Author: Andrew Schwartz

Banks Gather for Finance in Common Summit on Sustainability Solutions – Will it Matter?

This week 450 public development banks (PDBs) are gathering at the Finance in Common Summit, a seminal moment in the world of banking. The banks in attendance represent nearly $2.5 trillion in annual investments ranging from local banks and projects to multilateral banks providing development assistance across the globe. The mandate is simple: reorient the financial world towards a sustainable path. 

It’s a heavy task to say the least. The era of capitalism and now neoliberal capitalism has made the unadulterated pursuit of profit sacrosanct and there are no better acolytes than those in the fossil fuel industries. Oil, gas, and coal have generated a degree of wealth and excess that has no corollary in history and has little chance of being matched in the future. It is made possible by once robust but now rapidly depleting gas and oil reserves, and a mechanistic and bureaucratic economy the facilitates its lopsidedness. The movers of loans and investments insist on control by a small number of experts who, in their diligence, require private control over the complexities of extraction, refinement, and shipment, but also the adjacent utilities such as water and electricity to insure that industry is done properly. These experts, of course, are not locals and the economic gravity sink they create pulls the cash ever Northward leaving small profits in the local orbit to be picked up by the same sort of sideways person that can be found everywhere who is willing to forgo national interests for their own. 

In 2016, the World Bank along with a number of other major multilateral development banks pledged to divest themselves from fossil fuel development projects to support the Paris Climate Goals. Despite their pledge, they have managed to provide some $10.5 billion in loans towards fossil fuel development while in that same time frame given relatively anemic funding for sustainable energy projects.

The World Bank and other PDBs have become so inured to the process that it has an inertia that is proving hard to derail. In the last two years the World Bank has surreptitiously bankrolled two coal mega projects one in Indonesia and the other in Guyana. Both are carbon bombs in their own right, the first in Indonesia which when fully operational will produce annual emissions equivalent to those of Spain and Thailand. The second supports Exxon’s endeavor to relieve Guyana of the nearly 13.6 billion barrels of oil and 32 trillion cubic feet of natural gas found off its coast. 

Enter the conversation that has started this week at the Finance in Common Summit. The question is not whether PDBs can agree to fund sustainable energy projects. Of course they can. There’s nothing more simple than giving $5 billion to Vestas instead of BP. No, the question is more existential. It’s asking whether or not this industry can willingly and fundamentally change the nature of its ultimate concern of profit no matter the costs. Can they move away from a development paradigm that is so streamlined and so disproportionately powerful and profitable for a system that is anything but? 

The problem with sustainability is that it is just that: it’s sustainable. Once the minerals are mined, the turbines up and the solar panels in place the profit margins become relatively slim as compared to fossil fuels. There is no shipping of product, no enormous subsidies from governments – estimates place them between $400 billion and $5 trillion – and no profits from service stations, downstream plants, and petrochemicals products. 

This is not to say there aren’t profits in sustainable energy. There are but a new generation of companies such as Tesla, Vestas, and countless other startups have filled the space left by legacy energy groups who have invested more in the sector’s demise than in its growth potential. As for the bank’s, their balance sheets demonstrate a stalwart commitment to fossil fuels.

What’s important to remember about PDBs is that their investment decisions are determined by a board of governors who represent the interests of their respective stakeholder nations which contribute monies to the banks. So as much as the investments reflect the banks desire to cultivate maximum return on their investments it’s also demonstration of values by the nation states, most all of which signed the Paris Climate Accord, that they are willing with one hand to support climate solutions and with the other hand support the industries fueling global warming.

Without question 2020 marks a crossroads for climate action. The moral and life giving choice may be obvious for many but morality and the fostering of life are tenets long forsaken by those whose Mecca is a stripped and shipped El Dorado. That’s why the Finance in Common Summit will be so interesting to watch. The rhetoric coming out of the event will undoubtedly be inspired but will there be action? And if there is, will the action be a repackaged version of a deeply exploitative economy? Or perhaps they will have their own road to Damascus moment and embark on a journey of subdued short-term margins for long-term market health and reliability.

Deep Water Mining – What’s really going on in our Oceans?

