The Arica and Victory Pass solar projects will be built near Desert Center in eastern Riverside County. Together, they could generate as much as 465 megawatts of power with up to 400 megawatts of battery storage.
“Renewable energy projects like Arica and Victory Pass on public lands create good-paying jobs and are crucial in achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035,” Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a statement. “Investing in clean and reliable renewable energy represents the BLM’s commitment for addressing climate change and supports Congress’ direction in the Energy Act of 2020 to permit 25 gigawatts of solar, wind, and geothermal production on public lands no later than 2025.”
The Biden administration has promised to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by around half of 2005 levels by 2030 and ween the electricity sector off of fossil fuels by 2035, The New York Times pointed out. However, the administration’s climate agenda is in trouble after Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said he would not vote for the Build Back Better Act, which included $555 billion in spending to transition U.S. energy away from fossil fuels.
One thing the administration can do without the Senate is approve more renewable energy projects on public lands or offshore in public waters. This is a reversal from the Trump administration, which focused on exploiting fossil fuels, The AP reported.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told reporters Tuesday that the Trump administration had closed BLM renewable energy offices and worked against renewable energy project agreements. She said the department was “rebuilding” renewable energy capacity after Trump.
“We fully intend to meet our clean energy goals,” Haaland told reporters.
In addition to the two projects approved Tuesday, BLM expects to approve another California solar project shortly that will generate 500 megawatts of electricity. Together, the three installations will generate around 1,000 megawatts and power around 132,000 homes, The New York Times reported. Further, BLM is looking for interested parties to develop more solar projects on almost 90,000 acres of public land in solar energy zones in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
The California projects in particular are part of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan to develop solar projects on 10.8 million acres of public lands in seven California counties while simultaneously conserving desert ecosystems and providing recreation, BLM said.
While the administration moves forward with developing the renewable energy potential of public lands, it has had less success at halting fossil fuel exploration. After a judge ruled against a moratorium on oil and gas drilling lease sales, the Biden administration oversaw the largest offshore lease sale in U.S. history last month in the Gulf of Mexico. Further, the administration has so far issued more permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands than the Trump administration did during its first three years.
Environmental advocates have argued that the administration could do more to prevent drilling on public lands.
“Given the fact that 25% of U.S. carbon emissions come from federal oil, gas and coal, there is no way the U.S. can meet its climate obligations by continuing to operate the program with business as usual,” Earthjustice attorney Drew Caputo said in response to the Gulf lease sale.
There’s a jolly old soul in West Virginia who’s laughing his a** off today. Who is this laugh-master? Why it’s Old King Coal, of course; and, he just got off the phone with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).
On the call, West Virginia’s senior Senator told the old man he would be announcing his opposition to President Biden’s Build Back Better Act (BBB), otherwise known as budget reconciliation. To add icing to the cake, Manchin thought he would do it a few days before Christmas on FOX Sunday News but only after sending an intern over to the White House less than 30 minutes before he was to go on informing the President of his decision.
The news ripped through Capitol City, registering 11 out of 10 on the political Richter scale. Although it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, the Democratic politics of it all do nothing even to hint at the Democrats’ capacity to keep their majorities in Congress. Could this be the reason 22 House Democrats have announced their retirements?
Manchin’s opposition to the bill will profoundly impact US climate policy—possibly for the next decade. Why that long? Because to make that happen, the Democrats would have to take back their rule of the federal government by the end of 2026 at the very latest.
Consider that nothing less than sweeping legislation—more sweeping than Biden’s BBB would be needed to make up for the lost time. Four years from now, will the 119th Congress be the place for that to happen? Or, will there be Manchin and other Manchin’s yet to get over?
Assume now that it’s December 2025, and the 119th Congress and the president have finally written and signed into law that hoped for sweeping legislation. It’s now on to the executive branch, where all the needed policies, programs, and regulations must be drafted and finalized as required by the Administrative Procedures Act.
Theoretically, the required legislative and executive actions could be accomplished within four years. However, based on decades of judicial history, no rule will become final until a long line of litigation is concluded. Litigation largely filed by red states claiming the federal government has no right to regulate the major causes of Earth’s warming, e.g., greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane.
It could take an additional one to five years for the courts to finally act on all the challenges. As reference points, it’s been 11 years since the Obama administration began to do the paperwork on its Clean Power Plan (CPP). The Plan never went into effect and is still being litigated.
The US Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear four cases that could overturn Massachusetts vs. EPA that gave the federal government the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The lead case is West Virginia v. EPA.
So, where are we, and is there any chance of Manchin returning to the bargaining table? To answer the second part of that question—yes, I think there is a chance that President Biden can coax the Senator back into productive discussions.
How cooperative Manchin will be is hard to tell at the moment. In the meantime, it’s essential to understand some of the personal and political dynamics at work here.
Is that any way to treat your president or your party?
It appeared from the comments made by the White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, that Manchin didn’t even accord President Biden the courtesy of informing him ahead of the an-nouncement.
