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Cool kids for a cool earth

Energiewende Blog - 18 März, 2019 - 15:00

On Friday, March 15, an estimated 1.4 million pupils worldwide skipped school to protest climate change. The Fridays for the Future protests mark the onset of a global mass movement based on civil disobedience. What’s next? asks Paul Hockenos.

“Why should we learn when there’s no future?” (Photo by Paul Hockenos)

I’ve never seen anything quite like it before: so many young faces – mostly teenagers but younger children, too – acting with purpose and political vision.

This display of determination – over 20,000 overflowed from Invalidenpark in Berlin as part of the worldwide school strike for climate justice – turned our cultural order on its head: children were acting more maturely, more responsibly than their parents, even scolding their elders for their self-centered, reckless behavior. The kids loudly called out their parents’ (and grandparents’) generations, but they went further than that, too.

Kids walked out of their classrooms in 222 cities in Germany, and 2.000 cities and towns in 120 countries worldwide, breaking the law to protest climate change. The demos of March 15, 2019, may well prove a seminal moment in the history of the fight against global warming: the start of an international mass movement of young people that relies on civil disobedience. In contrast to some of the media reports, there was nothing naïve or amateurish about it.

Demonstrators at Invalidenpark in Berlin (Photo by Paul Hockenos)

The political savvy, energy, and creativity on display showed why these young citizens will be taken seriously and why March 15 wasn’t a one-off event but rather the beginning of something with staying power.

Take, for example, the site of the Berlin branch’s demo: downtown Berlin next to the Natural History Museum, where speakers and musicians underscored in every speech, song, and chant that the future of the planet is at stake.

And take the astounding scope and organization: the coordination of well over a thousand such demos across the globe. The Berlin leg, which police and the organizers expected to attract just 5,000 activists, brought out five times that number – and oodles of media. The youngsters know exactly how to use social media for maximum impact, and how to get coverage that landed them on the front pages of newspapers and on the evening news just everywhere in the world.

The chants and signs exhibited originality and wit that I haven’t experienced at a demonstration in a long time, certainly not at the dour events that climate NGOs hold regularly. The kids fully realize how dire the situation, is but the sea of hand-made posters weren’t glum. On the contrary, in Berlin these messages floated above the kids’ heads: “System change, not climate change,“ “Make the planet Greta again!,” “Why go to school if there’s no future?,” “The oceans are rising and so are we!,” “Cool kids for a cool Earth,” and “Make Earth cool again.”

Wake-up call for adults

And, yet, there was anger too, directed at the generations of parents and politicians who let things get as bad as they are. One felt more than a little spirit of the 1968 student protests in their brutal critiques of their elders. The kids directed their rebuke at the broadly defined generation that has the largest carbon footprint ever to its name, that knew about climate change for decades, that invented renewable energy, but that couldn’t bring itself to change lifestyles and economic systems fast enough to make a difference for them. The chant that rippled through the crowd all day: “Wir sind hier, wir sind laut, weil ihr unsere Zukunft klaut!” (We are here, we are loud, because you’re robbing us of our future!”) Among the signs, many pointed fingers: “You save banks but destroy the planet,” “You’ve fallen asleep, we’re the alarm clock,” and “Grandpa, what’s a snowman?”

“It is our future” (Photo by Paul Hockenos)

But the Berlin demo, and those that I saw on television and the Internet, weren’t just bitter tirades against parents. The kids were directing much of their frustration and emotion toward politicians who have the power to take serious climate action, but haven’t done so.

The speakers on the podium talked about the Paris treaty, the promise of renewable energy, the footprint of our transportation and agriculture sectors, and individual responsibility. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student who triggered the movement, did so by camping out on the steps of Sweden’s parliament to demand that her country reduce carbon emissions. Then she was alone. That was two short months ago.

The hail of critique that has rained down on the kids for skipping school truly misses the point. Had the young people staged the protests only during their free time, they wouldn’t have had nearly the same impact – or message. By being truant, they broke the law, underscoring how important their cause is and, implicitly, that they’ll break the law in the future too, if they’re not taken seriously.

Support from scientists, politicians

And as for naivety, this barb was dispelled by the new Scientists for the Future group, namely 23,000 German scientists and other experts who supported the strike. A handful of them were at the demo, and from the podium they told the students that they are right. They get the point. Countries like Germany, they said, were going in the right direction but not nearly fast enough. It has to happen five times so fast, said renewable energy expert Volker Quashning of Berlin’s Technical University. Keep it up, kids, they told them, science is on your side.

Indeed, the kids get it, namely the existential threat of global warning. And that they are the last generation that will have the opportunity to do something about it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the few world leaders that dared to praised them (once again in the face of her own conservative party, most of which shook their fingers at the naughty truants); and she seems intent on doing more for the climate in her final years in office. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, also commended them, promising he’ll double his efforts to bring leaders together in September for a climate action summit in order to limit global warming to 1.5C.
This, though, is not nearly enough for Greta Thunberg and her peers who announced themselves as a critical new part of the global climate protection movement. They may not be old enough to vote, but they are obviously capable of serious civic action, this much they proved on Friday beyond a doubt.

But skipping school alone will not further their aims. They have to take their cause to the offices of the politicians, business and industry leaders, and, of course, their teachers and principals too. Civil disobedience is now integral to their movement and they have to find new ways to wield it. Occupying offices and buildings, the way the Central America movement did in the US in the 1980s, is one option. But these tuned-in youngsters will surely come up with better ideas. They’ve already proven they’re capable of that.

Kategorien: Blogs

UNEA-4 zu Plastik: Fast alle Länder (aber nicht die USA) wollen weg von der Wegwerfgesellschaft und ein verbindliches globales Plastikabkommen

Klima der Gerechtigkeit - 15 März, 2019 - 20:12

Vom 11. bis 15. März tagte im kenianischen Nairobi zum 4. Mal die Umweltversammlung der Vereinten Nationen (UNEA 4). In diesem Jahr befasste sich das höchste Entscheidungsgremium der UN in Umweltfragen unter anderem mit dem Thema Plastik. Was genau ist dabei herausgekommen?

„UNEA fordert weltweite Abkehr von Wegwerfgesellschaft“ – so titelt das deutsche Umweltministerium heute in einer Pressemitteilung. Das ist eine optimistische Sichtweise auf das Thema. Denn diese Position ist in Nairobi auf massiven Widerstand – vor allem der USA – gestoßen.

„Partikularinteressen bremsen internationale Bemühungen gegen die Plastikverschmutzung“ – so fasst es die Break Free From Plastic Bewegung zusammen, ein zivilgesellschaftliches Netzwerk, in dem wir auch als Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung mitarbeiten.

Was ist die UNEA?

Das Umweltprogramm der Vereinten Nationen (UN Environment), gegründet 1972, ist ein Unterorgan der Generalversammlung der Vereinten Nationen (UNGA). Im Nachgang des Rio+20-Gipfels 2012 wurde der Verwaltungsrat (Governing Council) aufgewertet und hat nun die universelle Mitgliedschaft aller UN-Mitgliedstaaten. Außerdem wurde das Entscheidungsgremium umbenannt in UN-Umweltversammlung (UN Environment Assembly, UNEA).

Die erste UNEA fand im Juni 2014, die zweite im Mai 2016 und die dritte im Dezember 2017 statt – jeweils in Nairobi, dem Sitz von UN Environment. Die behandelten Themen reichten von Luftreinhaltung über die Zusammenarbeit zwischen verschiedenen Biodiversitäts-Abkommen, die Schnittstelle zwischen Wissenschaft und Politik, bis hin zu Chemikalien in der Umwelt und Plastikmüll im Meer. So wurden viele wichtige Themen der internationalen Umweltpolitik behandelt und in Resolutionen gegossen.

Was die UNEA zu einem attraktiven Ort für die internationale Umweltbewegung macht, ist die Tatsache, dass die Umweltversammlung den Startschuss für Verhandlungen über völkerrechtlich verbindliche Abkommen erteilen kann und bestimmte Themen zur Debatte und Entscheidung in die Generalversammlung der Vereinten Nationen einspeisen kann. Beides sind Wege, identifizierte Lücken und Schwachstellen in der Regulierung von Umweltproblemen zu schließen.

Bei der UNEA-4 hätten die Mitgliedstaaten des UN-Umweltprogramms Maßnahmen gegen die stetige wachsende Plastikmüll-Krise beschließen sollen, die unsere Gewässer, Ökosysteme und Gesundheit bedroht. Doch sie ließen diese Chance ungenützt. Den Staatenvertretern bei der UNEA-4 lagen mehrere Resolutionsentwürfe vor, wie die internationalen Anstrengungen gegen die Plastikverschmutzung gesteigert werden könnten:

Der erste, von Norwegen, Japan und Sri Lanka eingebrachte Vorschlag zielte darauf ab, die internationale Zusammenarbeit und Koordinierung gegen die Verschmutzung der Meere mit Makro- und Mikroplastik zu stärken. Unter anderem sollte die Möglichkeit eines neuen, international verbindlichen Abkommens in Erwägung gezogen werden. Der zweite Vorschlag seitens Indiens wollte das weltweite Ende des Einwegplastiks auf den Weg bringen.

Trotz der übereinstimmenden Ansicht der Mehrheit der Staaten, dass ambitionierte, weltweite Maßnahmen dringend erforderlich sind, die von der Produktion über die Nutzung bis zur Entsorgung von Plastik reichen, gelang es einer kleinen, von den USA angeführten Minderheit, stringente Texte zu blockieren und die Verhandlungen zu verzögern.

Mit einer starken Industrielobby im Rücken, die auf mehr als 200 Milliarden Dollar an Investitionen in petrochemische Komplexe für eine massive Steigerung der Plastikproduktion verwies, vereitelten die USA jeden Fortschritt und verwässerten die Resolutionen. Von vielen Ländern, darunter jenen, die am stärksten unter der Plastikverschmutzung leiden, wie die pazifischen Inselstaaten, die Philippinen, Malaysia und Senegal, wurde dies heftig kritisiert.

Handlungsorientierte Mitgliedstaaten konnten aber zumindest die Grundelemente retten, auf denen zukünftige Maßnahmen aufbauen können und die auf der gemeinsamen Vision beruhen, welche die überwältigende Mehrheit der Staaten in den Diskussionen entwickelt hatte.

Das wichtigste ist dabei die Mandatsverlängerung für die Expertenarbeitsgruppe, die durch die UNEA-3 eingerichtet worden war. Zu diesem Mandat zählt die Prüfung technischer und finanzieller Möglichkeiten und ein Bericht über Handlungsoptionen an die UNEA-5 im Februar 2021. Mit dieser Mandatsverlängerung bleibt das Plastikthema zumindest auf der internationalen Agenda und Vorarbeiten für ein künftiges verbindliches Abkommen können weitergehen.

Schön zu hören war heute, dass sich Deutschland – so jedenfalls Umwelt-Staatssekretär Jochen Flasbarth gegenüber dem WWF – für eine internationale, verbindliche Konvention einsetzen wird. Das sah vor wenigen Wochen noch nicht so aus.

Und so steht wie bei vielen anderen Themen der UNEA auch (siehe z.B. Geoengineering Governance) mal wieder die USA (und einige wenige übliche oder auch unübliche Verbündete) gegen den Rest der Welt. Aber je sichtbarer und spürbarer sich die Plastikverschmutzung als globale Gesundheitskrise und als dringendes Umweltproblem in das öffentliche Bewusstsein brennt, desto weniger wird es einigen wenigen Regierungen gelingen, die Interessen der petrochemischen Industrie und anderer Großkonzerne vor die Interesse der Verbraucher/innen und Bürger/innen zu stellen.

