AlterNet.org: Daphne Wysham http://www.alternet.org/authors/daphne-wysham en Federal Governments Be Damned: Local Communities and Grassroots Activists Move Urgently Toward a Fossil-Free Future http://www.alternet.org/environment/federal-governments-be-damned-local-communities-and-grassroots-activists-are-moving <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Climate leadership is emerging on the local level around the globe.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_256193527_b.jpg?itok=b2RSoGre" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Speaking to the COP22 delegates Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the Obama administration’s plan for <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://unfccc.int/files/focus/long-term_strategies/application/pdf/us_mid_century_strategy.pdf&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1479410183021000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGy34MWZPuflnfk3tEU2yL5-5cYRA" href="http://unfccc.int/files/focus/long-term_strategies/application/pdf/us_mid_century_strategy.pdf" target="_blank">deep decarbonization</a>, though the Trump administration could well undo it. While Kerry acknowledged the uncertainty Trump’s win creates, he predicted markets would continue to drive the transition to clean energy sources, and that the question was whether it would happen fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate damage. </p><p>The plan Secretary Kerry unveiled is a welcome recognition of the need for urgent action; however, it does not go nearly far enough. It’s the people who are claiming the mantle of genuine global climate leadership. Locally elected officials, tribal activists, communities of faith and the grassroots communities that are supporting them have stepped into the void and are acting with urgency, courage and defiance. They are putting their bodies on the line, as in North Dakota, blocking pipeline construction; they are putting in place binding ordinances to ban all new fossil fuel export infrastructure; and they are ensuring 100 percent renewable energy targets are met by 2020, if not sooner.</p><p>At a <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://unfccc.int/files/meetings/marrakech_nov_2016/application/pdf/suseco_citieslead_adv_en.pdf&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1479410183021000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFQ09rloptW5xCHCJEtH2Ac6xuxeA" href="http://unfccc.cloud.streamworld.de/webcast/us-australian-and-other-city-governments-moving-be" target="_blank">press conference</a> at the COP22 climate conference in Marraekech Wednesday evening, NGO and government leaders highlighted how subnational governments and major cities around the world, including in the United States and Canada, are moving forward on implementing the Paris Agreement by adopting <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daphne-wysham/portlanders-and-mayor-cha_b_8579246.html&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1479410183021000&amp;usg=AFQjCNG8AlZGw4hlGxpcaC4eZcPuA_O_Ig" href="http://http://www.nonewffi.org/elected-official-sign-on/" target="_blank">No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure</a> policies and pledges. These policies move cities and regions away from all fossil fuel export infrastructure and toward 100 percent renewable energy. At the press conference, speakers highlighted how citizens, cities and regional governments are stepping in and stepping up the pace of climate action independent of federal action (or inaction). To date, cities across the Western U.S., including Portland, Oregon, as well as Vancouver, B.C., have signed onto No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure declarations, and uptake is accelerating.</p><p>"The urgency of reducing greenhouse emissions dictates that our resources must be focused on rolling out infrastructure that provides fossil free energy," said Shane Rattenbury, ACT Greens MLA &amp; Government Minister of Canberra, Australia, at the press conference. "Investment in fossil fuel infrastructure can no longer be justified. As a jurisdiction committed to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020, we are striving to do our part in this change."</p><p>"We support Portland, Oregon's groundbreaking City Council resolution opposing all new fossil fuel export infrastructure," said Salote Soqo, a senior program leader for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. "We see this local resolution as a reflection of the growing voices of grassroots movements and people of faith around the world, who are calling on their leaders to take bold and ambitious actions to end the devastating era of fossil fuel consumption and usher in the age of clean, renewable energy and climate justice."</p><p><em>For more information about the No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure campaign, click <a href="http://www.nonewffi.org">here</a>.</em></p><p><em>To view a list of elected officials who have signed the pledge, click <a href="http://www.nonewffi.org/elected-official-sign-on/">here</a>.</em></p> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 23:30:00 -0800 Daphne Wysham, AlterNet 1067348 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Activism Environment Local Peace Economy World climate change activists local federal activism climate tribal I Spent My Honeymoon in Prison - for a Damned Good Reason http://www.alternet.org/environment/honeymoon-jail <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">With one tiny loose bolt, oil trains can erupt into an inferno, scorching everything for miles.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/6593119907_155517d88f_z.jpg?itok=qDyVJYD2" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It was a few days after my wedding. I was supposed to be honeymooning at a nearby winery with my newly minted husband, celebrating our unlikely marriage at age 55.</p><p>Instead, I was sitting on the railroad tracks in the pouring rain. Along with 20 other brave souls, some weeping, some singing, I was facing down a locomotive in a town — Vancouver, Washington — that many fear will be forced to accept the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country.</p><p>Why would anyone do something like that?</p><p>Because a few short days before, we’d watched in horror as a mile-long train filled with Bakken crude <a href="http://katu.com/news/local/train-catches-fire-outside-mosier-in-the-columbia-river-gorge-oil-smoke-hood-river" target="_blank">derailed in Mosier, Oregon</a> and burst into towering flames.</p><p>We call these oil trains “bomb trains” because we know, with <a href="http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/06/23/Priliminary%20Findings.pdf" target="_blank">one tiny loose bolt</a>, they can erupt into an inferno, scorching everything for miles. It happened in <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/montreal/features/lac-megantic/" target="_blank">Lac-Megantic, Canada</a> in 2013. Forty-seven people were killed in a matter of minutes, the town leveled when a train’s brakes failed.</p><p>In the aftermath of the Mosier derailment, local fire chief Jim Appleton, who was originally unwilling to condemn oil trains, was beginning to sound more and more like one of us: “I think it’s insane” to ship oil by rail, <a href="http://www.opb.org/news/series/oil-trains/oil-sheen-slick-found-columbia-river-mosier-train-derailment/" target="_blank">he told a reporter</a>. “Shareholder value doesn’t outweigh the lives and happiness of our community.”</p><p>And yet shareholder value <em>is</em> outweighing the lives and happiness of communities all over the world. I live in the “blast zone” less than a mile from tracks that ply this dangerous cargo here in the Pacific Northwest. And millions of people, most of them on the other side of the world, are already feeling the heat.</p><p>More bomb trains, after all, mean more climate change. Rising temperatures mean dangerous weather patterns, like the floods that recently killed hundreds in Pakistan and China.