If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.
Somewhat whiningly, Manchin has defended his latest act by saying he’s spent the last five and a half months working as diligently as possible meeting with President Biden, Majority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi …determine the best path forward despite my serious reservations. (Emphasis added)
The truth is something else. What Manchin has been doing for all this time is whacking away at the reconciliation act much as he had done to the infrastructure bill. President Biden’s original Build Back Better Act (BBB) proposal was for $3.5 trillion—an amount that was cut down to $1.75 to placate the coal-state Senator.
Manchin knows that he’s the most powerful Democrat in Capitol City. He’s leveraging his position to overlay what’s essentially a moderate Republican slant on social policy. That is to say, moderate Republican as it was before the rise of the Tea Party.
Manchin set his sights on dropping climate-related matters from the reconciliation package from the beginning. He started in on the most impactful provision—the proposed clean electric standard.
The standard would have rewarded electric utilities for increasing their use of clean energy alternatives like solar and wind while fining those that didn’t. Manchin was concerned that it would decrease coal consumption and lead to fewer jobs for West Virginians.
In one regard, Manchin is right about the long-term prospects for coal. The power sector is phasing out coal; but, it’s because of market forces. The move to clean alternatives under the legislation would happen gradually, and there would be funds for retraining miners who lose their jobs.
Manchin didn’t stop with the electric standard. He was also opposed to charging fossil fuel companies for their methane emissions. Although not as prevalent in the atmosphere, meth-ane traps 80 times more heat than CO2. In other instances, he announced his opposition to income credits for electric vehicles (EV)—especially the extra credit consumers would get for an EV made with union labor in the US.
Manchin has continued to question the need for the federal government to do anything to speed the transition to a low-carbon economy. He believes these technologies are already being picked up by industry.
It’s not the consistency of Manchin’s opposition to the BBBA that shocked
; the White House.It’s the inconsistencies of his actions.
As late as Friday evening (17 December), it was being reported that all of Manchin’s issues were being worked on; for example, the matter of methane fees was being dealt with by Senator Carper (D-DE). Carper chairs the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee and negotiated an earlier compromise in the House version of the package. Before Manchin went nuclear, he said he expected to make “additional changes” now that it’s in the Senate.
In killing the bill, Manchin killed tax credits that would have gone to support carbon capture and storage (CCS). The BBB provisions in tandem with the $12 billion in direct support for the technologies gave fossil fuel companies a huge opportunity.
According to Erik Oswald, an ExxonMobil lobbyist, the payouts from the expanded credit could be so large that, if energy companies reach the scale they say they can, it could largely wipe away their corporate income tax bills.
In a statement released by his office following his FOX Sunday News interview, Manchin writes: If enacted, the bill will also risk the reliability of our electric grid and increase our dependence on foreign supply chains.
Manchin is wrong on the reliability issue and self-defeating on the foreign supply chain problems. He obliquely references Texas as an example of grid insecurity—presumably based on Governor Greg Abbott’s (R) misstatement about wind turbines being responsible for the state’s loss of power earlier in the year.
Grid insecurity is a problem; because of an aging and under-invested infrastructure—not due to clean energy alternatives. Moreover, the BBB would have provided $150 million to create a new Manufacturing USA Institute focusing on semiconductor manufacturing. (Cite)
The BBB was also set to include the Advanced Manufacturing Investment Credit program, a modified version of the Facilitating American-Built Semiconductors (FABS) Act. It would have provided an investment tax credit of up to 25 percent for certain “advanced manufacturing facilities” and components.
As far as anyone knew, Manchin appeared supportive of the BBB tax credit provisions, except for the EV credit and the bonus for union-made vehicles mentioned earlier. The tax credit por-tion of the reconciliation package total somewhere around $300 million and includes the ex-tension of existing credits.
Why the opposition, if his issues were being worked on?
This is the $64K question. In part, Manchin was worried about inflation and the rising federal debt. Reasons one can assume are legit.
However, Manchin’s opinion is at odds with the 17 Noble Prize-winning economists who published an open letter refuting his conclusion about the BBB’s impact on inflation. According to the 17:
…key components of this broader agenda are critical—including tax reforms that make our tax system more equitable and that enable our system to raise the additional funds required to facilitate necessary public investments and achieve our collective goals….and will enhance the ability of more Americans to participate productively in the economy, it will ease longer-term inflationary pressures. (Emphasis added)
It’s critical to remember that the reconciliation package was about much more than combatting climate change. The bill has been cast as a once-in-a-generation investment. It in-cluded programs like universal pre-kindergarten, expanded Medicare coverage for dental, vision, hearing, in-home assistance for older Americans, and extension of the $350 passed as part of the pandemic relief package.
Manchin claims he’s always said, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it. It’s not clear what the “it” is. The explaining he has to do, in my opinion, is about why he sees the defeat of the bill as better for West Virginia.