Kategorien: Blogs

UK Prime Minister backs offshore wind industry in wake of sector deal

Energiewende Blog - 14 März, 2019 - 15:00

The United Kingdom’s embattled Prime Minister, Theresa May, promised on Friday that “Brexit will not be a race to the bottom” for the country as she spoke at Danish energy giant Orsted’s offshore wind factory in Grimsby, heralding the importance of offshore wind to the future of the country a day after her government had launched its long-awaited Offshore Wind Sector Deal. Joshua Hill takes a look.

The Sector Deal was also unsurprisingly hugely appreciated by companies of all sizes across the United Kingdom (Photo by Raul Mee, CC BY 2.0)

As reported last week, the UK finally launched its long-awaited Offshore Wind Sector Deal which will see the country’s offshore industry invest at least £250 million so as to ensure offshore wind generates more than 30% of the country’s electricity by 2030. The plan also calls to triple “green collar” jobs by 2030 and ensure that at least a third of all these jobs are held by women.

“This new Sector Deal will drive a surge in the clean, green offshore wind revolution that is powering homes and businesses across the UK, bringing investment into coastal communities and ensuring we maintain our position as global leaders in this growing sector,” said Claire Perry, Energy & Clean Growth Minister. “By 2030 a third of our electricity will come from offshore wind, generating thousands of high-quality jobs across the UK, a strong UK supply chain, and a fivefold increase in exports. This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action.”

A day later, UK Prime Minister Theresa May toured Orsted’s Grimsby offshore wind factory and gave a speech regarding the country’s much-ballyhooed Brexit — its disastrously messy attempt to leave the European Union.

“Your work in offshore wind does not just provide skilled jobs here in Grimsby, it makes a direct contribution to the UK’s efforts to reduce our carbon emissions and protect our environment,” said May. “Achieving the economic benefits of the global shift to sustainable green growth is one of the four Grand Challenges in our Modern Industrial Strategy,” — of which the country’s several Sector Deals — “Partnerships between the government and industry on sector-specific issues can create significant opportunities to boost productivity, employment, innovation, and skills” — are a key part.

“The UK is the world-leader in offshore wind, and yesterday we launched our Offshore Wind Sector Deal to build on that success,” May added.

The focus of May’s speech, however, was on the impact of Brexit on the country. “We have … committed to protecting the rights and standards currently set at the EU level – from workers’ rights to environmental protections,” May said, adding that “Brexit will not be a race to the bottom.”

“In fact in most of these areas the UK has led the way, ahead of the EU. And this week we have said that if the EU expands workers’ rights, we will debate those measures in Parliament and decide if we want to follow suit.”

The focus for many in the UK at the moment, albeit briefly, remains on the mammoth Offshore Wind Sector Deal announced last week, which will see the UK offshore wind industry invest £250 million, including new an Offshore Wind Growth Partnership to develop the UK supply chain — as global exports are set to increase five-fold to £2.6 billion by 2030 — which will help to triple the number of industry jobs to 27,000 by 2030.

“Now that we’ve sealed this transformative deal with our partners in government, as a key part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, offshore wind is set to take its place at the heart of our low-carbon, affordable and reliable electricity system of the future,” said Benj Sykes, Ørsted UK Country Manager for Offshore and Co-Chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC), which was involved in negotiations with the Government.

“This relentlessly innovative sector is revitalising parts of the country which have never seen opportunities like this for years, especially coastal communities from Wick in the northern Scotland to the Isle of Wight, and from Barrow-in-Furness to the Humber. Companies are burgeoning in clusters, creating new centres of excellence in this clean growth boom. The Sector Deal will ensure that even more of these companies win work not only on here, but around the world in a global offshore wind market set to be worth £30 billion a year by 2030.”

The news was unsurprisingly welcomed by the country’s renewable energy groups.

“The Sector Deal is about creating opportunities for the people who will be part of our 27,000-strong offshore wind workforce,” added Chief Executive of RenewableUK, Hugh McNeal. “We’re setting up a new body to develop the right skills for years to come, not only by offering apprenticeships, but also by helping experienced people from other parts of the energy sector, as well as the military, to make the change into offshore wind. We also want to ensure far more diversity in the industry, by reaching a target of at least  33% women employees by 2030, and by recruiting people from a wider variety of ethnic backgrounds.”

The Sector Deal was also unsurprisingly hugely appreciated by companies of all sizes across the United Kingdom.

“The Sector Deal marks the coming of age of offshore wind as both a significant part of the UK’s energy transformation and an industrial powerhouse driving economic growth,” said Matthew Wright, UK Managing Director at Ørsted. “We should see the offshore wind industry as a huge UK success story. Costs have been driven down dramatically so that offshore wind is now competitive with conventional forms of energy generation, and at the same time the sector has delivered jobs, investment and growth across northern towns and cities. Ørsted alone will have invested over £13 billion in the UK by the end of 2021. This transformative Sector Deal will unlock significant additional investment from the whole industry and put offshore wind at the front and centre of the UK’s Industrial Strategy.”

“Today’s launch of the Sector Deal sets the long term context for MHI Vestas’ continued growth and job creation in the UK by putting the UK on a path to deliver at least 30GW by 2030,” said Julian Brown, Vice President and UK Country Manager of MHI Vestas Offshore Wind. “Our recent investment on the Isle of Wight is already delivering on the Sector Deal ambitions, creating nearly 400 new highly skilled jobs in 2019, exporting over three quarters of our 2019 output and investing £1 million in a four-year skills programme. I’m excited that MHI Vestas will play an important part in the UK’s offshore wind revolution in the next decade.”

“Siemens Gamesa (SGRE) welcomes the Sector Deal as recognition that Offshore Wind can be a key driver in a buoyant low carbon economy for generations to come,” said Clark MacFarlane, Managing Director of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy UK. “It confirms the confidence we had to invest in our Hull facility, now employing over 1,100 people. The Sector Deal elements of innovation, developing skills, creating a more diverse work force and supporting local people is in the DNA of our company.”

RenewableUK, the country’s trade body for wind (both onshore and offshore) and marine technologies, collated a number of comments from its association members, found here

Joshua S Hill is author of CleanTechnica and writes about clean power and renewable energies.
This article has been republished from CleanTechnica
.

Kategorien: Blogs

Geoengineering-Governance bei der UNEA-4 in Nairobi: Warum weitergehende Schritte für die Regulierung von Geoengineering vorerst gescheitert sind

Klima der Gerechtigkeit - 14 März, 2019 - 11:35

Zivilgesellschaft bekräftigt Forderung nach internationalem Verbot von Geoengineering

Ein Beitrag von Linda Schneider und Lili Fuhr, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

In der vierten UN-Umweltversammlung, UNEA-4, die in dieser Woche in Nairobi tagt, ist ein Vorstoß für weitergehende Schritte, Regulierung von Geoengineering-Technologien auf UN-Ebene zu etablieren, am massiven Widerstand einiger hochemittierender, ölproduzierender Regierungen gescheitert. Die Schweiz, zusammen mit 11 weiteren Ländern aus unterschiedlichen Regionen, darunter Mikronesien, Senegal und Neuseeland, hatte einen Resolutionsvorschlag vorgelegt, der einen Bericht mandatieren sollte, der Informationen zum Stand der Forschung, den Risiken und möglichen Regulierungsoptionen zusammentragen sollte. Nach beinahe zwei Wochen kontroverser Verhandlungen zog die Schweizer Regierung die Resolution am Mittwochabend zurück, weil trotz intensivsten Bemühungen keine Einigung abzusehen war.

Der Ausgang der UNEA-Verhandlungen ist bedauerlich, weil er aufgezeigt hat, wie stark sich gerade diejenigen Regierungen, die Geoengineering-Forschung und -projekte im eigenen oder im Interesse der fossilen Industrie vorantreiben, gegen stärkere Kontrolle und Regulierung sträuben. Und das, obwohl es zu diesem Zeitpunkt lediglich um eine Begutachtung von Geoengineering-Technologien, ihren Risiken und Regulierungsmöglichkeiten ging – von rechtlich bindenden Vereinbarungen war dieser Resolutionsentwurf also weit entfernt. Dennoch hätte er, unter den richtigen Vorzeichen, den Ausgangspunkt bilden können für Regulierungsansätze unter der UNEA, dem höchsten UN-Gremium in Umweltfragen.

Die dringende Notwendigkeit, diese Risikotechnologien international zu regulieren, bleibt somit bestehen. Denn: Die Erforschung und Entwicklung von Geoengineering-Technologien wird aktuell bereits massiv vorangetrieben – durch Forschungsprogramme, Freilandexperimente und Pilotprojekte, durch finanzielle Anreize von staatlicher Seite und durch massive Investitionen aus Silicon Valley, der fossilen Industrie sowie der Bergbauindustrie.

Eine internationale Debatte, wie diese Risikotechnologien mit planetaren Auswirkungen effektiv und restriktiv reguliert werden können, sollte also besser früher als später beginnen – und keinesfalls erst, wenn die voranschreitende Technologieentwicklung bereits Fakten geschaffen hat.

Die gute Nachricht ist dennoch: Das 2010 in der UN-Biodiversitätskonvention (CBD) beschlossene Moratorium auf Geoengineering hat unverändert Bestand, ebenso wie die Regulierungsansätze für marines Geoengineering im London Protocol des London-Übereinkommens zur Verhütung der Meeresverschmutzung (LP/LC). Letzteres verbietet bereits die sogenannte Meeresdüngung aufgrund ihrer negativen Auswirkungen auf die marine Umwelt und hat einen Bewertungsgerüst etabliert, mit dem weitere Technologien des marinen Geoengineerings zukünftig reguliert werden können. Der erst diese Woche erschienene neue Bericht der GESAMP-Expertengruppe zum Schutz der marinen Umwelt legt erneut eine kritische Bewertung von Technologien des marinen Geoengineerings vor, auf die weitere Regulierungsschritte folgen könnten.

Um den großmaßstäblichen, vielschichtigen Risiken, die mit Geoengineering einhergehen – neben Risiken für Klimawandel(politik) sind tiefgreifende Auswirkungen und Risiken für Biodiversität, Ökosysteme, Ernährungssicherheit, Menschen- und Landrechte und internationale Sicherheit absehbar – gerecht zu werden, braucht es die sinnvolle Zusammenarbeit und aktive Einbeziehung verschiedener relevanter UN-Institutionen mit unterschiedlicher Expertise und Mandat.

Die Gegner/innen der Resolution bei den UNEA-Verhandlungen hatten aber anderes im Sinn. Insbesondere die USA und Saudi Arabien argumentierten, dass sich vor allem und allein der Weltklimarat IPCC in seinem nächsten großen Sachstandsbericht (AR6) dem Thema umfassend und ausreichend widmen würde. Jedoch ist in Anbetracht seines Mandats und seiner Expertise primär zu Fragen des Klimawandels klar, dass der IPCC keinesfalls alle Risikodimensionen dieses Themas abdecken kann und wird.

Zudem kommt ein Großteil der Literatur, die absehbar in den 6. Sachstandsbericht des IPCC einfließen wird, aus dem Kreis der sogenannten „Geoclique“ – einer Gruppe von Forscher/innen, die seit Jahrzehnten zu Geoengineering forscht, teilweise Patente auf einzelne Technologien hält und/oder anderweitige Eigeninteressen darin verfolgt. Und nicht zuletzt: Einer der beiden Coordinating Lead Authors (also der primären Kapitelverantwortlichen) des Geoengineering-Kapitels im 6. Sachstandsbericht ist ein Vertreter von Saudi Aramco, dem saudischen Ölunternehmen – dem nebenbei größten Ölproduzenten der Welt. Das wirft ernsthafte Fragen nach Interessenskonflikten und Objektivität der Bewertung auf, die der IPCC in diesem Zusammenhang erstellen wird.

Eine umfassende und ausgewogene Beurteilung muss die tiefgreifenden und multiplen Risiken von Geoengineering für die internationale Gemeinschaft und die lokale sowie globale Umwelt einbeziehen. Ihr Ausmaß sprengt ganz klar den Rahmen von Klimawissenschaft und -politik. Damit ist das Thema (allein) im IPCC und der Klimarahmenkonvention (UNFCCC) nicht gut aufgehoben.

