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Carbon Rangers Ecozoic  Times
December 2022
Vol. 15, No. 9
Dear Reader,
We are between major UN conferences.  COP27 on Climate just concluded in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt.  COP15 on Biodiversity opens in Montreal, Canada in a few days.  This edition of CO2 Rangers gives a brief assessment of COP27.  We will leave COP15 for a later report.   Many of us are now in a holiday season, especially for those keeping Christian feasts and solemnities.   Sadly, the changes at work in our climate systems do not respect the human calendar of celebrations but continue to accelerate the multiple threats we now begin to understand.  Right at the top, we are fortunate to have the wisdom of Tom Athanasiou giving his perspective on how we might view COP27 as a turning point in this very long and vexing saga.  I hope you read more of him whenever you can.

Some Good News will be found here. Some sobering notes will also be on display, especially as regards the infiltration of transnational corporations in the UN negotiating processes.  Global Witness has been sounding an alarm for many years about the corrosive influence of large amounts of money in these conversations. And the very egregious example of Coca-Cola being a major sponsor of the conference will make you wonder, I hope, about the chances of ever getting the world off plastic packaging so long as our "partners" continue to work at cross purposes in these struggles. 

The Laudato Si Movement released a statement following COP27 and celebrated the "loss and damage" decision as the negotiations ran overtime: We celebrate the long awaited framework on loss and damage and the limited window of progress to establish a Ministerial work programme for urgently scaling up mitigation ambition through a just transition work program.  Together with Pope Francis, we note that, “The failure of global summits on the environment makes it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so their plans will not be affected” (LS 54). We therefore acknowledge that much more can be done, and we continue the struggle to put real mitigation at the heart of climate negotiations through a fossil fuel non proliferation treaty and divestment from fossil fuels. 

There is one longish piece at the end where I try to recapture some of the work of Amy Westervelt on the long time campaign of the fossil fuel industry against the science of climate change.  I recommend her  research very highly and apologize for the shortcomings in my effort to get her work into a short version for this newsletter.

I conclude with a word from Thomas Berry and a reminder of how Pope Francis continues his teaching on Care of Earth.   There is a link to my Edmund Rice International website below for those who might want to take a deeper dive on some of the issues mentioned here.  I post regularly and there are about 150 postings  from November  readings on related topics.    Reminder, if you want to make a difference - eat less meat.


Br. Kevin
Here is the link:

COP27 Major Outcomes:  A Brief Summary

Loss and damage.   Finally achieving agreement on a fund is a major milestone. Now comes the difficult part – the fund must be set up, and filled with cash. There is no agreement yet on how the finance should be provided and where it should come from. The fund is based on the principle that those most responsible for the climate crisis should compensate those who are most impacted by it.  It’s an important first step towards climate justice, but it remains to be seen how money will get in and out, and how people on the frontlines of the climate crisis will be heard.  Without a pathway and commitment to end our addiction to fossil fuels, our world leaders have fallen short in actions to avoid and effectively minimise loss and damage.  

Bill McKibben notes:  "The talks produced one real success: civil society had focused on getting the rich nations to agree to a ‘loss and damage’ fund, and at the last minute they did just that. It was a triumph for movement organizers from the global south—for groups like the Climate Action Network—that made the issue the unrelenting focus of their efforts in the lead-up to this COP, and for good reason: as Reuters reported 55 vulnerable countries estimated their combined climate-linked losses over the last two decades totalled $525 billion, or 20% of their collective GDP. Some research suggests that by 2030 such losses could reach $580 billion per year.  Read those numbers again—they are astonishing (a fifth of GDP!) and there is no doubt where justice lies: the iron law of global warming is, as always, those who did the least to cause it suffer first and most."

1.5C  The 2015 Paris agreement contained two temperature goals – to keep the rise “well below 2C” above pre-industrial levels, and “pursuing efforts” to keep the increase to 1.5C. Science since then has shown clearly that 2C is not safe, so at Cop26 in Glasgow last year countries agreed to focus on a 1.5C limit. At Cop27, some countries tried to renege on the 1.5C goal, and to abolish the ratchet. They failed, but a resolution to cause emissions to peak by 2025 was taken out, to the dismay of many.
Gas . The final text of Cop27 contained a provision to boost “low-emissions energy”. It could also be interpreted to mean gas, which has lower emissions than coal, Many countries at Cop27, particularly those from Africa with large reserves to exploit, came to Sharm el-Sheikh hoping to strike lucrative gas deals.   There were approximately 368 corporations (fossil fuel, banks, insurance, etc.) at COP.
Fossil fuels . Last year at Glasgow, a commitment to phase down the use of coal was agreed. It marked the first time a resolution on fossil fuels had been included in the final text – some would say, incredibly for 30 years of conferences on climate change. At Cop27, some countries – led by India – wanted to go further and include a commitment to phase down all fossil fuels. That was the subject of intense wrangling late into Saturday night, but in the end it failed and the resolution included was the same as that in Glasgow.

