Movements taking climate action where politicians won’t

This article first appeared on Foreign Policy In Focus.

The media, politicians and policy makers tend to focus on the most visible issues.

The attention paid to the war in Ukraine during the first half of 2022for example, is unmatched in the United States at least since the shock of 9/11 in 2001. The war has been highly visible because of the ability to obtain compelling photographs and videos, which can be shared quickly via social media – and also, perhaps, because the protagonists, victims and featured voices in this European war are white, unlike past and present wars in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

The heartbreaking suffering in Ukraine deserves coverage, context and resolution. But in the meantime, other global issues – pandemics, rising economic inequality, the climate crisis and more – have taken a back seat.

The rollback of climate action is a clear example of the damage done.

Big Oil Profits as Washington Stays on Autopilot

This spring, fossil fuel companies were celebrating massive increases in profits, while Congress approved $47 billions of dollars in new spending for Ukraine, the largest U.S. aid program to a single country in decades. Political will in Washington to halt fossil fuel production and invest in renewable energy, already weak, had evaporated as time to avert a climate apocalypse continued to run out.

Meanwhile, rising fuel and food prices caused by war are being felt most intensely in developing regions like Africa. This added to the pre-existing shocks of the continent’s own wars (fueled by external actors including the United States, France, Russia and others), the illicit financial flows that drain the continent of its wealth, and the deadly toll of climate change. caused disasters that have already claimed lives and destroyed livelihoods.

In late May, the Biden administration and Congress appear to have committed to win” the war in Europe instead of encouraging negotiated solutions. With elections approaching in November, on the eve of the next climate summit scheduled for Egypt, funding for global climate commitments to Africa and the world to recover from climate damage and invest in a sustainable future can hardly compete. with the eagerness to finance a larger war.

The obstacles to action were already formidable.

Fossil fuel industry lobbyists could count on strategically placed Senator Joe Manchin, the unapologetic coal industry oligarch for his own conflicts of interest. Highly publicized commitments for The “net zero” goals of giant corporations and other institutions, including the fossil fuel companies themselves, were more often than not filled with enough loopholes to render them virtually meaningless. Demands for wealthy countries to provide compensatory finance for climate damage to the most vulnerable countries have been met with lip service, but no funding at global conferences.

In April 4. 2022the final summary report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been published, concluding that In the scenarios we assessed, limiting warming to about 1.5°C (°F) requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030. However, it attracted relatively little media attention. Obstruction by the fossil fuel industry was a central theme of the report. But he was expelled at the last minute from the Summary for policy makers. »

Shortly after, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres criticized the fossil fuel industry for trying to use Russia’s war on Ukraine to increase profits for polluters at the expense of the global climate and of all life on Earth.

Fossil fuel interests are now cynically using the war in Ukraine to try to secure a high carbon future,” Guterres tweeted. A shift to renewables is crucial to repairing our broken global energy mix and offering hope to the millions of people suffering from climate impacts today.

Meanwhile, solar energy companies have been crippled by a Commerce Department ban on imports of solar modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, to determine if the imports contained too high a percentage components from China. The Commerce Department’s investigation is due to be completed in August, but in the meantime it’s likely that as much as 64 % of US solar projects could be canceled for fear of retroactive tariffs. In June, the administration announced a pause on new solar tariffs, but for existing projects the damage may already be done.

In May, the World Meteorological Organization predicted that There is a 50:50 chance that the annual mean global temperature will temporarily reach 1.5 °C above the pre-industrial level for at least one of the years” of 2022 at 2026. Yet few national governments, with the exception of small island states that can easily envision their entire country collapsing under the oceans, have adequate incentives to act with the urgency that scientific evidence demands.

And a new presentation in The Guardian revealed that the dozen biggest oil companies are on track to spend dollars103 million a day for the rest of the decade by exploiting new deposits of oil and gas that cannot be burned if global warming is to be limited to well below 2VS. “

Meanwhile, at a climate conference in Florida, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi shrugged when asked about the prospects for passing climate legislation this year.

Where climate activists are on the attack

Fortunately, many climate activists recognize that, as in a host of other crises, it is both necessary and possible to focus on more immediate targets – from state and local governments to fossil fuel giants who may be facing disinvestment as well as physical damage. pipeline blockades and other climate-destroying projects. Such actions, if multiplied around the world, have the potential to have their own cumulative impact as well as catalyze action by national governments.

Examples of such initiatives abound, though they may not make global headlines.

In Oregon, a lawsuit filed by 21 young plaintiffs in 2015 Establishing a federal constitutional right to a livable planet is still making headway in appeals courts, despite opposition first from the Trump administration and then the Biden administration. If the case is successful, any federal policy allowing further development of fossil fuels could be challenged as unconstitutional.

At the state policy level, California has long taken the lead on climate, though the fossil fuel industry has won legislative battles delaying the most ambitious plans. Yet in April the state ordered that 35% of new passenger vehicles sold there by 2026 be powered by batteries or hydrogen, from the current level of 12.4 percent. Since California State standards set the context for the US auto industry in general, the effect will be multiplied nationwide.

In Latin America, Chile is on track to follow Ecuador in establishing rights of nature” in its proposal for a new constitution which will be voted on in September.

And in South Africa, a climate change bill introduced in February has opened the door to start reducing the country’s dependence on coal. Although it still has shortcomings, it is likely to be strengthened following the catastrophic floods that swept through KwaZulu-Natal province in April, officially causing more than 435 lives and to discredit the Minister of Energy’s defense of a continued dependence on coal.

The power of people is what will make the real and huge difference.

At the same time, major corporate campaigns are gaining momentum. One such campaign demanded that six of America’s largest banks, which pumped in more than $1 trillion dollars in the industry from 20162020, stop financing the development of fossil fuels. Despite comments from industry spokespersons downplaying the yes votes, the results have already eclipsed early anti-apartheid proxy votes that turned into sweeping campaigns culminating in financial sanctions against the apartheid regime.

Elsewhere, a campaign by traditional communities and South African environmentalists to stop fossil fuel exploration off the rugged Eastern Cape coast has won an indictment against Shell Oil. Plus, a host of practical and creative energy-saving solutions come from architects, visual artists and textile designers.

In Uganda, Fridays for the Future, hosted by 22-years-old Hilda Nakabuye, mobilized25 ,000 militants. Although East African activists, like fellow Ugandan Vanessa Nakate, have gained the most international visibility, her counterparts are mobilizing in cities and towns in almost every country on the continent. They are implementing the call eloquently presented by Kenyan activist Elizabeth Wahuti at the COP26in Glasgow for please open your hearts.

The delegates there, including government officials and the fossil fuel companies themselves, applauded politely. But the future, noted Wahuti, the founder of a local tree-planting organization, will depend on those who themselves feel the impact of climate-induced drought on their communities.

People power is what is going to make a real and huge difference in the world today,” she told delegates. It must be if there is to be a tomorrow.

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