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Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and nineteen other groups are
urging Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) to ensure that the federal
government uses all available science to determine the amount of
heat-trapping emissions biofuels produce.
Peterson chairs the House Committee on Agriculture, which will hold a hearing today
on climate and energy legislation introduced by Reps. Henry Waxman
(D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA). Environmental and science groups are
concerned with Peterson's recent efforts to short-circuit an ongoing
scientific process at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Specifically, Peterson is attempting to prevent the agency from
developing heat-trapping emissions standards for indirect land use
changes related to biofuels. Some biofuel production displaces food
crops and drives up commodity prices. This gives farmers at home and
abroad an incentive to clear new lands and cut down forests-activities
which release heat-trapping emissions.
is in the middle of a rigorous and transparent process to review and
improve the science of land use emissions accounting," said Dr. Jeremy
Martin, a senior scientist in UCS's Clean Vehicles Program. "Congress
needs to let the agencies bring all the science to bear on this issue."
Burke, director of UCS's Midwest office, said preventing science from
informing the climate and energy bill would be a mistake. "Ignoring the
science is the worst thing we could do to the biofuel industry's bottom
line," he said. "Investors want to put their money in clean, low-carbon
fuels, not fuels that need an anti-science loophole to survive in the
In a letter sent to Peterson
yesterday (pdf), the groups said, "Agriculture and forestry are poised
to be leaders in sustainable climate solutions and this represents an
historic opportunity for rural development. But to realize this
opportunity we need policies built on sound science, and science
supports the inclusion of indirect land-use change in the assessment of
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.
"Big Oil interests have contaminated our climate for decades," said Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. "They shouldn't be able to control our climate negotiations for a livable future."
The ongoing campaign to remove Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber from his role as president-designate of COP28 picked up steam Tuesday when more than 130 lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic published a letter calling for the oil boss to be replaced as chair of the annual United Nations climate summit, set to take place this fall in the United Arab Emirates.
The host nation's move "to name as president of COP28 the chief executive of one of the world's largest oil and gas companies—a company that has recently announced plans to add 7.6 billion barrels of oil to its production in the coming years, representing the fifth largest increase in the world—risks undermining the negotiations," says the letter signed by 133 members of the United States Congress and the European Parliament.
"For billions of people, the outcome of COP28 and ensuing international climate negotiations will make the difference between life and death, chaos and solidarity."
"Different leadership is necessary to help ensure that COP28 is a serious and productive climate summit," the transatlantic group of policymakers told U.S. President Joe Biden, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, and Simon Stiell, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Notably, Biden's top climate diplomat, John Kerry, has faced criticism for celebrating al-Jaber's selection. More than two dozen progressive members of Congress have pushed Kerry to advocate for the designation of a new COP28 president who doesn't have ties to the industry most responsible for fueling the climate emergency.
In addition to urging the four addressees of the new letter to "engage in diplomatic efforts" to pressure the UAE to withdraw its appointment of Al-Jaber—head of the country's Abu Dhabi National Oil Company—as president-designate of COP28, signatories implored the executive leaders of the U.S. and the European Union as well as UNFCCC leadership to "take immediate steps to limit the influence of polluting industries, particularly major fossil fuel industry players whose business strategies lie at clear odds with the central goals of the Paris agreement," at all U.N. climate talks.
"Current rules," the lawmakers wrote, "permit private sector polluters to exert undue influence on UNFCCC processes." They continued:
We request that you institute new policies for corporate participation at COPs and UNFCCC processes more broadly, including requiring participating companies to submit an audited corporate political influencing statement that discloses climate-related lobbying, campaign contributions, and funding of trade associations and organizations active on energy and climate issues. These statements should be reviewed, publicly disclosed, and scrutinized prior to any engagement in UNFCCC climate policymaking processes.
The UNFCCC should also consider additional measures to establish a robust accountability framework to protect against undue influence of corporate actors with proven vested interests that contradict the goals of the Paris Agreement; such a framework was proposed last year with broad-based international support from over 450 organizations around the world and five UNFCCC constituencies representing thousands of organizations and millions of people. These reforms would bring much-needed transparency to corporate climate-related political influencing activities around the world, and would help restore public faith that the COP process is not being abused by companies as an opportunity to greenwash.
