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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

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Is a #GreenNewDeal Possible Without a Revolution? #auspol #qldpol #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #StopAdani #TheDrum #ClimateChange The end of #Neoliberalism #COP24

By Eric Levitz

A Green New Deal is the name of our desire. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Frederick Douglass wasn’t exaggerating: Power really does concede nothing without a demand — not even a plan to make a plan to prevent the powerful’s own grandkids from perishing in the end-times.

As of few weeks ago, congressional Democrats had no clear vision for how they intended to develop a clear vision for tackling climate change.

The party’s leading 2020 contenders had put forward ambitious policies on health care, housing, criminal justice, the racial wealth gap, child care, wage stagnation, corporate governance reform, and legal ganja — but virtually nothing on the small issue of how to ensure that human civilization outlives Barron Trump.

And then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrived in Washington — and brought hundreds of activists from the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats along with her.

One month and two occupations of Nancy Pelosi’s office later, the “Green New Deal” has become the hottest idea in Democratic politics.

More than 20 members of Congress have called for a select committee dedicated to developing a draft bill of the Green New Deal.

Chuck Schumer has informed Donald Trump that Democrats will not support any infrastructure bill, unless it’s a green, New Deal-esque infrastructure bill. And the political press is chock-full of headlines like, “How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ Might Help Save the Planet,” and “Is the Green New Deal the Only Way Forward?

All of which has led the boldly naïve to ask, “What, exactly, is a Green New Deal?”

The answer will depend on whom you ask.

To the median Democrat, a Green New Deal is just a fancy name for an infrastructure bill that includes significant investments in renewable energy, and climate resiliency.

To the progressive think tank Data for Progress, it’s a comprehensive plan for America to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, through a combination of massive public investment in renewables, smart grids, battery technology, and resiliency; turbocharged environmental regulations; and policies that promote urbanization, reforestation, wetland restoration, and soil sustainability — all designed with an eye toward achieving full employment, and advancing racial justice.

But to the American left’s most utopian reformists, the Green New Deal is shorthand for an ambition even more sweeping.

More precisely, it is a means of conveying their vision for radical change to a popular audience, by way of analogy.

Eighty years ago, the United States was faced with a malign force that threatened to eradicate the possibility of decent civilization.

We responded by entrusting our elected government to reorganize our economy, and concentrate our nation’s resources on nullifying the Axis threat.

In the process, America not only defeated fascism abroad, but consolidated a progressive transformation of its domestic political economy.

The war effort affirmed the public sector’s competence at directing economic activity, fostered unprecedented levels of social solidarity — and, in so doing, banished laissez-faire from the realm of respectable opinion.

In the course of a decade, ideas from the far-left fringe of American thought became pillars of Establishment consensus: Very serious people suddenly agreed that it was legitimate for the state to enforce collective bargaining rights, impose steeply progressive income taxes, administer redistributive social programs, subsidize home ownership, and promote full employment.

The New Deal ceased to be a single president’s ad hoc recovery program, and became a consensus economic model.

An unprecedented contraction in economic inequality ensued; the most prosperous middle-class in human history was born.

Many contemporary leftists believe this history is worth repeating: Just as the fight against fascism facilitated a democratic transition from laissez-faire to Keynesian liberalism, so the fight for climate sustainability can shepard America out of neoliberalism, and into ecofriendly, intersectional, democratic socialism.

“The last time we had a really major existential threat to this country was around World War II, and so we’ve been here before and we have a blueprint of doing this before” Ocasio-Cortez told supporters in October. “What we did was that we chose to mobilize our entire economy and industrialized our entire economy and we put hundreds of thousands if not millions of people to work” — a mobilization that the congresswoman-elect sees as “a potential path towards a more equitable economy with increased employment and widespread financial security for all.”

The climate journalist Kate Aronoff offers this portrait of the future Green New Dealers want:

IT’S THE SPRING of 2043, and Gina is graduating college with the rest of her class. She had a relatively stable childhood. Her parents availed themselves of some of the year of paid family leave they were entitled to, and after that she was dropped off at a free child care program.

Pre-K and K-12 were also free, of course, but so was her time at college, which she began after a year of public service, during which she spent six months restoring wetlands and another six volunteering at a day care much like the one she had gone to.

Now that she’s graduated, it’s time to think about what to do with her life. Without student debt, the options are broad. She also won’t have to worry about health insurance costs, since everyone is now eligible for Medicare. Like most people, she isn’t extraordinarily wealthy, so she can live in public, rent-controlled housing — not in the underfunded, neglected units we’re accustomed to seeing in the United States, but in one of any number of buildings that the country’s top architects have competed for the privilege to design, featuring lush green spaces, child care centers, and even bars and restaurants.

….For work, she trained to become a high-level engineer at a solar panel manufacturer, though some of her friends are going into nursing and teaching. All are well-paid, unionized positions, and are considered an essential part of the transition away from fossil fuels, updates about which are broadcast over the nightly news.

This vision is compelling — and, on a substantive level, so is Ocasio-Cortez’s historical analogy. In the long run, climate change surely poses as great a threat to the United States (and to liberal democratic governance) as the Nazis ever did. And a rational response to the climate threat quite clearly requires a drastic expansion of state-economic planning, and thus, an overhaul of the American political economy — so, while we’re renovating things, why not install that Nordic welfare state we’ve been eyeing, take down some of the hideous structures white supremacy built, and pare back that overgrown financial industry?

But when viewed through a strictly political lens, the analogy breaks down.

The Axis powers posed an immediate threat to many American capitalists, and their overseas investments — while U.S. victory in the war promised corporate America a bonanza. This self-interest dampened corporate resistance to FDR’s mobilization of the war economy, which itself massively increased the leverage of American labor. Securing global hegemony for American capital required victory, and victory required maintaining labor peace in a context of full employment. Unions could deliver the latter, and thus, were in a position to demand concessions. With that leverage, they secured “maintenance of membership” rules that allowed them to count all new employees at unionized plants as members, and immediately charge them dues; as a result, a record-high 35.5 percent of the nonagricultural labor force was unionized by 1945.

