Blogs

Dirty future: Poland does not manage to switch to renewables

Energiewende Blog - 26 Februar, 2019 - 15:00

Poland’s energy supply is still based on fossil energy. The dream of expanding renewable energies has been bursting over and over again in the recent years. Michał Olszewski reports on political mistakes and a poor energy strategy.

If the country does not meet the its renewable targets, it will be forced to engage in a so-called statistical transfer from countries who will have met their target with an excess. (Public Domain)

The latest report by the Supreme Audit Office (NIK), Poland’s most important auditing body, is a deeply depressing read for anyone even slightly interested in the fate of renewable energy in Poland. The report shows how years of neglect, mistakes and indolence have accumulated and now threaten Poland with not just European-wide disgrace, but also serious financial consequences.

Let’s look at things step by step: back in 2013 the share of renewables in the country’s total gross energy consumption amounted to 11.4% and it seemed that the target Poland had committed to (15% by 2020) was within reach. Three years later, instead of rising, the share of RES in Poland’s total energy balance was decreasing. At the same time, most EU member states were steadily increasing their percentage share of RES without any major disruption to their local energy markets.

So, what has brought about this stagnation, or, indeed, regression? There were several causes that slowed down the RES market.

The political responsibility can be shared equally between politicians from parties that are now in conflict – the previous government coalition of Civic Platform and Polish Peasants’ Party – and the current ruling party, Law and Justice. A large proportion of the revenue from derogation, an instrument designed to transform savings from free emission allowances into modernising the energy sector, was used to strengthen the coal sector. Short-term thinking and a search for financial means to renovate outdated energy generators prevailed. It seems there wasn’t enough money or ideas left for, for instance, cogeneration or the construction of gas power plants.

In hindsight, we are able to see how erroneous this energy strategy was, also from a geopolitical point of view: in order to safeguard their energy system, Poles, who are so sensitive about their resource independence, are now importing increasingly more coal from Russia.

In order to find other reasons behind the deep crisis, we must go back to 2015 and early 2016. NIK reports revealed numerous irregularities that accompanied the construction of wind farms (e.g. bribery, no public consultation). Under mounting pressure from opponents of wind energy, and state monopolists worried about the expansion of the renewable sector and potential market fragmentation, the government passed a law that effectively blocked the growth of renewables in May 2016.

Lawmakers applied such rigour to investments that they simply became unprofitable. The same rigour applied to micro installations, which were intended to bring about the growth of prosumer and local energy, aimed more at the needs of detached houses or small farms than at powering the grid.

Reports by Poland’s Energy Regulatory Office (URE) clearly indicate how much power of connected RES sources decreased. In 2016, it amounted to a total of 796 MW. One year later, it was five times less.

Moreover, the transition from the complicated and ineffective system of green certificates to a bidding system ended in failure. In 2016, only four bids took place and in 2017 there were only two. Instead of helping to solve the crisis, the bidding system has increased it even further.

If to all this we add one of the highest indicators of CO2 emissions per kWh of produced energy in Europe, we arrive at a deeply unsettling outlook.

The year 2020 will be a breaking point for Poland. If the country does not meet its renewable targets, it will be forced to engage in a so-called statistical transfer from countries who will have met their target with an excess. NIK’s initial calculations indicate that it may cost Poland as much as 8 billion zloty.

And then there is the increasing cost of electrical energy resulting from ever more expensive emission allowances. The aspect of simple ambition is of least importance here (just to be clear: the target RES share for Poland was very reasonable). Let’s just say it outright: because of mistakes made by politicians, renewable energy sources aren’t working in Poland. We can already see that the consequences might turn out to be very painful for the entire country.

Kategorien: Blogs

Green Growth vs. No Growth: Eventually, The Green New Deal Must Answer This Question

Energiewende Blog - 25 Februar, 2019 - 15:00

The Green New Deal yields a transition to renewable energies and the reshaping of national economies. Does the Green New Deal represent a greener version of the capitalist system, or does it further take a critical look at the debate on growth and energy consumption? Paul Hockenos reports

How green is the Green New Deal? (Public Domain)

Part three of three: read part one here and part two here.

The buzz around U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal (GND) for the U.S. skirts a keen discourse that’s been happening for a decade in Europe, namely that pitting green growth ideas against degrowth economics. This confrontation has to happen in the U.S., too – though for now AOC and her allies are taking a middle path with their program for ecological modernization. This is tactically smart. But in order to decarbonize global economies the GND has to jettison contemporary capitalism’s will to expansion.

The GDN that AOC has presented so far – and it is, admittedly, a work in progress – bridges the camps of the no-growth and green-growth advocates. Perhaps, this is exactly what she intends to do; its vagueness on this issue may well be a clever tactical ploy to circumvent, or push down the road, a highly contentious critique of capitalism that would surely scare off some of her Democratic colleagues in Congress, more than 70 of whom have signed onto the GND.

The cornerstone of green growth philosophy is that a greening of the economy – replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, creating jobs in the cleantech sector, making agriculture and transportation sustainable – can happen within structures much the same, or even identical, to those of our current capitalist economy. In other words, there’s no contradiction between, or need to decouple, economic development and environment protection. Technology and investment can make the transition painless or even lucrative – for those with vested interests in the status quo.

This is argued by some within Europe’s Green parties (though others buck it) as well as by the OECD and the UN development programs. In fact, in Germany, much of the country’s industry and private sector is now on board with the the idea of a green economy – after badmouthing it for nearly two decades as a business killer.

Green investment, it is now argued, whether private sector or government, will create economic activity and wealth that grows the economy to everybody’s benefit (i.e. commercially created largesse will “trickle down” to lower-income strata.) There’s mountains of money to be made in green tech and the transition to a low-carbon economy, businesses and their lobby arms now claim. And they want in on it. Switching from one energy source to another can happen without sending a destabilizing jolt to the system, they argue. Business as usual can continue and even thrive when greening the economy.

And then there’s the no-growth advocates who contend that green capitalism can’t stem climate change or the general, ongoing degradation of the planet. The neo-liberal system itself, predicated on unlimited growth, the exploitation of natural resources, economic inequality, and capital accumulation, has to change fundamentally, they contend. Economic growth, measured by GDP, means more production and ever higher rates consumption, which logically require ever more resources and energy to process them. This harms the environment in more ways than one, not least by exacerbating climate change. This is the argument of growth critics like German economist Niko Paech, author of the Liberation from Excess: The Road to a Post-Growth Economy.

“What goods or services are such that their production, use, and disposal do not consume land, energy, or other resources?” asks Paech. “Passive houses, electric vehicles, eco-textiles, photovoltaic systems, organic food, power lines, combined heat and power plants, solar thermal heaters, cradle-to-cradle beverage packaging, car sharing or Internet services: none of them fulfill this condition.” Even digital services, he argues, require fossil resources, minerals, rare soils and metals – and they leave behind vistas of non-biodegradable tech-junk. A green makeover of the economy would probably increase production and energy use and thus our carbon footprint.

Paech wrote those words in the weekly Die Zeit in 2012. Since then, investment in greentech and renewable energy has soared while — after dropping during the financial crisis — production, productivity, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions have crept slowly upward in economies that have rebounded. Germany is the most glaring example: its record-shattering growth since the crash has offset any significant beneficial impact of the sprawling Energiewende that has, among other achievements, turned 40% of Germany’s electricity use green.

The degrowth camp’s arguments are all the more relevant in light of the earth’s rapid population growth and the development of undeveloped countries, which will only spur more consumption and thus greenhouse gases. The UN Environmental Program predicts that with nine billion people on the planet by 2050 we are likely to see resource consumption triple.

Paech calls for a radical scaling back of our economies and lifestyles – an axiomatic condition of the degrowth movement. This means “de-globalizing” and “de-industrializing” our lives. In a post-growth economy, our work week would be slashed by half, giving people more time for one another and to fix things (rather than throw them out and buy anew.) Also, half of highways and 75% of airports should be closed down. Regional economies must be delinked from global value chains. Other de-growth thinkers call for innovative transition towns that offer social banking, taxation according to environmental consumption, and basic income models.

AOC’s green deal doesn’t reflect the green growth planners’ naïve optimism in an easy fix, nor does it call for turning back globalization. There’s lots of capitalism critique in it, although the word “growth” doesn’t come up. She talks about using the restructuring to reduce wealth inequality, create decent jobs, and spur “economic transformation.”

One of the leading voices of the no-growth movement, the British scholar Tim Jackson, says the GND’s emphasis on proactive green investment as a stimulus goes in the right direction. It can boost renewable energies, energy efficiency, and investment in communities, he says. “This can be the beginning of a systemic, structural transformation,” he says, “if it doesn’t cling to the old, broken ideology that’s hooked on growth at all costs. If there’s a recognition that the growth-based model’s day is over, then we can begin to wean ourselves off of it. It will open up a new tool box that can be used to begin a transition.”

Hopefully, this is exactly what will happen. A “growth” versus “no growth” debate within the context of the GND is exactly what can push it in this direction. It can help make explicit the shortcomings of our neo-liberal model and the possibilities of revamping our economy and our lifestyles for the better.

Kategorien: Blogs

Alexej Balabanow, der so wunderbare Filme über Schmerz und Tod gemacht hat, wäre heute 60 Jahre alt geworden

Russland-Blog - 25 Februar, 2019 - 14:14

Heute vor 60 Jahren wurde der russische Filmregisseur Alexej Balabanow in Swerdlowsk (das heute wieder Jekaterinburg heißt) im Ural geboren. Wie der Moskauer Politologe Sergej Medwedjew schon vor einiger Zeit schrieb, war Balabanow ein „Pathologe der russischen Seele“, ja der „wichtigste russische Regisseur“. Obwohl Balabanow schon vor nun sechs Jahren, wie man so schön und ein wenig ängstlich sagt, „viel zu früh“ starb, wird er das, so wie es scheint, noch eine Weile bleiben. Für mich gehört er unbedingt zu meinen „111 Gründen, Russland zu lieben“. Im Buch ist er der 13. Grund. Aber das ist natürlich purer Zufall, denn ich liebe ihn,

weil Alexej Balabanow so wunderbare Filme über Schmerz und Tod gemacht hat

Über Filme zu schreiben ist immer schwierig. Das gilt vor allem dann, wenn die zukünftigen Leser und Leserinnen diese Filme mit großer Wahrscheinlichkeit nicht kennen und auch kaum kennen lernen werden. Noch schwieriger ist es, über das Gesamtwerk eines Regisseurs zu schreiben. Trotzdem muss Alexej Balabanow in diesem Buch meiner Liebe zu Russland vorkommen, denn diese Liebe ist ohne ihn nur schwer vorstellbar.

Dabei hat mich Balabanow zu Beginn meiner Affäre mit dem Land gar nicht berührt. Sein bis heute berühmtester Film, sein Durchbruch vom guten Regisseur zum Kultregisseur (zum ersten und bis heute einzigen des postsowjetischen Russlands), ging damals völlig an mir vorbei. Das war 1996. Der Film hieß Brat (deutsch: Bruder) und erzählt die Geschichte des jungen Danila Bagrow aus der Provinz, der auf der Suche nach seinem Bruder in der Großstadt zum Auftragsmörder wird. In gewisser Weise ist Bagrow der erste nicht-sowjetische Held im nun russischen Film. Aus den versorgenden wie einengenden Fängen des Staates entlassen, muss er in der neuen, rauen Wirklichkeit seinen eigenen Weg finden, mit allen Mitteln.

Überhaupt sind Balabanows Helden oft Außenseiter, die am Abgrund stehen und auf der Suche nach ihrem Platz im Leben sind oder zumindest ein kleines Glück. Dabei scheint es oft, als ob durch sie der Schmerz und die Verwirrung des ganzen Landes zu uns sprechen.  Entsprechend ist der Tod in Balabanows Filmen allgegenwärtig. Dabei erzählt der Regisseur nie von Moral. Seine Helden leben und leiden, aber Balabanow richtet nicht über sie. Ja, viele von ihnen handeln nach bürgerlichen Maßstäben unmoralisch (und nach den überkommenen sowjetischen auch). Aber wahrscheinlich erwecken sie gerade deshalb Sympathie bei den Zuschauern (oder zumindest Interesse), weil die Zeiten eben so sind. Im neuen Russland kommt, zumindest vorerst, kaum jemand wirklich sauber durchs Leben. In Balabanows Filmen wird diese allgemeine Erfahrung zu großer Kunst verdichtet.