</p><p>Meanwhile, ExxonMobil, whose scientists knew <a href="http://insideclimatenews.org/news/13042016/climate-change-global-warming-oil-industry-radar-1960s-exxon-api-co2-fossil-fuels" target="_blank">as early as the 1960s</a> that catastrophic climate change would ensue if they didn’t change course, has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/15/exxon-mobil-gave-millions-climate-denying-lawmakers" target="_blank">invested in climate denial</a>in order to maximize their shareholder value, counting on us to not connect the dots.</p><p>I grew up in India. I can see the faces of friends and loved ones on Facebook enduring record heat and flooding there. So if the trains wouldn’t stop coming, I figured, I’d put my body on the line in Vancouver. If I went to jail, I hoped my husband would forgive me for skipping out on our first big date as newlyweds.</p><p>The riot police were beginning to gather, and the railroad’s private police were issuing their warnings while hundreds chanted nearby. Not wanting to lose valuables in jail, I gave my wallet, cell phone, and wedding ring to a friend.</p><p>Then they hauled us off, one by one, in plastic handcuffs like tiny angel’s wings behind each protestor’s back. They put the 13 women — as young as 21 and as old as 85 — in one cell and the eight men in the other.</p><p>Seven hours later, as we were released from our windowless cage into the beautiful summer evening, I felt an unspeakable gratitude to my cellmates and those who awaited us outside.</p><p>Should we go to trial, many of us will be arguing we did this out of necessity, in order to prevent a far greater looming evil — of being incinerated in our sleep, of doing nothing to stop this deadly fossil fuel cargo while hundreds of thousands of people die each year from floods, disease, malnutrition, and heat stress due to climate change.</p><p>Call me crazy, but we might just win this one. And in so doing, we’ll send a very strong message to the oil companies that threaten us all that they must end this madness.</p><p> </p> Wed, 06 Jul 2016 10:03:00 -0700 Daphne Wysham, Other Words 1059659 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment environment health oil trains bomb trains oil crude oil oregon We Need to Avoid Just Scaring Ourselves and Then Doing Nothing After a Disaster Like Super Storm Sandy http://www.alternet.org/environment/we-need-avoid-just-scaring-ourselves-and-then-doing-nothing-after-disaster-super-storm <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Can we move into a long-term push toward the kind of energy future that will not bring real terror to millions around the world?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1351609240965-6-0_0.jpg?itok=nFkJNVdq" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline high of a good storm. It’s like a good horror film: And this “Frankenstorm,” coming right on Halloween, is giving us the best of the worst of storms. As the waters rise, the weathercasters feed our high, red circles and arrows signaling danger. We are glued to the set, knowing exactly what comes next: They wade into thigh-deep water; they stand at the ocean’s edge, buffeted by high winds; they shout into the microphone; they take risks we secretly wish we could take. It is as if the whole thing is choreographed, like some archetypal play being enacted before our eyes for the one-thousandth time.</p><p>Just as we have come to expect this adrenaline rush from our weathermen and women, so too, it seems, we have come to expect the testosterone surge from the endless parade of men (and they<em>are</em> largely men): mayors, governors, presidents, military leaders, all looking manly, in control, surrounded by more men, looking on, somberly, from behind. What they say is less important (we already know the advice, but, like children, must be told again and again: “Things are bad;” “Don’t take any risks;” “Stay off the roads”) than how they say it, and what the optics are: Does he look presidential? Is he a man in charge? How calm does he sound in the face of catastrophe? We need that “father figure,” it seems, when times are tough. And our media and our politicians willingly oblige.</p><p>We are so good at this, in America, so good at responding to the crisis. We cheer on our National Guard, our Coast Guard, our everyday heroes, and then, when the danger has passed, when the tide recedes, we congratulate ourselves and them by digging deep into our pockets and sending money to the Red Cross and the homeless shelters, saluting our men and women in uniform, as though this, and this alone, were the price of admission.</p><p>And yet…we are fooling ourselves, again and again, just as our children do every Halloween, high on fear. This Frankenstorm, can we stop fooling ourselves? Our planet desperately needs us to get beyond the adrenaline rush of responding to one storm after another, as though each one were a unique shock, and not related to an overall climate crisis of enormous proportions. We need our political leaders and weather-casters to end the silence on climate change. And we need to start to think long-term, to start claiming responsibility for the growing intensity of our storms. Climate change is upon us, folks, and if this is what a 1-degree Celsius rise looks like, imagine what a 2, 3, or 4-degree rise looks like.</p><p>For leadership, we may have to look beyond our borders, to the Danes or the Germans: They have taken their blinders off. They have looked around, taken stock of who owns most of the oil and gas in the world, carefully reviewed what Japan is suffering in the wake of Fukushima’s multiple nuclear meltdowns, and both countries have said: We are committed to going both fossil-fuel-free and nuclear-free. These countries are committed to true energy independence — not the short-lived kind that results from trading one poisonous addiction for another. It is a long slog. It does not involve instant gratification the way storm heroics do. It involves tinkering with different policies — such as Germany’s feed-in tariff and Denmark’s multi-decadal experimentation with wind. It involves committing hundreds of billions of dollars to solving a problem that will ultimately save these countries hundreds of billions of dollars, along with millions of lives. There are few heroes in these national dramas. There are plenty of ordinary people, including women, thinking intergenerationally, thinking of their children, their grandchildren, and of children on the other side of the planet, understanding that the energy commitments we make today affect the Frankenstorms our children will suffer tomorrow.</p><p>Can we grow up and out of scaring ourselves to death? Can we move into a long-term push toward the kind of energy future that will <em>not </em>bring real terror to millions around the world? Or will we just put on the costume of Superman and pretend we have saved Gotham City, yet again, while Frankenstorm 2.0 waits around the corner?</p> Tue, 30 Oct 2012 14:12:00 -0700 Daphne Wysham, Institute for Policy Studies 736009 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment News & Politics Water hurricane energy climate change sandy Why Imperial Greed Has a Huge Role to Play in India's Electricity Blackout http://www.alternet.org/environment/why-imperial-greed-has-huge-role-play-indias-electricity-blackout <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Neoliberalism and international banking share the blame with technological shortcomings.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/childrenindiawysham.jpeg?itok=Uhwp-rVo" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><p><em>This article was originally posted at FireDogLake. <a href="http://my.firedoglake.com/daphnewysham/2012/08/01/one-reason-behind-indias-blackout-world-bank-policies-and-neoliberalism/">View original here.</a></em></p><p>One-tenth of the planet’s people — one-half of India’s population — lost power completely this week, with a blackout covering most of north India’s highly populated states. What was the reason for the blackout?</p><p>While pundits and politicians postulate on the reasons for the power failure, one answer is clear: an ideology of neoliberalism foisted on India by the World Bank and IMF was partly to blame for the blackout.