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Police and tax auditors today raided the offices of two human rights organizations in Kazan, the capital city of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, disrupting their work. The raids targeted the Kazan Human Rights Center and the AGORA Interregional Human Rights Association.
"These types of raids are part of a pattern of bureaucratic and legal harassment of independent human rights organizations in Russia," said Neil Hicks, International Policy Advisor at Human Rights First. "We are very concerned by this continuing official interference in the legitimate work of nonviolent human rights defenders in Russia. Official harassment can be added to threats, physical violence and baseless prosecutions forming part of an extremely hostile environment in which Russian human rights defenders must function."
"The Russian and international human rights community is still mourning the killing of human rights activist Natalya Estemirova in Chechnya, so it is even more disheartening to learn about new acts of repression against human rights defenders in another part of Russia," added Hicks.
Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.
"The commitment from Labour to oppose new fossil fuel developments is a welcome first step, but it needs to come with plans for a just transition to renewable energy," said one advocate.
While welcoming the Labour Party's vow to block new offshore oil and gas drilling if it wins control of the United Kingdom Parliament, climate justice campaigners on Tuesday implored the party to ensure that a shift to clean power is fair to displaced workers.
"The science is clear that to prevent further climate breakdown, we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground," Freya Aitchison, oil and gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said in a statement. "The commitment from Labour to oppose new fossil fuel developments is a welcome first step, but it needs to come with plans for a just transition to renewable energy."
On Sunday, an unnamed Labour Party source toldThe Times, "We are against the granting of new licenses for oil and gas in the North Sea." Alluding to a 2022 admission from John Gummer, a Conservative Party MP and chair of the U.K.'s independent Committee on Climate Change, the source said that such licenses "will do nothing to cut bills as the Tories have acknowledged."
"They undermine our energy security and would drive a coach and horses through our climate targets," said the source, who added that "Labour would continue to use existing oil and gas wells over the coming decades and manage them sustainably as we transform the U.K. into a clean energy superpower."
Labour Leader Keir Starmer is expected to formally announce the party's promise in Scotland next month when he unveils a net-zero energy policy blueprint. The Guardian reported Sunday that it "will involve not just a ban on new North Sea oil and gas licenses, but a pledge that any borrowing for investment should be limited to green schemes."
"Setting an end date for the extraction of fossil fuels will allow workers and communities to prepare for this transition."
Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, confirmed the party's plan. Speaking with Trevor Phillips of Sky News on Sunday, Ashworth said that "what we'll be doing in the coming weeks is outlining how we want to invest in the green jobs of the future to bring bills down, to create a more sustainable energy supply."
"We know we've got to move to more renewable sources of energy," said Ashworth. "It's important for our climate change commitments, but it's also the way in which we can bring energy bills down for consumers."
"This isn't about shutting down what's going on at the moment, we will manage those sustainably," the lawmaker continued.
Although Labour doesn't intend to halt already-approved offshore extraction in most cases, two key exceptions are drilling schemes in the Cambo and Rosebank oil fields, both of which the party vowed to block after Tories greenlighted them, The Guardian noted. The North Sea Transition Authority held another licensing round for fossil fuel exploration projects in January, receiving more than 100 bids and granting new licenses for Cambo as well as the Jackdaw gas field.
"If you stop all new exploration, you are going to have to fill the gap from somewhere and it won't all come from wind," said Ashworth. "We know that but the sums have been done."
"We do need to invest in wind. We need to invest in tidal, we need to invest in nuclear," he added. "We need more sustainable sources of energy supply in order to bring bills down for consumers and actually create jobs in this green transition."
According to Ashworth, "There are hundreds of thousands of jobs that will come online from the transition."
\u201cThe science is clear that to prevent further climate breakdown, we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground. \n\nThis must come with the right investment to ensure a massive upscaling of renewables that protects livelihoods and creates decent green jobs.\n\nhttps://t.co/Cvnr8pUsPt\u201d— Friends of the Earth Scotland \ud83c\udf0e (@Friends of the Earth Scotland \ud83c\udf0e) 1685371397
In Aitchison's words, "Starmer rightly recognizes that extracting new oil and gas in the U.K. will not bring down our skyrocketing energy bills—rather, it will cost the U.K. public money through huge loopholes in the windfall tax which incentivize companies to drill for more fossil fuels."
Last August, the U.K. Treasury estimated that the nation's energy firms were on track to enjoy up to £170 billion ($211 billion) in excess profits—defined as the gap between money made now and what would have been expected based on price forecasts prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine—over the next two years.
A 25% windfall tax on oil and gas producers approved last July is expected to raise £5 billion ($6.2 billion) in its first year. However, the existing surtax on excess fossil fuel profits, which lasts through 2025, includes loopholes enabling companies to significantly reduce their tax bill by investing more in oil and gas extraction, something the industry has claimed will increase supply.