Nur zwei Filmen von Alexej Balabanow gibt es keine Bösen. Das sind die einzigen, in denen die Helden am Ende sterben. In Mne ne bolna (Es tut nicht weh) erzählt die krebskranke Heldin nichts von ihrer Krankheit, vor allem nicht ihrem jungen Geliebten. In Ja tosche chotschu (Ich will auch), seinem letzten Film, spielt Balabanow sich selbst und stirbt zum Schluss. Kurz zuvor hatte der Regisseur seinen baldigen Tod vorausgesagt. Ein halbes Jahr nach der Premiere starb er bei der Arbeit an einem neuen Drehbuch an einem Herzinfarkt.

 

Kategorien: Blogs

Prices Are Not Enough

Triple Crisis - 23 Februar, 2019 - 19:11

By Frank Ackerman

Fourth in a series on climate policy; find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

We need a price on carbon emissions. This opinion, virtually unanimous among economists, is also shared by a growing number of advocates and policymakers. But unanimity disappears in the debate over how to price carbon: there is continuing controversy about the merits of taxes vs. cap-and-trade systems for pricing emissions, and about the role for complementary, non-price policies.

At the risk of spoiling the suspense, this blog post reaches two main conclusions: First, under either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, the price level matters more than the mechanism used to reach that price. Second, under either approach, a reasonably high price is necessary but not sufficient for climate policy; other measures are needed to complement price incentives.

Why taxes and cap-and-trade systems are similar

A carbon tax raises the cost of fossil fuels directly, by taxing their carbon emissions from combustion. This is most easily done upstream, i.e. taxing the oil or gas well, coal mine, or fuel importer, who presumably passes the tax on to end users. There are only hundreds of upstream fuel producers and importers to keep track of, compared to millions of end users.

A cap-and-trade system accomplishes the same thing indirectly, by setting a cap on total allowable emissions, and issuing that many annual allowances. Companies that want to sell or use fossil fuels are required to hold allowances equal to their emissions. If the cap is low enough to make allowances a scarce resource, then the market will establish a price on allowances – in effect, a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Again, it is easier to apply allowance requirements, and thus induce carbon trading, at the upstream level rather than on millions of end users.

If the price of emissions is, for example, $50 per ton of carbon dioxide, then any firm that can reduce emissions for less than $50 a ton will do so – under either a tax or cap-and-trade system. Cutting emissions reduces tax payments, under a carbon tax; it reduces the need to buy allowances under a cap-and-trade system. The price, not the mechanism, is what matters for this incentive effect.

A review of the economics literature on carbon taxes vs. cap-and-trade systems found a number of other points of similarity. Either system can be configured to achieve a desired distribution of the burden on households and industries, e.g. via free allocation of some allowances, or partial exemption from taxes. Money raised from either taxes or allowance auctions could be wholly or partially refunded to households.  Either approach can be manipulated to reduce effects on international competitiveness.

And problems raised with offsets – along the lines of credits given too casually for tree-planting – are not unique to cap and trade. A carbon tax could emerge from Congress riddled with obscure loopholes, which could be as damaging to the integrity of carbon pricing as any of the poorly written offset provisions of existing cap-and-trade systems. More positively speaking, either approach to carbon pricing can be carried out either with or without offsets and tax exemptions.

 

Why taxes and cap-and-trade systems are different

Compared to the numerous similarities between the two approaches, the list of differences is a shorter one. A carbon tax is easier and cheaper to administer. In theory, a carbon tax provides certainty about the price of emissions, while a cap-and-trade system provides certainty about the quantity of emissions (in practice, these certainties can be undone by too-frequent tinkering with tax rates or emissions caps).

Cap-and-trade systems have been more widely used in practice. The European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) is the world’s largest carbon market. Others include the linked carbon market of California and several Canadian provinces, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) among states in the Northeast.

Numerous critics have pointed to potential flaws in cap-and-trade, such as overly generous, poorly monitored offsets. Many recent cap-and-trade systems, introduced in a conservative era, began with caps so high and prices so low that they have little effect (leaving them open to the criticism that the administrative costs are not justified by the skimpy results). The price must be high enough, and the cap must be low enough, to alter the behavior of major emitters.

The same applies, of course, to a carbon tax. Starting with a trivial level of carbon tax, in order to calm opponents of the measure, runs the risk of “proving” that a carbon price has no effect. The correct starting price under either system is the highest price that is politically acceptable; there is no hope of “getting the prices right” due to the uncertain and potentially disastrous scope of climate damages.

Perhaps the most salient difference between taxes and cap-and-trade is political rather than economic: in an era when people like to chant “no new taxes”, the prospects for any initiative seem worse if it involves a new tax. This could explain why there is so much more experience to date with cap-and-trade systems.

 

Beyond price incentives

Some carbon emitters, for instance in electricity generation, have multiple choices among alternative technologies. In such cases, price incentives alone are powerful, and producers can respond incrementally, retiring and replacing individual plants when appropriate. Other sectors face barriers that an individual firm cannot usually overcome on its own. Electric vehicles are not practical without an extensive recharging and repair infrastructure, which is just beginning to exist in a few parts of the country. In this case, no reasonable level of carbon price can, by itself, bring an adequate nationwide electric vehicle infrastructure into existence. Policies that build and promote electric vehicle infrastructure are valuable complements to a carbon price: they create a combined incentive to move away from gasoline.

Yet another reason for combining non-price climate policies with a carbon price is that purely price-based decision-making can be exhausting. People could calculate for themselves the fuel saved by buying a more fuel-efficient car and subtract that from the sticker price of the vehicle, but it is not an easy calculation. Federal and state fuel economy standards make the process simpler, by setting a floor underneath vehicle fuel efficiency.

When buying a major appliance, it is possible in theory to read the energy efficiency sticker on the carton, calculate your average annual use of the appliance, convert it to dollars saved per year, and see if that savings justifies purchase of a more efficient appliance. But who does all that arithmetic? Even I don’t want to do that calculation, and I have a PhD in economics and enjoy playing with numbers. My guess is that virtually no one does the calculation consistently and correctly. On the other hand, federal and state appliance efficiency standards have often set minimum levels of required efficiency, which increase over time. It’s much more fun to buy something off the shelf that meets those standards, instead of settling in for an extended data-crunching session any time you need a new fridge, air conditioner, washing machine…

In short, the carbon price is what matters, not the mechanism used to adopt that price. And whatever the price, non-price climate policies are needed as well – both to build things that no one company can do on its own, and to make energy-efficient choices accessible to all, without heroic feats of calculation.

Frank Ackerman is principal economist at Synapse Energy Economics in Cambridge, Mass., and one of the founders of Dollars & Sense, which publishes Triple Crisis. 

Kategorien: Blogs

Geisterzüge vs. Schildkröten

Heinrich von Arabien - 20 Februar, 2019 - 11:07

Was von den Zügen blieb – Tripoli (c) Bente Scheller

Vor einigen Monaten versuchte ich meinen Kindern einen Konferenzbesuch im nordlibanesischen Tripoli schmackhaft zu machen und stellte ihnen in Aussicht, wir würden danach auf den „Souq“ gehen, den alten Basar. Gesagt, getan, doch während der Große die engen Gassen und kleinen Läden spannend fand, verdunkelte sich das Gesicht des Kleinen zusehends, bis er schließlich in Tränen ausbrach: „Du hast uns versprochen, dann fahren wir ZUG! Wo ist der Zug?“ Souq hatte für ihn nach einer Reise im Zug geklungen.

Ich versuchte, zu retten was zu retten war und nahm sie mit aufs alte Bahngelände von Tripoli. Auf von Unkraut überwucherten Schienen reihen sich dort die rostigen Skelette gewesener Züge. Seit dem Bürgerkrieg liegt das 1895 in Betrieb genommenen Eisenbahnnetz des Libanons brach. Zu seinen besten Zeiten umfasste es mehr als 400km. Heute fahren nicht einmal mehr Straßenbahnen in Beirut. An vielen Stellen sind die Gleise eins geworden mit der Landschaft, und übrig geblieben sind nur gespenstische Ruinen der Bahnhöfe.

Godot wartete hier – der Bahnhof in Ain Sofar (c) Bente Scheller

Im Libanon mangelt es auf den ersten Blick an wenig – außer an allem, was man von staatlicher Grundversorgung erwartet: Zugang zu stabiler Strom- und Wasserversorgung, einem schnellen und verlässlichen Internet – oder eben öffentlichem Nahverkehr. Die täglichen Staus zehren nicht nur an den Nerven, sondern sind ein erhebliches wirtschaftliches Problem: Durch sie entstünde dem Land jedes Jahr, so die Weltbank, ein wirtschaftlicher Schaden in Höhe von 5 – 10 Prozent des Bruttoinlandsprodukts. Tendenz steigend –  obwohl das Verkehrsministerium über ein mit rund 8,6 Millionen Dollar im Jahr ansehnliches Budget verfügt. Dass Geld fließt, ohne, dass signifikante Leistungen dafür erbracht werden müssen, könnte ein Grund dafür sein, warum das Ministerium beim Ausbau des öffentlichen Nahverkehrs im Schneckentempo arbeitet. Abgesehen von einer Busflotte, die aus lediglich 40 maroden Vehikeln besteht, hat es nicht viel zu tun. Während das Besuchs von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel im vergangenen Jahr wurden all diese Versäumnisse genüsslich karikiert. Einer der Witze, die am häufigsten geteilt wurden, war ein Foto, das Hariri und Merkel auf dem über den Dächern von Beirut zeigte. Hariri deutet erklärend ins Blaue, die hinzugefügte Sprechblasenkonversation über die nicht existenten Züge:

„Sehen Sie unsere Schnellzüge?“ – Spott während des Besuchs von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel, 2018

Hariri: Sehen Sie dort hinten unsere Schnellzüge?

Merkel: Nein.

Hariri: Für die haben wir sogar eine eigene Abteilung mit einem Direktor und Angestellten, die wir bezahlen.

 

 

Das Schienennetz wieder zu beleben wäre eine überaus politische Angelegenheit. Nicht nur würde das eine Konfrontation mit den Betreibern der vielen kleinen privaten Minibusse nach sich ziehen, sondern es würde auch heißen, gegen die seit 1990 massiv betriebene Privatisierung öffentlichen Raums anzugehen. Gesetzlich sind Strände im Libanon öffentliches Gelände. In der Praxis ist es jedoch schwierig geworden, öffentliche Strände zu finden. Die meisten sind von Privatleuten in luxuriöse Strandclubs mit einem entsprechend hohen Eintritt verwandelt worden. Sie bleiben zumeist unbehelligt, weil sie mit politischen Größen verbandelt sind, die ihren Anteil abschöpfen.

Nun aber hat ein libanesisches Gericht der Privatisierung an einer Stelle den Kampf angesagt: Dem Orange House in Tyros, einem Gästehaus, dessen Besitzerin Mona Khalil sich dort seit 1999 dem Schutz der Meeresschildkröte widmet. Meeresschildkröten sind selten geworden im Libanon – nicht zuletzt, weil libanesische Politiker einen Teil des hiesigen Sandstrands absaugen und nach Zypern verkaufen ließen. Das hat das Habitat der Schildkröten zerstört, die ihre Eier stets dort legen, wo sie geschlüpft sind. Das Orange House kümmert sich um die Bestandspflege, schützt die Gelege der Schildkröten und bildet BesucherInnen darin fort, wie sie selbst einen Beitrag zum Umweltschutz leisten können. Nun wurde die Betreiberin Mona Khalil zu einer Geldstrafe von über 6.000 Euro verurteilt – weil ihr Projekt den Zugverkehr blockiere.

Nichts haben Libanons Eliten seit 30 Jahren unternommen, das seit dem Bürgerkrieg verrottende Bahnnetz wieder in Gang zu bringen. Nur jetzt, wenn es gilt, ein sowohl aus ökologischen Gründen wie auch als Touristenattraktion fantastisches Projekt kaputtzukriegen, um auch einen der letzten Sandstrände wegbaggern zu können, erinnern sie sich ihrer Geisterzüge.

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Kategorien: Blogs

Agribusiness Is the Problem, Not the Solution

Triple Crisis - 19 Februar, 2019 - 20:46

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Cross-posted at Inter Press Service.

For two centuries, all too many discussions about hunger and resource scarcity has been haunted by the ghost of Parson Thomas Malthus. Malthus warned that rising populations would exhaust resources, especially those needed for food production. Exponential population growth would outstrip food output.

Humanity now faces a major challenge as global warming is expected to frustrate the production of enough food as the world population rises to 9.7 billion by 2050. Timothy Wise’s new book Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food (New Press, New York, 2019) argues that most solutions currently put forward by government, philanthropic and private sector luminaries are misleading.

Malthus’ ghost returns

The early 2008 food price crisis has often been wrongly associated with the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. The number of hungry in the world was said to have risen to over a billion, feeding a resurgence of neo-Malthusianism.

