What are Laser Talks?
Just as a laser is powerful and focused, a Laser Talk is a brief but powerful statement on a specific topic. Reading our Laser Talks is a great way to get informed about Citizens’ Climate Internaational, climate policy, and related scientific, economic, and political issues.
The principal audience for our Laser Talks are volunteers who meet with legislators and their aides, but we also expect them to be educational for other stakeholders and the general public. Laser Talks are not meant to be memorized, but to provide understanding that will help you respond, in your own words, to questions you may be asked.
Learn to speak like a climate pro
Practice our laser talks:
Learn to speak about climate change like an expert.
PAIR AND SHARE: Practice the laser talks with a partner over coffee.
MIRROR WORK: Rehearse them in front of a mirror.
PICK AND CHOOSE: Practice the laser talks that interest you the most – you don’t have to learn all of them. If you are new to Citizens’ Climate International learn the carbon pricing ones first and try to internalize two to three laser talks a month. By six months time you will have absorbed the key laser talks.
Note that the laser talks are not meant for people to present as monologues. The real purpose of the laser talks is to facilitate a discussion on climate change with our political representatives, the media, and the public.
Carbon Pricing Laser Talks
What is carbon pricing?
Carbon pricing refers to policies that make it more expensive to pollute—ideally making polluters pay more to do business in such a way, without creating economic difficulties for everyone else.
A carbon price, or price for pollution, can be applied at various points, as fuel moves through the economy:
- upstream (on the raw material—coal, oil, or gas);
- midstream (on refined and processed fuels and other products);
- downstream (where fuels generate emissions).
Applying the price upstream is the most direct way to ensure the cost of polluting is paid by those doing business with polluting fuels. They may “pass through” that cost to other businesses and to consumers. To avoid pass through costs falling on households, small businesses, and community economies, revenues from a carbon tax can be returned to those affected, or to everyone.
Carbon pricing policy options include:
- Carbon tax—a direct tax on pollution, which can be upstream, midstream, or downstream.
- Climate income—a carbon fee paid as far upstream as possible, with all revenues returned to households in regular checks or bank deposits.
- Emissions trading—usually including a limit on the overall amount of pollution, with polluting businesses allowed to trade pollution permits, to facilitate their transition to clean energy systems. An emissions trading system, or ETS, is usually assessed midstream—on power companies, for instance.
- Border adjustment—a carbon price assessed at the border, to ensure goods and services originating in countries that don’t price pollution aren’t artificially cheaper than goods and services that pay the costs of pollution.
There are variations on each of these, and it is possible to have a carbon price that uses more than one of these options. It is also possible to use regulations to impose costs without a direct carbon price; this is less economically efficient and tends to mean pass-through costs are higher. In the absence of carbon pricing policy, we still pay for pollution; a study published in June 2022 found that inaction to curb climate change would cost the world $178 trillion over the next 50 years.
It is worth noting: a carbon tax is different from a fuel tax or gas tax. A fuel tax is often used to create a pool of public funds that can help to sustain infrastructure related to the vehicles using the fuel. Revenues may be devoted to maintaining highways, or subsidizing mass transit to reduce congestion. A critical difference is that a fuel tax is not intended to phase out the use of that fuel, whereas a carbon tax aims to reduce overall use of the fuel and eventually to phase it out entirely.
Because climate change is imposing devastating costs on people, economies, and nations, it will be increasingly important to enact policies that make polluters pay the full costs of their business activity. Nations can work together in bilateral or multilateral cooperative arrangements to participate in shared emissions trading systems or to align carbon taxes and other policies, to increase the economic efficiency of their energy transitions.
Carbon Pricing Around the world
UPDATE APRIL 3, 2023: Two more countries are pricing pollution. Japan’s new pollution pricing scheme will be phased in from April, while Australia’s first ever price on carbon will come into effect in July. This means that 49 countries now have carbon pricing. Note the World Bank Carbon Pricing Dashboard has not been updated as if April 3, 2023.
Around the world, carbon pricing initiatives are driving emission reductions that cause climate change. Using data from 142 countries over two decades, researchers found that the average annual growth rate of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion in countries with a carbon price to be 2 percentage points lower compared to countries without a carbon price (Carbon Pricing Efficacy: Cross-Country Evidence, 2020). Further, an additional euro per tonne of CO2 is associated with a reduction in the subsequent annual emissions growth rate of approximately 0.3 percentage points, all else equal.
Carbon pricing initiatives have been implemented or scheduled for implementation in 70 jurisdictions. This includes 47 national initiatives and 36 subnational initiatives. In 2022, these initiatives would cover 11.86 GtCO2e, representing 23.17 % of global GHG emissions. However, less than 4% of global emissions currently covered by a direct carbon price are within the price range needed by 2030 (range estimated by the CLPC, 40-80$/tCO2e). Prices must rise considerably to meet the Paris Agreement temperature goal of 1.5 degrees.
