Daily Archives: January 6, 2015

Stopping the Biggest Corporate Power Grab in Years

How fighting back against one arcane, Nixon-era trade negotiating procedure could put a stop to a global corporate coup.

by Arthur Stamoulis

(Photo: GlobalTradeWatch/flickr/cc)

When global justice groups wanted to halt expansion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999, they organized massive demonstrations in Seattle, where the official ministerial conference was being held.

Tens of thousands of people filled the streets. Groups held rallies, marches, and teach-ins, conducted civil disobedience, and in many cases faced attacks by police. With delegates unable to even reach the convention hall, the opening ceremony was cancelled, and the talks eventually fell apart. The “Battle of Seattle” not only succeeded in derailing the Millennial Round of negotiations, it also turned opposition to corporate globalization into international headline news.

Fifteen years later, the “movement of movements” has another opportunity to strike a dramatic blow to neoliberalism — this time by stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a deal the United States is negotiating with 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) allegedly to boost “free trade.”

However, the pact goes far beyond traditional trade issues, to affect banking regulations, environmental protections, access to medicines, use of the internet, and much more. Most notably, the deal would undermine countries’ ability to make sovereign decisions and instead offer protections to transnational corporate investors. And full information about the TPP is not even available — the level of transparency is so low that all public access to the text has come from leaks.

The TPP is a corporate power grab clearly worthy of Seattle-caliber mobilization. But the fight against this reprehensible deal requires different types of tactics. And the place to start is by derailing “Fast Track,” the mechanism that would allow TPP approval to rush through the U.S. Congress with little debate and no amendments.

An End Run Around Popular Influence

Social movements’ success in Seattle has been enduring. Despite unfortunate recent “progress” in arcane areas such as trade facilitation, the WTO stalemate that took root in Seattle has on the whole been a lasting one, frustrating neoliberal expansion for a decade and a half.

In many ways, the TPP is an end-run around that peoples’ movement victory by corporations and their allies. Rather than continue facing the WTO’s ostensibly consensus-based decision-making process, transnational corporations are today using their proxy — the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative — to cherry-pick those countries most willing to play ball with their agenda. They’re pushing those governments to approve an omnibus package of corporate dream policies on energy, finance, intellectual property, agriculture, and more, which they’ve disguised as a trade deal. And since the TPP is a “docking agreement” — meaning that other countries can join over time — they can then pressure other nations, from China on down, to sign on once the rules have already been set.

In negotiating the TPP, U.S. president Barack Obama has not only faced the challenge of getting 11 countries into line with the proposal. He’s also had to overcome significant domestic opposition, including from members of his own party.

At a Business Roundtable meeting of CEOs in December, President Obama said, “Part of the argument I am making to Democrats is: ‘don’t fight the last war.’” He went on to say that conditions for the practices critics object to — like outsourcing production to countries with poor labor and environmental standards — already exist. In contrast, he said, the TPP will be “forcing some countries to boost their labor standards, boost their environmental standards, boost transparency, reduce corruption, increase intellectual property protection. And so all that is good for us.”

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record Globally By Far

by Joe Romm Posted on January 5, 2015 at 9:09 amUpdated: January 5, 2015 at 11:55 am

2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record Globally By Far

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has announced that 2014 was the hottest year in more than 120 years of record-keeping — by far. NOAA is expected to make a similar call in a couple of weeks and so is NASA.

As the JMA graph shows, there has been no “hiatus” or “pause” in warming. In fact, there has not even been a slowdown. Yes, in JMA’s ranking of hottest years, 1998 is in (a distant) second place — but 1998 was an outlier as the graph shows. In fact, 1998 was boosted above the trendline by an unusual super-El Niño. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records.

What makes setting the record for hottest year in 2014 doubly impressive is that it occurred despite the fact we’re still waiting for the start of El Niño. But this is what happens when a species keeps spewing record amounts of heat-trapping carbon pollution into the air, driving CO2 to levels in the air not seen for millions of years, when the planet was far hotter and sea levels tens of feet higher.