“The world is too tragic for naive optimism” – Cornel West

The coronavirus has spurred a number of recovery plans including from the World Bank and the Democrats, and the European Union all of which keep the climate and sustainability at the forefront. Threaded through all of them is the idea of a green revolution that “Builds Back Better”, meaning that the world will once again hit all of its economic markers without the fossil fuel pollution that’s always accompanied it.

That may be easier said than done, however. The green revolution will require massive solar fields and wind farms as well as fields of batteries to store and manage the energy that is captured. The materials required for sustainable tech – primarily lithium, cobalt, copper, and the rare earth metal neodymium among others – are increasingly hard to come by and are mostly found in China, parts of SE Asia, Australia, sub-Saharan African countries, and along the Ring of Fire that runs from the southern tip of Chile to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Demand is driving fresh exploration in Eastern Europe and across the United States but the biggest cache of minerals exists underwater. 

4000-6000 ft under the Pacific Ocean exist large hydrothermal vents that belch out constant streams of minerals that form clusters of gold, silver, copper, cobalt and an array of rare earth metals. It’s the new frontier of mining according to a 60 Minutes feature from 2019 that asked why the US hasn’t yet capitalized on this emerging market. And that is a question to ask. The underwater deposits are estimated to be worth upwards of $17 trillion and whoever gets there first could have a veritable monopoly over the much coveted metals. From this vantage point it is fairly mysterious that the United States has not committed more money towards this endeavor especially considering the 2 million sq/mi minefield, called the Clarion Clipperton Zone, or CCZ, is situated between Hawaii and Mexico. 

There are no reliable deep sea mining operations yet because of the extreme complexities involved in the process. Yet is the operative word here. There’s a mad dash by groups around the globe trying to be the first ones to crack this nut and that’s a very scary thing because no one really knows what the environmental impacts would be in any direction. To date, roughly 1% of the deepwater ocean floor has been mapped and little is known about what ecosystems exist down there. What is known is that the  hydrothermal vents that produce the bounty of metals more importantly play host to one of the most curious and alien biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. They are wonderfully complex and shrouded in mystery not only to questions of how they evolved but how they integrate into the oceans ecosystem at large. 

The United Nations recently released a resolution calling for the suspension of deep sea mining until better and comprehensive environmental impact studies are done. The resolution came out of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) which is a consortium of 168 nations formed in 1982 to study and provide regulations for activities in the sea. Though under the umbrella of the United Nations, they are relatively autonomous and have their own governance structure. They have put forward hard fought agreements such as the Convention on the Law of the Sea and The Mining Code which are meant to provide a semblance of guidelines and regulations to those wanting extract resources from the ocean. As agreed to by the 168 nations in the ISA, all the minerals in the deep seabed are considered the shared heritage of all mankind, which is one way to say that it’s open season for whoever can get them. 

In 2018, De Beers Corporation scraped the sea floor for 1.4 million carats of diamonds off the coast of Namibia and is working on a new boat that can scrape at twice the speed. There’s no telling what it’s done or will do to those ecosystems going forward because there’s no requirement to learn what those impacts might be. It’s a disturbing precedent that’s being set and it’s only just beginning. There are mining operations underway in New Guinea to break apart underwater geysers to access the mineral deposits built up around them, and both Japan and South Korea are starting their own deep water operations. There isn’t a policing body for much of any of this. Countries own the waters 12 miles off their coastlines but beyond that invisible line it becomes international waters where regulations and oversight fade away. It’s the perfect place for corporations and countries to extract with relative immunity and little to no recourse, except for whatever the Earth doles out. 

We should have been descaling carbon production decades ago but we didn’t and now we’re looking for an exit where one might not exist. The green revolution that the world so desperately needs might come with costs that we do not begin to know how to measure. In our desperation to avoid the worst of fossil fuels we must not let our hope in a green revolution allow us to rely upon the processes and ideologies that got us here in the first place. 

 

The Rebirth of Coal

Funding for fossil fuels has not slowed down.