Recent carbon pricing initiatives:
- The World Bank, and several country partners including Canada, launched the Partnership for Market Implementation which will assist countries in the Global South in either improving their current carbon pricing or implementing carbon pricing.
- In 2022, Botswana announced plans to implement a price on carbon.
- On June 6, 2022, Canada and Chile, two countries that have implemented a carbon tax, issued an agreement to accelerate the adoption of carbon pricing around the world.
- On May 16, 2022, Canada and the EU issued a joint declaration confirming the willingness of the EU and Canada to coordinate on respective approaches to carbon pricing and carbon border adjustments to prevent carbon leakage. They also confirmed the intention of the EU and Canada to work together to engage international partners to expand the global coverage of carbon pricing.
- The European Union will enact border carbon adjustments by January 2023 to go into effect in 2026.
For the most up-to-date information, visit the World Bank’s Carbon Pricing Dashboard.
Carbon Fee and Dividend a.k.a. Climate Income
Carbon Fee and Dividend is a carbon price that is revenue-neutral (meaning that the revenues do not go to government coffers). It is also known as Climate Income. It functions as follows:
- A fee is placed on carbon-based fuels at the source (well, mine, or port of entry).
- This fee increases steadily each year so that clean energy is cheaper than fossil fuels within a decade.
- All the money collected is returned to Canadians on an equitable basis.
- Under this plan, most Canadian households would break even or receive more in their dividend than they would pay for the increased cost of energy, thereby protecting the poor and middle class.
- A predictably increasing carbon price will send a clear market signal, which will unleash entrepreneurs and investors in the new clean-energy economy.
- Border carbon adjustments are eventually enacted in partnership with climate-friendly nations to protect vulnerable domestic industries while incentivizing other countries to price carbon.
Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms (CBAM)
Our Carbon Fee and Dividend policy has a provision built in to protect trade competitiveness: a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism” (CBAM) imposed on carbon-intensive trade-exposed goods that cross our border in either direction. Products imported from a country that does not bear a carbon price equivalent to ours will have to pay a surcharge to make up the difference. Conversely, a domestic-made product exported to such a country will get a refund for the carbon fee associated with its carbon footprint.
This CBAM prevents domestic manufacturers from being put at a competitive disadvantage in global markets because of the fee. It will also remove the incentive for them to relocate overseas to avoid the carbon fee. In addition, it will encourage foreign countries to adopt their own carbon fee, so they would get the money instead of us. Carbon Fee and Dividend’s CBAM is designed to comply with international trade law.
Note that the CBAM applies only to carbon-intensive products, not fuels. As well, considerations of common but differentiated responsibilites must be at the core of all CBAM design and intrinsic carbon pricing.
Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act
In June 2018, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act achieved Royal Assent and became law of the land in Canada. All provinces and territories must have a carbon pricing policy of at least $20 per tonne by January 1, 2019, raising $10 per tonne each year until 2022, with the flexibility to have their own carbon pricing systems which are equally stringent as the federal Backstop Carbon Pricing system. In 2021, the federal government updated its policy on recognizing the stringency of provincial carbon pricing systems and the price will rise incrementally to $170 tonne by 2030. In jurisdictions that do not have equivalent carbon pricing policies, the Federal Backstop Carbon Pricing system will apply.
There are two elements of the federal carbon pricing policy:
- THE FUEL CHARGE: A charge on fossil fuels that is generally payable by fuel producers or distributors, with rates for each fuel that are equivalent to $10 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2018, rising by $10 per year to $170 per tonne CO2e in 2030. The carbon fee for the federal backstop policy is revenue-neutral. Between 2019 and 2021 the revenue was recycled back to the citizens in their income taxes under line 449 “climate action incentive“. Starting in 2022, in provinces where the federal backstop Fuel Charge applies (currently, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario), will include quarterly payments at the beginning of each quarter. To give the Canada Revenue Agency sufficient time to develop the new system, payments started in July 2022 with a “double-up” payment. Thereafter, payments will be quarterly. Of note, 80% of households come out ahead, a finding confirmed by the Parliamentary Budget Office and Clean Prosperity.
Update: In July 2023, the Climate Action Incentive cheques will be coming to Nova Scotia too. This was announced in late August 2022 when Premier Houston’s climate plan was rejected. In November, it was also announced for Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Labrador too.
