Political flux in Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo is fueling concerns that large swaths of tropical forests in the world's three biggest rainforest countries may be imperiled by industries including palm oil, timber, mining and agriculture.Read original story
Montana's trees have flipped from being a carbon "sink" to a carbon emitter in roughly the past decade. Outbreaks of bark beetles, fueled by warming temperatures, have ravaged forests, leaving carbon-rich trees to die and slowly decompose or burn in forest fires.Read original story
The city of Boston aims to be carbon free by 2050, a target that a new report says will require substantial changes to its buildings, transportation, waste and energy sectors.Read original story
A new study from the Brookings Institution suggests that states, counties and congressional districts that voted Republican in 2016 and 2018 will suffer greater economic and environmental damage from a climate change over the coming decades than places that voted Democratic.Read original story
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In Case You Missed It
As the Davos World Economic Forum kicked off in Switzerland, Oxfam published a new reminder of the scale of inequality we must address: just 26 billionaires now control 50% of the world’s wealth. Greta Thunberg and Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate commission chief, were there urging strong climate action from world leaders. But Greta’s climate strike at Davos was outshone in Brussels, where an astounding 35,000 youth took to the streets Wednesday, and 70,000 came out Sunday. And in Berlin on Friday, as the German coal commission neared an agreement on how to phase out coal in the country, thousands more students held a strike outside the meeting demanding an end to fossil fuels. Germany’s deal sets a 2038 end date for coal, but it’s not ambitious enough.
In Australia, ferocious heatwaves have driven home the urgency of the fight to keep global warming below 1.5˚C. Temperatures have neared 50˚C (122˚F) in some parts of the country, with bushfires tearing through more than 63,000 hectares of Tasmania’s natural landscape. Australians have been urged to stay indoors and stay hydrated, with communities coming together to look after local wildlife and check in on elderly and vulnerable neighbors. People are vowing to take action now to avoid this becoming the new normal. If you haven’t seen it yet, this clip showing the dried outback that’s making farming nearly impossible has gone viral.
In Spain and France, communities celebrated as a major gas pipeline through the eastern Pyrenees, MidCAT-STEP, was scrapped after years of grassroots resistance. Groups pressured local authorities along the pipeline route, among other tactics, until energy regulators finally rejected it. It’s a big win for activists across Europe who are challenging the fossil fuel industry’s notion that gas is needed as a “transition fuel”. The decision has even motivated the European Investment Bank to reconsider its policy to fund other gas infrastructure “projects of common interest” in Europe. They’re right to reconsider. The region where the dud pipeline was planned is already leading the way in community renewable energy projects; investment would be much better spent on projects like these than more fossil fuel infrastructure. Hopefully the win can inspire others resisting gas infrastructure elsewhere right now, like the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline in Mexico or gas extraction plants in Zanzibar.
In South Africa, a coalition of environmental justice groups is blocking plans for a new coal mine in a protected wetland area in Mpumalanga. The company behind the mine, which would have a 15-year life span and exacerbate the effects of climate change in one of the world’s most sensitive regions, had their request to appeal the coalition thrown out by a High Court and were ordered to pay the groups’ legal costs. Further north, in Kenya, there’ve been positive reports of new solar projects on the way, following the president’s announcement last month to move the country towards 100% renewable energy. They’ll also have to tackle pollution from motorcycles in the capital Nairobi; solar-powered bikes can help fill the gap.
Some other recent wins include:
– One of Sweden’s main pension funds dropped coal and oil sands, alongside tobacco and nuclear weapons.
– In hopes of inspiring other communities to do the same, St. James Episcopal Church in Connecticut divested from all fossil fuels.
A major aim of campaigns to go Fossil Free is to stop and ban all fossil fuel infrastructure. In King County, Washington, the county council just reviewed one of the strongest fossil fuel bans in the country. It works with a moratorium on all new development and then leverages land use code to effectively ban infrastructure, like storage tanks or refineries. In this interview with 350 Seattle, learn more about how the community developed broad-based support for the ban and brought it to the local government (and check out the awesome video explainer too). Bans like this have also been passed in other communities in the region, and are helping secure a healthy climate future for all.
In the Netherlands, a local group of artists has been staging powerful performances at cultural institutions to pressure them to break their ties with fossil fuel companies, namely, Shell. And they’ve been winning – following an amazing campaign consisting of six performances throughout 2017 and 2018, culminating in an art storm, the Van Gogh Museum ended its 18-year sponsorship with Shell, and two other museums in The Hague quickly followed. The group has announced that its next target will be The Concertgebouw (Concert hall). The Concertgebouw is the last cultural institution on Amsterdam’s main museum square, the Museumplein, with a fossil fuel sponsorship. Watch and share their performance for a Fossil Free Museumplein.
That’s it for now. If you sign up, I’ll be back in your inbox in two weeks with more!