Agribusiness advocates fed such fears, insisting that food production must double by 2050, and high-yielding industrial agriculture, under the auspices of agribusiness, is the only solution. In fact, the world is mainly fed by hundreds of millions of small-scale, often called family farmers who produce over two-thirds of developing countries’ food.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, neither food scarcity nor poor physical access are the main causes of food insecurity and hunger. Instead, Reuters has observed a ‘global grain glut’, with surplus cereal stocks piling up.

Meanwhile, poor production, processing and storage facilities cause food losses of an average of about a third of developing countries’ output. A similar share is believed lost in rich countries due to wasteful food storage, marketing and consumption behaviour.

Nevertheless, despite grain abundance, the 2018 State of Food Insecurity report — by the Rome-based United Nations food agencies led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) — reported rising chronic and severe hunger or undernourishment involving more than 800 million.

Political, philanthropic and corporate leaders have promised to help struggling African and other countries grow more food, by offering to improve farming practices. New seed and other technologies would modernize those left behind.

But producing more food, by itself, does not enable the hungry to eat. Thus, agribusiness and its philanthropic promoters are often the problem, not the solution, in feeding the world.

Eating Tomorrow addresses related questions such as: Why doesn’t rising global food production feed the hungry? How can we “feed the world” of rising populations and unsustainable pressure on land, water and other natural resources that farmers need to grow food?

Family farmers lack power

Drawing on five years of extensive fieldwork in Southern Africa, Mexico, India and the US Mid-West, Wise concludes that the problem is essentially one of power. He shows how powerful business interests influence government food and agricultural policies to favour large farms.

This is typically at the expense of ‘family’ farmers, who grow most of the world’s food, but also involves putting consumers and others at risk, e.g., due to agrochemical use. His many examples not only detail and explain the many problems small-scale farmers face, but also their typically constructive responses despite lack of support, if not worse, from most governments:

• In Mexico, trade liberalization following the 1993 North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) agreement swamped the country with cheap, subsidized US maize and pork, accelerating migration from the countryside. Apparently, this was actively encouraged by transnational pork producers employing ‘undocumented’ and un-unionised Mexican workers willing to accept low wages and poor working conditions.
• In Malawi, large government subsidies encouraged farmers to buy commercial fertilizers and seeds from US agribusinesses such as now Bayer-owned Monsanto, but to little effect, as their productivity and food security stagnated or even deteriorated. Meanwhile, Monsanto took over the government seed company, favouring its own patented seeds at the expense of productive local varieties, while a former senior Monsanto official co-authored the national seed policy that threatens to criminalize farmers who save, exchange and sell seeds instead!
• In Zambia, greater use of seeds and fertilizers from agribusiness tripled maize production without reducing the country’s very high rates of poverty and malnutrition. Meanwhile, as the government provides 250,000-acre ‘farm blocks’ to foreign investors, family farmers struggle for title to farm land.
• In Mozambique too, the government gives away vast tracts of farm land to foreign investors. Meanwhile, women-led cooperatives successfully run their own native maize seed banks.
• Meanwhile, Iowa promotes vast monocultures of maize and soybean to feed hogs and bioethanol rather than ‘feed the world’.
• A large Mexican farmer cooperative launched an ‘agro-ecological revolution’, while the old government kept trying to legalize Monsanto’s controversial genetically modified maize. Farmers have thus far halted the Monsanto plan, arguing that GM corn threatens the rich diversity of native Mexican varieties.

Much of the research for the book was done in 2014-15, when Obama was US president, although the narrative begins with developments and policies following the 2008 food price crisis, during Bush’s last year in the White House. The book tells a story of US big business’ influence on policies enabling more aggressive transnational expansion.

Yet, Wise remains optimistic, emphasizing that the world can feed the hungry, many of whom are family farmers. Despite the challenges they face, many family farmers are finding innovative and effective ways to grow more and better food. He advocates support for farmers’ efforts to improve their soil, output and wellbeing.

Eating better

Hungry farmers are nourishing their life-giving soils using more ecologically sound practices to plant a diversity of native crops, instead of using costly chemicals for export-oriented monocultures. According to Wise, they are growing more and better food, and are capable of feeding the hungry.

Unfortunately, most national governments and international institutions still favour large-scale, high-input, industrial agriculture, neglecting more sustainable solutions offered by family farmers, and the need to improve the wellbeing of poor farmers.

Undoubtedly, many new agricultural techniques offer the prospect of improving the welfare of farmers, not only by increasing productivity and output, but also by limiting costs, using scarce resources more effectively, and reducing the drudgery of farm work.

But the world must recognize that farming may no longer be viable for many who face land, water and other resource constraints, unless they get better access to such resources. Meanwhile, malnutrition of various types affects well over two billion people in the world, and industrial agriculture contributes about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Going forward, it will be important to ensure affordable, healthy and nutritious food supplies for all, mindful not only of food and water safety, but also of various pollution threats. A related challenge will be to enhance dietary diversity affordably to overcome micronutrient deficiencies and diet-related non-communicable diseases for all.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

Kategorien: Blogs

Blown off-course? Despite rapid expansion across Europe, German offshore wind capacity growth is slowing

Energiewende Blog - 19 Februar, 2019 - 15:00

Even as larger turbines come online and are producing more energy less expensively, wind energy groups warn that political conditions are hampering growth throughout Germany, with both on and offshore generation capacities suffering. L. Michael Buchsbaum explains

Middelgrunden offshore wind farm (40 MW) in the Øresund, 3.5 km outside Copenhagen, Denmark (Photo by Slaunger, CC BY-SA 3.0)

“Blown Off-Course” is part one of a series on current wind energy challenges and opportunities. Upcoming blog posts will address the on-going tension between off- and on-shore wind development, challenges to onshore wind expansion, as well as the vital role community wind energy continues to play in Germany’s Energiewende.

Warning signs are beginning to appear for the German offshore wind industry.

With 276 MW of fully installed turbines far out at sea not yet feeding power to the electrical grid, a stubborn lack of grid expansion progress, and only a narrow investment pathway, investors specializing in offshore energy development are starting to look away from Germany.  Even as larger turbines come online and are producing more energy less expensively, groups warn that political conditions are hampering the growth of Germany’s critical wind energy sector, with the vital expansion of both on and offshore generation at stake.

2018 saw growth for offshore wind

According to new figures from the trade group WindEurope, total European offshore wind capacity grew by 2.6 GW in 2018. This includes about 400 new grid-connected turbines spread across 18 projects. Most of this new capacity (85%) was deployed in the United Kingdom and Germany, followed by Belgium and Denmark. Though investments in new offshore wind amounted to €10.3bn, a 37% increase over 2017, industry leaders UK and Germany connected slightly less capacity than previously.

Photo: Deutsche WindGuard

By the end of 2018, the UK had the largest amount of offshore wind capacity in Europe (44% of all installations measured in MW), followed by Germany (34%), Denmark (7%), Belgium (6.4%) and the Netherlands (6%).

WindEurope also reported that the average size of individual offshore wind turbines continued to increase to 6.8 MW in 2018, up 15% from the previous year. However, the UK installed the world’s biggest offshore turbines – 8.8 MW – and opened the world’s largest offshore wind farm – Walney 3 extension, at 657 MW. Germany also opened their largest wind farm to date, as the Borkum Riffgrund II (465 MW) was fully connected to the grid. As for project owners, Ørsted connected the largest amount of wind capacity in 2018, followed by E.ON, Global Infrastructure Partners, Equinor and Macquarie Capital.

In total, Europe now has 105 offshore wind farms comprised of over 4,540 turbines operating across 11 countries with a total capacity of over 18.5 GW. A further six offshore wind farms are currently under construction in Europe, including the giant Hornsea One in the UK; with a planned 174 turbines, it will be the largest offshore wind farm to date. Construction started in 2018, and in February the first installed turbines were ready to supply energy to the grid.

“The technology keeps developing. The turbines keep getting bigger. And the costs keep falling,” said WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson. “It’s now no more expensive to build offshore wind than it is to build coal or gas plants. And it’s a good deal cheaper than new nuclear. More and more governments are recognising the merits of offshore wind.” Poland, which has previously blocked renewable energy at every turn, plans to build 10GW of offshore wind by 2040. Unfortunately, says Dickson, “Germany’s 2030 targets are modest and France has no plans to invest.”

German offshore industry calls for more ambitious targets

According to the figures published by the German WindGuard, over a thousand offshore turbines with a total output of 6,382 MW were feeding into the grid last year. While another 276 MW of fully installed turbines remain unconnected, offshore farms with a combined capacity of 966 MW are also under construction while another 112 MW of potential capacity still await a final investment decision.

Going forward, Germany’s legally possible expansion of 7.7 GW by 2020 is expected to be achieved as planned. However WindGuard and other industry groups argue that it is critical to raise expansion targets to at least 20 GW by 2030, particularly given the planned coal exit, which calls for the last coal-fired plants in Germany to close no later than 2038.

Photo: Deutsche WindGuard

To break the deadlock, at a news conference in late January, several groups including the German wind energy association (BWE) and the Association of German offshore wind farm operators (BWO), called for a special offshore wind capacity tender for no less than 1,500 MW in the first quarter of 2019. Moreover, they stressed that the industry needs a reliable framework and a clear political signal.

To achieve the goals of Germany’s coalition government to reach 65% renewable power by 2030, the offshore wind industry needs to expand to at least 20 GW by 2030 and at least 30 GW by 2035. However, “how offshore wind will contribute is not yet clear,” warned the groups.

“2019 must be the year of progress in energy policy. Offshore wind energy is of central importance for the achievement of climate protection targets and secures value creation in Germany as an industrial player,” said the BWO in the joint press release. “Insisting on the status quo costs jobs and threatens the international competitiveness of Germany. The current migration of qualified workers to foreign markets is a warning signal that must be taken seriously.” Germany’s accumulated offshore wind energy experience “is an essential advantage in the growing international competition that must be maintained. There must be no further delay.”

In a win for offshore wind, high-voltage power lines go forward

But there is good news for offshore wind industry: the German government will go ahead with power lines meant to move power from the windy north to the rest of Germany. In early February, Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) finally decided on the route for the first part of a high-voltage power line.

Such high-voltage power lines are seen as an indispensable part of the Energiewende, and the best way to balance the fluctuations of wind energy from the north and solar energy from the south. Operators and the German federal government want to build another 4,650 kilometres of new transmission lines by 2025, including four north-south direct-current, high-voltage connections.

How that will happen is another open question – the plans have faced resistance from both citizen groups and advocates of distributed and community energy. But unless Germany develops, enacts and sticks to a pathway forward, how the nation will achieve the majority of its clean energy goals remains elusive. And while politicians continue to debate, impatient investors are already looking elsewhere.

Kategorien: Blogs

Plastik und Gesundheit – Die versteckten Kosten der Plastikkrise

Klima der Gerechtigkeit - 19 Februar, 2019 - 11:55

Ein absolutes Must-Read für alle, die sich für’s Plastikthema interessieren, ist heute erschienen: Plastic & Health – the Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet von CIEL, Earthworks, IPEN, GAIA, Break Free From Plastic und vielen anderen beschreibt und belegt detailliert die negativen Auswirkungen auf die menschliche Gesundheit, die sich entlang der gesamten Wertschöpfungskette von Plastik (vom Fracking bis zum Meeremüll) durch vor allem giftige Chemikalien und Mikroplastik ergeben.

Diese Infographik fasst das wunderbar zusammen:

Den gesamten Bericht gibt es hier: ciel.org/plasticandhealth

Die wichtigsten Ergebnisse auf einen Blick (bisher leider nur auf Englisch):

Key findings

At every stage of its lifecycle, plastic poses distinct risks to human health, arising from both exposure to plastic particles themselves and associated chemicals. The majority of people worldwide are exposed at multiple stages of this lifecycle.

Extraction and Transport

99% of plastic comes from fossil fuels. The extraction of oil and gas, particularly hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, releases an array of toxic substances into the air and water, often in significant volumes. Over 170 fracking chemicals that are used to produce the main feedstocks for plastic have known human health impacts, including cancer, neurological, reproductive, and developmental toxicity, impairment of the immune system, and more. These toxins have direct and documented impacts on skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, the respiratory, nervous, and gastrointestinal systems, liver, and brain.

Refining and Manufacture

Transforming fossil fuel into plastic resins and additives releases carcinogenic and other highly toxic substances into the air. Documented effects of exposure to these substances include impairment of the nervous system, reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, leukemia, and genetic impacts like low birth weight. Industry workers and communities neighboring refining facilities are at greatest risk and face both chronic and acute exposures during uncontrolled releases and emergencies.