In 2015, 197 nations signed The Paris Climate Agreement pledging to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The science is clear that unless emission from fossil fuels drop to near 0 by 2030, the world is sure to eclipse the 1.5C standard that would stave off the worst impacts of climate change. It was an ambitious and historic pledge that most agreed wasn’t strong enough for the amount of change we needed but a good first step all the same. Four years later and they’re still spending irresponsible amounts of money on fossil fuels and making insufficient process on renewable energy.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic there has been a precipitous drop in fossil fuel consumption. Most estimates put the annual drop somewhere between 5-8% depending on how / if the virus returns with conviction in the Fall. 

Decreases in air pollution above the Northeast United States due to COVID-19 response. (Image credit: NASA / Science Visualization Studio)

Britain has gone two months without burning coal which is something that hasn’t happened since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Elsewhere in Europe, we are seeing drastic cuts in coal emissions as well as the shuttering of coal plants. In the United States, coal continues to plummet despite efforts by Donald Trump and his advisors who are determined to prop up and deregulate the dying industry.

Of all the fossil fuels coal is the worst. It’s dirty and toxic and polluting from the word go because of what is required to mine it and when’s its burnt it releases a toxic cocktail of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) mixed with Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and Fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) that come together to pollute the air, warm the atmosphere, and cause cancer. Once burned there are mountains of coal ash full of heavy metals that blow into the air and seep into waterways and aquifers. 33% of power in the USA is generated by coal and almost every coal plant is located adjacent to or in a primarily Black community.

Though the use of coal is down in the United States and Europe, the Asian market has invested heavily in it over the past decades. Recently, China announced 34 gigawatts (GW) of new coal power –  which is equivalent to the power Poland’s produces in a year  – and adds to the already staggering 147 GW it produces from coal annually. It is estimated that China is currently financing a quarter of the world’s coal projects with its development banks – including the China Development Bank (CDB) and China Export-Import Bank (CHEXIM) – providing over $226 billion in loans to Vietnam, Indonesia, India, South Africa, Afghanistan and the Philippines over the past two decades. 

The Chinese investment in coal is discordant with their much celebrated commitment to renewable energy initiatives. China remains the world leader in onboarding wind and solar projects and has outsold every other country in regards to electric vehicles. There are similar questions being raised for Japan which has dramatically increased its reliance on coal on the other side of the Fukushima disaster. It has quickly become the world’s third largest importer of coal in and is Australia’s largest client. When asked why Japan invested in coal rather than safe renewable energy options, one economist simply replied, “because coal is cheap.”

Though the price of renewables is down across the world coal is still a cheap and rapidly scalable option for countries that need energy fast. Countries may have their eyes set on a renewable future but the minerals and metals required for renewable technologies are not keeping pace with energy demands.

Asia as a whole is one of the last markets for coal producing countries like Indonesia, Australia, and India who are seeing their other accounts dry up. Miners and producers in the United States are eager to get in on the action. Interior states including the Dakotas, Utah, New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming are eager to put people to work and send their products to Asia but are being blocked from doing so by Western ports. In 2016, a 96-car train carrying Bakken crude oil derailed outside of Mosier, OR causing an explosion unlike any that had ever been seen. The incident inspired waves of protests in both Oregon and Washington, and sparked new regulations on what can be shipped and exported through the States. For interior coal and oil producing states, though, exploding trains and broken pipelines aren’t reason enough to stop.  Instead, they are suing Oregon, Washington, and California over their prohibitive regulations.

What is mystifying about all of this is that coal is on its last legs according to most every investor. Financial markets and asset managers are being forced to analyze their own portfolios to strategize how they’ll account for depreciating coal stakes and the industries likely inability to cover their outstanding loans.

And it’s not just coal. Fossil fuels across the board are decreasing in value and are projected to continue depreciating. The coronavirus sent oil down to -$37 per/barrel before rebounding and stabilizing in the $20 per/barrel range. This is temporary at best. A recent report by Coal Tracker estimates that if demand drops at the annual 2% outlined in the Paris Agreement, fossil fuel profits could fall by $25 trillion, potentially collapsing the global financial market.