By contrast, climate change poses less of an immediate threat to America’s contemporary economic elites than the Green New Deal does.

The Koch Network fears the euthanasia of the fossil fuel industry — and confiscatory top tax rates — a lot more than rising sea levels.

Thus, corporate resistance to World War II–esque state-led mobilization to combat climate change (let alone, an avowedly socialist one) is certain to be immense. And given the conservative movement’s tightening grip over the federal judiciary, and red America’s increasingly disproportionate influence over state governments and the Senate, Green New Dealers would need to defeat near-unanimous corporate opposition on a playing field sharply tilted to their rivals’ advantage.

Further, replicating FDR’s model will take more than just winning power. Consolidating the New Deal order required the Democratic Party to maintain continuous control of the White House for two decades.

Considering the contemporary partisan alignment — and existence of presidential term limits — it seems unlikely that a pro-Green New Deal governing coalition would retain power long enough to turn core aspects of its radical agenda into pillars of a new bipartisan consensus.

None of this is to suggest that the Green New Deal isn’t a worthwhile ideal.

In an era replete with dystopias, and starved for futures to believe in, Aronoff’s (modest) utopia is a welcome intervention. Rather, my intention is merely to spark discussion of the following question: If persuading a couple dozen Democrats to support a select committee to draft a Green New Deal (which many of them understand as a little more than a climate-centric infrastructure stimulus) took repeatedly occupying Nancy Pelosi’s office, what will it take to institutionalize 100 percent renewable social democracy atop the ruins of the fossil fuel industry?

In lieu of an answer to that daunting query, let me offer a take on (what I believe to be) a related one.

Earlier this week, Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress asked (in so many words) why certain progressives were cheering the yellow vests protests in France.

And on one level, Tanden’s bafflement was justified. There’s little doubt that significant portions of the French protest movement are deeply reactionary, on questions of both climate policy and immigration. And regardless of the Marcon regime’s broader failings and provocations, the fact that an ambitious effort at carbon pricing was met with an insurrection is sure to weaken the hand of anyone pushing for similar policies in other countries.

And yet, the yellow vest protests didn’t just demonstrate that carbon taxes can provoke popular backlash (at least, when paired with austerity and tax breaks for the rich) — they also served as a reminder that it is still possible for ordinary people to change political realities within their governing institutions, by practicing politics outside of them. Grassroots, social-media-powered political organizing can fuel reactionary movements and genocides; but it can also trigger teachers’ strikes.

We’re going to need carbon taxes to get where Green New Dealers wish to take us. But we’ll also need a dash of mass civil disobedience (or at least, a million millennial march or two).

Press link for more: NYMAG

We Have To Make Sure the “#GreenNewDeal” Doesn’t Become Green #Capitalism #auspol #qldpol #COP24 #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #TheDrum

A conversation with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson.

Incoming Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made waves in late November when she called for a Green New Deal (GND)—a plan to “transition” the U.S. economy to “become carbon neutral” over the course of 10 years.

In adraft resolution, she proposes the formation of a Select Committee to develop a plan for massive public works programs, powered by a jobs guarantee and public banks, with the goal of “meeting 100 percent of national power demand through renewable sources.”

According to Ocasio-Cortez, the plan aims to eliminate poverty, bring down greenhouse gas emissions, and “ensure a ‘just transition’ for all workers, low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, rural and urban communities and the front-line communities.”

The GND is still in its nascent phase, and concrete details haven’t yet been hashed out, but the proposal has received backing from the youth climate organization, the Sunrise Movement, which staged direct actions and protests to build political support for the framework.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is throwing his political weight behind the plan and 35 House members have endorsed it.

Ocasio-Cortez—who identifies as a democratic socialist—is poised to lead the progressive conversation about climate change at the federal level.

Yet, some climate justice organizations are responding with more cautious support.

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), a network of front-line environmental justice organizations, including the Southwest Workers Union and Black Mesa Water Coalition, praised the GND as “a much-needed aggressive national pivot away from climate denialism to climate action.” But CJA said in a statement released earlier this week that “the proposal for the GND was made public at the grasstops [as opposed to grassroots] level. When we consulted with many of our own communities, they were neither aware of, nor had they been consulted about the launch of the GND.”

While the GND is in its developmental phase, the Climate Justice Alliance says it is critical for social movement groups to fight for the best possible version of the deal—and ensure that it does not include false solutions such as “carbon markets, offsets and emissions trading regimes or geoengineering technologies.”

CJA says any jobs plan should restore and protect workers’ rights to organize and form unions, and it should be predicated on non-extractive policies that build “local community wealth that is democratically governed.”

Any deal must ensure “free, prior and informed consent by Indigenous peoples,” CJA insists, and should be directed by those communities bearing the brunt of the “dig, burn, dump” economy.

In These Times spoke with Kali Akuno, director of the CJA-affiliated Cooperation Jackson, a Missisippi-based group that aims to build a “solidarity economy” that is “anchored by a network of cooperatives and worker-owned, democratically self-managed enterprises.”

According to Akuno, movements must defend the best components of the GND, while challenging–and offering alternatives to–the capitalist logic embedded in some of its proposals. “While this is still in the drafting phase,” he argues, “let’s get it as near perfect as we possibly can.”

Kali Akuno

Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city. 

Sarah Lazare: What do you think of proposal for a Green New Deal put forward by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Kali Akuno: One, I’m glad that something like this is being introduced and is being discussed so widely, particularly coming from a freshman congresswoman. I don’t think that’s insignificant at all. I’m excited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even had the courage to take this up. Let’s be real: To walk in as a freshman congresswoman in this environment and atmosphere, she should be applauded.

Is it perfect, is it everything we want? Absolutely not. To a certain extent, that’s fine. She has to play ball in the balance of power as it concretely exists. The broad public debate that the introduction of the Green New Deal proposal has generated presents an opportunity for the Left to strengthen our forces, gather new forces and expand the base of the movement. Her putting this forward is a profound opportunity for the Left.

