Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco includes labour meetings

The Global Climate Action Summit  in San Francisco will gather 4,500 delegates from around the world on September 12 – 14.  According to the Summit website, “At GCAS governors and mayors, business, investor and civil society leaders will make bold new announcements that will act as a launch-pad to Take Ambition on climate action to the Next Level while calling on national governments to do the same. ” Discussion and statements will be organized around  five themes: Healthy Energy Systems, Inclusive Economic Growth, Sustainable Communities, Land and Ocean Stewardship and Transformative Climate Investments.

The University of California Berkeley Labor Center is holding an official “affiliate event” at the Summit,  called Labor in the Climate Transition:  Charting the Roadmap for 2019 and Beyond .  The sold-out event will showcase the best practices in worker-friendly climate policy for 2019  and highlight “the importance of labor unions for building sustainable broad-based coalitions that can support strong climate policies at the state, national and international level.” Co-sponsors of the event are the California Labor Federation, California Building and Construction Trades Council, Service Employees International Union, IBEW 1245, the International Trades Union Council, and BlueGreen Alliance.

Rise for climateThe global  Rise for Climate action ,  led by 350.org, was timed for September 8, to capitalize on the publicity and high profile attendees of the San Francisco Summit.  According to The Guardian’s report , San Francisco alone attracted 30,000 demonstrators, led by Indigenous leaders.    The San Francisco Chronicle also reported that demonstrations will continue throughout the week, in “Angry activists plan to crash Jerry Brown’s SF climate summit”  (Sept. 9), and there is an online petition at the “Brown’s Last Chance”  protest website , calling for the elimination of fossil fuels in the state.

Among  the reports/announcements released so far at the Global Climate Summit:  Climate Opportunity: More Jobs; Better Health; Liveable Cities , which estimates that “by 2030, a boost in urban climate action can prevent approximately 1.3 million premature deaths per year, net generate 13.7 million jobs in cities, and save 40 billion hours of commuters’ time plus billions of dollars in reduced household expenses each year.” The report was published by C40 Cities, The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy and the New Climate Institute; a press release summarizing the report is here (Sept. 9).

Sustainability in the corner office: Business and Climate Change

Corporate Knights magazine released the results of its annual ranking of MBA programs in October – unlike most surveys, it includes measures of social and environmental responsibility in the teaching and research at MBA programs around the world . As in previous years, the 2015 Better World MBA survey ranks Canadian universities at the top: for the 12th year, York University’s Schulich School of Business ranked #1, followed by Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, and Copenhagen School of Business as #3. And the latest Harvard Business Review ranks the “Best Performing CEO’s in the World” using a changed system: in 2015, long-term financial results achieved by the CEO are weighted at 80%, rather than 100% as before. The remaining 20% goes to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance.
 

Most telling: business leaders are making sure that their viewpoint is part of climate change policy discussions, especially leading up to and including COP21. Earlier this year, Citigroup bank announced that it would lend, invest, and/or facilitate $100 billion towards climate and environmental solutions, and more recently renounced investments in coal, led by its Environmental and Social Policy Framework document. Coordinated by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), six major U.S. banks issued a Climate Action Statement in October, as did the CEO’s of ten major food companies, including Mars, General Mills, Unilever, and Kellogg, who issued a joint letter to world leaders. C2ES also released Weathering the Next Storm: A Closer Look at Business Resilience. More businesses signed on to RE100, a global business campaign committed to 100% renewable electricity. And on October 19, the White House announced that 81 U.S. companies, with combined revenue of $5 trillion, have now signed the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge”, launched in July 2015.

