200 cross-party MPs pledge to divest parliament from fossil fuels

Around 200 MPs and former MPs have come together to sign the Divest Parliament Pledge, a pledge calling on the MP’s Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuel companies.

This announcement comes at the same time as global leaders meet for COP24, the climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, to develop plans to actualise on the global heating limitations set out in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. As the recent IPCC report stated that we only have 12 years to mitigate the worst of greenhouse gas emissions and global heating, this act from MPs is greatly welcomed.

“We’re now a 200 strong cohort of cross-party MPs who believe it is morally indefensible for Parliamentarians to be investing in companies which profit from wrecking our planet.” Said Green Party MP for Brighton Palivion. “MPs have a duty to take action to prevent the worst of climate change. One simple step we can take is ditching our investments in fossil fuels – and instead invest in clean, renewable energy, and low-carbon technologies”.

If this Divest Parliament Pledge is successful, Parliament would join the Irish National Infrastructure Fund, The New York State Pension fun, and two-thirds of UK universities committed to fossil fuel divestment.

Amongst those MPs that have signed the pledge are Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, SNP MP Mhairi Black, Labour MP David Lammy, and former conservative MP Lord Deben. You can find a full list of MPs who have signed the pledge here, and use the site to inform your local MP if they have not already signed.

“Preventing disastrous climate change will be the defining challenge of the next decade for world leaders.” Said Lord Deben. “The UK must show leadership by demonstrating that we are prepared to make the necessary choices. This includes moving investment out of fossil fuels and towards renewables that are already proving that they can be built at the scale needed to power our homes and businesses. Moving quickly towards the Paris goals is the best way to protect our health and our prosperity for many generations to come.”

Since December 2017, the amount of MPs signing the pledge has doubled, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn being the 100th person to sign. 23 out of 25 SNP MPs have signed, alongside 11 out of 12 Liberal Democrat MPs, including party leader Sir Vince Cable.

Of the MPs that have signed the pledge, roughly 59% are Labour. Conservatives make up roughly 7%, Liberal Democrats 8%, SNP members make up 15%, and other parties make up 20%.

The campaign itself was started in 2014, by a small group of MPs that included Caroline Lucas. The campaign’s first success was to ensure that the trustees of the MPs Pension Fund disclosed its investments. This revealed that the largest individual holding is in British Petroleum, valued at £7.33 million. It also revealed investments in Royal Dutch Shell A at £3.67 million, Rio Tinto at £3.67 million, Royal Dutch Shell B at £2.93 million, and Total SA at £2.93 million, amongst others.

The campaign for transforming our current economy into a green economy had been rhetoric for some time, but now is seemingly becoming actualised, however slowly. Carbon-based fossil fuels drove the first industrial revolution, but have no become part of our downfall, as global temperatures rise, extreme weather events becomes more and more often, and refugees are forced from their homes at the hands of climate breakdown. What we need is a new energy revolution. Divestment is the first step towards this.

The current UK government may employ a green rhetoric, but it’s record is far from clean. Only recently did the Conservative government ratify Caudrilla’s bid to frack for shale gas in the northern county of Lancashire, despite the local council’s attempts to block it. Fortunately, more and more conservative party members seem to be turning away from Fracking.

The government’s Clean Growth Strategy admitted that the measures it had recommended to fulfil the fourth and fifth carbon budgets set by the Paris Climate Agreement would not be enough. This is a legally binding contract, limiting by law the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted in a five-year period.

This campaign is the fastest growing divestment movement of all time, which has seen more than $5tn of assets divested across more than 800 institutions.” writes Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford & Eccles. “Campaigning for our universities, workplaces, unions, and pension funds to divest is one important way we can help to build a more sustainable society. Parliament must play its part.

 

Sir David Attenborough: “Our greatest threat in thousands of years: Climate Change”

On Monday, World-famous environmentalist Sir David Attenborough addressed the UN Climate Change Summit in Poland, appealing to those present that “together we can make real change happen”.

Attenborough’s message “Leaders of the world, you must lead”, was given alongside a gathering of messages from all over the world, pat of the UN’s people’s seat initiative. These messages were presented to the delegates of almost 200 nations who are currently in Katowice, Poland, planning the actualisation of the Paris Climate Agreement agreed three years ago.

In the speech, Attenborough references the UN’s new ActNow Chatbot, a device created to help ordinary people change their lives through taking individual personal action against climate breakdown. The ChatBot, which is open to use through Facebook Messenger, is part of a social media campaign that encourages people to talk about climate breakdown, and gives them ideas and information about how they can alter their lives to make them more eco-friendly.

The past few years have seen the hottest yearly average temperatures recorded since 1850. Since 2000, we’ve had 17 of the hottest years, each increasing since the last. Studies show that an climate-warming El Nino event is likely to occur in 2019, with the possibility to further warm that year.

“Climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late,” said the UN Secretary General António Guterres. “For many, people, regions and even countries this is already a matter of life or death.” The secretary general also touched upon the move towards sustainable green economies, “Climate action offers a compelling path to transform our world for the better. Governments and investors need to bet on the green economy, not the grey.” This echoes the actions taken by the World Bank recently, who pledged $200bn to combat climate breakdown.

David Attenborough has recently been accused by writer and Guardian columnist George Monbiot of betraying ‘the living world he loves‘ though ‘downplaying our environmental crisis’.

“Knowingly creating a false impression of the world: this is a serious matter.” Writes Monbiot. “It is more serious still when the BBC does it, and yet worse when the presenter is “the most trusted man in Britain”. But, as his latest interview with the Observer reveals, David Attenborough sticks to his line that fully representing environmental issues is a “turn-off”.” Does this speech come as part-response to Monbiot’s comments? It is difficult to say exactly, but we view it as a welcome use of activism considering Attenborough’s large platform.

COP24 has also had it’s fair share of criticism. The summit itself is being sponsored by a Polish company. This act in itself “raises a middle finger to the climate” according to Friends of the Earth International. The Polish president Andrzej Duda, speaking at the opening of the summit, said the use of “efficient” coal processes and technology could be undertaken with no contradiction to taking climate action. While more energy efficient technology has been employed in the country, resulting in a cut of 30% to it’s carbon emissions since 1988, this type of talk is dangerous, although it does not represent the official stance of the Polish government as a whole.

“Safeguarding and creating sustainable employment and decent work are crucial to ensure public support for long-term emission reductions,” states the Silesia Declaration on Solidarity and Just Transition, which is a goal for the Polish government, who want to provide job security to workers in fossil fuel industries as the energy industry changes to more renewables.

We have transcribed Sir David Attenborough’s speech here:

“Right now, we’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: Climate Change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations, and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon. The United Nations provides a unique platform that can unite the whole world, and as the Paris Agreement proved, together we can make real change happen.”

“The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision makers, to act now. They’re behind you, along with civil society represented here today. Supporting you, in making tough decisions, but also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives. To help make change happen, the United Nations is launching the ActNow bot, helping people to discover simple everyday actions that they can make, because they recognise that they too must play their part. The people have spoken. Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of our civilisations, and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands.”

World Bank pledges $200billion to tackle climate breakdown

The World Bank has pledged around $200bn (which in GBP is £157bn) towards funding action on climate breakdown. This money will go to both the means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the means by which countries will adapt to the effects of global heating, and will be in use from 2021 to 2025. Adapting to inevitable climate breakdown effects will be a key aim, with $50bn being pledged to this set of actions alone.

The $200bn is made up of direct investments from the World Bank, and of other loans and investments from other parts of their group. It is with hope that other large corporations find influence within the actions of the World Bank and invest in climate breakdown prevention with their own capital, which could, in turn, inspire other members of the private sector to follow suit.

On the pledge, the President of the World Resources Institute, Andrew Steer, commented “With climate impacts already taking a heavy toll around the globe, we know a far greater response is needed. Investing in climate action is the smart choice – it can reduce poverty, inspire innovation and bring far-reaching benefits to society,”.

In Poland this week, governments will meet for COP24, to determine the courses of action to be undertaken in an effort to implement the Paris Climate Agreement, which was agreed upon in 2015, binding countries to contractual obligations that will hopefully limit global heating to 2C above pre-industrial levels. The $200bn represents a doubling of the five-year investment plan put in place after the agreement.

It has been estimated that, other than dire environmental destruction, 140 million people will become climate refugees by 2050, with the president of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim stating the the poorest and most vulnerable are at the greatest risk from climate breakdown.

“We are pushing ourselves to do more and go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same. This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future.”

The chief executive of the World Bank, Kristalina Georgieva, said “People are losing their lives and livelihoods because of the disastrous effects of climate change. We must fight the causes but also adapt to the consequences.”

Some of the $200bn will go towards extreme weather warning systems such as high quality weather forecasts and other equipment. It is hoped that systems such as these would improve the safety and quality of life for over 200 million in around 30 developing countries which have the greatest risk of being hit by extreme, climate-breakdown caused weather.

Other portions of the pledged sum will go towards ‘smart agriculture’ – new ways of farming to support a growing population in a world where conventional or past ways of farming would no longer work. Food security is a concern for environmentalists, who worry that climate breakdown and man-made pollution will destroy vital ecosystems that supply biodiversity, and contribute to land degradation – both of which would impact global food production negatively.

Hopefully this bold and ambitious move to protect livelihoods and delicate ecosystems will send a strong signal to other private sector financiers. With 100 companies responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions, it is a much welcomed move that helps to pave the way for other multinationals to change their ways.