What the world is looking at is an industry that is killing the planet and whose death throes have the potential to untether the global economy. It’s not good. What’s worse is that rather than cutting credit to fossil fuels and investing aggressively into renewables the World Bank and other multilateral development banks continue loaning billions to oil, gas, and coal at twice the rate they are giving to renewables. The pressure to change is mounting from both inside and outside the industry and it cannot relent. In many regards, fossil fuels have never been in a weaker position and though they aren’t going down without a fight they are undeniably going down. The question is navigating the transition in an equitable, sustainable way.

 

U.S. Faith-Based Coalition Calls on World Bank to Take Climate Action in the Time of COVID

Washington, D.C. – A coalition of faith-based organizations in the United States will launch a campaign tomorrow in support of Big Shift, a global effort calling on the World Bank to end all support for fossil fuels and shift investment to renewable energy access in the time of COVID-19 and beyond. The World Bank continues to subsidize fossil fuels, which fans the flames of the ongoing climate emergency, despite scientific evidence showing the impact of continued investment and usage of such fuels. The campaign, which will drive support for a petition to World Bank President David Malpass, begins tomorrow and will be promoted through May 24th.

The launch coincides with the buildup to the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’s second encyclical, which calls for care of “our common home” and laments environmental degradation and global warming.

“Five years ago this week, Pope Francis urged the world to replace highly polluting fossil fuels with renewable energy without delay (Laudato Si’ 165),” said Susan Gunn, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. “While some progress has been made in the shift towards a renewable energy economy, more still needs to be done, especially by large institutions whose great financial and political resources come with great responsibility. That is why we’re asking the World Bank to stop supporting fossil fuels. In this time of acute crisis, we need them to help lead the way forward towards a more sustainable future for everyone.”

The coalition behind this week’s effort includes the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Center for Earth Ethics, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Justice Team, and Church World Service, all of whom support the work of the global Big Shift initiative, a network of civil society groups representing 112 partner organizations.

The petition (in English and Spanish) comes in the form of a letter, which addresses the current situation and calls for immediate action:

“As people of faith and conscience from diverse traditions in different countries, we lament the devastating impacts of COVID-19 which are occurring at the same time as communities are experiencing the far-reaching implications of the changing climate – from huge wildfires to extreme droughts and flooding. No one is immune to COVID-19, which is leaving a trail of death and illness, overburdening and overwhelming health care systems and workers around the world. It is leaving untold economic damage in its wake that will have repercussions for years to come.

Both climate change and COVID-19 fall hardest on the poorest and most vulnerable communities and nations who are at greatest risk because of pre-existing health, gender, racial, ethnic and economic inequities. Additionally, 840 million people still live without having access to the energy needed to improve their economic and developmental outcomes and respond to COVID-19.”

The group specifically called on President Malpass to:

  • Phase out lending for all fossil fuels after 2020, including coal and natural gas
  •  Develop a clear strategy to improve access to energy through small scale renewable energy sources

The petition notes that this call is in line with World Bank commitments to support the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than 1.5C and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal seven (SDG7) to provide sustainable energy access for all by 2030.

”Shifting the Bank’s energy portfolio would demonstrate the moral leadership urgently needed during these difficult times,” the petition reads. “ Doing so represents good environmental and financial stewardship which will send a clear signal to other governments, finance institutions and markets.”

For more information about Big Shift and the efforts to encourage the World Bank to support renewable energy in the time of COVID-19, contact [email protected].


 

A Time for Change

The coronavirus pandemic should be understood as a dress rehearsal for climate change. The rapidity and breadth of its impact has been too much for our systems to bear. It’s put health care, social security, food systems, sanitation, and most everything else to the absolute test. Thus far food is still getting to the grocery stores and medical care continues to be given but the question remains for how long? If the pandemic continues assaulting the world for months on end can we trust that our supply chains will continue to hold steadfast? Our globalized world is absolutely dependent upon safe, efficient, and guaranteed shipping.

Depending on perspective, globalization and free trade are a gift. It created huge wealth across the globe, decreased costs associated with manufacturing and trade, and developed a model that maximizes efficiencies across the entirety of the global economy. Geographic regions around the world contribute to the creation of singular products, with favorites in separate companies making component parts for a whole product that is sold globally. It’s efficient, low cost, high revenue, and creates cheap replicable products that weed out competition.

