hard to see how Green Is Great, or even the open bragging of The Climate Change Act can be more than barefaced lying, both to the British people and again here at COP to delegates looking for hope in a dark place.

Road to hell 

The fossil fuel energy pathway this government is locking us into for decades to come will contribute significantly to shattering the myth that we will avert dangerous climate change.

Combined with all the lies of other developed nations, including those in Scandinavia, Germany, and Canada, not to mention China and India, our global emissions are set to keep rising and with it, the cost to all life on Earth.

This was expressed in the morning while talking to the scientist, Christoph Thiel from Greenpeace: “we don’t just have a climate change problem, we are also into the first human caused mass extinction!”

People like me

People like me feel a sense of sadness and anger when Russia or the US deny obvious truths, especially on existential issues such as climate change. Yet, in reality, there is very little difference between what UK policy is doing underlying banners such as Green Is Great. The reason they can get away with it is because we all know they are doing it and choose to turn a blind eye in case it impacts our own way of life.

There is now clear evidence that the top 10 percent of society’s highest emitters are responsible for 50 percent of global emissions. Kevin Anderson raised this point numerous times over various presentations both in and out of the COP. Within this group emissions from flying drastically impact our individual carbon footprints and Anderson cites frequent flying as being emblematic of the kind of lifestyle that speaks much louder than rhetoric on climate action:

“The airports are full of frequent fliers, who are the wealthy people in our society. Emissions across the board are being driven by a relatively small cohort of very high emitters.

“At the global level, we know that 50% of emissions come from 10 percent of the population and it looks like the UK is not dissimilar to that, nor is the US. In the US the top one percent emit around 300-350 tonnes of CO2 pollution [per person] each year, and yet the average in the US is around 23 tonnes. In the EU, it’s nearer 13 tonnes. But I bet you there are a lot of poorer people in the EU who are running well below the average at about 4-8 tonnes!”

Axis of Evil?

All of this sheds light on why the UK, US, and pretty much all other governments in developed nations, ignore their Paris Agreement commitments and focus on the job of keeping us in the profligate and destructive lives that we have become accustomed too.

At an individual level, it is the choices that we make every day that collectively make up the staggering true cost of climate change. As Anderson puts it:

“Emissions relate very closely to income and that is because we use a lot more energy, but also then, above a certain threshold, it means we consume lots more goods. That stuff uses lots of energy; the raw material, the manufacturing of it, and then to import it.”

The consequences of every decision

Scientists have created a set of carbon budgets that tell us how much carbon we can emit depending on whether we are aiming to achieve a global warming of 1.5ºC, 2ºC, or anywhere over 3.3ºC. These budgets are very tight and, yet, this year global emissions rose 2.7 percent – much larger than last years 1.6 percent.

After 24 years of COP’s, to achieve an international agreement that no one is honouring, and the wealthy people, who have the power to change, are ignoring, is a disgrace. The decisions I make going forward, from flying to eating meat, or air freighted avocados, they all consume another part of that carbon budget that is rightly the property of the poorer people in the global society, who have emitted virtually nothing but face the worst consequences.

In addition, careful consideration should be given to our children and grandchildren who will have to try and live in the environmental mess that we have created for them. It should not surprise anyone as to why they are taking to the streets and will continue to do so as the crisis worsens.

Anderson ends leaving this question hanging in the air: “What’s worse, Russia, America, and Saudi Arabia being honest about their rejection of the science, or us, lying about it so we can go on doing what we are doing?”

This Author

Nick Breeze is a climate change journalist also publishing on https://envisionation.co.uk and organising https://climateseries.com. Follow him on Twitter at @NickGBreeze

Press link for more: The Ecologist

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12 Reasons Labor Should Demand a #GreenNewDeal #LabConf18 #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #SchoolStrike4Climate #ClimateChange #Airpollution

Only protecting humanity from climate catastrophe can unify the political forces needed to meet labor’s demands for jobs, union rights, economic security, full employment, and worker empowerment

Labor shouldn’t just back the Green New Deal, it should help lead the way. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Workers have gotten a raw deal.

Employers and their Republican (Liberal) allies are trying to eliminate workers’ rights both in the workplace and at the ballot box.

But even when Democrats controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress, they did little to protect, let alone expand, the rights of working people. Workers need a new deal.

Now, an alliance of social movements and members of Congress are proposing a Green New Deal to create millions of jobs by putting Americans to work making a climate-safe economy. This program meets the needs of—and has the potential to unite—the labor movement, environmentalists, and all those who have been the victims of inequality, discrimination, racism and, now, climate change.

In the week following the 2018 midterm elections, a group of 150 protesters led by young people with the Sunrise Movement occupied the office of likely Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, urging her to support a Green New Deal. Newly-elected House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined the protest with a resolution in hand to establish a Select Committee for a Green New Deal. The proposal has since amassed growing support among Congressional representatives, progressive organizations and young people across the country.

The Green New Deal is poised to become a factor in the 2020 elections. Labor unions should take this opportunity to embrace the proposal—and fight to make sure it’s a strong vehicle for advancing workers’ rights.

What was the New Deal?

In the depths of the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the New Deal—a set of government programs to provide employment and social security, reform tax policies and business practices, and stimulate the economy. It included the building of homes, hospitals, school, roads, dams and electrical grids. The New Deal put millions of people to work and created a new policy framework for American democracy.

New Deal programs included public employment (Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps); farm price supports (Agricultural Adjustment Act); environmental restoration (reforestation and land conservation); labor rights (Wagner Act); minimum wages and standards (National Recovery Act and Fair Labor Standards Act); cooperative enterprises (Works Progress Administration support for self-help); public infrastructure development (TVA and rural electrification); subsidized basic necessities (food commodity programs and Federal Housing Act); construction of schools, parks, and housing (Civil Works Administration); and income maintenance (Social Security Act).

Besides its famous “alphabet soup” of Federal government agencies, the New Deal was part of a larger process of social change that included experimentation at a state, regional and local level; organization among labor, unemployed, urban, the elderly and other grassroots constituencies; and lively debate on future alternatives that went far beyond the policies actually implemented.

What a Green New Deal would do 

The Green New Deal is a program that all trade unionists and advocates for working people can and should get behind.

While there are a variety of detailed proposals for a Green New Deal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ proposal promises to create millions of jobs through building a new 100%-renewable electrical system and a national “smart grid,” retrofitting residential and industrial buildings, and building a new, low-emission transportation system.

It also seeks to end the epidemic of poverty by mitigating deeply entrenched racial, regional and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth and distributing federal aid and other investment equitably to historically impoverished and marginalized communities.

At its core, the Green New Deal would work toward saving the climate by meeting scientific targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases, investing in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases, and making “green” technology a major export of the United States to help other countries transition to carbon-neutral economies.

Why labor should support a Green New Deal 

American workers, like most Americans, are dissatisfied with the status quo and want change. Organized labor is in a position to help lead that change. But all too rarely is labor’s program directed to a vision of what we want for the future.

The Green New Deal provides a visionary program for labor and can provide a role for unions in defining and leading a new vision for America.