World Bank Reform.  Reform of the kind widely discussed at Cop27 could involve a recapitalisation of the development banks to allow them to provide far more assistance to the developing world. Nicholas Stern, a climate economist and peer, has calculated the developing world will need $2.4tn (£2tn) a year from 2030. But this is only about 5% more than the investment they would require anyway, much of which would go into high-carbon infrastructure. The World Bank could provide about half of those funds, he estimates.  Mia Mottley , Prime Minister of Barbados  (photo: Amazons Watch) has been  the leading figure for this effort. Mottley has n0w partnered with President Macron (France) to work on a solution.  The Bridgetown Initiative floated by  Prime Minister Mottley has garnered a terrific amount of attention and demonstrated just how great the desire for visionary pragmatism actually is. If the elites can actually come up with something real—some quasi-Keynesian mechanism that can actually mobilize hundreds of billions in climate finance—it would be widely welcomed. And, yes, a global tax on fossil energy profits would be a great place to start.

CAUTION: It seems almost impossible to get these COPs to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Last year in Glasgow there was a big push to get banks and financial institutions to take climate change seriously—the jet parking lot at Glasgow Airport was filled with planes from the planet’s biggest capitalists—and so we got the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. But in the course of the year GFANZ’s aspirations began to wither; very few of the banks have managed to even stop funding coal-fired power, which is the most obvious first step. The big American banks threatened to walk away this summer when it appeared GFANZ rules might restrict their ability to keep financing fossil fuel expansion (something that climate science has said clearly and repeatedly should be verboten), and so…the rules were changed.

Bill McKibben again:  "And the bank story is emblematic. With the focus on loss and damage, this year’s COP did not manage to push harder for new climate targets, or even to call for an (undated) “phase out” of fossil fuel—which, after all, is what is required to have some hope of bringing climate change under control."

"... What I’m trying to say is: inertia is becoming an enormous factor. Because Big Oil cost us three decades, we have to move with unheard-of speed. As Vaclav Smil has pointed out, big energy transitions (wood to coal, say) normally play out over a century. Since physics is allowing us a decade or two instead, we have to constantly goose this process. Movements have done a good job—without them we’d be nowhere—but we’re not managing to push things fast enough. "  

"The tactic of the bad guys is delay, and delay is incredibly easy to achieve; a body at rest stays at rest. Our job is acceleration, and that’s not happening, at least at the pace that’s required. We’re starting to run out of years, so we best make the next one count."   
Adaptation . Building flood defences, preserving wetlands, restoring mangrove swamps and regrowing forests – these measures, and more, can help countries to become more resilient to the impacts of climate breakdown. But poor countries often struggle to gain funding for these efforts. Of the $100bn a year rich countries promised they would receive from 2020 – a promise still not fulfilled – only about $20bn goes to adaptation. In Glasgow, countries agreed to double that proportion, but at Cop27 some sought to remove that commitment. After some struggle, it was reaffirmed.
Tipping points, the IPCC and health.  Since Cop26, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has published the key parts of its latest vast assessment ... some countries resisted...Instead of that, a reference to the key finding of “tipping points” was put in – a warning that the climate does not warm in a gradual and linear fashion, but that we risk tripping feedback loops that will lead to rapidly escalating effects. ...Also inserted was a reference to “the right to a clean healthy and sustainable environment”. Medical professionals have begun to play a much more prominent role in climate talks, and in climate protests, drawing a clear link between global heating and health.


Despite some progress on loss and damage, world leaders at the UN climate summit failed (once again) to agree to phase out fossil fuels. And that's probably all you need to know about the UN climate negotiations.

Fossil Fuels636 fossil fuel lobbyists granted access.   The fact that COP27 once again failed to phase out fossil fuels is reason alone to deem it a failure. This outcome is perhaps unsurprising given the enormous presence that the fossil fuel industry had in Sharm El-Sheikh this year. Our analysis found 636 fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access to the talks, with a presence larger than any country delegation after the United Arab Emirates – the host of next year’s COP28. There were over 25% more fossil fuel lobbyists present than there were at last year's COP26 in Glasgow.