Seen another way, the globalized model rooted out the ability for local development of goods and services, notably manufacturing and agriculture. It’s why there are food desserts, which should more appropriately be called food apartheid zones in cities surrounded by farmland. The majority of farmland around the world has been dedicated to monocropping staple crops that are then shipped globally rather than locally. For instance, half of the United States arable farmland is monocropped.

The global food chain of course allows there to be bananas in Wisconsin in the winter and wheat from the United States is sent to food starved areas across the world. But it also means that our food access is completely reliant on a complex exchange between nation states and private enterprises rather than local farmers and ranchers. If any links in the supply chain break then a global food crisis would be inevitable. We are not that far away. The United Nations has provided warning that food shortages may be imminent with food production facilities and farms losing workers to the disease.

What the coronavirus has demonstrated is that our system of global interdependence is not as stalwart as we would like or need it to be. South Korea is using the unfortunate opportunity provided by the coronavirus to push for greener economies and infrastructure. They see what needs to be done to encounter climate change and are working towards it. Some countries are going the other direction. China recently announced 34 gigawatts (GW) of new coal power — equivalent to Poland’s annual output — adding to the 147 GW it already produces annually from coal. The China Development Bank (CDB) and China Export-Import Bank (CHEXIM) — have also provided over $226 billion in loans to South East Asian countries — Vietnam, Indonesia, India, and the Philippines over the past two decades. It’s created a boom of renewed production and confidence in the fossil fuel sector while dealing a huge blow to conservation and environmental efforts, let alone the hope of hitting the Paris Climate Agreement targets.

Not only are these actions inane they are deeply immoral and make very little long-term economic sense. What does make sense is a re-evaluation of and a commitment to investment strategies that fund locally focused regenerative agriculture projects and renewable energy production. Regeneration International describes regenerative farming as: ”farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity — resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.” At present, agriculture globally is responsible for nearly 30% of global emissions. Regenerative farming techniques, on the other hand, have the potential to to sequester upwards of two tons of carbon per hectare. Additionally, it is estimated locally focused regenerative farming has the ability to employ upwards of 32 people for every million dollars in production revenue creating a net-positive boon for local economies and mitigating climate change.

Despite a pledge to green their portfolios, the majority of MDBs continue to heavily resource fossil fuel infrastructure. This is true for other banks and crediting agencies. For instance, “from 2016–2018 Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) provided $31.6 billion annually to support fossil fuel projects” — $7.1 billion for coal and $24.5 billion for oil and gas. By comparison, ECAs only gave $2.7 billion per year for renewable energy. Common wisdom has held that investing in fossil fuels is a guaranteed money maker. This belief continues to hold even though half the coal plants in the world are projected to lose money in 2020. Furthermore, the coronavirus pandemic has plummeted oil to nearly $10 a barrel. Rather than bet on oil rebounding and investing heavily in it, let’s make moves in the other direction.There is no better time than now to transition away from fossil fuels. Renewable energy has a higher economic upside and the long term viability that fossil fuels do not. We need MDBs and ECAs to move their investments towards renewable energy and local economies. It will strengthen local resilience and create new energy and economic pathways that are not dependent on fossil fuel economies. This transition will be slow but it is necessary if we want to guarantee a future worth living into.

Health in the Balance: 2020 Webinars on Faith and Climate

Dear Friends,

We were honored to have Dr. Marium Husain present on Health, Covid-19, and Climate Change for our most recent webinar. With so much information out there on the coronavirus, we deeply appreciated Dr. Husain’s informative presentation on what we can be doing now to help our communities and those on the frontlines. If you have any resources to share or stories of what you’ve been doing in your community we’d love to hear them.

Please watch the video of the webinar Health in the Balance where you will also have access to the Center for Earth Ethics and Climate Speakers Network’s past webinars!

Dr. Husain is the Board Vice President of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA).  In related news, we would also like to thank and congratulate IMANA for their recent “decision to divest IMANA’s endowment fund from all fossil fuel companies.”