At the same time, the Green New Deal projects a program that is not far-fetched. It includes plans for a public works programs, the expansion of human rights and new entitlement programs. Americans have made such goals a reality before in U.S. history—with organized labor playing a leading role.

Why a Green New Deal? Only protecting humanity from climate catastrophe can unify the political forces needed to meet labor’s demands for jobs, union rights, economic security, full employment, and worker empowerment.

There are 12 key reasons why labor should get on board with a Green New Deal:

  1. Avert climate catastrophe: We are in a climate emergency. The current threat to humanity rivals that of Nazi armies that once threatened to establish a “thousand-year Reich” whose master race would rule the world. Millions of workers mobilized to build the tanks, planes and ammunition that defeated the Nazis. Today we need a mobilization that similarly puts millions to work building the windmills, solar collectors, grids and other tools needed to defeat climate change. Working people have no greater collective interest.
  2. Provide jobs for all: The production of equipment and construction of infrastructure for the new climate-safe economy will provide manufacturing and construction jobs for millions of workers. The Climate Jobs Guarantee contained within the Green New Deal would provide jobs for all who want them at a base wage of $15, including healthcare and other benefits. The ongoing conversion to a sustainable economy will continue to provide good jobs for generations.
  3. Abolish poverty: In addition to a jobs guarantee providing wages that will lift workers out of poverty, the Green New Deal will also include basic income programs and universal health care for those who are not in the workforce.
  4. Rebuild the labor movement: Put simply, a Green New Deal can help rebuild the U.S. labor movement. With input from labor, the plan can guarantee the right to organize, bargain collectively, engage in concerted action and retain basic Constitutional rights on the job for all workers.
  5. Unite the working class: President Donald Trump, the Republican Party and corporate America have been working overtime to divide the working class. The Green New Deal embodies the common interests of all working people in climate protection, jobs for all and greater equality. At the same time, it addresses the legacy of race, gender, and other forms of discrimination and injustice. And it expresses human values that recognize the equal worth and common fate of all people.
  6. Win wide popular support for a labor-friendly program: Public opinion polling shows that the programs of the Green New Deal are extraordinarily popular. A recent poll shows that over half of voting-eligible adults said they would be more likely to support a candidate running on a Green Job Guarantee, including 35 percent of Trump voters. And young people are far more likely to support a candidate running on a platform of 100 percent renewable energy and Green jobs.
  7. Build a powerful labor-friendly coalition: The original New Deal coalition brought together diverse constituencies including labor, African Americans, city dwellers and farmers. That coalition was a dominant force in American politics for more than 40 years. The Green New Deal similarly provides the basis for a broad, long-lasting coalition that can again transform American politics and society. By helping lead that coalition, organized labor can secure the rights and well-being of all workers.
  8. Unify environmental and labor forces in the Democratic Party: Labor and environmentalists have too often been at loggerheads in the Democratic Party. This has undermined both the protection of the environment and of workers. A Green New Deal can become a common program unifying the environmental and labor constituencies of the Democratic Party. By making protecting the climate the way to provide jobs for all, it puts an end to the phony conflict between “jobs and the environment.”
  9. Challenge corporate dominance of the Democratic Party: For far too long, the Democrats’ corporate wing, representing the interests of the wealthy, has dominated the party. Even when Democrats controlled the Presidency and both houses of Congress, the corporate wing of the party helped stymie both labor law reform and effective climate protection—screwing workers twice. The Green New Deal provides a program that represents the views of the great majority of Democrats that can allow the party’s rank-and-file to take control and advance both workers’ rights and climate protection.
  10. Strengthen workers bargaining power: The tremendous demand for labor created by the transition to a fossil-free economy, combined with the Climate Jobs Guarantee, will eliminate that “long line of workers at the gate” that employers use to strengthen their hands in negotiations. The Climate Jobs Guarantee will set a new floor for wages and benefits that all employers will need to exceed if they wish to sustain a workforce.
  11. Expand union apprenticeship and training: As with the economic mobilization for World War II, climate mobilization will require training a new workforce. The Green New Deal defines union apprenticeships and other training programs as a central way to do so. That will provide both a major source of financial support for unions and a chance to show the benefits of unionization to millions of workers entering the workforce or being retrained for new jobs.
  12. Establish a standard for those who claim to be labor’s friends: One reason for organized labor’s declining clout has been the lack of a clear standard for those who seek labor’s support. The Green New Deal provides a clear statement of how candidates and organizations can show support for labor—and therefore what politicians must fight for if they want labor’s support.

What the New Deal did for labor 

The New Deal established jobs programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), Civil Works Administration (CWA), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA employed more than 8.5 million workers who built 650,000 miles of highways and roads, 125,000 public buildings, as well as schools, bridges, reservoirs, irrigation systems, parks and playgrounds.

In 1936, when many American employers were violently opposing unions, WPA director Harry Hopkins signed an agreement assuring the Workers Alliance of America, a merger of several unemployed organizations, the right to organize relief workers.

The Workers Alliance functioned as a proto-union in the WPA, striking, protesting grievances, and organizing mass demonstrations and marches to maintain and expand the program. It worked with the AFL and the nascent CIO to demand union scale for skilled workers, a minimum payment for WPA workers and collective bargaining for all workers on work-relief projects. Many WPA workers used their experience to become organizers in the new CIO. As the WPA wound down and the private economy revived, many former Workers Alliance activists became leaders in the new industrial unions.

The 1935 Social Security Act established retirement pensions, unemployment insurance, and welfare programs that remain the primary basis for economic security for many American workers to this day.

The 1935 National Labor Relations Act—aka the Wagner Act—guaranteed workers the right to bargain collectively through unions of their own choosing. Union membership virtually tripled in the decade following the passage of the act.

The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act set maximum hours, minimum wages and abolished child labor.

Through its role in the administrative agencies of the New Deal and its growing role in the New Deal coalition, organized labor achieved an unprecedented, if still subordinate, voice in the halls of governmental and political power.

What labor should ask of a Green New Deal

While current proposals for a Green New Deal align with workers’ interests, organized labor brings traditions and insights that can make them even more compelling.

Incorporating worker demands in the Green New Deal program will pay benefits long before they can be implemented at a national level. It will ensure that labor’s approach is understood and adopted by a wide coalition. And it will provide guidelines for what policies that coalition will fight for at a local, state, regional and industry level.

Labor needs to begin the discussion on what it wants in a Green New Deal. It needs a program that will transform the role of organized working people at least as profoundly as the programs of the New Deal. But that can’t simply be a matter of going back to labor’s past glories.

The rights of working people have been eroded under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Labor law as amended by Congress and interpreted by the courts has become less a protection for workers and unions than a means to restrict their freedom. Simply rolling back recent conservative victories like the Supreme Court’s Janus decision is not enough. Labor can and should demand that the Green New Deal—like the original New Deal—establish a new framework that protects workers’ fundamental Constitutional and human rights.

Labor should demand that any Green New Deal:

Restore the right to organize, bargain collectively and engage in concerted action on the job: These rights were originally protected by the New Deal’s National Labor Relations Act, but they have been eroded by legislation, court decisions and the power of employers to discipline and fire their workers.

Guarantee the Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly in the workplace: These rights are essential to workers’ freedom to organize as they see fit. They are also essential aspects of human rights and human dignity that should not be eliminated once you enter the workplace.

