Category Archives: Climate Change

The Future must be Green in a Warming World

MikeIt is most heartening but not surprising that a growing number of young people are joining the Green Party. They have taken the brunt of the failed austerity economic package that was designed to force privatisation of state assets. The promise of advancement through education has been broken by the coalition government scrapping the Educational Maintenance Allowance and raising university fees. Many are forced to take low paid or zero hours contracts that leave them in debt, unable to enter the property market and unable to start developing a long term career. Had the Green New Deal, offered by the Greens in 2010 been implemented, none of this would have been necessary; we would now be investing in the future, not shoring up the vested interests of the past.

But this is not the only reason why more young people are turning to the Green Party. The little reported UN Climate Change Synthesis report spelled out yet again that we are running out of time to avoid dangerous climate change.

For many global leaders and financial managers, the warnings posted in this report are in a future that either they won’t see or from which they expect to be protected by their wealth. But for the young generation, this report is talking about their future, the time when they hope to build their careers, raise their own families, enjoy their own retirement. What it is telling them is that they will see a continued rise in temperature, a continued rise in sea level, an increase in violent and unpredictable weather that will threaten their property, their health and safety. They will have to face the prospects of a 3C rise in temperature by the end of the century, a time when they might hope that their children are securely settled in to career and family life. But security is something they will not have in the rapidly degrading world of three degrees of warming.

serious_about_climate_change_splash_860x305Because the needs of the present economic order are seen to be more important than the needs of our life support system and the future, politicians and economists are accepting that we may well have to overshoot the 2C mark, and accept 3C of warming. To keep below 2C, that is too high anyway, we have to leave 80% of known fossil fuels in the ground – this I have explained in earlier articles on this site. We have to start now to decarbonise the energy sector, we have to invest now to bring global carbon emission to zero by the end of the century, starting with the developed economies. But this strategy conflicts with the interests of wealth.

A 3C rise would be catastrophic. The Amazon rain forest would be lost with global implications for both climate and biodiversity. Sea levels would rise to 25 metres, based on the last time Earth’s temperature was 3 degrees above the 20th century average. Large areas of the planet would be uninhabitable, water scarcity would reduce food production considerably, billions would starve. The people of wealth would live in enclaves at high latitudes, guarded by private militias, like the medieval barons. This is the world being planned by the politicians and corporate bosses today. Small wonder young people are turning to the Green Party.

The next international climate meeting, COP21, will be in Paris at the end of 2015. This Conference is meant to agree a replacement to the largely failed Kyoto Treaty, to force deep and binding cuts to global emissions. Much of the talk will be about adaptation and tech-fixes, because the global corporations see huge profits in multinational tax-payer funded schemes to enable us to live with the effects of climate change. The UN Synthesis Report makes it very clear that without deep cuts to emissions, ‘ warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally (high confidence).’

10356153_10152396653039522_7330862721074206686_n2015 is election year. The media led campaign will focus on divisive issues like migration and Europe, stirring up fear and hate among us. The Green manifesto is one of hope for a better future for all. We can all live sustainable lives in stable communities within the natural limits of the Earth. It will mean that some have to do with less so that most can have enough. But that is the Green idea of fairness. Our candidates and campaign teams will be bringing our message of Hope not Fear to the electorate. Join us and help us build the political momentum ahead of the Paris Summit, make it clear that this time we want an agreement that works for the Common Good.

http://ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_SPM.pdf

Mike Shipley  November 2014

October newsletter shows Belper Greens mean business!

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The ‎Mid Derbyshire ‪Green Party clearly mean business!  Their October newsletter has been delivered to every house in the town’s North Ward!! Bring on the elections!

So what makes The Greens different?

  • Every citizen will receive the ‘Citizen’s Income’ – no matter what!
  • The NHS will be protected;
  • The railways will be returned to public hands;
  • Student tuition fees will be abolished and so will student loans;
  • Most importantly, we will do what is needed to ensure our kids have a planet to inherit!

Join us and make a difference!!  We meet every 1st and 3rd Monday of the month at The Bulls Head, Belper Lane End, DE56 2DL

Post Carbon – where will the smart money go?

Fracking 9Last weekend, Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney made the most important political statement of the year. Speaking at a World Bank seminar in New York, Carney said: the “vast majority of reserves are un-burnable”. He was referring to fossil fuels, he was speaking to financiers and industrialists.

Carney is no liberal Green giant, he is a very conservative minded Canadian who encouraged the exploitation of his country’s tar sands, about the dirtiest fuel in the world. Yet he has had to swallow a dose of reality and accept the warnings of Nicolas Stern about the full impact of climate change on global finance. He has at last accepted the dangers of putting too many of our economic eggs into the oil basket.