</p><p>It is not the only cause. Climate change has clearly played a role in India’s blackout: A delayed monsoon season meant lower water reservoirs and higher rates of  water siphoning  for agricultural purposes rather than power production. This could have been foreseen by the Bank back in the 1990s when climate change was clearly viewed as a problem to be dealt with. Nevertheless, the Bank pushed large hydropower projects in India, ramping up debt, while resettling millions from fertile land near riverbanks.</p><p>Meanwhile, India’s biggest and dirtiest source of power, coal, providing over 70% of the country’s power, is increasingly hard to come by. This, too, was something the Bank could have foreseen; yet instead it pushed coal power dependency aggressively in India. There is less and less land available for open-pit mining, deemed more “efficient” than underground mines by the World Bank. The reason for its “efficiency”? Underground miners were once one of India’s most powerful unionized labor forces. While their jobs were dangerous and dirty, they provided a decent living, and their underground mining prevented the widespread environmental and social destruction that open-pit mines ushered in. At World Bank’s behest, however, open-pit mines replaced thousands of underground mines, and miner’s unions were busted and replaced with a handful of workers driving large dump trucks. Efficiency gains may have been achieved, but at what cost?</p><p>Open-pit mines are literally hell-holes. They smolder in a constant state of combustion. They ravage the landscape, and cause acid drainage, which destroys the water supply, kills fish, and makes the water unsafe. As with large dams, thousands of India’s poorest tribal people have been uprooted to make way for open-pit mines and placed in resettlement camps where prostitution and alcoholism are endemic. The World Bank once claimed they would provide an acre of  land for every acre taken from the most marginalized tribal peoples to make way for mines and dams. But that promise was long ago watered down, then forgotten. Ironically, many of the tribals remain without power to this day. The poorest of the poor the Bank claims to serve got the shortest end of the stick.</p><p>Add to that the fact that India’s coal is heavy in ash content, and population pressures on available land  means ash disposal is also a problem. So, often, the polluting ash—with heavy metals and radioactive elements—is merely dumped in the already polluted rivers.</p><p>As India runs out of space for open-pit mines and ash disposal, it’s increasingly turning to coal from abroad—which comes at a higher price.  All of this could have been foreseen by the World Bank and IMF back in the mid-1990s. They were urged by NGOs such as ours to move toward solar, wind and other renewable energies in India — both in the interest of providing power to rural areas more cheaply and averting a climate disaster. And they were even urged by their own hand-picked “eminent person,” Emil Salim, a former board member of one of Indonesia’s largest coal companies, who headed up their three-year Extractive Industries Review, to get out of coal completely by 2008. The reason? The poor were “worse off,” not better off, Salim determined, as a result of the World Bank investments in coal. Nevertheless, the Bank continued to provide billions to one of the most polluting of fossil fuels, while ignoring its climate impact.</p><p>Corruption certainly has played a role in India’s power failures for decades. At every step in the supply chain, money is siphoned off, resulting in a shoddy system — from backup systems to warning systems to good cables. Currently, good cables intended for transmission get sold and shoddy materials put in their place.</p><p>Electricity theft is also part of the problem, but simply identifying the problem as “theft” — as many do — rather than recognizing that people deserve access to electricity, minimizes the social and economic reasons that drive people to frustration to the point where they feel they have a right to steal power from the grid. Despite massive loans, debt, and the poorest paying for the power with their land or their lives, one-third of India’s households do not have enough electricity to power a light bulb, according to last year’s census. And so they steal it. And in stealing it, they increase energy inefficiency, by often grounding the wire they have hooked up illegally to the grid in the soil, thereby losing more power.</p><p>Ironically, one region that did well during the power crisis in India was Jodhpur, where, after a brief interruption, the windmills  kept hospitals and households powered up while the rest of the country went black. Were the World Bank to have pushed a model, such as that successfully employed in Germany and other countries, where a “feed-in tariff” — a guaranteed rate of payment for energy fed into the national grid– for renewable energy had been put in place, small farmers and others in rural areas would be able to both provide power to the grid and earn money in doing so. But instead, they foisted on the largest democracy a neoliberal model — where unions were busted, power was privatized, people were treated like pawns on a chess board, while they targeted the affluent and heavy industries first for energy delivery using some of the most environmentally destructive energy resources on the planet. The assumption: energy services would eventually trickle down to the poor. Nearly two decades later, after billions of investment, one-tenth of the world sits in the dark, the planet is rapidly heating up, and the only thing trickling down to the poor is contaminated water or, if they’re lucky, enough water to keep their parched crops alive.</p> Fri, 03 Aug 2012 07:11:00 -0700 Daphne Wysham, Institute for Policy Studies 686437 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment Visions Water World india energy coal world bank Kerry-Boxer Climate Bill Still Stinks Despite Cologne http://www.alternet.org/story/143094/kerry-boxer_climate_bill_still_stinks_despite_cologne <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The bottom line is that it won&#039;t make a significant impact on our increasingly unstable climate. And that&#039;s a tragedy.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It's been called the "high water" mark by some environmentalists and, sarcastically, a "flood water" bill by others. So which is it? Yes, the bill released by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) may be as ambitious as we can hope for given the fossil fuel industry's stranglehold on Congress. But the bottom line is that it won't make a significant impact on our increasingly unstable climate. And that's a tragedy.<br /><br /> Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) let many environmentalists down in June when they released their climate bill, which ultimately cleared the House. My assessment of this complex bill when it came out, in two words: It stank. It had the stench of waste incinerators, agribusiness, and oil industry lobbyists' all over its 1,427 pages.<br /><br /> Kerry and Boxer's bill has a more refined feel to it--as though it has been through a good workout, gotten rid of some flab, taken a nice, hot shower and applied some cologne to its smelliest parts. But it hasn't fooled more discerning schnozzes.<br /><br /> To throw us off, they've ramped up the octane in this bill. It's not just going to cut emissions by 17% by 2020; it will cut them by 20% by 2020! The problem with both targets? They both start from a benchmark of 2005 (unlike the rest of the world, which uses 1990 as its baseline--a year when emissions were far lower than in 2005--from which to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions in the developed countries). Yet, what we really need, according to leading climate scientists, are reductions in rich countries of approximately 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid climate catastrophe. The Kerry-Boxer bill actually gets us to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2020--not even 30 percent there.