Consumer Products and Packaging

Use of plastic products leads to ingestion and/or inhalation of large amounts of both microplastic particles and hundreds of toxic substances with known or suspected carcinogenic, developmental, or endocrine-disrupting impacts.

Waste Management

All plastic waste management technologies (including incineration, co-incineration, gasification, and pyrolysis) result in the release of toxic metals, such as lead and mercury, organic substances (dioxins and furans), acid gases, and other toxic substances to the air, water, and soils. All such technologies lead to direct and indirect exposure to toxic substances for workers and nearby communities, including through inhalation of contaminated air, direct contact with contaminated soil or water, and ingestion of foods that were grown in an environment polluted with these substances. Toxins from emissions, fly ash, and slag in a burn pile can travel long distances and deposit in soil and water, eventually entering human bodies after being accumulated in the tissues of plants and animals.

Plastic in the Environment

Once plastic reaches the environment in the form of macro- or microplastics, it contaminates and accumulates in food chains through agricultural soils, terrestrial and aquatic food chains, and the water supply. This environmental plastic can easily leach toxic additives or concentrate toxins already in the environment, making them bioavailable again for direct or indirect human exposure. As plastic particles degrade, new surface areas are exposed, allowing continued leaching of additives from the core to the surface of the particle in the environment and the human body. Microplastics entering the human body via direct exposures through ingestion or inhalation can lead to an array of health impacts, including inflammation, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis, which are linked to an array of negative health outcomes including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation, auto-immune conditions, neuro-degenerative diseases, and stroke.

Kategorien: Blogs

Methane Measurements and Short Attention Spans

Triple Crisis - 18 Februar, 2019 - 21:22

By Frank Ackerman

Third in a series of posts on climate policy.  Find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) represents most, but not all, greenhouse gas emissions. In EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2016, CO2 represented 82 percent of gross U.S. GHG emissions, while methane represented 10 percent (measured as CO2-equivalents). The top three sources of methane are agriculture, the energy industry, and waste management.

As fascinating as some of us may find such details, the general public has a short attention span for new information about climate change. Within that constraint, what do we want to communicate? For methane, there are two choices, an introductory and an advanced message.

The introductory message emphasizes that methane, the principal component of natural gas, is an important cause of global warming under any version of the data. It is therefore crucial to reduce and eliminate all fossil fuels, gas included, as soon as possible, replacing them with efficiency, renewables and energy storage.

At a more advanced level, some new research suggests that conventional data understate methane emissions. And a different way of comparing methane to CO2 implies that methane should have a higher CO2-equivalent value, raising its relative importance in GHG accounting. Some combination of these factors might even make natural gas as bad as coal, from a global warming perspective.

The introductory message is the one that matters for public communication. It focuses discussion on the simple fact that natural gas, like other fossil fuels, has got to go: it is part of the problem, not the solution. The advanced message, in contrast, emphasizes technical controversies and interpretation of recent research. It tends to produce eyes-glazed-over responses along the lines of “I wasn’t that good at science in school.”

But if you’re reading this, you can probably follow the technical debates, at least partway down the rabbit hole. Consider three chapters of the story of methane: the time span for calculating CO2-equivalents; the issue of gas leaks; and the gas vs. coal comparison.

Thinking about tomorrow

Methane is a much more potent heat-trapping gas than CO2, but CO2 remains in the atmosphere and traps heat for much longer than methane. On balance, how much does a ton of methane emissions contribute to warming, relative to a ton of CO2?

The answer depends on the time period under consideration. Methane has an atmospheric lifetime of 12 years. CO2 is affected by several processes that operate at very different speeds: 50 percent of CO2 is removed from the atmosphere within 30 years of emission, while 20 percent persists in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Zooming in on a timespan as short as 20 years after emissions means focusing mainly on years when methane is still present in the atmosphere, trapping a lot of heat. Over a longer interval such as 100 years after emissions, most of the years are ones when methane has faded away, while a significant fraction of the CO2 emissions remains in the atmosphere. As a result, the CO2-equivalent value of methane is 84 over a 20-year period, compared to only 28 over a 100-year period.

Early IPCC and other technical reports tended to standardize on the 100-year CO2-equivalent value, implying that methane is 28 times as bad per ton as CO2. More recent studies have often highlighted the 20-year CO2-equivalent value, making methane 84 times as bad.

Neither one or the other is the correct value. Climate change is a problem of both short-term urgency and long-term consequences, of 20-year impacts, 100-year impacts, and beyond. This produces an awkward situation for research and reporting on greenhouse gases: the “exchange rate” between the two leading gases is either 28 or 84. It is less of a problem for public policy, where either of the CO2-equivalent values for methane is enough to make the case: a low-carbon economy must eliminate methane emissions, not rely on natural gas as a bridge to anywhere we want to go.

Counting the leaks

Natural gas leaks from wells and pipelines, increasing the lifecycle methane emissions associated with gas-fired heating or electricity generation. EPA estimated that methane leaks represented 1.4 percent of gas production nationwide in 2015. But a new study based on extensive field measurement found that methane leaks were 2.3 percent of gas production that year. Other studies have reported even higher leakage rates in areas where fracking is widespread.

It would be a mistake, however, to pin the critique of natural gas solely to high levels of leaks. The same study that found leaks of 2.3 percent also found that “the higher estimates stem from a small number of so-called superemitters … most tied to [malfunctioning] hatches and vents in natural gas storage tanks at extraction wells.”

It is not hard to imagine the industry, under pressure from regulators, fixing the malfunctioning hatches and vents, and developing better ways to seal leaks in general. This would increase the amount of gas that could be delivered to customers, potentially increasing industry profits. The International Energy Agency, which estimates gas leaks of 1.7 percent worldwide, also finds that 40 to 50 percent of current methane emissions could be avoided at no net cost.

The key point about methane is not the current high levels of leaks. Rather, reducing methane emissions, from leaks and other sources, is one of the most cost-effective strategies for greenhouse gas mitigation.

Different shades of bad

Some environmental advocates now claim that burning gas is just as bad for the climate as burning coal. There are several strong counterarguments, which do not undermine the case against gas.

Above all, coal is an environmental disaster, causing havoc throughout its life cycle. Coal mining devastates local communities, on a level that equals or surpasses anything done by fracking. It even releases methane from coal mining, equal to 8 percent of U.S. methane emissions according to the 2016 greenhouse gas inventory. The canaries in the coal mines, back in the day, were brought in to detect carbon monoxide and methane, the deadly gases that threatened miners.

Coal combustion gives rise not only to CO2, but also to many toxic pollutants which kill people near the plants. Since coal plants are usually located in low-income and minority neighborhoods, plant siting raises issues of environmental justice. After combustion, coal ash must be disposed of, creating a whole new set of toxic risks and environmental justice concerns in the siting of these impacts. Gas does not cause local toxic emissions or leave ash behind when it burns.

Even restricting attention to greenhouse gas emissions, an extraordinary level of leakage is required to make gas as bad as coal from a 20-year perspective, let alone a 100-year perspective. The IEA has a graph displaying the relationship between leak rates, time horizon, and climate impacts from coal vs. gas.

Finally, consider the emotional meaning of the statement that gas is as bad as coal. It often seems as if activists feel the need to show that gas is as bad as it gets, in order to support opposition to gas-fired power plants. This is surely a mistake.

It is not necessary to make something the worst ever, in order to establish that it is bad. George W. Bush was a bad president, for the environment and so much else; now it turns out that he was not the worst possible president. There is no reason to claim that Bush was as bad as Trump – or that a return to Bush-era policies would be a bridge to the future. It’s just a different shade of bad.

A gas-fired electric grid is different from a coal-fired one. But from a climate perspective, they are different shades of bad: both involve carbon emissions far above a sustainable, climate-friendly level. The need for a carbon-free alternative is the conclusion that matters, independent of the latest research details on methane.

Frank Ackerman is principal economist at Synapse Energy Economics in Cambridge, Mass., and one of the founders of Dollars & Sense, which publishes Triple Crisis. 

Kategorien: Blogs

Corruption undermines public transit in Honduras

Energiewende Blog - 18 Februar, 2019 - 14:00

Public transportation offers the potential to reduce emissions and improve quality of life – but only if it’s finished. In Honduras, the corruption of the “Trans450” project ended with boarded up bus stations and frustrated citizens, writes Rebecca Bertram.

A barricaded bus stop in Tegucigalpa, Honduras (Photo by Rebecca Bertram)

I moved to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, at the beginning of this year. It is my first time in this Central American country that does not enjoy the most favorable international image, not least because of the recent news of many Hondurans fleeing the country to the United States. This is a country with significant problems: the country has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and there are high un- und underemployment rates. This leaves much space for improvement in itself.

But in this blog, I would like to focus on how an infrastructure project, meant to improve people’s everyday lives, was turned into a corruption scandal and, as a result, has put people off the idea of investing in a cleaner, climate-friendly and more efficient transport system.

The first day I got here, I was struck by something that resembled a bus stop. It was not a usual bus stop, because its entrance was barricaded. As I got to know more of Tegucigalpa during the days that followed, I saw more of its kind – all barricaded – with separate lanes for buses, but no buses to be seen anywhere. Instead, public taxis and small so-called “public” buses (public only in the sense that they would carry more than one party at a time but otherwise privately owned by a transport mafia) move the 200,000 people dependent on public transit for their commute around the city every day.

Such “public” buses represent a very inefficient and insecure mode of public transportation. They do not follow any set schedule, and there are reports of regular assaults of passengers. This is precisely why former Mayor Ricardo Alvarez initiated the new bus infrastructure Trans450 project in Tegucigalpa in 2010. The Trans450 was set to receive a grant of 50 million US$ by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and a 20 million US$ grant by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) and to be finalized by the year 2017.

Mayor Ricardo Alvarez had made the Trans450 one of his most important infrastructure projects during his mayoral terms between 2006 and 2014. He had secured the loans for the project and pushed it forward, even though both the country’s National Assembly and the Finance Secretary had voted against the project due to its high costs and high public debt.

“At this point, it became very clear that this was going to turn into a corrupt project,” Ismael Zepeda from the Social Forum on External Debt and Development of Honduras (FOSDEH) told me. Subsequently, funds were either spent on building the infrastructure for the Trans450 or largely disappeared without any trace of the busses. Before Ricardo Alvarez’ mayoral term came to an end in 2014, he staged an inauguration of the project, ironically only with toy busses.

Today, the project remains unfinished. The next mayor of Tegucigalpa, Nasry Asfuera, never regarded the Trans450 as his project, and as there were no more funds available, left it largely neglected. Some of the Trans450 lanes actually interfered with his own infrastructure plans to build new bridges and were subsequently destroyed. In addition, the Trans450 has met considerable opposition by the powerful transport mafia in the city who of course do not want to see any competition to their ‘private’ buses and taxis.

This has left the Trans450 largely unpopular amongst Tegucigalpans. To them, the project does not only represent a clear case of corruption and a waste of public money but also a worsening of the transit system as some important pedestrian walkways had to give way for the project. They are now increasingly reclaiming the extra bus lanes to cope with the immense traffic in this city.

The sad thing with this story is that the image of a cleaner, more efficient and secure transport option for Tegucigalpa has been destroyed through this messy and corrupt process. There are rumors that the municipality will take up the project again later this year, but I believe it when I see it.

Over the next year, I will be writing more blogs on energy and climate related issues in the Latin American region. I thank the Heinrich Böll Foundation for this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you via this medium.

Kategorien: Blogs

Wie lassen sich Multis besteuern?

Baustellen der Globalisierung - 18 Februar, 2019 - 13:18
Gastblog von Joseph Stiglitz

In den letzten Jahren ist die Globalisierung erneut heftig in die Kritik geraten. Ein Teil dieser Kritik mag unangebracht sein, aber in einer Hinsicht haben die Kritiker uneingeschränkt Recht: Die Globalisierung hat große multinationale Konzerne wie Apple, Google und Starbucks in die Lage versetzt, Steuern zu vermeiden.