In the spring of 2012, I wrote an article called ‘The Carbon Bubble’, published on the DGP website. [ http://derbyshiregreenparty.org.uk/2012/03/17/the-carbon-bubble/ ] That article showed that a huge amount of global wealth is invested in oil and gas reserves. If these reserves are burned, as they have to be to give a return on the investment, then global temperatures will rise to between 3.5 & 5.0 degrees C. If the wealth invested in coal is added in, then the planet becomes uninhabitable.

At that time investors continued to pour their wealth in to fossil reserves. We are still seeing that in the UK over fracking. The rich and powerful individuals and organisations making these investments fully expect a return. For them to stay rich, the world must fry.

This is the problem that financiers and politicians of all shades except Green have allowed to happen. If the carbon reserves are not burned, to keep temperature rise to below 2C, colossal amounts of private and corporate wealth will be lost, markets will crash, the Carbon Bubble bursts, unleashing a financial crisis that would dwarf that of 2008. If the reserves are burned to return the expected profit and wealth, then the cost of the resulting climate chaos will be far greater than the value of the reserves, the economy will be bankrupt.

Carney’s predecessor at the BoE, the ever cautious Mervyn King, recognised that the warnings about over investment in carbon assets by the Stock Exchange needed due consideration. The new Governor has indeed considered the matter and is issuing his quiet warnings to the market. Is it a coincidence that the markets have dipped this week? Is the move to divestment in coal, gas and oil really so altruistic? Are we seeing a steady retreat from carbon assets as the reality of climate change begins to penetrate the minds of corporate investors? If so this will create its own problems.

Where will the wealth go? If it is pulled out of oil and gas, it will be looking for a home. Is this the real reason for the drive for privatisation of public service. Not an ideologically driven policy at all, but a pragmatic response to the need to find a safe haven for private and corporate wealth. What could be a better long term investment than the supply of food, water and health? These are what everyone in the world needs on a daily basis, just like energy but on a far bigger scale. Hand all of this supply to the private sector and the potential market is huge and growing.

Greens oppose this commercialisation of the basic needs of people. For us, the supply of the essentials of life, food, water, energy, health and education, should be under public democratic control so access is not determined by personal wealth, but by need. Hand this supply over to the private sector then it will be driven by profit, not the needs of the consumers. Many will be priced out of the market in these services so that the rich and powerful can maintain their privileged positions.

Mike Shipley

Greens’ Alarm at Huge Wildlife Loss

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Green Party’s candidate in the High Peak, Charlotte Farrell, reacted with shock at the news that over half of global wildlife has been lost since 1970. The information comes from the World Wildlife fund in its latest ‘Living Planet’ report. This shows that there has been a nearly 40% fall in the populations of land and marine animals, with freshwater animals, including fish, falling by three quarters.

Commenting on these figures, Charlotte said, ‘This is truly terrible, wildlife isn’t some luxury, it is part of our life support system. The loss of fresh water life is particularly worrying since this shows how much strain sources of fresh water are under. Without clean water, life for all becomes impossible.’

Since 1970, the global economy has boomed and human population has doubled. The Greens claim that this growth is fuelled by an unsustainable use of natural resources. They say that the rate of use of resources in Europe and America would need three Earths to maintain.

Charlotte went on to say, ‘By any measure, what we are doing now cannot be kept up for much longer. The rate of loss is increasing and at the same time we are seeing serious changes to the chemistry of the oceans and to the behaviour of the climate. Just how much more warning do we need before we make the change to a sustainable economy and live within the limits of the only planet we have?

‘What is most alarming is the fact that our politicians are in total denial about all this. Little appears in the press, nothing is heard from our leaders who go on and on about ‘growth’ as if this was possible for ever. Only the Greens have faced reality and proposed an economic policy that shares the wealth we have to secure a decent living for all, while conserving the planet. Instead of serious action, Governments are driving a last desperate grab for what is left, by the mega-rich and powerful, who have already decided that the majority of us must live in poverty for ever. Greens totally reject this. We know that there is a better way to live within the natural limits of the world. Our policies work for the common good. This will be our message in the coming election campaign.’

For more information on the WWF Living Planet Report:

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/

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Greens Question Government Claims on Fracking