Restore the right to strike: In the half-century following the Civil War, American workers’ movements maintained that the right to strike was a fundamental Constitutional right, guaranteed by the 13th  Amendment’s prohibition of “involuntary servitude.” It’s time to enforce that right.

Guarantee the right to a safe and healthy work environment: The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 supposedly assured “safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women,” but it was deeply flawed from the outset and has been gutted over time. A Green New Deal can help meet both labor and environmental goals by banning all unsafe practices in workplaces.

Provide a fair and just transition for workers whose jobs may be threatened by economic change: This should include but not be limited to change that results from the transition to a climate-safe economy. It should include an updated version of the GI Bill of Rights that gave returning World War II veterans education, housing, medical and other benefits to make a new start on life and economic development support for communities affected by economic transition.

Establish fair labor standards: The 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provided minimum wages, limited the hours of work, and established other protections for workers. Today the minimum wage is so low that it fails to ensure even a poverty-level income. In practice, workers can be made to work for as few or as many hours as their employers want. New labor standards should ensure that anyone who works gets a living wage; employees are provided predictable hours of labor; and that workers may not be fired without just cause.

Establish strong state and local prevailing wage laws: The Davis-Bacon Act, passed on the eve of the New Deal, requires that all contractors and subcontractors performing federally-funded construction, alteration, or repair work must pay their workers no less than the prevailing wages and benefits for corresponding work on similar projects in the area. A Green New Deal should implement prevailing wage laws for all climate-protection jobs, all state- and locally-funded projects, as well as other industries.

Encourage industry-wide bargaining: The labor relations system established by the New Deal often led to industry-wide collective bargaining in which all steelworkers or auto workers were united in their confrontations with management. Today, workers in each industry and each corporation are often represented by dozens of different unions who all bargain separately with little coordination. A Green New Deal can encourage bargaining councils and other forms of coordination that promote higher wages and prevent a race to the bottom by taking wages out of competition.

Establish a “buy fair” and “buy local” procurement policy: A Green New Deal can provide incentives for quality jobs which provide family-sustaining wages and benefits; the right to form a union and engage in collective bargaining free of intimidation and reprisal; and hiring opportunities for workers in disadvantaged communities.

What trade unionists can do right now to win a Green New Deal

The idea of a Green New Deal has rapidly and unexpectedly broken through into public discussion. Here’s how unions can build on this momentum right now:

Support the Sunrise Movement’s Green New Deal actions: Show up for demonstrations at your Congressional representative’s office to demand they support a Green New Deal.

Ask politicians who depend on labor support to sign on to Congressional resolutions calling for a Green New Deal

Educate your membership about the Green New Deal: Materials are available at the Labor Network for Sustainability website.

Pass a resolution demanding a Green New Deal: The organization Labor for Single Payer first passed resolutions through hundreds of local unions, then dozens of national unions, and ultimately turned the labor movement into a powerful advocate for universal healthcare. The labor movement’s support for a Green New Deal can send a strong message that the plan is critical to building working-class power.

Push for elements of the Green New Deal in your collective bargaining demands: “Bargaining for the common good” is a growing trend for American unions. Many aspects of the Green New Deal can be won through union bargaining. For example, unions can bargain for their employers to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to apply prevailing wage standards to their own workers or outside contractors who perform the necessary work.

Join together with other unions and allies to demand a Green New Deal: Coalitions that advocate for protection for both workers and the climate have emerged at the local, state and national levels. You can join with them to form a powerful force to ultimately win a strong and bold Green New Deal.

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Are carbon emissions coming down in Australia? #auspol #qldpol #LabConf18 #StopAdani #COP24 we urgently need a #GreenNewDeal The #ClimateCrisis is stealing our children’s future.

Photo: Former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone says that emissions are coming down in Australia. (ABC News)

The claim

During a recent episode of the ABC’s Q&A program, former Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone claimed “emissions are coming down” in Australia.

Her comment came a few days before a major UN climate summit, COP24, held in Katowice, Poland.

Other panellists on Q&A contradicted Ms Vanstone, saying emissions were rising.

This prompted many viewers of the program to call on RMIT ABC Fact Check to investigate Ms Vanstone’s claim.

The verdict

Ms Vanstone’s claim is misleading.

Latest federal government figures suggest that although greenhouse gas emissions have fallen over the past 10 years, emissions started trending upwards again about four years ago.

The upturn, since 2014, has coincided with the Abbott government’s removal of the carbon tax.

Also, while emissions from electricity production have been falling, the decrease has been outweighed over the past four years by rising emissions in other sectors of the economy, such as transport, where emissions are associated with increased LNG production for export.

Emissions can be measured in different ways: for example, as total emissions or emissions per capita or per GDP.

In the past year, Australia’s total emissions have been rising. But emissions per capita or per dollar of real GDP have been falling, mainly due to Australia’s rapid population growth.

However, it is worth noting that Australia’s progress in cutting emissions under its international obligations (the Paris Agreement) is measured by changes in total emissions rather than by other measures.

As one expert put it: “The atmosphere doesn’t care how many people are contributing to emissions; it’s the total quantity of emissions that matters.”

The context

Ms Vanstone made her claim during a discussion on Q&A about a protest by Australian schoolchildren titled ‘Strike 4 Climate Action‘.

She was speaking about the climate policies of Australia’s two major political parties, and in the broader context of greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the environment, as perceived by young people.

Ms Vanstone did not specify which kind of emissions she was talking about. Nor whether she was referring to simple totals or ratios.

Fact Check invited her to clarify this. She said she had not been expecting to talk about emissions: “I can’t tell you that I had a particular tight construct in my head at the time,” she said.

“I think I was just making a general remark about emissions generally over a long period of time.”

Fact Check considers it reasonable to assume that her claim refers to Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions over the past 10 years — the length of time examined by the Government’s most recent report on emissions.

What others are saying

Ms Vanstone is not alone in claiming emissions in Australia are decreasing, though other speakers have been more specific.

Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, also on Q&A, said carbon emissions per capita and by GDP were at their lowest levels in 28 years.

Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price also highlighted this low in a press release announcing the Government’s latest quarterly emissions data.

Nonetheless, she acknowledged that total emissions had risen over the year to June 2018.

Others have also pointed to the rise in total emissions.

Labor senator Lisa Singh, another of the recent Q&A panelists, argued that “emissions have continued to go up since 2011”.

And on ABC radio the same week, Richie Merzian, the climate and energy director for think tank the Australia Institute said: “For the last four years, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing.”

Measuring emissions

The Australian Department of the Environment and Energy collects and publishes a series of reports and databases, known as the National Greenhouse Accounts.

The accounts track greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 onwards, and fulfil Australia’s international reporting obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Kyoto Protocol.

Quarterly reports, released as part of the accounts, track total emissions as well as emissions by sector, per capita and per GDP.

The latest report, released three days before Ms Vanstone’s Q&A appearance, provides estimates of Australia’s national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions up to the June quarter of 2018.

The report examines emissions produced by eight sectors: electricity, stationary energy, transport, fugitive emissions (for example, leakages), industrial processes and product use, agriculture, waste, and land use, land use change and forestry.

