OUR CRUCIAL SPRING CAMPAIGN IS NOW UNDERWAY
Please donate now to keep the mission and independent journalism of Common Dreams strong.
To donate by check, phone, or other method, see our More Ways to Give page.
Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a Freedom of Information Act request today seeking public records about an African trip taken by President Trump's director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just days before the administration reversed an Obama-era ban on important elephant trophies from Zimbabwe.
Greg Sheehan, acting director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, traveled to Tanzania from Nov. 13 to Nov. 17 to attend the "African Wildlife Consultative Forum," an event run by Safari Club International, a group that advocates for trophy hunting in Africa and contributed $10,000 to Trump's campaign. During that meeting, on Nov. 16, Sheehan's agency announced it would lift the ban on elephant trophies.
"The timing and coordination with the Safari Club on the decision to lift the elephant trophy ban is deeply troubling," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. "Secretary Zinke has already turned the Department of the Interior into a special-interest playpen, and now it looks like that rot has spread to the Fish and Wildlife Service."
After massive public outcry, including from Republican politicians and pundits, Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a "hold" on issuing elephant trophy import permits while they review the decision lifting the Zimbabwe elephant trophy ban.
On Oct. 11 the Fish and Wildlife Service decided that killing African lions in Zimbabwe enhances their survival, thus opening the door for the import of lion trophies from Zimbabwe. This decision was made without any public notice or opportunity for comment, neither of which are legally required.
The decisions to allow trophy imports ignore the grim reality that Zimbabwe is one of the most corrupt nations in the world -- scoring an abysmal 22 out of 100 on Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perception Index. A military coup occurred on the same day as the reversal of the elephant trophy decision, and since that time, Zimbabwe has installed a new leader in place of Robert Mugabe.
"Nothing got better for elephants in southern Africa over the past year, so the public has a right to know what really motivated the abhorrent decision to allow the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe," said Hartl.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.(520) 623-5252
Doing so, argues the U.S. senator, will allow the country "to pay its bills on time and without delay, prevent an economic catastrophe, and prevent huge cuts to healthcare, education, childcare, affordable housing, nutrition assistance, and the needs of our veterans."
Just over a week away from U.S. House Republicans potentially forcing an economically devastating default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, Sen. Bernie Sandersadvised for President Joe Biden to take urgent unilateral action by invoking the 14th Amendment.
"The willingness of Republicans to hold the world's economy hostage to their Draconian and cruel demands has made it extremely difficult to enact a bipartisan budget deal at this time," Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in a Fox News op-ed. "So where do we go from here?"
"In my view, there is only one option," he argued, explaining that Biden "has the authority and the responsibility" to prevent a default under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says in part that "the validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned."
"This is a constitutional guarantee that the U.S. will always pay all its debts, period," Sanders said, adding:
This is not a radical idea. Making sure that the United States continues to pay its bills regardless of whether the statutory increase in the debt ceiling is raised or not is an idea that has been supported by Republicans and Democrats.
Back in 2016, then-President Donald Trump was correct when he said: "This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default because you print the money."
Using the 14th Amendment would allow the United States to continue to pay its bills on time and without delay, prevent an economic catastrophe, and prevent huge cuts to healthcare, education, childcare, affordable housing, nutrition assistance, and the needs of our veterans.
It must be exercised.
Americans are already living with "unprecedented wealth and income inequality," corporations raking in huge profits from jacking up prices, and the world's highest prescription drug costs, Sanders noted. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers are plotting more tax cuts for the rich and demanding additional military spending—despite the hundreds of billions of dollars the U.S. already pours into the Pentagon and recent revelations about private military contractors' price gouging.
"The hypocrisy of Republicans in Washington is truly breathtaking," the senator charged, emphasizing that the GOP's proposed tax breaks for the wealthy and boosted military spending would collectively increase the deficit they claim to care about by trillions of dollars.
\u201cBiden must resist Republican debt ceiling demands. Here\u2019s what he needs to do instead\n\nUS economy out of touch with lives of most Americans. Biden must resist GOP debt plan that would make things worse\n\nBy Sen. Bernie Sanders \n\nhttps://t.co/cuAIfQgV4m\u201d— OurRev305 (@OurRev305) 1684943573
"While defaulting on our nation's debt would be a disaster so would enacting the budget Republicans passed in the House in April," Sanders asserted. In the op-ed, he also detailed some estimated impacts from cuts to nonmilitary discretionary spending in the GOP's so-called Limit, Save, Grow Act:
Sanders is among a growing number of progressive lawmakers and legal scholars who have urged Biden to reject the GOP's push for "massive cuts on the needs of working people, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor," and pointed to the 14th Amendment.
The head of the American Federation of Government Employees joined in Tuesday with a letter to the White House—which came as U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns held a conference for a case involving the 14th Amendment that the National Association of Government Employees filed earlier this month against Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Stearns, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to file a document that lays out the DOJ's views of Biden's authority relating to the public debt by May 30 and scheduled a hearing for May 31, the eve of the so-called X-date, or when Yellen warns the government could run out of money to pay its bills.
"Chevron's 'net zero' rhetoric looks to be little more than a PR ploy to prevent strong climate action while the corporation rakes in record profits and plans for further production or expansion in at least 20 countries."
Research published Wednesday reveals that nearly all of the carbon offsets Chevron relies on to "cancel out" its planet-heating emissions are likely "worthless," rendering the oil giant's so-called "net zero aspiration" a masterclass in greenwashing that threatens to exacerbate the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis.
According to a new report from Corporate Accountability, at least 93% of the voluntary carbon market offsets Chevron purchased and counted toward its climate targets between 2020 and 2022 are "of low environmental integrity and therefore appear to be junk, until or unless proven otherwise." To make matters worse, at least 42% of the purportedly green initiatives the company invested in and gave itself credit for over the past three years are linked to claims of ecological and social harm, particularly in the Global South.
"This is how we lose a planet: through corporate dishonesty and obstruction."
Over half of Chevron's offset credits from 2020-2022 (including over 97% in 2022) were based on large hydroelectric projects, but these are "meaningless" from a carbon accounting standpoint because they don't deliver additional reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, the report notes.
The authors cite a preexisting explanation from the GHG Management Institute and Stockholm Environmental Institute: "GHG emissions reductions are additional if they would not have occurred in the absence of a market for offset credits. If the reductions would have happened anyway—i.e., without any prospect for project owners to sell carbon offset credits—then they are not additional… if their associated GHG reductions are not additional, then purchasing offset credits in lieu of reducing your own emissions will make climate change worse."
Mega-dams also tend to be associated with myriad downsides, including widespread displacement and violent repression. Two projects in Colombia that account for a combined 37% of Chevron's recent offsets—Proyecto Hidroeléctrico El Quimbo and the Sogamoso Hydropower Project—have been accused of inflicting substantial damage on local ecosystems and communities, with the latter under fire for allegedly threatening, disappearing, and even killing opponents.
One-third of Chevron's offset credits over the past three years came from Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, or REDD+, projects. The vast majority were purchased through Verra, the world's largest carbon credit certifier; a recent analysis found that 94% of the rainforest offsets sold by Verra have no discernible climate benefits, contributing to its CEO's Tuesday decision to resign. In addition to largely failing to reduce deforestation—resulting in dubious emissions reduction effects—REDD+ projects "are also notorious for their negative impacts on Indigenous peoples and local communities worldwide due to risks of land grabbing and loss of land tenure rights," the new investigation points out.
Chevron's recent offsets also include several ostensible reforestation projects, but according to the report, two of them are large rubber plantation monocultures for latex extraction and another is based on pine and eucalyptus plantations destined to be harvested before 2040.
"Large plantations such as these, unlike natural or even secondary forests (e.g., those that are replanted and left to grow naturally), require sterile habitats, frequent harvesting, and sometimes clearing, which releases stored carbon back into the atmosphere," the report notes. "These plantations can actually create cumulatively worsening conditions for local ecosystems and biodiversity and are not effective carbon-offsetting strategies."
"In addition to junk offsets, Chevron also promotes its investment in CCUS [Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage] as central to achieving its 'net zero' target," the report observes. "By its own admission, Chevron's CCUS projects are failing to achieve even close to the amount of emissions removals promised, in some cases even failing to meet the targets by 50%."
\u201cBREAKING: Chevron is consistently ranked as one of the worst #BigPolluters to repeatedly obstruct climate policy.\n\nBut just how deeply misaligned is the corporation when it comes to upholding its climate commitments?\n\n\u2b07\ufe0f Our latest on #ChevronsJunkAgenda.\nhttps://t.co/IVMA0M3cxp\u201d— Corporate Accountability (@Corporate Accountability) 1684917060
Notably, even if Chevron were to hit its current climate targets, it would still ignore 90% of its overall emissions. That's because the oil giant's goal of achieving "net zero" GHG pollution by 2050 only applies to upstream ("scope 1" and "scope 2") emissions—the 10% that correspond with production and the operation of company-owned property. The vast majority of Chevron's emissions are downstream ("scope 3"), or those that stem from the end use of its petroleum products.
Rachel Rose Jackson, director of climate research and policy at Corporate Accountability, said in a statement that "Chevron's 'net zero' rhetoric looks to be little more than a PR ploy to prevent strong climate action while the corporation rakes in record profits and plans for further production or expansion in at least 20 countries."
Chevron, the second-biggest U.S. oil major behind ExxonMobil, raked in a record $35.5 billion in profit in 2022 and announced a $75 billion stock buyback plan for this year. In addition, the company—responsible for generating more than 43 billion tons of GHG pollution since 1965, second only to Saudi Aramco among corporations worldwide—is planning to dump $57.4 billion into ramping up fossil fuel production this decade, the report laments.
Chevron's investment plans, second only to Exxon's, are at odds with climate scientists' repeated warnings that fossil fuel expansion is incompatible with preserving a habitable planet.
"This deeply documented history of greenwashing and malfeasance should make every human on Earth who isn't paid by the fossil fuel industry furious."
Corporate Accountability's new exposé "supports what we have long suspected to be true beneath its 'green image,'" said Jackson. "Chevron is deploying junk offsets that are presumed worthless, and many of which are likely to be spurring harm on frontline communities. In addition, its vast lobbying is a hindrance to the strong climate action we urgently need."
According to Corporate Accountability: "Last year, Chevron lobbied on more than 150 federal bills or issues in the U.S.—targeting policies that sought to lower emissions while pushing others that would further legitimize risky and unproven schemes like CCUS. In 2020-2022, Chevron directly spent $20.8 million lobbying in the U.S. alone. This does not even take into account the more than $310.5 million its partner trade groups spent in the same time period."
In response to the report, climate scientist Peter Kalmus toldThe Guardian that "this is how we lose a planet: through corporate dishonesty and obstruction."
"This deeply documented history of greenwashing and malfeasance should make every human on Earth who isn't paid by the fossil fuel industry furious," Kalmus added.
The report comes just days after communities harmed by Chevron's operations held the 10th annual #AntiChevronDay of action on Sunday. Demonstrations took place in 10 countries, including a protest outside a massive oil refinery in Richmond, California, where the company is headquartered. It also comes one week before the company's annual shareholder meeting on May 31.
"It's imperative that shareholders, policymakers, and the public see Chevron's green claims for what they are—greenwashed destruction," says Corporate Accountability. "As this exposé illustrates, Chevron appears to be continuing its legacy of preventing, not promoting, the legally binding regulations, the rapid deployment of real solutions, and the fast track to real zero emissions that needs to happen to avert climate catastrophe."
"When will they raid the lobby structures and seize the government’s fossil fuel money?" the group wrote in response to the raids.
German police on Wednesday raided the climate activist group Letzte Generation, or Last Generation, seized accounts, and shut down its website.
Last Generation is an Extinction Rebellion-style group that uses direct-action tactics such as blocking traffic, shutting off oil pipelines, or dousing a Monet in mashed potatoes to call for more ambitious climate policies. The raids were part of an investigation into seven members of the group for "forming or supporting a criminal organization," the Prosecutor General's Office in Munich said in a statement reported by CNN.
"When will they raid the lobby structures and seize the government's fossil fuel money?" Last Generation responded on Twitter, according to a translation provided by The Guardian. The group added the hashtags "Nationwide raid" and "VölligBekloppt," or "completely idiotic," in reference to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who used similar language to criticize Last Generation Monday.
"People who campaign for more climate protection must not be criminalized while politicians ignore climate targets."