I think the Left needs to seize it. We can do that by talking about it: the things we support, why we support them, the things we want to see strengthened, improved and changed. We should communicate that as far and wide as we can. We have to shift the conversation and put the Right on the defensive. Right now, they’re on the offensive.

We need to critically analyze some of the shortfalls of the capitalist logic embedded in this plan. We have to push back and improve upon the Green New Deal. In a real practical and concrete way, the Left has to intervene.

Dismissing it and not having a dialogue and talking just about how it’s imperfect is not good enough. If we believe there is a limited time to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change, we have to seize every opportunity to educate people, create the policy framework, and to take action to implement it on the ground in real time. We need to talk about it, raise awareness and build a base for our point of view. Let’s use the platform her winning the election has provided to move people and to take action.

Sarah: What should a left intervention look like?

Kali: Let me get to the heart of it. Because of the capitalist logic that’s embedded in what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has put forth, at this point, the Left needs to intervene.

We need to be putting out and elevating the counter-proposals many of us have been putting forward. There is the “just transition” framework coming out of some social movements and organized labor. There are some concrete suggestions many of us have been putting forward for years. Healing the soil, reintroducing small-scale agriculture, restoring the commons, making more space available for wildlife reintroduction. This has been coming from the It Takes Roots Alliance, which consists of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Climate Justice Alliance, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and the Right to the City Alliance. On the ground, organizations from oppressed communities have been putting forward a just transition for a while.

Representatives from It Takes Roots are opening a dialogue with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office. Our aim is to lift up our demands and concrete solutions and have them constitute core components of the legislation that she puts forward. We’re seeing the beginning of an opening in that regard.

While this is still in the drafting phase, let’s get it as near perfect as we possibly can.

Sarah: What needs to be improved?

Kali: There are some things in the framework that she put forth that need to be challenged. The one that I always highlight is this notion that the different types of solutions that are developed through the entrepreneurial innovations that come out of this program, like renewable energy technologies, that the U.S. government and major transnational corporations should be exporters of this energy and knowledge. That’s deeply embedding this thing as a new export industry, which is a new cycle of capital accumulation. That part really needs to be challenged. This is trying to embed the solution in market-based dynamics, but the market is not going to solve this problem.

Editor’s note: In her draft text calling for a committee on the Green New Deal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez includes the following objective, to be accomplished within 10 years of the plan’s implementation: “making ‘green’ technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.”

Sarah: U.S. industries have played tremendous and disproportionate role in driving climate change. It seems predatory for those industries to develop “solutions” and then turn around and sell them to the Global South.

Kali: Yeah, it’s this logic of, I created the problem, I control the resolution of the problem through various mechanisms, I play a big role in preventing any serious motion that might happen at the level of intergovernmental exchange through the United Nations—under Obama, and now under 45. I set it up so that we come up with these technology solutions—some are pure scientific fiction–come up with a few carbon sequestration solutions, and I’m going to charge exorbitant rates selling technology to the Global South. Primarily Trump, the United States and western Europe created the problem and prevent anyone from coming up with solutions. They come up with market solutions and sell them back to us through force.

We need to struggle with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others about this. We have to frame this in a way that really speaks to the global nature of the problem. We have to include the peoples of the world at the frontlines of the transition in the discussion to resolve it – Indigenous peoples, the peoples of Oceania, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and the African continent. It’s not just a national problem. The way this is framed is really as if we’re going to stop certain problems within U.S. borders. But carbon emissions don’t observe national boundaries—they never have and never will. Nation-state policy limits us in certain ways. That’s another aspect of this that we have to push back on and challenge. This has to include front-line communities in the United States and from all throughout the world.

Sarah: What would the ideal global climate policy look like? What do you think about the framework of reparations?

Kali: Reparations is one of the key aspects that has to be introduced into the dialogue. The United States has, under all administrations, blocked this kind of approach. It is not new to Trump. The concept of reparations needs to be introduced into several different levels of the conversation. You can think of reparations in terms of financial compensation, and you can think of it in terms of decolonization—returning lands back to indigenous and colonized people subjected to the United States and Western Europe much of the past 500 years.

The market-based capitalist extractive system has been highlighted through the World Trade Organization. You have intellectual patents that are being codified into law through the WTO, which the United States and Western Europe have pushed on the world. If we look at Monsanto, they basically took agricultural practices and indigenous knowledge, codified it with their technology of splicing genes, and now have power and control over it. Patents need to be abolished and dissolved and we need to open up space in many areas for small farmers like those aligned with the global peasant movement, La Via Campesina, to return to traditional practices of growing food. That is a major form of reparations: repairing harm that’s been done.

Sarah: What about the fossil fuel industry? Should we be talking about going to battle with the industry? Shutting it down?

Kali: There is no question about it. That has to be target number one. We have to adopt a program of “keep it in the ground.” There is no way to get around that. That’s a demand coming from Indigenous communities. If we just look at the raw science, all the raw data that is out there, that’s what we need to do. We’re locked into an old exploitative logic that is only maintained through the grip the petrochemical companies have on the political process. We are going to have to take them on head on.

What happened at Standing Rock really points the way forward for the future. I don’t think we should hide from that or step away from that. We’re going to have to take direct action on a massive scale to shut that industry down on an international level. There are a ton of alternatives that could be scaled up—solar, wind—and they need to be scaled up.

To think that they can keep pumping and drilling, and we’ll just phase them out with alternatives, on the basis of some kind of market logic, is not going to work. There is no question that we need to adopt a “keep it in the ground” policy—like, yesterday. That has to be one of our central demands.We have to scale up our campaigns against the oil companies, and we have to win. This is a necessary political struggle.

Sarah: Can you talk more about the concept of a “just transition”—where it comes from, what it’s calling for?

Kali: Just so folks know, the term comes out of the labor movement in the 1980s, particularly some folks who were working in labor sectors, including the petrochemical and thermonuclear industries. The concept was adopted to say that our interests around having a clean and safe environment, and your interest in having a living-wage job, are not and should not be opposed. There is a system in place keeping us at odds with each other in the short term. We have to change the system. A key part is taking care of our communities, making sure that the overall impacts of toxic contamination are thoroughly addressed. There has to be a way in which new jobs are created that enable workers to go through a just transition from one set of skills to another set of skills and maintain a high standard of living.