The demand to crack down on corporations' open corruption of international climate meetings comes as government representatives prepare to gather in Germany next month for the U.N.'s Bonn Climate Change Conference—a crucial precursor to COP28, which is scheduled to begin in late November in Dubai.
"It is essential that we seize the opportunity to take actionable steps to address and protect climate policy from polluting interference by adopting concrete rules that limit the influence of the fossil fuel industry and its lobbyists in the UNFCCC decision-making process," says the letter. It was endorsed by Kick Big Polluters Out, a global network of more than 450 organizations led by Corporate Accountability and Corporate Europe Observatory, which made a similar appeal to Guterres in January.
"Big Oil interests have contaminated our climate for decades—they shouldn't be able to control our climate negotiations for a livable future," U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement. "As leaders from around the world come together to envision a world that promotes clean energy and climate justice, not pollution and profiteering, we must shut the door on the fossil fuel industry and keep COP28 free from their influence." Markey was one of six Senate Democrats to sign the letter. He was joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 27 House Democrats, and 99 European MPs.
The ongoing failure to confront the fossil fuel industry and other highly polluting sectors has yielded life-threatening results so far, as the lawmakers explained in their letter:
Last year, many of us attended or followed COP27 in Sharm-al-Sheikh, Egypt. While we applaud the United Nations for bringing tens of thousands of delegates together, leading to a historic agreement that will help developing countries deal with losses and damages from the impacts of climate change, the conference ultimately failed to secure consensus from Parties to cut greenhouse gases in line with the agreed global goals.
It did not escape our attention that at least 636 lobbyists from the oil and gas industries registered to attend last year's COP—an increase of more than 25% over the previous year. When the number of attendees representing polluting corporate actors, which have a vested financial interest in maintaining the status quo, is larger than the delegations of nearly every country in attendance, it is easy to see how their presence could obstruct climate action.
There is no time to waste in sharply cutting carbon pollution on a global scale. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report states that, to limit warming to 1.5 °C, global emissions must halve by 2030. The planet has already warmed over 1.2°C, and our ability to reach the 1.5 °C goal is moving fast out of reach, with the IPCC pegging the current probability at just 38%. Maintaining the status quo would lead to a catastrophic 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century.
"In this moment of great urgency, we must unblock the barriers that have kept us from advancing strong global collaboration to address climate change," the lawmakers wrote. "One of the largest barriers to strong climate action has been and remains the political influence and obstruction of the fossil fuel industry and other major polluting industries. We have seen their negative influence in our home institutions; oil companies and their industry cheerleaders have spent billions of dollars lobbying both the European Parliament, other European institutions and member states, and the U.S. Congress in order to obstruct or water down climate policy for years."
"Since at least the 1960s, the fossil fuel industry has known about the dangers of climate change posed by its products and, rather than supporting a transition to a clean energy future, has instead chosen to promote climate denial and spend millions of dollars to spread disinformation," they continued. "Over a half-century later, not one of 39 major global oil and gas companies, with collective market capitalization of $3.7 trillion, has adopted a business strategy that would limit warming to safe levels. Several independent analyses agree that the sector is still not taking meaningful action to avoid the worst impacts of the crisis."
"The fossil industry must give way if there is to be any chance of survival for humanity and this planet."
"Even more outrageous, the global oil and gas industry is expanding amid blockbuster profits to the tune of $4 trillion last year," they added. "The sector has poured $160 billion into exploration for new fossil reserves since 2020, even as the IEA has stated that no new fossil fuel projects are compatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C. In short, in the words of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, 'We seem trapped in a world where fossil fuel producers and financiers have humanity by the throat.' It is time to alter this dangerous course."
E.U. lawmaker Manon Aubrey, who co-organized the letter alongside her U.S. counterpart, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), said that "for billions of people, the outcome of COP28 and ensuing international climate negotiations will make the difference between life and death, chaos and solidarity."
"Corporate greed and lobbyists' lies have led us into this climate crisis," said Aubrey. "We must prevent private commercial interests from interfering in politics and regain ownership of our future."