- OUTPUT-BASED CARBON PRICING: For businesses and industries that qualify, are enrolled in an Output-Based Carbon Pricing System. They pay a carbon price based on their emissions’ intensity relative to the best in the class of their industry, and surplus credits are traded. This component of the act protects emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries from trade pressures and carbon leakage. However, it does not send a strong enough signal to transform Canada’s energy systems to carbon decarbonize in alignment with the realities of the climate emergency we face. This assertion is supported by research by Clean Prosperity and the Parliamentary Budget Office. CCL recommends that the carbon price should be economy-wide and thus the Output-Based Pricing System should be temporary, and ultimately replaced with Border Carbon Adjustments.
Question: What is Austria’s Klimabonus ?
Answer: In autumn 2021, the Austrian Government introduced an “eco-social tax reform” with a goal to achieve NetZero by 2040. The main tool of this package is a national carbon fee applied on fossil fuels. The national scheme does not replace energy taxes, it’s in addition. It prices emissions outside the pre-existing EU-ETS by covering transport and buildings which accounts for a further 40% of GHG emissions.
The Carbon pricing structure follows the logic of the EU Energy Taxation Directive (ETD), an “upstream” tax on production and importation. Products include: petrol, diesel, heating oil, coal, and natural gas, but the list could be expanded. Electricity is not subject to the policy because power plants above 20 MW of thermal output are covered by the existing EU-ETS.
Initially, it will follow the following price path: €30 in 2022; €35 in 2023; €45 in 2024; and €55 in 2025. In 2026 it will align with the EU wide policy. This might become a market with allowances, like the EU-ETS, or it may be allowed to continue as it meets acceptable criteria. This will likely be defined in 2025.
The Income (Dividend) is called “Klimabonus”. Austria has a great website for public explanation that directly promotes the financial benefit of choosing “climate friendly behaviour”. It is paid to all residents in Austria and rebates 100% of the carbon tax. In 2022, this is an equal payment of €500 per adult and €250 per child, and included a 2022 anti-inflation payment of €250. In 2023, regional access to public transport will be factored in. The bonus will increase as the carbon tax revenue increases.
There are some compensations for industry covering: Agriculture and forestry. Sectors exposed to carbon leakage can get partial refunds; especially energy intensive industries identified in the EU as “at risk”. Also, particular “hardship” cases can be made.
There are a set of related policy and tax changes to help with the transition that include:
- Lowering of labour taxes.
- Reduced burden on families with children.
- Reducing Corporate Income Tax in 2024.
- Reduced Tax for ecological measures for Corporations from 2023
- Home heating and insulation tax benefits.
- Home produced electricity tax benefits.
- All public transport in Austria with a single KlimaTicket.
The Austrian Klimabonus (Climate Income) is a model policy for other EU Member States to copy under the EU Green Deal (Fit for 55 legislation).
|In short: A strong and repeatable example of Climate Income (CF&D).
More info on the Klimabonus
Question: Is there any extra info on the Klimabonus system?
Answer: The Austrian government made it clear that every euro taken from the national ETS will be given back to the citizens through the Klimabonus. This makes sure that the increase in price by national ETS is sustainable for the population.
The Klimabonus is given to all citizens resident in Austria. Adults receive a full part, while children under 18 receive a half-part. The Klimabonus is distributed yearly, through bank transfer or physical cheque for those who don’t have a bank.
People living in rural areas use their car more and have a bigger house to heat up. To compensate for this reality, the Klimabonus will be varied to take account of geographical criterias. Two criterias are taken into account: the urban density (how far do I have to travel to go to the supermarket or the children’s school) and access to public transport (e.g. train or bus availability). The increase in the Klimabonus goes from +33%, +66% to +100%. A family living in a rural area can have up to twice the basic amount.
The Klimabonus was distributed for the first time in 2022. Exceptionally, the amount of the Klimabonus was brought up at 250€, and was complemented by a 250€ anti-inflation payment. Starting 2023, the amount of the Klimabonus depends mechanically on what has been paid through the national price increase. The estimates are around 100€ per adult per year. In 2023, an urban family of four is expected to receive 300€, and the same family in the countryside up to 600€. As the carbon price will progressively rise, the annual amount of Klimabonus will rise mechanically.
The Klimabonus is a smart way to make the national Carbon Price sustainable. Recycling the money throughout the Klimabonus guarantees the transparency and the sustainability of the system. Moreover, the Klimabonus is increased for people living in rural areas, which makes the measure more fair.
|In short: Every euro spent though the national ETS is given back to the citizens of Austria with the Klimabonus. It is paid yearly by bank transfer, and will be increased for families living in rural areas to take into account the inequalities in how they can change their habits. Klimabonus is transparent, simple and fair.|
MAY 2023: Canada's Climate Income Policy Cuts GHGs + Climate Income Reduces Ineaquality
Canada’s Climate Income Policy Cuts GHGs
In June 2018, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) achieved Royal Assent and became law of the land in Canada. This policy is a form of Climate Income, and it came into force on April 1, 2019. Less than a year later, the world was in the COVID pandemic.
In April, Canada released its 2023 National Inventory Report. Canada’s National Inventory Report lags two years behind the actual year. Thus, for the first time, we could determine the impacts of the GGPPA in the absence of COVID lockdown.
In 2021, Canada produced 670 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and its equivalents in methane, nitrous oxide, and synthetic gases as pandemic restrictions began to ease – 53 million tonnes less in emissions in 2021 than it did in 2019 — the year before the pandemic hit.
The government report’s conclusions are in line with a similar report from the independent Canadian Climate Institute released in February 2023.
Carbon pricing is the cornerstone policy of Canada’s climate plan and in 2018 was predicted to account for more than half of reductions of greenhouse gases (see image on left).
We know from plenty of other studies that most Canadians come out ahead – especially the lower and middle income Canadians who are currently being challenged by the inflation crisis like many around the world.
In conclusion, Canada is showing the world how a country can cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect the poor and middle class as we transition off of fossil fuels and to a fair and sustainable world for all.
The Carbon Inequality Brontosaurus Chart
In September 2020, the Stockholm Environment Institute released an insightful report (1). In the 25 years from 1990 to 2015, annual global carbon emissions grew by 60%, approximately doubling total global cumulative emissions.
The disproportionate impact of the world’s richest people is unmistakable and the chart looks like a brontosaurus – with a tall neck and long tail.
The “tall neck” is the result of the fact that nearly half of the total growth in absolute emissions was due to the richest 10%, with the richest 5% alone contributing over a third (37%). The emissions linked to the top 1% alone grew more than three times as much as those linked to the bottom 50%.
The bottom 50% comprises the “long tail”. Since the bottom 50% has 50 times more people in it, the average per capita consumption emissions linked to the top 1% in 2015 were over 100 times greater than the average per capita consumption emissions of the poorest half of the world’s population.
The global carbon budget is a precious natural resource. These results suggest a need for increased attention to be paid to the ongoing porcine impact of the small minority of the world’s richest citizens and the enormous and continuing economic development needs of the world’s poorest citizens.
Our socio-economic and climate policies most certainly can be designed to address carbon inequality. In fact, Canada’s national backstop carbon pricing policy addresses the “brontosaurus in the room” (2).
Data from Canada’s Parliament Budget Office confirms this assertion (3). Canada’s carbon pricing policy is a form of carbon fee and dividend. It is also known as climate income. Canada has put a revenue-neutral price on GHG pollution at the source, and gives 90% of the money back to the people equitably, regardless of income or carbon footprint. The other 10% of carbon fees collected go to the MUSH sector: Municipalities, Universities, Schools, and Hospitals. It also reduces GHGs (4) without creating burdensome tax policies for governments to administer.
(1) The Carbon Inequality Era | SEI (2020)
(2) The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (2018)
(3) Fiscal and Distributional Analysis of the Federal Carbon Pricing System (2019)
(4) Beyond Paris: Reducing Canada’s GHG Emissions by 2030 (2021)
Pollution pricing with equal dividends enhances equity and development
Currently, 49 countries price greenhouse gas pollution. Two countries, Austria and Canada, price greenhouse gas pollution and return the dividends back to the people equally.
In a November 2021 peer-reviewed paper in Nature, researchers reported that a global 2C temperature* can be met while also increasing well-being, reducing inequality and alleviating poverty, if each country or region imposes a substantial carbon tax and refunds the revenues to its citizens on an equal per capita basis. When revenues are not used in such a progressive way, the model also verified that many of the poorest citizens are negatively impacted in the short-to-medium term. These results indicate that it is possible for a society to implement strong climate action without compromising goals for equity and development.
*With a few more policies in play we can achieve the 1.5C goal too.
Carbon Inequality in the G20 Nations
In December 2015 at the Paris Agreement, Oxfam presented their paper on Extreme Carbon Inequality.
As one can see in the graph below in G20 countries for which they had data, the per capita GHG emissions for the richest top 10% of households in every country were well above average. Whereas on the flip side, the bottom 50% and bottom 40% of households’ GHG emissions were below average. This explains why the carbon pricing program of climate income where we have data (USA, Australia, and Canada) on average at least ⅔ of households come out ahead.
Most countries have similar income distributions. You can use Wolfram Alpha to determine your country’s income distribution pattern and Gini Index relative to Australia, Canada, and the USA and then infer that the results would be anticipated to be similar.
APRIL 2023: IPCC + NEW Antarctica Study + CCS + Nuclear + Rights
Five Laser Talks
- IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report
- New Antarctica data
- CCI’s Position on CCS
- CCI’s Stance on Nuclear
- Our Rights and a Liveable World
IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report: Join Us On the Bomb Squad
On Monday, March 20, 2023, in Interlaken, Switzerland, the IPCC released its final assessment report in its sixth cycle (AR6) – the Synthesis report. The report is a how-to guide on diffusing the climate time-bomb.
The planet will reach 1.5 C global temperature rise in the early 2030s. Now there is an urgent call for developed nations to reach net-zero by 2040 and developing nations by 2050. The good news is that it is achievable.
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced a plan to massively fast-track climate action. He has proposed a G-20 Climate Solidarity Pact that includes an Acceleration Agenda which calls for:
- an end to coal, net-zero electricity generation by 2035 for all developed countries and 2040 for the rest of the world,
- a stop to all licensing or funding of new oil and gas, and any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves.
- GHG needs to go down now and be cut by almost half by 2030.
The report finds that the economic benefits for people’s health from air quality improvements alone would be roughly the same, or possibly even larger than the costs of reducing or avoiding emissions. To be effective, these choices need to be rooted in our diverse values, worldviews, and knowledge, including scientific knowledge, Indigenous Knowledge, and local knowledge.
Increasing finance to climate investments is important to achieve global climate goals. The synthesis report is quite clear that there is sufficient global capital to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas pollution if existing barriers are reduced. Global capital is all the savings held by banks, pensions, financial institutions, governments, and individuals. Governments, through public funding and clear signals to investors, are key in reducing these barriers.
Investors, central banks, and financial regulators must also play their part. That is because much of the trillions of dollars of financing for fossil fuels come from the private sector. Thus, redirecting private sector finance away from fossil fuels is key. Policies such as an incrementally rising price on carbon pollution pricing with equal dividends to households, carbon border adjustment mechanisms, reforms at the World Bank, and climate risk disclosure rules for financial institutions would provide clear signals to redirect financial flows away from fossil fuels while not burdening the taxpayer.
One of the key conditions for enabling a liveable future is inclusive governance. We are part of network that has been empowering volunteers to speak about climate finance issues since 2007. Join us on the bomb squad.
How to Defuse the Antarctic Climate Bomb
A new paper in Nature published in the last week of March 2023, shows how meltwater increases around Antarctica are set to slow down dramatically the Antarctic overturning circulation, with a potential collapse this century. This will devastate the marine biodiversity around Antarctica because the food chains will collapse. The good news, this is avoidable.
In the simulations, scientists found that when they include upcoming meltwater changes around Antarctica, the abyssal overturning cell declines by more than 40% by 2050.
This is driven by a reduction in the density of surface water around the Antarctic margin, which in turn sees greater intrusion of warm Circumpolar Deep Water onto the shelf.
The resulting subsurface warming in the Amundsen – Bellingshausen Seas is particularly concerning. This would lead to an amplifying feedback with further ice shelf melt and sea-level rise, in a region that we know from paleo records is vulnerable to ice sheet collapse.
Another concern is that as the Antarctic overturning slows, nutrient-rich water is left to accumulate on the seafloor, instead of being returned to the surface to feed marine ecosystems.
A reduction in the ocean uptake of carbon dioxide has also been documented in this same study. Another amplifying feedback.
Final important point: the projections were run under a ‘business as usual’ scenario. Deep and urgent emissions reductions will give us a chance of avoiding an ocean overturning collapse.
The overall conclusions of the IPCC AR6 Final Synthesis report were clear: we can diffuse the climate time bomb and there are the financial resources globally available to do so.
To have a chance of saving the Antarctic ecosystem, we must directly address the primary source of greenhouse gas pollution: fossil fuels. More specifically, we must redirect trillions of dollars of financial flows away from fossil fuels if we are to prevail. As well, we must be mindful that some within the fossil fuel industry have been running a disinformation campaign for decades to confuse the masses.
In the 2000s many of us started learning about the science of climate change. In the 2020s, it is imperative that we all learn the basics of climate finance. As the Mandalorian would say: This is the way. The key now is public understanding of the powerful ways to redirect financial flows globally away from fossil fuels and towards a thriving and equitable future. That is our wheelhouse at Citizens’ Climate International.
We need you on the bomb squad. Join us to find out more.
CCI’s Stance on Carbon, Capture, and Sequestration
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a general term for a range of different industrial processes that can separate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from smokestacks and store it underground indefinitely as toxic waste. Citizens’ Climate does not oppose or support any specific technologies; our goal is to stop climate change from hurting people and nature, not to aid or disadvantage any industry.
It should be noted that a 2017 study found that without adequate carbon pricing, CCS deployed at the scale required to meet climate targets is unlikely.
In June 2022 the International Energy Agency reported that CCS facilities currently capture almost 45 megatonnes of CO2 globally. Project developers have announced ambitions for over 200 new capture facilities to be operating by 2030, capturing over 220 Mt CO2 per year. However, only around 10 commercial capture projects under development have official financial approval as of June 2022. Nevertheless, even at such a level, CCS deployment would remain substantially below what is required in the Net Zero by 2050 Scenario. This is now even more problematic, because the new IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report (March 2023) calls for industrialized countries to reach net zero by 2040.
CCI is fully supportive of the UN High-Level Expert Group on Net-Zero commitments (HLEG) report Integrity Matters: Net zero commitments by businesses, financial institutions, cities, and regions. One of the key recommendations is that technologies must come as advertised.
One of the key conclusions of the final IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report (March 2023) was clear – existing and currently planned fossil fuel projects are already more than the climate can handle.
Given the inequitable and catastrophic impact that exceeding a global temperature rise of 1.5 °C will have on everything and everyone, everywhere, planning for any new fossil fuel infrastructure on the premise that it can be reversed by unproven carbon capture and sequestration capacity is indefensible.
CCI’s Position on Nuclear Energy
Citizens’ Climate International does not advocate for or against nuclear power generation.
We understand the science that shows the low-carbon generating capacity of nuclear power, and we understand the objections that many people raise, regarding risk to health and safety, and to the environment.
Dr. Hansen—the world’s preeminent climate scientist and a member of our sister organization Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Advisory Board—supports nuclear energy as a way to help speed the transition from fossil fuels to a zero-emissions energy economy.
Fourth Generation nuclear power generation can theoretically reduce the amount of radioactive waste the world must deal with, but cost projections for the business model are uncertain, and reactors using this technology will take decades to develop. As with any energy technology or climate solution, we stick to our focus on a livable future for all—that means energy systems a) should not pollute, b) should not disrupt the climate system, c) should operate safely at all times, and d) should not impose massive hidden costs on society and nature.
CCI’s aim is to support citizen volunteers around the world in their efforts to create political will that will redirect financial flows away from climate-destabilizing pollution and towards a thriving and equitable future. This is a heavy lift that deserves constant attention to the highest standards. We agree with the United Nations’ Integrity Matters report: net zero strategies need to be verifiable, and materially low-carbon and clean.
As the adage says, “He who runs after two hares will catch neither.”
Laser Talk: Our rights and a livable world
A livable future is a human right. We are starting to see institutions, and courts of law, respond to this principle by applying precedent and aligning climate action obligations with the basic moral duty to honor and protect human rights.
On December 10, 2023, the world will celebrate 75 years since the United Nations (UN) established the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (General Assembly resolution 217 A)
In the 21st century our rights to a livable world are gaining traction, and none too soon.
On July, 28, 2022 the UN General Assembly declared access to clean and healthy environment a universal human right (In favour: 161, Abstentions: 8, Against: 0)
On March 29, 2023 the UN General Assembly backed a landmark Pacific-led resolution calling for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on climate obligations. Through the resolution, world leaders asked the ICJ to form an advisory opinion clarifying international legal consensus on climate change’s impacts on human rights and the rights of future generations. The opinion will be non-binding, but experts say it could influence the outcome of climate-related court cases around the world. Advisory opinions are not judgements, and the ICJ does not have the power to jail, fine or punish individuals or companies solely on the basis of such advisory opinions. They do, however, carry legal weight and moral authority that can influence future decisions.
On December 9, 2019, the national Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines announced the findings and recommendations from its path-breaking four-year inquiry into the human rights impacts of climate change in the Philippines and the contribution of 47 Carbon Major companies to those impacts. The inquiry is the first of its kind to undertake a serious examination of how the world’s largest producers of fossil fuels have contributed to climate-related human rights violations. The Commission found that climate change constitutes an emergency situation that demands urgent action. The Commission further concluded that Carbon Major companies played a clear role in anthropogenic climate change and its attendant impacts. The Commission found that, based on the evidence, Carbon Major companies could be found legally and morally liable for human rights violations arising from climate change.
On December 20, 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court, the highest court in the Netherlands, upheld the previous decisions in the Urgenda Climate Case, finding that the Dutch government has obligations to urgently and significantly reduce emissions in line with its human rights obligations. A truly historic outcome!
On November 29, 2022 sixteen Puerto Rican Towns filed suit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and other fossil fuel giants for colluding on climate denial. “The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, featuring six major hurricanes and more than a dozen named storms, caused at least $294 billion worth of damages in the U.S. territory,” Reuters reported, citing the lawsuit. “Hurricanes Irma and Maria contributed to an estimated 4,600 deaths and the failure of critical infrastructure in Puerto Rico, the municipalities said.”
In 2023, an explosion of climate cases are in the queue. Here is just a sample.
On March 29, 2023, thousands of elderly Swiss women joined forces in a groundbreaking case heard at the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that their government’s “woefully inadequate” efforts to fight global warming violate their human rights.
In the USA, the court will see a case go to trial when a group of children and young people between the ages of five and 21 square off against the state of Montana. Over two weeks in June, they will argue that the US state is failing to protect their constitutional rights, including the right to a healthy and clean environment, by supporting an energy system driven by fossil fuels. They will also say climate breakdown is degrading vital resources such as rivers, lakes, fish and wildlife which are held in trust for the public.
In Canada, a ruling is expected this year in the country’s first climate lawsuit to have had its day in court. Seven young people made history last autumn when they challenged the Ontario government’s rollback of its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. The case has already made history being the first climate case in Canadian history to make it this far under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Two of the youth plaintiffs, Sophia Mathur and Alex Neufeldt, are members of CCL Canada.
In Mexico, young people have led several important court cases challenging the slow pace development of the country’s clean energy system. The supreme court is due to decide whether they are allowed to seek justice in at least one case.
Natural laws have always existed, and there is a legal basis for living in harmony with nature. We are now retracing our steps.
- The Global Trends in Climate Litigation 2022 (Report, Grantham Research Institute, LSE)
- Why 2023 will be a watershed year for climate litigation
- United Nations (March 2023): Women, girls and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment – Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment
MARCH 2023: Bridgetown Initiative
Laser Talk: Why We Support the Bridgetown Initiative
We all know the importance of balancing the books. Thus, it is not an exagerration to think that our global economy is on the verge of collapse. Dividends are being paid out, but at the expense of people and planet. Our financial operating system is out of date. We’ve ignored the notifications for so long that inequality and climate catastrophe are affecting our daily lives. We need to invest to heal inequalities, restore health to the planet and build resilience to future crises.
Barbadoes Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s Bridgetown Initiative would address immediate fiscal concerns and increase vulnerable countries’ resilience to shocks. It is gaining support and beginning to work.
Many of the Bridgetown initiatives require no financial transfers from developed country taxpayers. They are based on the concept that if ideas change minds, then the global economic system will change for the greater good:
- Developed countries can exercise influence to push the World Bank and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) to better leverage their balance sheets. Recommendations from a G20 expert group could leverage an additional $1 trillion for climate and development finance.
- US and European leaders can deliver promises of emergency liquidity using $100 billion of Special Drawing Rights, through the International Monetary Fund and MDBs creating fiscal space in developing countries, quickly, and without harmful conditions.
- Create a Loss and Damage funding mechanism will support climate equity at the UN climate conferences. Political support for the UNSG proposal to tax windfall profits from oil and gas exports could be an important first step.
- Innovative funding mechanisms could unlock additional political capital for a paradigm shift in resource mobilization. A Global Climate Mitigation Trust, borrowing on capital markets, backed by $500bn of Special Drawing Rights, donor guarantees, or similar instruments is another proposal.
- Heightened recognition of the nexus of climate and development stimulates new ways to engage the private sector. Innovative instruments (debt for equity swaps, state-contingent debt instruments, regional guarantee platforms) provide financing options for recipient countries, including the use of instruments that incentivize private finance, and could stimulate increased South-South investments.
The financial operating system is out of date. The Bridgetown Initiative will change mindsets and requires a relatively modest financial investment from taxpayers in the Global North through the multi-lateral development banks. It will rebalance our financial system through fair and sustainable development to avert environmental, economic and societal collapse.
FEBRUARY 2023: Bretton Woods Reforms and Integrity Matters
February 2023 Laser Talks: Bretton Woods Reforms and Integrity Matters
Bretton Woods Reforms
The International Energy Agency (IEA) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have shown that fossil fuel infrastructure that is planned or already under development will exhaust the remaining carbon budget. We need a planned retreat from fossil fuels now.
PRIVATE FINANCES MUST BE LEVERAGED
Public money (tax dollars) can’t fund the net-zero transition and currently private sources of capital aren’t sufficiently incentivized to fill the gap. For example, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) banks and insurers with more than $140 trillion of assets, committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. But just a fraction of that money has been invested. Sadly, GFANZ financial institutions have poured $270 billion for new fossil fuel infrastructure according to a new report “Throwing Fuel on the Fire”.
END FOSSIL FUEL COLONIALISM
At COP 27 in Egypt Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados and Vice President Al Gore called out fossil fuel colonialism in the global financial system. They both shared a statistic that crystalised the problem. On average, firms in the Global South pay seven times the interest rates compared to companies in Canada and the USA. How are Global South countries ever supposed to transition their economies? Help is needed now with overcoming several investment hurdles including debt-crises in the emerging economies, credit-rating constraints, and foreign-exchange risks.
REFORM IS COMING
Earlier in 2022, the World Bank was tasked by the U.S. Treasury—its largest shareholder—with developing a comprehensive ‘Evolution Roadmap’. In January 2023 it was released. Here is a statement from the World Bank.
“On January 11, the World Bank Group’s Boards of Executive Directors discussed with Management an Evolution Roadmap for the Bank Group to better address the scale of development challenges such as poverty, shared prosperity, inequality, and cross-border challenges including climate change, pandemics, and fragility, conflict and violence, that all affect the Group’s ability to achieve its mission. The Board expressed preliminary views on Management’s initial draft, Evolving the World Bank Group’s Mission, Operations, and Resources: A Roadmap.
THE TRANSFORMATION POTENTIAL IS HUGE
The World Bank, the IMF must step in and they are about to do so. On January 17, 2023 in Bloomberg News is “the World Bank is set to wield huge influence over how the energy transition is financed, potentially dwarfing the promised efforts of Wall Street giants like JPMorgan Chase & Co. or BlackRock Inc. to help eliminate emissions.”
At COP 27, PM Mia Mottley introduced a plan for 500 billion dollars of public money to be invested to unlock five trillion dollars in investment. For perspective, at COP 26, PM Mia Mottley cited a statistic that by November 2021 nine trillion dollars of public money was used to buffer economies globally during the COVID pandemic.
The public money at the World Bank belongs to the people of this planet. It is our right to kindly ask that it be used to create an equitable and thriving planet.
IN A NUTSHELL
Trillions of dollars of private sector money could be leveraged at the World Bank Group towards a thriving and equitable planet. It is our right and responsibility as citizens all over the world to help with this transformation. It is our money.
At COP 27 in Egypt the UN High-Level Expert Group on net-zero commitments (HLEG) launched its report Integrity matters: Net zero commitments by businesses, financial institutions, cities and regions The goal of the group was to develop stronger and clearer standards for net-zero emissions pledges by non-State entities. The group was led by the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Canada’s former Minister for the Environment and Climate Change
Secretary-General António Guterres said: “A growing number of governments and non-state actors are pledging to be carbon-free – and obviously that’s good news. The problem is that the criteria and benchmarks for these net-zero commitments have varying levels of rigor and loopholes wide enough to drive a diesel truck through. We must have zero tolerance for net-zero greenwashing.”
The HLEG resource aims to develop stronger and clearer standards for net-zero emissions pledges by non-state entities and speed up their implementation. The report provides clarity in four key areas – environmental integrity, credibility, accountability and the role of governments.
The report is organized under five principles and ten recommendations.
1. Ambition which delivers significant near— and medium —term emissions reductions on a path to
global net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and net zero greenhouse gas emissions soon after
2. Demonstrated integrity by aligning commitments with actions and investments
3. Radical transparency in sharing relevant, non-competitive, comparable data on plans and progress
4. Established credibility through plans based in science and third-party accountability
5. Demonstrable commitment to both equity and justice in all actions
Ten Recommendations -detail what non-state actors need to consider through each stage of their progress towards achieving net-zero ambitions and addressing the climate crisis.
1. Announcing a Net Zero Pledge
2. Setting Net Zero Targets
3. Using Voluntary Credits
4. Creating a Transition Plan
5. Phasing out of Fossil Fuels and Scaling Up Renewable Energy
6. Aligning Lobbying and Advocacy
7. People and Nature in the Just Transition
8. Increasing Transparency and Accountability
9. Investing in Just Transitions
10. Accelerating the Road to Regulation
IN A NUTSHELL
Here are some key takeaways from the HLEG Integrity Matters: Technologies must come as advertised, there are limits on the use of carbon offsets, no new fossil fuel infrastructure, a plan for unwinding from fossil fuels, no being aligned with groups that lobby for fossil fuels and investments must be made in a just-transition.
More information: On Valentine’s Day, the Honourable Catherine McKenna joined Citizens’ Climate International for a fireside chat with our CCL France leader . A considerable chunk of that conversation centered around the UN’s Integrity Matters report. You can watch it:
Laser Talks Compilations
For the curious-minded:
- Want to dive deeper and learn about authentic, explicit and implicit carbon pricing as well as the intricacies of Article 6.8 of the Paris Agreement – then peruse this handbook made in the summer of 2022.
- CCL USA has a Laser Talks Directory listed under six categories: Climate Science, Impacts, Policy Design, Technology, Politics, and International. Go here for more information.
- CCL Canada has a webpage dedicated for Canadian Laser Talks.
- CCL Europe is building their own regional specific ones here.