Fossil Fuel Divestment and the New Campaign by the Guardian Newspaper and 350.org

The divestment movement has been busy since global Fossil Fuel Divestment Day in February, with news that hundreds of thousands of academics, engineers and lawyers in Denmark will vote on divesting their €32bn pension funds from fossil fuel investments in April, and that Oxford University is facing protest demonstrations because it has deferred a vote on divestment till May. In March, The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. and 350.org launched the Keep it in the Ground campaign, asking the Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation to divest their endowments from fossil fuels. The Guardian has been relentlessly posting information and arguments for the cause of divestment: “Bank of England warns of huge financial risk with fossil fuel investments”(March 3); “Mark Carney defends Bank of England over Climate Change Study” (March 10); “UN Backs Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign” (March 16); “Wellcome Trust sold off 94 million pound ExxonMobil oil investment” (March 18) and, “Revealed: Gates Foundation’s $1.4bn in fossil fuel investments” (March 19). The retiring editor of The Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger,  announced the paper’s new editorial stance in “Climate change: Why the Guardian is Putting Threat to Earth Front and Centre” (March 6). He states: “The coming debate is about two things: what governments can do to attempt to regulate, or otherwise stave off, the now predictably terrifying consequences of global warming beyond 2C by the end of the century. And how we can prevent the states and corporations which own the planet’s remaining reserves of coal, gas and oil from ever being allowed to dig most of it up. We need to keep them in the ground”.

Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns in Canada

Global Divestment Days took place worldwide on February 13 and 14th, organized by 350.org through their Go Fossil Free campaign. In Canada, a divestment campaign led by the UBCC350, (a group of students, faculty, staff, and alumni) climaxed on February 10 with a a largely symbolic vote by UBC Faculty : see “UBC profs vote 62 per cent in Favour of Fossil Fuel Divestment” in the Vancouver Observer (Feb 10  ) and see the press release from UBC350. On February 12, the Financial Post reported that “University of Calgary will not Divest from Fossil Fuels”.

Also in February, the Sustainability and Education Policy Network housed at the University of Saskatchewan released The State of Fossil Fuel Divestment in Canadian Post-Secondary Institutions, which lists all 27 Canadian post-secondary institutions where divestment campaigns were underway as of October 2014, as well as the amount of money currently invested in fossil fuels. The report notes a “disconnect”: “While some campuses have positioned themselves as sustainability leaders, they are still heavily invested in fossil fuel companies”. Other related documents from the ongoing research are at the SEPN website.

A White Paper, Fossil Fuel Divestment: Reviewing Arguments, Policy Implications, and Opportunities was published by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) in January. It  concludes that fossil fuel divestment campaigns can be socially effective but are unable to have any real impact on reducing emissions or financing transition to sustainability without alternative investments that change the structure of the economy. PICS is maintaining a website for ongoing commentary on the issue, and indeed, the paper has been criticized in The Tyee and in the DeSmog Canada Blog for “missing the point” of the importance of divestment to revoke social license.

People’s Climate March Under the Eyes of the World

The Climate Leadership Summit convened by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York City on September 23 has created a flurry of reports and statements, some of which are summarized below. Most world leaders are expected at the Summit, with the notable exceptions of the leaders of China, India, and Canada – which will be represented by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. See the official U.N. website at: http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit. Oxfam International has published The Summit that Snoozed, which calls for government action at the meeting and provides a checklist/toolkit for sorting out promises from greenwash at: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bkm_climate_summit_media_brief_sept19.pdf.

On September 21, the People’s Climate March, organized by 350.org and Avaaz, brought together people from diverse social movements from across the globe to demonstrate the size and diversity of the support for urgent climate action. In New York, Avaaz presented a petition containing 2.1 million signatures. Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress marched – as did an estimated 311,000 other people, including U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, Al Gore, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray as well as Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. According to the New York Times coverage at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/nyregion/new-york-city-climate-change-march.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0, “the People’s Climate March was a spectacle even for a city known for doing things big”… and it was only one demonstration of hundreds across the globe. The official March website is at: http://peoplesclimate.org/; see also the Toronto Star coverage, which reported 3000 demonstrators including leaders from the Sierra Club, Toronto 350, and Quebec-based Equiterre, at: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/09/21/3000_join_climate_march_at_nathan_phillips_square.html; CBC Vancouver estimated a crowd of 1000 for that city at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/un-climate-summit-vancouver-joins-thousands-in-worldwide-rallies-1.2773535, see the CTV video from Calgary for a taste of the demonstration there at: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canadians-join-global-climate-protest-in-nyc-1.2017167#, and the Montreal Gazette at: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Montrealers+march+back+climate+summit/10223004/story.html.