Mining companies hold back progress on climate change
The world's biggest steel producer, ArcelorMittal, and global miner, BHP Billiton, are among companies "block[ing] progress on climate legislation", while they "ensure that fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies continue to give unfair advantage to dirty energy".
So says Greenpeace in a new report, released just prior to the climate change conference being held in Durban this week.
In October, some of the world's largest corporations appealed to governments to approve a "robust, equitable and effective agreement" on climate change at the same conference.
However, only nine mining and minerals-related corporations signed up to this "urgent call for action" - Vale, De Beers, Alcoa, AngloGold Ashanti, POSCO power, Cemex, Exxaro and Southern Copper Corp.
Disturbingly, and apart from Vale, not one of the world's top ten mining companies endorsed the move.
Greenpeace Report Lays Out Who's Holding Back Climate Change Treaty, Green Global Economy
By Andrew Burger
24 November 2011
Steel industry giant Arcellor-Mittal, chemicals industry leader BASF, mining giant BHP Billiton, the US energy industry's Koch, South Africa's electric utility Eskom - the leaders of these giant multinational companies, along with others, literally spend "the equivalent of the GDP of entire nations to block progress on climate legislation and ensure that fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies continue to give unfair advantage to dirty energy, above the safe, clean renewable energy future the public demands."
So states Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo in the foreword to the environmental rights organization's "Who's holding us back? How carbon-intensive industry is preventing effective climate change legislation?"
In the report, Greenpeace lays out how "a handful of carbon-intensive companies who stand to benefit from inaction have been holding us back, and the politicians who choose to act on their behalf," documenting the means and methods they're using to do so.
With climate change treaty negotiators from 194 nations around the world about to meet in Durban, South Africa for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17), the report's release is timely to say the least.
It comes at the tail end of a year in which record-breaking damages have been suffered by communities and countries around the world due to extreme weather events and a ‘business as usual' approach to energy and economic development.
A Conspiracy of Dunces
Adding insult to injury, a second release of stolen emails from climate researchers by parties unknown and still at large - the so-called ‘Climategate 2′ - comes just as COP 17 is about to begin, an eerie, somewhat disturbing coincidence, as the first batch was released in 2009 to coincide with COP 15 in Copenhagen. The smear campaign continues.
The leaders of some large US corporations and multinationals, particularly in the energy, mining and power industries, adamantly oppose governmental efforts to cap greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and implement consistent, proactive and long-term climate change and renewable energy action plans. They've displayed a great amount of creativity and have been more than willing to dig into their deep pockets to disparage, denigrate and derail any such thing from happening.
It's become increasingly clear just how shrewd and devious these organizations and their media minions can be when it comes to influencing and manipulating public opinion, not to mention co-opt political leaders in the US and around the world. That's not surprising; they're the best money can buy.
These are ‘investments' that have generated returns far, far higher than investing in their businesses. Down through the years, their spending on lobbying, financing campaigns of political candidates and influencing local elections has been returned many, many times over.
Nonetheless, the broad public refuses to be swayed. The results of public opinion polls in the US have consistently shown broad public support for renewable energy and clean technology, yet our political leadership at the federal level is unable to act.
It's in this area that the issues of energy, the economy, the environment, and the overall health and sustainability of democratic societies overlap with trends in US politics and government. The Occupy Wall Street and associated movements that have sprung up and persist around the country are clear testimony to the increasingly strong disconnect many, particularly the younger generation, feel when it comes to politics, government and economic opportunity.
A Glimmer of Hope
Nonetheless, there is "a glimmer of hope on the horizon," Naidoo writes. The best scientists around the world continue work individually and in collaboration to further our understanding of the human effects on climate change and how we may best mitigate and adapt to it. The renewable energy and clean technology industries continue to develop and grow. "Despite the massive odds against it, renewable energy has doubled each year over the past decade," he notes.
More than 2 million people worldwide are employed in renewable energy jobs. In the US, more people are employed in the sector than in the coal industry. Renewable energy investment reached a record $243 billion in 2010 despite all the economic and financial system turmoil that's occurred. That's expected to exceed $3 trillion in the next decade, Greenpeace points out.
As Naidoo states, it's not a question of lacking the technology, or the money. It's certainly not a lack of pressing need and urgency. It's a question of political will. And broad swathes of people in countries around the world are increasingly being spurred to action, to participate and have their voices heard at the highest levels of government, industry and commerce. That certainly is cause for hope, not only economically, not only for life in all its profusion on this planet, but in terms of keeping broad-based democratic systems of government alive and well.
"We have the technology today to ensure a transition to a greener, safer and more equitable economy. However, we won't be able to ensure we make the global transition soon enough to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts and much human suffering unless national governments take strong measures at home and we are able to reach a fair, ambitious and legally binding international agreement.
"Our governments must work with and learn from the business sector but we will not avoid irreversible climate change impacts unless they listen to and act on the behalf of their citizens. In Durban, it's time for governments to listen to the people, not the polluting corporations."
Global Business Leaders Urge "Effective" Climate Deal in Durban
Environmental News Service (ENS)
20 October 2011
LONDON, UK - Some of the world's largest corporations today issued an "urgent call to action" to governments to approve a "robust, equitable and effective agreement" on climate change at the annual UN climate summit set for Durban, South Africa from November 28 to December 9.