For Cooperation Jackson, which is part of the It Takes Roots Alliance, we fully endorse the just transition framework. This means highlighting grassroots, independent solutions in front-line communities: programs centering on reparations, decolonization and building a democratic economy through the advancement of the social and solidarity economy. For us at Cooperation Jackson, this is linked to a program of eco-socialist development. We are going to have to ultimately do a major overhaul in how things are produced, distributed, consumed and recycled back into the natural resource systems that we depend on. If we don’t think about just transition in a long-term, holistic way, we are missing the point. To think we can make some tweaks to capitalism or expansive “carbon neutral” production—that is also missing the point.

To address our deep problems, we have to shift wealth and power—it has to be moved from the United States and Europe to the rest of the world. We know we are going to run into a great deal of resistance from corporations and governments. We want to include that in our narrative of what a just transition entails.

Right now, as we speak, the COP24 climate talks are happening in Poland, and there are workers there in the coal industry who are trying to appropriate the term “just transition” to say “clean coal” is part of the just transition, which is contrary to the spirit and letter of the concept, especially knowing how that industry is contributing to the crisis we are in.

Sarah: What do you think about the Green New Deal’s call for a jobs guarantee?

Kali: It excites me, because I could see the immediate benefits here in my community in Jackson, Mississippi. That would create a lot of jobs for the young people in my community for the people who are chronically unemployed and underemployed. However, we should push for this plan with open eyes. There’s a limit to how many jobs could be created and how long they could be sustained. At a certain point, the logic of expansion has to run its course and end. You have to go back to eco-socialism. There need to be limits we impose on ourselves. We can’t just keep extracting minerals out of the earth—we’re going to have to figure out some natural limits to live in. I would like to see more of that infused into the Green New Deal: real conversations about our natural limits and how to create a truly sustainable system, so that we don’t exhaust all of the earth’s resources and deprive them to future generations. We have to start thinking about that now.

Sarah: Among other things, the Green New Deal calls for new investment in public banking. The draft text reads, “Many will say, ‘Massive government investment! How in the world can we pay for this?’ The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.”

What do you think of this public banking component?

Kali: We are big-time supporters of public banking. We’ve been thinking of that in relation to the implementation of the Jackson-Kush Plan going back 10 years, and we’re still trying to figure out how to put it in practice on the municipal level. I’m excited to see it embedded in Green New Deal proposal. Without that, you won’t have certain kinds of capital controls over the process. But we need to make sure there’s going to be sufficient investment in communities. I don’t think enough of the Left is really talking about it.

Some people will say public banking is just another reform measure in the logic of capitalism. That’s true but we’re not going to eliminate finance overnight, like it or not. One of the first steps in the socialist transition as we see it, is that we’re going to have to learn how to discipline capital and put it to public use. That’s a key thing that I think public banks will help us do as we learn and grow. There will still be contradictions to deal with, on display in struggle against the pipeline in North Dakota, because the public banks there are invested in that. This is not without contradiction, but we will have to set them up to be run by communities, and they must have a profoundly different orientation and logic. Whoever on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s team that put that in there, I was very much pleased to see it.

Sarah: To what extent were front-lines environmental justice groups consulted about the Green New Deal?

Kali: As an individual I was not consulted, but I think it’s a two-way street, because I also didn’t do much to help her get elected. The natural inclination is you’re going to listen to the folks who support you. The political trade off, whether we like it or not, is that you listen to those who put skin in the game to help you. That’s a reality we need to start with. Whether or not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reaches out, we have an obligation to tap her on her shoulder and say some of these ideas are terrible, here’s why, here are alternatives, here are examples of what the alternative looks like in practice—you can elevate them and use them as a model. That’s our task on the left—to intervene in that particular way. It’s not a question of whether or not she will listen: She’s an elected official, and we have move her to listen through the force of our organizing initiatives. We have to struggle with her to make sure she votes in the broadest interests possible, since she’s trying to lead this on a national level.

For me, it’s our task to hit her up, to contact her, to make sure we are very upfront and vocal from this point forward, to make sure what we’re demanding and proposing is very clear. We have to win other folks over to that position as well. Some of the best ideas might not carry the day if they don’t have an organized constituency behind them. She’s going to have to go to battle, she’s going to have to fight for the Green New Deal, and she’s probably going to listen to those forces that have the greatest leverage in terms of resources, or the greatest number of voices in sheer numbers. Those are things we have to deliver—we need to deliver that to make sure she’s accountable to our demands. We need to be real about how this game is going to play out. And be clear about what we bring to the table to make sure we get the outcomes we need.

Press link for more: In These Times

Escalating Queensland Bushfire Threat: Interim Conclusions #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange Demand #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #COP24

Introductory note: The Climate Council will publish a report on bushfire risk in Queensland in early 2019.

This builds on a significant body of published work by the Council, including a 2016 report entitled Be Prepared: Climate Change and the Queensland Bushfire Threat. 

With devastating and unprecedented bushfires currently burning in Queensland, the Council believes it is important to release the Interim Findings of the upcoming report to provide information for the Australian community.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

Climate change has increased the risk of bushfires in Queensland.

  • Bushfire risk is increased by fuel dryness and hot, dry, windy conditions.
  • Climate change has increased the incidence of extreme heat, making heatwaves longer and more frequent. Eight of the state’s ten hottest years on record have occurred since 1998. Since the 1970s, the number of days with maximum temperatures over 35°C in most of Queensland has increased by about 10-45 days above the historical average, depending on the region.
  • Tropical and sub-tropical Queensland is often associated in people’s minds with warm, humid conditions and moist vegetation not conducive to major bushfires. This is changing. More frequent heatwave events typified by hot, dry air masses coming from the interior result in higher temperatures accompanied by lower humidity. This increases evaporation and rapidly dries out fuels, even in rainforests, making conditions more conducive to major bushfires. Major bushfires were burning as far north as Cairns in August and September 2018.
  • Weekly bushfire frequencies in Australia have increased by 40% between 2008 and 2013, with tropical and subtropical Queensland the most severely affected.
  • Extreme fire weather and longer fire seasons have been observed since the 1970s across much of Australia including Queensland, particularly along the east coast.

