Claire's blog

Net Zero Festival brings accusations of greenwash

 

Climate breakdown cannot be a niche issue - it has to be a priority for us all. So we should welcome the Net Zero Festival, run by BusinessGreen, as an attempt to wake up mainstream businesses to the necessity of rapid transition to net zero carbon. As exemplified by sponsors… 

...Heathrow, Drax, Shell?

Hang on. Finding these names among the sponsors, one can hardly fail to notice that they are hardly companies usually held up as examples of climate leaders. What is going on? Is Shell switching from oil and gas to renewables and we somehow missed the announcement? 

Unfortunately not. What Shell actually produced earlier this year is a ‘net zero carbon plan’. This promises to cut a small part of the company’s own emissions (those unrelated to burning the oil and gas it extracts) to net zero by 2050 by offsetting. As for the majority of Shell’s emissions which come from customers burning its product, there is no target to reduce total emissions, let alone reduce oil and gas production. Instead, Shell promises to reduce ‘carbon intensity’ by two thirds. This could be by increasing production of renewable energy and biofuels alongside oil and gas, and also offsetting. It further promises to work with customers who burn its product to ensure they capture the carbon or offset emissions.

Interesting. However, notable by their absence from Shell's plan are any proposals to stop exploring for new oil and gas; to halt new extraction; to phase out production in the short or long term; or to invest in a just transition for workers. Before the pandemic, Shell was planning more than 35 new oil and gas projects by 2025. Half of the 24 “major projects” in its investment profile are deep water oil and gas projects, which it says have “significant growth potential.”

No climate justice without an end to racism

The brutal and casual murder of George Floyd has sparked an uprising. Protests have spread across the US and in other countries, fuelled by centuries of structural oppression and racism and a culture of impunity among the police force. The roll call of sons, fathers, daughters, grandmothers killed without justice did not start with Trump's presidency, but he has consistently promoted racist violence in his statements and his policies.

We stand with the international protests. Black Lives Matter. And here in the UK we cannot merely see racism as a US issue. Black lives matter in police stations. Black lives matter in hospital wards and care homes, on trains and buses, in schools and colleges - the shocking disparity in BAME Covid deaths even more dramatic among health and social care staff and transport workers. Black lives matter in the 'hostile environment'. As individuals, we must listen and learn. As climate campaigners, we must speak out.

Climate breakdown has always been an issue of racism as well as social and economic injustice. How could it be otherwise, when the Global South suffers so disproportionately from something it has done so little to cause? Environmental racism also manifests in the toxic pollution from fossil fuel extraction burdening low-income communities in many countries. This has led to the concept of 'sacrifice zones'. But when we compromise on cutting emissions, when 'moderation' is prioritised over climate scientists' stark warnings and call to urgent action, we are accepting the idea that poorer countries and vulnerable communities should be a 'sacrifice zone' for the sake of short-term profit. 

We must insist on climate policy that says Black Lives Matter. We must stand with those, particularly indigenous peoples, who are defending their land, water and rights against fossil fuel companies and other resource extraction. 

Right now we are heading for a recession that, like the pandemic, exacerbates all existing inequalities. And governments are handing out billions to prop up high-carbon industries. Campaigning for a green recovery which is also a just transformation of society, shaped by the voices those on the streets, demanding an end to racism and injustice - this campaign has never been more urgent.

Rest in Power George Floyd. Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter. There is no climate justice without an end to racism

Take action to prevent expansion at Leeds Bradford airport - deadline 11 August

UPDATE: The local authority has extended the deadline (again!) - now 11 August

Take action now and object to the planning proposal 

(You need to register first, but there's no need to comment in great detail - one or two sentences are fine.)

Despite the aviation industry's current crisis, the climate-wrecking ambition of long-term expansion at regional airports across the UK has not gone away. The latest is Leeds Bradford Airport which wants to increase passenger numbers from 4 million per year now to 7.1 million by 2030 and up to 9 million by 2050.

Whether you live in the local area or not, you can object to their planning application (you will need to register first). Earlier this year, North Somerset Council faced a strong local campaign against Bristol Airport expansion, supported by over 8000 objections to the application and finally rejected the proposal. 

This is in no way compatible with the government's commitment to achieve net zero carbon by 2050. Even less so with the more urgent reductions that we actually need to take in a climate emergency.

Leeds City Council themselves declared a Climate Emergency in March 2019, aiming to work towards making Leeds climate neutral by 2030. The contrast between this ambition and airport expansion plans is extraordinary.

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