Emissions from electricity production are falling

The report shows emissions in the electricity sector have fallen by 3.6 per cent in the year to September 2018.

This was driven by a 13 per cent reduction in brown coal supply and a corresponding 14 per cent increase in supply derived from renewable sources, it says.

But emissions from other sectors, such as transport, have been rising.

Hugh Saddler, an honorary associate professor at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, told Fact Check:

“Significant increases in emissions from petroleum and diesel consumption in transport, and gas consumption associated with LNG, have outweighed the decrease in emissions from the electricity sector.”

What’s going on with total emissions?

Over the year to June 2018, Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions rose in each quarter, according to the report.

Specifically, seasonally adjusted total emissions rose 1.3 per cent in the June quarter and by 0.6 per cent in the year to June 2018.

While emissions have fluctuated over the past four years, they have been trending upwards since late 2014, as the graph below shows. The data shows emissions have risen 5 per cent over this time.

Emissions touched their lowest point in March 2013, but have since rebounded to 2011 levels.

Under the Paris Climate Agreement, Australia has committed to a reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions of between 26 per cent and 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

According to the national greenhouse audit, total emissions are down 11.7 per cent on 2005 (the Paris Agreement base year) and 7.5 per cent since 1990 (the base year for Kyoto Protocol calculations).

Why are people saying emissions are falling?

As shown above, total greenhouse emissions when measured quarterly over the past year, or by trend data over the past four years, have been rising.

So, why are some people arguing that emissions are going down?

Because, when emissions are measured per capita or per dollar of GDP, they are lower. This is because Australia is experiencing rapid population growth.

The Department of the Environment and Energy highlights this fall in both the preface to its latest quarterly greenhouse report and on its website.

The report states that emissions per capita and the emissions intensity of the Australian economy were at their lowest levels in 28 years, falling 37 per cent and 60 per cent respectively since 1990.

Are emissions per capita and per GDP useful measures?

Put simply, no.

Dr Saddler said focusing on emissions per capita was meaningless, since the measure used in international agreements was the more crucial total emissions.

“The atmosphere doesn’t care how many people are contributing to emissions; it’s the total quantity of emissions that matters,” he said.

Professor David Karoly, an internationally recognised expert on climate change, said the emissions per capita was a useful measure when it allowed for country by country comparisons.

“The Australian per capita share at the moment is higher than any other developed country in the world — higher than the US. Yes, it’s coming down, but it is still the highest.”

Both Dr Saddler and Professor Karoly confirmed the fall in emissions per capita and GDP were due to rapid population growth in Australia.

Experts assess the claim

Professor Karoly said if Amanda Vanstone’s claim was made in reference to total Australian emissions, “they are going up”.

He noted that the start of the recent rebound in emissions from mid-2014 coincided with the dumping of the carbon tax by the Abbott government in July of that year.

Professor Mark Howden, the director of ANU’s Climate Change Institute, told Fact Check: “I think it is correct to say that Australian emissions were coming down, but are now rising steadily.”

He said an argument could be made that emissions have come down, given they are lower now than at their peak between 2005 and 2008.

“However, this is a problematic argument,” he said.

“Under the current mix of policies and economic activities, emissions are clearly not coming down but instead are rising steadily.”

Pep Canadell, a senior principal research scientist in the CSIRO Climate Science Centre, and the executive director of the Global Carbon Project, suggested that 1990 was a good reference year for gleaning a long-term view of changes to emissions.

“Good annual data only starts from 1990, which is the reference year of the Kyoto Protocol and why the Government started the good quality data then,” Dr Canadell said.

Emissions per capita have fallen 37 per cent since 1990.

However, Dr Canadell added:

“Given Ms Vanstone’s statement is present tense, I disagree [that emissions are falling]. According to the data, emissions have been going up since 2013, with ups and downs, and, if anything, accelerating recently.”

Principal researchers: Sushi Das, Ellen McCutchan

factcheck@rmit.edu.au

Press link for more: ABC

Climate change: Five things we’ve learnt from #COP24 #auspol #qldpol #LabConf18 #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani

Delegates to the UN climate conference in Poland have reached agreement on how to implement the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, which comes into force in 2020. What are the key points to come out of the meeting?

1. The rules are key to the game

However dull it may be, the operational rules for the 2015 Paris climate agreement will govern the way the world tackles climate change for decades to come. 

The key thing was not to unravel the carefully negotiated Paris agreement by having one set of rules for the rich countries and another one for the poor. 

By that measure the conference was a success with China showing leadership by not pushing for a return to the old ways of countries who did, and countries who didn’t.

Also helping that effort was the US.

Ensuring that the China and the US face similar regulations has long been a key of American policy. 

Keeping everyone on the same page also delighted the EU.

Climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete explained how the new rules would work.

“We have a system of transparency, we have a system of reporting, we have rules to measure our emissions, we have a system to measure the impacts of our policies compared to what science recommends.”

To keep everyone in check, the rules will also contain a compliance mechanism, which means that countries that don’t submit their reports on time will face an inquiry. 

The new regulations are “flexible” for developing countries, meaning they can sign up to the rules at a later date.

2. Science is worth fighting for

One of the biggest rows at this meeting was over a key scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

A group of countries including Saudi Arabia, US, Kuwait and Russia refused to “welcome” the IPCC study. 

They merely wanted to “note” the contents. 

Efforts to find a compromise ended in failure.

However that was not the end of the matter. 

The vast majority of countries felt that acknowledging the science was critical at this conference. 

Their efforts did finally ensure that the IPCC was recognised – but many felt it was a token effort.

“That science is unsettling and it doesn’t connect it to the need to do more,” said Camilla Born from the environmental think tank E3G.

“The deal looks at it in isolation, it’s an elegant compromise but it’s not really enough.”

3. International spirit is still alive

Many countries had worried that with the rise of nationalism in many countries and the recent election of Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president, the international co-operation needed to tackle climate change might be in danger. 

For many getting agreement here in Katowice was less about technical rules and more about showing that the international spirit is still alive and has teeth. 

“I think the beauty of multilateralism is that it is the effort of everybody,” said Spanish Ecology Minister Teresa Ribera.

“And what we have seen is that everybody has supported the package, no single country has decided to step down.

“It is very difficult. It is like organising a party for 200 friends, and there’s a single menu that everybody has to eat. It is not so easy but we have got it. That’s fantastic!”

4. A win for the process but not for the planet?

While negotiators have been congratulating themselves on a job well done in landing the rulebook, there are many voices here who feel that the agreement does not go far enough. 

They point to the strength of the science, and the public recognition of the impacts of climate change seen this year in heatwaves and wildfires.

Many environmental campaigners believe that Katowice was a missed opportunity for radical action.

“We have ended up here with more of a coal trade fair than a climate convention,” said Mohamed Adow from Christian Aid, referring to the efforts to promote coal by Poland and the US at this conference. 

“We haven’t acted in good faith, particularly for the young, that we takes seriously what science is telling us and we are responding to it. That message didn’t come through.

“If people think the rulebook is the way to get the world on that path, it is not robust or ambitious enough.”