80% chance of climate-warming El Niño event in 2019

According to the latest data from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, that there is a 75-80% chance of a weak, and yet, still climate-warming El Niño event by next year. “Oceanic conditions have been at weak El Niño levels since October 2018, but not yet coupled to the atmosphere as required for a typical EL Niño event.”

El Niño events occur naturally every few years. They are caused by fluctuations in ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, coupled with the overlying atmospheric circulation. This in turn has a direct and major influence on climate patterns all over the world.

The WMO’s model forecasts suggest that the chance of a full-fledged El Niño between December 2018 to February 2019 is estimated to be about 75-80%, with a 60% chance that it will continue from February through to April. Current predictions show the El Niño range as being from a warm-neutral condition through to moderate strength. This could mean that sea surface temperatures being at approximately 0.8C to 1.2C above the average. The chance for a strong El Niño is currently low.

Maxx Dilley, director of WMO’s Climate Prediction and Adaptation branch, said “The forecast El Niño is not expected to be as powerful as the event in 2015-2016, which was linked with droughts, flooding and coral bleaching in different parts of the world. Even so, it can still significantly affect rainfall and temperature patterns in many regions, with important consequences to agricultural and food security sectors, and for management of water resources and public health, and it may combine with long-term climate change to boost 2019 global temperatures,”

The last El Niño event ended in 2016, which helped that year become the hottest year on record by exacerbating the effects of man-made global heating. 2017 was ranked an equal second, but was also named the hottest year on record with an El Niño event. It has not yet been quantified, but it is expected that 2018, which saw many climate-related disasters across the globe, to be the fourth hottest on record.

In most of Asia, Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, Australia, Africa, and the Indonesian archipelago, there has been an increase in the odds for abnormal surface-air temperature. There is also for the Caribbean, central America, parts of South America, some South Pacific Islands, portions of southwest Africa, eastern equatorial Africa, an increased probability of below-normal precipitation, which could possibly lead to drought in those areas.

El Niño events exacerbate and are exacerbated by the billions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions humanity releases every year, and as these emissions have recently hit record concentrations, we can assume that stronger El Niño events will be more likely in the future.

Between 2000 and 2017, Human-caused global warming has given us 17 of the 18 hottest years since 1850. This frequency cannot be a coincidence. Although, whether 2019 will be another record remains to be seen.

 

 

 

US donations to climate science denial organisations threatens UK environmental protection

During 2017, the United Kingdom’s major climate-science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, (follow the link for an accurate description by DeSmog), recieved $177,001 in ‘grants and gifts’. At the time of writing, this is worth £137,900. These numbers were shown in the tax returns filed by the GWPF’s US-fundraising group, American Friends of the GWPF.

Another right-wing thinktanks, the Taxpayer’s Alliance, recieved around £223,300 from US-based donors within the last five years. An article published by the Guardian described the Taxpayer’s Alliance as “an “independent grassroots campaign” that speaks “for ordinary taxpayers fed up with government waste, increasing taxation, and a lack of transparency in all levels of government”. It keeps its donors secret, saying it respects their privacy.”

These two organisations, along with seven other right-wing thinktanks, were allegedly coordinating amongst themselves in order to push for a hard Brexit, a ruling that would have spelled disaster for UK environmentalists.

All this raises the concerns surrounding the influence of foreign money on issues surrounding environmentalism, such as when lobby groups push to cut regulations in order to implement trade deals with countries that have been named as major polluters. This was part of an alternative ‘Plan A+’ Brexit plan published in September backed by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and former Brexit secretary David Davis. The report singled out environmental protection regulation as one that is “damaging to growth” and is “moving in an anti-competitive direction”.

Those behind the alternative Brexit plan see themselves as “supportive of environmental protection”, yet see aspects of the protection, the regulations that enforce that protection themselves as leading to the “increases in costs for many companies”. We see this as direct and willing hypocrisy. The plan describes environmental regulations as “somtimes valid attempts to deal with real environmental problems”, and that “frequently they are disguised methods of protectionism”.

The donations that the GWPF received are seen as a significant increase since the previous year. The tax regulations set up in the US require that the organisation declare how much it received, but holds no rules set up that require the source of the donations be included.

In an article recently published by  DeSmog, it was revealed just how much the network of US libertarian climate science denial campaign groups pushing for environmental derergulation post-Brexit, including the Heartland Institute and the Cato Institute, had increased their European activities coinciding with the time of the Brexit referendum.

“Brexit negotiations have created a policy vacuum at the very top of the UK government” stated the article, which in turn allows the space for the policies and ideas of these right-wing thinktanks to gain traction, pushing their ideologies through the donations of rich investors.

“As a result, powerful private lobbies have strived to fill that vacuum and advocated to slash regulation and environmental protection post-Brexit in order to strike trade deals. This includes the Koch brothers, the Mercer family and the Atlas network”.

