Shell is unfit to lead Climate Action

Great #ClimateAction journalism! Malcom Harris ( ‘undercover in plain sight’ at a Shell scenario workshop:

“Maybe it’ll even make some incidental progress along the way, depending on where the subsidies are, but there’s no comprehensive vision for a livable future here, no ethical imagination, no morality to speak of. It is unfit to lead.”

High time to invest in social sciences on climate change

We always hear that the science is clear, climate change is a political and social problem. Yet natural and technical sciences receive 770% more climate change research funding than social sciences, according to new research by Indra Overland (Center for Energy Research, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs [NUPI]) and Ben Sovacool (Energy policy, Science Policy Research Unit [SPRU], University of Sussex).

After Greta: will climate action follow climate mobilisation?

In 2019, climate strikes filled the streets worldwide. Time is running out, and after the catharsis of the protests, governments and industries must change tack. Radically so.

If we have learned anything from the recent UN climate conference in Madrid (COP25) it is that governments don’t have our backs. By themselves, governments are not going to save us from dangerous climate change. The outcome of the conference is very far from an adequate response to the urgency of climate change, and seems to make a joke of the conference’s slogan “Time for action”. At least some governments thought it was “Time for Delay“. Major topics were largely kicked down the road, to be discussed again next year when the UN climate conference lands in Glasgow in 2020, including devising rules to govern carbon trading, securing mid- and long-term climate finance, and responding to questions about whether and how to compensate loss and damage due to climate change impacts.

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2019 UN Climate Action Summit: World leaders’ inaction incurs wrath of growing climate movement

On 23 September, the Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres, convened the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, where government leaders and representatives from youth, business, cities, and finance focused on increasing ambitions to lower greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience. In advance of the Summit a whole slew of reports was released; each showing the growing urgency of climate change, a widening gap between climate targets and commitments to action, and the growing impacts of already occurring climate change. Gathered world leaders, however, are not impressed, as few raise their ambition.

Leading climate science organizations published the “United in Science” synthesis report with the worrying headline message that climate change impacts are “hitting harder and sooner” than previously forecasted. The IPCC Report on land-use highlighted worrying trends that both aggravate climate change and put sustainable development at risk. Deteriorating soil fertility threatens food security and affects capacity to store carbon, further exacerbating global warming. A leaked IPCC report on oceans and the cryosphere further warned that more than a quarter billion people could be displaced when global warming hits 2°C.

Despite mounting evidence, and worse than expected trends, the world’s response has been far from adequate. According to the Global Climate Adaptation report, by 2030 the world may see a 100 million more poor; severe water shortages; and unprecedented mass migrations. Trillion-dollar investments are inevitable, but inaction will prove much costlier. Although, climate change calls for the tripling of ‘nationally determined contributions’, according to a joint report by UNDP and UNFCCC, most governments – particularly industrial countries – have not yet adjusted their ambitions.

Against the backdrop of worsening climate change and dwindling governmental climate targets, the Climate Action Summit is the latest in a series of international efforts to mobilize large-scale initiatives to combat climate change and to abate its negative impacts. In 2014, then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon convened the first UN Climate Summit. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown of California hosted the Global Climate Action Summit. In the context of the UNFCCC, the main UN climate process, continuous efforts are made to showcase and encourage a multitude of actions by a broad range of actors. Contrary to previous efforts, which emphasized the role of non-state and local actors, such as businesses, cities and regions and civil society organizations, the Climate Action Summit also provided a platform for governments to announce plans to reduce emissions and to help people to respond to the climate crisis.

The Summit saw the launch of 28 collaborative initiatives across nine thematic areas, including climate finance, Industry transition, mitigation, resilience and adaptation and nature-based solutions. Some of the more eye-catching initiatives include a new coalition of pension funds and insurance providers, managing US$2.3 trillion, which aims to shift investments away from carbon intensive industries with the goal to limit the increase in average temperatures to 1.5°C. Members of the coalition engage with high-carbon companies to help them adopt more sustainable business practices, while divestment from highly polluting industries is on the table as an ultimate measure. To catalyze its impact, the coalition calls on other large asset owners and sovereign wealth funds to join and also align their investment portfolios. In another large initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the World Bank, the European Commission, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany, made a US$790 million commitment to support research and innovations that help assist smallholder farmers to improve their livelihoods and increase their resilience to climate change impacts.