Ein Musterbeispiel für die Steuervermeidung durch die Konzerne ist Apple, das rechtlich geltend machte, dass einige hundert Arbeitnehmer in Irland die wahre Quelle seiner Gewinne seien, und dann eine Übereinkunft mit der irischen Regierung schloss, die dazu führte, dass sich die vom Unternehmen gezahlten Steuern auf bloße 0,005% seiner Gewinne belaufen. Apple, Google, Starbucks und ähnliche Unternehmen betonen gern ihre soziale Verantwortung, doch das erste Element sozialer Verantwortung sollte darin bestehen, seinen fairen Anteil an Steuern zu zahlen. Würden alle Steuern vermeiden und hinterziehen, so wie diese Unternehmen das tun, könnte die Gesellschaft nicht funktionieren. Und schon gar nicht könnte sie jene öffentlichen Investitionen tätigen, die zum Internet führten, von dem Apple und Google abhängig sind.
Die multinationalen Konzerne ermutigen schon seit Jahren zu einem Abwärtswettlauf und erzählen jedem Land, dass es seine Steuern unter jene seiner Wettbewerber senken müsse. Die Steuersenkungen von US-Präsident Donald Trump 2017 haben diesen Wettlauf auf die Spitze getrieben. Ein Jahr später sehen wir, wo das hinführt: Der Zuckerrausch, den die US-Wirtschaft hierdurch erlebte, verfliegt schnell, und es bleibt ein Schuldenberg (der im letzten Jahr um mehr als eine Billion Dollar angewachsen ist).

Angesichts des drohenden Verlustes zur Finanzierung eines funktionierenden Staates erforderlicher Steuereinnahmen durch die Digitalwirtschaft (und der von dieser ausgehenden wirtschaftlichen Verzerrungen, die zu Lasten traditioneller Vertriebsmethoden gehen) erkennt die internationale Gemeinschaft nun endlich, dass etwas im Argen liegt. Dabei sind die Fehler des aktuellen Systems multinationaler Besteuerung – das auf sogenannten Transferpreisen beruht – seit langem bekannt...

... den vollständigen Kommentar lesen Sie >>> hier.
Kategorien: Blogs

Faire und offene Auswahl des neuen Weltbank-Chefs gefordert

Baustellen der Globalisierung - 15 Februar, 2019 - 17:50
Über 90 zivilgesellschaftliche Organisationen sowie 40 prominente Akademiker und Politik aus aller Welt haben einen Offenen Brief an den Rat der Exekutivdirektoren der Weltbank geschickt, in dem sie verlangen, dass diese zu ihrem Versprechen stehen, den nächsten Weltbank-Präsidenten in einem offenen, qualifikationsbasierten und transparenten Auswahlprozess zu bestimmen.

Der Brief stellt fest, dass der neue Präsident im Kontext „anhaltender Herausforderungen der Weltwirtschaft“ gewählt wird, die sich aus „wachsender Ungleichheit, einer wachsenden Bedeutung der Finanzen, der Finanzmärkte und finanzieller Institutionen in der Wirtschaft, einer drohenden Schuldenkrise und zunehmendem Konzernreichtums ergibt, die wiederum in eine Erosion der Souveränität der staatlichen Souveränität und deren Fähigkeit, ihre menschenrechtlichen Verpflichtungen zu erfüllen, mündet“. Darüber hinaus heißt es, „die Weltbank brauche einen Führer, der fähig und bereit ist, kritisch einzuschätzen, welche Rolle die Bank dabei spielen kann, das gescheiterte Modell, das uns bisher bestimmt hat, herauszufordern“.
Der Brief listet fünf wesentliche Kriterien auf, die der neue Präsident erfüllen müsse: * erwiesene Kenntnisse und Erfahrungen in Entwicklungsfragen; * Aufgeschlossenheit für ein breites Spektrum an Sichtweisen und Interessen, darunter der Zivilgesellschaft und der Wissenschaft; * Entschlossenheit, die Menschenrechte der Armen und Marginalisierten hoch zu halten; * Unterstützung des Pariser Klimaabkommen und der Nachhaltigen Entwicklungsziele (SDGs); * einen klaren Plan, die sozialen, menschlichen und Umweltrechte, wie sie von Staaten und Institutionen verletzt werden, zu fördern.
Die Weltbank sollte vermeiden, den gescheiterten Auswahlprozess ihre früheren Präsidenten Jim Yong Kim zu wiederholen, warnen die Autor*innen des Briefes. Kandidaten aus dem Globalen Süden und aus Nehmerländern sollten zur Bewerbung ermutigt werden.
Kategorien: Blogs

Germany is transforming its coal fields into renewable energy sites

Energiewende Blog - 15 Februar, 2019 - 15:00

Old coal fields have to be cleaned up in order to be used again. Germany is using its old coal mines for renewable energy sources. L. Michael Buchsbaum talks to developers to see how it works.

Wind farms could provide new renewable energy sources on the site of former coal mining areas (Public Domain)

Coal mining has left the Earth pockmarked with countless abandoned shafts, open pits and tens of thousands of hectares of disturbed lands from old surface mines.

Though many countries passed reclamation rules requiring mining companies to restore land back to its state after the extraction ends, mining companies have generally been slow to do so. The vast majority of post-mining lands are nowhere near as healthy or bio-diverse as they were prior to industrial activities.

But more and more, regulators and energy companies are realizing that developing these degraded areas into renewable energy sites enables them to transform them into clean revenue-generating assets.

As part of the European Commission’s support mechanism for transitioning away from coal, their Joint Research Centre published a study which looks at the best practices and opportunities throughout Europe, as well as suggestions of financial support (EU coal regions: opportunities and challenges ahead).

The report and developers agree that after a mine closes, converting the site to a renewable energy generation facility can provide new job opportunities and economic value, as well as contribute to a more secure energy supply.

Such projects can greatly benefit from the pre-existent infrastructure and land availability. The EC report finds that several coal producing regions in Spain, Greece and Bulgaria are particularly well situated for solar power generation while many current coal regions in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland have high wind availability.

Renewable redevelopment in Germany

Throughout Germany the report cites several redevelopment examples. One great success is the Klettwitz wind farm in southeastern Germany, built on former surface mining lands. When it opened in 2000, it was the largest wind operation in Europe; today it includes five separate sections. And following recent upgrades and re-powerings, it has a combined generation capacity of 145.5 megawatts.

Initially the biggest technical challenge of the pioneering project was the construction of turbines on unstable foil above the former pit. Now for almost 20 years, renewable energy has been generated “where previously climate-damaging coal was mined. A brilliant example of the green energy transition,” said Ralf Heinen, CEO of the developer, Ventotec.

Nearby, developer ABO Wind Energy is approaching completion of a wind park on the site of the Lausitz Energie Bergbau (LEAG) owned Jänschwalde open cast mine. The second such project for ABO, it’s the company’s largest to date and they see “enormous potential” for similar brown-to-green undertakings in the future, said company spokesman, Dr. Daniel Duben.

Prior to redevelopment, the site had been a more or less abandoned pit, filled in and awaiting recultivation for future farming. Mining activities at depths greater than 95 meters had left soil layers looser than those found in normal terrain, creating technically demanding construction conditions, ABO reported.

“Though normally foundations for 200-meter high wind systems are only three to four meters in depth, that does not suffice at Jänschwalde,” said Duben. Instead the company used water to flush gravel deeper and then compressed the loose soil. They followed this up by hammering 32 concrete piles, each between 15 and 21 meters long, into the ground to keep the foundations stable. Because of this, the project is more expensive. “Normally it takes less than a year for the wind mills to generate enough energy and income to pay for their installation. It will take a bit longer for the former post mine site because of the size of their concrete anchors,” continued Duben.

Nevertheless, ABO is now targeting similar sites. They view them as classic win-wins since one of the struggles for wind developers is locating sites where they won’t affect local wildlife, bird or human populations. Already impacted and cleared of trees and villages, former mine sites are “ideal” for such redevelopment. Though a handful of other companies are also moving in this direction, most avoid such redevelopment strategies because of the additional complications. But ABO is “keen on developing projects on these sites” because they “strongly believe in the necessity of energy transformation,” said Duben.

However, despite the need to create viable post-mining economies, at present there are no subsidies or technical assistances offered from the state or federal government. In fact “there are more technical and legal barriers to overcome in Germany to build wind farms on former mines than at other locations,” continued Duben.

Back in coal heavy North Rhine-Westphalia, fossil fuel dependent RWE AG has also redeveloped a sliver of their former mine sites into wind farms, in particular erecting the 67-megawatt Königshovener Höhe wind farm on a reclaimed site of their Garzweiler opencast mine.

But frustratingly in NRW, only about 12% of gross electricity generation is currently generated from green energies–about half of which is wind, despite the region’s enormous potential. This is in stark contrast to other areas of northern Germany or the country as a whole which is now averaging close to 40% renewable energy.

“Renewable development shifts the policy of the conservative CDU / FDP state government, which after taking over in 2017, is keen to slow down the expansion of wind energy,” said Dirk Jansen, head of the Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND).

Indeed, though the Hambach and Garzweiler pits are virtually surrounded by wind turbines, the gigantic residual holes of the RWE mines are supposed to be flooded after the end of operations, negating any wind energy potential.

Though other possibilities exist, both the state and RWE have been resistant to other alternatives. Worse still, the struggling “Coal Commission has also presented little in the way of concrete alternatives,” lamented Jansen. But perhaps presented with the success of other sites, RWE will adopt a different course. After all, there’s shareholder value at stake.

 

Kategorien: Blogs

Neue Studie: Öl ins Feuer – Wie Geoengineering die fossile Industrie stärkt und die Klimakrise beschleunigt

Klima der Gerechtigkeit - 14 Februar, 2019 - 09:19

Der aktuelle Bericht „Fuel to the Fire“ des Centers for International Environmental Law (CIEL) und der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung analysiert, wie das zunehmende Interesse an Geoengineering als vermeintlicher Wunderwaffe gegen den Klimawandel in Wirklichkeit die Klimaziele schwächt und die fossile Infrastruktur auf Jahrzehnte zementieren könnte.

Der Bericht Fuel to the Fire: How Geoengineering Threatens to Entrench Fossil Fuels and Accelerate the Climate Crisis illustriert die Instrumentalisierung der zunehmend eskalierenden Klimakrise um Geoengineering-Technologien salonfähig zu machen. Dabei geht es vor allem um bislang unausgereifte Technologien mit zum Teil unkalkulierbaren Folgen wie Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR – Entfernung von Kohlendioxid aus der Atmosphäre) oder Solar Radiation Management (SRM – künstliche Reduzierung der Sonneneinstrahlung). Der Bericht analysiert die tragende Rolle der fossilen Industrien wie Gas, Öl und Kohle bei der Entwicklung und Förderung von Geoengineering-Technologien und erläutert, wie diese Technologien in erster Linie die fossile Industrie am Lebenhalten und ihr neue Geschäftsfelder eröffnen.

Die wichtigsten Ergebnisse im Überblick:

  • Analysen weisen darauf hin, dass 85 % der US-Subventionen für Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS; CO2-Abscheidung und -Lagerung) und Direct Air Capture DAC (Direkte Luftabscheidung und Speicherung von CO2) in die „Enhanced Oil Recovery“ (Tertiäre Ölförderung) und damit in die Produktion von noch mehr Öl und Gas fließen.
  • Die Befürworter/-innen von Geo-Engineering gehen davon aus, dass durch CCS-Projekte bis zum Jahr 2040 alleine in den USA 40 % mehr Kohle und bis zu 923 Millionen Barrel Öl zusätzlich gefördert werden könnten.
  • Energieintensive Direct Air Capture (DAC)-Projekte werden in erster Linie für die Erzeugung von Kohlenwasserstoff-Brennstoffen genutzt, die dann ebenfalls verbrannt werden. Sie tragen dadurch entweder zu neuen CO2-Emissionen bei oder sie bedeuten eine massive Umwidmung erneuerbarer Energie mit energetisch hoch ineffizienten Ergebnissen, während gleichzeitig die Abkehr vom Verbrennungsmotor gebremst wird.
  • Befürworter/-innen der fossilen Industrie sagen offen, dass sie CCS und CDR zur Sicherung der Zukunft von Kohle, Öl und Gas und zur Erschließung von neuen Reserven für unerlässlich erachten. Damit ist das endgültige Überschreiten unseres CO2-Budgets vorprogrammiert.
  • Ungeachtet der Mahnungen des Weltklimarats (IPCC), dass die Welt bis 2050 Netto-Null-Emissionen erreichen muss, wollen Ölfirmen mithilfe von CDR die zentrale Rolle von Erdöl und Erdgas bis mindestens 2100 sichern.
  • Seit Jahrzehnten werben die Verfechter/-innen des Solar Radiation Management (SRM) für diese Technologie, da so Klimaschutzmaßnahmen verzögert und aufgeweicht werden können.
  • SRM-Befürworter/-innen gehen in ihren Modellen von der Grundannahme aus, dass die Menschheit über Jahrzehnte, wenn nicht gar Jahrhunderte, Sulfate oder andere Aerosole in die Stratosphäre sprühen wird – um gleichzeitig mit CDR die Emissionen wieder zu senken.
  • Angesichts der Tatsache, dass die Klimawandelleugner/-innen zunehmend auf verlorenem Posten stehen, nutzen sie Geoengineering als neues Argument, um ernsthafte Klimaschutzmaßnahmen zu verhindern oder hinauszuzögern.