Australia is the worst in the world on climate policy.

The devastating bushfires burning across Queensland in November 2018 have been made worse by climate change.

  • In late November 2018, maximum temperature records were smashed at numerous locations including at Cairns (42.6°C), Innisfail (42°C), and Mackay (39.7°C) on Monday 26 November and at Townsville (41.7°C) and Cooktown (43.9°C) on Tuesday 27 November (see Table 1).

  • Strong, gusting winds, low humidity and record high temperatures fanned devastating bushfires over the past two weeks, affecting property, infrastructure, ecosystems and farming land. Climate change is driving a higher incidence of these conditions. Around 130 fires are still burning across the state as of 29 November.

  • On 29 November several areas of Queensland experienced “Catastrophic” fire weather conditions for the first time ever recorded. In these conditions fires are uncontrollable and loss of life and property is expected unless large-scale evacuations take place.

Queensland Premier ignores climate change loves coal.

Communities, emergency services and health services across Queensland need to be adequately resourced to cope with increasing bushfire risk.

  • Bushfires in Queensland over the years have caused numerous deaths and losses of property and infrastructure, and have negatively affected agricultural and forestry production, and ecosystems.
  • The average annual economic cost of bushfires in Australia is $1.1 billion per year (Deloitte 2017).
  • Inhalation of smoke and gases from bushfires can affect human health, especially in the elderly, young or those with heart or respiratory conditions.
  • Increasing severity, intensity and frequency of fires, coupled with increasing length of bushfire seasons throughout Australia, is straining Queensland’s existing resources and capacity for fighting and managing fires.
  • During the current fires other states and territories have sent firefighters, fire trucks and aircraft to Queensland to assist. Queensland’s bushfire season usually does not extend this long, and fortuitously, NSW and the ACT, which normally would be experiencing heightened bushfire threats now, have experienced some rain allowing them to release resources.
  • Overlapping fire seasons will increasingly restrict the ability of states and territories, and of other countries such as the USA, Canada and New Zealand, to send firefighting assistance. This will drive increased costs for state and territory governments, or alternatively, increased losses.

Stronger climate change action is needed to reduce bushfire risk.

  • Australia must reduce its greenhouse gas pollution rapidly and deeply to reduce the risk of exposure to extreme events, including bushfires. Burning fossil fuels, like coal, oil and gas, must be phased out.

  • So-called ‘clean coal’ or any new fossil fuel projects, such as Adani’s Carmichael mine, are not compatible with effectively tackling climate change.

  • We have the solutions at our disposal to tackle climate change, we need to accelerate the transition to renewables and storage technologies, and non-polluting transport, infrastructure, and food production.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

Press link for more: Climate Council

Australian Marine Conversation Society (AMCS) demands Adani Coal admit polluting the Great Barrier Reef. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #TheDrum #QandA

DECEMBER 11, 2018

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) today demanded that Adani admit in Court it polluted the Great Barrier Reef with coal-contaminated water. 

Today the company is back in the Bowen Magistrates Court challenging a prosecution by the Queensland government over the discharge of coal-laden water into the Great Barrier Reef during Cyclone Debbie in March 2017. 

Adani’s own letter to the Queensland government last year revealed that it discharged an amount of coal-contaminated water far in excess of the temporary emissions licence it was granted by the Queensland Environment Department for the duration of the Cyclone. 

“Adani is a company that has shown many times that it cannot be trusted with our precious Reef,” said AMCS Reef campaign director Imogen Zethoven. 

“It has a terrible environmental record in India, including a major coal spill into the marine environment near Mumbai that it failed to clean up for more than five years. It has polluted beaches and destroyed mangroves.

“Now in Australia, it is in court fighting charges that it has polluted the Great Barrier Reef. It is also being investigated for illegal drilling at the Carmichael mine site. 

“The Reef is in grave danger due to climate change, which is mainly driven by mining and burning coal. Multiple reports have been released saying that the time is up for new coal developments.

“The IPCC 1.5C report warns we stand to lose all of the world’s coral reefs if global temperature rises to 2C. 

“The choice is stark and upon us now: we can either allow a monstrous new coal mine to go ahead that will push temperature rise beyond the limits for the Great Barrier Reef or we can say time’s up for new coal, and protect the Reef and the 64,000 jobs that depend on it. 

“Why would any Australian government allow a mine to proceed that will spell disaster for our most precious natural asset?”

Press link for more: AMCS

Australia’s climate policy deteriorated in 2018. #auspol #qldpol on track to 4C #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateChange ignored.

Overview

Australia’s climate policy has further deteriorated in the past year, as it focusses on propping up the coal industry and ditches efforts to reduce emissions, ignoring the record uptake of solar PV and storage and other climate action at state level.

The Australian government has turned its back on global climate action by dismissing the findings of theIPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C and announcing it would no longer provide funds to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels and industry continue to rise and, based on the most recent quarterly inventory, are now 6% above 2005 levels and increasing at around 1% since 2014.

Under current polices these emissions are headed for an increase of 9% above 2005 levels by 2030, rather than the 1517% decrease in these emissions required to meet Australia’s Paris Agreement target. 

This means Australia’s emissions are set to far outpace its“Insufficient” 2030 target.

The government has abandoned any policy efforts to achieve emissions reductions in the energy and transport sectors. Instead, its plans to underwrite a new coal power plant are completely inconsistent with the need to phase out coal globally by 2050 and in OECD countries by 2030.

If all other countries were to follow Australia’s current policy trajectory that we rate “Highly Insufficient”, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C.

While the federal government continues to repeatedly state that Australia is on track to meet its 2030 target “in a canter”, the Climate Action Tracker is not aware of any scientific basis, published by any analyst or government agency, to support this.