5. New voices are emerging

One of the most striking things about this conference of the parties was the presence of energised young people in far greater numbers than I have ever seen them at a COP before. 

Climate change chimes with young people in a way that is sometimes missing with older people, who make up the bulk of negotiators here.

The sense that perhaps this UN process doesn’t quite connect with the modern world was summed up best by Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives and now their lead climate negotiator. 

“Almost 10 years since I was last at these climate negotiations, I must say, nothing much seems to have changed. 

“We are still using the same old, dinosaur language. Still saying the same old words.

“Still making the same tedious points.”

It would be hard to argue with this view given the shenanigans that played out at the end, when one country, Brazil, held up progress at the talks on one issue for a couple of days. 

Perhaps the most memorable image of this meeting was that of 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg. 

This teenager who has organised school strikes in Sweden held daily press conferences here to drive home her message that platitudes and warm words just aren’t enough anymore.

Her message was sharp and succinct.

“We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.”

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Until We Confront Capitalism, We Won’t solve the Climate Crisis #auspol #qldpol ##LabConf18 #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion Infinite growth on a finite planet is a fantasy. #Neoliberalism

International climate negotiations have failed to curb runaway greenhouse gas emissions since the first UN treaty on emission reductions was adopted in 1992.

Consumer-focused solutions to climate change such as eating less meat or reducing food mileage, though important, simply won’t be enough to address the systemic nature of the crisis.

So what needs to be done to halt global warming?

Truthout spoke to Simon Pirani about his newest book, Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption, and the prospects for transitioning to a post-fossil fuel world.

Anton Woronczuk: Burning Up situates the last few decades of accelerating fossil fuel consumption alongside the social and economic history of energy production and policy.

How does this context help us understand what is driving, and what has driven, the growth of greenhouse gas emissions through today?

Simon Pirani: When people think about the threat of dangerous climate change, and decide they want to do something about it, it is not easy to work out what to do. It is clear we have to move away from fossil fuels, but not clear how. Governments claim they have solutions, which people instinctively (and rightly) disbelieve, and newspapers report simple, bullet-point proposals – such as “stop eating meat” – the effect of which is unclear.

Moving away from fossil fuels is difficult because they are so deeply embedded in economic activity, in the way that we live.

In Burning Up I hoped to make clearer how that has happened through recent history. 

Take the example of cars and urban infrastructure based on them.

There are technological drivers.

Using an internal combustion engine for motor transport was a truly remarkable innovation. But it took place in an economic and social context: the rise of American capitalism. The USA had oil resources. It had aggressive entrepreneurs who not only pioneered the use of production lines to build cars – and to help discipline and control the workers who made them – but also dreamt up sales techniques to turn the car into a marketable commodity and an object of consumerism.

By the late 20th century, the motor manufacturers had become a fearsome political lobby.

They had undermined alternative forms of transport, remade American cities to serve cars, and frustrated fuel efficiency regulation.

The American example was followed by cities across the rich world during the post war boom, and beyond it from the 1980s onwards.

It was not inevitable that motor technology would come to be used so inefficiently, or that urban transport systems would become subservient to it.

That was conditioned by the way capitalism expanded.

We need to account for technological, social, economic and political elements, to understand how fossil fuel consumption has become unsustainable.

We also need to specify what we mean by “unsustainable.” The human price paid for fossil fuels has always been high – coal miners killed down pits, urban residents’ lives cut short by air pollution.

Global warming, the nature of which only became clear to scientists about thirty years ago, has made it unsustainable in a whole new way.

You repeatedly emphasize throughout your book that energy technologies must be understood as inseparable from the social and economic systems in which they function.

What is the significance of this idea, especially when many institutions promote technological fixes, like geo-engineering or carbon capture, to the climate crisis?

Simon Pirani

The story of fossil fuel consumption growth is a story of technologies used, misused and moulded by the corporations that control them; of capitalist expansion, particularly after the second world war; and of government complicity.

Even today, most fossil fuels are used by technologies of the late 19th-century “second industrial revolution,” and their more-or-less direct successors: cars with internal combustion engines, power stations and electricity networks, urban built infrastructure, energy-intensive manufacturing, fertilizer-heavy industrial agriculture.

The technologies of the so-called “third industrial revolution” – computers and communication networks that appeared from the 1980s – have not only not helped make the economy less fuel-intensive, they have made things worse.

The internet now uses more electricity than India uses for everything – not because it could not function more efficiently, but because it has developed as a commercial rather than a collective network, loaded with commercial content.

By contrast, networked technology’s tremendous potential to make urban energy systems more efficient – to make them integrated, using multiple decentralized renewable energy sources such as wind and solar – has hardly been tapped.

Ideologies of “economic growth” and productivism have played a huge part in frustrating efforts to deal with global warming in the most effective way – by cutting fossil fuel consumption.

Enthusiasm for geoengineering is the ultimate and most extreme manifestation of such ideologies. 

Carbon capture and storage will probably never work at a large scale.

Other geoengineering techniques are outside my area of expertise, but I know that climate scientists view politicians’ enthusiasm for these techniques with huge concern.

I recently went to a seminar with researchers who worked on the IPCC report on ways of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

With reference to schemes to reflect sunlight back into space, one participant reported political pressure on scientists not to use the phrase “solar radiation management,” but rather to talk about “solar radiation modification.”

Someone wants to make it sound less like the giant, Promethean intervention in natural processes that it actually is! 

Moving away from fossil fuels will mean completely changing these technological systems, and the social and economic systems in which they are embedded.

Some people point to technological fixes to avoid talking about such deep-going change.

Common solutions promoted by some environmentalists are often framed in terms of changing individual consumption or those of populations, especially of the rich world.

Some of these include eating less (or no) meat, buying more local produce, using more public transportation, etc.

What do these solutions obscure in terms of how fossil fuels are consumed in and through societies (unequally) across the world?

For a start, focusing on rich-world hamburger eaters ignores the whole supply chain that produces such fuel-intensive, unhealthy products.

Appealing to rich-world drivers to get the bus only makes sense as part of a challenge to the whole urban transport system they depend on, that favors cars.

I try to minimize my own hamburger consumption and car use, but I don’t treat consumption as a moral issue. And it is not primarily an individual phenomenon: fuels are consumed by and through technological and economic systems.

Second, working people in the rich world spend their lives fending off the effects of elites’ encroachments on their living standards.

Under the present economic and political conditions, reducing consumption would often make their lives harder.

It needn’t do, but that’s how things stand now.

The French government wrapped up its latest attempt at austerity as a climate policy, and came unstuck.

Too bad for them.

In reality, averting global warming, working out ways to live better lives, and countering social injustice are all part of the same approach to life.

We need to work out how to express that politically. 

Look at the reaction in France to the proposed fuel tax increase.

It ignited a general revolt against neoliberal encroachments on working people’s living standards.

The government has retreated, and not only abandoned the planned tax increase, but also promised to increase the minimum wage.

Right-wing commentators have falsely claimed that the protest movement was against climate policies.

I saw no evidence of that.

While the movement is politically heterogeneous, an overarching theme is that working people are sick of being asked to pay for everything.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), established in 1992, was heralded by many as a major accomplishment in international efforts to address global warming; but you argue that Rio, and subsequent UN conferences, ensured that ecological imperatives were subordinate to economic interests.