<br /><br /> There are some muscular regulations restored to the Senate bill's over-800 pages. The House version allowed the Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate large polluters under the Clean Air Act to be stripped away, in exchange for a bill that delivered our climate on a silver platter to Wall Street derivatives traders. We all know what a housing bubble can do to our economy. Just think what an unregulated carbon bubble could do, not only to our economy but to our planet. The Senate bill restores that EPA authority to its rightful place: on the polluters' hind ends. However, Kerry has since proposed that this move may be a bargaining chip, removed once again if coal and other heavy greenhouse gas emitters come to the table.<br /><br /> And there's one more inducement Kerry and Boxer handed polluters if they agree to a deal. Like Waxman and Markey, Kerry and Boxer are allowing polluters to buy their way out of reducing an outlandish 2 billion tons per year of their carbon dioxide emissions in the form of a dubious commodity--carbon offsets. Yet the Government Accountability Office has deemed carbon offsets "impossible" to verify, and, given the need for oversight by the Justice Department fraud investigators and others, as proposed by Kerry and Boxer, the GAO challenges whether offsets would achieve another critical goal, namely: cost-containment. This quantity of carbon offsets is equivalent to 30% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; if all of these offsets were used, U.S. polluters would not achieve verifiable emissions reductions until 2030. But they went one step further in ladling on the gravy for industry than the House-passed bill. The Waxman-Markey bill would require emissions from landfills, coal mines, and natural gas pipelines to be phased out under a regulatory regime, but under the Kerry-Boxer draft, these industries can voluntarily capture methane in exchange for offset payments. In other words, what under Waxman and Markey was a law you obeyed because it was the right thing to do, you now will get paid to do.<br /><br /> Bribery, anyone?<br /><br /> Consider what kind of signal this sends to Nigeria, which currently flares more natural gas than all of the rest of Africa consumes per year, despite laws on the books requiring them to do otherwise: If the U.S. is going to pay its industries to stop flaring gas, surely a developing country like Nigeria should be paid to do the right thing? In fact, such plans are already in the works, and oil companies operating in Nigeria like Chevron are likely salivating over the amount of money they can now extort from a global carbon offset regime in exchange for finally obeying the law. But it's not just the extortion in Nigeria that would be problematic: In exchange for ceasing gas flares in Nigeria and getting paid to do so, a Chevron facility in, say, Richmond, California could carry on polluting. End result: Chevron wins, Richmond residents lose, and our overall climate grows more unstable.<br /><br /> In addition to the dubious environmental integrity of this approach, the problem is this: Do we have enough cash to pay every oil company, every pig farmer, every coal company, and every waste dump on the planet to start doing the right thing? Where, exactly, will that money come from? And what will the end result be for our children's children? Now, mind you, I don't mind paying more for something if I know it's going to get us somewhere better, cleaner, safer. But if it's going to result in a feeding frenzy of polluters and derivatives traders at the trough of a "solution" that the U.S. government says may mean money down the drain and no guarantee of emissions reductions, I have to say: It stinks to high heaven.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Daphne Wysham is a Fellow at the <a href="http://www.ips-dc.org">Institute for Policy Studies</a> in Washington D.C., where she is the director of the <a href="http://www.seen.org">Sustainable Energy &amp; Economy Network</a>. </div></div></div> Mon, 05 Oct 2009 10:00:01 -0700 Daphne Wysham, Institute for Policy Studies 658498 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment climate bill waxman markey kerry boxer Why EPA, not Coal Burners, Should Be In Charge on Climate Change http://www.alternet.org/story/141612/why_epa%2C_not_coal_burners%2C_should_be_in_charge_on_climate_change <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The new energy bill would strip EPA of its power and let polluters take the reins with a market-based system.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>On February 17, Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did something audacious that sent shockwaves throughout the coal industry: Lisa Jackson, the agency's administrator, announced that it would take a fresh look at a Bush administration memo preventing the regulation of CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources.</p> <p>Simply stating she was going to reconsider former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson's December 18, 2008, memorandum was enough to put at least 17 coal-fired power plants currently in the pipeline on hold. These power plants, had they been approved, would have produced roughly 12,000 megawatts of power -- enough to provide the needs of 3.6 million homes -- and released about 84 million tons of CO2 per year.</p> <p>What does this mean? Let's put it in context: 84 million tons of CO2 is roughly equivalent to 2 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and about 4 percent of all emissions from electricity the United States produced in 2007. In other words, the mere threat of regulation meant a previously expected 2 percent increase in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions was suddenly much less certain.</p> <p>This promising signal was just one of several from the Obama administration's earliest days. Sadly, the word now from the White House is that President Barack Obama wants Congress to send him a "market-based cap" on greenhouse gas emissions. Ironically, it's that market-based approach -- and all that goes with it -- that may actually rob the administration of its most powerful tool in this battle for climate stability: EPA regulation.</p> <p>Now, Obama is getting what he asked for: In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, otherwise known as the Waxman-Markey bill. This legislation pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 2 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 -- if all goes well. But there's a lot that could go wrong.</p> <p>As a tradeoff to gain support from industry for this bill, lawmakers have agreed to strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from all power plants, including coal burners, under the Clean Air Act. In place of regulatory oversight, the bill allows for a free market in pollution allowances between industries. Put simply, coal-fired power plants and other large burners of energy would have a "right to pollute," which they could buy and sell with other large consumers of energy. And because these pollution rights have a cash value and would be given away for free over the next several decades, polluters will make a handsome profit from their pollution.</p> <p>EPA's weakened authority is just the first of several bonuses for polluters. Under the Waxman-Markey bill, polluters could purchase carbon "offsets" -- 2 billion tons of them each year -- should they not be able to meet their cap in greenhouse gas emissions via reductions or carbon trades.</p> <p>Regulated carbon reductions at power plants are the optimal-value approach: straightforward, uncomplicated, easy to quantify. Next down the value chain would be carbon trades, where Polluter A, who has exceeded his pollution target, trades with Polluter B, who has reduced his pollution by more than is required by law. Polluter A might find it too expensive to reduce his pollution according to strict regulations, so pays Polluter B for the right to claim Polluter B's share of pollution reductions.