According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and, Policy the BBB would:
…improve economic security among households with children by extending…[the] poverty-reducing Child Tax Credit (CTC) made via the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). In West Virginia, the CTC reached346,000,or 93 percent, of all children under 18….
According to the Center, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) benefits 102,900 West Virginia workers.
Manchin’s list of demands was long. Most were works in progress at the time of his Sunday interview. So, why did he do what he did?
Why the opposition, if his issues were being worked on?
I don’t know why Senator Manchin did what he did. Speculation and anger abound.[i]
The two leading theories are self-interest and thin skin. There’s evidence in support of either or both.
Interestingly, he hasn’t been overly aggressive in defense of coal and has rarely referred to the miners. He speaks of them more generically as the people ofWest Virginia. One reason may be that there are fewer than 11,418 in the state. In 2010 the number was 21,091.
The second theory is his feelings got hurt. Hey, I’m just the messenger here. However, I do see how that might be a possibility.
In an interview on Metro News/The Voice of West Virginia, Manchin had this to say about why he finally said no:
I’m not blaming anybody. I knew where they were, and I knew what they could and could not do They figured, Surely to God we can move one person. Surely, we can badger and beat one person up. Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough they’ll just say, Okay, I’ll vote for anything just quit.
Guess what! I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from where you can beat the living crap out, and people and they’ll be submissive.
Manchin has been careful not to accuse President Biden of applying these aggressive actions. I equate his leaving the President out of it with his keeping a door to future negotiations open–if just a hair.
We haven’t heard the last about drafting a smaller, more targeted BBB. What’s gone before is going to color what comes behind. Progressives are l
ivid not only about Manchin but about having been talked into moderating their positions on climate since 2018.
Progressives feel Manchin went back on his word about supporting a reconciliation package if Congress would first vote on the infrastructure bill. Trust within the Democratic caucuses is nearly non-existent. Personal and political feelings will play a significant role in the re-negotiation of any future legislation.
This is Part 1 in a two-part series. In the next installment, I’ll be discussing where and how we go from here and what a Plan B BBB might be.
“We present evidence indicating that a positive correlation exists between the concentration of fecal MPs [microplastics] and the severity of IBD,” the study authors wrote.
Both microplastic exposure and IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are on the rise. Scientists have found microplastics in drinking water, table salt and seafood, and it is possible that humans eat between 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year.
Researchers still don’t know how big a problem this is for human health, but mounting evidence suggests that eating plastic isn’t good for us. A recent study, for example, found evidence that microplastics can cause cell death at concentrations found in the environment. There is evidence that microplastics can cause intestinal inflammation, gut microbiome disturbances and other problems in animals, an ACS press release explained, so researchers from Nanjing University in China wanted to know if the same was true for humans.
To find out, they took stool samples from 50 healthy people and 52 people with IBD who lived throughout China. They found that the people with IBD had about 1.5 more microplastics per gram of feces than healthy people. Further, people with more severe IBD had more microplastics in their samples.
“[T]he positive correlation between fecal MPs and IBD status suggests that MP exposure may be related to the disease process or that IBD exacerbates the retention of MPs,” the study authors wrote.
The research also considered how people might encounter microplastics by giving participants a survey about their eating habits. People who reported drinking bottled water, eating take-out and being exposed to dust were more likely to have microplastics in their samples. The most common types of plastics that turned up were polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used for bottles and food containers, and polyamide (PA), which is used for food packaging and textiles.
Both the study authors and other scientists agree that more research is required before we can know for sure that microplastic exposure causes or worsens IBD, but it’s still an important development in understanding this emerging public health concern.
“This study provides evidence that we are indeed ingesting microplastics,” Evangelos Danopoulos at Hull York Medical school in the UK, who was not involved in the research, told The Guardian. “It is an important study, as it widens the evidence base for human exposures. More data about possible confounding factors is needed to build a causal association to specific human health conditions.”
May 19, 2021: No new investment in oil, gas, or coal development, a massive increase in renewable energy adoption, speedy global phaseouts for new natural gas boilers and internal combustion vehicles, and a sharp focus on short-term action were key elements of a blockbuster Net Zero by 2050 report released in mid-May by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The more than 400 sectoral and technological targets in the report would be big news from any source. They’re particularly significant from the IEA, an agency that has received scathing criticism in the past for overstating the future importance of fossil fuels, consistently underestimating the uptake of renewable energy, and failing to align its “gold standard” energy projections with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. For years, the agency’s projections have been used to justify hundreds of billions of dollars in high-carbon investments, allowing multinational fossil companies to sustain the fantasy that demand for their product will increase through 2040 or beyond.
But not anymore.
“Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required,” the IEA writes. “The unwavering policy focus on climate change in the net-zero pathway results in a sharp decline in fossil fuel demand, meaning that the focus for oil and gas producers switches entirely to output—and emissions reductions—from the operation of existing assets.”
“It’s not a model result,” analyst Dave Jones of the clean energy think tank Ember told Bloomberg Green. “It’s a call to action.”