Es braucht dafür auch die aktive Beteiligung und Anerkennung der Positionen der Zivilgesellschaft und insbesondere auch derjenigen Bevölkerungsgruppen, die potentiell von den Risiken am stärksten betroffen sind.

Die internationale Zivilgesellschaft bekräftigt daher ihre Forderung nach einem internationalen Verbot von Geoengineering. Basierend auf den existierenden Moratorien und Regulierungsansätzen in der CBD und dem LP/LC sowie dem im internationalen Umweltrecht verankerten Vorsorgeprinzip sollten sich gerade diejenigen Regierungen, die sich aktuell in der UNEA-4 für eine stärkere Kontrolle und restriktive Regulierung eingesetzt haben, nun konsequent die nächsten Schritte hin zu einem Verbot auf UN-Ebene gehen.

Kategorien: Blogs

Violation of democratic rights at the expense of mining in Colombia

Energiewende Blog - 13 März, 2019 - 15:00

On February 13th, the Colombian Constitutional Court decided to abolish local referendums on land use in Colombia. Kathrin Meyer elaborates on the consequences of this development and whether the international community should act.

El Cerrejón is one of the largest open pit coal mines in the world (Photo by Tanenhaus, CC BY 2.0)

The Mining Engine

Colombia is one of the major coal exporters in the world. Since its liberalization, the mineral-rich country has increasingly relied on extractivist projects. Extractive mega-projects within Colombia have great repercussions for local human rights. The most important export commodity of the mining industry is hard coal, which is at the same time a main contributor to the destruction of local livelihoods.

Colombia’s resource policy has been shaped by extractive mega-projects for decades. Foreign investment and projects of transnational companies within the mining sector are now typical. El Cerrejón, a well-known mining project in the northern part of Colombia, incorporates one of the largest hard coal mines in the world. The vast majority of entrepreneurs are appointed by foreign companies aiming at further expanding the booming mining business in Colombia while representing the interests of their own national energy sector.

In addition, unequal trade agreements in the past contributed to low commodity prices. This, in turn, has a negative impact on the development of national processing industries, hence promoting Colombia’s greater dependence on resources.

Expropriation, Expulsion and Environmental Damage

The open-cast mining taking place in Columbia is based on constant expansion of new coal mines. Those residents who are not forced out by coercive relocation have to leave to escape water and land scarcity. In recent years, this development has led to a significant deterioration in local living conditions.

The resistance towards those extensive mining activities is constantly growing among the Colombian society. Since 2015 democratic referendums, also referred to as consultas populares, have been increasingly used to initiate local votes against extractive mega-projects. Thus social movements had to gather more than twenty percent (20%) of the respective electoral census in order to initiate such votes.

Harnessing information and network meetings, citizens were informed about the relevance of the issue, subsequently seizing their right to vote regarding future extractive projects. A number of referendums even resulted in the complete rejection of intended mega-projects, such as in 2017, when the Cumaral municipality in Meta prevented a project of the oil company Mansarovar Energy.

However, the oil producing company Mansarover Energy,which was restricted by a referendum held in the municipality of Cumaral, filed a suit against the vote and finally won the case at the Colombian Constitutional Court in October last year. The notion arose that local consultas populares should not determine the implementation of national mining projects. After the judgment of the case, the court found in general that there were no appropriate mechanisms to ensure both civic participation and the way to reconcile the principles of coordination and interaction of the nation and territorial units in Colombia. Therefore, the Congress of the Republic was asked to introduce new mechanisms as soon as possible.

At the national level has been an effort to propagate the superiority of national over local interests. For example, Colombian President Ivan Duque’s election program devalued the effectiveness and legitimacy of consultas populares. Likewise, the Congress proposed a law that referendums on land management were no longer legal, which was then passed on 13 February 2019 by the Colombian Constitutional Court.

This verdict invalidates Law 136, allowing citizens of municipalities to hold consultations when the development of tourism, mining or other projects has resulted in a significant change in local land use. Hindrance of social participation regarding mining questions leads both human rights violations and the continuation of a vicious cycle of increased national dependence on natural resources and further environmental damage.

This means that now, the only remaining option for consultations is through referendums initiated by mayors. But due to the known cases of corruption among politicians, this approach reduces social participation and cannot be considered constructive.

International Responsibility

While politicians of the Global North perceive themselves as sustainable and promote national coal phase-outs, coal extraction continues within other countries such as Colombia. This further increases greenhouse gas emissions, not only on the national level, but also in the international context.

However, if global CO2 emissions were to be assessed on the basis of mining company ownership and not the country in which they are emitted, countries that are significantly involved in mining sites in Latin America, Africa or Asia would score immensely higher. German companies such as RWE and E.ON or the Australian-British raw materials group BHP are just a few of many international companies involved in the mining of Colombian hard coal and thus making a significant contribution to CO2 emissions. While Germany and Australia show off with sustainable guidelines, national companies simply shift their CO2 output to other countries. This hypocritical policy continues in order for the Global North to maintain their own energy security.

Looking at the international context, it becomes clear that the abolition of consultas populares in Colombia is not a decision based on only local and national dynamics. It was also a decision determined by economic dependence on international investors.

The abolition of consultas populares and the associated devaluation of democratic participation is a step towards increasing extractive activities, and hence towards rising C02 emissions. This responsibility for this dramatic development, however, should not only be seen within Colombia itself, but worldwide.

Kategorien: Blogs

Privatisierung der SDGs in der Kritik

Baustellen der Globalisierung - 13 März, 2019 - 12:17
Die immer engere Verquickung von staatlicher Entwicklungs-zusammenarbeit mit Finanzinvestoren und Agrarkonzernen stößt zunehmend auf Kritik. So kommt eine neue Studie von FIAN und INKOTA mit dem Titel „Agrarkonzerne und Finanzindustrie: Die neuen Lieblinge der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit?“ zu dem Ergebnis, dass der wachsende Einsatz privater Gelder nicht geeignet ist, um Hunger und Armut strukturell zu bekämpfen. Die Autoren widersprechen auch der Aussage, wonach nur mit Investitionen des Privatsektors die nach-haltigen Entwicklungsziele (SDGs) erreicht werden können. Sie kritisieren, dass das Entwicklungsministerium mit seinem Schwerpunkt auf Privatinvestitionen die eigentlichen Zielgruppen – marginalisierte Bevölkerungsgruppen – aus dem Blick verliere. Da es meist keine Informationen über die finalen EmpfängerInnen der Gelder gebe, seien konkrete menschenrechtliche Wirkungen in der Regel unbekannt.

Der offizielle Diskurs um die SDGs enthält die Botschaft enthalten, dass zu ihrer Umsetzung gewaltige 2,5 Billionen Dollar pro Jahr fehlen und nur privates Geld dieses Loch stopfen könne. Diese Botschaft wird nicht hinterfragt. Dies führe zur Neuausrichtung der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit und habe damit möglicherweise mehr Wirkkraft entfaltet als die Entwicklungsziele selbst, meint etwa Roman Herre von FIAN. Ein konkreter Aspekt, der von den Autoren kritisch betrachtet wird, ist die zunehmende Kooperation mit Agrarkonzernen, mit der die Landwirtschaft – vor allem auf dem afrikanischen Kontinent – zu marktförmigen und inputintensiven Systemen umstrukturiert werden soll. Diese Kooperation werde im Rahmen einer Vielzahl von Initiativen realisiert, darunter die Allianz für eine Grüne Revolution in Afrika (AGRA) oder die Neue Allianz für Ernährungssicherung der G7-Staaten. Lena Michelsen, Agrarreferentin von der Entwicklungsorganisation INKOTA kommentiert: Initiativen wie AGRA setzen für Lena Michelsen von INKOTA vor allem auf den Einsatz von chemischen Düngemitteln und Hybridsaatgut und dienen damit in erster Linie den Expansionsbestrebungen großer Konzerne wie Yara und Bayer. Kleinbauern und -bäuerinnen geraten in immer stärkere Abhängigkeiten, und auch die Umwelt leidet unter dem längst gescheiterten Modell der Grünen Revolution. Die von der Bundesregierung zugesagte Förderung in Höhe von zehn Millionen Euro sei „eine völlige Fehlinvestition“.

Ein weiterer Kritikpunkt betrifft die Intransparenz der Finanzinstitutionen. Allein die DEG, Tochter der staatlichen Entwicklungsbank KfW, hat mehr als die Hälfte ihrer 7,2 Mrd. € Entwicklungsgelder an Finanzinstitute vergeben. Auch haben sich Kredite und Beteiligungen der DEG an Unternehmen in Finanzoasen – darunter den Kaimaninseln oder Mauritius – innerhalb von zehn Jahren verfünffacht. Zur Legitimierung solcher Konstrukte werden oft fragwürdige Kennzahlen und indirekte Wirkungen herangezogen. So erklärt die DEG in ihrem jüngsten Jahresabschluss, dass „DEG-Kunden rund 1,5 Millionen Menschen beschäftigen“. Die beiden NGOs fordern: „Aus entwicklungspolitischer und menschenrechtlicher Perspektive müsste untersucht werden, ob durch solche Finanzierungen auch Arbeitsplätze abgebaut wurden. Dies ist besonders bei Agrarfinanzierungen im globalen Süden ein bedeutender Aspekt: Die dortige kleinbäuerliche Landwirtschaft beschäftigt je nach Region 70-80% der Bevölkerung. Werden Menschen hieraus verdrängt – wie besonders bei großflächigen Agrarinvestitionen – dann verlieren sie oftmals ihre Lebensgrundlagen.“
Kategorien: Blogs

We can be a carbon-neutral nation by 2050, if we just get on with it

Energiewende Blog - 11 März, 2019 - 15:00

Australia’s path to a carbon-neutral nation could be leveled by 2050. To achieve this, however, Australia has to take drastic actions in the area of reducing CO2 emissions. An analysis written by Anna Skarb and Anna Malos provide clarity.

Renewable energies help to achieve the international climate goals (Public Domain)

This is part of a major series called Advancing Australia, in which leading academics examine the key issues facing Australia in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election and beyond. Read the other pieces in the series here.

Strong action on climate change is vital if Australia is to thrive in the future. Lack of consensus on climate policy over the past two decades has cost us dearly. It has harmed our natural environment, our international reputation and our economic prospects in a future low-carbon world.

The next two years will be crucial if Australia is to meet its commitment, along with the rest of the world, to limit greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst ravages of global warming.

In 2015, nearly all nations signed the Paris climate agreement. They pledged to limit global warming to well below 2℃ and to reach net zero emissions. By our calculations, Australia needs to reach net zero before 2050 to do its part.

As a first step, Australia has committed to reduce its total emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Under the Paris Agreement it will have to submit progressively stronger targets every five years. Unfortunately, Australia is not yet on track to meet even its comparatively modest 2030 goal.

Falling short

Analysis by ClimateWorks Australia found that although Australia’s emissions have fallen by around 11% economy-wide since 2005, emissions have been steadily climbing again since 2013. In 2013 Australia emitted the equivalent of 520 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. By 2016 that had bounced back up to 533 million tonnes.

While some parts of the economy cut emissions at certain times, no sector improved consistently at the rate needed to hit the overall 2030 target.

Emissions are still above 2005 levels in the building, industrial and transport sectors, and only 3% below in the electricity sector, based on 2016 figures, the latest available. The overall fall was mainly delivered by the land sector, thanks to a combination of reduced land clearing and increased forestation. Increased energy efficiency and the growth of renewable energy also made modest contributions.

Unfortunately, progress in reducing emissions has now stalled in most sectors and reversed overall.

How fast should we be cutting emissions?