It was estimated by Greenpeace that the Koch brothers had “sent at least $100,343,292 directly to 84 groups denying climate change science since 1997.”.

The prospect of the Brexit deal, recently put in place by Theresa May, has seemingly increased the amount of lobbying these organisations have been doing. Greenpeace’s Unearthed recently exposed the extent of influence this group, a group which in the UK bases itself in Tufton Street in London, has on cabinet members, including current environment minister Michael Gove.

The UK government has been warned that its environmental laws could be left suffering with “gaping holes”, allowing “polluters to go unpunished and depriving wildlife of vital protection after Brexit”. MPs from the Environmental Audit Committee found that the government had still not committed to replacing roughly a third of all environmental rules that cannot be transferred from the EU into UK law after Brexit. These laws cover air, water, chemicals, and waste disposal. While this gap remains, right-wing thinktanks use the aforementioned donations to weaken environmental regulation in the UK.

It is unfortunate that, as the contributors of these amounts are not obligated to reveal themselves, huge private interests are disguised, and will carry on presenting themselves as proponents and defenders of free-market ideology, all the while justifying the fore-planned dismantling of the United Kingdom’s environmental protection policies.

 

 

 

 

 

New agricultural methods increase bee populations and yields for farmers

A new strategy aimed at increasing bee populations, devised by the International Center For Agricultural Research In Dry Areas, has been put forward at the UN Biodiversity conference this week.

Global bee populations have been suffering greatly over the last few decades, such as in Germany where a 75% population decline has been seen over the last 25 years, and in Puerto Rico there has been an even sharper decline. Around 80% of food crops require pollination, but the population of insects that carry out this job, mainly bees, lessens every year.

The study recommends that a quarter of all cropland be dedicated to flowering economic crops such as oil seeds, spices, and medicinal plants. This would hopefully represent substantial gains in biodiversity. The report also mentions an increase in income across the board, but we must stress that we believe that the true measure of wealth is in natural biodiversity and the resilience of the living planet against human intrusion.

Pressure has already been put on agricultural industries by environmentalist groups for their farming procedures and intensive use of pesticides, and the responses from world governments have been increasingly varied. Just this year, Brazil’s pro-agribusiness congressmen voted for what has been dubbed as, the ‘poison package’, a lift of restrictions on an amount of pesticides that are currently banned in other countries for their detrimental impact on ecosystems.

Stefanie Christmann, who has headed up the research, has spent the last five years working on what she calls “farming with alternative pollinators”, with trials being carried in out Uzbekistan and Morocco.

“In 2013–2014, therefore, a 18-month-pilot project was set on a participatory basis in Uzbekistan, to test this farming with alternative pollinators approach on field and orchard crops. The practicability and the potential of the approach were tested in collaboration with seven smallholders, two commercial farmers, and two schools. “

“We analyzed the yield and insect diversity (pollinators, predators, and pests) of seven cucumber fields in the Parkent district and four orchards of sour cherry in the Boysun district in Uzbekistan. Here we show that the fields with enhanced habitats faced higher diversity of pollinators and predators, but less pests than control fields. Furthermore, the farming with alternative pollinators approach doubled the yield of sour cherry in 2014 and highly increased the income from cucumber in 2013. “

The technique that Christmann proposes represents an agricultural method closer to the formation of natural green areas such as forests, in constrast to intensive monoculture farming already in place. One in every four cultivation strips should be dedicated to the aforementioned flowering crops. Nesting support for bees and other insects should also be provided to encourage populations to thrive, support such as old wood and beaten soil that can be burrowed into.

“There is a very low barrier so anyone in even the poorest country can do this. There is no equipment, no technology and only a small investment in seeds. It is very easy. You can demonstrate how to do it with pictures sent on a cellphone.”

Ultimately, 94% of the farmers were willing to enhance pollinator habitats after being informed of these higher-yield figures.” During the test periods, the efficiency of crop pollination was increased, and the amount of pests was significantly lower.

The greatest gains in the four differing climatic regions that Christmann studied were found in semi-arid climates, where pumpkin yields rose 561%, aubergine 364%, broad bean 177% and melons 56%. In rainier areas, the harvests of tomatoes doubled in size, and aubergines harvests increased by 250%.

There are many environmental and economic benefits to increasing the amount of wild pollinators by encouraging the planting of more diverse crop rotations. This can also be applied to cities, where the planting of wildflowers, berry bushes, and flowering trees can aid in biodiversity.

“The entire environment would be richer, more beautiful and more resilient to climate change,” said Christmann “We would have many more insects, flowers and birds. And it would be far more self-sustaining. Even the poorest countries in the world could do this.”

It is hoped that there may be, in the near future, support for a multilateral environmental agreement on the wellbeing and promotion of natural pollinators, similar to the international convention on trade in endangered species.