Charlotte at Barton Moss farck-free camp

Charlotte at Barton Moss farck-free camp

Derbyshire Green Party has said that it finds no reason to be reassured by energy Minister Matthew Hancock’s statement that Government has guidelines on fracking that would “protect Britain’s great National Parks and outstanding landscapes”. They also ask why these guidelines will not be applied to all other parts of the country, where most people live. Hancock’s comments came on the day that the Government has announced a new licensing round for gas and oil exploration that covers large areas of the UK including most of the East Midlands.
Charlotte Farrell, the Greens Parliamentary candidate for the High Peak said that by issuing these guidelines the Government was admitting that even the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty were now at risk from fracking. ‘The Government has announced that under what they call ‘extreme circumstances’, even the Peak District could be opened to fracking companies. Who, I would like to know, will judge these ‘circumstances’? I question the independence of Government advice on such matters with the Chairman of Caudrilla, a leading Fracking company, working as a Director of the Cabinet Office, advising ministers.’
The Greens also question whether the regulations that the Government say will control any possible adverse effects of fracking, are really so strong. ‘When this Government came to power in 2010, they boasted that they would have a ‘bonfire of regulations’, Charlotte said. ‘These include the downgrading rules on hazardous waste, on air pollution, on degrading land and on noise, some of the very problems associated with fracking. In addition this Government has slashed the funding and staffing of the bodies that have the responsibility to regulate fracking, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.
‘As if all this wasn’t enough concern, this Government is a supporter of the little heard of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP] that is being negotiated between the USA and the EU. If this deal goes ahead, the fracking companies will be able to challenge any regulations that they claim affect their profits. Any action to limit the licensed companies activities, even if taken to protect our health, safety or the landscape could lead to very expensive lawsuits against the Government that we, the taxpayer will have to settle. Greens will stand firmly with communities who rightly oppose fracking. The only beneficiaries of this damaging technology will be the already very rich corporations who will sell off any gas they find gas to the highest bidder.’

The Carbon Bubble

In 2010, the Climate Change conference in Cancun adopted an agreement that carbon emissions should be limited so that the rise in global mean temperature should not exceed 2°C. In addition, it was recognised that this rise might need to be reduced to 1•5°C. Although the sceptics didn’t notice, that conference accepted the science of Climate Change. What it didn’t do was to understand the economic implications of restricting temperature rise. It’s not simply calculating the cost, Nicholas Stern did that, it’s around 2% of global GDP and rising. We now have to understand the grip carbon assets have on the global economy and find ways of loosening it.

serious_about_climate_change_splash_860x305If we are to limit temperature rise to 2°C, the Potsdam Institute has calculated that global carbon emissions in the period 2000 to 2050 will need to be limited to 884Gt CO². In the first eleven years of this century, thanks to the inaction of political, economic and business leaders, the world has emitted 321 GtCO², leaving a carbon budget of 565 GtCO² up to 2050. At present, despite the global recession, emissions are rising and the 2°C carbon budget will have been ‘spent’ by 2027. After then, we leave the 2° world and enter 3°+. At the last Climate Change conference in Durban in January, there was a behind the scenes acceptance that we will have to adapt to 3°C of warming, and probably more. That is not a comfortable prospect and millions of people will suffer as a consequence.

The reason why global leaders find it so difficult to implement the policies that will limit temperature rise to less than 2°C is not due to scepticism but because the global economic structure is built on unsustainable practices and resources, notably carbon based fuels. Limiting temperature rise to 2°C or less requires a switch to sustainable practice, and a switch away from fossil fuels. We know this, so why isn’t this happening?

A report called Unburnable Carbon, by the Carbon Tracker Initiative showed that the top 200 oil, coal, and gas companies have reserves that will emit 745 GtCO², these reserves represent their market value, and the market naturally assumes that these fuels will be burned. In addition, these companies continue to prospect aggressively, needing to replace reserves that underpin share price. Around 50% of the valuation of a fossil fuel company lies in its declared reserves. When Shell announced a 20% reduction in its reserves its market value fell by £3 billion in a week. Naturally, these companies try to secure new finds as a buffer to maintain their value, profits and dividends. In the oil and gas sector, this now means ‘unconventional’ sources like tar sands and shale gas. To finance these explorations, investors continue to pour money in to the carbon sector, assuming that this investment will yield burnable reserves that will secure a return on their investments.

Exactly how much carbon, and therefore warming potential, private companies have on their books is difficult to estimate because of confidentiality. Further, the private sector accounts for only about one third of global carbon stocks, add in state enterprises and total reserves would yield 2,795 gigatonnes. Steve Waygood of Aviva Investors has estimated that if all proven and probable oil and gas reserves are burned, CO² levels will rise beyond 700ppm, leading to 3.5°C to 5°C of warming. Add in the proven coal stocks and the planet becomes uninhabitable.

The problem lies not with science but with economics, and all the human failings that are associated with it. The world economic system is built on carbon. This is not simply our reliance on carbon fuels to drive economic activity; global assets are built on the value of fossil fuel companies. Between 20% and 30% of the value of the London Stock Exchange is based on fossil fuel. Fund managers invest heavily in fossil fuel companies, seeing them as a safe haven for investment with above average returns in the short term. The funds invested in fossil fuel assets include pensions, life assurance schemes, and personal savings plans. A majority of people in the western world have their future security tied to the fortunes of these carbon rich companies. We are indeed all in this together.