The U.S. government's new long-term energy outlook paints a picture of the future that few utilities and energy analysts actually expect to see. It underplays how rapidly coal will retreat and fails to grasp the scale of growth for renewable energy compared to utilities' plans and analysts' expectations. And that's a problem, because this outlook gets used like a forecast.Read original story
Florida's new Republican governor surprised activists by moving quickly on a number of environmental priorities, including addressing the risks of sea level rise and the need for science in environmental policymaking, but he has so far stopped short of any comprehensive plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.Read original story
Germany plans to shut down all of its coal-fired power plants by 2038 in a move that will have major ramifications for Europe's attempts to meet its Paris climate targets. The country is the last major bastion of coal-burning in northwestern Europe. Coal still provides nearly 40% of its power.Read original story
Several members of the UN Security Council, led by France and the UK, are urging the United Nations to establish a system to alert the world to regions where conflicts may be inflamed by climate change.Read original story
As the Trump administration rolls back environmental and safety rules for the energy sector, government projections show the billions of dollars companies save carry a steep human cost: more premature deaths and illnesses from air pollution, a jump in climate-warming emissions and more severe derailments of trains carrying explosive fuels. The AP analyzed 11 major rules.Read original story
Bill Gates is trying to persuade Congress to spend billions of dollars over the next decade for pilot projects that would test new reactor designs for nuclear power, but many nuclear experts say any new nuclear design is likely to come at a high cost and take decades to perfect.Read original story
Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge had hoped to begin construction of its Line 3 crude oil pipeline replacement through northern Minnesota last fall, but the company is still waiting for key federal and state permits.Read original story
A world-changing experiment in London’s poorest borough shows how to break out of our disastrous spiral of alienation.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 24th January 2019
If there is hope, it lies here, in the most deprived borough in London. Barking and Dagenham has shocking levels of unemployment, homelessness, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and early death. Until 2010, it was the main stronghold of the British National Party. Its population turns over at astonishing speed: every year, about 8% of residents move out. But over the past year it has started to become known for something else: as a global leader in taking back control.
Since the Second World War, councils and national governments have sought to change people’s lives from the top down. Their efforts, during the first 30 years of this period at least, were highly effective, creating public services, public housing and a social safety net that radically improved people’s lives.
But they had the unintended consequence of reducing our sense of agency, our social skills and mutual aid. Now, in the age of austerity, state support has been withdrawn, leaving many people with the worst of both worlds: neither the top-down protection of government nor the bottom-up resilience of the community it replaced. I believe we still need strong state support and well-financed public services. But this is not enough. The best antidote to the rising tide of demagoguery and reaction is a politics of belonging, based on strong and confident local communities.
Those who study community life talk about two kinds of social network: bonding and bridging. Bonding networks are those created within homogenous groups. While they can overcome social isolation, they can also foster suspicion and prejudice, while limiting opportunities for change. Bridging networks bring people from different groups together. Research suggests that they can reduce crime and unemployment and, by enhancing community voice, improve the quality of government.
After routing the BNP, which had taken 12 seats in 2006, Labour councillors in Barking and Dagenham saw that it wasn’t enough to target people’s needs and deliver isolated services. They wanted to move from paternalism to participation. But how?
Just as the council began looking for ideas, the Participatory City Foundation, led by an inspiring woman called Tessy Britton, approached it with a plan for an entirely different system, developed after nine years of research into how bridging networks form. Nothing like it had been attempted by a borough before. The council realised it was taking a risk. But it helped to fund a £7m, five-year experiment, called Every One, Every Day.
Researching successful community projects across the world, the Participatory City Foundation discovered a set of common principles. Typically, they demand little time or commitment from local people, and no financial cost. They are close to people’s homes, open to everyone, and designed to attract talent rather than to meet particular needs. They set up physical and visible infrastructure. And rather than emphasising novelty – the downfall of many well-intentioned schemes – they foster simple projects that immediately improve people’s lives. It realised that a large part of the budget would need to be devoted to evaluation, to allow the plan to adapt almost instantly to residents’ enthusiasm.
They launched Every One, Every Day in November 2017, opening two shops (the first of five) on high streets in Barking and Dagenham. The shops don’t sell anything, but are places where people meet, discuss ideas and launch projects. The scheme has also started opening maker spaces, equipped with laser cutters and other tools, sewing machines and working kitchens. Maker spaces are usually occupied by middle-class men, but so far, 90% of the users here are women. The reason for the difference is simple: almost immediately, some of the residents drew a line on the floor, turning part of the space into an informal creche, where women take turns looking after the children. In doing so, they overcame one of the biggest barriers to new businesses and projects: affordable childcare.
I visited the old printers’ warehouse in Thames Road, Barking that the scheme is now turning into a gigantic new workshop, where people can start collaborative food, clothing and renewable energy businesses (it will be launched with a festival on March 16th). But already, the experiment has catalysed a remarkable number of projects, set up spontaneously by residents.
There are welcoming committees for new arrivals to the street, community potluck meals, cooking sessions and street lunches. There’s a programme to turn boring patches of grass into community gardens, play corners and outdoor learning centres. There’s a bee school and a chicken school (teaching urban animal husbandry), sewing and knitting sessions, places for freelance workers to meet and collaborate, computing and coding workshops, storytelling for children, singing sessions, a games cafe. A local football coach has started training people in the streets. There’s a film studio and a DIY film festival, tuition for spoken word poets and a scheme for shutting streets so that children can play after school. Local people have leapt on the opportunities the new system has created.
Talking to residents involved in these projects, I kept hearing the same theme: “I hated this place and wanted to move out. But now I want to stay”. A woman in Barking told me that “getting out and socialising is very hard when you’re unemployed”, but the local shop has “massively improved my social life.” Now her grandad and mum, who were also isolated, come in as well. Another explained that, before the community shop opened in Dagenham, all her friends were in other boroughs, and she felt afraid of local people, especially “the young hoodies”. Now she has local friends with origins all over the world. “I no longer feel intimidated by the young guys round here, because I know them. … It’s been the best year of my adult life.” Another, a black woman who had lived in fear of the BNP’s resurgence, told me, “this is hope at last. Hope for my generation. Hope for my grandchildren.”
There’s a long way to go. Four thousand of the borough’s 200,000 people have participated so far. But the rate of growth suggests it is likely to be transformative. The council told me that the programme is likely to reduce demand for social services, as people’s mental and physical health improve. Partly as a result, other boroughs and other cities are taking an interest in this remarkable experiment. Perhaps it’s not the whole answer to our many troubles. But it looks to me like a bright light in a darkening world.