</p> <p>Further down the value chain would come carbon offsets, a sort of "subprime" carbon trade. If Polluter A finds trading with Polluter B to be too challenging, Polluter A can instead claim carbon credits by buying carbon offsets.. A carbon offset is "subprime" because, unlike an emissions reduction, it is hard to prove it would not have taken place anyway. For example, some carbon offsets are claimed from methane that is captured and burned at a waste dump, transforming it into carbon dioxide, a less potent global warming agent. Other carbon offset sellers claim they are sequestering CO2 in fast-growing eucalyptus plantations -- and claim that this CO2, which would otherwise be emitted in the air, is now being stored in trees. But local regulations often require waste dumps to burn their methane. And trees grow (and die) without intervention from humans.</p> <p>If the climate bill passes in its current form, this "subprime carbon" market would explode, while the optimal regulatory approach would wither. The Waxman-Markey bill would allow polluters to "offset" their emissions via these questionable commodities, and even to bank their pollution allowances -- meaning, if they "underpollute" one year, they are free to "overpollute" the next, so long as the difference between the two approximates their annual target. This banking of emissions credits, coupled with so many carbon offsets, invites market speculators (those who bet on the future price of a commodity) and derivatives traders to turn our planet's carbon cycling capacity into a lucrative investment opportunity.</p> <p>To make matters worse, in a bid to win passage of the bill, on June 23 the House Agriculture Committee succeeded in ensuring that the Department of Agriculture would wield oversight over carbon offsets generated by the agricultural industry, rather than the EPA. In the offsets world, agricultural offsets are akin to "junk carbon." Why?</p> <p>First, because CO2 in this industry doesn't come out of a smokestack or a tailpipe. It comes from soil, application of certain fertilizers, and animals' front and back ends. Handing oversight of this amorphous market in <a href="http://www.alternet.org/environment/40639&amp;reason=0">flatulence</a> and other gases to the USDA, which is notoriously cozy with corporate farming interests, all but assures we'll be minting yet more money for agribusiness, which already reaps billions of dollars every year in farm subsidies. According to <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124562888789635773.html">The Wall Street Journal,</a> the Energy Information Administration estimated that the market for agricultural offsets could total up to $24 billion annually. That sum would <a href="http://farm.ewg.org/farm/regionsummary.php?fips=00000&amp;reason=0">dwarf</a> all other U.S. farm subsidies combined.</p> <p>Second, because about 1,000 additional workers would need to be hired just to oversee these offsets, it would create an untenable bureaucracy. </p> <p>Recent studies suggest these 2 billion tons of offsets -- rather than having "integrity," as Waxman and Markey had pledged -- will instead become the "counterfeit" carbon so many climate activists feared would overload the system.</p> <p>As the bill proceeds through the Senate for markup, EPA authority should be restored. Remember, the mere threat of regulation from the EPA didn't require offsets, markets in carbon futures, or SEC bureaucracy to deliver a staggering result: A 2 percent increase in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions stalled. </p> <p>Furthermore, if "junk" agricultural offsets are allowed, the EPA -- not the USDA -- should oversee these trades to avoid the inevitable pressure from agribusiness to turn offsets into yet another subsidy for business as usual.</p> <p>But Obama should go one step further than simply restoring EPA authority to its rightful place. He should make the case for an even stronger EPA, one that could cut U.S. coal-fired power plant emissions by over 50 percent by simply requiring that all coal burners be retrofitted to burn natural gas. A stronger EPA could weigh in with a louder voice and ensure that no more of our taxpayer dollars subsidize climate change via our development banks and export credit agencies. A stronger EPA could be empowered to better implement the many international treaties we are already signatory to -- such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity or the UN Convention to Combat Desertification -- treaties that could help us take bold action on climate change internationally, even in the absence of a strong outcome at the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December.</p> <p>If we took a regulatory approach, instead of a "market-based" one, or, at the very least, if we didn't scrap our strongest regulatory tools and removed the "subprime" and "junk" carbon from the mix, we might actually get this problem solved. Now there's something truly audacious.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Daphne Wysham is a Fellow at the <a href="http://www.ips-dc.org">Institute for Policy Studies</a> in Washington D.C., where she is the director of the <a href="http://www.seen.org">Sustainable Energy &amp; Economy Network</a>. </div></div></div> Tue, 28 Jul 2009 11:00:01 -0700 Daphne Wysham, Institute for Policy Studies 657069 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment energy obama epa co2 coal obama administration Good News, There's a Climate Bill -- Bad News, It Stinks http://www.alternet.org/story/140084/good_news%2C_there%27s_a_climate_bill_--_bad_news%2C_it_stinks <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Sparing the many odiferous details, here are three particularly bad aspects that have to be addressed.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>First, the good news: One of the most comprehensive pieces of energy and climate legislation ever drafted by members of the U.S. Congress has finally seen the light of day. After lots of haggling among fellow moderate and conservative Democrats, Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) released their "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009."</p><p>Now the bad news: Their bill stinks. I'll spare you the many odiferous details and just highlight three particularly bad aspects: 1) It won't protect the poor from price-hikes as the price of carbon is slowly internalized into our energy bills, but will protect polluting industries by allowing them free pollution permits; 2) It opens the door to fraud and shell games instead of real climate action by setting up a huge carbon derivatives market; 3) It makes a mockery of our common understanding of "renewable energy," favoring dirty smokestacks over truly clean, renewable energy.</p><p>Right out of the starting gate, the bill provides a ridiculous number of giveaways to industry -- something President Barack Obama campaigned against as unfair to consumers: Upwards of 85 percent of pollution allowances are being given away for free to the electricity sector, with many of these free permits not phasing out until 2030. This means little to none of the revenues coming into the public coffers from this "cap and trade" scheme will be used to protect low and moderate households from energy price increases, as envisioned by Obama.</p><p>This bill would open up the single largest market in carbon in the world, with the potential to reach $2 trillion by 2020. Not only would the Waxman-Markey bill allow for carbon trading between industries, it would open up the so-called "sub-prime carbon" market in carbon offsets -- whereby industries can claim emissions reductions by investing in various projects around the world that theoretically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation allows 2 billion tons of carbon offsets -- half from developing countries and half from domestic sources -- which represents almost 30 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.</p><p>Yet the Government Accountability Office (GAO) claims it's virtually impossible to verify whether carbon offsets represent real emissions reductions. And numerous other studies have found that carbon offsets in developing countries often subsidize business-as-usual projects such as hundreds of large hydropower dams in China, many of which were already under construction when they claimed to be providing "emissions reductions."