Can you explain what this entailed and how it persisted through the Paris agreement?

Climate science has a history too.

The world’s ruling elites have long known that coal mines kill mineworkers, and cared little. But they did not know that fossil fuels were feeding into the global warming threat until the 1980s.

Only then did scientists clarify how warming happens, and the role played by greenhouse gases and fossil fuels. But once the ruling elites had the science in front of them, they fought desperately to limit the actions taken to those that reinforced, or at least did not threaten, their economic dominance.

The political expression of this was the refusal by the US and other governments to countenance the idea of binding emissions reduction targets.

This was consistent in the international climate negotiations from 1992 onwards. Another theme was that market mechanisms should be used to reduce fossil fuel consumption. This was the basis of the Kyoto protocol of 1997 and the disastrously unsuccessful emissions trading schemes it provided for.

A huge amount of political energy is expended to convince us that the international climate talks are dealing with the global warming problem.

They simply are not.

Since 1992 the annual level of greenhouse gases emissions from fossil fuel use has risen by more than half.

That is a failure.

If we don’t characterize the talks in that way, we cannot deal with the political consequences.

The 2015 Paris agreement marked the final collapse of attempts to adopt binding emissions targets.

I do not want to say the voluntary targets adopted are worthless, or that the policies adopted in some countries to achieve them are not helpful, or that serious efforts – most obviously, the substantial investment in renewable energy for electricity generation – are not being made to move away from some uses of fossil fuels. But we need to assess progress soberly and not confuse hopes with reality.

A widely celebrated proposal for a “Green New Deal” has been touted by many center-left politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders and Yanis Varoufakis, as a solution to the multiple crises we face today.

What is your evaluation of it?

The “green new deal” appears to have several meanings.

It has been used by mainstream neoliberal politicians to describe an investment program, operated completely through markets, that would shift the economy away from fossil fuels.

The left-wing politicians you mention see the “green new deal” as a program of state infrastructure investment, a mobilization of resources on the scale of a war effort.

Whether such a war-type mobilization would ever be implemented in any significant capitalist country remains to be seen.

The political scientists Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright suggest in their book Climate Leviathan that there could be an international agreement between the US, China and others that would undertake such spending, but very much in the strongest countries’ neo-imperial interests, and with a big dose of geoengineering.

Obviously the left politicians’ perspectives are quite different.

In Burning Up I argued that not just a social-democratic spending program, but a much deeper-going shift to post-capitalist social relations, could provide the context for the fundamental changes in social, economic and technological systems that will be necessary to break the economy’s many-sided dependence on fossil fuels.

That’s how I see the future.

By saying that, I don’t deny the need for immediate responses. But the most noticeable immediate responses will come from governments.

If anyone tells me they are up to the job of dealing with climate change, I would point to the fact that annual global fossil fuel consumption has risen by more than 60 percent since the Rio convention was signed.

That’s the result of governments’ response.

Australian school pupils understand that simple arithmetic better than they understand politicians’ promises, which is why they went on strike in protest at inaction on climate change.

They will not be the last ones of their generation to do so.

Press link for more: Truth Out

#StopAdani protestors storm ALP conference speech #auspol #qldpol #ClimateAction #COP24 #LabConf18 #ClimateChange “Our Greatest Moral Challenge #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion

Refugee and climate change protesters have stormed the stage at Labor’s national conference just as Bill Shorten started to speak.

The refugee protesters had to be dragged from the stage, while Mr Shorten accepted a “stop Adani” flag from another protester.

The beginning of his speech at the conference in Adelaide on Sunday was delayed as the protests were cleared.

Activist group Galilee Blockade claimed responsibility for the anti-Adani protest and identified the man who unfurled the banner behind Mr Shorten as Isaac Astill.

“Will you please stop the Adani coal mine?

There are bushfires across Queensland, heat records are tumbling, the Great Barrier Reef is heading for a third bleaching event, we have to stop the Adani coal mine,” Mr Astill asked the Labor leader.

“Oh mate. Alright,” Mr Shorten replied, and added, “thanks for making that statement. Do I get to keep the flag?”

“You can keep the flag if you like, absolutely, of course,” the protester replied.

“Good on you mate, cheers. See ya,” Mr Shorten said.

A statement from Galilee Blockade after the protest said: “80 per cent of Labor supporters believe new coal mines are no longer in the national interest.

Yet Bill Shorten and the Labor Party still support Adani’s mine, opening up one of the largest untapped coal reserves on Earth.”

It’s not the first time this week Mr Shorten has been interrupted by the stop-Adani group.

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#COP24 outcome misses urgency of #climatebreakdown #auspol #qldpol #LabConf18 #StopAdani demand #GreenNewDeal #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum

As the COP24 climate summit comes to an end, it is clear that governments have failed to adequately respond to the catastrophic impacts of climate change that were highlighted in the landmark IPCC report on 1.5°C.

Based on a now widely operational Paris Agreement the next two years need to be used to build far-reaching transformational partnerships and reach the level of ambition science makes clear is necessary.

COP24 failed to deliver a clear commitment to strengthen all countries’ climate pledges by 2020. At the same time, a relatively effective though incomplete rulebook for how to implement the Paris Agreement was finalised.

Limited progress was also made with regard to how financial support for poorer countries coping with devastating climate impacts will be provided and accounted for.

The EU has made welcome efforts by building alliances with other countries and finding common ground on sticking points.

It has also set a good example when, together with several other members of the High Ambition Coalition, it committed to increase its 2030 climate target by 2020, in light of the warnings of the IPCC report.

However, it has failed to convince all other governments to make the same commitment.

Germany doubled their support for the Green Climate Fund to support developing countries, but other European countries still have to do the same.

In reaction to the COP24 outcomes, Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said:

“The weak outcome of this COP runs contrary to stark warnings of the IPCC report and growing demand for action from citizens.

Governments have again delayed adequate action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.

The EU needs to push ahead and lead by example, by providing more support to poor countries and increasing its climate pledge before the UN Secretary General Summit in September 2019. It must be a significant increase, even beyond the 55% reduction some Member States and the European Parliament are calling for.”

ENDS

Contact:

Ania Drazkiewicz, CAN Europe Head of Communications, ania@caneurope.org, +32 494 525 738

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change.

With over 150 member organisations from 35 European countries, representing over 1.700 NGOs and more than 40 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.

CAN Europe members made the following statements wrapping up COP24:

Jennifer Tollmann, Climate Diplomacy Researcher, E3G said: “In the end the EU did finally step up as a bridge-builder. But we now need to see whether they can ace the real test. Will they pull their weight in closing the global emissions gap and support their climate vulnerable allies to weather the storm?”

Mattias Söderberg, Climate Advisor, DanChurchAid said: “Poor and vulnerable countries are left behind with the agreement from Katowice.

People who face loss and damage due to droughts, flooding and devastating storms are not acknowledged.

This puts more burden on those living in poverty who are affected by the worst impacts of climate change, and who in most cases have very few emissions themselves.”

Christoph Bals, Policy Director of Germanwatch said: “It’s very clear that the world expects the EU to lead in climate politics.