ICYMI: BP’s CEO was registered as a member of the Mauritanian delegation, and Total’s CEO was confronted by Ukrainian activists and climate campaigners over Russian oil profits and the company’s role in the climate crisis. 

Land and Environmental Defenders
Despite our urgent calls to COP27 leaders to recognise the threats that environmental defenders face, the cover decision text failed to specifically acknowledge the contribution that land and environmental activists make to climate action.  However, it was encouraging to see UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recognising the role of environmental defenders in his COP27 opening speech and the Prime Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Støre calling for a moment of silence to commemorate the deaths of defenders specifically citing our global data released a few weeks ago. 

Forests . The final COP text “emphasises” the importance of forests and other ecosystems to keeping 1.5C alive and recalls that countries should aim to slow and halt deforestation – but this represents no tangible progress from the commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow.   However we were pleased to see the Secretary General and his group of High Level Experts on net zero make it clear that there is no net zero that includes deforestation. It’s a red line. We agree. For too long businesses have been claiming to be working towards net zero whilst chopping down forests. That greenwash is now a little bit harder to get away with.  

Nature.  Global heating threatens to devastate habitats across the world, putting thousands of species in danger of extinction. These range from polar bears and tigers to monarch butterflies and sea turtles. However, the most spectacular threat is the one faced by the planet’s coral reefs which provide habitats for thousand of species. Planetary heating of 1.5C will see between 70 and 90% of coral reefs disappear. At 2C, 99% will be destroyed.

Threading the Needle at COP27 

This section is taken verbatim from the work of Tom Athanasiou (Photo)
I have found him to be one of the really thoughtful observers and very important participant in the struggle to care for our Common Home.  
There is something in the modern radical mind that wants the climate negotiations to fail. Such a failure, after all, would seem to prove that this wretched system cannot be reformed, that only a revolutionary break can re-open the human future.

COP27, the climate conference in Sharm El Sheik in Egypt, was not, however, a failure. In the 11th hour, the United States, greatest of the COP’s miscreants, finally stood down and allowed the plenary to create the Loss and Damage fund. But the stalling had taken its toll. It allowed the Egyptian presidency, no friend of humanity and nature, to play out an end-game gambit in which, finally, the core mitigation text—which is far too weak—could not be challenged without putting the new fund at risk.

That’s the story, but it’s not the whole story. In fact, it’s fair to say that COP27, in its dismal way, was a turning point. For one thing, the creation of the Loss and Damage fund queues up the real financing battle, in which the need for international public finance takes center stage. It does so because it’s simply not possible to convincingly pretend that private capital flows will adequately support the efforts now before us: adaptation, loss and damage, a global just transition. 

Further, this great clarification came while, simultaneously, the battle to phase out fossil fuels was raised to a new level. That battle was lost at COP27, but keep in mind that this was still just an opening skirmish. Indeed, at COP27, the government of India, which will soon hold the G20 Presidency, came out, again and unambiguously, for the “phase down” (not “out”) of all fossil fuels, not just coal. Not that this is just about to happen, but neither is this business as usual. 

COP27 was a Childhood’s End moment, not least because – in the face of a broad push to abandon 1.5C for lost – it saw a countervailing push to rather infuse the 1.5C goal with real and visceral meaning. 

The key pivot here was actually marked last year by the International Energy Agency, which has taken to emphasizing the fact that, to achieve 1.5C, we must more or less immediately cease all investment in fossil fuel infrastructure anywhere in the world. COP27 then dropped the second shoe, for it spotlighted the fact—and it is a fact—that this cannot and will not happen unless we center the equity challenge. That, at least, is how it seemed to me, for I have never heard the term “fossil phase out” so often preceded by the word “fair.”

Climate Conferences Not Working?
These climate conferences just aren’t working  by Bill McGuire 

It really does beggar belief, that in the course of 27 COPs, there has never been a formal agreement to reduce the world’s fossil fuel use. Not only has the elephant been in the room all this time, but over the last quarter of a century it has taken on gargantuan proportions – and still its presence goes unheeded....  McGuire is retired from University College London  in UK.  This excerpt if from his article in The Guardian.

Expectations were never especially high over the course of the 12 months since Glasgow’s COP26. Even so, COP27 has to be a new low – held in a country (image: flag of Egypt) cowed by a malicious dictatorship, the world’s biggest plastic polluter on board as a sponsor, and hosting more than 600 fossil fuel representatives and many others who are there to prevent, rather than promote progress and action. Some old hands have labelled it the worst COP ever, and I doubt many would argue.