“Big Oil and Gas has just lost a very powerful shield!” wrote Oil Change International Senior Campaigner David Tong.
By 2040, the IEA sees all coal- and oil-fired power plants phased out unless their emissions are abated by some form of carbon capture. Between 2020 and 2050, oil demand falls 75%, to 24 million barrels per day, gas demand falls 55%, and remaining oil production becomes “increasingly concentrated in a small number of low-cost producers.” OPEC nations provide 52% of a “much-reduced global oil supply” in 2050 and see their per capita income from fossil production decline 75% by the 2030s.
“Within the decade, this will have a significant impact on the price and therefore production levels of oil and gas in Alberta,” said Pembina Institute Alberta Director Chris Severson-Baker. “We can also expect that the purchasers of oil and gas products will increasingly direct their spending on oil and gas produced with the lowest upstream emissions.” That rapid pivot will prompt Alberta to “take action to reduce emissions in the oil and gas sector to remain carbon-competitive as demand declines.”
“This is a huge shift from the IEA and highly consequential, given its scenarios are seen as a guide to the future, steering trillions of dollars in energy investment,” Kelly Trout, interim director of Oil Change’s energy transitions and futures program, wrote in an email. “Oil and gas companies, investors, and IEA member states that have been using IEA scenarios to justify their choices and also say they’re committed to 1.5°C are in a tight spot. Will they follow the IEA’s guidance and stop licencing or financing new fossil fuel extraction, or be exposed as hypocrites?”
“It’s incredibly important that the IEA has gathered together the case for the benefits of making this transition,” Rocky Mountain Institute Managing Director James Newcomb told The Energy Mix. “The key elements they point to—4% higher GDP by 2030, millions of net jobs created, two million fewer premature deaths per year by 2030, and universal energy access—those are all amazing parts of the story. We’re starting to see the multi-dimensional benefits in achieving an energy transition, and it’s exciting that the IEA is bringing us evidence to measure it.”
The IEA’s analysis lays out a cascading series of carbon reduction targets in five-year chunks, reinforcing and, well, modelling its own call for government commitments that emphasize short-term emission cuts alongside the 2050 targets many of them have announced.
Canadian climate and energy campaigners immediately translated the IEA analysis into a call to halt construction on the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and Eugene Kung, staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law, said the report will make it that much harder for the Trudeau government to sell Trans Mountain to an Indigenous consortium or some other buyer as a commercially viable project.
“The feds have said it will operate on a commercial basis,” but this report “makes it way, way less likely,” Kung told The Mix. “Anyone who is willing or considering spending upwards of C$20 billion to buy this pipeline is going to do some due diligence and pretty quickly realize there are other places to invest that money that are going to provide a better return and less risk.”
Trout said the same holds true for new investments in liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities that now show up as a “very stupid bet”, with LNG declining 60% between 2020 and 2050. “It’s apparent that new LNG projects in Canada contradict the country’s climate commitments, on top of being a major stranded asset risk,” she wrote.
‘Historic’ Investment Surge Creates Millions of Jobs
The report calls for a “historic surge” in renewable energy investment, with public and private finance tripling to US$4 trillion per year by 2030. (Another reference on the IEA site puts the annual total at $5 trillion at decade’s end.)
“This will create millions of new jobs, significantly lift global economic growth, and achieve universal access to electricity and clean cooking worldwide by the end of the decade,” the agency writes. “All the technologies needed to achieve the necessary deep cuts in global emissions by 2030 already exist, and the policies that can drive their deployment are already proven.”
But to get those short-term emission reductions, the IEA’s net-zero pathway “requires all governments to significantly strengthen and then successfully implement their energy and climate policies,” the agency states. “Commitments made to date fall far short of what is required,” with more countries pledging net-zero emissions but most of those promises “not yet underpinned by near-term policies and measures. Moreover, even if successfully fulfilled, the pledges to date would still leave around 22 billion tonnes of CO2 em
issions worldwide in 2050,” enough to drive a devastating 2.1°C of average global warming by 2100.
“The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal…make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.
“The way we see this scenario is that it’s a very, very narrow pathway,” added IEA Chief Energy Modeller Laura Cozzi, “but it’s still feasible.”
In what some analysts see as a serious gap in the IEA’s thinking, the scenario relies increasingly on emerging technologies as the middle of the century approaches. “Most of the reductions in CO2 emissions through 2030 come from technologies already on the market today. But in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase,” the agency writes, in an unfortunate echo of U.S. climate envoy John Kerry’s remarks to BBC over the weekend.
“Major innovation efforts must take place this decade in order to bring these new technologies to market in time,” the IEA writes.
“I strongly disagree with that,” replied Sven Teske, research director at Australia’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, in a statement to The Mix. “The main technologies to decarbonize the global energy system are market-ready, and are either already cost competitive or will be within the next five to 10 years. They are: solar and wind technologies, battery technologies, electric mobility, and various technologies to provide industrial process heat. There is no need to wait for more research. The transition to a full renewable energy supply until 2050 can start now.”
Over the longer haul, Teske agreed that “research and development is key for the energy transition. But it can and must be carried out in parallel to the implementation of new technologies. There is no need to wait for a technical miracle— we have all required technologies at hand to successful implement the first 10 to 15 years of the IEA’s Net Zero Roadmap.”
The report shows global demand for critical minerals like copper, cobalt, manganese, and rare earth metals growing almost seven-fold this decade, exceeding revenue from coal mining well before 2030. “This creates substantial new opportunities for mining companies,” the agency writes. “It also creates new energy security concerns, including price volatility and additional costs for transitions, if supply cannot keep up with burgeoning demand.”
And it points to serious issues for communities and organizations dealing with the often horrid environmental impacts and human rights records of extractive industries. “On one hand, the report is a real victory,” Jamie Kneen, communications and outreach coordinator at MiningWatch Canada, told The Mix. “Reality is finally setting in, which is great. But to the extent that they’re still modelling growth and over-consumption, we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Without addressing that more fundamental issue, he added, “it starts to sound more like a proposal to save capitalism than a proposal to save the planet.”
The analysis shows behavioural changes in advanced economies—replacing car trips with walking, cycling, or transit, and flying less—accounting for 4% of projected emission reductions through 2050. But consumer choices like home retrofits, heat pump installations, and electric vehicle purchases account for about 55% of the total.
Getting to 2050, Five Years at a Time
The report lays out the IEA’s pathway to zero in five-year chunks.
• In 2020, emissions stood at 33.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalent, with building retrofit rates below 1%, solar and wind delivering nearly 10% of the world’s power generation, electric vehicles accounting for 5% of global auto sales, and fossil fuels providing nearly 80% of total energy supply. Staying on a net-zero path will require “the massive deployment of all available clean energy technologies—such as renewables, EVs, and energy-efficient building retrofits—between now and 2030,” the agency writes. “For solar power, it is equivalent to installing the world’s current largest solar park roughly every day.”
• As of 2021, no new oil and gas projects, coal mines, or unabated coal power plants are approved for development, and global sales of fossil fuel boilers end by 2025.
• By 2025, emissions fall to 30.2 billion tonnes, all new buildings in advanced economies are zero-carbon-ready, solar and wind hit 20% of global power production, and the last unabated coal plants under construction are completed.
• By 2030, emissions fall to 21.1 gigatonnes, 60% of global car sales are electric, global coal demand has fallen 50% since 2020, advanced economies have phased out unabated coal power, solar and wind are adding 1,020 gigawatts of new capacity per year, 850 gigawatts of hydrogen electrolyzers have been deployed, and everyone in the world has access to energy, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
• By 2035, emissions are down to 12.8 Gt, global fossil fuel use is down 50% since 2020, electricity generation in advanced economies has hit net-zero emissions, internal combustion cars are no longer available, 50% of heavy truck sales are electric, all new industrial motors are best in class, and the model calls for four billion tonnes of carbon capture.
• By 2040, emissions stand at 6.3 Gt, oil demand is down 50% since 2020, all unabated coal- and oil-fired power plants have been phased out, half of all existing buildings have been retrofitted to zero-carbon-ready levels, about 90% of today’s heavy industrial equipment has been replaced as it reached the end of its investment cycle, half of aviation fuels are low-emission, and global electrolyzer capacity has reached 2,400 GW. With electricity assuming a dominant role in buildings, transport, and industry, countries “will require huge increases in electricity system flexibility—such as batteries, demand response, hydrogen-based fuels, hydropower, and more—to ensure reliable supplies.”
• In 2045, emissions fall to 2.5 billion tonnes, new energy technologies are widespread, and low-emission industries are flourishing. Half of global heating demand is met by heat pumps, and natural gas demand has fallen 50% since 2050. The nuclear industry is somehow adding 24 GW of new capacity and supplying more than 5,000 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, while hydropower output hits 8,000 TWh.
• In 2050, the IEA sees emissions falling to zero, with more than 85% of buildings zero-carbon ready, nearly 70% of global power generation coming from solar and wind, more than 90% of heavy industry deemed low-emission, and 7.6 billion tonnes of carbon capture per year.
A Loud Signal to Investors
Perhaps the most profound impact of the IEA’s new analysis will be its message to investors with trillions of dollars at their disposal, many of whom look to the Paris-based agency for guidance on the future shape of global energy markets. The unmistakable signal is that “we’ll have ongoing investment in production, and especially in emissions control and reducing methane leakage, but no additional investment in new supply is required,” RMI’s Newcomb said.
That shift was already understood by some investors, he added. But “it’s incredibly important that it’s out there in black and white in this report, and it will certainly have a wide impact as it works its way through the financial community.”