In the end we have seen some attempts of EU countries to play a constructive role in the high ambition coalition. But only far reaching transformational partnerships between EU members and other countries can develop the necessary geopolitical dynamics for transformation.”

Neil Makaroff, European Policy Officer of Reseau Action Climat France said: “The COP24 climate negotiations should be a wakeup call for EU countries: there is no time to waste in childish divisions.

The IPCC report clearly highlighted that our home is burning and we have a limited time to save it.

Governments should be united in engaging Europe in a more ambitious climate policy, both boosting the energy transition and ensuring that it is socially just, benefiting to all. Europeans have this special responsibility to pave the way and lead climate actions by example.”

Sven Harmeling, Global Policy Lead on Climate Change, CARE International said: “At COP24, a number of powerful countries driven by short-sighted interests pushed to abolish the ambitious 1.5°C limit and throw away the alarming findings on harmful climate impacts of the IPCC Special Report.

The most vulnerable countries, civil society and people on the ground have been leading the fight for climate justice.

While governments accomplished the task of adopting a rulebook to further the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the world now requires much faster and stronger climate action at the national level, and support for poor countries to build climate resilience.”

Sebastian Scholz, Head of Climate Policy, NABU/BirdLife Germany said: “Again at this COP civil society made their demand clear to those decide to stay within the limit of 1.5 degrees of global warming.

None the less several issues weren’t solved by the delegations.

Even the alarming findings of the IPCC Special Report weren’t properly integrated into the outcome.

The EU had a rather weak position on closing loopholes in the accounting guidelines of the rulebook.

This won’t help to limit emissions, but also incentivise the use of non sustainable biomass for energy supply, and therefore risks a further loss of biodiversity.”

Karin Lexén, Secretary General of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation said: “Two months ago, the scientific community sent an emergency message on the state of the climate crisis.

Coming to Katowice, we demanded no less than an emergency response.

This was not delivered.

Now all countries must urgently pick up the baton, do their homework and get ready to radically scale up climate action at home.

In Sweden, we demand a ban on fossil fuels by 2030.”

Otto Bruun, Climate Policy Officer, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation said: “Climate scientists have highlighted a safe option to avert climate chaos. Early retirement of fossil fuels should go hand in hand with the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems. While the governments at the Katowice conference did not produce the rulebook to match the ambition of the Paris treaty, governments must now mind the gap in ambition and increase their efforts at once. The April 2019 general election in Finland looks set be a climate election. Our collective ambition in civil society is to drive through an unforeseen and just policy shift to immediately protect and restore forest and peatland carbon sinks while retiring all fossil fuels altogether within two decades.”

Press link for more: CAN Europe

Burning Down The House: Fighting Climate Action From The Centre Will Leave Us In Ashes #auspol #qldpol #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion

By Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is an Australian leftwing writer, editor and former socialist activist based in Melbourne, Victoria. He is the co-author of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within. He is also the author of Communism: A Love Story and Killing: Misadventures in Violence. Wikipedia

Demonstrators stand next to metal barriers around the tomb of The Unknown Soldier at The Arc of Triomphe during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs on the Champs Elysees in Paris, on December 1, 2018. (IMAGE: vfutscher, Flickr)

As the globe – and the political climate aimed at saving it – heats up, we need a different politics to tackle an entrenched problem, writes Jeff Sparrow.

Sensible centrism will doom us all.

Take Emmanuel Macron, once hailed everywhere as the savior of liberalism.

“Macron,” explained Politico in April this year, “has stepped audaciously into the vacuum created by Trump’s abdication of America’s historic role as keeper of the liberal democratic flame.”

Nor was this an anomalous view in the English-speaking world.

MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid expressed the perspective of many American Democrats, when she quipped that Macron should be running Washington.

As Salon put it, “Macron appeared to have everything that centrist Democrats could ever want in a candidate; he was young, smart and charismatic, yet also mature and pragmatic (as all centrists are, in the neoliberal worldview).

Macron also appeared to be different and innovative, like a political version of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and claimed to be “neither left nor right,” as if to have a political ideology was to have an outdated worldview, something like using a flip phone in 2018.”

In Britain, he generated the same kind of excitement among the same kind of people, with Labourite opponents of Jeremy Corbyn enthusing over the ‘new Tony Blair’, even as a new Macron-inspired centrist party called Renew came into being.

French President Emmanuel Macron, pictured in 2018. (IMAGE: Mike Bloomberg, Flickr)

One doubts that the Boy Wonder will feature much in Renew’s further history (if indeed it has one), given that recent opinion polls, conducted in the wake of the heroic Yellow Vest rebellion revealed him to be the most unpopular leader in recent times.

With riots, blockades and protests spreading across the country, the demand for Macron’s resignation provided a central slogan uniting an often fractious movement.

But his failure represents something more than the misfire of an overhyped media personality.

It illustrates the peculiar danger posed by the ongoing infatuation of supposed progressives with the so-called ‘radical centre’.

Macron’s international boosters had presented him as the figure to stem the rise of reactionary populism in Europe, someone who would combine market-based prosperity with liberal reforms.

When, in December 2017, Trump repudiated the Paris Climate Accords, Macron launched a slick social media campaign around the slogan ‘Make the planet great again’.

To that end, he proposed a so-called ‘eco tax’ on fuel, a levy intended, he explained, to discourage car use and to raise funds for climate change mitigation.

Symptomatically, though, he provided no alternative for working class drivers in the outer suburbs, small towns and rural areas without public transport.

The meteoric rise of the Yellow Vests reflected the widespread (and accurate) perception that the fuel tax constituted another attack by a government of the rich on some of the poorest people in the country.

In many ways, the tax represented the final straw for a population long sick of austerity.

The Macron bubble had, in fact, already burst well before the Yellow Vests took over the streets.

In September, Reuters reported his popularity at a then record low, with voters “ranging from conservative pensioners to low-income workers complain[ing]his policies mostly benefit companies and the rich”.

Yellow Vests protestors, pictured in Paris on December 1. (IMAGE: Prachatai, Flickr)

Nevertheless, for those of us watching from afar, it’s worth reflecting on how centrism brought the rhetoric of environmentalism directly into conflict with the aspirations of the people, in a manner that gave ammunition to the worst denialists.

Hasn’t every right-wing demagogue, from Donald Trump to Pauline Hanson, denounced climate change as a chatter class preoccupation imposed to shackle the working man?

Thus, rather than defeating the reactionary populists, Macron provided them, via his tax, with an effective talking point, a confirmation of the perspective they’ve long argued.

As he back-pedalled, the president acknowledged what he called the tension between ‘the end of the world’ and the ‘end of the month’.

The formulation was repeated by sympathetic commentators who declared that, in the future, environmental measures must be imposed gradually, so as to ease the pain of those living payday to payday. But that argument, too, accepts the underlying frame of the far right, positing workers as innately opposed to an environmentalism that, by definition, rendered them poorer and more miserable.

In reality, it’s climate change, not climate action, that necessarily threatens ordinary people, simply because the environmental crisis can no longer be disentangled from the broader crisis of a decaying capitalism.