We calculate that Australia needs to double its emissions reduction progress to deliver on the 2030 target. We will have to triple it to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Hitting net zero by 2050 means going much further than the Coalition government’s 2030 target of 26-28%, or the 45% proposed by federal Labor. Australia would need to cut total emissions by 55% below 2005 levels by 2030 (the middle of the range recommended by the Climate Change Authority) to get there without undue economic disruption.

Fortunately, there are enough opportunities for further emission reductions in all sectors to meet our Paris targets. We can probably do better than that, given the falling costs of many key technologies.

The gap to the 2030 target could be more than covered by further activity in the land sector alone, or by the electricity sector alone, or by the combined potential of the building, industrial and transport sectors. Emission reductions from energy efficiency – through better buildings, vehicles and white goods – can even save money in the long term.

Clearly, not all sectors have the same potential to reduce emissions based on current technological progress, but all have significant room for improvement.

We calculated that:

  • the electricity sector was on track to cut its emissions by 21% by 2030, but could cut them by nearly 70%
  • transport sector emissions are set to be 29% above 2005 levels by 2030, but with projected technology improvements could be 4% below
  • the land sector is set to hit 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, but with more support for planting could be 103% below – well into “negative emissions” territory. The land sector would then be sucking up carbon and making up for emissions from other sectors.

How do we get there?

To ensure a smooth, cost-effective transition to a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050, some sectors will need to do more sooner, to avoid putting too much onus on other sectors where emissions savings are harder and more expensive.

This will require major upgrades to Australia’s current policy settings. Since 2013 Australia’s efforts to cut emissions have focused largely on the land sector via the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) and the electricity sector through the Renewable Energy Target. With the ERF due to run out of funds soon and no clear energy policy even as our ageing power stations shut down, policy certainty is urgently needed in both these areas to encourage investors.

Renewable energy is powering ahead and starting to tap into Australia’s huge potential in clean energy resources. However, ongoing policy support is needed to ensure our energy remains affordable and reliable through the transition.

Despite the importance of the electricity and land sectors, we need emission reductions throughout the economy. Fortunately, there is plenty that Australia can do to cut emissions further, in many different ways:

  • in the land sector through revegetation and forestation
  • in electricity by increasing renewables and phasing out coal
  • in industry by bolstering energy efficiency, fuel switching and reducing non-energy emissions
  • in transport by introducing vehicle emission standards and shifting to electric vehicles and low-carbon fuels
  • in construction by increasing standards for buildings and appliances.

With well-targeted policies across all sectors of the economy, we can get back on track and meet our Paris targets.

Australia’s states and businesses are recognising how much they can and should do. For instance, 80% of Australia’s emissions are in states and territories with goals to reach net zero emissions by 2050, while many large companies and universities are pledging to be carbon-neutral or use 100% renewable energy.

There is more than enough opportunity, but we have to act now.

Anna Skarbek is CEO at ClimateWorks Australia and writes about climate and energy.

Anna Malos is Project Manager of ClimateWorks Australia and wirtes about climate and energy policy.

This article has been republished from The Conversation.

Kategorien: Blogs

How climate change affects the Honduran economy

Energiewende Blog - 7 März, 2019 - 15:00

Honduras is only responsible for a tiny margin of global greenhouse gas emissions – 0.1 percent to be precise. Yet its economy will be destroyed by the impacts of climate change, Rebecca Bertram reports.

Graffiti in the streets of Tegucigalpa (Public Domain)

The fact that climate change poses a threat to global economic growth is not a new insight. As far back as 2007, Nicholas Stern in his team at the London School of Economics found that it could lead to a recession of 20 percent of global if the world did nothing about climate change. Of course, these economic effects are felt differently depending on a country’s geographic position and economic wealth.

It is therefore vital for countries such as Honduras whose economy depends heavily on agriculture to take a holistic approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Let’s take a look at the two most pressing climate change impacts in Honduras, which cost the country millions of dollars every year.

Water scarcity could cause food shortages, economic crisis

Severe water scarcity is perhaps the most acute threat. Although the country has abundant water resources, access to clean water remains a problem in many areas. Surface water accounts for 90 percent of the country’s total water supply, yet its quality is severely affected by high levels of deforestation and pollution from the agricultural and mining sectors. Just as so many other areas of the world, rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall levels cause droughts, reduce surface water and lower groundwater levels, especially in the so-called Dry Corridor in the southern part of the country.

As a result, the Honduran agricultural sector, which employs more than 40 percent of the total labor force, is already seeing considerable impacts. Anyone who has visited Central America will know how important major crops such as maize, beans and rice are for the daily diet. These depend on stable rainfall levels, but current projections indicate that increasing temperatures and reduced rainfall will directly cause decreasing harvest levels in maize by 12 percent and beans by 32 percent by the year 2050 compared with 2000 levels.

In addition, the country’s important coffee sector has already been significantly impacted by climate change in recent years, when changing rainfall patterns and higher temperatures reduced production by almost 25 percent. As these weather patterns become more frequent it will result in producers cultivating coffee at higher altitudes, and this change is likely to induce further land degradation and deforestation in previously uncultivated parts of the country.

Finally, climate change is putting an extra strain on already stressed ecosystems, such as forests. For example, a hotter climate resulted in a bark beetle outbreak in 2013, which has resulted in a quarter of all forests in Honduras being destroyed.

Reforestation is a way in which Honduras can help mitigate climate change. But this area leaves much room for improvement as the country maintains the highest rate of deforestation in all of Central America, a large part of which is illegal. In 2015, however, the country committed itself to the reforestation one million hectares by the year 2020 in exchange for US$314 million.

No strategy to address climate change in Honduras

And here lies the problem: although the Honduran economy is directly affected by climate change, the government has not yet realized that it requires a holistic approach if the country is to succeed in managing the economic risks posed by a changing climate.

Climate change cannot just be an issue that is taken care of by international donors and multilateral organizations, which support the country’s rather weak Environment Ministry in writing basic climate reports. As part of the Paris climate agreement, Honduras committed itself to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2030 compared to a business-as-usual scenario (for which there is still no definition). But this includes the caveat that this is if international donor conditions remained “favorable”. In short: we will reduce our emissions if you pay for it!

You may think that a country as poor as Honduras – it ranks in 108th place in global GDP – is right in looking for funds to support its climate mitigation and adaptation. I am not arguing that it is not. But I am saying that while it is not responsible in causing the rising temperatures, it is severely affected by the phenomenon and therefore should develop a strong and holistic policy on the issue to avoid economic losses that result in job losses, poverty and migration.

It is high time that the government understands that climate change impacts every aspect of Honduran life. Leaving the issue outside of serious government policy will put increased pressure on the government’s already weak capacity to address existing development issues, such as social and economic inequality, high levels of violence as well as low education levels.

 

 

Kategorien: Blogs

Blown off course: European onshore wind markets decline

Energiewende Blog - 6 März, 2019 - 15:00

As European onshore wind energy growth slows, investors and analysts pin the blame on political infighting and faulty auction systems. L. Michael Buchsbaum reports on recent figures illustrating a particularly sharp drop in Germany.

New onshore wind installations in Europe dropped almost a third (Public Domain)

Part two of on-going series: Read part one here

Worldwide wind power still growing

First the good news: According to preliminary figures from the World Wind Energy Association, overall global installed wind energy capacity increased by over 53 new Gigawatts by the end of 2018 to over 600 GW worldwide.

Supplying some 14% of total European energy and some 6% of global electrical demand, wind power has grown to become a major force in the global energy transition. Despite the numbers, WWEA Secretary General Stefan Gsänger says that faster wind power deployment “is imperative not only to achieve the objectives of the Paris Climate Change agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, but also for every country to participate in the full socio-economic advantages of renewable energy.”

But now the bad news: new onshore wind installations in Europe, the birthplace of the on-going energy revolution, dropped almost a third last year. The worst two performing markets were in Germany, which was down by more half compared to 2017, and the UK, where the rate of expansion seemingly collapsed. Reflecting on the numbers, “It’s very unfortunate that Europe seems to lose track,” lamented Gsänger from his offices near the United Nation’s Sustainability Secretariat in Bonn, Germany.

Overall, new European installed capacity slumped down to numbers not seen since 2013, with just 11.7 gigawatts of gross wind power added. Throughout the European Union, twelve countries failed to install a single wind turbine last year, said Giles Dickson, CEO of industry body WindEurope. The numbers broke down to 8.6 GW of new onshore and 2.65 GW of new offshore wind capacity. (Note: these totals were also further affected by the decommissioning of 0.4 GW of wind turbines, most of which was onshore).

New capacity additions were led by Germany, which installed 3.37 GW, followed by the UK with 1.9 GW and France with 1.56 GW. Despite falling rates, Germany remains the European leader with just under 60 GW installed cumulatively, constituting the third largest fleet globally. It is trailed in Europe by Spain, the UK, France and Italy (see preliminary WWEA figures here).

Overall, wind power remains the EU’s second largest form of power generation and is expected to overtake natural gas in terms of new capacity additions in 2019, WindEurope said. But the pace of expansion is rapidly falling, threatening the realization of the entire group’s 2030 renewable energy goals.

What is killing onshore expansion? Permitting problems and unwieldy auctions  

In an example of polite understatement, CEO Dickson commented that “there are structural problems in permitting, especially in Germany and France,” challenging the onshore wind industry’s growth.

How big are those problems? Well, Germany’s new installations dropped over 55% last year, according to new figures from the German Wind Agency. Worse, unless there is a dramatic turnaround, new construction will likely fall at least another 20% to just two Gigawatts this year. If these rates continue, there is virtually no way the 65 percent renewable energy target set by the German government could be achieved by 2030, the industry groups warn.

Why the drop? Industry groups blame Germany’s permitting process, which has become so complicated that it “can now take over two years compared to just 10 months” to get a green light for development. Worse, “even projects that get a permit are increasingly being challenged in the courts.” Current reports suggest that over 750 MW of wind farm projects are currently stuck in legal proceedings. As moods continue to shift, individual German states are also becoming more reluctant to identify new locations for wind farms.

Germany’s new wind auction processes have hindered growth even further, seemingly  driving away bidders. At its most recent auction, grid regulator BNetz only awarded 476MW of onshore wind capacity, well below the 700MW on offer. Now the third onshore wind auction in a row to be under-subscribed, “it’s clear the permitting process is not fit for the purpose,” said Dickson.

Following the dismal results, the president of the German government’s grid regulator, (BNetz), Jochen Homann seemingly acknowledged that the problem was becoming systemic. “We must work together with the industry and the relevant authorities to find solutions to the licensing situation,” he said. Supposedly intended to enhance the participation of both community and industrial wind developers, the recent German Omnibus Energy Act set a higher tender volume over the next three years from 3,675 MW of new available wind energy capacity in 2019 to over 4,200 in 2021. Instead it’s had the perverse effect of slowing down Germany’s Energiewende further as the barriers to entry in the form of scarcer permits have only grown.

Future investment trends suggest a political fix is needed

Even though wind and solar energy are becoming increasingly competitive against coal, fossil gas and nuclear, all across Europe there seems to be a collective pause as Brexit, strikes in France, political disarray in Germany and reactionary governments elsewhere continue to stall green energy’s progress. Worryingly, “the outlook for new investments is uncertain,” said Dickson as the slump in the larger western European markets is matched (with the exception of Lithuania) with a “lack of ambition” in Central and Eastern Europe,” he continued.

As European parliamentary elections come closer, political solutions might be able to solve what seem to be mainly politically-created problems. “The 2030 National Energy & Climate Plans are a chance to put things right,” continued Dickson. “But the draft Plans are badly lacking in detail: on policy measures, auction volumes, how to ease permitting and remove other barriers to wind investments, and how to expand the grid.”