The JMA is a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Regional Climate Center of excellence. The WMO had announced a month ago that 2014 was on track to be hottest year on record. Different climate-tracking groups around the world use different data sets, so they can show different results for 2014 depending on how warm December turns out to be.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

UK accused of hypocrisy over plans to limit enforcement of EU climate goal

Britain has been lobbying to reduce EU powers to act on countries’ failure to meet agreed emissions cuts of 40% by 2030

Ed Davey, secretary of state for energy and climate change. The UK wants emissions cuts to be overseen with a ‘light touch’. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Arthur Neslen, Brussels

British lobbying to reduce monitoring of EU countries’ action on climate change has sparked outrage among MEPs and environmentalists.

EU states agreed last October to cut their carbon emissions 40% by 2030, but a UK plan co-authored with the Czech Republic proposes that countries’ emissions cuts should only be overseen with a ‘light touch’ regime with a diminished role for Brussels.

The unpublished paper places equal emphasis on business competitiveness and greenhouse gas reductions. It also calls for nuclear power and experimental carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to be given the same status as renewable sources, such as wind and solar power, and energy efficiency.

“It is very worrying that the UK government is now discussing how to ensure a light touch on the 2030 targets,” the Labour MEP Seb Dance told the Guardian. “In the past, the UK has led the way towards decarbonisation but that has to be combined with developing renewable and low carbon alternatives.”

…(read more).

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Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
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Keystone, climate change and the US economy: the truth behind the myth

Six-plus years of robust debate has led to plenty of speculation about the perceived benefits of the pipeline – some of which are drastically overstated

The endless debate over the benefits of these pipes has outgrown the proposed Keystone pipeline itself. Photograph: Sue Ogrocki/AP

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington

Tuesday 6 January 2015 07.00 EST

America has 2.5m miles of oil and gas pipelines. But none of those pipelines are anywhere near as contentious as the Keystone XL, which would transport tar sands crude oil from Canada to refineries on the US gulf coast. Over the past six-plus years, Keystone has become a stand-in for a broader debate about climate change. It’s also the subject of much myth-making about climate change and the economy. Below, a look at some of the most prominent of those myths, and the truth behind them.

Myth #1: Keystone XL won’t contribute to climate change

The State Department said the pipeline would not have a significant impact on development of the tar sands or crude oil demand – and so would not have much impact on climate change. But even the State Department’s own analysis found found the pipeline, once operational, would cause the equivalent emissions of 300,000 cars a year, and it noted that tar sands were 17% more carbon intensive than the average barrel of US crude oil. Subsequent analyses by the Congressional Research Service have found tar sands up to 20% more carbon intensive than the average barrel of crude.

Myth #2: Keystone will create thousands of jobs

The American Petroleum Institute lobby group claimed in 2009 that Keystone would create up to 343,000 new US jobs over a four-year period, based on demand for new goods and services, and add up to $34bn to the US economy in 2015. However, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service found those estimates were based on an internal study that had not been subject to review. The State Department in its analysis found Keystone would create about 42,000 direct and indirect temporary construction jobs, and about 50 permanent jobs once construction is finished.

…(read more).

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Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

Pope Francis plants a flag in the ground on climate change | John Abraham

The Pope’s expected actions continue a tradition of leadership

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives on his popemobile for his inauguration Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Pope Francis urged princes, presidents, sheiks and thousands of ordinary people gathered for his installation Mass on Tuesday to protect the environment, the weakest and the poorest, mapping out a clear focus of his priorities as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP

John Abraham

Tuesday 6 January 2015 09.00 EST

Make no mistake about it, there is no longer any rationale for division between science and faith. Over the past decades, scientists and persons of faith have learned to dance in a complementary manner, a “non-overlapping magisterium” as the saying sometimes goes. But as prior conflicts were found to be more molehill than mountain, leaders among the scientific and religious communities have explored collaborative ways to answer scientific questions and provide solutions to real-world problems that reflect a universal motivation to care for our fellow humans and honor our religious traditions.