</p><p>Industrial hog farms have found ways of tapping the carbon offset market without making the slightest contribution toward getting society off its fossil fuel addiction. The logic is this: If you capture and flare methane from pig manure, you are turning methane (a potent global warming gas) into CO2 (a less potent global warming gas). Pig farms benefit by selling that difference in greenhouse gas potency to big fossil fuel polluters as a carbon offset, allowing them to continue their business as usual.</p><p>And if "carbon offsets" are a misleading term, the words "renewable energy," as used in this bill, have an Orwellian ring. Do you think "renewable energy" means windmills or solar panels? Think again. The windmills and solar panels of our renewable energy dreams are being supplanted by the smokestacks of our nightmares. All it takes is a little imagination -- and a high-paid lobbyist -- to claim that just about anything is "renewable energy."</p><p>Take biomass burners: There are plans afoot to cut down 100-year-old trees, throw them into a burner, and call this "renewable energy." Never mind that trees can't match coal for stored energy, which would make it necessary to plant whole planets of trees to fuel industry. Just focus your mind on the idea that they grow back!</p><p>Or consider the municipal solid waste incinerator duplicitously recast as "waste to energy" projects. This waste could otherwise be recycled (generating 10 times as many green jobs as an incinerator, by the way) or composted, providing rich fertilizer. But, in the twisted logic of the Waxman-Markey universe, incinerators are "renewable" because there is an endless supply of waste going to landfills; if one burns that waste and turns the heat into energy -- presto, change-o -- this, too, becomes a "renewable" form of energy. This in spite of the fact that burning garbage produces more CO2 per unit of electricity generated than the dirtiest coal power plants.</p><p>While industry lobbyists may have worked their magic tricks on members of Congress in the name of "bold climate legislation," Planet Earth is likely to remain unmoved by these sleights of hand. At 385 parts per million CO2 and rising, our atmosphere is on a steady course to climate catastrophe unless these charlatans and their henchmen in Congress get real. Though the pigs may rule in Animal Farm, they shouldn't be running our climate politics.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Daphne Wysham is a Fellow at the <a href="http://www.ips-dc.org">Institute for Policy Studies</a>, co-director of the Sustainable Energy &amp; Economy Network, and co-host of Earthbeat Radio. </div></div></div> Mon, 18 May 2009 21:00:01 -0700 Daphne Wysham, AlterNet 655608 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment energy global warming climate change waxman-markey climate bill climate legislation The World Bank's Climate Profiteering http://www.alternet.org/story/81083/the_world_bank%27s_climate_profiteering <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The bank is turning dirty carbon credits into gold -- bad news for those seeking a real solution to the climate crisis.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->The World Bank's long-running identity crisis is proving hard to shake. When efforts to rebrand itself as a "knowledge bank" didn't work, it devised a new identity as a "Green Bank." Really? Yes, it's true. Sure, the Bank continues to finance fossil fuel projects globally, but never mind. The World Bank has seized upon the immense challenges climate change poses to humanity and is now front and center in the complicated, international world of carbon finance. It can turn the dirtiest carbon credits into gold.<br /><br />How exactly, does this work, you ask?<br /><br />Quite simply: The Bank finances a fossil fuel project, involving oil, natural gas, or coal, in Poor Country A. Rich Country B asks the Bank to help arrange carbon credits so Country B can tell its carbon counters it's taking serious action on climate change. The World Bank kindly obliges, offering carbon credits for a price far lower than Country B would have to pay if Country B made those cuts at home. Country A gets a share of the cash to invest in equipment to make fossil fuel project slightly more efficient, the World Bank takes its 13 percent cut, and everyone is happy.<br /><br />Everyone, that is, who is cashing in on this deal. If you're after a real solution to the climate crisis, these shenanigans can and should make you unhappy.<br /><br /><b>Aiding the Tata Group</b><br /><br />Consider a project the International Finance Corporation (IFC) had scheduled for board consideration on March 27, but is now, according to its press office, slated for approval in April. (The World Bank Group's boards virtually never reject anything sent to them). The IFC, the World Bank's private sector lending arm, plans to back a massive coal-fired power plant in Mundra, a town in the Indian state of Gujarat. The complex of five 800 megawatt plants will cost $4.14 billion to build and be owned and operated by Tata Power Company Limited, a scion of India's largest multinational corporation, the Tata Group.<br /><br />To put this in perspective, Tata Motors, a division of the same conglomerate, recently announced plans to buy the luxury car companies, Jaguar and Range Rover from U.S. automaker Ford for $2.3 billion. And Tata Power's 2007 revenues totaled $1.6 billion. So, it's hard not to ask how much help Tata needs from the World Bank, which has as its motto: "our dream is a world free of poverty." Several other corporations are involved. Toshiba, for example, will supply the steam turbine generators.<br /><br />Once operational, the Mundra power plant will be India's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. But it doesn't stop there. Now, the World Bank has planned for the Tata coal burner to be eligible for carbon credits under Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism. Carbon credits for a coal burner, you ask?<br /><br />In the bizarre logic of the carbon market, a market the World Bank is both shaping and investing in, yes, Country B can get credits for helping a corporation, even one of the world's wealthiest corporations such as Tata, capture a few carbon emissions, as long as these emissions are captured in a "poor" country, like India, regardless of how rich the company involved may be.<br /><br /><b>Indonesian Coal</b><br /><br />And it gets stranger still. One would hazard a guess that the IFC is lending $450 million, "considering investing up to $50 million in equity as part of its exposure to the project," and possibly helping Tata obtain $300 million from other sources at favorable rates for the Tata burner because India has no other choice but to burn its own abundant supply of coal. But, no, the IFC plans to <em>import</em> coal from Indonesia to fuel the plant in India. In fact, Tata bought a 30 percent stake in two Indonesian coal-mining units for $1.3 billion in April 2007 in order to secure the coal resources for the Mundra plant.<br /><br />On its <a href="http://www.ifc.org/ifcext/spiwebsite1.nsf/1ca07340e47a35cd85256efb00700cee/1584EA74DA3979AB852573A0006847BB">Website</a>, the World Bank division offered this feeble justification for this transaction: "IFC is supporting thermal power projects which have better GHG (greenhouse gas) and environmental performance than the average plants in India, given the country's large needs for incremental electricity supply."<br /><br />Surely, if the Bank is involved, the poor, if not in India, then somewhere else are better off as a result of this project? Well, in a word, no. Indonesian coal regulations are largely incoherent and open to manipulation, giving often-corrupt local officials control over the resource wealth, stripping local communities of their resources, and leaving them with a legacy of environmental problems.