Als wir die Arbeit zu diesem Report mit CIEL vor über einem Jahr begonnen, war uns schon klar, dass die Interessen der Öl- und Gasindustrie an CCS enorm sind und dass die überwiegende Mehrheit von CCS vor allem der Produktion von noch mehr Öl/Gas/Kohle dient (enhanced oil recovery / EOR).

Aber was CIEL nun aufgedeckt hat, geht weiter darüber hinaus: Die Interessen genau derjenigen Industrie, die am meisten zum Klimawandel beigetragen hat und beiträgt, sind wesentliche Treiber hinter diesen Technologien – und das seit Jahrzehnten!

Besonders überraschend kam das für uns – und bestimmt auch für viele anderen – bezogen auf Solar Radiation Management (SRM). Hier ein paar konkrete Beispiele aus dem Bericht:

  • Haroon Kheshgi and Brian Flannery von Exxon haben einige der ersten Artikel zum Thema SRM und ocean geoengineeering verfasst. Sie waren bis Mitte der 2000er Jahre aktiv und stetig in Workshops zum Thema dabei.
  • Für den einflussreichen Novim Climate Engineering Report hatte Steve Koonin den lead, zu einer Zeit, als er Chief Scientist bei BP war. Es ist belegt, dass Steve Koonin mindestens bis 2017 aktiv die Interessen der fossilen Industrie und Klimaskeptiker-Meinungen vertreten und befördert hat.
  • ExxonMobil war einer der wichtigen Unterstützer des Bipartisan Policy Center als BPC geoengineering als Lösung der Klimakrise vorschlug.

Eine weitere wichtige Erkenntnis aus dem Bericht ist die Rolle von Klimaskeptikern und ihren Finanziers beim Thema Geoengineering. Zum Beispiel:

  • David Schnare, senior environmental fellow beim Thomas Jefferson Institute (TJI), hat sich wiederholt für den Einsatz von Geoengineering ausgesprochen. TJI hat finanzielle Unterstützung vom Donors Trust und vom Donors Capital Fund erhalten – intransparente Organisationen, die Klimaskeptiker finanzieren.
  • Lee Lane, Co-Director des Geoengineering Projekts des American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) hat sich vor dem US Kongress für ein Geoengineering Forschungsprogramm stark gemacht. AEI (Finanziers: u.a. ExxonMobil, Amoco, Donors Capital Fund, Charles G. Koch Foundation) gehört zu den führenden Organisationen im Bereich Climate Denial. Ihr Geoengineering Projekt lief von ca. 2008 bis 2010 und hat sich aggressiv und lautstark für Geoengineering eingesetzt. Lane hat auch diverse Konferenzen zum Thema ausgerichtet sowie Artikel und Bücher verfasst. Einer seiner Artikel, An Analysis of Climate Engineering as a Response to Climate Change, wurde für das Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) geschrieben, dass sich aktiv gegen Klimaschutzmaßnahmen einsetzt. Der Artikel erschien später in einem Buch von CCC Präsident Bjørn Lomborg.

Und das sind nur ein paar der Beispiele aus „Fuel to the Fire“…

Steven Feit von CIEL, einer der Ko-Autoren des Berichts, fasst es ganz schön zusammen:

„Seit sechs Jahrzehnten behaupten die Ölfirmen, dass der Klimawandel nicht existiert, dass er nicht vom Menschen gemacht ist, und dass er, wenn er doch vom Menschen gemacht sein sollte, völlig unproblematisch ist. Seit einiger Zeit nun verkaufen uns die Unternehmen den Klimawandel als ein rein ingenieurstechnisches Problem – um im selben Atemzug zu behaupten, die Lösung liege in hochriskanten Geoengineering-Strategien – während sie selbst noch mehr Öl, Gas und Kohle fördern und genau so weitermachen wie bisher – ein Verhalten, das genauso gefährlich ist wie die Jahrzehnte des Leugnens.“

Der Report schaut sich jedoch übrigens auch die Alternativen an und listet eine ganze Bandbreite an neuen wissenschaftlichen Studien, Reports, Modellen und Szenarien auf, die klar machen: 1.5°C geht auch ohne Geoengineering, wenn wir neben radikal transformativen Emissionsreduktionspfaden auch auf den Schutz und die Wiederherstellung unserer natürlichen Ökosysteme setzen.

Mehr zum Thema Geoengineering gibt es beim GeoengineeringMonitor.

Mehr zum Thema 1,5°C und Transformationspfade in unserem Radical Realism Webdossier.

Kategorien: Blogs

Big money skews South Africa’s fossil fuelled economy

Energiewende Blog - 13 Februar, 2019 - 15:00

South Africa’s electricity sector has emerged from a turbulent decade that has been tamished by corruption and mismanagement. Vested political interests within the electricity industry here could still be locking the continent’s biggest carbon emitter on its current course as one of the dirtiest and most energy-intensive economies in the world, writes Leonie Joubert.

South Africa’s energy policy is dominated by new coal and nuclear energy deals (Public Domain)

Evidence of corruption and vested political interests within the South African electricity sector have been surfacing on almost every transparency platform in the past few years: the public protector’s State of Capture inquiry in 2016, and various legal commissions that domino-ed out of that investigation; legal submissions in various court processes, including one challenging the state’s nuclear procurement processes; and much of the associated media coverage.

These dirty dealings have surfaced in the government’s attempt to assign Russia to build a fleet of six nuclear power stations here, even though the Treasury showed that the cost would cripple the economy. It came through in the commissioning of various new coal-fired power plants. It skewed the numbers used in the modelling process for the country’s energy blueprint, the Integrated Resource Plan, which until recently favoured coal and nuclear because it didn’t accurately reflect the sudden drop in the price of renewable energy relative to new-build coal. It is evident in the deliberate obstruction of the country’s utility-scale renewable energy programme. And it has emerged in recent investigations into the state’s coal purchasing contracts with emerging mining companies.

During his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, president Cyril Ramaphosa tried to reassure international investors that these were precisely the kinds of dirty dealings that he would root out while in office.

But a local energy researcher argues that newly established coal interests, who are beneficiaries of ANC-insider patronage, have special leverage to influence government. And they’re using the fear of coal-related jobs losses to derail the country’s transition to a lower carbon economy.

Vested political interests in coal

South Africa gets between 85 percent and 90 percent of its electricity from coal.

It is also one of most energy intensive economies in the world. SA needs more energy to produce a unit of GDP than most countries, engineer and energy researcher Hilton Trollip said during a radio interview this week.

Trollip, who works with the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre (ERC), referred to ongoing revelations of the newly established coal interests within the ANC under the rule of corruption-tainted former president Jacob Zuma.

‘Eskom spends more than R50 billion a year on coal,’ says “IT” Trollip. ‘This amount has doubled in the past ten years, even though the volume of coal it’s buying has stayed the same.’

From 2007 to 2015, Eskom shifted 30% of its coal supply from long-term coal-buying contracts, to short-term contracts with emerging mining companies. While some of these contracts are ‘above board’, Trollip points to the public protector’s State of Capture report which links some of these contracts with government insiders who are ‘connected to a faction in the ANC’ that benefited from this ongoing relationship with the coal industry.

Dirty dealings in the nuclear plan

As reported on in this column and elsewhere, by the end of 2017 the administration under then-president Jacob Zuma was on the verge of committing to a programme that would have locked the country into a deal with Russian to build up to six nuclear power stations here. Legal action stalled the procurement process just long enough for the ANC to recall the corruption-tainted Zuma, who had fired several finance ministers in his effort to force the deal through without following due process.

Zuma was replaced by his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, who had the sense to listen to his Treasury’s warning that the cost of this deal would cripple the economy. Since then, Ramaphosa has called off the deal, but various court processes and state investigations, including the public protector’s State of Capture report, showed the vested interests within the Zuma administration which were pushing the deal for their own financial gain.

Tripping up the renewable programme

At the same time, the country’s utility scale renewable energy (RE) project, run between 2011 and 2015 and hailed as one of the most successful RE procurement processes in the world, came to a halt when the state utility, Eskom, refused to finalise the last round of contracts with private-sector investors, in spite of the energy minister instructing it to do so. This, too, was linked with pro-coal and pro-nuclear interests within the ruling party.

Once Ramaphosa was sworn in as president, suddenly the final stalled projects were signed off and allowed to reach completion. This, say pundits, is further evidence of the vested interests within the Zuma administration which were obstructing efforts to replace coal in the energy mix.

President Cyril Ramaphosa tried to reassure international investors at Davos that the new administration would root out the kind of corruption that has skewed the country’s energy policy away from what researchers at the ERC and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have calculated to be the most affordable and low-carbon transition plan for the economy: a steady decommissioning of old coal plants, while bringing on line utility-scale wind and solar, supported by gas, and also an increased shift to distributed energy resources such as roof-top solar panels, energy efficiency and batteries.

What’s still missing from the state’s energy transition plan, though, is a clear policy about how to support workers within the coal industry who will lose their livelihoods as the country phases out coal. Trollip argues that some interests, who rely on maintaining the coal economy for their patronage benefits with the ANC, are using the labour question as a way to continue to lobby against a transition to a cleaner energy sector.

Kategorien: Blogs

Climate Damages: Uncertain but Ominous, or $51 per Ton?

Triple Crisis - 12 Februar, 2019 - 22:53

By Frank Ackerman

Second in a series of posts on climate policy.  Find Part 1 here.

According to scientists, climate damages are deeply uncertain, but could be ominously large (see the previous post). Alternatively, according to the best-known economic calculation, lifetime damages caused by emissions in 2020 will be worth $51 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, in 2018 prices.

These two views can’t both be right. This post explains where the $51 estimate comes from, why it’s not reliable, and the meaning for climate policy of the deep uncertainty about the value of damages.

A tale of three models

The “social cost of carbon” (SCC) is the value of present and future climate damages caused by a ton of carbon dioxide emissions. The Obama administration assembled an Interagency Working Group to estimate the SCC. In its final (August 2016) revision of the numbers, the most widely used variant of the SCC was $42 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted in 2020, expressed in 2007 dollars – equivalent to $51 in 2018 dollars. Numbers like this were used in Obama-era cost-benefit analyses of new regulations, placing a dollar value on the reduction in carbon emissions from, say, vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

To create these numbers, the Working Group averaged the results from three well-known models. These do not provide more detailed or in-depth analysis than other models. On the contrary, two of them stand out for being simpler and easier to use than other models. They are, however, the most frequently cited models in climate economics. They are famous for being famous, the Kardashians of climate models.

DICE, developed by William Nordhaus at Yale University, offers a skeletal simplicity: it represents the dynamics of the world economy, the climate, and the interactions between the two with only 19 equations. This (plus Nordhaus’ free distribution of the software) has made it by far the most widely used model, valuable for classroom teaching, for initial high-level sketches of climate impacts, and for researchers (at times including myself) who lack the funding to acquire and use more complicated models. Yet no one thinks that DICE represents the frontier of knowledge about the world economy or the environment. DICE estimates aggregate global climate damages as a quadratic function of temperature increases, rising only gradually as the world warms.

PAGE, developed by Chris Hope at Cambridge University, resembles DICE in level of complexity, and has been used in many European analyses. It is the only one of the three models to include any explicit treatment of uncertain climate risks, assuming the threat of an abrupt, mid-size economic loss (beyond the “predictable” damages) that becomes both more likely and more severe as temperatures rise. Perhaps for this reason, PAGE consistently produces the highest SCC estimates among the three models.

FUND, developed by Richard Tol and David Anthoff, is more detailed than DICE or PAGE, with separate treatment of more than a dozen damage categories. Yet the development of these damages estimates has been idiosyncratic, in some cases (such as agriculture) relying on relatively optimistic research from 20 years ago rather than more troubling, recent findings on climate impacts. Even in later versions, after many small updates, FUND still estimates that many of its damage categories are too small to matter; in some FUND scenarios, the largest cost of warming is the increased expenditure on air conditioning.

Much has been written about what’s wrong with relying on these three models. The definitive critique is the National Academy of Sciences study, which reviews the shortcomings of the three models in detail and suggests ways to build a better model for estimating the SCC. (Released just days before the Trump inauguration, the study was doomed to be ignored.)

 

Embracing uncertainty

Expected climate damages are uncertain over a wide range, including the possibility of disastrously large impacts. The SCC is a monetary valuation of expected damages per ton of carbon dioxide. Therefore, SCC values should be uncertain over a wide range, including the possibility of disastrously high values.

