The Deplorable Climate Agenda of Jair Bolsonaro

The recent attack on far-right candidate and congressman, Jair Bolsanaro, has plunged Brazil’s upcoming presidential election into chaos and enhanced the prospects of a dangerous candidate who has expressed deplorable views and promotes an anti-environmental agenda.  

A right-wing populist, Bolsonaro poses a major threat to his nation’s climate commitments, promising to follow President Donald Trump’s lead and withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement.

Bolsonaro, described by The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman as the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world,” was stabbed at a campaign rally on September 7.  Although he lost 40 percent of his blood, he is improving and remains in the race.  In the first poll since the attack, Bolsonaro rose in popularity to a high of 30 percent, with no other candidate getting more than 12 percent.

A Bolsonaro victory would land a devastating blow to Brazil’s democracy.  Bolsonaro, who is currently capitalizing on a global wave of right-wing populism, has a history of making derogatory statements about marginalized groups.   He has shown a contempt for democratic norms, boasting at a campaign rally that he would like to shoot corrupt members of the popular Workers’ Party (PT) and has referred to the nation’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship as avery goodperiod.  

“Like Donald Trump, Bolsonaro is a racist,” says Paulo Lima, a Brazilian journalist and Executive Director of the non-profit Viração Educomunicação. “He is also a defender of guns.  He is against the rights of the LGBTI population and against the  women’s rights movement.” Paulo Lima, Brazilian Journalist.

The Lula Effect

The prospects of a Bolsonaro presidency rose dramatically on August 31 when Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) declared former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, or “Lula,” ineligible for a third term.   He is currently in jail, and could appeal a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering.

Prior to being declared ineligible, Lula was consistently polling ahead of Bolsonaro.  According to one CNT/MDA study in August, Lula polled at 21.8 percent, while Bolsonaro was at 18.4 percent.

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Foto: Wikimedia Commons

While Lula’s center-left PT differs considerably from Bolsonaro’s far-right Social Liberal Party, Bolsonaro could attract Lula’s populist-minded voters.

“The ‘outsider’ and ‘maverick’ image Bolsonaro tries to project in his campaign has also attracted non-ideological voters who would be with Lula if he was the candidate,” says Bruno Heilton Toledo Hisamoto, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the University of São Paulo, speaking to La Ruta del Clima.  “That is, voters who like Lula’s style more than PT’s ideological platform and see this style in Bolsonaro. Thus, from the right, Bolsonaro gathers the votes that would traditionally go to a moderate Brazilian Social Democracy Party and manages to capture some of the votes that would go to Lula in normal circumstances.”

The Rise of Bolsonaro

Bolsonaro’s message has resonated with a Brazilian electorate fed up with rampant corruption in their country.  Current President Michel Temer of the Brazilian Democratic Movement party has had an approval rating in the single digits for months.  Since assuming power following the controversial impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff, Temer has been besieged with charges of corruption and obstruction of justice

To rally support, Bolsonaro has vowed to take on corruption and crime, while attacking marginalized groups in the process.

“Bolsonaro draws heavily on the discourse of Donald Trump, to whom he repeatedly paid public tribute since before his election,” says Toledo. “Like Trump, Bolsonaro wants to project the image of an outsider willing to challenge the political establishment and to end traditional politics, despite the fact that he has been a congressman for almost 30 years, with his sons holding elective positions in all areas of the legislature.” Bruno Heilton Toledo Hisamoto, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the University of São Paulo.

A retired captain of the Brazilian army, Bolsonaro also appeals to a militaristic nationalism and accuses the left of being “globalist,” says Toledo. “At this point, he also resorts to xenophobia, rejecting the entry of immigrants into the country since they can ‘steal jobs’ from Brazilian workers.”

Bolsonaro and the Paris Agreement

While climate change has not played a major role in this year’s presidential campaign, and Bolsonaro’s intentions to leave the Paris Agreement have been little more than a footnote in his campaign message, withdrawal would have serious ramifications for both Brazil and the international community. Brazil, which is home to the world’s largest rainforest and ninth-largest economy, is also considered the likely host for the 2019 climate negotiations.  

Bolsonaro’s proposed withdrawal was met with harsh criticism from UN Environmental chief Erik Durkheim, who stated: “A rejection of the Paris Agreement is a rejection of science and fact. It’s also a false promise, because politicians who present climate action as a cost to society have got it all wrong.”

However, as Toledo notes, it would be difficult for Bolsonaro to withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement because the text was ratified by Congress and the President does not have immediate power to denounce it.  “In addition, many Brazilian states also have climate commitments that are independent of federal government action and virtually all large Brazilian companies in all economic sectors are signatories to international declarations in favor of climate actions.”

“My fear here is more practical than legal. A hypothetical Bolsonaro government could sabotage important measures to facilitate the achievement of Brazil’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially in deforestation combat and agriculture. If Bolsonaro loosens only land-use change legislation, the effects on national greenhouse gas emissions would be large.” Bruno Heilton Toledo Hisamoto, a Ph.D. candidate in International Relations at the University of São Paulo.

Concern has also been expressed by Lima, who is fearful:

“If Brazil were to abandon the Paris Agreement, it would have huge consequences  for us and it would be a big setback. First of all, Brazil would cease to be a major player in the international arena and in negotiations within the UNFCCC and the Conference of Parties. Brazil would become a major planetary threat because the Amazon would run the risk of totally disappearing.  Bolsonaro wants to further strengthen agro-business and the advancement of livestock in the Amazon. This means more deforestation plus increased carbon dioxide and methane emissions, the principal greenhouse gases.” Paulo Lima, Brazilian Journalist.

Much is on the line when voters in the world’s fourth-largest democracy go to the polls this October.  A Bolsonaro victory would deliver a devastating blow to the nation’s social, democratic and environmental prospects.

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AMLO and the Future of Climate Governance in Mexico

Villahermosa, Tabasco

Mexico is in for a change, with the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the coming to power of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party.  What remains unclear is what kind of change and how extensive it will be.

On July 1, the former mayor of Mexico City, López Obrador, won the nation’s presidency in a landslide.  Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as he is often called, ran on a populist platform, promising to clean up corruption and combat inequality.

While his victory was welcomed by leftist politicians around the world such as British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, former Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner, and French politican Jean-Luc Mélenchon, he has also been treated with considerable skepticism. His brand of populism has been unfavorably compared to that of U.S. President Donald Trump and former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.  He has been called many things, such as a nationalist, leftist ideologue, pragmatist, authoritarian and centrist.

Mexico and Climate Change

In recent years, Mexico has played an important role in international climate change negotiations.  Mexico hosted the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancún and has been a leader in climate governance on the global stage.

Under outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto’s leadership, Mexico submitted a bold plan for its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, committing to reduce by 22 percent its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Mexico became an active contributor to the Green Climate Fund and collaborated with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to develop the North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership Action Plan, which seeks to advance clean and secure energy, drive down climate pollutants, promote clean and efficient transportation, and show global leadership in addressing climate change This plan boldly sets forth the goal of 50 percent clean power generation in North America by 2025.

Mexico recognizes its global responsibility with a solid commitment to mitigate greenhouse gases in order to nourish the new agreement to be adopted in COP 21 Paris, 2015 under the UNFCCC.” – President Enrique Peña Nieto

Mexico further solidified its position as a climate leader with the selection of Patricia Espinosa as the new Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.  Espinosa, who served as Secretary of Foreign Affairs under President Felipe Calderón, replaced Costa Rica’s Christiana Figueres to lead the Secretariat in 2016.

The Rise of López Obrador

López Obrador’s campaign capitalized on a wave of global populism and a deep dissatisfaction with systemic corruption under Peña Nieto’s watch.  His message of fighting corruption, ending the drug war, and redistributing wealth resonated with a public that had grown weary of Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

López Obrador’s critical comments about President Trump also appealed to voters.  He has often spoken out against Trump and his demeaning treatment of Mexican people, going so far as to say: “Trump and his advisers speak of the Mexicans the way Hitler and the Nazis referred to the Jews, just before undertaking the infamous persecution and the abominable extermination.”

Despite being critical of Trump, López Obrador and the U.S. President have demonstrated a willingness to work with one another. During the campaign, López Obrador said, “I want a friendly relationship with the government of the United States, but not one of subordination.  Mexico is a free country, it is a sovereign nation. We will not be subject to any foreign government.”

Voters responded to López Obrador message by voting overwhelmingly for the candidate.  The second-place candidate, Ricardo Anaya of the National Action Party (PAN), finished nearly 30 points behind López Obrador.  PRI candidate Jose Antonio Mead received only 16 percent, delivering yet another resounding defeat to establishment party politics.

López Obrador and Climate Change Governance

It remains to be seen if López Obrador will build on the progress made by the previous administration with respect to climate change governance.  He did not emphasize climate change mitigation and adaptation and the implementation of the Paris Agreement during his campaign.

López Obrador has spoken out extensively on how to manage Mexico’s vast oil and gas reserves, calling for sweeping reforms in energy policy and pushing for greater self-sufficiency in the energy sector.  He has also pushed back against foreign investment in Mexico’s extractive sector, at one point declaring that he will make sure that oil does not “fall back into the hands of foreigners.”  What’s more, López Obrador and his designated Energy Secretary, Rocío Nahle García, have called for energy auctions to be halted.  López Obrador wants to increase Mexico’s refining capacity and exploit the nation’s natural gas reserves.

Earlier this year, López Obrador did meet with former U.S. Vice President and founder of the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore.  The two agreed to work together to promote renewable energy development and combat climate change.

López Obrador’s party, MORENA, emphasizes the importance of transitioning to renewable energy sources and reaffirmed its commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement in its 2018-2024 National Plan.  According to the plan, “An orderly, but accelerated, transition toward renewable energy…poses the opportunity to draw the country’s roadmap for the next generations from a clear strategic vision of sustainability to move toward a new civilizational paradigm of the future.”

At a recent press conference, Josefa González Blanco, who will serve as Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources under López Obrador, presented an environmental agenda for the next administration that centered on mitigating and adapting to climate change.   Agenda items include a zero deforestation goal through the promotion of community forest management, strengthening of Mexico’s international policies to combat climate change, adoption of alternative technologies and raising awareness about climate change.

While there is definitely reason for optimism following López Obrador’s landslide victory, it remains unclear how he will approach climate governance.  The world will be watching.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ben Jealous and the Democratic Party Green Wave

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The recent success of progressive candidates in primary races on June 26 in New York and Maryland show that a transformation may be under way in the Democratic Party.

The victories of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old democratic socialist candidate for New York’s 14th Congressional District, and Ben Jealous, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who is running for Governor of Maryland, were held up as key wins by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

A former Bernie Sanders organizer, Ocasio-Cortez upset incumbent Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, by a stunning 15 percentage points.  She is expected to easily defeat her Republican opponent this November in a heavily Democratic district in the Bronx and Queens boroughs of New York City.  Jealous, a vocal supporter of Sanders during the 2016 election, easily defeated his primary opponent Rushern Baker.  He will face off with the Republican Governor Larry Hogan this November.

Both candidates are running on progressive platforms, calling for a “Medicare for all” universal health care system, marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform.  Ocasio-Cortez even went so far as to call for the abolishment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Each has embraced ambitious plans for climate change governance.

Ocasio-Cortez has called climate change the “single biggest national security threat for the United States and the single biggest threat to worldwide industrialized civilization.”  She seeks a Green New Deal and is campaigning on eliminating fossil fuels and modernizing the electrical grid by 2035. 

Ocasio-Cortez, whose mother was born in Puerto Rico, has placed the island at the center of her platform.  In an email to Huffington Post journalist Alexander Kaufman, Ocasio-Cortez stated:

“What we are proposing is the complete mobilization of the American workforce to combat climate change and income inequality simultaneously.  We should begin by rebuilding the infrastructure of Puerto Rico.  Our fellow Americans on the island have suffered horrendous losses and need investment at a scale that only the American government can provide. The green new deal we are proposing will be similar in scale to the mobilization efforts seen in World War 2 or the Marshall Plan.  It will require the investment of trillions of dollars and the creation of millions of high-wage jobs.”

Jealous has a history of environmental advocacy.  He launched a Climate Justice Program as head of the NAACP, risked arrest to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and has been a staunch opponent of fracking.  Jealous has promised to set a deadline for 100 percent clean and renewable energy if elected governor.

Jealous has been lauded for his environmental agenda as a gubernatorial candidate, receiving endorsements from prominent environmental organizations such as 350.org and Friends of the Earth.  As 350.org Executive Director Mary Boeve stated:

“If we want more elected officials who are ready to tackle the climate crisis next year, we need more candidates on the ballot this year who aren’t afraid of bold climate action…Ben Jealous [is] committed to protecting communities around the world facing greater risk everyday as the planet warms. [He is] already helping to build the fossil-free future we know is possible.”

In upcoming primary elections, other Democrats with bold environmental agendas are hoping to ride this new green wave.  Kaniela Ing, a congressional candidate from Hawaii, is running on an environmental platform calling for the phasing out of fossil fuel cars by 2030 and 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.  Former Sex and the City television star Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, is campaigning on a climate justice platform that calls for the transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

While these candidates face a difficult road ahead to implement their bold agendas, they represent a significant departure from establishment party politics.  The rise of this green wave should be a welcome change by climate activists seeking to reform the Democratic party. 

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Notes from the Bonn Zone: Days 2 and 3

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The climate negotiations in Bonn are off to a promising start in advancing the implementation of the Paris Agreement, with Syria pledging to sign the Paris Agreeement on Tuesday.  Side events and exhibitions in the Bonn Zone on Tuesday and Wednesday highlighted the significance of what is at stake in these negotiations.  

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China opened its Tuesday sessions in the Bonn Zone with a side event on China’s Energy Conservation and its Contribution to Addressing Climate Change.  This talk focused on China’s conservation and emission reduction efforts as well its conservation policies and measures.  Panelists discussed the link between energy efficiency and economic prosperity as well as China’s energy conservation plans for 2050.

 At the same time, the World Wildlife Fund’s pavilion hosted a Spanish-speaking side event, Challenges and Opportunities for Climate Action in Latin America and the Caribbean in the New Political Context. Adrian Martinez of La Ruta del Clima served as the panel’s moderator while other panel members included representatives from Mexico, Colombia and Peru. 

Topics included how to involve local governments in climate action plans, the connection between climate change, development and education, the importance of civil society in climate change governance and the effect of political transitions on climate policy.  

“Climate change is not something that just affects us personally or physically,” said Anne Dunn of Fiji. “It’s something, that as islanders, as a Fijian, affects the very core of who we are.  It affects my identity.”

At the close of the meeting, Fiji’s Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Mereseini Vuniwaq said: “We have seen here today how six people from different countries in the Pacific, who did not even know each other a short time ago, can come together to produce beautiful and insightful videos, uniting as one voice. They are not video professionals and they are not professional entertainers.  They are six very intelligent young people with good ideas and generous hearts.  They are happy to devote themselves to something much larger than they are, much greater than all of us.”

Vuniwag went on to say: “I am thrilled to send these voices forth with a message to the world from the Pacific.  The crisis is now, the solution is now and the commitment must be now.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a panel of British scientists convened at the United Kingdom pavillion for the side event: Ocean Options: Climate Challenges and Science Responses for Seas and Society.  Panelists discussed the effects of ocean acidification, sea level rise, ocean temperature change and oxygen loss.

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Philip Williamson of the University of East Anglia discusses the effects of change in ocean temperature over the past several decades.

They also discussed their projects that included looking at offshore carbon dioxide storage deep below the seabed and studying blue carbon, the process by which plants move carbon dioxide into living biomass.

Late Wednesday afternoon, panelists from various NGOs throughout Latin America discussed their role in challenging the status quo and implementing innovative and sustainable technologies in their respective countries.

 

 

 

 

 One of the panelists was Luis Pérez, who works for Sailcargo Inc., a carbon negative transportation company based in Costa Rica.  

The Sailcargo Inc. team is developing a ship powered by wind and solar that seeks innovative and sustainable solutions to the shipping industry.  Pérez explained that Costa Rica, with its proximity to the Panama Canal, supply of sustainable wood resources and reputation as an eco-friendly country, serves as an optimal base for the company.

COP23, Climate Finance and the Green Climate Fund

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Green Climate Fund Pavilion at COP23

The issue of climate finance is slated to take on a critical role at the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn this November and build upon progress made in previous negotiations.  COP23 President Frank Bainimarama, who is the Prime Minister of Fiji, has made access to climate finance a “key pillar” of his presidency.

Climate finance, in the context of international negotiations, dates back to the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992. It was agreed that developed nations should “take all practicable steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other Parties.”  The Kyoto Protocol advanced the issue of climate finance, by helping to establish the Adaptation Fund, which finances projects to aid developing nations in adapting to climate change.  

In recent years, climate finance has been at the forefront of climate negotiations.  The 2009 Copenhagen Accord calls for developed countries to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.  The 2010 negotiations in Cancun lead to the creation of the Green Climate Fund, a fund for wealthier nations to assist developing nations in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.  The Paris Agreement reaffirmed the $100 billion commitment set forth in Copenhagen.

Leading up to this year’s convention, key announcements about climate finance have been made. On October 16, the Asian Development Bank announced it would increase its financing to over $500 million between 2017 and 2020, more than doubling its previous totals. The following day, Fiji, this year’s host nation, became the first developing country to issue a green bond to finance climate change mitigation and adaption in this vulnerable island nation.

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Joe Thwaites, an Associate in the Sustainable Finance Center at World Resources Institute, told of the significant role that climate finance is expected to play in the upcoming conference.

This is the first COP hosted by a small island developing state, and with the impacts of climate change becoming clearer, a key emphasis of the negotiations is likely to be on support for the poorest and most vulnerable countries,” said Thwaites. “There is likely to be a strong focus on adaptation finance; funding to help countries deal with the impacts of climate change.”

Thwaites went on to say: “There are several concrete agenda items where this is likely to come up. Countries are considering how the Adaptation Fund will serve the Paris Agreement. In addition, they will review progress toward developed countries’ goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year for developing countries by 2020, and will provide guidance on how funding, particularly for adaptation, can be scaled up toward this. Negotiators will also be discussing how countries should account for, report, and review climate finance provided and received, and how developing countries can articulate their future support needs. Every year COP also provides guidance to the Global Environment Facility and Green Climate Fund.”

While there is a great deal of optimism coming into the conference, this has been somewhat marred by President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and his attacks on climate finance.  In announcing his decision in a statement filled with half-truths and factual inaccuracies,  Trump blasted the “so-called Green Climate Fund” as a “scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States.”

Since Trump’s decision came on the heels of a $500 million installment to the Green Climate Fund by President Barack Obama, there was considerable concern that the goal of investing $100 billion annually for mitigation and adaptation for developing countries could be jeopardized.  Still, the rest of the international community is poised to move ahead this month.

“The situation in the United States is obviously worrisome,” said Donovan Escalante, a Senior Analyst at the Climate Policy Initiative.  “However, I do not think it is sufficient to overcome the progress that has been made in the last decade to combat climate change.  We have seen enormous progress in reducing the cost of renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency and creating the political will to resolve the issue of climate change.”

The shift in policy by the Trump Administration has in many ways emboldened the international community as well as many local and state governments in the United States in the months leading up to Bonn.

In the wake of Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, 14 U.S. states and over 500 cities have committed to adopt, honor and uphold the Agreement’s climate goals,” said Thwaites. “Several cities and states have expressed interest in a collective effort to contribute to international climate funding. Other countries are also standing firm and delivering on their commitments to the GCF. So even if the U.S. federal government is withdrawing, there remains momentum behind the GCF and climate action more broadly.”

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Voreqe Bainimarama, Fiji and the Road to COP 23

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The 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) will put a spotlight on developing nations vulnerable to climate change, with the island nation of Fiji presiding over it.  

This November’s conference will be held in Bonn, Germany, because Fiji, a nation with less than a million people, lacks the facilities to host the conference.

As a nation comprised of over 300 islands and 500 islets, Fiji is among the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) threatened by sea level rise.  It has already suffered considerably from the effects of climate change, with satellite data showing an average sea level rise of 6 millimeters per year since 1993.  The government has already begun to relocate citizens impacted by saltwater intrusion.

 

Fiji has long been a staunch proponent for international cooperation efforts to combat climate change.  With unanimous approval from its parliament, Fiji was the first nation to ratify the Paris Agreement. The island nation has been a leading advocate for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5℃, rather than the current 2℃ cap agreed upon in Paris.

Even with per capita carbon dioxide emissions in the United States nearly 10 times that of Fiji, the island-nation is committed to reducing its carbon footprint through an ambitious Green Growth Plan.  Fiji, which already generates over 60 percent of its total electricity from renewable energy, has pledged that its electricity sector will become 100 percent dependent on renewables by 2030.  

Although the United States’ decision to leave the Paris Agreement has threatened to derail the momentum going into this year’s conference in Bonn, nations around the world are preparing to build on the progress made in the recent COPs in Paris and Marrakesh.   Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama offered a strong condemnation of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal and reaffirmed his commitment to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement.  In a statement following Trump’s decision, Bainimarama said:  

As incoming COP President, I reaffirm that I will do everything possible to continue to forge a grand coalition that will accelerate the momentum that has continued since the Paris Agreement, embracing governments, civil society, the private sector and millions of ordinary men and women around the world. I am also convinced that the United States government will eventually rejoin our struggle because the scientific evidence of man-made climate change is well understood. The issue is settled, and the impacts are obvious, and humankind ignores these facts at its peril.

 

 

Under Bainimarama’s leadership, this year’s climate conference is poised to advance the work of the UNFCC and fulfill Fiji’s vision for COP 23. At a time when the international community is in need of strong climate leadership, Fiji is ready to inject a sense of urgency and optimism into the upcoming climate negotiations and infuse this conference with what Bainimarama called the Fijian spirit of “inclusiveness, friendliness and solidarity.”

The Bold Climate Agenda of Jeremy Corbyn

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The better-than-expected results for Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party in the June 8 snap elections shocked the United Kingdom and the world. The election led to Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservatives losing their majority in Parliament, forcing May to form a coalition with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, a group of extremists who once appointed a climate denier as environmental minister. Following the election, Corbyn and his party have continued to surge in the polls. The prospect of a Corbyn-led government seems increasingly likely.

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The transformation of Corbyn from obscure backbencher to odds-on favorite to become prime minister should be a welcome change for environmentalists. Corbyn has called for keeping 80 percent of fossil fuels in the ground, promoting renewable energy development and championing community energy cooperatives. He has been a vocal proponent of the Paris Agreement and harshly criticized May for her tepid condemnation of President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the agreement.

The 2017 Labour Manifesto offers a radical alternative to the much-maligned Conservative Manifesto on key issues such as the economy, Brexit, health care, education and housing. As for the environment, Labour offers a bold vision for the future of the United Kingdom. The Manifesto reaffirms the party’s commitment to meeting the country’s climate change targets, promises to introduce a new Clean Air Act, calls for a ban on fracking and commits to generating 60 percent of the country’s energy from renewables by 2030.

The Conservative Manifesto offers a different take on climate action. Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas described the Conservative Manifesto as an “absolute car crash for the environment”. While the manifesto emphasizes the importance of climate leadership and renewable energy development, the document lacks vision on critical issues such as air pollution and fossil fuel extraction. Unlike the Labour manifesto, it devotes an entire section to developing the shale gas industry in the United Kingdom, drawing on the natural gas boom in the United States as a model.

With Corbyn’s fortunes on the rise, the Labour Party is ready to lead the United Kingdom in transitioning to a low-carbon economy. In an era when climate leadership is needed more than ever, Labour offers a welcome change from May’s weak leadership.

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En Marche! Nicolas Hulot and the environmental policies of France

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La main tendue de la France envers les volontaires pour travailler ensemble sur le #climat #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain https://t.co/63jpZyrpgj

— Nicolas Hulot (@N_Hulot) June 8, 2017

The election of centrist Emmanuel Macron as president of France and subsequent parliamentary victories of the En Marche! party have done much to alleviate the fears of environmentalists concerned about the rise of right-wing nationalist movements sweeping across the globe. 

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Foto: Nicolas Hulot

Macron campaigned as a staunch supporter of the Paris Agreement and has championed France’s role in the European Union.  He has already taken major steps to create a carbon neutral France, phase out gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles and end new licenses for domestic oil and gas extraction. Many of these bold initiatives undertaken by the Macron administration are being driven by the Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot.

In the second round of France’s 2017 presidential election, Macron presented himself as the preferable candidate on nearly every conceivable issue to Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate of the National Front.  While the former investment banker and economy minister campaigned on moving toward an economy powered by renewable energy, increasing the carbon tax and prioritizing the Paris Agreement, there were concerns that Macron would emphasize business interests over environmental issues

Following his election, Macron appointed people from the left, right and center of the political spectrum to join the administration that included some with controversial environmental track records.  Of particular concern was the selection of Édouard Philippe as to Prime Minister.  Philippe is the former center-right mayor of La Havre and former director of public affairs at the nuclear group Avera. 

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Foto: Nicolas Hulot

However, the appointment of environmental activist and nature documentary filmmaker Hulot to become France’s ecology minister offered a radical departure from Philippe and other members of Macron’s administration.  Hulot ran as the Green Party candidate in the 2012 presidential election and backed left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon during the first round of 2017’s presidential election. He previously turned down opportunities to serve under the administrations of former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande

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Foto: Nicolas Hulot

The United States’ decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement has helped galvanize Macron and his administration to lead the fight against climate change, with France pledging to become carbon neutral by 2050 in the wake of President Donald Trump’s announcement. Under Hulot’s guidance, France also looks to end the sale of gas and petrol vehicles by 2040, end new exploration licenses for hydrocarbons, phase out coal plants by 2022 and reduce its share of nuclear power generation from 75 to 50 percent of energy production.

While the Macron administration is less than two months old, France has positioned itself as a stabilizing force on climate policy as the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement threatens to undermine international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and embrace renewable energy. Under Hulot’s guidance, France appears poised to fulfill Macron’s efforts to “Make Our Planet Great Again”.

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