A statement endorsed by over 200 companies from the energy, finance, retail, and manufacturing sectors calls for "a carbon price sufficient to drive necessary emissions reductions" and "an end to fossil fuel subsidies."
Corporations from 29 countries called on governments to "break the deadlock" that has stalled climate negotiations for years - as rich countries and developing countries battle over such issues as whether to continue the Kyoto Protocol past expiration of its first commitment period at the end of 2012, and billions in funding to help poor countries cope with climate change.
New wind turbine supplies 17% of the power at Proctor and Gamble's pet care plant in Coevorden, Netherlands, January 2011 (Image courtesy P&G)
Shell, Unilever, Tesco, Johnson and Johnson, Ricoh, Cemex, Proctor & Gamble, Nedbank, the Lloyd's Banking Group and Vale are among the companies endorsing the "2°C Challenge Communique," released today by the newly formed Corporate Leaders' Network for Climate Action.
The 2°C stands for two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the global average temperature increase above pre-industrial levels that most scientists say would avert the worst consequences of climate change.
Scientists from around the world said in 2007 that the global surface temperature had increased by 0.76 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees F) since the Industrial Revolution began in 1750.
Truett Tate, Lloyds Banking Group
Truett Tate, vice chairman, Lloyds Banking Group, said, "Climate change is one of the most important environmental issues of our time. Effecting change will require a concerted effort between businesses, governments as well as individuals. Lloyds Banking Group remains firmly committed to the important role it can play in this area, from financing renewable energy to helping our customers transition to a low carbon economy."
The corporations say their goal in releasing the communique is to influence governments ahead of the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.
"Time is running out to keep global warming under 2°C and, if they fail to act, governments "risk permanent damage to their credibility," the corporate leaders warn.
"The window to stabilise global warming to less than 2°C, as agreed in Cancun, has almost closed," they state. "The International Energy Agency has shown that CO2 emissions in 2010 were the highest on record, and are still rising. While there are examples of strong policies and actions to prevent dangerous climate change, with current progress we will cross the 2°C boundary."
Without a global deal "business will have insufficient clarity or certainty of action to invest to its full potential," the statement warns.
But right action would "secure a low carbon-emission economy that is more resilient, more efficient and less vulnerable to global shock," they assert.
The UN's top climate official, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, said, "The companies endorsing the 2°C Challenge Communique set a great example."
She said, "Corporate leadership that provides powerful vocal support for action gives governments the greater confidence they need to move forward a global climate change agreement that will ultimately cover the current ambition gap."
At Durban, the corporations are calling on governments to put in place an international agreement that provides:
a reformed Clean Development Mechanism that provides effective finance flows while protecting environmental outcomes. The CDM allows projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reduction credits, each equivalent to one metric tonne of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The credits can be traded, sold, and used by industrialized countries to a meet their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
Technology Transfer and Adaptation committees
Last year, negotiators from 194 nations agreed to create the Green Climate Fund to channel up to US$100 billion a year by 2020 to developing countries.
But negotiations over the mechanics of the Green Climate Fund broke down this week at a meeting of the Transitional Committee in Cape Town, South Africa. On Tuesday, the United States and Saudi Arabia withdrew their support for the overall design of the fund that is backed by all other countries.
Coal-fired power plant in Mpumalanga, South Africa (Photo courtesy Eskom)
Regardless of this and other setbacks, the corporate leaders today urged governments to take "immediate action at the national level," to curb climate change without waiting for a new international treaty to be in place.
Among the actions that companies are asking all national goverments to adopt are:
- A carbon price sufficient to drive necessary emissions reductions
- Effective adaptation programs
- Increased funding for innovation, investment and low-carbon development
- Help for businesses and consumers to cut emissions by using energy more efficiently
- Targeted regulation and procurement, together with new thinking on intellectual property rights to encourage low-carbon innovation
- Action to conserve and increase forests and other land-based carbon sinks
- International agreement to establish and maintain strong institutions including a reformed Clean Development Mechanism and a Green Climate Fund that is operational
- An end to fossil fuel subsidies
The Corporate Leaders' Network for Climate Action includes groups from Brazil, Chile, the European Union, Hong Kong, Mexico, Asia, Southeast Asia, South Africa, and the United States.
The communique is the fifth in a series of statements initiated by The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders' Group on Climate Change and managed and developed by the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership.
Eliot Whittington, director of The Prince of Wales's UK Corporate Leaders' Group on Climate Change, said, "The expansion of the network to include business groups from other countries shows that, far from losing interest in climate change as an issue, there is an emerging and increasingly international consensus amongst enlightened corporate leaders of the need for urgent action."
"We will be taking signatures up to June next year and look forward to being joined by other businesses," said Whittington.
In spite of the unfavorable economic outlook and the lack of recent progress at the multilateral level, the statement urges governments not to "let short-term concerns, however important, drive climate change off the agenda."
"As business leaders, we believe that the only sustainable future for our companies and for the globe is to build a robust, green, climate-resilient economy."