Australia’s emissions have been increasing since 2014, when the federal government repealed the carbon pricing system, and the latest quarterly emissions inventory to June 2018 (published in November 2018) shows continuing increases. Emissions are projected to grow through 2030, instead of reducing in line with the 2030 target.

The federal government continues to promote coal as a solution to an energy security issue it claims exists but which has not been identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator.

It proposes to underwrite new coal-fired power generation by guaranteeing to pay any future carbon price-related costs, create barriers to renewable energy and obfuscate its climate policies, the reality on the ground at the state level, public opinion and across the business sector in Australia, is very different.

The government continues to push for policies aimed at propping up uncompetitive coal-fired power.

This follows a rejection of the recommendations of the 2017 Finkel report, as well as, in August 2018, dropping an alternative instrument, the National Energy Guarantee. The Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF)—the so-called “centrepiece” of the Australian government’s policy suite to reduce emissions—does not set Australia on a path to meeting its targets as has been reiterated in the latest review by the Climate Change Authority (Climate Change Authority, 2017).

Instead of introducing new policies to address the structural change needed (CCA 2017), the government is now considering allowing international units to be used for compliance. The safeguard mechanism also risks counteracting the emissions reductions the ERF is supposed to deliver and further undermines the achievement of the 2030 target (Reputex, 2018) by increasing emissions allowances for large industry facilities.

All states and territories (except Western Australia) now have strong renewable energy targets and/or zero emissions targets in place (Climate Council, 2017).

South Australia is widely seen as a global leader: it has one of the highest shares of variable renewable energy, with 48% share of wind and solar total generation in 2017 (IEEFA, 2018), the world’s largest lithium-ion battery, and innovative projects for renewable hydrogen and virtual power plants. Households across Australia are massively deploying small-scale solar and increasingly combining this with battery storage: about 29% of dwellings in South Australia and 27% in Queensland had solar PV by early 2018, with substantial shares in several other states and territories as well, a trend that is showing no sign of slowing down. Public opinion is supportive of renewable energies and climate policy (Essential, 2017).

In a recent poll, more than 70% of Australians want the government to set a high renewable energy target to put downward pressure on power prices and reduce emissions. In “Australia’s climate policy survey”, capturing the views of Australian business and industry, 92% of respondents say Australia’s current climate and energy policy is insufficient to meet the required targets. A further sign of escalating and widespread public disquiet and concern at their government’s lack of action on climate change was a unprecedented, nation-wide strike by school children in late November 2018

Australia ratified the Paris Agreement on 6 November 2016. Its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), includes a target of reducing GHG emissions, including land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), by 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2030. This target is equivalent to a range of 15.1–17.4% below 2005 around levels of GHG emissions excluding LULUCF in 2030 (or referenced to 1990, 3% to 6% above 1990 levels of GHG emissions excluding LULUCF in 2030). However, current policies are projected to increase GHG emissions excluding LULUCF by about 9% above 2005 levels by 2030.

Press link for more: Carbon Action Tracker

Australia’s silence during #climatechange debate shocks #COP24 delegates #auspol #qldpol A national disgrace! #StopAdani demand a #GreenNewDeal #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike

Australia accused of tacitly supporting oil allies’ rejection of the latest science

By

The end of the first week of the UN climate talks – known as COP24 – in Katowice, Poland, has been mired by protracted debate over whether the conference should “welcome” or “note” a key report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC’s 1.5 degrees report, released in October, warned the world would have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 45% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5C and potentially avoid some of the worst effects of climate change, including a dramatically increased risk of drought, flood, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

The UN climate conference commissioned the IPCC report, but when that body went to “welcome” the report’s findings and commit to continuing its work, four nations – the US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia, all major oil and gas producers – refused to accept the wording, insisting instead that the convention simply “note” the findings.

Negotiators spent two and a half hours trying to hammer out a compromise without success.

The apparently minor semantic debate has significant consequences, and the deadlock ensures the debate will spill into the second critical week of negotiations, with key government ministers set to arrive in Katowice.

Sir David Attenborough’s Warning to COP24

Most of the world’s countries spoke out in fierce opposition to the oil allies’ position.

The push to adopt the wording “welcome” was led by the Maldives, leader of the alliance of small island states, of which Australia’s Pacific island neighbours are members.

They were backed by a broad swathe of support, including from the EU, the bloc of 47 least developed countries, the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean, African, American and European nations, and Pacific countries such as the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu.

Climate Strike protestors give Australian’s new PM a Fail on climate science

Australia did not speak during the at-times heated debate, a silence noted by many countries on the floor of the conference, Dr Bill Hare, the managing director of Climate Analytics and a lead author on previous IPCC reports, told Guardian Australia.

“Australia’s silence in the face of this attack yesterday shocked many countries and is widely seen as de facto support for the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait’s refusal to welcome the IPCC report,” Hare said.

Richie Merzian, climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute, said widespread goodwill across the Katowice talks was being undermined by “a handful of countries” trying to disconnect the science and urgency from the implementation of the Paris agreement.

Australia government is stealing our children’s future

“It is disappointing but not surprising that Australia kept its head down during the debate … by remaining silent and not putting a position forward, Australia has tacitly supported the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the latest science on climate change.”

Merzian said Australia’s regional neighbours, including New Zealand and Pacific islands, had voiced strong support for the IPCC’s report, which was a key outcome of the Paris agreement.

“A number of delegates privately shared their frustration that countries like Australia stood on the sidelines while Trump’s, Putin’s and King Salman’s representatives laid waste to the fundamental climate science.”

Australia is failing to protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change

Hare said the interests of the fossil fuel industry were seeking to thwart the conference’s drive towards larger emissions cuts.

“The fossil fuel interest – coal, oil and gas – campaign against the IPCC 1.5 report and science continues to play out in the climate talks, but even those countries [opposing welcoming the report] are being hit by the impacts of only one degree of warming.

“The big challenge now is for the Polish presidency to set aside its obsession with coal, get out of the way and allow full acknowledgement of the IPCC 1.5C report, and its implications for increasing the ambition of all countries, in the conclusion of COP24 later this week.”