Kategorien: Blogs

Plastikmüll und Geoengineering: Eine kurze Einschätzung zur Umweltversammlung der Vereinten Nationen in Nairobi

Klima der Gerechtigkeit - 6 März, 2019 - 11:15
Hintergrund: Vom 11. bis 15. März tagt im kenianischen Nairobi zum 4. Mal die Umweltversammlung der Vereinten Nationen (UNEA 4). In diesem Jahr befasst sich das höchste Entscheidungsgremium der UN in Umweltfragen unter anderem mit der Plastikverschmutzung und mit der Regulierung von Geoengineering – und adressiert somit zwei wichtige Lücken in der aktuellen internationalen Umweltgovernance.

Das Umweltprogramm der Vereinten Nationen (UN Environment), gegründet 1972, ist ein Unterorgan der Generalversammlung der Vereinten Nationen (UNGA). Im Nachgang des Rio+20-Gipfels 2012 wurde der Verwaltungsrat (Governing Council) aufgewertet und hat nun die universelle Mitgliedschaft aller UN-Mitgliedstaaten. Außerdem wurde das Entscheidungsgremium umbenannt in UN-Umweltversammlung (UN Environment Assembly, UNEA).

Die erste UNEA fand im Juni 2014, die zweite im Mai 2016 und die dritte im Dezember 2017 statt – jeweils in Nairobi, dem Sitz von UN Environment. Die behandelten Themen reichten von Luftreinhaltung über die Zusammenarbeit zwischen verschiedenen Biodiversitäts-Abkommen, die Schnittstelle zwischen Wissenschaft und Politik, bis hin zu Chemikalien in der Umwelt und Plastikmüll im Meer. So wurden viele wichtige Themen der internationalen Umweltpolitik behandelt und in Resolutionen gegossen.

Was die UNEA zu einem attraktiven Ort für die internationale Umweltbewegung macht, ist die Tatsache, dass die Umweltversammlung den Startschuss für Verhandlungen über völkerrechtlich verbindliche Abkommen erteilen kann und bestimmte Themen zur Debatte und Entscheidung in die Generalversammlung der Vereinten Nationen einspeisen kann. Beides sind Wege, identifizierte Lücken und Schwachstellen in der Regulierung von Umweltproblemen zu schließen.

Das höchste Entscheidungsgremium der UN in Sachen Umweltpolitik befasst sich im Rahmen der UNEA4 vom 11. bis 15. März 2019 mit dem Thema „Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production“.

Für die Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung und ihrer Partner/innen sind vor allem die folgenden beiden Themen relevant, die als Resolutionen bei der UNEA4 diskutiert und verhandelt werden:

Plastik:

In der Resolution zu Meeresmüll und Mikroplastik der UNEA 3 (Dezember 2017) wurde der Spagat zwischen Reden, Entscheiden und Handeln, vor dem die UN immer stehen, wieder einmal gut sichtbar: Um wenige Resolutionen wurde so energisch diskutiert, und an kaum einer wurde so ausgiebig gefeilt wie an dieser, obwohl das Ergebnis am Ende überschaubar war. Vor allem wurde eine „Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics“ ins Leben gerufen, die sich im Jahr 2018 zwei Mal traf (hier gibt es Bewertungen der Ergebnisse durch die Break Free From Plastic Bewegung).

Für die UNEA4 geht es nun darum, dafür zu sorgen, dass die Option eines neuen umfassenden, rechtsverbindlichen Plastik-Abkommens auf dem Tisch bleibt. Die Regierungen müssen das Plastikproblem umfassend angehen und sich auf die Betrachtung der negativen Auswirkungen von Plastik entlang der gesamten Wertschöpfungskette von der Extraktion des Rohstoffs (Erdgas oder Erdöl) bis zum Umgang mit dem Müll beziehen und dabei nicht nur die sichtbaren Probleme angehen (Müllberge, Meeresverschmutzung), sondern eben auch die im Plastik enthaltenen giftigen Chemikalien. Klar ist, dass vorhandene Regulierungsinstrumente (sei es im Bereich der Ozean-Governance oder der Chemikalien-Regulierung) zwar notwendig und wichtig sind, aber bei weitem nicht ausreichen. Ein neues rechtsverbindliches Instrument oder Abkommen könnte genau diese Lücken schließen. Das haben wir übrigens bereits 2016 in einer gemeinsamen Studie mit adelphi gezeigt.

Freiwillige Maßnahmen und Selbstverpflichtungen seitens der Regierungen oder Konzerne reichen bei weitem nicht aus, um das Problem in den Griff zu bekommen. Hier sind die Interessenskonflikte mächtiger Akteure einfach zu groß. Daher ist es umso wichtiger, dass die Verhandlungen in der UNEA frei von profitgetriebenen Interessen und Lobbyeinflüssen der Industrie stattfinden können.

Wir sind als Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung gemeinsam mit der Break Free From Plastik Bewegung und zahlreichen Partner/innen aus aller Welt vor Ort in Nairobi dabei und setzen uns für eine umfassende, rechtsverbindliche und konsequente Regulierung ein, die das Plastikproblem an der Wurzel packt und die Verantwortlichen zur Rechenschaft zieht.

Geoengineering:

Die Befürworter/innen von Geoengineering sind sich der zunehmend lautstark artikulierten Kritik an ihren Vorhaben aus der internationalen Zivilgesellschaft und Öffentlichkeit sehr bewusst; es werden Freilandexperimente verschoben oder auf Eis gelegt, öffentliche Förderung für die Erforschung und Entwicklung dieser Technologien fällt weiterhin spärlich aus.

Gleichzeitig gibt es Vorstöße, die Frage der internationalen Governance von Geoengineering auf der internationalen Ebene auf die Tagesordnung zu setzen. Im Januar hat die Regierung der Schweiz, mit Unterstützung von Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, den Förderierten Staaten von Mikronesien und Mexiko eine Resolution zu Geoengineering-Governance bei der UNEA 4 eingebracht.

Inwiefern dieser Vorstoß der Regulierung von Governance eher nützt oder schadet, ist derzeit noch nicht vollständig abzusehen – und hängt letztendlich auch vom konkreten Verhandlungsergebnis der Resolution in Nairobi ab.

Für einen Einsatz von Geoengineering in näherer Zukunft sprechen sich derzeit – insbesondere im Bereich Solar Radiation Management (SRM) – die wenigsten aus. Zudem ist keine der Technologien in einem technologischen Entwicklungsstadium, das ihren klimarelevanten Einsatz erlauben würde. Es zeigt sich aber, dass die Befürworter/innen von Geoengineering bereits jetzt versuchen, den rechtlichen Rahmen zu definieren und Governance-Mechanismen für einen perspektivischen Einsatz zu errichten. Die Forderung nach „Governance“ soll der Forschung und der weiteren Entwicklung dieser Technologien Legitimation verschaffen.

Wir sind überzeugt: Geoengineering braucht Regulierung und aufgrund des globalen, grenzüberschreitenden Charakters kann und muss diese auf der Ebene der Vereinten Nationen angesiedelt sein. Wichtig ist aber vor allem, dass dabei die Ziele, Kriterien und einzuhaltende Verfahren der Regulierung stimmen. Die Prüfung der Risiken auf die Umwelt und gleichzeitig die sozioökonomischen, geopolitischen und demokratiepolitischen Risiken und Auswirkungen müssen zentral adressiert werden. Welche Anwendungen müssen ausgeschlossen werden? Ein Verbot besonders gefährlicher Technologien (inklusive des Verbots von Freilandversuchen) sollte als Option unbedingt für eine solche Resolution genannt werden.

Viele der Wissenschaftler/innen, die zu Geoengineering forschen sowie auch die fossile Industrie, halten eine Vielzahl an Patenten auf bestimmte Geoengineering-Technologien und haben kommerzielles und anderweitiges Interesse an ihrer weiteren Erforschung oder gar Anwendung. Diese Interessen sorgen nicht selten dafür, dass die Bewertung von Geoengineering zu positiv ausfällt und die substantiellen Risiken und Nebenwirkungen unterbelichtet bleiben. Hier braucht es also eine klare Conflict of Interest policy und einen umfassend transparenten, demokratischen Prozess, der auf breite Expertise setzt und auch Wissen und Erfahrungen jenseits der natur- und ingenieurswissenschaftlichen Disziplinen, die die Diskussion um Geoengineering, insbesondere mit einer Perspektive aus dem Globalen Norden, dominieren.

Zudem müssen die bestehenden internationalen Regulierungsansätze, darunter das de facto Moratorium der CBD (2010) sowie die Regulierung von marinem Geoengineering unter dem London Protocol der London Convention, welches die Bundesregierung im letzten Jahr ratifiziert hat, die zentralen Ausgangspunkte für die weiteren Diskussionen über die internationale Regulierung von Geoengineering sein.

Wie wichtig diese existierenden Regulierungen sind, macht unter anderem auch das Umweltbundesamt in einem aktuellen Policy Brief zum Thema deutlich.

Sollten einige dieser Bedenken in Nairobi nicht adressiert werden, droht die Resolution, die Debatte und das Themenfeld weiter zu legitimieren und den Befürworter/innen – und eben auch den fossilen Lobbyinteressen – Auftrieb zu verschaffen.

Wir plädieren aus all diesen Gründen dafür, die UNEA-Resolution in ihrer jetzigen Form nicht zu unterstützen und die genannten Änderungen einzufordern, um sicherzustellen, dass „Governance“ von Geoengineering nicht einfach nur die Steuerung der Implementierung meint, sondern restriktive Regulierung – inklusive der Option eines Verbots besonders gefährlicher Technologien – ebenso Teil der weiteren Debatte ist.

Mit dieser Forderung sind wir nicht allein: fast 200 Organisationen haben Ende 2018 mit dem Hands Off Mother Earth Manifesto ein Verbot von Geoengineering und Freilandexperimenten gefordert,

Übrigens: Kürzlich haben wir unsererseits gemeinsam mit dem Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) einen neuen Bericht zu Geoengineering und den Verstrickungen der fossilen Industrie in diese Hochrisiko-Technologien veröffentlicht. Der Bericht Fuel to the Fire: How Geoengineering Threatens to Entrench Fossil Fuels and Accelerate the Climate Crisis analysiert, wie das zunehmende Interesse an Geoengineering als vermeintliche Wunderwaffe gegen den Klimawandel in Wirklichkeit die international vereinbarten Pariser Klimaziele schwächt und darauf ausgelegt ist, die fossile Infrastruktur auf weitere Jahrzehnte am Leben zu erhalten und abzusichern.

Wir hoffen, dass dieser Bericht über die bereits bekannten sozialen und ökologischen Risiken und Nebenwirkungen von Geoengineering hinaus noch einmal deutlich macht, dass Geoengineering keinesfalls eine Antwort auf den Klimawandel sein kann, sondern die zentrale Stellung der fossilen Industrie zementiert und dadurch zu mehr fossiler Extraktion und zu mehr Emissionen statt weniger führt.

Wichtigste Publikationen / Ressourcen zum Thema Plastik: Ankündigung:

Plastik-Atlas: Am 06. Juni 2019 erscheint der Plastik Atlas 2019 der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung und des BUND und wird auf einer Pressekonferenz am gleichen Tag vorgestellt.

Wichtigste Publikationen / Ressourcen zum Thema Geoengineering:
Kategorien: Blogs

Ignorance-Inspired Brexit Imperial Nostalgia

Triple Crisis - 5 März, 2019 - 21:13
By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury Cross-posted at Inter Press Service. As the possible implications of Britain’s self-imposed ‘no-deal’ exit from the European Union loom larger, a new round of imperial nostalgia has come alive. After turning its back on the Commonwealth since the Thatcherite 1980s, some British Conservative Party leaders are seeking to revive colonial connections in increasingly desperate efforts to avoid self-inflicted marginalization following divorce from its European Union neighbours across the Channel.