Such collaboration is necessary, particularly in areas where the impacts of science so deeply affect the lives of people around the world. A present example comes from our changing climate. As I’ve written in these pages before, my work in the developing world has provided me with first-hand experience of how somewhat abstract and theoretical “global warming” studied in my office in the United States is manifested as human impacts, particularly in subsistence agricultural nations. These subsistence countries are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Ironically, those with the least ability to adapt are being impacted beyond their contribution to the problem.

I am a scientist and my motivation for studying climate change is driven by both a desire to understand the Earth’s environment, but also to provide information for decision makers. What are the impacts of taking certain actions? How will they affect the future climate of our children? But that is as far as my science hat can take me. The actual decisions we make to deal with climate change must come from the values of our society and the cost-benefit analyses of taking action.

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

The Solution Under Our Feet: How Regenerative Organic Agriculture Can Save the Planet

John W. Roulac | January 6, 2015 9:09 am

Many of us are now choosing to eat holistically grown foods. We want:

• more nutrition from our food.
• to avoid toxic pesticides and GMOs.
• to create safer conditions for farmers and rural communities.
• to protect the water, air and soil from contamination by toxic agrochemicals.

While these reasons are important, one critical issue is missing from today’s conversation about food. The concept is simple, yet virtually unknown. The solution to our global food and environmental crisis is literally under our feet.

If you take away only one thing from this article, I want it to be this quote from esteemed soil scientist Dr. Rattan Lal at Ohio State University:

Through the past hundred years, we’ve steadily increased our rate of digging up and burning carbon-rich matter for fuel. This is disturbing the oceanic ecosystem in profound ways that include reducing the plankton that feeds whales and provides oxygen for humans. And we’re not just talking about the extinction of whales. As I’ll detail in this article, even Maine lobsters could become a relic of the past.

We’ve severely disrupted the balance in the “carbon triad” by clearing rainforests, degrading farmland, denuding pasturelands, and burning coal and oil. The carbon triad? Yes; think of the three main carbon sinks: the atmosphere, the oceans and the humus-sphere. While I’m sure you’re familiar with the first two, you might not know about the latter carbon sink. Humus is the organic component of soil. (Gardeners create it as compost.) The humus-sphere is made up of the stable, long-lasting remnants of decaying organic material, essential to the Earth’s soil fertility and our ability to grow nutrient-rich crops.

….(read more).

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

California Governor Calls for 50 Percent Renewable Energy by 2030

Anastasia Pantsios | January 5, 2015 5:05 pm
As he was sworn in today for his fourth term as governor of California, Jerry Brown announced a program of ambitious new environmental goals that would enhance the state’s reputation as a forward-thinking pacesetter for the entire country.

California

Governor Jerry Brown outlined new environmental goals as he was sworn in for his fourth term. Photo credit: Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

The goals include increasing the amount of electricity the state generates from renewable sources to 50 percent by 2030, well beyond its current goal of 33 percent by 2020. He proposed reducing use of gas to fuel vehicles by 50 percent and to double the energy efficiency of existing buildings while making heating fuel cleaner. And he said that the state must reduce the release of methane, black carbon and other potential pollutants, manage farms, forest, wetlands and rangelands to store carbon, and transform the electrical grid and the transportation system.

“Neither California nor indeed the world itself can ignore the growing assault on the very systems of nature on which human beings and other forms of life depend,” said Brown. “Edward O. Wilson, one of the world’s preeminent biologists and naturalists, offered this sobering thought: ‘Surely one moral precept we can agree on is to stop destroying our birthplace, the only home humanity will ever have. The evidence for climate warming, with industrial pollution as the principal cause, is now overwhelming.’”

…(read more).

Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice