This Week in Sustainability – Greta and our ‘Misleadership’, Investors Stepping Up, and Lawyers Doing Good

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Greta Thunberg, Time’s person of the year, explains leadership, more investors call for climate action, a growing number of legal suits against #BigOil, and the Good, the Bad and the Sad emerge as COP25 draws to a close.

All this and more in This Week in Sustainability.

Last Word in This Week in Sustainability

The Last Word in This Week in Sustainability normally goes at the end of the article, but not this week.

This week it goes up front, and it goes to Greta Thunberg, TIME magazine’s, and all of humanity’s person of the year… decade… century?

Adults, she said at COP25 in Madrid, are not leading, they are “misleading.”

“The biggest danger is not inaction,” she said, “The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done — apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”

At the risk of #Adultsplaining, I would add: the beauty of kids is that they don’t see barriers, only possibility; where adults see roadblocks born of fear, pain, caution, concern, (or more insidiously, greed jealousy, avarice etc.).

Kids don’t and they just act. That’s why they are so good at figuring out software. They click, make mistakes, click some more, and figure things out.  No fear, no pain, no regrets.

Adults? We ponder, we fiddle, and we worry, bouncing the possibility of making a mistake against our fragile egos and thoughts of our pocketbook.

I bet if the #ClimateKids could, they would close Exxon down, stop Blackrock from investing in fossil fuels, and ban plastics. And they would do all this tomorrow. 

They would click those buttons, damn the consequences. And let’s face, that’s where Greta is telling us we need to be.

COP25: Its climate crunch time

This Week in Sustainability was wrapped before COP25 drew to a close.

This means we don’t have a final list of the good, the sad, and the bad to come from the summit. So a partial list will have to do.

Good
–Some 80 countries, representing 10.5% of global greenhouse gases, signaled
an intention to increase their climate action commitments for 2020.

Bad – Big emitters
like the US, China, India, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia are not in this group,
though China and India are interested in joining the European Union in
announcing more ambitious decarbonisation plans.

Sad – There is nothing close to an agreement on Article 6 of the Paris accord. That article is the one which seeks to establish a global carbon market, and is seen as key to delivering real carbon reduction gains.

What’s catching countries up? Carbon trading rules and how to count
carbon credits.

The issue will be punted to next year at COP26 in Glasgow…. as if we can wait yet another year.

(Carbon markets are a bit complicated to explain. If you want to take a Carbon Market 101 go to the most excellent primer at CarbonMarketWatch.org)

Bad –  Progress at the Madrid summit is being stalled by Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Australia (amongst other countries) that are fighting against tougher carbon emission goals and market rules. 

Why?

The Brazilian government is intent on trading high-carbon cattle for rainforests;
coal exporters in Australia prefer ashes on the Sydney Opera House over fresh
air and vibrant barrier reefs; and, the Saudi government? It’s sitting on 20%
of the world’s oil reserves and will be damned if the share sale of Aramco, the
country’s oil giant, won’t top USD 2 trillion.

Finally, and leaving off with a ‘good’….

Good
  Fourteen regions, 398 cities, 786 businesses, and 16 investors have targeted net zero emissions by 2050.  

Watch for more on COP25 next week.

Gaining ground? Climate concerned investors at COP25

Over 600 institutional investors managing a whopping $37 trillion in assets called at COP25 this past Monday for governments to step up their efforts against climate change. 

That’s great and good news. Right?

Maybe.

My question: Is it enough to lay all change at governments’ doorstep?  

I can think of one big reason why not, and one possible reason why.

(Ok, I can think of a bunch of other
things….)

Let’s take the cynical why not first.

Most national governments are thoroughly infiltrated by vested interests with little to no short-term interest in a rapid transition to a zero-carbon economy.

I call it the Koch Brother Syndrome, or governments so infested with insidious lobbyists and insiders that it’s difficult to tell the difference between elected officials and corporate shareholders.

The Trump, Johnson (UK), Morrison (Australian) administrations are among the most obvious and odious examples of climate and economic justice vested interest perfidy.

Even in the kind and gentle Canada it happens. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for example, recently bought a USD 4 billion gas pipeline with public money, stroking #BigOil with his right hand and his supposed green credentials with the left.

https://twitter.com/Clara_Vondrich/status/1205180157704785920

Is it me or are all things carbon so
schizophrenic?

Nancy Pelosi says the US is “in” the
Paris Climate Agreement, while Trump is taking the country out of it.

In Canada (again), the oil producing
province of Alberta was publicly salivating at the thought of exporting vastly more ugly tar sand oil literally the same day as Canada announced a
commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050.

The European Union (minus Poland) similarly celebrated the same zero-carbon goal even as they subsidize oil and gas to the tune of USD 62 billion a year (or about USD 7,500 per person).

Even the COP25 summit suffers also from neurosis: #BigOil was a sponsor of the event!

Imagine, for a hypothetical moment, #BigOil hob-knobbing with national leaders, while hundreds of indigenous and youth protestors with the most to lose from the #ClimateCrisis, are kicked out of the summit halls as enormous Orwellian metal doors slammed down between them and the very ‘misleaders’ who are deciding the fate of their future.

Wait. You don’t have to imagine – it happened.

https://twitter.com/csrcounts/status/1204870144817844224

If there is not a better metaphor for
what is going on in the world these days, I am not sure what it is.

Still, I don’t disagree with #BigOil’s
attendance at COP25. I would have invited them, even give them special status, a shut the f**k up and listen status.

But I digress.

The more optimistic among us, might interpret the investors’ ‘call’ as a plea to
force the change they are unable or unwilling to make on their own.

That is: give investors rules they have to follow so they can’t be blamed for negative return results repercussions.

I doubt that is what their call is all about.

But investors do need help to divest from fossil fuels, as many seem unable to do
so on their own.

As we reported last week in This Week in Sustainability, Helen Avery’s fine EuroMoneyarticle showed us many so-called responsible investors are apt to call many an investment green, even when they are not.

Legal wrangling on climate gaining favor

A number of high profile #ClimateCrisis warnings from top legal minds and legal climate clashes surfaced this week. 

In Australia, Chris Hayne rebuked corporate directors on their failure to act on climate risk.

The former Australian High Court judge said, corporate board directors are hiding behind “learned helplessness” as an excuse not to act, and lashed out at their “short-termism.” 

Failure to act, he said, raises the prospect that board members could end up in court, and maybe even in jail.

Many Australian corporate board members need only look out the window these days to see the raging ashes of the bushfires caused, in part, by their inaction.

https://twitter.com/EthosLifestyle/status/1205186869350354945

The Earth needs a really good lawyer, enter Ecocide…

More ominously, climate busting politicians and CEOs may soon find themselves in the same defendant’s box as the “Butcher of Bosnia”, Slobodan Milosevic once did.

Instead of facing charges of genocide, they will be on trial for ecocide, or the willful destruction of the life sustaining
ecosphere.

This week, the aptly named international organization Ecocide Law, inched closer to having ‘ecocide’, declared a crime at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hauge, when the low lying South Pacific Island of Vanuatu requested the ICC “consider formalizing the crime of ecocide.

The ICC currently prosecutes individuals accused of committing four “crimes against peace”: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes of aggression.

Ecocide would be the fifth crime and, if accepted, would be a criminal (not civil) offense carrying the threat of prison time.

https://twitter.com/Jojo_Mehta/status/1201588503395606528

This should send fear down the spines of fossil fuel executives and scorched earthers like Donald Trump who should be held accountable for their contributions to the #ClimateCrisis.

In a well-worth-the-read Huffington Post article, Jojo Metha, co-founder of Ecocide Law, called Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, the “poster boy” of ecocide and fine example of why such a law is needed.

Don’t think this is reasonable?

Consider this.

Slobodan Milosevic was convicted for genocide resulting in the death of over 100,000 of his country men and women. Over the coming decade, some 250,000 climate deaths are predicted and as many as 100 million will be made homeless. In 2018 alone, over 6,000 people died and some 29 million people needed emergency assistance due to extreme weather.

This is a horrible and unimaginable human toll.

But it’s nothing compared to the potential loss of other life – animal, plant, insect, etc. – vital to ecosystems supporting human beings.

Said  Mehta, “Current law is deeply anthropocentric,” and needs to be put in sync with Mother Nature.

Want to educate yourself on ecocide law or get involved with Ecocide Law and their excellent work? Go to stopecocide.earth

The first person to click on their donation button and donate over USD 100 will get a copy of my book Invest Like You Give a Damn.

Donate USD 50 and we will give you some rant time on an upcoming This Week in Sustainability Podcast.

PS – Ecocide Law’s other co-founder, Polly Higgins, recently died of cancer after dedicating her life to getting an ecocide law enacted. Honor her: donate.

The Philippines holds #BigOil accountable

Meanwhile this week, the Philippine
Commission on Human Rights
announced the country could hold 47 of the world’s largest fossil fuel firms accountable for their contributions to global warming.

The announcement ended a three-year investigation and came only days after Typhoon Kammuri hit the Philippines killing 17 and causing the evacuation of over half a million people.