But there will be resistance, Christmann admits “I think Monsanto won’t like this because they want to sell their pesticides and this approach reduces pests naturally,”.

Christmann’s research comes as part of a growing campaign to change the very nature of global food production. In the ‘Ecological Farming versus Industrial Agriculture’ section of Greenpeace’s ‘Plan Bee – Living Without Pesticides’ report, it is written:

“Agricultural intensification in Europe has typically led to more homogeneous landscapes, defined by large cereal fields and a loss of non-cultivated habitats on farms – such as hedgerows, ditches, woodland, and field margins. In addition, there has been widespread loss of semi-natural grasslands due to their conversion into arable fields and coniferous tree plantations (Meeus et al. 1990). Semi-natural habitat loss and degradation on farms and in surrounding areas, together with the increased use of agrochemicals such as synthetic pesticides, has been linked to a loss of wildlife species in agricultural landscapes (Belfrage 2005).”

Things are looking a little brighter, with a recent EU-wide ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids. “Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment.” Said Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for Health and Food Safety, after he welcomed the vote.

On organic, pesticide-free farming, Giannis Melos, a farmer from Greece, had this to say: “In the past I have used plenty of chemicals as a conventional producer, but when I started farming organically only then I realised how many mistakes I had made in the past and that I had been trying to fight the symptom and not the cause. […] With the balance brought about by organic farming there are many benefits in your cultivation. You can see that the soil is more lively, you can see the organisms that form the surrounding environment being in a balance that is not disrupted. Of course there are benefits for the planet, because the residues from chemicals take many years to degrade.”

Atmospheric greenhouse gas levels at all time high, says UN

In a new report by the World Meteorological Organization, the UN’s meteorology experts, it states that the greenhouse gas emissions that are currently causing global climate breakdown are at an all time high.

The levels of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are far above their pre-industrial level counterparts, with seemingly no reversal of their upward trend. In 2017, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere rose to a global average of 405.5 parts per million, which is 2.5x higher than levels before the industrial revolution. Methane, a gas which has a heating capability 25x that of CO2 and is responsible for around 17% of global warming, now has levels that are 3.5x higher than before the industrial revolution. This rise has mostly been caused by agricultural practices such as large-scale industrial cattle farming.

“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5m years ago, when the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now,” said the WMO secretary general, Petteri Taalas. “The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed.”

The internationally-ratified Paris Climate Agreement aims to curb the rise of global heating at 2C, yet the more hopeful number is 1.5C. It must however, be stated that this number is itself somewhat arbitrary. It is impossible to say what the actual damage will be at 1.5 or 2C. The recent IPCC Report on the effects of 1.5C of heating, stated that there would be incredibly severe consequences for human life at this level.

This report, with it’s 91 separate authors and review editors from 40 countries, explores “a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2ºC.”

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

“Every fraction of a degree of global warming matters, and so does every part per million of greenhouse gases,” said the WMO deputy secretary general, Elena Manaenkova. “CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer. There is currently no magic wand to remove all the excess CO2 from the atmosphere.”

To negate this rise in emission levels, collective action needs to be put in place, such as investing in low-carbon or carbon neutral technologies; wind and solar energy needs to become rapidly mainstream. Pressure needs to be put on multinationals, whose business practices are responsible for a large percentage of global emissions.

Fortunately, it is becoming an increasingly poignant issue for people, with environmental demonstrations and campaigns taking place all over the world.  On Wednesday the Yearbook of Global Climate Action 2018 was published, finding that 9,000 cities in 128 countries had committed to some sort of climate action. This is alongside 240 states and regions in 40 other countries, and more than 6,000 businesses.

“On one hand, greenhouse gas emissions have yet to peak and countries struggle to maintain the concentrated attention and effort needed for a successful response to climate change. On the other hand, climate action is occurring, it is increasing and there is a will to do more. I highlight this because falling into despair and hopelessness is a danger equal to complacency, none of which we can afford.”, said Patricia Espinosa, head of the UN framework convention on climate change.

Thousands descend on London for biggest UK climate protest

On Saturday, thousands of environmental protesters occupied five bridges in central London, one of the largest acts of co-ordinated civil disobedience this country has ever seen.

The protest, organised by environmental activists, Extinction Rebellion, saw approximately six thousand of people young and old descend on the Waterloo, Lambeth, Blackfriars, Southwark, and Westminster bridges. It one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in the UK in decades, one of the largest of all time. Of the many protesters, eighty-five were arrested. 

Protests began amassing on the bridges from as early as 9am on Saturday morning, having travelled from all over the country to take part. The day was brisk but the Sun was shining, perfect conditions for the protest to take place. The scene on Westminster Bridge originally felt a little tense, with police presence seemingly increased. A police officer walks past two women and says jokingly “Good morning ladies, are you here for the protest? Are you gonna be nice?” They laughed. There as a palpable energy to the area, as cars still streaked across the bridge, as the people who gathered on the sides knew what was to come.

