Category Archives: Climate Change

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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

 

Fracking on Trial

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Speaking after the first day in court, Caroline said:

“We were moved by the support shown for us at Brighton Magistrates Court on Monday and I would like to thank everyone who wrote and tweeted in support. I am pleased that this has put the focus firmly on the dangers around Fracking.

To avoid catastrophic climate change we need a rapid shift to a zero carbon economy, matched with policies to keep the majority of known fossil fuels in the ground. The window for action is closing fast.”

Today, we are calling on the Prime Minister to redirect the billions of UK fossil fuel subsidies into flood relief and adequate flood protection.

Add your voice to Caroline’s and the other protesters by taking action today.  http://my.greenparty.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=46629&qid=1556466

If you want to learn more about fracking and how you can help prevent runaway climate change each day we will share more ways you can take action here.  http://my.greenparty.org.uk/sites/all/modules/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=46638&qid=1556466

Getting the Fracking Facts Right

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACharlotte Farrell in the Hope Valley speaks about her concerns about Fracking.

Open Letter Against Fracking

Subject: Unconventional fossil fuels / Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive & other projects from the European Institutions

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Kat Boettge – Candidate for the European Elections

The Green Party is the only party opposing Fracking.  As some of you may know the European Commission is to announce non-binding guidance for the shale gas industry this Wednesday 23rd January, 2014. This is very bad news for our campaign against fracking.

In protest over the Commission’s stance and the lack of leadership on this issue from the EU in general, East Midlands Green Party and Derbyshire Green Party have signed an Open Letter along with some 290 civil society groups and NGOs who have outlined their concerns in a joint open letter to the EU institutions.

The letter states that many groups of concerned citizens and environmental organizations are against the development in Europe of unconventional fossil fuels (UFFs) and are concerned about the multiple and unavoidable impacts on the environment, on climate, on people’s health and on a number of fundamental freedoms and human rights.

It goes on to state the main reasons why we oppose this industry; one of which is that the extraction of these hydrocarbons will worsen our GHG footprint and will divert or even jeopardize European energy and climate objectives.

Instead of moving away from fossil fuel energy sources, developing more sources of renewable energy, and improving energy efficiency policies, this industry would lock us into another dirty fossil fuel cycle.  You can find the full version of the letter here.  

You can hear more of our concerns on The Sunday Politics show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esjNP_Acwi4&feature=youtube_gdata

Katharina Boettge – Green Party Candidate for the European Elections

Political Point-scoring won’t solve the energy bill crisis

East Mikat-gp-1dland Green Party candidate in the European Elections, Katarina Boettge has accused both the Coalition and Labour of “political point-scoring” in the energy bill debate to duck the real problems.  She claims that meaningful measures to address the problems of cold homes, fuel poverty, and soaring bills are being sidelined.  As a result she claims that 1.5 million children are being brought up in cold homes and that more people in the UK are struggling to pay their energy bills than any other European country than Estonia.

The Green Party is calling for a major nationwide programme to make all homes energy efficient.  They want this funded through ‘recycled’ carbon taxes, saying that this could bring an estimated nine out of ten homes out of fuel poverty, quadruple carbon savings, and create up to 200,000 jobs across the UK.

Ms Boettge said: “It’s a scandal that the big energy companies are making large profits, which doubled between 2008 and 2010, whilst many people are struggling with high bills and cold homes. 

The Government’s own advisers are saying that the reason that bills have been rising is because of the wholesale price of gas and not because of Green Tariffs.  These, if properly used for home insulation will help households reduce their energy use and therefore their bills.

‘We need a nationwide programme to make all homes super-energy efficient – with full insulation, modern boilers, and renewable energy sources.  These measures could save households up to £500 per year, far more that any of the other Parties are offering with their short term measures.’