The catastrophic weather associated with global warming will, for instance, overwhelmingly affect those already targeted by austerity – the individuals too poor to relocate or rebuild or use aircon or take other preventative measures.

The refugees from rising seas will be indistinguishable from the victims of war and poverty; the political ruptures provoked by drought, land degradation and other environmental disasters will blend into the general instability of the 21st century.

Yellow Vest protestors in Metz, Lorraine. (IMAGE: Dmitry Dzhus, Flickr)

The tension between climate activism and the working class emerges not from the nature of the problem but from the logic of centrist solutions, which always centre on neoliberal mechanisms such as carbon taxes.

But there’s no environmental reason to rely on the market to combat fossil fuels.

A government could, after all, forcibly acquire polluting industries at the stroke of the pen, much as almost every regime nationalised parts of the economy during the Second World War.


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To put it another way, the decarbonisation of the developed nations could be presented in a program designed to extend democratic control over industry, improve working conditions and materially improve the lives of the populace.

If it’s not – if climate action instead becomes a fig-leaf for austerity – that’s because of political choice rather than necessity.

Centrists pride themselves on their political acumen.

Carbon taxes and other market mechanisms might not be ideal, they say, but they reflect the horizon of the possible. 

We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and it’s better to do something than nothing at all.

Macron’s example demonstrates the bankruptcy of that argument.

To their credit, the Yellow Vests seem to be moving to the left rather than to the right.

Nevertheless, the French situation will inspire right-wing populists everywhere to bring climate denial to the front of their agenda, adding to the difficulty of achieving genuine environmental change across Europe and elsewhere.

The fight for climate change depends on ordinary working people.

We have more to learn from the Yellow Vests and their militancy than we do from ‘sensible centrists’, no matter how much they drape themselves in green.

Now, more than ever, climate action must become radical.

Press link for more: New Matilda

What’s a universal basic income doing in Ocasio-Cortez’s “#GreenNewDeal”? #auspol #qldpol #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum

By Dan Kopf

AP/Susan Walsh

Throwing the kitchen sink at climate change.

In 2007, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote a story calling for a “Green New Deal.”

Friedman explained that he no longer believed that there was one silver-bullet program that would solve climate change.

Rather, just as a variety of programs were part of former US president Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” for economic revitalization in the 1930s, so it would take a variety of investments in environmentally-friendly technologies to help stabilize the climate.

Friedman almost certainly could not have imagined that some day politicians would propose a Green New Deal that might include a universal basic income.

Newly elected US congress member and rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned for office on an ambitious climate-change platform which she also calls a Green New Deal.

The plan has gained attention and supporters over the last month, and is becoming a main talking point among Democrats who are looking for a meaningful agenda for the party over the next decade.

Ocasio-Cortez envisions the federal government leading efforts to eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions by investing in renewable energy infrastructure, improving the efficiency of residential and industrial buildings, and constructing an energy-efficient electricity grid.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, however, involves taking on not only climate change, but also poverty and inequality.

To achieve the Green New Deal’s goals, the government would need to hire millions of people. Ocasio-Cortez sees this as an opportunity to transform the economy.

The Green New Deal would include training and education for workers, as well as a federal job-guarantee program.

Further, all investments would be focused on low-income communities.

Presenting climate-change mitigation as a jobs program, rather than an economy killer, may be politically savvy.

As if all that wasn’t ambitious enough, the Green New Deal would also include “basic income programs, universal healthcare programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor-market flexibility, and entrepreneurism.”

It is basically everything liberals desire and more.

Supporters defend the need for these welfare programs as ways to alleviate the disruption that would be caused by the elimination of fossil fuel-supported jobs.

With a universal basic income and government-guaranteed health care, losing your oil-industry gig wouldn’t be as bad.

The program would of course be very expensive.

It’s hard to estimate how much it would cost, as the details are still murky. Green Party leader Jill Stein estimated that her version of the Green New Deal, which is less ambitious than the one presented by Ocasio-Cortez, would cost $700 billion to $1 trillion annually.

Ocasio-Cortez says hers would be funded by debt spending and tax increases.

In Friedman’s original conception, the government played a much smaller role in the Green New Deal.

He believed the government’s place was not in funding projects, but in seeding research and creating tax incentives and efficiency standards (paywall), and that harnessing the power of the private sector was the key to taking on climate change.

While Ocasio-Cortez believes the private sector has a role to play, she argues that the scale of the project is too big to leave to government-guided market forces.

The Green New Deal has come a long and very expensive way.

It still far cheaper than catastrophic climate change.

Press link for more: QZ.Com

We need a #GreenNewDeal #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #SystemChange not #ClimateChange #TheDrum Infinite growth on a finite planet is a fantasy

By Ruth Kaser

Ruth Kaser is a retired Roseburg teacher. A past board member of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition.

When the Roseburg Library opens its doors, get your hands on “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan. It is page-turner nonfiction that follows some tough, hard-luck people through the Dust Bowl.

It is a story with surprising resonance today.

Australia in the grip of record drought.

My parents grew up during those years of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. My dad farmed in Colorado, a part of the country deeply impacted by that natural, economic and human disaster.

Maybe I wasn’t listening, or dad didn’t want to burden his kids with those stories, but I had no idea the scale of misery visited largely on the poorest, least-powerful people in this country in those years.

A compelling story that resonates today, it tells of hard working people trying to realize the American dream by plowing up the prairie and planting it in wheat — acre after acre of wheat.

These people, boxed out of opportunity in the East and Far West, are encouraged to come to the southern plains.

They are enticed to farm a dry buffalo grass prairie by a government that is at a minimum ignorant of how all that plowing will impact the cattlemen who already were there, the native people who had been promised this land seen as useless, the wildlife that had flourished in its harsh environment, and ultimately the farmers themselves, who would be ruined by their own success.

It is also the story of a government which belatedly took drastic but successful action to reclaim that now ruined land by creating soil protection districts, teaching new methods of farming and planting thousands of trees as wind breaks.

That government action was opposed by hate filled politicians who blamed Jews or immigrants or nature for the disaster.

It was opposed by honorable men who feared a federal government’s power. But those who recognized the scale and potential of this horror show were tenacious and dogged and won.

Had they not been, the misery would have been even worse, and this country may have had an economy that never recovered.

We now face a worldwide disaster in climate change of even greater size and potential to cause misery to hardworking people everywhere.

Once again it is largely the result of humans and of governments either ignorant of the price of complacency or willing to sacrifice the bulk of humanity for re-election, power or wealth.

We need leaders the equal of those who then took on all the forces that said “Do nothing,” or “Do less,” and through their courage and tenacity led this country out of the dark misery of the Dust Bowl.

We need to support all those young people calling for a Green New Deal to match the New Deal of the 1930s.

We need to have the grit of the Americans who lived through watching their children die of dust pneumonia.

Americans who lost everything, surviving on wild game and pickled tumble weeds, and kept going.

If they could suffer all that and not throw up their hands in despair so that we could enjoy all the opportunity and ease we have today, surely we can use less, drive less and vote more for leaders who recognize the catastrophe on the horizon.

Somewhere all three Roosevelt’s, FDR, Teddy and Eleanor, are rooting for us to do just that.

Press link for more: NR Today