Despite these striking initiatives by businesses, finance, cities, regions, and other stakeholders, governments have not adequately stepped up. Although the Summit tried to establish stronger links between ambitious actions between non-state and local actions and governments, it yielded few new governmental commitments. A few countries (South Korea, the UK, Germany and France) have pledged to double their contributions to the Green Climate Fund and other climate financing programs, but none of the major economies have acted on the call to raise their climate targets or presented concrete plans. Sadly, the Summit does not seem to have significantly rallied higher government ambitions.

Given the disappointing yield of new governmental commitments, the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit may be most remembered for the powerful speech delivered by sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. In her impassioned speech, she blasted world leaders’ inaction and accused them of failing young people and betraying future generations.

“you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. (…) You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”

Governments will get another chance to raise their pledges at the UN Climate Change Conference in Santiago, Chile, later this year. But time for credible climate commitments by governments is running out, and their inaction is increasingly incurring the wrath of a growing movement of concerned youth, as well as older generations.

Has transnational climate adaptation action effectively been prioritized and mobilized internationally?

Climate change adaptation is increasingly seen as a question that involves globally con- nected vulnerabilities and impacts which necessitate transboundary action by non-state and subnational (transnational) actors. Traditional actors such as governments and inter- national organizations leave deficits in norm development, enforcement, capacity building, and financing. Orchestration has been suggested under the functionalist assumption that transnational actors can make up for these deficits, through optimizing complementarity between the realms of international and transnational governance and through eliciting more action toward the achievement of globally agreed climate goals.

In the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), orchestration has taken the form of an evolving Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA). Few studies have examined the role of orchestration in bolstering transnational adaptation. In our new article we therefore ask: Has the GCAA effectively mobilized and prioritized transnational adaptation action? Further, has it effectively addressed functional, participatory, and geographic deficits?

Analyzing a unique dataset of a hundred cooperative climate actions, we find that current patterns are incongruent with some functionalist expectations. GCAA orchestration has featured a political prioritization of both adaptation and mitigation and a focus on building a positive narrative of climate action. This combination of priorities has led to neglect of underperforming actions—many of them adaptation actions in developing countries. Subsequent iterations of the GCAA failed to recognize these actions and did not identify support needed for them. This has strengthened the bias toward mitigation aspects of climate change and exacerbated imbalances in the geography of transnational action under the GCAA.

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Stem vandaag Groenlinks

Als iemand die dag in dag uit bezig is met klimaat en duurzaamheid, roep ik op vandaag toch vooral te gaan stemmen.

Dit zijn de laatste Europese verkiezingen waarop we nog kunnen voorkomen dat de aarde met meer dan 1,5C gemiddeld opwarmt. De verschillen tussen 1,5 en 2C zijn volgens het laatste rapport van de VN (IPCC) dramatisch.

Het zijn ook cruciale politieke tijden. Het spook van nationalisme waart weer door Europa, juist op het moment dat internationale samenwerking meer nodig is dan ooit. Nederland zal grensoverschrijdende problemen als de ophitting van de aarde en het verdwijnen van planten en dieren alleen niet kunnen oplossen. Europese samenwerking is nodig. Mensen die alleen spreken van meer of minder Europa moesten meer over de inhoud praten.

Tegelijkertijd moeten we ook erkennen dat een andere internationale samenwerking nodig is. Eén die niet alleen aanzet to grotere ongelijkheid, één die niet voornamelijk rijken en multinationale ondernemingen voortrekt.

Als ik verkozen word in het parlement zal ik mij vol inzetten voor een versnelling van de groene transformatie die we nodig hebben. Ik zal mij verzetten tegen elk handelsakkoord dat niet past bij de duurzaamheids- en klimaatdoelen waar alle landen in de wereld zich aan gecommitteerd hebben.