But as Aitchison noted, "The majority of oil from U.K. fields is exported and sold to the highest bidder, so increasing our domestic production only benefits the oil companies that are already making record profits."
Aitchison called it "vital" for Labour's announcement to be accompanied by "plans to support workers in the oil and gas industry to transition to jobs in the renewables industry."
In March, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Platform, a London-based social and environmental justice group, publishedOur Power, a report that provides a roadmap for a just energy transition in the North Sea. The plan, backed by a coalition of offshore oil and gas workers, trade unions, and climate groups, is based on surveys of more than 1,000 workers who developed 10 demands to guide a rapid and equitable shift to renewables.
\u201c\ud83d\udc77\ud83d\udc77\u200d\u2640\ufe0fOffshore oil & gas workers have a plan to lead the energy transition. \n\nThey have created 10 demands that will protect jobs, communities and the climate. \n\nWatch and share. \n\nhttps://t.co/xVRgxXtU7N\n#OurPower #JustTransition\u201d— Friends of the Earth Scotland \ud83c\udf0e (@Friends of the Earth Scotland \ud83c\udf0e) 1678088728
"Setting an end date for the extraction of fossil fuels will allow workers and communities to prepare for this transition," Aitchison said Tuesday. "It will provide certainty for the sector, making it clear that investing in renewables is the only choice for our energy future, and enabling workforce planning."
"The coming decade," she added, "must see concerted government intervention and investment to ensure a fast and fair phaseout of fossil fuels and a massive upscaling of renewables that protects livelihoods and creates plentiful decent green jobs."
As The Guardian reported:
The proposal is the latest in a series of Labour pledges over a move towards a greener economy, much of it pushed by Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary.
In 2021, the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, announced the party would invest £28 billion [$34.7 billion] a year in climate crisis-related measures, covering not just green energy but also areas such as home insulation, active travel, and flood defenses.
At last year's Labour conference, Starmer said Labour would set up a publicly owned energy company run on clean U.K. power, to be known as Great British Energy.
The next U.K. general election is scheduled to be held no later than January 28, 2025.
"This is the problem with 'bringing everyone to the table,'" said one critic. "Don't invite the wolf to dinner."
Calls for United Nations officials to name a new president of the annual global climate summit intensified on Tuesday as new reporting showed that people allied with Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, president of this year's Conference of the Parties, submitted edits to his Wikipedia page in an effort to disguise his fossil fuel interests and make him appear committed to meeting the Paris climate agreement's goals.
The Guardian and the Center for Climate Reporting (CCR)reported that a number of users, including some who were paid by energy companies linked to al-Jaber, have recently edited his page of the online encyclopedia amid mounting criticism of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) CEO's appointment to lead the summit (COP28).
One anonymous user disclosed that they were being paid by ADNOC as they suggested Wikipedia editors remove a reference to a $4 billion oil pipeline deal al-Jaber signed in 2019 with investment firms BlackRock and KKR, saying the agreement was one of several "unnecessary details" included in al-Jaber's page.
The same user asked editors to replace a paragraph addressing al-Jaber's work with ADNOC—the world's 12th-largest oil company by production—and its juxtaposition with his role as the United Arab Emirates' climate envoy with a reference to ADNOC's investment in "carbon capture and green fuel technologies."
The head of marketing for COP28, Ramzi Haddad, was identified by CCR as the owner of a Wikipedia user account called Junktuner, which edited al-Jaber's page to include a quote from a Bloomberg editorial that said the ADNOC executive "is precisely the kind of ally the climate movement needs."
\u201cThe President of the COP28 conference is an Oil CEO. And now, the head of marketing for COP28 has been editing the COP28 Wikipedia articles to greenwash his reputation.\n\nDoes anyone else see the huge conflict of interests here?\u201d— Greenpeace UK (@Greenpeace UK) 1685464017
Haddad's edit prompted a reprimand from a Wikipedia administrator, who wrote, "The nature of your edits, such as the one you made to 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, gives the impression you have an undisclosed financial stake in promoting a topic."
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who co-organized a letter signed by more than 130 U.S. and European Union lawmakers last week demanding al-Jaber be removed from his position as COP28 president, said Tuesday that the new reporting is the latest indication that the U.N. should "rethink how to run these very important forums."
"It's not surprising that COP28 is trying to burnish al-Jaber's green credentials, but the fact remains that as an oil executive he is also overseeing a lot of damage to the planet," Whitehouse told CCR.
Masdar, a UAE government-owned clean energy company where al-Jaber is chairman of the board and a former CEO, also paid a user who promoted the COP28 president's work at the firm. Those edits were submitted a day after al-Jaber's appointment was made public in January.