Australia’s environment minister, Melissa Price, arrived in Katowice on Sunday, with negotiations set to resume Monday morning.

“The government is committed to the Paris agreement and our emissions reduction targets,” she said before leaving Australia. “Australia’s participation in the Paris agreement and in COP24 is in our national interest, in the interests of the Indo-Pacific region, and the international community as a whole.”

Price said a priority for Australia at COP24 was to ensure a robust framework of rules to govern the reporting of Paris agreement targets. “Australia’s emissions reporting is of an exceptionally high standard and we are advocating for rules that bring other countries up to the standard to which we adhere.”

The latest Australian government figures, released last month, show the country’s carbon emissions continue to rise, at a rate significantly higher than recent years.

Australia’s emissions, seasonally adjusted, increased 1.3% over the past quarter. Excluding emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (for which the calculations are controversial), they are at a record high.

Press link for more: The Guardian

467 ways to die on a warming globe | Clive Hamilton #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateChange is killing us! #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #Insiders #TheDrum #COP24 #TakeYouSeat #G20

BY Clive Hamilton

A new study published in Nature has found evidence for 467 ways in which climate hazards due to global warming are making life on the planet harder for humans.

It confirms that we are witnessing a shift in the functioning of the Earth system as a whole, a shift to a new state that is unsympathetic to the continued flourishing of human life.

A changing climate is only one feature of a warming globe.

Human activity has bounced the Earth into a state that has no equivalent in its 4.5 billion year history.

The Earth’s new trajectory as it spins into the future has led scientists to tell us we have entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene.

We have crossed a threshold and the geological clock cannot be turned back. The disruption we have caused is increasingly unpredictable and uncontrollable, and it has no endpoint.

There are, therefore, two questions humankind must face.

What must we do to prevent serial disasters becoming existential catastrophe? And how can we make our social and economic systems flexible enough to cope with the new dispensation?

There are several reasons an international agreement has proven so hard.

The leading one is sabotage by climate science deniers.

Can it be countered?

Climate science denial was invented and propagated mainly in the United States by the fossil fuel industry in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Activists know how to thwart an industry lobbying campaign. But then something calamitous happened – rejecting climate science became caught up in the culture war.

The Tea Party and Fox News were largely responsible for the shift.

Before then, even a conservative like Sarah Palin accepted the science and called for action. But after 2009, rejecting climate science became a badge of political identity for conservatives.

From that point onwards, facts no longer mattered.

So the challenge is no longer how to use information to change people’s minds. The challenge is how to change a culture. No one knows how to do that.

Just Trump?

Last week Donald Trump, who calls climate science a hoax, visited a California devastated by wildfires. When asked whether his visit would change his mind about climate change he said “No”. What else could he say? The journalist was asking him if he would change who he was.

Yet it’s too easy to blame the world’s slowness to act on crazy American deniers. Because, in a way, we are all climate science deniers.

The full truth of what humans have done is almost impossible to take in.

To fully embrace the message of the climate scientists means giving up the deepest presupposition of modernity – the idea of progress.

Relinquishing our belief in progress means we must let go of the future, because we have been taught from infancy that the future is progress.

In our minds, replacing the old future defined by progress with a new future defined by endless struggle requires a period of grieving. Not many people have the stomach for that.

While most people in most countries accept the truth of climate science, they don’t accept its implications. What can be done to change that?

Changing minds

When it comes to communicating the science’s message to the public, there is no magic potion to be found. A lot has been tried and some of it works reasonably well, up to a point. The scientists must keep doing their research and putting it out. Accusing them of alarmism is a calculated political slander; in truth, they have consistently been too cautious in their warnings, especially in IPCC reports.

Yet the meaning of their reports has not sunk in. It’s clear that an Earth warmer by four degrees – and after the unwinding of the 2015 Paris agreement that is the path we have returned to – will impose enormous stresses on all societies.

In poorer countries, it will lead to mass migrations, many deaths and violent conflict. The effects in wealthy countries will depend on who holds power and how they govern. Disasters, food shortages and waves of immigration will magnify resentment against the rich, who will be attempting to insulate themselves from the turmoil around them.

But they too depend on the infrastructure of urban life – electricity and water supply, sewerage and waste disposal, transport systems for food and so on. And they can’t insulate themselves from social upheaval.

Some communities will learn to adapt more effectively. Smaller, cooperative communities will be best placed to adapt themselves to endure the troubles.

But however humans live or die on the new Earth we have made, we are approaching the endpoint of modernity and must accept that it is finally true that man is the environment of man.

 Clive Hamilton is professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra and author of Defiant Earth: The fate of humans in the Anthropocene

Press link for more: The Guardian

Great Barrier Reef: record heatwave may cause another coral bleaching event #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #ClimateStrike #ExtinctionRebellion we urgently need a #GreenNewDeal #StopAdani

42.6C temperature in Cairns broke a November record that has stood since 1900 by 5.4C

By Ben Smee

A record-breaking heatwave in north Queensland will further increase above-average marine temperatures, heightening the risk of another coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef next year, scientists say.

Dozens of record November temperatures have been recorded in the region, most along the reef coastline, this week.

The most remarkable was at Cairns, where consecutive days reached temperatures of 42.6C and 40.9C. The maximum temperature on Tuesday broke a November record that has stood since 1900 by 5.4C.

Extreme weather fuelled more than 130 bushfires, which the premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Twitter was “not the kind of fire we have seen in Queensland before”.

“Heatwave records and fire weather is unprecedented,” Palaszczuk said.

A dust storm, brought by strong westerly winds, covered the southern inland parts of the state. In the north, thousands of native flying foxes died due to the high temperatures.

Reef scientist Terry Hughes, from the coral centre of excellence at James Cook University, said the summer heatwave was “terrifying” and lifted the chances of coral death on the Great Barrier Reef early next year.

The reef sustained successive marine heatwaves, in the early part of 2016 and 2017, which killed corals and badly damaged the northern and central sections.

Hughes said the bleaching forecasts were “trending upwards” but scientists would not have a clear picture until the end of January.

