Category: Sustainability and Global Affairs

Laudato Si at 5: Climate Justice and Ecological Citizenship in times of Covid-19

Video: Please enjoy the Laudato Si at 5 webinar program hosted by Fordham Law, June 18, 2020 |12:00-1:00 p.m.

Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home reaches its fifth anniversary, amid a pandemic which has the power to transform ways of working, commuting, and connecting. It also reveals the deep inequities in our society, including environmental injustice that harms human health. In this dialogue, we will explore the ecological crisis in times of COVID-19 from a moral, economic, and legal perspective.

Speakers:
Kit KennedyDirector, Energy & Transportation Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council 
Karenna GoreDirector, Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary
John MundellPresident/Senior Environmental Consultant at Mundell & Associates, Inc.
Simone BorgLaw Professor and Head of the Department of Environmental Law and Resources Law at the University of Malta School of Law.

Moderators:
Rabbi Burt Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies and Director, Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Jewish Theological Seminary
Endy Moraes, Director of Fordham’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work.

Conveners:

Fordham’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work

Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary

Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Jewish Theological Seminary

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.

 

World Environment Day 2020 – Karenna Gore

Today is World Environment Day. Our nation is going through a painful reckoning with systemic racism and worsening economic inequity, so the “environment” can seem to be a lesser concern. But as many Native American and Black voices have pointed out, ecological, racial and economic issues have always been intertwined.

Consider Donald Trump’s current favorite word: domination. The presence of “white” people in this land began with a theological claim, based on an interpretation of the concept of “dominion” in the book of Genesis. In the mid 15th century, the Vatican issued papal bulls (declarations) that stated that European explorers were on a mission for Christianity to “conquer,” “vanquish” and “subdue” the regions we now know as the Americas and Africa. These bulls explicitly stated that the people in those lands were part of the flora and fauna. This dehumanizing thought system later became enshrined in law as the “Doctrine of Discovery” which was used to justify the taking of land from Native American peoples. You can learn more about this in the book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery by Steven Newcomb and through the Indigenous Values Initiative.

Donald Trump’s call for domination was paired with a photo op visit to a church to hold up a Bible. This is not just a superficial dog whistle to a racist white evangelical base. It is a desperate grasp at an entrenched and deranged theological tradition that was foundational to our nation.

The marriage of Christianity and empire began with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century. This was the driving force in stamping out indigenous Earth-based spirituality (“paganism”) in Europe. The famous essay by Lynn White, Jr.—The Historic Roots of our Ecologic Crisis, argued that this was the defining moment for the trajectory of ecological devastation that he identified as perilous even back in 1967. One thing White does not mention, but many other scholars have (particular in the fields of eco-feminism and eco-womanism), is that this also involved the persecution of the the women who kept the Earth-based spiritual traditions of Europe, and the characterization of the female body as profane and the female mind as inferior. Needless to say, there is plenty of that spirit in Trumpism too.

Our American civil religion, including the notion of “manifest destiny” and the concept of “American exceptionalism” is so secularized and commonplace that many do not see how deeply theological it is. As the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas has brilliantly documented, whiteness is a theo-political construct that was honed over centuries to be an inherently oppositional force against black and brown bodies. You can learn more about this in her book Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God.

In this moment, we must make the connections to theology to understand the deep historic and psycho-social forces that Donald Trump is drawing on. As he blatantly invokes Christianity to dominate people he deems dangerous and unworthy, his administration has also ordered a suspension of enforcement of environmental regulations. What is the number one indicator of the placement of a toxic facility in this country? The race of the people who live nearby. Black children are ten times more likely to die of asthma in this country than white children. There are many current struggles around racial discrimination in the sitings of petrochemical factories, fracking wells, compressor stations, pipelines, incinerators and so on. The toxins from these sites cause respiratory, cardiac and other underlying health problems that also make people more vulnerable to coronavirus. You can learn more about the role of structural racism in health disparities on this Earth Institute blog and also from the work of the NAACP environmental and climate justice program.

The United Nations established World Environment Day in 1972, part of the same wave of consciousness that led to the first Earth Day in 1970, the establishment of the EPA, and the passing of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, all of which are under assault by the Trump administration today.

That consciousness was quickly stymied by the Reagan Revolution. The Reagan Administration’s statement on World Environment Day in 1986* claimed that “Americans turned a nearly unpopulated continent into a prosperous, peaceful, and protective home for 240 million persons” and dismisses the concept of sustainability, not to mention the intrinsic value of nature. It is actually worth reading in its entirety, as a record of the deeply mistaken thinking that got us into the mess we are in. Here is one of many places you can learn more about the diverse and vibrant Native American cultures that were here before Europeans arrived: Nation Museum of the American Indian.

Now is the time to change on the level of cause rather than react on the level of effect. As we mark this World Environment Day, let us examine the thought systems that have been so prevalent they have become invisible. Let us honor those Black and Indigenous voices that have led the way in the environmental movement. And let us continue to sit with the profound meaning and implications of the words spoken by both Eric Garner and George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.” That is the charge of World Environment Day 2020.