Imperial Nostalgia Part of the new Brexit induced neo-imperial mythology is that its colonies did not provide any significant economic benefit to Britain itself. Instead, it is suggested that colonial administrations were run at great cost to Britain itself. The empire, it is even claimed, was long maintained due to a benevolent imperial sense of responsibility. To revive patron-client relations neglected with the turn to Europe in the 1980s, the new mantra is that British rule helped ‘develop’ the empire. As the sun never set on Britain’s far flung empire, acquired by diverse means for different reasons at various points in time, few generalizations are appropriate. Nevertheless, there is already significant research indicating otherwise for many colonies, but India, of course, was the jewel in the crown. Empire Strikes Back Former Indian foreign minister Shashi Tharoor has debunked many imperial apologetic claims, including those made by former Oxford and Harvard historian Niall Ferguson. Probably the most prominent, Ferguson famously insisted decades ago that countries progressed thanks to imperialism in an influential TV series and coffee table book sponsored by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Empire. Malaysian Sultan Nazrin Shah’s Oxford University Press book has underscored the crucial contribution of colonial Malayan commodity exports in the first four decades of the 20th century, while other scholarship has shown that post-war British recovery depended crucially on the export earnings’ contribution of its Southeast Asian colony. Less well known is Utsa Patnaik’s painstaking work on nearly two centuries of tax and trade data. She estimates that Britain ‘drained’ nearly US$45 trillion from the Indian subcontinent between 1765 and 1938, equivalent to 17 times the United Kingdom’s current gross domestic product. Colonial Surplus After the English East India Company (EIC) gained control of and monopolized Indian external trade, EIC traders ‘bought’ Indian goods with tax revenue collected from them. After the British crown displaced the EIC in 1847, its monopoly broke down, and traders had to pay London in gold to get rupees to pay Indian producers. Under imperial monetary arrangements, the colonies’ export earnings were considered British, and hence booked as a deficit in their own ‘national’ accounts despite their often large trade surpluses with the rest of the world until the Great Depression. Thus, the empire has been depicted by imperial apologists as liabilities to Britain, with India having to borrow from Britain to finance its own imports. Thus, India remained in debt to and thus ‘bonded’ by debt to Britain. Not surprisingly, two centuries of British rule did not raise Indian per capita income significantly. In fact, income fell by half in the last half of the 19th century while average life expectancy dropped by a fifth between 1870 and 1920! Infamously, tens of millions died due to avoidable famines induced by colonial policy decisions, including the two Bengal famines. Slavery Too Britain used such fraudulent gains for many purposes, including further colonial expansion, first in Asia and later in Africa. Taxpayers in the colonies thus paid not only for the administration of their own exploitation, but also for imperial expansion elsewhere, including Britain’s wars. Early accumulation for Britain’s Industrial Revolution depended significantly on such colonial arrangements. Imperial tribute financed the expansion of colonialism and investments abroad, including the European settler colonies. Not unlike Eduardo Galeano’s magnum opus, Open Veins of Latin America, Walter Rodney’s 1972 classic, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa showed how slavery and other imperial economic policies transformed, exploited and brutalized Africa. In The Empire Pays Back, Robert Beckford estimated that Britain should pay a whopping £7.5 trillion in reparations for its role in the transatlantic slave trade, breaking it down as follows: £4 trillion in unpaid wages, £2.5 trillion for unjust enrichment and £1 trillion for pain and suffering. Britain has made no apology for slavery or colonialism, as it has done for the Irish potato famine. There has been no public acknowledgement of how wealth extracted through imperialism made possible the finance, investment, manufacturing, trade and prosperity of modern Britain. Neo-colonialism With Brexit imminent, a renewed narrative and discourse of imperial nostalgia has emerged, articulated, inter alia, in terms of a return to the Commonwealth, long abandoned by Maggie Thatcher. Hence, well over half of those surveyed in UK actually believe that British imperialism was beneficial to the colonies. This belief is not only clearly self-deluding, but also obscures Britain’s neo-colonial scramble for energy and mineral resources, enhanced role as tax haven for opportunistic finance, as well as its continued global imperial leadership, albeit only in a fading, supporting role to the US as part of its ‘special relationship’. Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University & University of New South Wales (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.   Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Kategorien: Blogs

Europe’s new energy market design: a step forward for energy democracy

Energiewende Blog - 4 März, 2019 - 15:00

In December 2018, EU legislators hammered out a political agreement on a new energy market design. As the dust settles, it’s time to determine whether all Europeans will have the tools to become active energy citizens. Josh Roberts takes a look.

The involvement of civil society in the energy sector could help to speed up the European energy transition (Public Domain)

Europe’s energy market design: finding a new approach

Europe’s energy policy is outdated. Regulation still supports a centralised energy system dominated by large companies that produce energy from nuclear and dirty fossil fuels.

If we are to address the climate crisis, our energy system must be rapidly decarbonised. The good news: the momentum is there. Renewables are becoming cost-competitive and flexible, the energy system is becoming more decentralised, and technology now allows citizens to become active – individually and through community initiatives.

This trend will only continue. According to a CE Delft study, almost half of EU households could produce renewable energy by 2050, about 37% of which could come through involvement in a cooperative. The study concludes that when demand response, energy storage and energy efficiency are included, 83% of Europe’s citizens could participate in the energy sector by 2050.

In order to realise this potential, regulation and policy need to catch up. National markets are currently incapable of valuing benefits of renewables self-consumption, flexibility, and storage. Individuals and communities that participate in the energy market are treated by decision-makers, at best, as an afterthought and, at worst, a threat to be quashed. Governments have also further undermined markets by introducing new ‘capacity mechanisms’ that remunerate dirty power plants to sit unused.

Energy democracy: an essential ingredient for a successful transition

Energy transition advocates have waited with cautious optimism for the conclusion of a new energy market design (the Electricity Directive and the Electricity Regulation, respectively). Much anticipation has built up around new rules that empower citizens and new actors such as aggregators (that is, a third party that packages together small amounts flexibility or production so they can participate in larger markets) to become active in the market.

The final political agreement is far from perfect. Nevertheless, together with the Renewables Directive, which we recently summarised, the new market design includes a potentially transformative concept: active energy citizens and communities.

Why is this so groundbreaking? For perspective, in the EU’s Third Energy Package (concluded in 2009), citizens as active market participants were not mentioned even once. Now, citizen participation is a governing principle of Europe’s energy market. It is an important step in challenging the existing orthodoxy that ‘the market’ alone should guide the energy transition – all citizens and communities should have a fair opportunity to participate.

The Good

Similar to the Renewables Energy Directive, which now defines ‘renewable energy communities’, the Electricity Directive will contain a definition of ‘citizens energy communities’ (CECs).

Significantly, CECs are defined as a type of market actor based on membership, governance and purpose that is different from traditional profit-oriented energy companies. CECs can focus on renewables, but also any activity throughout the power sector.

Originally, the Commission proposed ‘local’ energy communities. The change to ‘citizens’ is a significant win as it sends a political signal that this initiative promotes ownership by citizens, SMEs and local authorities, not larger industry or energy companies that simply want to create and control CECs to sell new services.

Most importantly, CECs will have a right to ‘equal’ and ‘proportionate’ regulatory treatment and to access all markets on a level playing field with larger market actors. Citizens must also be able to establish CECs without facing discriminatory or burdensome hurdles, supported by enabling national frameworks.

Likewise, Member States are required to maintain priority dispatch for smaller renewable generation projects at least until 2026. This will ensure that community-owned renewables projects can feed generated electricity into the grid.

Moreover, CECs will have a right to share energy. This will empower citizens living in apartments, shared buildings or neighborhoods to innovate with storage, peer-to-peer trading, and other flexible technologies.

The Bad

CECs will not be required to be autonomous in their internal decision making. This safeguard – which is contained in the renewable energy communities definition – would have ensured democratic governance, preventing members with more resources to invest, like larger companies, from exercising disproportionate influence.

Unfortunately, it will be optional for Member States whether to grant CECs the right to set up, own and operate local power networks. Many governments will simply ignore this text.

EU oversight of capacity mechanisms will also be weak. While Member States will be required to assess whether capacity mechanisms are needed and must exhaust other options before adopting one, there is little the Commission can do if a Member State implements a capacity mechanism that is not warranted. Furthermore, loopholes such as exemptions for installations finished before 2020 and CO2 limits that only apply to existing installations after 2025 allow new coal power plants to benefit from these mechanisms at least until 2035. This will shoulder consumers with huge costs, slow coal phaseouts, and undermine incentives to encourage citizen participation.

Lastly, rules on how network operators charge CECs to connect and use the grid are contradictory. Rules promote both efficient and flexible use of networks while also allowing practices that cause inefficient use of the network. Complex debates between citizens, industry and governments on this issue are therefore likely.

What next?

Now: the real work begins. Are all these changes really transformative? In truth, the real impact will only be visible after Member States transpose the new EU rules into national legislation. Success will be determined by the ability of governments to take their commitments, and the voices of citizens and communities, seriously.

The transition to energy democracy will be long and hard. As for its role, the EU has given citizens an early win.

Josh Roberts serves as Advocacy Officer of REScoop.eu, a federation that represents citizen cooperatives and energy initiatives around Europe that work on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other clean energy technologies. He was in charge of coordinating REScoop.eu’s input into the negotiations on the EU’s clean energy package legislation.

 

Kategorien: Blogs

The geopolitics of renewables. A new but messy energy world

Energiewende Blog - 28 Februar, 2019 - 14:00

Exhibiting the fastest growth among all fuels in the electricity sector, renewables are about to fundamentally change the energy system. This change is hoped to bring about important social and economic co-benefits, including sustainable and affordable energy for all, green job opportunities, and increased human health and wellbeing. But there may also be some fundamentally political implications of the low carbon shift. This is what a high level group of global leaders was tasked to look into, the result of which was published in their recent report titled A New World The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation, published by IRENA, the international renewable energy agency. Three authors of the IASS Potsdam reviewed it:

A street in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: As the world decarbonizes, it does not necessarily become more democratic. (Photo by Nadya Peek, CC BY 2.0)

To be sure, the IRENA report is not the first one to ponder the geopolitics of the low carbon transition. For example, a recent book took a deeper look into the geopolitics of renewables, Harvard’s Belfer Center put together a group to tackle similar questions, Nature, the journal, featured a piece on low carbon policy risk, and a recent paper offers some important conceptual insights for the fate of oil producer economies whose business case might wither away. But the report by the Global Commission is the first one which comes close to representing a political document. So what do we learn from it?

The rise of renewables does not automatically lead to a simultaneous decline of the fossil industry

To be upfront about it: the report asks the right questions and highlights a number of important aspects, including the risk of stranded assets, the challenge facing fossil fuel exporters in adapting to the new energy world, and the fact that countries must prepare for the transition ahead. Yet, the report relies on several key premises which seem questionable.

First, it falls into the trap of equating the rise of renewables with an inevitable decline of the fossil industry. Indeed, a dominant narrative in the energy transition debate posits that falling unit costs for clean energy technology, in conjunction with high innovation rates and strong market mechanisms will end up pushing renewables into the energy mix. Costs for PVs, for example, have come down by more than 70 percent over the past 10 years, a function of economies of scale and rapid advances in technology. This, however, does not mean renewables will smoothly take over. In fact, the fossil fuel system has proven remarkably resilient. States tend to cling to their fossil energy infrastructure, for it secures jobs, votes and economic rents – both in resource rich countries and in the OECD world. As the costs and benefits of a low carbon transition are distributed unevenly, political decision makers will not always focus on the Pareto optimal outcome that is best for the nation (and secures a clean long-run energy transformation). Instead, they prioritize the short-term gains for incumbent industry, inefficient but well-organized (and vocal) business sectors and vested interests. As a testimony to this, energy subsidies for fossil fuels amounted to $300 billion in 2017, roughly twice the amount that went into supporting renewables. In short: it is political economy that matters, not unit costs.