... I would never question the sincerity of those working within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), established way back in 1992, nor those embedded in the COP climate apparatus, who I know are desperate to find a solution to our predicament. I do, however, seriously wonder whether an annual extravaganza in the full glare of the world’s media is the way to do this.

 At COP27, the sharks were circling around African nations, desperate to persuade them of the urgent need for a “dash for gas” and looking for a very large piece of the action.

The hijacking of COP27  by the fossil fuel sector, and failure, year on year, to do the job they were set up to do, surely means that COP is no longer fit for purpose.

One way forward, then, could be to establish a number of smaller bodies, each addressing one of the key issues – notably energy, agriculture, deforestation, transport, loss and damage, and perhaps others.  Such bodies would operate full-time, liaising with one another and perhaps coming together a few times a year. Ideally, they would be made up of representatives from both developed and majority-world countries. In direct contact with representatives of national governments, part of their remit would be to negotiate agreements that are workable, legally binding, and which actually do the job.

Reminder of a Problem that Won't Go Away- How Do We Break Free From Plastic?
This story appeared prior to the COP27 gathering.  ...A sponsorship deal between this year’s UN climate conference and Coca-Cola, which has been described as the “world’s top polluter” by an environmental group, has been branded “greenwash” by campaigners.

Cop27, to be held in the Egyptian coastal resort of Sharm el-Sheikh from 6-18 November, is the world’s primary forum for governments, businesses and environmental organisations to tackle the climate emergency.
Emma Priestland, a coordinator for Break Free From Plastic, a global alliance of organisations and individuals, said: “Coca-Cola sponsoring the Cop27 is pure ‘greenwash’. Coca-Cola is one of the world’s biggest users of plastic.
“Over four years, we’ve found Cola-Cola to be the world’s top plastic polluter in our annual brand audits,” she said. “It’s astounding that a company so tied to the fossil fuel industry is allowed to sponsor such a vital climate meeting.”

Environmental campaigners described the partnership as baffling. A petition started by a delegate at Cop26 in Glasgow has called for an end to corporate sponsorship of the Cop talks, starting with the removal of Cola-Cola.
John Hocevar, oceans campaign director at Greenpeace USA, said: “It is baffling that Coca-Cola – the world’s biggest plastic polluter in all global Break Free From Plastic brand audits – will sponsor this year’s UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Egypt.

Amy Westervelt Deep Dive : Climate Denial Still a Threat
Amy has been a ferocious reporter on the threats from the coal and fossil fuel lobby in the USA for several years.  This segment looks closely at the struggles in the USA around the Environmental Protection Agency and the regular attacks from right-wing critics.  Recently in a long post in her newsletter she summed up some of the more disturbing campaigns being waged behind the scenes by these bad actors.   I recommend you read her piece in the link here.  But if you are pressed for time, here is a capsule version:    Amy is investigating a number of climate denial groups and has identified some key players. 

(Westervelt Photo: Rocky Mountain Institute) Here is how she frames the problem.  "What I see are the fingerprints of a guy who predates both of them in the anti-climate battle: Steve Milloy. Which is interesting because Milloy also happens to be the highest-paid staffer at the same organization where Martis is a senior fellow: Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), previously known as the American Tradition Institutethe organization that went after climate scientists like James Hansen, Michael Mann, and Katharine Hayhoe in the early aughts, trying to discredit them, and climate science in general. E&E Legal is also affiliated or sharing counsel with the Energy & Environment Action Team, the Free Market Environmental Law Clinicand the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Droz, Martis, E&E, and CEI turn up on all sorts of documents and letters together, too, and Milloy and Droz are both frequent speakers at Heartland Institute events.

...Also on the agenda? De-funding the EPA and handing environmental regulation over to the states. Milloy says the environment in which the EPA was created 50 years ago is not the one we're living in today. "The environment is clean," he says. "We know what's dangerous and what is not, or how to quickly determine that issue when it arises. Every state has a strong environment agency. The U.S. EPA should be dramatically reduced in size and authority, with most of its responsibilities delegated to states."

...Advocates who work on environmental issues at the state level disagree. Take methane regulations: "Nobody has the staff resources to regulate methane emissions or VOCs [volatile organic compounds] from oil and gas drilling," says Sharon Wilson, who tracks methane emissions for the nonprofit Earthworks. She points to New Mexico as a recent example. "New Mexico just passed methane rules that look really good on paper. But they have five employees—five—to go out and inspect and regulate the entire state's oil and gas industry, which is expansive."