Catherine Coleman Flowers appointed to ‘Unity’ Task Force on Climate Change

Moved by a visit to Lowndes County, Alabama, Bernie Sanders has appointed Catherine Coleman Flowers, Founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ) and CEE Fellow on Environmental Justice and Civic Engagement to the ‘Unity’ Task Force on Climate Change. Flowers has been shining a spotlight for years on conditions of abject poverty in southern states where neglect of poor people, largely communities of color, has led to a sanitation nightmare and the return of diseases long thought eradicated from the United States. She will serve alongside task force members selected by both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to inform policy making discussions in preparation for the 2020 presidential election in November.

In addition to her work through CREEJ and at the Center for Earth Ethics, Catherine serves as the Rural Development Manager for the Equal Justice Initiative. Her first book, WASTE: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret will also be available in November.

Read a full list of Climate Task Force appointees below.

Read a summary of all the task force news at Vox.

Biden’s appointees:

  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry, task force co-chair
  • Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis
  • Kerry Duggan, former deputy director for policy to Vice President Biden
  • Former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy
  • Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA), member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and co-founder of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Congressional Task Force

Sanders’s appointees:

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), task force co-chair and co-author of the Green New Deal resolution
  • Varshini Prakash, co-founder of youth activist group Sunrise Movement
  • Catherine Flowers, founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice

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.

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. 

 

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.

 

CEE Gains Consultative Status with United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)

The Center for Earth Ethics is pleased to announce that the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations adopted the recommendation of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to grant Special Consultative status to CEE (via Union Theological Seminary).

Consultative status will enable the Center to actively engage with ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, as well as with the United Nations Secretariat, programs, funds and agencies in a number of ways. CEE will now be able to participate in the work of the Council, including opportunities to consult with Member States and the United Nations system at large.

Working directly with the United Nations will advance CEEs programmatic goals of advancing conversations between frontline and Indigenous communities with policymakers, providing policy recommendations, and establishing key relationships to encourage meaningful action on the climate crisis. It is an opportunity to work with high-level actors on the world’s most pressing issues at global summits and meetings. With consultative status, the Center will be informed of the Economic and Social Council provisional agenda and have the ability to request through the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations that the Secretary General add items of special interest.

We will use this new platform to continue our mission of building a world where value is measured according to the sustained well-being of all people and our planet.

Facing Devastation in the Amazon

by Guest Contributor, Alfredo Sirkis, Executive Director of the Brazil Climate Center / Climate Reality Project

 

The confrontation with donors like Germany and Norway, the increase of more than 273% of deforestation in the Amazon in July of this year, compared to the same month last year, the increase of invasions of indigenous land with the pollution of its rivers with Mercury; the sticking at IMPE (Brazil’s satellite image monitoring institute)  to “break the thermometer”, the foolish eager to hide the fever, are crazy episodes.

With an additional 5% of further destruction of the Amazon rainforest,  we can engender irreversible changes affecting the rain regime in the rest of the country. Floods, desertification, risks to agriculture, extreme winds, invasion of coastal areas by the sea, heatwaves make up the foretold drama of climate change. On the other hand,  global decarbonization action offers Brazil economic opportunities, if we can use and negotiate with intelligence the immense environmental services we offer, our advantages in low carbon agriculture and clean energy and the great availability for the reforestation and afforestation producing negative emissions.

Bolsonaro’s invectives and gross misinformation silence those in his government who understand the equation. Climate change is unquestionable, its recent extreme manifestations: the terrible cyclones in Mozambique, affecting three million people or the 46-degree heatwave in Nantes, France, are warnings of what is coming. 2019 will be the warmest year ever experienced by mankind.

The latest IPCC report, dealing with not exceeding 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, mentions the need to reforest an area the size of US territory. Brazil has at least 60 million hectares of degraded pasture for reforestation and afforestation, both native and economic. It has abundant sun and wind for clean energy, biofuels and is pioneering low carbon farming techniques. So why all this destruction?

It is not mainly modern agribusiness who illegally deforests, promotes land grabbing and spreads indigent livestock, purely for speculative purposes or poison rivers with mercury. These are criminal activities incited by president Bolsonaro and favored by his dismantling of federal environmental low enforcement institutions.  Agribusiness has much to lose from the international repercussions of the new outbreak of devastation, with worldwide repercussions.

Between 2004 and 2012, Brazil managed to reduce its deforestation in the Amazon from 27,000 km2 to less than 5,000 km2, reducing its CO2 emissions by 80%, more than any other country. Now the deforestation rises again, in full swing. How far will it go?

Bolsonaro hates environmental concerns. He believes they are “leftist stuff” but who were their pioneers in Brazil? Marshal Cândido Rondon, a life in defense of the Indigenous peoples, Major Manuel Archer, promoted greater urban reforestation to date, made in the Tijuca massif in the late 19th century, Admiral Ibsen Gusmão, all military.  Paulo Nogueira Batista, Marcelo de Ipanema, conservatives,  who can hardly be considered the “left-paws” of his idiosyncratic bullshit.

No, worrying about climate and biodiversity is not a “communist scheme”. It is our responsibility to the generation of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, threatened by the catastrophic consequences that can still be contained but in a closing window of opportunity. Quickly.