Protesters gathered on Westminster Bridge.

While some had been there since 9am, and the roads were meant to be occupied at 10am, it was 11am when the protest began en masse. Police were previously informed this protest would be taking place, so that alternative routes for emergency vehicles could be plotted. Chants of “No more coal, no more oil, keep your carbon in the soil!”, and “What do we want? Climate justice!” can be heard echoing across the bridge. The mood is fun; both spirited and passionate. People have brought musical instruments and perform impromptu songs.

‘Rebellion Day’ as it was named, was put on in an effort to force the governments to treat climate breakdown as a serious issue, influencing them to take more action on the crisis and develop a new set of policies that would change the UK’s environmental stance and emission rate.

“The ‘social contract’ has been broken … [and] it is therefore not only our right but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty and to rebel to defend life itself,” said Gail Bradbrook, one of the organisers.

The vast majority of the crowd were those who had either never protested before, or more likely, never taken part in an act of civil disobedience. Most arrests that happened over the course of the day had been for obstruction under the Highways act. 

Environmental activist, filmmaker, and YouTuber Jack Harries giving his speech

The protest seemed to go incredibly well on Westminster Bridge, which had the largest numbers, but throughout the day the group at Lambeth Bridge struggled, and by 2pm the blockade of Southwark Bridge had been abandoned, although movement of protesters between all remaining bridges continued, with numbers being supplied where needed. 

In the afternoon there was a plethora of speakers that stood on a podium with mic in hand. In their democratic, open framework for the event, anyone who wanted to speak was allowed to speak. Poetry was read, songs were sung (with group participation), and environmentalists from all walks of life got to have their say. 

The topics of the day ranged from ‘The law of ecocide’, where environmental advocates would hopefully in future be protected by law if classified as a ‘conscientious protector’. Class politics were also on the table, after a member of a eco-conscious communist group took to the podium. In the speech given by Jack Harries, the environmental activist, filmmaker, and YouTuber, Harries exclaimed “It comes down to power”, and that we should in future value “Planet over profit”. 

“Climate change doesn’t care about borders. Climate change doesn’t care about fucking Donald Trump”

Jack Harries, in his speech on Saturday.
A number of protesters had taken the time do design and create their own signs.

“Given the scale of the ecological crisis we are facing this is the appropriate scale of expansion,” said Bradbrook. “Occupying the streets to bring about change as our ancestors have done before us. Only this kind of large-scale economic disruption can rapidly bring the government to the table to discuss our demands. We are prepared to risk it all for our futures.”

Later on in the day, the scheduled talks, part of the ‘Extinction Rebellion Assembly’, began, with six environmentalist figures, whose homelands had been disrupted by undemocratic processes through environmental destruction.

The environmentalists were Raki Ap of Free West Papua Campaign, Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group (Bangladesh) as well as representatives from Ecuador, Kenya, Ghana and Mongolia. The final speaker was Tina Louise Rothery from the UK-based Anti-Fracking Lancashire Nanas. 

The main banner on Westminster Bridge. People took turns to hold it throughout the day.

Extinction Rebellion are calling for the government to make sure that the UK’s net carbon emissions are reduced to zero by the year 2025. They also call for a ‘Citizen’s Assembly’ to be established, in an effort to recreate WWII-era mass organisation in an effort to tackle climate breakdown.

The group, in a declaration letter, stated “While our academic perspectives and expertise may differ, we are united on this one point: we will not tolerate the failure of this or any other government to take robust and emergency action in respect of the worsening ecological crisis. The science is clear, the facts are incontrovertible, and it is unconscionable to us that our children and grandchildren should have to bear the terrifying brunt of an unprecedented disaster of our own making.”

It has only been a few months since Extinction Rebellion was established, but it has already founded groups that stretch from one end of the UK to the other, and raised £50k in small donations. It is seemingly the first group to draw in environmentalists of all types.


Something I have been waiting for, for a very long time, is happening. People are risking their liberty in defence of the living world in very large numbers. It is only when we are prepared to take such action that people begin to recognise the seriousness of our existential crisis.

George Monbiot, Guardian Columnist & Writer

 

“Our children have the right to a future”.

“Rebellion Day will disrupt London. It is not a step we take lightly. If things continue as is, we face an extinction greater than the one that killed the dinosaurs. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be a worthy ancestor,” said Tiana Jacout of Extinction Rebellion.

“We represent a huge number of concerned citizens. Scientists, academics, politicians, teachers, lawyers, students, children, parents, and grandparents. But we have no choice. We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed. And no damage that we incur can compare to the criminal inaction of the UK government in the face of climate and ecological breakdown.”