“In one fell swoop, the IEA’s definitive new outlook forces meaning into empty net-zero pledges made by governments, finance institutions, and companies in recent years,” said Adam Scott, director of Shift Action for Pension Wealth & Planet Health, in an email statement. “Until now, most of these pledges lacked the required honesty, ambition, and planning detail for achieving their stated objectives, often veering instead into dangerous greenwash.”
But now, “finance institutions can no longer justify lending, underwriting, insuring, or investing in coal, gas, or oil expansion projects, or the infrastructure that facilitates that expansion,” he added. “This isn’t an optional pathway. It’s a roadmap showing the direction we must take in order to prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis from becoming reality.”
“You could say the IEA is catching up to and building on our message,” wrote Oil Change International’s Trout. And yet, “the IEA still creates too much room for dirty fossil fuels and biofuels to linger.” The report “notes that a faster shift to truly clean energy sources is possible if we prioritize more investment in them. So it’s not a question of what’s possible, but of the political will to make it happen.”
Still Some Gaps in the Vision
Oil Change was one of many organizations that took a victory lap after the report release, but still took the IEA to task for downplaying the growth of renewables and relying too heavily on carbon capture and bioenergy.
“It’s huge to have the world’s most influential energy modellers bolstering the global call to stop licencing and financing new fossil fuel extraction,” Trout said. “However, the IEA still has a ways to go to cast off its fossil fuel roots and prove itself a credible global advisor on climate. If the IEA is serious about steering the world towards a 1.5°C-aligned future, it must put 1.5°C at the heart of all its analysis and communications moving forward,” including its annual World Energy Outlook report.
“By continuing to underestimate wind and solar potential, the IEA is still encouraging dangerous levels of reliance on carbon capture and storage, fossil gas, and bioenergy, technologies favoured by polluting industries but harmful for people,” Tong added. “Gambling the climate on a 4,000% increase in carbon capture and storage by 2030 is extraordinarily risky and, the IEA’s own analysis shows, not necessary. Instead of banking on a consistently underperforming and still polluting technology, the IEA should be accelerating the phaseout of fossil gas and coal by relying on proven wind and solar solutions.”
Newcomb lists electric and hydrogen vehicles, energy efficiency, and the potential for emission reductions by city and regional governments as areas where the IEA’s projections fall short.
“You don’t want to be seen as wildly optimistic,” he said. “But the reality is that wildly optimistic things have actually happened in the last decade in wind and solar and batteries, and we think they’re going to continue to,” with advanced battery chemistries speeding the adoption of EVs over the next decade.
Similarly, while the IEA’s 4% annual improvement in the efficiency of energy use “is okay,” Newcomb told The Mix, it “still leaves significant opportunity.” He pointed to a recent competition in India that produced two new designs for super-efficient, climate-friendly cooling systems that were five times more efficient than today’s standard—adding that the same potential exists in every sector of the global economy.
“It’s difficult from a modelling perspective to get your arms around that, so I’m cutting the IEA a little bit of slack,” he said. “But they’re missing a significant share of the efficiency resource that is available and competitive. Energy efficiency is still the least costly solution, and the IEA’s estimates haven’t tapped that out.”
Voluntary actions by sub-national governments are also tough to factor into national or international models. But “this is one of the most important things that will change in the next few years,” Newcomb said. “The level of commitments is quite significant, and we have the ability now to map those commitments and start to understand their energy and emissions consequences.” Sub-national action is “a major driver, it’s not really highlighted at all in the IEA report,” and “when you’ve got a decade to act, the voluntary actions are one of the fastest ways to make change.”
June 30, 2021: Parliament made history and overjoyed climate and civil society groups took a victory lap as the Senate passed Canada’s first-ever climate accountability legislation, just hours before adjourning for the summer.
The Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act (Bill C-12) had passed the House of Commons less than a week before, setting the stage for senators to decide the fate of the legislation—and the years-long research, policy, and advocacy effort that brought it into being.
“The adoption of Bill C-12 by both Houses of Parliament is a groundbreaking moment and ushers Canada into a new era of accountability to its climate commitments,” said Climate Action Network-Canada (CAN-Rac) Executive Director Catherine Abreu. “After decades of broken climate promises made on the international stage, years of relentless mobilization by the climate community led to this legislative milestone. While the Bill is by no means perfect and we will work to ensure its robust implementation, this moment is a testament to people power, and a big step forward for Canadian climate action.”
“Canada finally has a climate accountability framework—now we need to implement it,” wrote Ecojustice lawyer Alan Andrews, whose organization played a pivotal role in developing the legal arguments and strategies behind the bill.
“Despite knowing for decades that climate change is a rapidly growing threat to our health, environment, communities, and economy, Canada has missed every single greenhouse gas target it has ever set,” he added. “In the absence of a climate accountability law, successive governments have faced few consequences for this ongoing failure.”
Which is why “establishing a framework to support Canada in finally meeting its pollution targets is a practical and necessary step to change this trajectory.”
Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson introduced what critics saw as an “underwhelming” C-12 in the House in November, 2020. Months later, it was still languishing on the Order Paper, with few visible signs that the government planned to move it to committee for detailed study. The bill went through a requisite effort by the Conservative opposition to quash it entirely, before the Liberals and New Democrats agreed on a package of revisions and climate hawks pushed hard for further improvements.
By the time the Commons held its final vote on C-12 last week, a Senate committee was already conducting a pre-study of the bill, Senate sponsor Sen. Rosa Galvez (ISG-Quebec) was optimistic it would pass the Red Chamber, and even fossil senator Doug Black (CSG-Alberta) seemed kindly disposed to the measure.
“Kudos to the Senate and @SenRosaGalvez for getting this climate accountability bill through at the end of session,” Sussex Strategy senior counsel Shawn McCarthy tweeted late yesterday afternoon. “The bill doesn’t ensure success of Canada’s net-zero ambition but is an important tool for accountability.”
In a release, Galvez said yesterday’s vote marked a break from the Senate’s “shameful record of killing climate and environmental legislation.”
With 15 other countries already operating under comprehensive climate accountability frameworks, she added, Canada is “late to the race, and given our history of failures to meet unambitious targets, we need this methodically planned framework to hold this and all consecutive governments accountable for demonstrating how they will achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Governments will no longer be able to set climate targets without being accountable to Canadians on their plan to achieve our objectives.”
CAN-Rac, which played a central part in the legislative fight for the bill, says the final version:
• Establishes a long-term target of reaching net-zero emissions in 2050;
• Contains a legislative requirement for emissions reductions targets at five-year milestones beginning in 2030, with an interim objective in 2026;
• Requires governments to set climate targets 10 years in advance;
• Creates a framework for detailed climate policy planning and progress reporting;
• Legislates a Net-Zero Advisory Body composed of diverse stakeholders and rights-holders to advise the minister of environment and climate change on targets and plans;
• Requires the minister to consider the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in climate planning and target-setting;
• Mandates a legislative review of the bill, five years after its adoption.
“Bill C-12 is not perfect,” said Ecojustice’s Andrews. “But it does bring Canada closer to taking the action needed to stave off a climate catastrophe. Crucially, we finally have a legislative framework that will require the federal government to have a plan to meet pollution targets (and take more action if they are off track). Over time, this law can be improved if experience shows it isn’t up to the task.”
“Canada has missed every climate target it has set for itself because climate change has never been seen as a true emergency, like COVID-19,” said West Coast Environmental Law staff lawyer Andrew Gage. “The Canadian Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act will play a crucial role in Canadian climate action—and in implementing it, the government must do the tough work to figure out how to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and then follow up with the same type of action and regular reporting we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We are in a health emergency: the heat dome currently sitting over Western Canada has broken the Canadian high-temperature record for two days in a row,” said Yellowknife, NWT emergency physician Courtney Howard, past president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “In emergency resuscitation in the ER, we use frameworks and protocols to clarify roles, set expectations, and embed data checks so our team can work in a well-coordinated and time-efficient way to save lives. We look forward to seeing even more rigour added at the five-year legislative review. As in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, we must push hard, push fast, and not stop.”
“As extreme heat overwhelms communities across the country, let us acknowledge that change is inevitable, but whether it will be orderly or catastrophic is very much under governmental control,” said Sabaa Khan, the David Suzuki Foundation’s director general for Quebec and Atlantic Canada. “Adoption of Bill C-12 would be a firs
t, long-awaited step towards building the robust legal framework necessary to ensure that Canada’s deeply entrenched fossil fuel past does not annihilate our future.”
“Tens of thousands of people across the country demanded that our political leaders strengthen Bill C-12, and we now have a first-of-its-kind climate accountability law,” said Leadnow campaign manager Claire Gallagher. “Although the bill is not perfect, today we’re celebrating people power and a necessary step towards the kind of climate action that is long overdue in Canada.”
July 18, 2021: Environment and climate re-emerged as a top issue for Canadian voters, while urgency around the COVID-19 pandemic declined (at least temporarily), as the country got ever closer to an expected federal election, according to data released by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute.
“Even as recently as June, the coronavirus response was the second-highest priority for the public,” Angus Reid writes. Now, with nearly 80% of the eligible population at least partially vaccinated, “just one in five Canadians say it is among their top three broad concerns for the country. In its stead, health care and climate change have risen to their own level of heightened priority, followed by key economic issues.”
The survey of 1,625 respondents showed the two top issues—environment/climate and health care—hitting the top-three list for 36% of voters, with the economy following at 31%. Coronavirus/COVID-19 response came in ninth on a list of 11 issues, at 19%. “Energy/natural resources/pipelines” placed dead last Canada-wide, at 13%.
The survey, conducted July 14-16, is considered accurate within a margin for error of +/-2%, 19 times out of 20.