“Human activities, especially the burning of dirty fuel sources, are the primary cause of climate change. Individuals, organizations and businesses acting in concert to collectively divest from fossil fuel companies is an important step toward generating increased attention toward the urgency of the climate crisis and building a healthier future for all of creation. We need to flatten the climate curve.” – Dr. Nabile Safdar, President of IMANA

Let’s flatten the curve.


Check out more of our Webinars, past Minister’s Trainings and offered Curriculum 

CEE Joins Big Shift Global

CEE is proud to announce that we have formally partnered with the Big Shift Global campaign. The Big Shift Global (BSG) is a multi-stakeholder, global campaign coordinated by organizations from the Global North and South. Together, we aim to make the people’s views on energy finance known to Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), their Executive Directors, as well as the Heads of State and Finance Ministers of the members countries.

You can hear it straight from them here.

CEE got involved because we cannot adequately address the climate crisis while the world keeps bankrolling and burning fossil fuels. It’s like trying to patch a hole in a bucket that doesn’t have a bottom. You’re solving for the wrong problem. We want to solve for the right problems which means getting money away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy projects that will bring clean, affordable energy the world round. There are a lot of banks and financial institutions that invest in fossil fuels and with this campaign we’re focusing on Multilateral Development Banks, which we get into below.

What’s a Multilateral Development Bank

Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) are institutions composed by a group of countries that provide financing and professional advising for the purpose of development. Development here is a broad category. It can be anything from fossil fuel projects to infrastructure, financial development, or agricultural development. Really anything needed to make society function. MDBs finance projects in the form of long-term loans at market rates, very-long-term loans (also known as credits) below market rates, and through grants. 

Twelve notable MDBs are:

The World Bank, European Investment Bank (EIB), Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), CAF – Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), Inter-American Development Bank Group (IDB, IADB), African Development Bank (AfDB), New Development Bank (NDB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP), and Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB)

For reference, the USA is a member of five MDBs: the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the African Development Bank.

How do MDBs Work

Great question. MDBs are made up by lending countries (rich countries) and borrowing countries (not rich countries). While it’s far more complicated than this, basically the rich countries pool their money together in the MDBs and then decide which projects they want to fund in which countries. There’s a lot that goes into this process including applications and indicators for returns on the investment (ROIs) and loan repayment plans but at the end of the day, the MDBs essentially have the say in what countries and what projects are worthy of their investment. 

For decades, the sure fire money makers have been and continue to be fossil fuel development projects. With Paris and climate change on people’s minds, many MDBs have shifted towards renewable, sustainable projects but not all of them, and even the ones who do still keep a toe in the fossil fuel pool. 

You’re Telling Me that My Tax Dollars Fund Fossil Fuel Projects Around the World

Yes. As stated above, the United States is a member in five separate MDBs. Representatives from the United States Treasury – under the leadership of Steve Mnuchin – sit on the boards of MDBs to vote which projects go forward and which ones don’t. The number of votes each representative on the board gets is typically determined by the amount of money said country has in the bank. Predictably the United States and other major economies like China and Europe tend to be big lenders and have significant sway over what does and doesn’t get funded. 

MDBs, 1.5 C, and Paris

A 1.5C global temperature increase is bad. However, 1.5C is much better than 2C, which is infinitely better than a 3C increase. If we eclipse 3C then pack your things and find the high ground.

To help meet the 1.5C target – ideally coming in under it – nine MDBs pledged to align their financial flows to the Paris Climate Agreement during the 2017 One Planet Summit. These nine bank heroes further announced at COP 25 that they will “design and implement long-term low GHG emissions and climate resilient strategies that grow in ambition over time.

This is well and good but ambition doesn’t always match outcome. With President Trump in the White House and vehement climate denial from fossil fuel companies and conservative regimes across the planet – to say little of how entrenched global economies are in fossil fuels – the move towards financing renewable energy projects is slow and even saw a decline between 2017 and 2018.

So Are MDBs Good or Bad

Yes. MDBs have huge potential for creating better lives and living for developing countries. MDBs can also serve as the invisible hand that picks development projects that may not necessarily be in the interest of the borrowing country but has huge upside for the lending country. There’s lots of room for corruption and for special interests to put their own interests over those of the country being lent to. 