There is a second Rebellion day, Rebellion Day 2, to be held on Saturday November 24th.

You can find out more about Extinction Rebellion on their website.

The Extinction Rebellion symbol.

Environmentalism and club music: Inside the world of Eco-Grime

You may not have realised, but there has been an incredibly long trend of environmentalism within music. Tracks like ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ by John Denver, ‘Earth Song’ by Michael Jackson, and ‘Blackened’ by Metallica all represent the influential wave of environmentalism (If we conveniently forget the hunting passions of Metallica frontman James Hetfield).

Classical music has always had a strong connection to the living planet. From Vivaldi’s lush, sweeping, magnificent Four Seasons, to the more contemporary classical, such as John Cage’s ‘Child Of Tree’, in which the composer amplifies the sound of cactus and pea pod shakers to add to the timbre of the piece. More obviously an environmental piece is Ludovico Einaudi’s 2016 ‘Elegy For The Arctic’ – a stunningly beautiful piano composition, which you can watch below. What makes this recording even more awesome and shocking is Einaudi plays while on a raft, as large chunks of ice break off the glacier around him and tumble into the water. It’s almost as if nature is supplying the percussion to it’s own destruction.

Now environmentalism, or the inspiration that comes from the living planet, has seeped into the realms of contemporary electronic music. The netlabel Eco Futurism Corporation – a group of forward thinking artists and producers, have even come up with a name for the genre, and it is exciting: Eco-Grime.

Eco Futurism Corporations is a label dedicated to artists such as HERBARIUM, tropical interface, SHYQA, Gem Thee, LORD Ø, and soullets, and proclaims itself as ‘Wrapping ‘anti-club’ tunes and abrasive sound design around CGI-inflected visions of the organic.‘ Our first listens have introduced us to a rapturous, mutating, bio-mechanical, elated, and yet also dark, twisting anthemic landscapes. This is no everyday club music. It is the cousins of Bjørk’s 2016 album, Utopia, produced by both the Icelandic auteur and the Venezuelan producer Arca, which proved to be a scintillating look at when an album surpasses itself to become a soundscape, sort of a aural version of the lengths Tolkien went to in creating Middle Earth (a work itself steeped in environmentalism), and just as intricate. These artists make their own languages.

These languages entertain multiple stories; the wilful destruction of humanity by AI in an effort to save nature, the evolution of animals to survive off plastic, the discovery of human life being the evolution of biological contaminants left behind by extraterrestrial travellers, a.k.a. ‘Garbage Theory’. The stories, while surrounded by beautiful, fragile melodies and samples, are themselves dark and foreboding. These are the inventions of the Eco-Grime proponents, inspired themselves by ecological themes, crafting music to score the slow and wilful eradication of the living planet by the consumptions of modern life.

Sounds of chimes, birdsong, waterfall, the chirps and chirrups of birds, insects, and other creatures. The music of these artists present full and biodiverse environments of sound, championing the natural samples they compose around. Like the water used in many of the tracks, these artists have fluidity. The soundscapes ebb and flow into one another while remaining very much autonomous. It is exciting stuff to listen to.

“Roots of such ecologist utopias unconsciously existed all this time in the field of eastern way of harmony with surrounding against western anthropocentrism, which crystallized into architecture, infrastructure design, human relationships and many other things, including Eco Futurism Corporation.” The label explained about it’s origins in an interview.

“It’s expressed in samples from cult films of the future like “Blade Runner” or “GITH” and ends with the title tracks. From the other side, eco futurism have a positive outlook for the future, utopia, the opposite post-apocalyptic and alternative to cyberpunk. We suggest another way.” EFC shares on the influences of eco-futurism expressed within their work.

In a Facebook post about their album, ВЕЖЕСТЬ (Freshness), HERBARIUM wrote “The main idea is to immerse the listener in different scenes using the contrasts between artificially created effects, ‘computer’ synths, and common sounds that surround you in real life. The process is more like painting; I’m trying to create a unique atmosphere for each track and transform it into dynamic futuristic collage.” This phrase seems to be emblematic of the whole subgenre itself.

The Ecomodern series, a mixture of different contributing artists, is itself an incredibly biological work, a work that would class itself as symbiotic. It is not a mixtape, it is an ecosystem. The track ‘eco world’ by tropical interface could itself act as the grim anthem of this movement, containing an artificial voice that declares “Welcome to the new world, the world of ecological future / High technological artificial intelligence had to take over nature to exterminate humanity, because nature has a higher priority than humanity.” This mixes with powerful beats, trickling water sounds, and undulating synth beds that project a sort of serenity that jars with the AI’s proclamation. It almost surrenders you to this hypothesised end to humanity. The soundscape created helps you to accept.

