march 2021 newsletterRead Now
It's only 6 weeks since I sent out the last newsletter but I have a range of material I'm accumulating that I think is worthwhile sharing so here is some more reading for those who are interested.
Before we get into that material I wanted to let everyone know Earth Day Picnic is again going to be celebrated here in Marlborough after a break last year due to the Covid lockdown. The local event will be held from 10am to 3pm on April 18th at Pollard Park next to the playground. Thanks to Envirohub from Picton who are taking a lead role this time with the organising of the day. So please make a packed lunch and come along with family and friends on the day. There will a range of activities and interests for children.
1) Climate Commission submission extension -
The Climate Commission has extended the deadline for submissions to their Report, by 2 weeks to March 28th. If you haven't already done so we encourage you to put in a submission however brief. If you feel uncertain about submitting there are some good guidelines and advice you might find helpful on the Generation Zero website here or you can go direct to the Climate Commission website and make a submission here -
CKM has drafted a submission and a copy is available here if you're interested. You may find material in our submission that you can use in your own.
Feel free to send us feedback if you wish - firstname.lastname@example.org
2) Nelson/Tasman Climate Forum "Climate Action Book" -
Tom and I attended the launch of the Climate Action Book in Richmond last month. This has been a huge collaborative effort by the people of Nelson and Tasman and a testament to the commitment of a lot of people from their region.
In the introduction to the Book they say "The Nelson Tasman Climate Forum is a large, open group of volunteers dedicated to bringing our communities together to respond to this long emergency and create a positive future for us all. We also try to be a voice for all other elements of the biosphere in this region, seeing ourselves as part of the web of life."
The Book has sections on -
3) Open Letter to Boris Johnson -
James Hansen has written an open letter to Boris Johnson with a challenge for him to stand up and be counted at the next UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COP 26 (Conference of the Parties) in Glasgow, hopefully this November.
In the covering note to his letter James says - "Young people are fed up – rightfully so. Boris Johnson has a choice. He and the COP can offer soothing ambitions, while continuing business-almost-as usual – in which case global emissions will rebound after Covid and remain high or even grow – and he will be vilified in the streets of Glasgow, London and around the world.
Or he can use his emergent humanity to help turn the world onto a different path, one dictated by science. The UK, where the industrial revolution and coal burning began, could now provide the blueprint by which other nations may proceed. The science shows that fossil fuel use will be phased out rapidly via a rising carbon fee with all funds distributed uniformly to the public. The effect is anti-regressive, as most wealthy people have a large carbon footprint. Seventy percent of the people come out ahead. Fee & dividend is a base that aids all other carbon policies.
The UK (like the US) is 5X more responsible for global warming than the average nation. With strong leadership from the PM, the UK parliamentary system is capable of adopting this year such a science-based system. Just as the industrial revolution moved from the UK to the US, so too could a proper way to put a price on carbon. The PM has the opportunity to earn a special place in history and the gratitude of young people. Let’s see if he can grasp it.
Note: with a sufficient, rising price on carbon, steel production need not be done with coal."
A full copy of the letter to PM Johnson is available here -
4) More on The Dasgupta Review -
I included information in the last newsletter about this recently released review in the UK.
Here is one small extract from a Guardian article that drew my attention and I wish to share - "The review is full of alarming statistics, of which perhaps the scariest is that in little more than two decades, between 1992 and 2014, there was a 40% fall in the stock of natural capital per person. That is the water we drink, the air we breathe, the soil we grow food in, and all living things shared among the global population. This really is capitalism for dummies, because any company that was as cavalier about its inventories of all other forms of capital – its machines, its IT systems, its buildings and its people – would soon go out of business.
Yes, the report notes, there has been growth. Measured by gross domestic product (GDP), the global economy is 14 times bigger than it was in 1950. There has been a massive increase in prosperity but it has come at a “devastating” cost to nature: the extinction of species; the depletion of fish stocks; the destruction of coral reefs; the shrinking of the rain forests. At current levels of consumption, we require an Earth 1.6 times larger than its actual size."
The full article is available here -
Kathryn Ryan from Radio NZ's Nine to Noon also did a half hour interview with Sir Partha Dasgupta, which is available here - In the interview he highlights that GDP is not fit for purpose.
“The problem with GDP is that it doesn’t include the depreciation of capital and one of the natural capital, or nature, which is somewhat different from buildings and roads in that you can really depreciate it very fast."
"We could depreciate building very fast too if we chose too, they do get depreciated if there is a war, but since we don’t think of war as being an actual state if affairs we think of about 4 to 5 percent as a depreciation allowance.