Look beyond the three-model calculation, and the range of possible SCC values is extremely wide, including very high upper bounds. Many studies have adopted DICE or another model as a base, then demonstrated that minor, reasonable changes in assumptions lead to huge changes in the SCC. To cite a few examples:

  • A meta-analysis of SCC values found that, in order to reflect major climate risks, the SCC needs to be at least $125.
  • A study by Simon Dietz and Nicholas Stern found a range of optimal carbon prices (i.e. SCC values), depending on key climate uncertainties, ranging from $45 to $160 for emissions in 2025, and from $111 to $394 for emissions in 2055 (in 2018 dollars per ton of carbon dioxide).
  • In my own research, coauthored with Liz Stanton, we found that a few major uncertainties lead to an extremely wide range of possible SCC values, from $34 to $1,079 for emissions in 2010, and from $77 to $1,875 for 2050 emissions (again converted to 2018 dollars).
  • Martin Weitzman has written several articles emphasizing that the SCC depends heavily on the unknown shape of the damage function – that is, the details of the assumed relationship between rising temperatures and rising damages. His “Dismal Theorem” article argues that the marginal value of reducing emissions – the SCC – is literally infinite, since catastrophes that would cause human extinction remain too plausible to ignore (although they are not the most likely outcomes).

 

Whether or not the SCC is infinite, many researchers have found that it is uncertain, with the broad range of plausible values including dangerously high estimates. This is the economic reflection of scientific uncertainty about the timing and extent of climate damages.

 

How much can we afford?

As explained in the previous post in this series, deep uncertainty about the magnitude and timing of risks stymies the use of cost-benefit analysis for climate policy. Rather, policy should be set in an insurance-like framework, focused on credible worst-case losses rather than most likely outcomes. Given the magnitude of the global problem, this means “self-insurance” – investing in measures that make worst cases less likely.

How much does climate “self-insurance” – greenhouse gas emission reduction – cost? Several early (2008 to 2010) studies of rapid decarbonization, pushing the envelope of what was technically feasible at the time, came up with mid-century carbon prices of roughly $150 – $500 per ton of carbon dioxide abated.[1] Since then, renewable energy has experienced rapid progress and declining prices, undoubtedly lowering the carbon price on a maximum feasible reduction scenario.

Even at $150 to $500 per ton, the cost of abatement was comparable to or lower than many of the worst-case estimates of the SCC, or climate damages per ton. In short, we already know that doing everything on the least-cost emission reduction path will cost less, per ton of carbon dioxide, than worst-case climate damages.

That’s it: end of economic story about evaluating climate policy. We don’t need more exact, accurate SCC estimates; they will not be forthcoming in time to shape policy, due to the uncertainties involved. Since estimated worst-case damages are rising over time, while abatement costs (such as the costs of renewables) are falling, the balance is tipping farther and farther toward “do everything you can, now.” That was already the correct answer some years ago, and only becomes more correct over time.

That’s not the end of this series of blog posts, however. Three more are coming, addressing three policy problems that arise in climate advocacy: how to talk about methane and natural gas; taxes versus cap and trade systems; and the role of equity and economic obstacles to climate policy.

 

Frank Ackerman is principal economist at Synapse Energy Economics in Cambridge, Mass., and one of the founders of Dollars & Sense, which publishes Triple Crisis. 

 

[1] See the Ackerman and Stanton article cited above for description of studies. Prices were reported in 2005 dollars; multiply by 1.29 to convert to 2018 dollars.

Kategorien: Blogs

The German Coal Commission fails to honor the Paris Agreement

Energiewende Blog - 11 Februar, 2019 - 15:00

The German Coal Commission has recommended that all coal be phased out by 2038. But this trajectory won’t be quick enough to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, says L. Michael Buchsbaum.

Lignite mining area Gazweiler in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany (Public Domain)

Days after the Coal Commission announced their recommendations, the climate activist members of the group held their own press conference to criticize the 20-year exit plan, claiming that although well-intentioned, its slow pace will nevertheless violate Germany’s international climate targets.

A quarter of Germany’s installed coal power capacity will be shut down between 2019 and 2022; the path for the years 2023 to 2029 is much less clear.

(Chart: CarbonBrief)

“Neither the planned final exit date of 2038 nor the vague path until 2030 are sufficient for an adequate contribution to climate protection from the energy sector,” read a declaration by the commission members Martin Kaiser (Greenpeace), Kai Niebert (umbrella NGO DNR), Hubert Weiger (Friends of the Earth Germany, BUND) and Antje Grothus (Climate Alliance Germany/Buir for Buir).

Indeed in their dissenting vote, the four commission members rejected the otherwise agreed-upon timetable. Lamenting that the commission had missed an “opportunity to combine ambitious climate protection with future-proof regional and economic development,” they nevertheless voiced their support for the compromise in general because it broke “Germany’s climate policy stalemate of the past years” and because it creates a phase-out through 2022 while at least recommending the preservation of the still-embattled Hambach Forest.

In addition, the group argued that it is still urgently necessary to specify the exit path from 2023 to 2029. Rejecting both the “non-concrete path from 2023 and the late exit date” of 2038, they fear the lack of concrete planning will “prevent a cumulative CO2 reduction of the energy sector compatible with the Paris Climate Agreement.” On the contrary, “cumulative CO2 emissions in the atmosphere [will be] far too high for Germany to contribute to limiting global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees, let alone 1.5 degrees…In the interest of climate protection, an exit would be necessary by 2030.”

Not progress, but business as usual

Their fears are backed up by an analysis from think tank Carbon Brief which suggested that coal capacity would barely fall faster under the Commission’s plan than under a business-as-usual (BAU) pathway. The lignite and hard-coal-fired power stations slated for shutdown in the near term are already expected to retire.

In their analysis, they state that without cutting deeper into planned power plant emissions, Germany will “breach a Paris Agreement-compatible pathway by more than a billion tonnes of CO2.”

Of course, one of the main challenges is that coal currently supplies nearly two-fifths of German electricity, and has long been the backbone of its generation capacity.With the largest fleet of coal-fired power stations in Europe, Germany also has the fourth-largest fleet in the world, after China, the US and India.

(Chart: CarbonBrief)

The proposed phaseout timeline could actually break EU law: it breaches the deadline for EU coal power to be phased out, as shown in the International Energy Agency (IEA) “below 2C” pathway. Indeed, even an accelerated 2035 coal phaseout would only be roughly in line with the IEA’s 2C pathway, but not its “below 2C” scenario.

In total, the commission’s recommended timeline could prevent a cumulative 1.8bn tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) from entering the atmosphere compared to business as usual, but could still breach the “below 2C” pathway by some 1.3Gt CO2. The 2015 Paris Agreement significantly raised the bar with its target of limiting warming to “well-below 2C” above pre-industrial temperatures and, ideally, only 1.5C. The EU has pledged to raise its 2030 targets and indicated it could commit to a net-zero goal in the longer term.

Critically, according to Carbon Brief, it is only after 2030 that the coal commission’s proposal starts to significantly bend the curve away from business as usual. In other words, it is recommending that forced early coal plant closures mainly take place after 2030, some 12 years into the future. The designated pathway before then really isn’t that ambitious.

The way forward

This looming planning failure seems even more worrying given that in early February Germany finally officially acknowledged that it is also not making the envisioned progress on climate change that had been formerly planned. Though by 2020 Germany is expected to emit around 32% less greenhouse gases than in 1990, the government had previously pledged a reduction of at least 40%. While experts have known for years that Germany would not be able to fulfill these goals (originally set in 2007), the 40% reduction was meant to inspire other EU countries to set more ambitious targets.  Instead, Germany’s failure may now inspire other nations to also fail to hold to established emissions pledges. Indeed when combined with the underwhelming ambitions of the coal commission’s emissions recommendations, this admission should signal that Germany’s long-term strategies are simply not working as promised.

(Chart: CarbonBrief)

In announcing the new report, German Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) called for more courage and commitment to climate policy. She reiterated that she would therefore come up with a law that makes compliance with the 2030 climate goals more binding, something also suggested by the Coal Commission’s environmentalist wing, but ultimately watered down in the final report. As it stands now, by 2030, Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions are planned to be reduced by 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel also backed the Coal Commission’s findings, stating that “by 2038, we want to have exited coal,” adding that “unfortunately we still have too much brown coal.”

However, rather ominously, the chancellor then said that by exiting coal, Germany “will have to use more gas.” The dissenting green commission members and much of the environmental community instead hopes that the planned structural reforms and renewable energy expansion will once again “change the discussion within a few years.” But with fossil gas proving to be as potentially harmful as coal, is Merkel’s climate change solution simply to take Germany from the frying pan into the fire?

Kategorien: Blogs

On Buying Insurance, and Ignoring Cost-Benefit Analysis

Triple Crisis - 8 Februar, 2019 - 21:43

By Frank Ackerman

First in a series of posts on climate policy.  

The damages expected from climate change seem to get worse with each new study. Reports from the IPCC and the U.S. Global Change Research Project, and a multi-author review article in Science, all published in late 2018, are among the recent bearers of bad news. Even more continues to arrive in a swarm of research articles, too numerous to list here. And most of these reports are talking about not-so-long-term damages. Dramatic climate disruption and massive economic losses are coming in just a few decades, not centuries, if we continue along our present path of inaction. It’s almost enough to make you support an emergency program to reduce emissions and switch to a path of rapid decarbonization.

But wait: isn’t there something about economics we need to figure out first? Would drastic emission reductions pass a cost-benefit test? How do we know that we wouldn’t be spending too much on climate policy?

In fact, a crash program to decarbonize the economy is obviously the right answer. There are just a few things you need to know about the economics of climate policy, in order to confirm that Adam Smith and his intellectual heirs have not overturned common sense on this issue. Three key points are worth remembering.

Worst-case risks matter more than likely outcomes

For uncertain, extreme risks, policy should be based on the credible worst-case outcome, not the expected or most likely value. This is the way people think about insurance against disasters. The odds that your house won’t burn down next year are better than 99 percent – but you probably have fire insurance anyway. Likewise, young parents have more than a 99 percent chance of surviving the coming year, but often buy life insurance to protect their children.

Real uncertainty, of course, has nothing to do with the fake uncertainty of climate denial. In insurance terms, real uncertainty consists of not knowing when a house fire might occur; fake uncertainty is the (obviously wrong) claim that houses never catch fire. See my Worst-Case Economics for more detailed exploration of worst cases and (real) uncertainty, in both climate and finance.

For climate risks, worst cases are much too dreadful to ignore. What we know is that climate change could be very bad for us; but no one knows exactly how bad it will be or exactly when it will arrive. How likely are we to reach tipping points into an irreversibly worse climate, and when will these tipping points occur? As the careful qualifications in the IPCC and other reports remind us, climate change could be very bad, surprisingly soon, but almost no one is willing to put a precise number or date on the expected losses.

One group does rush in where scientists fear to tread, guessing about the precise magnitude and timing of future climate damages: economists engaged in cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Rarely used before the 1990s, CBA has become the default, “common-sense” approach to policy evaluation, particularly in environmental policy. In CBA-world you begin by measuring and monetizing the benefits, and the costs, of a policy – and then “buy” the policy if, and only if, the monetary value of the benefits exceeds the costs.

There are numerous problems with CBA, such as the need to (literally) make up monetary prices for priceless values of human life, health and the natural environment. In practice, CBA often trivializes the value of life and nature. Climate policy raises yet another problem: CBA requires a single number, such as a most likely outcome, best guess, or weighted average, for every element of costs (e.g. future costs of clean energy) and benefits (e.g. monetary value of future damages avoided by clean energy expenditures). There is no simple way to incorporate a wide range of uncertainty about such values into CBA. The second post in this series will look more deeply at economists’ misplaced precision about climate damages.

Costs of emission reduction are dropping fast

The insurance analogy is suggestive, but not a perfect fit for climate policy. There is no intergalactic insurance agency that can offer us a loaner planet to use while ours is towed back to the shop for repairs. Instead, we will have to “self-insure” against climate risks – the equivalent of spending money on fireproofing your house rather than relying on an insurance policy.

Climate self-insurance consists largely of reducing carbon emissions, in order to reduce future losses.[1] The one piece of unalloyed good news in climate policy today is the plummeting cost of clean energy. In the windiest and sunniest parts of the world (and the United States), new wind and solar power installations now produce electricity at costs equal to or lower than from fossil fuel-burning plants.

A 2017 report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) projects that this will soon be true worldwide: global average renewable energy costs will be within the range of fossil fuel-fired costs by 2020, with on-shore wind and solar photovoltaic panels at the low end of the range. Despite low costs for clean energy, many utilities will still propose to build fossil fuel plants, reflecting the inertia of traditional energy planning and the once-prudent wisdom of the cheap-fuel, pre-climate change era.