A total of 170 police officers carried out the raids that began at 7 am local time. Police searched 15 properties in seven different states: four in Berlin, three in Bavaria, three in Hesse, and one each in Hamburg, Magdeburg, Dresden, and Schleswig-Holstein, CNN reported.
The Bavarian state criminal police office (LKA) ordered the searches targeting the seven defendants aged 22 to 38, the Munich prosecutor's office said, according to The Guardian.
"Suddenly a police officer in a bulletproof vest stands by your bed and points a gun at you," 26-year-old activist Carla Hinrichs said in an online video of her experience of the raid.
\u201c.@carla_hinrichs_ erz\u00e4hlt von der Hausdurchsuchung bei ihr heute Morgen:\n\n\u201ePl\u00f6tzlich steht ein Polizist mit schusssicherer Weste an deinem Bett und richtet eine Waffe auf dich.\u201c\u201d— Letzte Generation (@Letzte Generation) 1684934242
The investigation was prompted by "numerous criminal complaints from the population" beginning in mid 2022, the Munich prosecutor's office said, as CNN reported.
Authorities accused the activists of "organizing a donations campaign to finance further criminal acts," according to AFP. To date, the group has raised at least 1.4 million euros via its website. LKA said they have shuttered the website because donating to the group is illegal, Reuters reported.
Police also seized two accounts and ordered an asset freeze, according to AFP.
Beyond seeking donations, two members of the group are suspected of trying to sabotage an oil pipeline between Trieste, Italy and Ingolstadt, Germany in April 2022, the LKA said, according to CNN.
Police did not arrest anyone in Wednesday's raids, and Munich prosecutor's office spokesperson Klaus Ruhland said they now would review the evidence they seized, Reuters reported.
"At the current stage of the proceedings, we have affirmed the facts of criminal association," Ruhland said.
Last Generation emerged in the runup to Germany's last federal election in 2021 by conducting a hunger strike outside the Bundestag, according to The Guardian. Since then, they have engaged in protests from blocking traffic and gluing themselves to roads and vehicles to throwing mashed potatoes on Monet's "Grainstacks" at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany, in October 2022, as The New York Times reported at the time.
Last Generation wants the German government to up its climate ambitions by forming a plan in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C, enacting an autobahn speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour, and giving residents a €9-a-month ticket for public transportation, according to DW and The Guardian.
Authorities have criticized them for their tactics. Just Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said it was "completely crazy to somehow stick yourself to a painting or on the street," according to DW.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser defended the raids.
"Legitimate protest always ends where crimes are committed and the rights of others are infringed," Faeser said.
Yet Last Generation and other climate advocates point out that the risks posed by higher temperatures and extreme weather events far outscale any disruption caused by a highway or museum protest. In summer of 2021, for example, flooding followed by record rainfall killed at least 120 people in Germany and Belgium and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, surprising climate scientists with the level of devastation triggered.
"Do we have to experience a drought in Germany first, suffer from food shortages…, before we understand that Last Generation is... not criminal?" spokesperson Aimee Van Baalen told reporters Wednesday, according to Reuters.
German climate activist and researcher Tadzio Müller told DW that targeting Last Generation and other activist groups was "a case of shooting the messenger."
"[Society] doesn't want to know about the climate or the climate emergency. And therefore, the Last Generation is choosing tactics that disrupt the kind of normality that people are clinging on to," he said.
In response to the raids, Last Generation has come out swinging, relaunching its website under a new address and calling for nationwide protests.
\u201c\ud83e\udd2b We\u2018re back! \n\nhttps://t.co/tFt7giD4Mq\u201d— Letzte Generation (@Letzte Generation) 1684940853
"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 site. "The federal government is leading us into climate hell and is stepping on the accelerator. We are therefore expanding the protest to the whole country and call on everyone to take part in a protest march near them on Wednesday."
The group tweeted that solidarity actions had sprung up across Germany Wednesday in response to the raids, including in Berlin, Dresden, Hannover, and Leipzig.
Other environmental groups offered statements of support. Greenpeace Germany "sharply criticized" the raids in a statement on Twitter.
"Peaceful protest can be uncomfortable. In fact, it often has to in order to be effective," the group said. "People who campaign for more climate protection must not be criminalized while politicians ignore climate targets."