Aubrey's colleague, Michael Bloss, likewise stressed that "to make progress on climate protection, we need to limit the power of the fossil lobby."
"Instead of letting the fox guard the henhouse, the fossil lobby must be expelled from the conference," said Bloss. "Oil states and fossil industries have always prevented anything that could mean an end to coal, oil, and gas, and put the brakes on global climate protection for destructive profits. The fossil industry must give way if there is to be any chance of survival for humanity and this planet."
Pascoe Sabido, co-coordinator for Kick Big Polluters Out, said that "these upcoming U.N. climate talks are our best chance at tackling the problem head-on, with hundreds of decision-makers on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the aisle backing our call for a conflict-of-interest policy."
"So far, the U.S. and E.U. have proven to be major blockers, siding with the fossil fuel industry," Sabido added. "If they want to walk the talk of being a climate leader, it's time to switch sides and back a policy not just at the U.N. but also at home."
"When these executives are dead and their bones are turned to dust they'll be remembered for destroying our planet," said one advocate who stood up in the middle of the meeting to condemn Shell and other fossil fuel companies.
About 100 climate campaigners on Tuesday demanded the attention of executives and shareholders at Shell's annual general meeting, refusing to be silenced as they spent several hours disrupting the profits-focused gathering to condemn the oil company for its continued planet-heating fossil fuel extraction.
Dozens of advocates gathered outside the Exhibition Center London (ExCeL) with banners reading, "We mourn the lives Shell has taken" and "Shell Profits Kill," while others entered the meeting and refused to allow the event to begin for more than an hour.
The campaigners sang, "Go to hell, Shell" to the tune of "Hit the road, Jack" and chanted, "Shut down Shell" before about 20 of the activists attempted to occupy the stage.
\u201cBREAKING: Chaos at Shell AGM as climate protesters sing \u2018Go to Hell, Shell\u2019!\n\n#ShutDownShell\u201d— Fossil Free London (@Fossil Free London) 1684835532
"As Shell continues to cause climate chaos, we will continue to do everything in our power to shut down Shell," said Fossil Free London.
Several people who headed toward the stage were stopped by security officers and carried or dragged out of the venue.
\u201cUPDATE: Climate protesters attempt to storm the stage of Shell AGM!!!\n\nAs Shell continues to cause climate chaos, we will continue to do everything in our power to #ShutDownShell\u201d— Fossil Free London (@Fossil Free London) 1684836899
Shell reported its highest profits in its 115-year history last year, raking in 36 billion euros (nearly $40 billion). Meanwhile, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition in the U.K. toldEuronews, more than seven million people in the country are struggling to afford essential energy services as prices have soared amid the war in Ukraine.
"People are struggling under swelling energy bills, yet Shell continues to rake in billions of pounds by profiteering from fuel poverty and war in Ukraine," Joanna Warrington of Fossil Free London toldEuronews. "If we want a safe climate and affordable energy, then we have to stop new oil and gas. That's why we're calling on [Shell CEO] Wael Sawan and the bosses of Shell to look beyond their fat paychecks and to shut down Shell. If they don't, an avalanche of protest will do it for them."
The International Energy Agency and climate scientists have been unequivocal in their increasingly dire warnings regarding fossil fuel extraction, with the former admitting in 2021 that policymakers must ensure the world begins an immediate transition away from oil, gas, and coal and toward renewable energy sources in order to avoid planetary heating well above 1.5°C, the threshold targeted by the Paris climate agreement.
One campaigner stood up at the company's annual general meeting on Tuesday and told shareholders and executives a number of deadly disasters that have already been linked to the fossil fuel extraction of firms including Shell, which is committed to continuing its development of drilling sites.
"Wildfires across Europe, famine in Madagascar, harvest failures, crop failures," said the woman as security officers approached to stop her speech. "People are already impacted by the effects of climate breakdown."