Coral ecophysiologist Dr Neal Cantin, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said ocean temperatures remained below those recorded at the same time in 2015 and 2016, but warmer than historical averages.

Cantin said the current heatwave would “add heat and warm up the ocean. It certainly adds heat to the system. We’ve seen record breaking land temperatures this week, which we expect to see into the future with climate change and everything heating up.

“We’re in a watch phase. There’s definitely the potential and how the local weather patterns pan out in January and February will really determine whether we get a large scale bleaching event or not.

“There are some signs we may avoid [bleaching] this summer. At this stage it’s less likely to be as bad as 2016, but we’ll be ready to respond [if bleaching occurs].”

Reality of climate change sinking in

“The hazard I worry most about is heatwaves,” Andrew Gissing, a disaster management expert from the firm Risk Frontiers, said.

“Australia needs to be better prepared for heatwaves, with climate change we are already predicting they will get more severe.”

Gissing told Guardian Australia people often respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters based on their previous experiences. But he said governments, businesses and individuals were often not prepared for the increasing severity and frequency of such events.

“We did a lot of work in Lismore after Cyclone Debbie. So many people sheltered in their homes because that’s what they always did when it flooded. They just didn’t realise this flood was that much bigger

“People really need to be attuned to what’s actually happening … how the nature of climactic hazards is changing.”

Gissing said businesses needed to start investing in climate change mitigation and adaption measures.

“It’s going to be very hard to mitigate a lot of the [predicted climate] impacts, so adaptation for the future is going to be really important. Especially when you overlay climate change on a growing population base.

“The [number of people living on the Queensland coast] is likely to double by about 2030.

Because of climate change, we’re looking at there being more exposure [to disaster risks] there as well.”

Press link for more: The Guardian

A zero-carbon economy is both feasible and affordable #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #ExtinctionRebellion #ClimateStrike #ClimateEmergency we must act now #TheDrum

The issue is whether governments, industry and consumers are willing to do what is required

By Adair Turner

Jonathan Adair Turner, Baron Turner of Ecchinswell (born 5 October 1955) is a British businessman and academic and was Chairman of the Financial Services Authority until its abolition in March 2013.

He is a former Chairman of the Pensions Commission and the Committee on Climate Change, as well as a former Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry. He has described himself in a BBC HARDtalk interview with Stephen Sackuras a ‘technocrat‘.

A solar farm. Achieving net zero emissions requires boosting the role of electricity

Fossil fuels have driven rising prosperity for more than 200 years and today provide 80 per cent of human energy needs. But carbon dioxide emissions from their use threaten potentially catastrophic climate change.

To avoid that we must achieve net zero emissions across the whole world by around 2060. 

That may seem daunting. But it would be undoubtedly technically possible at very small economic cost, as a report from the Energy Transitions Commission makes clear. The issue is not feasibility, but whether governments, industry and consumers are willing to take the actions required to get there. 

Achieving net zero emissions requires boosting the role of electricity.

The commission, which I chair, estimates its share of energy demand must grow from 20 per cent today to more than 60 per cent by mid-century.

Total generation would have to rise from 20,000 terawatt hours to up to 100,000 twh. 

Nuclear power could play some role but most of this power must and can come from renewable sources, including wind, solar and water.

Less than 1.5 per cent of the global land surface area could produce all the renewable electricity the world needs: and it is physically possible to run grids that rely on intermittent renewables for 85 to 90 per cent of their power, while still delivering electricity whenever needed.

The real challenge is to get to this endpoint fast enough: that requires us to quintuple our annual investment in renewables capacity for the next 40 years. 

Three other technologies are also essential.

First there must be a major role for hydrogen power: steel producers could potentially use it rather than coking coal as the reduction agent, and ammonia (produced from hydrogen) could be used as fuel for ships.

Hydrogen can result in zero-carbon emissions if produced via electrolysis using zero-carbon electricity. 

Second, we must tap bioenergy to provide zero-carbon aviation fuel and as a feedstock for plastics production. But this step must be carefully managed to avoid harmful impacts on ecosystems and food production.

Third a relatively small but still vital role for technologies that capture CO2, particularly in cement production. 

Some aspects of a zero-carbon economy will make consumers better off.

Within 10 years, electric cars will not only be cheaper to operate than diesel or petrol, but also cheaper to buy.

In heavy industry and transport, where it is harder to reduce CO2 emissions, some additional costs are unavoidable but often the consumer impact will be trivial: making cars from zero-carbon steel would add no more than 1 per cent to a typical car price. But in some specific sectors, material price increases may be unavoidable: if bio-based aviation fuel costs 50-100 per cent more to produce than conventional jet fuel, that would add up to 20 per cent to ticket prices.

Overall, the commission estimates that achieving zero emissions in heavy industry and transport by 2060 would make the global economy at most 0.5 per cent smaller than it would otherwise have been.

That figure could be reduced to less than 0.3 per cent if we increased the recycling and reuse of industrial materials.

That means that there are no unmanageable technological, resource or even cost barriers to impede our path to a zero-carbon economy. Still, without strong government intervention policies we will fail to achieve it. 

Charging for carbon emissions is essential but must be designed to avoid unfair competition. Making steel zero carbon may add only trivially to car prices, but any steel producer facing a carbon price that adds $100 to the costs of producing a tonne of steel, would be severely disadvantaged if competitors in other countries did not have to pay similar taxes. 

Ideally, we would strike international agreements, but we should not rule out imposing carbon-related tariffs on imports from non-co-operating countries. We should also consider unilateral domestic carbon prices in sectors such as cement, where international trade is limited. In some sectors, regulation may be more effective. Green fuel mandates requiring airlines to use a steadily rising percentage of zero-carbon bio or synthetic jet fuel would provide powerful incentives for innovation and large-scale production. Tight rules on the dismantling and disposal of discarded products will be essential to drive recycling.

Reaching agreement on many of these policies will of course be difficult. But it should at least be easier if we start with certainty that a zero-carbon economy is both technically feasible and affordable. 

The writer, a former head of the UK Financial Services Authority, chairs the Energy Transitions Commission

Press link for more: Financial Times