<br /><br />Indeed, Indonesia's coal sector is the rule, not the exception, in its posture toward the poor: A three-year review of the World Bank's investments in the extractive industries, the Extractive Industries Review, launched under former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, found that the poor were worse off as a result of investments in extractive industries, and recommended the World Bank get out of coal immediately. (That was back in 2004.)<br /><br />The Extractive Industries Review, ironically, was developed with input from industry, government, and civil society participants, and overseen by former Indonesian environment minister under Suharto, Emil Salim, who himself sat on the board of a large coal company. Nevertheless, Salim was unequivocal that the World Bank should cease lending for coal, and phase out of oil by 2008. The World Bank's board voted to overrule these recommendations.<br /><br />Sadly, the IFC isn't the only powerful international financial agency backing the Mundra power project. The Asian Development Bank, The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), and the Korea Export Insurance Corporation are also involved.<br /><br /><b>Climate Change Mitigation?</b><br /><br />O.K. The poor are worse off, the corporations are better off, and the Bank is double-dipping on carbon trading. Bad enough. But here's a final, scary twist: The World Bank is increasingly being given a leadership role in various climate investment funds by the world's wealthy countries. In an initiative with pledged contributions from the United States, the UK, and Japan, the Bank will oversee $7-$12 billion for "climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries." The funds -- the Clean Technology Fund, the Forest Investment Fund, the Adaptation/Climate Resilience Pilot Fund, and the Strategic Climate Fund -- are moving forward despite having come under fire from developing countries as well as from environment and development organizations. They are concerned that the funds will, once again, give wealthy Northern governments, and, in particular, their bank of choice, the World Bank, more control over funds intended to "help" developing countries.<br /><br />Rather than a "Green Bank," the World Bank is revealing itself to be a banker for the super-powerful corporate elite. In addition, it's turning into a climate change profiteer. If the Bank were the only one fooled by its new identity, the image would be pathetic if not outright laughable. Unfortunately, the Bank has seemingly fooled some of the richest and most powerful countries in the world. Or maybe, when they look at the Bank, what these wealthy countries really see is not "green" but "greenbacks."<br /><br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Daphne Wysham is a fellow and Shakuntala Makhijani is an intern with the <a href="http://www.ips-dc.org">Institute for Policy Studies</a>. They are both contributors to <a href="http://www.fpif.org">Foreign Policy In Focus</a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 02 Apr 2008 08:00:01 -0700 Daphne Wysham, Shakuntala Makhijani, Foreign Policy in Focus 645749 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Environment Economy corruption climate change world bank Blood Money: U.S. Bank Funds Korean Project That Will Destroy Native Community http://www.alternet.org/story/50774/blood_money%3A_u.s._bank_funds_korean_project_that_will_destroy_native_community <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Do the money managers not know that poor villagers are being detained, beaten and even killed to protect their investments? Or do they not care?</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->"When you share love's warmth, it returns even warmer. Together we can move the world."<br /><br />So says the website of the South Korean-based Pohang Iron and Steel Co., or POSCO, an image of two beaming children and a bucolic mountain backdrop framing the message. American investors are among those sharing in the "warmth" of POSCO's profits, up 44 percent in the first quarter.<br /><br />POSCO, the world's fourth-largest steel company, has apparently fooled many U.S. investors into believing this saccharine façade: The Bank of New York, a U.S.-based investment firm, is POSCO's trustee and largest shareholder, holding 22 percent of its shares. Another U.S. investment firm, Capital Research &amp; Management (Capital Group Companies), one of the world's largest and most publicity-shy investment management companies, is No. 2, with a 4.4 percent share in POSCO.<br /><br />Yet POSCO has been accused of marshaling police who jailed and beat striking union members -- one to death -- in its home country of South Korea, and it now stands poised to engage in even more violent tactics in India's eastern state of Orissa.<br /><br />There, in the coastal village of Jagatsinghpur, farmers have railed against eviction orders for the past 22 months. Today, over 1,000 Indian officers -- 20 platoons -- of state police have encircled the villages where the POSCO site is planned in an attempt to repress the growing resistance. Farmers have formed "self-sacrifice squads" -- 500 men and women are prepared to die rather than move. Today, the Jagatsinghpur villagers have barricaded themselves behind bamboo fences in a desperate bid to protect their land.<br /><br />In recent months, over 15 people were killed after police fired on protestors refusing to move to make way for an Indonesian chemical plant in Nandigram, West Bengal. Like the proposed POSCO site, the Nandigram village was one of hundreds of Indian "special economic zones" -- or SEZs -- neoliberal dreamlands where land rights, environmental and labor protections, and other laws are all but eliminated to attract foreign investors.<br /><br />Similar massacres have taken place in SEZs in Kalinganagar and Kashipur, also in Orissa, and elsewhere. It is for this reason that the Jagatsinghpur villagers are demanding the immediate removal of the paramilitary forces and police from the vicinity of the proposed POSCO site, says Debjeet Sarangi from Living Farms, an organization working with farmers on sustainable agriculture in Orissa. And, he adds, they are asking for solidarity in their call that no project should proceed against the wishes of the local people.<br /><br />The $12 billion POSCO project in Orissa is the largest foreign investment project ever in India. POSCO plans to take over 8,000 acres of fertile farmland to build a massive steel, automobile and ship-building complex, complete with its own power plant and port, displacing over 30,000 people. The POSCO project is the largest in the history of South Korea's overseas investment.<br /><br />POSCO is very likely viewing its new operations in Orissa as a way of escaping pressures from unions for higher wages and better working conditions in its home country. At a strike at a South Korean POSCO facility in July 2006, one union member, Ha Joong Keun, was beaten to death by riot police, another suffered a miscarriage and scores of others were injured as a result of police brutality. POSCO used its political and economic clout to shut down the Pohang Construction Local Union affiliated with the Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU) during the strike. Approximately 25 Korean union members still languish in jail: Their crime, demanding a livable wage and a 40-hour workweek from POSCO.<br /><br />The Orissa state government claims that it has already acquired 1,100 acres from their owners. Their government's environmental impact assessment claims that "89 percent" of the land is government-owned and only 11 percent is occupied. But that claim is visibly and historically false. Decades ago, villagers purchased land ownership rights from their king. Today, their descendants, mostly tribal farmers, have made their homes and livelihoods in the rich soil near the coast, growing betel nut and cashew crops. A 1956 law strongly restricts the sale of tribal lands to nontribals. In a bid to open up Orissa's vast mineral wealth to foreign investors, the state government is trying both to undo that law and dispute the ownership rights that date back decades.