But with positivity in mind, MDBs can and have acted as positive forces for good. They are increasingly shaping their investment strategies to the shifting needs of climate and energy finance. This includes innovative projects around wind and solar, which bring energy to previously energy starved areas.

This piece is essential for BSG. It’s not only about getting money out of fossil fuels but using the shift to renewables to improve currently impoverished regions. Unlike fossil fuel driven energy sources, wind and solar can be adapted to most any region to provide on the spot energy. Neither wind nor solar require the drills and wells and bulky housing units that fossil fuels do. Renewables can mark a just transition towards energy for all creating new jobs, now opportunities, and new for folks around the world.

What Now 

Show up and speak up. We’ve learned through the divestment campaign that our voices do matter. The Big Shift Campaign is more than simply moving money away from fossil fuels. Its moving money from fossil fuels to renewable sustainable energy options that will bring energy to currently energy starved populations. This a project for human and planetary well being that moves us away from death towards life.

We know what doesn’t work. We know what is causing the planet to fall a part. We know who is responsible for it. We all know what does work and what can be done. Keeping on this current path is like someone with lung cancer investing in a lifetime’s supply of cigarettes. It just doesn’t make sense. Let’s speak the truth and do what makes sense. Let’s tell MDBs and our governments that we want to invest in life.

Let’s get our money into renewables. 

 

A Community Response to Climate Change – Regional Minister’s Training

A problem with climate change is that no one knows what’s going to come next. Yes there are climate models – some from nearly 40 years ago – that accurately predict the moment we are in: record floods, incredible droughts, dwindling snowpacks, and a full ⅓ of the year consumed by fire.  

What is lost in these reports, though, are the realities of the communities that now must respond to the crises they create. They don’t tell the stories of those forced to relocate to Portland because their home went up in flames two years ago in Paradise, CA. These unwilling transplants never dreamed of moving to Oregon but are here now trying to make sense of their new lives. There are thousands of such in-migrants finding their way to Oregon either due to force of circumstance or because they can see the writing on the wall. 

Oregon has always been a popular destination for transplants but the numbers are being amplified thanks to climate change.  Already stressed and aging infrastructure in cities across the state are being asked to do more than ever before. Bend is expecting a ~40% population increase in the next decade leading city managers to wonder where to put them and how to allocate an already stretched water supply. In Portland, the housing crisis is only getting worse, to say nothing of the increasing traffic and decreased air quality that will come with it. 

For all of these reasons we are required to think differently about how we live in the now so that we’re prepared for whatever then presents itself. It’s why nearly 40 faith leaders from around Oregon gathered together at Willamette University December 4-5 for a training titled ‘A Community Response to Climate Change’. The training – hosted by the Center for Earth Ethics, the Claremont School of Theology at Willamette University, the Climate Reality Project, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon – was convened to hear how communities around the state are already being impacted and how faith leaders can best respond. 

 

One of the principle goals of the conference was to create a stronger sense of community for faith leaders working on climate in Oregon. Advocacy on climate can be an isolating experience for many faith leaders who don’t find allies within their peer groups or in their own communities. Yet though climate change remains a politically charged topic, the felt realities of climate change refuse to be ignored. Many pastors in the room shared how their congregations are increasingly impacted and of the emotional and financial toll climate change brings. And while those in the rooms came from very different contexts around the state several common themes emerged among the group: struggles to address mental health issues related to climate change, a desire for better disaster preparedness, responses to wildfire, and an ever increasing need to care for immigrants and in-migrants moving to the state. 

While the problems facing communities are becoming startling clear the solutions to them remain clouded and somewhat distant. Working groups to address each of the issues were created to identify and imagine how the faith community could respond especially in regards to the most vulnerable in Oregon. There is no doubt that frontline and historically marginalized communities are feeling them the worst. It was important that these voices were present as conference attendees but also as speakers to highlight the struggles many of these communities face. We were grateful to hear from Oriana Magnera of Verde NW, Pastor E.D. Mondaine of the Portland NAACP, and Jeremy Five Crows of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. 