Earlier this year, Prague-based label Genot Centre released a limited-edition cassette of Plastisphere by the Finnish producer Forces. Within the work, EDM is deconstructed into a medium that can be used to explore the lives of organisms who have been affected by climate breakdown, most specifically, plastic pollution. Eco-grime seems to focus itself as mood board, mirror, and social commentary on the environmental catastrophes we face. In an interview, Forces said “I don’t know what would be the solution out of this mess we have made. I can only try to circumvent the issue with my music and art.” Plastisphere was created in part in reaction  to an ecological disaster near his home, where toxic cyanobacteria blooms grew off the Scandinavian coast, rendering swimming in those waters impossible.

The Eco-Grime movement is constructed of a thriving community of artists and auteurs, who are currently pushing against the creative grey areas of underground club music, representing the more contemporary, niche side of environmental advocacy. Whether it is a city commute, an afternoon desk-bound work, a casual jaunt through a local green area, the environments that this movement creates are ones well worth getting lost in.

For an in-depth look at key Eco-Grime tracks, check this article from Bandcamp Daily.

 

 

Fossil fuel subsidies from G20 countries risk 3.2C of global heating

According to research on progress towards the goals and deadlines of the Paris Climate Agreement, the emissions of 15 G20 nations have increased since last year. The Brown to Green Report, published by Climate Transparency, is the world’s most comprehensive review of G20 climate action. It shows that climate action is deeply lacking in all but one of the world’s largest economies.

Within these 15 countries, energy produced by coal, oil, and gas, still makes up 82% of all energy consumed. These industries have relied heavily on subsidies within the last 10 years, in a last ditch effort to compete with the increasingly cheaper and cleaner renewable energy sources.

The Paris Climate Agreement stipulated that countries would agree to work towards the goals set, phasing out fossil fuels, and yet their net contributions in the form of subsidies to those industries spent £114bn on subsidies in 2016, with current trends showing that the global temperatures will rise by 3.2C, in contrast to the 1.5C lower threshold set by the Paris Agreement.

The 1.5C threshold represents that line by which coral reefs will be able to survive, a threshold that will limit the damage to Arctic ecosystems, and hopefully prevent the displacement of hundreds of millions of people at risk of increased drought, flooding, forest fires, or dangerous summer temperatures. While a 1.7C gap does not seem very big, this actually represents countless changes to the way our modern societies function.

The Brown To Green Report allows you to compare and contrast the goals, policies, and actions of different countries. India is the only country within the G20 to be on course with staying below the upper limit threshold of 2C set by the Paris Climate Agreement. Other countries such as Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia are on track with taking the world well past 4C of warming.

uk ct bg
The first page of the report on the United Kingdom’s Paris Agreement progress. You can see that while the energy intensity of the UK is well below the G20 average, the UK government has also cancelled several emission-reducing policies.

Indonesia, Brazil and Argentina have promised to cut deforestation but the destruction rate of forests shows no sign of reversing.

The UK has made the fastest transition amongst G20 countries, seeing a 7.7% decline in fossil fuel use between 2012 and 2015, yet both looming Brexit uncertainties and the cutting of several energy efficiency and zero-carbon home policies makes it likely that this progress could stall in the coming years.

The world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, China, reduced its dependency on coal, which stabilised its carbon emissions for a number of years, but this trend was broken as it increased its coal consumption during 2017. Deforestation has also been a key topic for some countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia, as forests are a major instrument in the sequestration of carbon. These countries promised to cut deforestation, but rates show no signs of dropping, and in fact, in Brazil research shows a 52% increase in deforestation rates from 2012 to 2017.

Yet all the good work being done is coming up against a brick wall, the subsidies given to fossil fuel companies from G20 countries. One of the Brown To Green Report authors, Jan Burck, said “There is a huge fight by the fossil fuel industry against cheap renewables. The old economy is well organised and they have put huge lobbying pressure on governments to spend tax money to subsidise the old world,”.

To avoid more than 1.5C of global heating (The term George Monbiot prefers us to use), emissions from G20 need to begin declining in the next two years, and be halved by 2030. Not one country has set a target credibly enough to see this through, and with the leaders of the US and Brazil, Trump and Bolsonaro, are hostile towards tackling climate breakdown, there seems to be little hope. On the brighter side, what inaction we see at a federal level, we see much action happening at a public, community level, with groups such as Greenpeace, the WWF, and even smaller organisations such as Extinction Rebellion leading the way.

“Global emissions need to peak in 2020. The Brown-to-Green report provides us with an independent stock-take on where we stand now. This is valuable information for countries when they declare their contribution in 2020.” said Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Below are links to each specific country within the Brown To Green Report. Click through them to see your country’s data.

Argentina
Australia
Brazil
Canada
China 
The European Union
France
Germany
India
Indonesia
Italy
Japan
Mexico
Russia
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
South Korea
Turkey
United Kingdom
United States