...More than anything, of course, Milloy wants to win his lifelong battle against air pollution regulations. One of his earliest jobs was running The Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC), which was created by Philip Morris and their PR firm APCO in the 1990s to deal with the mounting evidence that linked secondhand smoke and, more broadly, indoor air pollution, to cancer. The secondhand smoke issue brought the tobacco industry together with lots of other industries that were worried about air pollution regulation—automotive, manufacturing, and, of course, fossil fuels. Which is how Milloy, working for the tobacco industry, became one of the first leaders of the climate countermovement.

...I don't recall seeing a lot of anti-renewables rhetoric from Milloy over the years, but since his arrival at E&E in 2016, it's become a mainstay of his public presence. Just this week, in fact, he described proposed onshore wind farms in the UK with a list of Kevon Martis's greatest hits, warning that it would "junk up beautiful countryside with ugly, expensive, climatically pointless and bird-killing wind turbines."

Another sign of what's next: Milloy, Droz, E&E Legal and the Competitive Enterprise Institute have joined the fight against Environmental, Sustainability, and Governance (ESG) guidelines in the finance industry as well. Milloy says it's a "leftist scam." And E&E Legal, Droz, Heartland and CEI teamed up on a letter to the SEC recently, arguing that: "The Commission’s current proposal [to standardize climate disclosures in finance] is similar to much previous ESG activism in that it uses the language of business and financial management in order to suggest that it seeks practical, prosperity-enhancing goals, but is actually animated by environmental theory that is hostile to hydrocarbon energy and industrial development per se for moral and ideological reasons."

No surprise to see Milloy and E&E Legal hopping onboard now though: like all of their other efforts, the anti-ESG push has been led and largely funded by coal. Earlier this year, Documented published its investigation into how state treasurers in coal states became the frontline warriors in this fight. Attorneys general in those states have gotten involved now, too.

There's a small group of lone wolf climate denier dudes whose work I follow because it's a pretty decent bellwether of where the climate countermovement is headed next. Milloy is one of them, and his talking points in recent years have cycled through the following themes: climate change is a hoax, Covid (and related mitigation measures) is a hoax, ESG and renewables are a scam, and Americans should be concerned about election integrity. By connecting all of these to conservative identity, operatives like Milloy, and the various groups they work with and for, have managed to breathe new life into ideas thought to be buried in the past, from the notion that CO2 is actually good for the planet to the idea that wind turbines are dangerous for birds to plain old garden variety climate denial. 

 More Good News in U.S.
    Courtesy of the T.H.Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University

Innovators are creating long-duration batteries that will store power for days instead of hours, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is putting $349M into research to reduce the cost of energy storage by 90% within the decade.
The race to recycle EV batteries just got a $74M boost from the DOE, which will fund projects aiming to ease supply chain disruptions and decrease reliance on other countries.

Washington state voted to mandate new construction to include heat pumps starting next July. So far, 90 cities and counties have policies that boost electrification.   The U.S. is on track to weatherize 2M homes by 2030, just allocated $13B to help families pay for energy bills and home repairs, and earmarked $250M for financing energy audits and retrofits.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted $53.4M to improve air quality monitoring in 37 states to protect residents from dangerous air pollution and strengthened methane rules to cut emissions 87% below 2005 levels. 
Nearly 400 school districts are receiving ~$1B to buy clean school buses under a new federal program key to cleaning the air kids breathe at school.
The U.S. finalized 2 wind energy areas for lease in the Gulf of Mexico, while in May it canceled 3 oil lease sales there due to lack of industry interest. Too bad, so sad!
Thomas Berry 1914-2009 
"There is a spiritual capacity in carbon as there is a carbon component functioning in our highest spiritual experience. If some scientists consider that all this is merely a material process, then what they call matter, I call mind, soul, spirit, or consciousness. Possibly it is a question of terminology, since scientists too on occasion use terms that express awe and mystery. Most often, perhaps, they use the expression that some of the natural forms they encounter seem to be "telling them something".  (Photo credit: Lou Niznik)
Thomas Berry: The Great Work: Our Way into the Future, Page: 25

Pope Francis
“The failure of global summits on the environment makes it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so their plans will not be affected. "(LS 54).
Copyright © 2022 Edmund Rice International, All rights reserved.

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