Clean tech is an uneven playing field

Second, clean tech, which is crucial to the transition process from a high to a low carbon economy, is all but subject to a global level playing field. To the contrary, states have made low carbon tech the subject of their industrial strategies, with the Global North (i.e. by and large the OECD world) and China leading the way in securing patents and ring-fencing their clean tech industry. The report indeed acknowledges that. Yet, with the zeitgeist shifting toward economic nationalism rather than Ricardian free trade, we can expect this trend to only gain further traction, with deep implications for the global low carbon technology value chain. Moreover, as clean tech leaders seek to secure their economic advantage, developing countries, whose access to crucial energy technology is limited, risk dropping out of the global division of labor in a low carbon economy for good. Similar risks exist for low carbon finance: out of $279.8 billion invested in renewables globally in in 2017, only $33 billion found their way into the developing world other than China, India and Brazil. The Global South risks getting stuck in a fossil economic pathway whilst the rich world goes happily green. It also runs the risk of new structural dependencies arising between low carbon leaders and laggards.

Third, while there are important geopolitical benefits of reduced fossil fuel import such as lower dependency on politically dubious countries, some of the key challenges remain unchanged. A case in point are currency fluctuations and balance-of-payment problems which will not disappear because of a shift from molecules to electrons. To the contrary, these risks are inherent to trade imbalances and could also come into play when trade in renewable energy or even low carbon technologies picks up as envisaged. So whilst the low carbon transition might do away with some of the energy geopolitics of old, the geoeconomics of it are likely there to stay.

Low carbon shift may be used to safeguard autocratic leadership

Finally, while the low carbon shift promises to improve human health and security, it does not necessarily bring about more democracy. The transition process from a high to a low carbon paradigm can indeed be managed as a participatory process, empowering citizens and communities. However, as the examples of China’s low carbon efforts or Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 drive home, this process does not necessarily lead to more empowered citizens. Instead, it may well end up being a tool to keep intact existing social contracts and to safeguard (autocratic) political leadership against the challenges arising from a fossil system coming under pressure. Couple this with the large amounts of data collection required to make grids smarter and more efficient, a not unlikely outcome is higher levels of political control and repression. It is also not inconceivable that rising internal political pressure will make petrostates a potential source of regional conflict. Energy-related conflicts will therefore not necessarily become less likely, contrary to what the IRENA report suggests.

Where does this leave us? Overall, the importance of the report of the Global Commission lies in the fact that it puts the geopolitics of the energy transformation on the political map. Where it falls short is when it comes to the implications of that transformation, i.e. the question around the winners and the losers, which systemic risks characterize in the transition to a low carbon world, and how can we anticipate them so that it will be a success. The real work starts now.

Authors:

Prof. Andreas Goldthau leads the ISIGET project focusing on energy justice and the Global South. He holds a Chair in International Relations at Royal Holloway College, University of London and is an Associate with the Geopolitics of Energy Project at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Laima Eicke joined the IASS as Reasearch Associate in January 2019 and works at the ISIGET project on strategies for a global energy transition, its systemic impacts and special vulnerabilities of countries of the global south.

Silvia Weko joined the IASS in 2019 as a research associate for the project Investigating the Systemic Impacts of the Global Energy Transition (ISIGET).

This article has been republished from IASS Potsdam.

Kategorien: Blogs

Skandalurteil gegen Attac

Baustellen der Globalisierung - 28 Februar, 2019 - 12:55
Der Bundesfinanzhof (BFH) hat kürzlich entschieden, das bestätigende Urteil der ersten Instanz über die Gemeinnützigkeit von Attac aufzuheben und an das Hessische Finanzgericht zurückzuverweisen. In seiner Begründung stellt er fest, dass die „Einflussnahme auf politische Willensbildung und Gestaltung der öffentlichen Meinung … keinen gemeinnützigen Zweck erfüllt.“ Erkennbar setzt der BFH darin den Rahmen für politisches Engagement von gemeinnützigen Organisationen sehr viel enger als das Finanzgericht in Kassel. Insbesondere die beiden Zwecke Förderung der Bildung und des demokratischen Staatwesens werden durch das Urteil deutlich eingeschränkt.

Das Urteil gegen Attac Deutschland wird einhellig als Skandal empfunden, nicht nur bei Attac selbst, sondern bei einem breiten Spektrum zivilgesellschaftlicher Organisationen. „Das ist ein verheerendes Signal für die gesamte kritische Zivilgesellschaft in Deutschland. Wir blicken mit großer Sorge auf Länder wie Ungarn oder Brasilien, die die Arbeit emanzipatorischer NGOs zunehmend unterdrücken und erleben nun auch hierzulande, wie Regierung und Parteien immer öfter versuchen, politisch missliebige Organisationen über das Gemeinnützigkeitsrecht mundtot zu machen“, erklärte der Vorstand des Attac-Trägervereins. Auch beim Verband Entwicklungspolitik und Humanitäre Hilfe (VENRO) stößt das Urteil auf scharfe Kritik. Bernd Bornhorst, Vorstandsvorsitzender von VENRO, hält das Urteil für gefährlich. Es schwäche die lebendige Demokratie in Deutschland und erschwere das Engagement für eine gerechtere Welt.
„Mit dem Urteil entsteht der Eindruck, dass politische Meinungsbildung nicht mit dem deutschen Verständnis von Gemeinnützigkeit vereinbar sei. Das ist eine gefährliche Entwicklung“, sagt Bornhorst. „Freiräume gilt es zu verteidigen und nicht einzuschränken. Eine aktive und gemeinwohlorientierte Zivilgesellschaft ist ein Grundpfeiler von Demokratie und offenen Gesellschaften. Versuche, politisch unbequeme Stimmen zum Schweigen zu bringen, indem zivilgesellschaftlichen Organisationen die finanzielle Grundlage entzogen wird, kennen wir bisher vor allem aus dem globalen Süden.“ 
In immer mehr Staaten wird die Zivilgesellschaft inzwischen in ihren Handlungsspielräumen eingeschränkt. Im Dezember 2018 hatten sich die VENRO-Mitglieder aus diesem Grund mit einer gemeinsamen Erklärung an die Regierungsparteien gewandt und den Einsatz für eine starke Zivilgesellschaft gefordert. VENRO setzt sich wie Attac für eine gerechte Gestaltung der Globalisierung ein. Die Erklärung der VENRO-Mitgliederversammlung „Demokratie braucht eine starke Zivilgesellschaft – in Deutschland und weltweit“ kann >>> hier nachgelesen werden. Die Attac-Presseerklärung findet sich >>> hier.
Kategorien: Blogs

Thoughts about scenarios for mitigating climate change – a commentary on the Scenarios Forum 2019 (for the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report)

Klima der Gerechtigkeit - 27 Februar, 2019 - 15:52

A guest commentary by Dr. Richard A. Rosen (Tellus Institute, Cambridge, MA – retired) 

The Scenarios Forum 2019 is a conference that will be held at the University of Denver from March 11-13, 2019.  This forum aims to bring together a diverse set of research communities working within the various frameworks regarding integrated climate change mitigation scenarios to share their experiences, progress and plans. The frameworks use Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) and other approaches to characterizing future societal and environmental conditions to investigate global climate change issues, including the related SDGs. By taking stock of progress and facilitating scenario-related research, this meeting will inform the use of scenarios in the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) and help ensure a research base sufficient to inform future climate change mitigation assessments and policy initiatives.  The thoughts expressed below describe why a much broader view of the concept of a scenario needs to inform any future work input to the IPCC’s Working Group III report for AR6 for those scenario to be policy relevant.

  • WHAT IS A SCENARIO?

A scenario is a reasonably internally self-consistent set of quantitative and qualitative assumptions that combine to make a story line into a potentially quantifiable projection for the future.  Of course, for the purpose of quantifying or modeling many features of a scenario to mitigate climate change, the systemic complexity of any scenario is so great as to make it very difficult to judge if the assumptions which define any given scenario are internally consistent or not.  Much more empirical research is typically required to make these judgements than is typically used as a basis for creating mitigation scenarios.  This typical research deficit makes it very difficult to know which scenarios are more or less plausible than others that have been published in the past in the peer-reviewed literature.  This problem of what is a reasonably self-consistent set of assumptions which could comprise an interesting scenario for mitigating climate is partially due to the fact that most if not all of the Integrated Assessment Models that the IPCC has primarily relied on in the past for creating scenarios are not at all sufficiently documented so that the internal consistency or not of the scenarios run on these models can be determined.  For example, it is rarely clear how the major investments required to mitigate climate change will change the economies of different regions.  And it is never discussed how the financing of mitigation investments will work, among other issues not discussed in research articles that report findings from IAMs.

  • WHAT MUST A SCENARIO INCLUDE?

As implied above, a scenario is not just a few sentences or paragraphs describing a possible future, but a well thought out scenario includes all of the assumptions that must be specified which allows that scenario to be run in an IAM or similar model.  For example, if a scenario is meant to be the basis for a future as computed by an integrated assessment model, as many of the scenarios relied on by the IPCC in its assessments typically are, then such a scenario should explicitly include every numerical input assumption, and every equation, used to compute the results of such a scenario by these models.  In fact, numerical input assumptions such as the capital costs of new nuclear plants are even more important than the scenario story line that goes with a scenario since they more directly determine the characteristics of that scenario in the future.  Note that many published results for the same SSP run on different IAMs are radically different from each other in part because the capital cost assumptions of new energy technologies are significantly different from each other.  Yet, those differences are rarely discussed in the literature.  (Scenario inputs made public also must include items like the numerical value of discount rates and other key assumptions that may be appropriate across an entire set of scenarios.) Thus, as has unfortunately been the case in past IPCC assessments, if the equations, constraints, and numerical values of all input assumptions are not transparent to the scientific community, and to the public, who are trying to understand the significance or implications of such scenarios, then achieving the necessary level of understanding for climate change mitigation policy making is impossible.  For example, it is never pointed out to policy makers that the single most important assumption for policy making in each scenario is the discount rate used in IAMs which minimize discounted costs and benefits.  This is because the use of different discount rates will produce radically different results in most if not all IAMs.  Since Working Group III has recently committed itself to greater research transparency than has been the case with the published research literature in the past, this transparency must be understood as essential to the proper explication and presentation of all mitigation scenarios relied on in AR6.  The revised SSPs, which should be an output of this Scenarios Forum, should be completely specified and completely transparent because the mitigation policy community will be able to put any faith in their usefulness for AR6

  • HOW SHOULD AR6 SCENARIOS BE CREATED?

All AR6 scenarios that are finally relied on for publication in the literature, and in the final AR6 reports, should have detailed and comprehensive input from a multi-stakeholder community, and not just from the IAM modeling teams themselves, as has been the situation in the past.  Thus, this Scenarios Forum should be the beginning of that process of creating viable AR6 scenarios, not the end of that process. The IPCC can not assume that all or even most of the policy relevant and interesting mitigation scenarios will just by chance appear in the published literature based on the separate and private inclinations of the IAM modeling community to run those scenarios through their models.  The IPCC working group meetings, especially the WGIII meetings in addition to this Scenarios Forum called by IAM modelers to discuss scenarios, must have substantial input from other stakeholders, such as environmental and social justice organizations, into the issue of which scenarios are ultimately modeled, and, perhaps even which models are used to run them, to the extent that different models may have different capabilities to model certain kinds of scenarios.

  • ARE THE SSPs SCENARIOS?

No, the SSPs are not “true” or complete scenarios, because when they are run through different IAMs and are translated by different research teams into different numerical input assumptions, they produce very different results for the future for what is currently called the same SSP.  Thus, it is very misleading to readers when different research papers written by groups of authors using different IAMs report dramatically different results that they call “for the same scenario”, just because their model runs are loosely based on the same SSP.  In the future, if this is done, readers need to be clearly told that the results of different IAMs for the same SSP do not represent the same scenario at all for the future of climate change mitigation.  Furthermore, when the SSPs are described in “research” papers, it is not even clear whether or not the same numerical values for the key input parameters described in words in those papers are required to be used for each different IAM.  (ref to original SSP papers)  I believe that in fact the same numbers have not been required to be used for the same input parameters by different IAM research teams in the past.  Thus, we all need to be clear that if one of the purposes of using the SSPs for the WGIII AR6 report is to be able to correctly claim that different models are being used to calculate the results for the same SSP, then two things need to happen.  First, revised SSPs and fully comprehensive need to specify the precise numerical value to be assigned to each of the hundreds of input parameters that each model uses, and the different sets of internal model constraints and equations that have a significant impact on the production of any given SSP-based scenario must be made transparent and public so that the differences between model results for the so-called “same” SSP can be understood and explained, to the extent possible, by each modeling group.  In the past, SSPs have only described a few of the key input assumptions that differ between scenarios.  This problem must be corrected in the future, hopefully beginning at this Scenarios Forum.

  • WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR POLICY MAKERS TO UNDERSTAND THE BASIS FOR AND KNOW THE NUMERICAL VALUES OF ALL THE IMPORTANT INPUT PARAMETERS FOR EACH REVISED SSP RELIED ON IN AR6?

In past IPCC WGIII climate change mitigation assessments, it has not been at all clear what value has been provided to policy makers by referencing the published literature involving the running of different Integrated Assessment Models for creating mitigation scenarios.  Frankly, policy makers might learn more if many research teams had collaborated to build one “consensus” model where all the features of the model were made public, including all equations and input assumptions.  The way research in the IAM community has evolved, most if not all the IAMs that appear frequently in the literature are accompanied with little or no technical documentation of their equations and numerical input assumptions.  Nor can adequate documentation of the models be found on the research institution websites.  To policy makers the models all appear to be “black boxes” with no way to understand the basis for the results of scenarios that emerge and are published in research papers.  This extremely serious problem for policy makers must be corrected, in my view, in AR6.  Otherwise, there is no point and no value gained from doing another IPCCWGIII report if the literature on which it is based is not improved in the ways described above.

In addition, the next generation of IAMs used for research inputs to AR6 must be able to model different climate change mitigation policies beyond just modeling carbon taxes, otherwise how will policy makers be able to understand the possible real world impacts of other kinds of policies that will be essential to successfully mitigate climate change?  Examples of other policies that need to be included in at least some revised SSPs are regulatory/legal requirements to phase in electric vehicles at different rates in different regions of the world, and regulatory requirements (RPSs) to phase in renewable electricity supplies at different rates in different regions of the world.  Other policies that also need to be able to be modeled include the phase in of organic food, and the regulated (required) phase in of electric space heating, cooking, and hot water in both residential and commercial buildings throughout the world.  Similarly, different rates of energy efficiency gains for building shells should be included in different SSPs.

If these kinds of essential mitigation policies are able to be modeled in different groups and combinations, then policy makers may finally get some IAM model results that might truly help them make mitigation policy decisions as soon as possible after AR6 is published.  Of course, this all should have happened in the past in the literature published in the process of preparing for AR5 by modeling teams.  As all policy makers should know by now, the four main components of all plans for mitigating climate change to either a 1.5 or a 2.0 degree C future are:  make all energy end use technologies as efficient as reasonable given their social context, electrify all energy end-uses to the extent possible, produce all electricity using renewable electricity supply technologies, and produce all food supplies from organic and sustainable agricultural processes.  If all aspects of these four basic and high priority mitigation policies cannot be modeled by the IAMs utilized to create the research literature for AR6, then the WGIII report for AR6 will not be able to heavily rely on IAM results as it has in the past.  To be very clear, then, different revised SSPs created for use in AR6 must include different combinations and magnitudes of the different key mitigation policies listed above in order to produce different alternative relevant scenarios for use by policy makers.

  • WHY IS THIS SCENARIOS FORUM SO IMPORTANT?

This scenarios forum is very important in order for the world climate change mitigation policy community to have some confidence that the WGIII AR6 report will, indeed, be much more policy relevant than previous IPCC WGIII reports have been.  Other than attempting to model the impact on GHG emissions using carbon taxes (unsuccessfully in my view), almost no attention has been paid to modeling the impact of other kinds of legal and regulatory mitigation policies that have been most successful in the past.  The time available to the world to sufficiently mitigate climate change is rapidly growing short.  The mitigation research community cannot afford to delay any more in bringing the policy community more precise, scientifically-based, and useable mitigation policy analyses.  We now know after the IPCC Special Report on 1.5 degree C Scenarios from October, 2018 that almost all, if not all, GHG emissions have to be mitigated by about 2045 at the latest, if no overshoot of 1.5 degrees C is desired.

Kategorien: Blogs

Inequality, Sunk Costs, and Climate Policy

Triple Crisis - 27 Februar, 2019 - 15:00

By Frank Ackerman

Fifth in a series on climate policy; find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

Climate change is at once a common problem that threatens us all, and a source of differential harms based on location and resources. We are all on the same boat, in perilous waters – but some of us have much nicer cabins than others. What is the relationship of inequality to climate policy?

The ultimate economic obstacle to climate policy is the long life of so many investments. Housing can last for a century or more, locking residents into locations that made sense long ago. Business investments often survive for decades. These investments, in the not-so-distant past, assumed continuation of cheap oil and minimally regulated coal – thereby building in a commitment to high carbon emissions. Now, in a climate-aware world, we need to treat all fossil fuels as expensive and maintain stringent regulation of coal. And it is impossible to repurpose many past investments for the new era: they are sunk costs, valuable only in their original location or industry.

If we could wave a magic wand and have a complete do-over on urban planning, we could create a new, more comfortable and more sustainable way of life. Transit-centered housing complexes, surrounded by green spaces and by local amenities and services, could offer convenient car-free links to major employment sites. Absent a magic wand, the challenge is how to get there from here, in a short enough time frame to matter for climate policy.

Space is the final frontier in energy use. Instead of shared public spaces for all, an ever-more-unequal society allows the rich to enjoy immense private spaces, such as McMansions situated on huge exurban lots. This leads to higher heating and cooling costs for oversized housing, and to higher infrastructure costs in general: longer pipes, wires and travel distances between houses. And it locks in a commitment to low population density and long individual commutes. Outside of the biggest cities, much of the United States is too sparsely settled for mass transit.

Pushing toward clean energy

Carbon prices and other incentives are designed to push people and businesses out of the most emissions-intensive locations and activities. Along with the wealthy exurbs, cold rural states, with high heating and transportation requirements per person, will become more expensive. So, too, will investment in emissions-intensive production processes, whether in electricity generation, heavy industry, or agriculture.

The art of policymaking requires a delicate balance. Too much pressure to make fuel expensive can produce a backlash, as in the Yellow Vests protests in France, which successfully blocked an increase in the price of gasoline. Too little pressure leads to complacency, to the false belief that enough is already being done. Subsidies to support the transition may be useful but must be time-limited to avoid becoming a permanent entitlement.

The green new deal, the hopeful, if still vague, political vision that is now drawing widespread attention, calls for a transition to clean energy, investment in low-carbon infrastructure, and a focus on equality and workers’ rights. It would create substantial net benefits for the country and the economy. A more fine-grained analysis is needed, however, to identify those who might lose from the transition. Their losses will loom large in the policy debate, regardless of the benefits to the rest of society.

For example, after years of seniority-based cutbacks, many of the remaining workers in legacy energy industries (coal mines, oil wells, fossil-fueled power plants) are nearing retirement age. Pension guarantees, combined with additional funding to allow early retirement, may be more important to these workers, while new green jobs could be important to their children or to the smaller number of younger workers in at-risk jobs.

Older residents who have spent their lives and invested their savings in a rural community, or have no assets except a farm, should be welcome to remain in those communities. But the lingering mystique of an almost-vanished rural America should not lead to new initiatives to attract younger residents back to an energy-intensive, emissions-intensive lifestyle.

 

Responding to inequality

Energy use and carbon emissions are quite unequally distributed, within as well as between countries. In all but the poorest countries, the rich spend more on energy in absolute dollar terms, but less than others as a percentage of income. As a result, any carbon price introduced in the United States or other high-income countries will be regressive, taking a greater percentage of income from lower-income households.

To address this problem, James Boyce proposes refunding carbon revenues to households on an equal per capita basis, in a cap-and-dividend system. Boyce’s calculations show that most people could come out ahead on a cap-and-dividend plan: only the richest 20 percent of U.S. households would lose from paying a relatively high carbon price, if the revenues were refunded via equal per capita dividends.

Other authors have proposed that some of the revenues could go to basic research or to infrastructure development, accelerating the arrival of sustainable energy use. Any use of the revenues, except distribution in proportion to individual fuel use or emissions, preserves the incentive effect of a carbon price. The question of cap-and-dividend versus investment in sustainable energy is largely a debate about what will make a regressive carbon price politically acceptable.

 

Stranded assets

It is not only households that have invested too heavily in now-obsolete patterns of energy use. The same pattern arises in a different context, in the energy sector itself. Electric utilities have often invested in fossil-fuel-burning plants, expecting to recover their investment over 20 to 30 years of use. Now, as changing prices and priorities shut some of those plants before the end of their planned lifetimes, the unrecovered investment is a stranded asset, no longer useful for producers or customers.

The problem is further complicated by the regulatory bargains made in many states. Depending on utility regulations (which differ from state to state), a utility may have formally agreed to allow state regulators to set its rates, in exchange for an opportunity to recover its entire investment over a long period of years. What happens to that regulatory bargain when a regulated plant becomes uneconomic to operate?

Businesses whose investments have gone badly do not elicit the same degree of sympathy as individuals stuck in energy-intensive homes and careers. Indeed, Milton Friedman, the godfather of modern conservative economics, used to emphasize that private enterprise is a profit and loss system, where losses are even more important than profits in forcing companies to use their resources effectively.

Despite Friedman’s praise of losses, demanding that a utility absorb the entire loss on its stranded assets could provoke political obstacles to clean energy and climate policy. Neither zero recovery nor full recovery of a utility’s stranded assets may be appropriate in theory. Given the urgency of a rapid and complete energy transition, it may be more expedient to negotiate a settlement that allows prompt progress. Once again, it is the political art of the deal, not any fixed economic formula, that determines what should be done. Offering utilities too little provokes opposition and delay; offering them too much is unfair to everyone else and could encourage similar mistaken investments in the future.

 

What does global sustainability look like?

Climate change is a global problem that can only be solved by cooperation among all major countries. The challenge for American policy is not only to reduce our own emissions, but also to play a constructive role in global climate cooperation. U.S. leadership, in cooperation with China and Europe, is crucial to the global effort to control the climate. Reviving that leadership, which had barely surfaced under Obama before being abandoned by Trump, is among the most important things we can do for the world today.

In the longer run, questions of climate justice and international obligations are among the most difficult aspects of climate policy. High-income countries such as the United States and northern Europe bear substantial responsibility for the climate crisis worldwide. Among other approaches, the Greenhouse Development Rights framework combines historical responsibility for emissions and current ability to pay for mitigation, in assigning shares of the global cost of climate stabilization.

In the current political climate there is no hope of achieving complete consensus about international burden-sharing before beginning to address the climate crisis. The urgency of climate protection requires major initiatives as soon as possible, in parallel with (not waiting for the conclusion of) discussions of international equity. U.S. actions on both fronts are essential for global progress toward climate stabilization. Significant steps toward equity and burden-sharing may be required to win the support of emerging economies such as India, Indonesia and Brazil.

Finally, assuming success, what would global sustainable development look like? In view of the rapid urbanization of emerging economies, the key question is, what kind of low-carbon urban life can the world afford? The sprawling, car-intensive and carbon-intensive expanse of Los Angeles, Phoenix, or Houston seems like an amazingly expensive mistake. The compact, energy-efficient, transit-based urbanism of Tokyo or Hong Kong is at least a contender, a high-income life with much lower resource use per person.

The American example matters around the world: if our vision of the good life remains one of extravagant sprawl, others will try to imitate it. If we develop a more sustainable vision of our own future, the whole world will be watching.

 

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

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

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