\u201c\ud83d\udea8BREAKING\ud83d\udea8 \nShell AGM disrupted again by ordinary people condemning the oil giant for fueling climate breakdown.\n#ShutDownShell #ShellLies\u201d— Extinction Rebellion UK \ud83c\udf0d (@Extinction Rebellion UK \ud83c\udf0d) 1684835866
"With every new well, every new gas field, every minute that you ignore the warnings of science, people die!" said activist and author Ashok Kumar, who also stood up to address the gathering.
\u201cWent to the Shell shareholders meeting. When these executives are dead and their bones are turned to dust they\u2019ll be remembered for destroying our planet. Shell is hell #shutdownshell\u201d— ashok kumar \ud83c\uddf5\ud83c\uddf8 (@ashok kumar \ud83c\uddf5\ud83c\uddf8) 1684835192
The company has begun to face some internal backlash from investors, including the Church of England's retirement fund and the U.K. government pension fund, the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST). Both have said they plan to vote against the re-election of Shell's chair, Sir Andrew Mackenzie, and NEST said it opposes Shell's "energy transition" plan, which includes a pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
"It is high time for politicians to put a stop to this unjust and excessive pollution and ban private jets."
More than 100 climate activists and scientists targeted the biggest private jet sales fair in Europe on Tuesday, chaining themselves to the gangways of luxury planes and placing tobacco-style health warning labels on the aircraft to decry their contributions to planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
"Geneva is home to one of the airports with the most private jet traffic in Europe," said Joël Perret, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion Genève. "This is where change must begin: we need to drastically reduce aviation to halt climate catastrophe and the destruction of life. The first step is to ban private jets now!"
The campaigners from Greenpeace, Stay Grounded, Extinction Rebellion, Scientist Rebellion, and other climate groups used the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva as an opportunity to call public attention to the "luxury emissions" of the world's super-rich, who contribute disproportionately to the climate crisis.
Activists protest the climate impacts of private jets during a protest at Geneva Airport. (Photo: Thomas Wolf/Stay Grounded)
According to the United Kingdom's policy manager for transport and the environment, the average private jet unleashes two tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per hour—a fifth of the average U.K. citizen's carbon footprint for an entire year.
Greenpeace notes that a private jet flight produces roughly 10 times more CO2 emissions than an ordinary commercial flight on a per-passenger basis.
"We're in a climate emergency," said Cordula Markert, a spokesperson for Scientist Rebellion Germany. "Therefore, it is no longer tolerable that the super-rich keep parading themselves in events such as EBACE and keep buying and flying in their private jets for their own benefit, while we know that this fuels the flames of climate breakdown, threatening all of us."
"They have to be stopped," Markert added, "and that's why scientists and activists from all over Europe joined together in Geneva, taking action against this madness."
\u201c\ud83d\udd34 BREAKING\n\n100 climate activists supporting @StayGroundedNet, \n@ExtinctionR, @ScientistRebel1 & @Greenpeace are blocking private jets at the biggest aviation sales event of Europe in Geneva, denouncing the outrageous luxury of mega-polluters. (1/6)\n#BanPrivateJets #EBACE2023\u201d— Scientist Rebellion (@Scientist Rebellion) 1684844259
The activists demanded a global ban on private jets—which they described as "luxury mega-polluters"—as sales of the aircraft continue to grow at a pace that climate campaigners say is unsustainable if the world is to adequately cut transportation emissions, a significant driver of global heating.
A joint report released earlier this month by the Institute for Policy Studies and Patriotic Millionaires found that the size of the global fleet of private jets has increased 133% in the last two decades, from 9,895 in 2000 to 23,133 in mid-2022."
"For over 20 years, Europe's super-rich have popped champagne behind closed doors at EBACE while shopping for the latest toxic private jets," Klara Maria Schenk, transport campaigner for Greenpeace’s Mobility for All campaign, said Tuesday. "Sales of private jets are skyrocketing, and with them the one percent's hugely unfair contribution to the climate crisis—while the most vulnerable people deal with the damage.
"It is high time for politicians to put a stop to this unjust and excessive pollution and ban private jets," said Schenk.
Mira Kapfinger, campaigner from Stay Grounded, added that while "many can't afford food or rent anymore, the super-rich wreck our planet, unless we put an end to it."