The Angus Reid report tracks the prominence of the key vote-determining issues back to the second quarter of 2020, when the pandemic was just beginning. Environment and climate held steady through the entire period in third or fourth place, never showing up below 25 or above 30% of respondents—until this month’s quarterly survey. Over the same time span, First Nations/Indigenous issues rose from below 10% in the second quarter of 2020 to 23% today. The pandemic peaked at about 47% toward the end of last year.
In the latest quarterly results, environment and climate placed first in British Columbia, with 43% of respondents listing it as one of their top three issues, second in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces, and third in Manitoba, at 30%. Energy, resources, and pipelines came in second in Alberta, at 43%, with the economy placing slightly ahead at 45%.
Environment and climate is the top issue for likely Liberal and NDP voters, at 47 and 55%, respectively, and placed second after health care among Bloc Québécois supporters, at 49%, Angus Reid found. It fell below the top three for Conservative Party of Canada voters.
The party standings in the survey show a statistical tie between the Liberals at 33% and the Conservatives at 31%, with the New Democrats at 20%, the Green Party at 3%, and the Bloc picking up 31% in Quebec. Those results contrasted with an Abacus Data poll late last month that showed the Liberals at 37%, the Conservatives at 25%, and the NDP at 20%. Abacus also showed the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc expanding their pool of “accessible voters”—people who might consider voting for them—while the Conservatives and Greens saw their shares decline.
November 21, 2021: Heavily-armed RCMP agents stormed an Indigenous blockade and arrested 32 people, including Gidimt’en Clan spokesperson Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) and two journalists, in another escalation of the dispute over construction of the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.
The raid came days after members of the Gidimt’en Clan issued an eviction order, cut off access to a key pipeline work site, and gave construction crews eight hours to “peacefully evacuate” the area before the main road into the Lhudis Bin territory was closed at 1 PM.
The clan members had set up the Coyote Camp September 25 on the CGL work site south of Houston, B.C., “halting plans to drill under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River),” CBC said last week. Sleydo’ had called the river “the major concern”, adding that enforcement of the eviction notice was “the next step” to protect the Wet’suwet’en sacred headwaters, salmon spawning river, and source of clean drinking water.
But on Friday, RCMP broke down the door of the camp and “arrested multiple occupants—including two who police say identified themselves as journalists,” CBC writes.
The Gidimt’en Checkpoint delivered a more complete and vivid account of the raid in a release Saturday.
“Police were deployed in military garb, armed with assault weapons and dog teams, and enforced a media and communications blackout at the site,” the release stated. “First, a cabin was breached with an axe and dog unit. Moments later, a separate cabin built on Coastal GasLink’s proposed drill pad site was breached with a chainsaw and snipers aimed at the door. RCMP did not have warrants required to enter either dwelling. After raiding Coyote Camp, police swept through Gidimt’en Checkpoint and made four more arrests, including Sleydo’s partner, Cody Merriman (Haida nation), legal observers, and accredited journalists who were there to witness the events.”
The release gave a total count of 32 arrested.
“The Wet’suwet’en people, under the governance of their hereditary chiefs, are standing in the way of the largest fracking project in Canadian history,” Sleydo’ said in a statement prior to her arrest. “Our medicines, our berries, our food, the animals, our water, our culture, our homes are all here since time immemorial. We will never abandon our children to live in a world with no clean water. We uphold our ancestral responsibilities. There will be no pipelines on Wet’suwet’en territory.”
The release said “solidarity actions” had taken place in Burnaby, B.C., Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Montreal, and Victoria, along with a rail blockade in New Hazelton, B.C., with more expected over the weekend. The Checkpoint’s Twitter account has photos of rallies in Peterborough and Guelph, as well as video of the arrests Friday.
In a searing email to supporters, Dogwood Communications Director Kai Nagata said the “mask is off” on the B.C. government’s priorities in a climate emergency.
“While rescue teams searched for bodies, and soldiers filled sandbags in Abbotsford, police dressed up like soldiers spent the week serving as mercenaries for the Coastal GasLink pipeline,” he wrote. “A squad of at least 50 heavily-armed RCMP officers, flown in from detachments around the province, headed north to arrest Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en people on their own land.”
The “diversion of public safety resources, during a provincial state of emergency, had to have been authorized by cabinet ministers,” Nagata added. “The B.C. government is going all-in to build LNG Canada, a fracked gas megaproject that would ensure tomorrow’s climate disasters are even more deadly and destructive,” and was brought to life by more than $5 billion in provincial subsidies.
The Canadian Association of Journalists identified two of those arrested as Amber Bracken, an award-winning reporter for The Narwhal, and documentary filmmaker Michael Toledano. Their treatment “marks just the latest in a long string of illegal RCMP actions against journalists,” Narwhal Editor-in-Chief Emma Gilchrist wrote in a Sunday afternoon email. “Let’s be clear: journalists play an essential role in bearing witness in a democracy and have a charter right to report from within injunction zones,” and “the RCMP needs to be held accountable for their repeated violations of the rights of Canadian journalists.”