Caroline Lucas, a member of British Parliament who represents the Green Party, told CCR the revelations show "oil companies and their CEOs are taking greenwash to a whole new level," by not only "seizing control" of the global summit but also attempting to control narratives about al-Jaber, whose current company is expanding its fossil fuel production.
"It shows the brutal clampdown on the freedom of expression is in full swing months before the conference has even begun," Lucas said.
COP28 is scheduled for November. Al-Jaber was named president of the meeting weeks before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report on the climate crisis, promoting calls to phase out coal production by 2030 in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, ensure net-zero emissions from electricity generation by 2035 for wealthy countries, and cease all funding and licensing of new oil and gas development.
Filmmaker Charles Kriel said the greenwashing of public information regarding al-Jaber by his associates shows "the problem with 'bringing everyone to the table'" at a meeting about the climate emergency.
\u201cThis is the problem with \u201cbringing everyone to the table\u201d. Big Oil and authoritarians play the long game, and will operate an agenda of mission creep. Rather, ID the bad guys and put them out of business. Don\u2019t invite the wolf to dinner. Same for tech. https://t.co/qV4af3TBC8\u201d— Dr Charles Kriel (@Dr Charles Kriel) 1685431256
Julia Steinberger, a professor of societal challenges of climate change at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, said the latest news must push other climate envoys, including John Kerry in the U.S., to demand that al-Jaber step down.
"Sultan al-Jaber," she said, "is being exposed so clearly as an agent of the fossil fuel industry, whose main purpose is to prevent effective climate action."
"It is clear that a lot of the progress that we have seen on awareness on climate change and positive movement on climate change is due to the fact that people have been demonstrating peacefully throughout the world."
The spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday commended climate activists in Germany after police raided their homes following months of traffic-disrupting protests against the government's failure to adequately address the climate emergency.
"Climate activists—led by the moral voice of young people—have continued to pursue their goals even in the darkest days," the spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York. "They need to be protected and we need them now more than ever."
"It is clear that a lot of the progress that we have seen on awareness on climate change and positive movement on climate change is due to the fact that people have been demonstrating peacefully throughout the world," he added.
"The government's approach is intended to intimidate and create fear. But we cannot and will not allow ourselves to remain in this fear."
Last Wednesday, around 170 masked and armed police officers raided the homes of activists from the Germany-based international direct action group Letzte Generation—or Last Generation—in seven German states while shutting down the organization's website and freezing multiple bank accounts.
Among those targeted were Last Generation spokesperson Carla Hinrichs, who said around two dozen armed police broke down the door of her apartment in Berlin's Kreuzberg district while she was in bed at around 7:00 am, with one officer pointing a gun at her.
"I'm afraid that this state is sending its civil servants with weapons drawn to storm my apartment," Hinrichs said in a video posted on Twitter. "But I'm even more afraid that it is letting us speed into this disaster without doing anything."
\u201cBREAKING: German police are staging the world's first nationwide raid on climate activists. The goal: shut down a group called "Last Generation" that engages in peaceful protest to save the planet.\n\nWill they also arrest the fossil fuel executives?\nhttps://t.co/W5RxXfmDmq\u201d— Steven Donziger (@Steven Donziger) 1685012163
No arrests were reported. However, authorities accused seven activists of raising at least $1.5 million to finance "criminal acts."
Police also claimed two Last Generation members are suspected of plotting to sabotage an oil pipeline running from the southern state of Bavaria to the Italian port of Trieste.
Last Generation has become a household name in Germany due to the group's nationwide acts of civil disobedience. Last week, activists blocked 12 streets in the capital Berlin, gluing themselves to the road and to vehicles, and enraging motorists and many other people.
In January, Last Generation was at the center of protests against the expansion of an open-pit coal mine in Lützerath, a depopulated village in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Members of the group made headlines last year after they threw mashed potatoes on a protected Claude Monet painting in the Museum Barberini in Potsdam.
\u201cClimate protesters from Last Generation threw mashed potato at Claude Monet\u2019s Les Meules (Haystacks) at Potsdam\u2019s Barberini Museum.\u201d— VICE World News (@VICE World News) 1666625542
Last Generation has also held protests in countries including Austria and Italy, where members poured charcoal in Rome's Trevi Fountain to demand an end to government fossil fuel subsidies.
Earlier this month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democratic Party called Last Generation's protest tactics "completely crazy."
In response, Last Generation asked when police would target "lobby structures and confiscate government fossil funds."
"The government's approach is intended to intimidate and create fear. But we cannot and will not allow ourselves to remain in this fear," the group said on its new website. "The federal government is leading us into climate hell and is stepping on the accelerator."