Super-low costs for renewables, which would have seemed like fantasies 10 years ago, are now driving the economics and the feasibility of plans for decarbonization. Many progressive Democrats have endorsed a “green new deal”, calling for elimination of fossil fuels, massive investment in energy efficiency and clean energy, and fairness in the distribution of jobs and opportunities.

Robert Pollin, an economist who has studied green new deal options, estimates that annual investment of about 1.5 percent of GDP would be needed. That’s about $300 billion a year for the United States, and four times as much, $1.2 trillion a year, for the world economy. Those numbers may sound large, but so are the fossil fuel subsidies and investments that the green new deal would eliminate.

In a 2015 study, my colleagues and I calculated that 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions could be eliminated by 2050, with no net increase in energy or transportation costs. Since that time, renewables have only gotten cheaper. (Our result does not necessarily contradict Pollin’s estimate, since the last 20 percent of emissions will be the hardest and most expensive to eliminate.)

These projections of future costs are inevitably uncertain, because the future has not happened yet. The risks, however, do not appear dangerous or burdensome. So far, the surprises on the cost side have been unexpectedly rapid decreases in renewable energy prices. These are not the risks that require rethinking our approach to climate policy.

Costs of not reducing emissions may be disastrously large

The disastrous worst-case risks are all on the benefits, or avoided climate damages, side of the ledger. The scientific uncertainties about climate change concern the timing and extent of damages. Therefore, the urgency of avoiding these damages, or conversely the cost of not avoiding them, is intrinsically uncertain, and could be disastrously large.

It has become common, among economists, to estimate the “social cost of carbon” (SCC), defined as the monetary value of the present and future climate damages per ton of carbon dioxide or equivalent. This is where the pick-a-number imperative of cost-benefit analysis introduces the greatest distortion: huge uncertainties in damages should naturally translate into huge uncertainties in the SCC, not a single point estimate.

Frank Ackerman is principal economist at Synapse Energy Economics in Cambridge, Mass., and one of the founders of Dollars & Sense, which publishes Triple Crisis. 

The next post in this series will examine the debates about the SCC, showing that there are indeed large uncertainties in its value, no matter how inconvenient that may be for economists and their models.

[1] Adaptation, or expenditure to reduce vulnerability to climate damages, is also important but may not be effective beyond the early stages of warming. And some adaptation costs are required to cope with warming that can no longer be avoided – that is, they have become sunk costs, not present or future policy choices.

Kategorien: Blogs

Dead lakes, dry holes: RWE’s post-mining plans threatened by climate change

Energiewende Blog - 8 Februar, 2019 - 15:00

RWE is digging the biggest hole in Europe for dirty lignite – and they don’t have a working plan to deal with the consequences, says L. Michael Buchsbaum.

RWE’s plans for land cleanup after mining are shockingly irresponsible (Photo by Ende Gelände, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Last year’s record reduced water flowing through Germany’s Rhine River should be setting off alarm bells for myriad reasons. Ever-worsening climate change is reducing precipitation in its Swiss headwaters, suggesting that this year’s “low water event” will not be uncommon going forward.

This water scarcity will also have a major impact on the future of the three giant open pit lignite mines in the Rhineland coalfields west of Cologne. The pits are owned by RWE, which must now realize how preposterous its long-term recultivation plans are when faced with climate change-induced droughts.

Impacts of lignite mining

Put together, the Hambach, Garzweiler and Inden mines produce around 100 million tons of filthy lignite annually, which is fed into three nearby RWE owned power plant complexes. These plants are some of the most toxic emitters in Europe, the source of some 75 million tons of annual CO2 emissions.

While opposition to coal mining and burning has increased, international media has mainly focused on the continuing clashes around the embattled Hambach Forest or the looming destruction of several villages dotted around the growing surface mines. Most people don’t know that RWE’s plans for land cleanup after mining are shockingly irresponsible.

Producing over 40 million tons of lignite per year, the Hambach is the largest mine in Germany. Uncovering all that lignite requires miners to displace another 220 to 250 million square meters of “overburden” or soil, most of which is dumped nearby. Over 85 square kilometers in size and with mining operations in the pit over 500 meters (1,640 feet) below the surface, the Hambach is both the deepest and largest hole in Europe.

The German Great Lakes

But what’s to be done with the giant Hambach hole once mining is complete? RWE plans to turn it into a vast lake over 4200 hectares in size and up to 400 meters deep.

To fill it, the company will require a volume of over 3.6 billion cubic meters of water to be diverted from rivers over a period of at least 40 years, most likely through 2100.

However, the future artificial lake may be further enlarged if officials permit RWE to also flood the nearby Inden open pit mine as well as the older Bergheim pit. Either way, the planned “Lake Hambach” would become the deepest and, after Lake Constance, the second largest lake in Germany.

It won’t be the only mammoth new water body in the area.

Several kilometers away sits the currently expanding Garzweiler mine. When production there ends, also in the 2040s, RWE is planning to create Garzweiler Lake stretching across a 2,300 hectare surface area with waters over 200 meters deep. For this, the company plans to fill it up with another 60 million cubic meters of water per year, also over a 40-year period (roughly 2.4 billion cubic meters).

Beyond then, even after the lake reaches a planned water level of 65 meters above sea level, it will still need to be topped up annually with another 25 million cubic meters more of Rhine water in order to offset outgoing flow losses from years of RWE’s drilling into the Earth and disturbing the natural ground water table in the area.

RWE has no idea what they’re doing

Since the 1980s, RWE has “recultivated” much of the area by planting millions of trees, many of which populate the otherwise desert-like slopes of the largest artificial hill in Germany, the Sophienhöhe, sitting adjacent to and comprised of soil and dirt that was once inside the Hambach mine. However, polluted water run-off from this and other spoil heaps located directly beside the envisioned lakes will likely acidify them, fouling the diverted Rhine water and rendering the new lakes lifeless for decades to come as well as unsafe for most recreational activities. Though RWE and other companies proudly show off similar (albeit much smaller) artificial lakes–the largest only being only around 100 hectares–as positive post-mining land uses, experts admit that much of the “lake” water is unhealthy and humans should limit their recreational activities.

In addition, it’s not even clear if RWE will be able to get the water to fill the holes: diversions of this size have never been attempted before. And given that the Rhine River is now regularly flowing lower than usual, it’s also unsure where this water will even come from. It sounds almost like a cruel joke: the water needed to fill in these enormous pits is getting scarcer, due to climate change exacerbated by the reckless burning of lignite.

Finally, by flooding the mines, any potential for “standard” renewable energy to be built within these vast spaces will be eliminated unless expensive floating wind or solar farms are constructed. But even if RWE simply back-fills them with the removed earth, that’s not enough to allow renewable energy redevelopment. Once excavated and replaced, the uncompacted soil “swells” the land, rendering future wind-farming challenging as turbines cannot be safely anchored. That requires more expensive additional steps—as we will discuss in another post.

As ludicrous as these schemes are, beyond filling the pits with Rhine water, there doesn’t seem to be a Plan B. Nevertheless, RWE and the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia insists that the mines should continue to be expanded for decades to come, seemingly unconcerned with what to do with the gaping holes once all that coal is removed.

Kategorien: Blogs

Das nennt man wohl Green Talk – Schweizer Banken finanzieren CO2

Klima der Gerechtigkeit - 8 Februar, 2019 - 11:12

Ein Gastbeitrag von Yvonne Anliker, Mediensprecherin Greenpeace Schweiz

Die zwei Schweizer Großbanken Credit Suisse und die UBS finanzieren eine Menge CO2: Durch die Geschäftsbeziehungen mit «nur» 47 Unternehmen haben die Banken zwischen 2015 und 2017 insgesamt 182,9 Millionen Tonnen Treibhausgasemissionen verantwortet. Allein 2017 finanzierten die Credit Suisse und die UBS 93,9 Millionen Tonnen Treibhausgasemissionen – das sind doppelt so viele, wie die Schweiz in einem Jahr verursacht. Klimaschutz sieht definitiv anders aus!

Die beiden Schweizer Großbanken Credit Suisse und UBS sind nicht nur gut darin, Geld arbeiten zu lassen. Sie wissen auch, wie man sich mit Worten ein gutes Image verpasst. «Als globales Finanzinstitut anerkennt die Credit Suisse ihren Teil der Verantwortung bei der Bekämpfung des Klimawandels durch die Unterstützung des Übergangs zu einer kohlenstoffarmen und klimaresistenten Wirtschaft und trägt dem Klimaschutz auf mehreren Ebenen Rechnung», heißt es etwa auf der Website der Credit Suisse . Auch die UBS geizt nicht mit großen Worten: «Die Welt und die Werte bewahren», steht da. Und «Die umfassende Klimawandelstrategie von UBS legt den Fokus auf die vielen Möglichkeiten zur Unterstützung des Übergangs zu einer CO₂-armen Wirtschaft.»

Diesen Worten Glauben zu schenken und sie nicht einfach als leeres Geschwätz und als ausgeklügelte Öffentlichkeitsarbeit abzutun, fällt schwer. Bislang haben die Credit Suisse und die UBS in keiner Weise Anlass zur Hoffnung gegeben, dass sie wirklich dazu bereit sind, wirkungsvolle Maßnahmen für einen starken Klimaschutz zu ergreifen. Es ist gar zu bezweifeln, ob die zwei Großbanken tatsächlich die Weltgemeinschaft bei der Erreichung des in Paris verabschiedeten Ziels, die Erderhitzung auf deutlich unter 2 Grad und möglichst 1,5 Grad zu beschränken, unterstützen wollen.

Nicht zuletzt deshalb, weil Greenpeace Schweiz jüngst aufzeigen konnte, dass die Credit Suisse und die UBS nach wie vor stark in das Geschäft mit Unternehmen im Bereich fossiler Brennstoffe involviert sind. Die zwei Großbanken stellten von 2015 bis 2017 insgesamt 12,3 Milliarden US-Dollar für 47 Unternehmen bereit, die besonders dreckige, so genannte extreme fossile Brennstoffe, nutzbar machen. Dazu zählen Kohle, Öl aus Teersanden, aus der Arktis und der Tiefsee sowie Flüssiggas (LNG).

Greenpeace Schweiz ließ die aus diesen Finanzierungen resultierenden Emissionen von ISS-Ethix aus Zürich berechnen und vom Datenanbieter right. based on science aus Frankfurt auswerten. Der Bericht zeigt, dass die beiden Großanken in den Jahren 2015, 2016 und 2017 mit den 12,3 Milliarden US-Dollar total 182,9 Millionen Tonnen Treibhausgasemissionen finanzierten. Die Credit Suisse war für mehr als zwei Drittel davon verantwortlich.

Im betrachteten Zeitraum war das Jahr 2017 besonders schädlich für das Klima: Zwei Jahre nach der Verabschiedung des Pariser Klimaabkommens finanzierten die zwei Großbanken über die untersuchten 47 Unternehmen 93,9 Millionen Tonnen Treibhausgasemissionen. Das sind rund doppelt so viele Emissionen wie die Schweiz im Inland in einem Jahr verursacht. Die Credit Suisse trug dabei mit 82,6 Millionen Tonnen weitaus am meisten zum klimaschädlichen Geschäft bei.

Statt also – wie mit blumigen Worten beschrieben – eine aktive und führende Rolle im Übergang zu einer kohlenstoffarmen Wirtschaft zu übernehmen, befeuern die Credit Suisse und die UBS den Klimawandel.

Das nennt man wohl Green-Talk!

 

Hinweis:

Der Begriff „extreme fossile Brennstoffe“ bezeichnet nicht-konventionelle Kohlenwasserstoffe, wie extremes Öl (Teersand, arktisches und Tiefsee-Öl), verflüssigtes Erdgas (LNG), Kohleabbau und Kohlekraftwerke. Diese Auswahl an fossilen Brennstoffen basiert auf den Berichten der Carbon Tracker Initiative, die Öl- und Gasprojekte mit dem höchsten finanziellen Risiko identifizierte, wenn es gelingen soll, die Klimaerwärmung deutlich unter 2-Grad zu halten. Auch der gesamte Kohlesektor wird wegen seiner Unvereinbarkeit mit der Klimastabilität und den gravierenden Auswirkungen auf Umwelt, Gesundheit und Menschenrechte einbezogen.

 

Weiterführende Links:

Medienmitteilung von Greenpeace Schweiz https://www.greenpeace.ch/medienmitteilungen/schweizer-grossbanken-finanzieren-treibhausgasemissionen-im-grossen-stil/

Das Factsheet «Schweizer Banken und die von ihnen finanzierten Emissionen» https://www.greenpeace.ch/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Finanzierte_Emissionen_Greenpeace_FactSheet.pdf

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