<br /><br />POSCO has already invested $6.2 billion in the Orissa project, roughly equivalent to its profits in 2005, one year before striking Korean workers unsuccessfully demanded higher wages. BHP Billiton Ltd. of Australia, the world's largest mining company, has invested another $2.4 billion.<br /><br />These corporations and their investors have a larger stake in POSCO's profits than their Korean peers; for example, the Korean national pension fund owns 2.9 percent of POSCO shares, South Korean Telecom owns 2.8 percent shares and South Korea's Pohang University of Science &amp; Technology owns 2.7 percent. The remainder of shareholders in POSCO are small mutual funds, primarily based in the United States and Luxembourg.<br /><br />If the police move in to Jagatsinghpur, to lay the groundwork for POSCO's profit-making venture, American shareholders may feel that "warm" feeling of high returns on their investments. What they won't see -- but should -- is the lives destroyed and the blood shed for that growing profit margin.<br /><br /><i>Editor's note: a correction was made after this story was originally posted</i>. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Daphne Wysham is a fellow at the <a href="http://www.ips-dc.org">Institute for Policy Studies</a> in Washington, D.C., where she is the director of the <a href="http://www.seen.org">Sustainable Energy &amp; Economy Network</a>. </div></div></div> Fri, 20 Apr 2007 21:00:01 -0700 Daphne Wysham, AlterNet 639105 at http://www.alternet.org Human Rights Human Rights ForeignPolicy free trade human rights posco foreign direct investment new economy Another False Start for Fighting Global Warming http://www.alternet.org/story/26661/another_false_start_for_fighting_global_warming <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The World Bank has long denied any responsibility to prevent or reduce climate change. Now America&#039;s neocons are looking to the global financial institution to &#039;address&#039; the problem.</div></div></div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.alternet.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg?itok=wQcwl0WS" alt="" /></div></div></div><!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->In the aftermath of the third- and fourth-most devastating hurricanes in Atlantic basin history, people are beginning to talk about the connections between extreme weather events and global warming. But connecting the dots between flooded New Orleans, Beaumont and the World Bank Group's headquarters in Washington D.C. seems too big a leap for most people to make. It shouldn't be. Here's why.<br /><br />In August of 2004 the World Bank's board of directors rejected a proposal from a consultant it had hired. This consultant was not some wild-eyed radical -- he was the former environment minister of Indonesia under Suharto, Emil Salim. Among Salim's suggested proposals -- drawn up after three years of global consultations with business, civil society and government officials -- was a recommendation to stop investing in coal immediately, and phase out of oil by 2008. Salim reasoned that these fossil fuels are among the most carbon-intensive of fuels, and contribute significantly to climate change, which as we see in New Orleans just as we see in Bangladesh or Sudan, threaten the poorest the most.<br /><br />After rejecting this straight-forward advice, a truly surprising thing happened at the meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) industrial countries in Gleneagles, Scotland in July: The World bank was asked by the G8 "to lead the way around a new framework on climate change."<br /><br />The World Bank's legacy of hypocrisy and inaction when it comes to addressing the problem of climate change within its own institutional walls is astonishing. But the G8 either hasn't noticed or doesn't care.<br /><br />At the G8 meeting in Scotland in July, new World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, former architect of the Iraq War at the Pentagon, announced that on climate management, the Bank has been asked to create a new framework for mobilizing investment in clean energy and development. And at the World Bank's annual meetings in September, it was clear that this new initiative has garnered a lot of staff time and attention internally.<br /><br />Suddenly the Bank is joining the U.S., Australia and others who continue to subsidize fossil fuels while short-changing renewables in calling for a new framework outside the multilateral framework endorsed by a majority of the worlds countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The correct institution to lead the way forward is the U.N. -- a multilateral body, not a group controlled by economic interests.<br /><br />In addition to climate change as a final, deadly consequence of fossil fuel combustion, studies show investing in the extractive industries in developing countries only fosters corruption, poverty, human rights abuses and environmental degradation -- all the things the Bank claims it is fighting while doing nothing to deliver energy to the two billion poor living in rural areas the Bank claims to serve.<br /><br />But this is only one of an array of hypocritical acts by the World Bank. The Bank trumpets its commitment to increase its renewable energy lending by 20 percent per year. But read the fine print: this 20 percent claim is from its lowest baseline ever. Meanwhile, Bank financing for fossil fuels outpaces renewable energy financing by 17 to 1. This skewed set of priorities continues to send the wrong market signals to the renewable energy industry that it's a bit player on the global energy scene while underwriting one of the most heavily subsidized industries on the planet.<br /><br />Another thing to note: according to the World Bank's web page on this new initiative, they are engaged in a new commitment to energy efficiency for the fossil fuel sector. Yet, those who know the World Bank's history know if it had simply implemented its energy efficiency guidelines laid down in 1993, rather than continually downgrading them and making them non-binding, these past 12 years would have seen a reduction of global greenhouse gases.<br /><br />Finally, the World Bank is positioning itself to profit handsomely from the so-called "carbon trading" business, charging upwards of 5 percent on all transactions it arranges between countries or industries. Few World Bank carbon trading projects are more than a green sheen on business as usual. And business as usual includes not just fossil fuel investments but also projects clearing forests, developing highways, and subsidizing private transport and energy-intensive industry in the developing world all of which destabilize the world's climate even further.<br /><br />World Bank-watchers have seen how poorly the Bank has done in carrying out any sincere efforts to diminish its own significant climate impact. In fact, the Bank has yet to calculate the full -- and significant -- global warming impact of its own investments, though it can tell you down to a ton of carbon how much it is saving through its paltry renewable energy portfolio.<br /><br />Unfortunately, if they gain any power as a result of this G8 mandate, it could spell disaster for the old U.N. framework which has taken ages, thanks to the U.S. and the oil industry that holds U.S. politicians purse strings, to inch toward climate stability. Placing climate change, the world's most urgent problem, in the hands of a bank that is profiting from financing fossil fuels is like telling an alcoholic to create a framework for sobriety.<br /><br />If the World Bank is sincere about taking any leadership role on climate change, it should follow the recommendations laid down a year ago by its own consultant, and get out of financing fossil fuels. Anything else is a lot of hot air.<br /><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Daphne Wysham is a Fellow at the <a href="http://www.ips-dc.org">Institute for Policy Studies</a> in Washington D.C., where she is the director of the <a href="http://www.seen.org">Sustainable Energy &amp; Economy Network</a>. </div></div></div> Wed, 12 Oct 2005 21:00:01 -0700 Daphne Wysham, AlterNet 630974 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment