“It was always highly dubious appointing the CEO of a giant state oil company to be COP president. Dr Sultan al-Jaber has now been caught red handed trying to stitch up oil and gas deals when he should be trying to persuade countries to move away from fossil fuels. He is totally inappropriate and has demonstrated himself to be completely compromised. The Green Party calls on him to go and we expect the UK government to do the same – it’s a fair cop.”
“One of the main reasons why the world is failing to deal with the climate crisis is because politicians in the UK and across the world are in the pockets of the oil and gas industry. Or in the case of Sultan al-Jaber, they are the oil and gas industry.
“We need a new generation of political leaders who will end our dependence on fossil fuels and create a home grown, renewable energy transformation with all the benefits that will bring for lower bills, new jobs and a safe environment. And the UN now needs to quickly appoint someone as president of COP who has a clear track record on a commitment to climate action.”
They are calling it the largest civil disobedience climate protest in the history of Australia.
This weekend, thousands of activists, young and old, from across the country descended on the world’s largest coal port at Muloobinba (Newcastle), on Awabakal and Worimi land and water.
The organizers labeled it a family-friendly event with live music and speeches. The plan also included blockading the plant by a sea blockage by kayak, boat, or even surfboard. It was the first time a blockage was planned overnight.
The protest was a huge success. In the end, some three thousand people prevented coal ships leaving for thirty-two hours and stopped half a million tonnes of coal from being exported.
Some tweets from the action:
In total, one hundred people were arrested, including 97 year old Reverend Alan Stuart who said: “I am doing this for my grandchildren and future generations.” He became the oldest person ever to be arrested in Australia.
“The inconvenience we’ve caused this morning is small in comparison to the catastrophic events already happening due to Barclays’ financing of fossil fuels,” said one campaigner.
“We have closed this bank today.”
That’s the opening line on an explanatory poster, plastered on dozens of Barclays branches across the United Kingdom on Monday.
“Barclays has been on the wrong side of history for centuries,” the poster continues. “Financing the Atlantic slave trade, apartheid in South Africa, weapons, and fossil fuels. $190 billion in finance for fossil fuels since 2015. Time to change.”
“Barclays are choosing short-term profits over a livable future and a lot of us are sick of the measly progress they’re making.”
The posters were left overnight by activists with Extinction Rebellion (XR), sister organization Money Rebellion, and allied groups, who superglued the doors shut at nearly 50 branches—inspired by a 2020 Greenpeace action targeting the bank.
“We’re responding to public attitudes and targeting the perpetrators of climate breakdown, not ordinary people, and we apologize for any inconvenience caused to staff and customers,” said an XR campaigner in a statement. “The inconvenience we’ve caused this morning is small in comparison to the catastrophic events already happening due to Barclays’ financing of fossil fuels.”
The climate groups pointed to this year’s annual Banking on Climate Chaos report, which shows that Barclays has poured $190.58 billion into the fossil fuel industry since 2015, when world leaders finalized the Paris agreement. Parties to that deal aim to keep global temperature rise this century “well below” 2°C, with an ultimate goal of limiting it to 1.5°C.
Already, “human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming, with global surface temperature reaching 1.1°C,” relative to preindustrial levels, according to a March Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
A United Nations analysis published last week ahead of the upcoming COP28 U.N. climate talks projects that currently implemented policies put the world on track for 3°C of warming by 2100.
Responding to the Monday action, a Barclays spokesperson toldITV that “aligned to our ambition to be a net-zero bank by 2050, we believe we can make the greatest difference by working with our clients as they transition to a low-carbon business model, reducing their carbon-intensive activity whilst scaling low-carbon technologies, infrastructure, and capacity.”
“We have set 2030 targets to reduce the emissions we finance in five high emitting sectors, including the energy sector, where we have achieved a 32% reduction since 2020,” the spokesperson added. “In addition, to scale the needed technologies and infrastructure, we have provided £99 billion of green finance since 2018, and have a target to facilitate $1 trillion in sustainable and transition financing between 2023 and 2030.”
Climate campaigners argue that such policies are far from enough, given that the bank continues to finance fossil fuel projects.
“Barclays are pumping billions into the fossil fuel industry, completely at odds with advice from the International Energy Agency, United Nations, and IPCC,” said a Money Rebellion activist who took part in the action. “Barclays are choosing short-term profits over a livable future and a lot of us are sick of the measly progress they’re making, as they hide behind their lies and greenwash.”
“Whenever it’s claimed that there are no alternatives to capitalism, it really exposes the lack of imagination and willingness to develop a better future, not the lack of alternatives.”
“Can you imagine a place where growth is linked to life and justice rather than profit and the economy?”
That’s one of the key questions at the heart of a new publication by Greenpeace which lays out a series of detailed alternatives to rapacious capitalism that dominates the global economy and ruling governments worldwide.
“Today, a country’s economic growth is used as an indicator of living standards,” the report states. “In other words, the higher a country ranks on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) list, the better the prospects for that country. But that is far from reality when the wellbeing of people and nature is considered.”
The report argues that “the focus on economic growth has led to an anachronism that prioritizes planet-depleting activities and inequalities while overlooking wellbeing.”
According to Paula Tejón Carbajal, the Alternative Futures Campaign lead at Greenpeace International, “Whenever it’s claimed that there are no alternatives to capitalism, it really exposes the lack of imagination and willingness to develop a better future, not the lack of alternatives.”
Greenpeace says that even while GDP remains the economic index most countries use to measure economic health, “its one-size-fits-all approach rewards waste and pollution and does not take into account vital aspects such as people’s wellbeing or the limits of nature.”
The report states:
The world today faces multiple crises that pose an existential threat to the future of human civilization. The modern industrialised world depends on the over-exploitation of nature, which is destroying the Earth’s ecosystems, triggering catastrophic climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. These are related problems with devastating consequences that have been building for decades. This is due to the collective failure of governments and businesses to act with sufficient urgency to counter the status quo of a system based on infinite growth, and dependent on fossil fuels, extraction, overproduction, overconsumption, and waste.
Across three detailed chapters, the group’s publication focuses on numerous principles for “wellbeing economies” that challenge the supremacy of economic growth GDP, including: “people and planet over profit and growth”; “equitable distribution of wealth and power”; “wellbeing at the core”; “the common good”; “circular economies”; “nature restoration”; and “real participatory democracy.”
In a world beset by war, human rights abuses, astronomical levels of inequality, and the fast-moving threat of rising temperatures and the climate crisis, Greenpeace argues that the alternatives to profit-at-all-costs capitalism are not only available but plentiful.
“All the examples we have gathered exist, work, and prove that there is a dynamic landscape for many alternative futures,” Tejón Carbajal said.
While the Greenpeace report was made available online last month, it was officially presented Wednesday during a virtual event attended by more than 160 people worldwide.
“In a world wracked by polarization, inequality, climate change, ecological breakdown, and a crisis of hope and imagination, we can’t use the same thinking that created the problem in the first place. Greenpeace calls for governments and global institutions to drive their decision-making according to sufficiency and the wellbeing of people and planet, so that what we really value becomes the new measure of success and can thrive and flourish across the world,” added Tejón Carbajal.
“To create a sustainable and just future for all,” one section of the report concludes, “we must move beyond GDP and develop a measurement framework for wellbeing, inclusion, and sustainability.”
Who are the polluter elite and why do they matter?
The richest 1% of people are responsible for as much carbon output as the poorest 66%, research from Oxfam shows. Luxury lifestyles including frequent flying, driving large cars, owning many houses, and a rich diet, are among the reasons for the huge imbalance.
Jason Hickel, an economist, argues: “We have to think about the rich in terms of how much they are depleting the remaining carbon budget. Right now, millionaires alone are on track to burn 72% of the remaining carbon budget for 1.5C. The purchasing power of the very rich needs to be curtailed. We are devoting huge amounts of energy to facilitate the excess consumption of the ruling class – in the midst of a climate emergency, that is totally irrational.”
The problem goes far beyond the greenhouse gas emissions arising from these lifestyles, substantial though they are. The polluting elite have an outsized influence on the climate in many ways. Hickel notes: “While personal consumption-related emissions are important, what matters most is control over investible assets. When we account for investments in polluting industries, we find that each billionaire is responsible for a million times more emissions than the average person in the bottom 90%. Who is making the decisions about investment and production in the world economy? About energy systems? When it comes to the question of responsibility, that’s what we need to be focusing on.”
It is simply impossible to have a polluting elite and a livable climate, argues Farhana Sultana, professor at Syracuse University and fellow at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh. Along with many developing country economists, she regards the high emissions of rich people in industrialised countries in terms of colonialism. “Carbon inequality is effectively a colonisation of the atmosphere by the capitalist elite of the planet through hyper-consumption and pollution, while the cost of that climate coloniality is borne disproportionately by the marginalised and vulnerable communities in developing countries.”
The culture of rich people, and rich countries, built on use and discard cannot continue in a world of finite resources and planetary boundaries. “What the 1% do is overuse the earth’s resources through extraction, hyperconsumption, a discard culture that produces enormous amounts of waste and pollution – all these processes together create significant strains to planetary systems,” she says.