“But when it comes to natural capital you can actually completely wipe out natural capital pretty fast.”
We tend to subsidise the use of natural capital, he says. Nature’s goods and services are not free in fact the price is often negative.
“To the extent that it’s now about 4 to 5 percent of global GDP is in the form of subsidy."
“Now that is absolutely outrageous, you are not only regarding nature to be valueless, but you are saying it is actually a pest. You are paying yourself to destroy it.”
5) Will this be the end for Coal in Pakistan?
350.org had an item noting this recent announcement in Pakistan. It is clear from reading the article that there are unanswered questions about this new policy. Let's hope it results in real action that reduces emissions.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister announced during the virtual Climate Ambition Summit last weekend that the country won’t approve any new coal plants and by 2030, 60% of the energy produced in Pakistan will be generated through renewable resources.
Pakistan has taken steps to increase the role of renewables in its energy mix. In 2019 it reversed a three-year ban on investing in solar and wind that was put in place by the previous government. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) predicts that the share of renewables in power generation will rise to 86% globally by 2050, compared to 25% today, with 60% of that share coming from solar and wind.
Will Pakistan’s new statement pave the way for more countries in South Asia to declare No coal policies? Will India and Bangladesh follow suit? Only time will tell but we will keep a watch and keep fighting until the region embraces 100% renewable energy.
Full article available here -
6) Our Great Reckoning - Eileen Crist On The Consequences Of Human Plunder.
Eileen Crist is the author of a book titled "Abundant Earth: Toward an Ecological Civilization". She was interviewed late last year about the book and the full text of that interview is available here -
Here is an extract from the prelude to the interview.
Eileen Crist knows more than a person should, more than seems healthy, about dying birds and dying watersheds. She’s keenly aware of the global crisis of biodiversity loss and ecological collapse, and she sees what’s driving it: direct causes like climate change and what she calls the “ultimate causes” — population growth, over consumption, and technological power. But the thing that really interests Crist, the thing that she’s been studying and publicizing for the past three decades as a professor and radical environmental thinker, is an even deeper question: Why is so little being done to address this planetary emergency?
She attempts, with a mix of intellectual rigor and lyrical passion, to provide an answer in her 2019 book, Abundant Earth: Toward an Ecological Civilization. The cause of our inaction, she says, is “human supremacy,” a largely unconscious belief that Homo sapiens are the masters of creation rather than just one humble species among millions. This worldview sanctions not only factory farming, clear-cut logging, mountaintop-removal mining, and bottom-trawl fishing, but also more commonplace behaviors such as cruising along in cars that slaughter wildlife and emit carbon dioxide. As long as human supremacy prevails, Crist writes, “humanity will remain unable to muster the will to scale down and pull back the burgeoning human enterprise that is unraveling Earth’s biological wealth.”
7) Update on Ecocide campaign.
In an amendment to its report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2019, the European Parliament has voted to urge “the EU and the Member States to promote the recognition of ecocide as an international crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.
MEP Marie Toussaint, long-term campaigner for EU recognition of ecocide, said: “This is a real victory, a first major step towards the recognition of ecocide by the European Union. Member states must now speak out at the ICC and on the international stage. Climate change is accelerating, the loss of biodiversity is leading to planetary pandemics, the sea is rising: let’s move forward fast!”
Chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation Jojo Mehta says: “This European parliamentary vote is hugely encouraging. The political world is rapidly waking up to what scientists have been telling us for decades and the indigenous world has been telling us for centuries: that humanity cannot destroy the natural world with impunity. There are consequences. We know now that tipping points are being crossed and we have a short time to act. Making ecocide a crime recognises this, providing a practical guardrail to prevent the worst excesses of damage that are pushing Earth’s life-support systems towards breaking point.”
Full item is available here -
Jojo Mehta from "Stop Ecocide" also co-authored an Opinion piece published in the Guardian last month which highlighted that only two countries in the world are on track to meet the 1.5C target.
"The science is clear: without drastic action to limit temperature rise below 1.5C, the Earth, and all life on it, including all human beings, will suffer devastating consequences.
Yet only two countries – Morocco and the Gambia – are on track to meet the 1.5C target. The largest emitters, including the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, are putting the world on course for 4C. At that rate, the polar ice caps will melt, causing dramatic sea level rise that will – in combination with other devastating effects like strengthening storms and droughts – cause mass famine, displacement and extinction.