If we are to restrict the rise in average global temperature to less than 2°C, the rate of burning of fossil fuel will have to be restricted. Sequestration technology is not going to be ready in time. To achieve this target, only 20% of known reserves can be burned over the next 40 years, and this might have to be reduced further if feedback loops begin to kick in. That means that 80% of the assets of fossil fuel companies are un-burnable. None of the unproven and unconventional reserves that are now being prospected for at great expense can be burned. There can be no return on the investment in 80% of reserves and in all new prospecting. This is the carbon bubble. Depletion of fossil reserves isn’t the issue, it’s the fact that they can not be used if we are to save the planet from dangerous climate change. The wealth of some of the worlds biggest and most powerful companies, and therefore of stock exchanges, is based on an unusable asset. If these companies had to devalue their reserves by 80% the carbon bubble would burst – remember what happened to Shell with a mere 20% downgrade.

The heavy investment in carbon assets also explains the reluctance of governments to back renewable energy. Renewables coupled with efficiency measures can replace fossil fuels, and without nuclear power. 120px-EnergiaberriztagarriakWith a range of technologies like wave power waiting in the wings, existing technologies can more than cope with efficient demand. But if governments promoted these technologies, the value of carbon rich companies would decline. It isn’t just scepticism that stops the deployment of renewables, or that stops agreements to limit temperature rise, it’s vested interests and their control over the political process. We can suppose that those who profess scepticism, like many MP’s of the ruling Coalition, have heavy investments in carbon rich assets.

Denial of climate change is a smokescreen that hides the real denial that lies at the heart of global economics: the denial of long-term consequences. Economics does not think in the long term, profit today is the mantra, tomorrow is somebody else’s problem. Greens keep focusing on the scientific argument, refining their arguments with ever more facts, trying to convince the so-called sceptics with the sheer weight of the evidence. Apart from the lunatic fringe, most of these sceptics may well accept the science, however, they are not interested in science and statistics, what they are interested in is how they maintain their position of wealth and privilege in a warming world.

There are ways to break out of this carbon strangle hold. To do so we need:

 political action to require long-term accounting.
 investors to take the decision to begin the switch to low carbon assets.
 everyone who can afford it, to accept lower returns in order to secure the only long-term investment that matters: the future health of our planet and all who live on her.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King has responded to the concern expressed by Carbon Tracker and others and is considering whether over exposure to carbon assets represents a risk to market stability. A small step and it remains to be seen whether investors will similarly take note. However, a globalised economy needs international agreement to require climate change to be factored into market valuation. The markets will not do this until it is too late.

10356153_10152396653039522_7330862721074206686_nA strong political lead is required. We can help this process by being informed about the dangers of another asset bubble bursting, by being aware of our own exposure to this danger, and by demanding effective preventative action. We can also work to help the Greens promote a new, low carbon and sustainable economics.

Mike Shipley
First published 17/3/12

A Concerning Trade Deal: TTIP

By Jean Macdonald

Jean Macdonald

Jean Macdonald

I would like to raise an issue which should concern all parties in the European elections.

I have emailed all East Midlands candidates about trade deals which are giving more power to big business at the expense of people and the environment.

War on Want is asking voters to ask candidates to sign a pledge to say that, if elected as an MEP, they will stand up for trade and investment rules that serve people and the environment and take back power from the corporations.

The main concern is with Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) which allow companies to sue governments. The tribunals take place behind closed doors.

According to the United Nations, in 2012, investor-state tribunals decided in favour of the investor in 70% of such disputes, ordering taxpayers to pay billions in compensation.

In the light of climate change, I am particularly concerned about the power that corporations have been given by ISDS to opt out of responsibility for damaging our environment.

For example, Chevron was ordered by an Ecuadorian court to pay $18 billion (US) to clean up contamination in the Amazon rainforest. Chevron is trying to avoid taking responsibility by using ISDS.

A Swedish energy firm is seeking $3.7 billion from Germany because the German government took a democratic decision to phase out nuclear energy and a US company is suing Canada for $250 million (US) after the country imposed a moratorium on fracking because of environmental concerns.

If the UK Government sets up deals with fracking companies, will the taxpayer have to compensate the companies if a future government decides to ban it?

If a future government, in the light of rising sea levels and increased flooding, decides not to go ahead with the proposed nuclear power station in Somerset, will the taxpayer end up having to compensate EDF and the Chinese investors?

The EU’s current negotiations with the US – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – will include ISDS.

At present, the UK Health and Social Care Act 2012 gives companies much greater access to the provision of NHS services.

If a future UK Government decided to change this, the ISDS clause would mean the Government could be at risk of being sued by the powerful US health industry. This would be disastrous for the people of the UK.

If we are to return power to the people and their elected representatives, MEPs must reclaim the power from big business and ensure that trade benefits people and the environment, and not just corporations and shareholders.

First published in the Derby Telegraph