Exxon wins round one…

This week, Exxon, the US oil giant, was found not guilty of misstating carbon pricing costs to its shareholders.

In what the Guardian News called a nearly unprecedented
lawsuit
, the state of New York took Exxon to court for pricing carbon in new projects based on lower costs than those
they reported to their investors.

Exxon is the same company that covered up its own late 1970s research showing their product was a major cause of climate change.

A judgement splitting hairs with a silver lining?

The reason for the not guilty?

The state did not prove the company deceived investors. And, as Justice Barry Ostrager noted, “The company, is in the energy business and the case was about securities fraud, not climate change.”

Given the stakes, Ostrager may be splitting hairs on his decision.

Or, perhaps, his decision portends
of judgements to come, noting, “Nothing in this opinion is intended to absolve
Exxon Mobil from responsibility for contributing to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases.”

Exxon: You are not sorry you did it, you’re sorry we found out

The greatest laugh of judgment day? That was when Exxon’s lawyers dared to say, “We provided our investors with accurate information on the risks of climate change.” Then they went on to say the company did nothing wrong, takes climate change seriously, and had no incentive to underestimate its future costs.

All this was simply doubling down on what Rex Tillerson, former Exxon CEO and ex-US secretary of state, had to say in his October deposition for the trial, “We would be misinforming ourselves” if we lied to shareholders.

Really?

Perhaps Exxon’s corporate culture genes makes it incapable of telling the truth? It lied to the public about climate change for over 30 years after all, so why not shareholders?

Once you stop telling lies, I’ll stop telling the truth about you

For many, suing Exxon for shareholder fraud may not ring their “I hate #BigOil climate bell’ as hard as say, suing them for ecocide.

It is, however, one of many
innovative legal maneuvers activists are employing against hugely resourced
#BigOil (i.e., appealing to shareholders who care about money but not
necessarily the #ClimateCrisis).

Other jurisdictions are also going up against #BigOil. Rhode Island is suing Exxon and BP, for damaging its coastline. Massachusetts is planning to sue Exxon for deceptive marketing practices. And the Philippines and Canada are investigating cases against a number of fossil fuel companies.

While the planet’s future may be in cloudy climate doubt, #BigOil’s is pretty clear. It will be full to brimming with more and increasingly lethal legal suits.

You can check out a host of #BigOil articles and references on TheSustainableCentury.net… just search #BigOil.

Also, you may recall, last week in This Week in Sustainability where we reported on ClientEarth doing the world a favor in Earth v Exxon. It’s worth a read.

Victoria Falls running dry

Victoria Falls dried to a trickle this week due to the worst drought in Southern Africa in over a century.

The falls, one of southern Africa’s biggest tourist attractions, has seen an unprecedented decline in water volumes this dry season, fueling climate change fears.

Watch this video as the wonderous falls are reduced to a mere trickle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glz64q1vaLs

Lower water volumes are a natural result of seasonal change, but not to the extent seen this year, as extreme #ClimateCrisis triggered drought continues to wreak havoc on the environment.

Up to your chin in water

Meanwhile, the 82,000 inhabitants of the Marshall Islands are recovering this week from high winds and waves earlier in the month .

This is a real problem for the country which consists of 29 atolls and five islands whose highest point is 2 meters, or 7 feet above sea level.

Hilda Heine, president of Marshall Islands, told international leaders at COP25, we are “facing death row.”

If you’ve ever been on tippy toes, up to your chin in water at the local pool, you’ll get idea.

It doesn’t get more real than this.

Signs of Change Nov 15

Oh, but how can we resist…… A second Last Word

This week in my old hometown, the very first all-electric commercial flight took off from the Fraser River south of Vancouver.

The converted 62-year-old DeHavilland Beaver, workhorse of the North, flew a fifteen minute test flight on a new 750 horsepower electric aircraft motor from Seattle’s magniX.

https://twitter.com/csrcounts/status/1205599948936495104

Said Harbour Air’s CEO Greg McDougall, it was “just like flying a Beaver but a Beaver on electric steroids. It was such a great performance we had no way of knowing how it would perform until we flew it, and it was amazing.”

Thanks, and love to all of This Week in Sustainability witting and unwitting contributors:

@WorcestrXr @Jojo_Mehta @Jumpsteady @EthosLifestyle

If you have some news we missed, let me know in the comment section or by signing up for our weekly The Sustainable Century
updates!

Want to join the tribe of
investors urging dramatic action on the #ClimateCrisis, social justice and
equality?

Get your copy of my book Invest
Like You Give a Damn…..  drop me a line
if you have any questions or thoughts!

Have a great weekend.

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