Currently, much of humanity feels hopeless, but the establishment of ecocide as a crime offers something for people to get behind. Enacting laws against ecocide, as is under consideration in a growing number of jurisdictions, offers a way to correct the shortcomings of the Paris agreement. Whereas Paris lacks sufficient ambition, transparency and accountability, the criminalization of ecocide would be an enforceable deterrent. Outlawing ecocide would also address a key root cause of global climate change: the widespread destruction of nature, which, in addition to increasing greenhouse gas emissions, has devastating impacts on global health, food and water security, and sustainable development – to name a few.
Ecocide shares its roots with other landmark concepts in international law, including genocide. Indeed, ecocide and genocide often go hand in hand. Around the globe, ecological destruction is also decimating indigenous communities. Indeed, the meaning of ecocide is fully encapsulated by its etymology. It comes from the Greek oikos (home) and the Latin cadere (to kill). Ecocide is literally “killing our home”.
The full article is available here -
8) Climate Action Tracker -
The Climate Action Tracker website is a useful resource for identifying how well different countries around the world are progressing towards meeting their Paris Climate Accord targets. They have a useful analysis of how NZ is doing with their efforts.
9) Another legal win for the biosphere -
A court in Paris has ruled that France's government is guilty of climate inaction in a ground-breaking legal case.
The decision comes after a group of NGOs, with the support of two million citizens, filed a lawsuit against the French government for failing to meet the country's commitments to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The legal claim was hailed as the "L'Affaire du siècle" or "the case of the century" by activists, who first started the dispute in March 2019.
Today, the court ruled that France has not done enough to meet its mandated goals to reduce greenhouse gases.
"Justice has just recognised that the state's climate inaction is illegal," said the campaigners behind the lawsuit. "This is a historic victory for the climate!"
France's commitment to curb global warming comes from the Paris Agreement, which was signed at COP21 in 2015. This international accord holds countries responsible for limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees more than pre-industrial levels.
The lawsuit is not about punishing the government now, but instead about ensuring French leaders are found to be legally culpable over climate inaction.
France already has an existing legal precedent of 'ecological prejudice', which was added to the French Civil Code in 2016. In cases relating to ecological prejudice, companies can be ordered to pay for the clean-up or repairs from whatever environmental damage has taken place.
Last year France took this a step further and made 'ecocide' a crime, punishable by fines of up to €4.5 million and up to a decade-long prison sentence.
The article is available here -
10) Nairobi Entrepreneur recycling plastic waste into bricks that are more durable than concrete.
Collectively, we use a staggering amount of single-use plastic each year—we buy one million plastic bottles each minute around the world—most of which ends up in landfills, oceans, and other natural spaces. Nzambi Matee, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Nairobi, is combatting this global crisis by recycling bags, containers, and other waste products into bricks used for patios and other construction projects.
Prior to launching her company, Gjenge Makers, Matee worked as a data analyst and oil-industry engineer. After encountering plastic waste along Nairobi’s streets, she decided to quit her job and created a small lab in her mother’s backyard, testing sand and plastic combinations. Matee eventually received a scholarship to study in the materials lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she ultimately developed a prototype for the machine that now produces the textured bricks.
Made from a combination of plastic and sand, the pavers have a melting point higher than 350°C and are more durable than their concrete counterparts. Matee and her team source much of the raw product from factories and recyclers, and sometimes it’s free, which allows the company to reduce the price point on the product and make it affordable for schools and homeowners. So far, Gjenge Makers has recycled more than 20 tons of plastic and created 112 job opportunities in the community.
“It is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter – a basic human need,” Matee said in a statement. “Plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. The potential is enormous, but its afterlife can be disastrous.”
The full article can be seen here with another article about similar developments in Colombia here -
11) Tiny Costa Rica wants the world to take giant climate step.
In January, more than 50 countries committed to the protection of 30% of the planet’s land and oceans as part of the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, spearheaded by Costa Rica, which is a co-chair alongside France and the UK.
The coalition hopes the target will become the headline aim for an international agreement on halting biodiversity loss for this decade, set to be negotiated in Kunming, China, later this year.
“Our approach is to lead by example. As Mandela said, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’,” Costa Rican president Carlos Alvarado Quesada told the Guardian. “Conservation is one of the key factors that scientists point out as relevant for protecting biodiversity and also for addressing the climate crisis. But working alone, it’s not as effective.”
The world has never met a single target to stem the destruction of wildlife and life-sustaining ecosystems. But the 41-year-old leader believes this time might be different.
The full article can be seen here -
12) Navigating Energy Descent Pathways.
Wikipedia - "Energy descent is a process whereby a society either voluntarily or involuntarily reduces its total energy consumption."
Here is an extract from a paper published last year looking in some detail at the whole issue of Energy Descent. This may well be something we all need to face in the years ahead so better to be informed than keep our heads in the sand.
"Much mainstream energy and sustainability discourse is based on a series of highly optimistic assumptions about future energy supply in a carbon-constrained world. The improbability of conditions aligning such that all necessary assumptions are borne out implies that the energy futures ahead will likely diverge significantly from those envisaged within this established discourse. This has potentially profound implications. The availability of energy in the right forms at sufficient rates is the lifeblood of any particular form of social organization. Energy-related factors are fundamental to how we shape our societies and pursue our goals, yet it seems most individuals and societies are making plans based on precarious expectations. One of the goals of the present analysis is to encourage readers to treat the prospect that these expectations will not be realized as, at the very least, a matter of plausibility.
In the event that mainstream expectations are thwarted, the consequences could range from the disruptive to the catastrophic. This is not a case against optimism, but rather of channelling it in directions that lie within humanity’s scope of influence.
All human societies exist interdependently with natural systems that are ultimately beyond human control. It is far preferable, we contend, that societies retain the greatest degree of agency possible in getting to grips with the dilemma of fossil fuel dependence. The alternative is to have our futures dictated to us by breakdown in natural systems that are beyond our capacity to control. Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) offers a means for societies to manage the reduction in fossil fuel use in an orderly and coordinated way, so that citizens retain as much scope as possible for choosing the forms that their post-carbon futures might take."
The full paper can be viewed here -
13) Tradable Energy Quotas.
In the paper from item 12 above TEQs are referenced. The Fleming Policy Centre in the UK has done considerable work on this method. They claim introduction of such a system would ensure fair access to energy for all, guarantee that a nation meets its emissions reductions targets, and support the active participation and cooperation of citizens and all other energy users in rapidly reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
Here is a brief outline of the main points about TEQs from their website.
14) The Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration -
They have some very interesting papers on their website including a recent one titled "CARBON BUDGETS FOR 1.5 & 2°C" which is available here -
The SUMMARY of this paper says -
The cryptocurrency’s value has dipped recently after passing a high of $50,000 but the energy used to create it has continued to soar during its epic rise, climbing to the equivalent to the annual carbon footprint of Argentina, according to Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, a tool from researchers at Cambridge University that measures the currency’s energy use.
Recent interest from major Wall Street institutions like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs probably culminated in the currency’s rise in value and an endorsement by Tesla’s Elon Musk helped drive its recent high as investors bet the cryptocurrency will become more widely embraced in the near future.
You can see the full Guardian article here and here is another article from Stuff on the same topic.
16) 350.org and their petition calling for ACC to stop investing in fossil fuels.
In the past week, ACC’s investments have made news headlines, following the story that Minister of Finance Grant Robertson has written to chairs of the Super Fund and ACC. The letters ask them to adopt ethical investment policies and sets an expectation that Government funds lead the way to achieve our shared target of being carbon-zero by 2050.
Grant Robertson hasn’t explicitly outlined where our public funds should or shouldn’t be investing. This means that as key stakeholders of ACC, through receiving care or contributing levies, all of us have an opportunity to raise our voices and set the standard we expect for ACC’s ethical investment approach.
Together we can use this moment to strengthen our call for ACC to stop investing in climate-wrecking fossil fuel companies.
ACC’s current investments funnel over $200 million of our public money into the hands of the fossil fuel industry. The most effective way we can stop the worst impacts of the climate crisis is by keeping polluting fossil fuels in the ground. In order to do this, we need to stop the flow of money that enables fossil fuel projects to go ahead.
If you want to support this campaign you can sign their petition here -
17) Earth Day 2021
I wanted to finish with a link to a short video trailer from a film by Joe Gantz called "The Race to Save the World" which is being released on International Earth Day, April 22nd. The trailer is available here and highlights the critical role that activists play in raising awareness of the major issues threatening the biosphere. The one and only biosphere that supports Earth's miraculous web of life.
Remember the local Marlborough Earth Day Picnic is on Sunday, April 18th at Pollard Park from 10am to 3pm.
Nga mihi nui, Budyong.
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These newsletters are put together by Budyong Hill in an attempt to help keep Marlborough people informed of issues both global and local. The aim is help raise awareness of the myriad challenges facing the essential life support systems that our amazing planet provides for us every day.