Daarnaast heb ik een groot hart voor de mensen wiens stem minder luid is; seksuele, ethnische, religieuze minderheden, de allerarmsten die de meest hevige effecten van falend milieu- en sociaal beleid ondervinden. Ik wil ervoor zorgen dat we de stem en de rol van deze minderheden erkennen in het verduurzamen van Europa.
In tegenstelling tot wat Trouw’s Duurzame 100 zou doen geloven zijn er wél duurzame kampioenen onder niet-witte en praktisch opgeleide mensen. Zonder deze kampioenen is er geen duurzame toekomst voor iedereen.

What the LGBT+ community teaches us and how it inspires my fight for Europe

“The queer is not represented as a singularity but as part of an assemblage of resistant technologies that include collectivity, imagination and a kind of situationist commitment to surprise and shock”
(Judith Halberstam, Queer art of failure, 2011)

Diversity in the LGBTQIA community teaches us to collaborate and to go against the mainstream in order to realise a better future. These lessons are more valuable than ever. In six EU Member States there is still no same-sex registration, in half of the Member States there is no same-sex marriage. Violence and discrimination remain the order of the day. The fight is not over.

The resilience that we have learned is also needed in other areas. The spectre of nationalism is once again haunting Europe. Populists inspire fear rather than hope. The EU seems to have more ears for big capital than for its citizens. While the EU defends large companies, climate change is becoming an existential threat. Does the EU care as much about our survival as it cares for big business?

Our freedom and well-being stand and fall with freedom and well-being in Europe. Green and social Europeans must shake the EU up, swim against the current and show alternatives. That is also how I want to fight for Europe.

New publication: Promises and Risks of Non-state Action

The More Engagement the Better?  – Risks of Non-State Action in Sustainability and Climate governance

Article full text link (open access):

Although sustainable development and climate change are governed through separate international processes, they converge on two key assumptions. First, governments fall far short of the goals they set. Second, wide gaps between political commitments and governmental action can be narrowed through efforts by non-state actors, such as businesses, investors, civil society organizations, cities and regions. Encouraged by prominent leaders such as US President Barack Obama and former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres, international organizations and governments are leading large-scale efforts to promote and mobilize non-state actions. These efforts are based on recurring optimistic arguments, such as: the more action, the better; everybody wins from non-state action; every actor can do its part in implementation; and, action by one will inspire others to take action.

Optimistic arguments about non-state engagement, however, may not be matched in practice due to governance risks. The current emphasis focus on quantifiable impacts may lead to the under-appreciation of social, economic, and environmental impacts that are less easy to measure. Claims that everybody stands to benefit may easily be contradicted by outcomes that are not in line with priorities and needs of developing countries. Despite the broad acceptance of the role of non-state actors in implementation, their actions may still lead to controversial outcomes. Finally, non-state climate action may not be self-reinforcing, but heavily depend on policies by international organizations and governments. Governments and international organizations should consider governance risk-reduction strategies to maximize the potential contributions of non-state actors in sustainable and climate-resilient development. First, they should create enabling environment that provide incentives to engage, for instance through improving access to knowledge, high-level recognition, material and immaterial support, and by conveying that climate and sustainability action is possible and doable. Second, non-state action needs to be grounded in national and regional contexts; particular attention should be given to strengthening capabilities of, and fostering participation by, developing country-based actors. Third, far-reaching transformations cannot be achieved without critical masses of engagement, therefore the challenge is to stimulate action beyond ‘champions’ and frontrunners. Especially governments need to bring to focus the ramifications of the sustainable and climate-resilient futures they have committed to and give non-state actors a fair chance to adapt.

How the relation between non-state action and more traditional governance will evolve remains to be seen. This relation may develop differently across sustainable development and climate governance. However, maximizing non-state potential will take supportive environments which reduce risks and bolster momentum for transformative actions.

climate policy & sustainability researcher – advisor – activist