Ms. Magnera spoke to the need for better legislation to protect air quality, especially in low-income urban zones. It’s not by mistake that most bus depots and major thoroughfares are placed next to brown, black, and low-income neighborhoods leading to increased incidences of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. It is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately and once solved, will have cascading benefits for surrounding communities and their environments. This message was echoed by Pastor Mondaine as well, who through his work at the NAACP, has fought for community water and housing rights and meaningful climate legislation.  One such piece of legislation is the Portland Clean Energy Fund that “will lift up a community-led vision that builds resilience and wealth in the face of climate change and federal inaction.” 

Jeremy Five Crows challenged the audience to look at the religious and cultural impacts of climate change through the lens of the  First Foods tradition of the Umatilla Tribe which serves as a reminder to local tribes to care for the First Foods – water, fish, game, roots and berries – that care for them. As climate change worsens, each of these elements are threatened differently and must be cared for in their own ways. If left unaddressed, these foods may be lost to history taking with them a cultural and spiritual importance of generations. 

The problems set in front of us are limitless. Even in a room of pastors whose day job is to help others find hope and purpose, the reality of climate change weighs heavy. Climate change asks us to truly look into the void of not only our own mortality but of the morality of every aspect of the world which grounds us and gives us meaning. It means articulating a future not of hope and happiness but of loss and unknown change. It’s an existential weight that bears down on each generation differently. For the old it’s a question of what have they done? How could they leave behind such an awful legacy? For the young it’s wondering how to come to terms with a dramatic harrowing future. And for those somewhere in the middle its severing the promises we were told in our youths and doing our best to prepare the way for ourselves and those younger generations we’re now accountable to in ways we never imagined.

There’s always a way out of no way. There’s always reason to hope even if it’s not ready to be found. When we began the conference,  Rev. Michael Ellick of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon reminded the room that we don’t have all the answers – and that’s ok. What we have is each other and the connections we make now are critical for dealing with tomorrow’s problems. We must grieve what is being lost while keeping ourselves open to the new life that emerges along the way. There’s always hope for the new. 

 

Heber Brown III | Facebook | Fair Use

On Faith and Food Disparities

 

Last week, Rev. Dr. Heber Brown joined the webinar series CEE hosts with the Climate Reality Project. 

Through the work at his church, Pleasant Hope Baptist, and the organization he founded, the Black Church Food Security Network, He and his congregation are attempting to unravel the strangle hold Food Apartheid Zones – more commonly know as Food Deserts – have on black and brown communities throughout Baltimore and around the country. The semantics between Food Desert and Food Apartheids is important. A desert, as Rev. Brown relays, is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Their being is necessary to the vitality of creation as a whole and foster life found nowhere else.

There is nothing natural about apartheid. By definition, apartheid is “a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race” that is intended to harm or disadvantage an entire population. What we see with Food Apartheid are entire communities shut off from healthy, life sustaining foods. It is a conscious decision by grocery chains not to open stores in these locations because they don’t believe the communities will support their profit margins, think them too dangerous, or even that the communities wouldn’t know what to do with the fruits and veggies even if they were made available. Within this are layers of discrimination and racism that form a boot of oppression not easily lifted.

In this webinar, Rev. Brown helps unravel the history of  Food Apartheids, the misinformation that surround them, and actions that communities can take to reclaim power of their own food systems.

Center for Earth Ethics Affiliates with Columbia Earth Institute

Beginning October 2019, the Center for Earth Ethics will affiliate with the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Karenna Gore, as director of CEE, will become an ex-officio member of the EI Faculty.

The Earth Institute (EI) is comprised of nearly 2,000 professionals – including researchers, students, and academics – from across Columbia University. It is a unique gathering place for transdisciplinary conversations to advance Global Sustainability Solutions. EI understands that there is no single solution to sustainability in the time of climate change, and that only collaboration will we be able to adequately address the most pressing issues of our times

As a new partner, CEE will have the opportunity to contribute our earth ethical lens to these conversations. Our experience working with frontline, indigenous, and faith communities coupled with our comprehensive scholarship and research will be an important value add to the EI community.

It is an exciting opportunity to work with new partners to research and implement much needed solutions to the climate crisis. Look forward to future news about joint projects with EI and updates on ways to become more involved.